John Calhoun’s Ghost Haunts Michelle Wolf

Reacting to the incipient abolitionist movement in the north in 1837, South Carolina’s John C. Calhoun delivered a fiery defense of slavery on the Senate floor. Therein, he correctly predicted that the vast north-south moral chasm would result in Civil War, and his understanding of American citizenship, contrary to most of the Founders’, as belonging to only the white race would inspire Chief Justice Taney in Dred Scott. But his most provocative and revolutionary claim abandoned traditional defenses of slavery, which treated the institution as an unfortunate economic and political necessity, a matter of survival for whites whose slaves would surely kill them if set free, and a way to impart Western values, notably Christianity, on slaves before their inevitable future emancipation. Rather than hew to these tentative defenses of short-term slavery in the face of abolitionism, Calhoun did the unthinkable in a nation that had barely sixty years prior founded itself on the natural rights of man—he declared slavery “a good—a positive good.”
It was only a logical extension of the proslavery argument when faced with more strident opposition. If slaves were not human beings (at least not fully so), but their free labor brought prosperity, economic ease, and increased national production, then what’s the “necessary evil”? Surely making profit from cows and pigs is not a “necessary evil.” If the slave is not a human being, then there should have been no guilt, no plans, like those devised by Washington, to free his slaves, no talk, like that of Jefferson, that slave labor would hurt the work ethic of whites. Would anyone say that a man using a mule to plow his fields or a horse for transportation is detrimental to his work ethic? This argument is peculiar to using other human beings, and in conceding that they harbored guilt about owning humans, that their consciences convicted them, southerners would lose the long-term argument for the legality and morality of slavery. Calhoun clearly recognized this, and sought to galvanize the South behind his radical new position because he knew that when the humanity of the slave was acknowledged, when any evil was admitted, then the whole system would collapse of moral rot and guilt, if only there was someone willing to ask the tough questions, as Lincoln did in his famous Illinois debates. There on the Senate floor in 1837, the South’s stance on slavery changed markedly, along with Calhoun’s words, from “necessary evil,” to “positive good.”
As the left’s hysteria over Justice Kennedy’s retirement continues unabated, with the ostensible primary worry that Roe v. Wade will be overturned, notwithstanding the dismally low chances of that outcome, the same thing that happened to proslavery arguments a hundred and seventy-five years ago is transforming the progressive argument for abortion. In fact, Michelle Wolf’s tirade and other radical pro-abortion arguments of late can be grafted into Calhoun’s infamous speech with ease. Michelle Wolf, instead of saying “God bless abortions” after years of the left pretending that it wants abortions to be “safe, legal, and rare” for political purposes, could have just as easily declared, “I hold that in the present state of civilization….abortion is a good—a positive good.” She discarded all those pleasantries about economic necessity for underprivileged women (much like the arguments of economic necessity for southern grandees in the 1800s), crime control, and public budget considerations. She laid it bare. A modern-day Calhoun armed with a twitter account rather than a pen and a Senate post might rally his fellow Carolinians against the “meddling” northern abolitionists (who, of course, had no business deciding questions of slavery because they did not own any, just as males have no business talking about abortion because they will never get pregnant) by tweeting encouragement to “shout your slave-owning!” Even the Orwellian logic inherent in claiming the right to deprive another group of human beings of life, liberty, and property transfers perfectly from Calhoun to today’s pro-abortion radicals.
At the outset of his speech, John Calhoun stated that he believed in defending his position as forcefully as possible and not reconciliation and that, “Those who act on the opposite principle are prepared to become slaves.” Translation: if slavery is disallowed, southerners will become slaves. Talk about ironic. Almost as ironic as the left-wing claim that if Roe is overturned, “millions of lives would be threatened.” Translation: if we disallow the murder of unborn children, then millions will have their lives threatened…through presumable diminished economic power (unless these people are honestly predicting a Civil War, which I doubt). For both proslavery radicals in the Old South and pro-abortion radicals in our day the loss of economic prowess (which, last time I checked, is not a constitutional right) was the primary excuse for depriving another person of his basic natural rights. The southerners argued that they could not make a living without the right to “stop liberty from happening,” in Michelle Wolf lingo. Abortion advocates of our day similarly posit that women, who presumably have no control of the reproductive process by this reasoning, would be destitute without the right to “stop a baby from happening.”
In the end, Calhoun and Michelle Wolf, separated by hundreds of years and huge philosophical differences, still both recognized one basic truth: in a nation founded on individual liberty such as the United States, the crux of the debate always lies in defining who is and who is not a citizen and entitled to the protection of their natural rights. If one comes down on the “no” side of the question, then there should be no more shame in owning a black person than owning a hog, and no more shame killing a human fetus than killing that same hog. To compromise on this point is for the pro-choice side to concede defeat, however gradual. One can only hope that with the true logical underpinnings of abortion legalization in plain sight, Americans will recoil in horror as they did when the violent underbelly of segregation was exposed by Dr. King and Calhoun laid bare the barbarous argument for slavery.


Democrats Have “Jumped the Shark”

In the Detroit metropolitan area during high school, I commuted with Dad in our beat-up 1987 Honda Civic, and in the morning, we always listened to 760 WJR, Detroit’s most popular talk radio station. At night, they carried Hannity, Mark Savage, and Mark Levin, but during the workday and for the morning commute, they had cooler conservative heads, or at least more local conservative heads, behind the microphone. Frank Beckmann’s obvious nasally twang between 10-12 infused with righteous passion contrasted nicely with Paul W. Smith’s smooth, deep voice and measured tone for the morning commute. I swear, that guy could read the news and lull a Jaguar to sleep. Anyway, one morning, with the snow about a foot deep on either side of I-94 near Mount Clemens and the first light of morning just appearing in the east toward Lake St. Clair, Paul’s voice crackled through the radio, “Now we go to sports,” whereby some guy I can’t remember took over and announced that a player had “Jumped the shark last night.” What? I couldn’t believe it, and half thought it some inside joke between the announcers to see if any listeners, struggling to start the day before first coffee, would notice.

But, as I later learned, “jumping the shark” is a real saying. It comes from the ancient television program Happy Days, wherein, running low on ideas for the show, the crew decided to do an episode wherein the climax consists of Fonzie, one of the main characters, jumping over a shark on water skis. The saying connotes a stunt, or series of stunts, so outlandish that they convey to everyone that the stunt-man is out of substantive ideas, getting desperate, or both. I can think of no better expression to describe the hysteria on the left these days. They’ve jumped the shark.

It has been brewing for some time now, but with the family separation policy at the southern border, the Supreme Court shooting down their dreams of progressivism imposed by Article III, and the blue wave stagnant at the moment, progressivism has gone full-on gonzo.

First of all, I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many people make fallacious ad Hitler arguments in such a short period of time. Donald Trump is not Hitler, American conservatives are not Nazis, and enforcing US immigration law by temporarily separating children from parents (because US law stipulates that immigrant children cannot be detained as prisoners with their parents–a law Trump has attempted to amend with an executive order because of Congress’s failure to pass any legislation) is not the same as sending six million people to their deaths. But in today’s world, enforcing national borders is far enough afield to qualify as Hitler-esque, even though President Obama deported illegal aliens, including children, just like Trump, back to Central America and Mexico. Was Obama also a would-be SS guard member? I can’t remember any leftists comparing Obama to Hitler….but I digress. In the past week, I have seen at least five or six articles comparing Trump to Hitler, seen a candidate win a Democratic primary in New York who openly claims “socialism” and wants to abolish ICE, apparently along with a very sizeable chunk of the liberal Democratic base, and seen Supreme Court justices on the ideological left this week write dissents based on nothing but their perceived intentions of the President and a disagreement on policy, not constitutional limits on power or the law (see previous post on those cases).

Simply put, faced with Donald Trump in the White House, a cooking economy, and the rightward shift of public policy wrought by Republican majorities in Congress and a GOP president, even if slow at times, has the Left as enraged as a hive of yellow jackets, and they have completely stopped pretending they’re moderate in any way. Much like the Republican base in the wake of the 2012 presidential election loss, where conservatives sensed that we had nominated two consecutive moderates on the premise that “they could win” only to watch them lose, the Democratic base is infuriated with establishment leadership (see Cenk Ungar’s of the “Young Turks” election night meltdown) and ready to do things like, say, eliminate some of the most prominent Democrats in Washington in primary races, such as Joe Crowley, and replace them with honest-to-goodness socialists. Like the Che Guevara kind. I must say that as someone who has been telling people for over a year now that one of the most consequential effects of the 2016 election would be a rapid leftward shift in the Democratic party fueled by base activism much like the GOP was pushed right by the Tea Party (in my view, the latter was by and large a good thing—I’m a Tea Partier myself), this Tuesday was a little vindication. The clear parallel to Eric Cantor’s stunning primary loss in 2014 to economics professor and amateur Christian theologian (and fellow native Michigander!) Dave Brat were hard to miss Tuesday night. Perhaps Democrats think that this “Resistance” movement will power them to victories this fall as they obstruct all immigration proposals and play Machiavellian politics to the extreme. They may win back the House this fall, although that remains to be seen, but if so, it will be despite Democrats’ radicalism, not because of it.

This week, the establishment got rocked in New York, the liberal journalistic sector went full-on “Trump=Hitler” and the logos of younger progressives, whereby political opponents are “enemies” deserving of scorn, worthy of public haranguing and physical assault, has gone from a fringe idea cloistered in the Ivy Leagues and liberal arts colleges to a serious strain of thought among Democrats, led by Maxine Waters. The Democratic platform, which as recently as 2008, when another SS member named Obama topped the Democratic ticket, called for increased border security in addition to legal status for otherwise law-abiding illegal immigrants, opposed gay marriage, and had reservations about gun control on guns other than assault weapons. My how the times have changed. As far as I can gather, the Democratic platform this time goes something like this: adopt European-style socialized medicine, slash US military spending without scaling back our commitments to defend Europe or our implicit commitment to dwarf the capacity of all our NATO partners, impeach Donald Trump because, imaginary collusion and bigotry, abolish ICE and the national border along with it, increase the minimum wage to infinity, because John Rawls, make energy more expensive by cutting off fossil fuel development, make it a crime to be religious outside your own house, balloon the debt even further, and impose the dogmas of “intersectionality” and “white privilege” on every—and I mean every—debate. This crazy platform, and the accompanying histrionics on full display this week in the mainstream media, are election losers if I’ve ever seen any. If this election were on pure policy, the Republicans should be picking up seats in both chambers. The Democrats’ only saving grace is that the man in the White House, despite having some genuinely good policy ideas (at least better than I ever thought he’d have) has the communication skills of Hank Williams in Davos, Switzerland, or, alternately, of a Davos regular at a rattlesnake roundup and Baptist revival in Opp, Alabama. And tariffs. Many on the right, including me, even if they like the China tariffs and see the long-term national security rationale of reducing China’s export markets, think that tariffs on our other trade partners, especially if we want to take on China, are madness and a threat to all the economic growth that his policies have spurred so far. Will voters punish Democrats for jumping the shark? Only time will tell.


Like Butter, The Supremes Are On a Roll–And Exposing Liberal Justices’ Activism

This week, the Constitution got a shot in the arm from the highest Court in the land, as did the conservative movement, as the Supremes decided three cases, all by narrow 5-4 majorities but with huge implications, in favor of judicial restraint, freedom of speech, and religious liberty. On Tuesday, news arrived that the Supremes affirmed the constitutionality of Donald Trump’s so-called “travel ban” on the commonsense reasoning that religious bias could not be proven in a document that never mentions religion, that closes off country to two nations with no Muslims whatever to speak of (North Korea and Venezuela), falls well under a president’s authority by virtue of section 212 of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, and has a clear national security purpose. That same day, word came down that they overturned a California law requiring CHRISTIAN CRISIS PREGNANCY CENTERS to provide women with information about where they can get abortions instead of adoption counselling on the same compelled speech doctrine that played an assisting role in winning Jack Phillips his business back in Masterpiece Cake Shop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission (in essence, the “compelled speech” doctrine states that the government cannot force citizens to say things that they find repugnant to their basic beliefs–like give abortion-seeking advice). Wednesday, the Court overturned state laws requiring employees in unionized public services, like education, from paying a minimum compulsory union due even if they do not belong to the Union, also by a 5-4 margin. Not that contemporary politics is a war with enemies (every American is persuadable and fellow citizens, even those with whom we disagree fundamentally, should not be thought of in martial terms–but nonetheless, that doesn’t mean we have to be milquetoast in rhetoric or try to couch our disagreements in political correctness), but this trio of court cases is to the conservative cause what Midway, El Alamein, and Stalingrad were to the allied cause in 1942–momentous wins in and of themselves but more importantly, by their logic and occurrence, portending of larger and more important victories later.

In these three decisions, along with Masterpiece, the Supreme Court has dealt judicial activism a critical blow, even if not fatal, while simultaneously clarifying several other important questions in favor of conservatives. First among these, the Masterpiece Cake Shop v. Colorado decision, when taken in conjunction with the California crisis pregnancy case, make clear that government’s will, even state governments’ will, where there is normally more latitude to use broad police powers than at the national level, cannot neither be used to make atheism the established religion of the United States nor to subjugate individual citizens’ right to express their conscience before laws that claim to be based on nebulous notions of fairness. This couldn’t be any more consequential, and with Justice Kennedy retiring, the five-justice majority on the Court is set to become firm in its support of religious liberties. This is a point that, beside being the right decision and the embodiment of the promise of a free America that our Founders left us, can unite libertarians and conservatives alike, the libertarians for the free speech and liberty aspects, the conservatives for the prospect of putting significant dents in Roe from the private sphere and community organizations.

Secondly, in the Trump travel ban case, regardless of what we think of the prudence of Trump’s travel ban itself, the Court’s logic in Trump v. Hawaii is beyond airtight. President Trump’s first travel ban, of course, which specifically singled out Muslim travelers, ran into problems in the lower courts, but this second one is a blanket ban on travel from Iran, Syria, North Korea, Venezuela, Libya, Somalia, and Yemen meant to protect the United States from foreign terrorist threats like those of al Qaeda, al-Shabaab, ISIS, and others. Notably, the list includes two countries with as many Muslims as Syria has Southern Baptists–North Korea and Venezuela–clear enemies of the United States for the moment that are on the list clearly not out of religious animus (even if we grant that a religious test, clearly tied to a US national security concern, is illegitimate), but out of national security concern that with tensions running high in Venezuela and the situation on the Korean Peninsula still volatile, either regime might try a radical stunt against the United States to distract their own populations from grinding poverty and shore up their own legitimacy (although this tactic hasn’t worked well in the past for third-world autocrats; see: War, Falkland Islands).

Further, it seems that anyone trying to prove a First Amendment violation here has to wrestle with the inconvenient fact that there is a gigantic list of Muslim-dominant nations that are not included in Trump’s travel ban, like Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman, Turkey, Lebanon, Egypt, Algeria……and so forth. The nations that are on the list all have but one thing in common: internal instability, problems with terrorism, and autocratic leaders highly antagonistic to the United States and its allies, or some combination thereof. By any reasonable examination, there is no First Amendment violation in Trump’s travel ban. Whether it will prevent terrorism in practice, or whether it is prudent, is irrelevant in a legal examination. And on the legal merits, there’s no reason to see religious bias in Trump’s travel ban, unless one looks back at President Trump’s campaign statements in favor of a sweeping “Muslim ban…until we can figure out what the Hell is going on.” Ironically, the liberal justices on the Court, in their Trump v. Hawaii dissent, led by Sota Sotamayor, chose to turn to these campaign statements as evidence of religious bias in a separate act over a year later despite the fact that in the high-profile Sebelius Obamacare case, they refused to take Obama’s assurances that Obamacare was “not a tax” into consideration when they ruled the law’s individual mandate constitutional because it was a tax. This bias is all the more glaring because President Obama’s statements came in the midst of legislating, and could therefore be considered part of the ACA’s legislative history, which falls well under SCOTUS discretion in ascertaining a law’s constitutionality, while President Trump’s statements were on the campaign trail nearly a year before he made a policy of any kind, and the policy before the Court was not a “Muslim ban,” in the blanket sense proposed on the campaign trail. The liberal justices’ dissent centered on two things: prudence of the policy for US image and protecting against terrorist attacks, and imagined religious animus. This was not a legal dissent, but a political one.

In the third major case decided this week, Janus, the Court ruled that public-sector unions cannot force non-members within the shop to contribute minimum involuntary union dues. Essentially, the Supreme Court just made America a “right to work” nation from coast to coast. Here, too, the conservative five-justice majority used the compelled speech doctrine to rule in favor of Mr. Janus, a social worker from heavily-unionized Illinois. It ruled that even if the union set aside a fund to be spent specifically on political advertisements, lobbying, and advocacy and only forced non-members to cover operating costs of bargaining and administrative expenses, it still violated the compelled speech doctrine (which makes sense to me, as money paid by one employee to the general fund could be used in shell-game style to reduce the contributions of another member and increase their share of political money, making employee A indirectly an enabler of the political activities he abhors).

Union activists usually point in response to studies showing that wages and unionization rates in states with right-to-work legislation are lower than in “closed-shop” states like Illinois, but this is an oversimplification. Most of the original RTW states were in the Deep South, which has never had a large union presence to begin with because it’s not industrialized, and the Plains, for the same reason. The RTW states started with much lower wages and union membership rates anyway, and though wages in Tennessee and South Carolina (RTW) are still lower than they are in Pennsylvania or Illinois (closed-shop), they are growing much faster in Tennessee and South Carolina, and that’s the statistic that matters. Of course, RTW states have lower rates of unionization, because a culture opposed to unions and more favorable to property rights is likely to produce RTW laws early because they have so few union members. Would anyone expect Alabama and New York to have the same union membership rates under any legal framework? If so, I’d like to see what that legal framework is! The question is whether unions within a given state will collapse because of the Janus decision, and for insight into that question, it is best to examine the individual states where RTW has gone into effect and see its implications for unions.

Though public-sector unions are crying cataclysm and predicting a huge wave of so-called “free riders,” who will, it is thought, reap the benefits of collective bargaining now without paying the mandatory dues to support that union. experience in the 28 states that already have some form of right-to-work shows that they will not collapse overnight, but they will have to work harder to retain their members and the accompanying dues. Michigan is one of the 28 states that no longer have closed-shop laws, and my father is a public-sector union member in that state. What has happened, by his account, since Michigan passed RTW legislation while I was in high school, does not suggest the imminent collapse of public-sector unions. It is true that in many states, including Michigan, unions are required to collectively bargain on behalf of everyone in the shop whether or not they are a union member (those laws should be repealed along with closed-shop dues requirements for consistency, and because with today’s technology, tracking which laborers are members and which are not and creating paychecks differently accordingly is very doable), so for the first year or two after RTW, many teachers stopped paying union dues, well-aware that their salaries would not go down as a result. The union wage applied to them no matter what. But this did not cause the union to collapse, but to adapt.

Since wages were off the table as a carrot, the Michigan teachers’ unions turned to benefits: they offered more sick days for union members than for those who contracted with the school directly. They gave additional benefits exclusively to union membership, like certain fringe benefits. Now, almost all the teachers are back to paying dues, and those that don’t made a decision of their own volition. In short, the union had to stop spending so many resources on politics and ignoring its members and start making it worthwhile to join the union in the first place, which is what generally happens when people are free to choose. Unions certainly still have a place in American life, but whether that role is larger or smaller than the current one should not be decided by bureaucrats, but workers themselves, and the Janus case makes this the nationwide reality. Union bosses may lose, along with their pet political projects, but union members will win under Janus.

The Supreme Court has made three landmark decisions this week in favor of liberty and a stricter understanding of separation of powers and constitutional government, but all three cases, or at the very least, the California and Trump travel ban cases, should have been 9-0. That Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Steven Breyer, Elena Kagan, and Sota Sotamayor felt the need to dissent on extra-legal grounds, particularly in the Trump v. Hawaii case, is indicative of a disturbingly activist tendency that ignores the separation of powers among the Court’s liberals. Given the progressive jurists’ activist position and the likelihood that another few years will bring about a liberal justice’s retirement, Republicans of all stripes and philosophical persuasions have ample reason to come out to vote this November and keep Republicans in firm control of the Senate to confirm future judges and protect an originalist, or at least legally conservative (stylistically, as opposed to activist) understanding of our Constitution. Let’s keep the Supreme Court on a roll.





Hypocrisy Comes Home to Roost at the Red Hen

Note: This is a co-written piece by the blog’s proprietor and usual author, Nathan Richendollar and his close friend Hayden W. Daniel of Mississippi.

Nestled in the historic Shenandoah Valley between the verdant Blue Ridge and the rugged Alleghenies, Lexington, Virginia is usually a quiet place both literally and figuratively. The pamphlets in the admissions office of Washington and Lee University, where we attend college and run The Spectator, a conservative student publication, all say so. However, our sleepy little town has become embroiled in a national controversy of late. Last Friday, less than a five-minute walk from campus, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders found herself booted from the Red Hen on “moral grounds,” by Ms. Stephanie Wilkinson, the owner of the downtown restaurant. The resulting media firestorm from this incident, along with others involving Trump officials and restaurants, has reignited the debate over business owners’ right to refuse service on moral grounds.

Ms. Wilkinson ejected the White House Press Secretary at the request of gay employees uncomfortable with serving Ms. Sanders, whose father is well-known for his Evangelical conservatism. Sanders had also been, in the employees’ estimation, less than compassionate toward migrant children in recent press briefings. According to Wilkinson, Mrs. Sanders left without issue after a short, polite conversation, at least as polite as telling someone she is too deplorable to eat at one’s restaurant can be. Ms. Wilkinson had every legal right to deny Mrs. Sanders service, as she ought. But the action itself, and the far left’s enthusiastic approval thereof, speak volumes about left wing hypocrisy. Meanwhile, the reaction on the right, with some exceptions, exposes a fundamental left-right divide about the role of government.

The hypocrisy exposed by this incident is staggering and indicative of a disturbing puritanical trend in liberal thought. Leftists lambasted Jack Phillips, the owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop in Colorado, for refusing to serve to a gay couple based on his sincere religious conviction that gay marriage is contradictory to his Christian faith. Barely two weeks ago, leftists argued that businesses should provide goods and services without consulting the private moral convictions of the owner or employees, that business owners have no right to judge their clients’ morals and decide who to serve based on those judgments. What of that logic in the Red Hen situation? In an apparent homage to Orwell’s memory holes, the Left now proclaims that business owners have the right to refuse service based on the owner’s deeply held political conviction that Trump and anyone associated with him is evil. The Left, once one of the loudest voices in America for tolerance of all regardless of race, religion, class, or creed, has become one of the principal sources of intolerance. As Friedrich Nietzsche said, “Beware that, when fighting monsters, you yourself do not become a monster.” The Left has failed to heed that warning, and it has become the very monster that it once zealously crusaded against. Talk about hypocrisy. But if the left wing is hypocritical for supporting Ms. Wilkinson’s right to discriminate but not Mr. Phillips’, then isn’t the right hypocritical for doing the opposite? a progressive might ask. We think not.

There is a profound divergence between the left’s response to perceived Christian bigotry and the right’s response to the Red Hen imbroglio, and it is heartening for the future of small-government conservatism. In response to Jack Phillip’s refusal to bake a cake for a gay wedding, liberals cried for a legal response to the owner’s “discrimination.” This reaction is a cornerstone of the liberal ideology. If there is a problem, then the government must enact a restrictive law or a series of burdensome regulations to rectify the situation and ensure social justice!

Conversely, conservatives reacted to the incident at the Red Hen by demonstrating in front of the restaurant, voicing disapproval whilst driving by on Washington Street, leaving one-star reviews, and boycotting the Red Hen. In other words, conservatives responded to discrimination not by reaching for the long arm of government intervention to bludgeon Ms. Wilkinson, but by turning to free market discipline and social pressure. In the conservative model, Ms. Wilkinson is free to be as discriminatory as she wants and uphold her “moral convictions” to her heart’s content. She can ban not only Sarah Huckabee Sanders but also any Trump supporter if she so wishes, but as Benjamin Franklin said, “He [or she, or ze] that blows the coals in quarrels that he has nothing to do with has no right to complain if sparks fly in his face,” and such puritanism produces plenty of economic “sparks.” The more egregious the owner’s discrimination, the more people will refuse to patronize her establishment. In contrast to the liberal model, no one has pursued legal action against the Red Hen, and there is no serious effort to pass legislation barring discrimination against conservatives. Of course, there are a few Twitter trolls on the populist right, along with a few of the protestors who gathered in front of the Hen this Monday, calling for the closure of the Red Hen or an IRS audit into the owner, and that is unfortunate. The man who stood on the corner in front of the Red Hen holding signs reading, “LGBT-Let God Burn Them,” and the one who threw chicken excrement on the pavement at the corner should both take heed of Nietzsche’s advice as well and remember that the right’s persona as the everyday American’s movement, not its emulation of 1960s leftist tactics and outside, professional agitation for right-wing means, has earned it the adoration of many ordinary peace-loving Americans. But these wingnuts are not the majority, nor even a significant share, of conservatives. Most conservatives still look on agitation and professional protest, especially that which requires travelling to another place, with suspicion (see: Tea Party–Michiganders went to local Michigan tea parties, Ohioans to Ohio tea parties, and so forth), and even more look on social disturbance from protest with disdain. Rockbridge County’s local conservatives are not out for violence or retribution–those are outside agitators with nothing better to do on a Monday.


Thankfully for Ms. Wilkinson, the current President has not inherited President Obama’s penchant for using the administrative state against political opponents. Whereas a conservative restaurant owner that refused to serve Eric Holder, for instance, could have looked forward to a CFPB investigation and closer IRS scrutiny of his charitable giving, especially to Tea Party groups, Ms. Wilkinson need only prepare herself for the natural consequences of her actions—those of the market.

Many Lexingtonians will not eat at the Red Hen now, us included, owing to this weekend’s show of disdain for nearly half the country. Perhaps this lost business will be outweighed by increased business from progressive patrons. If so, then the market will have determined that even a business that disrespects high-ranking officials of its own government, denies standard service not based on a disturbance or direct affront to the owner’s morality, but past actions unrelated to the transaction, can survive in Lexington. But if not, then hypocrisy will have come home to roost at the Red Hen.

Of China and the US

In the mid-1800s, Britain was the undisputed world superpower. As Americans, we sometimes forget that the United States did not become a superpower until the world wars or even attain economic superpower status until the 1870s. We might have been growing quickly, but Britannia ruled the waves and enforced increasingly laissez-faire norms of trade (especially when compared with Britain’s 1700s mercantilism) with the power of her insurmountable and technologically superior navy. The Union Jack proudly waved over the Great Pyramids of Egypt, the Taj Mahal of India, the shores of South Africa, and Canada’s Rockies. But Britain did not stay in this hegemonic role in the long-run, as is plainly obvious today. Germany, the United States, China, Japan, and others have all overtaken the UK in gross domestic product, cultural soft power, and military might. The British military, once second to none, is now third to many. So how did the United States steal the baton of world superpower from the British? The reasons are strikingly similar, with some notable exceptions, to the circumstances under which China aims to overtake the United States this century. Those who underestimate the strategic, economic, cultural, and military threat that the United States, and indeed the entire world, faces from a potentially hegemonic China are whistling past history’s graveyard.


The United States, after achieving Independence and fending off the British a second time in the War of 1812, had several great advantages among the nations of the world, including a free economy, a religious population with strong community instincts and voluntary organizations, and relatively unfettered immigration to the expanding frontiers, but perhaps our greatest advantage, at least in geopolitical terms, was that in North America after 1814, we ruled the roost. Separated by the vast Atlantic Ocean from the storms of European monarchies, we could develop a powerful economy on two-thirds of the continent’s breadth (soon to be the entire breadth by the time the late 1840s rolled around) without frittering away our productive capacity continually defending far-off colonies and becoming embroiled in frequent land wars. Especially in the aftermath of the Civil War, when the Republican Party held the closest thing we’ve ever had to one-party rule in this nation, America developed an industrial base rapidly by keeping interior impediments to American productivity, such as income taxes (which equaled zero) and regulations low while religiously enforcing property rights, patents, and contract obligation, allowing continued immigration to settle and develop our country and contribute ever-increasing human capital to our national stock. But we also had high tariffs at that time, especially compared with today. People these days forget that the Republican Party in the days of Lincoln and the aftermath of the Civil War was not a laissez-faire party, at least with regards to international economics. Most Republicans, and a good many northern Democrats, represented urban northern districts, or at least northern districts that had a substantial manufacturing interest even if they also had a large farming contingent (like the areas around York and Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, upstate New York, and most of Ohio at the time). As contrasted with today’s United States, which places average tariffs on incoming goods at 2-3%, between 1870 and 1910, our tariffs averaged between 35-55% on incoming goods. By protecting our own fledgling industries (or perhaps in spite of it) while keeping internal impediments to production non-existent and attracting talent and labor from the world over, we surpassed Britain as the world’s largest economy in 1875 or 1876, depending on how we measure. Our production exploded, and with that production, opportunistic politicians and war profiteers realized that even though Britain was still the world’s reserve currency, most powerful military, and generally regarded as the most culturally powerful nation, America could begin using our growing cultural and economic clout to control our own sphere of influence, the Caribbean and Latin America. This would be especially true if Britain continued to fritter away moral credibility, financial resources, men, and national wherewithal in seemingly endless struggles throughout its empire to keep the peace and maintain the global order of which it was the leader. Britain hadn’t fought a war against another power that posed a credible threat to England’s existence since Napoleon was defeated at Waterloo in 1815, but as any all-powerful nation does, England still skirmished and fought proxy wars like clockwork, intervening in South Africa, India, Persia, China, Egypt, sub-Saharan Africa, against New Zealand’s natives, and so forth. All the while, it spread itself thinner and thinner in the face of an America concentrating all its might on one distant continent, ready and eager to expand.

About twenty-five years after we passed British GDP, a wave of warlike fever hit the country as suddenly as the common flu, and exploiting the feeling, the more hawkish in Congress, after the sinking of the USS Maine in Havana harbor, sent us into the Spanish-American War, kicking the last vestiges of the Spanish empire out of the hemisphere and convincingly asserting American hegemony over Latin America, building on previous precedent when we demanded to arbitrate the debt dispute between Venezuela and Britain to keep the English out of South America. And from this foothold of naval power and security to form profitable client states for US business by sending troops into Caribbean and Latin American nations over thirty times between 1900-1925, our industrial and military capacity expanded ever more. By the time World War II started, we were the only nation that could participate without having its homeland in imminent danger, and leveraging our overwhelming industrial power, we were the only power in the war to fight on two major fronts—and win convincingly on both of them. The Axis powers were on a roll before Pearl Harbor—the Japanese had taken Manchuria, coastal China, most of Southeast Asia, and several strategic island chains, while the Germans had rolled through Poland, France, Hungary, Belgium, Ukraine, and most of southern Russia—but after America jumped in, the Axis powers were on their heels within a year. US military muscle, along with a motivated soldier corps (2/3 volunteers!) landed in Morocco, putting pressure on Hitler’s southern flank, sent troops to Britain to prepare for a liberation of Europe, and reduced the Imperial Japanese Navy to a joke by the end of Guadalcanal and Midway. We leveraged our large and inventive population, along with some foreign help, to build the A-bomb, and by the time we won WWII, we had a majority of the world’s manufacturing capacity. As in: greater than 50% of all the things on Earth were made in America. We instituted a new world order built on rule-based arbitration, conflict avoidance, and an underlying assumption of American financial and military dominance. And as that latest trashy Carrie Underwood song goes, “You can figure out the rest.”

The Chinese currently employ the same tactics. With American large-scale interventions in Asia suspended since Vietnam (like British ones in North America were post-1814) and the all-powerful Soviet Empire now a military and economic ghost of its former self (like France and Spain in North America by the mid-1800s), the Chinese have little to worry about on their borders, much like 1800s America did not. The only possible caveat to this assessment is that they have India on their border, which is only half true. India borders Tibet, a sort of suppressed buffer state, and in case of war, no land army from the Indian subcontinent could feasibly cross the Himalayas that run the length of the China-India border. Much like 1800s America, the current Chinese economic strategy is to make internal environmental regulations, wage regulations, internal taxes, and the like nonexistent while protecting their producers from foreign competition with high tariffs, albeit under a politically suppressive regime rather than a republican democracy and with outright subsidies, poor patent protection, and other auxiliary market controls to boot. Their average tariffs stand at nearly 8%, more than triple the United States rate (but still not as high as the US in late 1800s), but if subsidies were treated as clandestine tariffs that aid producers, this figure for many manufacturers would near US late 1800s levels. Also much like 1800s America, the Chinese economic strategy is also based on developing talent, technology, and skilled immigration. The racism of the Chinese Communist state limits the effectiveness of this strategy, but with a domestic workforce of over one billion to train and educate and about 50 million ethnic Chinese elsewhere, ethnically restricted immigration won’t hurt China as much as it would hurt smaller nations seeking to develop technological superiority through similar methods. The Chinese government is already appealing to the nationalism and patriotism of highly-educated ethnic Chinese within the United States, like scientists and economists, trying to bring them home. As noted, though, the Chinese model calls for central control of the innovation and lack of private IP rights, which may slow China’s development and efficiency, though to date they have deftly avoided this problem by stealing enough IP from other nations to easily lead the world in technology within a decade or two at current pace. The current “belt and road” and “Made in China 2025” initiatives are like semi-state directed versions of America’s late 1800s/early 1900s invention boom, where US intellect gave the world telephones, telegraphs, automobiles, alternating current electricity, the world’s best medicine, and the most efficient agricultural techniques in the world. American ownership of these technologies, and the entrepreneurial spirit of the people that fueled them, allowed America not only to out-produce the world, but to increase its livings standards more than any other nation, to out-think and out-communicate, to own the future of world development for at least a century. Now the Chinese want to do the same with artificial intelligence, machine learning, engineering, chemistry, computer technology, energy, space exploration, and healthcare. The question is whether a state-directed form of incentives can truly accomplish the same ends as America’s free enterprise boom, but then again, it’s not entirely communist in nature. Scientists and top innovators in China are paid well, and the Chinese have ditched some of the less tenable elements of communism that completely snuff out incentive to work.

On foreign policy, it’s also clear to me that we’re playing the part of Britain at the moment. Our military, even though we don’t technically have colonies to defend, is spread across the whole world, as is our technologically superior navy. We are still the world’s de facto reserve currency, as the British pound was until Bretton Woods agreement in 1946, and like Britain in the pre-WWI era, we have not faced a serious state actor opponent for nearly three generations, but have fought an extensive series of skirmishes and wars with terrorists and states like Vietnam, that while they may have the capability to deter us on their own land, posed no threat to the immediate security of the US homeland. These sorts of brawls have taken us to: Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Granada, Nicaragua, Kuwait, Vietnam, Korea, Yugoslavia, and so on. Much like the British colonial quarrels between 1815-1914, these have been mostly routs in our favor with a few notable exceptions, like Vietnam, where a stronger than anticipated local force drove our willingness to fight for very little tangible gain over the edge, but none of them succeeded in keeping peace and satisfaction within the Pax Americana, just as Britain’s overwhelming might could not keep its Empire quiet. And while we spend resources in faraway places to ensure that the national borders of (insert small country with GDP smaller than Ohio’s here), as is our supposed duty as the world’s current most powerful nation, China builds up in its own homeland and continues to concentrate its firepower on one very specific region of the globe, unencumbered by a need to fritter away resources on different continents, unless of course that effort is meant to create dependent client-states in Africa, much as the US did in Latin America in the early 1900s. Also much like the United States at the tail end of the nineteenth century, the Chinese are trying to enforce a Monroe Doctrine of their own: the South China Sea, Southeast Asia, and Taiwan are not to be interfered with by the West. And like the US of yesteryear, they’re getting disturbingly close to having the capability to enforce this backyard dominance. China is pumping anti-ship missiles, advanced fighter jets, and forward bases into the South China Sea region at alarming rates. Within a decade or two at current pace, the United States will not be able to assert its will in Southeast Asia, much less protect Taiwanese independence from the mainland. Their attempts to monopolize the Mekong River’s dams, to coerce the Taiwanese, to manipulate Korea to their liking and put artificial islands on Japan’s and the Philippines’ doorstep is all evidence of the eagerness of the Chinese to prove their renewed national greatness, starting with the nearest neighbors.

Now, all this historical analysis of the similarities between China’s strengths in current development and America’s in the late nineteenth century, with important differences noted, might bring about the retort: but was Britain’s fate all that fretful? The lack of Christianity, lack of common moral life, lack of economic freedom, high taxes, lack of gun rights, lack of free speech these days for conservatives (I highly doubt that some of my blog posts would stay up very long in today’s Britain), military flaccidity and general malaise of that once-great country all set aside for the sake of argument, I suppose not. The system the United States imposed on the world after the Second World War was not radically different than the one Britain imposed without challenge prior to the First World War. The United States did not seek to oppress the former superpower, nor did we invade the British Isles upon clearly surpassing Britain in both economic power and military capacity.

But this is because the United States developed from British colonies on the seaboard and thus has (or at least had in 1946) more in common with the UK than any other nation on Earth, save perhaps for Canada. We both spoke English, broadly believed in free-market capitalism, property rights, and liberal democracy (liberal in the sense of individual rights). We both had large Christian religious majorities, had legal systems based on the traditions of English common law, and had not fought a war with each other for over 130 years by the time the US emerged dominant from WWII, though the Brits did briefly toy with the idea of aiding the Confederacy in the Civil War to keep America divided. In short, we had little to fight about and a deep understanding of each other’s culture, heritage, economic system, and political system. China is an entirely different bear….er…..dragon.

For starters, China and the United States went to war in the 1950s in Korea, and much of the current Chinese maneuvering in North Korea negotiations aims to keep US-allied South Korea or a new US-allied regime from touching China’s current border with North Korea. The memory of war with the United States, and indeed a resentment of the West more generally, is still alive and well in China if the regime is considered representative of the Chinese people. Rather than trust built up over a century of peaceful relations, we have a tacit long-term hostility to China, which is still ruled by the Communist Party after all. We were in a Cold War with the Communist Soviet Union and its allies, including China, barely thirty years ago. Additionally, even if we had a history of peace with one another, the underlying fundamentals do not suggest it will continue once China has a realistic chance of attaining dominance. We have different economic systems (communist/state-directed development vs. capitalism, sort of), wildly different cultures and social mores, different languages, and a common need for scarce natural resources in developing regions, like Africa, Latin America, and Southeast Asia to power our industrial/technological economies, one commonality that leads to confrontation and competition, not understanding. Make no mistake: the American and Chinese political and economic traditions, social norms, and national egos are at direct odds, and the odds of devastating warfare between our two great nations are astronomical on the current course. Enlightenment-infused Judeo-Christianity and Machiavellian Communism mixed with Confucius cannot co-exist as superpowers of equal strength. It’s just the competitive exclusion principle of ecology at work: just as no two species can occupy the same niche, in the same space, forever, no two nations or two governing philosophies can occupy the same role (superpower) on the same fragile planet forever.

If we let China pass us on the road to economic and military development, the world will face the most famous “Thucydides trap” (when an ascendant nation threatens the established power) in history, whereby the Chinese will have good reason to think that they can assert their regional dominance, and whereby the forces of history and obligation will force our hand in disputing that claim with force. Nuclear and biological weapons will hang in the balance on both sides, ready to be used if conventional defeat looks imminent. There are four options: war later on China’s terms, war now on our terms, hope China modernizes and becomes just another nation in the “global community” of transnational citizens, or lastly, find some clever way of standing up to the Chinese without going to war, growing faster than them once again, and re-building our military with that economic growth (and also concentrating our forces in the Asia-Pacific region and away from Europe). The third option (hoping China becomes nice) sure sounds appealing, but unfortunately it is also unrealistic. Thirty years of a growing China enmeshed in global trade have not made it any more democratic, any more politically repressive (if anything, growth has given the Communist Party legitimacy), any less cruel to its own ethnic minorities, any more tolerant of free speech, or any less ambitious to control its neighbors and subsume Taiwan into the mainland. What makes us think that another thirty years of the same fuel will cause the Chinese Communist Party’s engine to stop? Option three is not an option. As Ben Franklin would have said of option three, “Those who live upon hope die fasting.” War with China later on their terms equals defeat for the United States, at least as the reigning global superpower. That may sound bearish or pessimistic, but it’s just the facts. When the UK faced a rising Germany (the other rising power besides us in early 1900s), it had France, Russia, and the other rising superpower, America, to back it up. We have no one of great military prowess to aid us. The Europeans are feeble, and the Australians might have the heart and the motivation to resist China, but are few in number. If China begins a war with us, it will be because they know the time is right for them to win comfortably so long as the war stays in the Western Pacific. We can hope they pull the trigger too soon, as Germany did, but I think that’s unlikely. That leaves us with two options: war now, which would be an offensive war, unjustifiable on the world stage, and leave us with no allies in the brawl but plenty of enemies, or a clever way of re-securing our role as the global superpower, even if we want to use that superpower status less to control the world and more to be secure at home in our own traditions and liberties to the greatest extent consistent with our own national security, not the national security of Algeria or the freedom of the people therein (a heretical idea that is today deridingly called “isolationism”).

To me, this last option seems the only tenable one. Which is to say that a trade war with China is justified, not on economic terms, or even immediate national security terms, but on long-term survival concerns. China exports much more than they import, and curtailing that export revenue would slow China’s growth and deprive them of the money necessary to fund the belt-and-road initiative, “Made in China 2025,” and military equipment. We should also slash out internal barriers to innovation and production, such as regulation, domestic income taxes, and corporate taxes. The Federal Reserve projects that this second quarter, our GDP expanded at 4.8%, much faster than the previous years and nearly as fast as China’s 6-7% growth. But we need to accelerate to that range ourselves with further incentives to innovate and produce in the United States, which could be coupled with greatly increased immigration for skilled scientists, mathematicians, artisans, and professionals under H2-C visas from the current 40,000 cap to 500,000, to be offset by cutting the limit on unskilled labor inflows. Coupled with fast growth and demand for labor, and this should raise the lower-middle classes quickly, especially as professional services get cheaper! Talk about a quick way to reduce wage inequality and raise living standards—double the supply of doctors, lawyers, and chemists but crack down on foreign unskilled labor—but there will be barriers. This will have to pass Congress, where every professional organization known to the bedraggled American citizen that gets held up by them (ABA, AMA, Optometrists, Accountants, etc) will suddenly be lobbying for restrictions immigration policy. We need congressmen with the guts to fully address immigration now, to be free-thinking rather than hard-lined “kick out all the foreigners,” or “open borders,” for our ability to maintain our lead in technological prowess, advanced manufacturing, AI, telecommunications, space exploration, and everything else depends on it. From this growth and innovation, we need to invest a sizeable chunk of it in rebuilding the military, as Trump has already begun to do, but with a heavy emphasis on asserting our presence in the Pacific and developing both more conventional power like ships and planes and more technological superiority.

Lastly, we should do two things in the trade war: first, make good on Trump’s offer for a completely tariff-free zone with the EU, Britain, Canada, and Mexico in addition to seeking freer trade with Korea, Australia, Japan, and Latin America to redound to our mutual benefit and get our allies, weak as they are, back on our side to offset lost Chinese imports (the more cheap stuff we can get from these other nations, the less the trade war with China will hit US consumers through higher prices even as the loss of export revenue batters China—though US growth will probably still slow down no matter what from this as complex supply chains running through China grind to a halt), and secondly, use attrition to not only deprive China of resources and send it into a recession, but force it, as a condition of letting up, to stop stealing US IP, stop illegal subsidies and adhere to WTO rules, and lower its tariffs on US exports, which are much higher than those that run the other direction. This would ensure that China, short on its own innovators, cannot become the world superpower by cheating its way to the top, and that America’s innovators will again have ample incentive to develop the world’s latest, greatest, and most profitable technologies. We must re-focus our forces on Asia, phase out our involvement in Europe, where a weak Russia should not be able to threaten a Europe fifteen times richer, and learn from the historical example of the United Kingdom: declining superpowers that play it passively will not stay in that role for long. They will be challenged, overtaken, be forced to rely on powerful friends as Britain was with the USA. Britain survived (in national sovereignty at least—not in culture or liberty or faith) because its friends overtook it. We won’t be so lucky. We must take our future into our own hands, and step one is to win Europe, Canada, and all the friends we can find back onto our side before initiating a totally rational, even if painful, trade war. I can only hope and pray that if we do follow through with tariffs and the ensuing hardship, Donald Trump can explain their necessity to the American public well enough to avoid an electoral defeat that would validate Xi Jinping’s belief that democracies are weak, inherently obsessed with the short-term and avoiding pain at all costs.


*Footnote: I have no desire of partaking in this modern world in which AI runs everything and we are infinitely mobile, isolated, and utility-seeking creatures, no desire to talk to machines at fast food stops and live in such a cold world of everything as understood by its portrayal on a screen and relationships as reduced to nothing. But something tells me that if China became the hegemonic power, there might not be room for author/farmer/economists living on their dream 100 acres in Kentucky, Ohio, or Tennessee with the hounds to match, unless the land is contracted for delivery to Shanghai, designed and chemically treated for maximum production without regard to the American farmer’s health, and the dogs are named variously: Mao, Zedong, and Boxer. We have to win this race if the dream of American independence and tradition is going to survive to 2100, a date I may very well live to see.

An Assessment of North Korean Affairs

This week, the unthinkable happened. A North Korean “Supreme Leader” and the President of the United States had a direct sit-down, an event that had been anticipated ever since this March, when US-NOKO relations suddenly took a seemingly rosy turn. On June 12, President Trump and Kim Jong Un met face-to-face to negotiate the future of the Korean peninsula and the Hermit Kingdom’s provocative nuclear program. While they had only a one-hour discussion and a private walk, the two leaders signed a short communique before leaving Singapore for their respective homelands. This short document, which implores both sides to work toward “complete denuclearization” of the Korean peninsula but is short on specifics, has the media world abuzz. Some are calling for Trump to be given a Nobel, while others chide President Trump for not getting enough in return from the North Korean fatman…I mean strongman. Observing the left fracture in a million different directions on this point is quite amusing.

Of course, the left since the Vietnam War has been primarily anti-war, or at least pro-diplomacy. Now with a relatively isolationist Republican in the White House who is suspicious of the national security apparatus and inclined toward American disentanglement, the left is tangled. Some liberals, so strident in their opposition to Iraq and Afghanistan, now sound more like George Bush every day, declaring that diplomacy with North Korea is futile and that unless human rights are addressed along with nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles, there must be regime change in North Korea. Others find themselves awkwardly patting Trump on the back for bucking the hawkish sentiments of some in his own party, people who never would have thought to offer a summit with the North Koreans. But all this lefty confusion leaves the question open: who’s right? Did we give up too much, or are we set to defuse North Korea like a cheap roadside firework on a rainy night? What follows is my amateur attempt to answer that million-dollar question.

First of all, let us examine what actually happened. Kim Jong Un got the North Korean flag on an equal podium with that of the United States, won an invitation to the White House within forty-eight hours, and got the United States to cancel next year’s March “war games” with South Korean forces, and in exchange, committed his nation to “complete denuclearization.” His missile program went untouched, as did human rights abuses inside the Hermit Kingdom. On its face, it certainly looks like Trump got hoodwinked. One left-of-center columnist said as much when he declared today that Trump is relying on the same principle that Obama did with the Iran deal (the hope of future denuclearization based on promises and goodwill) but that Obama got inspections. However, I think it’s much too early to say this is a bad deal, and that the comparison with the Iran deal actually tilts more in Trump’s favor that his critics are willing to acknowledge. First of all, Obama’s Iran deal, if not renewed, guaranteed Iran what Publius would call “colorable pretext” of legitimacy for going nuclear within fifteen years, whereas Trump’s first move (not the end deal) is based on the understanding of “complete denuclearization.” True, this first accord does not specify a timetable or verifiable inspections, but that’s because it’s the first in a series of meetings. The next accord could very well contain those specific provisions in return for US economic aid. Which brings us to the second point: Obama’s Iran deal gave the Iranians instant sanctions relief, in addition to billions’ worth of ransom payment, immediately. Trump has given North Korea no quarter on sanctions, which are the toughest the United States has ever imposed on a foreign nation short of outright blockade or war. Apparently, he intends to keep the Kim regime thoroughly impoverished until the denuclearization actually happens, contra Obama. Third, neither the Obama Iran deal nor the Trump deal currently touches long-range ballistic missiles, but without nuclear warheads to put on said missiles, having long-range missiles is a terrible waste of scarce military budget money.

Fourth, this deal’s reversibility stands in sharp contrast to the Obama Iran deal, wherein we were promised that if Iran broke the terms of the deal or it was discovered that Iran lied about the extent of their previous nuclear research (which they did), that we could simply “snap back” sanctions only to discover that when we tried to “snap back,” it was our European allies that snapped. This communique is between the United States and North Korea. Period. At the first sign of North Korean intransigence or deception in the next nine months, Trump could “snap back” the suspension of US-South Korean war games and hold them as normally scheduled. Which brings us to another point: we did not withdraw any of our 30,000 troops from the peninsula, nor was this point discussed whatsoever in Singapore. If Kim reverses himself, Trump could not only call on the war games, but a real war. Kim still has no breathing room, no economy, and now, he has committed to denuclearization on the world stage. Believe me, I am apt to think, along with the skeptics, that Kim is absolutely terrible and that Trump may be over-doing the praise as part of the diplomatic process, but the dynamics of this summit, while they do convey some legitimacy on Kim, especially within North Korea for propaganda purposes, do not close any options to the United States. Now, if Trump comes out tomorrow saying he’s cutting back sanctions and/or pulling us out of South Korea in exchange for another nebulous promise, then all the chatter from the left about Trump abandoning our allies will be dead on. But for the moment, this is not the case at all, and in fact, I think Kim is in a position where even a Machiavellian jurisprudence would force him to follow through on denuclearization in the next year to keep terms friendly. With Trump as president, a renewed hostility now after the US rolled out the red carpet would likely mean a war that would annihilate North Korea.

So, overall, I’m cautiously optimistic about the situation on the Korean Peninsula. The comparisons to Obama’s Iran deal, when examined more thoroughly, show that Trump, at least to this point, has not blundered into the sort of appeasement-lite terms of the Iran deal and that we have much more leverage over North Korea, even with relations warmer, than we had over Iran, which knew the second it got sanctions relief that the entire West would never agree to re-impose sanctions. The North Koreans know that if they try to retain their nukes after such grandstanding with the President, he will have ample reason to ask Congress for, and receive, a declaration of war on the North. More than anything, Trump hates being made to look like a dupe, and if Kim Jong Un knows what’s good for him, he’ll take this opportunity to have more meetings with Trump, agree to specifics that verify the denuclearization and paring down of his missile program, but allow him to maintain his ironclad grip on power and get economic aid and trade connections in return. Which will make some human rights purists mad, but would they rather have war with a nuclear power when relative peace and arms reduction is possible? Lastly, whatever the end result of the next negotiation or meeting, the Senate should consider it as a treaty to secure the legacy of peace from future president’s whimsy. This sort of stability and gesture of broad popular support would also assure Kim Jong Un that we will not at some proximate future time decide we want to depose him even though he got rid of his nukes.

Mexican Restaurants, the Melting Pot, and the State of the US Economy

At the outset, let me state a heresy: I love cultural appropriation. I absolutely adore it. Without that dreaded sin, without citizens willing to venture outside of supposedly ironclad culturally or racially defined roles and mores (isn’t it ironic that the left is arguing for inviolable racial norms these days? Can you say reverse secesh?), this nation would not have rock and roll or country music, both of which borrowed heavily from black folk music, Scots-Irish instrumentation and bluegrass roots, and other influences. We wouldn’t have Americanized cheap Chinese food, a staple for so many in middle America. We wouldn’t have jazz either, or Tex-Mex music and cuisine, or most of our dancing. America, unique among the nations of the Earth until the rest of the world learned from our example, rejected the notion that our destinies, our habits, and our cultural norms are bound to our blood and nationality. No doubt, these things certainly exert an influence on how we live, but that influence is not all-powerful in America, not usually consciously obeyed, because of our “melting pot” mentality, which allows members of different groups to adopt common core beliefs in liberty, property, self-government, and Providence, intermarry, intermingle, and adopt segments of each other’s habits and culture. This is seemingly lost on today’s so-called liberals, and a few on the fringes of the alt-right, but mostly the left. The left wants a salad bowl of protected, aggrieved minority groups who can be harvested for votes periodically so long as they are kept from integrating into broader American culture, which would confer economic success and make them less inclined to fall victim to identity politics. A few crazies on the extreme right want no melting pot at all, but a uniform bowl of white yogurt, but not many. The overwhelming majority of Americans, whether they want a southern border wall or not, whether they want legal status for DACA kids or not, whether they favor reduced or increased legal immigration limits, still like the idea of a melting pot, and with good reason. Being one of those Americans, I wish to relate a few observations from last weekend.

After six weeks in Washington DC, I drove I-66 to 81 back into the Shenandoah Valley last Friday through intermittent thunderstorms, gleefully watching the suburbs give way to the Blue Ridge Mountains just short of Front Royal and anticipating the beautiful drive south on interstate 81 back to the Lexington area, where I planned on eating at Becky’s diner as the sun set over House Mountain. Becky’s is a truck stop diner that offers all-you-can eat buffet options for potatoes, local chicken, meatloaf, fish, slaw, apples, and the like. Much to my dismay, Becky’s has been replaced, tackily enough, with an I-hop. Nothing against I-hop, but that diner was a staple of Lexington cuisine, an emblem of the Valley’s agricultural roots and deep-fried soul. The latest casualty of economic centralization I suppose. Anyhow, I took my business further up route 11 to a perennial favorite: Muchacho Allegre Mexican, a reasonably-priced and delicious joint a few miles north of town of I-81. Upon walking in the front door, something looked incredibly different: the sleepy joint with one waiter and an old bespectacled owner of Mexican extraction had doubled its floor size and now employed (in addition to both employees I remembered) at least seven waiters and waitresses that I counted at mere first glance, three gathered in the corner gossiping on break, a few milling back and forth from the kitchen to tables. The place was packed with truckers, construction workers, professionals, and families. With the economy running at 3.8% unemployment (plus underemployment, but we’re still at either record or near-record low U/E no matter how you choose to measure), real wages rising for the first time in decades, and the Fed saying to prepare for an annualized growth rate of 4.8% this year, perhaps I shouldn’t have been surprised. This is the best economy the United States has experienced since the 1990s at least, and it is generating more consistent and robust job growth than anytime in post-Vietnam memory. Much like other issues, though, these reports are just abstract numbers until you see them affect your life and see them in practical terms. 3.8% unemployment? What the heck does that mean? That means that the job market is so tight that the local Mexican restaurant has quadrupled its staff and doubled its floor space, the local McDonald’s now has twenty-minute wait times due to the labor shortage, and the back of over half of the trucks rolling through Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley read, “Now hiring.” 4.8% GDP growth and rising real wages? That means that even some of the most redneck families in the Valley are eating dinners on the town.

Naturally, being a child of the 2000s, my attitude toward rapid economic expansions is one of great suspicion. I remember all too well how what Alan Greenspan would call the “irrational exuberance” of 2005-2007 parlayed itself into the worst economic pullback since Herbert Hoover occupied the Oval Office. Any Hayekian must see the government policies or excessive speculation that produced the artificially-inflated economic boom, not the inevitable bust, as the real culprit of pain and loss. So, we libertarians, especially those who have majored in economics and know all too well how the macroeconomic cycle usually goes and how the government exacerbates it, tend to get antsy when we see economic numbers so good, from experience and theory alike. But there is some reason to believe that this expansion, now the longest on record in the United States at nine years, has a little more fuel behind it than previous expansions. First of all, after the recession ended (officially) in 2009, growth proceeded so anemically until at least 2012/2013 that it is highly suspect to call this a nine-year expansion. In truth, if we exclude 2009-2012, when annual GDP growth averaged barely north of 1% (3% growth is normal of expansionary periods since WWII), this has only been a five-year recovery so far. Further, the exuberance of the early 2000s had little job creation and no wage growth whatever to support the economy’s expansion (read as: it was all fueled by easier debt), but this time around, job growth is humming along at an average of nearly 200,000 per month, the unemployment rate is either at or below its natural rate depending on how we measure, and real wages are beating inflation for the first time since the 1970s. In other words, this economic expansion has more sustainable fundamentals: people have more money to spend and are spending it and have more reliable employment and are using it to get quality credit, as opposed to the early 2000s, when everything was built on money out of thin air, known in our society as debt. Lastly, the massive deregulatory and corporate tax-cutting program undertaken by the Donald Trump administration, which is eliminating multiple regulations for every new one created and cutting the federal bureaucracy down to size, is freeing the rest of the economy up to actually produce things without wasting time and money on useless activities, like compliance with duplicate regulations. To date, his promises that the corporate tax cuts would result in more jobs and higher wages have come to fruition, and these stimulations may give the current business cycle expansion more staying power than a normal one in which trillions of dollars’ worth of burdens were not being lifted off of job creators.

But this stupendous economy is threatened by the looming specter of a trade war that would push up prices for US citizens, reduce output by our industrial companies, and likely provoke extensive retaliation, killing our exports a la Hawley-Smoot (the Herbert Hoover tariffs that, along with radically wrong-headed Federal Reserve policies, helped make a typical recession the Great Depression) and burgeoning American deficit spending, which will push up inflation and interest rates as the government has to compete for an ever-larger share of the savings pool to finance our T-bill debt. These rising interest and inflation rates will crowd private investment, home buyers, and families, and if real wage growth falters with such rapid deficit spending underway, the stagflation of the 1970s will be back with a vengeance. Mr Trump: do not start a trade war, but pursue your idea of a completely tariff-free G7 vigorously, and if you start a trade war, make it count by hitting China, not Canada or Europe. Anyway, back to the Mexican restaurant.

The most striking part about my return to the Muchacho Allegre lay not in economic expansion, but the music that accompanied another dinner run the next night with a friend. Never before had one of my visits to the restaurant included live music, but much to my surprise, about fifteen minutes into munching on tortilla chips, out strolled two gentlemen with plug-in acoustic guitars on the far end of the new expanded section. Oh, great, I thought, here comes either some trash modern country or pop to ruin my meal. Boy was I mistaken. One of the first couple songs they played was Merle Haggard’s “Mama Tried,” which they followed up with Van Morrison’s “Brown Eyed Girl,” and some Garth Brooks. My kind of band. Seeing as they seemed to be a casual pair of jam partners and having reasonable fun, I decided to request my favorite Merle Haggard song, “Okie from Muskogee,” as I walked by them on my way back to the table from the bathroom. “Play Okie from Muskogee,” I said. One of the waiters said, “Good choice.” He didn’t have an obvious Hispanic accent, and he turned out to be from the local area, but also Latino. A Hispanic waiter at a Mexican restaurant with an Appalachian accent who likes classic country and appreciate Merle Haggard’s anti-hippie, patriotic message? Talk about a melting pot! Now what could be more American than that? It was a nice reminder that even with all the identity politics among the intellectuals of both parties today, even with their attempts to slice and dice us on grievance lines and fear, we steadfastly refuse to be caricatured, to be put in neat little boxes of ethnically appropriate behavior. Many Latinos in this country don’t see themselves as just an ethnic check box on a census form, but Americans, which helps explain why many Latinos voted for Donald Trump (more than voted for Romney, in fact). Similarly, for white Americans, what breed of white you are (more often: what mutt of breeds) is a novelty question, not an assertion of identity. If I were in Brazil and someone asked me what I am, I’d say, “American,” not “part German, part Irish….etc.” Judging from our short chat during my next meal, my waiter would also respond “American.”

I ate Mexican food and used Mexican sauces, and my Mexican waiter complimented Merle Haggard. A serving of cultural appropriation burritos anyone? Cultural appropriation, unless done with intent to jeer, is the very stuff of human existence, of diplomacy, of the American ideal. And it is beautiful. It’s the idea that I don’t have to check my love interest’s DNA before deciding if I can propose, that we’re meant to combine all our cultures’ good things and learn from each other while shedding the bad and imbibing some common elements from the Western Enlightenment/Christian tradition, like individual responsibility and liberty, that bind us together. Long live the melting pot!

West Virginia Weekend Finds

At the start, let me say you can also view the youtube video to go along with this post (and some of my other older videos) at:

Anyway, this Saturday, Bethany and I decided to take a little jaunt northwest from the Shenandoah Valley and spend some time high in the spruce and northern deciduous trees of the Alleghenies in West Virginia. Bethany had never seen a few of the most common species in the Eastern WV mountains, like Allegheny Mountain duskies and Valley and Ridge, nor had she seen the rare, endemic Cheat Mountain Salamander, which I needed a better picture of anyway. So it was that we got rolling around lunchtime under partly cloudy skies toward Staunton, where we’d start heading west after bypassing the city on the Woodrow Wilson Parkway (which I jokingly call “The worst president ever parkway”). Headed west into the Virginia portion of the Alleghenies, the western skies darkened with building rain clouds, though not severe, and the gently rolling land and comely foothills of the Valley gave way to steep, piney, rocky, imposing knife-edged mountains that enveloped valleys of dairy farms and grazing land. The temperature dropped as our elevation gained, and mountain laurels and the smell of rushing mountain waters graced our crossing into the Mountaineer state, where the mountains got even closer, craggier, shorter but steeper, and all-encompassing.


Our first spot in the high mountains, flanked by rhododendron, beech, maple, and various conifers, as I predicted to Bethany before we got out of the car, yielded an Allegheny Mountain Dusky Salamander within five yards of trail, though we lost the caramel-striped critter in the leaf litter. Higher up the mountain, we had no shortage of duskies young and old to photograph, from a reddish-tan striped one to a very old melanistic individual that had lost nearly all coloration.



Typical Allegheny Mountain Dusky (above) and Cheat Mountain Salamander (below)

But duskies weren’t our main target on this moss-covered, spruce and fly-infested mountaintop. No, that creature was found not fifteen minutes after we filmed some duskies and set them back. Under a narrow spruce log nearly sewn into the bright green moss, at first I found nothing, but at the very end of where the log had been, something black and gold-speckled caught my eye, something Plethodon-shaped. Cheat Mountain Salamander!!! We were elated, and pictured the videotaped the salamander as if it were a Democratic presidential candidate embroiled in scandal and we reporters from Fox News.

After getting our fill of this unique Appalachian endemic, we set him and the log back where found and drove down off the mountain back toward the Virginia line. We stopped at a beautiful mountain river on the way back before crossing into Virginia, ostensibly to look for Hellbenders, but also because it just felt good to wade in a picturesque stream with the hills all around us, looking at orange and blue crayfish and darters and feeling the frigid water around our calves. After again crossing the border on the 15mph curves into Virginia, we stopped at a Civil war battlefield, the Battle of McDowell in Highland County, Virginia, to see some historical sites. There, Confederates delayed the Union seizure of the Shenandoah Valley, the South’s main breadbasket, by turning back the advance of Ohio and West Virginia units (W.Va split off from “Old Virginny” because as a mountain region with very few slaves, it saw little reason to fight for the South and leave the Union). Among the troops who marched through that section of Virginia in the campaign to take the Shenandoah Valley at places like McDowell, Fisherville, and New Market was my great-great-great-great grandfather, Henry, who fought under the 3rd West Virginia light artillery. A surreal experience to be sure, and it also yielded a slimy salamander as a solid final herp of the day. As Bethany says, “You haven’t been herping unless you have slimy salamander slime on you.” As always, I hope you enjoyed the read, and happy herping to you all!

Thoughts on the Opioid Epidemic and Drug Policy

A century and a half ago, the Chinese under the Qing Dynasty fought two wars to prevent British, French, and to a lesser extent, American traders from exporting opium to China. The levels of opiate addiction had hit unacceptable levels in China, and the economic and social consequences of the rampant opium addictions were catastrophic. So the Qing banned the importation of the mostly British India-produced drug and enforced the ban by destroying chests of the stuff bound for China’s port cities, river towns, and hinterlands. British merchants didn’t like that. The West in general didn’t like that, and used the iron fist of modern military might to subdue the Chinese into re-opening the opium trade in East Asia, along with ceding Hong Kong and exclusive trading authority in several port cities to the British. Defeated after a hard-fought but doomed series of wars, the Chinese acquiesced and re-opened the opium trade, re-paid Britain a huge sum to compensate for the military conflict, and ceded the West more trading ports in China. The Chinese were addicted, internally demoralized, and swamped with drugs. My oh my, how the turns have tabled.

Today, it’s the West that is swamped with opiate addiction, with over three million opioid addicts in the US alone. Many addicts today start with initial legitimate uses, such as prescribed painkillers used in the aftermath of surgery, and then get hooked by the time their prescription expires, switching to illicit “analogs” of their prescribed medicine, switching to heroine, or obtaining the same medicine illegally. Much of the illicit opioid trade, 80-90% by some expert estimates, such as that of acting EPA head Robert Patterson, flows across the southern border with Mexico, but a good chunk is now sent across the Pacific Ocean in small direct mail deliveries from, you guessed it….China. Oh, irony. Due to the difficulty of detecting such small amounts of drugs in millions of packages, very few are intercepted, making the practice of shipping high purity opioids, such as fentanyl, by air across the Pacific in small quantities highly profitable. And beyond our illegal drug problems, we also have unprecedented numbers of Americans hopped up on anti-depressants and legitimately-prescribed opioids for surgical recovery or end-of-life pain relief, as in cancer patients. For non-terminal patients, the legal pharmaceuticals, not marijuana, are the main gateways to hard drug abuse.

The US now suffers more overdose deaths than at any point in our history, and the exponential increase in overdoses in the last ten years has caused the life expectancy for American whites to actually decline even while death from natural causes, cancer, and nearly everything else continues its slow downward trajectory with medical advances. We have more dysfunctional citizens addicted to meth, opioids, and the like than ever, and more law enforcement dollars than ever spent trying to quash it. But the more we quash the drug problem, the more quashing it requires. The more drug dealers and users we jail, the more there are that need jailing (by “users,” I don’t mean users of marijuana, who in all but extraordinary cases are not jailed, but users of the much harder stuff). Which brings up a very important question: is government’s “war on drugs” even helping? Not really. We spend billions per year fighting the drug epidemic and the traffic of illegal substances like cocaine, heroine, and meth only to see those enforcement efforts drive up the prices of drugs (since dealing and buying involves substantial legal risk that must be factored into the price) and thereby enriching the very Latin American cartels and US drug pushers that the war is ostensibly aimed at curtailing. But in reality, the drug cartels have no better friend that US drug enforcement. Without them, the price of many street drugs would plummet and smaller producers would be able to compete with purer, safer drugs. Let’s consider for a moment the consequences of a complete and total legalization of drugs in the United States.

First, drug cartels would be wiped out, and along with them would go the thousands of murders and thefts that come as the result of drug cartel turf wars, addicts desperate to steal the thousands necessary to get their next hit, and drug pushers extracting payment from their victims.

Secondly, prices of all drugs would plummet, safer forms of all addictive substances would become available as licit drug makers began manufacturing.

Thirdly, those people who have addictions and want to get help quitting will be able to come out of the shadows and get treatment (which we could fund with the money we are currently using to support Mexican drug cartels despite our intentions to the contrary).

Fourthly, citizens who casually use marijuana (in the states where it is still illegal) will not have their lives ruined and their family lives torn apart needlessly by legal costs (bearing in mind that these people rarely go to jail).

Fifth, the incentive for dug pushers to find more potent forms of drugs in order to compensate for the risk of getting caught dealing will all of the sudden find it more profitable to keep their addicts alive in the long-run and reduce the potency of their stuff along with prices if they want to stay competitive with pharma.

Of course, this isn’t the ideal scenario, but we aren’t in an ideal world here. In the 1800s, America had virtually no drug laws, and also virtually no drug addiction. Today’s America is different. It is more mobile, less religious, less socially conservative in the secular sense, more interconnected, and wealthier, meaning that more people who want to experiment have the [at first] economic ability to do so. We have to recognize that we’re living in the “world of the second best” here and deal with the problem as it exists. Sending people to jail for doing drugs when huge segments of the nation are hooked on [mostly licit] drugs is like spitting in the wind. To truly end the drug crisis through law enforcement would take trillions in surveillance, new prisons, court costs, and the like. We must recognize that the only way out of mass addiction is mass treatment and mass moral revival, not mass incarceration, which, as stated above, only helps drug cartels and makes drugs deadlier. Specifically on the opioid crisis, which has hit rural Appalachia the hardest, the irony is that the government is trying to fix a problem, that, as usual, it helped create.

In the 1990s, we decided that pain was being undertreated and the government decided to add it to the existing vital signs that doctors examine, such as heart rate, temperature, and reflexes. To fix the supposed “pain crisis,” doctors would be reimbursed by Medicare and Medicaid partly based on how their patients’ pain was treated, as measured on a 1-10 scale of pain. Combined with the aggressive marketing of pharmaceutical companies and their representatives, this was a deadly combination. The result? Today, doctors are prescribing more than three times as many opioids per patient than they were in 1999, according to the CDC. And even though barely 2-3% of those prescribed opioids as painkillers for surgery will become addicted, 2-3% of nearly 90 million patients who use opioids in a given year is a lot of addicts. Meanwhile, big pharma companies misrepresented, to put it extremely mildly, the addictive qualities of their drugs like OxyContin and fentanyl. To be clear, most opioid addicts in the United States do not get their drugs from doctors, but many of them start there and then transition to illicit means of obtaining a high, and the government’s decision to emphasize pain control, partly at pharmaceutical companies’ lobbying and behest, played a major role in fueling the current opioid crisis, where over 40,000 Americans die of overdose every year, over five times the figure in 1999. And now they want to fix it, just like they’ve been fixing the drug crisis since the 1980s. How quaint. Forgive me for being skeptical and favoring leaving drug policy where it belongs–at the state level.

At the end of the day, America must realize that the drug problem, in all its forms, opioids, illicit street drugs, and prescribed anti-depressants, is not so much a legal or economic problem as a moral one. We have drug companies that are immoral enough to lie to federal regulators, as Purdue did (the company that was hit with one of the biggest fines in FDA history for falsely claiming that OxyContin was not addictive). We have people who are lost enough and disillusioned enough, or living in pursuit of merely their own pleasure, that they get hooked on addictive substances and destroy their own lives. No amount of parchment and force, no law, can restore the America of yesteryear, where we had no drug laws and very little drug addiction (and what little addiction there was consisted of addiction to less potent, natural forms of drugs since there was little incentive to create more potent forms as there is now), and any assertion to the contrary is nonsense. If people want to do drugs and lack a moral compass, the threat of prison will not stop the vast majority of them. It will only enrich drug cartels, create violence, incentivize pushers to find more diluted, more potent, and thus more expensive per unit substances, ruin lives senselessly, and keep addicts from seeking treatment for fear of imprisonment. Criminalization is a placebo, and a very expensive one at that. Only a restoration of our traditional values and Judeo-Christian values from the ground up can stem the tide of our drug issues and reduce the misery created by these dangerous substances. When the executive boards of the drug companies were all raised in churches and have a sense of obligation to their fellow man, fear the wrath of God if they knowingly addict that fellow man, the opioid problem will be much less severe. When we have more citizens who do not have any desire to get high, they won’t. Want to solve the drug problem? As the cliché goes, look in the mirror. Be your family’s keeper, your friends’ keeper, and most of all, your own keeper. Don’t expect anyone else to spend billions to protect you from your own decisions, because that’s impossible.

Picture courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.





Pennsylvania Trip Report

With only another week here in my DC internship, I figured it was time to take advantage of my northerly position to visit Gettysburg and do some Pennsylvania herping in the process. Bethany and I headed north early in the morning, at first with difficulty as the labyrinthine city streets of Washington impeded us, but as we exited the beltway into the rolling Piedmont of central Maryland, the mood improved greatly. We approached Pennsylvania as the Union army had in late June and July 1, 1863, from Taneytown and Emmittsburg, rolling toward distant lines of blue-gray low mountain ranges.


Our first stop, at the mountains’ edge, yielded a few green frogs around the edge of a pond where a White-tail fawn lay bedded down in the brush, motionless as I approached. A nearby rushing stream, which Bethany and I waded and walked the banks of in search of Wood turtles (the main target species for the day) turned up a few Northern two-lined salamanders, lifers for Bethany, who had never herped far enough north in the mountains to get them, cruising a big rat snake and a DOR snapping turtle in the process.


Rat snake in defensive posture after we moved it off the road



Bethany’s lifer Northern two-lined


The skunk cabbage and fern-covered forest floor, fragrant with springtime vibrancy, didn’t turn up any turtles, so we went further into the mountains of central PA. Here, we searched a couple of absolutely picturesque mountain streams, one of them among the five most beautiful streams I’ve ever seen. Sandy-bottomed, crystal clear, two feet deep, and flowing swiftly through hemlocks and mossy deciduous woods, it looked like something from a dream. But the beauty of the habitat once again didn’t translate into Wood turtles, so we came back down from the mountains to hit a lowland spot we knew could yield at least one lifer. That it did. Along the banks of a small lake further into the Piedmont near Amish country, we found a gaggle of Red-bellied turtles basking on artificial platforms, a specialty of the Maryland/PA/Delaware/New Jersey coastal plain and Piedmont. These turtles have declined of late, in part, scientists think, because of fierce competition from introduced Red-eared sliders, popular in the pet trade but not native east of the Appalachians.


Red-bellied sliders basking


With that, we cruised back west to Gettysburg, where we determined that with storms imminent, a further search for Wood turtles would be futile and that we would just see the battlefield. The impending storms gave the battlefield tour an appropriate ominous feeling as we gazed at monuments to the dead, Union and Confederate, at America’s deadliest battle. The stories of strategy, providence, and heroism at Gettysburg are unparalleled in US history. From Col. Joshua Chamerlain’s daring bayonet charge when he ran out of ammo to defend the Union left flank to Lee’s fateful decision to charge the Union center, Gettysburg’s grounds are replete with sobering reminders of the sacrifices made to preserve the Union and determine once and for all that America is free ground. Looking at the Lee statues, or the monuments to the states that sent so many to fight and die on that little patch of picturesque Pennsylvania countryside, makes you stop and think about what those men died for and whether we are living up to their sacrifice. Anyway, this is a herping post. I also had forgotten that Dwight Eisenhower retired to Gettysburg after his presidency until yesterday, when signs pointed out his residence, a black angus cattle farm just west of Seminary Ridge (the Confederate position on July 2-3, 1863).


With no Wood turtles but two lifers for Bethany, one for me, a whole lot of much-needed stream-wading, sight seeing, and hiking under our belts, we drove back to DC through Maryland once again, stopping at a Waffle House on the way and discussing the battle and our battle plans to see a future Wood turtle. What a great day! Happy herping you all!