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The Republican Convention and PBS

© 2012 by P. A. Ritzer

29 August 2012

As I watched one speaker after another intelligently and engagingly put the lie to the Obama and Democratic Party record and talking points, I had to wonder at the PBS team covering the event.  First of all, I would have rather heard and seen Janine Turner and Nikki Haley and anyone else I missed when the PBS team deemed that their .  .  . what? .  .  . “commentary” and “analysis” should take priority over the contributions of the real players in this one-time event.  Among other things, I wondered if the amply seasoned partisan commentators Gwen Ifill, Judy Woodruff, and Mark Shields, and their token conservative–so suited to the role that he writes for the New York Times and was once inspired to prophesy about an inevitable Obama presidency while staring at the crease in Obama’s pants–David Brooks still made a pretense of objectivity.

Regardless, I thought back to an earlier time when I was glad of PBS Republican Convention coverage.  It was 1984, and I had finally landed on PBS after hurriedly clicking through the four available channels.  Why the rush? Well, because I had noticed that, off in the distance behind John Chancellor droning on to Tom Brokaw, it appeared that Jack Kemp was speaking.  No, the networks would not talk over one of the most dynamic and popular Republicans of the day.  But, sure enough, when I landed on PBS, there was Kemp.  But they would not do that to Jeane Kirkpatrick, the keynote.  Sure they would, and at least John and Tom did.  Again, I found her on PBS.  So, two of the brightest stars of the night, including a brilliant woman who was at the time still a Democrat who would switch to the Republican Party the next year, were kept from the view of the public by tedious liberal commentary.  I remember that Paul Harvey–this was still a few years before Rush Limbaugh burst onto the scene and signaled the beginning of the end of the liberal media monopoly, for now–the next day mentioned this abuse of power by the networks and how he would tune to PBS from that time on for coverage of the Republican Convention.

So, I did just that, as well.  And during a later campaign, when MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour was the only news program that, despite its liberal bias, would at least bring on guests representing the opposing point of view, I watched their campaign coverage.  I remember the glowing backgrounder report on the Democratic Party, stretching well past Martin Van Buren and Andrew Jackson and the Albany-Richmond Axis all the way back to Thomas Jefferson.  No mention of slavery, the Dred Scott Decision, the Ku Klux Klan, lynching, the black codes, disfranchisement, Jim Crow, opposition to women’s suffrage.  Huh.  All right.  Well, anyway, I looked forward to the backgrounder on the Republican Party.  I believe it was Judy Woodruff who delivered it.  As I remember, it started out with how “the modern Republican Party” started with Richard Nixon.  What?  Not conceived as a reaction to the Kansas-Nebraska Act and its extension of slavery?  No Ripon?  No Abraham Lincoln?  No Emancipation Proclamation?  No Frederick Douglass?  No Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments?  No civil rights laws?  No Ulysses S. Grant?  No Susan B. Anthony, women’s suffrage, and the Nineteenth Amendment?  No Theodore Roosevelt?  No Calvin Coolidge?  No Dwight D. Eisenhower?  No century-long battle against the Democrats to secure civil rights for African-Americans?  No, it was Richard Nixon.  The “modern” Republican Party started with the most discredited, rightly or wrongly, Republican president in history.  How convenient.

But people are beginning to know better today.  The new media is shredding the monopoly of the liberal media, though many–including the Republican establishment–have not yet fully realized it.  And thus people have access to sources that belie what was spoon-fed to the public by the old media.  And the media did look old on that PBS panel.  Nevertheless, they still try, and feisty old Mark Shields thought he had really got one of the guests when he pointed out that the Morrill Act and the Homestead Act, both first passed in 1862, were Republican “government programs.”  Yes, but these were not liberal Democratic programs like those of the New Deal and the Great Society designed to create dependence on an ever-expanding government.  To illustrate my point, I refer to the following excerpt about the Homestead Act from Seven Ox Seven, Part One: Escondido Bound, pp. 55-56:

In the case of homesteading, the government made available public property, not confiscated from its citizens, to those citizens who could benefit from it and were willing and able to improve the land and bring forth its produce to augment the production of the nation. The government did not retain ownership of the land, but turned over ownership to the private citizen after the citizen had earned it and, in the process, proven himself suited and worthy to own it, benefiting the nation in the process. Thus, whereas through an income tax the government confiscated private property, through homesteading the government created private property by distributing parcels of the public domain to those who earned them.
And, after all, was not the United States of America a nation of people in a geographic area with a system of government devised by that people: “We the people of the United States of America.” The land did not belong to the government: it belonged to the nation, a nation of people. The representative government of that nation, that “government of the people, by the people, for the people,” merely fulfilled the role of administering the nation’s public land. Since the land of the nation belonged to the people of the nation, and since the land in question did not belong to any particular citizens, why not make it available to the greatest number of citizens or potential citizens (especially those without the capital to purchase it) who would earn ownership of it by improving that land and making a living from it, toward the end of making them productive, propertied citizens? Why not, where it was feasible, open the land to ownership by those citizens who would prove their worthiness to so own through their commitments of time and effort and their achieved improvement of the land? If an applicant could not improve it, could not make it, then he did not earn the property. The property would be open for another to attempt to earn. This process would continue until those who earned ownership of the land were those most suited to inhabiting and making a living from it. It was an investment of the nation in itself, to place upon the land those most suited to bring forth its produce.
Was it not in the best interest of the nation to place upon the nation’s land the greatest number of deserving people who could benefit from it, rather than allow the land to be concentrated in monopolies by persons or entities? Did it not give more citizens a stake in the nation, give them more reason to participate as free citizens? And this was not a giveaway. It was a sale, in which those with little or no capital could purchase land through their labor by “proving up.” And it would not contribute to dependence but to independence, as those who earned it were awarded ownership. And it was Republican. Though the roots of homesteading were older than the Republican party and could be traced back to a proposal by Thomas Hart Benton in 1825, and even further back to Thomas Jefferson, who had said, “as few as possible should be without a little parcel of land,” it was the Republicans who had made it law. It had been a plank in the Republican party platform, and Republican Galusha Grow of Pennsylvania had authored the homestead bill that President Lincoln had signed into law in 1862. Lincoln had succinctly said of the policy, “I am in favor of cutting the wild lands into parcels, so that every poor man may have a home.”

Conscience, Law, and the Buffalo Hunt (Part One)

1 February 2012

From Seven Ox Seven, Part One: Escondido Bound, the first of three excerpts from pages 219-228.

Copyright © 2007 by P. A. Ritzer

Tom, for his part, still reflected as he rode along through the region in the dust of the trailing herd. One thing of which he was sure was that the slaughter was wrong. The hunting of the buffalo was not wrong. The skinning of the buffalo was not wrong. The sale and use of those skins for clothing, industry, or any other legitimate use was not wrong. Even the reduction of the vast buffalo herds to make way for other uses of the land was not necessarily wrong. What was wrong was the greed behind it all and what that greed had wrought.

What that greed had wrought was the waste of untold tons of meat (and even the waste of many of the hides for which the animals had been killed, due to hasty skinning, curing, or both). It had wrought a slaughter that, if it continued apace (and there was every reason to believe that it would), was sure to wipe out the species without due consideration of all the ramifications of that extermination. It had wrought further enmity between whites and the Plains Indians and the further reduction of those peoples to a pathetic dependency.

It had wrought all of those things and more, Tom could see. And yet, as disturbing as all that was, there was another work of that greed that encompassed all the rest, and that was the work of perverting freedom into license. Tom believed that such a large-scale perversion of freedom was detrimental to, and indicative of, the relative health of a nation, especially of one that had been founded with the security of the inalienable right of liberty as one of its central tenets and had recently fought a bloody civil war to preserve itself and abolish the singularly most glaring and festering contradiction to that tenet. Where freedom degenerates into license, he mused, man has already relinquished the mastery of himself to his passions, and it only remains to be seen who or what will succeed his passions as his master. In such circumstances, a free society is very much in danger.

There is no true freedom without responsibility. In light of that truth, Tom thought of some of the buffalo hunters he had met along the trail and before. Despite the common characterization of the buffalo hunter, some of these hunters were respectable people, some of them whole families, and many of them regretted the wasteful slaughter of the buffalo, actually lamented the part they were playing in it. Yet, they licentiously continued in it, killing as many as they could as quickly as they could, before there were no more to kill, because they were desperate to get as much as they could out of the slaughter, desperate to secure their part of the fortune that the buffalo hides represented. Had a law been passed to stop the slaughter and preserve the breed (and there were several attempts at such legislation throughout the 1870s), they would have gladly obeyed it and been glad for it, and yet, as long as there was no law, they would continue to play their part in the slaughter up to the very extinction of the animal.

Due to greed, and the pride behind it, these hunters were willing to reject their God-given stewardship of the earth. They were willing to relinquish their own judgment of what was right and wrong, as well as their freedom to act upon it, because they wanted to get all that they could get, and they did not want to fall behind anyone else who might be profiting from the same motivation and the same refusal to govern himself according to right and wrong. Tom thought about how that tendency was not so uncommon, how that tendency was, indeed, universal. Still, there were individuals, call them the conscientious, who, through prayer, reflection, or both, came to know such tendencies in themselves and to see the evil in those tendencies and, with the help of grace, to overcome or check those tendencies, to greater or lesser degrees. In doing so, the conscientious were forming their consciences, and in doing so according to objective truths, these individuals were subjecting themselves to “the laws of nature and of nature’s God,” cited in the Declaration of Independence, a subjection without which a free society must degenerate into anarchy or tyranny or the ugliest amalgamations of both.

A free society depends upon the will of the individuals in that society to take personal responsibility for their freedom, to govern themselves according to objective truths of right and wrong, Tom reasoned. When the individuals of a free society refuse or even just neglect to take responsibility for their freedom, when they refuse or neglect to form their consciences and to be ruled by those consciences attuned to “the laws of nature and of nature’s God,” then those individuals choose license over freedom, and they give in to a progression toward disorder or toward being ruled by something other than the self guided by conscience.

Tom saw just such a progression in this matter of the buffalo. He considered those hunters, not the lawless element of that occupation, but those respectable ones, call them the lawful, as they were willing to submit to the laws of the state. He considered those lawful, who would willingly and gladly stop the slaughter, and even feel relieved to do so, if only the state would enact a law requiring it. He considered how those lawful were passing on the responsibility for their actions to the state, and with it, they were passing on their freedom, their right of liberty, their right of self-government. He thought of all that it had cost in human sacrifice to establish and preserve a nation that had been founded to protect freedom and other human rights. Then he thought of how such shirking of responsibility and freedom and relinquishing of rights were unworthy of that sacrifice, and of how it would be better to have one’s freedom and rights usurped rather than to have them so carelessly discarded.

Interestingly enough, even the lawless element of the buffalo hunters (those apparently most opposed to being ruled by others), though they might refuse or neglect to discern the wrongness of the slaughter that the lawful had discerned, and, in fact, because they refused or neglected to do so, they too were passing on their freedom to the state, because they would not even accept responsibility for their freedom to discern. These lawless too were giving the state greater power with which to rule over them, even if they intended to defy that power. Both kinds of men, those who had some respect for the law and those who did not, were willing to let their freedom be overwhelmed by the dictates of the state.

(continued in Part Two)

Solved: High College Costs and Illegal Immigration (Part Two)

Copyright © 2011 by P. A. Ritzer

15 November 2011

Instead of the government-student-loan approach to college financing, I propose the Knute Rockne approach, dramatized in the 1940 film Knute Rockne: All American, in which, fittingly, Ronald Reagan became the Gipper.

Rockne wanted to study at the University of Notre Dame. So, in order to do so, he worked four years at the Chicago Post Office and saved his money. And he continued working. Besides climbing up from a scrub to captain of the football team, he graduated magna cum laude and was offered a job at Notre Dame as a graduate assistant in chemistry. He accepted, as long as he could also help coach the football team. From 1918, when he took over as head coach, he compiled a record of 105 wins, 12 losses, 5 ties, 6 national championships, an .881 winning percentage, highest ever in college or professional football, before he died in an airplane crash at the age of 43. He once said: “The best thing I ever learned in life was that things have to be worked for” (

On the other hand, today we hear of “jobs Americans won’t do.” What! Jobs Americans won’t do! Since when? Since they could rack up tens to hundreds of thousand of dollars in government-backed or -provided student loans while immersed in youthful ignorance that does not appreciate the trap it sets until they are caught in it, or liberal arrogance that does not care who picks up the tab for their indulgence. And since, in 2009, President Obama and the Democrats engineered a federal take-over of the student-loan business, the president now claims the right to slash the amounts students will have to pay back to the taxpayers. Here’s one more tool liberals can use to turn Americans into effete, dependent, disgruntled, thoughtless voting machines ever ready to pull the lever for the liberals who will do their best to keep them that way.

I think of some of the jobs I had from the age of ten or so that helped pay my way through college and keep the student-loan monster from growing out of control: pulling weeds, delivering papers and collecting payment, mowing lawns, sweeping floors, cleaning bathrooms, installing drain tile, flipping burgers, painting, hanging sheetrock, laying concrete block, striking joints between bricks, and just plain hauling by hand: brick, mortar, block, sheetrock, shingles, plywood, beds, windows, you name it. And most of my friends and family worked similar kinds of jobs.

And from that background I look with disgust upon the display of covetous malcontents–the Occupy Here, There, and Everywhere set–squatting on Wall Street and other public and private properties across the nation. And here is where the sluggish old gray matter churns up a solution. I will run the risk of assuming that these Occupy folks are Americans. And I can think of nothing that would better cure their ills than work.

Sooooo–I know you’re way ahead of me here–take away the student loans, (and dismantle other liberal devices, like the minimum wage, designed to protect a self-serving elite and limit the number of people who can find work) and suddenly we would have a vast number of people who would have an incentive to do the jobs Americans hitherto would not do! Think of the advantages. Instead of the spoiled Occupiers content to wallow in the filth and stench of their own sloth and discontent, we could have industrious citizens energized to wash off the dirt and smell earned from a day of honest hard work. Most would strive for something better and leave the entry-level work for the young workers who would follow in their footsteps. And their hard work at entry-level jobs would give more of a value to the reasonably priced education no longer artificially inflated by government student loans.

And having worked for their money, these young people would likely take a more mature and responsible approach to how much they would be willing to spend on their education and what they would expect to receive for their expenditures. Consequently, they would in all likelihood be less willing to spend what they had earned on much of the nonsense now taught at institutions of higher learning, and for that matter, would be more likely to identify the nonsense for what it is. This would help bring down college costs even more. And with a mature, responsible student population better able to identify and less likely to abide nonsense, liberalism and its attendant political correctness would naturally waste and slink away, and institutions of higher learning could once again freely and honestly search for and explore knowledge and truth as in days gone by.

But what if some natural genius of humble means cannot earn enough to attend Ivy League U? Well, he could apply his genius to studies at Local U and perhaps help raise the standing of that institution–rather than sacrifice himself to the liberal god of the status quo–and leave Local U a better place for those who would follow in his path.

Where does illegal immigration fit in? Bear with me.

(to be continued in Part Three)




Texas Trails: SEVEN OX SEVEN Excerpt

19 August 2011

   At the end of August 2011, we might look back to the Stuart-Schurtz party’s experience at this time of year 134 years ago, and consider the pioneer nature of this blessed republic, the United State of America.

Seven Ox Seven, Part One: Escondido Bound, pp. 171-172

Copyright © 2007 by P. A. Ritzer

   Many were the ways, broad and strait, trod out upon the trails of Texas.  Trails renowned and trails obscure emerged upon the land, born of the myriad imprints of foot, hoof, and wheel: first a single set of prints, then another, and another, countless prints matched to human wills, wills intent on their separate ways, some to loom large in the annals of history, multiples more to be forgotten.  Remembered or forgotten, these ways shared a profound importance, as each determined the ultimate success or failure of a singular human being graced with a supernatural destiny.  The trails were but lines worn into the face of the wilderness, now province, now state, now nation, now state; but the ways trod out upon those trails, each determined by a human will reaching through intentions toward desired ends, with allowance for circumstances, were journeys of consequence.

At the end of August 1877, members of the Stuart-Schurtz party joined their individual ways in a common goal to journey toward consequences common and individual.  Pulling away from home and its holds of love, of memories, of the fruits of labor, they merged their ways onto the Western Trail, their great journey made somehow small upon a trail renowned for epochal migrations of man and beast.

Small upon the trail, small upon the land, small against its time, and yet their souls opened large enough for all of it.  The key, of course, was freedom.  They were free, at least relatively free for human beings still bound in the temporal phase of life.  They owed nothing material to any other human beings.  What they had was theirs, and they had enough, enough to supply their needs and even some desires beyond need, though not so much as to compromise freedom with excess.  They had broken abruptly with the past, its concerns falling farther away behind them with each passing mile, each passing hour.  The concerns of the future lay far off in a place and time unknown to them.  Still, this was not a false freedom without responsibility, which becomes the most subtle and insidious bondage, but the true freedom of accepting responsibility, indeed of taking responsibility for their destinies, and of accepting the incumbent lesser responsibilities meted out in the routine and manageable doses of the trail’s daily chores, each with its immediate and visible reward, however humble, and all, in combination, laying the groundwork for the potentially life-changing reward at trail’s end.