It Even Happens in New York

We oftentimes get accused of shooting our own here on Sonoran Alliance in the name of conservative principles. The majority of the time, I have to agree that the problem with the GOP is that we try to play down our conservatism at large by running moderate to liberal Republicans only to find out that after they win, they give the party a bad rep because they vote no different than the Democrat.

We’ve been watching the same thing unfold in Republican district 23 in New York between so-called Republican, Dierdre Scozzafava, and Conservative, Doug Hoffman. Today, Dierdre Scozzafava suspenced her campaign and effectively withdrew from the race (AP Story). This is definitely good news for conservatives as the voters will now have a clear difference when they vote next Tuesday between a liberal and a conservative. If Hoffman pulls a win off in NY-23 it will send a strong message (as will the Governor’s races in VA and NJ) that the people are mad as hell at Democrats, liberals and incumbents for that matter, and they ain’t gonna take it any more.

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Agree with my premise or not, next Tuesday’s election will be an indirect referendum on the Obama Administration. There are millions of pissed off voters – many of them Independents – who have swung back right of center. As for NY-23, one lesson the GOP should take away is that Republicans need to revisit the doctrine that conservative principles are actually a winning platform.

Trick or Treat? Happy Halloween Progressive America –

“Isms”  social, progressive, communal and otherwise … Take a visit to a time in this nation when Americans still understood the dangers of “ISMS.”

For those of you who don’t know, John Dewey is held as the father of modern American education; esteemed by educator’s and hailed as visionary by those who don’t know otherwise… In 1928 upon his return from Soviet Russia (communism) Dewey said,

I have never seen anywhere in the world such a large proportion of intelligent, happy, and intelligently occupied children” [New Republic, 1928]

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John Dewey, an original signer of the Humanist Manifesto today would be proud of what he helped usher in … America, are you beginning to see what Obama is doing?  The way has been paved by “fellow travelers” for over a century now.

FYI – Tea Party at the Capitol on Vets’ Day

United We Stand Tea Party ( is taking place right at the Arizona Capital from 12:30 – 2:30 PM. It is located at 1700 W. Washington in Phoenix.  It is on Veteran’s Day, Wednesday, November 11, 2009.

Because it is NON-PARTISAN, the organizers have invited Democrats, Republicans, and Independents. Sadly, they have not received any response from any Democrats.

Please, bring canned food for St. Mary’s Food Bank Alliance.  Please, help others by bringing food for the needy. We need to help our neighbors.

All speakers will be addressing the Constitution and Bill Of Rights.

Current Speakers:

12:30-12:50 – Paul Porter –
12:50-1:00 – State Rep. Debbie Lesko (LD 9) –
1:00-1:10 – Debbie Lee – America’s Mighty Warriors –
1:10-1:20 – John Paul Mitchell, Indep. gubernatorial candidate –
1:20-1:30 – TBD
1:30-1:40 – Clint Bolick –
1:40-1:50 – Tom Horne – Arizona State Superintendent of Public Instruction, exploring a run for AG –
2:00-2:10 – Bradley Beauchamp, candidate in CD -1, running against incumbent Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D) –
2:10-2:15 – TBD
2:15-2:30 – Dean Martin – Arizona State Treasurer –

DHS Extorts Higher Fees for a Rotten Licensing Racket

Arizonans for Prosperity

One of our taxpayer activists, Dorothy, wrote me an email (which I have pasted below), complaining about the huge increases in preschool fees that have been mandated this month by the Arizona Department of Health Services.

Here was my response:

Dear Dorothy—

Your daughter is dealing with a rotten government scam, from start to finish.

A lot of economists will tell you that the entire licensing scheme is a racket, and that nearly all of the useful and efficient regulation of child care centers is achieved through reputation, parental/consumer choice, and the tort system.

It is wrong for DHS to raise fees to astronomical heights to prop up a mostly useless licensing scheme.

Unfortunately, as you can see in this news article, the people who ostensibly defend the rights of children in Arizona have been barking up the wrong tree:

The child rights activists are demanding that the government spend more money to prop up the licensing scheme, when they should be working toward pulling the plug on the whole thing.

Thank you for writing to me. You have reminded me that I need to bring this matter up before members of the Legislature’s HHS committees.

For Liberty,


Here was Dorothy’s email to me:

Sent: Sunday, October 25, 2009 8:50 AM

Hi Tom,

I’m not sure if you can help shed any light on the below email my daughter received from the preschool (Bethany Learning Center) that her son goes to. Is this a done deal? Is there anything we can do besides writing letters, etc. the director suggests. This seemed to come out of nowhere – we hadn’t heard anything about it.

Any help or suggestions would be appreciated.


Dear Parents,

As most of you have either heard or read this past week, The Department of Health Services is planning a licensing increase for licensed preschools. The increase will be raised by 8,800 percent. For (Name of preschool withheld) our fee will multiply from $150.00 to $13,442.00 based on the sliding scale fee schedule. The proposal for the increase was made due to deep budget cuts. Unfortunately the escalation of this proportion is outrageous.

This increase in fees comes at a difficult time for preschool and child-care providers. We have all been hit hard with the recession. The implementation of these new fees with no time to plan or budget is too much too fast. We agree the rates are due to go up, however this is something that needs to be done gradually not overnight.

(Name of preschool withheld), as most facilities, is scrambling to figure out how this increase can be paid for. Ultimately these costs are likely to be passed on to families who attend each facility. The Department of Health Services is organizing a public meeting in Phoenix on Tuesday, October 27, from 5:00-6:00pm, for those of us affected by this increase to offer some alternatives to the proposed fee structure. If you are as concerned as I am about the increase in licensing fees, plan on attending the meeting so your voice can be heard.

As the Director of (name withheld) I would like to encourage you write a letter to Governor Jan Brewer letting her know that this is outrageous. It is a back door tax being imposed and it has the potential of putting facilities such as ours out of business. The governor signed this bill; she needs to be aware of the impact. In addition your concerned e-mails to the legislators letting them know that this fee structure will be devastating to child-care facilities will employ them to get involved. I have included the links to the e-mails of Will Humble – Interim Director of Department of Health Services; Bob Burns – President of the Senate; Kirk Adams – Speaker of the House; Nancy Barto – Chairperson of the Health and Human Services Committee; the Senate Appropriations Committee members; the House of Representatives Appropriations Committee; and Governor Brewer’s office.

Let me know if you have any additional questions.


(Name withheld)

Senator Burns: No More Moratorium

This just in from Senate President Burns. From a public relations standpoint, this could become a sore point for the focus-like-a-laserbeam-on the budget crowd, but it will also ensure that other bills get started and heard in a timely manner. I’m willing to bet there are a lot of legislators down at the Capitol who are not looking forward to going through the next session with the budget deficit still not resolved. By hearing non-budget related bills in addition to resolving the budget crisis, the next session’s workload may take the incentive out of being a “citizen legislator” at $24,000/year (plus per diem). Many of the Democrats are there as activists or because they see it as a “political hobby.” Yes, there are some conservative activists down there but I find little to disagree with them on public policy and the budget.

Here’s Senator Burns’ Memo:


Robert L. Burns
President of the Senate
District 9


TO: All Senators
DATE: October 29, 2009
RE: 49th Legislature, 2nd Regular Session

As we prepare for the upcoming legislative session, I believe it is necessary to outline the Senate schedule with regards to committee consideration of bills. While I maintain that the State’s financial condition is the most pressing issue and should remain a key focus, all standing committees will meet and take legislative action when session begins. I urge all committee chairs to use their discretion in placing priority on which bills advance through the process and are vital to the citizens of Arizona. I intend to coordinate with the Speaker on the schedule for next year, but I wanted to quell the rumors about the Senate order of business.

Federal stimulus money makes state budget deficit worse

By Tom Patterson
Goldwater Institute
State Rep. Kyrsten Sinema recently rebuked U.S. Sen. Jon Kyl in the pages of the East Valley Tribune for recommending that “stimulus” funding be terminated. The federal government, by spending $308 million on infrastructure in Arizona, is providing a “much needed economic boost” to the state, she claimed.

Nobody can say for certain what might have happened without this $767 billion handout. But economic downturns always work themselves out. Markets are inherently self-correcting. In fact, there is a strong possibility that the massive bailouts and market manipulations by the U.S. Treasury and Federal Reserve have lengthened and deepened our current recession.

But there’s another, more fundamental problem with the “stimulus” program. It isn’t paid for with real money. The federal government is simply sharing the use of its magic printing press with the states for a while.

Printing trillions of dollars to pay for today’s wishes is wretched economic policy. When the stimulus money runs out, states will be in worse shape than ever because of the program expansions required to obtain the stimulus funds. Sooner rather than later, states will be forced to face the bitter reality of a “near permanent reduction in state revenues that will force us to reduce the size and scope of our state governments,” according to Gov. Mitch Daniels of Indiana, writing in the Wall Street Journal.

Like many individual Americans, many states spent extravagantly in the good economic times of this decade, making no provision for the future. Arizona unfortunately was one of the worst offenders. Now, that future is here. States are banking on an economic rebound, but gross domestic product growth would have to average 7 percent, twice the historic average, for revenues to be restored to their previous level by 2012.

In response to declining tax revenues, more than half the states have raised taxes. But today’s mobile individuals and businesses simply flee states that try to sock it to them. Beneficiary states are like Indiana, where state spending has been severely reduced and the tax climate is business-friendly. This year alone, more than 30 businesses have moved from tax-and-spend states to Indiana.

Yet Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer still insists on protecting state spending as much as possible by raising taxes. But she’s just postponing the day of reckoning. There is no choice but to fundamentally reduce the scope of state government or face permanent economic decline. Daniels notes that “wishing for an improbably huge boom while chasing your own tail through self-destructive taxes won’t prove much of a strategy.” Is anybody listening?
Tom Patterson is chairman of the Goldwater Institute and a former state senator. A longer version of this article originally appeared in the East Valley Tribune.

Karin Uhlich Slanders Opponents

With the Tucson City council elections just days away, Karin Uhlich is showing her true feeling towards her constituents.  Rather than standing on the issues and her own voting record, she has now laid the smack-down by calling those who oppose her,  “Tea baggers”.  Not unexpected from the state-run media, but somewhat shocking from my local “enlightened” council-gal.

Right from her website:

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David Smith’s Private Twilight Zone

Reprinted from


“In the following sheets, the author hath studiously avoided every thing which is personal among ourselves. Compliments as well as censure to individuals make no part thereof. The wise and the worthy need not the triumph of a pamphlet; and those whose sentiments are injudicious or unfriendly, will cease of themselves, unless too much pains is bestowed upon their conversion.”

 October 28, 2009

David Smith, Maricopa County ManagerDavid Smith’s Private Twilight Zone – It is not what you think it is

There is a place in another dimension, where a confluence of seemingly unrelated elements is found, joined by the glue of pure circumstance. That we have discovered them at all might be attributed to serendipity, though some could argue, given David Smith’s obtuse actions, our discovery was all but inevitable. The elements are basic, human behavior, the wisdom of our Founding Fathers and clueless, blundering.

Maricopa County (Arizona) County Manager David Smith is our anti-hero. Freshly emerged from a series of inept moves, one would think Mr. Smith should have learned to think seriously about the nature of cause and effect. One would think, but given his history, we know better.

The Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, at whose pleasure Mr. Smith serves, has been involved in a long running battle against the office of the County Attorney, Andrew Thomas. Several of the board members are under criminal investigation by the County Attorney. With misguided wisdom, the Board of Supervisors has sought to undermine those investigations using a series of gimmicks including withholding much needed funds from the office of the County Attorney. That these actions have drawn considerable attention from a disapproving public is not astonishing. The local blogs has been aflame with incriminations, finger pointing and fact corrections offered by cognoscenti, as well as lesser lights.

The Board of Supervisors has not been pleased, to say the least. He, or she, caught with a hand in the cookie jar is never happy, and repeatedly, bloggers have found Board member hands in the jar, or at least have been able to report crumb-coated fingers, guilty grins and missing cookies. One would think the Board, and its appointed manager, would take the hint and strike a lower profile. One would think, but then again, logic does not seem to be a guiding principle of these people. Attempted retribution is what they pulled out of their bag of tricks yesterday, with dismal results.

David Smith is demanding that several employees of the County Attorney’s office disclose details of their communications with various media, including their private communication sent from their personal computers during non-work hours. It is here that we find the confluence of their foolishness, the First Amendment and human behavior.

Our Founding Fathers, primarily at the insistence of Thomas Jefferson, endowed upon us a legacy of freedom, based in part on these immortal words: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press… David Smith appears to be nibbling at the edges of the First Amendment, never an advisable thing to do, and in the process, has triggered the third element of our extraordinary confluence – human behavior, specifically the manifestation of aggression that comes from frustration. Psychologists tell us that more arguments result from interruption of speech than any other source. David Smith tells us to shut up; we feel frustrated and lash out ever more aggressively in our blogs.

This begs the question: why does the Board of Supervisors tolerate such behavior from their chief employee, and has the time come for him to step down? Furthermore, if they are in complicity, shouldn’t they all seek new jobs? We believe that this would be C O M M O N  S E N S E.
Who the author of this Production is, is wholly unnecessary to the Public, as the Object for Attention is the Doctrine itself, not the Man. Yet it may not be unnecessary to say, That he is unconnected with any Party, and under no sort of Influence public or private, but the influence of reason and principle.

- Philadelphia, February 14, 1776

Damn It Feels Good to be a Victicrat!

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Three Times a Charm for GM

President Obama’s administration is SO good at resolving our economic calamities that they are now going to TRIPLE-DOWN on GMAC.  According to the LA Times, GM is simply too big to fail, which makes perfect sense as long as Barack continues to throw billions down the rat hole.  Even though the president has told us that he has brought us back from the brink in May, in September, and October, apparently General Motor’s financial division did not get that memo.

A Treasury Department spokesman confirmed that it was in talks with GMAC about a third helping of aid. The government already owns a 35 percent stake in GMAC after providing $12.5 billion to the lender. It also owns a majority-stake in GM and a smaller stake in Chrysler.

Kirk Ludtke, a senior vice president of CRT Capital Group LLC in Stamford, Conn., who follows GMAC, said the automakers can’t succeed without GMAC.  “We continue to believe that a viable GMAC is critical to the success of GM and Chrysler,” Ludtke said.  [This in spite of the fact that GMAC posted a wider second-quarter loss of $3.9 billion].

Treasury’s move would make GMAC the only U.S. company to receive three rounds of bailout aid.

  • Last December, the government gave GMAC $5 billion in exchange for 5 million shares and GMAC’s agreement to extend financing services to bailed-out Chrysler LLC.
  • Then in May, the Treasury Department announced a new $7.5 billion injection for GMAC — short of the $11.5 billion the government’s stress test showed the company would need to stay afloat if the economy worsens.
  • And now, The Wall Street Journal first reported late Tuesday that the U.S. government could hand over another $2.8 billion to $5.6 billion to Detroit-based GMAC.

In less than one year, Barack will sling $15 billion+ into a company that continues to plummet into obscurity.  A wise farmer friend of mine shares the best common-sense advice:  when you find yourself deep in a hole, STOP DIGGING.  But again we are talking about common sense, which is none too common in Washington DC.

via The AP.

Hope and Change 4 2010

Take a moment, and restore your faith … 2010 will be here sooner than you think!  From Congress to the Maricopa Board of Supervisors, a new day is dawning come November 2010 and it begins with you!

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Panel should not treat solar firms as utilities

by Clint Bolick and Sandy Bahr
Many aspects of environmental and energy policy divide the authors of this column. But we join together to urge the Arizona Corporation Commission not to squelch an innovative approach to solar energy that benefits private and public entities alike.

At issue are solar-service agreements, in which solar companies install and maintain solar panels on schools and other tax-exempt organizations for free. The schools receive power for a low monthly fee over an extended period of time. The solar companies collect renewable-energy tax credits for which tax-exempt entities are not eligible.

Such solar-service agreements are a reality with unlimited potential in Arizona–but only if the commission decides in the coming days not to treat the solar companies as public utilities and subject them to costly and burdensome regulation. The likely effect would be to send the firms packing to other states that do not regulate them like utilities.

Solar companies are not utilities. They are not producing energy; rather, they are facilitators that enable private entities to generate their own energy. They assist entities that could not afford to construct solar facilities and that are unable to access the tax credits that otherwise could make such facilities economically feasible.

Schools across the state, which are copious consumers of energy, are anxious to reap the benefits of solar service agreements. The escalating and constantly gyrating costs of energy can play havoc with a school district’s budget.

The commission’s decision comes down to either expanding its power or accomplishing its renewable energy mission. In this instance, it can best achieve its mission by recognizing that these solar firms should not be treated as utilities.

Clint Bolick is director of the Goldwater Institute Scharf-Norton Center for Constitutional Litigation. Sandy Bahr is chapter director for the Sierra Club’s Grand Canyon Chapter. A longer version of this email ran in the Arizona Republic.

Eurabia: Could Sweden become the 1st Islamic European Nation?

Take these two items together and consider how the individual in the White House views Israel.  This is being posted so folks who wish to can consider how events like these may impact them.  The White House is stalling on Afghanistan and the dollar is still in ICU.  And, why on 9/11 there was no mention in the U.S. media of the words “Muslim”, “radical”, or “Islamic.”

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Arizona Tax Research Association Opposes Proposition 200

Taxpayers in the City of Tucson, courtesy of Proposition 200, are being asked to amend the city charter to strip the current and future city councils of their authority to establish budgets for the police and fire departments. The Arizona Tax Research Association (ATRA) strongly urges Tucson taxpayers to reject this effort at ballot-box-budgeting.

From local school districts to the state of Arizona, clearly the most important duty of our elected representatives is to establish an annual budget. Once adopted, those budgets reflect months of planning where elected officials are challenged with managing changing spending priorities against the budget decisions of previous elected officials.

The State of Arizona has become the poster child for the negative policy implications of ballot-box-budgeting. For the last two decades, a steady stream of special interest groups used the initiative process to either permanently earmark funds to their causes or establish guaranteed funding levels outside of legislative oversight and control. Collectively these initiatives have undermined the state’s budgeting process by handcuffing state lawmakers ability to react to changes in the economy or spending priorities. Today, the state of Arizona faces a $3 billion budget deficit. It would be an understatement to say that the challenge of closing the deficit is complicated by the fact that some major budgets units are “voter protected” and cannot be reduced.

The inherent flaw with ballot-box-budgeting is that citizens vote to mandate a spending obligation without understanding the long term budget impacts of the proposals and clearly the proponents prefer it that way. Side-stepping the cities budgeting process allows the proponents of Proposition 200 to have an isolated budget debate regarding police and fire protection without the unpleasantness of a tax increase to fund it. Make no mistake; in the end, this process always poorly serves taxpayers who are left questioning why citizens were not properly informed that these services are not free.

In fact, in order to force a more informed debate regarding the true costs of mandated spending initiatives, Arizona voters amended the state’s constitution in 2004 to require that such initiatives “also provide for an increased source of revenues sufficient to cover the entire immediate and future costs of the proposal.”

By any measure, Proposition 200 will force increased spending that will either drive future tax increases or impact other city services. With the current economic crisis facing Arizona serving as a painful reminder, Tucson taxpayers can be assured that, if approved, Proposition 200 will certainly force a tax increase at some future date.

Kevin McCarthy, President
Arizona Tax Research Association (ATRA)

ATRA is a sixty-nine year old statewide, non-profit, non-partisan taxpayer association

WOW-Stimulus adds/saves 650 jobs in Arizona

In a recent report, the president’s oversight board released data specifically showing more than 30,000 jobs created or saved nationwide, including more than 650 in Arizona. Recipients in Arizona said they had received $29.6 million of $139 million in contract awards so far.

Again, for you folks educated in the public school systems, I’m going to my old-school calculator to help you out.

$29.6 million divided by 650 jobs equals $45,538.46 per job!  And this is being reported as good news.  Uh-huh.

One last question, How do prove that you saved a job?

via azstarnet.

The Revolutionary Early American “Context” of the 2nd Amendment

The Privateer Navy and The Subscription Warships of 1798

When discussing the right of modern American citizens to bear arms under the Second Amendment, it is the vogue at schools, universities and part of conventional wisdom in “Progressive” thinking to argue that one must put the ‘right to bear arms’ into a “historical context;” a nuanced approach that conveys common sense, informed historical perspective and induces the assumption that times have changed, and thus, the Second Amendment is suggested that it is now an anachronism in today’s society; “The Second Amendment was written in a different time when socially people lived mostly rural lives.”

It’s a quaint and rugged vision of the self-reliant homesteader, protecting his family, bringing in the deer or ducks for provisions, between trimming logs for the cabin on the lonely western frontier of the colonies. But never do the apologists for gun control ever mention the other frontier of the American self-reliance of the late 1700s, a time when “the majority of the American population lived no more than a day’s journey from the ocean, when every major town up and down the coast was an Atlantic seaport, with large communities of professional seamen and all the essential industries needed to build, outfit, provision and repair ships … The shipyards drew from a broad pool of expert laborers and master craftsmen, including carpenters, caulkers, joiners, painters, sparmakers, woodcarvers, coopers, ropemakers, smiths, and sailmakers. … Day after day, all up and down the coast, newly built ships rumbled down the ways and plunged into the sea.” (Six Frigates, Toll, p. 12).

So the majority reality of the early Post Revolutionary society was not the rough, isolated, self-reliant self-sufficiency romanticized by Emerson or Thoreau of later years, or a period “when socially most people lived mostly rural lives,” but an extraordinarily interdependent and highly productive society of expert trades organized to support and expand the American merchants’ international reach, which stimulated economies across the globe as the means to move goods from producers to consumers became more sophisticated and dependable.

“Merchant vessels sailing under the Stars and Stripes were ubiquitous on the high seas, but rarely was an American warship ever seen… American ships were seen taking on pepper in Sumatra, tea, coffee, silks and spices in China, ivory and sandalwood in Malaysia. Weather-beaten whaling ships out of Nantucket and New Bedford were seen north of the Arctic Circle and deep in the heart of the South Pacific” (Toll, p.11).
“Every returning ship brought another payday, and at the height of the season, in summer and fall, 250 ships entered American seaports every day.” (Toll, p. 14) Merchants believed Thomas Paine’s rhetoric in Common Sense, “…the plan is commerce, and that well attended to, will secure us the peace and friendship of all Europe, because it is the interest of all Europe to have America as a free port.” (Toll, p.19) Reality soon deflated that assurance.

Yet, it was a time of excitement, the new nation of America was producing marvels such as Salem’s Nathaniel Bowditch, whose impoverished family apprenticed him out at age 12, a natural born mathematical genius, nearly completely self-taught, who while on “his first sea voyage to the West Indies reviewed the widely-used navigational tables of John Hamilton Moore of England, and found 8,000 errors, and corrected them.” Bowditch’s book, “New American Practical Navigator” printed in 1802, quickly becoming the most desired standard reference and guide for seaman, is today two hundred years later, still in print, a testament to Bowditch’s ability to make the complex easy to understand, and an example of the flourishing of talent and achievement in America which was upending the old European elite order.

Astoundingly, America’s rebellion on the high seas against the naval giant Britain was fought primarily not by the Continental Navy, but by Revolutionary Privateers. In 1775, General George Washington, “initiated the enterprise off-handedly, ‘I fitted out several privateers or rather armed vessels, in behalf of the Continent.” (Patton, p. xvi). “Offering a percentage of spoils as inducement, the call for citizen sailors to raid the British shipping tapped the same vein of self-interest and comradeship that had led the colonies to seek independence in the first place … The emergence … of some of the most intrepid mariners in American history highlights the strategic element of Revolutionary privateering, for they would spearhead a massive seaborne insurgency involving thousands of privately owned warships whose ravages on the enemy dwarfed those of the fledgling United States Navy.” (Patton, p. xvii)  “The industry of privateering supported shipbuilders, service workers and a complex network of agents and legal officials to adjudicate captured prizes.” (Patton, xvii). “Investors traded privateer shares at a premium or discount … Prize courts opened in Philadelphia and Baltimore, and the turn-around time between a prize’s arrival in port and its legal settlement narrowed from months to weeks, streamlining the efficiency of an already booming industry. (Patton, p. 80)

And with great risk and audacity came great wealth, “Fellows who would have cleaned my shoes five years ago have amassed fortunes and are riding in chariots.” (Patton, p. 234).

“In the last years of Revolutionary privateering, the trend had been for larger vessels that could stay at sea longer, carry extensive armaments and yet still sail fast. … But the war’s many privateer partnerships, formed to share expense and distribute risk found a perfect application in global ventures. Legal firms and insurance consortiums were on hand to facilitate arrangements as they had done with countless privateer ventures just a few years earlier. Most of these were based in Boston, so Boston became the center of America’s Far East Trade.” (Patton, p236)
With the British, through its navigation act of 1783, blocking Americans from trade in the West Indies, American merchants used their privateering expertise to promote commerce with Russia, Scandinavia and China. (Patton, p. 236)

But after Independence, “Greedy eyes studied the ships of this new nation the way wolves study sheep. The wolves were hungry, the sheep were fat, numerous and slow and there was not a shepherd in sight.” (Toll, p. 24)

Between 1785 and 1815, over 700 Americans suffered as hostages and slaves in the North African kingdoms of the Barbary Coast, merchantmen crews and passengers held for ransoms, and the fledgling United States was being blackmailed for ‘protection money,’ considered “tribute” by local tyrants under the umbrella of the Muslim Ottoman Empire. With the new U.S. government broke, towns up and down the American Eastern seaboard began collections like Salem’s “Small Society” to raise money ‘for the relief of the known prisoners in the hands of the Algerines.” (The Crescent Obscured, Allison, p.128)

By 1798, with no navy, US merchant ships were at the mercy of pirates and fickle friendships such as that of presumed ally France, whose treachery was exposed to the American public through the “XYZ Affair,” a shake-down attempt against American envoys who had arrived in France to negotiate a peace to end the “Quasi War,” provoked by France’s plundering of American merchant ships on the high seas. As the U.S. government hesitated, hung between fear of a standing army and navy as a means for the establishment of tyranny, and bowing to the reality of the conniving world beyond American shores, that other countries were not interested in respecting America’s official policy and societal expectations of Neutrality. With America losing ships by the hundreds to pirates, the public cry was, “Millions for defense, not a cent for tribute!” 

Modifying a clever financial mechanism used in the past by the British and the French, to appeal to citizens to directly contribute to the national defenses, the merchants of Newburyport, Massachusetts came together and decided America needed a Navy, and more critically, they couldn’t wait for one. In June 1798, the Newburyport committee announced their decision “build a 355-ton ship, armed with 20 six-pounder cannon, in ninety days.” (Leiner, p.21)

News spread quickly and soon nine more ports contributed a vessel each, “Salem, Boston, Providence, New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Charleston along with one joint vessel from Norfolk and Richmond.” (Leiner, p. 3)

“As the democratic system s of the West now weigh “privatization” – use or return to entrepreneurial activity to do public work – the 1798 “subscription ships” were built by a concerned citizenry weighing the meaning of ‘citizen’ in a republic that had won its freedom only a few years before. These men acted before there was any bureaucracy or government infrastructure to do public works. But the 1798 crash shipbuilding program is a microcosm of the timeless American debate of the balance between private and public tasks, about the nature of government and the nature of the citizen.” (Millions for Defense, p.3)

Frederick Leiner quotes John Ruskin who wrote in the mid 1800s: “Take it all in all a Ship … is the most honorable thing that man, as a gregarious animal, has ever produced. By himself … he can make poems and pictures and other concentrations of what is best in him. But as a being living in flocks, and hammering out with alternate strokes and mutual agreement … the ship of the line is his first work. In it he has put as much of his human patience, common sense, forethought, experimental philosophy, self-control, habits of order and obedience, thoroughly wrought handiwork, defiance of brute elements, careless courage, careful patriotism, and calm expectation of the judgment of God as can be put into a space 300 feet long by 80 broad. And I am grateful to have lived in an age when I could see the thing done.” (Millions for Defense, p.2)

So, if one were to go “back in the day” as academics have encouraged us to do, to understand the historical context of the intent of the Founding Fathers when they wrote the language of the Second Amendment, one rediscovers what has been omitted in the debate of “militias’ and ‘citizens’ and ‘defense’- the prevailing spirit of independence from tyranny, the higher calling for citizens to be self-governed, and to take active responsibility for their homes and local communities – the robust affirmation of personal initiative and wariness of governments with too much power. “With the memory of British troops so fresh in mind … a good part of the nation regarded militarism as the close cousin of despotism” inclined to “ regard navies as the playthings of kings and tyrants.” The administration’s only tangible proposal had been to “organize American seaman into a kind of naval militia.” (Toll, p. 40, 44). The society of the day had more than a dim view of allowing a centralized government too much power, it abhorred it. “There was no bipartisan political support for a Navy … yet the mercantile towns had the audacity to build warships to take on the French navy, which, before Admiral Nelson trounced them at the Nile, seemed as powerful or as ominous as the British navy itself. These American merchants were not faint of heart.” (Leiner, p 26).

“When Noah Webster wrote that the subscription ships would be ‘managed with the energy of hardy FREEMEN, who know the motives of their duty and who possess a spirit unaccustomed to being cowed or conquered’… he was trying to strike a chord with men who had shared the rhetoric and memories of the Revolution. Many had fought in line regiments or in privateers and shared the prevailing mythos of the militia defending the hearth and homestead. The young men of 1776 and 1777 were in 1798, the civic and mercantile leaders of the United States. In the Revolution, they came to their country’s defense with their local officers, without a central government that could feed or support them. Twenty years later, these men would not be slow to loan their money, even without central direction. They were not passive citizens in a large, established world power; they were active participants in a new, small republic that they had helped create.” (Leiner, p. 180)

Therefore, the concepts of self-defense and the role of the citizen and militias which informed the reasoning in the day for the Second Amendment right to bear arms were established in the experience and study of tyranny, out of a complex and vibrant urban, national and internationally active and sophisticated society with the experience of war, and confrontation with a world of tyrants just across the horizon, not just by any apparently obsolete practical needs of a random collection of hypothetical homesteading colonialists.

A Sampling of Privateers: Rattlesnake, Catch me if You Can, True Blooded, Scourge.
The Subscription ships: the Merrimack, the Boston, the Philadelphia, the New York, the Richmond, the Essex, the John Adams, the Maryland, the Patapsco

Resources: Six Frigates, The Epic History of the Founding of the U.S. Navy, Ian W. Toll, WW Norton & Co, New York, 2006; The Crescent Obscured, The United States and the Muslim World, 1776-1815, Robert J. Allison, University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1995; Millions for Defense, The Subscription Warships of 1798, Frederick C. Lerner, Naval Institute Press, Annapolis, 2000; Patriot Pirates, The Privateer War for Freedom and Fortune in the American Revolution, Robert H. Patton, Pantheon Books, New York, 2008.

No more excuses for state of our schools

by Matthew Ladner, Ph.D.
Goldwater Institute
This summer, Goldwater Institute Senior Fellow Dan Lips and I published an article in the journal Education Next explaining why a student’s race, ethnicity or family income are not accurate predictors of their future academic success. We were very pleased when the Chancellor of New York City Schools, Joel Klein wrote a letter in response to the article.
Here is an excerpt from Klein’s letter:

In “Demography as Destiny?” (features, Summer 2009), Matthew Ladner and Dan Lips argue that Florida’s reforms–school accountability, literacy enhancement, student accountability, teacher quality, and school choice–have helped students there achieve record academic success. Florida’s results support school-focused reform strategies, such as those we’ve implemented in New York City. New York City’s progress in narrowing the achievement gap confirms that policymakers and advocates can no longer use demographic factors like race, ethnicity, income, or zip code to excuse differences in educational achievement between high- and low-needs students…We still have a long way to go, but it’s clear that even the most disadvantaged students can achieve at high levels when provided with a strong education.

It’s time for leaders across America to stop making excuses for low student performance. As Florida and New York City demonstrate, we can offer all students, regardless of their backgrounds, the educational opportunity they need and deserve.

Joel I. Klein
New York City Schools Chancellor

Klein led the Clinton administration’s anti-trust action against Microsoft and currently heads the nation’s largest school district. Teacher’s unions and other anti-reform groups face a growing and philosophically diverse array of critics who will not accept the sorry state of American schools. Liberals, conservatives and libertarians can all agree: Getting better results for the amount of money this country spends on education is critical for America’s future. Increasing parental choice is a key ingredient to an overall K-12 improvement strategy, and has growing support among the entire political spectrum.
Dr. Matthew Ladner is vice president for research at the Goldwater Institute.