January 13, 2018

Everyone You Love Did Drugs

Filed under: History, Law, Liberty, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 06:00

Published on 12 Jan 2018

It turns out that a lot of accomplished, well-respected historical figures did drugs. From Winston Churchill taking amphetamines to Thomas Edison lacing his wine with cocaine, not everyone who uses narcotics is a hopeless basket case living in a dumpster. While some drug users spiral into addiction and crime, others go on to become president. It’s time to debunk the age old stereotypes of the back alley dangerous dealer or the lazy stoner when, according to the National Survey on Drug Use, roughly half of all Americans have tried an illegal drug.

In the latest “Mostly Weekly” host Andrew Heaton breaks down the cartoonish Drug Warrior portrayal of drugs by showing some of the beloved historical figures who used them.

September 29, 2014

QotD: Presidential elections and personal attacks

Filed under: History, Humour, Politics, Quotations, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 00:01

In the hotly contested election of 1828, supporters of John Quincy Adams called Andrew Jackson a “slave-trading, gambling, brawling murderer.” Mac McClelland, Ten Most Awesome
Presidential Mudslinging Moves Ever, Mother Jones, (October 31, 2008).11
Jackson’s supporters responded by accusing Adams of having premarital sex with his wife and playing the role of a pimp in securing a prostitute for Czar Alexander I. Id.

During Thomas Jefferson’s presidency, James T. Callender, a pamphleteer and “scandalmonger,”
alleged that Jefferson had fathered numerous children with his slave Sally Hemings.12
Callender’s allegations would feature prominently in the election of 1804, but it wasn’t until
nearly two centuries later that the allegations were substantially confirmed.13

More recently, we’ve had discussions of draft-dodging, Swift Boats, and lying about birthplaces14 — not to mention the assorted infidelities that are a political staple.

11. Available at http://www.motherjones.com/mojo/2008/10/ten-most-awesome-presidential-mudslinging-moves-ever.
12. Monticello.org, James Callender, http://www.monticello.org/site/research-and-collections/james-callender.
13. Monticello.org, Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings: A Brief Account, http://www.monticello.org/site/plantation-and-slavery/thomas-jefferson-and-sally-hemings-brief-account.
14. While President Obama isn’t from Kenya, he is a Keynesian — so you can see where the confusion arises.

Ilya Shapiro and P.J. O’Rourke, BRIEF OF AMICI CURIAE CATO INSTITUTE AND P.J. O’ROURKE IN SUPPORT OF PETITIONERS, Susan B. Anthony List v. Driehaus [PDF], 2014-02-28

December 3, 2013

The US constitution and the first ten amendments

Filed under: History, Liberty, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 08:13

In the latest Libertarian Enterprise, L. Neil Smith provides a thumbnail sketch of the reasons for the first amendments to the US constitution:

While some of this nation’s Founding Fathers — Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry, George Mason — were intent, first and foremost, to create a new country in which individual liberty and free enterprise would be the order of the day, there were others, like Alexander Hamilton, who regarded the fledgling America as his personal piggy bank.

You will have been taught that the Articles of Confederation, our first “operating system” were deeply flawed, The truth is that they provided for an extremely decentralized governance that stood as an obstacle to the vast fortunes Hamilton and his cronies had hoped to amass.

The Articles had to go, and it is revealing that among Hamilton’s first acts as Treasury Secretary under the Constitution that replaced them was a national excise tax on whiskey that, as readers of my novel The Probability Broach know, very nearly sparked a second American Revolution.

Corn farmers of western Pennsylvania long accustomed to turning their crop into a less perishable, more transportable product, were among the first victims of democracy American-style, the kind where three coyotes and a lamb sit down to debate on what’s going to be for dinner.

Nevertheless, that’s why a few stiff-necked libertarian-types, like Jefferson, held out for a Bill of Rights to be added to the new Constitution, and it was written, more or less to Jefferson’s order, by his close friend, James Madison, one of the few Federalists who was genuinely interested in assuaging the Anti-Federalists about the new document.

The Bill of Rights was, unfortunately misnamed. It was not a list of things Americans were allowed too do, under the Constitution. It was and remains a list of things government is absolutely forbidden to do — like set up a state religion, or steal your house — under any circumstances.

The Bill of Rights was the make-or-break condition that allowed the Constitution to be ratified. No Bill of Rights, no Constitution. And since all political authority in America “trickles down” from the Constitution, no Constitution no government. And, since the Bill of Rights was passed as a unit, a single breach, in any one of the ten articles, breaches them all and with them, the entire Constitution. Every last bit of the authority that derives from it becomes null and void.

December 8, 2012

Jefferson, Lincoln, Churchill, and Yogi Berra

Filed under: Books, History, Media, Politics, Quotations — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 11:27

What do these four men have in common? They’re “flypaper figures“: people who frequently are quoted as saying things they never said:

“People will see a quote and it appeals to an opinion that they have and if it has Jefferson’s name attached to it that gives it more weight,” she says. “He’s constantly being invoked by people when they are making arguments about politics and actually all sorts of topics.”

A spokeswoman for the Guide‘s publisher said it was looking into the quote. Mr. Norris’s publicist didn’t respond to requests for comment.

To counter what she calls rampant misattribution, Ms. Berkes is fighting the Internet with the Internet. She has set up a “Spurious Quotations” page on the Monticello website listing bogus quotes attributed to the founding father, a prolific writer and rhetorician who was the principal author of the Declaration of Independence.

[. . .]

Jefferson is a “flypaper figure,” like Abraham Lincoln, Mark Twain, Winston Churchill and baseball player and manager Yogi Berra — larger-than-life figures who have fake or misattributed quotes stick to them all the time, says Ralph Keyes, an author of books about quotes wrongly credited to famous or historical figures.

October 28, 2012

Yup. Nastiest political rhetoric ever. Or not.

Filed under: History, Media, Politics, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 12:43

September 2, 2012

The importance of encryption for private citizens

Filed under: History, Liberty, Technology — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 11:26

Wendy McElroy relates one of the earliest examples of private encryption in the young American republic:

In America, the tug of war between privacy and forced access to encrypted data is as old as the nation’s formation. As always, forced access was executed by authorities against individuals.

In 1785, a resolution authorized the secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs to open and inspect any mail that related to the safety and interests of the United States. The ensuing inspections caused prominent men, like George Washington, to complain of mail tampering. According to various historians, it also led James Madison, Thomas Jefferson and James Monroe to correspond in code. That is, they encrypted their letters to preserve the privacy of their political discussions.

The need for Founding Fathers to encrypt their correspondence is high irony. The intrusive post office against which they rebelled had been established specifically to provide a free flow of political opinion. In the 1770′s, Sam Adams urged the 13 colonies to create an independent postal system because the existing post office, established by the British, acted as a barrier to the spread of rebellious sentiment. Dorothy Ganfield Fowler in her book Unmailable: Congress and the Post Office observed, “He [Adams] claimed the colonial post office was made use of for the purpose of stopping the ‘Channels of publick Intelligence and so in Effect of aiding the measures of Tyranny.’”

Alas, the more government changes, the more oppression remains the same. Soon the Continental Congress itself wanted to declare some types of matter ‘unmailable’ because their content were deemed dangerous. Anti-Federalist letters and periodicals became one of the first types of information to become de facto unmailable. (Anti-federalists resisted centralized government and rejected a Constitution without a Bill of Rights.) During the ratification debates on the Constitution, the Anti-Federalists were unable to circulate their material through the Federalist-controlled post office.

November 4, 2011

Thomas Jefferson tests his time machine

Filed under: History, Humour, USA — Tags: — Nicholas @ 09:10

March 9, 2010

QotD: Early America

Early America enjoyed, perhaps, a little more participatory local democracy than Britain, and had a slightly broader electorate and already the highest standard of living in the world. But the revolution so rapturously mythologized by Jefferson, Thomas Paine, Patrick Henry and others, was really, as Washington, Franklin, Hamilton, Madison and Adams did not forget, a somewhat grubby contest over taxes.

In one of the greatest feats of statesmanship of all history, the Americans, and especially Benjamin Franklin, persuaded the British to expel the French from North America, and then persuaded the French to provide the margin of victory in evicting the British themselves. This precocious manipulation of the world’s two greatest powers by a group of colonists showed astounding finesse and precocity, made more piquant and ironic by the fact that their rebellion was against paying the colonies’ share of the cost of removing the French, and the French were recruited to save the Americans their proportionate share of the cost of their own eviction.

All countries swaddle themselves in myths, and the Americans aren’t more self-indulgent than others; only more successful and operating on the grand scale of a country that in two long lifetimes grew to possess completely unprecedented power and influence in the world.

Even without the great pre-eminence of America, the founders of the country possessed a presentational skill that vastly exceeded the procession of demagogues and lunatics that sent and followed each other to the guillotine in the French Revolution. And they were certainly more persuasive and sophisticated than the British spokesmen for constitutional monarchy.

But their unintended legacy of this gift for theatricality is the endless hyperbole and hucksterism of American materialism and individuality.

Conrad Black, “Send in the clowns”, National Post, 2010-03-09

October 15, 2009

The Billionaire’s vinegar-scented legal decision

Filed under: Britain, Law, Wine — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 00:06

Following up on an item posted a couple of months ago (“The Billionaire’s Vinegar-scented lawsuit“), Michael Broadbent wins his lawsuit against the publisher of The Billionaire’s Vinegar:

This week, the man who authenticated the Lafite and presided over its auction won an apology and damages from the publisher Random House over a bestselling book, which, he argued, had suggested he had sold the wine knowing its provenance to be suspect. Michael Broadbent has retired as the senior director of Christie’s wine department but remains, according to Adam Lechmere, editor of decanter.com, “among the top three most respected wine critics in the world”.

Broadbent described the ruling as a “great relief”, adding that he planned to celebrate with a magnum of Mouton 1990 over dinner at his club.

The settlement relates to a book called The Billionaire’s Vinegar by American journalist Benjamin Wallace, which outlines the now notorious case of “the Jefferson bottles” – and which Random House, according to Broadbent’s lawyer, Sarah Webb, must now remove from bookshop shelves in Britain.

August 22, 2009

Right wing nutbars, observed

Filed under: Health, History, Liberty, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 08:23

P.J. O’Rourke tries to save readers the effort of reading the Washington Post coverage of recent town hall protests:

So there was Rick Perlstein calling everyone to the right of Nikita Khrushchev a candidate for the state psychiatric ward with Alec MacGillis playing his KGB Bozo sidekick, firing blanks and honking his “End-of-life care eats up a huge slice of spending” airhorn. Then, to add idiocy to insult, the Post sent Robin Givhan to observe the Americans who are taking exception to various expansions of government powers and prerogatives and to make fun of their clothes.

Givhan writes a column called “On Culture,” and this is what passes for culture at the Post: “Of the hundreds of thousands of style guides currently for sale on Amazon, not one . . . was prescient enough to outline the appropriate attire for those public occasions when good citizens decided to behave like raving lunatics and turn lawmakers into punching bags.” Meeting with Givhan’s scorn were “T-shirts, baseball caps, promotional polo shirts and sundresses with bra straps sliding down their arm.”

I’ve never seen Robin Givhan. For all I know she dolls herself up like Jackie O. But I have seen other employees of the Washington Post and — with the exception of the elegant and, I dare say, cultured, Roxanne Roberts — they look as if they got dressed in the unlit confines of a Planet Aid clothing-donation bin.

Perlstein, for all the highness of his dudgeon, doesn’t catch the nuts saying anything very nutty. The closest he gets to a lunatic quote is from a “libertarian” wearing a holstered pistol who declares that the “tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time by the blood of tyrants and patriots.” And those are the words of lefty icon Thomas Jefferson. I myself could point out the absurdity of protestors’ concerns about government euthanasia committees. Federal bureaucracy has never moved fast enough to get to the ill and elderly before natural causes do. And what’s with those “birthers”? Why their obsession with a nonentity like Obama? How about John Adams with his Alien and Sedition Acts choke-hold on the First Amendment? Or Jefferson? He could tell his Monica Lewinsky, “I own you,” and he wasn’t kidding. Or John Quincy Adams, pulling the original Blagojevich, buying the presidency from Henry Clay? Or that backwoods Bolshevik Andrew Jackson? Or William Henry Harrison, too dumb to come in out of the rain? Not one of these scallywags was born in the United States of America — look it up.

August 20, 2009

The Billionaire’s Vinegar-scented lawsuit

Filed under: Law, Wine — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 18:14

Mike Steinberger discusses the recent lawsuit launched by Michael Broadbent against the publishers of Benjamin Wallace’s The Billionaire’s Vinegar:

Broadbent, the legendary former head of Christie’s wine department, alleges that Wallace defamed him in his gripping whodunit about the so-called Thomas Jefferson bottles — a trove of wines initially said to have belonged to the oenophilic Virginian but now almost universally believed to have been fakes. Three of the bottles, all Bordeaux, were auctioned off by Broadbent in the 1980s, and of the many wine luminaries caught up in this saga, his reputation has suffered the most damage. Broadbent contends that he was falsely depicted in the book as being complicit in a crime. But his suit makes no claims one way or another regarding the authenticity of the wines that he sold, which can be taken as an acknowledgment that the evidence is not in his favor. Broadbent can’t undo the fact that he was at the center of what now appears to have been the greatest wine hoax ever perpetrated. By pursuing legal redress, he is simply making it harder for a more considered judgment of his actions to emerge.

[. . .]

As Wallace meticulously documents, Broadbent repeatedly and insistently vouched for Rodenstock and the Jefferson bottles. He was dismissive of the researcher at Monticello who cast doubt on the authenticity of the wines and of questions raised in the press. In addition to doing business with Rodenstock, Broadbent benefited from his largesse. Rodenstock was famous in wine circles for the marathon tastings that he held, multi-day extravaganzas that typically featured wines back to the 18th century. Broadbent attended these bacchanals, served as the authority-in-residence during them, and came away with tasting notes for many old and exceedingly rare wines. If, as now seems undeniable, Rodenstock was a con artist who trafficked in counterfeit wines, those tasting notes are worthless.

But contrary to what Broadbent is claiming in his lawsuit, The Billionaire’s Vinegar does not suggest that he was a witting accomplice to Rodenstock. Rather, the portrait that emerges is of a man who let his hopes and competitive zeal cloud his judgment.

I’ve read Wallace’s book — which I heartily recommend — and I think, based on the information presented, that Broadbent was not complicit in the apparent fraud itself, although he certainly took full advantage of the opportunity (and thereby reap the fame to go along with being associated with the “discoveries”).

August 3, 2009

The further abuse of common sense by A.P.

Filed under: Law, Media — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 11:00

Who ever knew that the Associated Press holds the copyright on the works of Thomas Jefferson?

They tell me I have to use the sentence “exactly as written” and heaven help me if I don’t include the complete footer with their copyright boilerplate. Along the way, their terms of use insisted that I’m not allowed to use Jefferson’s words in connection with “political Content.” Also, I can’t use use his words in any manner or context that will be in any way derogatory” to the AP. As if. Jefferson’s thoughts on copyright are inherently political, and inherently derogatory towards the the AP’s insane position on copyright. I require no license to quote Jefferson. The AP has no right to stop me, no right to demand money from me. All their application does is count words to calculate a fee. It doesn’t even check that the words come from the story being “quoted.”

H/T to Radley Balko

July 14, 2009

Monticello: Jefferson’s machine for living

Filed under: History, Technology, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 08:48

While I enjoyed my visit and tour of Monticello, back in 2006, I didn’t get the full story. Wired tries to rectify that problem:

Thomas Jefferson loved new technology and modding his surroundings to his lifestyle. From food to comfort to efficiency, he was always looking for ways to improve his living space with inventions and hacks. If he were alive today, we like to think he’d be reading Wired.

Jefferson thought of his house, Monticello, as a machine for living. As such, it contains many insights into how a DIY gear-nut of today might have fared in the 18th Century.

“I would argue we are trying to debunk the madman-genius, nutty-professor image of Thomas Jefferson,” said Monticello curator Elizabeth Chew. “He is someone who was trying to adapt the latest technology in every realm of existence: science, how the house functions, in the garden. He is trying to put into use new ideas.”

(Cross-posted to the old blog, http://bolditalic.com/quotulatiousness_archive/005578.html.)

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