Number Fifty-One

Tealiberasophoterianistic Perspectives

Posts Tagged ‘Politics

The Fight to End American Slavery (Part 1)

By Jake Phillips

With the recent Michelle Bachmann statement that the founding fathers “fought tirelessly” to abolish slavery[1], there has been considerable debate in the political world (but more importantly, on this blog) over whether she was correct, first of all, and how important of a gaffe it was, if indeed it was not true.

First, an evaluation of whether it was true.  She defended herself by pointing to the record of John Quincy Adams.  Adams was indeed a great proponent of abolishing slavery, especially later in life.  Of course, he died over 15 years before slavery was eventually abolished, but nevertheless, it could be rhetorically argued that he “fought tirelessly” to end slavery, although I think, even in his case, this statement would be somewhat misleading and, at the very least, need qualifications.  Adams, after all, is remembered far more for his skill as a diplomat than as an abolitionist.[2]  Regardless, John Quincy Adams was not a founding father.  The founding fathers are those that signed the Deceleration of Independence, framed the Constitution, or contributed in a major way in the Revolutionary War (or, in some limited cases, major players in the pre-Revolutionary era.)[3]  Being a significant political player in early American doesn’t make you a founding father.  Otherwise, John C. Calhoun, Henry Clay and Andrew Jackson would all be founding fathers.  So would Daniel Webster.  So would any number of people.  So Bachmann’s defense of her statement, to me, was at least as ridiculous as her original assertion.

So what about her original assertion? Can it be said that the “founding fathers fought tirelessly to abolish slavery”? Clearly, the easy answer is no, they did not.  They certainly did not as a group.  Grouping them into one, whole “founding fathers” unit, and then claiming that as a group they fought tirelessly to abolish slavery, is absolutely ridiculous.  Whatever individual ones of them did and believed personally is irrelevent.  As a “founding fathers” group, they decided that a black person was 3/5ths of a person.[4]  They institutionalized slavery.  They allowed for the slave trade to exist for 20 more years.  As a group, not only did they not fight to abolish slavery, they supported it (in a existential way) and institutionalized it.  The argument that they, as a group, worked tirelessly to abolish slavery has never before been argued, historiographically.  Or at least, as far as I’m aware, it hasn’t been argued.  The most rosy view of the founding fathers, and perhaps the correct one, is that they didn’t think that they could feasibly end it without wrecking the American economy, and so they hoped that it would die a slow and natural, organic death.[5]  Never before, to my knowledge, has it been said that they “fought tirelessly” to abolish slavery.  I cannot fathom why Michelle Bachmann would make that particular argument.

In saying “founding fathers”, could Michelle Bachmann have meant particular founding fathers? Well for one thing, if there’s one thing liberals and conservatives agree on, it’s that Michelle Bachmann is a good rhetorician.  If that’s what she had wanted to communicate, she could have.  But let’s pretend for a second that it is what she wanted to communicate.  It’s still a somewhat ridiculous argument to make.  Keep in mind, she’s not saying that they (and remember, by “they” we are assuming that Bachmann meant particular, nameless founding fathers that fit her description) didn’t like slavery.  She didn’t say that they wanted to abolish slavery (most of them did.)[6]  The fact of the matter is, they institutionalized slavery despite the fact that, as a group, it can be argued that they wanted it to end.  They had any number of reasons to not abolish slavery (namely, forming a union of states, which would have probably been impossible if they had federally disallowed slavery.)[7]  Whatever the reasons, it is the opposite of the truth to say that they “fought tirelessly to abolish slavery.”  They did not.  They fought tirelessly to overthrow a government and form their own, a government that included slavery in its founding document.  There is absolutely no way to intellectually argue that, in doing so, they were fighting tirelessly to end slavery.

So, then, is this an important gaffe, or just a reflection of bad history? Well it is hardly a reflection of bad history.  Bad history teaches you that Abraham Lincoln was a tyrant[8], but it doesn’t teach you that he dissolved the US.  In other words, bad history gives you false impressions, but it doesn’t teach you the opposite of what is true (or, it does so very rarely.)  I think the gaffe ranks somewhere around Moderately Important.  Unlike the “John Wayne” gaffe, which simply reflected a lack of knowledge of her hometown and a willingness to Google facts for her speeches, I think this gaffe actually means something beyond the actual statement.  I think it is yet another example of how Tea Party Conservatives idolize the past in an effort to acquire their goals.  Bachmann is creating a Utopia that her ideals and ideas will lead us back to.  If that Utopia never existed, and doesn’t exist, then her ideals and ideas can’t lead us to that place.  After all, that place doesn’t exist.  To create that Utopia, the founding fathers must be irreproachable.  Their main blight, historically, is the issue of slavery.  Instead of dealing with it and learning from it, and seeing the parallels between racism then and classism now, or any number of important historical lessons, it’s easier to just pretend that, actually, the founding fathers don’t even have that blight of slavery on their record! No, as a matter of fact, they worked tirelessly to end slavery! They were practically an army of Wilberforce’s!! LONG LIVE THE FOUNDING FATHERS!!! Recreating the past is not unique to Michelle Bachmann.  She hardly invented the art of revising history.  However, it’s a poor way to attempt to become the President of the nation whose history she is so unapologetically twisting.

[2] This entire paragraph was influenced John Quincy Adams by Robert Remini.  Only read the latter section of the book, the first section has been historiographically skewered.

[3] This point probably doesn’t need to be argued.  Someone can extend the meaning to include whoever they want (as Bachmann would claim she was doing) but “founding fathers” is a term that has an understood meaning.

[4] I understand that this was not because they had to point out that blacks were less than a person, but was about population.  Duly noted.  No need to point that out in the comments section.

[5] The merits of this argument aren’t rock solid, but, like I said, it’s the rosiest argument.  I’m not here to defend or denounce it, just to point out the fact that the argument exists. See for a pretty good and fair summary of that argument.

[6] An excellent paper by historian Michael Spalding sums up that argument.

[7] Gordon Wood, The Creation of the American Republic 1776-1787.  Wood shows that without slavery, the US never could have existed as we know it.

[8] My Uncle John was influenced by Bad History.


Written by Jake Phillips

July 7, 2011 at 12:02 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Tagged with , ,

The Roots of Hip-Hop, Volume 1: Where Did Hip-Hop Come From?

with 2 comments

(Note from Jake: This is the first post by James Henry in a series that he’s doing on the roots of hip-hop.  Hip-hop is a fascinating art form, and has an even more fascinating origin.  I for one am extremely excited to learn about it.)




By James Henry Tschannen


 The roots of hip-hop are as deep as they are diverse. The oldest root is the ancient African tradition of “toasting” or colorful boasting and storytelling. The game of the dozens was created by African slaves, who would insult each other in an attempt to prove who was mentally tougher and immune to verbal abuse; an essential skill for a slave. More recent influences include radio DJs, blues singers, Jamaican dance hall culture, and Afro-Caribbean music and dance. However, the youth party culture that became the most vital and vibrant art form of the last decades of the 20th century could not have existed without the diversity and decay of New York City in the 1970s. Hip-hop was born in the South Bronx, in Harlem, in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Crown Heights, and East New York. It was created by people utterly abandoned and written off by society. The story of the South Bronx in the 70s is one of spectacularly ambitious government programs that benefited some at the expense of others. It is the story of technocratic hubris and disastrous utopianism. It is the story of a city literally killing itself for the American Dream of a manicured lawn and a white picket fence. But most of all, it is the story of people who created something beautiful in some of the worst conditions imaginable.

                                                           —                                                                                    —

 The years after World War II were some of the most optimistic for Americans. Our industrial might and righteous valor had saved the Allies and the free world from annihilation by the forces of evil and we emerged as the most powerful nation in the world. We did not experience the horrors of bombing campaigns. Unlike Europe, Japan, and China, World War II built our industrial infrastructure rather than destroying it. The war and the massive amounts of government spending that went along with it brought us out of the Great Depression and into one of the greatest periods of economic growth and upward social mobility that this country has ever seen.

Ironically, the engine that drove this surge in high-paying manufacturing jobs and middle class growth in places like the Southeast and the Midwest also caused the greatest period of urban decay in recent memory. I am speaking, of course, about America’s love affair (perhaps fatal obsession is a better description) with the automobile. When conservatives and libertarians rail against the “government takeover” of the auto industry they are missing the larger point that the auto industry as we know it never could have existed without government assistance. For cars to be cost effective and desirable for a mass market, roads had to exist to make driving practical. The cost of these roads was not born by the drivers, or the auto manufacturers, it was born by everyone as the government, federal and local, built and maintained roads connecting nearly every city and town in the country. We tend to think of roads as something everyone uses, a public good that benefits all Americans equally. This, however, was not the case at all in the early days of automobiles and it still is not the case for some people today. Poor people, especially in urban areas, are less likely to own a car and therefore benefit less from road construction than they would from investment in public transit. This was even more true years ago, when many of our roads were being built and only the wealthy could afford to drive cars.

Postwar confidence, automobilism, and new ideas about urban planning formed a perfect storm in New York City. Robert Moses was the man behind most of the major public works projects undertaken by New York City in the middle of the 20th century. A bold visionary and skilled bureaucrat, Moses’s reshaped the city in dramatic ways. One of his most notorious projects, and the one most important for the development of hip-hop is the Cross-Bronx Expressway. This massive highway enabled people with cars to travel quickly between Manhattan and the suburbs, but it also cut a huge swath of destruction through what were mostly lower-middle class Irish and Jewish neighborhoods in the Bronx. The construction itself displaced 60,000 people, and the disruption caused by dividing neighborhoods in two caused nearly anyone who could to flee the South Bronx, most of them following the expressway to suburbs, far from the city center. In effect, the city was destroying block after block of thriving neighborhoods just to make it easier for people to live outside of the city limits and avoid city taxes.

The next major step in creating the South Bronx of the 1970s was the creation of massive low-income housing projects. Using eminent domain, the city condemned many Black and Puerto Rican neighborhoods in Manhattan as “slums” and sold the land to developers, which fueled a boom in commercial construction. As a replacement for neighborhoods that had contained stores, apartments, and factories the city created housing projects in the “tower in a park” model put forward by the modernist architect Le Corbusier. These massive buildings contained well over 1000 units and while the idea sounded good in theory, these structures were isolating to the residents. Coming from mixed-use neighborhoods where living spaces were often literally on top of workplaces, residents had trouble finding work, and these buildings soon became overrun with criminal activity.

 This brings us to the next major factor in the decline of the South Bronx; the loss of blue collar jobs in New York City. In the 1950s most of the shipping traffic into New York Harbor moved to ports in New Jersey taking with it thousands of blue collar jobs with it. As the US poured money into manufacturing plants in the South and West during WWII, New York’s days as a manufacturing powerhouse came to an end. Factories in the city couldn’t compete with other factories, and as transportation of goods over land became cheaper (due largely to the new federal interstate system) factories in what had once been only farmland gained the advantage. By the 70s the South Bronx alone lost 600,000 manufacturing jobs. The official youth unemployment rate rose to 60%. The average income in the South Bronx was only half of what it was elsewhere in the city. As the borough deteriorated, the area’s Irish, Italian, and Jewish residents fled to smaller towns and suburbs, but racist realtors and housing associations kept Blacks and Puerto Ricans out.

In 1970 Democratic New York senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan wrote a memo to Richard Nixon citing data by the Rand Corporation about fires in the South Bronx and complaining about the rise of political radicals like the Black Panthers. He wrote “The time may have come when the issue of race would benefit from a period of ‘benign neglect.’” Nixon agreed, and “benign neglect” became a rallying cry for those wanting to reduce social services to poor inner cities. After 1968 the city removed seven fire companies from the Bronx even as fires increased.

 Compounding these problems was the destruction created by the South Bronx’s own property owners. With so many residents unemployed or low income landlords found that it was more profitable to have their buildings burnt down and collect the insurance payout than collecting rent. These property owners allowed their buildings to slip into disrepair, sometimes even cutting off power and water to force residents to move out before paying local thugs to start the fires. As the 70s progressed, building fires reached epidemic levels. Between 1973 and 1977 30,000 fires were set in the Bronx alone. An average of four square blocks were lost to fire every week. During the mid 70s, the height of the fires, New York City laid off thousands of firefighters and fire marshals because of the city’s budget crisis.

 The people living in these ghettos, though facing appalling living conditions and few opportunities, pulled together to create something unique and beautiful. In the face of burned buildings, piles of concrete rubble, and the impersonal grey of city housing projects and subways, young people created a very diverse, complex, and highly developed style of visual art. Graffiti, for many people, was a way to take control of their environment, and a way of making their voice heard by a society that had written them off. Through the party culture of rhyming, djing, and b-boying (or break dancing) individuals expressed their joy in life and their belief in their own worth and ability. All of this was in the face of a city and a society that considered them the least useful and least valued members of the population.

Written by Jake Phillips

July 1, 2011 at 12:33 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Tagged with , , ,

On Democracy and Endorsements

with 13 comments

By Alex Couch
My decicion on who I should endorsement for president is a hard one for a few reasons. First, I do not believe in popular elections for president. The constitution does not say anything about popular elections for presidents and despite widespread misunderstanding, democratic elections are not how we currently choose presidents even today. (Please see article II section I of the constitution.)  The constitution only mentions that Electors vote for President; it mentions nothing about popular vote.  It leaves it up to the states to decide how Electors are chosen, but nowhere is their an indication that Electors would be tied to specific candidates, as they are today. 
 For the record, I have a small amount of distrust and a disdain for democracy.  I think all governments should have a small powerful aspect of democracy in it and in America, we have the House of Representatives. The role of the House was to represent the people. Because of the obsession and misunderstanding of democracy, America has democratized everything.  (As a sidenote, I blame America’s obsession with democracy on Andrew Jackson.  Although I have a certain amount of respect for Jackson’s policies and character, I can never forgive him for this.)  Both the president and the Senate are not supposed to represent the people. Democracy is not always most conducive for accomplishing tasks. Furthermore, I believe that many of the problems in Washington stem from over democratization. I plan to go into this more in the future, but for the sake of this post, I do not believe that mine or anyone else’s endorsement should matter for president to anyone besides those chosen by the states to elect our president.  However, overtime the popular vote in each state has become to mean something. So for now I will play the game until that day when the mistake of popular elections for president are eradicated. 
I understand that this view is historically ultra-conservative. On this and some other views, I am a pretty conservative guy. On other issues, I am pretty liberal. This is the second reason why choosing a candidate is tough. No candidate represents my beliefs. All of the candidates are populists. So I am forced to choose the cleanest dirty shirt.
The third and final reason that makes my decision so hard is that I am a practical realist. I do no want to waste my vote or endorsement.
I am going to list the things that are important in choosing my candidate and then list who best supports each aspect. Then I will look at my list and decide who I will endorse. Before I begin, let me first make 3 quick side notes. First, while I write this post, I have not yet decided who I am choosing. I am using this exercise to help in my decision. Secondly, I am going to choose only among those who have declared they are running.  Thirdly, I cannot support someone who has the same spirit as a serial killer.
The Important Issues
Fiscal Policy
Gay Marriage
Health Care
One these particular issues, I support Huntsman’s position.
Electability and Fundraising – Romney
Integrity and Honesty – Paul
Gut Instinct – Cain
Most Political Experience – Huntsman
For now, (only because Jake forcing to make a decision) and based on that list, I am endorsing Huntsman. However, among the four candidates I mentioned, I am willing to vote for any of them.

Written by Jake Phillips

June 30, 2011 at 2:03 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Tagged with , ,

The anti-Fight Club: An Endorsement of the Establishment

with 8 comments

By Joey Phillips

 I am endorsing Mitt Romney.

I will now go light myself on fire.[1] I will keep this brief, so I don’t have time to talk myself out of it. Here is why I am endorsing Mitt Romney.

  1. He’s the best politician in the republican field. He’s smart and well spoken and knows how to run a campaign. He is going to end up raising the most money and probably win the nomination. Might as well start getting used to the idea of voting for him now.
  2. He has the best chance to beat Obama. We could argue whether being moderate will help or hurt him in the general election, but either way I think for the reasons listed above he has a shot at beating Obama, which I am not convinced any of the other candidates have.
  3. I mostly like him on economics.

I am not excited about this endorsement for a number of reasons, the main one being that Romney isn’t really conservative in a lot of ways. Dionne (writer for the Washington Post, and liberal) says that Romney’s best asset is his ideological flexibility. Great. “Vote for me, I’ll change my core beliefs anytime!” On healthcare he is eerily similar to Obama. I wish we could elect him as the economics President and Herman Cain for everything else. On abortion you can either say (a) he doesn’t have a belief so he just adopts whatever position is politically expedient at the time or (b) he is very confused. Neither answer is comforting.  In fact, nothing about Romney makes me comfortable voting for him. I am trying to justify it because I am resigned to him winning the nomination. Is this the worst endorsement ever? Yes.

Forget it, I endorse Tim Pawlenty.  

[1] Bill Simmons™

Written by Jake Phillips

June 29, 2011 at 2:05 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Tagged with , ,

An Endorsement of Jon Huntsman

with 8 comments

By Jake Phillips


I am starting off our series for the week.  During the week, Jesse, Joey, Alex and I will endorse a particular Republican nominee for president.  The goal for our Republican readers is to perhaps give you an issue or two to think about as you decide who to vote for in the primaries.  For our non-Republican readers, the goal is to cause you to hate all the Republican nominees even more than you do.  Just kidding.  Sort of.  On Friday (hopefully) we’ll conclude with something somewhat related; James will be posting about the origins of the hip-hop movement. 


To begin our Presidential Endorsement Week, I hereby throw all of my political clout behind Jon Huntsman!!!! (With my endorsement, I guess the Republican party might as well just give him the nomination now.  It’ll save everybody a lot of money.)


There are many reasons why I am supporting Jon Huntsman.  To start, let me give a one-comment reason why I’m not supporting anyone else.  This isn’t to make anyone angry.  And it isn’t fair.  But here goes.


Ron Paul: Too crazy, his view on prostitution and cocaine is anti-intellectual, and he can’t win.

Rick Santorum: He might as well call himself “Generic Republican Nominee For President.  Do Not Actually Vote For Me.  I Don’t Even Want to Be President.”  Of course, that would be a really long name.

Michelle Bachmann: A less dangerous, smarter Sarah Palin.  Which is kind of like being a less dangerous, smarter Ron Artest.  Also, her ideas on taxation and her social understanding is entirely too simplistic.

Mitt Romney: I don’t trust him on pro-life issues, and, like Ezra Klein, I don’t believe in Powerpoint Presidents.

Tim Pawlentry: Would like him better if he was a true populists.


Everyone else is too boring and unrealistic to even offer a reason to not support them.  Thus, I will get to my reasons for endorsing Huntsman.


First, I was extremely impressed that he’s made the importance of local politics a focal point of his campaign.  My opinion is that there are many great ideas in government that are ruined by the administration of the federal government.  For instance, welfare is such a good idea.  However, the federal government’s administration of welfare is ruining what is actually a good idea.  The idea of public healthcare is such a good idea, if run at a local level.  And so on and so forth.  Therefore, to hear a candidate make a big deal out of local politics, certainly a bigger deal than any recent candidate, made me happy.


Secondly, in an Republican era of loyalty litmus tests being administered, an era where every candidate must prove that they will never even have dreams about raising taxes, it is refreshing to see an unapologetically moderate candidate.  US politics at a national level are necessarily moderate.  It is the nature of the way that our country was founded.  Extremism is basically impossible, and Almost Extremism is extremely difficult, and somewhat counterproductive, since every overreach in American politics has had a subsequent backlash.  Given those facts, a moderate, but staunchly pro-life, candidate is what I think is absolutely necessary.  Common, voting, republicans should consider the following; would you rather have a very conservative president in 2012, with a liberal backlash in 2014, or a somewhat conservative president in 2012, and keep the current congressional status-quo in 2014? Do you think liberals were happier in 1998 or in 2010?  The answer to that rhetorical question is another feather in my cap :). 


There is more that I could say.  It is extremely important to me that he is staunchly pro-life, unlike some other moderate candidates from past years (I’m looking at you, Rudy Guiliani.)  His foreign policy credentials and experience is important, as is his willingness to defend that position, even if he was appointed by Obama.  (For those who criticize him for this, see previous paragraph about Almost Extremism.)  It says something that several media outlets has reported overhearing Obama’s inner circle as being more afraid of campaigning against Huntsman than any other potential candidate.  Even liberal political analysts have noted the lack of vitriol and personal criticisms coming from Huntsman’s campaign, which distinguishes him from all other candidates, including Obama (who, let’s be honest, is, generously, 50/50 President/Candidate at this point.)  It is refreshing to see someone be more of a Campaigner than Critic and Character Assassin.  Part of the reason that everyone was so excited about Obama in 2008 was his message of Hope and Change, and not getting sucked into the Beltway Establishment.  The poorly-kept secret, however, was that his campaign was more negative than McCain’s, and almost as negative as the legendary Bush/Kerry campaigns.  Someone who actually avoided potshots and overly-negative campaigning, as Huntsman has done (and been noted for doing so), would be, as I said previously, refreshing.


The most successful, historically-angelic presidents in our history have been moderate.  (See Lincoln, Truman, Teddy Roosevelt, Eisenhower etc.)  There is a reason for this.  Progressive and conservative presidents often have a difficult time governing, no matter the purity of their ideology.  (See JFK and Richard Nixon.  Try to pretend for 5 minutes that Nixon wasn’t a jerk and a criminal, and remember only that he was probably the most brilliant ((intellectually speaking)) president that we’ve had.) The lone exception to these cases were Reagan and FDR, which only proves that if your a phenomonal leader, how extreme your ideas are matters less, historically speaking.  All of this to say, vote for Bachmann at your own risk.  Vote for the new-and-improved Romney at your own risk.  Getting a party-line conservative into the Oval Office is often counterproductive. 

For all of these reasons, and some others, I am happy to endorse Jon Huntsman.  For now.  Even though I’m a registered Independent.

Written by Jake Phillips

June 27, 2011 at 3:35 pm

Poker as a Moral Good: Defending an American Tradition

with 17 comments

 By Alex Couch


Don’t mess with poker or congressmen from Texas.

I am in favor of protecting and expanding poker. I defend poker. Poker is an American pastime and one small but important part of its historical DNA. In some form or another, it has been played in America since America came into existence in the late 18th century. Like the history of this great nation, poker has had a wild history full of destruction, fellowship, misery, enjoyment, leisure, and camaraderie. It has been full of good times and bad times. And like America, poker has matured and been civilized. But the pastime of poker is under attack in America today. In the past months, tens of thousands of regular Americans just like you and me have had their money they used for poker taken away by the actions of the US government. My task here will be multiple:

1)     To defend the activity of poker

2)     To defend gambling in moderation

3)     To defend professional gambling (particularly poker) in extremely limited cases

4)     Describe the needed changes, as I see it


The first thing I need to do is establish the difference between poker and gambling. Poker is often associated with the act of gambling even though in many or most instances today poker is played without anything being wagered. In other words, very often people do not gamble at all when they play poker.


So therefore, I categorize poker with all other recreational activities including sports, games, and pastimes. Furthermore, I believe that most if not all recreational activities can be used for gambling. It is possible to gamble on a basketball game, on a game of monopoly, and anything that is not certain. At some level, these activities are regularly used to gamble. At every job I have had there has been some organized gambling on professional sports events, usually football and basketball.  


My point is that we need to not unnecessarily confuse the amoral activity of poker with gambling.  For those who are obsessed with being anti-gambling, just remember this: “Poker good, gambling bad.”  For those who have seen the movie “Tombstone,” there is a scene that illustrates this point quite well.  Wyatt Earp, in response to something Doc Holliday has said, replies, “I thought you said gambling was an honest man’s trade?” Doc Holliday responds, “No, I said poker was an honest man’s trade.”  Poker can really provide great satisfaction and help people to grow. I have been able to work on and improve a great many of my strengths and overcome many of my weaknesses.  I will hopefully talk about this point more in a future post but for now, if you haven’t played poker, please give poker a serious chance.


My next order of business is to defend gambling. I will not defend mindless and unwise gambling but if all the conditions are right, then gambling can be quite worth-while and enjoyable. If a small percentage of one’s earnings, depending on their commitments and financial situation, goes toward wagering, then I do not see a problem with the idea of gambling. A small wager at work based on performance with a fellow employee can be great for work ethic and be an overall positive act. A small wager on your favorite sports team with a friend can be healthy for a relationship when practiced in moderation. A group of guys who sit around and fellowship while playing poker on a Friday night is a great way to relax and enjoy friendship. A small wager to defend the honor of your favorite role model whom you know never said what he is being accused of saying is principled and proper.


I believe we should look at each case and make an analysis. I know people who probably take this freedom they feel to gamble too far, even if they practice moderation. If I witness this in someone I love as a pattern in their life over time, then I will address it.  If I see someone who is not practicing moderation then I will address that immediately. Clearly, it is not wise for a father who is living paycheck to paycheck and is in debt to waste 10% of his earnings on gambling.


How about professional gambling? Can that be moral? I believe it depends on the situation and the individual. If someone has an aptitude towards something and develops a skill over time then I believe it is possible that they can use wagering as a way to earn a living doing that. An example of this could be poker. Yes, poker. I am about mix the two and muddy the water.  Poker has a large element of skill that is associated with it.  The best professional poker players win consistently. Other examples can include pro-am golfers, bowlers, and basketball players. Has anyone ever seen the move “White Men Can’t Jump”? I can get behind doing something for money if it’s what you are skilled at. I would think it would be nearly impossible for someone to justify making their living gambling on slots, dice, or even blackjack where luck is more important than skill.

There are other qualifications that I suggest need to be established before some can make the decision to go pro. The first is having a sufficient bankroll. Most if not all professional poker players have a bankroll that determines what level they play at. Overtime, players add to their bankroll and increase the level they can play at. Players only gamble each time with a very small percentage of their bankroll and if their funds reach a certain low point, the player is forced to lower the level in which they play.


A further qualification I would like to add for professional players is that they should play in professional circles with other professionals at or close to their level. They should not continue to play with other amateurs or recreational players. This is usually the norm because it makes sense from both an ethical and a practical point of view.  In summary, the qualifications to play something professionally with wagering include aptitude, skill, experience, proper funding, and a strong sense of and commitment to ethics.


What needs to happen next? We need open the competition for poker rooms across the US and legalize online poker.  A few months ago, federal agents closed down many of the big poker sites and those who had money on some of those sites lost all of it. However, they have not, nor can they, shut down online poker. It is simply unregulated, untaxed, and illegal. We need to regulate it and tax it.


Apparently there is a bill currently being drafted by a republican out of Texas that would legalize internet poker. His name is Rep. Joe Barton. We should write him and let him know we are supporting him. Furthermore, we should call our representative and let them know we support online poker and poker in general. Please protect an American pastime.

Written by Jake Phillips

June 23, 2011 at 12:22 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Tagged with , , ,

Yes, NBC, I accept your apology

with 34 comments

To Whom It May Concern:

I am aware of a variety of responses that people had to your decision to omit the words “under God” from the pledge allegiance aired in your US Open telecast this past weekend. Some cheered. Some seethed. I took the moment to reflect on the great power of God and the utter ineptitude of any human attempt to ignore or deny him.

As you said in your apology, it was “regrettable” if not unintentional that these words were not included in the clip you aired. Although, I would venture to guess that we have different reasons or thinking this decision was regrettable.

I know that you probably view this apology as a necessary step you must take to appease the right-wing fanatics who actually care about God and the importance of faith in society. But I can say that while your antics are not new, novel or particularly effective, it did provide a great teaching moment on the ineptitude of your failed ideology, which I am grateful for.

Your biggest failure was not that you removed the words “under God” from the pledge. Your biggest failure was that you failed to see the irony and ineptitude of removing a reference to God from an introductory clip to a telecast of a golf tournament in which that God was so immanently involved and tangibly recognized. It was delightful for me to watch the birth of a star in Rory Mcilroy and to see the world universally recognize his God-given talent. It brought me great pleasure to hear a young man attribute his success to his (traditional) family and God’s gifts of a dedicated father and mother, and take the world’s stage as the best athlete the deeply religious country of Northern Ireland has to offer.

All of this transpired and was made evident without a mention of God. I’m actually glad Mcilroy did this without saying Jesus’ name because it proves my point that not mentioning God does nothing to disprove him. Our nation, and the entire world, is under God whether we acknowledge it or not, just as young Mcilroy’s talents are a gift from God whether he mentions that fact or not.

I do feel a sense of empathy for NBC, knowing that as far as sports go, golf is probably the hardest one to remove God from. Anyone walking that course, witnessing the breathtaking beauty of the nature around them came away with a sense of God that “The Decision” to remove him from the pledge could not suppress. Natural law is a tough one to overcome, isn’t it?

As I mentioned earlier, there is nothing particularly novel about the approach. People have been failing in this way for centuries, dating back to the time when my faith was born. It wasn’t just the founding fathers of our country that believed the existence and immanence of God was “self-evident”. This is actually a cardinal teaching of the Christian faith as well.

“For what can be known about God is plain…his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived ever since the creation of the world in the things that have been made” (Romans 1:29-20).

So thank you, NBC, for proving the point you sought to deny. That beautiful clip you kept showing of the island green out on that serene lake said it all. Your regrettable decision on the pledge aside, anyone who saw the beauty of that single clip knows everything they need to know about God and has no excuse not to believe in him.

No harm done.

– Jesse Phillips

Written by Jesse Phillips

June 21, 2011 at 2:31 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Tagged with , ,