Lee’s Last Ride

General Robert E. Lee mounted on Traveller - 1866

General Robert E. Lee mounted on Traveller – 1866

“I am a Southerner by birth and a Rebel by choice. As I read and study, I pull for Lee, Jackson, and Longstreet. As I live, I thank Grant, Lincoln, and Democracy.” Richard”Shotgun” Weeks – Master Sergeant U.S. Air Force Vietnam Veteran/ Civil War historian

“The power of noble deeds is to be preserved and passed on to the future.” Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain – commander 20th Maine at Gettysburg

For my part, I can barely fathom those forces that drive a human being to accept or even consider the possibility that they are by way of their race, creed, or national origin somehow superior to their fellowman. But then my own personal journey has caused me to reject any behavior predicated on any theory of innate supremacy or an overly zealous sense of nationalism.  Having virtually no knowledge as to the circumstance of my own birth or bloodline, I have become quite comfortable in the belief that a good portion of our individual lives is determined merely by genetic and geographic potluck without the hand of God trying to stack the deck in any particular group’s favor.

As for those among us that are prone to think otherwise, it is probably a combination of fear and a personal sense of inferiority that is the seed from which that invasive strangling vine of their own self-aggrandizing superiority complex sprouts.

As to the recent tragic events in Charlottesville and the somewhat troubling  response and mixed-messages offered up by our president, I think we need to be honest with ourselves as to who the man is and who he is not. Donald Trump achieved the office by relying heavily on those wedge issues of religion, race, and immigration that have been polarizing this country not only in recent years, but throughout our nation’s history. And while this political tactic is nothing new, it has never been so blatantly utilized by a presidential candidate. And although I can not state with any certainty as to what is truly in the man’s heart–it is safe to say that neither Citizen Trump nor President Trump has ever exhibited the capacity to construct much beyond a hotel, golf course, or casino. The building of consensus and bridges does not appear to be part of the plan. And while I do not totally rule out the possibility of an epiphany, in order for that to occur one must first be willing to admit to and address their own failures and shortcomings.

As for the president’s equivocation of the violence on both sides in Charlottesville, he seems to forget that our system of justice does in fact define by degree the nature of most crimes. And the level of intent and premeditation displayed by those involved in any criminal act normally dictates the assigning of responsibility and the resulting punishment. There is clearly a distinct and undeniable difference between planned intimidation and violence and the reflexive actions of those that are the targets and victims of such attacks. The end result may yield an equal number of causalities, but in American Jurisprudence shared pain does not equate with shared guilt!

Then there is the issue as to what may have actually sparked the deadly confrontation in Charlottesville. Since I was old enough to turn on a television set, I’ve watched scenes of  human beings beating each over the head either in defense of some cherished symbol or in response to some other group’s use of a symbol that was deemed to be offensive. Any blood shed over the veneration or demonization of some man-made expression of our affiliations or points of view  is blood that is shed for nothing. No book, no image,  no work in bronze or stone, and no piece of cloth hoisted up a pole can be reason enough to justify violence or the taking of life.

As for the fates of those monuments and memorials to the Confederacy,  I personally take no offense at their presence. But at the same time, I understand why others would opt for their elimination. I certainly would not expect the children of the Lakota Sioux to attend a  school named in honor of George Armstrong Custer, anymore than I would expect an African American family to comfortably picnic under the statue of Nathan Bedford Forrest. We need to be sensitive to those people and communities that endured great hardships and countless indignities at the hands of those who would attempt to rewrite history by way of some public square glorification of a past that was often cruel and seldom heroic.

Travellor-Grave-PlaqueLastly, there is the matter of the ever haunting ghost of that Virginia gentleman who has once again taken  center stage in yet another civil conflict. While it seems somewhat ludicrous  to suggest that the removal of  a statue of Robert E. Lee might lead some to consider the possible purge of the likenesses of Washington and Jefferson–who can predict how the lens into our past will be adjusted by those in the future in order to be in line with their view of the present? But for now, the question may be worthy of some small measure of reflection. After all, Washington, Jefferson, and Lee were all thought to be treasonous, rebellious scoundrels by a large number of their fellow countrymen. And all of these men by current standards of thought could be tarnished by their apparent contradictions in character.

In the case of Robert E. Lee, while his religious convictions made him keenly aware of the inherent evils of slavery, he was of the opinion that the inevitable demise of that institution would only come about in accordance with God’s timetable. And though he viewed secession as being unconstitutional and an outright betrayal to the founding principles of the United States, his decision to lend his superior military skills to the state of Virginia would nearly bring about the destruction of the Union.

Shortly before his death in 1870, Lee spoke out against the idea of erecting monuments to the war. He believed those efforts would only hamper the process of national reconciliation. So perhaps now is the time for Lee’s last ride. But no matter what we as a people decide to tear down, we as a nation will be judged by what we chose to raise up.

At this moment in time, I will raise a glass to the people of Charlottesville and to all who stand their ground against discrimination, intolerance, inequality, and racism!

Please take the time to listen to this profound song of healing performed by Joe Jencks.

40 Mile IPAIf by chance you find yourself paying a visit to the city of Charlottesville, while there might I suggest raising a glass of  40 Mile IPA from Three Notch’d Brewing Company. This outstanding brew celebrates the ride of another famous gentlemen from Virginia Jack Jouett whose daring on horseback on the night of June 1, 1781, saved Thomas Jefferson and the state legislature from capture by British cavalry under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Banastre Tarleton.

Posted by: Chris Poh for American Public House Review

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With Our Sincere and Humble Apologies to the Ghosts of The Molly Maguires

The Old Jail Museum in Jim Thorpe, PA. The site of the 1877 Molly Maguire Executions.

The Old Jail Museum in Jim Thorpe, PA

“How long can men thrive between walls of brick, walking on asphalt pavements, breathing the fumes of coal and oil, growing, working, dying, with hardly a thought of wind, and sky, and fields of grain, seeing only machine-made beauty, the mineral-like quality of life?”   Charles Lindbergh

In the course of his recent Rose Garden rant and truculent travelogue, the President eluded to the opening of a new coal mine located somewhere between Paris and Pittsburgh. It turns out that somewhere is the small town of Boswell, PA. This community owes its very existence to the black bituminous rock that lies beneath the quaint brick homes and shops built by the Merchant’s Coal Company during the first few years of the twentieth century.  And soon, 70 more intrepid souls will join the ranks of  those that have braved the bowels of the earth in order to fuel America’s energy and industrial needs.

My own  knowledge of the collier’s plight has been mostly gleaned from conversations with old timers at the Molly Maguires Pub in Jim Thorpe, PA. Here there were plenty of tales about that secret society for which the pub is named.These sons and grandsons of  Irish immigrants spoke of a life that was as hard as the anthracite that was pulled from the clutches of those eastern coal seams. In order to keep their families fed, these early miners tolerated what amounted to an indentured enslavement to the bosses and the company town.

In this part of Pennsylvania, the role of the Devil incarnate was aptly filled by Franklin Gowen, the president of the Philadelphia and Reading Coal & Iron Company. With the assistance of his hired henchmen from the Pinkerton Detective Agency, Gowen waged a war against those who attempted to organize labor in the coalfields–creating a living hell both on and below earth. Eventually, this reign of terror and the violent response by the miners would bring about a series of questionable arrests and trials that would send ten men to the gallows in 1877 and ten more in the following year. Among the latter was John “Black Jack” Kehoe, a well-respected constable and tavern owner who had provided aid to the miners and their families, and who had also become the outspoken voice for worker’s rights.

Such has been the story of coal throughout our history–a double-edged sword yielding great success for some and greater suffering for others. Current data suggests that 80,000 deaths per year in the United States can be directly attributed to airborne chemical and particulate pollution, with emissions from coal-fired power plants being a significant source of the problem. While the majority of these plants are located in the Midwest, the pollution is not contained within state borders. The mercury emitted from these plants ultimately will find its way into the human food chain as waterways and livestock become contaminated.

The threat globally is even greater. Studies conducted by the World Health Organization estimate that between 4-5 million people will die annually because of polluted air, and nearly 35 percent of those deaths will be infants or young children. And once again, coal will be a major culprit. So even if the scientific evidence connecting human activity to global warming were proven to be somewhat overestimated, there are still a few million good reasons to substantially lessen our dependence on coal.

As to our President’s break with the Paris Agreement, I have seen this pattern of behavior repeated many times over during my own lifetime. Whether it be about clean air, clean water, pesticides, food safety, tobacco use, or just shoddy manufacturing, the oft-told tale goes something like this: First, the facts are called into question by those who stand to lose the most amount of money if they are held legally responsible or become subject to government regulation. Second, those again whose pocketbooks are threatened enlist the aid of politicians to plead their case. Next, those same politicians brand those who initially raised concerns about a particular product or practice as being on the fringe, unpatriotic, or somehow just at odds with America and capitalism. And finally, when enough time has passed to allow those affected entities to settle their legal obligations and to develop alternate streams of revenue–we then suddenly accept and adopt those policies and procedures that improve our collective wellbeing.

That is why the Shell Oil Company is building wind farms in the Netherlands, and Exxon Mobil is working on ways to run an Alpha Romeo on algae.

As for those ghosts of the Molly Maguires, I will briefly defer to the skilled pen of Jeanne Kehoe_GraveMarie Laskas from her book “Hidden America” which poetically profiles the lives of those who continue to work those difficult and dangerous jobs that support the infrastructure of our nation’s economy: “There is no design, no geometry, no melody. A coal mine greets you with only one sentiment, then hammers it: This is not a place for people. This is not a place for people. This is not a place for people.”

And on that day when the last coal mine is finally closed, the dead will rest a bit more  peacefully–and the living will breathe a whole lot easier!

Click on the article titles below to learn more about the life of John “Black Jack ” Kehoe and the restless afterlife of one of the Molly Maguires.

Posted by: Chris Poh for American Public House Review

Updating My Status With the United States Secret Service

ferndale-inn-bar

Like many of my fellow Americans, I’ve taken the “wait and see approach” since the election of Donald J. Trump. But with more than a month having passed since his inauguration, I believe I’ve already seen enough, and I’ve probably waited much too long–not that I’ve formulated a suitable response to this unfolding national quandary other than to utter the words “God help us” much more than usual.

I’ve heard from more than one friend that they have abandoned social media and cable news in order to find some sense of refuge and peace. I, on the other hand, continue to expose myself to the onslaught of electronic punditry, and to engage my bar room customers as to the pros and cons of this presidency. But then I have the advantage of those quiet late nights after the dispirited Democrats, the few remorseful, but mostly rejoicing Republicans, and the incredulous independents have all gone home.

My outpost during this particular political cycle has been the Ferndale Inn, a wonderful old Upper Bucks County establishment that has been around long enough to have served some of those that lived through the colonial insurrection of 76 as well as the civil unraveling of 1861. Perhaps it is their ghosts that motivated me to once again attempt to reach out to yet another incoming administration. So on the morning of the 20th day of January 2017 while the Trumps were contemplating an afternoon stroll down Pennsylvania Avenue, I was heading into to town to post my letter to the incoming President.

I sent copies to both the White House and to Trump Tower in New York City. In retrospect, I probably should have also sent a copy to the clubhouse in West Palm Beach–because every indicator suggests that the only persons that may have read the letter are those tasked with monitoring the mail to make sure that there is nothing more threatening than what might be perceived by the Bannon wing of the White House as the poisoned pros of some poor misguided moderate. So in the hope that all my words don’t fall on deaf ears, I will also share the letter with the audience of this blog and American Pubic House Review.

General Ulysses S. GrantAppomattox RevisitedGeneral Robert E. Lee

Dear President Trump:

The preservation of a healthy democracy demands participation beyond the voting booth, hence the reason for this letter. First of all, while I did not cast my ballot for you, I want you to know that I sincerely hope and pray for the success and well being of you and your family as you embark upon the many challenges of the presidency. To that end I wish you Godspeed sir!

From this point on, forgive me if my writings ramble on a bit as I attempt to blend the practical with the philosophical side of our politics.

On Jobs:

I applaud your efforts to retain and create employment opportunities within our borders. But I believe we need to be realistic and honest with American labor about the real potential employment numbers within certain industries. Even if we produced steel or mined coal to the extent of the peak years of the twentieth-century, we would do so with a fraction of the manpower that was needed in the past. In 1923, it took 863,000 coal miners to produce approximately 600 million short tons of coal. Today you could double that production number with a workforce of less than 70,000. The new reality calls for much more aggressive retraining programs. And if we can’t bring new jobs and industries to those areas hardest hit by change, then perhaps the government needs to provide assistance so that it is affordable for people to relocate to those places where there are new avenues of employment.

On Healthcare:

I believe that we should acknowledge and maintain the moral high ground achieved by the previous administration. No human being should ever be denied healthcare because of a pre-existing condition. And that care should be truly affordable and in keeping to the highest standards of modern medicine! America’s middle-class cannot afford another monthly bill that is equivalent to a payment on a BMW. And from solely a business perspective, every dollar that is spent on just providing a family with essential needs and services further erodes the growth of those parts of the economy that depend upon  discretionary spending.

Healthcare over the past several decades has evolved from being a necessary institution into something more akin to just another big business. And while I believe that those dedicated souls that provide the care and the cures should be well paid, we can’t expect the average American to shoulder the financial burden of something that now accounts for nearly 20% of our gross domestic product.

I certainly agree with your point of view that we need to create more competitive pricing of insurance by expanding the marketplace beyond state borders. But I also believe that the real cost savings will be realized in the delivery of services. Because of what has been perceived as being a bottomless well of government and private insurance monies, hospitals have grown into bloated, inefficient bureaucracies. Perhaps we need a moonshot approach to medicine—one where the government develops new lifesaving techniques and technologies, and then rewards those public and private entities that incorporate them into the practice of medicine in the most cost-effective manner.

On Immigration:

Once we get beyond the rhetoric of the issue, there are no easy answers accept to say that a good immigration policy is in fact good for business. Whether we utilize the carrot or stick approach to the problems at our borders, we cannot lose sight of the fact that we are the country that has always advertised ourselves as that land of opportunity. And whenever we needed to dig a canal, build a railroad, or send men underground in order to provide the fuel for our industrial might, we called upon the immigrant to break their backs and to risk their lives. Historically, it has always been a relationship of convenience tailored to the needs of the business class and the political class with the immigrant caught somewhere in the middle. Even today not much has changed. In the same breath American business welcomes the illegal through the backdoor to wash the dishes, while our politicians propose protections that keep those same people from entering through the front door under the guise that they might be stealing food off of the same plates that they just washed.

Putting the obvious hypocrisy aside, no matter what reforms are eventually adopted they must be initiated from a position of reason and compassion—because the vast majority of those that choose to cross borders illegally are in fact doing so because they are facing genuine hardships and immediate threats. And in some instances, those dire conditions came about in part because of American economic and foreign policy. Before we propose legislation or sign anything into law, we must ask ourselves what we would do if our own families were in that position?

In the past, when life wasn’t to our liking, we crossed an ocean, we crossed many borders, we displaced others, and on some occasions we made claims to land in a manner that was neither moral nor legitimate. It is incumbent upon every American to remember our own journey before we intervene on the itinerary of others.

On Having Skin in the Game:

There are those that have accused you of being a bit thin-skinned. As one who shares the condition of having a sharp tongue and strong opinions while at the same time not always being receptive to that potentially bruising return volley, there isn’t much that I can offer other than to say that before we tally the falsehoods and slights put forth by others, it would serve us well to apply a bit of self-accounting regarding our own behavior. Furthermore, an effective presidency does require a thick skin, because those who desire that position must wear many skins: the skin of the rich and the poor, the skin of the powerful and the downtrodden, the skin of all races, the skin of all colors, the skin of all creeds, and the skin of all nations. Because that is what America has always been and always will be as long we continue to uphold the aspirations and principles of our Founders.

But ultimately, our leaders will not be measured by the thickness of their skin, but instead by the broadness of their shoulders and the size of their hearts!

On Healing a Nation:

Our Constitution can be rather problematic—because within its structure lies the seeds for our potential unity or disunity depending upon how we choose to exercise our rights. Those freedoms enshrined within that document allow us to exclude or include, to tear down or raise up, and to inflict pain or promote healing.

In 1861, there were those who believed that the Constitution went so far as to provide for the right of secession. It would take four years of carnage and deprivation to prove otherwise. But as we consider a nation that today is mired in contentious rancor and has been politically reduced to a map of red and blue, one might wonder has much changed since Lee surrendered his army to Grant at Appomattox?

I wish that prior to taking the oath of office every President-elect would spend a quiet winter’s day of reflection at Antietam, Gettysburg, or any Civil War battlefield. There were no real victors on these pieces of ground—just body counts that led the commanders on one side or the other to foolishly presume that they had won the day. But there would be many bitter harvests on those hallowed fields before a severely wounded nation would make any sense of the struggle—let alone claim victory.

On August 8, 1885, some of those same veterans, who had faced the fire and the fury from opposite sides of the lines at places like Shiloh, Vicksburg and Cold Harbor, now marched shoulder-to-shoulder as they accompanied the body of General Ulysses S. Grant to its temporary place of rest in New York City’s Riverside Park. On this day at least, young enemies would stand together as old friends.

During his final years, as he had done throughout his presidency, Grant sought to bring about a spirit of renewal and reconciliation to a nation still suffering the lingering deep divisions that remained after the Civil War. Even during those final months of life while suffering the ravages of a painful and debilitating throat cancer, General Grant would provide counsel to his friends and former adversaries with a gentle dignity and optimism that belied his immense suffering.

Ulysses S. Grant truly lived up to those words spoken by Abraham Lincoln at his first inaugural address, “We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory will swell when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”

May all Americans, and especially our leaders, aspire to those better angels!

Sincerely,

Chris Poh,  Editor for American Public House Review

Rigged and Ready for the Real Revolution

 

Sons of Liberty at the Green Dragon - Artist Unknown

Sons of Liberty at the Green Dragon – Artist Unknown

 

The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.                                                             From Thomas Jefferson to William Smith  1787

In modern America it seems that the discontented and the demagogues have always held our third President in the highest regard. From tee shirts to bar room banter, those touting the next revolution are quick to remind us that any rotten fruit that sprouts from that sacred “Liberty Tree” should be pruned with extreme prejudice as per the periodic prescriptive measures supposedly proposed by Thomas Jefferson.

(While I remain  a staunch advocate for the cause of alliteration in literature, even I believe that some degree of poetic license may been have abused during the execution of the previous sentence)

Although Mr. Jefferson felt that a modicum of public rebellion from time to time was  a healthy way to keep an overreaching governing class in check, he much preferred the peaceful coexistence between the powers that be and the people. In what has become known as the “Tree of Liberty” letter, Jefferson expressed his concerns that the Constitution would vest too much control to a central government that was at that time already weary of further armed uprisings, similar to the tax insurrection that had occurred in Massachusetts in 1786 and 1787. Ultimately, Jefferson believed that it was a lack of knowledge that led a disgruntled public to consider taking up arms against the government. Toward the end of his letter to William Smith, he states, “The remedy is to set them right as to the facts, pardon & pacify them.”

Whether or not it is even possible today to discover the facts about anyone or anything is a matter of debate. Political punditry and pitchfork populism are a malignancy that obscure and eventually obliterate the truth. But there is one certain truth that I believe we must make abundantly clear to a distrustful electorate. Contrary to the rants of Donald J. Trump, This election is not rigged!

As it has always been since the onset of this republic, there are those forces in the press and the media that have attempted to influence the vote by way of an institutional or personal bias. Historically, candidates for public office from both parties have had personal ties to newspapers and broadcast outlets. But in the age of the internet and social media there are more than enough sources to support and validate everyone’s version of the truth. The only thing that is truly rigged against us is that portion of the human brain that causes us to occasionally blindly follow those that affirm our own personal perceptions–even if those perceptions are totally without merit.

So before we are tempted to threaten bodily harm against any of our fellow citizens because one of our candidates for the office of President is falsely crying fire in a crowded theater, remember that Thomas Jefferson followed The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants with the words It is its natural manure. 

Hopefully Americans will reject the current line of bullshit and demagoguery in favor of that real revolution that will only come about as a result of reasonable human beings working together to address our difficulties and differences in a spirit of concern, compassion, and compromise!

Posted by: Chris Poh for American Public House Review

 

 

Why…

Vigil for Pulse from Perth

As a nation, whenever we are forced to endure the painful aftermath  brought on by those who use murder as a means of expressing their extreme distaste for society, there seems to be that innate need to make some sense of the senseless– or to apply reason to the unreasonable. The irrational ruthless actions of one man sitting alone at the Pulse in Orlando, Florida, will once again stir our collective conscience to ask ourselves why. Why did this happen? Why do they hate? Why do they kill?

For much of the immediate future, there will be those countless supposed expert voices espousing answers and solutions. And unfortunately, there is nothing like a national tragedy during an election year to fuel the self-righteous indignation of that portion of the political class that tend to speak only to our fears. Those same human beings will attempt to convince us of some greater truth concerning the motivations, affiliations, and ideologies of those that engage in  violent behaviors. But in the end, there will only be a whole lot of speculation carefully woven between the sorrow and the tears.

During my own lifetime, I’ve witnessed far too many of these unconscionable  deeds, and when all was said and done, the theories and explanations always fell far short of our need to know why such reprehensible attacks occurred.

Right up until that moment when Jack Ruby fired the shot that would end the life of  John F. Kennedy’s assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald seemed to be redefining his role and responsibility in the death of the President. And after years of inquiries and investigations, we are no closer to knowing the workings of the mind of a man whose loyalties and attachments were mercurial and contradictory to say the least. I suspect that ultimately our understanding of Omar Mateen will be no different. He will be just another name in that long litany of those that have unjustifiably bloodied our history and broken our hearts.

So we are left with only a handful of truths concerning this crime and its political ramifications:

  • Most mass killings in the United States have been carried out using legally purchased weapons. So we can probably save some lives with commonsense regulations that do not impinge upon the intent of the Second Amendment.
  • Some individuals should not have access to either airliners or assault rifles.
  • And certain politicians should definitely not have access to either Air Force One or America’s arsenal.
  • But most importantly, we need not ask why–but instead why not?

There are those who look at things the way they are, and ask why… I dream of things that never were, and ask why not?     Robert Kennedy

Posted by: Chris Poh for American Public House Review

 

 

 

The Birth of a Caliphate

Birth_of_a_Nation_theatrical_poster

In 1915, D. W. Griffith brought craft and controversy to the silent screen with the release of The Birth of a Nation. This cinematic adaptation of The Clansman, a novel written by Thomas Dixon, Jr., is thought to have been instrumental in bringing about the second incarnation of the Ku Klux Klan in America. The film’s glorification of those that sought to restore the political and social institutions of the antebellum South through intimidation and terror would spawn a new powerful wave of white supremacy.

The repackaged Klan would expand its ideology of intolerance to include Jews, Catholics, and non-Anglo immigrants–all the while claiming to be answering the call of some God sanctioned greater Christian ethic. By its peak in 1925, this so-called fraternal organization would boast a membership of several million Americans. The cast in celluloid semi-social medium of the early 20th century may have inadvertently become the tool to rally, recruit, and radicalize a mass audience. Fast forward 100 years, and it should be no wonder to anyone that the means of modern media can so effectively convince thousands to embrace jihad, and for some of those minions to pursue their own personal pathology in the streets of Paris, Alleppo, or San Bernardino.

Quite frankly, I suspect there is very little difference between the modern terrorist and those that in the past unleashed murder and brutality against innocent civilian populations. Our inclination to believe that the nature and behavior of some of our kind is any worse than it ever was is most likely the result of our near immediate exposure to the excessive carnage and casualties inflicted by a handful of determined individuals with access to extreme firepower.

I am only grateful that the over 700 hate groups currently estimated to be operating within the United States seem to be lacking the savvy, sophistication, and organizational skills of those like-minded factions that operate outside of our borders. Instead of needing to establish something akin to a caliphate, our own homegrown brand of end-timer religious zealots seem to be content with spewing their dissatisfaction with mankind from some backwater compound or the back corner table of some gin mill.

It is not by any means my intent to downplay the current menace that we now face as a nation, but at the same time, it would serve us well to maintain an historical perspective about the true character of our adversaries. If we fail to do this we may fall victim to an even far greater threat–that being the tendency to be taken in by those who rely solely on the art of demagoguery  to achieve power. History has always borne out that those individuals pose the greater threat to democracy and personal liberty.

Those who at present operate beneath the mantle of a distorted apocalyptic view of Islam will ultimately prove themselves to be like every other rogue enterprise that feeds on the vulnerability of those who, either imagine, or because of legitimate grievances against governments feel that they have neither a voice nor legal redress regarding their own well being. The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria will eventually weaken and wither under the weight of superior military opposition from without, and by those inherent internal forces that bring about the demise of all despotic earthly jurisdictions. Even God can’t save the wolves when the sheep begin to grow a set of canines–and then develop the courage and conviction to bite back.

Hopefully, when that day is finally upon us, reason and religion will no longer be a matter of conflict–and God’s will for a few and goodwill towards all will be understood to be one and the same! 

Posted by Chris Poh for American Public House Review

       

Dealing from the Absolute Bottom of Another Trumped-up Deck

A rigged poker game. Photo by: Chris Poh

“They didn’t ask us what our immigration status was, they just said that they needed help and a lot of it…”  Mauricio Avila – a volunteer from Ecuador who assisted with rescue efforts immediately after the 9/11 attack

In the days following the attack on New York’s World Trade Center, private contractors were brought in to assist with the initial rescue and recovery, and then ultimately the cleanup of the site. This almost overwhelming task required a tremendous amount of additional manual labor. As usual, many of those who would swell those ranks were  undocumented immigrants. And as usual, a good number of those private contractors would not be inquiring as to their legal status–taking advantage once again of those who so often give more than a good day’s work for less than a good day’s wage.

Operating under the assumption that the air around “Ground Zero” was safe to breathe, as alleged by government officials, many of the illegal immigrants that worked the pile would eventually face those same life threatening health issues that were affecting their properly documented counterparts. A deadly mix of lead, cadmium, mercury, benzene, and the fine particulate from the millions of pounds of pulverized building materials would eventually hasten or cause a host of medical conditions–some of which that would prove to be fatal. But for those workers and volunteers living outside of those laws that define what constitutes an appropriate presence within our borders recompense and recognition was seldom granted.

It is ironic that most of those who carried out the attacks on September 11th had their paperwork in order, while the names of the undocumented victims of that crime will not appear on any memorial.

Fourteen years and four presidential election cycles later with virtually nothing resolved concerning comprehensive immigration reform,  a man who is still questioning the legitimate citizenship of the current President of the United States has managed to be at the forefront of the topic. While in my heart, I would like nothing more than to viciously attack and condemn Mr. Trump for his comments about Mexico and her citizens, I will refrain from doing so other than to point out that simple truth that whenever political candidates have nothing to offer–they offer up fear.

Tragically though, that particular tactic of focusing the anger and frustration of potential supporters against another group of people has in many instances led to some of mankind’s darkest days. We need not look back any further than 9/11 or the Second World War to see the results of intolerance and race-baiting. But perhaps Mr. Trump’s venomous diatribes  will serve some useful purpose. It might just cause those worthy candidates from both sides of the political spectrum to seriously address the issue of immigration.

As for my own point of view, I’ve tried to maintain a fairly welcoming disposition. But I also understand that our current immigration policies put undue burdens on the government and social services being provided by a small number of states. Overall, there seems to be some solid economic evidence that more liberal reforms would in the long run provide a substantial net economic gain for both the private and government sectors. But of course those people who favor closing our borders completely can point to their own set of statistics. As usual, any debate based solely on statistical analysis yields suspect results. There are though a few provable facts that should be clearly stated when dealing with those voices that would champion the rhetoric of Donald Trump.

  • The country of Mexico during any given business quarter ranks second or third in terms of trade with the United States. For the most part, both economies enjoy strong benefits from this relationship.
  • Many more American jobs will be lost to technology than as the result of additional immigration. There may be more to fear from Silicon Valley than from the Mexicali Valley.
  • There is no evidence to support the notion that immigrants, legal or otherwise, commit more crimes than the general U.S. population.
  • While the drug cartels have brought their own people into the United States in order to establish distribution networks, American citizens are the number 1 consumers of illegal drugs on planet earth. The solution is quite simple. If you want the bad guys to stay home or go elsewhere, stop purchasing their poison.
  • In the course of the Mexican Drug War it is estimated that as many as 100,000 people have been killed, many of them innocent civilians at the hands of  the cartel’s enforcers and foot soldiers. Those same cartels purchase a large percentage of their firearms from American gun shops.

Perhaps we should be viewing those sneaking through our southern borders more as refugees from tyranny and war and not just as criminals trying to skirt the law. Their plight in many instances is solely about safety and survival.

Then there is that Karma thing. While I do not believe that we necessarily need to apologize for the misdeeds done by those that have gone before us, we would do well to remember just how we established some of those borders that we don’t want others to cross. On more than one occasion, we violated treaties and territorial sovereignty in order to acquire land and resources. And once we had completed that sea to shining sea acquisition we had no difficulty building out that immense piece of real estate with the sweat, toil and suffering of immigrant labor.

Today, whenever I peek into the kitchen of a restaurant, walk through the corridor of a nursing home, or head down to breakfast after a comfortable night’s sleep at a hotel I see the faces of immigrants. And interestingly enough, I do not encounter anyone that looks like me on the outside of those buildings clamoring to fill those particular positions.

For the sake of all Americans and for all those who still aspire to that American dream, it is time to enact reforms that are fair, just and in keeping with our founding principles!

“The bosom of America is open to receive not only the Opulent and respected Stranger, but the oppressed and persecuted of all Nations and Religions; whom we shall welcome to a participation of all our rights and privileges…”
George Washington

“Citizenship to me is more than a piece of paper. Citizenship is also about character. I am an American. We’re just waiting for our country to recognize it.”
Jose Antonio Vargas

Posted by: Chris Poh

Blue Tag

The Burning Kind in Baltimore

THE BOMBARDMENT OF FORT McHENRY  BY ALFRED JACOBS MILLER 1810-1874

THE BOMBARDMENT OF FORT McHENRY
BY ALFRED JACOBS MILLER 1810-1874

“Baltimore: the Monumental City—May the days of her safety be as prosperous and happy, as the days of her dangers have been trying and triumphant.”   President John Quincy Adams 1827

I, like so many other Americans, was disheartened by those images of the recent civil unrest and violence in the city of Baltimore. The glow of fires against a night sky evoked memories of the riot plagued streets of our urban communities during the 1960s. Now as then, I questioned the logic and motives of those who participated in the wanton and reckless destruction of private property.

Today, my mindset on such matters is much more introspective, and no longer prone to the range of emotions that often accompany the thought processes of someone trying to make sense of human behavior through the eyes of an adolescent. At this point in my life, I’ve come to the simple conclusion that whenever groups of human beings are in disagreement there is the distinct possibility that amongst them are individuals that would prefer to make their point with a gun, a rock, or some incendiary device. And within the chaotic cover of the crowd, or the perceived protection accorded them by a position or institution, these individuals achieve the anonymity needed to commit their crimes of convenience.

This predisposition towards aggression and criminality is not by any means more prevalent in one group than another. It is not a matter of race, ethnicity, religious creed, or financial status–it is sadly just about the nature of a small percent of humankind. But that relatively small percent tends to establish a foothold in almost every situation. And throughout human history they are the ones that set the stage for the confrontations and conflagrations that too often become the defining story.

On the evening of September 13, 1814, Francis Scott Key, while under temporary confinement on a truce ship anchored in the Patapsco River, watched the relentless bombardment by British Naval forces on Baltimore’s defenses at Fort McHenry. Throughout that long night, Key had to wonder if the city would eventually suffer the same fate that he had witnessed in Washington weeks earlier. Many of the same British troops that had looted, vandalized, and put the torch to our nation’s capital, partly in retribution for similar American atrocities against English settlements in Canada, were now on the threshold of taking this prize on the Chesapeake. But on the morning of the 14th, Key’s spirits would be bolstered by the realization that the heroic defenders of Baltimore had saved the city.

Ultimately, those wishes for prosperity and happiness uttered by John Quincy Adams in 1827 would be visited upon the city. Baltimore would become one of the nation’s leading industrial centers, a major rail transportation hub, and the second largest seaport in the Mid-Atlantic states. But along the way those days of danger would be many, and they would not necessarily always give way to triumph.

In August of 1835, rioting mobs took to the streets of Baltimore in response to the deceptive business practices that led to the collapse of the Bank of Maryland. Bystanders cheered as the disgruntled throngs fueled their public bonfires with the personal possessions taken from the ransacked homes of the city’s wealthier citizens.

Baltimore Riot 1861

Baltimore Riot 1861

On April 19, 1861, just a few days after Southern artillery had accomplished a  casualty-free,  gentlemanly  surrender of
Fort Sumter, sympathizers to the “Confederate Cause” living in Baltimore attacked Northern militia units as they
marched through the city en route to a train bound for Washington D. C. The resulting melee and riot left 4 soldiers and 12 civilians dead. Some historians contend that this bloody encounter put both the Union and the Confederacy in a position where neither would be dissuaded from engaging in a full-scale war.

Baltimore Rail Strike Riot 1877

Baltimore Rail Strike Riot 1877

On July 20, 1877, Maryland Governor John Lee Carroll ordered the state’s  National Guard to quell the spreading unrest among the striking workers of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad who had blocked rail service at Cumberland. As troops left their armories in Baltimore and headed toward the Camden station they were physically harassed by citizens who supported the strike. The guardsmen responded by opening fire on the attacking mob. It would take the further intervention of federal troops and marines over the next two days to restore order. By then 10 people were dead, scores of soldiers and civilians were wounded, several pieces of rolling stock were destroyed, and portions of the rail yard and station were burned.

After the murder of Martin Luther King, Jr. on April 4,1968, the city was subjected to that same wave of emotional outrage and bloodshed that was sweeping through the streets of so many of America’s poorer neighborhoods. Even today, sections of Baltimore remain blighted and scarred by that weeklong period of rioting.

While I am not quite ready  to pen a new national anthem over recent events in Charm City, for it appears now that both the police and Baltimore’s criminal element might be taking advantage of the situation,  I am cautiously optimistic about the overall local response to the initial mayhem that occurred as a result of the death of Freddie Gray. In our nation’s past, all too often those voices that could have brought about calm remained quiet as the bullies and belligerents on either side of the issues ruled the day.

If we are to have a constructive conversation concerning America’s ongoing racial and economic divide, we must first silence the discord of those that would have us burn down the house in order to make a case for better furniture.

Click on the image below to read about one of our favorite public houses that has proudly weathered the tumult and turmoil of Baltimore’s stormy past.

The Wharf Rat

Posted by: Chris Poh for American Public House Review

So What’s the Good Pirate to do on a Day Such as This?

The Atlantic Squadron

“I go so far as to say that I do not regret having been his prisoner for some time… He is not a bandit, not a murderer, but a patriot forced into acts of brigandage to save his native soil and his people from the yoke of tyranny.”   Ion Hanford Perdicaris

During the spring political campaign of 1904,  in an effort to bolster his chances to be an elected president after assuming that office from his assassinated predecessor William McKinley–Theodore Roosevelt  sent several Marine companies and a squadron of naval warships steaming toward the North African port of Tangier in order to rescue the abducted  American playboy Ion Perdicaris from the clutches of Mulai Ahmed er Raisuni (the leader of the Jebala tribal confederacy in Morocco) and  referred to by many of his detractors as “The last of the Barbary Pirates.”

The celebrated hero of San Juan Hill would use the incident to prove to both his party and the public the effectiveness of his   “Big Stick Philosophy” when asserting United States power abroad. But for anyone who has been following Ken Burns’ latest  documentary film about the Roosevelts,  it is clear that Teddy, like so many overly ambitious politicians, was willing to forego some truth when trying to influence public opinion. As it turned out, the President learned early on that the supposed victim in the affair was not even an American citizen. Mr. Perdicaris had given up his US passport many years earlier so that he could firmly reestablish his Greek citizenship.That fact remained hidden from the American people until the 1930s.  Furthermore, while government officials blustered that they wanted Perdicaris alive or Raisuni dead, the captor and his captive had already established a respectable friendship, and the so-called “Last of the Barbary Pirates” had vowed that no harm would befall Ion Perdicaris while he was in his care.

Ultimately,  Perdicaris was set free after the United States Government secretly prodded France and England to put pressure on the Sultan of Morocco  to cede to the financial and political demands of Mulai Ahmed er Raisuni. Meanwhile, on the other side of the Atlantic, his release was viewed as being the outcome of some very tough and well-orchestrated gunboat diplomacy. And as is so often the case when trying to decipher the dealings of mankind, it was difficult to distinguish between the villains and the virtuous.

But for you more principled pirates that are attempting to transcend the behaviors of those less than seaworthy scalawags in Washington, we offer the following revised code of  ethics.

  • Always put your best peg-leg forward.
  • Press your pantaloons.
  • Compliment the fit and finish of your shipmate’s puffy shirt.
  • Never fly your Jolly Roger above the Stars and Stripes.
  • Buy the next round of Grog.
  • Extend your hook to one in need.
  • Stand on the side of your shipmate’s good eye.
  • Share your booty with the less fortunate.
  • And always let your parrot have the last word!

Wishing all of our fellow buccaneers a most bountiful Talk Like a Pirate Day!

Click or strike the colors to view some past musings about the day. 

Richard Worley FlagHenry Every's Flag Calico Jack Rackham's Flag


 

Aaarrr!

Posted by: Chris Poh

Good Housekeeping 101

The_Clean_Sweep

A house divided against itself cannot stand.”   Mark 3:25 – as referenced by Abraham Lincoln in his speech to the Illinois Republican State Convention June 16, 1858

To the honorable ladies and gentlemen of the 113th United States Congress,

Now that you are back home in your respective districts, and I assume fully engaged in this year’s midterm scuffle, I would like to share my thoughts on what I believe might serve as a better strategy to bring some dignity, decorum and decency back to “The People’s House” come this fall.

At the age of sixty, I am both the beneficiary, and the occasional casualty of the character of this country. The inherent opportunities and resilient nature of America has allowed me to receive a quality education, become a teacher, writer, hold elected office in the state of New Jersey, own a tavern in the shadows of where Aaron Burr shot Alexander Hamilton, and to function as a voice in public broadcasting during the last twenty-three years. But at the same time, I like so many Americans face a fairly insecure future as a direct result of the ongoing dysfunction and distrust in Washington.

So rather than spending countless sums of donor’s money on trying to defend against the pitchfork politics of those who want to dismantle our governing institutions, those politicians who truly believe in the hopes and aspirations of the Founders should rededicate themselves to the simple idea of providing bipartisan working governance—putting both people and principles before party! This is the spirit that will cause your constituents to live up to their side of the contract by returning them to the voting booth—thus restoring representation that reflects the true will and needs of the majority.

On some of those more practical political issues that will be the focus of slickly produced, half-truth sound bites in the upcoming weeks–here are my recommended responses to those carpetbagging cash cows attempting to influence the outcome of local races from afar:

  •  On Healthcare – While the President’s attempt to tackle an issue, that at  one time was agreed upon by both parties as being in need of major reform, might have its flaws, those relevant points of the legislation, such as providing care for those having preexisting conditions, should be protected. Unfortunately, there still remains too much disparity and inefficiency in our healthcare system. People will continue to die because they cannot access or afford the best treatments available today in this country. That is totally unacceptable! The mantra must be, “repair and improve” this landmark legislation.
  • On Immigration – Every American must ask themselves, what they would do if their children were faced with the conditions and violence that plague those who are crossing our southern borders, before reducing the issue to a matter of simply demanding that the government prosecute and remove legitimate refugees who are portrayed by some as part of some criminal class.

 Secondly, a comprehensive approach to immigration is extremely practical when addressing the future needs of both entitlements and the economy. Any country that has a diminishing birthrate will simply not have enough healthy, young workers fueling its economy, or paying those taxes that offset the financial requirements of those programs designed to provide a degree of well-being and income to an aging population. And in the United States, where today fewer and fewer companies are providing guaranteed security for their retirees by way of pensions and extended health benefits, our own system of Social Security and Medicare must be shored up and strengthened.

In short, our future growth and economic welfare is somewhat dependent upon those who come here from other lands in order to find a better way of life. But hasn’t that always been the American story—and one worth retelling again?

Members of the Continental Congress at the City Tavern in Philadelphia

Members of the Continental Congress at the City Tavern in Philadelphia

While I tend toward George Washington’s point of view on political parties that ultimately they would do more harm than good to the republic, I do support a worthy opposition that brings a different approach, new ideas and rational thought to the table. If enough of our elected representatives were to take the political high road (like those astute gentlemen who came together at Philadelphia’s old City Tavern after adjourning the Continental Congress) those now joining together at that table would be able to dine together, drink together, dialogue together—and yes perhaps even govern together!

Posted by: Chris Poh

Blue Tag

 

 

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