Takin it to the Streets


“It does not require a majority to prevail, but rather an irate, tireless minority keen to set brush fires in people’s minds..”–Samuel Adams

As a dedicated student of the American Revolution and one who came of age during the 1960s, I certainly hold in my heart a place of fondness for those amongst the populace that engage in public protest when the conditions and circumstances call for it. But even as I watched my classmates and contemporaries take to the streets to rally against the real and perceived injustices of that turbulent decade, my youthful fervor was tempered by a certain cautious scrutiny of those forces that stirred the masses to action. And as I consider the activities of the Occupy Wall Street crowd, I am left with some of the same unease and distrust that I felt for the Tea Party advocates. Having spent as much time as I have in taverns, I know that once we take our differences and quarrels with each other outside there is little chance of achieving a reasonable or peaceful resolution. And even though our history is replete with those instances when a bit of outdoor insurrection made a measurable difference, much like Benjamin Franklin’s old Philadelphia Junto Society, I prefer to inspire and encourage change from inside the agreeable surroundings of a good pub.

Hopefully, there will come a day when we only need to see one man’s poverty to know that too many people are poor—one man’s hunger to know that too many people are starving—and one man’s hardship to know that too many people are hurting. And that the transformation of our society will come about not because of the anger and anxiety of the masses, but because of the conduct and concern of dedicated individuals. 

Posted by: Chris Poh


A Unique Strategy for Influencing the Midterm Elections

Considering the fact that the midterm elections are less than three months away, the atmosphere so far during this summer’s congressional recess is surprisingly calm. Perhaps this is because so many Democrats and moderate Republicans are considering limiting their public exposure to mostly “by invitation” events only–thus avoiding the terror of the town hall.

For those traveling Tea Party types that were hoping to influence the midterm elections by voicing their displeasure at local public meetings, might I suggest another strategy? Simply do what Robert E. Lee did when he wanted to help unseat a number of incumbents during the 1862 midterm elections–Invade Maryland.

In the current issue of American Public House Review we explore a bit of Civil War history while raising a few pints of Old Dominion at the Secret Six Tavern in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia.  

Posted By: Chris Poh

Throwing the Feds Under the Bus

There it was parked right across the street from my favorite local watering hole, the big bus that delivered the cadre of Tea Party types to my hometown. A small group of men, women and children had gathered to hear  the lady, with the hairdo and affectation of one former Alaskan governor, spread the message and principles of  Liberty in America.org. Being overcome by my own political curiosity, I was forced to put down my pint and venture out to find a place on the periphery of meeting.

The event was conducted as if it were something between a 5th grade civic’s lesson and a Bible study group. The speaker extolled the virtues of the Founding Fathers while damning to hell the 535 current voting members of Congress for their egregious assault on the United States Constitution.

It has been my experience that political fundamentalism is very much like religious fundamentalism. Both share a common belief that a bunch of guys a long time ago, who supposedly stood in better favor with God than the current crop of humanity, were able to divine sacred texts that if properly adhered to would provide a simple black and white solution for all of society’s ills. This kind of thinking has led many Americans to view the resulting document of the Constitutional Convention of 1787 as something akin to Moses coming down from  the mountain with the Ten Commandments.

While I cannot speculate as to the actual influence of the Divine on what occurred atop Mount Sinai, I can tell you that God just barely got his foot in the door of the Pennsylvania State House. A motion by the good Doctor Franklin to begin each day’s work with a clergyman leading a prayer was vigorously debated and ultimately defeated.

I’ve heard it said as of late that our political class has done a less than admirable job of honoring the intent of “The Founding Fathers.”  I would tend to disagree with this school of thought, since we know that the framers of the Constitution did not share one common vision as to how to govern the somewhat unruly states of America. Their views on the proper role of government were as conflicted and divergent as those being currently expressed in the national discourse.

 In reality, our beloved Constitution was the direct consequence of the discord, dissention and divisiveness amongst the  states brought about by the more libertarian leaning  Articles of Confederation, that were drafted by the Second Continental Congress in  1777. One might conclude that the Declaration of Independence was the result of the tyranny of one, while the Constitution was the result of the tyranny of thirteen.  

A More Perfect Union - by Alton S. Tobey

In May of 1787, many of the same men that had crafted the Articles of Confederation converged in Philadelphia to reconsider their earlier attempt at promoting  unity,  harmony and governance. For 100 days “an assemblage of demigods,” as Thomas Jefferson had characterized the convention, were shuttered behind closed doors in the longest backroom political deal in the history of the Republic. When the delegates finally emerged from the state house in mid-september, they presented their fellow countrymen not with a perfect piece of consensus–but instead with a pretty damn good piece of compromise!

But that compromise would not be enough to ensure a more perfect union. The strength and validity of the compact would be contested in the courtroom, the convention hall and ultimately on killing fields from Manassas to Appomatox.

On the 17th day of September of 1787, the final draft of the Constitution was signed. With the toil and turmoil of that brutal summer now behind them, the delegates could now attend to their own personal constitutions–certainly a bit of leisure and libations were in order. Many would seek those pleasures at the nearby stately City Tavern. While those of lesser means might have adjourned to the  Man Full of Trouble Tavern. As I am one who fully supports the constitution of the Founding Fathers, I ended my meeting with the local libertarians by returning to an awaiting pint of Harpoon IPA at the National Hotel in Frenchtown, New Jersey. 

Posted by: Chris Poh

We the People

In an ongoing effort to be more informed and a tad less reactionary to those points of view that I may not necessarily be simpatico with, I spent some today time trying to better understand the workings of America’s Tea Party Patriots. After a few hours of dissecting their website and reading through the posts of their blogging minions, I came to the conclusion that, with the exception of some additional descriptive language and a few new labels for your foes, the rhetoric of the republic has not changed all that much in the past two hundred and thirty-four years—on either side of our political quarrels.

Quite frankly, it is hard to argue with those expressed core values of the party that call for fiscal responsibility, limited government and free markets. I haven’t met an American yet, no matter what their political leanings were, that hasn’t demanded the same from Washington if it was in line with their own particular issues and self interests.

But then there are those days like today, when millions of gallons of Gulf crude are about to devastate habitat, destroy life and disrupt the economic livelihood of thousands of people—that one realizes that a little more regulation and intrusion on the free market is a good thing. Had the Federal government required a remote control acoustic shutoff switch on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig, as is the case in other countries, this environmental catastrophe may have been averted. And although the well-intentioned corporate citizens at British Petroleum will supposedly be picking up the tab for this environmental nightmare, I suspect that American taxpayers and consumers will pay dearly for this disaster—effectively driving another stake through the heart of fiscal responsibility.

In order for the Tea Party to realize its dream of a “government-free laissez faire libertarian world,” human beings would have to prove themselves capable of responsible moral and just self governance. During my American journey, I have experienced that possibility only once.

While researching a recent article about The Inn at Millrace Pond, which is located in the eighteenth century Moravian village of Hope, New Jersey; I spent some time delving into the history and philosophy of the people who settled there. Moravians guided by the principles of charity for all people, fellowship and understanding, built successful independent self-sustaining communities. Both their individual and communal lives were governed by a simple creed: “In essentials, unity; in non-essential, liberty; and in all things love.”

AP Photo/The Pensacola News Journal/Bruce Graner

Like those that served the cause of 1776, they understood that life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness was about We the People—and not me the people!

Posted by: Chris Poh

How Would Have Jesus Voted on Health Care Reform?

Jesus at Ale Mary's - Baltimore, MD

After the President put his pen to the Health Care Reform Bill, I immediately went over to my liquor cabinet to check on the fate of my whiskey supply. Much to my surprise, my selection of American bourbon and rye had not been transformed into cheap Russian vodka as a warning from the heavens above that our nation was about to usher in a new age of Soviet style Godless Communism right here in the land of mom and apple pie. In fact by day’s end the Dow was up by 103 points. Apparently the free market had once again found another route around the Beltway Bolsheviks.     

I am among those millions of Americans that have some misgivings about the legislation. While I support any effort to rein in the unconscionable business tactics of the insurance industry, I would have liked to have seen a bill that went much further in revamping the practice and delivery of medicine.

During a recent tavern chat session at the Indian Rock Inn, one of the patrons seeded the debate with these two questions: Why all the vitriol over what should be a fairly innocuous subject,  and how would have Jesus voted on health care reform? I called upon my many years of familiarity with both sides of the bar to answer his first question.    

It has been my experience that no bar fight has anything to do with the stated reasons for the malicious transgression. It’s never truly about who won at pool, who looked at whose girlfriend, or who is the better NASCAR driver. These conflicts are fueled by ignorance, low self-esteem, prejudice and just plain not liking the guy sitting next to you. Unfortunately, these behaviors have once again found their way into our national political dialogue. As far as the Son of God’s position on health care reform, I’m still pondering that one; but I suspect most people will spin the divine perspective according to their own personal point of view.     

The Tea Party types would most likely say that there is no way Christ would support a bill that might contain some loopholes for abortion rights. And the newly formed Coffee Party would most likely proclaim that Jesus, the humanitarian and social activist, would vote yes, and furthermore demand a public option. Both Democrats and Republicans would thank Christ for taking the time to care, but would respectfully remind the Savior about the separation of church and state, rather than have him be privy to what really goes on in the halls of Congress.    

In actuality, Jesus would not have to vote on health care reform. He would just simply heal the sick, and for an extra measure of preventative care, he would change their water into wine.  And the only premium that would be raised is the expectation that we treat our fellow-man, even if they are just politicians, with dignity, kindness and respect.     

Now if  He would only come back and turn the coffee into great whiskey, and the tea into a really fine India Pale Ale!    

Amen to that!!                               

   Posted by: Chris Poh     


The Clock is Ticking

“The court’s blinkered and aphoristic approach to the First Amendment may well promote corporate power at the cost of the individual and collective self-expression the Amendment was meant to serve…”   Justice John Paul Stevens

On  January 14th the wise minds that comprise the editorial board of the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists decided to give civilization a one minute reprieve from Armageddon – the “Doomsday Clock” was now set at six minutes from midnight. For the next few days I was feeling pretty darn good about our  prospects, that was until those  giants of jurisprudence decided to speed up the clock on the demise of democracy by awarding our invisible unaccountable corporate keepers further cover  by way of  the First Amendment.

My initial response to the ruling was dumbfounded belligerence, I was almost ready to join the ranks of the nearest “Tea Party,” so that I to could shout from the heights, “Take Back Our Country.” But then I remembered  that we never really had this country all to ourselves in the first place. Since the inception of the republic, it has been a constant struggle between those with power and wealth, and those of limited means trying to find fairness and favor within the framework of the Constitution.This questionable decision by the Supreme Court might just be the spark we need to rekindle that quest of achieving a government of the people, by the people, and for the people!

Time, as some fear, may be running out for America; but I would like to hope that the clock is set to tavern time, and that there is still another fifteen minutes to get this one right – or at least enough time to have one more drink before closing.

Posted by: Chris Poh


Of Tea Parties and Beer Summits

As the American media shifts its myopic view away from the tragedy in Haiti for the next two days, and focuses on the potential earth-shaking Democratic debacle in Massachusetts, the President probably wishes that he would have thrown a few more ”Beer Summits” for the good citizens of the commonwealth during the last few months. Because it now seems likely that as the Democrats muster their forces in Lexington, Concord and elsewhere throughout that so-called bastion of liberality, the faltering campaign of Martha Coakley will fall victim to another “Tea Party.”

Whether or not the voters of the “Bay State” opt for a spot of tea or a pint of beer on Tuesday, it seems certain that the outcome will further America’s political partisan divide over the issue of healthcare reform. While I applaud most American’s ability to put aside our differences on behalf of the people of Haiti, I wish those same humanitarian impulses could also be applied to the care and wellbeing of our own citizens. 

As for myself, I will raise a glass in the hopes that we can come together to build a healthcare system that is equitable and effective – in time to save a large portion of our population, like the people of Haiti, from being dependent upon the generosity and compassion of Doctors Without Borders!

Posted by: Chris Poh


A Tea Party for the New Year

"Declaration of Independence" by John Trumbull

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”           Thomas Jefferson

There has been a look standing debate among historians as to who is stepping on whose toes in John Trumbull’s famous painting, Declaration of Independence. There are those that claim that upon close inspection of the original work, which today hangs in the rotunda of the Capitol in Washington DC, one will notice that Thomas Jefferson is stepping on the foot of John Adams. For those whose political leanings are more “Anti-Federalist,” John Adams is viewed as the offending party. No matter which camp one falls into, it seems that from the very founding of the republic the quest for our inalienable rights has meant tripping up the efforts of those Americans that had a different point of view as to the meaning of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Regrettably, during the last several months the debate over healthcare has exacerbated the cancerous partisanship and deepened the discord of our citizens. We seem to have lost sight of the fundamental fact that the health of our nation is dependent upon how we treat and care for each other.

As we begin a new year it is our profound wish that we can meet the challenges going forward with a renewed spirit of cooperation and reconciliation. Here’s hoping for many more “Beer Summits” in 2010 – or at the very least a few cordial tea parties.

The staff of American Public House Review wishes everyone a Happy and Healthful New Year!

Posted by: Chris Poh


Be Good or Be Gone


Based upon the tone at recent town hall meetings, it appears that some rather spirited Americans are experiencing the summer of their discontent. This may one of those rare times when our elected officials wished that they would have chosen to forego recess in favor of the tedium of late night legislative sessions in Washington.

 I know that I speak for the entire staff of American Public House Review when I say that we fully support the right of all of our citizens to assemble in order to express their concerns and opinions; but that we strongly disagree with the apparent lack of decorum and the disruptive tactics that are being implemented by certain individuals and groups under the protection of free speech. Hooliganism may be acceptable at a tea party in Boston or an English soccer match, but it degrades and dishonors American democracy. When we award undue credence to the clamor and clatter we greatly diminish the ability of those voices of reason, on either side of an issue, to be rightfully heard.

 During the protests of 60s and 70s it was common to hear the phrase “America, love it or leave it” being uttered by anyone that felt that those on the street were ill-mannered or in abuse of their First Amendment rights. I’m not about to advocate for the banishment of any American to Canada, especially since their public health care system probably doesn’t cover treatment for malice and malcontentedness.

Back Bar at McSorley's Old Ale HouseNo, what I’m suggesting is that we adopt the house policy at McSorley’s Old Ale House in Manhattan. Enshrined behind the bar in that beloved New York institution are the words “Be good or be gone.” Those words serve as a kindly reminder to all that enter that they have the right to gather, kick up their heels a bit, and to express their opinion on any matter, as long as they are well behaved and respectful of the rights of those on either side of the bar.

 We at American Public House Review raise our glasses to all those who honor and exercise our democratic freedoms with dignity and goodwill toward their fellow citizens.


Posted by: Chris Poh

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