Jacob Jefferson Jakes

“...of the United States…”: Creating a Nation

Perhaps more important than those thrilling three words which precede it, “We the People”, are the four which follow, “of the United States.” This Constitution is forming a nation. Compare this with “the perpetual union between the states,” which the Articles of Confederation notes. A group of influential men gathered in Philadelphia on May 25, 1787 to open proceedings of the Constitutional Convention, nominating and unanimously agreeing that George Washington would be the convention’s president. Between then and September 15, when the Constitution was put to a final, unanimous roll call of states, and September 17, when the convention came to a close, the founders of the nation put forward, debated, accepted, and rejected many proposals, reaching the compromise that has become our Constitution. On Sept.

I Would Not Throw the Fat Man Off the Bridge and onto the Trolley Tracks

Our whole family sat around the television watching the concluding episode of The Fugitive. We each guessed who we thought had done the murder that the fugitive had spent so long pursuing while avoiding the law. Toward the end of the show, right before the commercial break, one of the characters indicated he had a confession to make. We kids took that immediately to mean that he was the killer. But my parents said not to be so sure. And in fact the confession was just that he had seen who had done the murder and never reported it, not done it himself.

Similarly, there was an episode in The Rifleman where a fellow comes to town who seems like a nice fellow, befriends the rifleman’s son and his friends, and when there was trouble we kids couldn’t imagine this nice guy being the culprit. But our parents saw what we didn’t, either because they knew the character, or they knew how TV shows played out.

Shit Happens and Big Data

When they found the body in the peat, one contingent went off to find Gil Cunningham to handle matters while the other went off to grab the witch they knew was responsible for the death. But Gil Cunningham, hero of a series of novels by Pat McIntosh, is a bit more modern than the 15th century in which the tales are set. He makes an examination, releases the witch, takes the body back to the manor for a closer inspection, and undertakes a larger investigation.

Wittgenstein, Identity-Protection Cognition, and Understanding Rather than Persuading

Ludwig Wittgenstein spent the first part of his career attempting to provide a definitive foundation for logic, meaning, and language. This work was best represented by Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, written with Bertrand Russell. In it they attempt to give mathematical precision to human experience. Wittgenstein was altered by his experiences in World War I, in which he served for Austria-Hungary. He spend the second part of his career refuting his earlier work, culminating in Philosophical Investigations. In Philosophy Weekend: Thinking Like Wittgenstein, Levi Asher thinks this a nifty trick, and lauds Wittgenstein for embracing “the ultimate incomprehensibility of existence itself.”

What if Piketty is Right?

Capitalism and democracy are incompatible.

Katerina once told me that democracy is a deception that the powerful offer to trick people into believing they have a voice in their government. She was a left-wing student of mine when I was teaching high school in Greece almost 40 years ago, and I have always remembered not only her words, but the matter-of-fact way she expressed them.

Edmund Burke, Anita Hill, and the Common Core

Anita Hill is in the news again. A documentary has been released of her life before, during, and after her 1991 congressional testimony during the hearings on Clarence Thomas’ appointment to the Supreme Court. Our conversation has changed over the past 23 years since Anita Hill leveled charges of sexual harassment against Clarence Thomas on national TV. There are more laws targeting sexual harassment in the workplace, and companies are providing more training to avoid sexual harassment. But change comes slowly, as we know from recent incidents in the military and the academies, and continuing streams of accusations elsewhere.

Adrionna Harris and the Ajax Dilemma

Adrionna Harris, a sixth-grade student, came across a student at her school who was cutting his arm. She intervened, took the razor from the student and threw it away, then reported the incident to school authorities. For which action she was suspended and recommended for expulsion for violating the school’s zero tolerance policy on having weapons at school (a decision since reconsidered in the wake of the reaction against it).

Our Heroes From the Past Have Let Us Down

George Kennan “laments the decline of people ‘of British origin, from whose forefathers the constitutional structure and political ideals of the early America once emerged.’” So quotes Fareed Zakaria in the New York Times Book Review from The Kennan Diaries, himself lamenting Kennan’s racism. “Americans are destined to ‘melt into a vast polyglot mass, . . . one huge pool of indistinguishable mediocrity and drabness.’ Reader Joseph S. Harrington’s response noted the “startling contrast between the elegant moralism of his analysis of international affairs and his dismissive elitism and retrograde attitudes toward race.”

The Reign in Ukraine

The Ukrainian government has fallen apart, the president has fled, and the parliament has taken on the responsibility of governing. What gives them that right?
Parliament voted on Friday to oust President Viktor Yanukovych, who then appeared on TV and branded the events a coup and refused to step down. The president had agreed to a series of concessions which included reverting to an earlier constitution and stripping him of some powers, but he never signed the decree. Parliament then voted on Friday to return to the 10-year-old constitution anyway, one which granted the parliament greater powers than the one under which Yanukovych ruled as president. 

What Riles the Left Like Abortion and Gay Marriage Riles the Right?

The Supreme Court will decide in the Hobby Lobby case whether a business can be released from adherence to the law based on the religious convictions of its owner. The governor of Arizona will sign or veto a law which gives businesses the right to discriminate against gay individuals if they do so to prevent violating their own religious convictions. The liberals are upset that businesses might be allowed to impose their conservative beliefs on their employees or customers. In the case of Hobby Lobby, federal law mandates that businesses provide health coverage to their employees and with it contraception coverage which also must include access to morning after contraceptives that some consider to be abortifacients. Can a business owner be exempt from the law, infringing on the rights of its employees to services the law provides, in the name of his own religious rights? In the Arizona case, and in other states considering similar laws, a business owner could refuse to serve people who do not adhere to the standards of behavior and belief that his religion demands.


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