Thursday, July 03, 2008

The 4th of July

With the 4th of July upon us, I thought it would be interesting to take a historical look at our Founding Fathers. Everyone knows the “big stuff” like Washington crossing the Delaware, Paul Revere’s ride (by the way, he didn’t actually say “the British are coming”. At the time, we were still the British. He said “the troops are advancing”), the winter at Valley Forge, and especially the myths which always seem to grow up around greatness. Personally, I’ve always found the historical person much more interesting, and especially the mundane; those things which make these larger than life individuals more human, and therefore, more accessible. Since everyone seems to associate greatness with height, I thought that would be a nice place to start.

Our first president, George Washington was a towering six feet two inches (he was believed to weigh approximately 175 pounds). An impressive height for both then and now. John Adams was 5’6” and said to be stocky in his youth and became “portly” with age. If you thought Washington was tall, Thomas Jefferson was taller at six feet two and half inches with a medium built. James Madison was the shortest of all the presidents. He was five feet four inches and weighed only 100 pounds!

As for some of the other Founding Fathers, Aaron Burr was only 5’6” while Alexander Hamilton was 5’7”. Samuel Adams (yeah, the “beer guy” and Father of the American Revolution) was about 5’6”. Thomas Paine was a little taller at about 5’8”. Benjamin Franklin was closer to 5’10”. Nathan Hale was approximately 5’7” as was John Paul Jones (Father of the US Navy not the Led Zeppelin bass player and keyboardist). John Hancock was fairly tall at just under six foot along with Patrick Henry. So, all in all, apparently height played little importance with the heights these men reached.

As for their ethnic background, most of the Founding Fathers were Scots-Irish or Scots-English (damn Scottish trouble makers). Several descended from English nobility. George Washington descended on his paternal side King Edward II. On his mother’s side, Jefferson descended for King David I of Scotland, while James Madison came up short (sorry, couldn’t resist). His ancestors were mainly craftsmen and planters. As an aside, the ancestry of all the presidents to date can be limited to German, English, Irish, Scottish, Welch, Dutch, and Swiss.

The subject of religion among the Founding Fathers has been quite divisive recently as some groups argue for a “return to the Christian values” of the Founding Fathers, while others argue that no such values existed. Well, the majority of all the Founding Fathers were Episcopalian, which was the counterpart to the Church of England. Most were very well schooled in theology, but equally too, they were well versed with the writers of the Enlightenment, especially Voltaire, Spinoza, Burke, Kant, Hume, Rousseau, John Locke, and Adam Smith. It was this “Age of Reason” which was to later give birth to the modern concepts of democracy, capitalism, and the natural or innate rights of Man (which, in turn, would lead to idea of equality and inequity of slavery, univeral suffrage and anti-discrimination laws).

As a result, many of the Founding Fathers, such as Thomas Paine, Jefferson, Revere, James Monroe, Franklin, Adams, Washington became “Deists”, or what we would consider Unitarian Universalist today. Others, such as Madison, took a more “enlightened” approach to religion, though remained Episcopalian (in fact, more US presidents have been Episcopalian than any other religion). A close second, both then and now, was Presbyterian followed by Methodist. Quakers too were an important and influencial group in Colonial American politics.

When it came to earning their “daily bread”, they again showed they were a diverse lot. Before becoming president, Washington was a surveyor (some say, a rather unscrupulous one to boot. He allegedly would survey and sell the piece of property to several folks before moving on). John Adams was lawyer and schoolteacher, while his cousin Samuel Adams, was a merchant and barkeep (though unsuccessful), and finally found his niche as a writer and political provocateur. Thomas Jefferson was a planter, lawyer, inventor, writer, and architect. Madison was a lawyer and political theorist (i.e.: troublemaker). Thomas Paine was a writer and provocateur (I’m beginning to like this occupation). Paul Revere was, as everyone knows, a coppersmith. Benjamin Franklin was a writer, inventor, and publisher (to which one could add a “ladies man” as well). Hamilton was a soldier, political theorist, economist, while Patrick Henry was a lawyer and writer.

So, with this being the 4th of July and all that, what would our Founding Fathers think of the America today? Well, that would depend on who you asked. As a group, all of the Founding Fathers believed that a continuing union with England wasn’t happening (while approximately 1/3 of the population supported a break with Mother England, 1/3 of the population did not and favored England, and the remaining 1/3 was undecided. Many of those decided in favor of independence once the war was in full swing. With some 83% of the present American population disenchanted with the Federal Government and the way we’re headed as a country, I often wonder what the future holds for us).

Most of the Founding Fathers opposed the creation of political parties. It was their belief the parties would ultimately divide the nation and would become the tool of special interest groups who would, in turn, come to dominate the government and essentially force the people out of the political decision process (nah, could never happen). Out of that, the ideas of Federalism and Anti-Federalism emerged. The Federalists, led by Alexander Hamilton, Washington, and John Adams, supported a strong federal form of government with weak states, while the Anti-Federalist, led by Jefferson, Mason, Patrick Henry and James Mason wanted strong local representation and a much weaker federal government (in fact, Henry and Mason refused to ratify the Constitution because they feared it would lead to a centralized government like England’s). Ultimately, the Civil War decided the issue in favor of the Federalists in 1865. So, Hamilton would be very pleased with the form of government we’ve evolved into while Jefferson would shake his head in sad disbelief.

On the subject of religion, most of the Founding Fathers would agree that Judeo-Christian beliefs played a central part in the formative thought of the nation; it was not the sole influence however. The great thinkers of the Enlightenment played a key role as did the great thinkers of Classical Greece and Rome. They feared a theocracy, much like the one that once held Europe in it's iron grip. Indeed, they feared the very concept of the state religion like England and most of Europe had. However, they would agree to one's right of belief, any belief or none at all, so long as it didn’t impinge on anyone else’s (you might say, one's freedom of and from religion). Thus on school prayer, they would have supported a moment of silence to do as you pleased. On the display of religious items on public property, they wouldn’t care so long as every religion had the same right. The display of the Ten Commandments would have been a given since it was part of the foundation of our concept of equality and justice.

There would have been no question about the right to bear arms. It was a key element in their minds to a maintaining a free people because it afforded the people the ability to defend themselves not just from crooks and invaders, but from the government as well. They knew that an unarmed people were an enslaved people. They would have unquestioningly believed in securing our borders and would have been dumbfounded at the idea we were even considering a dual language. We were to be one people out of many (see your dollar bill---E Pluribus Unum), and that meant one nation with one language.

On gay rights and gay marriage, the majority of the Founding Fathers would have supported the right of adults to engage in a mutually acceptable relationship. They would not, however, have supported the concept of gay marriage which in their eyes was for the procreation of life and the stability brought about by a husband, wife and family unit as the cornerstone of civilization. Elective abortion would have been seen as an affront to their understanding of the sanctity of life. Abortion to save the life of the mother would have been another matter.

The death penalty was in effect in Colonial America, and remained so. Actions have consequences just as freedom has responsibilities. They would have opposed our so-called “nation building” efforts as well as our invasion of Iraq. It was their belief that they were starting anew. They wanted no part of the “entanglements” of Europe. However, unprovoked attacks on America or Americans should be responded to quickly and mercilessly. Most would have supported protecting American jobs above all. They would have been appalled at our dependence on foreign oil and foreign investments to prop up our economy. Independence meant not just political and religious independence, but national economic independence as well.

Lastly, taxes. I suspect our Founding Fathers would flip their collective powdered wigs at our tax structure and how citizens are “nickeled and dimed” to death. The main reason for our revolt from Mother England was taxes; a lesson our politicians today have forgotten. And we’re taxed not just by government, but by corporations as well in the forms of service charges, late fees, user fees, handling fees, and other charges they don’t even bother to tell us about (our garbage bill just went up
$5.00. It seems that not only do we have to pay for pick up and disposal, we now have to pay for their gas too! Gee, silly me. I thought their cost of business was included in the bill to begin with).

Our Founding Fathers hoped we would become a nation of independent minded people living in mutual respect and economic cooperation. They envisioned a country free from government restrictions and dependence; free from excessive taxation. What we’ve become is a nation adrift in crushing national debt with jobs being exported in the name of profit while those same companies continue to get taxpayer financed tax breaks. We’re a country addicted to foreign countries financing our domestic debt and energy dependence like a crack junkie is to dope. We’ve been sold by special interests groups into a corporate servitude with the blessing of government. Enslavement takes many forms. This alone would make them wonder what became of our will to be free. As the great Roman statesman Cicero once said, “The cure for democracy is more democracy, not less”.

Here’s another interesting article from Peter Navarro. Peter wrote a terrific and timely book entitled “The Coming China Wars”. I thought you might enjoy this article as much as I did.

FBI Confidential and
"The Coming China Wars" by Peter Navarro

According to a leaked secret FBI document, Chinese counterfeiters have sold close to $75 million of fake Cisco Systems routers to the U.S. military. While this revelation has been largely ignored by the mainstream media, it raises troubling questions about both the integrity of U.S. defense cyber networks and the possible motives of a foreign government with a long rap sheet for military espionage and cyber hacking.

Routers are specialized computers that provide the virtual “pipes” to move millions of information packets through the world wide web, and it’s no accident that China is counterfeiting Cisco designs. Cisco not only holds about 80% of the world’s router market. It also outsources a significant share of its router production to China. Of course, once an American company outsources to China, the likelihood that its technology will be stolen and then reproduced for sale into world markets is extraordinarily high.

In fact, China is the counterfeit capital of the world. It accounts for two thirds of all the world’s pirated and counterfeited goods and fully 80% of all counterfeit goods seized at U.S. borders. The long list of purloined products includes everything from auto parts, baby food, and cigarettes to prescription drugs like Viagra and Lipitor and high tech equipment like routers and switches.

In each case, Chinese counterfeit products pose significant health and safety risks. For example, fake Viagra jazzed with strychnine or “Lipitor” with no active ingredients can both cause heart attacks. Counterfeit brake pads made from inferior materials can lead to deadly crashes. Cigarettes laced with cadmium and lead make one of the most efficient killers in the world even more deadly.

In this particular case, one obvious danger with America’s national cyber defense system being run through fake inferior routers is system failure at critical junctures. However, the more subtle – and far more disturbing – problem identified by the FBI is this:

At least some of China’s fake routers may be specially designed to provide Chinese hackers with undetectable “back doors” into the highest echelons of classified information throughout the defense department bureaucracy. That this possibility is closer to science fact than science fiction is bolstered by the work of scientists from the University of Illinois who recently demonstrated how it is possible to alter a computer chip to provide such undetectable access.

This specter of a virtual Chinese Trojan Horse deep in the bowels of the Pentagon raises an even bigger question, likewise posed by the FBI report: Are China’s sales of fake Internet equipment to America’s defense industry driven purely by the profit-seeking of rogue Chinese entrepreneurs? Alternatively, are these sales the result of state-sponsored cyber-terrorism specifically designed to penetrate U.S. defenses – and perhaps disable those defenses in time of conflict?

In support of the profit motive, there is this salient fact: According to FBI data, a typical router made by Cisco costs about $1400 to make while the inferior counterfeit can be knocked off for a little over $200. That allows for a bigger mark-up than even drug trafficking – which is why counterfeiting is such big business in China. That said, anybody who believes that China’s counterfeiters “come in peace” merely to make a quick buck needs to read some of the strategic tomes on cyber warfare generated by China’s military think tanks.

Exhibit A in the state-sponsored terrorism case is the work of Chinese Air Force Colonels Qiao Ling and Wang Xiangsui. They have written that “the first rule of unrestricted warfare is that there are no rules, with nothing forbidden.” They go on to describe a scenario in which China “buries a computer virus and hacker detachment in the opponent’s computer system … so that the civilian electricity network, traffic dispatching network, financial transactions network, telephone communications network, and mass media network are completely paralyzed.” Their overriding goal is to “cause the enemy nation to fall into social panic, street riots, and a political crisis.”

These are sobering dangers indeed, particularly in light of how easy it seems to be to dupe even America’s defense establishment into buying counterfeit goods. But what is ultimately so disturbing about all of this may well be how little attention either our government or the American people or the American media seem to want to pay to America’s growing China threat.

Peter Navarro is a business professor at the University of California-Irvine, a CNBC contributor, and author of The Coming China Wars. For more information, please visit

Poll Results

I asked you if you could afford the cost of gas was to high. 54% of you wanted to "who can afford gas?" while 30% thought it was barely affordable. The rest of you thought that price was too high...big time. With the recent increases, I wonder where the breaking point is. Thanks for voting!

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