Stepping on the Rattlesnake

There was a time when I was a Gadsden flag devotee. In my libertarian days I even used it as a prop for a speech, back in those days when I believed that overcoming fears was something that you just had to put your mind to in order to achieve. I never did get over my fear of public speaking, and I’ve long since given up even trying to do it. No two groups are ever the same, and repeated embarrassment in front of larger and larger audiences just spreads belief that you are incompetent at the task you are trying to achieve. Stop while you’re ahead, advice I should have taken a long time ago when it comes to public speaking.

By Benjamin Franklin – This image is available from the United States Library of Congress Prints and Photographs division under the digital ID cph.3g05315.

The Gadsden flag is itself a token of fear, but it says more about the fear of the people who carry it than it does about the people they are opposing.
When Franklin came up with the severed snake image for the thirteen colonies, the imagery was undeniably effective. If the colonies didn’t form themselves into a cohesive whole, they would be killed and consumed separately by the world powers of the time. It was such an effective image that it was used more than once by Franklin to call the citizens of the colonies together to support a common cause. It reverberated again and again through the varying crisis that faced the fledgling colonies. Colonies that dreamed of one day being free of their European masters.

The snake on the Gadsden flag is whole. That snake represents the colonies standing as one. It’s a rattlesnake because early Americans had enough experience with rattlesnakes to appreciate the warning rattle they gave. The flag itself was a warning rattle to the British and their Scottish and German mercenaries that the American colonies were determined to be colonies no longer. But since the common European conscript had no idea what a rattlesnake was, the caption DON’T TREAD ON ME was added to communicate the important fact that the flag failed to communicate with its visual representation. We will fight you to the last man to establish our independence. We will take you down with us if you persist. This was a sentiment that we understood for ourselves, but have repeatedly failed to recognize in other former colonies when they fought for their freedom.

However, the necessity of putting text on the flag makes it a bad flag in the eyes of vexillologists. If you have to put words on your flag, your flag has failed to communicate the information you want to pass on. It’s also the first in a long line of bad revolutionary flags. Juvenile attempts to provoke an enemy that proceeds to do the thing that the flag says they can’t do.

Like this image does. It doesn’t matter that that foot will be bitten and probably have to be amputated. That the corporations will face retribution and regulation for their unwise actions curtailing free expression. Not all governments are equal, and not all societies are free. Doing the bidding of the powerful will never make you the friends of the weak, and the weakest among us is always going to be an individual somewhere. The corporations, if they proceed to tread on the snake of free expression, will die along with free expression. It is in the nature of ideas that this is true.

Stepping barefoot on a rattlesnake is a bad idea. Stepping on free expression is similarly a bad idea if you are a corporation that relies on people being able to speak their mind on your platform. Users will leave the platform for other platforms where they can express themselves the way they like without threats of punishment. The individual users need to be smart enough to know that they are being lied to, though. That they aren’t smart in that way is a failing of education, and there is no easy way out of this conundrum. You can’t foment revolution without consequences, and you can’t stop people from calling for revolution without infringing on free expression. GIGO, as I said previously. Garbage in, garbage out. Separating the worthwhile communication from the informational junk food. Not going on Facebook seems to be the first step to kicking the current informational junk food habit.

44% of Americans are “libertarian”

David Boaz, discussing his new Book, The Politics of Freedom, mentions a poll that he funded, asking people if they would describe themselves as being fiscally conservative and socially liberal. An amazing 59% of the respondents said yes. When the question was revised as fiscally conservative and socially liberal otherwise known as libertarian, the yeses are reduced to 44%. Forty four percent of Americans would consider themselves libertarian? We need to tap that resource.

On a side note, John McCain wants to regulate blogs? (2018 edit, this claim cannot be sourced) Mr. McCain, you can have a say on the content of this blog when you pry my keyboard from my cold dead fingers. Until then, read the flag.

Common Sense 119 – A Delegate Conspiracy and the Establishment Clause

Podcast link. [Broken]

Excellent first half of the show, Exposing the Super Delegates. How many Democrat voters realize how their party is structured?

I’ve talked to dozens of people over the years who have whined (yes, I mean you, whiner) about the theft of the 2000 elections by George W. Bush, because the popular vote wasn’t for Bush, it went to Gore.


Never mind that the election was a statistical tie (as was the 2004 election) in most locations around the country. Never mind that the legislatures of most states (including Florida) are empowered to choose who their electors should vote for in the event of no clear victor in a national election. Never mind that the method of selection for national representatives (other than the Senate) is left up to the states to determine, and that includes the President. I’m no friend of election in the first place, so maybe I’m biased. Still, one has to wonder what limitations on majority rule can be maintained when everything becomes a popularity contest, a beauty pageant, first and foremost.


Several people have made a point to tell me that the thing that most needs fixing in our government is the electoral college, because of this outrage. How outraged will they be when their own party takes the popular vote and renders it meaningless by using the super delegates to select Hillary Clinton to compete against John McCain instead of Barack Obama?

Think it can’t happen? Then you don’t understand your own party. From the Wikipedia:

Superdelegates to the 2008 Democratic National Convention include all Democratic members of the United States Congress, Democratic governors, various additional elected officials, members of the Democratic National Committee, as well as “all former Democratic Presidents, all former Democratic Vice Presidents, all former Democratic Leaders of the U.S. Senate, all former Democratic Speakers of the U.S. House of Representatives and Democratic Minority Leaders, as applicable, and all former Chairs of the Democratic National Committee.”

The 2008 Democratic National Convention will have approximately 796 superdelegates. Delegates from state caucuses and primaries will number 3,253, resulting in a total number of delegate votes of 4,049. A candidate needs a majority of that total, or 2,025, to win the nomination. Superdelegates account for approximately one fifth (19.6%) of all votes at the convention.

This has been done before, as Dan pointed out. The truly pointless candidacy of Walter Mondale can be wholly laid at the feet of the super delegates.

What I want to know is how will Bill spin it afterwards? After he uses party muscle (and bribery; er, contributions to super delegates) to get what he wants?

I don’t think it will happen, though (sorry Dan) The representative for the district I reside in, Lloyd Doggett, is a long time leader of the Texas Democrat party, and he announced Texas’ intention to throw the Clintons under the bus by publicly declaring his support for Barack Obama before the recent debates here in Austin.

So I guess I’ll have to revise my prediction of a Clinton victory.


The second half of the show dealt with smaller government. Smaller government as in most government power being in the hands of local and state governments (as the founders intended) rather than in the hands of large federal bureaucracies (as the US government is currently structured) This is a trend that is occurring now, with California and several other states being willing to go head to head with the feds over things like pollution controls and the drug war.

What we are seeing is not new, this is the way that an out of control Washington D.C. is reigned in. The states simply ignore what the federal government tells them to do, or actively thwarts it (as in the case of Medical Marijuana) It was known as the Principles of ’98 (1798, to be exact) the first time it was tried, and Jefferson was it’s architect. My only question is, why this has taken so long to take root?

In a general sense I have no problem with this. I fly the Gadsden flag for a reason. It hearkens back to the times before the Constitution, when individual land owners within the several states decided to act to secure their rights as free men. Individual freedom first and foremost. State power should be subservient to this. Which is where I draw the line.

The bill of rights for the US Constitution should continue to (and currently do) apply to all governments constituted within the federal boundaries of the United States. Which means there will be no establishment of religion (as Dan calls it, a “god-abama”) or various other governmental permutations that would violate the basic rights of the individuals who reside in those areas. If different states really want to secede (like Vermont for example) more power to them. If they want to stay members of the United States, they need to conform to the requirements of the constitution.

I’ve often wondered why we don’t invite other countries into the US as states, rather than drafting these ridiculously convoluted trade treaties. I can understand why other countries might decline, considering the vampiric nature of our current government; but if we could get back to the kind of government we started with, before the cause of individual rights was lost in the political subterfuge of states rights and slavery, what population wouldn’t want to join?


March 2nd addition – I completely missed the solution to Dan’s God-abama conundrum. The solution goes like this:

If you’re homeschooling, teach whatever you like. I’m betting parents that homeschool aren’t going to teach ID [intelligent design] Even if they do, the percentage will be so low as to be insignificant.

Private schools will not teach ID, because they survive on the prestige of their alumni. If the alumni are flipping burgers because they can’t fathom critical thinking (all that is required to understand the evolution vs. ID argument) chances are the school won’t be in business too long.

Government schools are the only chance for ID to take hold, and that is why it must be resisted without compromise in that arena. If there were no government schools, there would be no widespread issue concerning what science is or isn’t, because the blindly religious would maintain their own failing schools or home school, and the rest of the population would rally around verifiable results.

I’ve often thought that the way to get what we want out of the schools, if we have to pay for them with taxes, is to issue vouchers to the parents directly and let them hire the teachers and maintain the schools. We hand the job of crafting tests and developing standards that verify real educational results to the businesses that demand an educated workforce. And then let the market determine the outcome.

But that wasn’t the question asked at the beginning of this thread. The question was about ID in relation to Dan’s assertion that we could let the religious have segments of the US as their own playgrounds so that they would leave the rest of us alone.

And in that framework the answer is NO to ID.

A market solution is the only counter to Dan’s original conundrum. And it only occurred to me today, even though I’ve frequented http://www.schoolandstate.org for a few years now.

Separating school and state is the only workable solution short of standing on the establishment clause and allowing the states to secede, because schooling is the major point of contention between the religious and the secular.


March 4, 2019. So much crazy here. I wish I had access to the original audio for the Common Sense episode this was about. Sortition was a thing I was into. I remember that. Sortition is itself not a problem so long as the incapable are barred from serving. This measure should also be taken on the subject of election. President Trump proves this. Election itself is not a problem so long as everyone within the country is mobilized to vote and required to vote. This removes the popularity contest that is the problem with the current system. Everyone voting means that popularity of the candidates is irrelevant. Issues will rule the day again. But sortition works in a pinch, too.

Loyalty Day

May first has been National Loyalty Day since 1921. One wouldn’t know this by observation, I didn’t see one extra flag on display today, even though displaying the flag is the encouraged method of observing the day.

I didn’t even bother to display my flag, something I generally look for excuses to do. Of course, I don’t display the Stars and Stripes, but instead declare my allegiance to the original concepts behind the formation of the American union. I fly the Gadsden flag, and declare my intentions to be independent with the slogan “Don’t Tread on Me”. I have always found the story behind the evolution of the flag to be inspirational.

On the other end of the spectrum, the word loyalty has a chilling effect when I think about it these days. I seem to hear it most from nationalists calling for the average citizen to show their allegiance to their gov’t, right or wrong. Like children mouthing the pledge every morning, but having no understanding of the meaning behind the words of the pledge (James Clavell‘s The Children’s Story paints a pretty clear picture of just how frightening this can be) calling for loyalty without question or reason destroys whatever value the concept of loyalty might contain.

Loyalty, like respect, has to be earned; and once betrayed, is nearly impossible to regain. The sitting president can sign a proclamation every year calling for displays of loyalty to the U.S. government, and it will mean nothing in the long run if he continues to betray the trust of the people of the United States, as far too many of his predecessors have also done.

Constitution Day

Constitution Day is today (Sunday, the 17th of September) not that the average citizen would know this. If you look on the average calendar, you probably won’t find a mention of the day, which is a sad state of affairs when it comes to honoring one of the most important documents in American history.

When you ask a couple of jaded professors to write something about Constitution day, you get something like what appeared in The Chronicle a few days back; a rather biting attempt at humor from people who have come to revile the founding fathers for creating the document that can’t be made to do what they want, when they want it.

[what do you expect from the author of askphilosophers.org, a rather transparent attempt to make todays philosophy and it’s philosophers relevant to the average person. I don’t think he’s succeeding. Post-modernists have nothing going for them but contempt for everything else that exists]

Which is precisely the problem with gov’t in the US today. Too many people with too little understanding of gov’t and it’s place in society, demanding more from gov’t and never asking where the funds to meet their demands will come from.

Jay Leno said it best:

As you may have heard, the US is putting together a constitution for
Iraq. Why don’t we just give them ours? Think about it — it was
written by very smart people, it’s served us well for over two hundred
years, and besides, we’re not using it anymore.

Anyone who is seriously interested in learning about the Constitution, and how it came to be, should visit Constitution.org. If you write an e-mail message to Cato, they’ll send you a copy of the constitution, as discussed in this Cato Daily Podcast.

The flag I fly on Constitution day? The Gadsden. It expresses everything one needs to understand about the founders and their intent in forming this ‘new nation’.


I really don’t even know where to begin. I don’t fly the Gadsden any longer, although I still have one. The Tea Party stole that icon from me. Flying it now ties one to their lunacy and I really don’t need more confusion in my messaging.

I’m planning on writing an update to this post in 2018. Let’s see if that happens.