John Brown: freedom fighter or rebel?

October 16, 2014

506px-John_brown_abo

Today is the 155th anniversary of John Brown’s raid on Harpers Ferry. Brown, a fanatical abolitionist, seized the Federal arsenal at Harpers Ferry, Virginia, in the hope of fomenting a slave insurrection. The Marines – lead, ironically, by Army Colonel Robert E. Lee – suppressed the rebellion after three days. Brown and several of his surviving comrades were swiftly tried and hanged. Interestingly, the crime for which Brown was executed was not treason against the United States, but treason against the Commonwealth of Virginia. I wonder how many states still have treason statutes?

I’ve always had mixed feelings about John Brown. On the one hand, he was a fanatic, a rebel against the United States, and an insurrectionist who hoped to spark a slave revolt that surely would have cost thousands of innocent lives. On the other hand, the evil that lead him to his rebellion, the abomination against which he held a fanatical hatred, was slavery. While I can’t approve the means, I can surely sympathize with the motives. Those mixed feelings were felt much more intensely in the 1850s, and John Brown’s raid was the first flaring of the fire that would break out in civil war just two years later.

(Note: this is a republication of a post from 2009 that I thought worth sharing again.)

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Ebola: What is so hard about a travel ban?

October 16, 2014
Ebola virus

Ebola virus

Honestly, it seems like the most commonsense move in the world: If Ebola is rampant in West Africa, you bar incoming flights and passengers from that region until the disease is brought under control. After all, the disease was introduced into Houston Dallas by a man flying from West Africa. If he hadn’t been allowed in, there would be no people sick with Ebola in Houston Dallas, now.

But, that’s not how this White House operates. At a White House briefing yesterday after the President (finally) held a meeting on Ebola, press secretary the latest Mouth of Sauron, Josh Earnest, was asked about the possibility of imposing a travel ban. Here’s his response:

At today’s briefing, White House press secretary Josh Earnest was asked why it was still OK to allow flights from the three West African countries that comprise Ebola ground zero — Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone — if it was risky for [nurse Amber] Vinson to hop on a commercial flight from Ohio.

“There’s a multilayered screening protocol that’s in place to ensure that individuals that may have symptoms consistent with Ebola are not even able to board planes in West Africa,” Earnest said.

A travel ban “is not on the table at this point.”

“Shutting down travel to that area of the world would prevent the expeditious flow of personnel and equipment into the region, and the only way for us to stop this outbreak and to eliminate any risk from Ebola to the American public is to stop this outbreak at the source,” Earnest said.

“So we are mobilizing significant resources to make sure that supplies and personnel can get to the affected region and start meeting the needs of the affected region so that we can stop the outbreak there. And that’s why, right now, the travel ban is not on the table.”

There’s a word to describe Earnest’s response that begins with “bull,” but this is a family show. First, the guy from Liberia carrying the disease showed no symptoms until after arriving in Dallas Houston, thus the “multi-layered” screening process Earnest mentions probably would not have caught him. Second nurse Vinson, who had been treating the infected Liberian, had a mild fever and was allowed to fly anyway, even after reporting herself to CDC. Who’s to say similar mistakes wouldn’t be made by far less sophisticated personnel in Dakar or Monrovia?

As for interfering with needed personnel and equipment reaching the affected countries, that is utter nonsense. Any necessary planes can be given the needed clearances easily, and procedures can be put in place for quarantining crew and disinfecting equipment. What a ban would stop is a casual traveler bringing the virus back with him — just as has already happened!

This is malfeasance in office that goes beyond incompetence and verges, in my non-legal opinion, on criminal negligence. And if Chief Executive Obama won’t take the necessary executive action , then Congress should haul its collective butt back to Washington and pass legislation that does impose a ban.

Really, this shouldn’t be hard.

PS: Be sure to read the whole article. Obama’s “statement” is a marvel of bureaucratic blather, verbal “jazz hands” meant to hide the fact that he has, again, done nothing about a potential crisis.

UPDATE: Edited because I placed “patient zero” in Houston instead of Dallas. Not sure which city would be more offended.