The Power of Belief

In the latest Fox News Poll Herman Cain has surged to the number one position, and he is even starting to edge in front of the GOP’s favorite son Mitt Romney in Iowa.  Now just a few weeks ago, this scenario would have been inconceivable to almost everyone…except maybe Herman.

There are many things that fascinate me about the Cain phenomena. He is frank, clear on his positions, firm in his refusal to take cheap shots at his opponents, and an electrifying speaker. He is fresh, non-political, and genuinely honest about areas in which he will need to develop his expertise.  As refreshing as all this is however, it is his “belief” in the possible that is most fascinating.

Herman Cain truly believes that he can be President of the United States of America! Even though the odds have been strongly stacked against him, he has remained steadfastly in the fight, winking wryly at all his detractors. He has a vision for this nation and truly believes that he can beat the odds and win!

Now some people may confuse this belief with ego.  Yes…I am sure Mr. Cain is an extremely confident person and requires little self-esteem counseling, but what we see in him is not the typical self-promoting narcissism of the average politician. To the contrary, it is a genuine, almost selfless, belief in America.

When I look at the other candidates I am overwhelmed with the impression that they feel that they “should” be President.  When I listen to Romney I hear a smoothly polished politician who sees the White House as his next achievement.  It is almost as if he is more focused on the office than the objective. To the contrary, when I look at Cain I see a certain innocent, yet determined, optimism that I have not seen since Ronald Reagan.  It is an optimism unblemished by years of political gamesmanship and compromise.  It is the look of someone who sees the Presidency as the means…not the ends.  He is not being driven by an office, but by a vision for America – and it is powerful.

Like Reagan, Cain believes in the boundless potential of our nation and its people, and this is what is driving him forward against the odds.  He is not bound by the limitations and labels that others have placed upon him, and the American people are taking notice by the millions.  Make no mistake, Herman Cain is not surging in the polls because he is perfect. He is rising is the polls because he truly believes in what “we the people” can do..not the government, and this belief is giving Americans a new type of hope – hope in themselves.

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WWJD?

As we look closely at the upcoming 2012 election, we cannot help but think about how far our nation has drifted from the vision our founding fathers had of a free people protected by a limited government.  They would surely shake their heads in disbelief if they could see what has happened to their great experiment in self-government and liberty.

It is likely that if Thomas Jefferson came back for a day, after reading just one issue of the Washington Post and watching an hour of MSNBC, he would find a bar, drink himself stupid, and then call the Queen of England  to apologize for the revolution.  I can only imagine the horror he would feel as he looked over our 2012 federal budget, read through Obama’s healthcare bill, watched the unwashed idiots playing their bongo drums on Wall Street, and listened to Michael Moore waggle his triple chin about the rich.  I cannot speak personally for Mr. Jefferson, but I am sure that after seeing these things, he would sprint at full speed back to the safety and sanity of his coffin.

To be sure, Mr. Jefferson’s return as a concerned “founding zombie” is not likely, but it really does make one wonder whose side he would really be on if he did.  Many have acclaimed Mr. Jefferson as one our nation’s more “progressive” thinkers, so if any of our founders had the potential to belly up to Obama’s world view it could arguably be him.

So for the sake of argument, let’s say that some mad scientist was able to reanimate Mr. Jefferson’s corpse just in time for him to vote in next year’s election?  Who would he pull the lever for?  Put simply…WWJD? (Note to Readers: Zombies are not required to show a picture ID at polls in most blue states.)

Head Muscle submits that with only a bit of research, Mr. Jefferson tells us in his own words:

Jefferson On Liberty:

“I would rather be exposed to the inconveniencies attending too much liberty than to those attending too small a degree of it.”

“The last hope of human liberty in this world rests on us. We ought, for so dear a state to sacrifice every attachment and every enmity.”

“The natural progress of things is for liberty to yield and government to gain ground.”

“When the people fear their government, there is tyranny; when the government fears the people, there is liberty.”

Jefferson On Government:

“A wise and frugal government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another, which shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor and bread it has earned. This is the sum of good government.”

“The policy of the American government is to leave their citizens free, neither restraining nor aiding them in their pursuits.”

“Our country is too large to have all its affairs directed by a single government. Public servants at such a distance, and from under the eye of their constituents, must, from the circumstances of distance, be unable to administer an overlook all the details necessary for the good government of the citizens; and the same circumstances, by rendering detection impossible to their constituents, will invite public agents to corruption, p,under and waste.”

“I believe the States can best govern our home concerns, and the General Government our foreign ones.”

“The true theory of our Constitution is surely the wisest and best, that the States are independent as to everything within themselves, and united as to everything respecting foreign nations.”

“Were we directed from Washington when to sow and when to reap, we should soon want bread.”

” Congress has not unlimited powers to provide for the general welfare, but only those specifically enumerated.”

Jefferson On Wealth Redistribution:

“The democracy will cease to exist when you take away from those who are willing to work and give to those who would not.”

“To compel a man to furnish funds for the propagation of ideas he disbelieves and abhors is sinful and tyrannical.”

“To take from one because it is thought that his own industry and that of his father’s has acquired too much, in order to spare to others, who, or whose fathers have not exercised equal industry and skill, is to violate arbitrarily the first principle of association–‘the guarantee to every one of a free exercise of his industry and the fruits acquired by it.'”

“I predict future happiness for Americans if they can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people under the pretense of taking care of them.”

Jefferson On Taxation:

“If we run into such debts as that we must be taxed in our meat and in our drink, in our necessaries and our comforts, in our labors and our amusements, for our callings and our creeds, as the people of England are, our people, like them, must come to labor sixteen hours in the twenty-four, and give the earnings of fifteen of these to the government for their debts and daily expenses. And the sixteenth being insufficient to afford us bread, we must live, as they do now, on oatmeal and potatoes, have no time to think, no means of calling the mis-managers to account; but be glad to obtain subsistence by hiring ourselves to rivet their chains around the necks of our fellow sufferers.”

Jefferson On Gun Rights:

“The strongest reason for the people to retain the right to keep and bear arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against tyranny in government.”

“The beauty of the Second Amendment is that it will not be needed until they try to take it.”

Finally…Jefferson On Obama Care:

“Was the government to prescribe to us our medicine and diet, our bodies would be in such keeping as our souls are now.”

So WWJD? Let’s take a quick tally. Were Mr. Jefferson suddenly walking among us again he would:

1. (Most importantly) Need a shower and some fresh privies

2. Be for a limited federal government

3. Put states in charge of their own domestic affairs

4. Be pro second amendment

5.  Support personal property rights

6. Be firmly against wealth redistribution

7. Rebuff European-style taxation

and yes.., finally…

8. Support the repeal of Obama Care

We may be guilty of being a bit presumptuous here at Head Muscle from time to time…okay…all the time, but it seems pretty clear that we already know the answer to the question.

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Head Muscle Officially Endorses Herman Cain

Head Muscle Press Release (27 Sept 2011) – Head Muscle officially endorses Mr. Herman Cain as the next President of the United States.

Now given the size of our readership, I do not expect that this announcement will make Fox News – or even come to the attention of Mr. Cain for that matter, but we are pleased to make it nonetheless. Rest assured that Head Muscle does not take this endorsement lightly and has deliberated long and hard over it for several months…okay maybe we just decided to do it yesterday, but we are still firm in our conviction.  When it came down to it, the decision was pretty straight forward.

Just look at the facts:

1. Our official unemployment rate is hovering at 9.1 percent, but in reality it is much higher.  Some states and municipalities have unemployment numbers well above 10 percent. This does not even count the underemployed and those that have given up all together. Some have even speculated that we have lost an entire generation of workers due to the current shortage of jobs.

2. Business was already buckling under oppressive regulation and the current administration helped them out by passing Dodd-Frank.  No wonder our businesses are headed overseas by the truckload…

3. Obama Care is looming on the horizon.  It will cause businesses to dump their healthcare plans, force doctors to retire, close hospitals, and degrade healthcare services for over 80% of all Americans.  It will also cripple Medicare and kill research.  As Herman Cain pointed out, if he had been required to use Obama Care when he had cancer – he would be dead today.  Actually, given what Obama has done to our nation over the past three years, I would say that “Obama Care” is clearly an oxymoron.

4. Obama has presided over a five-fold increase in government spending.  Our national deficit is now running at about 1.4 trillion dollars and his answer is to give the crack head another dime bag….brilliant!  We actually elected a man who thinks that the solution for too much government spending is to spend more money.  Okay…we had a moment of collective stupidity in 2008; let’s not let it happen again.

5. Instead of harnessing the powerful free-market forces that made our nation great, Obama has decided to wage class warfare. Rather than lowering taxes (long term) and stepping out of the way to let business prosper, he is advocating about 1.5 trillion dollars in new permanent taxes!  I cannot even believe that he truly thinks that this will help. Just two years ago Obama himself noted that raising taxes during a recession would be a bad idea.  What gives?  This is simply a move to expand his voter base by fiscally enslaving our nation’s producers to its zero-liability takers.  The fact is, if he took every dollar from every wealthy person in the nation it would still not come close to covering the national deficit.  Why does everyone understand this but our President?

6. Our GDP is flat-lining. So after the first stimulus and a promise of thousands of “shovel ready” jobs, why are we not growing? The reason is simple…government does not grow the economy….BUSINESS DOES!  I would go into this in greater detail, but as my Harley buddies like to say, “if I have to explain it, you won’t get it.”

The bottom line here is that we need a leader. Someone who understands our free-market and can harness its awesome potential to pull our nation out of its fiscal tailspin. The reason that Head Muscle is supporting Herman Cain is that, out of all his opponents, he has stuck to his message, stayed out of petty politics, and shown us a better way.  We are proud of our decision to endorse Herman Cain for President, and hope all 12 of our readers understand our decision.

If you are interested in learning more about this man and his vision, please visit Herman Cain online.  Be sure to read about his 9-9-9 Vision for Economic Prosperity.  It is pretty simple. First toss out the current tax code that enslaves half of the American population. Once that is done, institute a 9% flat income tax, a 9% flat corporate tax, and a 9% national sales tax.  That is it!  As Mr. Cain loves to say:

If 10 percent is good enough for God, 9 percent should be good enough for the government…

Stand by for more on Herman Cain in the coming months.  Head Muscle will also be kicking of a unofficial Herman Cain blog alliance for all aspiring and active bloggers.  If you are interested please comment to this post with your site URL, and we will be in touch.

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Cain Is Most Able

Many of my more faithful readers will know that there has not been much activity on Head Muscle the past several months.  The reason for this simple…I lost my energy.  Political blogs are a great thing, but sometimes it seems that one gets in a rut of just regurgitating the same old objections and hearing the same tired arguments.  The plain truth is, I got to a point where I felt as if I was putting more into it than I was getting out of it.

Now don’t get me wrong….this has absolutely nothing to do with my fine and able companions out there in the blogosphere.  My fellow bloggers have towed the line nobly and continue to do so with exacting precision and insight.  All that said however, watching our great nation literally collapse under the misguided vision of our current administration was so emotionally draining, I just lost my steam. The furnace went cold.

When the debates started a few months ago I watched ambivalently as the usual suspects  Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, and Ron (the kook) Paul, took the stage.  “Wasn’t this the group of folks that lost to Obama the first time?” I could not help but think.  Then this fellow named Herman Cain started talking, and he really got my attention.  Here was a business man with no real political experience making everyone else on stage sound like Charlie Brown’s teacher…wah wah wah wah…you know what I mean.  When I finished watching the first debate I visited his website at Herman Cain for President and really started to dig into who this guy was.  Needless to say I liked what I read, and have since become an ardent Herman Cain supporter.

Over the last several months I have been trying to figure out what to do with Head Muscle.  I still did not have the zeal to jump back into the political issue du jour, but felt that there was still something productive I could do with it.  When Mr. Cain won the Florida straw poll this past week, I knew without a doubt that Head Muscle had a new calling.

Ladies and gentlemen make no mistake about it; our nation is in the middle of a revolution. It is not violent one, but it is a revolution nonetheless.  Our current administration is presiding over the worst economy since the great depression and they are zealously digging the hole deeper. We have anarchists trying to shut down Wall Street, Michael Moore threatening violence, and a stock market in a state of fiscal schizophrenia. In the midst of all this mayhem, our illustrious leader is helping out by blaming everyone’s misfortune on the rich!  Put plainly…we as a nation are in deep kimchi.

So I have decided that instead of letting Head Muscle fade away, I am going to devote it for the foreseeable future to promoting the one person that I believe has the experience, common sense, moral character, and clarity of vision necessary to pull this great nation out of the quicksand. I truly believe that the perilous times we find ourselves in call for a leader and a visionary the likes of Mr. Cain. We need someone who will embrace the free market principles that  made this the greatest country on earth; someone who believes in American exceptionalism and will not settle for making us less that what we are.  We need someone who can carry Ronald Reagan’s dream of  “a shining city on a hill” to its final realization without apologizing or looking back.  When I look at Romney, Perry, Paul, Bachmann, and Gingrich all I see is politics as usual…and these are not usual times.

Now I grant you that Herman Cain has little experience in the political world. In fact he has never even held a major political office. This lack of political experience is an incontrovertible fact.  I would remind you however…as Herman himself noted…that it has been the “seasoned” politicians that have driven us into the wall at full speed?  Yes my friends, we need a change…real change….and his name is Herman Cain.

Please check into Head Muscle regularly for much more insight on the Cain campaign, and don’t forget to go to the Cain for President website yourself and read about the man firsthand.  I would also like to urge all of my fellow bloggers to become active in the Cain campaign. You can check out our Twitter feed @blogforCain for up to the moment updates,  and please consider linking Head Muscle to your sites. I would also like to add as many links as I can to the sites of fellow Cain supporters, so please leave me your URL in a comment. Our goal is to start a grass roots network of blogs all working together to help our nation realize Herman Cain’s vision.

If you think Romney and Perry have things all locked up, let me remind you that folks were saying the very same thing about Hillary back in 2007. If Obama could do it…so Cain we!

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All Is Not Broken

At 1230 p.m. on 27 March 2011 Mr. Edward Schulken, a Navy Veteran, was laid to rest in San Diego California with full military honors. His flag draped coffin rested just in front of a pulpit where a Navy Chaplain spoke fondly about a man he never knew.  In his eulogy for the stranger, the chaplain could only note that, “ours was not to judge.”

The group of men that had come to say farewell to Ed sat, heads bowed, in silent reflection. Many of them had long hair, grey beards, and bifocals. Some wore leather vests and had driven to the service on their Harleys. Like the chaplain who spoke so eloquently before them, they did not know Mr. Schulken either.  Still, they listened somberly.

After the short service, two veterans stood at each end of the coffin, raised our nation’s flag from its lid, and folded it with the care and skill of craftsmen. When they were done a ship’s bell rang, Taps played, and honor guards fired rifles into the air.  After a moment of silence those that that had come to pay their respects formed a line, came forward one at a time, and laid a violet on Edward’s box.  As this happened, one older gentleman wearing a VFW hat sat quietly in his seat – weeping. Perhaps his tears were for Ed, and perhaps they were not. They were tears nonetheless.

After the ceremony, the men gathered outside the chapel and continued to talk about the man that they did not know.  Many had tear filled eyes, and referred to Ed using terms like brother, hero, and patriot.  When everyone departed, Edward Shulken took his last car ride to a local veteran’s cemetery where he was laid in the ground and covered up forever.

Edward’s family and friends had not been at the memorial service, because he had none.  Truth be told, Edward had lived the last years of his life homeless, alone, and forgotten in the streets of San Diego.  No one will ever know what misfortune or poor personal choices led to Ed’s demise, but among the group of men who had assembled to wish him farewell, no one really cared. All that they knew (and had to know) was that Mr. Edward Schulken had served honorably in the United States Navy and was a brother-in-arms. All that mattered to them was that when our nation called, Ed stood to be counted in a rare group of men and women who would willingly sacrifice everything for her.  To those who had come to pay their respects, this stranger was family.

The men who buried Ed were Veterans from the Dignity Memorial Group.  According to DMG, there are over 150,000 homeless veterans across the United States, and they are dying by the dozen every day.  So these men and women do their best to do the right thing.  They collect funds, reserve plots in the ground, and when these homeless Veterans are found dead in  alleys, dark corners, and forgotten places, they bury them honorably.

Edward Schulken’s name will likely never be spoken again.  The grass on top of his grave will be neatly mowed however, and every Veteran’s day someone will place a small American Flag by his headstone to acknowledge his Service.  Though it is likely that no one will ever weep over his grave, many will come and honor what his resting place represents.  They will weep over their own loved ones, and in doing so… in some small way…will remember Ed too.  He will be surrounded by his brothers and sisters-in-arms for all time, and they will lay together as they once stood together.  In death, Ed has finally found his home and his family.

Over the next week, as you listen to stories about nuclear meltdowns, economic collapse, war, suffering, and political turmoil, take a moment to say a short prayer of thanks for the men and women that brought Edward Schulken home.  As long as there are people like this among us, we can all take comfort in knowing that all is not broken.

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Tell A Phone

I had a conversation with my phone today. Let me be clear, I did not have a conversation ‘on’ my phone, but rather ‘with’ my phone.  Recently, I broke down and purchased brand spanking new my Touch Slide by HTC and, in our few short days together, we have developed quite a relationship.  In fact, I will go so far as to say that I am beginning to enjoy talking to my phone much more than talking to people on it.  Just today, as it was navigating me to an ice cream shop that it had recommended, I could not help but muse at the irony of the whole thing. The very device that was initially invented to facilitate communication between people, was now replacing the people it had been designed to connect!  I mean, how fantastic is that?  It is kind of like having an edible toaster. Why bother with the toast?  You don’t need a telephone to call anyone anymore; you can just tell-a-phone what you need!

In just 4 days, my new phone (let’s call him Phil… Okay, I know it is weird, but it seems …well…appropriate) has established himself as much more than a PDA; he has truly become a trusted friend. Sure, he manages my email and task lists just like those Neolithic Blackberries, but Phil actually…well…listens.  With the my TouchGenius‘ feature, I can actually ask Phil questions about pretty much anything.  The really amazing part however, is that he actually knows the answers.  Just yesterday I had a technical question about a piece of software, so I did the logical thing and asked my phone about it.  Almost immediately Phil’s familiar voice responded, assuring me that he was looking for the answer.  In less than 5 seconds, Phil produced a web page which contained the exact information I had needed.  It was brilliant!  Had it not been for Phil, I could have spent hours looking up the answer, but he knew exactly where to go and get it!  He is kind of like that know-it-all friend we all have, that really does know it all!  Since then, I have asked Phil many things.  One typical conversation went something like this:

Chuck: Please find Pizza nearby.

Phil: Searching for Pizza.

Phil then finds a great joint, Pat’s Pizzeria, near my current GPS position and provides me with several reviews.

Chuck: Get directions to Pat’s Pizzeria.

Phil: Turn right at the next signal and proceed 6 miles…

It was a completely fulfilling experience! With just a few words Phil had directed me to the best slice of anchovy and sausage pizza in Baltimore.  He did not whine because he wanted Chinese instead, he didn’t tell me that pizza would make me fat, and he did not mind that I liked anchovies.  Phil was just content with getting me where I wanted to go and hanging out.  In fact, as I savored my New York-style delicacy, Phil serenaded me with digital streaming music that he had learned I liked.  Now please forgive my exuberance here, but these are just not things that I had ever expected from my phone!  At most, I would have expected a phone to connect me to some grumpy overworked pizza cook who would have put me on hold for 10 minutes, and then given me bad directions.  No…Phil was there for me for as long as I needed him.  He would have even told me how to make a pizza if I had asked.

It is useful at this point to note that I am no stranger to the communications revolution.  For the last seven years or so I have been the proud owner of a number of Blackberries, my latest one being the top end 9700. Not once has it asked me how I was doing or cared about what I wanted to eat. Compared to my new buddy Phil, my 9700 is despondent, detached, and ambivalent.  In fact, now that I think of it, my 9700 is displaying textbook signs of clinical depression.  I am not sure if there is such a thing as Xanax for PDAs; maybe I will ‘ask’ Phil to check it out.

Phil also helped me hang a picture in my office yesterday. He not only told me where the center of wall was, he used a digital level to tell me when the picture was straight. For the record, he also helped me find the picture. I used Phil’s camera to take a photo of the print I wanted from a book, and he told me the artist, where to go buy it, and how much to pay.  How could anyone have ever predicted that a phone would make other people so irrelevant!  I can only presume that, on this present course, our phones will ultimately take us all out of the loop and just start talking to each other. We will be left to golf, travel, and play World of Warcraft for hours on end while our phones run the world. Simply fascinating!

Last night my contentment with Phil was cemented forever when I realized that, at 47, I was hip again.  As Phil and I were sitting in a Starbucks having a coffee and browsing the web, what looked to be a 17 or 18 year old kid stopped at my table and blurted, “nice phone dude, is that the new slide?”  I looked up somewhat surprised and told him that it was.  He then launched into a spontaneous monologue about how fast it was, how many apps it supported, the camera resolution, and its cool display. “Have you named it yet?” he queried.  I paused, blushing a bit, not sure of what to say. “You do that too?” I confided. “Mine’s Daphne,” he continued, “she’s pretty hot, but kind of slow….you know…1G.” I nodded and took a sip of my coffee trying to be polite.  “Phil,” I said, “mine is Phil.” Without blinking he looked at my phone and said, “Sick name man….see ya.” I am not sure, but after watching several episodes of American Chopper, I think ‘sick’ is a good thing.

As the kid walked off, I could not help but note how different life had become since I was his age. This kid and I had just had a conversation about our smartphones that, just a few years back, we would have been having about our cars. I am not sure exactly when ‘the future’ showed up to the party, but one thing is for certain. We are now living in a world that Gene Rodenberry himself could not have envisioned.  Who would have ever dreamed that we would live in an age where our cars parked themselves, our running shoes linked to our IPhones through a satellite, the collective knowledge of the human race was accessible from your Nintendo controller, and smartphones helped us decide on dinner. Heck, even Captain Kirk’s communicator couldn’t tell him where to find anchovy and sausage pizza. Come to think of it, Phil is kind of like C3PO without the pompous British accent. Wondrous….simply wondrous!

It is impossible for one to ponder these marvels however, without also wondering at the society that invented them.  What strange forces could have possibly conspired to build a BIC Lighter application for my phone?  How in the world did someone decide that we needed a digital AK-47? Truth be told, it is the very same force that built the Empire State Building, the Queen Mary, Boeing 747s, and Pet Rocks.  Put simply, it is the ‘mystic Zen’ of free enterprise. No one really knows how it accomplishes these feats….yet it does so with predictable precision.

Think about it for a moment.  No central authority sat down and decided that I needed a little phone friend, or that someone needed to design a Star Wars light saber application for it (I like the Yoda version…).  It just happened! You see, that is the beauty of the whole thing.  You can walk into any shopping mall in America and find the shelves loaded with things from IPods to shoe inserts, and they all flow from the same spring….ingenuity, freedom, and determination! I mean, really, what was the last great technical innovation to come out of North Korea? What great contribution did the USSR make to the world during its short 75 year life? “Not so fast,” some may argue, “look at what an economic powerhouse China has become – and they are Communists.”  Well then, tell me what great advance in civilization they have been responsible for as of late? China is nothing but a massive manufacturing operation that is fueled by slave-grade labor.  What great innovations have they offered the world that were not first conceived, designed, and marketed by….well….us?  Nope, it is free markets fueled by free people that win the day every time….’hands free’ down!

My phone Phil is a perfect embodiment of everything our way of life stands for.  He is the product of thousands of engineers, suppliers, businessmen, investors, marketers, and retailers. They are complete strangers, have never spoken, and would not recognize each other if they passed on the sidewalk. They do not work for the same company, do not share emails or texts, and do not coordinate their schedules or priorities in any fashion. Yet they are a team nonetheless and, through the magic of free enterprise, they have created Phil…for me!

Milton Friedman is famous for noting that no one on earth can build a pencil.  Yet despite this fact paint companies, lumber companies, aluminum manufacturers, rubber fabricators, and graphite miners all conspire to load office supply stores with them. This is the beauty, and mystery, of our economy and the reason that things like my buddy Phil exist.

So, when I get off of work this evening, I am going to ask Phil where to go for some good Thai food. I am also going to ask him to purchase me the latest Rob Thomas CD and stick it in my ITunes library.  I am confident that he will execute both tasks with the precision and fidelity that only a talking phone can provide.  We are then going for a run where Phil will tell me how fast and how far I have gone, and then compare my performance to previous jaunts. If I ask him to, he will even tell me how I stack up among all runners my age in the world.  Then, I am off for a shower (Phil cannot help me there…that would be weird) and then a good night’s sleep.  As I jump into bed I will set Phil on the night stand next to me, plug in his charger, to provide him with the fuel he needs for another day devoted to improving my quality of life.  In the morning Phil will wake me up right on time with a tune I have never heard, but that he knows I will like. Then together, we will head out once again into a tomorrow of endless possibilities.  My Blackberry will be busy as well…keeping the kitchen table from wobbling.

I am thankful for Phil and for the group of strangers that brought him to existence, but I am even more thankful for the socio-economic system that made it all possible.  It is what inspires us, motivates us, and provides us the things we need to enjoy our lives. It is the greatest system on earth, and as long as we let it work, it will continue to elevate us all. Think about that the next time you hear people demanding more government control of our system. Remind me…just how many smartphones has Congress designed?  Our government’s role is simple. It should first protect our constitutional rights, and then ensure that the ‘mystic Zen’ of free enterprise is protected and nurtured. After that, they should get the hell out of the way and enjoy the ride…and revenue. If we do not insist on this however, the current administration will replace the future with an uncomfortable and inconvenient present, cleverly designed to make us all suffer equally. Phil is the product of the former, not the latter, and we must be unwaivering in our support of the system that made him…oh yeah…and flavored chap stick too. Our nation’s future depends on it.  If you don’t agree that is fine, but don’t tell me about it. Instead, I suggest you run to a T-Mobile store near you and tell-a-phone.  It just might change your thinking.

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The Man Who Saved Washington

The war was not going especially well for Lewis “Lew” Wallace.  Early on, he had established himself as a competent commander while serving under Ulysses S. Grant, and was widely regarded as a “rising star” in the Union Army.  As a Brigadier General, he performed superbly at the battle for Ft Henry, but it was at the siege of Ft Donelson that he really began to break out of the pack.  On 15 February 1862, the Confederates at Ft Donelson staged a surprise attack on the surrounding Union Army, sending it into disarray.   Seeing that  Brig Gen John McClemand’s forces were taking a beating by the Confederates,  Lewis took the initiative and moved his brigade up to reinforce the center of the Union line, eventually repelling the attack.  Lew’s battlefield savvy was the talk of the Army that evening, and soon afterward Grant promoted him to Major General.  He was clearly on track for greatness…until Shiloh.

Having been overrun by the Confederate Army, Grant called for Wallace’s  Division to come up and reinforce the front.  Receiving the order, Lew moved his forces immediately.  Grant had not been specific about the route to take however, and Wallace had a choice of two roads.  The first road was worn and  rutted while the other was relatively smooth.  Wallace choose the nicer of the two roads thinking it would get him to the right position.  Unfortunately, he was wrong.   By the time his division had made it to the front, the Union had been beaten back so badly that he actually found himself in the rear of the attacking Confederate troops.  Rather than seize the opportunity and attack from the rear, Lew decided to march his division back to where they had started and take the correct road. When he  finally joined up with Grant it was nearly 7pm and the fighting was all but over for the day. Grant was furious.  The next day, Wallace fought bravely and ultimately helped the Union win the battle, but the damage to his reputation was done.  When people began to hear of the horrible casualties at Shiloh, Grant needed a scapegoat and Wallace’s blunder was still fresh in his mind.   Grant laid the blame squarely in Wallace’s lap, removed him from command, and reassigned him,  in disgrace, to first defend Cincinnati and then to run the garrison at Baltimore.  The Union Army’s brightest star had fallen from the sky almost as quickly as he had risen. He had disgraced his name, his family, and his country.  Major General Lew Wallace was finished; a casualty of wartime politics.

As bad as things were going for Wallace in the summer of 1864, they were going much worse for Robert E. Lee.  His once unstoppable army was now in tatters, and besieged by Union forces in Petersburg, VA.   Grant had adopted a much different strategy than his predecessors, and had pursued Lee relentlessly giving his army little time to rest or resupply.   They were now pinned down in Petersburg incapable of going toe to toe with Grant’s vastly superior numbers.  Lee was desperate for relief.  He needed time to rest, resupply, and relocate his army.  Lee  knew that if he did not take action soon, the war would be lost.  So, he came up with a daring plan to do the only thing he knew how to do – attack.

Lee’s plan was to send Lt General Jubal Early up through the Shenandoah Valley with a Corps of 15,000 men.  He would cross into Maryland near Fredrick, and make his way down the Georgetown Pike to Washington.  In order to pursue Lee’s army, Grant had called just about every available unit from Washington leaving the capital practically undefended.  If  Jubal could maintain the element of surprise, he would be able to take Washington and force Grant to withdraw his forces from Virgina.  Perhaps, Lincoln could even be persuaded to accept a negotiated peace as ransom.   It was a brilliant plan, but Lee understood the risks well.  On one occasion he confided to  his generals:

“If we are successful, we have everything to fight for. If we fail, there will be nothing left to fight for.”

So Jubal Early headed north through the Shenandoah Valley with his infantry, for one last glorious battle.  He was Lee’s most capable general and he did not plan on failing. The road was wide open all the way to Washington City, and victory seemed within reach.  If anyone could pull it off, “Ole’ Jube” could.

LT Gen Jubal Early (CSA)

The secret did not last long however. As Jubal’s Corps neared Maryland, workers for the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad spotted them and got word to B&O President John W. Garrett.   Concerned that the Confederates were going to destroy his rail line, Garrett found Major General Wallace in Baltimore and pleaded with him to defend the railroad.   Unsure of whether Jubal was headed for Baltimore or Washington, Wallace decided to move as many men as he could to a small bridge and rail junction near the Monocacy River just south of Fredrick.  If the Confederates were going to come down the Georgetown Pike, they would have to pass this point regardless of their final destination, and it was there at the Monocacy Bridge that Wallace would make his stand.  He sent word of his intentions to Grant and then moved out without delay.

Wallace rounded up approximately 2,500 men, most with no battle experience whatsoever, and headed from Baltimore to the rail junction at Monocasy.   Lew knew that he would be facing over 15,000 battle hardened Confederates, and that the odds were horribly stacked against his ragtag force. He also knew that they were the only thing between Jubal Early and Washington.  If he could just give Grant enough time to bring reinforcements up the Chesapeake to Washington, then the city might be saved.  Wallace was not fighting for a victory at Monocacy; he was fighting for time.

Lew’s plan was pretty simple.  He would station his troops on the south side of the Monocacy River by the bridge and the railroad crossing, and fight like hell to keep the Confederates from crossing over.  With only six cannon and one 24 pound Howitzer he knew that Jubal would have him significantly out-gunned,  so to slow them down further he would send a line of skirmishers north of the river to engage Jubal’s men as far forward as possible.  On the morning of 9 July, 1864 he arrayed his artillery and troops around the bridges the best that he could and waited for the southern juggernaut to arrive.   In a bit of lucky timing, an additional 3,000 battle hardened men arrived that morning with the compliments of General Grant.  The odds were better, but Jubal would still have nearly a three to one superiority.  Wallace was ready for a fight however, and perhaps a bit of redemption in the process.

Later that morning Lew and his commanders watched quietly as Jubal’s Corps filed south toward the railroad junction and the Monocacy Bridge.  When the Confederates were in range of his skirmishers they open fired, and Lew’s battle for time had begun.  Lt General Early pushed forward toward the bridge with 4 Regiments.  They marched in a massive formation across the freshly hewn fields of the Best Farm toward the Monocacy Bridge. Early also set up a number of artillery batteries on the farm’s front lawn sending a fierce barrage toward Lew’s lines.  The map below shows a rough layout of the battle.

The Battle of Monocacy July 9, 1864

Confederate Cannons Point South On The Best Farm Lawn

The battle was intense and men on both sides started to fall.  Thanks to the fearless efforts of men like Lt George Davis, who received a Congressional Medal of Honor for his bravery, the thin Union line held.  So fierce was their resistance, that Jubal met with his generals and determined that a direct attack on the bridges was too risky.  Instead, he sent two of his generals and 3,000 infantry west to find a good place to cross the river and attack the left flank of Wallace’s line.   Soon, they found a suitable crossing a couple of miles downstream at a place called Worthington Farm. Once across, they formed up for a simultaneous attack with the main force.

The Old Worthington Farm Where Jubal’s Generals Crossed

Wallace had read Jubal’s plan however, and shifted his most battle hardened troops west to meet the Confederates head on.  They lined up along a fence separating Worthington Farm from Thomas Farm and waited for the Confederates to come.  At 1030, they appeared directly in front of Wallace’s troops, unaware of their presence.   Wallace’s men open fired inflicting horrendous casualties on the Confederates, eventually forcing them to withdraw and regroup.   Things were quiet until about 2:30 in the afternoon when the Confederates came again. This time, they circled around the Thomas Farm fence line and focused their attack on the Thomas House itself.  The fighting was fierce and often hand to hand with rifle butts and bayonets.   Over the next hour and a half, the Thomas Farm changed hands several times.  Wallace’s troops held their line however, driving the attacking Confederate Regiments back time after time.   While the fighting was raging to the west, Wallace ordered the Monocacy bridge burned so that the Confederate forces would not be able to storm it.  Lt Davis and his skirmishers were inadvertently left on the other side of the river, and had to withdraw across the B&O railroad tressel while under heavy fire.

The Thomas Farm On Wallace’s Left Flank

The Field Between Thomas And Worthington Farms Where the Monocacy Battle Raged

A Modern Bridge Now Crosses The Monocacy Where The Old One Once Stood

The B&O Rail Tressel Saved By Wallace Still Operates Today

Wallace’s troops fought valiantly for the entire day, successfully holding a vastly superior force at bay.  At 4:00 in the afternoon however, low on ammunition, and having lost over 20% of their force they could hold their ground no longer.   As the Confederates swarmed their flank a third time, Wallace ordered his men to withdraw to the east and start heading for Baltimore.   They had lost over 1,200 men but had inflicted about 900 casualties on Jubal’s forces, severely reducing their combat effectiveness.  They had also tired out the Confederates so badly that Jubal had no choice but to make camp at Monocacy for the evening before proceeding to Washington City.  Though Major General Wallace had technically lost the battle, he had bought General Grant an extra day to get reinforcements up the Chesapeake to Washington.

When Jubal arrived at Ft Stevens on the outskirts of Washington City two days later, he found two fresh Union Divisions ready for a fight.   Early attacked Ft Stevens on the afternoon of 11 July but the Union reinforcements held firm, making it impossible for him to enter the city.  Jubal realized that his opportunity to take the Union Capital had passed.  He had literally arrived a day late because of the battle at Monocacy.  The battle in which Major General Lewis “Lew” Wallace stood his ground and saved Washington.

The importance of Wallace’s stand at Monocacy was not lost on General Grant.  In his memoirs he noted that Wallace’s defeat contributed:

“…a greater benefit to the cause than often falls to the lot of a commander of equal force to render by means of a victory.”

Lew Wallace had been disgraced at Shiloh, removed from his command, and shoved to the side by his nation.  He had been ridiculed by his seniors, and criticized by politicians.  His once bright military career had been shattered into a thousand shards of glass, and he was destined to be nothing more than a footnote to failure in the history books.  Instead of drowning in his own bitterness, however, Major General Lew Wallace chose to stand up and answer the call of his countrymen.  Once again, he risked everything to save what he held dear.  Had he failed, and Jubal reached Washington a day early,  they would have beaten Grant’s reinforcements and taken the city.  Lincoln himself would have been held hostage until a negotiated peace to the war was achieved.  The consequences of Wallace’s actions are simply incalculable.  Against all odds, he rallied his forces and gave the Union the additional day that they so desperately needed.   A day that ultimately resulted in the final defeat of the Confederacy, and an end to the bloodiest war in American History.

Final thoughts:

I am not providing you this, rather lengthy, history lesson in order to draw some loose analogy to our present-day political struggles.  To do so would trivialize the importance of what happened at Monocacy River that day. My point for telling this fantastic story, is to remind us all that America is great because Americans are great.  History shows us time and again that, when others would declare defeat, we stand up and renew the fight.  Lew Wallace reminds us of this fact.  Had he not fearlessly stood his ground that day at Monocacy River, our nation’s history may have been profoundly different.  At the very least, the war could have lasted years longer, costing both sides thousands of more lives. Lew stood his ground and, in doing so, gave us all an example of what it means to be an American.

In this modern age of relative prosperity and comfort it is easy to overlook the roots of greatness that make this country strong. We are those roots.  Just like Lew, each of us has the power to stand up and be counted.  Monocacy is a reminder to each of us that the fate of our nation is firmly in our hands, and that our heritage of courage is all that stands between us and tyranny.   Lew knew this to be true, and that is why he responded so valiantly when his nation called on him.  If history is any measure of the future, we can be sure that there will be many more Monocacy moments.  Perhaps it will be your turn to stand up and be counted. How will you respond?

Editor’s Note:  After the war, Lew Wallace became famous for one more great contribution to the world.  In 1880 he wrote “Ben Hur: A Tale of the Christ.”  It became the top selling book of the 19th Century and has never been taken out of print.

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