Trump suggests he’d disregard NATO treaty, urge Russian attacks on allies (Marianne LeVine, February 10, 2024, Washington Post)

“One of the presidents of a big country stood up and said, ‘Well, sir, if we don’t pay and we’re attacked by Russia, will you protect us?,’” Trump said during a rally at Coastal Carolina University. “I said, ‘You didn’t pay. You’re delinquent.’ He said, ‘Yes, let’s say that happened.’ No, I would not protect you. In fact, I would encourage them to do whatever the hell they want.”


The Great Debate: Edmund Burke vs. Thomas Paine : a review of The Great Debate: Edmund Burke, Thomas Paine, and the Birth of Left and Right by Yuval Levin (Shaun Rieley, July 2014, Imaginative Conservative)

Paine was, of course, a great champion of the American Revolution – his tract Common Sense was seminal in igniting popular opinion in favor of the Revolution – and went on to be an important supporter of the French Revolution as well. Burke, on the other hand, was a supporter of the American Revolution, but when the French Revolution began in 1789, Burke became one of its most vocal critics, penning Reflections on the Revolution in France in 1790. What caused this divergence, and how did that philosophical divergence lead to the divisions in our modern political debates? That is the question that Mr. Levin explores in the book. […]

Paine’s case, Mr. Levin argues, rests on several assumptions regarding the possibility of human freedom – understood in a particular way – and the nature of knowledge. Paine follows social contract theorists Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau, arguing that it is possible to know through reason what man in the state of nature was like, and thereby, the rights which he possesses in that state, and this knowledge becomes the baseline for any judgment regarding the justice of any law, and the legitimacy of any political arrangement. Thus, the individual – applying judgment through reason – becomes the basis for all social relationships. Choice becomes paramount, and obligations are only binding in so far as the individual chooses to be bound – presumably, through a rational judgment. The heart of Paine’s political philosophy, says Mr. Levin, is his understanding of rights and choice.

Burke, on the other hand, builds his moral and political philosophy around “obligations not chosen but nevertheless binding” (p. 102). “An enormous portion of Burke’s (and the conservative) worldview,” says Mr. Levin, “becomes clearer in light of the importance he places on the basic facts and character of human procreation, and an enormous portion of Paine’s (and the progressive) worldview becomes clearer in light of the desire he evinces to be liberated from the implications of those facts. Almost all of what we loosely call “the social issues” have to do with the dispute about whether such liberation is possible and desirable…” (p. 103).

The Anglosphere was able to avoid the Continent’s utopian disasters precisely because we never succumbed to Reason and the denial of human nature.


America and Hamilton the Musical (MAJ (RET) Montgomery J. Granger, 2/10/24, American Daily Press)

Despite my frustration at the absence of any traditional patriotism expressed in lyrics or set or costumes, there is, in fact, one mention of such symbolism.

A search of the lyrics of “Guns and Ships” demonstrates that the line “Leave the battlefield waving Betsy Ross’ flag higher” is a metaphorical expression emphasizing the idea of achieving victory and independence. The mention of Betsy Ross’ flag, with its thirteen stars in a circle representing the original thirteen colonies, is a symbol of the United States.

The line comes in the midst of describing the challenges faced by the Continental Army, a “ragtag volunteer army,” in its fight against the powerful British forces. The reference to waving Betsy Ross’ flag higher suggests overcoming adversity and proudly asserting the American cause. It’s a poetic way of expressing the determination and resilience of the American forces in the face of a formidable opponent and adds depth and imagery to the narrative of the musical.

In the end, my own bias is exposed. But maybe that was one of Miranda’s goals. That, like art in general, it’s not about the creator’s interpretation; it’s about yours.