#Kickstarter Campaign to save history

I have a new Kickstarter campaign and I’d love your support! Besides the  for-profit motive, I have a non-profit motive as well. No one likes studying, and least of all a subject like history, which has little application to people’s lives…or so they think.

But it does, because knowing who we are and how we got here helps us ensure we don’t repeat the same mistakes. As Spanish philosopher George Santayana said, “those who do not learn from the past are condemned to repeat it.”

Thus I’m proud to announce the Kickstarter campaign for the Heroes of History Collectible Card Game, my new idea to provide an alternative way to learn history. Find reading thick textbooks boring? Not inspired by the old-school documentaries that speak in a monotone and recite lots of facts that have little to do with you? Well, I’m introducing a new way to learn the facts.

my babies

My game has battlefields, weapons, people, and things from history. Each card has a historical fact and most have a special ability to accompany them. It’s up to you to decide how you will make the moves.


The goal is simple: Build an army and destroy your opponent before they destroy you. Your deck comes with a brigade of both heroic and villainous men and women from history, several weapons for you to provide your soldiers for extra firepower, and supply cards and real-life battleground bonuses to enhance your army or crush your enemy.

Win the battle with legendary Shawnee war chief Tecumseh trading his bow and arrow for a cannon to blow Geronimo up. Or, put Andrew Jackson on the literally-indestructible USS Constitution to knock enemies out before taking refuge in King’s Mountain. You can even give George Washington the Gatling Gun (predecessor to the machine gun) and let him go for a joy ride on your opponent. Not only can you power your army with buffalo chips (that’s buffalo poop for you youngins), but you’ll learn something you probably didn’t know about people, places, and things which made a real difference to our world.

But, we can’t distribute this card game without your support. While a small number of cards have been made, we need an awesome community of people like you to help us get more units printed, shipped, and into the hands of our fans. Please support this campaign and take home a box (or more) that will give you, or someone you know, hours of entertainment for the price of just a few dead presidents, four of whom are actually playable cards. You can actually say you were studying while you were gaming.

This game is manufactured in the USA and is approved for all ages. All rights reserved. We thank you in advance for all your support.

Visit my campaign by clicking below: I promise you, if my autograph is worth something someday, this will be the best investment you ever made.




Being Realistic about George Washington’s Slave Views

illustrator: Vanessa Brantley-Newton. Published by Scholastic Press

You may have missed this little tidbit from the Huffington Post on a new children’s book that some say makes our first president’s slaves look happy and content.

“Scholastic is pulling a new picture book about George Washington and his slaves amid objections it sentimentalizes a brutal part of American history.

“A Birthday Cake for George Washington” was released Jan. 5 and had been strongly criticized for its upbeat images and story of Washington’s cook, the slave Hercules and his daughter, Delia. Its withdrawal was announced Sunday.

“While we have great respect for the integrity and scholarship of the author, illustrator and editor, we believe that, without more historical background on the evils of slavery than this book for younger children can provide, the book may give a false impression of the reality of the lives of slaves and therefore should be withdrawn,” the children’s publisher said in a statement released to the AP.

The book, which depicts Hercules and Delia preparing a cake for Washington, has received more than 100 one-star reviews on Amazon.com. As of Sunday evening, only 12 reviews were positive. The book also set off discussions on Facebook, Twitter and elsewhere on social media.

While notes in “A Birthday Cake for George Washington” from author Ramin Ganeshram and illustrator Vanessa Brantley-Newton had pointed out the historical context of the 18th century story and that Hercules eventually escaped, some critics faulted Ganeshram and Brantley-Newton for leaving out those details from the main narrative.

“Oh, how George Washington loves his cake!” reads the publisher’s description of the story. “And, oh, how he depends on Hercules, his head chef, to make it for him. Hercules, a slave, takes great pride in baking the president’s cake. But this year there is one problem — they are out of sugar.”

As someone currently working on a historical card game for kids and as someone who has read several biographies on Washington, it is true the “father of our country” owned slaves. First, as the owner of a (comparatively) small plantation in Virginia he inherited from his brother Lawrence (this is Mount Vernon), who inherited it from their father Augustine. He then married Martha Custis in 1759 and acquired her massive plantation she inherited from her deceased first husband Daniel Custis. As a member of Virginia’s gentry in the 18th century, Washington was surrounded by slaveowners and those who justified it. Mount Vernon had 318 slaves at the time of his death in 1799 and he himself purchased slaves over the course of his lifetime.

Richard Parkinson, an Englishman who lived near Mount Vernon, once reported that “it was the sense of all his [Washington’s] neighbors that he treated [his slaves] with more severity than any other man.”( Parkinson, Richard. A Tour in America, in 1798, 1799, and 1800 (London: Printed for J. Harding and J. Murray, 1805), 420. Having that said, he did own slaves.

However, Washington became increasingly distant from slavery as a practice beginning in the 1770s and continuing until his death. While not a true abolitionist (he never freed his slaves during his lifetime), he expressly turned away from slavery as Revolution became inevitable. It boiled down to one question: How can we as people say we want a nation full of liberty for all if we keep certain folks in chains?

In 1778, not long after breaking camp at Valley Forge, Washington, who was then forty-six years old and had been a slave owner for thirty-five years, confided to a cousin that he longed “every day…more and more to get clear” of the ownership of slaves. (George Washington to Lund Washington, 15 August 1778, The Writings of George Washington, Vol. 12, 327.) He vowed never to separate slaves by purchasing one individual and not the others (a common practice at the time). He was further influenced by the views of the Marquis de Lafayette, an ardent opponent of slavery.

Not only did his views evolve on black people, but Washington was one of the first people to stand up for other groups as well. In a letter to Moses Seixas, a leader of Newport, Rhode Island’s Jewish community, Washington wrote “For happily the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection, should demean themselves as good citizens.” (read more here)

As Washington neared the end of his life, which is the time when “A Birthday Cake for George Washington” takes place, he signed a will saying that, upon Martha’s death, all slaves they owned together were to be freed. He also stipulated in the will that money be left to those enslaved to provide for education or for living expenses.

The conclusion we are left with is that Washington was a product of his time, whether we like it or not. 250 years ago, slavery in most parts of America, especially the South, was considered acceptable and that’s what you did if you were among the better off who could afford vast tracts of land. A good comparison is to how many people today may think poverty is immoral, but do little to make the kinds of changes we need to raise the poor up. For example, opposing or not supporting school choice programs that would allow impoverished children who attend poorly performing schools to attend another school for reasons that have nothing to do with the child or that school, but have everything to do with money and who gets it.

I wish those who are commenting on this book in anger would take the time to understand Washington’s evolving views and recognize that, while hardly perfect, Washington was still ahead of his time and overall one of the greatest men who has ever lived. These attacks are part of a widescale effort to demonize our Framers as “evil old white men” whose Constitution we should ignore because women, blacks, and First Nation peoples (among others) were not granted equal privileges right away.

To be fair, I haven’t read this book, and I do not know whether the slave called Hercules was “happy and content”, though I doubt there were many slaves happy to be treated like inhuman beings. I personally think the author should have considered this before writing a book following a few of Washington’s slaves and making them look happy. (update: In hindsight, the author probably did consider this and did what we love- generate drama to boost sales).

But I’m sure the people attacking Washington for his slave-ownership haven’t read the book either. And few of them will take the time to study the Framer’s views on this issue or the tumultuous Constitution conventions where slavery was a major source of contention between those who supported the institution and those who wanted to see it banned. Keep in mind in that time tarring and feathering were common forms of punishment, and most doctors treated illnesses with leeches, cold baths, or beliefs in “negative energy” because they were not aware of viruses and bacteria like we are today.

Read more about Washington’s views on slavery HERE

Is is the Veteran who gives us Freedom

American Flag

It is the Veteran

It is the Veteran, not the preacher, who has given us freedom of religion.
It is the Veteran, not the reporter, who has given us freedom of the press.
It is the Veteran, not the poet, who has given us freedom of speech.
It is the Veteran, not the campus organizer, who has given us freedom to assemble.
It is the Veteran, not the lawyer, who has given us the right to a fair trial.
It is the Veteran, not the politician, who has given us the right to vote.
It is the Veteran, who salutes the Flag,
It is the Veteran, who serves under the Flag,
To be buried by the flag,
So the protester can burn the flag.
Author: Anonymous

Happy Veterans Day to all who have served, and those serving today, and their loved ones.

Why Should I Get Married? Is Marriage Obsolete?

“Should I get married?” This is one of the questions raging around our single society now with no end in sight.

I am in the prime marriage age group of 25-34. This is the time when most of my friends start-gasp- getting engaged or actually married. This is the time when not only family, but friends, have begun asking things like:

“Sooo…what’s new?” (Translation: Any dates?)

“Sooo..are you bringing anyone to the wedding/hangout?” (Translation: Any dates?)

variant: “Soo…how many people are coming?” (Translation: Any dates?)

my answer: ranges from “I just haven’t found ‘The One’ yet to ‘just me’.” What else am I supposed to do? I have heard all the reasons both for and against getting married. I want to talk about the economic forecasts for our society if more and more people people stay single and/or childless.

Today’s article is brought to you by the American Enterprise Institute’s Nicholas Eberstadt. (bold emphasis mine and article slightly truncated):

“All around the world today, pre-existing family patterns are being upended by a revolutionary new force: the seemingly unstoppable quest for convenience by adults demanding ever-greater autonomy. We can think of this as another triumph of consumer sovereignty, which has at last brought rational choice and elective affinities into a bastion heretofore governed by traditions and duties—many of them onerous. Thanks to this revolution, it is perhaps easier than ever before to free oneself from the burdens that would otherwise be imposed by spouses, children, relatives or significant others with whom one shares a hearth.

Yet in infancy and childhood and then again much later, in feebleness or senescence, people need more from others. Whatever else we may be, we are all manifestly inconvenient at the start and end of life. Thus the recasting of the family puts it on a collision course with the inescapable inconvenience of the human condition itself—portending outcomes and risks we have scarcely begun to consider.

As of 2013, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, just over 40% of babies in the U.S. were born outside marriage, and for 2014 the Census Bureau estimated that 27% of all children (and 22% of “White” children) lived in a fatherless home. But the opt-out from the old family norm is even more advanced than these figures suggest. A 2011 study by two Census researchers reckoned that just 59% of all American children (and 65% of “Anglo” or non-Hispanic white children) lived with married and biological parents as of 2009. Unless there is a change in this “revealed preference” against married unions that include children, within the foreseeable future American children who reside with their married birthparents will be in the minority.

Now consider Europe, where the revolution in the family has gained still more ground. European demographers even have an elegant name for the phenomenon: They call it the Second Demographic Transition (the First being the shift from high birth rates and death rates to low ones that began in Europe in the early industrial era and by now encompasses almost every society). In the schema of the Second Demographic Transition, long, stable marriages are out, and divorce or separation are in, along with serial cohabitation and increasingly contingent liaisons. Not surprisingly, this new environment of perennially conditional, no-fault unions was also seen as ushering in an era of more or less permanent sub-replacement fertility.

Europe has also seen a surge in “child-free” adults—voluntary childlessness. The proportion of childless 40-something women is one in five for Sweden and Switzerland, and one in four for Italy. In Berlin and in the German city-state of Hamburg, it’s nearly one in three, and rising swiftly. Europe’s most rapidly growing family type is the one-person household: the home not only child-free, but partner- and relative-free as well. In Western Europe, nearly one home in three (32%) is already a one-person unit, while in autonomy-prizing Denmark the number exceeds 45%. The rise of the one-person home coincides with population aging. But it is not primarily driven by the graying of European society, at least thus far: Over twice as many Danes under 65 are living alone as those over 65.

Lest one suspect that there is something about this phenomenon that is culturally specific to Western countries, we have Japan, whose fabled “Asian family values” are now largely a thing of the past. Contemporary Japanese women have lifestyle options that were unthinkable for their grandmothers, including divorce, separation, cohabitation and remaining single. Japanese women are availing themselves of these new choices.

Much the same has been taking place around East and Southeast Asia for at least a generation. From South Korea to Singapore, China is rimmed by countries where marriage is being postponed or, increasingly, forgone; where networks of extended kin are withering due to extreme sub-replacement fertility; and where childlessness is on the rise.

Thus far the Chinese mainland has been conspicuously resistant to these trends. Yet according to the 2011 Hong Kong census, 22% of the Chinese territory’s women in their late 30s were unmarried—almost the same as for Japan. Further, over 30% of Hong Kong’s women in their early 40s are childless, more than doubling in 15 years. Similar, albeit somewhat less accentuated, tendencies are reported in Taiwan.

America, Europe and the highly modernized reaches of East and Southeast Asia are affluent and “globalized.” But the undoing of previously accepted family arrangements is also under way in seemingly traditional low-income societies—Muslim-majority societies in particular. Although it has attracted strangely little attention, a flight from marriage within the Arab world is in process, led by masses of women who wish to bend or break the rules of family life to which their mothers had submitted.

According to the U.N. Population Division’s “World Marriage Data 2012,” the proportion of never-married women in their late 30s was higher in Morocco in 2004 than in the U.S. in 2009 (18% vs. 16%). By the same token, the percentage of single women in their early 40s was higher in Lebanon in 2007 than in Italy in 2010 (22% vs. 18%). And nearly 32% of Libyan women in their late 30s were unmarried in 2006—20 times the percentage barely two decades earlier, even higher than for Denmark in 2011 (29%).

Our world-wide flight from family constitutes a significant international victory for self-actualization over self-sacrifice, and might even be said to mark a new chapter in humanity’s conscious pursuit of happiness. But these voluntary changes also have unintended consequences. The deleterious impact on the hardly inconsequential numbers of children disadvantaged by the flight from the family is already plain enough. So too the damaging role of divorce and out-of-wedlock childbearing in exacerbating income disparities and wealth gaps—for society as a whole, but especially for children. Yes, children are resilient and all that. But the flight from family most assuredly comes at the expense of the vulnerable young.

That same flight also has unforgiving implications for the vulnerable old. With America’s baby boomers reaching retirement, and a world-wide “gray wave” around the corner, we are about to learn the meaning of those implications firsthand.

In the decades ahead, ever more care and support for seniors will be required, especially for the growing contingent among the elderly who will be victims of dementia, or are childless and socially isolated. Remember, a longevity revolution is also under way. Yet by some cruel cosmic irony, family structures and family members will be less capable, and perhaps also less willing, to provide that care and support than ever before.

That contradiction promises to frame an overarching social problem, not just in so-called developed countries but throughout the world. It is far from clear that humanity is prepared to cope with the consequences of its impending family deficit, with increasing independence for those traditionally most dependent on others—i.e., the young and old. Public policies are the obvious candidate for the task. But as the past century of social policy has demonstrated, government is a highly imperfect substitute for family—and a very expensive one.”

Marriage doesn’t seem to be treated as a big deal anymore, except Same-Sex Marriage (which I believe, once fully legalized in all 50 states, will be treated like straight marriage in every way), and while I have many more friends who have or would tie the not than those who haven’t or would not, there are many people I suspect won’t go for it. And of course even among those who are married, many are choosing to not have kids or limit themselves- why isn’t the point of this blog, except that from an economic standpoint a gray wave means more need for services for seniors but fewer workers able to provide. Japan is the future of what will happen to American in about 25 years. Already my home state of Delaware is slowly aging. 25% of residents in Sussex County are seniors and that number grows as retirees move in and young people move away.

Then there’s the cultural mentality: Girlfriends and wives are referred to as a “ball and chain” who keep guys like me from having sex and achieving our dreams because they nag all day. For women, men are either perceived by the media as pathetic, useless losers who need their wives/girlfriends to save them, or absent/unimportant altogether. Then there’s an entire legion of women complaining that a lot of guys would honestly just rather play video games and eat Hot Pockets than get a job and have a serious relationship, leaving guys like me surrounded by a whole culture of Pick Up Artists and those seeking Tinder-style hookups. And yes some women are just as bad as any of these guys.

Now most of us guys are not Christian Grey-billionaires with hardcore sexual fantasies (another definition of ‘ball and chain’ if I ever needed one) but, fantasy fiction aside, I want to hear what you think: Does marriage still matter? Am I weird if I still think it does? Or is it much better to stay single than have one’s life ruined by divorce?

note: this article also appeared in the Wall Street Journal, published February 23, 2015: