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Author: Philip Drucker, Constitutional Law Professor & Columnist, Los Angeles Free Press (page 1 of 15)

Phil Drucker Rants for 6-2-20: “The Pamphlet, Common Sense, by Thomas Paine”

Now that the reader of this column learned a little bit about the man and author, Thomas Paine, let’s give a little attention to the contents of the pamphlet that helped spark a nation to declare and eventually attain its independence as the free men (and women) of a free country. Common Sense (CS).

 Written in the late 1800s, CS should still be essential reading for all persons in the USA who want to understand, at least from the governmental/constitutional level, who we are as a people. And, too, what we have done to effectuate our ideal of what we refer to as the Social Compact aka the “contract” between a legitimate government and the people it claims to, but in the end, must serve.

 The first chapter, Of Origin and Design of Government in General. With Concise Remarks on the English Constitution begins with an essential overview of the differences and interplay between a society and its government. “Society” refers to the positives of life. The wants of people and their efforts to unite and accomplish tasks that are either easier or impossible with the aid and intervention of additional participants.

 As an extension, it is fair to consider America as a nation of individuals possessing, inherently, the Rights to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. But we are also capable of making the decision not to “go it alone” and that the aid of those similarly-minded may be not a necessary evil, but a sane and rational decision to accept help in times of benefit and need. As further illustration and with apologies to Franklin Delano Roosevelt, when society does better, it means we are all doing better (and vice-versa). 

 Paine calls society the positive, a patron and a blessing. It promotes co-operation, teamwork and a sense of individual and civic pride. It is the reason to go forward, succeed or fail, and to try and try again, as need, or need not, be.

 On the other hand, Paine describes government as evil, albeit a necessary one for its primary function is as the restrainer of vices. It is a negative force, a punisher, for it is produced by our wickedness. As opposed to unity, it promotes distinctions, creating persons whose actions constitute the necessity of re-classification, from a good, upstanding citizen, to persons who so lacking in self-control and awareness must be stopped, separated and, if necessary, sliced and diced. Remember, back in the 1800s, long-term imprisonment wasn’t usually available as a remedy, so to “warn” potential unsuspecting persons of this stranger’s true personality and self, branding and maiming were the methods of first choice. Not quite as Biblical as an eye for an eye, or as Sharia-adjacent as the loss of a hand for a theft, but whippings were quite common for minor acts of stealing, a rather large needle through the tongue of one who repeatedly took the name of the Lord in vain and (my personal favorite) the cutting off (or cropping) of the ears while nailed (the ears, that is) to the pillory.

 Branding, usually in addition to some other form of maiming, nose slitting comes to mind, was also widely practiced with the initials of the offense burnt into the skin, usually on some part of the face. “M” for manslaughter, (murder was an early felony punishable by death), “T” for thief and (again a personal favorite) “R” for rogue… smugglers they be.

In fact, smuggling was so pervasive in some colonies, particularly in Rhode Island, that the other 12 colonies would routinely refer to RI as “Rogue’s Island.” Cruel and unusual punishment indeed!

So much for chapter one, page one. Next week, page two?


Time for a Re-Phil?



Instagram: Philip_Drucker






Phil Drucker Rants for 5-26-20: “The Pamphleteer Thomas Paine”

Who was Thomas Paine? He was an Englishman born in 1737 to a Quaker Father, and an Anglican Mother. What passed for a mixed marriage at the time. His father was a stay maker. A stay being the heavy ropes used on sailing ships. There are those who believe his father was a corset maker, but this is likely a work of slander by his enemies. Making corsets apparently being in its day a less than honorable profession.

Paine himself worked as an excise officer, a fancy word for tax collector although in his day he was required to chase after smugglers and pirates if the situation so demanded it. Unfortunately, he wasn’t very good at it and was eventually given the sack, Jack, never come back attack.

During his tenure as an Excise Officer, his wife and child died during childbirth. He was alone, and stuck in a dead-end job waiting for the axe to fall. His future was shall we say a bit bleak? If you were Thomas Paine what would you do? What he did was start writing about politics. This was a bit of an odd choice as he had little to no formal education and absolutely no experience in politics. His first book, really more of a pamphlet or, clocking in at 21 pages, long article, “The Case of the Officers of Excise” positing and defending the positively thrilling contention that Excise officers needed a pay raise, had a limited audience and did not make the yet to be invented New York Times’ best-seller list.

As it turns out, the pamphlet changed his life. Paine handed out roughly 4,000 copies of the now, I imagine, properly categorized as a “handout” to the general citizenry, including the members of Parliament. For this, he was fired, while the joint Houses of Lords and Commons alike ignored him. But one person, who was a hanger on to the swinging London scene at the time, Benjamin Franklin, did not.

Ben invited his new friend Thomas to move to America. Thomas I imagine, broke and a widower, said something along the lines of “Sure, why not?” And so, with Ben’s personal letter of introduction in hand, TP sailed across the pond to the New World to start anew.

Upon arriving in America, he landed his first writing gig as an editor for the Pennsylvania Magazine. It was 1775 and revolution was in the air. It could not have been a better time of environment for Paine. He began writing under the pseudonym “Justice and Humanity”. A good fit as that is essentially what he wrote about. That and revolution. And how the British sucked. Then came the battles of Lexington and Concord. Then came his most famous work, a pamphlet entitled “Common Sense” that, in a nutshell, argued it was merely an act of common sense to declare independence from England. When it hit the streets, the colonists loved it. Not sure sales were brisk at first but there’s little doubt enlistments in the Continental Army went up. By time America won the Revolutionary War, Common Sense had sold roughly 500,000 copies. Surely a best-seller for its day.


What is the lesson we learned today? I’d like to think it’s when in doubt, write it out. Has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it? For you never really know what’s going to happen, now do you?


 Time for a Re-Phil?




Instagram: Philip_Drucker






Phil Drucker Rants for 5-19-20: “Separate is Never Equal”

May 17, 2020, marked the 66th Anniversary of the United States Supreme Court’s 1954 decision in Brown v. Board of Education. A landmark decision by the Warren Court, Brown ruled that segregation in public schools was by its very nature incapable of fulfilling the separate but equal doctrine. That the act of separation in and of itself imbued an inescapable status of inequality and as a result, those students subjected to segregation would invariably feel inferior regardless of whether the education, schools, teachers, and classrooms were of relatively similar or even equal quality or not.

Since then, Brown has been the law of the land, overruling in its entirety the 1896 case of Plessy v. Ferguson, that established for the next 50 years the separate but equal doctrine as the law of the land. For the record, when it comes to education, separate but equal was certainly separate, but never equal.

May 17, 2020, also marks the 66th Anniversary of opposition to Brown and its mandate of de-segregating public school systems across America. After the ruling became public, by late afternoon of that same day, Southern politicians began denouncing the decision and their intentions to defy it by whatever means necessary.

By 1956, influential Senator Harry Byrd was leading the charge. He created a coalition of roughly 100 Southern politicians who signed onto his “Southern Manifesto.” As part of their plan, Byrd further called for a “Massive Resistance” movement that included legislation forcing any school that willingly integrated to lose all state funding, this with the intention that it was better to have schools close than integrate under Brown. Many schools did just that.

In one such defiant response to a Brown order to integrate, Prince Edward County in Virginia chose to close its entire public school system. It remained closed for five years.

President Eisenhower was skeptical of the Court’s decision privately admitting “I don’t believe you can change the hearts of men with laws.”

On September 3, 1957, one of the higher-profile acts of Southern defiance took place at the Central High School in Little Rock Arkansas. On the first day of school, the previously all-white institute was set to enroll nine students of color. The “Little Rock Nine”, as they came to be known, soon found themselves in the center of a controversy now referred to as the “Little Rock Crisis”.

To prevent the Little Rock Nine from entering the school, Governor Orval Faubus had called out the armed National Guard and ordered them to block the entrance to the school.

One of the Little Rock Nine, Elizabeth Eckford later recounted her experiences that day.

“I walked up to the guard who had let the white students in… When I tried to squeeze past him, he raised his bayonet and then the other guards closed in and they raised their bayonets. They glared at me with a mean look and I was very frightened and didn’t know what to do. I turned around and the crowd came toward me… I tried to see a friendly face somewhere in the crowd—someone who maybe would help. I looked into the face of an old woman and it seemed a kind face, but when I looked at her again, she spat on me.”

Both television and newspapers were there to capture the scenes of hatred, racism, and discrimination and the massive resistance became a scandal of national and international dimensions.


Days later, to quell the violence, Eisenhower became the first president since 1877 to order Federal Troops to occupy a southern state. Dr. Martin Luther King wrote directly to Eisenhower for his support.


The troops stayed in Arkansas, Governor Faubus closed the school. The Massive Resistance persisted. In 1964, less than 2% or southern blacks attended otherwise all-white schools.

Are things better today? Arguably, yes. No one has called out the National Guard lately.  Private education, vouchers, charter and magnet schools, the move to re-introduce religious doctrine as part of the scholastic curriculum, Betty DeVos… All these disruptors and distractors from public education are with us today. Did Brown work? Or, should we say the evil people do even if it involves their children as innocent hostages in an unseemingly unnecessary but ongoing process where it may be wise to measure success one pupil at time. Or, perhaps Ike was right and legislation is not the answer. Ike wasn’t usually wrong, you know. 


Time for a Re-Phil?  



Instagram: Philip_Drucker

Phil Drucker Rants for 5-12-20: “Did You Know Sha Na Na Played Woodstock?”

Have you ever asked yourself, were the good old days really that good? In my case, the answer is yes. For whatever reasons, I’ve been thinking about my college years and what a colossal waste of time they were. I was an art major. I was, what a shock this is going to be, into abstract painting. The abstracter-er the better-er. In fact, I often “painted” without any paint, preferring crayons, tube calk, candle wax and various types of artificial lichens for my pallet. As one might guess, I have sold exactly one painting in my life, and that was for a grand total of twenty-five dollars.  Bringing me right up and even in lifetime revenue with Vincent van Gogh, Impressionist/Fauvist (1853-1890). Plus, I still have both of my ears intact. And that is where my tale begins.

During my senior year, every afternoon I would head over to a fellow art student’s apartment. Her name was “Jackie” (name changed to protect the somewhat innocent). Kind of a nut case to be honest, but a good one. Or, at least not a bad one. Harmless really. Our daily ritual involved two sacred items. One was alcohol. Usually Mickey’s but often exotic intoxicas chosen, often according to color. The other was watching the “Sha Na Na” television series (1977-1981) on KTLA local Channel 5 at 3:00pm PST.

Just so we are clear, we never slept together, I think we might have kissed once by accident (and certainly not on the lips) and when by pure happenstance I saw her naked, it was disturbing to say the least. So, it was not about that. It was about something else. Something, I dare say far more lasting and meaningful.

It was about music. I remember one time when the two of us decided to go to a “blue” theme and ended up buying a fairly-inexpensive Elvis inspired Blue Hawaiian Mix to go with the bottle of Captain Morgan Rum that somehow escaped the week-end party madness normally associated with Chez Jackie. I’m not even sure either of us knew where the Good Captain had sailed in from or why it was there, but one does not look such providence in the gifted horses’ mouth right?

As the drinks and the silliness flowed, John “Bowzer” Bauman (1947-Present) flashed his trademark open mouth arm muscle black shirt silhouette sideshot and the musical extravaganza began. 1950’s doo-wop was not on the endless playlist of most of our fellow art student’s musical taste chart. But it was on ours. And we discovered gem after gem that neither of us had ever heard before. “Get a Job” by the Silhouettes (1958), “Little Darlin’” by the Diamonds (1957), and “Blue Moon” by the Marcels (1961) come to mind. Wonderful, timeless tracks of musical innocence, bliss and representing the longing for a simpler, better time when nothing more than cruising the boulevard with the radio on was the thing to do.

On this boozy-bloozy afternoon, we noticed each other’s tongues were turning blue. So, we immediately started a who has the bluer tongue contest. A drinky-poo show and tell as it were. So here were two drunk as a Trappist monk-skunk college students pulling their tongues out at each other saying, “Mine’s bluer than yours!” “Yes it is!” and of course “No it isn’t!” Setting off yet another round of down the hatch Blue Hawaii Elvis with a flower lei cheer, ever bluer tongues and an ever-fading but remarkable warm drift into semi-consciousness.

I remember the “feature” ending song of the day was Dion & The Belmonts “Teenager in Love” (1959). By this time, the two of us were both lying on the carpet, as was our common MO. Then, something sounded good. Great intro, cue the vocals. “Each time we have a quarrel it almost breaks my heart.” My head on the floor, I opened my eyes looking as luck would have it directly into Jackie’s eyes. She was a Brown Eyed Girl. Van Morrison (1967). Without a word, we both knew immediately we had found yet another musical gem. That’s when it happened. Jackie in all her soppy-sloppy barely conscious state of fermented fruit and sugar-induced prom night heaven, leaned over and said, “We should start a band.” And we did.


I could play a little guitar, Jackie picked up a light blue bass at a pawn shop, we found a drummer who couldn’t drum and the three of us became “Del Rey & The Sun Kings”. We got our first gig I think playing at a frat party. We were a hit. We didn’t know why. Not then, not now. We ended up getting one more show before the band broke up. Creative differences you know. Couldn’t decide who was better, Elvis, (1935-1977) did you know he wore size 10 shoes? Fats Domino (1928-2017), Chuck Berry (1926-2017) or Little Richard RIP (1932-2020). It was a world where the Beatles had yet to exist. Who needed the four fop-tops when you had Gene Vincent and the Blue Caps? I know, a little out of the Rock & Roll camp, but the un-deniability of “Be Bop a Lula” (1956) is, undeniable.             

As with all romanticized stories, this too ends without an actual ending. Graduation came and went with all of us scattering into the Four Seasons Frankie Valli (1934-present) wind. Me? I ended up getting a day-time job in a letterpress print shop and playing in bands for the next ten years, with different degrees of whatever passed for modest at best success, mostly the cache to demand two free drink tickets per night.

So, when I say, “I don’t care what people say, ‘Rock & Roll is Here to Stay” Danny & The Juniors (1958) you’ll know what I mean. * Some memories being better than others, these I will cherish forever. Thank you, Jackie (you with the pill-box hat), wherever you are.

*I’m playing the “American Graffiti” Soundtrack as we speak.


Did you get your fill of Phil?



Instagram: Philip_Drucker


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