Wednesday, July 25, 2018

The Utility of Tyranny - To Keep and Bear Arms Across Time - pt5

Here's a conundrum for you: There are many things in life that some of us might be unfortunate enough to have to defend ourselves against - thugs, thieves, mobs... lions, tigers & bears - but there is only one power that has the potential to prevent each and everyone of us from choosing to think, speak and act in our interests, or in the defense of them. And of course that fearsome power is held by the very same institution which our society channels our collective power through, in order to safeguard those interests and actions for us: Government.

That is a conundrum. Enter our Bill of Rights.

Our 2nd Amendment was not written simply for us to have easy access to arms (guns, or any other form) - It was written and ratified as a 'No Trespassing!' sign to be thrust into the faces of that collective power of our society, who would understand it to be backed up by those personal arms each judges to be best suited to the defending of them, to dissuade us from intruding ourselves into those choices and actions that we engage in during the course of living our lives.

Why? Not to fight against our society, but to live in liberty within it! If you can be prevented from having the means to defend your decisions, your life and your community, then you do not have the liberty to have or enjoy any of them.

I'll repeat that: If you do not have the right to defend your rights, then you do not have the liberty to exercise them.

It is that simple.

Sure, your society may permit many, any or all of those actions you typically choose to take, but only by appointing someone with the power to grant (or deny) you their permission, which is a very different thing altogether - isn't it? For government to transform our rights into their permissions, it first needs the ability to disarm its citizens ability to resist it.

The 2nd Amendment exists to prevent that sort of transformative trespassing. In fact, every amendment in our Bill of Rights, exist to prevent that.

The existence of our Bill of Rights, and every amendment within it, is evidence of your liberty. Its compromise is evidence of your lack of it.

Did you notice that when our Founders' said "Shall not be infringed", they were looking directly at you?
What the clear intent of our Bill of Rights is, and that its promise was fulfilled, is evident in how it was presented for the approval (ratification) of We The People, with the following preamble:
"The conventions of a number of the states having, at the time of their adopting the Constitution, expressed a desire, in order to prevent misconstruction or abuse of its powers, that further declaratory and restrictive clauses should be added; and as extending the ground of public confidence in the government will best insure the beneficent ends of its institution;-"
IOW, We The People demanded that clear limitations be put upon our government's power to exercise its (our) powers, through law, for what would doubtless be seen as being for the greater good, because We The People understood so well that We The People are too prone to misuse power with "the very best of intentions".

Our Bill of Rights comes down to us from those who had a clear understanding of our limitless ability to convince ourselves that doing what is wrong is ok, if, in our humble opinion, it is done 'for the greater good'. Our Founders - and in this case I am not talking about those who gathered to frame the constitution at the convention in Philadelphia, but rather of that general population of We The People - who on reviewing the Constitution which that 'assembly of demigods' had proposed, found it wanting. The people conditioned their acceptance of that document which was to define the limits (or lack of them) of our laws, on the promise that it be amended to prevent their new government from exercising its power in the most politically essential areas of our lives.

Of those twelve amendments that were proposed, what became the 1st through 10th Amendments, were designed to limit and prevent We The People's best and brightest from using the collective power of their own government, to alter, limit, eliminate or otherwise violate the ability of any number of their own people from enjoying the liberty of those essential rights, 'for their own good'. These amendments are explicitly there, because their understanding of history taught them that tyranny couldn't easily rise to power, in the face of a people who were armed with the liberty to exercise those politically essential rights.

The Bill of Rights, and the 2nd Amendment in particular, exist to prevent ourselves from using our own govt to do what it should not do. Not out of a fear of some anonymous 'they!', and not because they feared some bogeyman called 'government!' - this is an important point that few seem to realize: they didn't fear someone else, they understood and feared themselves! Us! We The People!

That we today have forgotten to even be wary of our own selves, and of our own good intentions, is a confirmation of how well placed those fears of theirs were - and how fortunate we are that they safeguarded our essential individual rights from us.

How have we forgotten that? Easy - it was thought to be useful to.

Tyranny's Slippery Slope
People too easily slide into tyranny. Have you ever wondered why? It doesn't really require any deep learning to understand, only a basic grasp of the fundamentals of human nature and a regard for what is in reality right and true. We are prone to becoming tyrannical, not from a desire to do evil (though true, some few may), but from our well intentioned desire to 'do good', even if that means imposing 'Good', upon others, to 'fix them'. For their own good.

My friend Virginia Kruta, saw this firsthand this weekend, when she went to see self-described 'Democratic-Socialist' Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez speak in St. Louis this last weekend, where, from speaker after speaker, she saw the frightening lure of such good intentions:
"...I saw something truly terrifying. I saw just how easy it would be, were I less involved and less certain of our nation’s founding and its history, to fall for the populist lines they were shouting from that stage. 
  • I saw how easy it would be, as a parent, to accept the idea that my children deserve healthcare and education.
  • I saw how easy it would be, as someone who has struggled to make ends meet, to accept the idea that a “living wage” was a human right.
  • Above all, I saw how easy it would be to accept the notion that it was the government’s job to make sure that those things were provided."
I watched as both Ocasio-Cortez and Bush deftly chopped America up into demographics, pointed out how those demographics had been victimized under the current system, and then promised to be the voice for those demographics..."
As they stare and yearn to 'do good!' with those policies, as they see that usefulness as being 'good', they are not seeing (or looking for) the fine print in what powers must be brought to bear upon (all) others in society, in order to do that 'good', and they are not seeing the ramifications of having done those 'goods' unto us all. It's conveniently not easy to see what is out of sight - but what they want it to be 'good' is easily seen; seeing how it could go bad... is... not what you're looking for when you're looking to 'do good'. If you'd like an example of doing bad for 'good' reasons, read all of Ginny's short piece linked above, and then read how it's deliberately parsed to alter her meaning in this, and so many others, so that what she said is easily ignored, and so that what she didn't say, could be criticized, as if it was what she had said. That's a lie... for the 'greater good'.

These issues are 'the ends justify the means', in action - telling lies for the greater good, because they do not doubt that those 'goods' will be useful... no matter how often they have repeatedly resulted in disappointment, hardship, corruption, destruction, and eventually wide-scale death (and they can never do otherwise - in the end).

People are rarely willing to see what they are doing, as being wrong. If you've ever looked back upon some dark point in time - present or past - and wondered 'how could they do that?!'; this is how they could, and did, do what they did - whether in Venezuela, Cambodia, Cuba, Red China, USSR, Nazi Germany, and so on, and so forth - the darkness we see in looking back upon those times, is not the darkness that they saw when looking around at what they themselves were doing. They saw in what they were doing, their good intentions, and they saw themselves as opposing that darkness which they did see all around them, which is what they saw as justifying those actions that needed to be taken 'for the greater good' - as they saw it.

Those policies that Ginny listed - government provided healthcare, government provided education, government provided wages for the needy, and looking to government to provide privileges instead of upholding rights under law, those are the very same justifications for policies that were used to 'do good', in Venezuela, Cambodia, Cuba, Red China, USSR, Nazi Germany, and so on, and so forth.

If you don't see that, it's because that is not what you are willing to look for. And yet it is true nonetheless.

The motive power of pulling the saintly wool down over our own eyes, is Utilitarian in nature, through replacing 'The Good' with the useful, motivationaly empowering 'The ends justify the means!', in which the 'good' (meaning...?) they intend to do unto you, provides them with all the justification needed to exercise whatever 'unfortunate' means might be necessary for that which they fear or desire. For the 'greater good'... as they see it.

The problem is that "The Good", then, has less to do with what used to be described as the 'Good, Beautiful and True', and more to do with what is useful in getting what they desire - transforming it from what was good, in and of itself, into a means of the power to do something else... followed by something else... and always more something elses' will be necessary, for evermore. And by that time what was once understood to be 'wrong', is no longer seen in their mind as being wrong, or at least not in the same way; 'wrong' having been transformed into 'needed' - is almost certainly urgently necessary to do.

Our interests and desires have a natural tendency to shift our awareness away from looking for what is right, good and true, into looking for what is useful, efficient and needful. It is in that action of shifting our ethical perspective, that we succeed in hiding the wrongful nature of our actions from our own eyes, eclipsing them with the more interesting 'good' which we intend to do, blinding us from the possibly unsettling (or even evil) nature of what is now clearly seen as being oh so necessary and useful for our chosen ends.

If you are unaware of this tendency in yourself, then you are, in an important and essential way, uneducated, and a danger to yourself and to those around you.

What a proper Education is supposed to accomplish, is to enable us to see this tendency in ourselves, and to question the reality of what we are so eager to 'see' as being so. Not to question reality, but to question our pretenses of it: Are we seeing what is, or what we desire it to be?

"...We are told that the aim of Socrates in his training of the young was not to make them efficient, but to inspire in them reverence and restraint ; for to make them efficient, said Socrates, without reverence and restraint, was simply to equip them with ampler means for harm..."
Irving Babbitt "Literature and the College", from 'Bacon and Rousseau' - 1908
Our Founders' generation was well educated on the whole, and so were wary of their own potential to do wrong for the best of intentions... but they were already well on their way to losing that habit of seeing their own shortcomings. The re-purposing of Education away from 'moral ambitiousness', towards economic utility, which even some of our Founder's generation helped to lay, laid down a foundation that our nation could not have been erected upon had it come just a few decades earlier, and those new inclinations have been weakening our true foundations ever since. What had soared from Locke to Adam Smith to Jean Baptiste Say and crested into Frederic Bastiat, was already giving way to its mirror imagery, in Rousseau, Robespierre, Babeuf, and then Marx and the swarm of 'isms that followed in their wake.

IMHO, our Declaration of Independence, and our Constitution, were created, at the last historical moment that it was possible for them to be established, and just how close we came to being too late, can be seen in the success of the American Revolution, and the horrific failure(s) of the French Revolution so soon afterwards. We were at the peak point of a couple century's spread of common understanding of the ideas in those works that Jefferson had called 'the elementary books of public right', but their comprehension of them had hit its peak by 1793, and was already in the process of giving way to the up and coming mechanistic, utilitarian views. Those new directions are easily seen in what were popularized in Rousseau's enthusiasm for naturalism, over civilization, and in his popular reforms for Education, moving as they did away from striving to inculcate an intelligent virtue in mankind, in favor of a tantalizing and youthfully indulgent sense of self-fulfillment. Taken together, they served to move us away from our Founder's understanding of inalienable rights, and towards Jeremy Bentham's view of such rights as 'nonsense upon stilts'.

I can't tell you how many times I've been in discussions with Pro-Regressives of the Left or Right - with those few who are at least willing to discuss their proposals - who will within the same sentence, chide 'the other side' for 'seeing every disagreement as of evil intent' and then go on to rail against 'the evil 1%!'; they'll roundly denounce the other side's use of the broad generalities of 'they' and 'always' when discussing their opponents, and then immediately denounce the 'Right' who are all 'greedy' and unethical. They will fume against the use of propaganda by 'Fox News!', while demanding a restoration of state regulated and approved speech (aka: propaganda) through a new 'Fairness Doctrine'.

Yes, that is nonsensical if you are focused upon what you see as being right, good and true. But for those that have replaced what is good (which in any meaningful sense, tightly integrates with all of your life, morality, manners, ethics, etc), with what they see as being for 'the greater good' (which needs have no more consistency with other policies you promote than the right people are for them - which is the entire point of pivoting their orientation towards power), they are simply seeking what is useful, efficient and needful to implementing the 'greater good' unto us, which, of course, makes 'perfect sense', and as such applications of force upon 'bad' elements, is necessary to achieving that greater good. For all. Obviously..

They do not see it as being wrong or bad, because their definition of 'good', now follows from the pragmatic ideal of 'what works' for the moment, instead of the ethical and philosophical ideal, of what is timelessly 'Right, Good and True'. What they see, is that what you do, is 'bad', because it conflicts with what they would have done. When they do the very same thing, it is 'good', because it furthers their good intentions. What this means for the use of political power, is that virtue - its substance, not simply the appearances of it - is no longer able to serve as motivation or guidance for them, only power can fill that role - not the power to objectively identify or correct wrongs that have been done, but the desire to forcefully act upon others, to do unto them, utilizing power that others will surely see as being useful and needed for 'the greater good' - that form of understanding is incapable of containing meaning that is in conflict with what you, in your own eyes, see as being useful.

And still they do not see it. To be clear, this excuses them from nothing - they would see the wrongs in what they do, if they would put reality and truth ahead of what they wished reality to be, but they will not, and so they do not, and we all suffer the consequences, seen and unseen.

The ability to see that what seems sensible to you, might pose unforeseen dangers to you and all you love, the ability to ' be able to entertain a thought without accepting it...' is an important aim of an Education, to be "... released from a multitude of opinions...", and the distracting shadows on the wall of Plato's cave. Conversely, the inability to see - or to even look for - the possibility that what you see as being necessary and justified, just might endanger all, is a result of, in at least some significant area, a lack of education - particularly if you attained that ability through years of classroom earned degrees.

The views of those educated as our Founders generation was, aimed at a pointed self-reflection that questioned what you were inclined to think seemed certain, that is what enabled We The People, to gift ourselves with our Bill of Rights.

The views of those 'outmoded' ideals of education replaced with getting a good job, had an enthusiasm to act upon 'obvious' certainties, and is what is driving our current efforts to dent, damage and dispense with the protections of our 2nd Amendment, and the 1st Amendment, and all of the others, which enables us to be protected from 'the greater good' which they are so eager to do unto us - which is when We The People need to hold on to them more strongly than ever - not to fight our society, but to live in liberty within it.

There's a quote from C.S. Lewis that sums the danger of this up well:
"Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience." "The Humanitarian Theory of Punishment". "God in the Dock". Book by C. S. Lewis, 1970.
And to those armed with good intentions - a power that is far deadlier than any material weapon - they will seek, use, and apply that power to achieve their ends, and they will do so with a clear and approving conscience. Tyranny is above all else, in the minds of those who deny they seek it, useful.  Unless their minds are turned anew towards the nature of those essential rights that our Bill of Rights were created to protect, they will, with the very best of intentions, turn each of them against the other.

How that is done, in the next post.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

President Trump's terrible no good bad presser - Unless you actually read what was said, that is.(Update: Now with even more Treason!)

[Update below: Now with even more Treason!] SoOo... Trump & Putin's presser - quite the dust-up over it, eh? Hey... did you actually listen to the entire thing? Or just the reports of it? Huh. Well I hadn't seen or heard any of the press conference during the day, and I was at practice for the evening, but when I turned on the radio on my way home, I caught some of NPR's 'special coverage' of their summit, and I can't describe their attitude, comments, tonality, as anything other than comically over the top, even chortling with glee over Trump's comments which they more than hinted at being utterly inept, disgraceful and seemingly approaching 'treasonous', that I couldn't take them seriously, at least not without actually hearing the press conference.

When I got home, I googled up some news stories on it, and the Leftist side of the media aisle was fully compatible with NPR's take. And the view from the Right wasn't all that different. Fox's Trish Regan (sorry, no idea who she is... or much of anyone else still on the channel) had a clip saying:
"This was clearly not [President Trump's] best performance. He's done a whole lot better than this. He should have defended us. He should have defended his own intelligence community."
, and it went downhill from there. Again, lots of exuberant commentary, but... not much substance.

It was getting late, and I really wasn't in the mood, but... this seemed like something I'd better bother with, so I pulled up the full uncut video, from CNN, and the transcript from NPR, and watched.

WTH? I was promised weakness, ineptitude, 'treasonous statements!', and all of that was supposed to come out of this? Seriously? Worst of all, late as it is, here I'm at it, once again, having to stick up for someone that I've dislike since the 1980's, someone I'd much rather had lost the primaries in 2016, but... this spiel is not only wrong, but these wrongs are consequential to our lives, and so... here I go again, seeing to it that the wrongs are addressed. Sheesh.

From his prepared statement, I took issue with one statement, which I'll note below, that I think improperly brought domestic political disputes into an a discussion of international affairs, which was unwise and bad form. But... it wasn't all that. Or, IOW, Trump. Go figure. And the other issue was less a problem with what he said, but that he said it in the midst of a larger comment, that was way too easily one to be taken out of context. He knows better than that.

But first, from his statement, he made several decent points, and made the usual statements about the importance of good dialogue between America and Russia, and that,
From the earliest days of our republic, American leaders have understood that diplomacy and engagement is preferable to conflict and hostility.

A productive dialogue is not only good for the United States and good for Russia but it is good for the world. The disagreements between our two countries are well-known and President Putin and I discussed them at length today.

But if we're going to solve many of the problems facing our world, then we're going to have to find ways to cooperate in pursuit of shared interests. Too often in both recent past and long ago, we have seen the consequences when diplomacy is left on the table....
, and also that,
"... But our relationship has never been worse than it is now.

However, that changed, as of about four hours ago...."
Which you'd think would be encouraging, but which was unfortunately followed by what I mentioned above as an actual fault on his part:
"...As president, I cannot make decisions on foreign policy in a futile effort to appease partisan critics, or the media, or Democrats who want to do nothing but resist and obstruct..."
, that statement should have ended at "or the media", full stop. He never should have brought in issues of domestic politics into his statement at the press conference after an important international discussion. Yes the press was going to, but he should have left that to their own bad form. Bad Trump.

But that too, was followed shortly after by quite a good line, one that you'd think would be appreciated by all concerned,
"...Constructive dialogue between the United States and Russia afford the opportunity to open new pathways toward peace and stability in our world.

I would rather take a political risk in pursuit of peace than to risk peace in pursuit of politics.

As president, I will always put what is best for America and what is best for the American people...."
On the issue that plagues the minds of media and NeverTrump'rs Left & Right, 'Russian interference!' in our elections, Trump stated that,
"...During today's meeting, I addressed directly with President Putin the issue of Russian interference in our elections.

I felt this was a message best delivered in person. I spent a great deal of time talking about it and President Putin may very well want to address it and very strongly, because he feels very strongly about it and he has an interesting idea...."
Given the fact that our own investigations into the alleged issue are still ongoing, and that zero evidence has been presented of actual the dread 'Russian Collusion!', that was all I, and I think most people needed or cared to see. Repeating: The investigation is still ongoing, there are no charges to be made, until there are charges actually made.

President Trump went on to mention other issues that might take some precedence over the medias preferred 'Russia!" narrative, like nuclear proliferation, the denuclearization of North Korea, and radical Islamic terrorism, and also that,
"...As we discussed at length, the crisis in Syria is a complex one...."
, keeping in mind that Trump has already bombed Putin's best mid eastern bud, Assad, and that,
"...I also made clear that the United States will not allow Iran to benefit from our successful campaign against ISIS. We have just about eradicated ISIS in the area...."
, and keeping in mind that Trump cancelled the Iran 'treaty'(an unsigned, pitiful, agreement), and  concluded with
"...This was a very constructive few hours that we spent together.

It's in the interest of both of our countries to continue our conversation and we have agreed to do so...."
That was on the whole a solid statement of the situation, and a reasonable expectation for starting towards improving relations. I've no problem with it, other than what I noted. Do you? If so, could you add a comment which references what in particular you have issue with?

Then the press dove in. The first made an effort to stir the pot, concluding with,
"And the second question, before the meeting with President Putin, you called him an adversary, a rival, and yet you expressed hope that you will be able to bring this relationship to a new level. Did you manage to do this?"
And for those who wanted Trump to 'STAND UP TO PUTIN!!!", I think he corrected the reporter, and set the right tone for that,
TRUMP: No, actually I called him a competitor and a good competitor he is.

And I think the word competitor is a compliment. I think that we will be competing, when you talk about the pipeline. I'm not sure necessarily that it's in the best interest of Germany or not but that was a decision that they made.

We'll be competing. As you know the United States is now or soon will be, but I think it actually is right now, the largest in the oil and gas world...."
Then we got a delightful does of Reuters:
REUTERS: Thank you. Mr. President, you tweeted this morning that it's U.S. foolishness, stupidity, and the Mueller probe that is responsible for the decline in U.S. relations with Russia. Do you hold Russia at all accountable or anything in particular? And if so, what would you what would you consider them that they are responsible for?
Not only was that a misstatement and conflation of what Trump said, but it ignored the fact that Trump already stated in his statement, that they had discussed points of deep disagreement over, and which he hoped progress would be made.

WTH else did they expect? Did they want Trump to curse Putin out, and maybe shove him off his podium? Did they want Trump to behave as the thug like to fantasize about him being?

Instead he answered, in part:
TRUMP: Yes I do. I hold both countries responsible. I think that the United States has been foolish. I think we've all been foolish. We should have had this dialogue a long time ago, a long time frankly before I got to office. And I think we're all to blame.

I think that the United States now has stepped forward, along with Russia, and we're getting together and we have a chance to do some great things...
, and,
"...But I do feel that we have both made some mistakes. I think that the, the probe is a disaster for our country. I think it's kept us apart, it's kept us separated. There was no collusion at all. Everybody knows it...
, for those who are upset that he said that we've made mistakes, I'm sorry, but I remember Bush doing nothing when Putin ransacked Georgia, and I remember Obama doing virtually nothing with Ukraine/Crimea - those were major mistakes of U.S. policy. He went on to give his very well known positions on the matter. The reporter continued,
REPORTER: For President Putin, if I could follow up as well. Why should Americans and why should President Trump believe your statement that Russia did not intervene in the 2016 election, given the evidence that U.S. intelligence agencies have provided? And will you consider extraditing the 12 Russian officials that were indicted last week by a U.S. grand jury?...
Trump replied, but if you've heard him discuss the matter at all, it was more of his known opinions on the matter. But Putin's response was interesting:
PUTIN: As to who is to be believed and to who is not to be believed, you can trust no one – if you take this — where did you get this idea that President Trump trusts me or I trust him?

He defends the interests of the United States of America. And I do defend the interests of the Russian Federation. We do have interests that are common.

We are looking for points of contact. There are issues where our postures diverge and we are looking for ways to reconcile our differences, how to make our effort more meaningful....
This is not only gold,
"where did you get this idea that President Trump trusts me or I trust him?"
, but it should be the starting point of every one's thoughts on such issues, and if it isn't, if it's too much for you to grasp or consider, you really ought not to be discussing the matter at all. Putin is an ex-KGB officer, if you think that we can trust him, or that he has our best interests at heart, then you are a fool. He doesn't trust us, and we shouldn't trust him. But unfortunately he is the thug who's the ruler of the nuclear power of Russia, and to the extent that we can find areas where our interests align, then we do need to try and find a way to work together on them. Calling him names, isn't going to be helpful in that regard. But he also went on to make a couple other statements, that I suspect infuriate the media and talking heads a lot more than anything that Trump said, and which Trump is catching the heat for:
",,,We should be guided by facts. Could you name a single fact that definitively prove that collusion? This is utter nonsense.,,,"
, and to answer that with the extent of information that the Mueller investigation has so far revealed, the answer is: No, you cannot name a single fact that proves 'collusion'. Period. But it gets better. Putin went on to note that we do have existing treaties for extradition and interrogation of witnesses, and that of his 12 intelligence officers that Mueller recently indicted,
"...We can offer the appropriate commission headed by special attorney Mueller.

He can use this treaty as a solid foundation and send a formal and official request to us so that we would interrogate, we would hold the questioning of these individuals who he believes are privy to some crimes and our enforcement are perfectly able to do this questioning and send the appropriate materials to the United States.

Moreover, we can meet you halfway. We can make another step. We can actually permit official representatives of the United States, including the members of this very commission headed by Mr. Mueller, we can lead them into the country and they will be present for this questioning...."
, but the kicker, to the heads of the NeverTrump'rs Left & Right, was that he 'is aware' that some of Russia's official 'colluded' with American officials, including Hillary:
...we believe have something to do with illegal actions on the territory of Russia. And we have to request the presence of our law enforcement.

For instance, we can bring up Mr. Browder in this particular case. Business associates of Mr. Browder have earned over one and a half billion dollars in Russia. They never paid any taxes, neither in Russian army in the United States and yet the money escaped the country, they were transferred to the United States.

They sent huge amount of money - 400 million - as a contribution to the campaign of Hillary Clinton.

Well, that's their personal case, it might have been legal, the contribution itself, but the way the money was earned was illegal.

So we have a solid reason to believe that some intelligence officers accompanied and guided these transactions. So we have an interest of questioning them. That can be a first step and we can also extend it. Options abound.

And they all can be found in an appropriate legal framework.
That's kinda a big deal. Even after you de-Pravadize it... that's a big deal. And it's my guess that that is what most of the uproar over this summit has really been about.

There was then some interesting (in a non-sensational way) geo-political questions and answers, until the AP Reporter brought us back to as much sensationalism as he could muster, and which prompted the excessive answer from Trump, that was easily taken out of context to make it sound like he was taking Putin's word, over U.S. Intelligence agencies:
REPORTER, AP: President Trump, you first. Just now, President Putin denied having anything to do with the election interference in 2016. Every U.S. intelligence agency has concluded that Russia did. My first question for you sir is, who do you believe? My second question is would you now, with the whole world watching, tell President Putin, would you denounce what happened in 2016 and would you want him to never do it again?
And Trump of course jumped in with both feet, beginning with,
TRUMP: So let me just say that we have two thoughts. You have groups that are wondering why the FBI never took the server. Why haven't they taken the server? Why was the FBI told to leave the office of the Democratic National Committee?

I've been wondering that. I've been asking that for months and months..."
, and he continued on with more questions about missing servers and emails, and with this being followed by his previous statement that "...I addressed directly with President Putin the issue of Russian interference in our elections..." and that "...I spent a great deal of time talking about it and President Putin may very well want to address it and very strongly...", with that in mind, he then said a few lines, of which only the middle two are taken note of, sans that context:
"...With that being said, all I can do is ask the question.

My people came to me, Dan Coates, came to me and some others they said they think it's Russia. I have President Putin. He just said it's not Russia.

I will say this: I don't see any reason why it would be. But I really do want to see the server but I have, I have confidence in both parties...."
The obvious meaning of that, to me, and to most who don't have an abscess on their conspiracy glands, he's saying in essence, that "I've already told him that I'm pissed off about this, and such stuff had better end. I've told him that, he's denied involvement, whadoyouwannametodo, slap him around some?! We've accused him, he's denied it. Until we've got facts, we can go no further. But there are facts out there, and believe you me, I want those servers full of facts found!'

If you're able to view that entire press conference, and come away from it as President Trump saying he's best buds, lackey even, to Putin... well unless you can point to me the comments, in context, from the transcript that backs you up, then I've gotta say, that you have zero credibility in what you are saying.

But, hey. I could be wrong. How about you prove it?

Treason update:
For those who're still on the 'Treason!' kick, it might be worth your while to look into, you know, what Treason is defined as in our Constitution, Article 3, Section 3, Clauses 1 and 2, which is this:
"Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort. No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court.

The Congress shall have Power to declare the Punishment of Treason, but no Attainder of Treason shall work Corruption of Blood, or Forfeiture except during the Life of the Person attainted."
, and if you're curious why they came to that definition (which, interestingly, relies heavily on how an English King from the 1300's, Edward III, defined it), you can 'listen' to the framers discussing and debating what our Constitution would define as being treasonous, here,which begins with,
"Mr. Madison, thought the definition too narrow. It did not appear to go as far as the Stat. of Edwd. III. He did not see why more latitude might not be left to the Legislature. It wd. be as safe as in the hands of State legislatures; and it was inconvenient to bar a discretion which experience might enlighten, and which might be applied to good purposes as well as be abused.

Mr Mason was for pursuing the Stat: of Edwd. III.

Mr. Govr Morris was for giving to the Union an exclusive right ..."
Hopefully, if you're interested in bandying about charges of 'Treason!', you'll take the few minutes necessary to give that a look over.

And if you really care about how that applies to the real world, as my friend Jim asked: "Contextually, what is considered Aid and Comfort?", which is a very good question, and it seems that our Supreme Court has generally concluded that such a thing requires actions be taken, which... personally, I'm not so sure giving a press conference qualifies there, but that may just be me. But see for yourself, in this interesting commentary on the matter from a SCOTUS opinion during WWII, CRAMER v. UNITED STATES:
' "...Treason of adherence to an enemy was old in the law. It consisted of breaking allegiance to one's own King by forming an attachment to his enemy. Its scope was comprehensive, its requirements indeterminate. It might be predicated on intellecutal or emotional sympathy with the for, or merely lack of zeal in the cause of one's own country. That was not the kind of disloyalty the framers thought should constitute treason. They promptly accepted the proposal to restrict it to cases where also there was conduct which was 'giving them aid and comfort.'

Aid and comfort' was defined by Lord Reading in the Casement trial comprehensively, as it should be, and yet probably with as much precision as the nature of the matter will permit: '* * * an act which strengthens or tends to strengthen the enemies of the King in the conduct of a war against the King, that is in law the giving of aid and comfort' and 'an act which weakens or tends to weaken the power of the King and of the country to resist or to attack the enemies of the King and the country * * * is * * * giving of aid and comfort.' Lord Reading explained it, as we think one must, in terms of an 'act.' It is not easy, if indeed possible, to think of a way in which 'aid and comfort' and be 'given' to an enemy except by some kind of action. Its very nature partakes of a deed or physical activity as opposed to a mental operation.

Thus the crime of treason consists of two elements: adherence to the enemy; and rendering him aid and comfort. A citizen intellectually or emotionally may favor the enemy and harbor sympathies or convictions disloyal to this country's policy or interest, but so long as he commits no act of aid and comfort to the enemy, there is no treason. On the other hand, a citizen may take actions, which do aid and comfort the enemy—making a speech critical of the government or opposing its measures, profiteering, striking in defense plants or essential work, and the hundred other things which impair our cohesion and diminish our strength but if there is no adherence to the enemy in this, if there is no intent to betray, there is no treason...."
Hope that helps!

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Judge Kavanaugh: Better than good - less than great - so much winning!

Before giving you my two cents on President Trump's nomination of Judge Kavanaugh to fill the seat on the Supreme Court that's been left by the departing Justice Kennedy, here are a few links that give good overviews. This one gives a good, brief, synopsis and links to his own opinions and further information, "8 Things to Know About Supreme Court Nominee Brett Kavanaugh", and this one by legal-eagle Johnathan Adler, (H/T Dana Loesch) "Justice Kavanaugh (Updated)" , gives a much more detailed overview, and a rich bevy of links for those who'd like to really dig into Kavanaugh's opinions. And for the deeply committed, here's a marvelous compilation of links to his opinions and snippets of them. But the one which I think gives the best insight into what makes Kavanaugh 'tic' judicially, is this, from "The Faculty Lounge": "A Window into Brett Kavanaugh’s Judicial Philosophy", which I'll pull from at the bottom of this post.

There's a link in Adler's post to a lecture that Kavanaugh gave, on "The Courts and the Administrative State", and "Separation of Powers During the FortyFourth Presidency and Beyond", which are tops on my reading list, but there's also a video of that lecture by Kavanaugh, which is quite interesting.

The lecture itself is not what I was hoping for, such as his commentary on what basis the 'Administrative State' has in the Constitution (IMHO, none that isn't tortuously stretched), but instead was instead his observations on the day to day realities of ruling on questions of law and regulatory law, and on that count it was interesting as commentary on Kavanaugh himself, and positively, I think.

One anecdote he related might be seen as a judicial restatement of the old Real Estate maxim, that "The three most important considerations in Real Estate are 'Location!, Location! and Location!", which as Kavanaugh relates:
"...Justice Felix Frankfurter used to describe as the three rules of resolving these kinds of cases: “(1) Read the statute; (2) read the statute; (3) read the statute!”
, which Kavanaugh later sums up as "Don't believe the hype that the words of the document don't matter", and that the letter of the law very much matters to judges who are attempting to interpret it, which is of course, reassuring.

The second point of his that stuck out to me, was this observation, that:
"Legislation is never one person sitting down and writing out a piece of legislation. It is the House, the Senate, and the executive branch—different parts of the House and Senate, different political parties—which write these laws together, and it is a compromise. When you read a statute and say this doesn’t make any sense, it is not because the person drafting it did not know what he or she was doing; it is because it was not a he or she drafting; it was a they drafting it.

So what does that mean? That means that the legislation’s precise terms were a compromise among multiple actors, and, as judges, if we do not adhere to that compromise, if we do not adhere to the text of the provisions, we are really taking sides and upsetting the compromise that was reached in the legislative process. So functionalists have come to agree with the importance of the text. I want to emphasize that the text is not the end-all of statutory interpretation. But the statutory text is very important in determining how to resolve questions whether the agency has violated statutory constraints on it."
I think that is a vital nugget, about the Law, and about Judge Kavanaugh's understanding of it... which is mostly, but not entirely, a good thing.

You see, what concerns me, and gives me pause about Judge Kavanaugh's judicial philosophy, is illustrated by this opening to one of his papers, 'Brett M. Kavanaugh, Keynote Address: Two Challenges for the Judge as Umpire: Statutory Ambiguity and Constitutional Exceptions,'
"Justice Scalia believed in the rule of law as a law of rules. He wanted judges to be umpires, which ordinarily entails judges applying a settled legal principle to a particular set of facts. I agree with that vision of the judiciary. But there are two major impediments in current jurisprudence to achieving that vision of the judge as umpire. The first is the ambiguity trigger in statutory interpretation. The second is the amorphous tests employed in cases involving claimed constitutional exceptions. We should identify and study these issues. Inspired by Justice Scalia’s longstanding efforts to improve the law, we all must continue to pursue the ideal of a neutral, impartial judiciary."
That also sums up why, although I greatly appreciated Justice Scalia, I was never really able to be a fan of his, as such Textualist/Originalist views comes far too close to viewing the law as a 'Rule of Rules', which is a very different thing than a 'Rule of Law'. While cautioning that I'm still in the early stages of studying up on Judge Kavanaugh, the impression I get is of a legal technologist, which is similar the mindset that guided Judge Bork to describe the 9th & 10th Amendments as 'judicial ink blots' on the constitution, and was a perspective which Scalia often similarly expressed in his opinions (which I addressed a few years back, in "What Would the Founders Do? Common Sense says WHO CARES!"), and which textualists, originalists and functionalists, express in ways that are disturbingly autistic towards the principles of Natural Law that our Constitution was derived from, and which those jurists I do admire, such as Justice Clarence Thomas, still stand up for.

And so, to get back to the post I mentioned above, from 'The Faculty Lounge', rather than just another laundry list of his opinions and inclinations, it offers a much better look into the judicial philosophy of Judge Kavanaugh, of how he views the Constitution, our Founders and (in its absence from his views) the concepts of Natural Law that drove them to frame, adopt and ratify our Constitution and its Bill of Rights. In "A Window into Brett Kavanaugh’s Judicial Philosophy", the author, largely drawing from a roundtable "A Dialogue with Federal Judges on the Role of History in Interpretation" that Kavanaugh participated in with a number of other Federal Judges,, notes that,
"...Although the roundtable’s topic was the importance of history in judicial interpretation, Judge Kavanaugh took a contrarian view, indicating that he does not think historical context is all that helpful to judges. During the dialogue, he pointed out that the framers were not “all of one mind” and in fact had “wildly different views.” As an example of the diverse viewpoints expressed at the Constitutional Convention, Kavanaugh noted the stark contrast between how Alexander Hamilton of New York and George Mason of Virginia viewed the proper role of the federal government.

According to Kavanaugh, the framers’ diverse and often conflicting opinions should make judges skeptical of historical evidence, even in the case of a document as renowned and influential as the Federalist Papers. As the judge explained during the roundtable:
“The point being, be careful about even The Federalist . . . point of view. That’s not the authoritative interpretation of the [Constitution’s] words. You’ve [also] got to be careful about some of the ratification debates. You’ve got to be careful about different people at the Convention itself. They had different views.”
For Kavanaugh, the most pertinent historical fact is that the Constitution came about as the result of political compromise. He thus warned that it is a mistake to rely on historical evidence that might give one framer’s interpretation of the Constitution’s meaning more weight than others. As he stressed to the roundtable:
That view is, as far as it goes, true... but it is only meaningful, if you approach those arguments and compromises, from a point of view that is informed by the concepts of Natural Law with which those differing opinions were formed, and debated. Absent that, Kavanaugh, like Scalia, and many other 'Conservative!' jurists, often deliver opinions that are strangely tone deaf, in regards to our Individual Rights, seeing in areas that are absolutely critical to their defense, only 'ink blots' upon our Constitution.

But, do not forget that President Trump could have done so much worse in his pick to fill this vacancy on the Supreme Court, and I think it's unfair for me to refer to Judge Kavanaugh in that manner. My first and cold read on Kavanaugh, at this point in time, is that he is a better selection than most, and will be very much better than Justice Kennedy, even as his decisions will more likely fall somewhere on a line between Justices' Scalia, Alito and Roberts, in his opinions, than with those of Justices Thomas & Gorsuch.

But in this day and age... that's still winning!

Wednesday, July 04, 2018

Calvin Coolidge and remembering how dependent our Constitution is, upon our understanding of our Declaration of Independence!

Once again, before getting to my annual reposting of Calvin Coolidge's speech on the Inspiration of our Declaration of Independence, I want to point out, first, that our independence wasn't begun on July 4th 1776, that was simply the end of the beginning. Where our independence began, according to a fellow that was in attendance at both events, John Adams, was when James Otis spoke against King George's 'Against Writs of Assistance' back in 1761, which as Adams recalled it,
",,,But Otis was a flame of fire! With a promptitude of Classical Allusions, a depth of research, a rapid summary of historical events & dates, a profusion of Legal Authorities, a prophetic glance of his eyes into futurity, and a rapid torrent of impetuous Eloquence he hurried away all before him. American Independence was then & there born. The seeds of Patriots & Heroes to defend the Non sine Diis Animosus Infans; to defend the Vigorous Youth were then & there sown. Every Man of an immense crouded Audience appeared to me to go away, as I did, ready to take Arms against Writs of Assistants. Then and there was the first scene of the first Act of opposition to the Arbitrary claims of Great Britain. Then and there the Child Independence was born. In fifteen years i.e. in 1776. he grew up to Manhood, & declared himself free.,,,"[emphasis mine]
I point that out, because it underlines the importance of what is perhaps most remarkable about what the Declaration of Independence's author, Thomas Jefferson, considered to be the least remarkable aspect of it - that he intended the Declaration as an expression of ideas that were familiar and commonly understood, by the majority of Americans, of that time, as Jefferson wrote to a friend in later years, about what it was meant to accomplish:
"Neither aiming at originality of principle or sentiment, nor yet copied from any particular and previous writing, it was intended to be an expression of the American mind, and to give to that expression the proper tone and spirit called for by the occasion. All its authority rests then on the harmonizing sentiments of the day, whether expressed in conversation, in letters, printed essays, or in the elementary books of public right, as Aristotle, Cicero, Locke, Sidney, &c..."
That is why we are unique in the annals of human history, as being a nation founded upon ideas (those twits mouthing on about 'inherent American anti-intellectualism' can kiss my patriotic ass). And those common ideas, and their influence, continued to serve as strong guides for the later creation of our Constitution, can be easily found in even a cursory reading, between the charges of the Declaration of Independence against King George, and their reflection in our Constitution and the amendments to it, and ...
To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid World.
"HE has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the Tenure of their Offices, and the Amount and Payment of their Salaries."
  • The first three articles of our Constitution, divides Govt into three branches, which prevent any one person or wing from attaining a monopoly of power over the others.
"HE has erected a Multitude of new Offices, and sent hither Swarms of Officers to harrass our People, and eat out their Substance."
  • This is what our Constitution was expressly designed to forbid, which unfortunately is what the pro-regressive Administrative State, was erected upon it to encourage (as was our politically instituted educational system) - proof that Laws that do not live in the hearts and minds of the people, cannot protect them against themselves
"HE has kept among us, in Times of Peace, Standing Armies, without the consent of our Legislatures. HE has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power."
  • Congress has control of organizing and funding the military budget, and while the Executive has command of the military, he can not do much, for long, without the further consent of the people's representatives, and in all ways, the military is under civil control.
"FOR quartering large Bodies of Armed Troops among us"
"FOR protecting them, by a mock Trial, from Punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States"
"FOR cutting off our Trade with all Parts of the World"
"FOR imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:
"FOR depriving us, in many Cases, of the Benefits of Trial by Jury"
, and if you take the time to read both, you will find many, many, more points of harmony between the two.

But enough, onto Calvin Coolidge's speech, and a happy Independence Day to you all!

The Inspiration of the Declaration of Independence
Given in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on July 5, 1926:

President Calvin Coolidge
We meet to celebrate the birthday of America. The coming of a new life always excites our interest. Although we know in the case of the individual that it has been an infinite repetition reaching back beyond our vision, that only makes it the more wonderful. But how our interest and wonder increase when we behold the miracle of the birth of a new nation. It is to pay our tribute of reverence and respect to those who participated in such a mighty event that we annually observe the fourth day of July. Whatever may have been the impression created by the news which went out from this city on that summer day in 1776, there can be no doubt as to the estimate which is now placed upon it. At the end of 150 years the four corners of the earth unite in coming to Philadelphia as to a holy shrine in grateful acknowledgment of a service so great, which a few inspired men here rendered to humanity, that it is still the preeminent support of free government throughout the world.

Although a century and a half measured in comparison with the length of human
experience is but a short time, yet measured in the life of governments and nations it ranks as a very respectable period. Certainly enough time has elapsed to demonstrate with a great deal of thoroughness the value of our institutions and their dependability as rules for the regulation of human conduct and the advancement of civilization. They have been in existence long enough to become very well seasoned. They have met, and met successfully, the test of experience.

It is not so much then for the purpose of undertaking to proclaim new theories and principles that this annual celebration is maintained, but rather to reaffirm and reestablish those old theories and principles which time and the unerring logic of events have demonstrated to be sound. Amid all the clash of conflicting interests, amid all the welter of partisan politics, every American can turn for solace and consolation to the Declaration of independence and the Constitution of the United States with the assurance and confidence that those two great charters of freedom and justice remain firm and unshaken. Whatever perils appear, whatever dangers threaten, the Nation remains secure in the knowledge that the ultimate application of the law of the land will provide an adequate defense and protection.

It is little wonder that people at home and abroad consider Independence Hall as hallowed ground and revere the Liberty Bell as a sacred relic. That pile of bricks and mortar, that mass of metal, might appear to the uninstructed as only the outgrown meeting place and the shattered bell of a former time, useless now because of more modern conveniences, but to those who know they have become consecrated by the use which men have made of them. They have long been identified with a great cause. They are the framework of a spiritual event. The world looks upon them, because of their associations of one hundred and fifty years ago, as it looks upon the Holy Land because of what took place there nineteen hundred years ago. Through use for a righteous purpose they have become sanctified.

It is not here necessary to examine in detail the causes which led to the American Revolution. In their immediate occasion they were largely economic. The colonists objected to the navigation laws which interfered with their trade, they denied the power of Parliament to impose taxes which they were obliged to pay, and they therefore resisted the royal governors and the royal forces which were sent to secure obedience to these laws. But the conviction is inescapable that a new civilization had come, a new spirit had arisen on this side of the Atlantic more advanced and more developed in its regard for the rights of the individual than that which characterized the Old World. Life in a new and open country had aspirations which could not be realized in any subordinate position. A separate establishment was ultimately inevitable. It had been decreed by the very laws of human nature. Man everywhere has an unconquerable desire to be the master of his own destiny.

We are obliged to conclude that the Declaration of Independence represented the movement of a people. It was not, of course, a movement from the top. Revolutions do not come from that direction. It was not without the support of many of the most respectable people in the Colonies, who were entitled to all the consideration that is given to breeding, education, and possessions. It had the support of another element of great significance and importance to which I shall later refer. But the preponderance of all those who occupied a position which took on the aspect of aristocracy did not approve of the Revolution and held toward it an attitude either of neutrality or open hostility. It was in no sense a rising of the oppressed and downtrodden. It brought no scum to the surface, for the reason that colonial society had developed no scum. The great body of the people were accustomed to privations, but they were free from depravity. If they had poverty, it was not of the hopeless kind that afflicts great cities, but the inspiring kind that marks the spirit of the pioneer. The American Revolution represented the informed and mature convictions of a great mass of independent, liberty-loving, God-fearing people who knew their rights, and possessed the courage to dare to maintain them. The Continental Congress was not only composed of great men, but it represented a great people. While its members did not fail to exercise a remarkable leadership, they were equally observant of their representative capacity. They were industrious in encouraging their constituents to instruct them to support independence. But until such instructions were given they were inclined to withhold action.

While North Carolina has the honor of first authorizing its delegates to concur with other Colonies in declaring independence, it was quickly followed by South Carolina and Georgia, which also gave general instructions broad enough to include such action. But the first instructions which unconditionally directed its delegates to declare for independence came from the great Commonwealth of Virginia. These were immediately followed by Rhode Island and Massachusetts, while the other Colonies, with the exception of New York, soon adopted a like course.

This obedience of the delegates to the wishes of their constituents, which in some cases caused them to modify their previous positions, is a matter of great significance. It reveals an orderly process of government in the first place; but more than that, it demonstrates that the Declaration of Independence was the result of the seasoned and deliberate thought of the dominant portion of the people of the Colonies. Adopted after long discussion and as the result of the duly authorized expression of the preponderance of public opinion, it did not partake of dark intrigue or hidden conspiracy. It was well advised. It had about it nothing of the lawless and disordered nature of a riotous insurrection. It was maintained on a plane which rises above the ordinary conception of rebellion. It was in no sense a radical movement but took on the dignity of a resistance to illegal usurpations. It was conservative and represented the action of the colonists to maintain their constitutional rights which from time immemorial had been guaranteed to them under the law of the land.

When we come to examine the action of the Continental Congress in adopting the Declaration of Independence in the light of what was set out in that great document and in the light of succeeding events, we can not escape the conclusion that it had a much broader and deeper significance than a mere secession of territory and the establishment of a new nation. Events of that nature have been taking place since the dawn of history. One empire after another has arisen, only to crumble away as its constituent parts separated from each other and set up independent governments of their own. Such actions long ago became commonplace. They have occurred too often to hold the attention of the world and command the admiration and reverence of humanity. There is something beyond the establishment of a new nation, great as that event would be, in the Declaration of Independence which has ever since caused it to be regarded as one of the great charters that not only was to liberate America but was everywhere to ennoble humanity.

It was not because it was proposed to establish a new nation, but because it was proposed to establish a nation on new principles, that July 4, 1776, has come to be regarded as one of the greatest days in history. Great ideas do not burst upon the world unannounced. They are reached by a gradual development over a length of time usually proportionate to their importance. This is especially true of the principles laid down in the Declaration of Independence. Three very definite propositions were set out in its preamble regarding the nature of mankind and therefore of government. These were the doctrine that all men are created equal, that they are endowed with certain inalienable rights, and that therefore the source of the just powers of government must be derived from the consent of the governed.

If no one is to be accounted as born into a superior station, if there is to be no ruling class, and if all possess rights which can neither be bartered away nor taken from them by any earthly power, it follows as a matter of course that the practical authority of the Government has to rest on the consent of the governed. While these principles were not altogether new in political action, and were very far from new in political speculation, they had never been assembled before and declared in such a combination. But remarkable as this may be, it is not the chief distinction of the Declaration of Independence. The importance of political speculation is not to be under-estimated, as I shall presently disclose. Until the idea is developed and the plan made there can be no action.

It was the fact that our Declaration of Independence containing these immortal truths was the political action of a duly authorized and constituted representative public body in its sovereign capacity, supported by the force of general opinion and by the armies of Washington already in the field, which makes it the most important civil document in the world. It was not only the principles declared, but the fact that therewith a new nation was born which was to be founded upon those principles and which from that time forth in its development has actually maintained those principles, that makes this pronouncement an incomparable event in the history of government. It was an assertion that a people had arisen determined to make every necessary sacrifice for the support of these truths and by their practical application bring the War of Independence to a successful conclusion and adopt the Constitution of the United States with all that it has meant to civilization.

The idea that the people have a right to choose their own rulers was not new in political history. It was the foundation of every popular attempt to depose an undesirable king. This right was set out with a good deal of detail by the Dutch when as early as July 26, 1581, they declared their independence of Philip of Spain. In their long struggle with the Stuarts the British people asserted the same principles, which finally culminated in the Bill of Rights deposing the last of that house and placing William and Mary on the throne. In each of these cases sovereignty through divine right was displaced by sovereignty through the consent of the people. Running through the same documents, though expressed in different terms, is the clear inference of inalienable rights. But we should search these charters in vain for an assertion of the doctrine of equality. This principle had not before appeared as an official political declaration of any nation. It was profoundly revolutionary. It is one of the corner stones of American institutions.

But if these truths to which the declaration refers have not before been adopted in their combined entirety by national authority, it is a fact that they had been long pondered and often expressed in political speculation. It is generally assumed that French thought had some effect upon our public mind during Revolutionary days. This may have been true. But the principles of our declaration had been under discussion in the Colonies for nearly two generations before the advent of the French political philosophy that characterized the middle of the eighteenth century. In fact, they come from an earlier date. A very positive echo of what the Dutch had done in 1581, and what the English were preparing to do, appears in the assertion of the Rev. Thomas Hooker of Connecticut as early as 1638, when he said in a sermon before the General Court that:
The foundation of authority is laid in the free consent of the people

The choice of public magistrates belongs unto the people by God's own allowance.

This doctrine found wide acceptance among the nonconformist clergy who later made up the Congregational Church. The great apostle of this movement was the Rev. John Wise, of Massachusetts. He was one of the leaders of the revolt against the royal governor Andros in 1687, for which he suffered imprisonment. He was a liberal in ecclesiastical controversies. He appears to have been familiar with the writings of the political scientist, Samuel Pufendorf, who was born in Saxony in 1632. Wise published a treatise, entitled "The Church's Quarrel Espoused," in 1710 which was amplified in another publication in 1717. In it he dealt with the principles of civil government. His works were reprinted in 1772 and have been declared to have been nothing less than a textbook of liberty for our Revolutionary fathers.

While the written word was the foundation, it is apparent that the spoken word was the vehicle for convincing the people. This came with great force and wide range from the successors of Hooker and Wise, It was carried on with a missionary spirit which did not fail to reach the Scotch Irish of North Carolina, showing its influence by significantly making that Colony the first to give instructions to its delegates looking to independence. This preaching reached the neighborhood of Thomas Jefferson, who acknowledged that his "best ideas of democracy" had been secured at church meetings.

That these ideas were prevalent in Virginia is further revealed by the Declaration of Rights, which was prepared by George Mason and presented to the general assembly on May 27, 1776. This document asserted popular sovereignty and inherent natural rights, but confined the doctrine of equality to the assertion that "All men are created equally free and independent". It can scarcely be imagined that Jefferson was unacquainted with what had been done in his own Commonwealth of Virginia when he took up the task of drafting the Declaration of Independence. But these thoughts can very largely be traced back to what John Wise was writing in 1710. He said, "Every man must be acknowledged equal to every man". Again, "The end of all good government is to cultivate humanity and promote the happiness of all and the good of every man in all his rights, his life, liberty, estate, honor, and so forth . . . ." And again, "For as they have a power every man in his natural state, so upon combination they can and do bequeath this power to others and settle it according as their united discretion shall determine". And still again, "Democracy is Christ's government in church and state". Here was the doctrine of equality, popular sovereignty, and the substance of the theory of inalienable rights clearly asserted by Wise at the opening of the eighteenth century, just as we have the principle of the consent of the governed stated by Hooker as early as 1638.

When we take all these circumstances into consideration, it is but natural that the first paragraph of the Declaration of Independence should open with a reference to Nature's God and should close in the final paragraphs with an appeal to the Supreme Judge of the world and an assertion of a firm reliance on Divine Providence. Coming from these sources, having as it did this background, it is no wonder that Samuel Adams could say "The people seem to recognize this resolution as though it were a decree promulgated from heaven."

No one can examine this record and escape the conclusion that in the great outline of its principles the Declaration was the result of the religious teachings of the preceding period. The profound philosophy which Jonathan Edwards applied to theology, the popular preaching of George Whitefield, had aroused the thought and stirred the people of the Colonies in preparation for this great event. No doubt the speculations which had been going on in England, and especially on the Continent, lent their influence to the general sentiment of the times. Of course, the world is always influenced by all the experience and all the thought of the past. But when we come to a contemplation of the immediate conception of the principles of human relationship which went into the Declaration of Independence we are not required to extend our search beyond our own shores. They are found in the texts, the sermons, and the writings of the early colonial clergy who were earnestly undertaking to instruct their congregations in the great mystery of how to live. They preached equality because they believed in the fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man. They justified freedom by the text that we are all created in the divine image, all partakers of the divine spirit.

Placing every man on a plane where he acknowledged no superiors, where no one possessed any right to rule over him, he must inevitably choose his own rulers through a system of self-government. This was their theory of democracy. In those days such doctrines would scarcely have been permitted to flourish and spread in any other country. This was the purpose which the fathers cherished. In order that they might have freedom to express these thoughts and opportunity to put them into action, whole congregations with their pastors had migrated to the colonies. These great truths were in the air that our people breathed. Whatever else we may say of it, the Declaration of Independence was profoundly American.

If this apprehension of the facts be correct, and the documentary evidence would appear to verify it, then certain conclusions are bound to follow. A spring will cease to flow if its source be dried up; a tree will wither if its roots be destroyed. In its main features the Declaration of Independence is a great spiritual document. It is a declaration not of material but of spiritual conceptions. Equality, liberty, popular sovereignty, the rights of man these are not elements which we can see and touch. They are ideals. They have their source and their roots in the religious convictions. They belong to the unseen world. Unless the faith of the American people in these religious convictions is to endure, the principles of our Declaration will perish. We can not continue to enjoy the result if we neglect and abandon the cause.

We are too prone to overlook another conclusion. Governments do not make ideals, but ideals make governments. This is both historically and logically true. Of course the government can help to sustain ideals and can create institutions through which they can be the better observed, but their source by their very nature is in the people. The people have to bear their own responsibilities. There is no method by which that burden can be shifted to the government. It is not the enactment, but the observance of laws, that creates the character of a nation.

About the Declaration there is a finality that is exceedingly restful. It is often asserted that the world has made a great deal of progress since 1776, that we have had new thoughts and new experiences which have given us a great advance over the people of that day, and that we may therefore very well discard their conclusions for something more modern. But that reasoning can not be applied to this great charter. If all men are created equal, that is final. If they are endowed with inalienable rights, that is final. If governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed, that is final. No advance, no progress can be made beyond these propositions. If anyone wishes to deny their truth or their soundness, the only direction in which he can proceed historically is not forward, but backward toward the time when there was no equality, no rights of the individual, no rule of the people. Those who wish to proceed in that direction can not lay claim to progress. They are reactionary. Their ideas are not more modern, but more ancient, than those of the Revolutionary fathers.

In the development of its institutions America can fairly claim that it has remained true to the principles which were declared 150 years ago. In all the essentials we have achieved an equality which was never possessed by any other people. Even in the less important matter of material possessions we have secured a wider and wider distribution of wealth. The rights of the individual are held sacred and protected by constitutional guaranties, which even the Government itself is bound not to violate. If there is any one thing among us that is established beyond question, it is self government; the right of the people to rule. If there is any failure in respect to any of these principles, it is because there is a failure on the part of individuals to observe them. We hold that the duly authorized expression of the will of the people has a divine sanction. But even in that we come back to the theory of John Wise that "Democracy is Christ's government". The ultimate sanction of law rests on the righteous authority of the Almighty.

On an occasion like this a great temptation exists to present evidence of the practical success of our form of democratic republic at home and the ever broadening acceptance it is securing abroad. Although these things are well known, their frequent consideration is an encouragement and an inspiration. But it is not results and effects so much as sources and causes that I believe it is even more necessary constantly to contemplate. Ours is a government of the people. It represents their will. Its officers may sometimes go astray, but that is not a reason for criticizing the principles of our institutions. The real heart of the American Government depends upon the heart of the people. It is from that source that we must look for all genuine reform. It is to that cause that we must ascribe all our results.

It was in the contemplation of these truths that the fathers made their declaration and adopted their Constitution. It was to establish a free government, which must not be permitted to degenerate into the unrestrained authority of a mere majority or the unbridled weight of a mere influential few. They undertook the balance these interests against each other and provide the three separate independent branches, the executive, the legislative, and the judicial departments of the Government, with checks against each other in order that neither one might encroach upon the other. These are our guaranties of liberty. As a result of these methods enterprise has been duly protected from confiscation, the people have been free from oppression, and there has been an ever broadening and deepening of the humanities of life.

Under a system of popular government there will always be those who will seek for political preferment by clamoring for reform. While there is very little of this which is not sincere, there is a large portion that is not well informed. In my opinion very little of just criticism can attach to the theories and principles of our institutions. There is far more danger of harm than there is hope of good in any radical changes. We do need a better understanding and comprehension of them and a better knowledge of the foundations of government in general. Our forefathers came to certain conclusions and decided upon certain courses of action which have been a great blessing to the world. Before we can understand their conclusions we must go back and review the course which they followed. We must think the thoughts which they thought. Their intellectual life centered around the meeting-house. They were intent upon religious worship. While there were always among them men of deep learning, and later those who had comparatively large possessions, the mind of the people was not so much engrossed in how much they knew, or how much they had, as in how they were going to live. While scantily provided with other literature, there was a wide acquaintance with the Scriptures. Over a period as great as that which measures the existence of our independence they were subject to this discipline not only in their religious life and educational training, but also in their political thought. They were a people who came under the influence of a great spiritual development and acquired a great moral power.

No other theory is adequate to explain or comprehend the Declaration of Independence. It is the product of the spiritual insight of the people. We live in an age of science and of abounding accumulation of material things. These did not create our Declaration. Our Declaration created them. The things of the spirit come first. Unless we cling to that, all our material prosperity, overwhelming though it may appear, will turn to a barren scepter in our grasp. If we are to maintain the great heritage which has been bequeathed to us, we must be like minded as the fathers who created it. We must not sink into a pagan materialism. We must cultivate the reverence which they had for the things that are holy. We must follow the spiritual and moral leadership which they showed. We must keep replenished, that they may glow with a more compelling flame, the altar fires before which they worshiped.

Happy Independence Day America!