Musings on Sports, Politics and Life in general

American History

Big Government —Big Stick | A Montpelier View


A traffic post from a fellow blogger, explaining why the theory of government usually diverges from the reality of government. It is a lesson our Founding Fathers understood and tried to incorporate into our Constitution.

I guarantee they never saw the likes of the 16th and 17th Amendments, whose combined effect has been to destroy the idea of limited government they put into action.

http://mrmadison.net/2015/06/22/big-government-big-stick/

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Maybe I’m Getting Old…


I began this morning the way I usually do, by opening my Bible and reading a passage, then moving on to Facebook and looking at the overnight posts from my friends. Usually, this is a great way to start the day: I get my moral gyroscope spinning with the right orientation and then lighten my mood by seeing the crazy stuff people I know were up to the night before. I especially enjoy the memes that get posted. As those of you who follow me on the Zuckerberg Express are certainly aware, I’m a pretty snarky person and love ironic humor.

But this morning…well, this morning is different. All of the Ferguson memes, styled in a way that ordinarily would at least get a chuckle from me, didn’t have that effect. Instead, they only filled me with a sense of sadness. Pictures that are repurposed to make you laugh have instead left me wanting to cry – and that’s why I now worry if, in fact, I’m getting too old.

I worry about that, because I know it’s an old-fashioned idea that senseless and needless violence simply isn’t a source of humor. Don’t get me wrong: I’m not unfamiliar with senseless violence. After all, I live in Newark, not exactly a paragon of domestic tranquility. In my decades of life, I’ve witnessed dozens of riots similar to the ones we’re seeing in Ferguson. And yet, somehow, these riots have touched me in a way that none of those others did.

Maybe it’s the circumstances that led up to them. There seems to be a sickness in our society, a malady that is on the edge of my understanding without my truly being able to grasp it. At the core, the source of the riots and the accompanying (no longer funny) memes is this: blacks in America are certain the police are gunning for them. Whites in America think that idea is a bunch of baloney. Try as I might, I cannot find a way to bridge that difference – and I don’t think anyone else has the answer, either. That very real possibility is the source of my angst, because I’ve always believed in America as the world’s best hope for a Shining City on a Hill – and if we’ve failed in that mission, we’ve failed in so much more.

If America is not the nation of our collective imagination, one where any man can rise as high (or sink as low) as he chooses based solely on his abilities and desires, then we have a serious problem. If America is not a nation where we strive to make that dream a reality, then we have a problem. If America is simply a nation where an entire class of people believes they are to be permanently impressed as nothing more than the punching bags for everyone else, then we have an even bigger problem. How do you change someone’s belief system, one they see reinforced on a daily basis in their personal experience, even if the reinforcement is only perceived?

I don’t know, but I find my mind traveling back to the time of my youth. Men like Bobby Kennedy and Ralph Abernathy provided the leadership to help guide America towards our goal of realizing Shining City on a Hill status. Of course, foremost among the men of that day was Dr. Martin Luther King and I think of the speech he gave 46 years ago in Memphis. Many remember it as the call to arms for the sanitation worker strike; others as the last speech Dr. King would ever give. I recall it for the simple sermon Dr. King gave towards the end of the speech, in which he relayed how the Parable of the Good Samaritan should infect our modern lives. He talked of the time he and his wife traveled the Jordan Road and was made aware of how the travelers could ignore the mugged man’s plight, how the dangers of that road were evident even in his day. (By the way, if you ever get a chance, you’ll see it still hasn’t changed). But most importantly, he talked about how the Good Samaritan took the element of danger and turned it on it’s head. I don’t remember the exact quote, but it was something along the lines of, “Rather than asking ‘What is the danger to me if I stop to help, he asked what is the danger to him if I do not stop?'”

Maybe that passage still holds true today and maybe that’s where we’ve lost our way. Maybe we’ve simply stopped asking ourselves what the danger is to our nation and our society, if we stop to help the guy who’s in trouble. If instead, we’ve become so insular as to be unable to even see that question, much less answer it.

I’m not sure. But for now, I’m going to find some old Three Stooges shorts and see if some senseless violence can restore my humor.


In Memoriam


The following men lost their lives in service to their country on October 16, 1985, while serving with the 26th Marine Amphibious Unit:

Lt. Robert Ledbetter, USN, Norfolk, VA
1stLt. John Wasko, USMC, San Diego, CA
1stLt. John Blee, USMC, Durant, IA
2ndLt. John Karner, USMC, Eagle, WI
SSGT David Jones, USMC, Beaumont, TX
SGT John Carney, USMC, Glendora, CA
SGT Dirk Witcher, USMC, BelAir, TX
CPL Larry Day, USMC, Peoria, IL
CPL AL Jones, Jr., USMC, Jamestown, RI
CPL Cliff Moyer, USMC, Cement City, MO
CPL Greg Reber, USMC, Auburn, PA
PFC Craig Carnley, USMC, Bay Minette, AL
PFC Michael Stuhlsatz, USMC, Millstadt, IL
PVT Purnell Jones, USMC, Milwaukee, WI
PVT Johnnie Young, USMC, Cordele, OK

Semper Fi! Rest in Peace.


Immigration Reform? Not Really.


ONLY IN THE CONGRESS would as daft a piece of legislation as S.770 be called immigration reform.

This is not to say that our current immigration system isn’t in dire need of reform. Anyone who knows anyone who has tried to legally enter the country is well aware that our current system tends to be discriminatory and slow. It is full of arbitrary limits with neither rhyme nor reason. Capricious rulings from faceless bureaucrats rule the day.

Unrelated to the immigration system is the issue of border security. Everyone seems to recognize that our borders are as porous as cheesecloth. The Mexican border, in particular, has become a dangerous and unruly place. Mexican drug cartels have more control over the expanse of desert than our government, with numerous deaths to both US and Mexican citizens resulting from the insecurity. In the meantime, millions of Mexican citizens routinely cross over to the US without permission. Some return. Most do not.

These are not new problems. In 1986, we had our first go-round with “comprehensive immigration reform.” We granted immunity from prosecution or deportation to some 3 million illegal immigrants and we changed the criteria for obtaining visas, green cards and eventual citizenship for future immigrants. Included in the “comprehensive” solution was supposedly upgraded border security. I supported that effort, partly because I couldn’t see anyway to round up and deport 3 million people, partly because the border would be secured and partly because the path to legal immigration was made simpler for future immigrants. I felt it better to have those illegals legalized and paying taxes than using government services from governments they had no real stake in.

Yet, here we are some 27 years later and the same problems that existed before the 1986 legislation not only still exist, but are worse than before. We now have somewhere around 11 million illegal immigrants living in the US, the border is hardly secure, and the path for legal immigration is more cumbersome and frustrating than ever. The legislative response this time? A repeat of the 1986 legislative failure. For the life of me, I can’t see how anyone with more than three working brain cells can think this is appropriate.

And since the colloquial definition of insanity is doing the same thing over again and expecting a different result, I can’t see how anyone could look at the current legislation and not come away convinced that our Senators are insane.

As I mentioned at the top, I still believe our immigration system is in need of a serious overhaul. Not just a reform of the current immigration laws, but an all-out overhaul. If the Congress wants to strip down the current system and start from scratch, I’m fine with that. Heck, I would be really, really happy if they did that.

We also need border security. It should be a top priority and it shouldn’t be something that takes Congressional action to accomplish. After all, the Executive branch is responsible for maintaining border security. Yesterday, Sen. Lindsey Graham (a man quickly approaching Sen. John McCain for the “Most Senile Senator” award) told Chris Wallace that the border is “virtually militarized.” Well, that approach obviously isn’t working. I’m certain if the administration actually did militarize the border, there would be howls from the left. But I’m also certain that an infantry division patrolling the Rio Grande and another patrolling the Desert Southwest would be far more effective in maintaining border security than anything else we’ve tried thus far.

And we need to decide what to do with the 11 million people here without visas. I don’t think we’re any more capable of rounding up 11 million criminals today than we were capable of rounding up 3 million criminals 27 years ago. I don’t think they should be allowed to stay, either. I do think there is a very simple and cost effective way to have them return to their country of origin, though: deny them the means to live here. Make it impossible for them to work. Deny them the ability to rent a house or apartment. Deny them government services of any type. Give local governments the ability to turn over those here illegally to federal officials, and make it mandatory that anyone here illegally be immediately sent back home. Not all will “self-deport,” but more than the vast majority will. Human nature is human nature – once deprived of the means to support themselves or their families, they’ll move on to greener pastures.

What is certain that a repeat of the 1986 “comprehensive reform” package will get us, well, a repeat of 1986. Which means in 2040 another bunch of Senators will be discussing what to do about the fact there are more Mexican citizens residing in the US than than in Mexico, why the borders have become deadlier than ever and why the US cannot find (and keep) highly qualified people to emigrate here.


A Patriotism Optional Nation


“In the beginning of a change the patriot is a scarce man, and brave, and hated and scorned. When his cause succeeds, the timid join him, for then it costs nothing to be a patriot.” -Mark Twain

This is going to be a long post, so I’ll beg forgiveness now. But what needs to be said is far too important to attempt to keep this brief, or under 750 words – for if it were that simple, then it wouldn’t need to be said.

Our nation is at a crossroads of our history. Down one path lay the glory and honor bestowed on us by the men whose names we learn to cherish as children: Washington, Jefferson, Franklin, Lincoln. Down the other lay one paved in darkness and guarded by men we’ve learned to revile: Stalin, Hitler, Napolean, Caesar. We haven’t arrived at this juncture by accident, but it wasn’t pre-ordained, either. We came to this point willingly and of our own accord.

How did we arrive here? Because when times call for the greatest fortitude, people clamor for illusory safety and willingly allow government to abscond with what we once described as inalienable liberties. While our nation followed this course during the 18th and 19th centuries, we never forgot – or allowed our elected representatives – to forget the meaning of the word “inalienable.” Even the most egregious violations of the Bill of Rights and examples of executive overreach were quickly repealed. Or failing that, the third leg of our government – the courts – would invalidate the law in question. During the Civil War, the government violated the Third Amendment (prohibiting quartering soldiers in private homes), the Eighth Amendment (prohibiting cruel and unusual punishment), and Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution (the nation’s first military draft was enacted by executive order, not an act of Congress). By the war’s end, troops were no longer quartered in private homes, the Army commanders who had inflicted the most horrible deprivations the mind can create were themselves jailed and the Supreme Court invalidated the draft.

Ben vs Obama

By the time the Great Depression had plunged the world into chaos, the citizenry was panicked. Governments around the world responded by instituting varying levels of socialism. In nations with a history of repressive governments, the repression reached new levels of inhumanity. Germany, Russia, Italy, Japan and China all gave rise to governments that (as a matter of policy) established mass executions and detentions while squelching all opposition. Spain erupted into a civil war between two equally brutal and repressive regimes.

In the US we instituted the “New Deal,” a  series of programs that increased the government’s role in the economic and business life of the nation to unprecedented levels. This intrusion into previously private affairs didn’t infringe on the basic freedoms enshrined in our Constitution, the Bill of Rights or the Declaration of Independence. But it did set an important milestone in the affairs of the nation. It marked the firs time the nation willingly exchanged freedom of action for the illusion of security. (Let’s face facts: the national economy in 1939 was only marginally better than in 1929).

However, with the outbreak of World War II, Americans accepted not only having their inalienable rights curtailed, but in several case outright removed. Japanese-Americans by the tens of thousands were jailed, their citizenship nullified by executive order, in violation of the Sixth, Seventh and Eighth Amendments. First Amendment protections were stripped away, as a compliant press and population acquiesced to censorship on a grandiose scale. Defendants were not allowed to exercise their Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination in “national security” trials. J.Edgar Hoover’s FBI routinely searched homes and businesses for saboteurs – without warrants, in violation of the Fourth Amendment.

After the war ended, these Constitutional violations ended. But 44 months of war and deprivation, after 12 years of government intrusion during the Great Depression, had inoculated the American public from the idea that government needed to be guarded against. An entire generation had now grown up knowing only a federal bureaucracy that claimed it could solve the problems of mankind.

“If tyranny and oppression come to this land it will be in the guise of fighting a foreign enemy” -James Madison

Thanks to the relentless indoctrination our nation has endured for almost 80 years, both from popular culture and the way we teach (or more accurately, fail to teach) history and civics, the United States of America is no longer the home of the brave. This is not to say that there are not courageous individuals among us. Obviously there are, or else things like this wouldn’t happen. But our society no longer expects bravery as the norm, which is why we celebrate those willing to run into collapsing towers.

This transformation of the American from rugged individual to fearful member of the collective gave rise to egregious abuses of power over the last six decades. Some we still remember: McCarthyism, Watergate, Iran-Contra. Others have slipped the collective conscience and disappeared in to mists of time. The common thread between all, though, is an underlying belief that government should have more  power than the people it serves – all in the name of safety. It’s how we’ve wound up with massive programs. It’s how lawmakers and executives of both major parties can say with a straight face programs like PRISM are necessary to keep Americans safe.

This brings us to the 21st century, a century that began with the downing of the World Trade Center. The American populace screamed for vengeance, yelled for justice – but more importantly, demanded the government make them safe. And the government responded to those demands; not with a measured voice reassuring the populace that the terrorists would be caught and punished. Instead, two major wars were launched by executive fiat. Yes, the Congress technically voted to invade those foreign countries, but the vote was actually to cede the power vested in them by the Constitution to the Executive branch. Seemingly overnight, we were a nation at war.

“We cannot defend freedom abroad by deserting it at home.” -Edward R. Murrow

In the same way the United States has ceased being collectively valorous, we have sullied the definition of patriotism. Being a patriot requires more than waving a flag on Independence Day, singing “God Bless America” during a baseball game; it is more than putting a lapel pin on your suit jacket or cheering returning soldiers. These are nothing more than outward displays of nationalism. Regardless of a nation’s ideals, such actions are performed by supposed patriots of every nation. Britons stand when a band strikes up “God Save the Queen,” Saudi’s bow when the King’s limo passes by.

On the other hand, the patriot understands and defends the ideals which separate his nation from all others. The original American patriots pledged “our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.” Many gave their lives, more sacrificed their fortunes. None, however, were forced to give up their honor. Rather, their honor was restored by fighting for the ideals in the document they signed in 1776. In our modern era, the rights they enshrined as being inalienable, rights that laid the foundation for our nation, are being eroded by the misnamed Patriot Act, by secret courts and warrants, by an executive branch that sees little value in life or liberty. Where are the modern patriots?

NSA PollThe reality is patriotism is a vanishing character from our nation. More than half of our citizens are perfectly happy to be spied on by their government, not caring this can only occur as an abrogation of the Fourth Amendment. Over the past week, I continuously hear statements like “If the government wants to watch me watch porn, I don’t care.” Nobody much cares if the Nazi’s can’t march in Washington, so long as they can watch Honey Boo-Boo. After all, freedom of speech isn’t for people who might have offensive views but only those with whom we can commiserate. Abridging the Second Amendment, redefining it if necessary, is fine. The public doesn’t care, so long as it can be made to feel safer. Seventh and Eighth Amendment protections for suspected terrorists need not apply – especially if the hapless citizen accused of terrorism is overseas. Why bother with a trial, when a missile tipped robot can eliminate the problem? If a bunch of kids in Brooklyn get stopped and frisked by the NYPD for the awful crime of walking around, who cares about their rights to due process? The cops might find a gun on one of them.

All of this is now acceptable to an American people conditioned towards cowardice. Our forefathers abandoned personal safety and financial security in the pursuit of liberty. They did this at the founding of the nation and as they expanded the national boundaries westward. They did this as they boarded creaky ships to cross the Atlantic in the 18th, 19th and early 20th Centuries. These people were patriots. They did not fear their government, they stood for their rights and took it to task when government dared infringe upon them.

“When the people fear the government there is tyranny, when the government fears the people there is liberty.”― Thomas Jefferson

Despite the platitudes from the elected, our modern government is no longer “of the people, by the people and for the people.” The modern American constantly lives in fear of what the government may do to them, rather than holding government to account for its actions. They often don’t even realize how afraid of government they’ve become. They live in fear of being audited by the IRS, of having their driving privileges revoked, of having their property seized by “eminent domain.” They live in fear that their employer will lose a government contract, of being denied a government loan, of being denied admission to college.

So, my question to you is: what are you willing to give up for liberty, those of you who call yourselves patriots? Are you willing to sacrifice your life? Your house? Your bank account? Your Social Security check? How about the big screen television or cell phone? Because our reality is that very few are willing to sacrifice anything. It’s why we’ve become a nation of nationalists, not patriots. We cower when we should fight. If you want to know why you are no longer safe in your cities, America, look no further than the rot that infects your citizenry’s soul. Your complacency as the nation’s values were stolen is the reason our foreign enemies are emboldened.

“Great occasions do not make heroes or cowards; they simply unveil them to the eyes of men. Silently and perceptibly, as we wake or sleep, we grow strong or weak; and last some crisis shows what we have become. ” ― Brooke Foss Westcott

America is now the nation of cowards. As such, we’ve become the patriotism optional society.

May God help us all.


A Veteran’s Memorial Day


I originally posted this on Memorial Day, 2010, but the sentiment is the same. As you head out to the beach, the barbecue or the ballgame today, please take a moment to remember why you have this particular Monday off from school or work.

And although it’s been three years since I originally wrote this and the little boy at the end is now not quite so little, I still want to thank him and his parents. Whenever I need affirmation that this nation still has good and just people, I think of them.

I awoke this morning to thoughts of old friends who left us too soon. It’s not an unusual occurrence; most mornings I wake thinking of the same men. When they died, they did not give in to fear; cowardice was not these men’s forte. Some died in battle, some preparing for battle. Two very good friends of mine died not in battle, but the wounds they sustained in defense of liberty hastened their untimely departure from our world. One man was known simply as Tank. He was a large man, but in his later years his body had been ravaged by the effects of two bullet wounds and prolonged exposure to Agent Orange during his two tours of duty in Vietnam. Today, I celebrate not only Memorial Day but the tenth anniversary of his passing. Although Tank never spoke of it, he was awarded a Bronze Star during his second tour. It wasn’t until his funeral that I learned how as a 23 year old platoon sergeant he ran back onto a hot LZ, taking a bullet in the back and one in the shoulder, in order to pull one of his men to the relative safety of a tree line. But anyone who knew the man wasn’t surprised to hear of his courage under fire.

This morning, as I thought of him, I shed a tear.

The other day, I watched my town’s annual Memorial Day parade. In addition to the Korean War and Vietnam vets, a detachment from the local Marine Corps reserve unit marched. As I looked at their eager young faces, I realized that most of those kids weren’t born when I earned my EGA in 1983. In fact, most of them hadn’t been born when I mustered out. Realizing that most of these young men will be shipped to Iraq or Afghanistan, I reflected on my own service. I joined to fight Communism, and like most of the world, I rejoiced when the Berlin War crashed to the ground. I truly thought my service had proven, in some small way, invaluable to the defense of the American way of life. Yet here I was, watching a new generation of Marines preparing to fight a new enemy. Had my service not been as valuable as I once thought? Had the men I had known during my service, men who had fought and died in battles around the world – had they died in vain? I decided that no, our service – their service – had been as important in our time as these brave young men’s service is today. And then I realized that none of those young men will return from their combat tours the same. Even if not scarred on the outside, even if they survive to return home physically intact, they will carry the memories of what they see and feel and endure for the rest of their lives.

And as I watched, I shed a tear.

Last night I watched the National Memorial Day Concert, broadcast from the National Mall on PBS. I listened as Gary Sinise and Dennis Haysbert recounted the final moments of Charlie Johnson’s life. I watched as a new generation of war widows were celebrated. I enjoyed the stylings of Brad Paisley. Like plenty of others, I rose to attention and sang the Marine Corps hymn during the Salute to the Services, and I rose to attention and sang again during “America the Beautiful.”

But many times during the concert, I stopped to shed a tear.

And I wondered, as I prepared to try and sleep, will anyone awake on Tuesday and remember the sacrifices of the men who have fought and died to preserve the United States? It’s terrific that we have a day set aside to pay tribute to those men. And I don’t mind that we celebrate by doing uniquely American things – backyard barbecues, trips to the beach, baseball games. But I wondered, when Tuesday comes will my fellow countrymen remember those who ensured that the backyard barbecues could continue?

A little earlier today, I went to the neighborhood bodega. It was a routine trip to pick up a few items needed for my own backyard barbecue. Like many veterans, I have a “Pride Hat.” You may have seen one perched on a veteran’s head – a military baseball cap on which are pinned his campaign ribbons. Mine is nearing retirement. It’s 14 years of service are evidenced by its faded color and the only thing keeping it together are years of starch used to block it. As a result, I only wear it on special occasions. Today being one of those occasions, I wore it on my walk to the bodega. On my return trip, a neighborhood kid – maybe 6 or 7 years old – stopped me and said, “Were you really in the Army?” I smiled and said, no, I am a Marine and we’re better than the Army. The little boy sat on his bike for a minute, seeming to take in this bit of information. The he stood, and said “Thank you” before pedaling off down the street.

I shed a tear. In fact, I’m still shedding a few as write this. Because I have my answer. For as long as children like this can find my service honorable, they will keep the flame of liberty alive. In so doing, the most important thing we can do as Americans is to remember and honor the sacrifices that so many brave men have and  will endure. We will continue to live as Americans, preserving our republic as the beacon of freedom and liberty for the rest of the world.


Happy Independence Day!


Today, as we enjoy time with our friends and families, revel in the fireworks and devour our barbecued food, we’re celebrating the 236th Birthday of our great nation. But more importantly, we’re celebrating 236 years of independence – independence from tyranny and oppression.

We all know that the Declaration of Independence was signed by the 56 members of the Continental Congress on this date 236 years ago. Most of us even know how the powerful statement contained in it’s beginning; a statement that has defined Americanism throughout our history. But how many of us have read through the entire document, where the grievances of the original states are enumerated? The American Revolution was far more than a tax revolt. We’re taught in history class that the Stamp Act and Tea Tax were the sparks that ignited the insurrection against the British crown. While far from popular, the reality is that the imposition of those taxes were but symptoms of a far larger problem for the Americans. That problem was the  way the British government disregarded the basic liberties and freedoms of the American colonists, granting or revoking them as it saw fit.

Just like those brave men and women 236 years ago, we believe that the “inalienable rights” of life, liberty and pursuit of happiness cannot be impinged upon by any government – and that any government that tries is answerable to the people. It is what defines us as a nation and a people. It is the essence of American Exceptionalism – that a nation can be founded more on an ideal than a population or geography. To this day, we remain unique in this regard: no other nation can lay claim to such distinction.

Below is the full transcript. Read it through. Remember why celebrate the day, and why freedom loving people the world over celebrate with us.

IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776.

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.–Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.
He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.
He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.
He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.
He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.
He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.
He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.
He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.
He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.
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.
He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:
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:
For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences
For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:
For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:
For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.
He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.
He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.
He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.
He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.
He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our Brittish brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.


“Uncommon Valor was a Common Virtue”


Iwo Jima Memorial at night, Arlington, VA

At 9:00am on February 19, 1945 Marines of the 3rd, 4th and 5th Marine Divisions landed on the volcanic Pacific island of Iwo Jima. Despite having grown accustomed to ferocious Japanese resistance as they island-hopped from one battle to the next, the Marines landing that day had no idea of the Hell they were about to enter. The Japanese General in charge of the island’s defenses, rather than meet the invading Marines on the beaches, had decided to marshal his forces further inland. As a result, Marines who landed that morning were unable to move forward, pinned down by heavy machine gun, mortar and artillery fire while sustaining heavy casualties. At the same time, the US Navy was taking fire at a rate unseen since the Battle of the Coral Sea nearly three years earlier. Before the battle was over, the Navy would suffer over 850 casualties and lose 18 ships, including the escort carrier USS Bismarck Sea and the heavy carrier USS Saratoga.

Still, the Marines pressed on. By the morning of February 23, the Marines of “E” 2/28 (E Company, 2nd Battalion, 28th Regiment) had taken the summit of the island’s most prominent height, Mount Suribachi. Led by 1st Lt. Harold Schrier, the 40 Marine strong patrol arrived at the volcanic crater and raised a small American flag at 10:20 that morning – the first time a foreign flag ever flew over Japanese soil. Marine Sergeant Lou Lowery captured the flag raising on film, despite having to dodge a Japanese grenade attack.

The immediate lift to the morale of the Marines fighting all over the island was resounding and noticed by Secretary of the Navy James Forrestal, who immediately ordered a larger flag be flown in the original’s place. That flag raising, forever immortalized by AP photographer Joe Rosenthal, became one of the iconic images in American history. Today, the photo is immortalized in the Iwo Jima Memorial, a giant bronze statue at Arlington National Cemetery that stands as a tribute to all Marines who died in battle.

The Battle for Iwo Jima continued for another month, becoming the bloodiest battle in US history. The Marines suffered over 26,000 casualties; of the over 20,000 Japanese defenders, fewer than 1100 survived. 27 Marines were awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor at Iwo Jima, more than any other battle in history. Marines who fought on that small volcanic rock 67 years ago can still regale you with stories that leave even modern Marines incredulous at their sacrifice and determination. Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz summed up the horror endured and gallantry of the men who lived and died on “sulfur island” when he said:

“By their victory, the 3rd, 4th and 5th Marine Divisions and other units of the Fifth Amphibious Corps have made an accounting to their country which only history will be able to value fully. Among the Americans serving on Iwo island, uncommon valor was a common virtue.”

On today, the 67th anniversary of the Flag raising on Suribachi, this Marine is proud to stand and salute those men still alive and give a heartfelt, “Semper Fi! Job well done!”

Original Iwo Jima Flag Raising, 23Feb1945, as captured by Lou Lowery


A Nation Without Hope


There are very few things if which I’m certain. One thing of which I fairly sure is that the political mood of the country is one of anger, driven by fear and angst. These emotions feed upon themselves and if not checked, they become self-replicating and self-fulfilling. If unchecked, the societal impact is not hard to measure. In fact, human history is replete with examples of societies that acquiesced to fear – and in the process destroyed themselves. People of my generation witnessed the self-immolation of Communism. Our parents saw the rise and fall of Fascism. Their parents witnessed the end of Absolute Monarchs. Those political systems were often imposed upon the national populations that fell under their thrall, but society in those countries willingly accepted them.

Fascism and Communism rose to prominence on the backs of charismatic leaders who were willing to demonize segments of the population during times when the general population was genuinely afraid of losing their ability to provide the most basic economic needs and afraid of losing their national identity. In Germany, Adolph Hitler castigated the Jewish population and the allies of the Great War – while promising a path to prosperity rooted in the nation’s militaristic past. In Italy, Benito Mussolini promised to curb the “criminal element” and restore the Roman Empire. Lenin inspired the Red Russians by castigating the White Russians as, ironically, agents of oppression to a populace that for centuries had been oppressed.

The United States was not immune to the social upheavals that led to these dictators rise to power. Our one advantage was seemingly being blessed by having leaders rise to dispel the notion of fear, replacing it with a an optimism borne of hope. From the very beginning, our nation has found itself rescued by leaders who believed that whatever the current troubles, our best days were ahead of us. Washington, Jackson, Lincoln, Teddy and Franklin Roosevelt, Kennedy, Reagan and Clinton all shared a vision of a nation whose best days were yet to come – and were able to articulate and communicate that vision to the general population. These men all pursued different policy directions, but delivered similar results. What binds them to one another is optimism and hope; their ability to overcome not only their personal fears but those of the nation.

Now consider the political leadership we have today, and have had for the first 12 years of this century. The actions taken by the political leadership of both major parties in responding to public fears have only worked to enhance those fears by giving them legitimacy. The Patriot Act, the TSA, the Wall Street Bailout, the Stimulus – all were the result of the public fear about the dramatic events that have taken place. But they have done nothing to alleviate those fears. No, if anything, they have only served to exacerbate them – turning a nation that was more unified on September 12, 2001 than at any time in the previous 60 years into one that is more divided than at any time since the Civil War.

This is the current political landscape: the Commander-in-Chief, instead of building on his election themes of “Hope and Change” and “Yes, We Can” now resorts to using the type of language that would make Lenin proud. He has found his scapegoat: the wealthiest among us, whose “greed and corruption brought about the worst economic catastrophe in three generations.” In his latest national address, last week’s State of the Union, he not only exhorted us to follow the type of robotic obedience for which the military is often miscast, but to grant him the level of control over local matters that any dictator needs. Sadly, the opposition party is led by a cast of characters that alternates between demonizing immigrant minorities, Jews, and pretty much any other ethnic group that can generate a few headlines. On the campaign stump, the current crop of presidential hopefuls extolls the virtues of fear and hate, lambasting one another for not being “conservative enough” while forgetting the true meaning of “conservative.” Indeed, our national politics now rely on fear to such a degree the principle argument of each party is to beware what the other party will do toyou.

The reality is that our nation is bereft of leadership. The modern politician, in a clamor to gain the most votes he can, resorts to following rather than leading. President Obama, seeing polling numbers that indicate the majority of his “base” perceive unfettered capital as their enemy, adopts a socialist stance – even though he has amassed a personal fortune, in large part thanks to unfettered capital. His Republican challengers, seeing polls that indicate xenophobia and racism play well in among their base, use coded language to ingratiate themselves. Both sides in Congress read polls that say compromise is the surest way to face a primary challenge – and nothing gets done.

Throughout our history, we have had the good fortune to find leaders who were able to overcome our baser instincts. As mentioned, there have been national movements that preyed upon fear before: the “Know-Nothings,” the KKK, the anarchists, the Communists all came about because the nation feared losing the things that make us exceptional and failed to see a way to preserve them. Each movement was met by a national political leader who overcame that fear by pointing to descriptions of the US like this:

“Our country is a special place, because we Americans have always been sustained, through good times and bad, by a noble vision – a vision not only of what the world around us is today but what we as a free people can make it be tomorrow”

I still believe that our nation’s best days are indeed before us. In speaking with many of my friends, in reading the posts in on-line chat rooms, in seeing the undercurrent of thought and desire among my fellow citizens I know I am not alone. Yet, I also hear the dual fears of economic calamity and loss of national identity espoused on a regular basis. That our political leaders do not share the vision of hope through freedom, but rather a vision of despair and ruin with our only salvation being to turn from our national character, is the great tragedy of our age.


Drudged


Newt Gingrich: G-d Complex?

Late yesterday afternoon, the Drudge Report reported that ABC is sitting on a “bombshell” interview with Newt Gingrich’s ex-wife.

Color me unimpressed.

First, consider the source. Matt Drudge is, at best, a muckraker. His career was built on  looking for the most salacious headlines. Slander and innuendo are his modus operandi. He is more publicity hound than reporter, and this story is exactly what he needed. After a few years of being an afterthought in conservative circles (and even less in liberal ones), people are talking about him again.

Further, rumors abound in conservative circles linking Drudge and James Dobson.  Dobson, founder of the conservative group Focus on the Family, is backing Rick Santorum and has thrown some very un-Christian barbs at Newt’s current wife.  Now Drudge leaks that ABC is sitting on an interview with Marianne Gingrich, promising details “that will destroy Newt’s campaign.”

Suddenly, Marianne has details that will destroy her ex-husband’s Presidential campaign? Sorry, but scorned women don’t make the best witnesses. What could she possibly tell us that we don’t already know? Newt is a womanizer? He has a nasty temper? He’s ambitious? He believes he’s better than the rest of us?

All of those things are already well-documented over Newt’s 30+ years in elective politics. I have my own doubts about Newt being Presidential material (that temper is troubling when deciding whose finger is on the nuclear button), but Dobson and Drudge seem to be heading into John Quincy Adams territory with this line of attack. The end result of that smear campaign was Andrew Jackson winning, his wife dying, and a man with a well-pronounced vindictive streak seeking retribution for the 8 years of his Presidency (and very nearly causing the Civil War to break out 30 years early in the process).

Rather than inflaming passions of the more prurient, Dobson would be best served by focusing on Newt’s questionable policy arguments.

UPDATE: Andrew Breitbart is now reporting that ABC will air the interview on their Nightline program tonight. Since they’re bypassing higher profile (and viewership) slots to air it, it further reinforces my thought that this doesn’t break any new ground.