“Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.” –Benjamin Franklin
This past week, two seemingly unrelated events occurred that brought the 18th century to life in our modern age. Unless you are completely unaware (and if you are, I doubt you would bother to read this), Saturday was the “March for Our Lives,” the highly contrived display of juveniles calling for an end to an essential freedom. But earlier in the week, an Uber autonomous taxi struck and killed a pedestrian. Later reports laid the blame on the pedestrian, but that didn’t stop government from forcing every company testing autonomous driving technology to pull their vehicles off public roads.
What Franklin and the other Founder’s understood is there is a dynamic tension between safety and liberty. The reality is that they cannot perfectly coexist, and so the question is about how to set the dynamic to serve the most good. Think on it for a moment, and you’ll realize the two are polar opposites. Any society that promises absolute safety for it’s citizens offers no liberties, not even within the confines of the home. Conversely, the society that offers unlimited freedom has nothing in the way of societal protections.
What those wise old men created was a system that separated a subset of freedoms from everything else, and referred to them as “essential liberties.” They considered them essential for the simple reason that these freedoms guarantee every other human liberty. Among those considered absolutely necessary are the freedom from unwarranted government intrusion into an individual’s life and incarceration without first being tried by one’s peers, the right to peaceably assemble and address the government’s representatives, the right to worship and the right to defend oneself against the government, by force of arms if necessary. They packaged the essential liberties into the Bill of Rights – something the anti-federalists* demanded in order to secure their votes for ratification of the new Constitution.
What wasn’t mentioned, in the Constitution, the Articles of Confederation or the Declaration of Independence was the idea of a personal safety. Personal safety was generally accepted as an individual responsibility in the new republic.
Generally, but not universally. There have always been those who believe the duty of government is not the assurance of liberty, but dedication to protection from danger. While the nation was founded by, and throughout our history has rewarded risk takers, those who are risk averse have also made their homes among us. As the nation has aged, our society has reached agreement that certain personal liberties could be exchanged for government assurances of a sort of communal safety. Big Brother might not be watching your every move, but he’ll watch enough to make certain that some actions are prevented (or at least punished).
This brings me back to Franklin, Uber and the “#MarchForOurLives.” While Poor Richard might have been bemused at the idea of the government regulating transportation companies to this extent, he would have been willing to go along. After all, transportation is not an essential liberty. The government could ban all mechanized modes of getting about tomorrow as being inherently unsafe (and a glance at NTSB statistics will tell you just how unsafe they remain, despite government’s best attempts at making them safe), but you could still figure out a way to get from point A to B.
However, Ben would have taken umbrage at Saturday’s connived attempt to toss away one of those essential liberties, the right (and to many of the founders, the responsibility** of all citizens) to own firearms. I understand this concept is alien to the children who participated who, with the surety only born from the ignorance of youth, believe any idea older than they is ancient and outdated. It certainly is not alien to the people of Think Progress and the other left wing organizations that organized the protest. Indeed, removing it from the pantheon of essential liberties has been a goal of theirs from the beginning of the progressive movement, because they understand it is that which undergirds the individual’s ability to ensure his ability to exercise any of the others.
Think Progress has the right to assemble, and the even the right to dissemble on the nature of the Constitution. But the children whose unnatural fears they’re preying upon should also take note of the last part of the Franklin quote above. When he said those who desired safety over liberty deserved neither the safety they seek, nor the protections of liberty, he was referring to this other passage he had a part in crafting:
-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.
This was the American Declaration of Independence, which stated the case that government does not exist to provide for personal safety, and that the duty of all people when confronted with a government that places benevolent tyranny ahead of individual liberty is to overthrow that government – by force, if necessary. That is the Pandora’s box they are toying with. Beware opening the lid. You won’t like what you find inside.
*For those of you not well versed in US history, the anti-federalists were Americans who opposed the adoption of the Constitution. Indeed, they opposed the idea of any strong government that could bind the individual states into a permanent union. Among their number were such notables as Patrick Henry, Samuel Adams and James Monroe.
**The various Founding Fathers have numerous dissertations on a citizen’s duty to maintain a firearm and remain proficient in its use, but this quote from Thomas Jefferson sums up the prevailing sentiment: “The Constitution of most of our states (and of the United States) assert that all power is inherent in the people; that they may exercise it by themselves; that it is their right and duty to be at all times armed.”
Today, we see many things in the news and on social media regarding issues surrounding the US DoJ and law enforcement. As Americans, we know the FBI and the Justice Department are two agencies that must always be above reproach. But today, sadly, we see that is not the case.
Anytime there are officials or leadership in those agencies that use their bountiful resources to operate outside their intended use, there must be consequences. Those consequences should be swift and to the maximum penalty allowed by law. The incident needs to be made public, to show accountability to the American people and restore faith in our system. If nothing was done wrong then those individuals are exonerated. This is the crux of the American system.
Every person in America has their own opinion. They have their individual ideals and beliefs. But impartiality is implicit in the duties of those entrusted with enforcing our laws; bias should never interfere with doing the jobs they signed up for in the Justice Department or the FBI. They must never let their personal feelings interfere with the impartiality of the law.
In our modern era, we’ve listened to those responsible for the fair and impartial application of the awesome power of the American legal system describe the need for powers that made us all blanch. And begrudgingly, we’ve granted them powers they requested, including indefinite detentions and secret courts, even as we feared how those powers could be misused by those with less than honorable intent. We did so on the premise that those applying those powers would remain impartial in their application, that retribution for misusing them would be swift and terrible. We put aside our misgivings and placed our trust in the American system.
This is now beyond debate. This should be past partisan arguments. There is no gray area. The law was either followed or it wasn’t. Resources were used appropriately and as designed, or they were abused. As Americans, we deserve to know the answers to these questions. As Americans, it is our responsibility to know the answers to these questions. And as Americans, we should be in agreement that anyone who misused the authority we allowed them thereby violated our trust. Anyone guilty of such malfeasance is indeed guilty of crimes far worse than any other, for they attempted to murder the very republic they swore an oath to defend.
So yes, release the memos. Stop pretending the investigators are above being investigated themselves. Let us see the facts and judge for ourselves. Only in this way can trust in the institutions charged with guarding the American system be restored.
My daddy always told me that only fools complain without having a solution. Ok, he used more colorful language – after all, he was a Navy man. But this is the PC version of some rather sage advice.
I mention this since day before yesterday I wrote a bit about my frustration (and based on the responses I’ve read, yours as well) with Congress’ unwillingness to actually do anything about immigration, or DACA, or the budget, or pretty much anything else. But I’m following my daddy’s advice. Now, you can say I’m as mad as a hatter. In fact, I’m pretty sure some (if not all) of you will think so by the time we get to the end of this. Then again, if you’re following me here (or on Twitter or Facebook) you probably already think I have a screw or two loose, so what have I got to lose?
First up, these are all separate issues. Stop the grandstanding. Please. The fate of illegal aliens brought here as children is not related to how much we pay our servicemen. How many people we let in (and how we decide who those people are) has nothing to do with kids brought here when they belonged somewhere else. Trust me on this. How many people are employed by the EPA (or even if there should be an EPA) is a completely different discussion from what to do about the roughly 8 million illegal aliens who wouldn’t be covered by some sort of “DACA fix.”
So, do the simple stuff. The House passed all twelve of the appropriations bills for this fiscal year last September. Pass those out of the Senate. That is entirely up to Democrats. If they ended their charade now, they could pass the current CR tonight, then spend the next month debating those appropriations bills and where there are differences with the House bills, go to conference to hammer them out. That is the “regular order” which liberals spent all last summer demanding the Congress return to, but have conveniently forgotten about now that they want to execute “leverage.” Have I mentioned recently what a bunch of hypocrites politicians are?
Second, stop pretending Congress can only work on one issue at a time. Or, if there are congresscritters who can only tackle one problem at a time, they need to retire immediately. Think about your job. How long would you be employed if you couldn’t do more than one thing a month? Oh, you would be looking for another job? Then why haven’t your fired your representative?
Of course Congress can address multiple issues at once. So while debating the appropriations bills, there is nothing stopping them from beginning real work on all those other issues.
And here’s my proposals around each of them.
The DACA program ends on March 5. So address that first. My position hasn’t changed since the President first announced he was ending the highly illegal program. Grant those who’ve applied to the program permanent residency. Allow those who have reached adulthood and lived here for at least ten years, without incurring a felony charge, to apply for citizenship immediately. Otherwise, it’s the same restrictions as for any other alien resident. See, that was simple.
Next, all other illegal aliens (or undocumented migrants, or whatever the term du jour happens to be): they gotta go. Again, my position hasn’t changed since I first wrote about this 4 1/2 years ago. And yes, proper and aggressive enforcement of our immigration laws will get the majority of them to self-deport. Nobody wants to live in a place where they can’t eat.
Our immigration system needs an overhaul for current times. The idea of “diversity visas” and lotteries is not just stupid, but asinine and awkward. For my less prurient readers, it’s like getting drunk, walking into a whorehouse, grabbing the first available girl, and going off to do your thing without wearing a condom. You’ll spend the rest of your life regretting that decision – and that’s if it didn’t kill you. We obviously can’t take everyone who wants to live here, but that gives us leverage. We can pick and choose, and we should pick the very best candidates. And we should have back-end enforcement of that selection process: anyone granted alien residency in the United States should be required to become a citizen within ten years of arrival – or they should be sent packing.
As an aside to that point – I can’t recall where I read it, or heard it, but there was a legal resident who said she would never become a US citizen, because she was proud to be Jamaican. I have no problem with her being proud to be Jamaican; it’s a beautiful island with some great people. But be a proud Jamaican in Jamaica. If you’re going to live here, then you need to be a proud American. That shouldn’t even be up for discussion. And anyone not willing to give up allegiance to their country of origin should not be granted residency here.
What this means in practical terms is ending the hodge-podge of work and travel visas that currently muck up both our immigration system and allow so many illegal aliens to stay here after their visa expires. No more H-1B or H-3N or any of that other nonsense. You can get a tourist visa to visit, or you can get a residency visa. Period.
Finally, there is the both the federal debt and federal deficit. We aren’t even in February yet, which means there is plenty of time to start working on these problems now, before the appropriations bills for FY2019 have to be ready. Before Congress gets to work on them this time, I would have them ask themselves one thing: if 40% of what the federal government does is “non-essential,” why is the federal government doing those things? Think about it. Our budget deficit is about $600 billion, on around $4.2 trillion of spending. A little math says the recently passed tax bill, assuming no increased revenues from economic growth, will add $180 billion to that deficit. A little more math says reducing federal spending by 40% would yield around a $900 billion surplus. That won’t get rid of the nearly $21 trillion federal debt, but it sure will put a serious dent in it.
Okay, that’s a lot for now, I realize. This ending the partisan idiocy that grips Capital Hill is enough to send your head spinning, but the solutions aren’t that hard. They certainly aren’t as hard as the heads of our congresscritters. But that’s where it’s up to you. If they won’t do the job, then it’s time to fire them all.
You get your chance (again) in November.
It looks as though (once again), the federal government is about to “shut down.” But what does that mean, exactly?
We’ve been down this road before, and quite a few times. What a government shutdown actually means is the roughly 40% of the federal government that is deemed “non-essential services” will cease functions until the latest hissy fit ends. Here’s a brief list of things that won’t be affected:
- The military
- Border patrol
- Air traffic control
- Social Security payments
- Most operations of the FBI, CIA, NSA, etc
- Tax collections
So, if Congress is going to shut down those non-essential services but the essential functions of governance continue, then I hope it’s a long shutdown. Not a few days or even a month. No, let’s make it a go right through the end of the fiscal year in September.
Why? Simply put, after seven months of realizing that non-essential services are just that – not essential – we can finally start wresting control of the budget back from the bureaucrats. Once Americans recognize that they’ve been hoodwinked for generations into supporting things nobody really needs, they won’t be anxious to start those operations up again.
So, yes. Let’s have us a shutdown. But this time – let’s leave it shut down permanently.
I haven’t commented on the Alabama Senate race for a simple reason. I don’t live in Alabama. And of the thousands of people who follow this blog, very few of you do, either.
The nationalization of local and state elections is one of the trends that’s evolved over the last decade that’s left all of us worse off than we were before. Even without the media attention focused on this particular election, which features two candidates few people outside of Alabama had even heard of until a few months ago, the national party apparatuses had already been staging forces, sending money and trying to coordinate with the state parties.
To what end? The reason we supposedly enacted the 17th Amendment was to prevent the rampant corruption that comes about from Senators being beholden to political machines. Yet here we are, 104 years later and we’re no better off than we were then. If anything, we’re worse off. At least in the latter 19th century, politicians were only corrupted by their local and state machines. Today’s politicians may start out being corrupted by local interests, but they quickly learn that in order to maintain their status on Capital Hill they need to play the tune according to what their national taskmasters demand.
As originally envisioned by the Founders, Senators were supposed to be representatives of their states. Today, they are nothing more than pawns in the all-consuming sport of the national party getting to 51 votes. Even if a bill would absolutely destroy or enhance their respective state’s industry, economy or sovereignty, every Senator knows where their duty truly lies. Yes, they know they must vote the way their party leadership tells them to vote.
So excuse me if I do not get as worked up about today’s election in Alabama as the various bloviators on the web or television. After all, they’re part of the machine, too. They rely on keeping you exercised, rooting for your team (Go Blue! Go Red!) in matters that don’t concern you whatsoever. But do you know what it is good for? It’s good for my popcorn consumption.
You see, I just sit over here munching on my popcorn watching y’all line up opposing football teams, ready to bash and clash over sheer nonsense while the country burns around you – and you not realizing how complicit you are in it’s demise.
I finished re-reading Robert Heinlein’s Starship Troopers the other day, and it got me thinking. Now, those of you who are only acquainted with the story via the rather dreadful Hollywood version probably think it’s just another space opera. While the backdrop to the story is an intergalactic war between humans and aliens who look spiders and act like ants, in reality Heinlein used the story to convey a message about societies and how they govern themselves. The world Heinlein has created, some 200 years into our future, is one in which humans have abolished our two competing philosophies of governance (democracy and socialism) after a great, cataclysmic war. Instead, there is a global republic – but the only way to obtain citizenship in this republic is by completing a term of service to the government. Not everyone who wants to be a citizen is accepted for service, though.
Throughout the novel, Heinlein lays out who is accepted for service and why, and how this society came to be ordered. Despite being originally published in 1959, much of what he wrote as regards the symptoms of a dissolving democracy seems as though it were ripped from the headlines of today. He describes rampant crime in the cities, gangs of youth preying upon the weaker members of the community, rising substance abuse, joblessness, aimless citizens and ineffective (and often corrupt) politicians. But for Heinlein, the greatest cause of societal collapse was that while virtually everyone was granted the privileges of citizenship, few exercised the duties. He wrote,
“…their citizens (nearly all of them counted as such) glorified their mythology of ‘rights’ and lost track of their duties. No nation, so constituted, can endure.”
The principle reason that only those who have completed a term of government service are granted citizenship (and the stringent standards for acceptance into said service) is to ensure that the citizens of the Terran Federation will exercise not only the privileges, but duties of citizenship.
It was this point that got me thinking. As I mentioned, much of what Heinlein wrote about as the symptoms of societal decay are prevalent in today’s society. But something I’ve thought for quite some time is that we have cheapened the value of citizenship to the point that for many of our number, citizenship is even less important than residency. Indeed, we no longer consider granting citizenship as a privilege to a select company of our number. Rather, most of us think of it as a right guaranteed by… something. Stop to think about that for a moment.
We have people here who were never granted residency demanding the same rights as citizens, and others (including those in elective office) defending their “right” to do so. We have people claiming the rights of citizens who have never so much as stepped foot in this nation. Further, the number of citizens who actually exercise the duties of the citizenship given as a birthright is depressingly small. YouTube and Facebook are filled with videos of educated citizens who cannot name the Articles of the Constitution, the rights guaranteed by the Bill of Rights, or define any of the inalienable rights expressed in the Declaration of Independence. Spend more than a few moments on Twitter and you will be verbally accosted by droves of people who cannot tell the difference between a parliamentary democracy and constitutional republic. Visit the local courthouse, and you’ll see most people called for jury duty doing their level best to avoid said duty. And sadly, barely half of us bother to cast a vote when the time comes (and even fewer when the election isn’t tied to a national referendum). Given the sorry regard my fellow citizens have for their duties, I am sorely pressed to say the majority of those casting a vote even know who or what they are voting for – too often, they’re simply checking the box under “R” or “D”.
In the nearly 60 years since Heinlein published Starship Troopers, the condition of our society has deteriorated to the point he foresaw, even if it’s taken perhaps a bit longer (he placed the dissolution of the United States in 1987). The question that’s been nagging me for days is this: Heinlein saw no way out of this mess except to restrict the right of governance to a select few, based on a criteria that placed an innate drive for public service above all other factors. In short, he was of the opinion that our current attempts at including more and more people into the governance of society was exactly the wrong tack. His society works because a caste of elites run things, but not elites as we’re given to thinking in our age. Indeed, the protagonist in his novel quite literally throws away a fortune in order to begin public service (later, his father does the same).
Heinlein is not alone in his thinking. Since the very founding of our republic, we have constantly watered down the requirements for citizenship, as well as the duties thereof. Consider that the men who created the nation saw citizenship as being open only to land owners who had established themselves. Over the intervening years, we have so cheapened citizenship that we now grant adolescents those same rights – and more.
It is something to think about. Why is it we require those not born on our soil to pass an exam and take a loyalty oath before granting citizenship, but not those who are native born? Ask yourself: could you pass the citizenship exam? Would you be willing to take the Oath of Citizenship? Bear in mind, once subscribed to this oath, you will be freely granting the government the power to require unpaid service of you, in both military and civilian positions. Did that last sentence cause you to go “whoa” for a moment?
That sentence is the crux of Heinlein’s argument: the vast majority of our citizens are not willing to truly sacrifice for the privilege of citizenship and prove it daily. He thought human nature being what it is, that such fallibility meant the end of democracy. I hope he was wrong. But I’m not as sure today as when I first read that book some 40 years ago.
There’s been some furor over NBC political news director Chuck Todd’s description of Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore the other day. You can watch the segment below:
The flak Todd is catching is legitimate: he is expressing the very liberal (and very wrong) concept of government and liberty; to wit, that individual rights and freedoms are granted by the government. The fact is that the Founding Fathers established the Constitution to limit the powers of the government, even going so far as including the 10th Amendment (“The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited it by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people“) in the Bill of Rights. It also fits with the very declaration that created the nation to begin with (“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“).
If what Chuck Todd was saying – that our rights come from government, and so therefore government can remove those rights as it chooses – was actually considered radical by the media establishment, the outrage be deafening. Sadly, the media establishment is overrun with liberals. Liberal dogma, which depends on the idea that people are subservient to government, fully accepts Todd’s characterization. Indeed, it lionizes it. The outrage response is not to Todd’s remarks, but to articles like this one.
I wasn’t going to bother to commenting on the entire thing. After all, it’s just another illustration of the fundamental divide between conservatives and liberals. You can’t reconcile that basic difference – conservatives know that rights do not come from government and liberals feel that they should. But then, something happened in my own life that brought this problem to the fore.
My brother-in-law works long, hard hours at his job and to help him out, my wife and I have been watching my 13 year old nephew from the time he gets done with school until her brother gets home from work. This also means I get to help him with his homework. The subjects he usually asks for help with are the three I’ve always been comfortable with: math, science and history (or in the modern vernacular, social studies). Yesterday, he asked if he could quiz me on the stuff he learned in history that day. It’s a little game we play – he’s a bright kid and he tries to catch me with trick questions. To my surprise he broke out a pocket Constitution and asked, “What are the rights given by the First Amendment?”.
I told him none. The First Amendment guarantees freedom of speech, religion, the press and assembly – but it doesn’t give them to anyone.
Now, ordinarily I would be ecstatic that the very basics of our government are being taught in our schools. Civics is a subject that is not given nearly enough study by our youth. But his reaction to my answer might have me rethinking that position. You see, he was shocked – astonished, even – by it. Then he said, “But my teacher said our rights come from the Constitution.”
I suppose I shouldn’t have been angered by that. I mean, textbooks are written by liberals, curriculum are designed by liberals, and most of our educators are liberals. But that such drivel is being taught had me seething. To my nephew’s credit, he was able to follow along as I outlined how the Constitution does not grant rights, but was written to ensure the government protects rights. But the fact that I spent 90 minutes deleting the programming the liberal establishment was implanting in one impressionable 13 year old not only angered me, it frightened me.
This is the problem with liberal academics today. Rather than an exploration of ideas, it has become a process of indoctrination into the liberal world view. Even though my nephew’s pocket Constitution included the Declaration of Independence, his class hadn’t covered it. They hadn’t even read it – and in fact, had been told not to. Educators have figured a novel way of turning the Constitution in on itself, in a version of double-speak that would leave even Orwell breathless.
If we are not having our kids explore the very foundations of the government they’ll soon be entrusted with guiding, what are we inviting? The answer to that is also self-evident: a subversion of the very country our forebears worked so hard to create and preserve. The liberal dream realized: the fairest, most equal society in history, with the rights you deserve provided by a benevolent government.
Of course, we’ve seen that movie before, thousands of times. It was the underpinning of the French Revolution, complete with guillotines for those who would not accept the government’s benevolence. It girded the Soviet Union’s gulags, the reeducation camps in Maoist China, the chaos in the streets of Venezuela. It was the result our founders feared – and from what I’m see happening today, the one I’m afraid we’re fast headed towards.
One of the unique things about being a citizen of the United States is that unlike other nationalities, we often have these discussions about what being an American actually entails. We’ve been engaged in just such a discussion for the past four or five years now, and many people have landed on many different definitions.
Are we defined by our borders, the territory we control as a nation? Are we defined by our ethnicity or ethnicities? By our economic circumstances, both as individuals and as a nation? For many, these definitions, or a combination of these definitions, is what defines “Americanism.” These may be aspects of American life, but they are not what defines us as a people. As we saw this past weekend in Virginia, clinging to those notions is more divisive than unifying. They cannot define a nation as diverse as ours, one where wealthy and poor from every ethnicity on the planet call home.
Likewise, political leaders who foster these views cannot be unifying. They can only divide the nation along religious, ethnic and class lines. Both our last President and our current one have willingly used the imagery and language of grievance, attempting to force the nation as a whole to view the world through the distorted lenses of one subset of Americans or another.
The reality is the United States is not confined by our borders, defined by our economic clout or existent by our military power. You might have heard the United States identified as an ideal, and that is what our nation is. The glue that binds us are not the temporary trappings of wealth and power. The power that has allowed our nation to grow, to prosper, despite welcoming every ethnicity, every religion, and every race on the Earth was given to us by the men who created this country:
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.
I think that for many of us, these words have lost their meaning. After all, we’ve all heard them countless times. I can scarcely think of anyone who can’t recite them word for word.
Yet, we cannot deny the power they hold. It is those words, more than anything else, that drew our ancestors to this country. Those words are the birthright of every American and it is those words that are our unifying force.
One of the things I like to do, when faced with a passage whose meaning is difficult to comprehend, is to reword it in a way that is easier to understand. Bear with me as I do so here.
We: Who were the Founders referring to by “we?” The document this passage is taken from – the Declaration of Independence – was an open letter to the King of England and Houses of Parliament, on the behalf of the citizens of the new nation they were creating. “We” is nothing less than every American citizen.
hold these truths: to hold a belief is to accept it without question; a truth is an incontestable fact.
to be self-evident: something that needs no outside proof of its existence.
that all men are created equal: everyone, everywhere is no different than anyone else – and we are born into this condition. Whether you have the privileges and wealth of a Wall Street billionaire or are left scrounging for subsistence in the Somali sun, every person that will ever see this world is the same.
that they are endowed by their Creator: While the majority of the Founders believed in the Christian god, it’s important to note that not all of them did. George Washington and John Adams were deists, as were notable non-signatories of the Declaration, including Thomas Paine and Ethan Allen. It should also be noted that New York and New Jersey already had sizable Jewish populations by the middle of the 18th century (indeed, Dutch Jews were among the first settlers in New Amsterdam and Newark). Even among the devout Christians, there were religious differences – Charles Carroll of Maryland was a practicing Catholic, for instance. But the one thing all of them agreed on was a belief in a higher power, or Creator.
with certain unalienable: something which can neither be granted nor taken away by human authority.
Rights: Jefferson, John Adams and Franklin all were well versed in the philosophy of John Locke. While Locke’s ideas regarding natural rights were already well-established in philosophical circles by the mid-18th century, the Founders were doing something truly revolutionary here: they were claiming that by our existence, human beings have entitlements that no government can interfere with.
What follows is a listing of what those entitlements are.
that among these are: Whoops! make that a partial listing. Jefferson is saying there are other, unspecified rights, and he’s selected only the ones pertinent to why the Colonists are creating a new nation.
Life: Yes, you have a right to live. Sounds almost silly, until you watch this.
Liberty: for the 18th century thinker, Liberty was well defined by David Hume – “By liberty, then, we can only mean a power of acting or not acting, according to the determinations of the will; this is, if we choose to remain at rest, we may; if we choose to move, we also may.” I’ve read many other definitions of liberty, but this one – despite it’s age – still seems the best.
pursuit of Happiness: While nobody can guarantee that you will find peace and joy in the world, you’re entitled to try and find whatever it is that lets you achieve it.
One 36 word sentence carries quite a bit of import, I would say. If we were to reword the entire thing, it would come out something like this:
American citizens agree that the following is a statement of fact:
All people are born the same, and the Creator that grants us our existence does, by that existence, grant us certain privileges and entitlements that no person, government or entity can take away. Some of these entitlements are our lives, our freedom of movement and thought, and our attempt to derive peace and joy from our existence.
It isn’t as flowery or memorable as the original, I know. But this statement is what separates America from every other nation. It is what defines us a people, and as a country. America has not always lived up to the ideals laid out in this statement, but it is the fact we continue to strive towards it – rather than abandon it – that has characterized our place in history.
The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King once said he dreamed of the day when his children wouldn’t be judged by their ethnicity, but by who they were as people. It was Dr. King’s way of restating our guiding principle, the American principle of natural rights. We haven’t gotten there yet, as the events in Charlottesville showed. Call me a sap, a sentimental fool or a man blinded by his beliefs, but I still think the vast majority of the people who call the United States home believe in our founding principle, but are being led astray by fear of an unknown and rapidly changing future.
Thank you for your time today, and may God bless America.
*The video I linked to above can also be watched here. You’ll need about 20 minutes to watch the whole thing. It’s painful and at times angering, but I suggest you do.
…but you are not guaranteed a job. You are not entitled to a job, and nobody owes you a job.
It’s almost funny. It is downright comical to watch fellow “conservatives” try to shame Alphabet into rehiring James Damore. Over the years, the sentiment annunciated at the beginning of this post was supposedly a bedrock principle. But, as with so many other supposedly conservative principles, the past 18 months has revealed that they were just talking points for many “conservatives.”
Look, here’s the deal. When you sign an employment contract (and I don’t care if you’re sweeping streets or writing code for one of the world’s largest companies), you agree to abide by your employers code of conduct. You can talk about liberty, and freedom, and all of those other things – but if you agree to work for someone, you are voluntarily agreeing to put curbs on those things.
My first “professional” job was as a QA engineer for Panasonic, more years ago than I care to remember. There was an official dress code: men were to wear a dark suit, white shirt and tie. At the time I accepted the job offer, I owned one suit. It was a very fashionable suit for the 1980’s, but it definitely wasn’t “dark” (think Miami Vice). So guess what I did? I went out and bought 3 navy blue suits and 5 white dress shirts. I wanted the job and understood that I needed to adhere to that dress code, even if it didn’t match my personal style.
I understand Mr. Damore has a problem with Alphabet’s diversity policy. I guess at this point, the entire world knows he does. I’ve disagreed with various company policies at some of the places I’ve worked, as well. There are three things that are perfectly acceptable, that you can do in that situation. You can keep quiet and soldier on. You can take your concerns through proper channels, generally by directing those concerns to a supervisor or the company HR department. Or you can quit and look for a different job.
I read the memo that landed James Damore in hot water. It is a well thought out, backed with research studies, cogent argument against Alphabet’s diversity policy. It is not a screed, as some liberal organizations declared it. Had he distributed it on Facebook, or as a private blog post, or any of the other ways a ten page article can be distributed, he probably would have avoided being fired (unless he represented himself as a Google employee). At that point, he is speaking as a private citizen and probably doing the public a great service. Given the recent hullabaloo around affirmative action and gender equality, we need more solid, fact based opinions from the proponents on both sides of the issue.
But he didn’t do those things. Instead, he typed it up as an internal memo and distributed it within Alphabet. That action, and that action alone, was grounds for termination. That he was making a political statement compounded the problem and forced management’s hand.
Let the Saga of James Damore be a cautionary tale to the Social Justice Warriors of the left and the Culture Warriors of the right. Unless you’re working as a political operative, don’t bring your politics into the workplace.
After all, you aren’t entitled to a job, either.
The dominant political news of the week was the dismissal of Lt. Michael Flynn (ret.), President Trump’s first National Security Advisor. His abrupt departure brought back a few issues that should have been answered during the fall campaign, but weren’t. In a multi-part series, I’ll be examining the following:
1. Were the leaks that led to Flynn’s ouster justified? Are leaks ever justified?
2. Is the President’s Russophilia damaging to his Presidency and the nation writ large?
3. Should career civil servants place greater emphasis on conscience or policy?
It’s been a nagging question for something like 18 months now: what is the relationship between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin? The questions first arose during the campaign, when Trump seemed to be sending public love notes to Putin. The questions reappeared after President Trump, rather than accept that Putin is a diabolical dictator, preferred to argue that the US government operates in the same nefarious manner as the Russian. And they roared into prominence this week, with the revelations about former National Security Advisor Mike Flynn’s tête-à-tête with the Russian ambassador and the leaks about the Trump campaign’s contacts with the Russian SVR.
The President’s conduct towards Russia and Vladimir Putin certainly engender some questions.
1. Why is Trump so reluctant to condemn Russia and Vladimir Putin in particular?
I’ve given this some thought, and I have a sort of good news/bad news idea about the subject. The good news: I do not think President Trump is being blackmailed by, or in any other way criminally beholden to the Russian Federation. Do I think he has business interests there? It would be ludicrous to think a man who once held a beauty pageant in Moscow and has at least minority interests in resort properties around the world doesn’t have some sort of similar arrangements in Russia. Do I think those holdings are substantial enough that the Russian government could leverage them to their advantage? No. Not even someone as vain as Donald Trump would be willingly complicit in treason over a few hotel rooms. If he is, then we’ve plumbed new depths of depravity.
I suspect the reason is simpler, but far more disturbing. Based on public statements going back nearly 30 years, I believe our President wants to be Vladimir Putin. He admires and respects the way Putin handles things, with an autocratic iron fist wrapped in a cement glove. Killing political opponents? Perfectly fine (remember, Trump once praised the Chinese for running down dissenters with tanks). Invading foreign countries and plundering them? It’s cool – just keep the oil. Operating above, below and in conflict with established law? From abusing eminent domain in the 1980’s to his “so-called judges” remarks in the last few weeks, Trump has consistently demonstrated that he thinks laws apply to everyone BUT him. Even Stephen Miller’s outburst last Sunday (“the President’s authority will not be questioned!”) demonstrates a very totalitarian view of government, the kind of government prevented by our Constitution. That he’s constrained by the Constitution and its provisions against executive overreach galls Trump (and, sadly, his supporters) to no end. Putin has no such constraints and when he did, he was able to just ignore them until the Russian constitution was changed.
2. Why was his campaign in “constant” contact with Russian officials?
This is, of course, still unproven. However, the fact is that there is an investigation into the likelihood of contact between the SVR and the Make America Great Again campaign, and that it’s been partially leaked, suggest there’s more than just smoke to this question. As for why it would have occurred, see the above conclusion that Donald J. Trump stars in “Crazy about Vladdy.” The one thing that nobody seems to recall is that Vladimir Putin actually won a democratic election in 2000, on a platform eerily similar to the one Donald Trump ran on in 2016. If the person you venerate over all others might be in a position to offer advice and encouragement, any of us would seek their counsel.
3. Why didn’t Trump tell Vice President Pence that former national security adviser Mike Flynn wasn’t being honest about the nature of his conversations with the Russian ambassador?
3a. Why wasn’t Flynn fired the second Trump learned he was deceiving the vice president?
Once again, if the President is attempting to model his administration on that of his favorite Russian dictator, neither of these questions is difficult to answer. In fact, they both have the same answer: Flynn was ordered to lie to Pence by Trump. As to why Trump would have Pence lied to, there are two reasons. The first is that Trump was certainly aware that having Flynn reach out to the Russian ambassador regarding the latest Obama sanctions was a clear violation of the Logan Act. He also knows that despite decades in public office, nobody has ever accused Mike Pence of malfeasance or corruption. He knew then that Pence’s reaction would, at best, be another tepid endorsement of the President’s orders and Flynn’s duplicity in carrying them out.
The other thing to remember on this point is that part of Vlad’s governing style, and one that has thus far proven true of Trump’s, is a dedication to the idea of equal but rival teams in open competition. Pence is the de facto leader of the ‘establishment’ group. Flynn was very much part of the ‘apocalyptic’ group. In effect, Trump was already pitting those two groups against each other before he even took office. That he waited nearly 72 hours before firing Flynn after the first revelations about that phone call, and Flynn’s duplicity towards Pence, looks for all the world like Trump was waiting to see if there would be any blow-back on Pence. After all, Trump is also aware that of all the people in his administration, the two most admired on Capitol Hill are Mike Pence and James Mattis. Pence, being his Constitutionally appointed successor should he be unable to complete his term, therefore presents a clear and pressing danger. The fact that unlike Obama with Joe Biden, or George HW Bush with Dan Qualyle, his VP is considered one of the few sane members of his inner circle poses the threat, essentially giving cover to Democrats if they decide to implement clause 4 of the 25th Amendment.
The larger question that needs to be answered is: does the President’s infatuation with Russian style politics and deep admiration of authoritarianism endanger the nation? So far, the answer is not in any lasting way. The Constitution was written by men who were intimately familiar with being ruled by a tyrant and designed to ensure that no one person could unilaterally impose his will on the government. As they intended, the structures they built have soundly defeated Trump’s every move to emulate his idol’s governing style, much to his chagrin. The separation of powers works.
That is not to say Trump cannot inflict serious damage, at least on the United States and the western democracies strategic position. But dealing a fatal blow to the Constitution does appear to be beyond his scope.
There are other questions, but we don’t have enough information to speculate on the answers. For instance, who in the campaign was speaking to the Russians? Are they now in the administration? Were any of those people responsible for the leaks to the Washington Post that started this ball of wax? The President could, of course, put an end to all this by issuing a statement that answers those questions.
But then again, we know Trump isn’t about to do that. He’ll continue his current method of dealing with this crisis, attacking the press for asking the questions and attacking the leaks themselves. Because, after all, that’s what Vladimir would do.