Is the U.S. Constitution Outdated?

We keep hearing from snarky post-adolescents that the Constitution is outdated. They routinely demean the notion that our founding fathers are worthy of our respect. The fact that the Founders risked their lives to establish our nation means nothing to the current crop of narcissistic historical revisionists.

The Founders created the Republic when slavery was common worldwide. Indeed Brazil was the last country in the Western Hemisphere to abolish slavery on May 13, 1888. The entire world struggled with slavery. It is unrealistic to expect that our Founders could have magically and immediately abolished slavery when they were dangerously involved in creating the social contract that would eventually allow the abolition of slavery.

Immediate gratification appears to operate in the lives of the vocal proponents of changing the Constitution. Such gratification is impossible to apply retroactively.

The Constitution Has Endured

The Constitution has endured through the formative years of the Republic with growing pains that included bitter conflicts over slavery, a national bank, single party rule, the War of 1812, Aaron Burr killing Hamilton over an early succession plot, rampant patronage, the Civil War, and innumerable other scandals that would fill our current crop of pundits with rage.

They see the world through the false constructs of political correctness and fashionable morality. Their lack of historical context diminishes their credibility.

Who Are the Current Mindless Pundits?

A true pundit is someone who offers an opinion or commentary based on a profound knowledge of the subject. Many scholars know enough about a subject to offer a well reasoned opinion but are seldom afforded an opportunity.

Unfortunately there exists an over-abundance of people with questionable doctorates in pseudo sciences, or worse yet pathetically weak bachelors’ degrees in  journalism or English, whose shallow analysis floods the news cable networks. Their sole objective is to entertain and gain advertisers.

They are not pundits, nor are they worthy of our respect. Yet their passionate drum beat that the Constitution is no longer relevant has gained some traction and must be refuted.

The Constitution Is Constantly Being  Updated

The original document that we call the Constitution is contained on six handwritten pages. The first four pages are the base text, page five is a letter of transmittal from the Constitutional Convention to the Congress, and page six is the Bill of Rights.

The remaining 2,850 (approx.) pages of the “Constitution Annotated” prove that it is a living document, which has undergone many changes when necessary. The entire 2,882 pages of the Centennial Edition of the Constitution of the United States, Analysis and Interpretation including Supreme Court Decisions can be downloaded HERE.

The Supreme Court Is the Last Word in very Few Cases

The Supreme Court is the last word in the cases it hears but there are thousands of decisions by lower courts that reaffirm the Constitution and the protections that it affords citizens.

In the federal system, decisions from 94 district courts can be appealed to 12 Circuit Courts of Appeal plus the  Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. Of all of the cases reviewed by the Circuit Courts of Appeal, only about one-tenth of one percent (0.1%) are accepted by the Supreme Court for review.

The Constitution is constantly being made relevant to our time by the approximately 725 federal judges serving in the 94 district courts, 13 appeals courts, and the Supreme Court. These judges know the Constitution and the case law that supports a wide web of constitutional guarantees.

The sheer inertia built into federal law, and what some call congressional dysfunction, make it difficult to capriciously change laws.  Even in areas such as immigration law, where changes are clearly needed, change will come slowly, carefully, and eventually will conform to the Constitution.

Fortunately amending the Constitution is even more difficult, making emotional demands for gun control or abolition of the electoral college difficult for advocates to achieve.

Unanimous Decisions by the Supreme Court

In the 2016-2017 term of the Supreme Court approximately 57 percent of decisions were unanimous and only 15% were split, 5-4, decisions.

During his confirmation hearing in 2005, Chief Justice Roberts affirmed that he intended to work toward a consensus on the court. He has subsequently reaffirmed his commitment to consensus on the Court when he addressed the 2018 Stein Lecture at the University of Minnesota. The video runs 1 hour, 15 minutes.

Judicial Independence is the Guard Against the Transitory Will of the People

An Important Upcoming Supreme Court Case

Every case taken up by the Supreme Court is a reaffirmation of our Liberty.

We have previously commented about how civil forfeiture can constitute a moral hazard for law enforcement agencies.

Civil forfeiture traces to ancient Roman and medieval English law; both made objects used to violate the law subject to forfeiture to the king. It was allowed because anciently it was often difficult to physically detain  guilty individual who had fled to a foreign land so property used in the commission of a crime was seized.

Now civil forfeiture is a leading method for imposing economic sanctions against narcotics traffickers who sometimes are in a foreign jurisdiction.  Increasingly however, significant, and some say excessive, property is taken away from persons accused of relatively minor drug offenses.

The case is  Tyson Timbs and a Land Rover LR2 v. State of Indiana, 17-1091.

The Supreme Court has agreed to look at whether the 8th Amendment clause forbidding “excessive fines” applies to the states. The First, Second, Fourth and Sixth Amendments have been fully incorporated to the States via the Fourteenth Amendment Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses. The Fifth Amendment is almost fully incorporated; the Third and Eighth Amendments are partially incorporated; the Seventh Amendment is unincorporated; the Ninth and Tenth Amendments are not applicable.

If the Court decides for the plaintiff in this case it will contribute to fully incorporating the Eighth Amendment at the state level.

image of honor guard with flag

Why do we Commemorate Veterans’ Day?

Memorial Day or Decoration Day is the U.S. federal holiday to remember people who died while serving in the  armed forces. Veterans’ Day on the other hand is to express gratitude to those both living and dead who served honorably in the armed forces during times of peace or times of war.

In contrast to the purported abuse of veterans returning from Vietnam, today’s veterans seem to be enjoying an exaggerated and somewhat politically correct display of gratitude from all quarters of society. That is not a bad thing. Gratitude is a noble human emotion that enriches an entire society. Perhaps society now needs to display a slightly exaggerated degree of gratitude to make up for past selfishness, and to teach the concept of gratitude to younger generations.

Is it possible that the reports of hippies spitting on soldiers returning from Vietnam in the early 1970s were “fake news?”  The New York Times addresses this question in an opinion piece from  2017.  As vitriolic as the anti-war rhetoric was during the Vietnam conflict, most of it was directed at political leaders; nevertheless, there is little doubt that isolated instances of abuse were directed at individual soldiers.

Homecoming: When the Soldiers Returned From Vietnam was a book by Bob Greene that explored this issue.

Wounded Warriors

We now talk about wounded warriors and heroes in a way totally foreign to the rhetoric surrounding the Vietnam Era, the period from February 28, 1961 to May 7, 1975.

During the Korean and Vietnam conflicts, it was the body count that got all the attention. And as the body count increased, opposition to the war reached a crescendo.

Battlefield survival among American soldiers was only marginally better than during the two world wars. Undoubtedly many wounded soldiers in Korea or Vietnam would have survived if they had the battlefield care experienced in our current middle east engagements.

The Numbers

Comparing casualties of America’s wars can be misleading. A “casualty” is a combatant  lost through death, wounds, injury, sickness, internment, capture, or through being missing in action. In the American Revolutionary war and Civil War, far more people died from disease than were directly killed in battle. Accurate counts are impossible.

A useful metric that demonstrates the technological efficiency of war is the ratio of deaths to the number of soldiers deployed. When muskets, swords, and infantry were deployed, death from infection after the battle contributed to the overall death toll. Our deadliest war, the War between the States, had between 618,000 and 750,000 deaths. By contrast, drones, aircraft, rockets, and armament reduced the death toll in recent engagements in Iraq and Afghanistan to under 7,000.

Iraq and Afghanistan1:378
World Wars I and II1:40
War between the States1:5

Thank You for your Service

As a veteran from the Vietnam era, I feel a bit uncomfortable when people say, “Thank you for your service.”  I went into the Air Force more for professional development and to avoid being drafted than as a call to patriotic duty.

I enlisted because my deferment ended at graduation and I may have been drafted into the Army. Everyone knows the cushy jobs are in the Air Force. So when people say, “Thanks.” I think to myself, “I went in to avoid the draft and possibly be sent to a really bad spot in Vietnam and maybe not return.”  It was an easy decision.

In addition I got some excellent training under almost luxury conditions. The Air Force paid for two babies. I get a free grave and headstone someday. VA loans for several houses have more than compensated me for my “service.” Home Depot even saves a parking space for me if I get there early enough to beat out the other Vets.

But to all veterans out there whose military experience was not as selfishly motivated as mine, and especially to veterans who returned from service damaged in some way, “Thank you for your service, and may a grateful nation compensate you appropriately.”

Oath to Support and Defend the Constitution

All members of the U.S. Military take an oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States. It has been my experience that citizens who have served in the armed services take this oath very seriously and continue to honor the oath for the rest of their lives.

Image of military oath to defend the constitution

5 U.S. Code § 3331 – Oath of office

Federal civil service employees take the same oath to support and defend the constitution. Since the Constitution guarantees our Liberty and enumerated rights, why should we fear a bureaucracy sworn to protect the Constitution?

When the Internal Revenue Service, or the State Department and possibly even the FBI act with partisan disregard for the rights of all citizens, what remedies do the People have?  The military protects us from foreign enemies, but when the enemy is within, who protects us?

Indeed it may be argued that the greatest actual threat to our Liberty comes from within, from a poorly educated populace who vote for politicians who pander to their basest instincts.

As we often do in these pages, we make an appeal to authority to bolster the claim that such a threat to Liberty comes from within. Senator Eugene Joseph “Gene” McCarthy, a Democrat from Minnesota and opponent of the Vietnam War said, “The only thing that saves us from the bureaucracy is inefficiency. An efficient bureaucracy is the greatest threat to liberty. – Time magazine (12 February 1979)

Veterans Continue to Serve

It’s pretty obvious that some politicians are shameless political hacks regardless of their political party. Others, however, demonstrate a devotion to service and the country. Among them are the  75 members (possibly 76) of the House of Representatives who are veterans, 18 Democrats and 57 Republicans.  It is they, our elected officials and veterans among them, who must be chosen wisely to protect our Liberty.

At the beginning of the 115th Congress, there were 102 Members (18.8% of the total membership) who had served or were serving in the military, one more than at the beginning of the 114th Congress (101 Members), but six fewer than at the beginning of the 113th Congress (108 Members).

According to lists compiled by CQ (Congressional Quarterly), the House as of September 11, 2018, has 76 veterans (including two female Members, as well as one Delegate); the Senate has 17 veterans, including two women.  These Members served in the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Persian Gulf War, and combat or peacekeeping missions in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Kosovo, as well as during times of peace. Seven House Members and one Senator are still serving in the reserves, and six House Members are still serving in the National Guard. All of the female veterans are combat veterans.

The number of veterans in the 115th Congress reflects the trend of steady decline in recent decades in the number of Members who have served in the military. For example, 64% of the Members of the 97th Congress (1981-1982) were veterans, and in the 92nd Congress (1971-1972), 73% of the Members were veterans.

Lt. Com. Dan Crenshaw Elected

Lieutenant Commander Dan Crenshaw (Retired) is the Congressman-elect to replace retiring Congressman Ted Poe in Texas’ 2nd Congressional District.

His military service as a Navy Seal took him to Afghanistan where an IED blast damaged is sight; nevertheless he went on to complete two deployments, once to the middle east and again to South Korea. He left service in 2106 with two Bronze Stars (one with Valor), the Purple Heart, and the Navy Commendation Medal with Valor.

Dan’s father worked in the petroleum industry and moved the family all over the world including Colombia and Ecuador where Dan became fluent in Spanish. He is a graduate of Tufts University (bachelor’s) and Harvard University (Masters of Public Administration). At age 34 he is Texas’ youngest congressional representative. With his excellent military and academic training, he will be a strong voice for Texas in Congress.

Crenshaw won his Congressional race with 53.4 percent of the vote over his Democrat opponent. He became famous because of the abuse heaped upon him by a lame Saturday Night Live skit.

This video from Fox News shows why we celebrate Veterans’ Day and why 74% of citizens support and have confidence in the military.

Senator Susan Collins’ Extraordinary Speech

Her Speech Transcends Petty Bickering

The Founders of our Republic devised a remarkable system of government that has withstood many fiascos similar to the embarrassing displays of our current crop of partisan ideologues.  George Washington was a genius, a fact lost on generations of Americans who don’t even know who the protagonists were in our War for Independence. In fact such people don’t even know what the word “protagonist” means.

George Washington warned about the advent of political parties in his time.

“However combinations or associations of the above description [political parties] may now and then answer popular ends, they are likely, in the course of time and things, to become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government, destroying afterwards the very engines which have lifted them to unjust dominion. .”  –  Washington Farewell Address, September 17, 1796

Susan Collins also warned of the corrosive effects of mindless ideology.

“We must always remember that it is when passions are most inflamed that fairness is most in jeopardy. ”

“In our intense focus on our differences, we have forgotten the common values that bind us together as Americans.”

Remarkable Speech

Image of Senator Susan Collins

Senator Susan Collins, (R) ME

Senator Susan Collins’ speech on the floor of the Senate in support of Judge Kavanaugh was remarkable in many aspects. It carefully and thoroughly dismantled the arguments being fed to the obedient sheep who dutifully demonstrate at the behest of puppet masters whose true motives remain invisible to them.

Roe v. Wade is the rally call but the puppet masters have an eye on a far bigger prize.

One of those puppet masters, in a rare glimpse into his motives, reveals why he stays in the shadows:  “I shall not spell it out here because it would interfere with my flexibility in carrying it out…” If this snippet arouses your curiosity, you may follow it HERE.

But for now, the focus is on the clarity of Senator Collins’ speech.

Senator Collins’ Speech Reveals Meticulous Preparation

Her speech revealed the great extent to which she and her staff went to fulfill her duty as a Senator when required to give her advice and consent to the appointment of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.

She started by giving an accurate description of the extensive opposition to the nomination characterized by special interest groups who whipped their followers into a “frenzy by spreading misrepresentations and outright falsehoods.”

Senator Collins then outlined the methodical process she used to evaluate Judge Kavanaugh’s qualifications. Her analysis of his judicial record is particularly riveting.  Rather than commenting on every aspect of her analysis, you may read it in THIS  [opens on PDF file] transcript of her speech, or you may watch the video of the speech below.

Outline of Key Points

  1. Seven-Sky v. Holder – Judge Kavanaugh rejected a challenge to the ACA.
  2. Judge Kavanaugh’s approach toward the doctrine of severability is narrow.
  3. Marbury vs. Madison, Youngstown Steel vs. Sawyer, and The United States vs. Nixon are three of the greatest Supreme Court cases in history according to Kavanaugh. Affirms separation of powers.
  4. Brown vs. The Board of Educationalso a check on presidential power.
  5. Hamdan vs. The United States – Judge Kavanaugh ruled against his former boss, President George W. Bush.
  6. Roe v. WadeKavanaugh expressed the view to Senator Collins that, “precedent is not merely a practice and tradition, but rooted in Article 3 of our Constitution itself.”
  7. Brown vs. The Board of Education overruled Plessy vs. Ferguson, correcting a “grievously wrong decision” to use the judge’s [Kavanaugh]  term.
  8. Judge Kavanaugh affirms belief in stare dicisis.
  9. Roe v. Wade was decided 45 years ago and reaffirmed 19 years later in Planned Parenthood vs. Casey. The Judge further reaffirmed his belief in precedent.
  10. Senator Collins dismantles the accusations made agains Kavanaugh: “But certain fundamentally legal principles about due process, the presumption of innocence, and fairness do bear on my thinking, and I cannot abandon them.”
  11. Christine Ford was betrayed by Senate Democrats.
  12. Senator Collins hopes that, “that your [Senate Democrats] callous act has turned this process into such a dysfunctional circus that it will cause the Senate and indeed all Americans to reconsider how we evaluate Supreme Court. If that happens, then the appalling lack of compassion you afforded Prof. Ford will at least have some unintended positive consequences.
  13. “… of the six objectives they [the Founders] invoked in the Preamble to the Constitution, the one that they put first was the formation of a more perfect union.”

Video of  Senator Collins’ Entire Speech

image of john locke

John Locke Should Be Counted among the Founding Fathers

I woke up this morning thinking about John Locke. He had great ideas that are as relevant today as they were when he wrote them.  Waking up thinking about John Locke probably makes me appear really weird to to all those people who wake up thinking only about running to the bathroom and getting a cup of coffee.

I took care of those things too and am still thinking about John Locke. Actually I am not thinking so much about Locke as I am about my grand-kids. They need to know about ideas and few are as important as John Locke’s ideas.

For the sake of my grandchildren I decided to post links to these excellent videos about John Locke.  Then I will send the links to their cell phones and suggest that they watch them. Then I’ll call them and ask what they think. I bet they like the added attention. I imagine that it gives them something to talk about with their friends, such as how “I have the craziest grandma in the world…” Hopefully in 30 years they will be telling their own kids about John Locke and remember that I thought it was important.

Before going to the videos, look at THIS page by Michael Long. Then download this PDF file for the handouts that Michael Long uses in his group discussion.

Video from

Life,Liberty and the Right to Own Property

At this point it is time for grandma to get out of the way and let the kids follow the Internet trail to wherever their ultrashort attention spans lead them.  I have been criticized for wanting to dump the whole pile of hay on the hapless horse all at once when every body knows that horses founder when overfed. Well, that’s a metaphor but maybe nobody really knows that anymore.

It’s the End of the World as We Know It.

Shallow Perceptions of the Emotional Left

Der Spiegel Cover, Nr. 46, 2016 “The End of the World” (as we know it)

There are profound temperamental and emotional differences between people on the political right and political left.   Researchers at Tel Aviv University and the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya studied the relationship between emotions and political ideology. Their results conclusively demonstrated that emotion is a greater motivational force for those on the political left.

The election of Donald Trump brought cries of anguish from around the world. Normally sane people broke down in uncontrolled sobbing. Magazines and newspapers around the world erupted into a circulation bonanza of criticism. Of course that emotional reaction came from the Left and it persists to this day.

Der Spiegel, Germany’s weekly news magazine similar to Time Magazine, has employed the artist Edel Rodriguez to draw pictures for some of its more provocative covers featuring Donald Trump.

Edel emigrated from Cuba to the U.S.  as a child.

The Washington Post quotes Edel as saying in response to Trump’s perceived immigration bias, “I was nine years old when I came here, so I remember it well, and I remember the feelings and how little kids feel when they are leaving their country… I remember all that, and so it bothers me a lot that little children are being kept from coming to this country.”  He channels his discomfort into profitable artwork for the covers of Time Magazine, Der Spiegel, The New Yorker, among many others.

The Left’s problem is a pervasive herd mentality that feeds into emotion and immediate perceptions, without asking what may be lurking beneath the deep waters of intentional distraction. The Art of the Deal told them what to expect but they fail to believe it, possibly because Trump didn’t write it himself:

“I call it truthful hyperbole. It’s an innocent form of exaggeration…,” Trump said in his book, first published in 1987.

Trump’s ghost writer Tony Schwartz doesn’t give himself enough credit for revealing the real Donald Trump. Nobody voted for a saint during the 2016 election; they voted for a disruptor and they got what they voted for.

Schwartz, who admittedly knows Trump well, stated, “I genuinely believe that if Trump wins and gets the nuclear codes there is an excellent possibility it will lead to the end of civilization.” (New Yorker Magazine, July 25, 2016)  Another champion of the Left succumbs to the seductive appeal of righteous indignation and irrational, emotional hyperbole! Belief based on emotion, although human, is a weak substitute for reason.

The Right turn out the Lights and Go Home

In contrast to the emotional and occasionally militant activism of the Left, most people who identify with the Right seek reason in quiet contemplation.

Nowhere is this contrast more evident than Left’s hysteria when Trump was elected as compared to the sedate reaction from the Right when Barack Obama was elected. The closest thing I can compare it to was the deafening silence that enveloped Brazil in 1998 when France won the World Cup.

Image of Rpnaldo from Wikipedia

Ronaldo – 2013

I was in Belo Horizonte for a party to celebrate Brazil’s inevitable victory over France. Then came the end of the world as they knew it.

Never before had I witnessed mass grief to the extent I did when Brazil lost to France 0-3. Everyone immediately went home, the lights went out, and silence enveloped the entire city. I can only imagine the profound sorrow in the Bento Ribeiro neighborhood of Rio de Janeiro where superstar footballer Ronaldo Luís Nazário de Lima was born in 1976.

By Monday morning Brazilians went back to work, fortunate that they didn’t have a good reason to party all night.

Of course the loss of a futebol game pales in comparison to the election of a U.S. President. After 20 years, most older Brazilians still remember the defeat and the subsequent win over Germany in 2002.  A subsequent win soothes the pain of defeat. Ronald Reagan’s win in 1980 more than made up for the defeat of Barry Goldwater in 1964.

When Barack Obama was elected, the Right turned out the lights and quietly went to bed. The next morning they started licking their wounds and tried to figure out where the man from nowhere came from.

Some circulated memes about post turtles.  Web sites started up detailing the remarkable coincidence that Google searches about Obama’s lies were directed to pro Obama web sites. Of course the dominant press was ecstatic, displaying Obama with a halo, confidant that a new millennium of peace and prosperity was about to  be bestowed upon a righteous nation.

Rather than indulging in self-pity, the reaction from the Right was, as it usually is, well…more Conservative. Restrained, Inward looking. Maybe Obama will learn enough through on-the-job training to do a reasonably satisfactory job. Maybe he really will defend the Constitution as he swore he would.

It’s the End of the World as We Know It. And I feel fine…

While the Left may believe that the Right savaged Obama and fought him at every turn, his presidency for the most part was uneventful. He got his Obamacare. It devastated the healthcare system and Obama received no criticism from the Left for the broken promise: “If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor.”

The power of the police state grew unabated. There were a few little scandals that the third estate ignored. Otherwise the Republican Congress following the Democrat losses of 2010 simply applied the brakes.

Obama’s massive expansion of federal regulations through executive orders is being quietly reversed by Trump. The individual mandate of Obamacare has finally been eliminated.  The healthcare system is still a mess and the national debt is out of control.

There are hopeful signs that the international situation vis-à-vis North Korea may find a resolution.

By Their Fruits…

Timothy L. O’Brien is cited in the New Yorker Magazine as saying, that Trump’s book is a “nonfiction work of fiction.”  The same has been said of the Bible. Nevertheless, fiction or non-fiction, the Bible wisely says in Matthew 7:15-20:

15 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. 16 You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? 17 Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Therefore by their fruits you will know them.

While some on the Left cry that the Trump administration is the end of the world, and others fret that it is the end of the world as they know it, could it be that the world as they know it isn’t so great?  Do they really like an economy that doesn’t grow because of insufferable regulations?   We and our constitutional federal republic have been slowly sinking into the depths of political uncertainty through the efforts of a powerful entrenched bureaucracy not answerable to Congress. It is time for the Executive to team up with Congress to return us to Constitutional Government.

What is it exactly that the Left fears from Donald Trump?  Trump has the nuclear codes. He is commander in chief of the armed forces.  In addition to his Constitutional powers, he is the Big Bluffer in Chief. The Twitter Master. A Language Assassin. Innocent exaggeration.

Overlooking the obviously unusual personality that vexes many on the Right as well as everyone on the Left, Trump is making progress solving problems that his more conventional predecessors have failed to solve.

He has vowed to “drain the swamp.”

He repeatedly says that being friends with other countries is a good thing, not a bad thing. He may make peace with North Korea ending the potential danger of nuclear weapons in the hands of a dictator bent on self preservation.

He is not going to “nuke” anyone!

By his fruits you will know him!

And I Feel Fine

New Guest Editor joins AltARP

The good old boys at AltARP allowed me to become a guest editor with the promise that I would not embarrass them or the members who proudly wear the emblem of the antique goat that shows they are trying to separate themselves from the sheep.

Let me tell you where I am coming from. I am female both genetically and mentally. My parents were Democrats. I was determined to go to college so I got jobs while in high school and college, and I earned enough to get a degree in accounting. Then I started to meet successful women in business.  OK, some successful guys too, and they never groped me.

I learned a bunch of new ideas that I was never exposed to when I lived at home.  Suddenly I found that I couldn’t discuss some subjects when I went home for Christmas, so I learned to keep my mouth shut.

I read Ayn Rand during my college years. I learned not to read “The Art of Loving” by Erich Fromm while riding the bus in Los Angeles during the 1960’s. There you have it. You know roughly how old I am now. But I didn’t buy into the hippy thing. I actually admired and supported the boys who returned from Vietnam.  Mostly admired! I was too young to support them financially but I was nevertheless very interested in them. I even found one who dragged me out of Los Angeles to have babies in Texas courtesy of the United States Air Force.

Freedom and Liberty

I’m not old enough to retire so I may not actually be a member of AltARP. I think they are pretty lenient about who joins as long as you tilt right more than left.  I think you have to tilt a bit to the right in order to get your head around the idea of Liberty and why we have to fight to preserve it. Why do some people want the government to take care of them even at the expense of their liberty and freedom?  There is a difference between liberty and freedom, you know.  Freedom is to be free from something while liberty is free to do something. Freedom is being free from despotic oppression. Freedom of religion, or of the press, or any other freedom, is the  release from restraint. Jefferson talked a lot about freedom and liberty. It pays to read and think about these things.

So, you get freedom when you are released from jail.

Ask Martha Stewart who was convicted of a stupid stock trading technicality. Now she has the liberty to pursue her stellar career, but still has to lawyer up and look over her shoulder in case some ladder climbing despotic prosecutor decides to put a notch in his belt by putting away a high profile target.  In her case the prosecutor was the now infamous James B. Comey who was the United States attorney for the equally infamous Southern District of New York.  I will forever admire Martha Stewart but will wait until the jury is in about James Comey, whom on a gut level I detest, but perhaps only because of his insufferable preening and arrogance.

Unhappy Obama Years

“I was not a happy camper under Obama”

I was not very happy during the Obama years (2009-2017) as I saw Liberty under constant attack.  Obama was not particularly bright when it came to business. Like a leaf blowing in the wind, he went along with whatever was politically expedient. He signed innumerable executive orders that directed federal agencies to impose onerous regulations that almost wreaked the economy.

To be fair, I was not very happy with some of George W. Bush’s (2001-2009) stuff either, but it takes new things a while to show themselves for what they really are.  The Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 was a Bush thing. So was the USA PATRIOT Act.  What a stupid name!  Secret courts are somehow patriotic?

Obama had a jobs council headed by GE CEO Jeff Immelt. They were smart people who understood the issues. The council recommended changes to the stifling Sarbanes-Oxley law that was responsible for reducing the number of IPOs smaller than $50 million from 80 percent of all IPOs in the 1990s to 20 percent in the 2000s. The changes to Section 404 compliance were designed to free smaller companies from the burden of difficult accounting internal controls.  Great. It was a small help but not enough.

The really insidious things that happened under Obama and continue to this day are the people he appointed to various positions in government, now known as the Swamp under President Trump !  The SEC, Securities and Exchange Commission, and FINRA, Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, went from being regulatory bodies to becoming prosecutorial bodies.

Perhaps this is only my perspective and I am admittedly biased. I don’t know of any research to back up this assertion.  Ask your stock broker about it.

The laws and regulations governing the regulatory bodies didn’t change too much but the people running them did change.  The SEC used to have securities attorneys watching over public companies. Under Obama the ranks of the SEC were filled with prosecuting attorneys.  You can imagine what their influence was and still is.  Slowly some of these prosecutor type people migrated over to FINRA.

There used to be a robust network of small broker-dealers who served the needs of very small public companies.  The prosecutor mentality at FINRA took over and now the small broker-dealers are in shambles fighting to survive. If you invest in a small startup company and get a stock certificate as evidence of your investment, try to get it deposited into an account so you can eventually trade it!  The large brokers won’t accept paper certificates. The small ones will require an expensive paper trail including a legal opinion from an attorney. Legal opinions can cost several thousand dollars, which is often more than you paid for the stock!

Read this explanation from Spartan Securities:  HERE –  (opens in a new tab)

Bureaucratic Assault on Liberty

Punishing people proven guilty  of a crime in a court of competent jurisdiction should be the sole goal of law enforcement.  Yet the administrative state routinely charges and punishes people for alleged infractions of administrative rules by levying huge fines.  There is little defense against these charges because of the great cost of mounting a defense. Wealthy people like Mark Cuban charged with insider trading, as was Martha Stewart, can generally defeat questionable charges; still it can cost millions of dollars to do so.

There is no such crime as insider trading and no law defining or prohibiting it. The Securities Exchange Act of 1934 broadly defines and outlaws securities fraud but never employs the phrase “insider trading.”  Over the last 84 years, the administrative state has promulgated “rules”  the transgression of which are punished under the general term of securities fraud. And securities fraud is pretty much whatever the SEC says it is. Little people charged with such infractions are generally unable to mount a full defense so they stipulate to a settlement while neither admitting nor denying the charges.  As large as some administrative fines are, they are far less than going to court in spite of the fact that most who do so win their cases.

One unfortunate employee of a large corporation saw strangers with suits walking into the corporate offices.  He concluded that something must be happening. Not knowing whether whatever was happening was good or bad, he guessed that it could be good and went out and bought a bunch of his employer’s stock.  He was not an officer or director and had no direct knowledge of any deal. His good guess got him into trouble and he paid a huge fine and disgorgement of his “ill gotten” gains. It almost makes you want to move to a freer country like Switzerland.

The greatly simplified Swiss Eidgenössische Finanzmarktaufsicht (FINMA) securities and banking regulatory authority is independent of the Swiss national government. It answers directly to the Federal Assembly (Bundesversammlung). It does a remarkable job of helping banking and securities related businesses in Switzerland to thrive.  It is a resource, not an adversary, but it does have to occasionally refer people to the federal or canton governments for prosecution.

I once asked a Swiss friend about securities laws in Switzerland. He said that Swiss law basically outlaws fraud and named only Criminal Law (article 161 PC) that defines who can be charged for the “misuse of privileged material non-public information.”  Shareholders cannot be charged; only “members of the board of directors, the management, the auditors or as agents of a company or its subsidiary or its parent company, as member of a government agency or as a public servant, or as auxiliary person of the afore-said,” can be charged and few ever are.

I have ranted on long enough for an introductory piece, but here is a parting shot:

I am not happy about the Patriot Act, how the sunset provisions were made permanent, and about the abuses that are just now becoming apparent. I am sure I will want to write more about it in the future.  So while they talk about the secret FISA court, the judges who sit on the FISA court are not secret.  The FISA Judges are listed below.

The Federalist  has recently revealed that Rudolph Contreras has a personal relationship with disgraced FBI agents Peter Strzok and Lisa Page. You can read about it HERE.

“They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.” — Benjamin Franklin, Historical Review of Pennsylvania (1759)

Current Membership – Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court – click on individual judges for a short resume, which opens in a new tab.

JudgeJudicial District /CircuitDate DesignatedTerm expires
Rosemary M. Collyer (Presiding)District of Columbia / D.C.March 8, 2013March 7, 2020
James E. BoasbergDistrict of Columbia / D.C.May 19, 2014March 18, 2021
Rudolph ContrerasDistrict of Columbia / D.C.May 19, 2016May 18, 2023
Anne C. ConwayMiddle District of Florida / 11thMay 19, 2016May 18, 2023
Raymond J. DearieEastern District of New York / 2ndJuly 2, 2012July 1, 2019
Claire V. EaganNorthern District of Oklahoma / 10thFebruary 13, 2013May 18, 2019
James P. JonesWestern District of Virginia /4thMay 19, 2015May 18, 2022
Robert B. KuglerDistrict of New Jersey / 3rdMay 19, 2017May 18, 2024
Michael W. MosmanDistrict of Oregon / 9thMay 04, 2013May 03, 2020
Thomas B. RussellWestern District of Kentucky / 6thMay 19, 2015May 18, 2022
F. Dennis Saylor IVDistrict of Massachusetts / 1stMay 19, 2011May 18, 2018
image of Nick Freitas

Nick Freitas – A Rising Voice for Liberty

The Gallup organization regularly polls citizens on many subjects among which is: “Do you approve or disapprove of the way Congress is handling its job?”

The result from February 2018 (15% no) is in line with the results of the last ten years, consistently under 20% answering “no.”  That answer reflects the performance of Congress as a whole, and not a citizen’s opinion of an individual lawmaker. When surveyed about the performance of their individual Congressmen and Senators, voters generally rate them around 50% favorable. When election time comes around, they garner the plurality necessary to win reelection, which means a number of “no” votes stay home or there are third party candidates that detract from the winner’s margin.

Fifty-percent Split

The roughly fifty-percent favorable performance rating reflects the fifty-percent partisan split in the country. When pollsters ask questions like “Do you approve of the job your congressman/senator is doing?”, the approximately fifty-percent who voted for that person respond affirmatively. Some individual representatives manage to build a following, so people like Bernie Sanders and Patrick Leahy of Vermont get rated over sixty-percent. As has been repeatedly demonstrated, polls are far from accurate. People are shy to declare their true feelings and so many lie on such polls, while others just don’t know enough about the candidate and may change to another name on the actual ballot.

People Vote their Pocketbooks

It is commonly believed that people vote for whomever offers them benefits, as witnessed by Bernie Sanders offering free tuition, single payer medical, among other social benefits. How many people actually vote on Principles such as defending the Constitution and preserving individual Liberty?  We may be able to answer this question to a small degree after the 2018 election.  The self-described progressive incumbent senator from Virginia, Tim Kaine, espouses all the key left leaning ideas including the major reason people will vote for him. “I’m going to work my tail off to get money back to the Appalachian region,” Kaine says.

Young Challengers Promote their Idealism

Virginia Republicans will vote on June 12, 2018  to select their challenger to Sen. Tim Kaine through a state-run primary instead of a convention. Some of the names that have been discussed are reliably conservative and better known than a few young, idealistic, and equally conservative challengers. Among the better known are former GOP presidential candidate Carly Fiorina; former VA Governor Jim Gilmore; radio and television host Laura Ingraham; and Virgina’s 10th congressional district Representative Barbara Comstock.  (All have declined at this writing except Comstock).

Lesser known candidates are pastor Earl Walker Jackson, retired major general Bert Mizusawa, former special forces Major Ivan Raiklin;  Corey Stewart, Chairman of the Prince William Board of County Supervisors; Dr. Minerva Diaz; and two term Virginia State Delegate Nicholas “Nick” J. Freitas.

Nick Freitas is the One to Watch

Nick Freitas is an unabashed defender of Liberty. He calls himself a Liberty Conservative and encourages others who identify as such to join him in his quest to topple Virginia’s junior senator, Tim Kaine (D). The problem with identifying  as a “Liberty Conservative” is that the taxonomy of American Conservatism is in total disarray. No one agrees what these labels mean. It would be wise to ditch the labels until somebody does a good job defining them.

Watch these videos of the eloquent Nick Freitas and decide for yourself if a label fits him.

Nick Freitas’ Defense of the Second Amendment went viral in the wake of the Florida shooting.

More YouTube Videos about Nick Freitas

image of Nick Freitas-Virginia Delegate

Nick Freitas-Virginia Delegate

Who is Nick Freitas?  – (“We fight because it’s the right thing to do.”)

Hairbraiding  – (“That is when her descent into crime began.”)

In Defense of Innocent Human Life – (“A society is judged by how it treats its most vulnerable”)

Medicaid  – (“I see us consigning future generations to a diminished America…”)

The Most Interesting Liberty Republican

Another Tragedy Calls for Simplistic Solutions

The tragic Parkland Florida school shooting has again thrust the national debate about gun violence into the forefront. The immediate calls for “something has to be done,” bring out the usual activists who argue for solutions as radical and illegal as a total ban on all weapons to bans on certain classes of weapons.

We all deeply feel the pain and suffering such an event causes in the lives of the victims, their families, the local community, and our national community. The tragedy is ours as a nation and it is natural to cry out for a solution.  End the killing, end war, end poverty, end suffering.

But it is out of the emotion for immediate solutions that the calls for ill conceived, simplistic solutions gain a lot of publicity. Accompanying the publicity is the use of inflammatory rhetoric such as calling the AR-15 type rifle a weapon of mass destruction, a weapon of war, a fully automatic firearm, an assault rifle, among other inaccurate and emotionally loaded terms. Wasting time attacking the weapon detracts from paying attention to real solutions.

Just to set the record straight without arguing about who misuses these terms:

  •  Weapons of mass destruction are nuclear weapons and certain chemical weapons capable of killing thousands of people in a single deployment.  Is a Massive Ordnance Air Blast (MOAB) a weapon of mass destruction? It is 10 times smaller than a small nuclear device. The one dropped in Afghanistan killed about 100 ISIS fighters.
  • Weapons of War may include anything from knives, swords, firearms, bombs, missiles, ships, aircraft – you get the idea.
    image of M2 Browning Machine Gun

    Browning Machine Gun

  • Fully automatic firearms are machine guns with extremely high rates of fire such as the venerable .50 caliber Browning M2 heavy machine gun. (Venerable to warriors whose lives it saved)
  • Assault rifles – The Germans are credited with developing the “Sturmgewehr”, a storm weapon, that has the general appearance of its assault rifle successors.  It is a selective fire weapon with a switch that allows fully automatic fire. Other firearms that qualify for this title include the M16 (U.S.), and the AK-47 (Russia, China, North Korea).  AR-15 type semiautomatics have an appearance similar to an assault rifle and  are indeed dangerous when mishandled, but they are not assault rifles and cannot be made into one unless re-manufactured, which is already illegal.
    Image of Sturmgewehr 44

    Sturmgewehr 44

Assault rifle legislation deals not with real assault rifles but their civilian semiautomatic look-alike versions. Real assault rifles, machine guns and destructive devices are legal under federal law if certain tax and registration provisions are observed. State laws vary. The taxes are high, the cost to purchase one is high, and availability is limited. People who own them in the United States are responsible collectors.

Our founding fathers were wise men who endowed us with a system of governance that assures our liberty to the extent that we are willing to preserve it.  They may have imagined the demise of black powder, muzzle loading rifles, and cannons, and their replacement by better technology.  Absent any clear idea of what would constitute “arms” in the future, they settled for just saying “keep and bear arms.”  This phrase was in keeping with the precedent of the 1689 English Bill of Rights, which provided that Protestants could bear arms for their own defense.

Sir William Blackstone wrote in the 18th century of the  “natural right of resistance and self-preservation, when the sanctions of society and laws are found insufficient to restrain the violence of oppression.”

Their point in guaranteeing our right to bear arms was to reduce the chance that government would run roughshod over our natural right of self-defense as the English had done to the colonists. Additionally people have a right to defend their life and liberty when others in society may oppress them.  Weapons in a civil society are for defense and not oppression, as is seen in gang violence and other criminal activities. Police are seldom and often never available within seconds of needing them to help us defend ourselves. Read HERE about our Inalienable Right to Self-Defense.

Just as with the historical changes in arms for self-defense, the founders undoubtedly had no way to foresee the demise of print media and the ascendancy of the Internet, yet they had the wisdom to codify the First Amendment to the Constitution outlawing government interference in our social interactions: religion, freedom of speech and the press, freedom of assembly, and right to petition for redress of grievances. The Internet is the new press, home of real journalism as well as lies, deceit, identity theft, and fiction, not totally unlike the old press.

Despite these constitutional guarantees., there are forces that try to dismantle our freedoms. Some call for the elimination of the Second Amendment, which would require a Constitutional Amendment. Who are these evil people intent on dismantling the Constitution?

Is this Left versus Right and/or the Paradox of Tolerance at Work?

So-called activists, possibly paid for by outside actors, call for violence against conservative speakers at universities. They ostensibly do so because they believe the speakers to be intolerant, and feel a duty to oppose (be intolerant of ) intolerance.

So much for freedom of speech and assembly. It was not the government that interfered with those speakers, but the University and its police who refused to ensure their safety and were accordingly complicit in the denial of the speaker’s rights by a potentially violent leftist mob. Is it the duty of governments or police to deny freedom of speech that some view as hate speech?  Europeans think so and have outlawed hate speech. Facebook and Twitter face huge fines for permitting hate speech on their sites. Yet the U.S. Constitution protects such speech, however distasteful.

Karl Popper taught that intolerance should not be tolerated, and if tolerance allowed intolerance to succeed completely, tolerance itself would be threatened. This is the Paradox of Tolerance.

As defined by, tolerance is a “fair, objective, and permissive attitude toward those whose opinions, practices, race, religion, nationality, etc., differ from one’s own; freedom from bigotry.” defines toleration as “an act or instance of tolerating, esp. of what is not actually approved; forbearance.” In other words toleration is: “I will put up with your BS and won’t kill you but I really don’t like you very much.”

It is commonly believed that the political left calls for restrictions or bans on speech they view as intolerant, while the right exhibits a high degree of toleration , not because of any moral imperative but because of their conservative belief that freedom of religion, speech, press, assembly, etc. are part of a contract we all live under.  The right’s toleration extends to those with whom they disagree on moral or religious grounds because the law often says they must. Accordingly the right (conservatives) also believe in the strictly constructionist view of the 2nd Amendment. These common belief are being borne out by research.

The left will disagree with the right’s assertion that it is they, the left, who are intolerant because the left have come to believe that those on the right are the intolerant bigots who must be silenced.  It is the left that mock religious people on the right as clinging to their guns and their bibles. Something has changed in our society. The angry left have abandoned their historical tolerance,and have weaponized it to gain political advantage. These are not evil people, just very conformist group-think people who are not accustomed or trained to think critically.

The Universities are full of professors, children of the 1960’s, whose progressive/liberal attitudes spill over onto their naive students. In a way it is the young embracing Marxism and revolution, and when they grow old they abandon their zeal, get a job, and mellow out a bit. They join the great middle where ideology does not hold sway. Politically they identify as independent and vote 50% left while the other 50% vote right because in the U.S. there are really only two choices.

Those who call for restrictive legislation do not understand the heavy burden of passing legislation that contravenes the Constitution. Such legislation would be subject to the strict scrutiny test which says that the legislation must be narrowly tailored to achieve a compelling state interest and that there is no less restrictive way to achieve the same goal.  Precedent and recent history of gun rights legislation is not on the side of those who would restrict freedom, whether the first amendment, the second amendment or any of our other codified rights. Their loud voices are “full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”

Argument or Appeal to Authority

Appeal to Authority is a fallacy of logic that claims support for a certain idea or proposition because some presumed authority says it is valid. Such are those who call for a ban on weapons because Australia did it, or Brazil did it, or that Canada is doing it incrementally, and much of Europe has done it.

After years of eroding the right to keep and bear arms in other nations, only Guatemala, Mexico, and the United States still have constitutional guarantees of self-defense. Nevertheless, the constitutions of Mexico and Guatemala place restrictions on that right that render it of questionable value except in the home.

So, the United States is unique in the world as a nation that guarantees its citizens the right of self-defense by force of arms, not only at home, or in a business, but wherever a citizen may be.  The sophomoric argument that we should do something because everybody else is doing it is not only logically untenable but flies in the face of our culture of freedom.


It is obvious that culture plays a dominant role in questions of suicide and homicide. Firearms are part of our culture but not necessarily the dominant factor in firearm deaths. School shootings, the young people perpetrating the crime, the role of social media, drug treatment of perceived behavioral aberrations, defense of schools, and parental supervision of youth all play potentially more important roles in the problem than the firearm itself. It is refreshing that such questions are being raised.

The United States is a multicultural nation in a broader sense than just people immigrating and bringing in another culture. We have had significant regional differences for many years and the regional/rural/city divide seems to be increasing.  Solutions to firearms violence that would work well for one jurisdiction may not work for another.  For example, it has been suggested that teachers could be trained and armed to defend their students. It takes little imagination to predict how such a suggestion would be received in San Francisco, CA versus Dallas, TX.

Calls for Gun Control

To persons familiar with firearms, gun control means controlling where a weapon is pointed. They are inherently dangerous and should be handled by mature adults who are not prohibited from possession, such as by a felony conviction.

The Second Amendment to the Constitution is a fully incorporated proscription on the federal and state governments from infringing our right to keep and bear arms.  It will be defended in court by faithful patriots until such time as the Supreme Court becomes corrupted by politics. What is the recourse for a civilized nation if that happens. Look to Brazil for an answer. There is little recourse but to sink into lawlessness.

Some will argue that Australia successfully confiscated all the firearms. That is not 100% true. The Aussies share a lot of cultural traits with us. They gave up a few unwanted weapons in a big propaganda move by the coalition government of  the Liberal PM John Howard. Now many years later, the Australian states have weakened the gun laws since the National Firearms Agreement was passed in 1996. They proudly point out that suicides by firearms are down. Now they just hang themselves instead and the rates are going up to alarming heights. Look it up HERE.

The purpose of keeping arms, whether for self-defense or sporting purposes has no bearing on the inherent right.

Gun laws in the United States have evolved into a system that balances the needs of all citizens. Calls to disrupt the system such as banning certain types of weapons or universal registration are knee jerk solutions proposed by people who do not understand the need to preserve the whole Constitution.

The AR-15 is a useful self-defense weapon. It is not an assault rifle and it is certainly not a weapon of mass destruction as Chris Wallace recently characterized it on Fox News Sunday.

The term “Gun Control” itself is charged with meaning. To those who advocate for personal freedom with the attendant required personal responsibility, gun control means “somebody wants to confiscate my gun(s).”   If they don’t want to confiscate it, at the very least they want to make it difficult or expensive to obtain a weapon and ammunition.  Seattle WA has a tax on firearms and ammunition that has achieved nothing except driving sporting goods dealers out of the city.

Other Suggestions to Eliminate School Shootings

All untested ideas usually come with unintended consequences.  To institute a program on a national level is to impose the unintended consequence on everybody.  Fortunately, our federal form of government allows states and municipalities to experiment with solutions consistent with Constitutional principles. If a state or city makes a blunder, it is far easier to remedy it. Successes can be shared.

Here are a few ideas that are being tried. Some of them are now standard in many districts:

  • Extreme Risk Protection Order (EPRO)  –  By February 2018, California, Connecticut, Indiana, Oregon, and Washington State have enacted legislation promoted by the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence.  The emphasis is on preventing suicides but after the recent school shootings, the laws are being promoted as a way to keep weapons away from dangerous people.  They stress the temporary nature of the order but judging from the court filings required by the State of Washington to restore a person’s rights, it may be a challenge to regain rights once they have been denied by the court.  (RCW 7.94.080 – Termination and renewal of orders.)
  • Professional Armed Guards in Schools –  Evidence from schools where police or professional armed guards are on duty suggests a deterrent effect on school violence. Opposition to armed guards comes from citizens who question the cost, as well as political opposition when the NRA suggests armed guards.  Marjory Stoneman Douglas School in Parkland and every other school in the district have school resource officers, real on-the-job law enforcement agents but they are spread thin in large schools. Police in the schools have resulted in violations of students’ 4th and 5th Amendments rights. (search and seizure, due process) Despite these objections, if a school district can afford well trained resource offices, the more the better. Problems of zero tolerance for minor infractions can be handled in more enlightened ways.
  • Armed and Trained Teachers, or other Volunteers – This is easier said than done. Questions about training and liability require serious consideration by government. It might work best out in the country where risk is already extremely low. How about New York City?
  • School Uniforms and ID Badges – Increased discipline seems to work well in private schools. Public schools are not as amenable to dress codes, uniforms, and other regimentation. Cost is a factor.
  • Closed Circuit TV (security) cameras –  Assuming somebody is paying attention to the cameras, such equipment can increase surveillance over a much wider area and is cost effective. Motion alarms sound at the observation post when motion is detected in areas that are off limits. Fences and other barriers keep students, personnel, and visitors in established security channels. The person monitoring the cameras need not be a trained security person but can quickly call security when something suspicious shows up. Cameras in class rooms can give security personnel a quick view of a situation when a teacher calls for help.

As tragic as school shootings are, they are not the biggest threat to young people going to school.  Since 2003, there have been 1,353 people killed in school-transportation-related crashes including 119 school-age pedestrians, a majority of which were struck by school buses.

What is the American way? | Alternative to AARP

Truth, Justice, and the American Way

When interviewed by a big city reporter who asked, “Why are you here?”, which great American replied, “Yes, I’m here to fight for truth and justice and the American way?”

Always being a good role model, he also let his fans know that he never drinks when he flies and he never lies. Pay attention to the Spanish translation in the following clip.

Superman was created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster in 1933 while they were still in high school. Over the next five years, they struggled to find a publisher for their evolving character to no avail. Finally in 1938 they sold their rights to the Superman character to Detective Comics, Inc. for $130 and a contract to collaborate on new stories. Maybe a Superman scholar can tell us when Superman first got his voice as a universal force for Good.

In the preamble to Max Fleischer’s movie cartoon versions of Superman that ran in the early 1940’s, Superman fought a never-ending battle for truth and justice.

In 1942, radio’s theater of the mind told the boys and girls that Superman battled evil doers for “truth, justice, and the American way.” No one ever questioned what the American way was. We all knew that a wicked war was being waged to destroy the American way.  By 1944 it was obvious that the American way would prevail in Europe and the Pacific so Superman turned his attention to fighting for tolerance.

After World War II, Superman’s foster Dad reminded his son that he must use his super powers “in the interest of truth, tolerance, and justice.”

The Adventures of Superman TV series that ran from 1952 to 1958 consoled the children who regularly hid under their desks to escape the A bomb that Superman would indeed continue to fight for “truth, justice, and the American way.” But by 1966, the TV cartoon version was reassuring the kids that Superman was back to fighting for “truth, justice, and freedom.”

In the 1978 movie, Superman himself declares to Lois why he is here: “Yes, I’m here to fight for truth and justice and the American way.” (The Spanish subtitle in the YouTube trailer translates “American way” as Liberty.) When Lois comments that Superman will end up fighting every politician in the country, Superman replies, “Surely you don’t really mean that.”

By 1993 in the “Lois & Clark” TV series, Superman was only willing to admit that he was here “to help” but when pressed by Lois he confirmed, “Well, truth and justice. That sounds good.”

In Superman Returns (2006), screenwriters Mike Dougherty and Dan Harris are reported to have wanted to avoid outdated jingoism so Superman’s motto became “Truth, justice, and…all that other stuff.”  After all Superman is an alien from Krypton who came to save the world, not just America. And Americans are not just from the USA. There are many fine Central and South Americans who need to be saved along with those other admirable North Americans, the Mexicans, and Canadians. It’s important to get the geography straight.

(As a side note, in a Action Comics #900 Superman announced that he would renounce his U.S. citizenship but there is no record of him, an illegal alien, or undocumented person, having become a naturalized citizen.  Clark Kent is destined to have a problem with e-verify. )

All of the countries in the Americas declare their dedication to Liberty (the American Way- liberté, libertad, liberdade).  Their constitutions declare liberty to be a founding principle. The Constitution of the  Federative Republic of Brazil ” in its preamble states that the Constitution ensures ” the exercise of social and individual rights, liberty, security, well-being, development, equality and justice.”  Yet Brazil is a dangerous place to live, as are other South, Central, and North American nations. Liberty does not mean living behind tall walls and steel gates.

There is a side to liberty that is rarely discussed aside from the common declaration, “It’s a free country. I can do anything I like.”  But personal liberty demands personal responsibility. Liberty and Responsibility go hand in hand. In countries where corruption runs rampant, it is is not just government officials and the police that are corrupt. Corruption is a abrogation of personal responsibility and when a majority of a nation’s citizens are personally corrupt, the whole nation suffers from corruption, and liberty is lost.

Individuals in all countries have to constantly fight for liberty and must demand that the conditions for liberty exist: adherence to the rule of law, and on a more personal level, honesty .  In societies where the rule of law prevails, and personal integrity is high, trust among people allows those nations to cultivate large businesses and economic prosperity.  (see: Fukuyama, Francis. Trust: The Social Virtues and the Creation of Prosperity. New York: Free Press, 1995.)

In a perfect world, every individual would be a Superman dedicated to truth, justice, and liberty. But then everybody would have to have more than just a casual acquaintance with the concepts of Truth, Justice, and Liberty.  We all think we know truth when we see it or hear it because we are all very discerning and not easily fooled, right?


We have all been taught to tell the truth. Lying is presumably the opposite of truth. Or maybe an untruth, falsehood, prevarication, or one of around 30 other synonyms for a lie in the English language. A really big lie is a whopper.

You want the truth?  You can’t handle the truth!  Remember that great line by Jack Nicholson in the movie “A Few Good Men” HERE

It all gets very complicated if we dig too deeply into the subject of truth so most of us opt out of exploring it too deeply.  Nevertheless part of our coping skills involves recognizing what is real and false, what is true or a lie, what is balderdash! So lets explore the idea of truth.

Senator Knows the Truth

On January 17, 2018, U.S. Senator Jeff Flake (R.Arizona) delivered a speech on the floor of the Senate where he discussed his perception of truth, and specifically what he views as untruths, otherwise commonly called lies. As a preface to the comments that follow, it is fair to stipulate that Jeff Flake is an honorable man, a political conservative, patriot, lover of liberty, and man of faith.  In other words, he is a good guy if you agree with what constitutes honor, patriotism, liberty, and faith for someone on the political right. We won’t argue whether that is true or not, or if Jeff Flake is a true conservative, or debate what Mr. Flake’s motives were for bothering with the speech. Two of his Democrat colleagues were in attendance, while a majority of Senators presumably had better things to do than sit through a 15-minute speech.

The political left generally disagrees with Senator Flake about almost everything except his criticism of President Trump and his support of the integrity of the press. Watch his speech, which however sincere and impassioned, will undoubtedly fade into the background noise of a world buried in speeches.  For purposes of this discussion, the speech illustrates a conservative perception of truth and lies.

Senator Flake previously announced that he would not stand for reelection and his remarks have been widely viewed as a parting shot against what he considers are some of the shortcomings of President Trump. He discusses what he calls assaults on the truth and in his concluding remarks seems to accept that truth is an absolute: the sum of existence. This is not surprising because most people think they know the truth when they hear it. Yet over the centuries scientists and philosophers have debated what is meant by truth.

The many Theories of Truth.

Positing multiple theories of truth suggests that such a thing as truth may not actually exist in absolute terms, but may be a definition constructed by people using their common language. Giambattista Vico, an Enlightenment philosopher coined the phrase, verum esse ipsum factum, “truth itself is (socially) constructed. Vico also observed that humans make their own history.

In the 1990’s there was a lot of discussion about moral relativism, that “truth is in the eye of the beholder.”  Accordingly, the opposite of truth, a lie is merely a different perception of the ideas presented.  Other attributes are attached to truth and lies. Truth is good; lies are bad!

In the C programming language, true is represented by any numeric value not equal to 0 and false is represented by 0. Such a simple concept of true and false is useful. Did Donald Trump utter the phrase “Shit hole?”  I didn’t hear it=0. Did he utter the phrase and then deny that he uttered the phrase?  I heard neither the phrase nor the denial =0.  Yet somebody claimed to hear it and complained to the press, none of whom heard it but all were eager to assign a value other than zero.  Soon the press was breathlessly proclaiming that the president said something that third grade boys commonly say and that somehow it demonstrates that he hates black people.

A large percentage of the population accepts (believes) what the press proclaims while a substantial number probably also believe the Trump story to be true but don’t regard it as evil and criticize the press for saying it. If you ask the skeptic if she believes the president said “shit hole,” she will probably reply that there is a high but unmeasurable probability that he said it. The credibility of witnesses or a recording could establish it as a fact within the shaky parameters of what constitutes a fact of adequate quality to present in a court of law but it appears that few actually heard it and there were no recordings as far as the public knows. Alas, a tree fell in the forest and only Dick Durbin heard it!


Facts are commonly considered to be constructs that can be proven true or false. In this context there is an assumption that a fact is something absolute and provable, and remains a fact because it has been proven true. Recently politicians, including Flake, are fond of quoting Daniel Patrick Moynihan, “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts.”  The line is usually advanced to demean an opponent’s opinions as not based in fact while the politician’s own opinions are righteously based in fact.

David Hume asserts at the beginning of Section IV of An Inquiry concerning Human Understanding: “All the objects of human reason or inquiry may naturally be divided into two kinds, to wit, Relations of Ideas and Matters of Fact”.  Relations of Ideas can be proven by logic, such as the principles of mathematics where many properties have been proven while many propositions still await proof. It is never necessary to rely on experience to support the relationships between ideas. A recent example of  an elusive proof dealing with the properties of prime numbers was published in 2013. The  story was published in Wired Magazine Online can be accessed HERE.  Ideas are true simply because they relate to each other in a defined way: 2+2=4,  the symbol for copper in the periodic table is  Cu., and yes, there is some number N smaller than 70 million such that there are infinitely many pairs of primes that differ by N.

The German philosopher, Immanuel Kant called relations of ideas “analytic” and matters of fact “synthetic.”

Matters of fact (synthetic) deal with experience. Most people make judgements based on the facts as they see them through experience. Judgements, statements, or assertions are  words often used interchangeably. Facts therefore are capable of being full of subjective value judgements/statements/assertions.

Simple (analytic) facts like temperature or pressure that can be easily measured by instruments are subject to the limits of the device used to make such measurements. At very low temperatures the classic laws of thermodynamics yield to quantum effects at the atomic level. So even measuring absolute zero cannot be done directly and the accepted value is a theoretical value based on extrapolating the ideal gas law, itself a good approximation of how a hypothetical ideal gas behaves under certain conditions.

The average temperature of the entire planet is increasing very slowly. Various theories try to account for the increase. Measurements of the increase are taken from points all around the world. All of the instruments are accurate within certain tolerances and subject to physical conditions at the time of the measurement. After years of data collection, scientists who measure such things have vast amounts of data that are difficult to handle. They use computers to help analyze the data. The computers are programed making assumptions that may or may not be “true”, being subject to “best guesses,” which empirically may be demonstrated to be close enough. Amid this complexity, world experts Michael Moore and Al Gore assure us that anthropogenic global warming  (AGW) is an established fact. The consensus among published climate scientists is widely reported to be between 90%-100%. If one were to ask many scientists if they believe if AGW is real, they will probably reply that it is true to a high degree of probability, but they can never say it is a fact or is proven because the very nature of the question is, as Hume phrased it, a matter of fact.

In a paper published in 2013 (opens in PDF), the authors examined 11,944 climate abstracts from 1991–2011 matching the topics ‘global climate change’ or ‘global warming’.  Sixty-six percent of these papers expressed no opinion on AGW; 32.6% endorsed AGW; 0.7% rejected AGW; 0.3% were uncertain. Among papers expressing a position on AGW, 97.1% endorsed the consensus that humans are causing global warming.  The authors recognize that the  literature contains several sources of uncertainty, including the representativeness of the sample, lack of clarity in the abstracts and subjectivity in rating the abstracts.

During the 2017 hurricane season, computer projections of the paths of the hurricanes helped people plan the best ways to weather the storm. Of the two most popular programs, the program developed by the European Center for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts proved to be the most accurate but not accurate enough to prevent people who evacuated from east Florida to west Florida from having to cope with the full impact of the storm when it veered to west Florida. Very complex systems will harbor surprises for scientists for many years to come.

Standard of Proof or Evidence

In the courtroom where juries and judges are called on to discover the truth, there are rules of evidence that allow the types of legal evidence that can be presented: testimony, documentary evidence, and physical evidence. The facts of the case are those assumptions that the parties do not dispute. After that everything is in question. Are witnesses telling the truth?  Does documentary evidence exist and is it reliable? Does the physical evidence or scientific evidence support or refute the prosecution’s or defense’s hypothesis or theory?

Consider the case of Paul Revere. Did he make a heroic midnight ride to warn the patriots that the British were coming at the dawn of the Revolutionary War with England?

We know that Paul Revere was a real person whose birth date and death date are recorded as December 21, 1734 and May 10, 1818 respectively. Not that it really matters, but these dates are confused by the conversion between the Gregorian and Julian calendars. The British Empire changed from the Julian Calendar to the Gregorian Calendar in 1752 so Paul Revere’s December 21, 1734 birth date under the Old Style calendar becomes January 1, 1735 in our current calendar. Sometimes the truth requires an explanation.

Much about his life can be documented by letters, artifacts he created as a silversmith and proprietor of a shop at Clark’s Wharf in Boston’s north end, as well as deeds of properties he purchased. As was common in those days as a gold and silver smith, Revere made dental prostheses making him a dentist of sorts. As an copper engraver, he made the plates for some of the Massachusetts Commonwealth’s paper money. And he was regarded as a good horseman. Some of these things are well documented and are probably true.  And the midnight ride for which he is so famous?

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, (1807 – 1882) began his famous poem with these lines:

Listen, my children, and you shall hear
Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere,
On the eighteenth of April, in Seventy-Five:
Hardly a man is now alive
Who remembers that famous day and year.

Longfellow was correct in stating that “hardly a man is now alive.”  In fact, the last know man alive at the time of the “ride” in 1775 had died a few years before the poem was written in 1860. Longfellow made no claim of historical accuracy. The poem was written on the verge of the War between the States and Longfellow’s warnings in the poem “In the hour of darkness and peril and need…” can arguably be a warning about the darkness and peril of the impending civil war.

In the years that followed the publication of the poem, it became the basis of history taught to generations of school children and accepted by most Americans as true history. Unread by most Americans in the early 20th century were the works of dozens of historians who debunked Longfellow’s version of what had become accepted history. The overriding consensus of writers at that time was that Revere was a man of solid substance and quite unconscious of the heroic figure which he was to become in history.

In 1923 an iconoclastic debunker asserted that the midnight ride never happened. That declaration prompted an indignant President of the United States, Warren Harding, to observe, “Somebody made that ride and stirred the minutemen in the colonies to fight the battle of Lexington… I love the story of Paul Revere, whether he rode it or not.”  (Fischer, David Hackett. Paul Revere’s Ride. New York: Oxford University Press, 1995.)

Documentary evidence shows that Revere was a team player and was indeed active at the beginning of the war. He made a ride to Lexington to warn the patriots but got captured by the British. His deposition to the Massachusetts Provincial Congress describing the events can be compared to a letter he wrote to Jeremy Belknap, circa 1798. Both detail an account of his activities that varies significantly from the version made famous by Longfellow’s poem.

Revere’s enhanced place in revolutionary history places him along side other doubtful stories like those of Molly Pitcher and Betsy Ross. Such stories of revolutionary valor were popular as ways to inspire patriotism in the young country. Paul Revere contributed to historical inaccuracy when he created an engraving entitled, “Bloody Massacre Perpetrated in Kings Street in Boston.” In creating the engraving, he copied an image by a  young artist named Henry Pelham, who stylized the picture as a propaganda piece to promote the war.

Fake History and Fake News

History is replete with examples of fake history and fake news. The most insidious form of fake news and fake history is that which contains some truth, which is then colored over by false information, and then purposely used to deceive. A particularly sneaky way of coloring the news  is the use of adjectives and adverbs in reporting an event.  Hopefully one could be aware of the personal biases of reporters but that is seldom possible.  Instead, a skeptical observer can watch the ways a reporter modifies the story by paying attention to the modifiers – gratuitous adjectives and adverbs, which can reveal the reporter’s own personal prejudice.

“This just in from our reporter on capitol hill. The President has once again blindsided America’s closest allies with dangerous and irresponsible policy decisions destined to irretrievably damage the already remote possibility of a lasting peace between the Palestinians and the corrupt state of Israel.”  This is a fake quote but it illustrates how a simple news story, “the Trump administration announced that the U.S. will move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem,” has been characterized on numerous news outlets, which routinely pass off punditry for real news.

Fake news is not new. Only the velocity and volume of information, true, partially true, or dubious has increased because of electronic media.

  • In 1835 the New York  Sun ran a six part story about discovering life on the moon with a new type of telescope.
    Image of Life on Moon Hoax

    Life on the Moon

    (Picture at right.)

  • In 1782 Benjamin Franklin purposely published a fake issue of a Boston newspaper with a story claiming that the British were hiring native Americans to scalp colonists.
  • Other revolutionary leaders published fake stories that King George was sending thousands of foreign mercenaries to slaughter American patriots.
  • In 1844, anti-Catholic newspapers in Philadelphia falsely claimed that Irishmen were stealing bibles from public schools.
  • The October 30, 1938 radio broadcast of H.G. Wells story about the Martian invasion of earth caused mass hysteria.
  • Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press in 1439 and for many years fake news predominated over real news.

Henry Ford paid for 500,000 copies of a bogus book written in 1902 called The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, which was an antisemitic text used to stir up hatred against Jews. He distributed them across the U.S. in 1920. It was debunked in 1921 by the Times of London. The Palestinian Islamist group Hamas states in their 1988 charter that The Protocols of the Elders of Zion embodies the plan of the Zionists.

Old Folks, those over 30, have no good Advice.

Henry David Thoreau was an early American writer, philosopher, essayist, poet, and naturalist, among his many other varied interests. Best known for his work, Walden and on the Duty of Civil Disobedience, Thoreau is still taught in high schools around the country, although the emphasis now seems to be away from his ideas about transcendental philosophy to how his observations in nature may relate to global warming.

In Walden, Thoreau asserts that old folks have nothing important to offer in the way of advice:

Henry David Thoreau

“Practically, the old have no very important advice to give the young, their own experience has been so partial, and their lives have been such miserable failures, for private reasons, as they must believe; and it may be that they have some faith left which belies that experience, and they are only less young than they were. I have lived some thirty years on this planet, and I have yet to hear the first syllable of valuable or even earnest advice from my seniors.”

Thoreau lived to be just shy of 45 years old. It is not known if his observation about valuable advice from old people changed before he died. Still it is an interesting assertion and leaves us to question its veracity.

We are taught to respect our elders and value their advice. Yet, is there any compelling evidence that as a distinct demographic old people are any wiser than young people?  Undoubtedly there are individuals, both old and young, who are considered wise, intelligent, or thoughtful, whose counsel would be valuable in specific cases where such counsel is relevant.  Skills can be learned and presumably an older person has had more time to accumulate knowledge and maybe even wisdom. Yet some young people because of life experience have been observed to be “wise beyond their years.”

One may make anything of a dead man’s writings to lend credibility to the conjectures of the living. Some things seem to be valid observations regardless of the era in which they are articulated and antiquity is no more authority than current observation. Thoreau was a thirty something, well educated young man when he made this observation in his book Walden:

“No way of thinking or doing, however ancient, can be trusted without proof.”   This is certainly not an original philosophical observation, but is it true?

Trust without Proof?

It seems pretty straight forward. However closer examination reveals that most ways of (human) thinking, many of them ancient, are routinely trusted without proof.  Make your own list: philosophy, religion, astrology, Karma, intuition, fate, elected leaders, spirits including humans, animals, and plants, extraterrestrial aliens, prophecy, folklore… .

People who deal in folklore recognize that proof has no place in their discipline: “In contrast, it is not that folklorists are naïve or don’t care about the truth, it’s just that by the very nature of folklore the folklorist does not need proof or skepticism.”  (Untiedt, Kenneth L., Folklore: In All of Us, in All We Do, Denton Texas, Texas Folklore Society, p.4)

What do Scientists say about Trust and Proof?

“It seems paradoxical that scientific research, in many ways one of the most questioning and skeptical of human activities, should be dependent on personal trust. But the fact is that without trust the research enterprise could not function… . Research is a collegial activity that requires its practitioners to trust the integrity of their colleagues.”                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Arnold S. Relman

Stephen Hawking in his book, God Created the Integers, quotes Richard Dedekind (1831-1916) in the preface to Dedekind’s first edition of Essays on the Theory of Numbers: “In science nothing capable of proof ought to be accepted without proof. Though this demand seems so reasonable yet I cannot regard it as having been met in even the most recent methods of laying the foundations of the simplest of science; viz., that part of logic which deals with the theory of numbers.”

Philosophical and Scientific Proof

Philosophy is the study of the nature of knowledge, existence, and what some people call reality. People living in large cities live their lives surrounded only by things that people created and communicate with each other using languages that people invented. You could say that people have invented their own reality.

Philosophers and scientists studying the nature of things around them and in an attempt determine what is “true” have established rules to judge the credibility of evidence used to describe their discoveries. Philosophy never proves anything; it only debates which rules might be appropriately applied to science.

Well trained scientists maintain a healthy skepticism, even about their own research.  We would like to think that all scientists are honest and only publish their results when there exists enough evidence that those results are valid according to accepted standards.  Nevertheless scientists are human and it is not uncommon for a scientist to produce the result that those funding the study are seeking.  Some because of the academic imperative to publish rush their work to publication often in obscure journals whose standards of peer review are inadequate.

The world has progressed in the last few hundred years to where science is substantially free from the constraints of prior belief.  In 1633 the Roman Inquisition tried Galileo for heresy for claiming that the earth rotated around the sun. A few years later in 2000 the Pope apologized for the mistake.  Nevertheless scientists still face condemnation, not from the church,  but from others whose beliefs cause them to censure, ridicule, or deny funding  to scientists whose inquiries lead them down paths that are considered politically incorrect. Science is a tough business (yes, a business) and ground breaking discoveries are rare. Knowledge is gained incrementally and ideas are published with volumes of date and statistical analysis only to be proven wrong. But that is how science works. Proof is subject to review and may not be proof after all.

Belief is enough to function

People cannot function well if the standards of proof are too rigorous for the material at hand. Most people only require enough supporting evidence to arrive at a belief rather than a strict knowledge.  In many areas of human behavior, belief is sufficient for a society to maintain common bonds based on that belief. Religion is basic to many people’s understanding of the world and their lives in relation to the world. Some questions are notoriously difficult or impossible to prove with the tools we currently employ. A belief in God, a non-belief in a God, or a strong belief that there is no God are equally difficult to prove.  Atheists and Religious people are equally obnoxious when they try to push their views on other people.

Common beliefs about political issues fall into the same category. Strong views about basic concepts such as individual liberty can be shared by persons on both the political left and political right.  Disputes come when financial issues such as taxation and social programs are advocated by one side or another.  It is difficult to prove that socialism doesn’t work when social democracies like Denmark, Finland.
Netherlands, Canada, Sweden, Norway, and Ireland appear to function with good economies and high degrees of personal freedom. Others like  Greece, Italy, Spain, Portugal and France, and some states in the United States have dabbled in socialism and have experienced economic stress. Because economic experiments take a long time to play out it is very difficult to empirically demonstrate that socialism is not consistent with human behavior.  There is little doubt that socialism may work in one country but not in another because of reasons that have nothing to do with the economic system. It may have a lot more to do with character traits such as honesty, trust, integrity, social cohesiveness, etc.

Back to Superman

We have discussed truth and to some extent the American Way. We have tried to make the case that the American Way is a universal quest for Liberty, particularly the kind of individual freedom that the constitutions of various governments, including our own attempt to guarantee.


Now it is time to comment on Justice.  Very ancient people have already thought a lot about these things and we have very little to offer.

Our English word “justice” derives from the Latin  “Ius (Jus), plural Iura,” which was not codified law but represented the natural rights of Roman citizens simply by virtue of being citizens. The Iura populi Romani were the collective rights of Roman citizens upon which laws (legis, singular lex) could promulgated and codified by whomever was in power at the time.  Notions of justice as we now think were better described as aequum et bonum, “the just and the fair”, or what through reason could be interpreted as protecting the natural rights. As you can see, the ancient people thought a lot about these things, which by necessity gave rise to the legal profession.

According to Plato, the requirements of justice rest on an independent ethical reality. His philosophy of law is founded in his belief in absolute values and his faith in ideas as the basis of existence and true knowledge.

The Koran and Sharia law might be a modern example of Plato’s appeal to independent authority. Similarly, the Hebrew Bible’s ten commandments are the basis of our Judo-Christian ethic upon that we base our concepts of justice.

Protagoras, who said “man is the measure of all things,”taught that  justice is a creation of human beings and makes no appeal to a higher authority,  We could argue that Protagorean justice is democratic.  Democracies are fragile and to say that Protagoren justice is democratic is to suggest that such justice may be fragile.

It is not surprising that our founding fathers made an appeal to natural law, law above that of people but not necessarily decreed by a god.

The Declaration of Independence is said to be based on Natural Law.  Natural Law has nothing to do with the laws of nature. Natural law is a type of moral and legal theory that says that moral standards that govern human behavior are derived from the natural attributes of human beings. The Constitution and Bill of Rights emphasizes rights defined in conventional law, not Natural Law.

The quest for what we call justice means that citizens have equal access to and protection of the law. Experience teaches us that ” all men are equal, but some are more equal than others.” paraphrasing a line from the allegorical novella Animal Farm (1945) by Eric Arthur Blair writing under the pen name of George Orwell. Rather than advocate for democratic socialism as a remedy for inequality, as did George Orwell, Americans of all stripes should advocate for what has empirically brought more prosperity and justice than any other type of government, namely that of the United States.

The United States is a Federal Republic fundamentally governed by the Constitution, upon which has been piled almost innumerable laws and regulations that require constant vigilance to prevent them from impinging on Liberty. It may not always produce produce the results that everyone immediately demands. Elements of democracy both sustain it and endanger it. It is in a constant flux with each succeeding generation. Liberty and justice may wax and wane but the Republic has lasted for several hundred years.

May it endure forever!

First Amendment Doesn't Give You Free Speech

The First Amendment doesn’t give you any rights!

Too many people parrot the phrase “my first amendment rights” as if the First Amendment to our Constitution gave us some rights. Maybe it is just being semantically picky to insist that the First Amendment gives us nothing. We naturally have the rights enumerated in the Bill of Rights. By being born a human being with the cognition unique to our species, we can think or say anything we please. Only some outside force through aggression can attempt to silence us or impose some system of belief upon us. Even then we are free to think and say anything but most of us quickly learn when to keep our mouths shut. Censorship comes most often at the personal level, from a parent, spouse, acquaintance, a bully, or the political correctness police.

The Bill of Rights limits the Federal Government

All the Bill of Rights does is guarantee that our national government can do nothing to take away our natural rights.

Specifically in the case of the first amendment, the Federal Government through Congress “shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

What about the states? Can they impose a religion on us, or tell us when to be quiet, or prevent us from assembling peacefully on a street corner?

Over the years the courts, and most importantly the Supreme Court, have selectively ruled that certain provisions of the Bill of Rights also apply to the states. It is called the Incorporation Doctrine. The Legal Information Institute of the Cornell University School of Law provides a good discussion of the Incorporation Doctrine citing relevant court decisions. (HERE)

The Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution was ratified in 1868 as part of reconstruction after the War Between the States to insure that state and local governments were prohibited from depriving persons of life, liberty, or property without due process of law. The Supreme Court has relied heavily on the 14th Amendment (as well as the 5th) to selectively require states to uphold our natural rights while at the same time allowing states and cities wide latitude to govern locally.

The First and Second Amendments apply to the States

The First and Second Amendments are fully incorporated as a consequence of Supreme Court Rulings:

Freedom of Religion

Freedom of religion is not as simple as it sounds. Freedom of Religion means only that you may believe anything you want without interference government. The freedom to act, unlike the freedom to believe, is not absolute.

When it comes to the exercise of religion, ritual and actions, the court has laid down decisions that govern hundreds of special situations: regulation of religious solicitation, tax exemptions, access to public property, church exemption from some laws, Sunday closing laws, conscientious objection, religious ritual at government functions, rituals that violate drug laws, and many more.

The No Religious Test Clause of the U.S. Constitution says “The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the members of the several state legislatures, and all executive and judicial officers, both of the United States and of the several states, shall be bound by oath or affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.” (Article VI, Section 3).

The Constitution of the State of Texas says something similar to the U.S. Constitution but with a small twist: “No religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office, or public trust, in this State; nor shall any one be excluded from holding office on account of his religious sentiments, provided he acknowledge the existence of a Supreme Being.” Texas has agreed not to enforce the last clause but it remains in the State Constitution. Similar provisions in the constitutions of Maryland and South Carolina have been struck down by the U.S. Supreme court. Mississippi, Tennessee, and Arkansas continue to have similar provisions.

Article 19 Section 1 of the Arkansas Constitution, titled “Atheists disqualified from holding office or testifying as witness”, states: “No person who denies the being of a God shall hold any office in the civil departments of this State, nor be competent to testify as a witness in any court.”

Arkansas does not enforce this article and it appears obvious that the fourteenth amendment to the U.S. Constitution by Incorporation prohibits such a religious test.

Freedom of Speech

In Gitlow v. New York , the Supreme Court ruled that New York’s Criminal Anarchy Law passed in 1902 could limit freedom of speech because it outlawed “language of direct incitement”, which is not “the expression of philosophical abstraction.” Similarly advocacy of the use of force is not protected speech when it is “directed to inciting or producing imminent lawless action.”

What about other limits on the freedom of speech? Several states still have blasphemy laws on the books.

Massachusetts, General Laws, Chapter 272, Section 36 states:

“Whoever willfully blasphemes the holy name of God by denying, cursing or contumeliously reproaching God, his creation, government or final judging of the world, or by cursing or contumeliously reproaching Jesus Christ or the Holy Ghost, or by cursing or contumeliously reproaching or exposing to contempt and ridicule, the holy word of God contained in the holy scriptures shall be punished by imprisonment in jail for not more than one year or by a fine of not more than three hundred dollars, and may also be bound to good behavior.”

In addition to Massachusetts, Michigan, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and Wyoming, still have blasphemy laws on the books even though they are not enforced.

In Massachusetts, poor Abner Kneeland was sentenced to 60 days in jail for seditious blasphemy. His case involved not only freedom of speech but also freedom of the press; he was a journalist who a published in The Boston Investigator a “scandalous, impious, obscene, blasphemous and profane libel” of and concerning God. He appealed his conviction to the state supreme court, which took two years to uphold his conviction. Kneeland served his 60-day sentence in summer of 1838 and then moved to Iowa to found a community of free-thinkers, which failed, so he turned his attention to politics as a Democrat. But even as a Democrat, being an “infidel” doomed his career as a politician.

Freedom of the Press

Over the years the “Press” has evolved from people using printing presses, large and small, putting ink on paper to say almost anything whether true or not, to other “Media” both large and small saying almost anything whether true or not. Media now includes not only ink on paper but extends to radio, television, movies, and the Internet. Now the Mass Media reaches huge audiences and has the ability to sway the opinions of millions of people. Unfortunately many so-called news outlets have evolved into propaganda outlets for various ideologies as well as political and financial interests.

The financial clout of media generally protects it from interference by government at all levels. Media accountability is a term to express the idea that powerful propaganda outlets should answer to the public interest but few organizations are able to effectively instill a high regard for the truth in media.

In the Western World, media is financed by commercial interests. Most commercial interests rely on a mass of customers buying their goods and services. They are generally sensitive to the welfare of their customers on whom they depend for their profits.

When a television news outlet publishes immediately verifiable false information, other opposing outlets pounce on them in the relentless quest for viewers. The Internet lights up, Twitter goes crazy, and soon the controversy disappears from public view.

Freedom of Assembly

The First Amendment explicitly prohibits the Federal Government from infringing “the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” As a consequence of Incorporation, other governmental entities may not infringe the right of people to peacefully assemble themselves. If during such assemblies, the people wish demand a redress of their grievances, government is prohibited from infringing that right.

The key to this guaranteed freedom is “peacefully.” Other considerations are the property rights of places where people may want to assemble. States and Cities may require permits to use public property, or to impede traffic on public streets. Private property owners may prohibit use of their property for assemblies or may also charge a fee for using the property.

Freedom of assembly does not allow anarchist groups like Antifa to destroy property. Such activities make a mockery of constitutional freedom.

The gradual evolution of our Constitution and the great difficulty to amend it are among its strengths. This is certainly a conservative view. People on the ideological right are suspicious of calls for rapid change, such as the recent outcry to eliminate the Electoral College codified by Twelfth Amendment. It was ratified in 1804 and has withstood the test of time.

Our era of the Internet has created a population overloaded with information of dubious validity who demand immediate gratification and affirmation of their subjective and fleeting values. Cable news is remarkably shallow in its quest for marketable sensationalism. As demonstrated by many recent elections, mediocre people are elected to high and low political office on the slimmest of electoral margins. The only way most people know the candidates for whom they vote is through paid media presentations. In the final analysis all media presentations are paid for by somebody and all should be suspect. A random toss of a coin could produce similar results.

Here is a list of amendments that have been not been incorporated to apply to the states although some states do provide such protections in the state constitutions and laws.

Amendment III – prohibition against quartering of soldiers in civilian homes.

Amendment V – the right to indictment by a grand jury. (Double jeopardy and self-incrimination have been incorporated)

Amendment VI – right to a jury trial in civil cases.

Amendment VII – Suits at common law. (Jury selected from residents of crime location has not been incorporated.)

Amendment VIII – Cruel and unusual punishments inflicted (excessive fines has not been incorporated)  Federal and State Governments have some problems in this area. What constitutes excessive fines?  J.P.Morgan Chase-$13 Billion? British Petroleum – 3 Billion?

This interesting commentary is instructive.

Amendments IX and X – only apply to the U.S. Constitution

Additionally, in Gideon v. Wainwright (1963), the Court ruled that states must provide legal counsel to indigent criminal defendants, while Brown v. the Board of Education (1954) struck down a state’s ability to discriminate in public education on the basis of race.