July 4th 1776-Who Were These “Patriots”?

As we near our annual celebration of Independence Day, I would like to throw out a few comments regarding the people involved in creating the Declaration of Independence and where we are today in relationship to them.

First of all, in a technical sense of the word, those who wrote, voted for and signed this document weren’t “Patriots.” They were in fact rebels guilty of treason against the government that ruled them. The thirteen colonies owed their allegiance to the Crown and Parliament of Great Britain. Further, in a technical sense, the revolution had already begun long before they even thought of creating this document.

The Second Continental Congress was comprised of unelected representatives of the thirteen colonies, established by Great Britain. Boston was already occupied by the British; blood had been spilt on both sides. However, some in Congress wanted to still work for reconciliation with our “mother country” while others wanted to break from them for all time. Many remained in the middle.

In 1775 the First Continental Congress had sent King George the Third a petition for redress of grievances. In June 1775 the Congress established a Continental Army, a Continental Currency and in July of 1775 a “Post Office” for “The United Colonies”. In August 1775 King George III replied to the petition, a royal proclamation declared that the King’s American subjects were “engaged in open and avowed rebellion.” Later that year, Parliament passed the American Prohibitory Act, which made all American vessels and cargoes forfeit to the Crown. And in May 1776 the Congress learned that the King had negotiated treaties with German states to hire mercenaries to fight in America. The weight of these actions combined to convince many Americans that the mother country was treating the colonies as a foreign entity.

On June 7, 1776, Richard Henry Lee of Virginia read a resolution to the Congress beginning: “Resolved: That these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States, that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved.” This was not unanimously supported by the Congress. It was decided that a document should be prepared to list the grievances that led to this situation and in effect, attach legality to an illegal act before the entire Congress would vote on the resolution. Further, the vote had to be unanimous.

A Committee of Five was formed to write the “Declaration” to be heard before the Congress before a final vote was to be held to determine if the members of Congress would all hang together or hang separately. The Committee consisted of John Adams of the Colony of Massachusetts, Roger Sherman of the Colony of Connecticut, Benjamin Franklin of the Colony of Pennsylvania, Robert Livingston of the Colony of New York and Thomas Jefferson of the Colony of Virginia.

Roger Sherman was essentially a self educated man who had no legal training yet became an attorney, Justice of the Peace and later a Justice of the Superior Court. He was the only member of the Committee of Five who ended up working on and signing all four major documents regarding our founding: The Declaration of Independence, The Articles of Association, The Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union, and the United States Constitution. While working on the Constitution, he was the one who created the 3/5 compromise regarding slaves and was opposed to paper money. Jefferson said of him, That is Mr. Sherman, of Connecticut, a man who never said a foolish thing in his life.”

Robert Livingston was an early anti-colonialist who was a member of the Whig Party. He was another lawyer and became Chancellor of New York and was the man who gave George Washington the Oath of Office when he was sworn in as our first President under the Constitution. Though on the Committee of Five, he did not sign the document having been recalled to New York before the vote was cast. He went on to join Jefferson as a member of the Jeffersonian Republicans, later known as the Democratic Party, in opposition to the Federalist Party under Hamilton. He was Jefferson’s Minister to France and negotiated the Louisiana Purchase. After signing the agreement Livingston said “We have lived long but this is the noblest work of our whole lives…The United States take rank this day among the first powers of the world.”

Benjamin Franklin was quite frankly a self-made man. He was a leading author, printer, political theorist, politician, postmaster, scientist, musician, inventor, satirist, civic activist, statesman and diplomat. He was among the first to push for colonial unity. He invented the lightening rod, the Franklin stove, bifocals, and the odometer. He was an international figure and though elderly, quite the ladies man. He was the first to actually map North Atlantic Ocean currents as a result of his many trips to Europe and his role as British deputy postmaster. He opposed slavery and later wrote of the importance of integrating Blacks into American Society. He started the first abolitionist society on these shores. He was educated, had a keen wit, sense of humor and an uncanny ability to size people and organizations up for political purposes. In today’s world, he would be considered a mix between Bill Gates, Bill Clinton, Bill Maher and Hugh Hefner. When leaving the Constitutional Convention he was asked what sort of government we would have to which he responded “A Republic, if you can keep it.”

John Adams was considered the driving force in getting the Congress to break from the mother country. He was disliked by many in the Congress. A Harvard graduate and attorney, he opposed the Stamp Act of 1765 and continued to have issues with British rule and taxation. However, in 1770 he successfully defended the British soldiers charged with killing 5 Boston civilians in what became known as the Boston Massacre. He went on to become a staunch supporter of independence from Great Britain citing the tyranny of King George and the harm inflicted in Massachusetts during Concord and Lexington and later Bunker Hill. Then again, he negotiated the peace treaty with Great Britain following the end of the Revolutionary War and also secured our nation’s first loans from Amsterdam. Though serving in Congress, he was known to have said that “One useless man is a disgrace; two become a law firm and three or more a Congress.” By today’s standards he was considered a Conservative. Of note, his government negotiated the “Treaty of Tripoli” which was unanimously approved in the Senate, made up of the founding fathers and cited clearly that “the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion.” However, Adams was a devout Christian himself. He went on to become the second president of the United States. He wrote in “Thoughts of Government” “There is no good government but what is republican. That the only valuable part of the British Constitution is so; because the very definition of a republic is an empire of laws, and not of men.” Despite this, he imposed the Alien and Sedition Acts, considered even today as very draconian attack on free speech in our nation. He sided with the Federalists who were opposed to Jeffersonian Republicans. Of interest was the fact that Jefferson was his Vice President at this time. The Jeffersonian Republicans over time became the Democratic Party. He lost re-election to his Vice President, Thomas Jefferson.

Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence. He was from Virginia, he owned slaves, he was a Deist, and he did not believe in the “miracles” written about in the Bible and went so far as to remove all of them created his own Jefferson’s Bible. He cited “Nature’s God” not the Christian God. Although he ended up being the third president of the United States, although he was responsible in doubling the size of this nation via the Louisiana Purchase, although he instituted many of the practices of the Executive Branch still followed today, on his Tombstone Jefferson wanted no mention of his Presidency. Instead, he wanted written “Here was buried
Thomas Jefferson: Author of the Declaration of American Independence, of the Statute of Virginia for religious freedom, Father of the University of Virginia.” And below is what he wrote that we celebrate on July 4th:

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,

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

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

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

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

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

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

Those on the Committee of Five were different men with different views and values. Yet they had one goal in mind and although Jefferson wrote the document, it was with the consent and contributions of the others. Further, this document was presented and passed by the Second Continental Congress. Members of this body were from all thirteen colonies and all had extremely varied views on religion, government, slavery, commerce, sovereignty and most important, whether we should even be declaring our independence.

At the end of the day, by unanimous consent, the document was approved and the illegal act of rebellion of given the face of legitimacy. These men of varied views worked and compromised for the common good. Let us also not forget that during this period of our history, the two million inhabitants were not united in wanting to break with Britain. About a third did, another third didn’t and the final third were in the middle and weren’t sure. Much as it is with this country today on most subjects. But then again, over time and reflection we came together as a new nation. Those who couldn’t bring themselves to accept what the nation was becoming, left for Canada or England and the rest remained and we started as a nation. A nation with multiple views and values, strengths and weaknesses, priorities and political ideation. However, unlike today, with reflection and common purpose, we came together, the mid 1800’s notwithstanding.

Common purpose, compromise, cooperation, and tolerance are not bad words. This is what made us what we are today. We should reflect on what was happening in 1776 and the people involved. For the most part, their composition and attitudes aren’t that different from our nation today. They got past it; we should honor them by following in their footsteps.

Happy Independence Day.

The Supreme Court of the United States: Why we all need to vote in 2014

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Founders were the intellectual elites of their time, they were also the most creative and thoughtful people of their time. They created and enacted the Constitution in 1789 to correct the numerous errors contained in the failed Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union. They created the Executive Branch, the Congress as we know it today, and The Supreme Court in order to have three co-equal branches of government. Though each branch would have specific duties and responsibilities, the other branches would have various abilities for checks and balances on the other two. However, I don’t think they placed enough thought in the creation and duties of the Supreme Court.

Article III, Section 1 created the Supreme Court and other “inferior” courts where the Justices who serve in them “shall hold their office during good behavior.” Section 2 gave the Supreme Court authority to hear cases for matters that fall under the provisions of the Constitution, as well as deal with legal issues between the states or citizens of the states regarding other states or their citizens. Section 3 discusses “treason.” Problem is, the founders were too general in exactly what the Supreme Court and other inferior courts would do how they would do it and what their limits would be. Time and additional congressional acts and case law would determine those things.

Though not specifically spelled out in Article III, has been interpreted to say that Justices of the Supreme Court and inferior Courts, upon confirmation will for life unless they resign. Only way prescribed to remove a Justice is trial in the Senate upon Articles of Impeachment being drawn up in the House of Representatives. This has only happened once and the Supreme Court Justice was acquitted in the Senate.

So even though the President requires a majority vote from the Electoral College (which is derived by a popular vote of the citizens of the United States) and can only serve two four-year terms in office, even though Senators can only serve if elected by a majority of citizens from the States they represent, even though members of the House can only serve by a majority vote of the citizens in their congressional district, Supreme Court Justices do not require a popular or electoral college vote to be placed on the highest court of the land and they can serve for life.

In Marbury v Madison, the Supreme Court gave itself the authority of Judicial Review of the Constitution and determining what was or wasn’t constitutional. This case would be the foundation for the Supreme Court being able to overturn any legislative act from Congress, signed by the Executive Branch, on grounds of whether it was constitutional, even though the other two branches of government support the law. This wasn’t spelled out in Article III, but the authority exists today. Though sparingly used in the early years of this country, over time the Supreme Court more and more made its interpretation of the Constitution on matters presented to them and made her rulings. Often they would overturn their own ruling based on re-interpretation of the constitution and “intent” of the founders. This has been the history of the Court.

This brings me to the 21st Century and the current state of the Supreme Court. Over time the Court has become more of a political institution than a legal one. It was only natural. A president using a political litmus test nominates a Justice, the Senate determines if the nominee is “safe” and confirms and the Justice sits on the Court for life. If they have a political agenda of their own, there really isn’t anybody to stop them other than the associate Justices ruling the opposite way.

However if you have a majority of conservative leaning Justices, you will have conservatively interpreted versions of the Constitution as the basis for Court rulings. If you have liberal leaning Justices, you have liberally interpreted versions of the Constitution as the basis for Court rulings. It’s no longer the Constitution and law per se that determines what the ruling will be, a major part in the ruling is based on whether there is a majority conservative or liberal interpretation of the same document(s). Too many 5-4 rulings, based on the same constitution and same case law testifies to the fact that these are less and less true and “pure” legal rulings.

Let’s look at the two major rulings this week. In the matter regarding the Shelby v Holder (the Voting Rights Act), Justices Roberts, Alito, Scalia, Thomas and Kennedy cited essentially that under the “State’s Rights” provision of the Constitution and the fact that despite evidence presented in arguments and overwhelming support of the Act in 2006 by the House, Senate and Republican President, since they do not believe racism is any longer an issue in this country, the formula used in Section 4 is outdated and unnecessary.  They ruled that individual states covered under Section 4, using State’s right, can draw up their own districts and voter registration criteria without prior approval of the Justice Department. Within two-hours of the ruling, Texas immediately stated it would impose redistricting and voter ID laws already shown to be discriminatory against voters based on race that was overruled in 2011. States rights ruled supreme with these Supremes. However, the remaining four Justices cited strong opposition to the majority opinion.

In the DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act) case, Justices Kennedy, Kagan, Sotomayer, Ginsberg, and Breyer cited the “State’s Rights” provision of the Constitution and evidence presented in arguments for their ruling and despite the fact that a majority of the Senate, House and a Democratic President signed it, State rights ruled supreme because individual states, using State rights can determine what a marriage is and the Feds have no authority to deny marriage status on a national basis that overturns the States’ decisions. The remaining four Justices cited strong opposition to the majority opinion.

All nine Justices read the same Constitution, all nine heard the same evidence and same arguments pro and against, all nine read the same applicable laws, yet we had a 5-4 decision in both. Only Justice Kennedy cited “State’s Rights” for both opinions. Regardless of where you stand on these two issues, how can you not see that politics and political leanings had more to do with the rulings that the constitution and laws of this land?

The most egregious example of the politics of the Supreme Court impacting the nation in a way that there is no recourse was Bush v Gore.

The ruling in this case actually went against State’s rights by stopping the State of Florida from counting all the ballots to determine which Electoral College votes would go to whom. The constitution clearly provides that the State determines their electoral college and sends them to vote for the President. It’s very clear and the Florida Supreme Court ruled that all the ballots had to be counted until the US Supreme Court overruled them. To add insult to injury, the Court took the additional step to say their ruling would only apply to this case, not any future case. How was this not political?

This was the Supreme Court determining who was to be the President of the United States. It’s the Chief Executive and Senate who are to determine who sits on the Supreme Court. Nowhere in the Constitution does it say the Supreme Court can decide who sits in the White House. There remains debating stories on who would have won had all the ballots been counted. The tallies were too close because voter turnout wasn’t as high as it should have been. This brings me to the point of this rant.

The makeup and composition of the Executive and Legislative Branches of our Federal Government depends on who gets the majority vote. The makeup and composition of the Supreme Court, Justices who serve for life, is determined by who occupies the White House and Senate at the time a seat becomes available. Once confirmed to the Supreme Court, short of resignation or impeachment, the Justice is there for life. Since the Justices are becoming more and more of a political branch of government and less a judicial branch, we need to be very sure who we elect to the Congress and Presidency. 50% or less voter turn-out does not represent the majority view, wishes and needs of this country. More people need to take the time to go out and vote in all elections, especially the midterms.

Look at who we have on the Supreme Court now: Both Thomas and Scalia have close ties to conservative groups and the Koch brothers. Their rulings on cases that impact the Koch’s business dealings and political causes mirrors those of the Koch’s. There’s no difference at all. Worse yet, even when close ties with the Koch’s have been shown prior to a case that directly impacts them, neither Thomas or Scalia recused themselves from hearing or ruling on those cases, something judicial ethics demands. However, there’s nobody to stop them.

Justice Roberts who was appointed by Bush and wouldn’t be there had Gore been elected worked in the Reagan Justice Department. His job was to find ways to stop the Voting Rights Act of 1965. However in Shelby v Holder, which the Voting Rights Act was the key issue, he did not recuse himself, something judicial ethic demands.

Further, both Roberts and Alito (who was also appointed by Bush and wouldn’t be there had Gore won), were corporate attorneys with corporate leanings and interests and fought for cases that favor corporate interests in the United States, prior to being on the Court. Neither recused themselves from hearing or ruling on Citizens United that ruled that Corporations are people (only entitled to more rights than people).

On the other side of the political aisle of the Supreme Court, Justice Kagan actually has recused herself from hearing cases she worked prior to being appointed to the Court. She showed judicial ethics that ended up in rulings that hurt the progressive cause.

Conservatives vote, conservatives in the House and Senate will block and/or kill any legislation that helps move this nation in a progressive direction and helps the neediest among us. The issue of Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act can be fixed if Congress acts, but this Congress won’t because of the majority of Tea Party Conservatives in the House and enough of them in the Senate to filibuster.

State GOP officials are now clear to gerrymander districts in their favor, free to impose voter ID laws that disproportionately target minorities and those who would vote Democratic. Even though they can be overturned in the Courts, because Section 4 is dead, it could take time and the elections would be held and can’t be taken back once they are over.

Time for action to fix this is now. Even with gerrymandering and voter ID laws, if we can get everyone to register, get the required ID and actually get them out to vote and challenge anyone trying to stop them, we can turn these elections towards the progressive side.

Conservatives always vote, frustratingly, progressives don’t. This has to change.

I like Nate Silver; he knows his numbers and is always right. He’s predicting the House remaining in Republican Control after 2014. This is based on historical voting trends. I would love to prove him wrong. However, this will require shooting for 100% progressive voter turnout in 2014. Otherwise, the Supreme Court could go further towards the conservative, anti people and pro business directions that Roberts, Alito, Scalia and Thomas have taken it.

Only a solid Democratic majority in House and Senate can stop it. Further, it’s not just the November election I’m talking about; it’s the primaries and caucuses too. This is where we get the most progressive of the Democrats on the ticket. We don’t need any more pro NRA types who happen to be Democratic in the Congress to stop needed gun control legislation. In a year from now, the primaries for the 2014 midterm elections will begin. Get active now because we are running out of time.

Semper Fi – Always Faithful

Semper_Fidelis_by_SemperFi1775This post is somewhat premature, but this issue has been weighing on my mind for the past several months and is one of the major reasons I haven’t been posting much on this Blog and going days without being on Twitter. This will be a tribute to a man I’ve come to respect from the day I met him some 23 years ago when my (at the time) girlfriend introduced me to him. Many can understand the natural fear we guys feel when we first meet up with the father of the person we intend to marry. This man gave me a lot to be concerned over.

Don is a Marine veteran. He volunteered to serve this nation in World War II and was deployed to the Pacific island fighting campaign. He received two purple hearts, he was involved in the Okinawa campaign where he received his second purple heart after being severely wounded in hand to hand combat. After the war he was deployed to China as part of the “China Marines” looking out for American interests and assisting in building a railroad there, until the communists drove the Americans out.

He came back to this country and went to college earning an engineering degree. He went to work for the Santa Fe railroad. He married and raised three wonderful daughters. His family settled in Prescott where he was City Manager and for a long spell, the only city engineer the town had. Don quite candidly helped design much of Prescott and Prescott Valley. He is honored and respected by the old timers there. He was active in his church, his community, and his politics. However, his family always came first. As for the politics, he is a very conservative Republican and nothing will dissuade him from his political views. Despite our “difference” of opinion regarding politics and political figures, we continued to respect each other. The one thing that kept us respecting each other was the one most important thing in our lives, the deep love for his daughter who happens to be my wife.

He was always full of stories, from his childhood through his time after the War. Only in the last few years did he start talking about his experiences in combat. He talked about being a Marine, something he is very proud of doing, being active each year for the Marine’s Birthday celebration, but rarely talked about combat. This is normal for veterans. Though he has an understandable hatred of the Japanese (understandable considering his life and death experience) we came to realize that he worries about his immortal soul for what he had to do as a Marine to survive. He is a very religious and moral person, so this weighs on his mind.

He was very active in work up until a few years ago. His entire life was his devotion to his mother and family, the nation, the Marines, his wife, his children and his community. As he grew older he came to realize he needed to step back and he did. Sadly, his health began to decline over a year ago and this once strong and powerful figure of a man succumbed to his age. As he became less able to care for himself and dependent on others to care for him, we could see the depression setting in. This is a man who prided himself for caring for others, not having others care for him.

He didn’t respond well to a surgical procedure a few months back. He had some setbacks and has spent almost the entire last two months in a hospital. Last week he was assessed for hospice care. This has been the longest he’s been away from sharing a room with his wife of 60 years.

I went to visit him last week knowing that this would most likely be the last time I would see this man alive. He’s confined to a hospital bed, his voice is weak, he struggles to find words, but he lights up when he sees his daughters and his wife; though only for a moment, then he falls asleep. During the visit I pondered how I was going to say goodbye to him.

I decided to treat him with the respect I’ve always shown him over the past 23 years. I came up to him and said “Don, I need to take my leave of you.” Then I thanked him, not for his service to the nation, the Marines, his community, his church, that wasn’t necessary because he knows that I have always had that respect for him from all our conversations over the years. I thanked him for providing me my wife. He raised a wonderful girl who grew to be a wonderful woman. I thought that was the most appropriate thing to say. Then he told me that I was a good son-in-law. Then I said “Take care Sir,” and left. Though we disagreed on politics, we both share a love of this nation and my wife. That is all that needed to be said.

He is still holding on to life as I write this, but this story has been spinning in my head and for my own mental and emotional state I felt the need to share it with those of you who are interested. We owe so much to the generations that precedes us as well as the generations that will come after us when we are no longer in a position to hold things together.

It is easy to engage in personal conflicts over petty issues as we move through life. Often it seems it is easier to hate others, hold grudges and to find ways to hurt those you have issues with. It’s been that way for eternity and will most likely never end. However, if you have problems with yourself or others taking that course, you can do something about it. Maybe not for others but for yourself. Despite the differences you may have with somebody, whether it is for personal or global issues try to find what you have in common and nurture it.

From the rhetoric most people like to post on Twitter, their blogs, Facebook, etc almost everyone cites their love of family and country. If you are true to that belief, then demonstrate it by focusing on your love of family and nation and endeavor to do those things you think will have the most positive impact. The “greatest generation” of Americans as Tom Brokaw called them is dying off. Each day around 700 United States World War II veterans die. They gave their all to those of us who followed. They gave their blood, sweat and tears to protect and build this nation. We need to pay them back, not allow others to take services away from them.

Further, by making sacrifices for those who sacrifice for us and by our efforts to build and maintain this nation for ourselves and our families (while we are physically able) the future generations quite simply owe us the same favor. In fact, this is the history of human society. Each generation caring for the preceding and next generation to perpetuate a stable and caring society.

We must be always faithful to those who came before and those who follow or we cease to be a society worth keeping.


Don did pass away last July a few weeks after I first posted this story and about two weeks prior to his 92nd birthday. He was given full military honors with a Marine Honor Guard and his ashes were interred along with his son overlooking a peaceful valley just east of Prescott. We are all coping with the loss, but are comforted in knowing he was truly an honorable man who cared for his family, church and nation and is doing recon work for all of us as we speak. Semper Fi Don!

Phone/Internet Privacy and the NSA

All of you who take the time to read Facebook, Twitter, Blogs and other little niches of the Internet are, or at least should be aware of transpiring events regarding the “revelation” that the NSA has apparently been spying on average Americans via their phones and use of the Internet.  This is of course the “short attention span” version of what Greenwald has presented to all of you. Many like me have mixed and often conflicted feelings over this story. Honestly, I think there is actually much more to subject matter than anyone outside the NSA and the principal people involved are aware of. That being said, here’s my humble take on the matter.

The majority of people hearing of this story, including myself are quite enraged at the thought of our government invading our privacy over our phone calls and internet use. Many have expressed their outrage of their loss of privacy via their Twitter accounts, Facebook pages, Blogs along with all the private little things about themselves they give the public for free. People place so much of their privacy on Facebook for example I wonder why the need for the United States Intelligence Agencies to take the time and effort to “steal it”.

Now people will counter that what you voluntarily provide is your business, they are opposed to it being taken without our knowledge. They see it rightly as an invasion of our fourth amendment rights. They propose that with this information, jack-booted federal troops could break in to our homes without warrants and take us all in for interment in FEMA camps. I have actually read this on the Internet. What I also find amusing is that some on Twitter, who have angrily denounced this practice have been known to Dox others they don’t like. Doxing is the practice of gathering as much personal information of people into one place and presenting it in a way that not only violates people’s privacy, it’s designed to intimidate, harass and embarrass.

However, we all know that the internet has all kinds: good and bad, kind and malicious, helpful and demanding, sane and insane. But I digress.

The points listed above have to some degree or another relevance. However there is something about the whole NSA story that doesn’t quite get the play it should when it’s described to the public in mainstream media or the internet.

In reality, there isn’t any actually spying on citizens going on per se without benefit of a FISA Court warrant. The system being spoken of is actually a method to collect en masse, phone and internet records from the various companies mentioned in the story and creating a data bank of this information. The way this is supposed to work is that when information is obtained providing a suspect’s name based on some intelligence, they can go to the FISA Court and get permission to “data mine” the data collected from all those phone and internet records to gather additional information. So it’s not direct spying, more like indirect spying by proxy.

Now I don’t take comfort in this. If this data is stored indefinitely who’s to say someone somewhere with new authority granted them by law via the Congress and Executive Branch couldn’t “data mine” this source of data for other not so “national security” related business. The very real problem exists that people could find a way into this data storage facility to find reasons to harass, intimidate embarrass others for political reasons. Though the chances are small, they none-the-less do exist.

From my perspective however, the major issue not getting play here is that it’s not actually the government collecting this data. It’s a private corporation, Booz Allen Hamilton who is collecting and collating this data from Verizon, Google, etc and the United States goes to them to access the information.

In fact, nearly a third of all “top-secret” classifications are given to people outside the United States Government. You would think this would please Libertarians no end, the United States outsourcing their intelligence operations to private business. Keep in mind these business owe their allegiance to their boards and stock-holders, not the people of the United States. Further, because Booz Allen isn’t a government agency, there is no “Inspector General” someone like Snowden could have gone to in order to express there was something wrong and filing an anonymous complaint. In government agencies, the Inspector General has complete authority to investigate wrong doing and protect the “whistle blowers”. This doesn’t exist in the private sector. Our national security shouldn’t be outsourced to private industry trying to turn a profit. Indeed, neither should our privacy.

As for Snowden, much of the “bio” presented on him leaves me feeling it’s “manufactured”. Something doesn’t smell right about his motivation or his personal history as reported. What bothers me most is him going to China for protection. There are many other countries he could have gone to for asylum that practice far more control of invasion of privacy than the United States would do on her worse day. We’re nothing compared to China in this regard. China is the overreaching and powerful government the Libertarians complain we are becoming.

I’m awaiting more information to get out on this guy. If what he states on the record is completely factual and true, I do see him more as a traitor to our National Security than a Whistle Blower. However, I suspect he didn’t actually have the clearance he claims and only did this for notoriety. This is just my suspicion, I have nothing to back this up, but then again those who praise him as “a hero” really have nothing substantial yet to prove their opinions either.

For those of you shocked that our government, after implementation of the Patriot Act, would use resources to spy or at least monitor and have the ability to get information on suspected terrorists and criminals, all I can say is (as someone on Twitter pointed out) I have some bad news about Santa Claus too. The convenience of the information age really has made this inevitable. This is not to say I agree. I would like to see firewalls in place to protect our private information that is currently being gathered (without complaint or legal restriction) of all private business for whom people do business with. Your information is being gathered each time you use a credit card, do a Google or Bing search, get on the Internet, send an email, post a blog, complete a bank transaction, purchase a big-ticket item, book a vacation, the information is being gathered, stored and our government will find a way to access it. So from a realistic point of view, either enact laws to keep private businesses from gathering and storing this information or make sure the government representatives you elect into office to lead you, are not so predisposed to make nefarious use of this information.

If you’re going to say national security trumps privacy, then you are in no position to complain about these events because that is the rallying cry people who set this up use to justify its existence. If your privacy trumps everything else, then get more politically active. Better yet, get more politically aware and take a more pragmatic view of the world around us before mindlessly ranting about how good or bad it is and who is or isn’t a hero. The only thing that is certain and I’m sorry to say this, the government does know more about you than you do of it. And this is your fault by not staying politically active. Another reason to give the 2014 midterms more thought.