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Friday, August 31, 2012

Demagoguing Politicians in Shepherd's clothing

To be fair many Christians do follow Jesus' teachings, but many of their preachers, ministers, priests exploit those teachings, parse them, or quote conveniently from different passages of the bible, often out of context; and add to the materials their own distorted exegesis.

The Catholic Church has alternately practiced, exploited, profited from, or paid lip service to his teachings; and the Church has a 1900 year history of persecuting people who took the Bible too seriously. When they took the old testament too seriously they were burned as judaisers. When they took the New Testament too seriously they were burned as Heretics. The teachings require wisdom to resolve contradictory passages, and people tend to take literal admonishments too literally, figurative turns of speeches or mythic parts literally, and to completely miss context, even when they try to practice Jesus' teachings. Unfortunately they aren't alone. When the protestants revolted against them, they continued many of the same practices they'd rebelled against. Christians have been fighting over material issues using religion as a cover for centuries, as have other members of other religious groups.

It's not as simple as deliberate evil. Much of what goes on comes from three sources: deluded thinking caused by emotions of anger, hatred, or hurt; perverse thinking caused by emotions of hunger, greed, or jealousy; and manipulation related also to greed and ambition. This happens with other religions too, as I found out to my shame when I spent 30 years studying an Eastern Religion only to find myself being recruited by both sides of an internal war between religious factions I'd over-estimated the wisdom of. Many religious leaders are religious politicians in Shepherds clothing.

Redeeming religion starts with the humble recognition that even our best teachers are frail human beings like ourselves, and the scoundrels among us are potentially within all of us. Their roles are to comfort the sick and grieving, teach their flocks and guide them to enlightenment and redemption, and to master their own spirituality so that they can do these things wisely.  When they step into politics or power and money they step into it.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Juries and the Supreme Court Process

Marbury versus Madison was part of a Federalist part to preserve influence with the Federal Government once the Federalists were voted out of office in 1800.  In the last days of the Adams Administration a whole series of Federal officers were appointed by Adams and approved by Congress.  Some of those people did not arrive in the capital in time to take their appointments before the new administration took office.  The New President refused to accept these appointments. One of the appointees sued.  In Marbury versus Madison, John Marshal affirmed the right of Jefferson to refuse their appointment but established a ruling which ruled:

“All laws which are repugnant to the Constitution are null and void.” Marbury vs Madison 5 U.S. 137, 174, 176.
“The general rule is that an unconstitutional statute, though having the form and name of law, is in reality no law, but is wholly void and ineffective for any purpose; since its unconstitutionality dates from the time of its enactment… In legal contemplation, it is as inoperative as if it had never been passed… Since an unconstitutional law is void, the general principles follow that it imposes no duties, confers no rights, creates no office, bestows no power or authority on anyone, affords no protection and justifies no acts performed under it… A void act cannot be legally consistent with a valid law. Indeed, insofar as a statute runs counter to the fundamental law of the land, it is superceded thereby. No one is bound to obey an unconstitutional law and no courts are bound to enforce it.” 16 Am Jur 2d S177, late Am Jur 2d S256

This angered Jefferson, and over time it angered him more. He saw this decision as the  usurp[ation]  of exclusively explaining the constitution.” And over time he realized that:
“the constitution had  deprived the people control “Over the judiciary department.” And that therefore he wrote that even after years of Republican government the Federalists “ therefore, has continued the reprobated system, and although new matter has been occasionally incorporated into the old, yet the leaven of the old mass seems to assimilate to itself the new, and after twenty years' confirmation of the federal system by the voice of the nation, declared through the medium of elections, we find the judiciary on every occasion, still driving us into consolidation.” [1]

The Republicans could not do things in the national interest, or enforce their conception of what is constitutional or not because the Supreme court was dominated by Federalists appointed by Adams and would strike down their laws as unconstitutional.  In Jefferson’s view:

“The constitution, on this hypothesis, is a mere thing of wax in the hands of the judiciary, which they may twist, and shape into any form they please”

Jefferson felt that the constitution had made the Supreme Court a potential locus of absolutist and undemocratic government:

It should be remembered, as an axiom of eternal truth in politics, that whatever power in any government is independent, is absolute also; in theory only, at first, while the spirit of the people is up, but in practice, as fast as that relaxes. Independence can be trusted nowhere but with the people in mass. They are inherently independent of all but moral law.

Jefferson believed that:

“each department [should be] truly independent of the others, and ha[ve] an equal right to decide for itself what is the meaning of the constitution in the cases submitted to its action; and especially, where it is to act ultimately and without appeal.”

Jefferson was referring to the autonomous right of each branch of government (Judiciary, executive, and legislative”) to decide its own cases.  In some cases the judiciary has since respected Jefferson’s perspective but not in all.  They typically defer to the executive on some legal matters.  So, while the Judiciary has frequently overruled the executive and the legislative on matters where the court assumes the executive knows what they are doing [which is what Jefferson is inferring]. This is sometimes appropriate.  Thus the courts have protected the rights of minorities and the oppressed, but sometimes the appeal to the Supreme Court has been an instrument of tyranny [Private Separate Advantage].[2]

A “mere thing of wax in the hands” of either Judges or Executive.

To me Marbury Versus Madison exposed a process issue where both sides had issues that needed to be resolved, not with merely the courts overriding the executive, but with better process.  Andrew Jackson applied Jefferson’s theory when the Supreme Court overruled his decisions on ethnic cleansing of American Indian Indigenous peoples living in territories he had control over.  He told the court ‘you made the decision, now you enforce it” and then dispossessed and murdered thousands of human beings with impunity.  The executive with the concurrence of docile courts or in spite of them have also treated the constitution as a “thing of wax.”

When there is injustice there needs to be judicial review. But that review in many cases deserves to be heard by an independent jury, prosecuted by experts representing all legitimate points of view, and subject to the old principle of separation of powers; “No man should be judge, jury and executioner, in the same case. Jefferson rightly noted:

“The nation declared its will by dismissing functionaries of one principle, and electing those of another, in the two branches, executive and legislative, submitted to their election. Over the judiciary department, the constitution had deprived them of their control.”

On first perusal, it is hard to see how the nation could establish democratic controls over the Judiciary. But there is an age old way, which while under assault in our modern times, represents an even more pure exercise of democracy than that of elections. It is the Jury.  A body of independent citizens, not ignorant or totally unbiased, but selected at random from the general population, could form commission style juries that could make better, more fair, and more representative decisions than a panel of paid permanent jurists who are selected from professional judges and serve for life.  The ancient Greeks didn’t trust to elections, they believed that volunteers should directly make decisions, and in our modern society volunteers, national guard, and juries are the best democratic institutions we still have.  The process problem Jefferson identified with Marbury versus Madison is in how to have judicial controls on decision making that represent the people, and not special interests such as the Federalists represented in his times.

If disputes were subject to jury review [Juridical Controls, Judicial Oversight] in the governments departments and agencies, there too would be better process.  For independent juries composed of a representative (and temporary) sample of the American people would embody Jefferson’s principle that  ”Independence can be trusted nowhere but with the people in mass.” The purest expression of democracy in action is the Jury. If a jury had ruled on Marbury versus Madison, what would Jefferson have been willing to say?

[2] Reference is to John locke’s definition of tyranny in “Twin Treatises on Government”

Sunday, August 26, 2012

The Empire Strikes Back -- Trying to Avoid Responsibility

Right now we are in the middle of something like an episode of the "Empire Strikes Back" fueled by people who think they have, or at least want to convince others that they have divine wisdom and divine purpose. This may be the result of having the power to influence others and not having spiritual wisdom, or it may simply be the result of misplaced fanaticism, but in either case at least some of the folks involved are showing massive cynicism.  When people are convinced that they are right and everyone else is wrong, in the pursuit of their ends they justify the means, but after a while they simply wind up using corrupt means to achieve corrupt ends.  For that reason this sort of Machievellian thinking has been a source of tyranny and violence for 1900 years. The person who would set themselves up as omnisicent inquisitor is stepping into a realm where they can only be poseurs usurpers, but never the real thing. In my [previous post]

So it is that religious politics is just as vicious as electoral politics, office politics or any other kind. And when prelates invade secular politics they become even more corrupt than the secular world they seek to control. And there is nothing like fear to propel folks to heights of absurdity. The same Catholic Church that chose to cover up the misbehavior of it's priests for years, now is using an alliance with Republicans to try to avoid responsibility for the crimes their own people committed:
Bishop Dolan is:
"Cardinal Timothy Dolan, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, is scheduled to deliver the concluding benediction at the Republican National Convention next week, after Mitt Romney’s acceptance speech."
But I take heart. If Dolan is channeling the darkside, egged on by his Pope Benedict (formerly Cardinal Ratzinger, of the former Inquisition and the enforcement arm of the Catholic Church), you have these wonderful Sisters traveling the country preaching the liberating theology taught by their founder. The Church can't burn them yet. At least I can hope. I pray they don't face the inquisition.
But the Church can play legal games. Right now they are claiming that they are having their religious liberty to oppress their flock, employees, and priests; infringed on by the Affordable Health Care Act -- and suing.

And because the Democrats, including Catholic Democrats, won't champion their cause, they are planning to run a fear and hate campaign to vilify us Democrats as attacking their freedom. And of course evil minded priests can only get away with going to the dark-side if they have perverse or ignorant and ambitious lay leaders to support them:
"The news — both its substance and the venue in which it was conveyed — make clear three things: that Romney intends to make the Bishops’ bogus arguments about religious liberty infringements a centerpiece of his campaign’s faith outreach; that any efforts the Obama administration made to placate the Bishops’ unattainable demands on insurance coverage for contraception were a fool’s errand; and that the USCCB has unequivocally attached itself at the hip to the Republican Party." [Same article as picture]
This article: sums up the issues well enough that I won't go into detail. But the argument that somehow requiring the Church as a corporate entity to pay for women's medical needs is tyranny butts up against the fact that many of those women aren't even Catholic and are working for the Church in its secular capacity as an educator and provider of places of healing. The article talks about Ontario, and the reality is that the Church is campaigning worldwide:
"The religious freedom claimed by the Roman Catholic Church to restrict the use of contraception by the employees and students in the Church's affiliated hospitals, universities, colleges, schools, social service agencies, etc. Typically, these employees and students identify with the Catholic Church, other Christian denominations, non-Christian religions, or have no religious affiliation at all."
This is tyranny, not religious freedom. Nobody should have the right to take away individual rights because they are a collective claiming that God told them they could deny those rights.
"The religious freedom claimed by those students and employees who have examined their conscience about the use of contraceptives on religious, ethical and moral grounds, and have personally decided that they wish to freely use contraceptives. Some wish to use them in order to regulate or avoid conception and pregnancy; others wish to use them to treat one of many medical problems unrelated to conception."
One Man's freedom is a woman's tyranny. But this hasn't changed since the Church first discovered witchcraft and heresy during the later Roman Empire. The Catholic Church has claimed the right to be a Corporation not subject to Secular law, to be a Secular State not subject to rule of law, and to be a religious institution over and above it's own moral codes. Birth Control is the modern version of the kind of apothocary, medicine that midwives and herbalists used to practice in order to be identified as Witches by the Doctors of the Church, who would dunk them and if they survived that, burn them. This is a form of 1984 newspeak. They claim they deserve the right to the religious liberty to deny religious liberty to their employees and members. A kind of newspeak where honesty and freedom of consciousness becomes heresy and was tyranny becomes "liberty." Corporate liberty = individual tyranny for the employee, or in the case of the US Church, the non-employee not subject to labor law because he/she is not really employed by the Church, even though they are.

And the irony is that they advance the right to put shackles on their employees and deny women medical insurance coverage in the name of religious liberty and their corporate rights as a church. But in the meantime they are trying to avoid responsibility for their members and employees on the grounds that they don't really work for them! Who'd have thunk it? How'd they get away with that? They didn't get away with it in Britain, but here our courts are either intimidated or thoroughly corrupt. When they get into trouble because of their own crimes they shout "our priests "don't work here!":
In the USA "a judge ruled that the Holy See is not the employer of molester priests."
[Source: Vatican not employer:]
But this is not merely tyranny at work. The Catholic Church is losing money. They've started borrowing from Wall Street, always a bad move, instead of raising money from their employees. And that is making them nuts. The problem isn't just tyranny, it is financial incompetence looking to recoup losses:
"The picture that emerges is not flattering. The church’s finances look poorly co-ordinated considering (or perhaps because of) their complexity. The management of money is often sloppy. And some parts of the church have indulged in ungainly financial contortions in some cases—it is alleged—both to divert funds away from uses intended by donors and to frustrate creditors with legitimate claims, including its own nuns and priests. The dioceses that have filed for bankruptcy may not be typical of the church as a whole. But given the overall lack of openness there is no way of knowing to what extent they are outliers."
So to deal with their finances, they stick it to their congregants who've been damaged by scumbag priests whose behavior they'd covered up and hidden from those same congregants.
"Thousands of claims for damages following sexual-abuse cases, which typically cost the church over $1m per victim, according to lawyers involved, have led to a liquidity crisis. This seems to have encouraged a pre-existing trend towards replacing dollars from the faithful with publicly raised debt as a way of financing church business. The church is also increasingly keen to defend its access to public health-care subsidies while claiming a right not to provide certain medical services to which it objects, such as contraception. This increased reliance on taxpayers has not been matched by increased openness and accountability. The church, like other religious groups in America, is not subject to the same disclosure requirements as other non-profits or private entities."
I guess I'm supposed to feel sorry for the Vatican, but then it doesn't employ all those wonderful, fully human and frail priests and nuns, monks and lay-people that I've come to know and love over the years. Even though it had senior prelates relocating perverted priests and sometimes moving them to out of the way places where they could practice their perversions with impunity. [See this article]
ROME — "The Vatican on Friday reaffirmed its position that the future Pope Benedict XVI "had no knowledge" of a decision to allow a known pedophile priest to resume pastoral duties when the pope was archbishop in Munich in 1980. The Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, said an article that appeared in The New York Times on Friday that said the future pope had been sent a..."[was false"
Of course if the future pope hadn't known that then he was recklessly incompetant, and the article was sourced, but I can only judge facts and if they say he didn't know about what his Church was doing when it moved priests around, sent them to special retreats for Pedophiles, tried to rehabilitate them, and allegedly covered up for them, then, well. What can I say? But what would be funny is that after all those efforts which show just how closely the priests worked with the Vatican and worked for the Vatican, it is Ironic that the Church now claims they were mere independent contractors and on that ground the Church isn't responsible!
It claims it didn't employ the Pedophiles! -- though a British court didn't buy that argument.
"The ruling by the High Court in London for the first time defined in British law the relationship of a priest to his bishop as that of an employee to an employer, instead of seeing the priest as effectively self-employed."
When Cardinal Dolan endorses Romney and joins the attempted coup against Democracy in our country I will feel sorry for the Catholic Church -- the one that is pictured in "The City of God." But I can't feel sorry for the pedophiles and the priests who covered up for them, or the many women who may be reduced to coat hanger abortions if the Church gets its way. My sense of history and historical outrage won't let me. I feel sorry for their victims.
Previous Post:
Source for last two quotes;
British court decision:

Friday, August 24, 2012

Love, Hierarchy and Tyranny

I have mixed feelings about Christianity. I was baptized when I was a baby, and when I was little I sincerely sang "Jesus Loves me Yes I know, for the Bible Tells me so." And attended Church. I was a weird kid. I actually enjoyed theology class. My bible study teacher thought I was going to grow up to be a theologian. It might have happened but I met born again Christians who convinced me that there was something wrong with history. And my study of history and it's 19 and 1/2 century history of conflict, intolerance and authoritarianism convinced me to abandon it and go on what I now would call a "walk about." I had a severe argument with the concept of God on High, and had even worse troubles reconciling the trinity. Eventually I got into Eastern Religion, got into critiquing esotericism, and that led me to study and critique Kaballa, which led me to fall in love with Judaism and appreciate both the good and bad of religion all over again. So I still have mixed feelings about Christianity, but I appreciate it better. My main problem is with Christians and the sometimes demagogic way that their leaders mislead them. I no longer blame true believers, or even believers, it's the teachers who get on my nerves.

So it is with regret, but not surprise, that I observe current trends in a few of the major religions. My old Church, the Episcopal church is wracked in a war between fundamentalists who are also rather intolerant, and the remnants of the enlightenment movement, who've been on the decline for 100+ years. The result is that the fundamentalists sometimes become Catholics.

And in studying all this stuff I encountered the ancestral church of most Western Europeans. The one that held the monopoly, until Luther and Calvin came along, in the Western part of Europe. It too had had an enlightenment of sorts, that culminated in Vatican II, but it seems that it too has a civil war of sorts as well. One side of that Civil war resembles enlightened Episcopalians of the Church I grew up with. I remember the Berrigans, and how they became Episcopalians when they left the Church and got married. There is no theologically integral reason that a priest can't marry. At one time it was De-riguer that priests married. Judaism required their Rabbis to marry, and Cohain couldn't be proper priests unless they had progeny to pass their post to. Early Christians included women priests and all sorts of priests, and there are even stories of priests married to each other. But that is not dogma today.

Did I tell you my main fight when I was 13 was with Dogma?

So of course Vatican II, Ecumenicism, and enlightenment all sound good. In Polyanna the Priest has a high minded conversion when he engages in some exegesis and counts the amount of times the Bible talks about love. But talking about love doesn't stop the hemorrhaging of believers or the outflow of money. Fundamentally all Churches are among the oldest forms of corporations, and priests, ministers, bishops, etc... are in one of the oldest professions and can't live without donations; so letting people come and go at will from their churches guarantees them a secular job and a Church that hangs a new moniker on it. Formerly Catholic or Episcopal churches now house fundamentalist or Born Again Churches now because the priests failed to hold on to their flock. So how do they do that?

By fear, vilification, and hate.

while I was studying Eastern Religion I spent most of that time with a Buddhist sect founded by a teacher Named Nichiren. He talked a lot about misuse of religion, which his disciples used mostly to vilify rivals, but one day it hit me that his teachings were universal, which meant that the enemy is the tendency to misuse religion itself, all the ways that religion is misused. He called the teaching Six devils and Three powerful enemies; and the three powerful enemies were ignorant lay people, manipulative priests and incorrect sages. Well that teaching did apply potentially to their rivals, but it also applied to the leaders who embraced that teaching -- and like all people possessing a mirror they tried to use it to look at everyone else. That doesn't change.

Misapplied it leads to esotericism for the initiated and exotericism for everyone else. It leads to efforts to vilify rivals instead of teaching distinctions. It doesn't help. And that is what is going on within the Churches, just as it has done since Christianity started having second and third generation disciples of it's founder and the believers started conflating the Messenger, the once and future King of Jewish theory, with God himself. You see it in Acts, where Paul notes all the people who identified Jesus with Apollo. This shouldn't be surprising, when the Prophets condemn Israel for worshiping the Baalim, the most popular of the Baalim was Baal Peor, or the Lord Son of God, who died each spring so that crops could grow. It's amazing how similar the concept of Jesus is to that of Baal. He goes from being a teacher to a God, and his priests from being teachers and missionaries to being priests of a God, thanks to human frailty on the part of ordinary folks, and human ambition on the part of their teachers.

So I'm not in the least surprised to see corruption in the various churches. On the contrary as I get older, I'm simply mighty pleased to discover there are brief exceptions, or sometimes even enduring one, to the rule about the three powerful enemies, religious exploitation and the evolution of divine revolution into profane dogma; because the temptations are impossible to risk.

In studying the weaknesses of religion I discovered realities about human psychology and spirituality that I could have used to establish myself as a Ron Hubbard type Messiah. Indeed I'm sure that is what he did. I love the Catholic Church, the Jewish Sages, the Buddhist founders, the Sufi and the Sikhs; even Moses, David, Mohammed, Joseph Smith and L. Ron Hubbard -- all the more for knowing that they are, after all, only frail human beings in the end. What do I know? When the divine talks directly to us, it always takes the form of a vision, something so much realer than real that it can shake the sanity of those who experience it. I've come to listen to those messages. I am a poet and that means I hear them. I've been right about events way too often to be arrogant about my powers or to discount the power of Insight either. Religion should be about Enlightenment and Religion, not about tyranny.

Nevertheless we have a duty to love and take seriously all truths, but aslo to combat all lies and false dogmas; and all misuse of the gifts of spirituality to manipulate people. For no matter how high and mighty, or frail and holy, a person might seem, we are all ultimately only frail human beings -- and because of that frailty we are all subject to the darkside.

Right now we are in the middle of a situation which resembles an episode of the "Empire Strikes Back." The darkside, hiding as usual in the minds of both friends and enemies alike, has infiltrated the minds of great people, sages, educators, politicians and turned good teachings into angry mush, clear teachings into deliberate lies, and made people who should be rockes we can rely on into untrustworthy liars. People who should be teaching love and things like "honor thy father" or "love thy enemy" are teaching enmity and fear instead. Bishops who ought to be on the side of the poor and dispossessed are fighting to preserve their possessions by igniting anger in their parishoners and reviving dogmas that in the past burned down civilization and destroyed learning. The barbarians are not always at the gates, they are often in the Gates, and now we have people who insist that they have ownership of God and the Truth, when the reality is that that is delusion. When the sages say "Judge not lest ye be Judged, the sages are warning that none of us dare take on the role of inquisitor without possibly taking on the role of the "Accuser", a word that in Hebrew is rendered as Satan.

This is the first essay in a series. The next one is:

Hamilton's Revenge I

I like Alexander Hamilton. He is the true founder of the "Business Wing" of our Democratic Republican republic. During his necessarily brief honeymoon with James Madison, the two wrote the majority of the Federalist Papers and outlined the concepts behind and goals of the American Revolution and its constitution. It was their endeavor that solidified our republic as a republic and the quality of that output is why we still have the same constitution, essentially, that they authored.

Their honeymoon was brief because they represented different ideals, different constituencies, and different visions of government. None of these visions were perfect. To "perfect" our government requires that all of us inheritors of those people recognize this. Each founder offered an incomplete piece of a whole. Like blind men describing a giant tesseract of a beast it is up to us to complete this vision. They offer visions, and clear guidance, but were not saints. They don't speak for God. Our Constitution has to be treated like a living document or it will break into pieces.

June 18th, 1787

Nobody illustrates that point better than Alexander Hamilton. He was the friend of James Madison, but ended his life as a bitter enemy of the Jefferson Administration in general, James Madison to a degree, and Aaron Burr Specifically. Indeed there is an entire society of people who champion Aaron Burr and see him as the intellectual founder of Wall Street, our shadow economic elite, and all that is wrong with America. They note that Alexander Hamilton was an Anglophile, openly admired British Economic Royalism, and despised democracy. And they'll gleefuly share this quote:

“All communities divide themselves into the few and the many. The first are the rich and well-born, the other the mass of the people. The voice of the people has been said to be the voice of God; and however generally this maxim has been quoted and believed, it is not true in fact. The people are turbulent and changing, they seldom judge or determine right. Give therefore to the first class a distinct permanent share in the government… Can a democratic assembly who annually revolve in the mass of the people be supposed steadily to pursue public good? Nothing but a permanent body can check the imprudence of democracy…”

From: Howard Zinn "People’s History of the United States" (at Amazon) online:

I don't see that extreme. But the counterpoint is that Hamilton and Madison represent two very different views of Democracy. Madison did indeed champion Democratic Republicanism (at least for Whites), and that therefore anyone claiming the "founding fathers" were uniformly in agreement on a single set of theocratic authorities setting up a single vision for our Governance (Our Constitution) and agreeing on anything -- is genuinely either absurd or dishonest.

The other point is that those who talk about "original intent" that way (as if it were something fixed in time) miss the point. The "original intent" of a law was often deliberately high level so that the implementation could change over time. Where it is specific there is usually a reason, and that reason, unless modified by later laws and understanding should be preserved. But it is not a dead hand. The Constitution was meant to be a "living document" in the sense of a high level charter whose implementation could change over time.

And indeed we can speculate endlessly. If Jefferson, Franklin, and others saw reporters and the press as a "fourth estate," there is every reason to believe that by founding Wall Street, creating our first National Bank, and creating the New York Stock Exchange; Hamilton was founding a "fifth estate" that would eventually come to have more power than the other estates combined.

Indeed I'm see our current financial meltdown, and the previous ones that were all caused by the same financial elites, and their fraudulent schemes (compare "Bucket Shops" to modern derivatives) for parting honest Americans from their savings -- as all part of a piece. I'm labeling that piece "the revenge of Alexander Hamilton."

At the same time Alexander Hamilton was right about a lot of things. His prescription of mild protective tariffs, stable currency, and modest debt works when applied intelligently. On the other hand I think his promotion of economic elites, joint stock companies, and fractional banking has been at best a mixed blessing and at worst a curse.

I'm not with the Aaron Burr Society folks who see it as a massive conspiracy. For one thing it is quite open how these folks part the rest of us with our wealth; so its hardly a secret. And for another, these kinds of things rarely involve secret "conspiracies" so much as herd behavior and insider economic politics.

On the other hand the following points are true. You really should listen to this report:

"The best way to rob a bank is to own it."

You Tube: The Best Way to Rob a Bank is to own it -- Bill Black

"Bernie Maddow was a piker."

continued, part II:
Originally posted at Fraught with Peril

Hamilton's Revenge II

This continues my discussion of Alexander Hamilton and the authorship of the constitution. As noted in the previous post, he was a Republican, but also a man who was an Anglo-phile and admitted that he preferred the British form of Government. This shouldn't be surprising. American Republicanism was partly a reaction to the extreme Parliamentarianism that was in turn a reaction to the "Glorious Revolution" which defenestrated the Stuart Kings and replaced them first with a Royal Line from the Netherlands, and then with an obscure German Family. The Revolutionaries also concentrated power in Judicial and Parliamentarian hands; and had trouble conceiving of the notion that English people outside the Home Country would want "representation" in Parliament eventually. As a warrior Hamilton fought the British, as an able warrior he understood them.

Madison Notes:

..."In his private opinion he had no scruple in declaring, supported as he was by the opinions of so many of the wise & good, that the British Govt. was the best in the world: and that he doubted much whether any thing short of it would do in America."

I can put myself in his shoes. As a man who understood the British Government and openly admired its constitution, he was steeped in British Common law and its tradition of Representation, preservation of rights, and order. Compared to the other countries in Europe it was the best government of the time.

"He hoped Gentlemen of different opinions would bear with him in this, and begged them to recollect the change of opinion on this subject which had taken place and was still going on. It was once thought that the power of Cong[res]s. was amply sufficient to secure the end of their institution. The error was now seen by every one."

Hamilton understood an important principle of reality: One should never throw out the baby with the bathwater. There are gems in the British system; Common law, the concept of rights, the principle of "constitutionality" which predates our written constitution, and the principles that no man is above the law and that all men should be subject to "ordinary courts" rather than special treatment -- when charged with a crime:

"...The members most tenacious of republicanism, he observed, were as loud as any in declaiming ag[ain]st. the vices of democracy. This progress of the public mind led him to anticipate the time, when others as well as himself would join in the praise bestowed by Mr. Neckar on the British Constitution, namely, that it is the only Govt. in the world "which unites public strength with individual security."

Few of the leaders of his time were out and out Democratic Republicans. Madison argued for that, but even he was afraid of "faction" and the power of demagogues and mob rule. But Hamilton also admired monarchy. And that is a different animal.

-"In every community where industry is encouraged, there will be a division of it into the few & the many. Hence separate interests will arise. There will be debtors & creditors &c. Give all power to the many, they will oppress the few. Give all power to the few, they will oppress the many. Both therefore ought to have [FN6] power, that each may defend itself ag[ain]st. the other."

This sounds remarkably like Madison's argument in Federalist 10 except that Madison comes around to the side of Representative Democracy as the least evil of all available systems. But here is where he diverges from James Madison and Thomas Jefferson:

To the want of this check we owe our paper money, installment laws &c. To the proper adjustment of it the British owe the excellence of their Constitution. Their house of Lords is a most noble institution. Having nothing to hope for by a change, and a sufficient interest by means of their property, in being faithful to the national interest, they form a permanent barrier ag[ain]st. every pernicious innovation, whether attempted on the part of the Crown or of the Commons."

Of course this assumes that the wealthy people in the house of commons are genuinely neutral and disinterested. Hamilton is admiring economic royalty here and assumes that all "pernicious innovation(s)" will come from the commons. His Point Of View is entirely that of an economic royalist. Indeed by the time he participated in the Constitutional Convention he was already turning his attention towards commerce and banks and played an indirect role in founding the Bank of New York.

"No temporary Senate will have firmness eno'[ugh] to answer the purpose. The Senate [of Maryland] which seems to be so much appealed to, has not yet been sufficiently tried. Had the people been unanimous & eager, in the late appeal to them on the subject of a paper emission they would would have yielded to the torrent."

For Hamilton a stable banking system, a system that favors the accumulation of wealth, and as little Democracy as he could get away with was his goal. Never mind that the kinds of banks he was founding would be a leading source of **instability**

"Their acquiescing in such an appeal is a proof of it. -Gentlemen differ in their opinions concerning the necessary checks, from the different estimates they form of the human passions. They suppose seven years a sufficient period to give the senate an adequate firmness, from not duly considering the amazing violence & turbulence of the democratic spirit. When a great object of Govt. is pursued, which seizes the popular passions, they spread like wild fire, and become irresistable.

Madison here is summarizing Hamilton's arguments;

"He appealed to the gentlemen from the N. England States whether experience had not there verified the remark."
To Hamilton, like Burke, the common folks involving themselves in politics was a horror that could only lead to violence and turbulence. From this speech it is pretty obvious that Hamilton, whatever lip service he might have given the commons, or democracy, was no democrat:

"-As to the Executive, it seemed to be admitted that no good one could be established on Republican principles. Was not this giving up the merits of the question: for can there be a good Govt. without a good Executive. The English model was the only good one on this subject.

To Hamilton there were no examples of successful Republican executives. His feelings went to promoting royalism in the executive area as well. Indeed, he doesn't sound that different from any of his well to do contemporaries. In many Latin American Countries the "executive" quickly became an unstable succession of dictators. His heart pined for the stability of hereditary monarchy:

The Hereditary interest of the King was so interwoven with that of the Nation, and his personal emoluments so great, that he was placed above the danger of being corrupted from abroad-and at the same time was both sufficiently independent and sufficiently controuled, to answer the purpose of the institution at home. one of the weak sides of Republics was their being liable to foreign influence & corruption. Men of little character, acquiring great power become easily the tools of intermedling Nei[gh]bours.

Of course the reality is not so cut and dried. There are instances of Kings being corrupted from abroad (The Polish Kings come to mind), and there are many examples of Kings being pure tyrants simply because placing the roles of Judge, Jury and Executioner in the same top down organization and/or person invites tyranny. As to "men of little character" we see that set of traits scattered from top to down in every country and community. Hamilton only need have looked objectively at the then occupant of the English Throne, who was totally unsuited for it.

But the main point is that, an analysis of this speech, recorded by his friend Madison (there are other even less flattering versions of the same speech), demonstrates that the two main authors of the constitution had widely divergent beliefs about the value of Democratic Republicanism. Hamilton is the true founder of Undemocratic Republicanism, while we can yet give credit to Madison for founding the principles of our republic.

A secondary point is that, nevertheless, it was important to represent Hamilton's view in the founding of the country. His intrinsic fear of paper money, demagogues, and mob actions, is one that most of us ought to fear as well. Aaron Burr was a demagogue and a populist, and it is no accident that he's also the one who killed Hamilton and in the process destroyed his own political career.

This is a reprint of a post originally at Fraught With Peril The first part of this series is here:

Monday, August 20, 2012

John Locke on The Virtues of liberty

As a society forgets it's requirements and it's virtues, it becomes ugly. Viciousness comes from the word vicious, which shares a common root with the word vice. A societies vices are the distorted mirror image, or shadow, of it's virtues. When we talk about wanting liberty, that is a virtuous thing. But the opposite of liberty is the attribute of oppression. Liberty is to be able to move freely, do what one pleases with only natural constraints, and to live one's life and pursue happiness.

The opposite of being able to move freely is to be oppressed, restrained. Complete oppression is slavery, when one isn't even able to own one's self. One is never, in this world, completely free; nor is one completely restrained until death. While in the material world every human being is both free and constrained to a degree.

6. "But though this be a state of liberty, yet it is not a state of license; though man in that state have an uncontrollable liberty to dispose of his person or possessions, yet he has not liberty to destroy himself, or so much as any creature in his possession, but where some nobler use than its bare preservation calls for it. The state of Nature has a law of Nature to govern it, which obliges every one, and reason, which is that law, teaches all mankind who will but consult it, that being all equal and independent, no one ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty or possessions; for men being all the workmanship of one omnipotent and infinitely wise Maker; all the servants of one sovereign Master, sent into the world by His order and about His business; they are His property, whose workmanship they are made to last during His, not one another’s pleasure."

Liberty and oppression are not absolutes, they aren't binary. To the degree that one has access to and control of the properties a person needs to be free to pursue happiness and achieve one's life's work and needs, one has liberty. To the extent these attributes are denied, one is not free. That is why imprisonment and slavery are the ultimate in oppression. Our own liberty should not impinge on others. As John Locke Says:

"6...Every one as he is bound to preserve himself, and not to quit his station wilfully, so by the like reason, when his own preservation comes not in competition, ought he as much as he can to preserve the rest of mankind, and not unless it be to do justice on an offender, take away or impair the life, or what tends to the preservation of the life, the liberty, health, limb, or goods of another."

Liberty is also associated with power. It requires power to pursue happiness, control properties, use tools and achieve one's goals. Powerlessness is associated with slavery. Rule is the exercise of power. To be truly free one must have power over one's own life. That is why self-rule is self-empowerment. At the same time a state of war starts when someone tries to utilize his power to take away the liberty of another. John Locke says;

17.."he who attempts to get another man into his absolute power does thereby put himself into a state of war with him;...He that in the state of Nature would take away the freedom that belongs to any one in that state must necessarily be supposed to have a design to take away everything else, that freedom being the foundation of all the rest; as he that in the state of society would take away the freedom"

Ironically just the act of recognizing where one is powerful and where one has no power is the first step in getting self rule. Even a prisoner who can rule his or her own mind cannot be completely shackled. Some of the greatest works of freedom were written in Jail. The virtue of liberty is that it starts inward and emanates outward. Liberty is not anarchism. John Locke said of liberty:

21...."The liberty of man in society is to be under no other legislative power but that established by consent in the commonwealth, nor under the dominion of any will, or restraint of any law, but what that legislative shall enact according to the trust put in it. Freedom, then, is not what Sir Robert Filmer tells us: “A liberty for every one to do what he lists, to live as he pleases, and not to be tied by any laws”; but freedom of men under government is to have a standing rule to live by, common to every one of that society, and made by the legislative power erected in it. A liberty to follow my own will in all things where that rule prescribes not, not to be subject to the inconstant, uncertain, unknown, arbitrary will of another man, as freedom of nature is to be under no other restraint but the law of Nature."

The virtue of liberty is to be free within the boundaries of one's own swimlanes, one's own life, with rules everyone can understand. Libertarians get this wrong, and anarchists get this very wrong.

John Locke continues:

"57....For in all the states of created beings, capable of laws, where there is no law there is no freedom. For liberty is to be free from restraint and violence from others, which cannot be where there is no law; and is not, as we are told, “a liberty for every man to do what he lists.” For who could be free, when every other man’s humour might domineer over him? But a liberty to dispose and order freely as he lists his person, actions, possessions, and his whole property within the allowance of those laws under which he is, and therein not to be subject to the arbitrary will of another, but freely follow his own"

He says this in the context of a parent:

63. "The freedom then of man, and liberty of acting according to his own will, is grounded on his having reason, which is able to instruct him in that law he is to govern himself by, and make him know how far he is left to the freedom of his own will. To turn him loose to an unrestrained liberty, before he has reason to guide him, is not the allowing him the privilege of his nature to be free, but to thrust him out amongst brutes, and abandon him to a state as wretched and as much beneath that of a man as theirs."
"9. “Human laws are measures in respect of men whose actions they must direct, howbeit such measures they are as have also their higher rules to be measured by, which rules are two—the law of God and the law of Nature; so that laws human must be made according to the general laws of Nature, and without contradiction to any positive law of Scripture, otherwise they are ill made.” Hooker, Eccl. Pol. iii. 9. “To constrain men to anything inconvenient doth seem unreasonable.” Ibid. i. 10."

Friday, August 17, 2012

Attributes of a Virtuous Commonwealth

Introduction to the idea that government should focus on the "common wealth."

You can probably read a law textbook talking about concepts like commonwealth. But they are going to look at the subject legally. For example there is a Commonwealth established by the countries of the Pacific that created a charter that lists principles starting with:

"The Commonwealth of Nations is a voluntary association of independent sovereign states, each responsible for its own policies, consulting and co-operating in the common interests of their peoples and in the promotion of international understanding and world peace."

In theory this commonwealth could one day supplant the United Nations, but the very existence of this commonwealth shows that the concept of commonwealth can apply to one community or to many communities and there is no reason why there can't be many layers of commonwealth.

Common Understandings, Agreement

The fundamental requirement for virtuous commonwealth, one that fulfills it's purpose, is that there be a common understanding of the standards by which people should live, and which of those should be enforced by whom. The basis of all commons is agreement.

Res Publica, Republic, Public Entity

People have to agree to something, which gets written down as a statement of organizing instructions that constitutes or organizes a commonwealth. A commonwealth can be: a corporation, a collection of nations, a government of a nation, but the key commonality is that they are united by agreement, law, and shared membership:

An "agreement (concilium)" ... creating a res publica or "public entity" (synonymous with civitas), into which individuals are born or accepted, and from which they die or are ejected. The civitas is not just the collective body of all the citizens, it is the contract binding them all together, because of which each is a civis"

In other words any kind of corporate entity is in a sense a commonwealth for the sake of its organizers. That goes for pirate ships, privateers, gangs, or countries. But that is in the legal sense. What makes a commonwealth an actual commonwealth is the extent that it has the attribute or virtue of being run for the common good.

Virtue of Common Good

A commonwealth can be run as a tyranny. But if that is the case then it's name is a misnomer, like a Court of Justice in a tyranny is really a court of injustice. If a nation is not run for the common good than it is a commonwealth only in name, and is really a tyranny. As noted earlier, any government run for the private separate advantage of its officers is a tyranny. A commonwealth can have the properties of a tyranny or the properties of something that actually promotes the common good. Most Public entities are run for some mission around which the community is organized and not for the benefit of all the community.

But an integral commonwealth is run for the common good, and the common good means that those running an organization uphold the mission specified in their charter and look out for the welfare of all its members as well as of their officers. To the exent that a commonwealth actually does this one can say it has the virtues of "common Good."

Virtue of Consent of Governed.

Because a commonwealth is established and maintained by agreement, tyranny and oppression are its vices. They are also bad processes and limit the extent that the commonwealth can provide for all its people, prosper, or even survive in the face of internal dissent or attack from outside. Agreement is established through communication, and so the virtues of democracy are also the means by which a commonwealth communicates agreements, figures out where agreement is needed, and decides what it should do if agreement is to be preserved.

The virtue of Justice.

Courts are necessary to restore agreement when it can't be had. Justice occurs in two ways. The virtue of Justice is when issues over resources are allocated in a relatively satisfactory manner to all the parties. To get justice executives must make their decisions for the sake of the common good. Tyranny is related to and always amplified by injustice. Justice is also about adjudicating injuries. Most injuries result from misallocations of resources. Violence usually results from disputes over resources. Justice is about restoring a sense that resources are being allocated fairly. Justice can be established by a system that enables people to get what they need and accomplish what they need to accomplish. Injustice is established when the Justice system serves the officers and not the people as a whole. When a commonwealth has the attribute of Justice it is a virtuous commonwealth.

Conversely, although styled a commonwealth, it is not a commonwealth but a tyranny if it lacks the virtues of Justice, liberty and respect for property.

Virtue of Liberty

The opposites of liberty are oppression and slavery. Oppression is where people are prevented from being able to access, use or benefit from resource properties and the spaces they need to use. Slavery is when someone else controls their movements and has the power to oppress them with impunity. Liberty for some is often slavery for others. And no one is truly free unless they have access to the tools, properties, and resources they need in order to do what they need to do to live a life within the commonwealth. Liberty is one of the virtues of a commonwealth where all roles are clearly defined and everyone

Conversely a commonwealth that divides people from resources and keeps them poor is a viscious commonwealth. Because Tyranny results in oppression, dispossession, kleptocracy, and injustice.

The Virtue of Respect for Property / Respect for the commons.

The final virtue of the commons is that it respects the concept of the commons. A commons is any area of property set aside to move people, information or things; or a place where people gather. To the degree that a system is governed as a commonwealth it sets up common spaces, recognizes the rights of minorities, renters, employees and "commoners", and the commoners recognize their role in preserving the value of property they may use but that is not entirely theres. A commoner is anyone who is not a noble. And A commonwealth exists when those raised up to be aristocrats respect commoners. When they don't, they are tyrants and their government is tyranny -- even if they call the place a commonwealth.

The commons

The concept of commons hinges on that wonderful word "common". Common can mean ordinary or it can mean shared. It can mean readily available but it always means a situation where people have to share properties. Lawyers argue about what a commons is because they think that land once divided becomes separated between common property and private property, but even private property is always part of the commons. The concept of the commons recognizes that humans are stewards of their possessions while on the earth, acquiring and surrendering them as they change roles, age, move about. Driving a car down the road we have to own the space around our cars and surrender that ownership as we move along the road. Life is a highway and if we don't share our toys we fight over them.

So a necessary property of the commons is the realization that mankind has to share his toys and work together if he/she is going to survive. Virtue is not just about getting brownie points at Heaven's gate. It's about being selfish enough to realize that generosity multiplies the value of what we have. A person who runs a mall and recognizes that he's providing a commons is wealthier than someone who treats his mall as private property and locks it up at set times and charges stores so much rent they go out of business. Ultimately even aristocrats are but commoners when confronted with Judgment and the Great Beyond. And we live in commonwealths because Tyranny is no fun, even for the tyrants.

Truly Virtue is it's own reward.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

The Concept of Commonwealth as antidote to Tyranny

The Concept of Commonwealth

The concept of commonwealth comes from a term that John Locke used to translate a Roman Term that had a slightly different meaning. John Locke seems to have invented the term because in his "Twin Treatises" he writes:

"133. By “commonwealth” I must be understood all along to mean not a democracy, or any form of government, but any independent community which the Latins signified by the word civitas, to which the word which best answers in our language is “commonwealth,” and most properly expresses such a society of men which “community” does not (for there may be subordinate communities in a government), and “city” much less. And therefore, to avoid ambiguity, I crave leave to use the word “commonwealth” in that sense, in which sense I find the word used by King James himself, which I think to be its genuine signification, which, if anybody dislike, I consent with him to change it for a better"

Wikipedia translates Civitas thus:

"the Latin term civitas (plural civitates), according to Cicero in the time of the late Roman Republic, was the social body of the cives, or citizens, united by law (concilium coetusque hominum jure sociati). It is the law that binds them together, giving them responsibilities (munera) on the one hand and rights of citizenship on the other. The agreement (concilium) has a life of its own, creating a res publica or "public entity" (synonymous with civitas), into which individuals are born or accepted, and from which they die or are ejected. The civitas is not just the collective body of all the citizens, it is the contract binding them all together, because of which each is a civis" taken 8/16/2012

John Locke was playing a deep game there. And it is a joy to read his Treatise on Government because if one reads it in context one can see what masterful arguments he is giving, and how subversive they still are. When I was researching this paper I went to the Cato Institute and read up on John Locke there -- and they recommended ignoring the body of his work and concentrating on the beginning and the end of the treatise. But the treatise is a work of definition like an encyclopedia, a work of refutation, of exquisite exegesis, and of a wonderfully human and "common" logic.

And by choosing the word "commonwealth" to translate "civitas" John Locke was performing a valuable service for the world, for the world civitas implies merely cities, and civilization, but the word commonwealth says something about why people come together. And so he was saying something about the "state of civilization" in contrast to the "state of nature" and was talking to the aristocrats of his time who were advancing an idea of civilization and liberty that was akin to the Social Darwinian arguments of our time.

The concept of social contract derives from the Latin understanding of the concept of a republic united by law. It wasn't invented by Enlightenment philosophers but represents an ancient idea of social contract or "concilium" where a social body gives people both rights and responsibilities with respect to one another. I never found the expression "social contract" anywhere in his book. What I found was an explicit and implicit reference to basic principles of civility, common sense, and affection for common law, common people, and the notion that a civilization exists for the sake of the people and the common good. Hence with this simple expedient of translation John Locke was redefining a term and enriching it. Since his time others have parsed his expressions and tried to limit the meaning of commonwealth to the most parsed and constrained definition of civitas they can, but in the Two Treatises he was making the case for commonwealth as an antidote to Tyranny.

John Locke does this by attacking the strawman arguments of Sir Robert Filmer in his Patriarcha. But he's doing more than that. Filmer was dead when John Locke was a man. John Locke states his reasons in his opening lines, he found it's arguments false and misleading:

"confess myself mightily surprised that in a book, which was to provide chains for all mankind, I should find nothing but a rope of sand;"

He found Filmer's work a wonderful punching bag on which to hang his theories. Filmer wasn't much different from most libertarians or righties of our day, who "flatter the princes" into thinking that they rule by divine right. They also teach and practice a deluded, perverse and mistaken notion of liberty, which Locke refutes in this wonderful passage:

"The liberty of man in society is to be under no other legislative power but that established by consent in the commonwealth, nor under the dominion of any will, or restraint of any law, but what that legislative shall enact according to the trust put in it."

The property of this world is in common among us all, and entrusted to those who possess it as a trust. It is a trust given to mankind and all forms of rule, official-hood, or other officer elevations are in the context of this notion of Trust. And he continues:

"Freedom, then, is not what Sir Robert Filmer tells us: “A liberty for every one to do what he lists, to live as he pleases, and not to be tied by any laws”; but freedom of men under government is to have a standing rule to live by, common to every one of that society, and made by the legislative power erected in it. A liberty to follow my own will in all things where that rule prescribes not, not to be subject to the inconstant, uncertain, unknown, arbitrary will of another man, as freedom of nature is to be under no other restraint but the law of Nature."

Thus Locke's commonwealth is a civilized place where people live within their own property and use the commons for the common wealth and the common good as well as their own wealth. For Locke Freedom is to live within a civilized world where there is consensus, and common sense. For John Locke God didn't create monarchy or aristocracy, or even a right of the Church over all the world, but rather:

The Commons are a Common Trust.

  1. That by this grant, Gen. i. 28, God gave no immediate power to Adam over men, over his children, over those of his own species; and so he was not made ruler, or monarch, by this charter.
  2. That by this grant God gave him not private dominion over the inferior creatures, but right in common with all mankind; so neither was he monarch upon the account of the property here given him.

That concept of trust is how he put limits on the power of kings and executives, officers and judges, legislators and all others who exercise power. And he elucidates this with a wonderful exegesis drawing from the Book of Samuel and the story of how Samuel gained and lost the Kingship of Israel. Starting with how Samuel became king:

"those who liked one another so well as to join into society cannot but be supposed to have some acquaintance and friendship together, and some trust one in another, they could not but have greater apprehensions of others than of one another; and, therefore, their first care and thought cannot but be supposed to be, how to secure themselves against foreign force. It was natural for them to put themselves under a frame of government which might best serve to that end, and choose the wisest and bravest man to conduct them in their wars and lead them out against their enemies, and in this chiefly be their ruler."

And something similar he describes as happening when Samuel made Saul King of Israel.

"As if the only business of a king had been to lead out their armies and fight in their defence; and, accordingly, at his inauguration, pouring a vial of oil upon him, declares to Saul that “the Lord had anointed him to be captain over his inheritance” (ch. 10. 1)."

A captain leads by the trust of his army and is there because he is the most excellent and accomplished strategist and warrior the commonwealth can find. John Locke makes the case that Saul won his position because he won the trust of both Israel and God, but he notes that these two trusts are synonymous.

"And therefore those who, after Saul being solemnly chosen and saluted king by the tribes at Mispah, were unwilling to have him their king, make no other objection but this, “How shall this man save us?” (ch. 10. 27), as if they should have said: “This man is unfit to be our king, not having skill and conduct enough in war to be able to defend us.” And when God resolved to transfer the government to David, it is in these words: “But now thy kingdom shall not continue: the Lord hath sought Him a man after His own heart, and the Lord hath commanded him to be captain over His people” (ch. 13. 14.)."

So a King, or executive has the duty to 'save' the people he is entrusted to lead. And trust is necessary for all other offices. And in the Republican scheme of government the ultimate trust resides with the legislature and then with the people:

149. "Though in a constituted commonwealth standing upon its own basis and acting according to its own nature—that is, acting for the preservation of the community, there can be but one supreme power, which is the legislative, to which all the rest are and must be subordinate, yet the legislative being only a fiduciary power to act for certain ends, there remains still in the people a supreme power to remove or alter the legislative, when they find the legislative act contrary to the trust reposed in them. For all power given with trust for the attaining an end being limited by that end, whenever that end is manifestly neglected or opposed, the trust must necessarily be forfeited, and the power devolve into the hands of those that gave it, who may place it anew where they shall think best for their safety and security...."

In a commonwealth the people have the right to cashier or remove any of their officers when they violate their trust. And John locke, in saying these things was stating revolutionary things. Things that the Whig party he helped establish would later try to distance itself from. John locke however, refutes people like Edmund Burke who denied that people should even have the right to cashier misbehaving officers. But I'll get to that later.

The concept of Commonwealth, when coupled with concepts like trust, rule of law and the right of the people to remove officers, are revolutionary concepts and concepts that should be the basis of creating communities that function well. The concept of Commonwealth, by establishing these principles stands as an antidote to even the potential for tyranny, of "Private Separate Advantage", in a government where the governors and officers, rich and powerful, see themselves as entitled to violate the trust the people put in them.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Definitions related to Democratic Republicanism

Bad Government is also tyrannical government and undemocratic government. This is a constitutional problem. It is not always a problem with laws being "unconstitutional" in the sense of not according with our wonderful national constitution. Rather, it is often a problem of bad design, of poorly constituted government. Such bad government is a result of not applying basic principles of good government to the design of government from top to bottom.

That is why people can assert that things that are perfectly constitutional under our charter are somehow unconstitutional. They mean they don't like the way the government functions. However, the way we've constituted so much of our public and common governance of business, markets, resources, and infrastructure systems is not optimal.

We seem to have expanded our country since the founding in a way that has undermined, kicked problems of governance down the road, privatized them or actually undermined some of those founding principles. In the process we've confused or degraded the quality of the way our country is constituted, even if some of it is perfectly "constitutional" it is not always well constituted. Tyranny results from dysfunction and hierarchy. Combating tyranny requires the application of democratic, republican, commonwealth and Federal principles to government. This post deals with Democratic Republican principles, why they are and what they are.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Ryan and Republican Policies

Paul Ryan was selected as Romney's running mate yesterday, and he and Romney make quite a team. Both are adamant about looking out for the wealthiest members of our society -- at the expense of the rest of us. Romney is running for President on a platform of cutting social services, laissez faire in business, doubling the defense department and starting wars in Iran and maybe with long time business partners like China.

And of course Ryan and his buddies are engaging in the same idea rustling, rebranding, and newspeak that they've been using since they created the Tea Party to "distract and divide" people, while abusively projecting their policies on progressives. His medicare plan would:

"Under Ryan’s plan, the government would help seniors buy health insurance — rather than receive coverage straight from Medicare, as they do now".Read more: "

And what that means is more overhead charges for the insurance companies, and eventually vouchers that will dispossess seniors of even minimal coverage.

Ryan's votes for the Bush Policies helped create our Great Recession (Depression really) and to impoverish millions of people. And those policies will enrich the already wealthy, destroy the middle class, and eff the poor.

Think Progress article states;

1. Ryan breaks up the large market clout of Medicare and pushes seniors into less efficient private insurers. As Rick Foster, Medicare’s chief actuary, admitted during a recent House Budget Committee hearing, since traditional Medicare is far better at advancing delivery system reforms, securing lower reimbursement rates with health care providers, and operating under minimal administrative overhead, transferring Medicare beneficiaries from free-for-service Medicare into the private health market would not contain overall health care spending. It would only shift costs.
2. Seniors who enroll in traditional Medicare will likely pay more for their benefits. That’s because under Ryan’s budget, private plans will be able to cherry-pick the healthiest beneficiaries from traditional Medicare and leave sicker applicants to the government. The budget states that enrollees would be “guaranteed a plan that is at least the value of the traditional fee-for-service Medicare option,” but private insurers could still attract a healthier population by simply ratcheting down services that sicker beneficiaries rely on (like chemotherapy) and building up coverage for healthier applicants (like preventive services). Should they succeed, traditional Medicare costs will skyrocket, forcing even more seniors out of the government program. Seniors who are priced out of traditional coverage over time would enroll in private plans and receive care through more restricted provider networks relative to what they currently enjoy (where nearly all hospitals, doctors, nursing homes participate). Ryan pledges that “CMS would also conduct an annual risk review audit of all insurance plans participating in the Medicare Exchange,” but as the experience with Medicare Advantage demonstrates, existing tools are still insufficient to address cherry picking.
3. The “premium support” credits won’t keep up with health care costs. Fortunately, the vouchers seniors will receive are no longer indexed to inflation. They instead rely on actual average bids in any given geographic area and would do a better job of keeping up with health care costs every year than the original Ryan proposal. But seniors in high cost Medicare areas could still experience a cost-shift and would be responsible for the difference between the amount of the premium credit and the actual cost of the policy.

I'm glad they selected Ryan, he epitomizes the heartless and short sighted policies that are destroying our democracy. He's an Ayn Rand believer and an elitist, whose idea of Liberty is the tyranny of business, the wealthy, and authoritarian (Taliban) style religion.

Further reading:

Friday, August 10, 2012

The Case for Green as Biblical

There is a strong case for a narrative that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob's wanderings were driven by climate change and man created land degradation caused partly by overgrazing and poor agricultural practices. Why did Abram feel the calling to leave "Ur of the Chaldees?" Because, the evidence shows that vast tracks of farmland were salted by poor irrigation practices. The land was first abandoned to grain growing, and then turned into full desert by overgrazing. The legend of Gilgamesh recounts the felling of vast forests in what is now Syria and Turkey.

Jacob goes to Aram, where those forests once were. He prospers on raising goats and sheep. Why did he leave? Evidence shows repeated cycles of deforestation and abandonment in that part of the world, including Greece. Mostly caused by overgrazing and/or poor farming practices.

Jacob returns to Israel because the land had recovered from a drought. He's driven to Egypt, because the drought returned and his kin were not going to let him back in what is now Syria. And Joseph's 7 good years, and 7 bad years nearly exactly track El Nino. Again, the Government is able to enslave people because of repeated cycles of drought; some of which were exacerbated by overgrazing, poor water conservation, and bad land allocation.

The Hebrews were Apiru, homeless herdsmen wandering the borderlands and they were able to transform themselves into Ibri because the original people of Canaan were decimated by disease, drought, warfare, and economic collapse. Folks like to preach the blood thirsty interpretation of their settling of the "promised land" but when the bible says "God will fight for you" the archeological record shows plague and starvation depopulating entire nations.

So there is a "green" interpretation to the events of the bible and a strong case to be made for the intended role of man as a steward of the environment, intended to treat the world as a Garden of life to be tended as well as used by him, and tended responsibly. We need more work-sweat and less arrogant blasphemy.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Pilgrim Soul

Pilgrim Soul

Stars scream in x-ray cries,
as black holes rip out their heart and they die.
Spinning flattened around a hole,
their remains cry in d sharp.

Oh, how lovely looks that harp,
strung in a circle around a dark black hole.
Why would worlds end in such an awful manner,
but from a distance with such beauty?

Oh, I wander the light mystic,
and see things no human can ever know.
I am a sprite of the imagination.
I am a drop of Universe, I am a pilgrim soul.

Christopher H. Holte

More poetry at:

Image of Black hole

Monday, August 6, 2012

Business, Friend or Foe? TR and process improvement

George Will thinks the desertion of the most wealthy of the business wing from the progessive cause in 1912, for what has emerged as "conservatism" was a good thing that "saved the constitution." He claims:

"By preventing former president Theodore Roosevelt from capturing the 1912 Republican presidential nomination from President William Howard Taft, the GOP deliberately doomed its chances for holding the presidency but kept its commitment to the Constitution."

(source: Prior Post and Washington Post commentary:

I criticized this in my last post, but that is not entirely fair, the fact is that Taft was Theadore Roosevelt's ally until he ran against him, and that Taft, while not an exciting perfect avatar of progressive ideas, was doing a pedestrian job of trust busting before Roosevelt ran against him. By attacking Taft, Roosevelt was starting a revolution, but also was engendering pushback, and the blowback is what we call the conservative movement, which is essentially a reactionary movement designed to preserve the power and prerogatives of the immensely wealthy, but is couched on fear of the tyranny of popular executives. An article on the election of 1912 notes the point of view of those who he fought:

"Critics of Roosevelt are not quite so kind. Roosevelt had a huge ego, and his lust for power could not keep him on the sidelines. He stabbed his friend in the back and overlooked the positive sides of Taft's Presidency. Whatever the motive, the election of 1912 would begin with two prominent Republican candidates."

Source: 43f. The Election of 1912:

So, in some senses, Teddy Roosevelt broke a delicate consensus. In some ways it had to be broken because unless the power of monopolists like J.P. Morgan was challenged they'd simply keep pushing for even more monopoly and power until they completely degraded both democracy and the prosperity of the many. And there was no way to challenge this without offending the rich and powerful. But Taft was not the enemy, until Roosevelt made him one, and Roosevelts ideas might have had his support if he'd been more diplomatic. But asking the "Bull Moose" to be diplomatic was too much. Roosevelt could be dictatorial and rough with his opponents. But he missed an opportunity by splitting the Republican party. That split never healed until all the progressives were driven off. The modern republicans are the party of Hoover and Coolidge as the result, and both inherit more from J.P. Morgan and Taft than from Roosevelt, though they all give lip service to him.

Converting the Business Community back to progressivism

But the quandary remains. You'd think that business would be the most progressive community available to politicians, and indeed many businessmen are on the side of progressive causes even in this day of partisan and corrupt Chambers of Commerce and Citizens United. But they aren't. Part of this is business culture. Business folks push the myth of self-made independence. The myth is that businessmen don't get help from anyone else and reach the top by their own sweat and tears.  This myth is found on the immense amount of self-motivation and gumption needed to succeed. Most businessmen succeed by tremendous sweat equity. Even so, catch them on an effusively appreciative days and most of them will tell you how they never could have succeeded without a business angel who helped them at some point, or a lucky break on contracts or customers.  They know, better than they'll sometimes admit, that it takes a community to succeed. The current advertisement war between Romney and Obama over how much help most businessmen need to succeed represents the power of pride, and hubris over reality.

And most businessmen respect success. That is part of the myth too. They figure "if he can do it, I can do it too," and so they not only admire, but they emulate and elevate in status those who have succeeded wildly. Often, until they are caught openly admiring ruthless scoundrels without looking too carefully at the methods those scoundrels used to get their money. I don't know how many of today's criminals are yesterday's business heroes. The pattern goes back in my memory to Ivan Boesky, who as universally admired before his fall, through the dot com geniuses who openly bragged that their business money was to lose money for the business while scamming purchasers in the Initial Public Offering.  People soon forget.  The recent Facebook IPO was almost a event for event repeat of IPO's that occured before the internet bust in 2001.  Business ethics is loudly advanced in trade magazines, but is usually not enforced until a group has egg on their face and start looking for a scapegoat. I still remember reading about what a Mensche Bernie Maddoff was before his pyramid scheme was revealed. I remember the thousands of convention goers cheering wildly at the heads of Amway and their "Direct Chain" -- because American businessmen admire success, and success is hard enough that they sometimes forget their souls while pursuing it.

For that reason, historical figures like J.P. Morgan who straddle the ethics line are openly admired even as they get criticized.  And many businessmen, like lawyers, define what is ethical by the legal limits of what they can get away with.  But this also means that until a business directly is impacted by monopoly or oligopoly, and sometimes even then, small businessmen are often not only blind to, but actively in support of the business practices of their wealthy, powerful, and unethical business colleagues, even when those policies are the real cause of their own misery.  If de-regulation would make their work more convenient, they don't even think about how the banks will then set policies that put them out of business with high interest rate loans and bureaucracy that makes their elected governments look like laissez faire. Banks are businesses like their business and the businessman sees himself as a future financier.  They don't see the direct harm of monopoly, plutocracy and regular frauds and swindles until it is too late. Or they see where they can survive by going along and being complicit. Either way many businessmen who ought to embrace long time progressive causes often embrace the propaganda that defends the status quo instead.

Why that is a mistake and why there is opportunity for progressivity

But what we need to teach them is that corruption is also bad business, bad process, and that good governance is compatible with democratic republican concepts, checks and balances, divided government, and democratic concepts like direct participation, democratic controls and separation of powers.  Businesses, even more than the rest of us are sensitive to bad government because they deal with it all the time. And businessmen experience bad government often on a personal level when they go to borrow money, make payrolls, or want to add to their businesses.  For that reason most businesses are very aware of the role of good governance; good process, good procedure, good engineering, in the success of their businesses. You hear business oriented politicians such as Gingrich waxing element about 6 sigma and CMMI and applying those concepts to running government. Sometimes it seems they see process improvement as a panacea.  But genuine process improvement needs to be applied to all walks of the act of governing or it won't work. As long as the business model is top down most businesses are helped by process improvement only to the extent that the hierarchy of bosses is willing to follow the ideas. And as a result what is taught as process improvement is very project oriented but almost completely ignores concepts like sustainability, program management, or externalities. From the point of a manager the delivery of a product is the end of the process.

More reformers need to be familiar with business and business terminology if they want to enlist the extremely powerful business community and defeat the worst designs of the oligarchs who presently dominate that community.  Autocracy, oligarchy, monopoly, and the resulting tyranny and oppression are not only bad for their customers, they are bad for business.  Businessmen should realize that they can't govern a community the way they govern their shop and that separation of powers is necessary to make sure that those performing a role are accountable and don't get muddied on their behavior due to conflicting roles.  Dictators are not only evil persons but bad management.  Separation of powers allows an executive to be a dictator when executing his appropriate role and to have consent of the governed when dealing with policies that he or she shouldn't dictate.  If we can explain to people how democratic republicanism is just good process we can get a lot further with people than we presently do.

That was TRs mistake. His basic concepts were good, but not mature yet.  He saw that trust busting wasn't working because we needed to organize large systems with some kind of unified control or those systems would periodically fail. He gave up on trust busting and was in the process of wanting to switch to using a Federal Trade Commission to organize the trusts. This would not have worked because the principles of control it was based on were not (and still are not) mature enough to keep the few from optimizing the trusts at the expense of others. His ideas were good, but because they weren't really realistic enough, the business community balked at them.  The big trusts, the JP Morgans, Rockefellers, etc.... were able to take advantage of this to break up the Republicans. Because of that progressives and populists joined together in a conflictive and sometimes contradictory relationship instead of business and workers. And many businessmen went in the direction of the Tea party.

Until progressives have realistic processes and structures that meet the needs of businessmen as well as their need for regulation, our current adversarial system will continue, and the insanity of conflict will drive people apart and to extremes.  More coming.....