Why Leadings?

Not to lead, but to be led            -- by the Holy Spirit.

See Leader, Servant, or Slave? in the section below, "Walking the Walk".

Jack in Denali National Park, 2012.

God's Wrath

Why was Sodom destroyed? Ezekiel tells us in chapter 16, verse 49: "This was the sin of your sister, Sodom: Pride, full-ness of bread, and abundance of idleness. Neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy."

That's also why Jerusalem was destroyed.

And now, with greed as our national virtue, what hope is there for the United States of America? We are afflicted by imperialistic pride, obesity, and entertainment addiction, and we are all called to do our part to "strengthen the hand of the poor and needy".

"Strengthen the hand" is the King James wording. Modern translations say "help the poor and needy." And there's a world of difference between the two. Helping the poor = as little as throwing some cash in the Salvation Army bucket at Christmas time. That's charity. It's doing for, not doing with.

My Grandmother was right about charity. On a below-zero day, she went out on the back porch with a skillet to throw hot grease on the back-yard snow. She shivered as she re-entered the kitchen and said, "Wooooh, colder than charity."

Strengthening the hand is much different. We get personally involved with another person who needs help, and we work with her or him to get the needed help. That's risky. You're vulnerable. It takes prayer, time and patience. You need knowledge and wisdom from the LORD. There are great rewards, however. You get a brother or sister.

Strengthening the hand is great work for our churches -- which we ignore far more often than we perform. Why? Because we're afflicted with the Ameri-can curse of individualism. Christians are to be a tribe -- a tribe that takes care of each other. In Galatians 6:16, Paul calls us "the Israel of God" -- the new 13th tribe.

Jesus said, "The poor you shall always have with you." He didn't mean that as a curse -- the notion that the poor are an inevi-table nuisance and expense, to be hidden in the slums. Rather, He was saying, "You shall always be among the poor."

When you strengthen hands, you fulfill Deuteronomy 15:4-5: "However, there need be no poor people among you, for in the land the LORD your God is giving you to possess as your inheritance, he will richly bless you, if only you fully obey the LORD your God . . ." It's a glorious responsibility and promise.

And how do prosperous Americans fulfill that promise? Generally, by making sure they have no contact with people who are poor -- and we have been that way from our beginnings in the 17th century. Early villages in Massachusetts solved the problem by out-lawing poor people. Today, we deal with the same problem by confining the poor in urban reservations, our slums.

As the Supreme Court Bailiff says at the beginning of each session, "God save the United States of America..." 

Monday
Jul022012

MY POLITICAL CONVICTIONS

The first duty of government is to protect the powerless against the powerful.  -- Code of Hammurabi, the world's oldest legal code, about 1700 BC.  (Too bad we've regressed.)    

In my brief autobiography I stated that I'm a member of the cynical party.  But, it's not enough to be cynical about politics and government.  That's too easy.  Cynicism is irresponsible because it's an on-going excuse for doing nothing.  Cynicism is corrupted idealism.

And I am intensely patriotic about the United States of America. We have a glorious Nation. And as a sometime scholar of both the history and laws of this country, civics is always with me.  Have you considered that law school is a three-year immersion in advanced civics?

I am disgusted about the ways in which our Nation has been corrupted so that greed has blatantly become our national virtue.  Our Congress and Presidents have neither the guts nor the will to raise the revenues to pay our expenditures – so that 40 cents of every Federal dollar spent has to be borrowed money – with the bulk of the borrowing coming from China.

So, I realized I should make a positive statement of my political convictions.  And I was surprised to find them eloquently stated in the Preamble to the U.S. Constitution.

(Warning:  This is not going to be a statement of platitudes.)  Here's the Preamble –

"We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."

Form a more perfect Union

We're all in this together.  Article I, Section 1, of the Constitution is "No State shall secede from the United States of America."  Not really.  The actual wording establishes the Congress as the National legislature. But much of our Constitution, like Britain's, is unwritten, and "No State shall secede" is the foundation of our Federal union.  That's what the Civil War – or the War Between the States – was mostly about.

Yet, it's astonishing how often nullification still rears its head.  Some governors proclaim they're going to ignore Federal law, and the State is going to do its own thing.  For example, this is an epidemic in regard to illegal immigration across our border with Mexico.

Does that mean that the States should meekly accept whatever is done by the Federal government? Oh no. Our States are the sovereignties in our Federal Union, and we are entitled to protest through the electoral process. 

The State governors are the lineal descendants of Henry II of England.  They have the power to pardon murderers; the President doesn't.  The State receives the estate of people who die without heirs and without a will; the Federal government doesn't.  Each State has authority over the events of birth, marriage, and death; the Federal Government does not.

President Obama, who is probably the best constitutional scholar we've had in the White House, knows that well. When he spoke out in favor of gay marriage, that was culture-war politics. It's not an issue that comes across the President's desk.

The problem is – we have a Federal government – and very few Americans understand this. The States are sovereign; our National government is a creation of the States. This is enshrined in the Tenth Amendment: "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people."

In contrast, Canada has a true national government, where the Provinces are the creation of and subordinate to the government in Ottawa.

In theory, our Federal Government has no authority to override the States. And the States must cooperate with the Federal Government.  It's been a high-wire balancing act for the past 224 years. The Supreme Court is the arbiter, the referee.

Establish Justice

Our national history has been a history of combat, and except for 1861 to 1865, it has mostly been political. Jefferson established the principle in his Declaration: "We hold these truths to be self-evident: That all men [i.e. people] are created equal. . ."  And we have spent 224 years working that out, with no end yet in sight.

In 1788, our first national election, only white male property owners could vote. Now, everyone over 17 can vote – that's been a long struggle for African-Americans, for women, for First People, for Asians.

When I was a boy 70 years ago, Article II, Section 1, stated: "No Roman Catholic, No Jew, no Deep Southerner, no divorcee, no African-American, no woman, and no Mormon can be a candidate for the office of the Presidency." Not really – but it was the actual, unwritten provision. That provision was eliminated by, respectively, John Kennedy and Al Smith, Barry Goldwater, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan and Adlai Stevenson, Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and Mitt Romney.

That provision still reads, "No American Indian, no Latino, no Asian, no homosexual, no transsexual, no Muslim, and no atheist can be a candidate for the office of the Presidency."

Yet, minorities – who are well on the way to becoming the majority – are still systematically excluded from voting.  We still have a long way to go before we "let justice roll down like the waters."

I have written above about political justice.  We've got a lot farther to go on distributive justice – economic justice – where we've regressed for the past forty years.

Insure Domestic Tranquility

This is another balancing act. The easiest way to insure domestic tranquility is with a police state, and historically we have tended to use police state tactics in our Nation. If you're a white suburbanite, you may doubt the accuracy of that statement.

Recently, I was talking to a member of the Yakima tribe, and she told me about the Army's shooting all their horses 120 years ago.

That's just one example.  Talk with any member of a minority, and they can probably tell you family stories of gross injustices by the police and the military that make you weep in shame.

That's not how it's supposed to be. The purpose of the police and military is to protect, not subject us. They're to provide a protective framework so that all of us can peacefully be all that we can be.

This struggle between governmental control and personal freedom remains a combat zone. And both the Federal and State governments keep being intrusive. They can't help it. They are afflicted by the worst dregs of our Puritan heritage – Do as I believe. In contrast, we have the wisdom of Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis who said, "The right most prized by civilized men [i.e. people] is the right to be left alone."

Provide for the Common Defence [sic]

Yes, I do believe that.  We should be a defensive nation.

However, we have become one of the most offensive nations in the world. Our empire-building began right at the start, and we have continued it ever since.

Do you realize that, before the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth, they made a brief landing on Cape Cod, and their first contact with the First People was a fire fight?

Our offensive offenses? We have invaded Canada twice, Russia once, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central America more times than we can count. We conquered and put down a independent government in the Philippines. Throughout our national history our principal policy with the American Indians was genocide. And now we are permanently swashbuckling in the Middle East. We now violate civilized standards of warfare by using cyberattacks and drones.  As we sow the wind, we shall reap the whirlwind.

That's just a partial list. Do you know about William Walker and the Filibusterers in Nicaragua? Probably not, but people in Nicaragua do. (I don't make this up. You can check in Wikipedia.) For real manifest destiny, do you know about the Golden Circle, the Purple Dream? Check that too.

In the late '50s, I was Regular Army for three years. I was a Russian linguist and analyst with the Army Security Agency. I took Russian at the Presidio of Monterey, followed by a year and a half assignment in Germany. 

At that time, we were still in the afterglow of World War II, when it was assumed that every man had a responsibility to serve our Nation in the military. I was proud to serve and rose to the rank of Specialist Fifth Class (equivalent in pay to a Sergeant). I was also gratified by the responsibility I had – to notify the Seventh Army Command in Frankfort and the Army's arm of the CIA in Washington when and if the Russians and East Germans were going to cross the East German border to begin World War III.

But, now in my '70s, I find that I share Benjamin Franklin's view of war. "There never was a good war or a bad peace. All Wars are Follies, very expensive, and very mischievous ones. When will Mankind be convinced of this, and agree to settle their Differences by Arbitration? Were they to do it, even by the Cast of a Dye, it would be better than by Fighting and destroying each other."

Three years ago, I had a shocking experience.  I read some of Count Leo Tolstoy's short stories and discovered that he was an artillery officer in the Crimean Wars (the Russian counterpart of our Indian Wars). 

His stories protested the savage slaughter committed by the Russians as they subdued the native tribes. The Crimea is mountainous, so the tribesmen fought the Russians with guerrilla warfare. They knew their turf so they specialized in hiding and sudden attacks.

Cannon are useless against mountains. They're only effective against forts and towns. So, the Russians blew up the towns – i.e. women, children, and the elderly.  Tolstoy protested it.

A question for you: Which prominent 19th century American authors protested our Indian genocide policies?

You got it. That's the right answer. None.

Because we Americans in the 1770's fought for our independence and established the leading Constitutional democracy, the rest of the world admires us – and often imitates us. But, because of our arrogant warmongering, we are also justly despised. When we fight offensive empire-building wars, we damage ourselves and betray our own heritage.

I haven't mentioned World Wars I and II.  They were our biggest empire-building wars and shifted us from being a minor player in world politics to being the dominant force.  After Pearl Harbor, our war against Japan was defensive. In both wars, our European involvement was discretionary.

Of course, Japan won the war. Do you know the official name for the Japanese Empire in the early 40's? The Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere. Well, they didn't pull it off in the 1940's. But they did succeed during the rest of the 20th century.

Example:  In 1958, my parents and I toured Central America, where Japanese automobiles ruled. That was 13 years after the end of World War II.  Facts: Probably 10% of US citizens were Spanish speakers in 1958. And every Central American capital, except Panama City, is closer to Detroit than is Los Angeles. (I'm not making this up. You can verify it on a globe with a piece of string.)  Yet, Detroit's Big Three didn't go after this market.

Conclusion: The Japanese successfully invaded our immediate neighbors with their cars. And both the Germans and Japanese successfully invaded the US with Toyotas, Nissans, VWs, Mercedes, and BMW's. Today on both coasts, Beemers are prestige cars and Chevys are hard to sell.

The largest current item of discretionary spending in the Federal budget is the military. In the 1950's, Dwight Eisenhower warned us to beware of the military-industrial complex. But, it's now in control, and the size of our military is disproportionate to any direct threat against our Nation.  Our most likely way to balance the Federal budget will be to cut the gross fat from the Pentagon.

Do you know about Chrystal City?  It's near the Pentagon.  In the '90s, I stayed a few days there at the Holiday Inn.  Chrystal City is the fulfillment of the American dream -- all high rises, connected by an underground mall.  I saw neither schools nor churches.  But admirals and generals were about as thick as roaches in a city slum -- and I saw a whole lot of Pentagon fat.

Promote the General Welfare

The job of our Federal and State governments should be to promote the greatest good for the greatest number.

It has happened a few times. The Homestead Act. The Securities and Exchange Act. Social Security. The GI bill. The Voting Rights Act of 1965.  The Affordable Care Act. Among others. The others include the first eight amendments to the Constitution, as well as the 13th Amendment (abolition of slavery), the 14th (civil rights), the 15th (African-American right to vote), the 19th (women's right to vote), 23rd (DC residents' right to vote for the President), 24th (no poll taxes), and the 26th (18 to 20-year-old right to vote).

Mostly, our Nation has been effectively lobbied and controlled by the moneyed, power elite, and run for their benefit. And it's getting worse.

Do you question this?

Welfare for the rich was one of the first policies established by George Washington's Administration. Alexander Hamilton, Secretary of the Treasury, led the way. The fledgling US Government assumed all Revolutionary War debts incurred by the States. Sounds noble, doesn't it?

That's not how it worked in practice.

Supposing you were a blacksmith outside Philadelphia in 1777, and you reshod the horses of Washington's Army. In return, you received a Pennsylvania IOU for $35. (The equivalent today of about $1,000.) Now, it's 1790, and you still have the $35 IOU. A New Yorker comes to town and offers you $3.50 for the note. Well, you think, it beats a blank. So, you sell your note for 10 cents on the dollar. Six weeks later, the New Yorker, who has bought up dozens of these notes, redeems them with the Federal Government at face value.

What's going on here? Hamilton, a New York lawyer, tipped off his wealthy friends, and they gladly profiteered. Hamilton was buying the loyalty of the rich – who were mostly pro-British Tories – at the expense of the lower-income Patriots who had fought and won the war.

Such abuse of Federal power was wrong then; it's wrong now.

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Our Federal Government and the States should be taxing us sufficiently to provide the services we need as a Nation.

We should have a balanced budgets at the Federal, State, County and City levels.

In itself, big government is not bad.  Big government is a measure of our interdependence.

Two comments on taxation:

The first is from Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. "I consider the taxes I pay as part of my contribution to civilization."

The second is from Erwin Griswold, Harvard Law School Dean. From Ohio and Oberlin College, Griswold was a Republican and was our leading scholar on the Federal Income Tax. President Nixon appointed him Solicitor General. He was my professor for the year-long Federal Income Tax course. During the course, he said, "I think that every person in the United States who makes $100,000 a year should pay about the same income tax."

That's a radical principle in our Nation where many millionaires, billionaires, and General Electric get by with paying little or no income tax. 

Here in the State of Washington, Microsoft has lobbied Olympia so effectively that it pays State taxes, not on its net earnings, but rather on its sales in our State. If Microsoft paid its fair share of taxes -- in the same way other Washington manufacturers do -- we could provide adequate funding for the Washington public schools.

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Conclusion: Under the Constitution, we citizens are the highest authority in the land. Individually and collectively, we have the responsibility to direct the course of national affairs.

What Benjamin Franklin said 225 years ago still rings true today. After the Constitutional Convention, a woman asked him, "Well what have we got?  A republic or a monarchy?" His reply: "A republic, madam, if you can keep it."

At the Convention itself, Franklin gave a frightening word of prophecy: "I think a general Government necessary for us, and there is no form of government but what may be a blessing to the people, if well administered. And I believe, farther, that this is likely to be well administered for a course of years, but can only end in despotism, as other forms have done before it, when the people shall become so corrupted as to need despotic government, being incapable of any other."

And China can make that happen – when China demands that we pay our debts in gold.

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Purpose of this blog is to compile a book for my grandchildren to read in 25 years.

Copyright © 2012 by Jack Towe

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