Fireworks and Darwin

When I was a kid in the 1950s, my whole town assembled at night on July 3rd, on the high school football field, and fireworks were fired from a nearby hill directly over our heads.  They were set to go off at LOW altitudes. 

Nash 2.5

Nash 2.5

The show always ended with a long series of increasingly powerful “aerial bombs,” that my WWII veteran uncle said was louder than the German artillery at Bastogne.  Kids loved this stuff, especially getting hit in the head with burning fragments of exploded bombs, or having your ears ring for minutes after the show was over.   Occasionally an unexploded firework would land in the crowd and people would back off, forming a circle with the sputtering and hissing rocket in the center.  Then parents would scream, “Don’t touch it!” as the kids inched forward.

Needless to say this was all EXTEMELY dangerous, but the 1950s was an innocent time when kids didn’t wear bicycle helmets, and the iron laws of Charles Darwin determined who survived into adulthood.

firecrackerFirecrackers were hard to get in those days; you had to know someone who had vacationed in Florida and had brought (illegal!) fireworks back from “the south” where LIFE WAS CHEAP.   Every year, as the 4th approached, lurid stories would appear in the newspaper or on TV about kids who “lost an eye” or “had a finger blown off” and sometimes they would show actual pictures of dismemberment!   (Anyone who thought this was a disincentive did not understand the psychology of kids in the 1950s.)

These days, I live in Maine where fireworks are legal and kids in my neighborhood have been setting them off every night for the last two weeks.    Unfortunately, they almost always do this under “close parental supervision.”  What’s worse is that the local municipal fireworks display has been made so safe, it’s boring.  You have to stand a couple of hundred yards away and watch the explosions from a distance; no burning fragments on your head, no ringing ears.

What’s the fun in that?

From youtube …  “Dangerous Fireworks.”

– Nash 2.5 is a Trail Mix Contributor

Declaring the 4th

As the holiday week begins it’s time for our annual reading of the Declaration of Independence, but this year with a brand new video I made using paintings from those days, and again with the great Bill Barker as Thomas Jefferson.

May the 4th Be With You!

Edited by Craig Crawford
Performed by Bill Barker of Williamsburg, Virginia

The Declaration of Independence: A Transcription

IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776.

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,

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

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

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.
He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.

He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.

He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:
For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us: For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:
For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:
For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:
For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:
For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences
For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:
For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:
For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

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

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

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

The 56 signers of the Declaration (in the order of their signatures)

John Hancock

Button Gwinnett
Lyman Hall
George Walton

North Carolina:
William Hooper
Joseph Hewes
John Penn

South Carolina:
Edward Rutledge
Thomas Heyward, Jr.
Thomas Lynch, Jr.
Arthur Middleton

Samuel Chase
William Paca
Thomas Stone
Charles Carroll of Carrollton

George Wythe
Richard Henry Lee
Thomas Jefferson
Benjamin Harrison
Thomas Nelson, Jr.
Francis Lightfoot Lee
Carter Braxton

Robert Morris
Benjamin Rush
Benjamin Franklin
John Morton
George Clymer
James Smith
George Taylor
James Wilson
George Ross

Caesar Rodney
George Read
Thomas McKean

New York:
William Floyd
Philip Livingston
Francis Lewis
Lewis Morris

New Jersey:
Richard Stockton
John Witherspoon
Francis Hopkinson
John Hart
Abraham Clark

New Hampshire:
Josiah Bartlett
William Whipple

Samuel Adams
John Adams
Robert Treat Paine
Elbridge Gerry

Rhode Island:
Stephen Hopkins
William Ellery

Roger Sherman
Samuel Huntington
William Williams
Oliver Wolcott

New Hampshire:
Matthew Thornton

Our Own Refugee Crisis

Refugee children warehoused on our southern border is not something we expect to see in our own country, but there they are, more than 50,000 kids, mostly from Central America, overwhelming border agents and child welfare officials.

How did this happen?

Brownsville, Texas

Brownsville, Texas

Texas Monthly’s Erica Grieder takes a hard look and concludes that it’s a combination of the violence and poverty in Central America, among the world’s highest, and widespread belief in those countries that we stopped deporting all children. But that change only applied to children of unauthorized immigrants who have lived here continuously since 2007.
In looking through Guatemalan and Honduran news reports about the program, though, you’ll notice that they rarely mention the fine print about which minors, exactly, are eligible. It’s not that hard to imagine how people could get the impression that the United States had decided not to deport children, or why parents in these desperately poor and crime-riddled countries would be motivated to act in response.”

The Federalist’s John Daniel Davidson adds

Smugglers in Mexico are moving people into the United States for money. It’s a business proposition, and part of the smugglers’ scheme is to sell families on the idea that children and minors who get into the United States will not be deported. Mexican drug cartels are of course behind this scheme, and they’re pushing it because their traditional sources of income have become unstable.”

Iraq, What If We Had Stayed?

Pulitzer winner and Foreign Policy magazine blogger Tom Ricks is making sense, takes on claims that Iraq wouldn’t be in this mess if we had kept our troops there …

That’s nonsense. If we had the force there, what we’d be doing now is facing this question: Do we retreat ignominiously and get the troops out of the country, or do we use them in a way—or do we find ourselves forced to use them—in a way we don’t want to, supporting Maliki without reservation? Or do they just sit there inside their camp gates and everybody mocks the Americans for doing nothing? So I think by not having troops on the ground there it greatly simplified the issues for the United States and actually gave the United States more leverage rather than less.”

Our Unconstituional Supreme Court

Whenever SCOTUS rules, as it did in predictably protecting the status quo of the business world in the Aereo case, or in passing judgment on President Obama’s recess appointment, I am mindful of how it has no right of judicial review in the words of the Constitution, except for the fact that it simply assumed that role without justification.

The Supreme Court’s power to interpret the Constitution stems from an exceedingly liberal reading of the document. It was simply made up, having no basis in the Constitution’s words.

Today, we take it for granted that the Supreme Court can strike down laws that it deems unconstitutional, or interpret their adaption as it sees fit. But that was not considered legally possible until more than a decade after the Constitution’s adoption, when a Virginia frontiersman invented a new role for the judiciary.

“It is, emphatically, the province and duty of the judicial department to say what the law is,” wrote Chief Justice John Marshall in Marbury vs. Madison, an 1803 Supreme Court opinion that forever changed American constitutional law.

Marshall, a western Virginia woodsman and Revolutionary War hero, had persuaded his fellow justices to declare a federal law unconstitutional, even though the Constitution specifically gave that power to no one.

In assuming a right to decide what the Constitution means, Marshall, then 48, created a legal principle that reached well beyond his 34 years at the helm of the Supreme Court. His work underlies momentous rulings issued generations later, for good or ill.

John Marshall

John Marshall

“Marshall had the wit and courage to make the most of his opportunity,” said former Chief Justice Warren Burger in a London speech in 1972. “He was the Great Chief Justice on our side of the Atlantic. How could there have been a greater one?”

It was during his Revolutionary War years that Marshall saw a need for strong central government, a lesson he remembered on the court as he engineered ways to strengthen federal powers.

At age 21, Marshall served with Gen. George Washington during the miserable winter at Valley Forge, when the loosely knit Colonies nearly bungled their bid for independence. Even though clothing, food and ammunition were plentiful, the lack of centralized authority kept the supplies from reaching the soldiers.

Seeing this handicap led Marshall later to write an opinion expanding the power of the federal government to control transportation networks.

Marshall’s career as a leading federalist began soon after the war. He debated Patrick Henry, the most eloquent anti-federalist, in favor of ratifying the proposed Constitution.

Washington offered him several jobs in the new government, including those of attorney general and minister to France. Marshall declined in favor of making money to compensate for his family’s losses in the war.

He spent only two months in law school, but his natural skills as a tactician and an incisive speaker made him one of the country’s highest-paid lawyers, earning more than $5,000 a year. Not intrigued by the philosophical debates of his more educated contemporaries, he preferred the thrill of arguing real cases.

Even so, a few potential clients were put off by Marshall’s eccentricity. Shunning the powdered wig and satin breeches favored by most lawyers, Marshall wore plain linen clothes and bundled his hair in a ponytail. A bit absent-minded, he sometimes misplaced important court documents, and his eyes wandered during conversations that bored him.

Marshall’s financial success eventually allowed him the luxury of public office. After stints in the Virginia Legislature and the U.S. Congress, he became minister to France under President John Adams.

As Adams prepared to leave office, the post of chief justice became vacant for the fourth time in 12 years. The Supreme Court was not considered a very important branch of government in its early days, and few were interested in serving on it.

Adams knew that this time he needed a strong federalist in the job — someone devoted to a strong central government. Thomas Jefferson was taking over the presidency, and as a staunch anti-federalist he could be expected to weaken much of the federal power gained by Washington and Adams (although he turned out to be far more friendly to power once he had some).

Adams turned to Marshall. In his third year of office the new chief justice entered a showdown with Jefferson in Marbury vs. Madison. Although Marshall’s invention of the court’s right to interpret the Constitution escaped immediate notice by the press and public, Jefferson was enraged.

Jefferson warned that letting the court decide what the Constitution means would make the document “a mere thing of wax in the hands of the justices.” He believed that each branch of government “has an equal right to decide for itself what is the meaning of the Constitution in the cases submitted to its action.”

With the Marbury decision, Marshall began the practice of issuing written opinions. During his next three decades on the court, he often pleased the federalists by using interpretation to expand many powers granted to the federal government under the Constitution.

The jurist’s immeasurable contribution to federalism led Adams to call his appointment of Marshall “the pride of my life.”

President Cruz?

Rafael Edward (“Ted”) Cruz could be our next President.

Nash 2.5

Nash 2.5

First, the Tea Party wing of the GOP would have to dominate the 2016 primaries, defeating “establishment” Republicans like Jeb Bush and Mitt Romney, and “libertarian” Republicans like Rand Paul.

Then, the GOP would have to defeat the Democratic candidate for president in the general election, possibly relying on a massive negative advertising campaign funded by right-wing billionaires, and more aggressive voter suppression than anything we have seen before.

But wait, wasn’t Cruz born in Canada?

To quote Wikipedia…

“Because he was a U.S. citizen at birth (since his mother was a U.S. citizen who lived in the U.S. for more than 10 years as required by the Nationality Act of 1940), most commentators believe Cruz is eligible to serve as President of the United States.”

What Ted Cruz believes (in five bullet points).

* Cruz is a member of the Federalist Society, which advocates an extremely conservative interpretation of the law.   Essentially, the Federalists would take the USA back to the 19th century when the U.S. government was tiny and had almost no role in society.  No taxation could be used to fund “social welfare” programs like education, healthcare, or Social Security, there would be no minimum wage, labor unions would be illegal, etc.  Almost all regulations on business activity would be removed and the economy (Wall Street) would be free from any effective government controls.

ted_cruz2*But Ted Cruz goes even further than the Federalists.  Separation of Church and state?  No way.  Cruz doesn’t talk about it much, but he believes in “Christian Dominionism.”  According to this extreme form of fundamentalism, the USA should be a “Christian” nation, and the Bible should be the basis of all law, not the U.S. Constitution.

*As a political strategist, Cruz believes that government shutdowns are a good way to get what you want.   No one was more responsible for the last government shutdown than Cruz, who bullied GOP members of Congress to force a shutdown, threatening them with Tea Party primary challenges if they didn’t vote the way he wanted.  Think what will happen if he gets to RUN the executive branch, which represents 99% of the personnel and budget of the U.S. Government.

* Immigration Reform?   Send them all back and build a wall.  Cruz voted against a path to citizenship & the Dream Act; he would allow local police to demand “proof of citizenship” and arrest anyone who couldn’t produce it.

* Foreign policy & the military.  While Cruz is not advocating sending troops back into Iraq (at this time) he has said that the U.S. military should aggressively pursue “Muslim terrorists” anywhere in the world.  He also advocates a U.S foreign policy that “protects Christian minorities” in Muslim nations, which could include military intervention for that … single… purpose.

Ted Cruz’s most ridiculous comments while filibustering “Obamacare.”

– Nash 2.5 is a Trail Mix Contributor

Our ‘Perpetual War’

It might surprise some to learn that after we supposedly ended the Iraq war three years ago, the original 2002 “Authorization to Use Military Force” NEVER EXPIRED. And it has even been used to expand operations elsewhere, such as drone attacks in other countries.

In other words, Congress authorized a permanent war in the Middle East, and as George W. Bush and Barack Obama have interpreted it, that authority is now used to do just about anything anywhere, however a president wants it done.

The Congressional Research Service confirms the original authority had no expiration date and has not been repealed. Therefore it remains current law, “although its continued effectiveness is questionable. Arguably, the president could rely on it to reintroduce forces into Iraq if he determined that Iraq once again posed a threat to U.S. national security.”

And there’s the rub, No. 1: Presidents get to define that national security threat. In Thursday’s press conference Obama vaguely cited threats “to the homeland” if Iraq’s insurgents are not put down. That’s more subtle, but in the same ballpark, as Bush Administration claims there’d be nukes over Atlanta and terrorists in your neighborhood Walmart if Saddam Hussein was not wiped out.

Here’s the rub, No. 2: Congress secretly likes it this way. Letting presidents make war without restrictions shifts responsibility, so that if it goes badly lawmakers can blame the White House and tell voters they knew better, that they would have done this or that to assure success.

That’s why, although Congress could repeal this unlimited authority at any time, and despite how so many senators, current and former, including Hillary Clinton, have recanted their vote for it, this Orwellian “perpetual war” goes on.

Facts Are Stubborn Things

Watching the HBO series “John Adams” over the weekend (based on David McCullough’s insanely gorgeous book), for maybe the fifth time, I’m reminded once again how much that man’s reason and prudence speaks to us today. He would be so appalled by the intemperate rhetoric of our times. He was a passionate moderate, a believer in the rule of law, and, above all, a freaking patriot.John-Adams

Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.” — John Adams, ‘Argument in Defense of the Soldiers in the Boston Massacre Trials,’ (December 1770)

Top Ten Signs You May Be A “Senior Citizen”

Yesterday I spent 10 minutes looking for my glasses.

Nash 2.5

Nash 2.5

I searched the entire house, looking in all the places I normally leave them, on the bedroom bureau, the kitchen table, on the end table next to the recliner chair, etc, to no avail.  I couldn’t find them.

Then I realized I was wearing them.

So … as a break from “politics” today, I thought it would be interesting to discuss the joys (just kidding) of growing older.

To stimulate discussion, here is my list of “Top Ten Signs that you may be a Senior Citizen,” in the style of David Letterman (reverse order):

67-Free-Retro-Clipart-Of-A-Man-Reading-Interesting-News-From-A-Newspaper(10) The cute new cashier at the supermarket says you look just like her grandfather.

(9) When telemarketers call, you chat for a while, because it’s not like you have anything better to do.

(8) Your primary care physician just bought a new car, thanks to you.  (A Merc…loaded.)

(7) The place that you retired from has removed all signs that you ever worked there, and has hired, as your replacement, someone who was in elementary school when you started to work there.

(6) The public library is your new “hangout.”   (Well… they just added a café with gourmet coffee.)

(5) You find yourself writing a letter to the city council complaining that there are not enough park benches downtown.

(4) You can’t remember the last time you got “carded” when buying a bottle of wine. (Late 1970s?)

(3) Whatever the issue under discussion, you are tempted to say, “Who cares?”

(2) You would rather sit around thinking about what you were doing in your 20s, then about what you are going to be doing tomorrow.  (College sex was much more exciting before Roe v Wade.)

And now, the #1 sign that you may be a Senior Citizen…

(1) Everyone running for President is younger than you.

– Nash 2.5 is a Trail Mix Contributor

Gay Marriage Gets to the Church (In Time)

As the phenomenal progress for same-sex marriage in our politics keeps up its momentum, a big lag factor — mainline churches — slowly make their way toward change.

DETROIT (AP): The top legislative body of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) voted by large margins Thursday to recognize same-sex marriage as Christian in the church constitution, adding language that marriage can be the union of ‘two people,’ not just ‘a man and a woman.’ …

Of the mainline Protestant denominations, only the United Church of Christ supports gay marriage outright. The Episcopal Church has approved a prayer service for blessing same-sex unions. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America has eliminated barriers for gay clergy but allows regional and local church officials to decide their own policies on ordination and blessings for same-sex couples.

Lesbian wedding threatens to break up heterosexual marriage.The largest mainline group, the United Methodist Church, with about 7.8 million U.S. members, bars ordaining people in same-sex relationships. However, church members have been debating whether to split over their different views of the Bible and marriage. Gay marriage supporters have been recruiting clergy to openly officiate at same-sex ceremonies in protest of church policy.”