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JDPriestly's Journal
JDPriestly's Journal
June 1, 2014

Americans -- Courage is in our DNA.

Our ancestors would laugh at our NSA for justifying its massive surveillance including its collection of our metadata by the dangers we face.

In a great speech on the freedom of the press and his own disinclination to meddle with it (in contrast to Obama who is trying to force Risen to give up his sources on a story that Obama claims comprised our national security) claimed that the time in which he served -- the 1960s -- was the most dangerous in history.


I was born during WWII. Since I can remember, the leaders of America have either asserted or acted as though the time in which they were lived was the MOST DANGEROUS in our nation's history. Their awe at the task of protecting our country is understandable, even admirable and explains their hyperbole. But they are wrong.

My ancestors came to this country when it was very, very young. They faced dangers that we cannot imagine now. When they later entered Kentucky and Indiana and moved on West, at each watering hole, at each campground, at each settlement, in every home they built on the prairie or in the wilderness, they faced dangers to themselves and our country far greater than any we can imagine today.

They had no internet, no telephones, no electricity or gas. They chopped trees for kindling wood so that they could cook and heat. They lived in log cabins or houses constructed without cranes and bulldozers. They tilled virgin soil. They hammered horseshoes over blazing fires. They created America in the face of dangers we cannot and do not bother to imagine.

They were fearless.

But they valued freedom and eventually fought for the independence of our country and for a new government, a constitutional government that would pioneer a new relationship between the ordinary man and his civil life. It wasn't just a change of the chief of state. It was a change in the relationship between the farmer (we were mostly farmers back then) or the working man and the government. No longer would we have a king, a sovereign, a master. We would be our own king, our own sovereign, our own master. (I'm talking about Yankees who moved from the East to the West, not Southern slaveholders.)

Today, our government, purchased and owned not by us so much any more but by the very, very wealthy (some of whom serve in Congress) and corporations, is seeking to govern us as a master. The first attack is on our right to know the truth about the dangers and opportunities that confront and greet us.

The first attack is on the media including the internet.

Had my grandfather many times removed, who first came to this country when there was little civilization here, enjoyed the capacity we now have to live safely and tranquilly, had he been able to sit in the evening and watch canned TV shows, old movies or interact with others on the internet, he would have felt incredibly safe, maybe even claustrophobic. He would have believed he had a life of ease.

I think he would have felt very generous toward people in other countries whom we now perceive as enemies. Instead of wasting his time in fear, I think he would have set out to learn more about them. I think he would have tried to figure them out, outsmart them. And I think he could have done that without quivering in fear just as he learned to catch and hunt enough game to feed his family until his crops were in.

I think that if my grandfather many times removed were living today, he would want our government to be truly honest with him. And I think he would have been very cautious before he bought a cow from a stranger off the street or the propaganda that now passes for news.

To survive you have to be smart, but you don't have to lie. You can keep secrets, but they had better be your own, not the public's.

And now to the point: Our government keeps too many secrets from us. It doesn't trust us. And I ask myself, what has happened to the dream of my ancestors, the dream they had for this country. Where is the country that is governed by the people, not by a king, or a sovereign or a master? Where is it when the very government that is supposed to be under our control is placing us under surveillance?

Where is it when that government tells us that we live in the most dangerous times imaginable?

Our ancestors faced dangers far greater than any dangers we could even imagine, save one. And that one danger that is greater than any danger we have faced so far is the danger that the warming oceans and the rising seas and the melting icebergs pose to our grandchildren and their children. (And we don't hear nearly enough about that real danger.)

The idea that we should allow our government to hide so many secrets that are not specifically combat-related from us because of the dire dangers we face is absurd.

We Americans are the most courageous people on earth. At least we used to be. Every one of us. It's in our DNA.

Very few Americans can boast that they have no ancestors who ventured to this country distancing themselves from the comforts of family and childhood memories to face a mysterious wilderness or at least an unknown future. Even today, although the dangers are less obvious, most immigrants leave behind not just family but very often a career and opportunities in order to allow their children to have a better, freer life.

Ironically, the glory of America, the dream of a better, freer life is now being endangered not by foreign enemies but by our own corporate-owned government snooping on our private lives, negotiating trade agreements that will curtail our rights in secret, keeping all kinds of secrets from us and punishing our press, our media when it tries to inform us (I originally wrote this in response to an OP about James Risen and the Obama administration's attacks on the press).

As I write this, I hope the NSA agent who may now or in the future read my post will realize that what he is doing is downright wrong. We have a right to be a free people. That means free of surveillance. Law enforcement is supposed to punish illegal actions. It should not concern itself at all with our political expression, our political speech or our personal law-abiding lives.

My ancestors did not want a country in which the government placed the people under surveillance. How do I know? It's in my DNA and the DNA of all Americans: the love of freedom and the courage to accept the risks that accompany it.

If terrorists endanger our country, don't let them come in. Placing Americans under surveillance is not necessary to keep them out. Otherwise, place criminals under surveillance after they have committed criminal acts. But don't place law-abiding citizens under surveillance.

May 30, 2014

Kerry is on the inside now.

Kerry is now Obama's Dean Rusk.

Remember Dean Rusk? LBJ's Secretary of State?

Here, from the New York Times' obituary for Rusk:

As Secretary, Mr. Rusk played almost two different roles. Under President Kennedy, his position was much less defined, with the President often taking advice from other officials and not paying that much attention to Mr. Rusk. But Mr. Johnson, himself an outsider in the Kennedy Administration, relied increasingly on the advice of his fellow Southerner.

Mr. Rusk's belief, which he never tired of stating, was that the United States had a commitment to South Vietnam that it could not break without risking a larger war with China or Russia.

He declared again and again that "as far as the United States is concerned, we have a commitment to South Vietnam -- and we shall meet it."

Mr. Rusk was also deeply involved in the hot and cold American relations with the Soviet Union. He helped engineer the first arms control accords with Moscow. And he was President Kennedy's adviser when the Soviet Union, in Mr. Rusk's word, "blinked" during the Cuban missile crisis. Praised by Johnson, Reviled by Protesters [sic]


Elizabeth Warren explains how it works in her book A Fighting Chance. page 106

"Late in the evening, Larry (Summer) leaned back in his chair and offered me some advice. By now, I'd lost count of Larry's Diet cokes, and our table was strewn with bits of food and spilled sauces. Larry's tone was in the friendly-advice category. He teed it up this way. I had a choice. I could be an insider or I could be an outsider. Outsiders can say whatever they want. But people on the inside don't listen to them. Insiders, however, get lots of access and a chance to push their ideas. People -- powerful people -- listen to what they have to say. But insiders also understand one unbreakable rule: They don't criticize other insiders:

Kerry is now an insider. It's not his job to criticize any more. Criticism? That's our job.

May 16, 2014

A couple of offhand comments (not well thought through so

criticism is welcome).

1) Christians (and members of other religions) are persecuted around the world. Egypt comes to mind as does maybe Saudi Arabia, and those are just a couple of examples.

2) But with regard to the Supreme Court's disapproval of putting the Ten Commandments on the lawn of City Hall somewhere while the Court has the Ten Commandments on its own walls, the confusion, I suspect (and could be wrong) arises from a misunderstanding about the First Amendment to the Constitution.
Here is the text:

U.S. Constitution › First Amendment
. . . .
Amendment I

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.


If a local government places or sponsors the placement of a symbol or language or a specifically religious artifact on public property to endorse a religious holiday or belief but does not permit other religious groups to place their symbols, artifacts, etc. on its public property to endorse their religious (or atheist) ideas or holidays, then that local government is establishing a religion. That is prohibited by the First Amendment. That is why a local government may not place the Ten Commandments on its lawn. Because that is the establishment of a religion -- the Jewish or Christian religious traditions.

The Supreme Court has as yet not been considered to be establishing a religion due to the display of the Ten Commandments on its walls. That is because the friezes on the walls of the Supreme Court represent the most revered lawgivers in history.

"Cass Gilbert (1867-1934), architect of the Supreme Court Building, selected Adolph A. Weinman (1870-1952), a respected and accomplished Beaux-Arts sculptor, to design the marble friezes for the Courtroom. Weinman’s training emphasized a correlation between the sculptural subject and the function of the building. Gilbert relied on him to choose the subjects and figures that best reflected the function of the Supreme Court Building. Faithful
to classical sources and drawing from many civilizations, Weinman designed a procession of “great lawgivers of history” for the south and north walls to portray the development of law. Each frieze in
the Courtroom measures 40 feet long by 7 feet, 2 inches high and is made of ivory vein Spanish marble.

Weinman’s sculpture begins on the South Wall Frieze with Fame and moves from left to right. Included among the great lawgivers are allegorical figures whose names are included below the images in


I think this is such a great historical tribute that I will list all the great lawmakers honored on the walls of our Supreme Court and mentioned in the article I cite:

Menes -- Egypt
Hammurabi -- Babylon
Moses -- Mosaic law (which some think was somewhat inspired or related to Hammurabi's code). They are different.
Solomon -- Israel
Lycurgus -- Sparta
Solon -- Athens
Draco -- Athens
Confucius -- China
Octavian -- Rome
Justinian -- Byzantine Empire
Mohammad -- Prophet of Islam (Muslim religion)
Charlemagne -- Franks and Roman Empire
King John -- signed Magna Carta
Louis IX -- St. Louis
Hugo Grotius -- Dutch and wrote on international law
Blackstone -- great British legal scholar
John Marshall -- American
Napoleon -- Napoleonic Code

The Ten Commandments appears on the walls of the Supreme Court not to symbolize the establishment of the Jewish or Christian religion as the religion of our country but to recognize its historic importance. That is why it is not a violation of the First Amendment.

As for evolution, anyone who questions the scientific basis for the "theory" of evolution should read "Your Inner Fish" by Neil Shubin. Evolution is called a theory, but it is a pretty well established and proven theory.

Cleaning house last week, I discovered a copy of an old National Geographic magazine from Feb. 2009. The front teases the reader with the title "What Darwin Didn't Know." The magazine contains an article, "Darwin's First Clues" followed by the article "Modern Darwins." The theory of evolution is simply based on the idea that the plants and animals that survive and reproduce successfully are most likely those most favorably adapted to the current environment. Over time, traits like human speech, give biological beings such an edge that the successful species with the advantageous traits distinguish themselves as a new sort of biological life form. (Personally, I believe we are ultimately all a part of life itself and linked in more ways to other animals, plants and living beings than we realize, so survival of the fittest is survival of life itself and that includes all of us.)

There isn't anything complicated about evolution. It's just common sense backed up by DNA.

Here is an excerpt from that National Geographic article, "Modern Darwins."

". . . off the Gulf Coast of Florida, beach mice have paler coats than mice living on the mainland. This camouflages them better on pale sand: owls, hawks, and herons eat more of the poorly disguised mice, leaving others to breed. Hopi Hoekstra . . . and her colleagues traced the color difference to the change of a single letter in a single gene, which cuts down the production of pigment in the fur. The mutation has occurred since its beach islands formed less than 6,000 years ago."

National Geographic, Feb. 2009, at pages 58-59. (May be available in some electronic form from National Geographic or your library.)

Clearly, if the lighter beach mice are not eaten as frequently as are the darker ones, the lighter mice breed and reproduce themselves more successfully. Thus the beach mice become differentiated based on color with the lighter ones forming a special group and living on the light colored sand. That is a step in the process of evolution -- the separation of the beach mice by color and location.

As more information and understanding are acquired, the errors in the nascent theory that Darwin espoused about evolution are set aside.

Another quote from that Feb. 2009 edition of National Geographic at page 71:

"Though modern genetics vindicates Darwin in all sorts of ways, it also turns the spotlight on his biggest mistake. Darwin's own ideas on the mechanism of inheritance were a mess -- and wrong. He thought that an organism blended together a mixture of its parents' traits, and later in his life he began to believe it also passed on traits acquired during its lifetime. He never understood, as the humble Moravian monk Gregor Mendel did, that an organism isn't a blend of its two parents at all, but the composite result of lots and lots of individual traits passed down by its father and passed on from their own parents and their grandparents before them.
citation above.

The gift of gab, being able to speak and communicate well on the radio, TV or internet is a wonderful thing. I love talk radio, but some of the hosts on talk radio need to research the topics they plan to discuss. Opinions on political issues -- even those should be based on research and facts.

Theories that are not based on research and facts should be identified as such or part of a conversation of theories that could give rise to research and compiling facts. It is not helpful just to assert that you do not believe in evolution unless you understand the current state of the research supporting the theory of evolution. A person with a large audience who spouts ideas without checking to find out whether maybe those ideas are wrong does a grave disservice to his listeners. He is spreading ignorance and misunderstanding.

On that note, all religions meet up with intolerance. So do self-described atheists. We all need to work together to be more sensitive to the religious beliefs of others. And we need to make sure that our government guarantees our freedom of religion by making it clear that our government does not endorse or establish any particular religion. That is my opinion. I believe that idea best complies with the First Amendment.

I respect all religious beliefs. I also respect atheists' ideas and suspicion of religion. But I cherish my own spiritual sense and my own study of what is common to all religions and to atheism.

Sorry my posts are long and maybe ranting, but I'm very detail-oriented and don't want to spend a lot of time editing posts that will be read once if that often.

April 5, 2014

Thank you for posting this.

Have you started a new thread with this?

Sixth Amendment

Amendment VI

In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the assistance of counsel for his defense.


There aren't any ifs ands and buts about a public trial.

Also, the defendant is supposed to have "compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor."

Whether or not the NSA requests that Nacchio denied were legal we will never know because it is all "secret." But we do not that the Constitution makes no exception for secret trials or denial of the right to compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in the defendant's favor based on national security. And here and in similar cases in which a defendant needs information sheltered by national security agencies, that compulsory process is denied. Over and over. And that violates the Constitution.

May I remind DUers that the Constitution is the supreme law of the land. Not the NSA. Not presidential decrees. The Constitution is the supreme law of the land.

(Sorry if this sounds condescending, but a lot of DUers seem either not to have read the Constitution or not to understand that is the supreme law along with treaties in the land.)

Looks to me like the NSA and our courts violated it in several serious ways in the Nacchio case.

A lot of DUers have ignored or even ridiculed my warnings that what the NSA has done and is doing endangers many, many of the constitutional rights we have. Among them is the right to a fair trial.

I hope I will see some posts from some of those people admitting that they have been wrong.

I have been accused of having my hair on fire. Actually, my hair is on my very calm head. The NSA is violating our Constitution in very serious ways.

As Nacchio said. This stuff started before 9/11. The terrorism threat is real. Always has been. But the Constitution is what makes our country great. And we have to respond to the terrorism threat WITHOUT VIOLATING OUR CONSTITUTION.

(Before terrorism there was the threat of Communism. There are always excuses for taking shortcuts and violating our rights.)

The NSA reform needs to be done properly. I seriously doubt that it will be. Lose a right. You lose it forever.

For my notes:



January 27, 2014

How to have a more competitive economy. Austria shows the way.

This is an excerpt from an interview made in Davos, Switzerland with Philip Jennings, General Secretary of a major Austrian union.

Jennings: Die Länder, die die Krise gut gemeistert haben, hatten gute soziale Institutionen. Dazu gehören Österreich, Deutschland und die Schweiz. Das wird zu einem Wettbewerbsvorteil für Österreich: Stabilität. Österreichs Tradition des sozialen Dialogs macht das Land zum Weltführer. Viele sagen sicher auch, das ist kein Wettbewerbsvorteil. Die Rechten haben keine Agenda und machen nur Migranten für die Arbeitslosigkeit verantwortlich. Es gibt jedoch keine Diamanten oder Ölvorkommen, aber soziale Verantwortung. Gewerkschaften und Unternehmer sind daran gewöhnt, miteinander zu sprechen. Das ist ein Vorteil im Vergleich zu anderen Ländern.

Jennings: The countries that mastered the economic crisis had good social institutions. Austria, Germany and Switzerland are among them. Stability has become an advantage to Austria in terms of competition. Austria's tradition of social dialogue makes the country a world leader. Granted, many say that is not a competitive advantage. The right-wingers have no agenda and blame immigrants for the unemployment. No diamonds or oil revenue are available, however, only social responsibility. Unions and employers are used to speaking with each other. That is an advantage compared to other countries.


Also posted in General Discussion.

January 19, 2014

Sabrina, did you get a chance to watch the news conference by the other whistleblowers including

Binney and Tice?

Here is the link.


If you haven't watched it, it is long but worth listening to.

January 19, 2014

The Germans know first-hand how dangerous the kind of spying we are doing not only on foreign

leaders but on ourselves is. Some spying may be needed but we have gone far, far, far too far, and while some of Obama's changes in the system sound good, they are far, far, far too cautious.

We need a complete overhaul of all the domestic and foreign spying programs not only of the NSA but of all the agencies that conduct spying.

the big shock for me was when MSNBC presented a video of Hayden vehemently denying that "probable cause" is the standard the Constitution sets for the kind of search and seizure that the NSA conducts on us all the time. Here is the clip.


A person that ignorant of the text of the 4th Amendment certainly should not be in charge of a program that is capable of violating the 4th Amendment. He was not well enough versed on the constitution for his job.

Just in case there is any question about the 4th Amendment, here it is.

Amendment IV

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.


In general, customs writs of assistance served as general search warrants that did not expire, allowing customs officials to search anywhere for smuggled goods without having to obtain a specific warrant. These writs became controversial when they were issued by courts in British America in the 1760s, especially the Province of Massachusetts Bay. Controversy over these general writs of assistance inspired the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which forbids general search warrants in the United States.

. . . .

General writs of assistance played an important role in the increasing tensions that led to the American Revolution and the creation of the United States of America. In 1760, Great Britain began to enforce some of the provisions of the Navigation Acts by granting customs officers these writs. In New England, smuggling had become common. However, officers could not search a person's property without giving a reason. Colonists protested that the writs violated their rights as British subjects. The colonists had several problems with these writs. They were permanent and even transferable: the holder of a writ could assign it to another. Any place could be searched at the whim of the holder, and searchers were not responsible for any damage they caused. This put anyone who had such a writ above the law.

. . . .

In response to the much-hated general writs, several of the colonies included a particularity requirement for search warrants in their constitutions when they established independent governments in 1776; the phrase "particularity requirement" is the legal term of art used in contemporary cases to refer to an express requirement that the target of a search warrant must be "particularly" described in detail.[20] Several years later, the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution also contained a particularity requirement that outlawed the use of writs of assistance (and all general search warrants) by the federal government.[21] Later, the Bill of Rights was incorporated against the states via the Fourteenth Amendment,[22] and writs of assistance were generally proscribed.


The British may be comfortable with the broad surveillance, but we Americans should not be. After all, we fought one revolution to narrow police investigations to warrants based on probable cause.

We should not allow our precious U.S. Constitution that was so hard-won in that revolution to be denied, reworded or simply ignored even by our must honored and trusted elected officials and military leaders. They should be better informed.

December 16, 2013

I have often thought of something similar.

Imagine yourself outside our universe looking down through the universe, across the suns and planets and moons, focusing on earth, seeing the mountains and oceans as tiny specks, coming closer and closer in, focusing closer in until you see the larger animals, elephants and whales and then closer and closer until you see us, humans and then all of the cells and bacteria in us then in smaller animals, ants, then plants.

That is what I think about when I want to get a perspective on my problems and my relationship with God. We are about as big in terms of the perspective of the universe as that tiny speck of bacteria is in the video in the OP. We are nothing. And yet we are our whole world because the world is contained in our perception of it. There is, for each of us, no world, no real world, beyond the world we can perceive, touch, feel or at least imagine and think about. And our perception of ourselves in that immensity, our tiny selves in that greatness, only our souls, the spiritual aspect of ourselves can travel across the great vastness of the universe. And we only travel the distance when we are spiritually whole.

That is perspective for me.

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