Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Original Intent

Damn you, Sarah Palin, for making me have to argue with you.

To clarify:  I like Sarah Palin.  I'd have liked to see her as VP (with the only problem being the half-ass that would have been Prez).  I'd have liked to see her reinvent herself, lead the conservative governors against the insanity of Obamacare, prove herself to have much more depth than the half-ass media (that slavishly marches to the same liberal drum) has portrayed her having.  And I'd have liked to see her hand Obama his nuts in 2012.

(It wouldn't ruin the fun of the Caribou Barbie jokes....)

But then she says stuff like this (quote is at 2:45 in this clip):
"Go back to what our founders and our founding documents meant -- they're quite clear -- that we would create law based on the God of the Bible and the Ten Commandments."
Um..., nooooo, ho, ho, ho, hoooo.  No.

I really blame the inadequacies of the government schools here, for teaching either a saccharine view of the founding of America (what I got (although I'm not blaming School House Rock)) or a distorted and half-assed view based on whatever agenda the particular teachers have (which I also got because of the damage of 8 years in hell Catholic school).  For me, it's been a study of the actual men who formed this country over many years that has dispelled the myths, the legends, and the bullshit that we tend to build up so we can idolize a bunch of guys who were really a snapshot of America, circa 1776.  And it is both in their writings, and the writings of people who knew them, that we can actually look at the original intent of the men (and their women) who created the government of this country.


First of all, let's get God on the table and examine His influence over the Founding Fathers (FFs).  The FFs were men of many faiths.  The majority subscribed to some form of Christianity.  There were Jews, a few Deists, and some who's faith was not necessarily clear.   However, what could be agreed upon by all were the following:

1. There was a Deity that created and ordered all of Creation.
2. The form of government of the United States was ordained by Him (indirectly, of course).
3. The Constitution (and specifically the Bill of Rights) is a codification of rights that exist, therefore are the Provence of God, not man, to give.

And clearly, there is a requirement that morality, most commonly found in faith, is a necessary component of the continuing function of our government.  This is the extent that Christianity can actually be "found" in the founding documents.  Mostly, it inspired them to create the most just and fair form of government they could at the time (which meant leaving some big messes (slavery) for succeeding generations to fight over).  Which means they didn't include a single Commandment anywhere in the actual Constitution.  They got most of the things you might find in Exodus from:

English Common Law

As it has been through much of history, a significant portion of the FFs were of the now-loathed brotherhood of lawyers.  In this case, they were lawyers who worked the bar in the English courts, working through the tort system and the English Common Law.  And for the most part, it worked.  So who in their right mind would scrap what worked?  Not our FFs.  And the British, as they expanded drew from earlier civilizations, such as pre-imperial Rome and pre-government tit anarchy Greece , who drew from more primitive and earlier cultures back to the days when debate over whether the word "snorg" was a proper word.  In other words, like those that came before, they drew upon the successful forms of representative governance throughout history, trying to avoid those things that destroyed the great societies of the past from within.  So that means:

Reading Assignments

The Library of Congress, in the wake of the British burning of Washington in the War of 1812, looked to Thomas Jefferson for salvation, as he sold them his entire library.  (This was also because he needed cash for his debts, but then proceeded to assemble another library anyway (imagine what TJ could do in the credit market of the las decade!!!!).  But his library was the library of many of the leading minds of the Revolution.  Such as John Adams.  In addition to the Bible (because he read a LOT), you could find works that spanned written history, in multiple languages, covering poetry, literature, history, philosophy and religion.  I'd list it all, but there were were 3500 books.  That would make the Bible  .002% of his total reading material.  While that's one of the lowest percentages, it was common for those of learning (or like Washington, those who were mostly self-taught) to tackle reading from a wide range of philosophies and thoughts.   In matter of fact, the days of the FFs were an age of enlightenment, something that Christianity, throughout most of its history, has not been known for.  As for the Bible, most of it runs along the lines of kings and divinely mandated authoritarian government.  Which is why the FFs were big on:

Checks and Balances

The FFs understood the duality of Man, and his tendency to go bad when given power without limit.  A single leader, invested with too much power, would become a king.  A single assembled group would be an oligarchy.  The majority would degenerate into a mob.  Any part of the government, if allowed to gain power over another, could tear it asunder.  And any group that can claim divine mandate to command the hearts of Men (organized religion) could wipe away freedom by ignoring the free.

In short, they knew enough about people to know not to trust ANYONE with too much power.  So their documents were crafted to protect the individual from the mob, to draw lines around specific territories that were appropriate for a federal government and cut them off from the rest, to give the executive the power to tell the congress no, the congress the power to throw out his refusal (and in the worst case, his ass), and the power of the judiciary to throw anything out.  In addition, the two houses were set up (until the damned 17th Amendment) to represent different constituencies, balancing their wishes and needs against each other.  And they left the option of an amendment process, which had enough checks to make it damned near impossible to amend the Constitution (and I kind of wish they had made it harder).  But it all pointed to one general concept, which has been lost in the modern era of the Imperial Federal government:

Limited Government

While many of the early debates (continuing to this day, in fact) were about what were the details of the limits placed on the federal government, one thing was clear.  And that was that they only wanted a federal government strong enough to defend the country and hold the union of states together.  And that was it.  As it was, most of them viewed their state as their country, even more than the United States.  And that psychology carried us through our first century, even after a war that split us in two.  This is because they understood that the less a distant government (like their former mother country of England) could interfere in their lives, the better they would be.  And not one of them believed that government was an entitlement; rather, they viewed it as service that must be paid by them for a free country to exist.  And they pledged their fortunes, their lives, and their sacred honor to that.

"Are you done yet?"

I know that's what some of you are thinking.  Pretty much.  After all, I'm trying to synthesize the thoughts, feelings, and writings of many men of many walks of life into a tiny little blog and mostly from memory.
And much of it is a reaction to the fact that conservatism can't win if we forget what the FFs actually meant, and we start imprinting the agendas of those that envision a Christian theocracy onto people who would be leading the revolt against it if they were still alive.  Of course, they'd have revolted over most of the things the Imperial federal Government has done as well.

And despite the idea of a "living document" that magically evolves new rights, their intent was very clear:  investing too much of anything in a distant and foreign power (foreign being anything inside the beltway) is dangerous, and generally will end badly.  Because they've already covered the basics.  A simple example of this would be the Internet.  If you think they could have never foreseen this, you are right and wrong.  The technology is something they could not conceive.  But the questions that it creates (freedom of speech, interstate commerce, personal property rights) have already been addressed.  So the document is dead, done, set in stone, subject to a chisel only rarely, unless we are foolish enough to forget what it means and we strap some C4 to it.

Finally, (because I can't go out without a joke), one has to make sure that if you base something on the Ten Commandments and the Bible, you have to make sure the source material is good.  Can we be sure they even got the Fifteen Ten Commandments right?


Shaw Kenawe said...

"I really blame the inadequacies of the government schools here..."


I am a product of "the government schools" as are a majority of my friends and relatives. None of them came away with Palin's twisted idea that the laws of this land are based on the Bible and the 10 Commandments.

Only someone who is willfully ignorant and knows nothing about her country's history would embarrass herself by stating something as nutty as that.

You like her. Okay. Fine.

She's intellectually lazy.

If she looked like Helen Thomas, you would NOT be defending this light-weight.

Remember, Patrick, she is the only major candidate for a Constitutional office who would NOT appear on a program that would allow non-scripted questioning--Meet the Press, etc.

There is a reason for that: She could not answer any questions of substance on foreign and domestic policy.

She can criticize Mr. Obama and make stuff up and fire up her base. Other than that, she's too inadequate for anything else.

We've seen it, and her inadequacies have been documented.

The latest is her ignorant statement on the basis of US laws.

I don't understand your support of this woman. You're smart; she isn't.

Satyavati devi dasi said...

This isn't an entirely bad post apart from some spelling errors, but I would have liked to see some more focus on what Palin's actually representing here, and the very real (no tinfoil hat, Patrick) threat it poses to our country.

Toad734 said...

As with Death Panels and all the other lies and non-sense she spouts how is not clear how big of an idiot she really is?

Do you think she is actually lying or does she just not know anything?

Even though there were many Deists, even some of the "Christian" forefathers railed against religion but you also have to remember that this was about a hundred years before Darwin. Had Darwins book been published in the 1700s, the early writings of these smart and educated founding fathers would have looked much different.

There simply wasn't another explanation of how we got here...Just a couple hundred years before the constitution was written the majority of the world still thought the world was flat.

Jerry Critter said...

After all that Sarah has done and said since the 2010 election, do you still believe that she would be a good presidential candidate in 2012, and would you support her if, in fact, she is the 2012 candidate?

BB-Idaho said...

FF were above all else sons of the Enlightenment.
It would be fascinating were they able to return and learn how their work responds to mass communication, space exploration, nuclear negotiations, capitalism, etc. I suspect
Jefferson and Franklin would be more interested in the technical details of modernity...and a bit bemused by Mrs. Palin.

Patrick M said...

Since almost all of you went on the same "How can you still like Sarah, she's an idiot?" kick, let me just clarify.

First, you'll notice all the words of the first full paragraph are all in the past tense. As in right now, she's not where she'd need to be to be a good candidate. So Jerry, no.

Shaw, I'd love to know where I'm "defending" her here. Was it because I didn't use the phrase "fucking stupid?" Not gonna do it.
I'm not defending her in the damned least, based on her current statement, because it is intellectually lazy, but I'm not going to assume any group is a bunch of morons like some people (hint).

Toad, I'm surprised you didn't attach the F-word to the word idiot.

And Satyavati, I'm arguing against the mentality you've produced the tinfoil hat for.

By the way, all of you, the post was about original intent, not Sarah Palin. You guys are so desperate to see her go down that I'll help prop her ass up just to keep your asses distracted.

So on to the rest of the comments:

Saty: Not sure where the spelling errors are (I checked after you raised the question)....

Shaw: "I really blame the inadequacies of the government schools here..."

Yes, because I don't think very many kids have a clue what it says in the Constitution. And I think most people have gotten a distorted view, whether it's Palin's dominioinist bent or your confusion as to what a right is.

Most of what I've learned has been in the past few years, myself. Before that, I'd have taken Palin at her word.

The fact is, the government schools do a piss poor job at teaching anything. But that's another whole post or 10.

Toad: Had Darwins book been published in the 1700s, the early writings of these smart and educated founding fathers would have looked much different.

Why? Darwin's work doesn't wholly preclude the possibility of a deity. And the FFs would have understood that. In fact, among the Deists, they didn't see the hand of God tweaking everything. Rather, it's the idea that the universe possesses a natural order.

The problem you have is that you can't separate rational conclusions of the existence of a deity (which is where I'm at) from superstitions and snake handling. You and I probably agree on most everything in the nature of how the universe exists and how it is ordered, except that, looking at the exact same evidence, we come up with different answers on whether there is or is not a God. But that's what makes the argument interesting.

BB: Exactly. You got it. If I were offering prizes....

Jerry Critter said...

You're right about most of us focusing on Sarah while your post was not really about her. She is a lightning rod. I wonder what her "original intent" was. Now, I think it is to make money...and she is very successful at it.

dmarks said...

Patrick: How is this misinterpretation of the law any worse than those on the left who insist that the Bill of Rights does not contain a right to keep and bear arms and nor does it contain protection for political speech, but it does contain a right to abortion, and supports the idea that the government should treat people differently based on their skin color?

dmarks said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
dmarks said...

Jerry: Is there some resentment? She's getting money the old fashioned way, by earning it. No one is being forced to pay her. She has gotten rich through the honest consent of all involved.

This is in contrast to the hugely increasing number of rich government employees under the Obama Administration.. Money taken from us against our will; those who make the rules getting the gold. A vast waste, really, and it shows the hypocrisy of those who claim we need to waste more money on higher taxes in order to help the poor and the middle class. Those making this claim are doing a good job of helping themselves.

Jerry Critter said...

I certainly would not put all the blame for the salary increases on the Obama administration.

Key reasons for the boom in six-figure salaries:

•Pay hikes. Then-president Bush recommended and Congress approved across-the-board raises of 3% in January 2008 and 3.9% in January 2009. President Obama has recommended 2% pay raises in January 2010, the smallest since 1975. Most federal workers also get longevity pay hikes called steps that average 1.5% per year.

•New pay system. Congress created a new National Security Personnel System for the Defense Department to reward merit, in addition to the across-the-board increases. The merit raises, which started in January 2008, were larger than expected and rewarded high-ranking employees. In October, Congress voted to end the new pay scale by 2012.

•Pay caps eased. Many top civil servants are prohibited from making more than an agency's leader. But if Congress lifts the boss' salary, others get raises, too. When the Federal Aviation Administration chief's salary rose, nearly 1,700 employees' had their salaries lifted above $170,000, too.

Toad734 said...


Actually, the constitution does contain language about treating people of color differently:

Article 1, Section 9:
"Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons."

Nice try.

And you would be hard pressed to find liberals who don't think anyone should be allowed to have fire arms and certainly no one who was against free political speech. If anything, it's the conservative, Christian, right who wants to revoke free political speech and or artistic expression...Not the left..What planet have you been living on?

As to your 2nd amendment, the left merely wants that amendment put into perspective and realize that since every other Amendment of the constitution comes with limits, so does the 2nd. Seeing as how the 2nd Amendment clearly states why we are being given the right to bear arms (to form a militia because the US barely had a standing army) and that "arms" back then were mainly long barrel muskets that could fire one inaccurate round per minute, we just don't feel that 12 year olds should have access to military weapons that can fire 1000 armor piercing rounds per minute with no restrictions or regulations. There's a big difference there between what you said and reality...Which is usually the case so I am not surprised.

And likewise, there is nothing in the constitution that prohibits a woman's right to an abortion either or anything that says men have the right to tell women what they can do with their bodies.

Toad734 said...


Of course Darwins origin of species proves nothing about the existence of a god. However, what it does do is say that what the church has been teaching us all these years about the universe isn't true and the possibility of us coming into existence without a god would have been a much more reasonable idea than it would have been in the 1700s. Do you think I would be an atheist if not for another explanation?? No, of course not, You weigh the evidence and figure out which is more likely and which one is more credible and scientific. In fact, I think the Jefferson's, Washingtons and the Franklins of the world would have concluded that there probably isn't a god giving the information we have now but it certainly does not prove there is no god, it only proves that organisms do evolve and are all related in some way and that this happened naturally over millions of years.

dmarks said...

"I think the Jefferson's, Washingtons and the Franklins of the world would have concluded that there probably isn't a god giving the information we have now"

So you think they would have been that stupid, to make such a conclusion without evidence? The "No God" hypothesis is a religious assertion and remains as strong or as week as it ever was.

Toad: About the
"colored people"
you refer to. That language is overridden by a later amendment that is also a part of the Constitution, and under the amendment system, it is the one that counts. Did you comment in complete ignorance of this? That was not even a nice try.

"And you would be hard pressed to find liberals who don't think anyone should be allowed to have fire arms"

I have found plenty, and have argued with them. They don't hide behind imaginary 1000 armor piercing bullet examples like you did. They just outright argue against the people's right to keep and bear any firearms.

"If anything, it's the conservative, Christian, right who wants to revoke free political speech and or artistic expression.."

In fact, the threat comes mainly from the Left now, with efforts to censor crticism of candidates (so-called campaign finance reform) speech codes, and the "Fairness Doctrine" to bring management of media political content under complete Federal control. This is far more prevalent than book burnings (so rare that they make news when they happen every decade or two) or laughable attempts to ban Harry Potter.

The threats to free speech from the Left are, in contrast, an actual danger.

"There's a big difference there between what you said and reality"

I was accurately describing the situation with the Left's opposition to the 2nd Amendment.

"And likewise, there is nothing in the constitution that prohibits a woman's right to an abortion either or anything that says men have the right to tell women what they can do with their bodies."

That's two subjects. The last has nothing to do with bans on abortion, which prohibit men OR women from killing other people.

The abortion issue has as much to do with telling a woman what she can do with her body as the rape issue has to do with telling a man what he can do with his.

But anyway, parts of the founding documents do go against abortion. Such as due process (abortion is an execution without this happening) and the right of people to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

dmarks said...

Also, you even missed it on the quotation you provided. No, it does not refer at all to colored people as you said. It merely refers to free persons (which could be of any color) and by implication (which could be of any color, even if most of them were, to use your terminology, colored). The only racial group referred to at all was Indians.