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Texting a Lawsuit? Print E-mail
by John Browning    Thu, May 31, 2012, 06:26 AM

No one will argue that texting while driving can be a major source of driver distraction, leading to an increasing number of accidents every year.  In fact, at least 38 states have adopted some form of “texting while driving” ban.  And motorists who get into accidents because that text simply couldn’t wait should probably expect their digital distraction to land them in court.  But what about the person on the other end of that text?  Can he or she be held at fault?

 

That was the novel issue being debated in a first-of-its-kind case unfolding recently in a New Jersey courtroom.  David and Linda Kubert were injured in a September 21, 2009 auto accident with 19 year-old Kyle Best.  Best had clocked out of his job at a local YMCA at 5:41 p.m.; his pickup truck crossed the yellow line and struck the motorcycle on which the Kuberts were riding at 5:49 p.m.  Both husband and wife were severely injured in the crash and each would lose a leg as a result.  Best was charged with careless driving, improper use of a cellphone, and failure to stay in his lane.  He pleaded guilty to the counts and was fined, given a probated sentence, and ordered to speak at 14 local high schools about the dangers of texting while driving.  In the resulting civil lawsuit, Best testified in a deposition that he didn’t know exactly where his truck was on the road because he was distracted by a text he had just received.  Best’s cellphone records were subpoenaed.  They revealed that on that day, Best had exchanged a total of 62 text messages with his 17 year-old girlfriend, Shannon Colonna (30 from Best to Colonna, and 32 from Colonna to Best).  Right before the accident, the records showed that Best texted his girlfriend at 5:47:56 p.m., she replied at 5:48:23 p.m., and he responded at 5:49:07 p.m.

 

The lawyer for the Kuberts, Stephen “Skippy” Weinstein, decided to add Ms. Colonna as a defendant to the lawsuit on the novel theory that she was “electronically present” in Best’s vehicle, that she knew or should have known that he would be driving, and that she owed third parties a “duty of care” to prevent Best from getting into an accident.  The attorney analogized this to the criminal justice system’s use of “aiding and abetting” charges against third parties.  The Kuberts also made the argument that as a matter of public policy, senders of texts that distract drivers should share in the blame for any resulting accident.  They pointed to a bill introduced earlier this year in the New Jersey legislature that would create an inference that illegal use of a cellphone amounts to reckless driving.  The proposed legislation would also increase the penalties for texting or talking on a cellphone while driving.

 

But should a person who texts someone be held legally responsible for that person’s distraction and any resulting accident?  Can the legal system assume clairvoyance on the part of a message sender—that the sender is somehow aware that the message recipient is doing something else at the exact moment he reads the text, such as driving, operating heavy machinery, or even performing surgery?  Colonna testified in her deposition that she didn’t know whether her boyfriend was driving at the time.  Her lawyer, Joseph McGlone, also pointed out that when the crash occurred, Best was typing a text, not reading one from Colonna.  McGlone argued that it would be both impractical and unfair to impose a duty on the texter, since she has no control over when, where, or how a recipient would read and respond to a text.  “Quite simply,” he says, “once the message sender transmits an electronic message, it is the message receiver’s responsibility to read it at the appropriate and safe time.”

 

That makes perfect sense.  Whether it is an incoming phone call, text message, Facebook update, or whatever form of communication, the sender should have every right to expect the recipient to exercise common sense in reading, listening to, or reacting to that message.  If I was careless enough to open and read my “snail mail” while going 65 mph down the freeway, how can I or anyone else blame the person who sent me that mail for an accident that I later get into?

 

Fortunately, N.J. State Superior Court Judge David Rand agrees.  He dismissed the claims against Ms. Colonna, saying it is reasonable for text message senders to assume that recipients will behave responsibly.  He also observed that drivers today are bombarded with all sorts of distractions, including GPS devices and signs along the road, and that “were I to extend this duty to this case, in my judgment, any form of distraction could potentially serve as the basis for a liability case.”  Hopefully, any other judges encountering similar attempts to broaden the scope of liability will follow Judge Rand’s example and keep this Pandora’s box that is our wired world shut.

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Memorial Day Matters Print E-mail
by Wes Riddle    Tue, May 29, 2012, 06:51 AM

Memorial Day Matters

Memorial Day was originally designated as the 30th of May, but starting in 1971 it has been held the last Monday in May creating a convenient 3-day weekend.  Memorial Day is observed today as a public holiday dedicated to the memory of the fallen who died in service to their country in wartime.  Its origin dates to the terrible War Between the States.  The day was actually inaugurated in 1868 as a holiday on which graves of Civil War veterans serving the Union were decorated.  The South did not recognize the day as such, but set aside separate days on which to decorate graves belonging to its Confederate veterans.  Indeed, organized women’s groups in the South had been decorating graves even before the end of the Civil War.  Ironically the last Confederate Widow, Alberta S. Martin actually died on Memorial Day, 2004 in Alabama.

The word “memorial” (serving to help people remember some person or event) is ignored too often on Memorial Day by those of us who are the direct beneficiaries of thousands of men and women, who bore the ultimate sacrifice.  It is perhaps a hard thing to come to grips with the fact that it is the willing sacrifice of life that has secured for us our blessed freedoms, and continues to do so every day.  The least that we should do is to actively remember those who gave their all—our ancestors, family members, neighbors and loved ones who served in uniform and died in service defending and advancing our way of life.  Traditionally we are invited each year on Memorial Day to do the following: to visit cemeteries and place flags or flowers on the graves of fallen heroes; to attend memorial services and other public events; to fly the U.S. Flag at half-mast until Noon; to observe moments of silence for special reflection and remembrance; to renew pledges of support and aid to the widows and orphans of veterans, as well as to disabled veterans; and to salute the fallen and/or to play Taps in their honor (Taps is a bugle call written during the Civil War, which dates to 1862 and was used by both sides). 

Memorial Day of course has its counterpart in other nations, and amongst the Western nations in particular there is a very similar ethos surrounding the honoring of the dead, who died for freedom and the safety of their homeland.  One of the most famous poems of remembrance was written by Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, MD (1872-1918), Canadian Army called “In Flanders Fields” and written in 1915.  A beautiful response poem was written by Moina Belle Michael (1869-1944), a native Georgian and American professor, called “We Shall Keep The Faith” written in 1918.  Moina Michael became known as the Poppy Lady after she conceived of the idea of using poppies (based on the poem by McCrae) as a symbol of remembrance for those who had served in World War I.  A U.S. Postage Stamp was even issued in her honor.  Together the two poems do much to bring to mind the importance of Memorial Day, its meaning and why the day matters so much. 

John McCrae in his third stanza writes: “To you from failing hands we throw/The torch; be yours to hold it high.  /If ye break faith with us who die/We shall not sleep, though poppies grow/ In Flanders fields.”  Moina Michael writes this rejoinder in the first stanza of her poem: “Oh! You who sleep in Flanders Fields, /Sleep sweet—to rise anew! /We caught the torch you threw/And holding high, we keep the Faith/With All who died.”  And in the third stanza Moina Michael refers to that one thing all soldiers and those who remember them ask and must reaffirm every Memorial Day and in all the days between, and that is that none of those who died shall have died in vain: “Fear not that ye have died for naught;/We’ll teach the lesson that ye wrought/In Flanders Fields.”  It is up to us from generation to generation to teach the lesson wrought as it were, of life and blood and treasure, that so far has kept the Torch of Liberty burning bright in the heart of all true patriots.  The lesson reduced to its core is that Freedom isn’t free.  God bless those who died for it and those who fight for us still. 

 

___________________

Wesley Allen Riddle is a retired military officer with degrees and honors from West Point and Oxford.  Widely published in the academic and opinion press, he serves as State Director of the Republican freedom Coalition (RFC) and is currently running for U. S. Congress (TX-District 25 in the Republican Primary.  He is also author of two books, Horse Sense for the New Millennium (2011), and The Nexus of Faith and Freedom (2012).  Both books are available on-line at http://www.wesriddle,net/ and from fine bookstores everywhere.  Email:  This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it .

 

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The Judicial Races: Know Before You Vote Print E-mail
by John Browning    Sat, May 26, 2012, 08:15 AM

Here in Rockwall County, there are a number of judicial races guaranteed to have an impact for years to come.  Traditionally, “down ballot” races like these for judicial office tend to attract less voter attention than more highly-publicized races.  Yet, in many ways, the outcome of a judicial election can have a more direct and far-reaching effect on the lives of local voters.  All too frequently, such races receive scant media attention and everyday voters lack sufficient information to make an informed choice.  Lawyers have somewhat more information to go on, based on professional experience in front of a judge or judicial candidate, but even attorneys often have to seek out additional facts before deciding.

 

Starting locally, Judge Brett Hall, the incumbent presiding judge of Rockwall County’s 382nd Judicial District Court, is unopposed in the May 29 Republican primary and will not face a Democratic candidate in the general election.  Judge David Rakow, judge of the new 439th Judicial District Court, and Judge J. Brian Williams of the Rockwall County Court at Law, are similarly unopposed.  All have done fine jobs of administering justice and managing steadily growing dockets as Rockwall’s population and commercial development continues to expand.

 

On the 5th District Court of Appeals, Rockwall County voters have a more difficult task.  In the race for Chief Justice of the appellate court (which handles civil and criminal appeals for Dallas, Collin, Hunt, Grayson, Kaufman, and Rockwall counties), incumbent Chief Justice Carolyn Wright—who hails from Rockwall County—is unopposed in both the primary and the general elections.  Likewise, incumbents Justice Jim Moseley in Place 5, Justice Molly Francis in Place 10, and Justice Elizabeth Lang-Miers in Place 13 all have no opposition in the primary.  Penny Phillips has filed for the Place 5 Democratic primary and will go up against Justice Moseley in November.  For incumbent Justice Robert Fillmore in Place 12, it is a case of déjà vu.  Unopposed in the Republican primary, Justice Fillmore has drawn a familiar general election opponent, a Dallas solo practitioner named Lawrence Praeger, running in the Democratic primary.  In 2010, Justice Fillmore dispatched Mr. Praeger handily, and the 2012 Judicial Poll conducted by the State Bar of Texas gives a sense of why: Fillmore is a respected jurist who garnered a plurality of the vote in that poll.  In the Place 11 race, Justice Douglas Lang is the Republican incumbent who has served 10 years on the appellate bench.  Justice Lang has personally authored over 1100 judicial opinions, and served on panels deciding more than 4700 cases.  He is unopposed in the May 29th primary but looming ahead in the November general election is a showdown with Democratic challenger Tonya Holt, a former Assistant Attorney General and in-house counsel with over 17 years of experience.

 

Place 9’s Republican primary race pits incumbent Justice Martin Richter, who is seeking his third term on the Court of Appeals, against challenger David Lewis.  Justice Richter came to the appellate bench after a distinguished career serving as first a Dallas county court at law judge and then a civil district court judge.  The 64 year-old Richter has had 21 years of judicial experience, unlike his 61 year-old opponent, who has no judicial experience and has already made 2 previous unsuccessful runs for office.  It hardly comes as a surprise that Justice Richter gained both the Dallas Morning News’ endorsement and a dominating finish in the State Bar Judicial Poll, scoring more than both his primary opponent and the Democratic challenger combined.  The winner of the Richter/Lewis primary will face Democratic challenger David Hanschen in November.  Hanschen, a controversial former Dallas family court judge, made a losing bid for the Dallas Court of Appeals in 2008.

 

But it’s the race for the Place 2 spot on the Dallas Court of Appeals being vacated by retiring Justice Joe Morris that has attracted the most crowded field.  Five candidates are vying for the Republican slot: former Dallas county-court-at-law and civil district court Judge David Evans; former criminal court judge Jennifer Balido; former family court judge Jeff Coen; experienced appellate specialist Bill Whitehill; and another seasoned appellate lawyer, Kevin Keith.  This race offers an abundance of well-qualified candidates and is likely to result in a runoff election.  Both the 54 year-old Whitehill and 57 year-old Keith bring a wealth of appellate experience as practitioners, while Coen and Balido tout their respective family court and criminal court experience.  In what it termed a “very close call,” the Dallas Morning News gave its endorsement to David Evans, who claimed a narrow victory as well in the State Bar of Texas Judicial Poll (a 99 vote edge over his closest challenger, Bill Whitehill).  Evans points to his 12 year judicial record, his leadership on the bench (where his peers chose him to be the presiding judge as well as the administrative district judge), his record of cost-cutting measures, and his acknowledgement by members of the bar (who voted him Judge of the Year in 2005).  But he’s also quick to point out his bona fides as a conservative Republican, distinguishing himself in his campaign literature from opponents like Kevin Keith and Bill Whitehill (according to the Evans campaign, Dallas County voting records reflect that Keith voted in 4 Democratic primaries, including 2008, and that Whitehill voted in the 2008 Democratic primary).  Democrat Dan Wood awaits the eventual winner of the Republican primary.

 

On the state’s highest court, the Supreme Court of Texas, there are equally vigorous contests.  Longtime Justice Nathan Hecht, in the Place 6 slot, may have no Republican primary challenger, but an unheralded Democratic candidate has filed a lawsuit to take him off the ballot, claiming procedural deficiencies in Justice Hecht’s nominating petitions.  In the Place 2 race, incumbent Justice Don Willett faces a familiar foe from his inaugural 2006 term, attorney Steve Smith.  The 50 year-old Smith is perhaps best known for successfully suing the University of Texas in the Hopwood reverse discrimination case, and riding that notoriety into a winning bid to fill an unexpired term on the Texas Supreme Court from 2002–2004.  However, Willett has gained respect for his scholarship and independence during his term, while Smith is looking more and more like a perennial candidate; this marks the fifth time he has run for the Supreme Court.  In the race for Place 4, embattled incumbent David Medina has struggled to raise money for his primary battle against two challengers: 53 year-old John Devine, a former civil court judge in Houston perhaps best known for his refusal to remove the Ten Commandments from his courtroom during the 1990s; and attorney Joe Pool, Jr. from Dripping Springs.  Medina is no stranger to controversy or to “Legally Speaking” readers.  Since his 2006 election, Justice Medina was indicted by a Harris County grand jury after a suspicious fire at his home.  Charges that he fabricated evidence were later dismissed by the Harris County D.A.’s office, a move that attracted controversy and the ire of members of the grand jury that had indicted him.  Earlier “Legally Speaking” columns chronicled this troubling episode.

 

Take the time to inform yourself about the judicial races.  And regardless of how you vote, please vote on May 29.

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The Looting of Savers Print E-mail
by Martin Hutchinson    Thu, May 24, 2012, 06:18 AM

The French and Greek elections have made the “austerity” programs favored by Angela Merkel and other sensible policymakers seem politically highly unattractive (never mind that the spending cuts proposed by the austere have almost universally not happened, while tax increases have been onerous). Consequently, Keynesians worldwide are recommending further bouts of government spending combined with partial repudiation of debt. Like the disgraceful monetary policies also peddled by these people, these recommendations amount to the wholesale looting of savers in favor of profligate borrowers and bloated public sectors. It’s worth reminding ourselves of the long-term consequences of such folly.

One of John Maynard Keynes’ principal crimes against sound economics was his demonization of savers. Calling for the “euthanasia of the rentier,” he proposed the paradox of thrift, whereby savers in a recession are supposed to damage the ability for the economy to recover by depressing aggregate demand. Like Keynes’ equally spurious calls for increased government spending as a stimulus, this demonization of savers has been used by intellectually dishonest politicians of the left and squishy center to justify policies that have the effect of robbing savers, whether through inflation, excessive taxation or repudiation of government debt.

In reality, saving is the essential precondition for capital investment, and therefore for economic growth. Societies with inadequate savings cannot generally pull themselves out of poverty, however abundant their natural resources. You only have to look at the track record over the last half century of Asian societies, which mostly have a high cultural propensity to save, compared with Latin American societies that do not. Whereas countries like Argentina or Brazil were richer than Korea and Taiwan, little poorer than Singapore or Japan and far richer than China in 1960, today the comparison has reversed. 

One of my major objections to the activities of the World Bank and the IMF is their downgrading of the importance of saving. Those institutions frequently propose high taxes on investment returns, and seem to be under the impression that the only way to start a new company is with a government grant or an investment by a major international private equity fund, such the World Bank’s offshoot the International Finance Corporation. As the Solyndra example in the United States showed, the government is an exceptionally bad venture capitalist. In addition, it can be stated with considerable confidence that enterprises that require $500 million up-front investments before having made a profit or even significant revenue are very unlikely to succeed in the long term.

Middle class saving is the key to enterprise formation in any society. Even when venture capital companies exist, as in the United States, they rapidly get drawn away from genuine venture capital towards the much easier money available in leveraged buyouts. Mitt Romney’s Bain Capital, for example, began by providing genuine venture capital to Tom Stemberg’s Staples, but rapidly discovered that most such investments were too small and the returns too slow, and switched to leveraged buyouts. The vast majority of new ventures, innovative or not, depend on the savings of their founders and their founders’ network of relatives, friends and business contacts, to get going before institutional venture capitalists will look at them.

Nurturing middle class savings is thus the most important task of government. John Locke said “Government has no other end, but the preservation of property,” and he didn’t overstate the position by much. Quite my most gratifying banking experience was designing a simple bond law for the Republic of Macedonia, which allowed 800,000 Macedonian savers, whose savings had been expropriated ten years earlier by the former Yugoslavia, to get most of their savings back immediately. The country’s improvement in economic performance following the implementation of that law has been marked, and extremely pleasing.

Worldwide monetary policies, in place now for almost four years, are uniquely unkind to savers. By forcing interest rates, both short-term and long-term below the rate of inflation, they force savers to receive a negative real return or take large risks to achieve a positive one. That’s the reason for the success of speculative bubbles like that in Facebook shares, which have created a market capitalization larger than General Motors off a stream of advertising revenue only 4% the size of the company’s market capitalization. One commentator described the Facebook IPO as the largest “pump and dump” in stock market history. It has a lot of company for that distinction (when normed by contemporary gross domestic product). Certainly the South Sea Company and the Mississippi Company, those twin British and French bubbles of 1719-20, had more commercial reality to them. After all Robert Knight, the South Sea Company cashier, who absconded to Antwerp with the company’s records, appeared before potential investors in a well-powdered periwig, not a hoodie!

The latest Keynesian solution to the unwillingness of debt markets to finance further bouts of government spending is to spend yet more money, but to finance it by monetary expansion and partial repudiation of debt. This would get debt levels down, but would close the markets to further debt issues, since investors are not so foolish as to lend to borrowers who have already defaulted on their obligations. Even Argentina, which has enjoyed a remarkable economic boom since defaulting on its debt in 2005, has not been able to return to the capital markets, much to the surprise of its leaders. Thus this approach, if undertaken directly, is unlikely to lead to success.

There is however an alternative approach, which currently appears more and more attractive to distraught Keynesians, and that is financial repression. Under this technique, which was most successfully applied by the British government to work down its excessive debt level at the end of World War II, regulations are used to prevent domestic savers from moving their money into international assets. Monetary authorities are then encouraged to promote inflation, to the extent that domestic interest rates are kept below the rate of inflation. Using this technique, governments can run deficits for a generation or more, while the value of their debts is reduced by inflation. Add in a stiff income tax, to penalize further the nominal interest returns of savers foolish enough to buy government debt, and the government’s debt position can be retrieved quite nicely over a 20-30-year period – at the cost of the nation’s savings and the rest of the economy. Needless to say savers, especially those fool enough to believe in the government’s promises to maintain a sound currency, were robbed blind and ended their lives impoverished.

Repression is clearly in the sights of the left at this time – after all, savers generally tend to vote for the right. The idea of looting their political opponents to increase public spending, while having that looting proceed invisibly, so that their fingers are not on the weapon, is attractive to leftist politicians everywhere – it is in a sense THE central flaw of democracy. Of course, the most blame should attach to those politicians like Harold Macmillan, Richard Nixon and, it increasingly seems likely, David Cameron, who rely on savers’ votes to get elected and then betray their own supporters.

Fiscal austerity is needed, but as France and Greece have shown, it is unlikely to win its proponents much electoral support. That is particularly the case if, as in Britain the austerity consists primarily of tax increases, so that the economy declines while the deficit remains unaffected by the apparent austerity. In any case fiscal austerity alone is not enough. If it is not combined with sound monetary policy, savings rates will decline and the savings pool itself will be drained by negative real interest rates. In the long term, that can only lead to impoverishment; in a globalized world, the skills of Western employees are not so superior to those in emerging markets that they can expect to retain higher living standards without a healthy pool of capital to accompany them.

The need now is thus for a revolution in monetary policy, that raises the risk-free interest rate well above the rate of inflation, and allows savers at last to receive a real return on their money without investing in the likes of Facebook. It probably won’t happen until inflation gets seriously out of hand, so my advice to savers is this: make sure a substantial percentage of your money is in gold, in order that you will survive the painful burst of inflation that is needed before global monetary authorities are brought to their senses.

 (Originally appeared in The Bear's Lair.)

Martin Hutchinson is the author of "Great Conservatives" (Academica Press, 2005)—details can be found on the Web site www.greatconservatives.com—and co-author with Professor Kevin Dowd of “Alchemists of Loss” (Wiley – 2010). Both now available on Amazon.com, “Great Conservatives” only in a Kindle edition, “Alchemists of Loss” in both Kindle and print editions.

 

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Theory of America’s Founding, (Part 2): Consent, Revolution, God and Honor Print E-mail
by Wes Riddle    Tue, May 22, 2012, 09:17 AM

Besides Equality and Natural Rights (discussed last week), the ideas or principles that comprise the American theory of government, i.e., the proper conceptual building blocks for righteous government are Consent, Revolution, God and Honor.  Consent is needed to form legitimate government.  The Declaration of Independence says that to secure the rights of life, liberty and pursuit of happiness, “Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”  Indeed, people must join to form governments to secure all their natural rights, but governments do not derive unlimited powers to perform that function!  Just powers are only those consented to by the people.  The Founders believed that a republic was that form of government that best reflected consent, in that, all powers are derived directly or indirectly from the great body of the people” (The Federalist 39).  I have observed, however, that consent may be measured differently from culture to culture--and not always democratically.  Some people in the world don’t even value their vote.  All I can say is that we Americans possess a political culture and explicit heritage that measures consent exclusively through democratic republican means.  Notwithstanding, consent in and of itself is not the sole standard of legitimacy or goodness.  The people do not have the right to consent to unjust powers.  According to Thomas G. West and Douglas A. Jeffrey, the Founders would tell us we cannot rightly consent to powers of government that violate the unalienable rights of individuals.  Consider then that the people are not supreme to the standard of Right per se.  The standard of Right would be God’s province.  Democratic majorities may not redefine what is right.  The inalienable rights are set for all time by Nature and Nature’s God, and they are written and fixed in our founding documents.  The Founders would not recognize any such thing as a “living” Constitution.  They would impeach half our judges today for suggesting it. 

 

Hence the real challenge of self-government: people must be of such character that they will only give their consent to good and just measures.  And this extends to establishing government and to operating it.  The Founders essentially took care of establishing a just government with the people of the first generation.  They made a “social compact” with fellow citizens, and I would argue that they covenanted not only with each other but with God as their Witness and Gaurantor.  But that still leaves the ongoing matter of consent in the operation of government.   That’s something you should be doing on a regular basis, at least by casting your informed ballot on election day.  But no matter what ballot initiative you consent to, you always retain the unalienable right to liberty and may never delegate to the government permanently.  In a sense, the government rests on a renewable source of consent, which you give it through participation, acquiescence or peaceful protest.

The right to Revolution naturally follows.  West and Jeffrey again: “Government exists to protect natural rights, and government derives its just powers from consent.  If it is not doing this, the people should get rid of it and set up a new one.  [Indeed], the right to revolution is reflected in the early American conviction that the people have a right to keep and bear arms and to govern themselves in all local matters through local governments close to the people.”  Of course, the right to revolution doesn’t mean it is right or good to overthrow government at the drop of a hat.  If government is doing a tolerably good and decent job, you put up with its shortcomings and mistakes.  If the system remains open to a redress of grievances, you continue to participate.  The Declaration says, “Prudence . . . will dictate that governments . . . should not be changed for light and transient causes.”  Prudence is what we might also call “horse sense.”  Revolution is dangerous--it throws men back into the state of nature, where destructive passions and violence may become uncontrolled.  For that reason secession is probably the preferential form of revolution, should revolution ever be justified in America.

 

Additionally, the Founders placed God and Honor ahead of narrow self-interest when they established the government.  They commended us to do the same in its ongoing operation.  The Declaration says that when a people are subjected to a long train of abuses aiming at absolute despotism, it isn’t only their right-- “it is their duty,” to change the government.  The duty is higher than one’s own personal survival or selfish interest.  The Founders’ sense of honor taught them that they must be ready to sacrifice their lives and property for the sake of their duty.  In order to establish and preserve free government, they pledged their lives, fortunes, and “sacred honor.”  In the Declaration of the Causes and Necessity of Their Taking up Arms (1775), Thomas Jefferson and John Dickinson wrote: “We have counted the cost of this contest, and find nothing so dreadful as voluntary slavery.  Honor, justice, and humanity, forbid us tamely to surrender that freedom which we have received from our gallant ancestors. . . .”  It was a notion behind much Southern chivalry before and during the War Between the States, i.e., the Founders’ conviction that political slavery and dishonor are worse even than death.  As honor is a keen sense of right and wrong, it implies integrity and an adherence to right action or principles above else.  In this view, people are legitimately supreme to government when it comes to upholding standards of Right.  For standards of Right on earth become a nexus ultimately, where God and the individual meet in man’s conscience.  Government may not arrogate to itself the legitimate power to speak for any individual at this level of communion or duty.  There is no collective conscience and no collective Soul.  One person at a time may redefine what is right, if and when government gets it terribly wrong.  The inalienable rights are set for all time by Nature and Nature’s God.  We end then where we started, with the Creator.  Indeed, there are four distinct references to God in the Declaration of Independence.  To the Founders, separation of church and state was meant to prevent a single religious sect from becoming official religion for the whole country.  But the principles of this nation in fact constitute religious doctrine, the Declaration’s own theology--with God as author of Law and Source of rights for mankind, eternal and unalienable on earth as it is in Heaven.

 

Wesley Allen Riddle is a retired military officer with degrees and honors from West Point and Oxford.  Widely published in the academic and opinion press, he serves as State Director of the Republican freedom Coalition (RFC) and is currently running for U. S. Congress (TX-District 25 in the Republican Primary.  He is also author of two books, Horse Sense for the New Millennium (2011), and The Nexus of Faith and Freedom (2012).  Both books are available on-line at http://www.wesriddle,net/ and from fine bookstores everywhere.  Email:  This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it .

 

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