The following are my teaching assignments on critical thinking for California 12th grade students in the semester-long courses, “US Government” and “Economics.” I offer them for non-profit use:
- Information and recommendations for your child’s success (and overall introduction to this article series) 1 of 6
- Heart of social science (2 of 6)
- Critical thinking skills in government and economics (3 of 6)
- Case Study: Economics and policy of ending poverty (4 of 6)
- Critical thinking skills in action: policy analysis of ‘current events,’ past and present (US Government: 5 of 6)
- Critical thinking skills in action: economic analysis of ‘current events,’ past and present (Economics: 6 of 6)
This is the final action: students explore their interests with research, writing, and presentation to the class. At this point of the course, the previous sections from this article and my sharing of current events have opened students’ minds that the world they thought existed in government and economics was a fairy tale believed by the ignorant. This conclusion is justified from the objective and independently verifiable facts, and young-adult confidence that they really do know some things more powerfully than adults (please recall this fact from when we were their ages).
This last project for student research, writing, and class presentation is divided into four parts:
This is 5.4:
Critical thinking skills in action: policy analysis of current events assignment
Remember: facts are objective and independently verifiable. Facts are real; they exist in reality. Opinions are not real; they exist only when expressed in language and only as long as someone chooses to express them. Fact and political opinion are separate domains. For example: so-called “waterboarding” is not right or wrong in reality because “right” and “wrong” are opinions that only exist in language. Waterboarding/controlled drowning has facts associated with it that can be evaluated under current law, both in letter and intent. Just as in baseball, there can be “close calls” to evaluate the legality of policies that require scrutiny. And just as in baseball, there are acts that are obviously safe or out.
Remember: the conservative and classical legal standard we’re using to evaluate evidence for current events is prima facie. If the facts cannot be refuted, those are considered our best available explanation and legally admissible. Current events must be acted upon in the present. Regarding time-sensitive decisions, we all make our best determination of the facts as we see them. We understand that future factual disclosures and analysis will help.
Remember: people of intellectual integrity and moral courage help each other get the facts, honor academic and democratic freedom by encouraging multiple points of view while holding each other accountable for factual accuracy, and then welcome multiple policy views. This is what academic freedom means. You have full academic freedom in this class.
Remember: your commitment to get the facts is stronger than your fear of challenging a mistaken belief system.
Remember: history and your own experience inform you that when someone claims that something is true when the objective evidence overwhelmingly proves that such a claim is impossible, the usual reason is simple: the person is lying. The motivation to lie is to prevent getting into trouble, and/or to protect something immorally obtained.
Remember: the point of studying these issues and the point of social science is to build a better future. All of us have that mutual commitment.
Instructions: In order to understand current events, people may have to discern among competing statements regarding facts, meaning, and policy opinions. This assignment has you:
- Read a history of US government “current events” that are typically omitted from high school US History texts, included in many AP texts, and always included in comprehensive college courses. These accounts are not contested to my knowledge; that is, non-controversial for factual accuracy. Current events of our present cannot be understood without this history to place the present into context.
- Research one current, important issue of interest for you. Compare different sources of reports in good faith effort to receive comprehensive facts.
- Use critical thinking skills to determine the key facts as you best see them, reflect and communicate what the facts mean for you, and state your best policy response from your current understanding in writing.
- Use your written information as notes to report your findings to the class.
At the end of all the reading, select one current event from the list provided, or propose your own for my approval. Consider my suggested questions and resources for each topic, do your own research, and answer the 12 questions below applied to your chosen topic. I suggest that you access the electronic version. This activates the numerous Internet links, and allows you to cut and paste the questions for your word processing program.
Print a copy of your answers to present your findings to the class.
This assignment is 67 points:
- 23 for written responses to questions: 1 point per question (10 for #3, a brief), 2 for grammar and spelling.
- 22 for your oral brief to the class (3-12 only): 1 point per question (5 for #3), 5 for visual element (Prezi, Animoto, video, etc. (up to five extra for great work) 2 for clarity.
- 22 for reading comprehension short-responses: 2 points per 11 sections.
- Define “cognitive dissonance.” Explain an example you’ve witnessed where someone emotionally rejected key facts and irrationally clung to their previous beliefs, even when those facts were independently verifiable.
- You read detailed US history in this assignment. Explain to what extent you were surprised or shocked by US government historical acts in previous “current events.”
- Research your issue. Write the central facts of your chosen issue, as you best see them. Include any competing factual claims, if they exist, and whatever else to best describe your issue with comprehensive accuracy. Refute any opposing factual claims that you can. Document your sources (such as you see in this paper). Use any combination of essay and bullet points to best communicate your findings. This question is ten points!
- Explain what you notice about the difference between corporate media reporting and alternative media reporting on your topic with explaining the comprehensive facts.
- Explain if this topic is somehow a “political belief” or partisan viewpoint without factual substance, or whether it deals with factual issues that are important to understand.
- Explain your analysis of the meaning of your factual finds. This is your interpretation of the data.
- Explain your policy position of what we as a nation should do about this issue.
- Explain how your policy supports the spirit and laws of the US Constitution (ask some people, research the US Constitution, and think).
- Explain the cost-benefit analysis of your policy choice as wise with our taxes.
- Explain the responsibility of citizens regarding our nation’s most important policies. To what extent does a democracy demand civic participation? To what extent should we trust our government to make decisions for us? To what extent does the US government lie?
- Explain the extent of cognitive dissonance your topic and research evoked in you from a zero to three scale:
- Zero: None. I was totally cool going after the facts wherever they led.
- One: Slight. I knew about some of the history and allegations, and was undaunted going for the facts on my topic. But at times I felt a little uncomfortable.
- Two: Whoa. This is intense. I’m committed to the facts. I did good work to get them. I want the truth. But some of this information triggered cognitive dissonance.
- Three: Herman, you hate America. Go live with the terrorists. Homeland Security should waterboard you. In fact, I’ll call them now and suggest it.
12. Explain the degree you find this assignment helpful to apply critical thinking skills to understand our most important policy issues. Please explain any improvements you see for this assignment.
Note for my own published articles as possible resources: I don’t use my “author” voice within the classroom because it includes interpretations of data and policy positions that I exercise in citizenship for policy advocacy. Teachers shouldn’t advocate interpretations or policy positions.
My “teacher” voice focuses on student development of critical thinking skills for students to discover their own interpretations and policy positions, and therefore minimizes any inclusion of my personal views. As a discussion participant among 2,000+ Advanced Placement Government teachers on our listserve, a question was raised in 2009 whether it was appropriate for teachers to ever share their own political opinions and/or policy positions. Many teachers shared their views. My own view received the most positive comments: teachers of any subject need to model competence in that subject. With civic participation, we as teachers understand that people learn from public conversation to help each other access and understand the facts, discuss various viewpoints of what the data mean, and consider various policy positions of what to do. In my class I do not withhold that competence, but frame it this way: I’ll always share my understanding of the comprehensive facts. I’ll only share the meaning I see in them and/or what I think should be done through policy after at least three students share, and with the understanding that in a democracy, my particular views and policy position are no more or less important than any other individual’s. That is, I feel I should participate and model civil and competent discussion, but only in a way that maximizes students’ benefits to understand how to help each other with the data, and then to encourage and respect diverse views and policy positions.
So with that said, you’re welcome to read and consider my published work as from any other source. My citizen/author voice includes the same professionalism with which I helped create ~300 policy briefs for members of Congress and heads of state so they could quickly and reliably understand complex issues from their facts, AND includes my personal perspective that is in no way factual and in no way something to be “taught.” Perspective is a personal choice to consider and develop. My professional education voice will only provide assistance to access the comprehensive facts and for students to apply critical thinking skills for their own interpretation and policy preference.
To be clear: please find diverse and multiple voices in order to get the most benefit in learning. You’ve just read a lot from me; find other writers on your topic of choice.
The following are topics in current events many people find of interest to apply critical thinking skills to understand. I’ve found them to be among the most interesting for me to personally research, document, and publish my analyses. You’re welcome to select or reject these topics, select or reject the questions I’ve framed, and select or reject resources I’ve found helpful in my own understanding. If you’d like to research one of these topics, please do. If you’d like to research a current event not on this brief list, please write the topic and why it’s of interest to you. All students need to write their topic and explain its interest to turn in to me.
1. Justifications for war with Iraq (pick one or more of the four sub-topics):
- First: Iraq’s formerly US-supported dictator, Saddam Hussein, was accused by Bush administration of attempting to purchase enriched uranium from the African nation of Niger in order to restart a nuclear weapons program. President Bush made this claim in his January 2003 State of the Union address in the run-up to war with Iraq in March 2003. In June 2003, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson revealed in an article for the New York Times that the CIA had asked him on behalf of Vice President Cheney to investigate the claim of Saddam’s attempted purchase, found it to be refuted by all available evidence, and that he submitted his report to the CIA and Vice President’s office in 2002. Wilson’s rebuke of President Bush’s claim for war led to Wilson’s wife, Valerie Plame, being “outed” as a covert CIA agent. This resulted in the criminal prosecution of Vice President Cheney’s Chief of Staff, “Scooter” Libby for obstructing the investigation (President Bush commuted Libby’s sentence). This is also the topic of the 2010 film, “Fair Game.” Questions to consider: What did the US government claim? What was their evidence, and how credible was it? What facts did Mr. Wilson claim?
- Second: The Bush administration accused Saddam of purchasing aluminum tubes that could “only” be used to enrich uranium in a weapons program. Questions to consider: What did the US Department of Energy and the International Atomic Energy Agency report on the validity of those claims? Why did our government reject the strongest expert analyses of the facts from the US and the UN?
- Third: Vice President Cheney and other leading Bush officials claimed that Saddam had links to Al Qaeda terrorists. Questions: What did all 16 US intelligence agencies say about this claim? What evidence did Mr. Cheney produce to support his claim?
- Fourth: The Bush administration claimed Iraq had and could use “weapons of mass destruction” (WMD). Questions: What did George Tenet (Director of the CIA) say about the strength of those weapons, delivery systems, Saddam’s motivation to use them, and whether Saddam passed a legal justification for war as a known “imminent threat” (similar to you being on the street and a person pulling a gun on you in a threatening way)? What did the October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) say about Iraq being an imminent threat to US national security?
Resources: I started writing and publishing to answer all of the above questions because I found US corporate media did not do so, offering the same “reporting” I showed you of the NY Times with ending poverty. The detailed briefing I wrote for interested members of Congress and publication: War with Iraq and Afghanistan, rhetoric for war with Iran (versions since 2006). Other articles I wrote about these wars that might be helpful: Are US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan well-intended mistakes? What we now know from the evidence (Sept. 9, 2009), How a government teacher easily proves Occupy’s claim of US War Crimes (Feb. 16, 2012), Earth: 248 armed conflicts after WW2; US started 201 (81%), killing 30 million so far (May 17, 2014), US military legal argument for current wars: ‘Self-defense’ is whatever we say (May 13, 2014), US unlawful wars is ‘Emperor’s New Clothes’ tragic-comedy: defining ‘clothes,’ ‘wear,’ ‘self-defense’ (May 17, 2014), You’d never allow a favorite sport destroyed by psychopathic ‘officials;’ why allow the US destroyed? (May 3, 2014). In addition: Lara Logan, CBS News Chief Foreign Affairs Correspondent explains how US corporate media Disneyfies war coverage in this 2008 interview on the Daily Show: The Daily Show: Lara Logan on the US media: ‘I’d just blow my brains out because it would drive me nuts.’
2. Justification for war with Afghanistan. Questions: What was the reason the US gave to attack Afghanistan in 2001? What had the UN Security Council resolved to do in two legally-binding resolutions? What did the US demand from Afghanistan before the US chose armed attack? What was the Afghan government response to the US demand? What evidence did the US provide to Afghanistan, or anyone else, to support their claims of who was guilty of the 9/11 attacks on the US?
Resources: see above resources for #1.
3. Legality of war with Afghanistan and Iraq. Questions: How did the US justify armed attack and invasion without UN Security Council approval? What is the law when war is and is not legal? What exactly did Congress authorize for use of force, and what limitation did it remind the President for use of force? Does the evidence show that the US invasion was legal under UN law/US treaty law, or is it an unlawful War of Aggression? What does the Constitution say about US obligation to follow our treaties, including with the UN, under Article Six?
Resources: see resources for #1.
4. Rhetoric for war with Iran (pick one or both of the two sub-topics):
- First: What are our government leaders saying about Iranian President Ahmadinejad’s speech of October, 2005 to “wipe Israel off the map”? Read the speech for yourself. What was he talking about in the one paragraph in question? Is this paragraph somehow ambiguous in meaning that justifies different interpretations, or do you find that “wipe Israel off the map” is a lie of commission? What is the purpose of our government and media’s “translation” if you find any lies?
- What does the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) legally promise regarding nuclear energy and medical isotopes for imaging diagnostics? Is Iran in compliance with NPT? Is the US in compliance? Why don’t most Americans know this information on the simple facts of what NPT says? Is the US rhetoric choice of Iran’s “nuclear program” for factual accuracy or to conflate unlawful nuclear weapons with lawful nuclear power and medical use?
Resources: Here’re my attempts to document and explain: What Iran’s president said about Israel and What IAEA reports on Iran’s nuclear energy/medicine. Here are more of my resources on this topic. 4 and 3-minute videos: Lie: President of Iran said he wanted to wipe Israel off the map, Apologize to the world Mr. Wallace and return that Emmy.
5. 2006 Military Commissions Act (MCA): Questions: What does MCA really say? What Constitutional rights are denied to people who the Executive Branch dictates as “unlawful enemy combatants”? For your analysis, some “why” questions: Why does the Executive Branch seek to declare anyone, including US citizens, “unlawful enemy combatants”? Why did Congress surrendered these Constitutional rights? Why has the media not fully informed the American public? Compare the provisions of MCA with the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights, especially Articles 1-13. Why would the US reject Human Rights?
Resources: Washington Post. U.S. can confine citizens without charges, court rules. Markon, J. Sept. 10, 2005:
6. Torture? Questions: How is torture legally defined? What has US courts found with torture and waterboarding? What does the US Constitution say about torture? What interrogation techniques have the Executive Branch approved? What do you think is the meaning of the Obama administration choosing to not prosecute Bush administration figures for torture, and to “look forward” instead? If you waterboarded someone and asked law enforcement to “look forward” and not prosecute you, do you think that would work?
Resources: What I personally found helpful: 6-minute video of Jonathan Turley, leading Constitutional Law professor and author, “Countdown: War Crimes prosecutions possible”, Atlantic Free Press. Chris Floyd: wrist-slap and tickle: Obama goes mild on CIA torture. Aug, 28, 2009, Washington Post. CIA played larger role in advising Pentagon. Warrick, J. June 18, 2008, CNN. Report: Exams reveal abuse, torture of detainees. June 18, 2008, Washington Post. General accuses WH of War Crimes. June 18, 2008, Global Research. Bush administration post-Constitutional order: “It was real ‘Manchurian Candidate’ Stuff”. Burghardt, T. June 19, 2008, Global Research. Broken laws, broken lives: the consequences of torture. Review of Physicians for Human Rights’ report. Spratley, S. June 20, 2008, 2-minute video of Rep. John Conyers questioning the Bush administration lawyer who advised that “enhanced interrogation” is not torture: Truthdig. Way beyond waterboarding. July 1, 2008, 2-minute video on House testimony of how many detainees died and the number of those who were murdered by the US. Think Progress. Ex-State Dept. official: Hundreds of detainees died in U.S. custody, at least 25 murdered. June 18, 2008, and 10-minute video that is the best of all in previous students’ opinions to communicate this issue: PuppetGov. Obama and the War Criminals.
7. Warrantless spying: What does the Constitution say about searches? What exactly has the Executive Branch authorized with data collection? Why did President Bush threaten to veto extended legislation if it doesn’t promise legal immunity to telecommunications companies? Has Congress abandoned the 4th Amendment, and President Obama for refusing to prosecute anyone? What has insider, Mark Klein, said? What’s the latest with this story?
Resources: Salon.com. Exposing Bush’s historic abuse of power. Shorrock, T. July 23, 2008, 6-minute video with Constitutional Law professor Jonathan Turley: tonchi2a. Countdown: Democrats helpBush cover-up on FISA. July 8, 2008, Prison Planet. Constitutional expert: FISA bill ‘is an evisceration of the Fourth Amendment’. Langewis, N., Edwards, D. June 20, 2008, Alternet. Democrats have legalized Bush’s crimes. Parry, R. June 21, 2008, and Washington Post. A story of surveillance. Nakashima, E. Nov. 7, 2007.
8. $2.3 Trillion missing from the Pentagon: Questions: When Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld acknowledged this on 9/10/01, what investigations have ensued? Even under the scenario of “losing” $100 million per project, how many projects would it take to lose $2.3 trillion? What is the meaning of this “missing” money if not the obvious and first explanation that it was looted? Why hasn’t corporate media reported on this story?
Resources: 9-11 Research. Missing trillions, Solari. The missing money: trillions of dollars are missing from the US government (with two videos). Oct. 7, 2009.
9. Electronic voting machines: Questions: Are these systems accountable with no paper trail and secret proprietary software? Do we have evidence of problems from the 2004 presidential election and other elections? Why did California decertify these machines?
Resources: Explore the home page, and top bar topics of “The Problem” and “The Solution”: Open voting consortium. Wantoknow.info and Elections. The Free Press. Powerful Government Accountability Office report confirms key 2004 stolen election findings. Fitrakis, B., Wasserman, H. Oct. 26, 2005, and Issues section for the movie, Uncounted and trailer. Stanford and Princeton research validate this glaring concern: Stanford News Service. Computerized voting systems pose unacceptable risks unless they provide a voter-verifiable audit trail. Jan. 30, 2003, Princeton University. Researchers reveal ‘extremely serious‘ vulnerabilities in e-voting machines. Riordan, T. Sept. 13, 2006, BlackBoxVoting.org.
10. NSPD-51: Questions: What is NSPD-51? Where does the power of government go if the president declares a national emergency? What happens to checks and balances? Does this document only leave us with “trust” that dictatorial power won’t be abused rather than limited government and separation of powers?
Resources: Global Research. Secret Bush administration plan to suspend US Constitution. Burghardt, T. Oct. 6, 2008, SFGate. Rule by fear or rule by law? Seiler, L., Hamburg, D. Feb. 4, 2008, Information Clearing House. The reality of NSPD-51 is almost as bad as the paranoia. Rosenbaum, R. Oct. 19, 2007, C-SPAN 10-minute video discussion: PSDTeam1. National Security Presidential Directive / NSPD 51. Sep 22, 2008, Global Research. Bush Executive Order: Criminalizing the antiwar movement. Chossudovsky, M. Jul 20, 2007.
11. Useful history? Business Plot, General Smedley Butler, War is a Racket: Questions: What did Congress conclude and what did they do about a fascist plot to overthrow the US government in 1934? What did General Butler say in War is a Racket? What was the Founding Father’s position on the likelihood of recurring tyranny and American citizens’ vigilance? Is a fascist coup impossible in America today?
Resources: Wanttoknow.info. War Cover-up, History Channel. The plot to overthrow FDR, BBC Radio. The Whitehouse Coup. July 23, 2007, Examiner.com. Most decorated US Marine General: purpose of all US wars is billions for insiders’ profits. Herman, C. March 6, 2010.
12. Impeachment: Questions: Congressman Dennis Kucinich introduced Impeachment Articles against Vice President Cheney in November, 2007 and against President Bush in June, 2008. What is impeachment? According to the Constitution, is it possible to file criminal or civil charges against an acting President, Vice President or civil officer, or is impeachment hearings the only recourse to investigate possible crimes? Read at least some of the charges (“high crimes and misdemeanors”) that Kucinich alleges. Research for rebuttals, including among Democratic leaders who have declared impeachment “off the table.” Do the rebuttals address the charges, or give philosophical arguments against impeachment? From your research of the facts involved with the charges, is impeachment justified? Because the Obama administration has continued the same policies, should President Obama be impeached? If so, why did Kucinich not take this action against a president from his own party?
Resources: Washington’s Blog. Conyers tries to kill impeachment hearings before they start. July 23, 2008, The Raw Story. Turley fears Dems will let alleged ‘Bush crimes’ stay buried forever. Edwards, D., Kane, M. July 23, 2008, MSNBC transcript: read interview with Jonathan Turley. ‘Countdown with Keith Olbermann’ for Tuesday, June 10, 2008. Global Research. The impeachment process: why not Nancy? Sheehan, C. June 14, 2008. Washington’s Blog. It is NOT too late to impeach. June 16, 2008.
13. Extrajudicial assassination, including of American citizens: Questions: What does the US Constitution promise people (not just citizens) if the US government suspects they’ve committed a crime; that is, what rights of the accused are explicitly stated? What is the Oath of Office of a US President? Is this murder? If it’s murder, what should be done?
Resources: see footnotes on page 19.
14. What is up/down with our economy?! Questions: Given you’re probably jumping into a new topic, what do you see as the key areas of determining success or failure of an economy? What are the facts showing how we’re doing? Given what you’ve read in this assignment, is it also possible/probable that any reporting of economic performance is in danger of lies of omission and commission?
Resources: My best suggestion is to read the Economics class version of this assignment from the school’s website under the Economics class information. An article: How an economics teacher presents Occupy’s economic argument, victory. Jan. 30, 2012. For a film option, watch the 2011 Academy Award-winner for Best Feature Documentary, Inside Job (you’ll have to rent it), or Zeitgeist Addendum online.
15. Choose and propose your own topic. What topic in government or economics with current importance do you want to understand? I encourage you to choose what you find the most important and interesting for you.
Great voices in history offer insights for effective citizenry
Quotes on the responsibility of public vigilance to safeguard our Constitutional rights:
“Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.” – Attributed to Benjamin Franklin, 1738.
“The liberties of our country, the freedom of our civil Constitution, are worth defending at all hazards; and it is our duty to defend them against all attacks. We have received them as a fair inheritance from our worthy ancestors: they purchased them for us with toil and danger and expense of treasure and blood, and transmitted them to us with care and diligence. It will bring an everlasting mark of infamy on the present generation, enlightened as it is, if we should suffer them to be wrested from us by violence without a struggle, or to be cheated out of them by the artifices of false and designing men. Of the latter we are in most danger at present: Let us therefore be aware of it. Let us contemplate our forefathers and posterity; and resolve to maintain the rights bequeath’d to us from the former, for the sake of the latter. — Instead of sitting down satisfied with the efforts we have already made, which is the wish of our enemies, the necessity of the times, more than ever, calls for our utmost circumspection, deliberation, fortitude, and perseverance. Let us remember that ‘if we suffer tamely a lawless attack upon our liberty, we encourage it, and involve others in our doom.’ It is a very serious consideration, which should deeply impress our minds, that millions yet unborn may be the miserable sharers of the event.” – Samuel Adams, Essay, written under the pseudonym “Candidus,” in The Boston Gazette (14 October 1771).
“There is danger from all men. The only maxim of a free government ought to be to trust no man living with power to endanger the public liberty.” – John Adams, Notes for an oration at Braintree (Spring 1772), quoted from David McCullough’s John Adams, 2001, page 70.
“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.” – Declaration of Independence
“If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquility of servitude than the animated contest of freedom – go home from us in peace. We ask not your counsels or arms. Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you. May your chains sit lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that you were our countrymen!” – Samuel Adams, speech at the State House of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, August 1, 1776. Quoted from Colonial Press’s Orations of American Orators, 1900, page 3.
“It is error alone which needs the support of government. Truth can stand by itself.” – Thomas Jefferson, notes on the state of Virginia, Ch. 17, 1781.
On September 18, 1787, just after signing the US Constitution, Benjamin Franklin met with members of the press. He was asked what kind of government America would have. Franklin: “A republic, if you can keep it.” In his speech to the Constitutional Convention, Franklin admonished: “This [U.S. Constitution] is likely to be administered for a course of years and then end in despotism… when the people shall become so corrupted as to need despotic government, being incapable of any other.” – The Quotable Founding Fathers, pg. 39.
“The right of a nation to kill a tyrant, in cases of necessity, can no more be doubted, than to hang a robber, or kill a flea. But killing one tyrant only makes way for worse, unless the people have sense, spirit and honesty enough to establish and support a constitution guarded at all points against the tyranny of the one, the few, and the many. Let it be the study, therefore, of lawgivers and philosophers, to enlighten the people’s understandings and improve their morals, by good and general education; to enable them to comprehend the scheme of government, and to know upon what points their liberties depend; to dissipate those vulgar prejudices and popular superstitions that oppose themselves to good government; and to teach them that obedience to the laws is as indispensable in them as in lords and kings.” – John Adams, A Defence of the Constitutions of Government (1787), Ch. 18.
“A mere demarcation on parchment of the constitutional limits (of government) is not a sufficient guard against those encroachments which lead to a tyrannical concentration of all the powers of government in the same hands.” – James Madison, Federalist Paper #48, 1788.
“Of all the enemies to public liberty war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded, because it comprises and develops the germ of every other. War is the parent of armies; from these proceed debts and taxes; and armies, and debts, and taxes are the known instruments for bringing the many under the domination of the few. In war, too, the discretionary power of the Executive is extended; its influence in dealing out offices, honors, and emoluments is multiplied; and all the means of seducing the minds, are added to those of subduing the force, of the people. The same malignant aspect in republicanism may be traced in the inequality of fortunes, and the opportunities of fraud, growing out of a state of war, and in the degeneracy of manners and of morals engendered by both. No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare.” – James Madison, “Political Observations” 1795; also in Letters and Other Writings of James Madison (1865), Vol. IV, p. 491.
The following three paragraphs are from George Washington in his Farewell Address, an open letter to the American public published on September 19, 1796.
“All obstructions to the execution of the laws, all combinations and associations, under whatever plausible character, with the real design to direct, control, counteract, or awe the regular deliberation and action of the constituted authorities, are destructive of this fundamental principle, and of fatal tendency. They serve to organize faction, to give it an artificial and extraordinary force; to put, in the place of the delegated will of the nation the will of a party, often a small but artful and enterprising minority of the community; and, according to the alternate triumphs of different parties, to make the public administration the mirror of the ill-concerted and incongruous projects of faction, rather than the organ of consistent and wholesome plans digested by common counsels and modified by mutual interests.
However combinations or associations of the above description may now and then answer popular ends, they are likely, in the course of time and things, to become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government, destroying afterwards the very engines which have lifted them to unjust dominion…
In offering to you, my countrymen, these counsels of an old and affectionate friend, I dare not hope they will make the strong and lasting impression I could wish; that they will control the usual current of the passions, or prevent our nation from running the course which has hitherto marked the destiny of nations. But, if I may even flatter myself that they may be productive of some partial benefit, some occasional good; that they may now and then recur to moderate the fury of party spirit, to warn against the mischiefs of foreign intrigue, to guard against the impostures of pretended patriotism; this hope will be a full recompense for the solicitude for your welfare, by which they have been dictated.”
“It is jealousy and not confidence which prescribes limited constitutions, to bind down those whom we are obliged to trust with power… Our Constitution has accordingly fixed the limits to which, and no further, our confidence may go… In questions of power, then, let no more be heard of confidence in man, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the Constitution.” – Thomas Jefferson, Draft Kentucky Resolution (1798. ME 17:388)
“I can never join with my voice in the toast which I see in the papers attributed to one of our gallant naval heroes. I cannot ask of heaven’s success, even for my country, in a cause where she should be in the wrong. Fiat justitia, pereat coelum.” – John Quincy Adams, Letter to John Adams (Aug. 1, 1816), speaking of the popular phrase “My Country, Right or Wrong!” The Latin phrase is ancient: “Let justice be done though heaven should fall.”
“A popular Government without popular information, or the means of acquiring, it is but a Prologue to a Farce or a Tragedy, or perhaps both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance: And a people who mean to be their own Governors, must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.” – James Madison, Letter to W.T. Barry (Aug. 4, 1822)
The following five paragraphs are from Abraham Lincoln’s Lyceum Address, January 27 1838.
“I know the American People are much attached to their Government;–I know they would suffer much for its sake;–I know they would endure evils long and patiently, before they would ever think of exchanging it for another. Yet, notwithstanding all this, if the laws be continually despised and disregarded, if their rights to be secure in their persons and property, are held by no better tenure than the caprice of a mob, the alienation of their affections from the Government is the natural consequence; and to that, sooner or later, it must come.
Here then, is one point at which danger may be expected.
The question recurs, “how shall we fortify against it?” The answer is simple. Let every American, every lover of liberty, every well wisher to his posterity, swear by the blood of the Revolution, never to violate in the least particular, the laws of the country; and never to tolerate their violation by others. As the patriots of seventy-six did to the support of the Declaration of Independence, so to the support of the Constitution and Laws, let every American pledge his life, his property, and his sacred honor;–let every man remember that to violate the law, is to trample on the blood of his father, and to tear the character of his own, and his children’s liberty. Let reverence for the laws, be breathed by every American mother, to the lisping babe, that prattles on her lap–let it be taught in schools, in seminaries, and in colleges; let it be written in Primers, spelling books, and in Almanacs;–let it be preached from the pulpit, proclaimed in legislative halls, and enforced in courts of justice. And, in short, let it become the political religion of the nation; and let the old and the young, the rich and the poor, the grave and the gay, of all sexes and tongues, and colors and conditions, sacrifice unceasingly upon its altars.
While ever a state of feeling, such as this, shall universally, or even, very generally prevail throughout the nation, vain will be every effort, and fruitless every attempt, to subvert our national freedom.
…Passion has helped us; but can do so no more. It will in future be our enemy. Reason, cold, calculating, unimpassioned reason, must furnish all the materials for our future support and defence.–Let those materials be moulded into general intelligence, sound morality, and in particular, a reverence for the constitution and laws.”
“The citizen who thinks he sees that the commonwealth’s political clothes are worn out, and yet holds his peace and does not agitate for a new suit, is disloyal, he is a traitor. That he may be the only one who thinks he sees this decay, does not excuse him: it is his duty to agitate anyway, and it is the duty of others to vote him down if they do not see the matter as he does.” – Mark Twain, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, 1889, Ch. 13, page 107.
“In the beginning of a change, the patriot is a scarce man, and brave and hated and scorned. When his cause succeeds the timid join him, for then it costs nothing to be a patriot.” – Mark Twain, Notebook, 1904.
“The only rational patriotism is loyalty to the Nation ALL the time, loyalty to the Government when it deserves it.” – Mark Twain, Czar Nicholas II, 1905, Collected Tales, Sketches, Speeches, & Essays, 1891-1910 (1992) ed. Louis J. Budd.
“The loud little handful — as usual — will shout for the war. The pulpit will — warily and cautiously — object — at first; the great, big, dull bulk of the nation will rub its sleepy eyes and try to make out why there should be a war, and will say, earnestly and indignantly, “It is unjust and dishonorable, and there is no necessity for it.” Then the handful will shout louder. A few fair men on the other side will argue and reason against the war with speech and pen, and at first will have a hearing and be applauded; but it will not last long; those others will outshout them, and presently the anti-war audiences will thin out and lose popularity. Before long you will see this curious thing: the speakers stoned from the platform, and free speech strangled by hordes of furious men who in their secret hearts are still at one with those stoned speakers — as earlier — but do not dare to say so. And now the whole nation — pulpit and all — will take up the war-cry, and shout itself hoarse, and mob any honest man who ventures to open his mouth; and presently such mouths will cease to open. Next the statesmen will invent cheap lies, putting the blame upon the nation that is attacked, and every man will be glad of those conscience-soothing falsities, and will diligently study them, and refuse to examine any refutations of them; and thus he will by and by convince himself that the war is just, and will thank God for the better sleep he enjoys after this process of grotesque self-deception.” – Mark Twain, The Chronicle of Satan, 1905.
“Citizenship? We have none! In place of it we teach patriotism which Samuel Johnson said a hundred and forty or a hundred and fifty years ago was the last refuge of the scoundrel — and I believe that he was right. I remember when I was a boy and I heard repeated time and time again the phrase, ‘My country, right or wrong, my country!’ How absolutely absurd is such an idea. How absolutely absurd to teach this idea to the youth of the country.” – Mark Twain, True Citizenship at the Children’s Theatre, 1907.
“Political parties exist to secure responsible government and to execute the will of the people. From these great tasks both of the old parties have turned aside. Instead of instruments to promote the general welfare they have become the tools of corrupt interests, which use them impartially to serve their selfish purposes. Behind the ostensible government sits enthroned an invisible government owing no allegiance and acknowledging no responsibility to the people. To destroy this invisible government, to dissolve the unholy alliance between corrupt business and corrupt politics, is the first task of the statesmanship of the day.” – Theodore Roosevelt, “The Progressive Covenant With The People” speech (August, 1912). recording of the speech from the Library of Congress here. http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/collections/troosevelt_film/trfpcp.html .
“Since I entered politics I have chiefly had men’s view confided to me privately. Some of the biggest men in the United States, in the field of commerce and manufacture, are afraid of something. They know that there is a power somewhere so organized, so subtle, so watchful, so interlocked, so complete, so pervasive, that they had better not speak above their breath when they speak in condemnation of it.” – Woodrow Wilson, The New Freedom, Section I: The Old Order Changeth, 1913, page 13.
“The President is merely the most important among a large number of public servants. He should be supported or opposed exactly to the degree which is warranted by his good conduct or bad conduct, his efficiency or inefficiency in rendering loyal, able, and disinterested service to the Nation as a whole. Therefore it is absolutely necessary that there should be full liberty to tell the truth about his acts, and this means that it is exactly necessary to blame him when he does wrong as to praise him when he does right. Any other attitude in an American citizen is both base and servile. To announce that there must be no criticism of the president, or that we are to stand by the president, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public. Nothing but the truth should be spoken about him or any one else. But it is even more important to tell the truth, pleasant or unpleasant, about him than about any one else.” – Theodore Roosevelt, Kansas City Star, May 7, 1918, page 149.
“The most dangerous man to any government is the man who is able to think things out for himself, without regard to the prevailing superstitions and taboos. Almost inevitably he comes to the conclusion that the government he lives under is dishonest, insane and intolerable, and so, if he is romantic, he tries to change it. And even if he is not romantic personally he is very apt to spread discontent among those who are.” – H.L. Mencken, famous American writer, Smart Set (December 1919). Of interest: Mencken looks almost exactly like my grandfather.
“All this was inspired by the principle – which is quite true in itself – that in the big lie there is always a certain force of credibility; because the broad masses of a nation are always more easily corrupted in the deeper strata of their emotional nature than consciously or voluntarily; and thus in the primitive simplicity of their minds they more readily fall victims to the big lie than the small lie, since they themselves often tell small lies in little matters but would be ashamed to resort to large-scale falsehoods. It would never come into their heads to fabricate colossal untruths, and they would not believe that others could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously. Even though the facts which prove this to be so are brought clearly to their minds, they will still doubt and waver and continue to think that there may be some other explanation. For the grossly impudent lie always leaves traces behind it, even after it has been nailed down, a fact which is known to all expert liars in this world and to all who conspire together in the art of lying. These people know only too well how to use falsehood for the basest purposes.” – Adolph Hitler, Mein Kampf, 1925, Ch. 10.
“First they ignore you. Then they laugh at you. Then they fight you. Then you win.” – unsourced, but attributed to Gandhi
“Naturally, the common people don’t want war; neither in Russia nor in England nor in America, nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood. But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy or a fascist dictatorship or a Parliament or a Communist dictatorship. …voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is to tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country.” – Hermann Goering, 1946 Nuremberg Trial. Quoted by Nuremberg prison psychologist, Gilbert Gustave in Nuremberg Diary, page 278, published by Da Capo Press, 1995 ISBN 0306806614, 9780306806612.
The following five paragraphs are from Dwight Eisenhower in his Presidential Farewell Address, January 17, 1961. The term, “Congressional,” in “military-industrial-Congressional complex” was removed after the final draft was written and just before delivery to placate Congress according to Susan Eisenhower, daughter of Dwight Eisenhower (film clip from “Why We Fight”). Background here.
“In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial-Congressional complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.
During the long lane of the history yet to be written, America knows that this world of ours, ever growing smaller, must avoid becoming a community of dreadful fear and hate, and be, instead, a proud confederation of mutual trust and respect. Such a confederation must be one of equals. The weakest must come to the conference table with the same confidence as do we, protected as we are by our moral, economic, and military strength. That table, though scarred by many past frustrations, cannot be abandoned for the certain agony of the battlefield.
Disarmament, with mutual honor and confidence, is a continuing imperative. Together we must learn how to compose differences, not with arms, but with intellect and decent purpose. Because this need is so sharp and apparent, I confess that I lay down my official responsibilities in this field with a definite sense of disappointment. As one who has witnessed the horror and the lingering sadness of war, as one who knows that another war could utterly destroy this civilization which has been so slowly and painfully built over thousands of years, I wish I could say tonight that a lasting peace is in sight.
You and I, my fellow citizens, need to be strong in our faith that all nations, under God, will reach the goal of peace with justice. May we be ever unswerving in devotion to principle, confident but humble with power, diligent in pursuit of the Nations’ great goals.
To all the peoples of the world, I once more give expression to America’s prayerful and continuing aspiration: We pray that peoples of all faiths, all races, all nations, may have their great human needs satisfied; that those now denied opportunity shall come to enjoy it to the full; that all who yearn for freedom may experience its few spiritual blessings. Those who have freedom will understand, also, its heavy responsibility; that all who are insensitive to the needs of others will learn charity; and that the sources — scourges of poverty, disease, and ignorance will be made [to] disappear from the earth; and that in the goodness of time, all peoples will come to live together in a peace guaranteed by the binding force of mutual respect and love.”
The following six paragraphs are from President John F. Kennedy in his address before the American Newspaper Publishers Association, April 27, 1961 at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in NY City. To hear these excerpts, here.
“The very word ‘secrecy’ is repugnant in a free and open society; and we are as a people inherently and historically opposed to secret societies, to secret oaths and to secret proceedings. We decided long ago that the dangers of excessive and unwarranted concealment of pertinent facts far outweighed the dangers which are cited to justify it. Even today, there is little value in opposing the threat of a closed society by imitating its arbitrary restrictions. Even today, there is little value in insuring the survival of our nation if our traditions do not survive with it. And there is very grave danger that an announced need for increased security will be seized upon by those anxious to expand its meaning to the very limits of official censorship and concealment. That I do not intend to permit to the extent that it is in my control. And no official of my Administration, whether his rank is high or low, civilian or military, should interpret my words here tonight as an excuse to censor the news, to stifle dissent, to cover up our mistakes or to withhold from the press and the public the facts they deserve to know…
No President should fear public scrutiny of his programs. For from that scrutiny comes understanding; and from that understanding comes support or opposition. And both are necessary. I am not asking your newspapers to support the Administration, but I am asking your help in the tremendous task of informing and alerting the American people. For I have complete confidence in the response and dedication of our citizens whenever they are fully informed.
I not only could not stifle controversy among your readers–I welcome it. This Administration intends to be candid about its errors; for as a wise man once said: “An error does not become a mistake until you refuse to correct it.” We intend to accept full responsibility for our errors; and we expect you to point them out when we miss them.
Without debate, without criticism, no Administration and no country can succeed–and no republic can survive. That is why the Athenian lawmaker Solon decreed it a crime for any citizen to shrink from controversy. And that is why our press was protected by the First Amendment– the only business in America specifically protected by the Constitution- -not primarily to amuse and entertain, not to emphasize the trivial and the sentimental, not to simply “give the public what it wants”–but to inform, to arouse, to reflect, to state our dangers and our opportunities, to indicate our crises and our choices, to lead, mold, educate and sometimes even anger public opinion.
This means greater coverage and analysis of international news–for it is no longer far away and foreign but close at hand and local. It means greater attention to improved understanding of the news as well as improved transmission. And it means, finally, that government at all levels, must meet its obligation to provide you with the fullest possible information outside the narrowest limits of national security–and we intend to do it.
And so it is to the printing press–to the recorder of man’s deeds, the keeper of his conscience, the courier of his news–that we look for strength and assistance, confident that with your help man will be what he was born to be: free and independent.”
“Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it on to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children what it was once like in the United States when men were free.” – Ronald Reagan, address to the annual meeting of the Phoenix Chamber of Commerce, (March 30, 1961). Another version from his California Gubernatorial Inauguration Speech (Jan. 5, 1967):
“Perhaps you and I have lived with this miracle too long to be properly appreciative. Freedom is a fragile thing and is never more than one generation away from extinction. It is not ours by inheritance; it must be fought for and defended constantly by each generation, for it comes only once to a people. Those who have known freedom and then lost it have never known it again.”
“The Trilateral Commission is intended to be the vehicle for multinational consolidation of the commercial and banking interests by seizing control of the political government of the United States. The Trilateral Commission represents a skillful, coordinated effort to seize control and consolidate the four centers of power political, monetary, intellectual and ecclesiastical. What the Trilateral Commission intends is to create a worldwide economic power superior to the political governments of the nationstates involved. As managers and creators of the system, they will rule the future.” – U.S. Senator and 1964 Republican candidate for President Barry Goldwater in his l964 book: With No Apologies (Morrow, 1979), page 280.
“Those who seek absolute power, even though they seek it to do what they regard as good, are simply demanding the right to enforce their own version of heaven on earth. And let me remind you, they are the very ones who always create the most hellish tyrannies. Absolute power does corrupt, and those who seek it must be suspect and must be opposed. Their mistaken course stems from false notions of equality, ladies and gentlemen. Equality, rightly understood, as our founding fathers understood it, leads to liberty and to the emancipation of creative differences. Wrongly understood, as it has been so tragically in our time, it leads first to conformity and then to despotism.” – Barry Goldwater, Acceptance Speech as the 1964 Republican Presidential candidate.
“The powers of financial capitalism had another far-reaching aim, nothing less than to create a world system of financial control in private hands able to dominate the political system of each country and the economy of the world as a whole. This system was to be controlled in a feudalist fashion by the central banks of the world acting in concert, by secret agreements, arrived at in frequent private meetings and conferences. The apex of the system was the Bank for International Settlements in Basle, Switzerland, a private bank owned and controlled by the worlds’ central banks which were themselves private corporations. The growth of financial capitalism made possible a centralization of world economic control and use of this power for the direct benefit of financiers and the indirect injury of all other economic groups.” – Mentor to Bill Clinton and Georgetown University History Professor, Carroll Quigley in Tragedy and Hope, 1966. Recorded interview here.
“Look, if you think any American official is going to tell you the truth, then you’re stupid. Did you hear that? – Stupid.” – Arthur Sylvester, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs, 1965, at a Vietnam press meeting as reported by: Hammond, William M. Reporting Vietnam: Media and Military at War, 1998.
“The only thing new in the world is the history you don’t know.” – Harry Truman, as quoted in Plain Speaking : An Oral Biography of Harry S Truman (1974) by Merle Miller, p. 26.
Background quotes concerning our status of safeguarding Constitutional rights in the present:
“The United States is committed to the worldwide elimination of torture and we are leading this fight by example.” – President George W. Bush, June 26, 2003.
“Now, by the way, any time you hear the United States government talking about wiretap, it requires — a wiretap requires a court order. Nothing has changed, by the way. When we’re talking about chasing down terrorists, we’re talking about getting a court order before we do so. It’s important for our fellow citizens to understand, when you think Patriot Act, constitutional guarantees are in place when it comes to doing what is necessary to protect our homeland, because we value the Constitution.” – President Bush, speech at Kleinshans Music Hall, Buffalo, New York, April 20, 2004.
“This young century will be liberty’s century. By promoting liberty abroad, we will build a safer world. By encouraging liberty at home, we will build a more hopeful America. Like generations before us, we have a calling from beyond the stars to stand for freedom. This is the everlasting dream of America.” – President Bush, Remarks at 2004 Republican National Convention.
“On United Nations International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, the United States reaffirms its commitment to the worldwide elimination of torture. Freedom from torture is an inalienable human right, and we are committed to building a world where human rights are respected and protected by the rule of law…Throughout the world, there are many who have been seeking to have their voices heard, to stand up for their right to freedom, and to break the chains of tyranny. Too many of those courageous women and men are paying a terrible price for their brave acts of dissent. Many have been detained, arrested, thrown in prison, and subjected to torture by regimes that fail to understand that their habits of control will not serve them well in the long-term.” – President Bush, June 27, 2005.
“Should any American soldier be so base and infamous as to injure any [prisoner]. . . I do most earnestly enjoin you to bring him to such severe and exemplary punishment as the enormity of the crime may require. Should it extend to death itself, it will not be disproportional to its guilt at such a time and in such a cause… for by such conduct they bring shame, disgrace and ruin to themselves and their country.”
– General George Washington, letter to the Northern Expeditionary Force, Sept. 14, 1775. Writings of Washington, Vol. 3: To COLONEL BENEDICT ARNOLD Camp at Cambridge.
Note: Examiner.com has blocked public access to my articles on their site (and from other whistleblowers). Some links in my articles are therefore now blocked. If you’d like to search for those articles other sites may have republished, use words from the article title within the blocked link. Or, go to http://archive.org/web/, paste the expired link into the box, click “Browse history,” click onto the screenshots of that page for each time it was screen-shot and uploaded to webarchive. Then switch the expired URLs with webarchived ones of that same information. I’ll update as “hobby time” allows; including my earliest work from 2009 to 2011 (blocked author pages: here, here).