Trump’s Ginsburg Supreme Court Replacement: Bad News for Our Environment?

Dolphin “Fishing,” Tampa Bay, Florida

In the September 21, 2020 Washington Post’s article, An extra Trump Supreme Court justice may help cement his environmental rollbacks, Jody Freeman, director of Harvard Law School’s environmental and energy law program, is quoted as saying:

“A further tilt of the Court in the direction it is already going ― skeptical of regulation, unsympathetic to the idea that agencies should have some room to interpret their statutes broadly to solve new problems, and uninterested in reading statutes with their broader purpose in mind, certainly won’t help the cause of environmental protection.”

The article discusses the EPA’s “Clean Power Plan,” which has been challenged by the Trump Administration as being adopted by the EPA in excess of its authority. The Post’s concern is that if a conservative Supreme Court agrees with Trump, “it could hamstring a future president from using existing law to regulate climate-warming pollution.”

Conservative Justice Neil Gorsuch has been quite vocal that Congress’s delegation of its legislative authority to the executive branch, which runs our nation’s administrative agencies, has exceeded its constitutional authority. He also has been critical of the Supreme Court’s historic, sweeping deference to executive branch administrative agencies making, interpreting and enforcing their own rules – rules that have the force of law. Other conservative justices look as if they agree with Gorsuch.

The liberal justices see any rollback as stifling the executive branch and its administrative agencies from being responsive to issues, like climate change, that our complex society requires flexibility and some speed in solving. They see these sorts of problems best handled by the executive branch of government. In fact, Justice Kagan, the Court’s remaining liberal female member, has written that we live in the Era of Presidential Administration, and the Supreme Court should facilitate that sort of necessary management.

Before I and the rest of us who favor caring for our environment and minimizing our damage from climate change side with Kagan, there are a few constitutional and pragmatic thoughts worth thinking through.

The Constitution our Founders adopted in 1789 provides that the exclusive right to pass legislation belongs to our first political branch of government, the legislative branch. Nothing in the Constitution says that Congress has the right to delegate law-making to our second political branch of government, our executive branch; and it doesn’t give the executive branch authority to set up and operate what has become known as our “Fourth Branch” of government, our administrative agencies. But that’s what we have done. The authority is not in the words of the Constitution, but in its implied meanings.

Today, as many as 30 times as many laws (in the form of agency rules) are passed in a year by the Fourth Branch than are passed by Congress. In fact, not too long ago, I did a blog on this problem, Too Damn Many Regulations? I pointed out that in 2016, while Congress passed 2,966 pages of laws, the administrative agencies pushed out 97,110 pages of regulations. Thus, Gorsuch has a point about Congress’s delegation. The give and take between elected Congressmen with differing views, which is to take place in debates about proposed legislation, is totally missing from the rule-making process.

However, there is another, more serious threat to our Democracy than reams of paper filled with regulations. It’s a combination of the influence of lobbies and what I call legalized corruption. First there is a very cozy relationship between the regulating agencies and the companies they regulate. Money in the form of political contributions does that sort of thing. Lobbies not only have a strong influence on the rules being drafted, they frequently draft the rules.

Worse, there is the “swinging door” between the agencies and the companies being regulated. As we change administrations over time from liberal to conservative and back again, whomever is in charge appoints new political heads of the executive branch agencies, often from regulated businesses. For example, Trump appointed an ex-coal lobbyist to run the Environmental Protection Agency. All administrations do this sort of thing, but Trump, in less than eight years, has appointed more lobbyists and regulated company insiders to work in our agencies than Bush and Obama did in their combined 16 years of running our government. And what usually happens, is that after a short term running our agencies, the lobbyists and insiders return to their private businesses, knowing where pressures can be applied to get the best results for the companies they represent. We, the people, the intended beneficiaries of our Constitution, are in a distant last place. Yes, there are ethics rules that are supposed to minimize this sort of thing. But, believe me, they really don’t work.

Now, not all is lost. Last time I ran a check, Trump and his friends rolled back 102 regulations. However, the rollbacks are being challenged by concerned environmental and other organizations in the federal courts, now populated primarily by conservative judges. What has been Trump’s success ratio? About 12%. He’s lost about 88% of his challenges. You can check Trump’s rollbacks.

Thus, there are judges, liberal and conservative, that do understand that our Constitution is written to provide us with an independent judiciary in a country intended to by run by the rule of law, though our political branches prefer a country run by the rule of dollars.

These tough sorts of issues and subjects is why I wrote Democracy of Dollars, now in its final editing. We need to understand the issues and take intelligent, carefully considered stands. We can’t assume that everyone who thinks different from us is wrong.

On the issue of Congressional over-delegation, I do believe my liberal friends are wrong. We need to get back to Constitutional government, and Congress needs to quit over-delegating to the executive branch, which is too easily corrupted by money.

Democracy of Dollars

Too Damn Many Regulations?

Trekkers Lodge, Lukla, Nepal

“The only difference between death and taxes is that death doesn’t get worse every time Congress meets.” Will Rogers

On September 13, 1986, the St. Peterburg Independent (our community’s now defunct evening newspaper) published my Op-Ed, “We Need More Lights Turned on in Lukla”. In March 1986, Joanie and I had been trekking in Nepal, to Tengboche, a Buddhist monastery some 12,600 feet high in the Himalayas, on the way to Mount Everest (part of our rugged “INK Venture” into India, Nepal and Kashmir). Shortly after we returned, I attended the New York University Law School 1986 Tax Conference.

Our experiences in Lukla, and on that trek, were key turning points in my ultimately becoming a Planeteer. But, attending the NYU tax conference added an unexpected twist.

Now, almost four decades after writing the Op-Ed, it’s time to reflect, to flush out my conclusions.

The 1986 Op-Ed:

Op-Ed: “We Need More Lights Turned on in Lukla”

I recently spent some time in New York at the New York University Spring Tax Conference. I had been away from my law practice for a while. It was time to get caught up on what’s going on in the “real world.”

So I sat in one of the meeting rooms in the Marquis on Broadway at 45th, and listened to some of the best legal minds in our country analyzing and dissecting what perhaps has become the most difficult and incomprehensible body of rules and regulations that exist in regard to any subject – our federal tax laws.

In the evening after the conference, I walked down Seventh Avenue to 42nd Street, then back up Fifth Avenue to my hotel. New York is an incredible city; a complex of concrete and steel arranged in mostly useful form to serve the needs and interests of its humanity. No doubt New York houses some of our brightest, our most vital people.

Many are lawyers and accountants, like those of my conference – our professionals who mold and shape the rules and regulations, which pace the thrust of our society’s performance and its allocation of resources.

It is very complex, time and energy consuming process. The rules are so many. The rules change so often. The rules are subject to such a variety of understandings, due as often to the richness of our language as to our genius for playing verbal chess. In fact, some would say our entire governmental rule-making process has become a game a likened to Trivial Pursuit. The tax laws are but one of the many mazes we have created for ourselves.

As I walked past the fashion and camera stores on the Avenue, it was impossible not to be drawn to the small eat shops interspersed along the way. In more than one, the lonesome and shallow eyes a middle-aged man or woman reached out to me.

As I observed the contrast before me, my mind could not help but drift to the village of Lukla, elevation 9500 feet, in Nepal. We had been there but a brief few weeks before, snowed in after our trek in the Mount Everest region by the unpredictable spring weather of the high Himalayas.

Lukla Runway

As we sat in our lodge room, wrapped for warmth in our sleeping bags, our Sherpa host interpreted for us. Soon, a hand-operated drill was boring through our wall. Minutes later, a black-coated wire was nailed to the beamed ceiling above us. Then a light bulb, flickering and struggling to outshine our candle, glowed in the night.

Pressed against the doors and windows were the intense faces and wide eyes of the villagers of Lukla. Awe and curiosity surrounded the miracle which is now so commonplace to us in America.

A lonely electrical wire, strung over the mountain, had arrived in the valley.

And so, a lightbulb had been turned on at Lukla.

Until then Lukla had no electric lights. It’s days ended when the sun set behind the mountain.

The lightbulb is Lukla’s first utility. No water purification process. No sewage treatment plant. No schools. No hospitals.

No books or newspapers for sale at a corner drugstore. There were no books or newspapers; and there were no drugstores.

All that will change. A lightbulb has been turned on in Lukla.

Downtown Lukla

And more are coming, up and down the valley. But it will all take time and a careful allocation of very scarce resources of a relatively poor country. Our Sherpa guide, from Kumjung, a village which is a two-day walk from Lukla, proudly told us Kumjung will have its lightbulb in two years. In the meantime, the Yeti scalp which is revered in its Buddhist monastery will be worshiped by candlelight.

Our part of our planet may move into the future with infinite speed. But that part of our planet advances with painful slowness.

The fate of Lukla is the fate of almost two-thirds of the population of our world. Advanced societies, which have the time to occupy themselves with the self-made complexities of the subject matter of my New York conference, comprise, perhaps, only 5% of humankind.

And that brings me to the point of my story. It is our concentration and allocation of so many of the best-trained people we have on the inordinate complexities we have created a wise allocation of her own very scarce resources – our minds?

– At a time when deserts, now occupying one third of the surface of our planet, are expanding at an uncontrollable rate, starving man and animal alike?
– At a time when rain forests are retreating each year by a land size that exceeds the landmass of England, to the detriment of the very oxygen we breathe?
– At a time when population is exploding beyond the capacity of this planet to be supported?

Is the use of our trained minds to sort out a deal with our constant and growing body of regulatory complexity in our best long-run interests?


This is not the time our brightest need spend their energies sorting out the games we have decided to play.

There are lights to turn on for the Sherpas of Lukla. For the Campecinos of Cuzco. For the Masai of Arusha. for the hollow-eyed men and women in New York. For the people who call Tampa Bay home. And for all the places in our shrinking planet that need to be enlightened, not by electricity, but by the minds we have.

So. let’s organize ourselves for what we are meant to do. We are proceeding to tax simplification. An after-tax simplification, let’s keep going, through the whole unnecessarily irrational complex system and needless layers of rules and regulations that have lost all sense of meaning and purpose, except for their own self-perpetuation.

We need more lights turned on in Lukla. We need our best minds to help us do it.


Tax reform did take place in 1986, but the idea that reform included simplification was a myth – in 1986 or in the years following.

I remember writing a 26-page memo to my clients in 2005 about the newly adopted IRC§ 409A – a 5-page statute providing for the taxation of deferred compensation. Why did it take a 26-page memo to overview a 5-page statute? 187 pages of IRS explanation and 200 pages of IRS “final” regulations were necessary to launch the 5-page law.

The Code of Federal Regulations.

The Code contains 50 titles of regulations. The tax regulations are in Title 26, which has subchapters A through H. The regulations for 409A are in Part 1 of Subchapter A.

In 1938, the Code of Regulations consisted of 18,000 pages of regulations. By 2014, the Code contained 175,000 pages.

In 2016, Congress adopted 2,966 pages of laws and the Federal Government’s executive [administrative] agencies added 97,110 pages of new regulations.

And then, of course, there are state and local regulations.

Lessons for the Learning.

George Will tells the story in his Conservative Sensibility of Utah Senator Mike Lee having two stacks of paper in his office. One stack contained 800 pages of laws passed by Congress in a recent session and the other, “about 80,000 pages, is all the regulations proposed and adopted in one year by executive [administrative] agencies.”

Will points out:

“The lesson that Lee wants visitors to his office to learn, and to be dismayed about, is that Congress is no longer the primary institution of American’s self-government.”

Lee’s lesson is critical for both liberals and conservatives:

The Constitution places the sole responsibility for the laws that regulate us on Congress, our elected representatives. What has happened over the years is that Congress has delegated critical legislative power to the Executive branch, which operates our administrative agencies:

• Our President, our Nation’s chief executive, appoints political heads to administrative agencies, subject to perfunctory approval of the Senate – except where the President, as Trump has become fond to do, appoints temporary agency heads not approved by the Senate.
• Our dependence on administrative agencies to make and enforce our laws has given Congress the opportunity to pass vague laws – “politically correct” laws that allow both conservatives and liberals an opportunity to boast about what they have done for the people, without in fact little if anything of substance. Thus, the laws are too frequently void of the details a conscientious executive – our President – and his administrative agencies need to guide their actions, which allows President and the administrative agency to fill in the details and provide the substance without ample consideration of the will of the American people.
• With little legislative guidance from Congress, the President and the President’s agency heads decide not only the depth of the administrative regulations, but how they will be enforced. (Although, with mixed results, the ACLU and a few other legislative activists do their best to challenge agencies when they go too far astray – but courts are forgiving when it comes to measuring the responsibilities of agencies.)
• Over the years, the Supreme Court has adopted the position that it is not unconstitutional for Congress to delegate its legislative powers to the Executive Branch’s administrative agencies. (In recent times, Congress has also delegated most of its constitutional-war powers to the President as well. An almost total copout of Constitutional responsibility.)

o A judicial review of administrative law regulations is usually perfunctory. For the most part, agencies have the power to interpret their own regulations.
o Thus, it’s rare for Courts to “say what the law is,” which is their fundamental Constitutional responsibility – recently, in a related context, ignored by the Supreme Court, which held 5 to 4 that the Court does not have the power or right to rule on election-district gerrymandering.

• And agency lawyers and other personnel come and go between the industries they are charged to regulate and their regulatory agencies.

o I remember a hearing a client had before the SEC. The SEC’s hearing officer [supposedly an independent attorney] and the SEC counsel, the SEC’s advocate, flew to Tampa together from [and back to] Washington for the hearing. Their conversations were those of obvious friends who have taken these trips together several times.
o Special counsel for my client was a former SEC counsel, having moved recently from representing the regulator to representing the regulated – a common occurrence in all industries regulated.

• The process strengthens the hands of lobbyists, as the regulators’ staff move back and forth between the regulating agencies and their regulated industries.

o The movement of counsel and other staff personnel from the regulator to the regulated gives the lobbyists advocating for their industry clients special power to shape administrative law regulations in their favor.
o A cursory examination of our current administration appointments as head of its regulatory agencies is shocking: most come directly from the industry’s they regulate, and when their work for our government is over, most will return to their regulated industries. For example, our current administration replaced academic members of EPA advisory boards with industry appointees favoring polluter backers. There is also evidence that at least one of the current administration appointees continued to interface with his former employer in violation of federal ethics rules.
o Thus, industry lobbies have open access to make their point and achieve their sought-after results with little interference, and certainly without the back and forth that is expected in Congressional legislative hearings by members of both parties.
o In his “This Land: How Cowboys, Capitalism, and Corruption are Ruining the American West,” as he provides evidence of the “evisceration of public lands,” by the Forestry Service, a stressed-out Christopher Ketcham writes, “The Forestry Service, I had thought, were the good guys.”

• As Will points out, Congressional delegation to the Executive Branch is not only contrary to our Constitution, but to the writings of Locke upon which our Declaration of Independence and Constitution are based. It also ignores Madison’s caution in his Federalist 47: “The accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands, whether of one, few or many, and whether hereditary, self-appointed, or elective, may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny.” The Court’s reasoning? Life has become too complicated to do it any other way.

It’s little wonder that Trump received rave support when he ordered his administrative agencies to cancel three regulations for every regulation they added. Or when he began to dismantle the Environmental Protection Agency and other agencies, which over the years, despite their shortcomings, have become the prime bastions of public protection.

Many political commentators call our administrative agencies our fourth branch of government, the branch which maximizes the power of the President, while minimizing the Constitutional balancing roles of Congress and the Supreme Court.

Will suggests what Congress should have done was to keep its legislative responsibility and strengthen its professional staffs to provide it with the necessary expertise to legislate. Such a process would minimize its current output of vague laws by Congress and substantive laws adopted in the form of administrative regulations by administrative agencies run by unelected political appointees with the power to tilt the thrust of vague laws in favor of their political beliefs, often contrary to the interests of the American people, and in many cases, solid evidence and good science to the contrary.

However, Will’s suggestion is not likely to become law. The fourth branch of government is too entrenched, too powerfully corrupted by what has become a Democracy of Dollars and not a Democracy of the People.

How we restore Constitutional balance – if we restore Constitutional balance – should be the prime thrust of the 2020 elections. Can we elect Congressmen with the guts to restore the Constitution and its balance of power?

Yes, we have too damn many regulations; but we can’t live without good regulation. We just need to go about regulating our lives in a fundamental, Constitutional way for the benefit of us all. That’s how we will turn more lights on in our Luklas.

Lincoln’s “Apple of Gold,” Our Declaration of Independence

It’s sweltering hot in Philadelphia in late June 1776. That’s why he rented a second-floor apartment with five windows, giving him cross ventilation.

He wanted the breeze to keep him cool; he had a lot of writing to do. There was no air conditioning.

He wrote at night, after long hours spent with the special committee of five whose membership included such notables as Benjamin Franklin and John Adams.

His committee asked him to write the first draft of what was to become one of America’s – and humankind’s – most essential documents, our Declaration of Independence. They knew him, Thomas Jefferson, to be a sound thinker, a scholar who carefully researched and reflected deeply on his subjects.

“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…”

We Americans have been uncommonly lucky. Jefferson and the other Founding Fathers who shaped our country were not simply gun-slinging revolutionaries; they were men anchored in worldly philosophies. The Age of Enlightenment was their “Weltanschauung” – their worldview, their political “ground of being.”

Their thoughts were not short-term, concerned only about the now – the “what’s in it for me today?” The Founders understood the awesome responsibility for future generations they had assumed. Their sense of history and purpose underlies their heroic conduct.

John Locke’s writings in his Second Treatise on Government were the most influential works for Jefferson. Jefferson considered Locke, along with Bacon and Newton, as the three most influential men in history. It was Locke who wrote in 1690 that all men have natural rights to life and liberty; that in the state of nature, men’s rationality led them to behave socially; that the self-interest of some men leads them to violate the natural rights of others; and that is why men consent to government.

After his Presidency, in a letter to James Madison, Jefferson proposed that Locke’s work, along with the Federalist Papers, be mandatory readings in Virginia’s law school.

But times change. Our study of the past and its meaning for today has become shallow or nonexistent. Not only in our law schools but also in all of our schools.

Sixty years ago, sociologist David Riesman wrote in his Lonely Crowd that from those days of the Age of Enlightenment, our American society gradually changed from a people who were “inner-directed” to a people who become “other-directed.” Relationships in an other-directed society tend to be shallow, mass media driven. What we think and have, what advertisers say we should be, wear, and do from childhood onward becomes the source of judgment and measure of value.

Thus, when challenges come, there is no ground of being deeply imbedded – there is no internal guidance system providing a source of judgment to measure proper actions or reactions. Short-term behavior – selfish and fickle – become the norm. Without internal grounding, people become narcissistic, shifting blame to others, grabbing what they can at the expense of anyone in their way.

Ironically, a decade after Jefferson wrote our Declaration, as James Madison architected our Constitution, he considered those issues in his Federalist paper #10. Madison’s concern was about “factions” – citizens actuated by passion or interest adverse to the rights of others or of the community. He concludes that the democracy in itself cannot control factions, for the “overbearing” (tyranny) of the majority prevails. Although he could not foresee the concentration of today’s wealth and its distorting political influence, he recognized that the unequal distribution of property was the cause of the greatest factions.

Madison felt that factions could not be eliminated without destroying liberty. Factions are within the nature of man; thus, neither moral nor religious motives control – and “enlightened” statesmen will not always be at the helm.

Since the causes of factions can’t be removed, the effects of factions must be controlled by the structure of government and by representative government. Elected representatives provide a “public voice.” But Madison recognized that representatives can “betray” or corrupt their public trust; that factions in control can be tyrannical, even when they represent the majority. Thus, the “structure” of Republican government – architected in our Constitution by Madison – with three independent but overlapping branches provided balance. Factions within a state may “kindle a flame,” he wrote, but balance comes from factions in other states and by the independence of the overlapping branches.

As we celebrate this Fourth of July, let us reflect on Madison’s work, our Constitution, in the context of Jefferson’s work, our Declaration of Independence. And let’s get a “Locke” on these documents. We start with questions:

• Is the Declaration of Independence nothing more than Jefferson’s philosophizing about the “oughts” of human existence? If so, was the late Justice Antonin Scalia, a right-leaning Supreme Court judge and champion of literal originalism, correct when he said that “there is no philosophizing in the Constitution?”

• Or is the Declaration essential “context” for our understanding our Constitution?

• Was Justice Scalia correct when he wrote “The whole theory of democracy…is that the majority rules; that is the whole theory of it. You protect minorities only because the majority determines that there are certain minority positions that deserve protection”? Or when he wrote that the purpose of the Constitution is to “prevent change”?

• Or was Jefferson correct that fundamental human rights are not grants from a generous governing majority, but that governments are formed to secure our preexisting, unalienable rights? Jefferson wrote in the Declaration of Independence:

“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 those are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness – That to secure those Rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the Consent of the Governed.”

• Was I correct when I wrote in 1991 in Crash Landing:

“[T]he Constitution of the United States … serves today’s needs not because it is rigidly bound to its ‘original meaning,’ as some legal scholars suggest, but because it is a living document, continually renewed by the insights of each succeeding generation. Historical roots provide the anchor, but Constitutional interpretation grows out of the experience of each new generation, a step at a time?”

• And was Justice Steven Breyer, a left-leaning Supreme Court judge, correct when he wrote in Making Our Democracy Work: “Why would people want to live under the ‘dead hand’ of an eighteenth-century constitution?” Or when he went on to quote the late Justice Robert Jackson, “Just what our forefathers did envision, or would have envisioned, had they foreseen modern conditions, must be divined from materials almost as enigmatic as the dreams Joseph was called upon to interpret for Pharaoh?”

As we think this through, consider the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution. It provides that no “cruel and unusual punishments be inflicted.”

George Will, in his provocative work, The Conservative Sensibility, points out “‘pillorying, whipping, and mutilating of criminals’ bodies had been standard punishments in the colonies,’ and these lurid displays of community disapproval were performed in public for the purpose of ‘overawing and deterring the spectators.’” These forms of punishment were neither cruel nor unusual. There was no rehabilitation. That was considered too sentimental. When the idea of cruel and unusual punishment came before the Warren Court in 1958, Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren wrote that the meaning of the Eighth Amendment “must draw its meaning from the evolving standards of decency that mark the progress of a maturing society.”

And consider the Ninth Amendment, which provides:

“The enumeration in the Constitution of certain rights shall not be construed to disparage others retained by the people.”

It was in the “penumbra” of our Constitution, not in its written words, that the Supreme Court decided that individuals have a Constitutional right to privacy on which our state and federal governments may not intrude, in an opinion written by Justice William O. Douglas, who wrote in The Rights of the People:

“Governments exist for man, not man for government. The aim of government is security for the individual and freedom for the development of his talents.The individual needs protection from the government itself – from the executive branch, from the legislative branch, and even from the tyranny of judges.”

Does the application of evolving standards, and the recognition of rights not stated, lead us to conclude the Constitution has no fixed meaning? Or that the rights of the minority of us are only those rights the majority of us graciously decide we minorities can have?

In his The Conservative Sensibility, George Will provides us with insight:

“The Constitution is America’s fundamental law but not its first law. The Declaration appears on page one of volume one of the US Statutes at Large, and it is the head of the United States Code under the caption ‘The Organic Laws of the United States.’ Since the 1864 admission of Nevada to statehood, every state’s admission has been conditioned on adoption of a constitution consistent with the US Constitution and the Declaration.”

Madison was resistant to including a Bill of Rights in the Constitution for, Will points out, two reasons. First, the structure of government aimed at dispersing factions would be sufficient protection; and second, because of the statement of some rights could disparage others. He relented to facilitate ratification – with the inclusion of the 9th Amendment, confirming the list of rights was not exclusive.

Will then discusses the idea that the Constitution has a fixed meaning that does not change:

“[T]he fixed meaning of the Constitution is to be found in its mission to protect natural rights and liberty in changing – unfixed – circumstances. Fidelity to the text requires fidelity to some things that were, in a sense, prior to the text – the political and social principles and goals for which the text was written.”

Will continues:

“There is no philosophizing in the Constitution – until we put it there by construing it as a charter of government for a nation that is, in Lincoln’s formulation, dedicated to a proposition that Scalia dismisses as ‘philosophizing,’ the proposition that all men are created equal in possession of natural rights. In the words of constitutional scholar Walter Berns, the Constitution is related to the Declaration ‘as effect is related to cause.’

“Or as Lincoln said, the Declaration of Independence is the ‘apple of gold’ that is ‘framed’ by something ‘silver’: the Constitution. Silver is valuable and frames serve and important function, but gold is more valuable and frames are of subsidiary purpose to what we frame.”

Today, we are torn by political factions every bit as divisive as James Madison imagined. Today, we are torn by a tyranny of elected representatives who act because they can, not because they should, responding to factions and their lobbyists, chasing political dollars to assure their perpetuation in office in ways that Madison and the other Founders could never have foreseen. Today, we are torn by representatives who have lost sight that they were elected to “represent” all Americans. Today, we find too many of our children and ourselves hopelessly illiterate about the philosophy and message of the Declaration of Independence, and the context and true meaning of our Constitution.

Today, 243 years after our Declaration of Independence first inspired Americans, it is time for us to get a “Locke” on what the Declaration, Constitution and Bill of Rights mean for all times.

Savor Lincoln’s Apple of Gold, our irreplaceable Declaration. Don’t wrap its frame, our Constitution, around ideas that tarnish the Gold.

The Declaration is the context in which our Constitution must be read and interpreted, and without which, its true meaning escapes us.

Make that your personal Declaration of Independence.

Then, speak out and act, clothed with confident, meaningful carefully thought-out understanding.