Saturday, February 14, 2009

Happy President's Day !

Many American Presidents offered their deepest thoughts on the country whose rudder they guided through rough seas. Some had compasses to assist, others navigated by the stars, still some others drilled holes in the keel and ran the craft aground. The words of the best resound and reverberate through the halls of time. The worst tend to speak for themselves and their legacies accurately and succinctly.

George Washington (1789–1797)

"If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter. "

"Overgrown military establishments are under any form of government inauspicious to liberty, and are to be regarded as particularly hostile to republican liberty."

"Make the most of the Indian hemp seed, and sow it everywhere!"
George Washington wrote this in a note to his gardener at Mount Vernon (1794) from- The Writings of George Washington, Volume 33, page 270 (Library of Congress)

"We have abundant reason to rejoice that in this Land the light of truth & reason has triumphed over the power of bigotry and superstition."

"Harmony, liberal intercourse with all nations, are recommended by policy, humanity, and interest."

John Adams (1797–1801)
"If we do not lay out ourselves in the service of mankind whom should we serve?"

"A Constitution of Government once changed from Freedom, can never be restored. Liberty, once lost, is lost forever."
In a letter to Abigail Adams (1780-05-12) Adams wrote:

"I must study politics and war, that our sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy. Our sons ought to study mathematics and philosophy, geography, natural history and naval architecture, navigation, commerce and agriculture in order to give their children a right to study painting, poetry, music, architecture, statuary, tapestry and porcelain."

Thomas Jefferson (1801–1809)

"I hope our wisdom will grow with our power, and teach us, that the less we use our power the greater it will be...I hope we shall crush in its birth the aristocracy of our monied corporations which dare already to challenge our government to a trial by strength, and bid defiance to the laws of our country."

"Christianity neither is, nor ever was, a part of the common law."
Published in The Works of Thomas Jefferson in Twelve Volumes, Federal Edition, Paul Leicester Ford, ed., New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1904, Vol. 1, p. 459.

"Fallible and uninspired men, have assumed dominion over the faith of others, setting up their own opinions and modes of thinking as the only true and infallible, and as such endeavoring to impose them on others, hath established and maintained false religions over the greatest part of the world and through all time: That to compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves and abhors, is sinful and tyrannical; … that our civil rights have no dependence on our religious opinions, any more than our opinions in physics or geometry; and therefore the proscribing any citizen as unworthy the public confidence by laying upon him an incapacity of being called to offices of trust or emolument, unless he profess or renounce this or that religions opinion, is depriving him injudiciously of those privileges and advantages to which, in common with his fellow-citizens, he has a natural right; that it tends also to corrupt the principles of that very religion it is meant to encourage, by bribing with a monopoly of worldly honours and emolumerits, those who will externally profess and conform to it; that though indeed these are criminals who do not withstand such temptation, yet neither are those innocent who lay the bait in their way; that the opinions of men are not the object of civil government, nor under its jurisdiction; that to suffer the civil magistrate to intrude his powers into the field of opinion and to restrain the profession or propagation of principles on supposition of their ill tendency is a dangerous fallacy, which at once destroys all religious liberty."
Published in The Works of Thomas Jefferson in Twelve Volumes.

"The care of human life and happiness, and not their destruction, is the first and only legitimate object of good government."

James Madison (1809–1817)

"If Tyranny and Oppression come to this land, it will be in the guise of fighting a foreign enemy."

"A standing military force, with an overgrown Executive will not long be safe companions to liberty. The means of defense against foreign danger, have been always the instruments of tyranny at home. Among the Romans it was a standing maxim to excite a war, whenever a revolt was apprehended."

"Who does not see that the same authority which can establish Christianity, in exclusion of all other Religions, may establish with the same ease any particular sect of Christians, in exclusion of all other Sects? that the same authority which can force a citizen to contribute three pence only of his property for the support of any one establishment, may force him to conform to any other establishment in all cases whatsoever?"
During almost fifteen centuries has the legal establishment of Christianity been on trial. What have been its fruits? More or less in all places, pride and indolence in the Clergy, ignorance and servility in the laity, in both, superstition, bigotry and persecution."
"Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments" (1785)

James Monroe (1817–1825)
"National honor is a national property of the highest value."

"It is only when the people become ignorant and corrupt, when they degenerate into a populace, that they are incapable of exercising their sovereignty. Usurpation is then an easy attainment, and an usurper soon found. The people themselves become the willing instruments of their own debasement and ruin."

John Quincy Adams (1825–1829)
"America, with the same voice which spoke herself into existence as a nation, proclaimed to mankind the inextinguishable rights of human nature, and the only lawful foundations of government."

"Posterity: you will never know how much it has cost my generation to preserve your freedom. I hope you will make good use of it."

Andrew Jackson (1829-1837)
“The mischief springs from the power which the monied interest derives from a paper currency which they are able to control, from the multitude of corporations with exclusive privileges which they have succeeded in obtaining...and unless you become more watchful in your states and check this spirit of monopoly and thirst for exclusive privileges you will in the end find that the most important powers of government have been given or bartered away…."
Farewell Address, 1837

"As long as our government is administered for the good of the people, and is regulated by their will; as long as it secures to us the rights of persons and of property, liberty of conscience, and of the press, it will be worth defending."

"It is to be regretted that the rich and powerful too often bend the acts of government to their selfish purposes. Distinctions in society will always exist under every just government. Equality of talents, of education, or of wealth can not be produced by human institutions. In the full enjoyment of the gifts of Heaven and the fruits of superior industry, economy, and virtue, every man is equally entitled to protection by law; but when the laws undertake to add to these natural and just advantages artificial distinctions, to grant titles, gratuities, and exclusive privileges, to make the rich richer and the potent more powerful, the humble members of society — the farmers, mechanics, and laborers — who have neither the time nor the means of securing like favors to themselves, have a right to complain of the injustice of their government. There are no necessary evils in government. Its evils exist only in its abuses. If it would confine itself to equal protection, and, as Heaven does its rains, shower its favors alike on the high and the low, the rich and the poor, it would be an unqualified blessing."
Comments about his Veto of the Bank of the United States

Martin Van Buren (1837–1841)
"There is a power in public opinion in this country—and I thank God for it: for it is the most honest and best of all powers—which will not tolerate an incompetent or unworthy man to hold in his weak or wicked hands the lives and fortunes of his fellow-citizens."

"Those who have wrought great changes in the world never succeeded by gaining over chiefs; but always by exciting the multitude. The first is the resource of intrigue and produces only secondary results, the second is the resort of genius and transforms the universe."

William Henry Harrison (1841) (Harrison resigned from the army in 1814. He had an obscure career in politics ending up 20 years later as a county recorder in Ohio. He was nominated for president in 1835 and billed as a military hero whom the conservatives of the day hoped to control, he ran surprisingly well against Van Buren in 1836 and defeated Van Buren in the following election. He caught pneumonia and died in Washington on April 4, 1841, a mere month after his inauguration. Harrison was the first president to die in office.)

"A decent and manly examination of the acts of the Government should be not only tolerated, but encouraged."

"The strongest of all governments is that which is most free."

John Tyler (1841–1845)

"Patronage is the sword and cannon by which war may be made on the liberty of the human race."

Popularity, I have always thought, may aptly be compared to a coquette - the more you woo her, the more apt is she to elude your embrace.

James Knox Polk (1845–1849)

"No president who performs his duties faithfully and conscientiously can have
any leisure."

"By the theory of our Government majorities rule, but this right is not an arbitrary or unlimited one. It is a right to be exercised in subordination to the Constitution and in conformity to it. One great object of the Constitution was to restrain majorities from oppressing minorities or encroaching upon their just rights. Minorities have a right to appeal to the Constitution as a shield against such oppression. "

Zachary Taylor (1849–1850 )

"For more than half a century, during which kingdoms and empires have fallen, this Union has stood unshaken. The patriots who formed it have long since descended to the grave; yet still it remains, the proudest monument to their memory. . ."

"I have no private purpose to accomplish, no party objectives to build up, no enemies to punish—nothing to serve but my country."
Millard Fillmore (1850–1853)
"The man who can look upon a crisis without being willing
to offer himself upon the altar of his country is not fit
for public trust."

"God knows that I detest slavery, but it is an existing evil, for which we are not responsible, and we must endure it, till we can get rid of it without destroying the last hope of free government in the world."

Franklin Pierce (1853–1857)
"The storm of frenzy and faction must inevitably dash itself in vain against the unshaken rock of the Constitution."

"States which are exempt from the actual ravages of war, in which the roar of the cannon, and the rattle of the musketry, and the groans of the dying, are heard but as a faint echo of terror from other lands, even here in the loyal States, the mailed hand of military usurpation strikes down the liberties of the people, and its foot tramples on a desecrated Constitution."

James Buchanan (1857–1861)
"The test of leadership is not to put greatness into humanity, but to elicit it, for the greatness is already there."

"I feel that my duty has been faithfully, though it may be imperfectly, performed, and, whatever the result may be, I shall carry to my grave the consciousness that I at least meant well for my country."

Abraham Lincoln (1861–1865)
"As I would not be a slave, so I would not be a master. This expresses my idea of democracy."

"These capitalists generally act harmoniously and in concert to fleece the people, and now that they have got into a quarrel with themselves, we are called upon to appropriate the people's money to settle the quarrel."
-Speech to Illinois legislature, (January 1837)

"If Slavery Is Not Wrong, Nothing Is Wrong"

"The Bible is not my book nor Christianity my profession. I could never give assent to the long, complicated statements of Christian dogma."
Abraham Lincoln : Speeches and Writings 1832-1858

Andrew Johnson (1865–1869)

"Honest conviction is my courage; the Constitution is my guide."

"Legislation can neither be wise nor just which seeks the welfare of a single interest at the expense and to the injury of many"

Ulysses Simpson Grant (1869–1877)

"I have never advocated war except as a means of peace."

"As the United States is the freest of all nations, so, too, its people sympathize with all people struggling for liberty and self-government; but while so sympathizing it is due to our honor that we should abstain from enforcing our views upon unwilling nations and from taking an interested part, without invitation, in the quarrels between different nations or between governments and their subjects. Our course should always be in conformity with strict justice and law, international and local. "

Rutherford Birchard Hayes (1877–1881)

"He serves his party best who serves the country best."

"It is the desire of the good people of the whole country that sectionalism as a factor in our politics should disappear."

"The real difficulty is with the vast wealth and power in the hands of the few and the unscrupulous who represent or control capital. Hundreds of laws of Congress and the state legislatures are in the interest of these men and against the interests of workingmen. These need to be exposed and repealed. All laws on corporations, on taxation, on trusts, wills, descent, and the like, need examination and extensive change. This is a government of the people, by the people, and for the people no longer. It is a government of corporations, by corporations, and for corporations. — How is this?"

James Abram Garfield (1881)
"Next in importance to freedom and justice is popular education, without which neither freedom nor justice can be permanently maintained."

"We can not overestimate the fervent love of liberty, the intelligent courage, and the sum of common sense with which our fathers made the great experiment of self-government."
( The Garfield administration had barely started when he was shot by Charles J. Guiteau, a disappointed republican office seeker, in Washington on July 2, 1881. He died in Elberon, N.J., on Sept. 19.)

Chester Alan Arthur (1881–1885)
"Good ballplayers make good citizens."

"Madam, I may be President of the United States, but my private life is nobody’s damn business." Quipped to a temperance reformer. Quoted in Gentleman Boss: The Life of Chester Alan Arthur, chptr. 8, by Thomas C. Reeves
Stephen Grover Cleveland (1885–1889)
"A man is known by the company he keeps, and also by the company from which he is kept out."

"He mocks the people who proposes that the Government shall protect the rich and that they in turn will care for the laboring poor. Any intermediary between the people and their Government or the least delegation of the care and protection the Government owes to the humblest citizen in the land makes the boast of free institutions a glittering delusion and the pretended boon of American citizenship a shameless imposition."

Benjamin Harrison (1889–1893)

"We Americans have no commission from God to police the world."

"God forbid that the day should ever come when, in the American mind, the thought of man as a consumer shall submerge the old American thought of man as a creature of God, endowed with unalienable rights."

William McKinley (1897–1901)
"Unlike any other nation, here the people rule, and their will is the supreme law. It is sometimes sneeringly said by those who do not like free government, that here we count heads. True, heads are counted, but brains also . . ."

"War should never be entered upon until every agency of peace has failed. "

Theodore Roosevelt (1901–1909)
"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."

"The great corporations which we have grown to speak of rather loosely as trusts are the creatures of the State, and the State not only has the right to control them, but it is duty bound to control them wherever the need of such control is shown. "

"The material progress and prosperity of a nation are desirable chiefly so far as they lead to the moral and material welfare of all good citizens."

"We wish to control big business so as to secure among other things good wages for the wage-workers and reasonable prices for the consumers. Wherever in any business the prosperity of the businessman is obtained by lowering the wages of his workmen and charging an excessive price to the consumers we wish to interfere and stop such practices. We will not submit to that kind of prosperity any more than we will submit to prosperity obtained by swindling investors or getting unfair advantages over business rivals."

William Howard Taft (1909–1913)
"Next to the right of liberty, the right of property is the most important individual right guaranteed by the Constitution . ."
(I Suppose the SCOTUS decision that eminent domain included corporate interests overriding citizens ownership rights disagrees no?)

"I am a Unitarian. I believe in God. I do not believe in the divinity of Christ, and there are many postulates of the orthodox creed to which I cannot subscribe. Letter to Yale University (1899), quoted in Henry F. Pringle, William Howard Taft: The Life and Times, vol. 1, p. 45 (1939)"
Thomas Woodrow Wilson (1913–1921)

"Is there any man here... who does not know that the seed of war in the modern world is industrial and commercial rivalry? ... This war, in its inception, was a commercial and industrial war. It was not a political war."

"We grow great by dreams. All big men are dreamers."

Warren Gamaliel Harding (1921–1923)

"Our most dangerous tendency is to expect too much of government, and at the same time do for it too little."

"There is something inherently wrong, something out of accord with the ideals of
representative democracy, when one portion of our citizenship turns its activities
to private gain amid defensive war while another is fighting, sacrificing, or dying
for national preservation."

John Calvin Coolidge (1923–1929)
"Nothing in the world can take the place of Persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan 'Press On' has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race."

"If all men are created equal, that is final. If they are endowed with inalienable rights, that is final. If governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed, that is final."

Herbert Clark Hoover (1929–1933)
"Prosperity is just around the corner."

"Older men declare war. But it is youth that must fight and die."

"What this country needs is a great poem. John Brown’s Body was a step in the right direction. I’ve read it once...Kipling’s “Recessional” really did something to England when it was published. It helped them through a bad time. Let me know if you find any great poems lying around. "

"I'm the only person of distinction who has ever had a depression named for him."

Franklin Delano Roosevelt (1933–1945)
"The only thing we have to fear is fear itself."

"I ask you to judge me by the enemies I have made."

"The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little."

"We must scrupulously guard the civil rights and civil liberties of all our citizens, whatever their background. We must remember that any oppression, any injustice, any hatred, is a wedge designed to attack our civilization."

"Repetition does not transform a lie into a truth."

"A nation that destroys it's soils destroys itself. Forests are the lungs of our land, purifying the air and giving fresh strength to our people. "

"They (who) seek to establish systems of government based on the regimentation of all human beings by a handful of individual rulers... call this a new order. It is not new and it is not order."

"I pledge you, I pledge myself, to a new deal for the American people. Let us all here assembled constitute ourselves prophets of a new order of competence and of courage. This is more than a political campaign; it is a call to arms. Give me your help, not to win votes alone, but to win in this crusade to restore America to its own people."

Harry S. Truman (1945–1953)
"We need not fear the expression of ideas—we do need to fear their suppression."

"I have found the best way to give advice to your children is to find out what they want and then advise them to do it."

"I never gave anybody hell. I just told the truth and they think it's hell."

"I do not understand a mind which sees a gracious beneficence in spending money to slay and maim human beings in almost unimaginable numbers and deprecates the expenditure of a smaller sum to patch up the ills of mankind."

"Once a government is committed to the principle of silencing the voice of opposition, it has only one way to go, and that is down the path of increasingly repressive measures, until it becomes a source of terror to all its citizens and creates a country where everyone lives in fear."

Dwight David Eisenhower (1953–1961)

"In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist."

"When people speak to you about a preventive war, you tell them to go and fight it. After my experience, I have come to hate war. War settles nothing."
The Quotable Dwight D. Eisenhower (1967) edited by Elsie Gollagher, p. 219

"I like to believe that people in the long run are going to do more to promote peace than our governments. Indeed, I think that people want peace so much that one of these days governments had better get out of the way and let them have it."

"If a political party does not have its foundation in the determination to advance a cause that is right and that is moral, then it is not a political party; it is merely a conspiracy to seize power."

"Oh, goddammit, we forgot the silent prayer."
Politics and Diplomacy in Recent American History (1979) by Robert A. Divine, p. 55

John Fitzgerald Kennedy (1961–1963)

"And so my fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country."

"Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable."

"Many years ago the great British explorer George Mallory, who was to die on Mount Everest, was asked why did he want to climb it. He said, "Because it is there." Well, space is there, and we're going to climb it, and the moon and the planets are there, and new hopes for knowledge and peace are there. And, therefore, as we set sail we ask God's blessing on the most hazardous and dangerous and greatest adventure on which man has ever embarked."

"Freedom is not merely a word or an abstract theory, but the most effective instrument for advancing the welfare of man."

"Our problems are man-made, therefore they may be solved by man. No problem of human destiny is beyond human beings."

Lyndon Baines Johnson (1963–1969)

"If government is to serve any purpose it is to do for others what they are unable to do for themselves."

"I believe the destiny of your generation - and your nation - is a rendezvous with excellence."

"If future generations are to remember us more with gratitude than sorrow, we must achieve more than just the miracles of technology. We must also leave them a glimpse of the world as it was created, not just as it looked when we got through with it."

"We have entered an age in which education is not just a luxury permitting some men an advantage over others. It has become a necessity without which a person is defenseless in this complex, industrialized society. We have truly entered the century of the educated man."

Richard Milhous Nixon (1969–1974)

" Solutions are not the answer. "

"I am not a crook."

"This is a great day for France!"
while attending Charles De Gaulle's funeral

"I was not lying. I said things that later on seemed
to be untrue."

"When the President does it,
that means that it is not illegal"

"The second point is that coming out--coming back and saying
that black Americans aren't as good as black Africans--most
of them , basically, are just out of the trees. Now, let's
face it, they are."
Richard Nixon to Donald Rumsfeld 7-11-1971 White House Tapes

You know what happened to the Greeks.
Homosexuality destroyed them. Sure, Aristotle was
a homo, we all know that, so was Socrates."
May 26, 1971White House Tapes Released 3-2002

"What people resent is this business of some colleges
pushing the blacks too far for their own good, making
them doctors and everything else.... you can't talk about blacks like
you once did."
President Richard Nixon Alone In the White House, Pg 110

"Do you know what happened to the Romans?
The last six Roman emperors were fags. . . .
You know what happened to the popes?
It's all right that popes were
laying the nuns."
May 26, 1971, White House tapes Released 3-2002

"I would have made a good Pope."
Gerald Rudolph Ford (1974–1977)

"Truth is the glue that holds governments together. Compromise is the oil that makes governments go."

"If Lincoln was alive today, he`d roll over in his grave."

"Things are more like they are now than they have ever been."

James Earl Carter, Jr. (1977–1981)
"The best way to enhance freedom in other lands is to demonstrate here that our democratic system is worthy of emulation."

" We will not learn how to live together in peace by killing each other's children."

"human rights are not peripheral to the foreign policy of the United States"

"America did not invent human rights. In a very real sense human rights invented America."

Ronald Wilson Reagan (1981–1989)

"I would have voted against the Civil Rights Act of 1964."

"Trees cause more pollution than automobiles do."

"Facts are stupid things."

"One problem that we've had... is people who are sleeping on the grates, the homeless who are homeless, you might say, by choice."

"Now we are trying to get unemployment to go up and I think
we're going to succeed"

"Unemployment insurance is a pre-paid vacation for freeloaders."

"Because Vietnam was not a declared war, the veterans are not even eligible for the G. I. Bill of Rights with respect to education or anything."

George Herbert Walker Bush (1989–1993)
"I want a kinder, gentler nation."

"Read my lips: no new taxes."

"I do not like broccoli and I haven’t liked it since I was a little kid and my mother made me eat it."

"[The war in Iraq is] a rare opportunity to move toward an historic period of cooperation. Out of these troubled times...a new world order can emerge."

William Jefferson Clinton (1993–2001)

"There is nothing wrong in America that can't be fixed with what is right in America."

"The real differences around the world today are not between Jews and Arabs; Protestants and Catholics; Muslims, Croats, and Serbs. The real differences are between those who embrace peace and those who would destroy it; between those who look to the future and those who cling to the past; between those who open their arms and those who are determined to clench their fists."

“Politics is not religion and we should govern on the basis of evidence, not theology.”

“If we want to invest in the prosperity of our nation, we must invest in the education of our children so that their talents may be fully employed.”

George Walker Bush (2001–2008)
"I have opinions of my own-strong opinions-but I don't always agree with them."

”The vast majority of our imports come from outside the country.”

”We have a firm commitment to NATO, we are a part of NATO. We have a firm commitment to Europe. We are a part of Europe.”

”If we don’t succeed, we run the risk of failure.”

"It's clearly a budget. It's got a lot of numbers in it."

“I would still invade Iraq even if Iraq never existed”

"Rarely is the question asked
Is our children learning?"

"You have black people too?"
—speaking to the President of Brazil

”See, in my line of work you got to keep repeating things over and over and over again for the truth to sink in, to kind of catapult the propaganda.”

”I’m the commander — see, I don’t need to explain — I do not need to explain why I say things. That’s the interesting thing about being president.”

Barack Obama
"There is not a Black America and a White America and Latino America and Asian America; there's the United States of America . "

"I am not opposed to all wars. I'm opposed to dumb wars."

"You know, there's a lot of talk in this country about the federal deficit. But I think we should talk more about our empathy deficit - the ability to put ourselves in someone else's shoes; to see the world through the eyes of those who are different from us – the child who's hungry, the steelworker who's been laid-off, the family who lost the entire life they built together when the storm came to town. When you think like this – when you choose to broaden your ambit of concern and empathize with the plight of others, whether they are close friends or distant strangers – it becomes harder not to act; harder not to help."

"We have a stake in one another … what binds us together is greater than what drives us apart, and ... if enough people believe in the truth of that proposition and act on it, then we might not solve every problem, but we can get something meaningful done for the people with whom we share this Earth."

"Whenever I write a letter to a family who has lost a loved one in Iraq , or read an email from a constituent who has dropped out of college because her student aid has been cut, I'm reminded that the actions of those in power have enormous consequences – a price that they themselves almost never have to pay."

"How does America find its way in this new, global economy? What will our place in history be? Like so much of the American story, once again, we face a choice. Once again, there are those who believe that there isn’t much we can do about this as a nation. That the best idea is to give everyone one big refund on their government—divvy it up by individual portions, in the form of tax breaks, hand it out, and encourage everyone to use their share to go buy their own health care, their own retirement plan, their own child care, their own education, and so on. In Washington, they call this the Ownership Society. But in our past there has been another term for it—Social Darwinism—every man or woman for him or herself. It’s a tempting idea, because it doesn’t require much thought or ingenuity. It allows us to say that those whose health care or tuition may rise faster than they can afford—tough luck. It allows us to say to the Maytag workers who have lost their job—life isn’t fair. It let’s us say to the child who was born into poverty—pull yourself up by your bootstraps. And it is especially tempting because each of us believes we will always be the winner in life’s lottery, that we’re the one who will be the next Donald Trump, or at least we won’t be the chump who Donald Trump says: “You’re fired!” But there is a problem. It won’t work. It ignores our history. It ignores the fact that it’s been government research and investment that made the railways possible and the internet possible. It’s been the creation of a massive middle class, through decent wages and benefits and public schools that allowed us all to prosper. Our economic dependence depended on individual initiative. It depended on a belief in the free market; but it has also depended on our sense of mutual regard for each other, the idea that everybody has a stake in the country, that we’re all in it together and everybody’s got a shot at opportunity."

"We will restore science to its rightful place, and wield technology's wonders to raise health care's quality and lower its cost. We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories. And we will transform our schools and colleges and universities to meet the demands of a new age. All this we can do. And all this we will do. Now, there are some who question the scale of our ambitions — who suggest that our system cannot tolerate too many big plans. Their memories are short. For they have forgotten what this country has already done; what free men and women can achieve when imagination is joined to common purpose, and necessity to courage."

President Bush Called Former President Clinton one afternoon.
"Hello, Bill? It's Dubya. Say, I've been meanin' ta ask ya sumthin'. How did you do so well with the ladies when you were president?"
"I'll tell ya, George. The trick is to dazzle them with charm and intelligent conversation."
"Yeah, but what can I do?" asked Bush.
Clinton paused. "Well, George, if all else fails, try puttin' a potato down your pants. That works every time."
The next week, Bush called Clinton again.
"Bill? Dubya. Laura was in Crawford over the weekend and I got to go stag to the embassy ball. I tried the potato trick, but all the ladies kept their distance."
"I know, I saw the ball on C-SPAN," laughed Clinton. "Next time, try puttin' the potato down the front of your pants."

Happy President's Day Everyone!

Submitted by the Editor

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Standing on the Whale, Fishing for Minnows

Explorations in the theory which is known as quantum mechanics
has yielded spectacular successes and insights into the nature of the universe ,
among which is describing properties of atomic structures.

Where relativity deals with the largest objects in the universe,
quantum mechanics deals with understanding the very smallest particles
of which all objects are composed.
Quantum physics has shattered the traditional ideas of the physical universe.
Yet it's elegant equations present us not simply with scientific knowledge,
but also with philosophical challenges regarding its interpretation.
It's implications are
vast, mysterious, revolutionary, and wondrous.
After all,
What is a quantum particle?
The dreams that stuff is made of!

Quantum Mechanics has been described
as the crowning achievement of the 20th Century,
a theory that has been validated with great precision.
The quanta - the idea that at the smallest of scales,
everything is discrete; has devastated classical physics and forced us
to perceive reality in a most unreasonable fashion by conventional standards.
Yet at it's very core, the stuff upon which the physical universe is hung,
is more real than the physical universe itself.
How did we arrive here?

Hop aboard the old "wayback machine"
with Mr.Peabody and Sherman!
(which incidentally, exists courtesy of relativity ...
and/or Jay Ward!
Of course this begs the question,
in a quantum universe,
is Bullwinkle still a moose?)

In the 19th century much of the scientific community was absorbed in the study of heat properties of various objects. An abstract model that was considered was the Black Body, which was an object which absorbs all incidents of radiation and then re-emited the energy again. We can think of the radiating energy as standing waves inside our blackbody cavity. The energy of these radiating waves at a given frequency ½, should be proportional to the number of modes at this frequency. Classical physics states that all these modes have the same energy k T (a result derived from classical thermodynamics) and as the number of modes is proportional to ½ 2 :

E \propto \nu^2 kT

We would expect most of the energy at higher frequency, and this energy to diverge with frequency. When we sum the energies at each frequency we find that there is an infinite energy in this system!

This paradox was called the ULTRAVIOLET CATASTROPHE.

Physicist Max Planck resolved this untidy paradox.
He postulated that the energy of the modes
could only come in discrete packets - quanta - of energy:
E = h\nu, 2h\nu, 3h\nu, \ldots \qquad \Delta E = h\nu

Using statistical mechanics Planck found that the modes at higher frequency were less likely excited so the average energy of these modes would decrease with the frequency. The exact expression for the average energy of each mode is given by the Planck distribution:

\langle E \rangle = \frac{h\nu}{\exp(\frac{h\nu}{KT}) - 1}

You can see that if the frequency is low then the average energy tends towards the classical result, and as frequency goes to infinity we get that the average energy goes to zero as expected.

We might say this was the birth of quantum mechanical thinking.

The Clot Thickens...

Atomic Line Spectra
There was a further breakdown in classical physics regarding the observed discrete line spectra specific to each atom.
It was widely accepted that this must be due to transitions between atomic energy levels.
But this presented a considerable problem to classical physics as it predicted that accelerating charges emitted radiation.
It would thus seem that the energy orbital would be unstable as the electron slowly spiraled towards the nuclei as it emitted radiation.
There was absolutely no classical model which could explain a stable electron orbital.
In other words:
How could the electrons orbit the nucleus and not lose energy?
Why was this configuration stable?

Niels Bohr

Bohr was able to crack this puzzle by invoking the idea developed by Planck.
This quantization could not be proven on classical grounds or even justified,
but Bohr showed that when he made these assumptions,
he could predict the spectrum of hydrogen
with unprecedented accuracy.
This magical conjuring act
was able to accurately describe the energy levels
giving the exact energies of the lines actually observed in the atomic spectra.
This is the resultant equation.
E = \frac{2 \pi^2 m e^4}{h^4}-\frac{1}{n^2}

Look here for a brief presentation of the derivation of his theory.

Bohr's success was indisputable.

Unfortunately it only worked on Hydrogen.

HeisenbergThe Uncertainty Principle

"The more precisely
POSITION is determined,
less precisely the MOMENTUM is known"
This seemingly harmless sounding statement
of the "uncertainty relation" between the position
and the momentum (mass times velocity) of a subatomic particle,
such as an electron sent reverberations
through the hallowed halls of science and philosophy.
The implications are unfathomably infinite.
This relationship has profound effects
on such fundamental notions as causality
and the determination of the future behavior of an atomic particle.
But as we discussed in Anarchs Of The New Paradigm,
the implications in Art, Music, Philosophy,
and essentially all man's endeavors are fundamentally of equal significance.

Consider a particle,
say an electron, moving through space.
We describe the electron's motion in terms
of its position and momentum.
Classically speaking,
we can measure both quantities to infinite precision.
However in Quantum Mechanics,
we can never know both quantities absolutely precisely.
This is because by taking a measurement
we inadvertently have disturbed the system.

"I believe that the existence of the classical 'path'
can be pregnantly formulated as follows:

The "path" comes into existence only when we observe it.
--Heisenberg, in the uncertainty principle paper

If every concept has a meaning only in terms of the experiments used to measure it, we must agree that things that cannot be measured really have no meaning in physics. So for instance, the path of a particle has no meaning beyond the precision with which it is observed. But a basic assumption of physics since Newton has been that a "real world" exists independently of us, regardless of whether or not we observe it. (This assumption did not go unchallenged, however, by some alchemists and philosophers.)
Heisenberg now argued that such concepts as orbits of electrons do not exist in nature unless and until we observe them.
Does this perhaps suggest that all knowledge is unknowable?
There simply are no certainties.
Only probabilities.
Tumblin' Dice...
Quantum theory...
"If we know the present exactly, we can calculate the future"
-it is not the conclusion that is wrong but the premise."
--Heisenberg, in the uncertainty principle paper


So we can not be certain Bullwinkle is a moose,
in fact, merely making the inquiry
affects whether Bullwinkle is a moose or not.

Light can be both wave and particle
Some experiments show that light is a particle:
Einstein's Nobel Prize was actually for the photoelectric effect, where he showed that light carries energy in discrete amounts, a certain amount per particle. Yet other experiments also show that light is definitely a wave:
It exhibits interference patterns, which is something that only waves do.
There is however, no experiment which can show both results.
Whether light is a wave or a particle depends on how you're looking with it.
This may seem odd, but there are many examples of this sort of duality, even outside of physics. The same person could be perceived as a father, son, brother, nephew, or uncle, depending on who's perception we are dealing with.

Bullwinkle is a moose and squirrel.

Matter (us and everything else) is of a dual nature.
As discussed in the explanation of the nature of light.
The idea of duality is rooted in the debates over the nature of light and matter dating back to the 1600s, when competing theories of light were proposed by Christiaan Huygens and Isaac Newton. Through the work of Albert Einstein, Louis de Broglie, and many others, current scientific theory holds that all particles also have a wave nature. This phenomenon has been verified not only for elementary particles, but also for compound particles like atoms and even molecules. In fact, wave–particle duality applies to all objects, even macroscopic ones.

We exist as both particles and wave functions.
The wave function of an object represents the probability of finding it in a particular location or with a particular physical property (ie. it's reality) - when the probability of finding an object in a particular location or with a particular property goes to 100%, the wave function collapses and the object assumes physical properties. At this point it becomes "real".

Objects do not have any physical properties until they are observed.
Quantum physics contradicts the belief in an objective world existing independent of observation.
Our observations influence reality by collapsing the wave function of an object.
The point at which the wave collapses is consciousness itself.
An astounding yet mathematically supported reality.
Renee Descartes walks into a bar,
the bartender says 'sir can I get you a martini
'Descartes says
'I don't think...'
and he disappears.

The Tragic End Of Schrödinger's Cat
After a stint in the physics limelight, Schrödinger's cat fell on hard times.
The constant stress of never knowing from one moment to the next whether he was alive or dead took its toll on the cat's psyche. Schrödinger's cat began to drink, and drink heavily!
Often drinking himself into a catatonic stupor. Alcohol abuse began to affect his work.
This was especially evident in his last paper published shortly before his death, "Der Maus Eigenfunctionen im Unendlich-dimensional Hilbertraum", in which he published the following rather cryptic equation for analyzing the momentum of electrically-charged particles:

p[[p[p[p = <~~fafafaf | 35eeeeeeeeee >

It has been speculated that if properly understood, this strange-looking equation may have profound implications for our understanding of the interactions of particles in an electromagnetic field. Unfortunately, the original manuscript was covered with coughed up fur balls and a green-colored stain that resembled cat vomit.
One by one, Due to his drinking, his sources of funding dried up.
Soon, he found that he was no longer being invited to give seminars.
His scientific colleagues and students expressed uncertainty about whether or not he would even show up at his lectures. Some people even debated whether he was even still alive!
His last work was in telecommunications.
His invention of Cat-5 cable at Bell Laboratories laid the foundations for the Internet.
In his last days he also spent more and more of his time playing with string theory.

R.I.P. Schrödinger's cat

Physical reality is not "real"
It is the minnow we seek to catch
while standing on the whale

The title of this article is a Polynesian saying.
I first encountered it while reading a book by Joseph Campbell
Joseph Campell suggested that man's mythology was a powerful tool.
That perhaps we need a modern mythology to help us make sense of the universe
as we experience it in this time.
He postulated that the story of "Star Wars"
could actually be used to this effect in his celebrated interviews with Bill Moyers.
Though he could not not literally subscribe to any particular brand of mythology,
he recognized the importance and indeed the beauty of the stories.
And in his book, "the Hero With A Thousand Faces";
he observed that man's various mythologies were essentially all the same story.

Duct tape is metaphysical.
Duct tape is a metaphor for "the Force".
It has a light side, a dark side, and it holds the universe together.

But what is it ultimately that one seeks?
Campbell suggested "People say that what we're all seeking is a meaning for life. I don't think that's what we're really seeking. I think that what we're seeking is an experience of being alive, so that our life experiences on the purely physical plane will have resonances within our own innermost being and reality, so that we actually feel the rapture of being alive. That's what it's all finally about, and that's what these clues help us to find within ourselves."

. Evidence from man's research into subatomic physics
informs us that there is actually no such thing as physical matter.
That literally everything is energy.
Our greatest physicists
have told us that energy is controlled by consciousness.
What consciousness is, where it is,
and how it functions is the question.
(Please see Anarchs Of The New Paradigm for details.)

Universal consciousness
(the source of everything? God? Zappa's "crux of the biscuit?)
is the holy grail of the human quest for meaning.
Now of course we sentient human beings
each have consciousness,
of one sort or another ,
but how does human consciousness relate to cosmic consciousness?
this is a matter of speculation, conjecture, and controversy.
There is certainly a degree of scientific physical evidence
and indeed plenty of religio-philisophic writing that reflects on just this.
That perhaps what we allude to as "God" is not some hairy thunderer
but rather the sum of consciousness.
That each of us is a piece of God
or the cosmic consciousness.
The Hindu truth
that "I am the mystery of the Universe " comes to mind.
In the New Testament the author known as "John"
says that Jesus claimed " I am in the God, and God is in me"
paraphrased numerous times.
How about in Psalms "the kingdom of God is within you"?
Or the phrase "What you do onto the least of your brothers, you do onto me."
Lao Tzu said "at the center of your being you have the answer"
(what is at the center of your being other than consciousness itself?
The point of the wave collapse?)
Lao Tzu also said “Music in the soul can be heard by the universe.”
Might this all imply an attempt
at cosmic awareness of the nature of the universe
rather than some dogmatic mumbo jumbo
completely misinterpreted, mistranslated,
or misrepresented for centuries?
Man's quest for meaning did not begin in the 20th century.

Is it at least possible
that true seekers may have glimpsed the implications
of the quantum universe without actually doing the math?
Is there more than 1 path to ultimate knowledge?
And is man, with his hat on, taller than a taxi cab?

The physical universe is a function of "something"
in the non-physical part of reality.
(A something or a no-thing that we call consciousness.)
The source of creation
is in the non-physical consciousness.
The physical experience is the result.

No electrons were harmed in the creation of this article. In an alternate universe, Bullwinkle is the governor of Alaska and has the disembodied head of Sarah Palin hanging on his mantel.