Celebrating The Birthday We, The People, All Share

Celebrating The Birthday We, The People, All Share

A special message from Grassroot Institute Founder Richard Rowland. Every dedicated, self-governing American has two birthdays. The first is the day we left our mother’s womb. The second is the day the United States of America was born — July 4, 1776. A precious few celebrate both on the same day. If that describes you, let us know. We might make a big deal of it! The nation’s birthday is the most important of the two for every one of us. It gives us The American Dream as a legacy and does so, so well, that we too often forget. Indeed, for 239 years the Declaration of Independence — signed by 56 patriot heroes who were also traitors to the British Crown and subject to loss of life, limb and property if apprehended — has inspired countless millions all around the world. Furthermore, it is the moral foundation for our nation. It is the permanent, unchangeable base for the US Constitution, the body of law that is our “owner’s manual”, telling us who, what, where, when, how etc. based on the why embedded in it. The Declaration is aspirational as well as inspirational. The principal author, Thomas Jefferson, owned slaves. Many other signers did too. Yet they announced to the world with total sincerity, “that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable 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”. They thus humbled themselves, owning up...
When Liberty Knocked Down the Berlin Wall

When Liberty Knocked Down the Berlin Wall

It’s easy to be pessimistic about the future of liberty.  Yet sometimes freedom advances with extraordinary speed.  Like 25 years ago in Europe. As 1989 dawned communism had ruled what was the Russian Empire reborn for seven decades.  The system failed to fulfill its promise of human liberation, but survived with the backing of secret police, gulags, and the Red Army. Then in an instant it all was swept away.  On November 9, 1989, the Berlin Wall was open.  One of the most dramatic symbols of human tyranny was gone. Tens of thousands of East Germans were imprisoned for “Republikflucht,” or attempting to flee the East German paradise.  Some 1000 people died trying to escape East Germany, about 200 from Berlin. As 1989 dawned there was obvious unrest in what Ronald Reagan had called the Evil Empire.  Hope was rising, but no one could forget that previous popular demands for freedom always had been crushed by Soviet tanks. In 1989 Hungary led the way.  Plans were made for multiparty elections.  The Communist Party dissolved.  When the new leadership tore down Hungary’s wall with the West the Iron Curtain had a huge hole. Poland’s communist regime made a deal with a revived Solidarity Union and held free elections.  The liberal tide rose in Czechoslovakia, sweeping away the hardline leadership installed to squelch the Prague Spring of 1968. The East German regime remained tough.  Frustrated East Germans began escaping through Hungary, with its open border. Protests spread, causing the communist leadership to temporize.  On November 4 a million people gathered in East Berlin. On November 9 visibly struggling Politburo member Guenter...
Grassroot’s Interview with a Vampire

Grassroot’s Interview with a Vampire

Most people don’t think of vampires when they think of Honolulu, but the truth is that the undead enjoy a good vacation spot as much as the living. Grassroot Institute staffer Sebastian Koenig was flattered to be invited to dinner by Viscount Armando Cortez, who tries to visit the Aloha State at least three or four times a century. Entering the abandoned warehouse set as their meeting spot, Sebastian was led down a series of tunnels to find himself in an opulently decorated gothic dungeon–a delightful surprise, given the general lack of ancient castles in Kapolei. The conversation that evening ranged over a wide series of topics, from the burden of immortality to whether Eli Manning can be considered an elite quarterback, but of special interest was Viscount Cortez’s insights on the political change he has observed during his visits here. When Sebastian recovered consciousness in the Grassroot Institute office the next morning (and with only a slight case of dizziness caused by blood loss), he wrote up the following account of that conversation. Editor’s note: The conversation below took place in medieval French and has been translated to the best of our ability. Any errors in interpretation are solely the fault of our freelance translator, whose address can be obtained from our office should anyone quoted wish to take issue with his portrayal herein.   Grassroot Institute: Good evening Senor Cortez. How nice of you to meet with us this late at night. Viscount Cortez: No problem at all, I am somewhat of a night person. Thank you for having me. Grassroot: It says here you were born...
Promoting Democracy in Hong Kong: Combining Prudence with Idealism

Promoting Democracy in Hong Kong: Combining Prudence with Idealism

Hong Kong is part of China.  But administered separately from the rest of the People’s Republic of China, the territory respects civil liberties while hosting the world’s freest economy. Demonstrators are pressing Beijing to make good on its promise of  democratic rule and free elections.  But the PRC will not, indeed, cannot, give residents of Hong Kong what it refuses to give the rest of its citizens.  The city’s future depends on finding a compromise that preserves Hong Kong’s freedom and peace. The British colony grew out of imperial China’s weakness.  London seized Hong Kong Island, then the Kowloon Peninsula, and later “leased” the New Territories.  In 1997 the latter’s 99-year term ran out.  At which point Beijing was legally entitled to take back the New Territories. Dividing Hong Kong would have been a practical nightmare.  And Beijing might not have continued to honor territorial cessions forced more than a century before.  So in 1984 London agreed to the full territory’s return. One wonders:  What if Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher had scheduled a referendum in which the territory’s residents could freely express their decision? At the time a still weak and isolated Beijing probably would have felt little choice but to accept an adverse vote.  However, the PRC might have chosen to bide its time, as it has done with Taiwan, and now would be demanding the territory’s return. Returning Hong Kong meant transferring millions of people to communist China.  The PRC committed to respect Hong Kong’s uniqueness for a half century. However, Beijing never promised to hold fully free elections.  Rather, it stated:  “The chief executive will be...
Civil Forfeiture and the Trampling of the Constitution

Civil Forfeiture and the Trampling of the Constitution

In the wake of the recent tragedy and conflict in Ferguson, Missouri, a great deal of attention has been shone on the apparent militarization of America’s police. People point to increased use of SWAT and police forces’ access and use of heavy military hardware as indicators of a serious problem in the way law enforcement is conducted in our country. Even in Hawaii, the police have been acquiring surplus military hardware. For example, the Honolulu Police Department now owns a BearCat, a vicious-looking armored personnel carrier. According to HPD, it has the BearCat to respond to attacks of a “chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and explosive” nature. It is easy to lampoon these acquisitions as the product of paranoia or a growing attitude in the police in favor of militarization. Yet there is a more pressing concern in Hawaii, one that could have far-reaching consequences for the future of the state. A somewhat inconspicuous bill even wound its way through the state legislature on a subject few people know much about, but which included major ramifications for the rights of Hawaii’s citizens. The bill dealt with the expansion of civil forfeiture. Civil forfeiture may seem like a rather innocuous-sounding term, but it conceals a practice that is exceptionally corrosive to the proper administration of justice in a free society. Essentially, civil forfeiture is a process by which police may seize assets they suspect to be used for illegal purposes. This can range from anything from cars, to houses, to cash. This can all be done without any criminal charge being levied against an owner, because the “charge” is being made against...