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Reflection on the Weekend of the 4th of July

I spent the weekend off-line, with friends and family. The whole weekend was a glorious respite from the overly hot first week of summer, and the overly hot press of business. It was set up by some re-assertions of natural rights over the rights of government by the Supreme Court. And the garden, despite the ravages of the deer, is beautiful.

First, on the blessings of Hurricanes. My family in California asks me how I can stand to live in a place with regular hurricanes. I am always amused, because many here in North Carolina ask me how I could live in a place with earthquakes. I never point out to them that to those who grew up in southern California, it is the Sana Anna winds and the brush fires that are scary.

The first hurricane of the season bounced off of the Outer Banks without doing too much damage. Here, more than a couple hundred miles away, we didn’t even get rain. We did get relief from weather in the high 90’s, replaced by cooler, clean air from the ocean. It always seems that there is a band of clear blue sky surrounding a hurricane, and in that band the air is fresher, and clearer than the air before. Now, after more than two days, the summer haze is returning. The temperature, though, has peaked each day in the low 80s. Hurricanes are great for those they miss.

I could have used some rain, though. Despite a wet spring, May and June have been drier even than the drought years recently past. The lawn is crunchy underfoot. The gingers in the garden have a curly edge to their leaves not seen in the rain forest. This has some advantages; the old rambling rose by the front porch, the one that gives way to mildew by mid-June each year, is spotless. As the air gets drier, even the intoxicating scent of the magnolias get thinner, as if it needs moisture to convey its erotic musk.

Perhaps that is why the deer are so active this summer. A decade ago, when they four-laned the highway, I could grow nothing, as they swarmed the yard each evening. The variegated hosta, lining the driveway, was a particular favorite of theirs. After three years, it was no more. In February they would eat all the buds, as high as they could stand on their hind legs off of the camellia. My attempts at vegetable gardening were futile. During several years of drought, the depredations persisted. This last year, though, the deer let the landscape re-grow.

That’s why I wonder if the deer are back because of the dry months of May and June. I plant the old fashioned vining tomatoes, the ones that crawl out of the cages and onto the next. Indeterminate, they call them, because you can never determine where they will end up. This year they are all neatly trimmed at 20 inches tall, based on deer leaning in the top of each cage and eating on down. They have left the peppers alone, though. Habaneros are bitter even in their foliage, and two habaneros on the end seem to protect all the other peppers.

I am not writing of business today, for I have resolved to stay away from it until the weekend is over.

Appropriately, before the 4th, the Supreme Court re-asserted the individual natural rights of the Declaration against the ever creeping encroachments of the State and the Mob.

The ruling that made me happiest was the undoing of decades of misunderstanding of the digital age and the fourth amendment. The Supreme Court has always acted as if digital communications and technology are terra nova, with no conceivable relation to what went before. I don’t know if they were horrified by the revelations of Snowden or finally got themselves smart phones, but they seem to be considering, at last, what it means to be a citizen in the digital age.

Two my mind, the most egregious example has been Kyllo. In Kyllo, the court opined that there was no expectation of privacy so long as a well-known technology was used for the police encroachment. The case was internally ironic because they both ruled for the plaintive, but did so because the technology, thermal imaging of buildings, was little known to them, although it was already well known to most readers of this blog.

With similar ignorance, the courts have persistently ruled that anything backed up or on a server not owned by the citizen is not private because it has been entrusted to someone else. In smart phones, they ruled that police could search a smart phone merely because it was useful to see the last number dialed in a single drug case. Now, at last, they have ruled that a search of a cell phone requires a separate warrant.

Finally, they have begun to acknowledge that the email and contacts and access to the cloud available from our phones is in face among the persons, houses, papers, and effects named by the 4th amendment. I am truly glad, and hope that they choose to continue to restore the fourth amendment.

My mother used to say, when we were little, and asserting our rights, “Your right to swing your arm ends at the tip of my nose”. This is where disputes about rights to action and to property usually lie, at the boundary. There has been a great assertion from the State and from the Mob, that whatever they want, they have a right to, just as my brothers and I asserted a right to swing our arms. To get these wants, they first assign the property of others to themselves. The Mob has been very hungry recently demanding not only that it gets what it wants, but that others must believe as they do.

In a case right before the 4th, the court recognized that one has a strong right to act in a manner repugnant to one’s faith and beliefs. In my mother’s phrase, they have recognized the nose of the other guy. 

In another case, more directly about money, the court ruled that no third party could assert a right to an individual’s income. No union can claim the right to the income of a private individual who has entered into a private contract with another private individual. Again, the right of a mob to assert its rights to the possessions of others was limited, at last.  

The greatest right remains the right to be left alone.  On the 4th, I rejoiced that this right was recognized a little more.

So I sit, in the lower than expected temperature, with a lower than expected humidity, admiring the exotic orange tiger lilies contesting every edge with the native purple and white mallows, anticipating the burgeoning of the garden despite the deer, and know that.

Despite all the annoyances, this is a good time, and a good place, to be alive. I work every day to see that my grandchildren (should my children ever arrange their lives to produce any) will be able to claim  the same.

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