Category Archives: Philosophy

Rhyming History in Ukraine

Little Green Men (meduza.io)

We used to say that history repeats itself. Today, we tend to think it may be more like rhyming than repeating.

In 2014 and 2015, Ukraine’s computer-controlled utilities began to go on and offline unexpectedly. This has been generally attributed to Russia. Not coincidentally, forces began amassing on the Ukraine border. In February they attacked and by March, the Crimea was annexed by Russia.

The forces, generally referred to at the time as “little green men” did not wear identification on their uniforms but were believed to be Russian Spetsnaz—special forces. This was later confirmed by Retired Russian Admiral Igor Kasayonov. In Russia, the mysterious soldiers were referred to as “polite people.” How quaint.

Today, the Ukraine cyber-system is under attack. Military forces are marshalling on the Russian side of the Ukraine border.

There are a few differences. Putin has shut down REvil, one of Russia’s most notorious cyber hacking organizations and recently destroyed an obsolete satellite, which has resulted in thousands of pieces of debris in low earth orbit, at least 1,500 large enough to be tracked. Each piece, regardless of size, is traveling at nearly 18,000 mph. For comparison, a bullet on earth travels somewhere about 1,700 mph, or less than one-tenth the speed of every single piece of debris.

In the midst of all this, I have two questions and no answers, just guesses. If anyone can answer these, please do so:

  1. Why destroy the satellite and why now?
    The United States, Russia, and China all are known to have this ability, so it didn’t prove a capability. On the other hand, it may make a huge swath of space unusable for orbiting satellites. Or there may be a totally different reason. In any case, the timing is suspect.
  2. Why would Putin be making all these moves now?
    While only Putin knows the answer, there are some suspicions.
    1. The West is in chaos.
    2. The United States is in the most serious chaos—a house divided against itself. There is even talk—frequent talk—of another civil war.
    3. Trump would never tell his devotees to follow Putin. However, so much propaganda that the Oath Keepers, Three-Percenters, etc. believe information that could (and at times did) originate with RT (Russia Today). A proponent could just point to the ideology without crediting the source.

Prior to President Biden, people in the United States responded to, repeated and created disinformation consistent with Russian efforts to confuse and divide us. Biden’s predecessor, and Putin’s number-one-fan, has been out of office for one year—long enough for plausible deniability. Long enough for the apprentice to not have to worry about hearing “You’re fired!” from Putin.

America has never been so weak and so tempting a target.

I hope—I Pray—that I’m totally, completely, and entirely wrong. Unfortunately, I fear that I might be facing the truth.

I’m Offended

When I forget and accidentally click on the news, it seems lately that whatever isn’t about celebrities (and and some that is) relates to people being offended.

Masks and vaccinations offend some and anti-vaxers offend others. Parents are offended by school boards and vice-versa. The Royal Family is offended by Prince Andrew. Everybody is offended by somebody.

Somehow it brought to mind the 1980 movie Popeye, starring Robin Williams and Shelley Duvall and a running gag through the movie.

Where’s the Payback?

In one of my college management classes, we were taught that the mark of a good leader was that the people would say, “We did it ourselves!” However, I believe that concept can be carried too far.

Some people succeed because their parents were in the same industry. Actors beget actors, doctors beget doctors, and Ivy School graduates beget Ivy School admissions for their children.

I had a reasonable career—my family always a had a roof over their head in a good school district, and we never worried about eating. I worked hard, but there were many things for which I was not responsible that contributed to my success, so I would never consider myself a self-made man.

I worked full time and went to school, but I that would not have been enough to pay for college and graduate school. Instead, I got extra help from my employers who offered tuition reimbursement. I paid at the beginning of the school term. If I got an A in a course my employer reimbursed 90 percent of the tuition; a B was 80 percent; a C 60 percent; and nothing for a lower grade. Not only did it help financially but was a powerful incentive to apply myself.

Many successful entrepreneurs have similar support they rely on. Society provides transportation facilities, communications, utilities, and in some cases tax breaks. Yes, these people may have had a brilliant idea and brought that idea to fruition. However, they relied on many invisible supporters.

It’s sad that many are patting themselves on the back for being “self-made-men,” using tax dodges rather than reinvesting in the system that helped them succeed.

January 6th

In the news today was an Associated Press article that included the following:

Nearly a year after the Jan. 6 siege only about 4 in 10 Republicans recall the attack by supporters of then-President Donald Trump as very violent or extremely violent, according to a new poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. About 3 in 10 Republicans say the attack was not violent, and about another 3 in 10 say it was somewhat violent.

Their views were a distinct minority as overall about two-thirds of Americans described the day as very or extremely violent.

I wonder if these Republicans would describe the event the same way if it had occurred at Mar a Lago?

If Necessary, Use Words

There is a quotation often misattributed to St. Francis of Assisi. He may have said it, but most probably he did not originate it.

Preach the Gospel always. If necessary, use words.

It’s a powerful quote. The word Gospel, of course, means “Good News.” I believe it does not mean it is necessary to quote book, chapter, and verse. After all, when Jesus was asked, which was the most important commandment, He did not quote the commandments as given to Moses. Instead, He said, “Love God above all things with your whole heart and soul. The second is like it—you must love your neighbor as yourself.”

I know that if you look this up in Matthew or Mark, you’ll notice I did not share it verbatim. That was intentional. It’s the thought, not the words that is important.

Each of us shows love for God and our neighbors in our own way. I believe that’s what God planned and what Jesus was saying. With what you are; with whatever gifts you have to share; show your love for one another. Whether you have the ability to donate a new wing to a hospital or you can only smile and wish someone else well and pray for them, you are doing acts of love.

In these days it seems like there is acrimony everywhere. Someone needs to start the change. Maybe the people who need to act are you and me. It would not be much, but it would be a start.

This time, I will use a direct quotation:

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have
loved you, you also are to love one another. 
                                                                                 
The Gospel according to John, 13:34

New Year’s Eve

Tourists desperately looking for the Capitol gift shop.

The last day of the current year—the last of 2021.

Good riddance.

The climate was all hosed up. A sudden devastating fire in Boulder, Colorado destroyed nearly 600 homes and 1,600 acres. Thirty thousand people were evacuated. It is expected to be followed by a winter storm with heavy snowfall.

One thousand, two hundred, forty-nine tornadoes ripped through the United States destroying whole towns, killing 149, with thousands injured or homeless.

The COVID-19 hoax was reported to have infected near 300 MILLION people in the world with over 55 million in the USA. These numbers do not include those who used a home COVID test. US deaths approached 850,000. For a hoax, it was pretty damned deadly.

A huge, armed mob broke into the US Capitol wanting to hang Vice President Pence and kill various members of Congress because the president (at the time) told them to. The attack was described by some members of Congress—the same ones who hid under their chairs during the attack—as ‘just some tourists.’

Perhaps the worst event of 2020 was the death of logic. This was inevitable given that facts became irrelevant.

I know it’s misplaced optimism, but maybe 2022 will be better. I pray it won’t be worse.

This, That, and Something Else

CNN reported today that some people’s New Year will be affected because of a shortage of high-end champagne because global warming screwed up the vineyards (Gasp!). I hope all the billionaires who make their money from industries that pollute have to make do with grocery store bubbly. And wouldn’t it be fun if it makes them belch at especially embarrassing times?

Last year, on 30 December, in the days before COVID-19 vaccines, I was taken by ambulance to the hospital. I spent about two weeks there, most of which is still a blur. This year, on 30 December, I retired. I prefer retirement to COVID—Big Time!

And just for the record—after I got the first and second doses of the vaccine AND the booster, I tried to get metal to be magnetically attracted. No luck—not even the little, tiny pieces. I used a sensitive frequency meter to detect any chips. I came up empty-handed. If it doesn’t make me magnetic or enable me to transmit to satellites, what’s the big deal?

Having experienced COVID-19 and the 3 jab* vaccination, I can tell you, I’ll take the jabs.

* I’d never hear a heard the medical use of syringes and needles referred as a jab before. I think it’s a British term; they just want to make sure we know that, George Washington notwithstanding, that they still have clout when it comes to language.

Slightly Different Christmas Message

We often see quotations from the Bible used during Christmas, which is most appropriate. One common quote is a bit off, which changes the meaning significantly. The quote?
Peace on earth and good will toward men.”

While this is the phrase used in the King James Bible, many, if not most biblical translations sound a bit different. Most modern translations render something closer to:

“Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace among men in whom he is well pleased.”

There are a variety of translations on Bible Hub, most of which reflect the latter translation.

The reason this is so important is because peace is a gift God gives to those who express an interest in God. This does not mean that God’s peace is not reserved for those who go to church every Sunday, pray constantly, tithe, etc.–although I’m sure that those who do so with love for God in their heart are blessed.

Instead, I believe this message proclaimed by angels to the shepherds* that night is not a blank check from God. Instead it’s something akin to trade. God gives his peace and showers his blessings on those who try to care for others the way He cares for others.

I believe that God is pleased when we try to do good, whether it all turns out successfully or not.

I ask everyone to try to act with good will toward one another, especially with the turmoil we face today.

I ask God to bless those on earth today who try to please God.

Peace

Writer’s Block

I keep trying to write an amusing blog, but end up with a couple of paragraphs, then it ends up scrapped.

I can’t try to be funny, because some well-armed group is bound to take offense. I currently have a dog, a parrot and three cats and can’t afford to have wild shots ricocheting throughout the house. Besides, it would be unfair for my wife to have to clean up the mess.

So I guess I’ll wait for inspiration.

While I’m waiting, I will instead ponder the love of a God who sent his only begotten Son to earth to help unscrew the mess we made. Two millennia later, he’s still at work. If we’d just stop screwing things up, maybe he could finish.

Confused Again, Naturally

Every day that I don’t ignore the news, I get befuddled beyond my ability to properly function.

A White House without scandals is like a day without sunshine, but usually, when administrations change, the scandals die out or are at least, scaled down. Not so with a certain recent president and his cronies associates. Every day, something new pops up and if I accidentally watch the news I get soooooo depressed.

About a year ago, presidential pardons were handed out like Halloween candy. (You want a Snickers? Sorry, here’s a pardon.) Right, wrong, or indifferent, it’s a thing that presidents can do as they wish.

A presidential pardon is the ultimate “Get out of Jail Free” card since it’s essentially, “Not only do you not need to worry about jail, you don’t even need to worry about being arrested.” I can’t think of ANY reason I would need a presidential pardon, but if offered one, I’d grab it without hesitation. After all, who knows. I might still have an overdue library book that can send me to prison for 5 life sentences–to be served consecutively. If not, what a great heirloom to be passed down to my children and grandchildren.

Nevertheless, Roger Stone, pardoned by the former president, invoked the 5th amendment. If he’s been pardoned, how can he plead the 5th? In history, certain individuals refused pardons so as to not lose their 5th amendment rights. Roger, however, claims both–and more than a few other things.

I’m not a lawyer. I didn’t play one on TV. I didn’t sleep in a Holiday Inn Express last night. However, I study history.

I lived through the Nixon-Watergate years and followed the Congressional investigations intently. I have this nagging feeling that Nixon is jealous.

I’ve been to Warren Harding’s Tomb, and while there, considered the implications of the Teapot Dome Scandal.

I would not be surprised if there were whirring sounds near each of the gravesites as those two former presidents spin in their graves.

I’m just thankful that they weren’t cremated. Imagine their ashes spinning, creating two tornadic gusts of ashes spinning through the air at 350 mph.

Knowing they were former presidents, do you you salute or head to the storm cellar?

Pray for the Tornado Victims

A category 5 tornado can generate wind speeds of 300+ miles per hour. A category 5 hurricane (the worst level) has winds in excess of 157 MPH. In the movie “Twister” the category 5 tornado was referred to as “the finger of God.”

In my younger days, I provided communications assistance and damage assessment for more than a few tornadoes and hurricanes. They’re newsworthy for a few days, even though it may take years (if ever) for the families in the path to recover. For many, everything they owned is gone–if they’re lucky. If they’re not, some of, or everyone they love may be gone forever.

To my knowledge, we have never seen a tornado like this with a 200+ mile track that hit eight states–Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Missouri, Mississippi, Ohio and Tennessee. If you need to, go look at a map and see how much territory this covers. It does not matter if one corner of a state was hit, the economic and emotional damage hits the whole state, as well as neighboring ones.

So today I ask for you to pray for the victims, the first responders, the National Guard men and women, and the families of all of them. There will be requests for donations – many bogus. When in doubt, donate to the Red Cross. Cash is best. Many well-intentioned gifts of clothing, etc. cannot be matched up with those who need them, so they end up in the land fill.

Whack a COVID Variant

COVID-19 continues to evolve—that is what viruses do. One way to look at it is that when a virus replicates, its copy is often not perfect. Some copies are weaker than the original, while some are stronger. The accuracy of the copy is relatively random (an oversimplification—but you get the idea).

The media is currently tracking the Omicron variant, which is concerning because it may be more contagious and may be able to bypass some of the antibodies that the vaccines provide.

I decided to see what is happening in my state—Virginia. Below is a graph of the different variants. No cases of the Omicron variant have been reported as of now. However, it is obvious that variants have infected more people than the original virus.

I was down for nearly three weeks with COVID in December 2020 and January 2021, so I most likely had the original COVID-19. However, the current threat is predominantly the Delta variant. The Delta variant has infected 12,063 people in Virginia, surpassing the 2,879 who had the Alpha—the original virus.

So far scientists have identified twelve variants in Virginia (not counting Omicron). Most likely there will be many more before this is over, which could put us in a game of medical “Whacka Mole” as treatments that work with one strain fail with other strains of the virus.

Even more scary is that we’ve done this to ourselves. Every unvaccinated person who is infected—whether they experience any symptoms or not—acts as a breeding ground in which the virus can mutate.

One final thought. As the number of variants increase, through DNA analysis, it may be possible to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, which person passed which virus to another. If so, a lot of lawyers will make a lot of money as victims sue the unvaccinated carrier who caused them to suffer from COVID.

Different Standards for Different Folks

If the first and most important role of government is to befuddle the governed, I’d have to give them a well done. The idea of serving constituents, being honest, and doing the right thing are, as near as I can tell, viewed as quaint, outdated ideas—like shoes that need button hooks and multiple petticoats.

For example, our Postmaster General, who claims to be all about saving money, has been running advertisements honoring the men and women who work for the US Postal Service. I’m always for supporting the folks who actually do the work, but if they’re understaffed and overworked, wouldn’t it make more sense to spend the money on people and equipment. My brother believes that the reason we can buy “Forever Stamps” is because the delivery takes so long.

Even more egregious is our Supreme Court. The authorities of the Supreme Court are enumerated in the Constitution, way down in Section III, with revision by the 11th Amendment (sort of, kind of, but not too much). The sweeping powers that the Supreme Court has now assumed are not distinctly described in the Constitution. Apparently, over the years, the attitude has been that “If nobody can convince the world that the Supreme Court can’t, then the Supreme Court can and will and don’t you forget it.”

Apparently, a candidate for the Supreme Court must first receive Mitch McConnell’s approval, regardless as to who is president or which party controls the House, the Senate, or the entire Congress. Next, the candidate must answer various questions according to what Mitch and his cronies want to hear, without any regard for the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

Case in point. Several Supreme Court Justices “have signaled” their predisposition regarding various sensitive issues such as abortion. Now, my thought has always been that the Supreme Court, as the highest court in the land, should set the example for the highest standards.

I was wrong.

If I were called for jury duty and “signaled” my predisposition to a certain issue, I would be dismissed for cause. It wouldn’t even require a pre-emptive challenge. I would be out of the courthouse and on my way home in a heartbeat.

However, the members of highest court in the land can “signal” with complete impunity their personal opinions even before a case on that issue is before the court.

It’s a weird system.

Critical Updates

The QAnon shaman has announced he has changed lawyers. That is as significant as me changing socks. Honest, I do so, pretty much on a daily basis, although if I go from casual to dress-up, I may change them twice in the same day.

In the meantime, Robert Plant (kids, he’s an awesome musician who was in a group called Led Zeppelin [[the spelling was supposedly suggested by Paul McCartney]) has a solution for the friction between Paul McCartney and the Rolling Stones.

What friction?

Mick Jagger, years ago, said the there was no real competition between the Rolling Stones and the Beatles, because the Rolling Stones are a Rock’n’Roll band while the Beatles were a singing band–because on each album, each of the members sang a song.

Not to mention that McCartney gave a song or so to the Stones, because it wasn’t quite right for the Beatles; as well as Jagger appearing on (at least one) of the Beatles’ albums. Now, in fairness, perhaps Jagger was a more demonstrative fan of Monty Python than McCartney, but if that’s a big deal, my brother and I will have to meet with a brace of pistols at 20 paces.

People, we’ all face real issues and real conflicts. Mick Jagger recently strolled into a bar not too far from here and nobody noticed. Why? Because we all love the music. After all he’s given us, Mick’s entitled to a quiet beer in a bar while on tour.

Deep down inside, Most of us would like to share a pitcher of beer with either (or both) Jagger and/or McCartney and I’ll bet the conversation would be fascinating – not combative.

So, Paul, Mick and Robert Plant (sorry, Robert I don’t know if you ‘r comfortable with a diminutive). I’d be happy to sit across a table at a pub with you and just compare ideas. You talk. I’ll listen.

Well, I might add a thought or so–you never know.

Of course you can contact me at steve@sfnowak.com.

Dichotomies of Convenience

During intellectual discussions, I’ve heard people respond to an issue by saying that they’re of two minds. I can understand that some issues are so complicated that they do not have a single simple answer. On the other hand, some people, particularly politicians intentionally dichotomize many issues.

A traditional example concerns air pollution. We point an accusatory finger at third world countries for burning so much coal and filling the air with carbon. At the same time, Wyoming, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Illinois, and Kentucky mine megatons of coal, which are exported to India, Brazil, South Korea, Japan, and other emerging economies. Needless to say, there’s a tidy profit for the US coal producers—gross revenues average around 850-900 million dollars per month just for the coal that is exported.

I know it’s difficult to break away from “the way we’ve always done it,” but c’mon.

On the other hand, there are some dichotomies that totally boggle my mind—and my mind is so twisted that it takes a lot to boggle it even a little.

Let me lay it out as best I can:

  1. The Republican Party has for many years (including almost all of my life) professed to be the political party most supportive of business.
  2. The Republican Party, or at least large swaths of it have proclaimed that COVID-19 is no big deal; it will miraculously disappear by Easter 2000; it’s a hoax; don’t worry about it; Yada yada.
  3. Based on #2 (above) the Republican Party is not a promoter of vaccinations, social distancing, masks, or other preventative measures.
  4. Reiterating #2, COVID-19 is no big deal.
  5. However, when the omicron variation of the COVID-19 virus appeared in South Africa earlier this week, according to Kiplinger, “The Dow Jones Industrial Average finished Friday off 905 points (-2.5%), while the S&P 500 closed down by 2.3% and the Nasdaq Composite was lower by 2.2%.”

If it’s a hoax, why would the stock market be so nervous? If, on the other hand, it’s not a hoax, wouldn’t businesses prefer to safeguard their investments?

Conunundrums

As you know, I’m easily baffled.

Actually, that is not true, but as a philosopher without portfolio, I do point out the baffling things in life for the benefit of others, with my personal opinion of an explanation. For example:

  • Why do architects insist on planting shrubs around their properties so that if you want to make a right turn on red or after a stop sign, traffic barreling toward you at 45 mph (which really means 55-60 mph) is not visible?
    • Personal opinion: I believe all the landscape architects and traffic engineers have relatives who repair automobile bodies and/or orthopedic surgeons.
  • Why do the manufacturers of expensive electronic devices coat their products with a coating that is black and somewhat cushioned when you buy them, only to dissolve into a gooey mass that can neither be removed nor stabilized?
    • Personal opinion: Most electronic devices are designed to require replacement either by dissolving into goo or having a total functional failure to require replacement. The length of time depends on the business cycle of the particular industry that manufactured it. Cell phones, for example, have a two year to 30 month life cycle.
  • Social media is just a miniaturized version of television and movies. In TV and movies, we know there are really no space aliens, the actors don’t look that good in real life, and the threats and explosions are fake. So why do some people believe everything they read online?
    • Beats the hell out of me.

Schoolhouse Crock

A town in Northern South Dakota (not Southern North Dakota as some have reported) has reached a point of stability in determining their curriculum. Naturally, the school board, the librarians, and the teachers have input, but then the various syllabi are reviewed by the PTA, the School Resource (Police) Officers, and the Student Council. Input is then sought from the pastors of the larger churches representing every major faith as well as influential agnostics and atheists. Finally, the leaders of the major political parties provide their viewpoint. After such thorough vetting, no one has any objections.

The outcome is that during homeroom, attendance is taken and announcements made. The rest of the morning is taken up with recess (primary and middle school) or study hall (high school). There is a break for lunch, after which recess/study hall continues.

Given that this area is rural and primarily agricultural, only a few malcontents who want to go to college have complained, but they gather in underground “study cells.” Since these study cells are after school hours and outside of school property, nothing can be done to prevent it. Town leaders have promised to follow every possible lead to shut these down.

Good and Evil

There is an old story—probably apocryphal—in which a college professor and a student are arguing. They were not arguing in the abusive style to which we have become accustomed; they were having more of a scholarly debate.

“There is no such thing as cold.” The class broke into laughter.

“Have you looked outside?” a student replied. “It’s snowing and the temperature is below freezing. Of course there is cold!”

“I can understand your confusion,” replied the professor, “but let’s explore that thought. What is the opposite of cold? It’s heat, of course.  Can we agree that heat exists?” The class murmured their acquiescence. “If you’ve ever stood outside near an air conditioner that was running, what did you feel? Heat produced by the Bernoulli process or heat removed by a heat pump.

“Therefore, cold is the description we apply to the absence of heat.

“Similarly, dark is merely the absence of light. Light exists—we can see it, we can measure it, just like heat. Remove the light and we call it darkness.” The sea of faces indicated that they understood what he was saying, although they did not yet accept it as fact or thoroughly understand it.

“Can anyone give me a similar example?” the professor asked. One student—the shyest one in class—raised her hand. The professor had never even heard her speak before, so he pointed to her. She stood up and waited a second before she started to speak.

“By your logic, there is no such thing as evil. Evil is the absence of good.”

I find this a most interesting perspective. If true, then the only effective way to combat evil is by doing good.

Today’s Fake News!!

Ted Cruz demands the Justice Department pursue investigation into Big Birds use of drugs and advocating their use to children.

Meanwhile, Mr. Potato Head remains in hiding after Senator Cruz campaign against him. Rumors persist that Cruz had the popular children’s character “scrubbed, baked, and stuffed” before he disappeared at a Texas Democratic Party $1,000 per plate fundraiser.

Michael Flynn and His Temporary Oath

I ___, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.

Every military officer takes this oath. The oath does not expire. Retired officers are subject to recall to active duty, so their commission, and the contents of this oath are valid long after they leave active duty. This is especially true of generals and admirals who can be brought back for a variety of reasons. In 1937, Douglas MacArthur had retired as Chief of Staff of the Army and moved to the Philippines but he was recalled in 1941.

Michael Flynn took this oath, but apparently does not value his oath very much. He reached the grade of O-9 and wore 3 stars. I refuse to refer to him by rank.

Michael Flynn was Donald Trump’s National Security Advisor for 22 days until he resigned due to having had a little problem with lying to the FBI. Before that he had been in command of the Defense Intelligence Agency, but his chaotic management style and close relationship with a Russian woman limited him to two years in that post. He ended up retiring a year earlier than he planned.

According to the New York Times, Flynn exhibited a loose relationship with the truth, leading his subordinates to refer to Flynn’s repeated dubious assertions as “Flynn facts.”

Flynn reportedly has embraced Q-Anon.

According to CNN’s Dean Obeidallah, Flynn has recommended that America should have one singular religion. “One nation under God, and one religion under God,” he said. “I don’t care what your ecumenical service is or what you are.”

Given how that has worked out in Afghanistan and Iran, I’m not too sure that is a good idea. It sounds like another dose of hate tossed into the American body politic. Besides, that pesky oath to the Constitution means the entire Constitution, Including the Bill of Rights, which, were the first 10 amendments to the Constitution. The First Amendment states:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.