George Washington’s Warning About Political Parties

From George Washington’s farewell address at the close of his second term:

I have already intimated to you the danger of parties in the State, with particular reference to the founding of them on geographical discriminations. Let me now take a more comprehensive view, and warn you in the most solemn manner against the baneful effects of the spirit of party generally.

This spirit, unfortunately, is inseparable from our nature, having its root in the strongest passions of the human mind. It exists under different shapes in all governments, more or less stifled, controlled, or repressed; but, in those of the popular form, it is seen in its greatest rankness, and is truly their worst enemy.

The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge, natural to party dissension, which in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism. But this leads at length to a more formal and permanent despotism. The disorders and miseries which result gradually incline the minds of men to seek security and repose in the absolute power of an individual; and sooner or later the chief of some prevailing faction, more able or more fortunate than his competitors, turns this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation, on the ruins of public liberty.

Without looking forward to an extremity of this kind (which nevertheless ought not to be entirely out of sight), the common and continual mischiefs of the spirit of party are sufficient to make it the interest and duty of a wise people to discourage and restrain it.

It serves always to distract the public councils and enfeeble the public administration. It agitates the community with ill-founded jealousies and false alarms, kindles the animosity of one part against another, foments occasionally riot and insurrection. It opens the door to foreign influence and corruption, which finds a facilitated access to the government itself through the channels of party passions. Thus the policy and the will of one country are subjected to the policy and will of another.

There is an opinion that parties in free countries are useful checks upon the administration of the government and serve to keep alive the spirit of liberty. This within certain limits is probably true; and in governments of a monarchical cast, patriotism may look with indulgence, if not with favor, upon the spirit of party. But in those of the popular character, in governments purely elective, it is a spirit not to be encouraged. From their natural tendency, it is certain there will always be enough of that spirit for every salutary purpose. And there being constant danger of excess, the effort ought to be by force of public opinion, to mitigate and assuage it. A fire not to be quenched, it demands a uniform vigilance to prevent its bursting into a flame, lest, instead of warming, it should consume.

White House Year in Photography

Pete Souza, the official White House photographer (who also served a similar role under Reagan) posted his Year in Photos on the White House website this week. I loved poring over these! As you might expect, Souza’s photos tell a powerful, insider’s story of President Obama’s 2014. They also serve as a primer on masterful photojournalism.

The photo above offered a brief look at Obama’s propensity to be present. Souza’s caption:

Surrounded by Secret Service agents, the President views the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. Rather than immediately board the Marine One helicopter at Crissy Field, the President instead walked right past the helicopter to see a better view of the bridge on a clear summer day.

Here are some other nice examples of this.

Masterful photography and storytelling is nothing new. What I especially love is how the White House uses the Internet and social media to share these pictures. All of the pictures above (and many more) are shared more or less in real-time on Flickr. If you click through on any of the photos, you’ll notice that all of the camera metadata is there. (Souza uses a Canon 5D Mark III, often with a 24-70mm f/2.8 zoom.) Lots of professional photographers hide their metadata, a ridiculous, misguided attempt to maintain some kind of competitive edge.

You’ll also notice the licensing: U.S. Government Works. By law, federal work is not protected by copyright. However, that does not mean the work is in the public domain, as federal work is protected by other government statutes. For example, you cannot use government work to imply endorsement by a government official. No such luck with public domain or even Creative Commons.

I had never seen the U.S. Government Works statement before. It has very nice language around publicity versus privacy rights, an issue that has flummoxed me.

Souza also maintains an excellent Instagram account, where he shares iPhone photos and insider stories, including his thought process behind how he curated his 2014 photo essay. He also recently gave an excellent interview about his process.

This is what working openly looks like. This is what getting it looks like.

Happy New Year, everyone!