Tuesday, December 21, 2010


October 20, 2010 was officially designated national “Spirit Day” by the organization in charge of designating official days to be observed throughout the land, the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation.

The observance was prompted in part by the suicide of Tyler Clementi, a Rutgers University freshman who jumped off the George Washington Bridge after his roommate published a video of him having same sex sex.

So, of course, many students at the Howell, Michigan High School wore purple to show their opposition to school yard bullying at least, or especially, when the person being bullied is homosexual.

So did the Economics teacher, one Jay McDowell, who also happens to be the head of the local teachers union.

Enter a member of the class, allegedly a young lady, wearing a belt buckle designed as a replica of the Confederate flag. Mr. McDowell, asked her to remove it, which she did.

Whereupon one David Glowacki, taking the clue from the teacher that the study of economics would be delayed until political and social issues were thoroughly explored, inquired as to why the belt buckle was to be sequestered when there were so many other visible, purple indicia of opinion in the classroom.

True to the liberal creed of selective censorship, Mr. McDowell proceeded to lecture Glowacki and his classmates on the difference between symbolic speech which is acceptable, i.e. support for gay rights, and symbolic speech which was unacceptable, i.e. sympathy for the defeated and discredited Confederate States of America.

The difference, Mr. McDowell explained to his young charges was that gay rights symbols were supportive of something decent folks ought to be in favor of, while the Confederate flag was symbolic of something decent folks ought to be opposed to.

Unconvinced, Mr. Glowacki revealed that he was not in favor of gays and that in fact his religious persuasion included a belief that homosexual liaisons were sinful.

Taken aback by such impudent disavowal of secular humanistic orthodoxy, Mr. McDowell took the only course of action which would assure that no further such heresy would sully the ears of his economics students.

He invited Mr. Glowacki to take a walk. Get out of the room. Disappear. Which is what Glowacki did.

Not to be overlooked, another student spoke up and asked if, in view of his similar opinion, he might also be permitted to adjourn to the corridor. Be gone, said McDowell.

The two exiles ended up getting minor disciplinary demerits.

End of story? Not hardly.

Enter the higher ups of academic administration. The school board promptly suspended Mr. McDowell for one day with and one day without pay. His crime: punishing a student who disagreed with him.

The leader of the teacher’s union was not about to accept such a sentence without a fight. He informed the school board that unless they withdrew the punishment, he would take his case to the media and the public uproar would bring the board to its knees.

In the tradition of all school boards, they listened and then voted no.

And so the issue was joined. At the next board meeting Mr. McDowell was favored by the support of a new, unlikely champion; a 14 year old gay lad from another school district, one Graeme Taylor, who made an impassioned presentation excoriating the curse of schoolyard bullying of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transsexual, questioning and sexually ambivalent students during which he revealed that he himself had seriously considered suicide at the age of nine.

It was heart rendering human drama that instantly filtered to the breaking news department at MSNBC.

Taylor’s speech was immortalized on video and promptly displayed on the Internet where 13,000 people saw it before the Livingston County Press and Argus got it pulled to protect their copyright.

Mr. McDowell’s predictions came to pass. Bags of mail, megabites of email, phone calls and blogs from around the country came forward to bolster his appeal, encourage him to litigate and generally debunk the reactionary school officials as nothing but a bevy of small town Republican bigots and homophobes.

I looked long and hard to find out what the American Civil Liberties Union had to say about the affair.

It seemed to me that Mr. Glowacki had a first amendment right not only to believe what he believes about homosexuality, but to express his beliefs publicly without being punished or bullied by the authorities.

The most I could find was a footnote that someone from the ACLU had suggested that the whole thing was a teachable moment and it might have been a better opportunity to teach if the students had been allowed to stay in the classroom.

With such courageous defenders of our first amendment rights at the ready, what have any of us to worry about?

And anyway, isn’t it reassuring to realize that in these difficult economic times, our children are learning so much about the economy?

Thursday, December 16, 2010


She was twenty-one. A pretty girl, in a corner booth at the Motor Bar of the old Book Cadillac Hotel in downtown Detroit. It was nearly Christmas, and she was alone.

Really alone. Her father, a fifty-nine year old German immigrant, had died in her arms two months before. He had been her only family after her mother died and both her brothers were killed.

She was engaged to be married, but her fiancé was across the street at an office Christmas party.

And so her cocktail was salted with Christmas tears.

That was sixty years ago.

We have celebrated the birth of the Christchild in 15 different houses since then. There have been plenty of squeals of delight and shouts of joy, gasps of surprise and smiles of contentment.

But it seems there are always some tears. Christmas tears.

I don’t know why it is. God knows I have tried.

The first year I bought her a vacuum cleaner. The next year, an electric frying pan. Then a clock radio.

When I gave her the electric blanket, she stopped crying long enough to explain that nothing which plugs in is romantic.

I tried buying clothes. Very iffy endeavor. If they are too large, she is insulted. If they are too small, she is hurt.

One year I bought pleats. She said she never wears pleats. I said I never noticed, and she cried.

Next year, I brought home pleats again. It didn’t help to tell her that my secretary picked them out.

And then there was the year I decided to be practical. We had a house full of little ones and no savings. I wanted to give her a sense of security, so I bought her some airline stock. To build up the excitement and suspense, I went out to the airport and got one of those folders they give you. I wrapped it in a small box and put that in a larger box.

When she finally got it open and saw the folder, she jumped in my lap and said, “Where are we going?”

Needless to say, the stock certificate was a disappointment. Adding insult to injury, Eastern Airlines went broke in a couple of months.

One year I decided that the best gift I could give my family was to quit smoking. I snuffed out a cigarette five days before Christmas and quit cold turkey. Then, to make it more concrete, I spent the next 120 hours composing a detailed diary, which I printed out and bound up in a booklet, entitled “Five Days to Christmas.”

I was sure that my dear ones would treasure that story and celebrate my new found freedom from the ravages of nicotine.

Not so. The booklet sat on the coffee table until well after New Years, when I filed it away in my desk.

When kids are little, tears often come at the end of a long day of excitement. New toys seem to break easily. And young ones don’t accommodate sharing very well on Christmas Day.

There are tears of joy, and tears of relief. And tears of exhaustion.

And tears that come when, at two o’clock on Christmas morning, the damned toy that just won’t work they way it does on television finally succumbs to Brennan’s Law.

Brennan’s Law? Very simple.

You can’t fix it unless you take it apart. It won’t come apart unless you force it. If your force it, it will break. Therefore, you can’t fix it unless you break it.

Never fails.

Of course, there are tears of joy on Christmas, too.

I managed to evoke some of those a few years ago when I gave my dear wife the keys to a cottage in the North that she had been wanting for a long time, but never really expecting to have.

But real Christmas tears are poignant, bittersweet.

They well up and salt your glass of wine when your daughter and her family have all gone to bed and you’re sitting alone in front of a multi colored tree remembering the hectic days, the exciting days, the days full of hugs and laughter, wrapping paper and card board boxes. The long nights of anticipation, the cold parking lots and midnight Masses, the long rides home.

Any Christmas could have been our last.

We never thought about it. We were too alive. Too full of the moment. Too busy doing Christmas.

We think about it now. Every kiss and every hug. Every thank you and every goodbye. Every moment of this magical season pinches the corner of your eye and calls out a little wet reminder that it will all be over.

Not this year, surely. Maybe not next year or the year after that.

But sooner. Always sooner.

We’ll squeeze it for all it can give. Christmas is, after all the story of the Baby’s birth. It is all about beginning, starting new. Starting over.

And not being alone. Not ever being alone again.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010


The federally funded Smithsonian Institute, one of America’s premier art museums, recently featured a video showing a crucified Jesus Christ covered with a swarm of ants.

The insult to Christians was palpable. So much so that Congressional pressure was brought to bear and the exhibit was cancelled.

By contrast, here’s what is going on in the Justice Department:

Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Thomas E. Perez has directed the Civil Rights Division’s National Origin Working Group to work proactively to combat violations of civil rights laws against Arab, Muslim, Sikh, and South-Asian Americans, and those perceived to be members of these groups, through the creation of the Initiative to Combat Post 9/11 Discriminatory Backlash.

Here’s what “working proactively” apparently means:

Berkeley school district 87, in the state of Illinois, is accused of violating the civil rights of Safoorah Khan, a teacher at McArthur Middle School, by failing to reasonably accommodate her religious practices.

A complaint filed by the United States Department of Justice in a federal court in Chicago alleges that Ms Khan's bosses forced her to "choose between her job and her religious beliefs."

She wrote to the school's superintendent asking for a 20-day unpaid leave of absence in December 2008, to travel to Saudi Arabia for the hajj, the pilgrimage all Muslims are supposed to make once during their lifetime.

The request was denied, however, because the "purpose of her leave was not related to her professional duties" and was not specifically included in an agreement with the teachers' union.

After appealing and being rejected for a second time, Ms Khan wrote to the school board that "based on her religious beliefs, she could not justify delaying performing Hajj."

The teacher, who had joined the school in 2007, resigned shortly after. Now the Government is seeking to have her reinstated with back pay and promotions, and for the school board to pay her compensation.

That’s right. The Government is seeking to have her reinstated. The federal government. The government of the United States. Attorneys employed by and paid by the federal government are taking her case. For free.

Not the ACLU, the American Civil Liberties Union. Not the CAIR, the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

No, the lady is represented by our federal government. Paid for by our tax dollars. The same tax dollars that support the Smithsonian Institute which thinks that insulting Christians is an art form.

Ms. Kahn was hired as a teacher in 2007. She wanted to make her once-in-a-lifetime pilgrimage to Mecca in 2008. Makes you wonder how much she was able to save in 10 months. And what she plans to do when she retires.

The 22 story Marriott World Trade Center Hotel, situated between the twin towers, was obliterated on 9-11. Nobody knows how many people were inside. The New York Times estimated that at least 50 people died there.

About two hours after that holocaust, the Marriott Hotel in Des Moines withdrew its offer to host a convention of the Midwest Federation of American Syrian-Lebanese Clubs.

The Federation charged the hotel with discrimination and the Department of Justice extracted an apology, money damages, and a commitment to sensitivity training from Marriott.

Despite its federally imposed sensitivity, the Marriott in Oak Brook, Illinois refused to host a 2009 conference of Hizb ut-Tahrir America, an organization of fundamentalist Muslims which urges the killing of those who leave the Islamic faith.

Those folks ended up at the Hilton, where their meeting was protested by R.E.A.L., (Responsible for Equality and Liberty) an organization which urges Americans to love all of our brothers and sisters, regardless of religious belief.

Apparently, the Civil Rights Act which outlaws discrimination in public accommodations on account of race, color, creed or national origin doesn’t cover discrimination based on advocating murder, even when the killing is claimed to be a tenet of religious belief.

Interesting. What if the belief requires bodily injury less than killing? Cutting off the hand of a thief, for example? Or the clitoris of a baby girl? Or the foreskin of a baby boy?

Or what if one’s religious belief includes a prohibition against marrying outside the faith or inter marriage with other races? Or what if it condones polygamy? Could the Marriott turn away a Sheik who wants to bunk in with his harem?

Unhappily, our federal Nanny has entered the thicket of theology.

I wonder how long it will be before we reach the ultimate goal of statism where everything that is not prohibited is mandated.

There are, I submit, certain consolations associated with being 81 years of age.

Thursday, December 2, 2010


In May of 2001, Ryan Brown, scheduled to speak at commencement exercises at Washington Community High School in Washington, Illinois, went to the microphone and spouted a loud “Ah Choo.”

Whereupon a group of his pals shouted “God Bless You,” thereby defying the ‘no praying’ order of a federal judge.

And so the culture wars continue.

Now comes Ronnie Hastie, a star running back for Tumwater High School in Washington State.

After a 25 yard touchdown run in the T-Birds 63-27 win over East Valley in the Division 2A semi final game, Hastie dropped to one knee and pointed to the sky. He was immediately, and literally, hit with a yellow flag, and his team was penalized fifteen yards for “celebrating.”

The National Federation of State High School Associations sent a "point of emphasis" memo to athletic directors across the country before the 2009 season reminding them of the need for good sportsmanship in games.

It called specific attention to federation rule 9-5-1, which reads, in part: "No player shall act in an unsportsmanlike manner once the officials assume authority for the contest."

Examples of inappropriate behavior, it said, included but were not limited to, "Baiting or taunting acts or words or insignia worn which engender ill will; Using profanity, insulting or vulgar language or gestures; or Any delayed, excessive or prolonged act by which a player attempts to focus attention upon himself."

College and high school athletic associations have cracked down on post touchdown celebrating in the wake of practices among NFL professionals which the powers that be have decreed to be excessive.

Many fans disagree. Some say that NFL is beginning to mean “No Fun League.”

Celebrating touchdowns, in fact, has become an art form in the NFL.

You can Google it and see the latest and the greatest by such outstanding celebratory performers as Terrell Owens, Randy Moss, Chad Johnson and Joe Horn.

Admittedly, some of it is tasteless, if not downright vulgar.

But most people are not offended to see athletes rejoicing over their success. In fact emotional demonstration is very much part of the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat. It’s part of the drama of sports.

I suppose nobody can quarrel with the effort of high school coaches and athletic associations to instill attitudes and behavior reflecting good sportsmanship in student athletes. After all, participation in team sports is part of the overall educational process.

But I have to say that I am troubled over the call on Ronnie Hastie.

From his perspective, it was a big surprise. He had executed the same prayerful posture every time he got into the end zone all season. The semi final game was the first time it had resulted in a yellow flag.

So the call is subjective. Some refs tolerate it, some don’t.

What gets my stomach in a knot is the idea that thanking God for athletic accomplishment can be viewed by anybody as an act of poor sportsmanship.

One of the suits back in the association office, trying to justify the call, told reporters that the reason for the rule and the call was to prevent delay of the game. He said that upon reaching the end zone, a player is obliged to immediately turn the ball over to the referee.

I saw Hastie’s genuflection on the video. It didn’t take more than a second. If fact, if the ref had reached for the ball instead of his flag, he would have had it in hand before the penalty marker hit the ground.

Unfortunately, the incident smacks of something much more ominous than cracking down on poor sportsmanship.

How much of the impetus to penalize Ronnie Hastie and others like him comes from the same culture war that shuts down prayer at high school commencements and the singing of Christmas carols in public schools?

Where will the ACLU stand if a team is penalized because a player makes the sign of the cross on the field?

It does make you wonder if the fellow refereeing the Tumwater game would have thrown the flag at a wide receiver named Muhammad something or other who prostrates himself toward Mecca in the end zone.

For let’s say, ninety seconds.

Delay of game?

Not hardly in this day and age.

Thursday, November 25, 2010


They came from Chicago.

Well, actually, they came from Glen View.

And from Grand Rapids, and East Lansing, and Okemos, and Ann Arbor.

They came from North Carolina, and New York, and Wisconsin. And from far off California.

They came hungry. And thirsty.

They came with laughter, and love and lasagna.

Their eyes were wide with delight and memories. "When did you get the braces off?” “How did you grow so tall?” “Old enough to have a beer? I can’t believe it!”

At dawn, I tiptoed through a house full of bodies. Every bed, every couch. Every nook and cranny that could accommodate a sleeping bag. Bodies everywhere.

The big day has begun.

Some went to Mass. Some ran the charity 5K down in town. Jimmy won by a mile. We knew he would.

A knock on the bathroom door.

“Hey Dad, where’s the plunger. Don’t tell Mom.”

A half dozen grade schoolers in the basement are making memories for future Thanksgiving days. Imaginations running wild, Singing, screaming, making up stories, being silly.

Takes me back to 1938 and my grandmother’s little house in Detroit.

How the wheel turns. How life revolves.

So many memories rush back. I can’t remember what I had for lunch, but I can close my eyes and smell the turkey cooking at Uncle Emmett Sullivan’s house half a century ago.

Our driveway is crammed with cars. Soon there will be thirty-one of us around a big table, celebrating the day, celebrating each other, giving thanks to an almighty Creator we all hold dear in our hearts.

And I look at that beautiful lady next to me and I ask myself, “What on earth have we done?”

Two frightened twenty-one year old college students with a 1949 Mercury and a part time job, embarking on a lifetime adventure nearly sixty years ago. Is this what we wanted ? Is this what we expected?

We never had the chutzpah to predict it. Not even that New Years Eve when the furnace went out and we sat by the fireplace and tried to look down the road.

It just happened, and keeps on happening. You gotta roll with the punches and you gotta believe.

And what ever else we have done, we surely have believed.

We have believed that a loving Creator has decreed that if we lived by His laws and the laws of His nature, we would experience the best that life has to offer.

Or as the Catholic marriage ceremony used to say, “the fullest measure of happiness allotted to man in this veil of tears.”

And so it has been.

We thank God today. Again today. As we must thank Him every day.

May your hugs be as warm and welcome. May your day be as full of cheer.

And may tomorrow’s cold turkey sandwich be all that you anticipate.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


Surfing the Internet the other day, I happened upon a blog called “the Liberty Papers” which was celebrating its fifth anniversary.

To mark the occasion, they reprinted some of their “best” essays. One of them offered the shrill and tired arguments against an Article V Convention which have been repeated and repeated by the John Birch Society and others who don’t trust the American people.

Their keynote is always the letter that Chief Justice Warren Burger wrote to Phyllis Schlafly. He said:

I have also repeatedly given my opinion that there is no effective way to limit or muzzle the actions of a Constitutional Convention. The convention could make its own rules and set its own agenda. Congress might try to limit the convention to one amendment or to one issue, but there is no way to assure that the convention would obey. After a convention is convened, it will be too late to stop the convention if we don’t like its agenda. The meeting in 1787 ignored the limit placed by the confederation Congress “for the sole and express purpose.”

Sometimes a half truth is more deceiving than an outright lie.

Burger was quite right in saying that a convention makes its own rules and cannot be muzzled.

But when he says that a convention cannot be ‘stopped,’ he is talking nonsense.

The convention can amend the constitution? Are you kidding? There is no way the convention could do that.

The constitution only gets amended when three quarters of the states ratify an amendment. That’s thirty-eight states.

And the states can only ratify amendments that come from the United States Congress.

An Article V convention can’t send amendments out to the states. It has to send its proposals to the Congress. Then the Congress decides whether an amendment should be ratified by state legislatures or by conventions in each state.

Unless the Congress agrees on the method of ratification and sends the amendment to the states, nothing - absolutely nothing - can happen.

So it’s like everything else in politics. If an amendment is popular enough, the voters will insist that the Congress send it out to the states to be ratified. If an amendment is unpopular, or even sufficiently controversial, the Congress will sit on it, and nothing will happen.

But if the “too late to stop” argument is a phoney, the claim that the 1787 convention was a run away meeting that ignored limits placed on it by the confederation Congress, is downright preposterous.

Let’s look at the record.

From September 11 through September 14, 1786, twelve delegates from five states met in Annapolis, Maryland. It was called a “Meeting of Commissioners to Remedy Defects of the Federal Government.”

The Commissioners accomplished only one thing. They decided to ask all thirteen states to send delegates to Philadelphia the following May.

They got a good response. By February of 1787, the confederation Congress had before it several resolutions calling for a convention in Philadelphia.

Here is what they adopted:

Resolved that in the opinion of Congress it is expedient that on the second Monday in May next a Convention of delegates who shall have been appointed by the several states be held at Philadelphia for the sole and express purpose of revising the Articles of Confederation and reporting to Congress and the several legislatures such alterations and provisions therein as shall when agreed to in Congress and confirmed by the states render the federal constitution adequate to the exigencies of Government & the preservation of the Union.

Chief Justice Burger cites the phrase “for the sole and express purpose’ without mentioning what the purpose was. A half truth. Cheesy lawyer trick.

What the Congress really said was “for the sole and express purpose of REVISING the articles of confederation.”

Webster’s dictionary tells us that REVISING means remodeling, revamping, remaking, doing over.

Revising is not the same as amending. Revising means creating a whole new constitution. A revised constitution. A different constitution,

The original Articles of Confederation contained a provision that they could not be amended without the unanimous agreement of all thirteen states. A daunting requirement. And a good reason to go to Philadelphia.

True, the 1787 document required only nine states to ratify. But it also said that only those states which ratified it would be bound by it. By 1790, all thirteen states were on board, so the question of whether the United States of America was born in 1781 or 1789 is moot.

In any case, the Burger legacy is mischiefious.

The super patriots who love our constitution and regard it as divinely inspired seem willing to worship everything but Article V.

Those on the far left oppose a convention because they fear crackpot conservatives.

Those on the hard right oppose it because they fear hair brained liberals.

They’re all afraid of We The People.

Burger was educated in a working man’s law school in Saint Paul, Minnesota.

Somehow, he outlived his populist roots.

It can happen if you spend a lot of time in Washington, D.C.

Friday, November 19, 2010


On November 14, 2002, about half of the nurses at Northern Michigan Hospital in Petoskey, Michigan walked out on strike.

They were represented by the International Brotherhood of Teamsters.

A teamster, you may know, is a fellow who drives a team of horses. Teamsters were the forerunners of truck drivers. The folks who brought the food to market and moved all sorts of other things around.

Jimmy Hoffa was the hero of the Teamsters union. A legendary fighter for the working man, tough, ruthless, ambitious. He cozied up with the mob. Did time in jail. Then one day he had lunch at Machus Red Fox in Oakland County and disappeared.

Hoffa’s son, Jim Jr. is a lawyer. He became President of the Teamsters in 1998.

That was about the time the International Brotherhood of Teamsters began to expand. After all they really weren’t driving teams of horses anyway, so why limit the membership to truck drivers?

Unhappily, they brought a confrontational representation strategy to the table. It didn’t look good on the descendants of Florence Nightengale.

Northern Michigan Hospital hired replacements for the striking nurses. About half of those who had gone on strike left the union and went back to work.

But a die-hard core of protesters hung on. Their picket lines in front of the hospital became a tradition in the little northern town. By 2004 they were featuring the claim that theirs was the longest nurse’s strike in history.

By 2006, the hospital was declaring that the strike was over. The union had given up its efforts to retain certification as the official bargaining agent for the nurses.

I have been a patient at Northern Michigan Hospital. It’s a wonderful place, full of caring, dedicated people. Just what a hospital is supposed to be.

I see in the paper that a strike has just been averted at Sparrow Hospital in Lansing. Good news.

Our daughter-in-law, Catherine, is a supervisory nurse there. She was frantic about the possibility of a strike which would have required her to cross picket lines manned by her friends and coworkers.

Got me to thinking.

The idea of a strike is to generate public support for the labor side of the bargaining table. That’s why they carry signs and walk up and down the sidewalk.

Going on strike means forfeiting wages. It also means depriving the employer, and more critically, the employer’s clients or customers of their services.

That’s the part I find very hard to understand.

Nurses are supposed to care about their patients. The vast majority of them do. They really, really care. That’s why they became nurses. That’s why they empty bedpans. Cheerfully.

A nurse’s strike sounds like an oxymoron. Nurses nurse. That’s what they do. How can a nurse who doesn’t nurse be a nurse?

But nurses are also employees. They are working folks who do what they do, not only because they love what they do, not only because they are dedicated to taking care of sick people, but also as a way to earn a living and to provide for themselves and their families.

So what are they to do when they are at odds with their employers over the conditions and terms of their employment?

That’s particularly sticky since for the most part their employers are non profit, charitable corporations, governed by unpaid Boards of Directors, and supported by public generosity or the local taxpayers.

So a nurses strike is a war between the good guys and the good guys.

What are we patients and potential patients and patient’s families supposed to think?

It strikes me that there must be a better way. A tertium quid as we lawyers might say. A third thing. Something outside of the box.

How about this?

Instead of punishing the patients by withholding their services, why don’t the nurses donate their earnings back to the hospital?

Instead of walking up and down the sidewalk in the dead of winter carrying homemade signs, why not invite the media into the hospital cafeteria to film the nurses tearing up their paychecks?

A little hard for the hospital administrators to plead poverty in the face of nurses foregoing their compensation.

I’m just one guy, but if I read in the paper or saw on the nightly news that nurses were tearing up their paychecks to protest their working conditions, I would be tempted to dig pretty deep and throw something into the pot myself.

Bizarre? Maybe.

But I’ll wager it would have been more effective than the Teamsters inspired confrontational strategy that ruined so many lives and careers in Petoskey.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010


Alexis de Tocqueville was one smart Frenchman.

He was sent to the United States in 1831 at the age of 25 to study our prison system. He ended up writing a two volume classic entitled “Democracy in America,” which is – or was – required reading for all political science majors.

At the risk of losing you, I want to quote from his chapter entitled “Despotism in Democratic Nations.”

Stay with me. This is good stuff. He warned that we might become

an innumerable multitude of men, all equal and alike, incessantly endeavoring to procure the petty and paltry pleasures with which they glut their lives. Each of them, living apart, is as a stranger to the fate of all the rest; his children and his private friends constitute to him the whole of mankind. As for the rest of his fellow citizens, he is close to them, but he does not see them; he touches them, but he does not feel them; he exists only in himself and for himself alone; and if his kindred still remain to him, he may be said at any rate to have lost his country.

Above this race of men stands an immense and tutelary power, which takes upon itself alone to secure their gratifications and to watch over their fate. That power is absolute, minute, regular, provi-dent, and mild. It would be like the authority of a parent if, like that authority, its object was to prepare men for manhood; but it seeks, on the contrary, to keep them in perpetual childhood: it is well content that the people should rejoice, provided they think of nothing but rejoicing. For their happiness such a government will¬ingly labors, but it chooses to be the sole agent and the only arbiter of that happiness; it provides for their security, foresees and sup¬plies their necessities, facilitates their pleasures, manages their prin¬cipal concerns, directs their industry, regulates the descent of prop¬erty, and subdivides their inheritances: what remains, but to spare them all the care of thinking and all the trouble of living?

In short, the Frenchman predicted that America might morph into a nation of myopic, self centered pleasure seekers, governed by a nanny state that controls our lives from the cradle to the grave.

That’s the danger when people think they can vote themselves rich, healthy, happy and secure.

H. L. Mencken, the cynical sage of Baltimore, pointedly observed that no one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American people.

That dark sentiment surfaced this afternoon in an email from a very good friend. He was responding to my last blog touting Convention USA. Here’s what he said:

GUILTY AS CHARGED! I can’t tell you how many times I came within a micrometer of sending in my subscription to the cause only to fall victim to my ongoing and ever increasing malaise of hopelessness. I must admit it is my own weakness and I have to deal with it but I cannot make myself believe anyone or any group will ever be able to get the people of this nation to agree to real change for the better. There are too many vested interests to fight against, too many who just don’t give a damn and just too many really ignorant folks out there. I again must tell you how much I enjoy your blogs, how much I agree with your point of view and insights and how much respect I have for you as a highly intelligent, clear thinking and dedicated patriot. I just don’t hold the majority of folks in this nation in a similar regard

It’s hard to be critical of a guy who says such nice things about you.

But the fact is that the shoulder shrugging “What’s the use?” attitude so prevalent among good folks, well meaning folks, common sense folks in every corner of our land constitutes a mountain of inertia that protects and perpetuates all the things these same folks complain about at the barber shop and the hairdresser.

I have always believed that the generality of mankind can recognize truth, and that in the long haul, the truth is what sets us free.

I believe in democracy because I trust the intuitive wisdom of the great unwashed.

Does every jury of average citizens always come up with the right verdict? Of course not.

But in the lives of human beings and of nations, decision making is not an exact science.

I have a good friend who subjects his choices to the “smell test.” We all do something like that.

The American people are essentially conservative. Not in the political sense, but they are conservative in that they have a strong bias in favor of the status quo. They prefer the devil they know to the devil they don’t know.

The ideologs and the crazies will always gravitate toward a convention for proposing amendments to the constitution. They will bring brief cases full of ideas. Radical ideas. Unworkable ideas. Just plain goofy ideas. And a few damn good ones.

It will take some patience to hear them out. It will take discernment to recognize the solid, the practical, the acceptable proposals, and it will take courage and determination to see them through to public consensus.

But that is what self government is all about.

The mid term elections are over. The party is over. It’s time to go to work.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010


I called a meeting and nobody came.

Well, not exactly nobody. Eight out of fifty. Hardly a quorum.

Early this year, with a few gracious friends, I started a non profit corporation called Convention USA. The idea is to conduct a convention on the Internet which will propose needed amendments to the Constitution of the United States.

The Internet is full of proposals to amend the Constitution. Some worthy and serious. Some not so sensible. Still there are lots of them and literally thousands of people touting one or the other.

My idea is different. I felt, and still feel, that there is a need for some serious statecraft in America.

I’m not talking about the sexy, hot button issues, the stuff of the hard right or the far left. I’m talking about boring, technical, procedural changes. I’m talking about the nuts and bolts of good government, the kinds of changes that will protect our federal republic from the ravages of time, corruption, drift, ignorance, self interest and just plain laziness.

Convention USA is open to all citizens of the United States. They are not identified by party affiliation or philosophical disposition. This is not a bi-partisan effort with an aisle running down the middle to separate the majority and the minority. This is a non-partisan enterprise, in which each delegate is known only as an interested citizen.

I know. I know. Folks tell me that you can’t find a roomful of people these days who don’t have strong opinions about what’s wrong with our government. The eight delegates who checked in at the meeting last Sunday, God bless them, are not bashful about sharing their opinions.

But there were forty-two others who didn’t show up. They are exactly the kind of folks we need to make this convention work. They are the silent majority. America’s vast reservoir of common sense. They are the people who can build a consensus in favor of nitty gritty constitutional reforms that can make our government work better no matter which party elects the Speaker of the House or the President of the Senate.

We need to look at all three branches of the federal government and see what can be done to make sure they exercise only those powers the Founders intended to give them.

Start with the Congress. Does anyone, liberal or conservative, really think that members of Congress should vote on bills they have never read?

And who really is in favor of omnibus legislation that includes thousands of unrelated subjects? Most state constitutions specify that every bill must be limited to a single subject or purpose, which must be stated in its title. This is simply a question of good legislative practice. It belongs in the Constitution where it can’t be changed by the very people it is meant to discipline.

And how about the Supreme Court? Who doesn’t want our highest court to be truly non partisan, or at least as non-partisan as humanly possible? Haven’t we seen enough of the wrangling and mud slinging associated with the political process of appointment and confirmation?

Criticism of activist judges on the Supreme Court usually comes only from the other side of the issue. Conservatives excoriate judicial activism when the judges are liberal, and vice versa. We need to explore ways to bring the brightest and the best judges from all across America to the high court. We need Justices who do not come to the court with a political agenda

Every one of the nine current Justices of the United States Supreme Court attended either the Harvard or the Yale law school. Is it really in the best interest of the nation to allow two universities such inordinate influence on the development of our constitutional law?

Felix Frankfurter, when a law teacher, famously observed, “The Supreme Court is the Constitution.” If this is what graduates of Harvard and Yale believe, how can we expect the Court to respect the words of the Constitution or the intent of those who ratified it?

If the legislative and judicial branches of the federal government need fixing, the executive branch needs even more attention.

The founders explicitly shunned the idea of creating an American monarchy. George Washington himself refused even to consider the possibility. But what is the modern Imperial Presidency in the United States?

The President of the United States is routinely designated as “the most powerful person on the planet.” He is Commander in Chief of the world’s most potent military forces. He has his finger on the big red button which can launch a cataclysmic global holocaust.

To millions around the world, he is more popular than a rock star and more infallible than the Pope.

But for the fact that his term of office is limited, the President of the United States has all the indicia of a monarch. His family in ensconced in a hallowed palace. His wife has a multi-million dollar bevy of ladies in waiting who attend to every detail of courtly life from wardrobe to hairdressing to social scheduling.

A fleet of jet airplanes stands ready to carry him wherever he chooses to go. His entourage dwarfs that of any king or potentate on earth.

He appoints legions of aids and special assistants who work not for the government, but for the President. He makes them czars over the economy, the environment, technology and terrorism. While the Constitution permits the Congress to authorize the President to hire “inferior officers” without confirmation, the title “czar” suggests a level of power and authority which is hardly inferior.

There are no quick and easy fixes to these problems. They need cautious, deliberative attention and analysis. Proposed amendments must be examined by many pairs of eyes and debated well and seriously if they are to earn the support of the American people.

Constitutional reform is no sport for the short winded or the faint of heart.

But America is worth the effort.

Friday, November 5, 2010


My golfing buddy, Dan, is a man well attuned to the vagaries of the stock market.

He says it’s time to buy.

Two reasons. First, the third year of a President’s term of office has historically been a good year for investment. Second, legislative gridlock encourages investor confidence.

Makes sense to me. Mark Twain, Daniel Webster and others are credited with the quote, “No man’s liberty or property are safe when the legislature is in session.”

Whoever said it, there’s a germ of truth in it.

The sheer volume of legislation can befuddle the citizens, make businessmen timid, and cause economic activity to grind down to a snail’s pace.

The more new laws are cranked out of Congress, the more investors get jittery. Hiring decisions, equipment purchases, new product introductions, a whole host of business decisions become dicey when legal obligations and consequences are uncertain.

The Republicans are about to descend on Washington.

They come with a mandate to change the change, undo what has been done, and somehow get America back to full employment.

Not very likely to happen.

In the first place, the Republicans don’t control the Senate, so they can’t pass any legislation which requires the concurrence of both houses. Then there is the little matter of Presidential veto. The GOP can’t even override a veto in the House of Representatives.

So it looks like gridlock is coming.

Good for Wall Street, and probably good for Barack Obama. In 2012 he will no doubt take a page from Harry Truman’s playbook and rail against the “do nothing Republican Congress.”

That will be an effective slogan among those who insist that government must “do something” about jobs, mortgages, education, crime, or whatever. Fill in the blanks.

I happen to believe there are a great many things that government shouldn’t try to do something about. People have a wonderful way of solving their own problems, right from the ground up. Usually, the best thing that the government can do is nothing at all.

Anyway, there must be a point of diminishing returns when it comes to law making. The annotated version of United States Code runs to 370 big, fat volumes. The tax code alone contains over 44,000 pages and more than 5.5 million words. The Code of Federal Regulations which contains the authoritative pronouncements of all the national government’s boards, bureaus and agencies used up nearly 81,000 pages two years ago. No telling how many more pages are being added to accommodate the new health care bureaucracy.

Enough already. How about a moratorium on law making?

Or how about taking a look at the “Repeal Amendment.”

Advanced by Georgetown University law Professor Randy Barnett and William J. Howell, Speaker of the Virginia House of Delegates, the Repeal Amendment would give the state legislatures a way to undo unpopular federal legislation. Here’s what it says:

Any provision of law or regulation of the United States may be repealed by the several states, and such repeal shall be effective when the legislatures of two-thirds of the several states approve resolutions for this purpose that particularly describe the same provision or provisions of law or regulation to be repealed.

Much of the impetus for the Repeal Amendment flows from dissatisfaction with the legislation which has been dubbed “Obamacare.” But there is a deeper significance. The tenth amendment to the Constitution of the United States provides:

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

Especially since the advent of the New Deal in the 1930’s, there has been a steady encroachment of the national government into the areas which were always considered the prerogative of state government.

States have always been considered to be the repository of the police power. In legal parlance, the police power is the authority to pass laws which affect the health, safety, welfare and morals of the people.

Education, marriage and divorce, criminal laws, corporations, the regulation of trades and professions, real estate, probate matters, and a host of similar areas of legislation have traditionally been within the jurisdiction of state and local government.

Unhappily, Uncle Sam has the exclusive power to coin money. And so the “Golden Rule” tends to prevail. He who has the gold makes the rules.

What authority was not given to the feds by the constitution has been purchased by a power hungry national government. Money for roads, money for schools, money for law enforcement. Whatever comes from Washington comes with the control of the national bureaucrats.

National Socialism rose up in Germany back in Franklin Roosevelt’s time. It became known by the acronym NAZI. The NAZIs were the bureaucrats, the czars, the bosses, the rulers who made all the decisions and issued all of the orders.

National Socialism in America?

Not here, please God. Not on this hallowed ground.

Monday, November 1, 2010


Returning to Florida always involves the ritual of picking up accumulated mail and discontinuing the postal forwarding instruction.

Waiting in line, I noticed a poster on the counter just to the left of Russell, the Florida State football fanatic who always brightens my visit to his shop.

I did a double take. The poster said “MEN.” In big, bold, red letters.

What is this, right there in the United States Post Office? MEN? What could the federal government, that hotbed of gender equality, possibly be saying to men, that it doesn’t also want to say to women?

For a moment, overcome by disbelief, I pondered the possibility that Russell had somehow become an avant garde perpetrator of free enterprise. Perhaps he was renting counter space to a men’s hair care manufacturer. Or maybe Viagra. That’s it. The old rascal is selling Viagra.

But on closer inspection, I discovered that the poster was part of a display which held a supply of brochures, explaining, of all things, the selective service system.

Well, I’ll be darned. That thing must have been there at least since the Korean War. Why had I never noticed it before?

So I took one.

It was crisp and new. Didn’t mention the Korean War. It just said that, in case of war, a serious war, acknowledged by the Congress and the President, it might be necessary to conscript people into the armed forces.

So, just to be safe, the Congress, in its wisdom, passed a law requiring all males, whether citizens or not, between the ages of 18 and 25, to register with Uncle Sam. Within 30 days of turning 18. And it’s a felony if you don’t.

Just to make the cheese a little more binding, the law adds disqualification for various educational benefits for those who don’t sign up. It affects other federal entitlement goodies as well.

When I got home, I went to the source of all wisdom and knowledge, Google, and checked it out.

Indeed the selective service law was reinstated in 1980 during the term of President Jimmy Carter. True to his impeccable liberal credentials, President Jimmy urged the Congress to include women in the law.

They didn’t.

So, of course, along came one Robert Goldberg who filed suit against Bernard Rostker, the director of the federal selective service, claiming that the law violated the Fourteenth Amendment’s guarantee of equal protection of the law, by reason of the fact that it exempted women.

The Fourteenth Amendment was ratified on July 9, 1868. It contains not a word about gender equality. The people who ratified it had just fought a civil war in which the armies of both sides were staffed by males. The idea of females marching into combat was totally foreign to them.

The Nineteenth Amendment gave women the right to vote. It said nothing about military service.

Still, the United States Supreme Court could only muster a 6-3 majority to uphold the constitutionality of the selective service law.

Chief Justice Rehnquist, writing for the majority, offered the silly reason that the law was designed for emergencies when combat soldiers were needed, and since women were not allowed combat duty, it made sense to exempt them from the draft.

That was in 1981. Today, women are regularly assigned to combat duties. Does that mean the Constitution has changed? If another case gets to the high court, will they announce that there is no longer a compelling reason to exempt women?

Why on earth, especially in light of the failure of the Equal Rights Amendment to achieve ratification, wouldn’t it have been enough for Rehnquist just to say that the Constitution doesn't forbid a law drafting men or requiring them to register for possible conscription?

Be that as it may, Goldberg lost, and the ‘selective’ selective service law is still on the books and still enforceable.

At least until somebody else challenges it.

A lot of folks these days agree with Jimmy Carter.

We have ladies in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan. And there’s lots of literature out on the Internet demanding that women be subject to conscription.

Maybe it will come to pass someday. If it does, I just hope it comes about democratically through legislation by elected representatives of the people and not by the writ of Supreme Court Justices who have anointed themselves as the oracles of ‘emerging community standards.’ Whatever the hell that is supposed to mean.

Anyway, the battle of the sexes is turning into a free for all.

With girls who want to act like boys and boys who want to act like girls, maybe the only meaningful requirement for military service should be the willingness to die for your country. Or as General Patton so eloquently put it, to make the other son of a bitch die for his country.

One wonders if Renee Richards could have been convicted of a felony for failure to register.

It’s an old dodge. Achilles got out of the Trojan War by dressing as a girl.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010


Preparing my last blog, I discovered the Washington Post’s page called “Faces of the Fallen.”

There you will see the tragic chronicle of the young Americans who have, in the words of Abraham Lincoln, given “the last full measure of devotion” in Iraq and Afghanistan.

I was surprised to discover that 103 service men and women had been killed during the 69 days that the Chilean miners were underground.

But the list revealed more than surprising numbers.

As I typed the names of their hometowns, I was struck by how curious and unfamiliar they were. Tunica, Mississippi. Prairie du Sac, Wisconsin. Holly Hill, Florida. Nassau, New York. Morehead and Tollesboro Kentucky. Moreland, Georgia and Pine City, Minnesota.

So I did the math.

Seventy-two percent of them hailed from cities and towns of less than 100,000. In fact, the average population was 21, 631.

Interestingly, the hometowns of the other 28 percent averaged only 461,044. The largest city represented in the group was San Antonio, Texas, population 1,373,668.

One hundred young Americans who died for their country in the last sixty days.

Not a single one from New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Detroit, Cleveland, Tampa, Atlanta, Jacksonville, Miami, New Orleans, Dallas, San Francisco, Portland, Seattle, Nashville, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, Saint Louis, Boston, or San Diego.

The few that hailed from Blue States were not from the major population centers. Nassau, and Randolph, New York, population 549 and 1,208 respectively. Athens, Michigan, population 1,111. Pleasant Plains, Illinois, population 777. Westlake Village, California, population 8,459. Palmyra, New Jersey, population 7,091.

Lots of Christian names like Matthew, Mark and John. Christopher, Daniel and Joshua, Adam and Kevin and Michael and Patrick. And Faith and Barbara.

In 2008, Barack Obama campaigned on the fact that he had opposed the war in Iraq. He insisted that we should be in a smarter war, one more targeted toward Osama Bin Laden. His strategy has been to expand the war in Afghanistan.

But not too much. Not too vigorously. Not with all of our might. Just enough boots on the ground to keep the up the killing and the dying.

Afghanistan is not so much a nation as it is a vast uncivilized territory in which tribal nomads kill each other and anyone else who shows up. The Russians were there for ten years and finally gave up. Not defeated, just not victorious. They pulled out in 1989.

Less than a year later the Soviet Union collapsed. The fifteen separate republics which had been governed by the Moscow overlords declared their independence.

The Soviet army was exhausted and fragmented. Despite sporadic attempts to prevent sesession, by 1991 the USSR was declared dissolved and the former soviet republics became separate sovereign countries.

The United States military has been in Afghanistan for ten years.

If our purpose was to create a modern democracy in that Godforsaken place, we have totally failed. If our goal was to kill Osama Ben Laden, we have failed. If our goal was to eliminate the danger of terrorist activity in the United States, we can hardly claim to have succeeded.

So why are we there?

Why are the flower of American youth being sacrificed every day thousands of miles from home?

Why is our blue state president sending red state kids out to die in the desert?

Isn’t it time we brought them home?

Isn’t it time we established a mile wide border control zone from Brownsville, Texas to San Diego, California and put General Petreous and his troops in charge of repelling the invasion of criminals from Mexico?

If our boys and girls are going to die for their country, at least they should be given the chance to die on American soil.

Monday, October 18, 2010


I have to believe that there are a lot of people on the Internet who would like to see some change in the structure of our national government. Change they can really believe in.

I recently wrote a blog about the so-called “28th Amendment.”

Well intentioned, but amateurish, the proposal to make Congress abide by whatever they demand of the people has been bouncing around the Internet for months. It asks you to send it along to twenty friends. I have received it several times.

Another political chain letter is called the “Congressional Reform Act of 2010.” I have received that one several times as well.

Here’s the text:
1. Term Limits.

12 years only, one of the possible options below..

A. Two Six-year Senate terms
B. Six Two-year House terms
C. One Six-year Senate term and three Two-Year House terms

2. No Tenure / No Pension.

A Congressman collects a salary while in office and receives no pay when they are out of office.

3. Congress (past, present & future) participates in Social Security.

All funds in the Congressional retirement fund move to the Social Security system immediately. All future funds flow into the Social Security system, and Congress participates with the American people.

4. Congress can purchase their own retirement plan, just as all Americans do.

5. Congress will no longer vote themselves a pay raise. Congressional pay will rise by the lower of CPI or 3%.

6. Congress loses their current health care system and participates in the same health care system as the American people.

7. Congress must equally abide by all laws they impose on the American people.

8. All contracts with past and present Congressmen are void effective 1/1/11.

I can’t say that I disagree with what the folks are trying to accomplish. Congress is about as popular these days as the Internal Revenue Service. Maybe less.

But I am amused that so many smart, well meaning Americans seriously believe that they can convince the United States Congress to reform itself.

Even if they could miraculously persuade a majority of both Houses and the President to adopt such a plan, the term limits would be immediately attacked as unconstitutional, since the Constitution establishes the qualifications for election to Congress.

And, anyway, an act of Congress can be repealed by Congress. So what protection would we have for the future?

I’m sorry, but the “Congressional Reform Act” is not the answer.

The answer is to amend the United States Constitution as Washington and Madison and Jefferson intended.

And to do that, we need an Article V Convention. Article V provides for a convention of the people of the states to propose amendments. The Founders put it in our Constitution because they knew that there would be a need for amendments that would never be approved by Congress.

Like term limits. Like salary restrictions. Like imposing any kind of reform that checks the abuses of Members of Congress.

Getting a convention called is a huge undertaking. It requires the active concurrence of two thirds of the state legislatures. And that isn’t going to happen without a groundswell of popular demand.

One avenue to generate that groundswell is Convention USA, an interactive virtual Article V convention on the Internet.

It’s a place where the discontented, the disillusioned, and the disappointed can come together and actually DO SOMETHING instead of just shaking their fists at the sky.

More importantly, it is a place where serious men and women, who have studied the constitution and given thoughtful consideration to needed amendments can work together to formulate wise amendments. Amendments that can command the necessary popular consensus to become part of our fundamental law.

The last time I wrote something about the “Congressional Reform Act of 2010” was back in May. I suggested a better way to deal with Congressional greed. I stand by it.

See: http://oldjudge.blogspot.com/2010/05/fixing-congress.html

I sure would like to talk to whomever concocted the “Congressional Reform Act of 2010.”

I think they need some legal advice from the old judge.

Saturday, October 16, 2010


The First Congressional District of Michigan is big.

Bigger than the State of West Virginia. Bigger than nine other States as well,the First District includes the Upper Peninsula and the Northeastern part of the mitten on a line roughly from Traverse City to Midland.

Thirty counties. 662,563 people. More than the population of Wyoming. Or Vermont. Or North Dakota.

A district which suddenly became a national battleground over the issue of health care. When the incumbent Congressman, Bart Stupak, a pro-life,Blue Dog Democrat, after holding Obama Care hostage over its liberal abortion language, gave in to high level political pressure and voted with Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the excrement hit the rotary blades.

Stupak’s unknown Republican challenger, Iron River surgeon Dan Benishek, received $50,000 in contributions within 48 hours. The battle for Michigan First became network news.

Bart Stupak decided to return to private life.

Enter Gary McDowell, a fifty-eight year old State Representative from Chippawa County. With none of Stupak’s baggage, McDowell became the Democratic nominee.

He didn’t vote for Obama Care, and never mentions it on his web site.

His well funded, professionally designed campaign focuses on local issues; the environment, the Great Lakes and jobs.

His strategy is simple. The district is traditionally Democratic. Unless there are urgent issues to overcome voting habits, the seat will go Democrat.

Keep the focus local. Make it man against man, Party against Party, and McDowell wins.

The Republicans are energized. They’re working hard. They will get their people out on November 2nd.

The Tea Party folks who came out of the woodwork to bolster Benishek are still vocal in his support.

But Obama Care, the politics of wheeling and dealing inside the Washington D.C. Beltway, and the public disgust with and distrust of incumbents which motivated so many people to get off the sofa and get involved were neutralized by the fact that neither McDowell or Benishek were sitting Congressmen.

So the voters have a choice between two newcomers to federal elective office: a State Representative from Chippawa or a surgeon from Iron River.

Ask either man why they are seeking election and you will get an answer which reflects their campaign theme, their narrative, their ideas about how to advance the common good.

Their differences on the issues are published for all to see.

What doesn’t get mentioned is motive. There’s a difference between reasons and motives.

Benishek’s motives are subtle. Why does a successful surgeon who makes over $250,000 per year want to close down his practice, spend thousands of dollars of his own money and work day and night to become a Congressman?

Certainly his knowledge of what is really involved in the practice of medicine has to bolster his determination to unravel the complex and unpopular new national health care legislation.

And his background in private practice suggests that he understands the dynamics of the free enterprise system.

It’s not difficult to accept the assertion that he is running because he wants to turn back the trend toward national socialism which has marked the initiatives of the current administration in Washington.

McDowell’s motives are more obvious. He is a career politician. First elected to the Chippawa County Board of Commissioners in 1981, he has held elective public office for the last 29 years.

He was elected to the Michigan House of representatives in 2004, 2006, and 2008. Under the Michigan term limits amendment, he is ineligible to run for reelection in 2010.

So Representative McDowell has to run for something else, if he is to continue his political career.

His current salary as a State Representrative is $79,650.

The salary of a Member of the United States Congress is $174,000.

His decision to run for Congress was a no-brainer.

So there is it. The choice for the voters in Michigan’s First Congressional District is between a career politician, asking the voters for a $94,350 raise and a successful local surgeon who is willing to give up his practice and go to Washington to represent the people of the district.

If the Tea Party really means anything, it ought to mean a victory for Doctor Benishek.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010


Frank Capra’s classic film, “It’s a Wonderful Life” in which Jimmy Stewart, as George Bailey gets a glimpse of what Bedford Falls would have been like without him in it, came to mind the other day.

We were returning from Frederick, Maryland, where we had gone to help celebrate the life of Ed Shaughnessy, our daughter-in-law Catherine’s Dad.

Ed Shaughnessy. Dad. Grandpa. Honey. Big Ed. Mr. Wonderful. Known by many names. Known by many people.

After the funeral, back at the house on Culler Avenue, they gathered for a family picture in the back yard. Ed and Mary’s eight children and fifteen grandchildren. Assorted brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles. Eyes and hair lines, noses and smiles bespeaking evidence of common DNA.

Like George Bailey, Ed Shaughnessy made a difference. Just one man, just one human life. But it made a difference. Ed Shaughnessy mattered to a lot of people. He mattered to this old world of ours.

We got home in time to see Florencio Avolos emerge from the capsule, and watch a nation rejoice. Watch the whole world celebrate. One man, brought back from the tomb. One trapped miner rescued. One human life saved.

The drama in the Chilean desert has captivated everybody. The government, the media, the relatives and friends, the curious; they’re elbow to elbow and shoulder to shoulder. They come to see, to help, just to be there.

They come and they care because human life matters.

And because every human life is a story.

The rescue proceeds at a slow, deliberate pace. No mistakes, no accidents can be tolerated. The triumph of humanity and technology over nature and happenstance demands caution and forethought. Anticipate every complication. There is risk enough that is unavoidable. Don’t take any unnecessary chances.

And so the men come up one at a time. Every thirty or forty minutes, another round trip to the bowels of the earth brings another man to the cheering crowd, to the arms of President Sebatian Pineros, to the waiting doctors and emergency vehicles. Every thirty or forty minutes the media has another face, another name, another story.

Ariel Ticona, whose child was born while he was entombed in the mine.

Yonni Barrios, whose wife and mistress met in the crowd.

Jonathan Franklin, a stringer for the Manchester Guardian who has been in Chile for 16 years, has already circulated his book proposal, “33 Men Buried Alive: the Inside Story of the Trapped Chilean Miners.” The manuscript will be ready in December.

Even before the last miner returns to the surface of the earth, the pundits are predicting that none of the 33 survivors will ever have to work in the mines – or anywhere else for that matter – again. Book deals, movie rights, the whole panoply of commercial goodies that accompany celebrity, will be available.

Of course, nobody begrudges them their belated good fortune. 69 days in a tomb is a heavy price to pay for notoriety.

Still, I wonder.

The mine collapsed on August 5, 2010. Since that day, while the world was focused on the plight of 33 miners in Chile, the following 103 members of the Armed Services of the United States were killed in the line of duty: John E. Andrade of San Antonio, Texas; Vincent E. Gammone III, of Christiana, Tennessee; Kevin M. Cornelius, of Ashtabula, Ohio; Faith R. Hinkley, of Colorado Springs, Colorado; Max A. Donahue, of Highlands Ranch, Colorado; Kristopher D. Greer, of Ashland City, Tennessee; Paul D. Cuzzupe of Plant City, Florida; Bradley D. Rappahn, of Grand Ledge, Michigan; Andrew C. Nicol, of Eaton, Michigan; Christopher N. Karch, of Indianapolis, Indiana; Michael A. Bock, of Leesburg, Florida; Jamal M. Rhett, of Palmyra, New Jersey; Edgar A. Roberts, of Hineville, Georgia; Charles M. High IV, of Albuquerque, New Mexico; Benjamin G. Chisholm, of Fort Worth, Texas; Derek J. Farley, of Nassau, New York; Collin Thomas of Morehead, Kentucky; Kevin E. Oratowski, of Wheaton, Illinois; Christopher S. Wright, of Tollesboro, Kentucky; Christopher J. Boyd, of Palatine, Illinois; Martin A. Lugo, of Tucson, Arizona; Cody S. Childers, of Chesapeake, Virginia; Alexis V. Maldonado, of Wichita Falls, Texas; Nathaniel J. A. Schultz, of Safety Harbor, Florida; Jason D. Calo, of Lexington, Kentucky; Brandon E. Maggart of Kirksville, Missouri; Triston H. Southworth, of West Danville, Vermont; Steven J. Deluzie, of South Glastonbury, Connecticut; Robert J. Newton, of Creve Couer, Illinois; Ronald A. Rodrigues, of Falls Church, Virginia; Justin B. Shoecraft, of Elkhart, Indiana; Pedro A. Millet Meletiche, of Elizabeth, New Jersey; Adam A. Novak, of Praire du Sac, Wisconsin; Chad D. Coleman, of Moreland, Georgia; Daniel L. Fedder, of Pine City, Minnesota; James A. Swink, of Yucca Valley, California; Patrick K. Durham, of Chattanooga, Tennessee; Andrew J. Castro, of Westlake Village, California; Floyd E. C. Holley, of Casselberry, Florida; Bryn T. Raver, of Harrison, Arkansas; Ellery R. Wallace, of Salt Lake City, Utah; James R. Ide, of Festus, Missouri; Casey J. Grochowiak, of Lompac, California; Mark A. Noziska, of Papillon, Nebraska; Chad D. Clements, of Huntington, Indiana; Matthew J. West, of Conover, Wisconsin; Kevin J. Kessler, of Canton, Ohio; Jesse Infante, of Cypress, Texas; Dale A. Goetz, of White, South Dakota; James A. Page, of Titusville, Florida; Matthew E. George, of Gransboro, North Carolina; Raymond C. Alcaraz, of Redlands, California; Vinson B. Adkinson III, of Harper, Kansas; Cody A. Roberts of Boise, Idaho; Joseph A. Bovia, of Kenner, Louisiana; Christopher B. Rogers, of Griffin, Georgia; Diego M. Montoya, of San Antonio, Texas; Joshua T. Twigg, of Indiana, Pennsylvania; Ross A. Carver of Rocky Point, North Carolina; Jesse M. Balthaser, of Columbus, Ohio; Jason T. McMahon, of Mulvane, Kansas; James F. McClamrock, of Huntersville, North Carolina; Phillip c. Jenkins, of Decatur, Indiana; Phillip G. E. Charte, of Goffstown, New Hampshire; John C. Bishop, of Columbus, Indiana; Todd W. Weaver, of Hampton, Virginia; James A. Hanson, of Athens, Michigan; Timothy L. Johnson, of Randolph, New York; Daniel R. Sanchez, of El Paso, Texas; Aaron K. Kramer, of Salt Lake City, Utah; John F. Burner III, of Baltimore, Maryland; Scott J. Fleming, of Marietta, Georgia; Jamie C. Newman, of Richmond, Virginia; Joshua A. Harton, of Bethlehem, Indiana; Barbara Vieyra, of Mesa, Arizona; Ronald A. Grider, of Brighton, Illinois; Eric Yates, of Rinneyville, Kentucky; Joshua S. Ose, of Hernando, Mississippi; Marvin R. Calhoun Jr., of Elkhart, Indiana; Joshua D. Powell, of Pleasant Plains, Illinois; Donald D. McClellan, of St. Louis Park, Minnesota; Matthew G. Wagstaff, of Oren, Utah; Robert F. Baldwin, of Muscatin, Iowa; Denis C. Miranda, of Toms River, New Jersey; Adam D. Smith, of Hurland, Missouri; David B. McLendon, of Thomasville, Georgia; Brendon J. Looney, of Omings, Missouri; Michael J. Buras, of Fitzgerald, Georgia; Anthony J. Rosa, of Swanton, Vermont; Clinton E. Springer II, of Sanford, Maine; Gebrah P. Noonan, of Watertown, Connecticut; John Cavillo, Jr., of Stockton, California; Marc C. Whisenant, of Holly Hill, Florida; Jaysine P. S. Petree, of Yiga, Guam; William B. Dawson, of Tunica, Mississippi; Donald S. Morrison, of Cincinnati, Ohio; Mark A. Simpson, of Peoria, Illinois; Ralph J. Fabbri, of Gallitzin, Pennsylvania; Calvin B. Harrison, of San Antonio, Texas; Mark Forester, of Tuscaloosa, Alabama; and Timothy M. Jackson, of Corbin, Kentucky.

I wonder who will write their stories.

I wonder who will celebrate their lives.

I wonder what the world would be like if they had lived.

Sunday, October 3, 2010


A friend of mine has been trying to sell his beautiful Lake Huron beach front home for about four years. No takers. Not even a single looker.

He dropped the price. Three times. Still nobody came.

Then one day last week he got a letter from Tokyo. An offer to buy the property. For cash. With a substantial deposit enclosed.

The buyer had seen his ad on the Internet. He didn’t want any of the furniture or furnishings, as he planned to remodel the interior in traditional Japanese fashion. Could his Japanese decorator please come and see the house?

So my friend is finally selling his home, and I’m happy for him.

But I got to thinking. What’s going on in America?

Koreans buy our golf courses. Japanese buy our office buildings. The Chinese are buying our shopping centers. The Saudis are buying our apartment buildings.

Every day Americans own less and less of America.

Factories and farms and forests. It’s all for sale. Most of it at bargain basement prices.

And with a government lacking any plan or will to exclude undocumented aliens from our real estate, one wonders who will be living here when our great grandchildren come of age.

In the last analysis, sovereignty has to do with the occupation of real estate.

I can hear the lyrics:
“This land is your land, this land is my land. From California to the New York Island. This land was made for you and me.”

Gets you all choked up with patriotism, doesn’t it?

Historians divide the passage of time into eras defined by what was happening. The Reformation. Exploration. The Industrial Revolution. The Atomic Age. The Information Age.

I’m thinking the next hundred years or so will be known as the Age of Migration.

With ships and cars and buses and trucks and trains and airplanes, millions of people move tens of millions of miles every day.

Everybody has to live someplace and everybody wants to live where the earth is most hospitable to human existence.

If the Chinese buy every vacant house and lot in Detroit, they could relocate about a million of their sprawling billions of people.

It’s a great place on a beautiful river connecting the largest bodies of fresh water on the planet. Who wouldn’t like to live there?

And have you seen the pictures of Hiroshima? It’s a sparkling, beautiful modern city. All it takes is money, commitment and elbow grease.

Do we have the money? We print a lot of it. Tens of billions of Federal Reserve notes. What’s behind it all? We gave up the gold standard a long time ago. So what IS behind our U.S. dollars?

Our credit? Our word? Our military might? Our government? Our system of laws?

All of that, I suppose. But most of all, our wealth is the land we live on.

When you don’t own the land you live on, you’re either a guest, a tenant, a serf or a slave.

I hope that’s not where we are headed.

Sunday, September 26, 2010


The minions of nose count jurisprudence are awash in speculation about the Supreme Court these days.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg, already 77 years of age, will surely step down while Barack Obama is in the White House, maybe even before Thanksgiving if the GOP should win the Senate in 37 days.

Steven Breyer is 72. Probably plans to quit during Obama’s second term.

The next two names being mentioned are Antonin Scalia and Anthony Kennedy. Both were born in 1936. Neither will want to give the current Chief Executive a chance to choose his successor.

And so it goes. 2012 will be another bru-ha-ha over who gets to appoint the justices.

And why does it matter?

It matters because the Supreme Court of the United States has become just another political branch of government. Just another center of power where people go to get what they can’t get from the Congress, or from their state legislatures.

Used to be folks argued about activist judges versus strict constructionists.

Conservative Justices were just supposed to interpret the laws and the Constitution. Stay out of the voting booth. Stay off the editorial pages. Leave the hot button issues to the representatives elected by the people.

Bush versus Gore put an end to that. If you’ve got a majority of the Court, you’re the seven hundred pound gorilla. You can do whatever you want to do.

Then again, maybe, just maybe, the stars are well aligned to talk about how to get back to basics. Lots of folks are ticked off with both parties. Tea and coffee parties have emerged because the folks don’t even want to be called Republicans and Democrats.

Independents are on the march. Here’s something they ought to be marching for: a non partisan Supreme Court.

Is that possible? Isn’t everyone something? Right, left or whatever. But not just nothing.

Well, of course, nobody’s just nothing. Every judge has principles and preferences, experiences and opinions. It’s human nature.

But almost all of the 50 states have found a way to insulate their judiciary from the nitty gritty of partisan politics. Non partisan elections, Missouri Plan nomination, appointment advisory boards. There are lots of ways to soften the hard edges of party loyalty.

So here’s my thought for the day:

The Supreme Court shall consist of the current nine justices and their successors who shall be appointed for eighteen year terms by the President, without confirmation, from among a panel of five candidates nominated by the Chief Justices of the highest courts of the several states.

The Court shall interpret the Constitution and its amendments as understood by the people who ratified them and shall render no opinion enlarging or diminishing the powers of the government or the rights of the people.

I submit that this amendment would put an end to talk of court packing, to Presidents appointing justices to promote political agendas, to Senatorial confirmation circuses, and to tottering, dottering old men and women sitting on their Supreme Court seats, waiting for their party to win the White House.

If you’re with me on this, let me hear from you.

Friday, September 24, 2010


O’Brien brought me my putter on the green.

“Brennan,” he says, “I’m going to buy you a new putter. This thing is a relic.”

It was a teachable moment.

“A putter is like a woman, O’B,” says I. “You find one you like, then you stick with it. It will give you a lifetime of irritation and a few moments of ecstasy.”

He relayed my homily later at the stag dinner evoking a round of guffaws.

It is one of my better lines.

It had its origin at a charity outing when I won a putter in a raffle and donated it back to the cause. Just one of those things the muse provides when the stars are properly aligned.

I have no doubt it will one day be attributed to Arnold Palmer, if it has not already.

Still the retelling evoked an epiphany. A putter is indeed like a woman.

All the rest of the clubs have visible lines or groves on their faces. The putter’s face is smooth.

The putter is dainty, smaller than everything else in the bag.

You smash your driver, pound your fairway woods, hit your irons, even blast your sand wedge.

But you stroke your putter.

A woman will always do what women always do. So will a putter. It never deviates from the laws of physics and always propels the ball precisely where it is aimed and precisely as fast and as far as you stroke it to go.

So if the ball doesn’t go into the hole, it is always your fault. Never the putter’s.

Am I starting to make sense? Does it sound familiar?

When I see some guy putting left hand low, or left handed, or using one of those ugly long belly putters, I know the guy doesn’t get it. Probably isn’t happy at home either.

And then there are the unfaithful ones. Garage full of old putters. Discarded putters. Rejected putters. Like a scrap book full of pictures of old girl friends.

Not so much a record of past conquests as a montage of failures. A chronicle of seeking happiness in all the wrong places.

My epiphany has paid substantial dividends. A string of five and six footers. A couple twice as long and a heart stopping thirty five footer that sealed a ten dollar win for our foursome.

I’ve taking to calling the putter “Pauline.”

Later today I’m going to have her name engraved on her sole. Or is it her soul?

Either way, she’s a great old gal, and I love her dearly.

Friday, September 17, 2010


Riding north from Lansing today, my dear wife was trying to operate her new cell phone and stumbled onto an email to the effect that ABC has forbidden its reporters to wear patriotic, American flag lapel pins.

Sounded pretty silly to me, so when we got home, I Googled and Snoped and pulled up the whole story.

First thing I learned was that it’s old news. Very old.

Apparently all network news channels have forbidden all kinds of lapel pins for a very long time.

The ABC story came about because after 9/11 some of the reporters asked if there could be an exception to the ‘no pin’ rule because of the attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

ABC said no.

Apparently, the other networks said yes.

So now all the red blooded patriotic American folks are ticked off at ABC.

And, I suppose, they’ll start boycotting ABC and the companies which advertise on ABC.

That’s their right. And no doubt if the cash register at ABC begins to feel the pinch, the honcho’s up in the executive office might just have some second thoughts.

That’s the way it works in a free country.

At least I’m glad that no hot dog anchorman at ABC has started a law suit to protest, like the hostess at Disneyland who wants to wear her Muslim hijab on the job.

ABC is a private company and they have as much right as Disneyland to have a policy about what their employees will and will not wear.

It’s strictly a business judgment.

Still, I have to wonder about the mentality of those who argued that the reporters should refrain from wearing American flag lapel pins because it would compromise their appearance of neutrality and could endanger reporters working overseas because they might be viewed as working for the American government.


Compromise their neutrality?

Put them in harm’s way because they might look like Americans?

I always thought the “A” in ABC stood for “American.”

Isn’t it the “American Broadcasting Company?”

Or are the reporters working overseas in less danger if they let people think that ABC stands for Arab Broadcasting Company?

I just wish some of our corporate whoosies would man up.

It could turn out to be good for business.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010


Saw Mayor Bloomberg bantering with Jon Stewart on television.

His Honor was making the case for the construction of the Islamic facility near ground zero.

He pointed out, quite accurately, that, if the folks who want to build it own the property and comply with all the building ordinances of the city, they have the same right to use their property as any other citizen.

Then he added that there are saloons and porn shops and all other kinds of land uses that some people don’t like in the neighborhood.

It’s a free country and hey, this is New York City. This is the Big Apple.

And so it is.

Being a lawyer and former judge, I am quick to stand up for the legal right of the owners of property to use it as they wish. Even if it’s unpopular. Even if it is intended to be confrontational.

But defending someone’s right to speak is not the same thing as agreeing with what they say.

And defending someone’s right to be confrontational is not tantamount to backing down or surrendering.

My concern about the proliferation of Islam in America goes to the heart of the philosophical differences between democracy and theocracy.

There was a time when Christian theocracy was prevalent. Indeed, one of the titles still held by Queen Elizabeth is “Defender of the Faith.”

In the middle ages there were ecclesiastical courts which functioned along side the English courts of common law.

The Roman Catholic Church still exercises law making powers, and convenes courts to enforce canon law.

The difference lies in the Islamic tradition of enforcement. Islamic or Shariah Law is not just enforced by education, moral persuasion and excommunication. It is enforced also by the sword. It asserts the right to decree the death penalty.

That, my friends, is the essence of sovereignty.

Sovereignty is the police power. The power of force. Ultimately the power of life and death.

In America, sovereignty is in the people. That’s why the second amendment gives us the right to bear arms.

That’s why our Constitutions, both state and national, divide the power to make, execute and interpret the laws among three separate branches of government.

So that no one man, nor any one group of men has the power of life and death.

The essence of the Islamic faith is doing the will of Allah. That’s a familiar idea to anyone who, as I did, learned in school that God made me to know Him to love Him and to serve Him.

But Christians gave up burning heretics at the stake centuries ago.

Islamic law still commands the death penalty for apostasy.

Judeo Christian civilization has long since learned to render to Ceasar the things that are Ceasar’s.

The concept of a sovereign civil government which respects religion, but is separate and neutral as to religious faith and discipline is the hallmark of western political thought.

That is worth fighting for.

Friday, August 27, 2010


The proposed Islamic center a few blocks from ground zero got me to thinking.

That, and the Muslim hostess who insists on wearing her hijab instead of her Disneyland costume.

What the heck is going on in America?

I Googled up an article from the Office of International Criminal Justice at the University of Illinois. Entitled “Islamic Law, Myths and Realities,” the essay tells us that Islamic Law provides two ways to protect the five ‘indispensables’ of religion, life, intellect, offspring and property; moral education and deterrent punishment.

Deterrent punishment includes the full range of options available in our criminal justice system. And then some.

In the Islamic tradition, there is no separation of church and state. Islam is a theocracy, that is, a government controlled and operated by a self perpetuating oligarchy of religious leaders.

About a quarter of the Earth’s population is Muslim. They tend to gather in communities and impose their Shariah law, ignoring the civil and criminal laws governing the rest of the people.

Sort of like the Amish, only with knives and swords.

We have freedom of religion in America. It’s a fundamental right protected by our Constitution. But it’s not absolute.

If your religion says you should behead your wife if she chats it up with the milkman, the First Amendment isn’t going to keep you out of jail.

President Obama took a lot of flack for saying that America is not a Christian nation. Deservedly so, from a cultural standpoint.

But the fact is that the United States is not a theocracy. Our customs and our laws have come down to us through Christian civilization, but our nation was not founded by religious leaders.

The United States of American was founded by the people.

To be sure, the hand of the Almighty was there in Philadelphia. But not in the garb of the clergy. He was there in his role as the Creator of the universe and everything – and everybody – in it.

Our Constitution was Divinely inspired only in the sense that the Founders were using their God given intellects and free will to design a government which would in the words of Thomas Jefferson, “most likely effect their safety and happiness.”

The idea that God somehow ordains certain people, because of their lineage, or their education, or their wealth, or their holiness, or their sheer chutspah or charisma to be the rulers of the people simply does not sit well with Americans.

We believe that the people are sovereign. All the people. The young, the old, the black the white, the rich the poor, the smart and the dull. Male and female. Straight and gay. Hispanic and Anglo and Asian and everything in between. All the people.

I suppose there are some well meaning, loyal Americans who would change the First Amendment if they could. But if permitting Congress to establish a religion would mean overriding the sovereignty of the American people, and changing our form of government to an Islamic theocracy, it would be more than just an amendment. It would be the abolition of our constitutional system.

The University of Illinois paper urges us to open our minds and expand our knowledge base, and insists that Islamic Law can solve contemporary crime problems.

So could the mafia. So did Hitler.

I think we should fight like hell to save our country.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010


For the umpteenth time, somebody sent me an email trumpeting something called “the 28th amendment.”

One of the emails even suggested that I am supporting or promoting it.

Not so.

Well, not exactly.

I’m all in favor of amending the United States Constitution. In fact, I have been working very hard to organize an amendatory convention on the Internet.

And I certainly agree that something has to be done to rein in a Congress which seems to think it has the right to spend the public treasury on whatever it wants, including benefits for the Representatives and Senators themselves.

But the email that is going around is full of misconceptions and misinformation.

First, the number of Governors who are suing the Federal Government over the Health Care Bill has nothing to do with a convention or any constitutional amendment.

Article V of the U.S. Constitution requires Congress to call a convention for proposing amendments when requested by the legislatures of two-thirds of the States. That’s 34 States, not 38 as claimed in the email.

The convention would not be a constitutional convention. A constitutional convention writes a constitution. That’s not what an Article V convention does.

An Article V convention is an amendatory convention. Article V speaks about amendments to THIS constitution. It does not authorize or contemplate a new or different constitution.

Which brings me to the actual language of the so-called 28th amendment, being circulated by so many well meaning Americans. It says:

“Congress shall make no law that applies to the citizens of the United States that does not apply equally to the Senators and/or Representatives; and, Congress shall make no law that applies to the Senators and/or Representatives that does not apply equally to the citizens of the United States.”

The first part sounds pretty good. But does it refer only to laws that apply to all citizens or to any law that applies to any citizens?

I suppose it was intended to mean that Members of Congress couldn’t exempt themselves from Social Security taxes or from military conscription. But doesn’t it also say that members of Congress must receive food stamps, and every other entitlement that any citizen gets?

The second part makes no sense either.

If members of Congress must do for all citizens whatever they do for themselves, it follows that they must pay every citizen a Congressional salary, currently $174,000 a year, and provide every citizen with whatever else members provide for themselves, such as an office in Washington, D.C.

The writing of a constitutional amendment is not something that can be done by somebody sitting at his kitchen table. It requires thought, study, and careful examination by lots of different pairs of eyes.

After all, the Constitution and its amendments are the supreme law of the land. They must say what they mean and mean what they say.

Which is why I insist that an Article V convention is needed. Not just a single purpose, one-time gathering to push a particular amendment, but rather an ongoing, permanent institution which will run every idea for constitutional change through a meat grinder of critical thought and debate, so that whatever ultimately goes to the states to be ratified is worthy of the support and approval of all Americans.

In the words of George Washington, it must be the “Explicit and authentic act of the whole people.”

Sunday, August 22, 2010


When I’m not playing golf, I spend a lot of time rummaging. It’s what old people do.

A week or so ago, rummaging through some old speeches, I happened upon one I gave in Battle Creek, Michigan on September 28, 1968. It started out like this:

“Tonight, I have the honor of escorting my little princess – my daughter, Peggy.

I enjoy these periodic chances to be alone with my children – one at a time.

The long, pleasant drive along the freeway is a time to get better acquainted, to catch up on what’s happening, to answer questions and to listen.

Listen to what they think. Listen to their hopes and their dreams. Learn a little about what puzzles them, what frightens them, what worries them.

We hear a lot these days about the generation gap.

I suppose there is no way to prevent the gap between parents and children. The rushing of the years between us has carved out a natural gulf. We are on this side, and they are on that side.

But it is possible, I think, to build bridges across that chasm.

Not mighty, four lane highways, perhaps. Not like the Big Mac or the Ambassador Bridge.

But we can build simple homemade foot bridges. They will be tenuous and shaky. They will rock perilously in the wind. But if they are fastened securely at both ends with clamps of love, they will be strong enough for people to cross – one at a time.

It seems to me that the job of parents is to test that bridge, show that it can be crossed, and then, through our encouragement and by our example, see that our children cross over, bravely and safely to the other side of the ravine – the side reserved for adults, only.”

The rest of the speech was about the 1968 Democratic convention in Chicago and the generation gap between the adults who were there to nominate candidates for President and Vice President, and the riotous young people in the streets who wanted, among other things, an end to the Viet Nam War.

I wondered aloud whether the young people were disillusioned with the establishment because their parents had told them, “you can’t fight City Hall.”

Or if they had lost faith in the democratic process because their parents had told them that “politics is a dirty business.”

Those young protesters talked about a sinister conspiracy they called the “power structure,” and I wondered if it was because their parents left government to the experts, thought that government could create wealth out of thin air and that the ineptitude and corruption of public officials could somehow be corrected by the newspapers or the TV, and they didn’t have to get involved.

That was 42 years ago.

The pot smoking students of 1968 are now in their sixties, fretting about their social security, bouncing between Keith Olbermann and Glen Beck, and hoping that somehow they can get out of Iraq and Afganistan, avoid a nuclear confrontation with Iran or North Korea, prevent economic domination by the Chinese, and convince their children to get married and spawn some grandchildren.

That twelve year old girl who went to Battle Creek with me so long ago came visiting with her husband last week end.

We had seventy two hours of titillating conversation, debating, laughing, catching up and just listening to the voices of people we love very much.

Peggy is now a lovely, grown up lady married to a great guy. They have four beautiful, college educated daughters, who seem to be crossing the bridge to maturity just as surely as their mother did.

Maybe, just maybe, we old timers shouldn’t worry so much about the future.