Monday, April 26, 2010


I just returned from New York, where I attended the semiannual meeting of the Board of Directors of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights.

Our President, Bill Donohue, is a frequent guest on both TV and radio talk shows.

Doing the work of the League, he vigorously defends the Church against slander, bigotry, and the kaleidoscope of hate that is focused on the Culture Wars of the 21st Century.

Bill is a powerful advocate, always fully prepared, knowledgeable, logical, courageous, undaunted, civil, and humble.

His report to us was flush with the details of mean spirited Catholic bashing.
Case in point: the New York Times’ recent blaring coverage of Catholic-hating lawyer Jeffrey Anderson’s lawsuit against the Pope for child molestation by a Wisconsin priest 35 years ago.

Orchestrated to coincide with a demonstration at the Vatican by SNAP, the Anderson-financed anti-priest protest organization, the article packaged its recounting of the misdeeds of a priest who died a decade ago as a breaking story.

The only real news was that the New York Times was writing about it.

With the possible exception of NAMBLA, (the North American Man Boy Love Association), nobody approves of pedophilia. Unhappily, a lot of it goes on in public and private schools, boy scout organizations, churches and synagogues.

And in families, especially where the man of the house is a step father or the mother’s boy friend.

The fact that most of the publicity about pedophilia focuses on the Catholic Church reflects the animosity of those who disagree with the Church’s teachings on sexual behavior and its celibate, all-male priesthood.

The glee with which the Bill Maher’s of the world yell “Gotcha” is palpable.

Catholic League Board Chairman, Father Phil Eichner, reminded us of the historical context of the scandal. The 1960’s and 1970’s are remembered as a time of sexual revolution.

Woodstock inspired hedonism, gay militancy, feminist liberation; these were the mores of the day. They still are, now entrenched as political correctness.

It would be irrational to expect that Catholic priests were somehow immune to the cultural tsunami. They were hearing confessions, for heaven’s sake! No doubt the monologue of the penitent was sometimes more motivating than the lecture of the confessor.

But appreciating the causes and the motivations that drive the scandals in the Church is not enough. I learned from my father that when one member of a family is guilty of wrongdoing, the whole family is disgraced. The whole family is tarred by the same brush. The whole family must take responsibility.

Defending ourselves against unfair, exaggerated criticism is not enough.

It is time for the Catholic Church to do penance. It is time for the hierarchy to wear sack cloth and ashes, for the faithful to bow our heads in contrite prayer and genuine sacrifice.

We will not win the love or approval of those who hate us.

They must deal with the cancer of their own malice.

But we can regain the self respect that our founder, Jesus Christ, promised.

And that’s all that really matters.

Sunday, April 25, 2010


Q. Should the Constitution limit the amount of money the Congress can coin?

I toyed with this for awhile. Obviously, the more people there are, the more money is needed. Should the money supply be tied to the population count? Or should it be tied to the amount of gold in Fort Knox? Or should it be determined by the amount of land or other physical assets controlled by the United States?

After noodling these questions, I came to the conclusion that the supply of money cannot be limited at all.

Think about it. When one player in Monopoly has all the money, the game is over. If our money supply were a zero sum game, what would happen when Bill Gates has all the money?

If money were a zero sum game, then every dollar that rich people have would be a dollar less for poor people, and vice versa.

Assets can be created. Wealth can be created. We call it prosperity. How would it benefit society to legislate a maximum legal net worth, or a maximum personal income?

The American Dream is just the opposite. We tell our children that they can be whatever they want to be. The possibility, however remote, of becoming a movie star, or an NBA standout, or a corporate mogul motivates every new generation.

It is de rigueur for progressives to bemoan the gap between rich and poor.

I submit that the gap is irrelevant.

If the general public has adequate transportation, what does it matter that Warren Buffet has 20 or 30 automobiles and a private jet?

And if Buffet were to be stripped of all the perks of prosperity, and all the wealth of all the millionaires in America confiscated and distributed to the less fortunate, does anyone doubt that Buffet and Gates, and the educated and industrious middle class would have their money back within ten years?

Capitalism is not a legislated system, it is a natural phenomenon of human conduct.

People just naturally bargain with each other.Where there is no functioning monetary system, the folks will find other media of exchange. Cigarettes in World War II. Whatever works.

Money is the fuel of human activity. A dollar is a unit of people power. You can offer mountains of greenbacks or gold coins to a horse or a cow. They won’t budge. Only human beings are motivated by money.

More and more today, money is neither gold nor silver, neither greenbacks not bank notes.

Twenty-first century money exists mostly in computers and consists of digitized information stored in binary code.

Computers talk to each other and money moves instantaneously.

Our concepts of space, time and amount have exploded; are exploding every day. As bytes became kilobytes and megabytes and gigabytes, our notion of dollars went from millions to billions to trillions.

But have our sophisticated financial machinations really accomplished much?

Politicians and Wall Street minions can argue and posture, the Fed can raise and lower the interest rate, the currency gamblers can trade USD’s for yen or pounds and the Wall Street Journal can pontificate about M1, M2 and M3, but the true value of a dollar is and will always be determined in the underground economy.

What matters in the last analysis is whether the untaxed and unrecorded day’s wages paid in cash to an illegal immigrant will buy him enough to eat, a place to sleep and a modicum of human comfort and convenience, so that he will come back and work again tomorrow.

That is the de facto minimum wage and the de facto value of a dollar.

When will the Washington politicos learn to deal with it?

Saturday, April 24, 2010


In a 1787 letter to Thomas Jefferson, John Adams made a comment which has become a reoccurring theme in 2010. He said:

"All the perplexities, confusion and distress in America arise not from defects in their Constitution or Confederation, nor from want of honor or virtue, so much as downright ignorance of the nature of coin, credit, and circulation."

Because my life has been spent in the law and in education, I confess that downright ignorance about money has always been one of my peculiar charms.

But in these days of multi-zeroed dollar amounts being bandied about, worried about, shouted about, and wondered about, a modicum of patriotism suggests that we Google up some information about the infamous ‘root of all evil.’

Here are a few things I have learned:

Article I, Section 8 of the United States Constitution gives Congress the power to “coin money and regulate the value thereof.” The Constitution says nothing about printing money, nor does it limit the amount of money the Congress may coin.

During the Civil War, Congress passed the Legal Tender Act which authorized paper money to finance the Union war effort. In 1870, the Supreme Court held the Legal Tender Act unconstitutional by a vote of 4 to 3. Congress promptly increased the court to nine members, President Grant appointed two pro-paper justices and the new court reversed the decision.

Thus did greenbacks become legal tender for all debts public and private. That’s what it says on the Federal Reserve notes in your wallet.

The Federal Reserve system is the fourth incarnation of a bank of the United States. Established in 1913, it is the bank with which all the other banks bank. Its principal depositor is the United States Treasury.

The United States operates under a system of fiat money. “Fiat” is a Latin word that means “let it be.” Our money has no intrinsic value. It’s only value grows out of the fact that the law makes Federal Reserve notes legal tender.

So why do we worry about trillion dollar deficits and gazillion dollar national debts? Why do we fret that our children and our children’s children will be burdened with the obligation of repaying the public debt? Why doesn’t the Federal Government just print all the money it needs to balance the budget and pay off the national debt?

The answer to that question can be found in Article I Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution. Congress is authorized to borrow money on the credit of the United States, but it is required to regulate the value of money.

The credit of the United States means the expectation that the government will repay the true value of what it borrows.

If you loan me a hundred dollars, you don’t expect me to pay you back in poker chips.

Neither do the Chinese.

Congress has the obligation to regulate the value of money. That means “make it regular.” Make it real. Make it dependable. Make it useful and reliable as a medium of exchange for the people who buy and sell, work and hire, save and spend.

The farmers and the working folks who cheered William Jennings Bryan’s “Cross of Gold” speech and who demanded free silver as the monetary standard, like debtors everywhere, wanted to pay back what they owed in the cheapest currency possible.

Not much has changed.

We are a nation of debtors. A whole generation of Americans is burdened with student loans. Pre approved credit cards are mailed to the unemployed.

Congress has its hands on the spigot. We need to remind ourselves that paying debts with cheap dollars is not much of a boon if it means that a quart of milk will cost five dollars.

Inflation is the most insipid and retrogressive form of taxation. Always.

Sunday, April 18, 2010


My friend Maxie Holmes sent me an email which offers an interesting juxtaposition.
It begins with this quote:

President Barack Obama said in Turkey : "We do not consider ourselves a Christian nation or a Jewish nation or a Muslim nation.

We consider ourselves a nation of citizens who are bound by ideals and a set of values."

What follows are quotations from the Constitutions of all fifty of the United States acknowledging, in various ways, that the people of this country are cognizant of and grateful for the blessings of Almighty God by which we enjoy our political freedom and personal liberty.

Surely no one disputes the role of the President of the United States as the principal spokesman for our country everywhere around the world.

That’s part of his job.

No doubt the President was trying to ingratiate himself, and, by extension, to present the people of America as friends of the people of Turkey.

It was not the first time a representative of the United States denied our Christian heritage. During the War of 1812, an American privateer, the Abellino, was capturing British merchant ships in the Mediterranean. The skipper, Captain Wyer, wanted to sell his prizes in Tunis, but the British protested to the Bey of Tunis that their treaty with him forbade such sales in “any war between England and any other Christian nation.”

President Jefferson’s emissary, one Mordicai Noah, showed the Bey a copy of the U.S. Constitution, proving that all religions were permitted, and he argued therefore that America was not a Christian nation.

Or so the story goes. Noah himself later revealed that he had to sweeten the process with payments to the Tunisian authorities before they would let Captain Wyer use the harbor.

So much for the prospect of cozying up to a Muslim potentate.

No one questions that our Constitution requires government neutrality on questions of religious doctrine. The First Amendment explicitly forbids the establishment of a state religion in America.

We are not, nor can we be, a nation in which all citizens are required to worship God in any particular way. So it is quite true that we are not a theocracy such as Iran, where the civil authorities are answerable to clerical leaders like the Grand Ayatollahs.

But we are a nation with a Judeo- Christian heritage.

Belief in the God of Abraham, Moses and Jesus Christ is not compelled by our laws, nor is it universal among our people. Muslims, Buddhists and Hindus, Taoists and Scientologists all are welcome here.

But political correctness or the desire to be perceived as open and friendly to every belief system do not require that we deny our roots.

The Founders of this nation were mostly Christians. The majority of our people are Christians. We count our days by a Christian calendar. We celebrate Christian holidays. Our language is peppered with Christian idioms and biblical references.

This is our culture. This is who we are.

The ideals and the set of values which President Obama attributes to the people of the United States are the ideals and values that generations of Jewish and Christian parents have passed down to their children.

They are the ideals and values that Christian Presidents from George Washington to George W. Bush have espoused and enunciated.

I have no doubt they are the ideals and values that Barack and Michelle Obama hope their girls will learn and cherish as well.

Friday, April 9, 2010


My friend Frank Minardi, commenting on a recent blog, bemoaned the fact that Americans know so little about their government.

His point was sharpened today as AOL News carried a story about the failure of our high schools, colleges and universities to teach basic facts about American history, government and economics.

For five years, the Intercollegiate Studies Institute has been conducting tests to measure the civic literacy of college freshmen and seniors. The idea is to get some notion of what our institutions of higher education are doing to prepare the next generation of citizens to participate in democracy.

The results are appalling.

When fourteen thousand college freshmen took the 60 question, multiple choice test, only about half of the questions were answered correctly. Four years of living in college dorms, cheering at football games, drinking beer, changing majors, attending rock concerts, pulling all nighters, and regurgitating the opinions of liberal academics on final examinations produced a bare four percent expansion of their knowledge.

Even the prestigious Ivy League schools failed to score better than 69%.

Worse yet, some schools are graduating people who know less about their government when they graduate than they did when they entered college.

The bottom ten loser schools are expensive, exclusive and Eastern: Johns Hopkins, Cornell, Yale, Brown, Duke, St Johns, Princeton, Georgetown, University of Virginia (its founder, Thomas Jefferson,would roll over in his grave) and Rutgers.

The top ten schools which improved their students knowledge of civics by anywhere from eight to eleven percent were: Rhodes College in Tennessee, Colorado State, Eastern Connecticut, Calvin College in Michigan, Marian College in Wisconsin, Grove City College in Pennsylvania, Murray State in Kentucky, Concordia University in Nebraska, the University of Colorado, and St. Cloud University in Minnesota.

Which suggests to me that if you want your children to be the civic leaders of tomorrow, send them to a little known local college.

Googling “Civics for Dummies,” I turned up American Citizenship for Dummies, Politics for Dummies, U.S. Constitution for Dummies, and The Complete Idiot’s Guide to American Government.

It is tragically true that in an age of communication overload, we need to find simplistic ways to teach people the fundamentals about our nation and its government.

Back in 1969, I taught a course in government at the University of Detroit. I began the classes by asking the students to write down the preamble to the Constitution of the United States. About half of the class could not get past “We the people.” Many of them went on to invent a paragraph of high sounding political rhetoric, but almost none turned in a reasonable facsimile of the real thing.

In my day, grammar school children memorized the Gettysburg Address and many other enduring components of our national heritage.

Sadly, the educational establishment, abetted by psychological drivel, has debunked memorization as a menial and demeaning form of learning. Armed with computers, calculators, and multi-tasking cell phones, kids don’t even have to memorize the multiplication tables any more. Much less the Gettysburg Address.

Ringing my hands over the state of the nation and the dim future on the horizon, I decided to give myself a shot of optimism. So I gave the Intercollegiate Studies Institute test to my fifteen year old grandson, Jimmy Hicks.

He scored 71 percent.

There is hope for America.

Saturday, April 3, 2010


Ideas that sound wonderful when painted with a broad brush often wind up on the cutting room floor, hacked apart in the effort to solve real or imagined logistical problems.

The devil, they say, is in the details.

I got to thinking about that while reading an excellent article in the Wall Street Journal last Thursday. Written by James LeMunyon, a member of the Virginia House of Delegates, the article made a strong case for the calling of a convention under Article V of the United States Constitution.

Mr. LeMunyun skillfully debunked the hysterical cries, long emanating from the John Birch Society on the right and liberal law professors on the left, that such an effort might produce a “run away convention” which, they claim, could even repeal the Bill of Rights.

Those fears, trumped up and trumpeted by people who expect the Supreme Court to amend the constitution at every term, and who believe they have more chance of influencing the court than controlling a convention, have made the task of true constitutional reformers a rocky one.

The truth, of course, is that no proposed amendment becomes part of our constitution unless and until it is ratified by three fourths of the states. Thirty-eight state legislatures would include at least 75 chambers of elected representatives or senators.

The notion that there is any real possibility that there would ever be that kind of consensus to repeal the Bill of Rights is patently preposterous.

The only reason the “run away convention” battle cry gets any traction is because so few Americans know anything about the Article V convention; why it was put in the constitution, what it does and how it would work.

One of the most vocal opponents of an Article V convention is conservative gadfly Phyllis Schlafly. In June of 1988, answering her inquiry, Chief Justice Warren Burger wrote that he considered a convention to be a grand waste of time.

Curiously, Schlafly, who excoriates activist judges, failed to realize that Burger, as Chief Justice, was simply defending the power of his court to rewrite the constitution. Of course he didn’t want a convention. The Supreme Court is part of the federal establishment. And they don’t want people talking about term limits for justices, either.

Schlafly is still writing in opposition, even as the convention movement is starting to take hold around the country. She warns that the big states would control a convention and small states “would be irrelevant.” That’s a strange argument. The Article V process gives no advantage to big states. Quite the opposite, both the calling of the convention by two thirds of the states,and the ratifying of amendments by three fourths of the states, are specifically state by state votes, which make Delaware or Wyoming the equal of California or New York.

Burger was right about one thing, however. Nobody can set the convention’s agenda. Not Congress, not the state legislatures. The constitution says the convention is for proposing amendments. That’s plural. It means that the convention sets its own agenda, decides what amendments to propose.

Article V is clear. When two thirds of the state legislatures demand it, the Congress must call the convention. The logic of that requirement is pretty obvious. If it takes 34 states to call a convention, it must take 34 states to hold a convention. Without a quorum, the convention could not function.

Convention delegates would not be federal officers. They would be selected as provided by law within each state. They would represent their states, and be answerable to their state legislatures.

Just as it was in Philadelphia in 1787.

There was no need then, and there is no need now to concoct a spider web of rules, regulations, and provisos before calling a convention.

Those who insist on debating the details are usually just looking for devils.

Thursday, April 1, 2010


First the good.

The other day I received an email from my son forwarding a call to support an amendment to the federal constitution.

The trail of that email showed that it had been sent to dozens of people, and the message itself contained a plea to forward it to twenty friends.

Being an ardent supporter of an Article V amendatory convention, I was delighted to see that kind of grass roots support for a constitutional amendment. It shows that people are starting to realize that we can’t fix the mess in Washington merely by throwing the bums out; we have to fix the system.

Now the bad news.

The email proposed what it called the 28th Amendment. Here is the text:

"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."

I can understand what the drafters of those words are trying to do. They see a Congress which has conferred lavish benefits on its members while, at the same time, enacting dubious entitlements for their constituents.

They see a Congress which has enacted a pension system for themselves which kicks in after only one two year term in office and lasts a lifetime.

They see a Congress which exempts its members from taxes imposed on everyone else, and they don’t like it.

So someone – the email does not tell us who – has composed the text of a 28th amendment, and sent it out on the Internet. It has a nice, punitive ring to it. That’ll fix ‘em. Make them subject themselves to Obamacare and see how they like it.

Problem is, we’re talking about a constitution here, folks. This isn’t the by-laws of a homeowners association. The language of a constitution has to be precise. It has to withstand the test of time and the challenges that very smart lawyers will present to very smart judges.

Did the drafter of the amendment really intend to stipulate that every American citizen would receive a salary equal to that of a Congressman?

Did they really intend that every citizen should have a staff and an office in Washington, D.C. and another one in their home state?

I don’t think so. But that is what their amendment would require.

Constitution writing is serious business. It should command the best brains, the most experience, and the steadiest hands and hearts.

We need constitutional reform in this country, and we need it badly. But it will not come without a groundswell of support from the Atlantic to the Pacific and beyond.

It will not come until the American people realize that there are no quick and easy fixes, no one shot, one time, one amendment band aid that we can rally around and force on the Washington establishment.

No, my friends, we need an Article V convention. We need to call together the best of the best, get the best ideas on the table and do the best job of drafting, so that our generation can say that we deserve a place in history along side of Mr. Washington, Mr. Madison and Mr. Hamilton.

Take a look at There you will see what I am talking about.