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.