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.