Tuesday, April 26, 2011


It’s that time of year again. On April 28 Polly and I will celebrate our sixtieth wedding anniversary.

I used to wonder if we’d make it to fifty. I’d see all those blurbs in the Sunday papers about folks celebrating their fiftieth anniversaries. Man, they were old. Shriveled up, superannuated relics with canes and aluminum walkers, crooked ties and toothless grins.

Would that be us?

And sixty? Good Lord, does anybody last that long?

Apparently they do. I looked in the paper a couple of weeks ago and there were more sixtieth anniversaries than fiftieths. And doggone if most of them didn’t look pretty damn good.

O.K. So maybe it’s my perspective.

Sometimes when I tell people I have been married for sixty years, they ask in disbelief, “To the same woman?”

Hell no, I say. She’s not the same woman at all. She used to be a pretty young girl, now she’s a beautiful old lady.

I guess that’s part of having a long marriage. You both keep changing. You have to keep falling in love, keep learning about each other. Keep committing and recommitting to the contract.

We’ve been married four times. At age 21, age 46, age 61 and age 71. Same ceremony. Same priest, except for the third time.

We’re not getting married again this year. Thought it might be kind of fun to live in sin for a while.

Son Bill was here for a few days. He brought a stack of DVD’s made from home movies, one of which was of Polly’s sixty-fifth birthday party.

What a treasure.

A black tie dinner at Walnut Hills Country Club with five of our six children and their spouses, except for Ellen who was still single. Son John was living in Minneapolis, and sent his regrets and good wishes.

The rest of them took turns ‘roasting’ the Guest of Honor. It was hilarious then and just as knee slappingly funny today. Except that now there is a touch of bittersweet nostalgia mixed in when I see how we all looked fifteen years ago and realize that yesteryear is only yesterday.

I suppose there are people who have been married a long time, but don’t have children. Or they have one or two kids who moved to California thirty years ago and never came back. But for me it’s all about family. Family meals. Family worship. Family pride. Family fun. Family traditions.

Forty years ago I was helping son Bill, then a pre-teen, to do his Christmas shopping. I stumbled upon a pair of brown jodhpurs. You know, those funny looking English riding breeches. They had been marked down from about thirty dollars. Marked way down. To 19.95. To 9.95. To 4.95. To 1.95. And finally to ten cents! Billy bought them for his sister Peggy.

Needless to say, Christmas morning brought peals of laughter about Peggy’s gift.

Well, the next year, didn’t Peg give them back to Bill. And thus began the great jodhpur exchange. At every large family gathering, somebody gets the riding breeches. They now display an embroidered history of the presentations, which include the traditional trying on and posing for pictures. And of course, the infamous price tag is still attached.

It’s especially challenging when a couple of grandsons who are built like NFL line backers try to squeeze into those ten cent trowsers.

But somehow they do. Because it’s tradition. Because it’s family.

Silly stuff to be sure.

But it’s the stuff that sixty year marriages are made of.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011


I see where President Obama is proposing 4 trillion dollars of debt reduction to compete with the Republicans' push for 5 trillion in spending cuts. Of course, true to his commitment to class warfare, the President’s plan includes taxes on the hated rich people.

They have until May 16 to agree on something. That’s when the 14.6 trillion dollar federal debt limit will have to be raised, if we are going to borrow enough money to pay the obligations that will come due by then.

In short we have to borrow money to pay back money we have already borrowed.

Make sense to you?

Not to me. It’s like owing $10,000 on your VISA card and paying it back by putting it on your MasterCard.


The federal government, like everyone else, can only get money in one of four ways. It can beg, borrow or steal. Or it can get money the old fashioned way. Earn it.

You and I have to balance our budgets. What comes in must not be less than what goes out. Money that you borrow isn’t income. It is the absence of income. It’s called going in the hole.

You gotta pay it back. And the worst part is that until you do pay it back, the interest piles up.

I hate paying interest and penalties. It always makes me feel like somebody has a gun to my head. In the case of our national debt, the gun is often held by other nations.

How much is this tribute we are obligated to pay to our creditors? Let’s see. A million has six zeros. A billion has nine zeros. A trillion has twelve zeros. So one percent of a trillion – take off two zeros – is a number with ten zeros. Ten billion.

So if we are paying three percent interest on the 14 trillion dollar national debt, we are ponying up 30 x 14 or 420 billion dollars a year in tribute.

That’s just the interest. How much of the principal do we have to come up with?

In December of 2008, the national debt was 10 trillion. Today it’s 14 trillion. That’s a forty percent increase in just over half of Barack Obama’s first term.

Should we worry about it? Will it be a burden on our children and grandchildren? Of course it will. So how can we pay off the debt and get our government on a pay as you go system?

Easy enough. The constitution empowers Congress to coin money. In fact, it is more than a power. It is a duty. Just like setting the standard of weights and measures.

Can we crank out enough gold dollars to pay off 14 trillion in debt? Not hardly. Even at $1,400 an ounce, we probably don’t have enough in Fort Knox. And just shipping that much hard money to our creditors would be a monumental task. Anyway, who would want to make a monthly mortgage payment with gold coins?

But the constitution doesn’t require gold, and doesn’t define the word “coin.”

So how about this: the feds start issuing electronic money. Plastic cash cards loaded with 100, 1,000, 10,000 or 100,000 dollars. Easy to use. Easy to carry. Can’t be counterfeited. Program them with an LED window that displays the balance on the card when you pinch it.

The U.S. dollar is the international reserve currency. That means other countries use our dollars to pay each other when they do business. Plastic cash cards would work as well if not better than federal reserve notes.

Would it cause inflation?

Maybe. But sooner or later the fiddler has to be paid.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011


An exchange of emails with a friend got me started on this.

The abortion issue, labeled Pro Life or Pro Choice by the interest groups, remains the most significant cultural divide in American life. Viewed by both sides as a moral issue, it leaves little room for anyone to be 'moderate.'

I have always approached the question as a legal issue. Admittedly, my personal aversion to abortion may influence my legal opinion, but, in the tradition of the judiciary, I try to think it through without reference to my subjective opinion.

Prior to 1973, every state in the American union had some kind of legislation on the subject of abortion. Both criminal statutes and laws regulating the practice of medicine prohibited assisting or causing a woman to miscarry.

So far as I have seen, these laws were all addressed to the person causing the miscarriage and not to the pregnant woman.

In the decade prior to 1973 there were efforts in several states to liberalize the abortion statutes. Most would make it legal for a woman to have an abortion in case of rape or incest, or if the pregnancy endangered her life or physical health.

The entry of the Supreme Court of the United States into this sensitive moral and political thicket was, in my opinion, a serious departure from the proper constitutional role of the court. The opinion, written by Justice Harry Blackman, has been criticized from both left and right.

Much has been said and written by scholars on both sides. No one has ever suggested that any citizen who voted to ratify the U.S. Constitution or any of its amendments had the remotest intention to restrict the power of the states to legislate with respect to abortion.

Roe v Wade was an unquestioned usurpation of legislative power by the Supreme Court. It would be easy enough for the court to return the matter to the state legislatures, but unhappily, the Pro Choice people are dead set against allowing the voters to have any Choice in the matter.

The real mischief of Roe v Wade is that it legalizes abortion as an alternative method of birth control. Blackman said the decision should be left to the woman and her doctor. That line was supposed to suggest that abortion is a medical procedure, performed for medical reasons.

The fact is otherwise. Doctors who perform abortions make their living performing abortions. Pregnant women are their clients. Abortion doctors are hardly a restraining influence. If anything, they encourage the procedure that puts money in their pockets.

The result is that a healthy fetus has less protection in America than a healthy liver or gall bladder. No medical necessity needs to be shown. Abortion is completely optional. Like a haircut or a pedicure.

So there it lies. America has a liberal abortion culture, not by Choice, but by the dictate of unelected judges. The long range political consequences, especially as they impact the declining, morbid birth rate in the United States will probably have to play out before the Justices undo what they have wrought.

That's the way I see it.

Saturday, April 2, 2011


Today’s Wall Street Journal carries this story on page A12:

KABUL—A frenzied mob incensed by a Quran-burning-ceremony
in Florida overran the United Nations office in northern Afghanistan’s
largest city on Friday, killing at least seven foreigners and several
Afghans, U.N. and Afghan officials said.

There’s not a lot that can be said in defense of Pastor Terry Jones who came up with the idea of promoting “Burn a Quran Day” as a way of dramatizing opposition to the spread of Islam.

Criticism of his idea came from all over. Politicians, military commanders, civic and religious leaders all joined to condemn it and Jones himself ultimately backed off. For a while.

But he just couldn’t leave it alone. On March 20, in a small Gainesville, Florida church known as the Dove World Outreach Center, Jones’ colleague Pastor Wayne Sapp lit a kerosene soaked copy of the Quran with a barbeque match and 30 people watched it burn.

The insane, fanatic and tragic consequences were predictable. As a matter of fact, one of the very reasons why Jones and his ilk are so opposed to the Quran is that it has been interpreted to justify and even encourage bloodthirsty enforcement of Islamic law.

So now Pandora’s box has popped open. Muslim leaders call for the prosecution of Jones as a ‘war criminal.’ Anti-Western, anti-Christian and anti-American sentiment is bubbling up all over Afghanistan, and no doubt it will spread throughout the Arab world.

And here in the U.S. we are not exactly edified by the slaughter of United Nations officials as a means of protesting the burning of a book.

Debate rages on the Internet. On the one hand there are the trigger happy red neck types who say we should nuc the whole Middle East back to the stone age and build an oil pipeline from the Mediterranean to the Gulf of Mexico.

On the other extreme are the neo-isolationists who say we should bring all our troops home, build windmills, nuclear reactors, and solar panel highways. And drive electric cars.

Even Pastor Jones ought to realize that burning a book will not snuff out the words. Ideas live in the minds and hearts of human beings. The real contest of the twenty-first century is between Western Civilization and Islam.

There was time when Western Civilization was called Christendom. Eastern and Western Europe, North and South America were dotted with Christian churches in every city and village. And people went to them.

It was a culture of faith, and hope and charity. Of doing good and avoiding evil. Of marriage, family and hard work.

But no more. What is endemic in the West today is better described as multi-cultural hedonism.

My Dad used to say that the best evangelism was good example.

I ask myself whether we can hope to win the hearts and minds of Muslims by the example we show on our television, in our motion pictures, on our Internet.

I ask myself whether we can hope to persuade a burgeoning population of Muslims that it would be in their best interest – that they would be happier – if instead of spawning large families, they were to embrace birth control, abortion and homosexuality.

I wonder if people who block traffic during Friday prayers by prostrating themselves shoulder to shoulder across the highway by the hundreds – by the thousands – are likely ever to buy into a culture which bans the teaching of the Quran in public schools, or forbids the words of Muhammad from being inscribed above the courthouse door.

We have to condemn the criminal insanity of the mindless mob that slaughters non believers. But Hamid Karzai’s government isn’t going to arrest or prosecute anyone.

So what are we to do?

Tough question for Christian folk. What would Jesus do?

Friday, April 1, 2011


The fifty-five men who gathered in Philadelphia in 1787 were not there to come up with amendments to the Articles of Confederation.

Their marching orders were to revise the Articles. To rewrite the contract among the thirteen former British colonies.

The Articles didn’t work, and everybody knew it. There were no federal courts, there was no President. No power to tax. The Congress was the whole government. Every state had one vote, regardless of its population. It took nine of the thirteen states to pass a law, and all thirteen had to agree on any amendment to the Articles.

The Articles of Confederation couldn’t be fixed. Rhode Island would always vote ‘No.’

So the Founders knew they were writing on a clean piece of paper. Wisely, they began by spelling out who they represented and what it was that they were trying to do.

The Preamble begins with “We the People of the United States.” That’s very important. The Articles of Confederation had been an agreement among thirteen independent states. It was more like a treaty than a constitution.

The Philadelphia delegates saw themselves, not as representatives of state governments, but as agents of the people. The people of every state. All the people. And their purpose was to draft a constitution. To create a nation.

They began by spelling out their goals:

1. To form a more perfect union.
2. To establish justice
3. To ensure domestic tranquility
4. To provide for the common defense.
5. To promote the general welfare.
6. To secure the blessings of liberty.

I’ve thought about the Preamble for many years and it seems to me that they got their objectives in the right order.

Union was first, because whatever they were going to do, they had to do it together.

Justice was next, because they wanted a nation ruled by laws and not by despots.

Then came domestic tranquility, because they feared the tyranny of the mob.

Defense was fourth because a united, just and peaceful nation would be worth fighting for.

The fifth priority was the general welfare, the common good, the advancement of the human condition.

The final goal was liberty, seen as a blessing to be passed on to future generations.

Agreement on these goals was only the beginning. There were big states and little states. There were slave states and free states. There were farm states and commercial states. Each state decided how many delegates to send.

Rhode Island didn’t send anybody.

Compromise, compromise. That was the name of the game.

Should Congress vote by states or by population? Why not a House and a Senate?

The Federalists wanted a strong central government. The anti-federalists were afraid of a strong central government. OK, let’s spell out just what powers the central government will have.

And leave everything else to the states? Yes, to the states and to the people themselves.

But what about the future? Can we trust this new nation to the Congress? Will they change the constitution we’re writing? Can they renege on the compromises we’re making?

Make another compromise. Three quarters of the states must approve any amendment. No amendment can eliminate equal representation in the Senate. And if Congress won’t propose needed amendments, give the states a way to have a convention.

A convention. The only place where We The People can be heard.