Thursday, October 27, 2011


Some of you have seen me do it.

I plunk my air guitar, summon my best country western accent and sing the song I wrote. It goes like this:

I was born in Tennessee
In the Veerans family
Percy was my daddy’s name
And they christened me the same
Percy Veerans!
Percy Veerans!
Percy Veerans is my name
When the rest have given up
I’ll still be in the game.

There was a curio shop a block or so from the University of Detroit Law School. In the window, a plaque displayed a chronicle of Abraham Lincoln’s career. A tale of failure and frustration that culminated in the Presidency of the United States.

I passed that shop every day on my way to the street car. And I read the plaque. It was the most enduring lesson I learned in law school.

And so, I have persevered, often against wise counsel. I lost five elections before winning a seat on the Common Pleas Court of Detroit. I spent decades battling the American Bar Association to establish the Thomas Cooley Law School.

As the years have piled up and the testosterone diminished, I have learned to resign myself to the impossible.

But still…

Still, there is the flickering flame way down deep that says, “It’s the right thing. It can be done. It must be done.”

Two years ago, I launched a website called ConventionUSA. My idea was to provide a place where ordinary citizens, the good folks who save their money, pay their taxes, register and vote, could come together and talk about the future of our country.

Maybe even do something constructive.

Anybody who doesn’t think there’s a lot to talk about must be comatose.

The demonstrators who have camped out on Wall Street have inspired flash mobs in other cities.

Yesterday it was Oakland, California. We were treated to pictures of riot-geared police trying to stem an attack on city hall. It wasn’t London or Madrid, Egypt or Syria. It was right here in the good old U.S. of A.

Social networking on the Internet has gone bananas. Over 800,000,000 people on Facebook? That’s nearly three times the population of the United States, and almost nine percent of the population of planet earth!

Calls to action go viral in seconds. We are literally living in a tower of babel.

But the miracle of the silicone chip can work both ways.

The people out on the streets do not represent 99% of the citizens of our nation. The majority is still as silent as it was in 1972 when Nixon coined the phrase.

But things are different today. Today we have the Internet. We can talk to each other. We can speak up without ever leaving home. We can make ourselves heard without bull horns.

My vision for Convention USA is that it will become a permanent institution. Not just another think-tank or advocacy site for the Right or the Left, but an assembly open to all men and women of goodwill and civility, who want to protect and defend our constitution and prosper out beloved Republic.

Is that such a bad idea?

Is that something beyond the realm of possibility?

Is it an undertaking that can only succeed with a huge investment of money and vast array of hired hands?

Or is it a dream that can come true with commitment and perseverance?

I’m 82. I’ll keep at it a while longer.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011


Some days I wake up in the morning with a sudden realization. This is one of those days.

I got up, went right to my computer and jotted down four subjects to write about.
• 180
• 11%
• Can’t wait

Item number one is a thirty minute video I found on the Internet yesterday. You can view it at

It is the most moving and frightening thing I have seen in a long time. Hitler’s Third Reich. Marching, chanting mobs. Horrible scenes of the Holocaust.

And then the interviews. Young people who never heard of Adolph Hitler. Didn’t know who he was. Didn’t recognize the name.

A tattooed neo-Nazi nut case who denied that there ever was a Holocaust. Then a Jew-hating racist who insisted that the pogrom wasn’t so bad. And anyway, they deserved it.

The second item is the Congress of the United States. It now enjoys the worst public approval rate in the history of our country. Eleven percent.

That means eighty-nine out of every one hundred American disapprove of the body of elected officials who are supposed to represent the people of the United States.

The people of this country have lost confidence in their elected representatives. They have lost confidence in our constitutionally mandated republican form of government.

Members of Congress are seen as crooks, career politicians, greedy, self- serving liars who have sold out to multi national corporate lobbyists and who no longer represent or serve the people.

First the Tea Party. Then the Coffee Party. Then Occupy Wall Street and Main Street. Direct democracy is the byword. Forget electing representatives to govern us. We want to govern ourselves.

Benjamin Franklin said the United States is a Republic “if you can keep it.” Do we want to keep it?

Number three. FOIA is the Freedom of Information Act. It empowers the American people to have access to government records. At least that’s what the law says. Now the Attorney General issues ‘guidelines’ telling government agencies that they can lie to the courts about records they don’t want to disclose.

‘Guidelines’ that repeal laws enacted by the Congress?

Who needs Congress anyway? The Code of Federal Regulations which contains all the rules made by government agencies boasts 50 titles, nearly 200,000 pages and 25 feet of shelf space. In addition, the President issues Executive Orders which have the force of law. Barack Obama has issued 95 of them so far.

That brings me to number four, “Can’t Wait.”

This is the President’s new mantra. He can’t wait for the Congress to do what he wants them to do. So he issues orders.

Stroke of the pen. That’s how laws get made by dictators. Hitler did it in the 1930’s and the crowd cheered.

President Obama tells the American people they can’t wait for jobs and foreclosure relief. And he’s got that right. The American people just can’t wait. In a culture of instant gratification, we want what we want and we want it now.

Just do it. Make it happen. Or as a friend of mine said the other day, “What America needs is a benign dictator.”

That’s an oxymoron. Dictators aren’t benign.

The primitive cycle of human governance is playing out in the Middle East. Dictatorship. Revolution. Mob rule. Martial Law. Dictatorship. Revolution, etc. etc.

It can’t happen here. Or can it?

Friday, October 21, 2011


Article V of the United States Constitution, which tells us how it can be amended, ends with these words: “…no State, without its Consent, shall be deprived of its equal Suffrage in the Senate.”

The constitution is full of compromises. Small states versus big states. Commercial states versus farming states. Slave states against free states.

Some delegates, I suppose, were afraid that their state might actually be ousted from the union. Or perhaps downgraded to second class status.

The bicameral legislature was itself the grandest compromise of all. One house reflecting population, the other protecting the sovereignty of every state, even the smallest.

I’ve heard it said that the United States Senate is the most prestigious debating society in the world.

Maybe so. But I wonder sometimes if its prestige doesn’t get in the way of its primary responsibility. That is to represent the sovereign states of the American union. In fact, the Senate calls itself “the living symbol of our union of states."

Senators are elected for six year terms. Every two years, a third of them are up for election. That means two thirds of them are not. At every national election between 32 and 35 Senators are on the ballot. At least sixty five of them are not.

The purpose of staggering senatorial terms is sensible. The Founders wanted it to be a stable body of statesmen with institutional memory who would tend to soften any rash change in public policy that might come from the House of Representatives.

Fair enough. And leavening the Senate with a third of its members reflecting the current mood of the voters is another good example of the compromises made in Philadelphia.

But I think if falls a bit short. The Senate, in effect, takes the temperature of only a two thirds of the nation every two years. The voters in the other 16 or 17 states may be up in arms and ready to throw the rascals out, but since there is no senator on the ballot in those states, they have no place to vent their views.

Something like one hundred million Americans are disenfranchised every two years!

The solution in my view is simple. If there were one hundred fifty instead of one hundred Senators, one from each state would face the voters every two years. The turnover would still be limited to a third of the body, so continuity would be assured, but the changing mood of the nation would be better reflected in that august assembly.

And with three, rather than two Senators from each state one other important thing could happen.

The United States Senate could vote by states, rather than by individual Senators. With three Senators from each state, they could be required to agree on the vote to be cast for their state.

At present, the Democrats control 17 state delegations in the Senate and the Republicans have 15. Eighteen states have split representation.

The result? A majority of the Senators never means a majority of the states!

You cannot count 51 votes in the Senate without at least half of your votes coming from Senators elected in states with equally divided delegations.

Another, perhaps less obvious benefit is this: senatorial arrogance would be diminished. United States Senators perceive themselves to be pretty important men and women. They hold up judicial appointments, they threaten filibusters, they kill legislation which may have passed the House by a wide majority.

Adding fifty Senators would dilute their prerogatives. Instead of one Senator stymying legislative progress, it would take at least two out of three from a state to stall the wheels of progress.

The shrinking of senatorial egos would be a blessing to the nation.

Of course, just adding bodies to the chamber is not enough. There needs to be some outside discipline imposed to prevent some of the obstructionist rules under which the senate operates.

A parliamentary body is a deliberative assembly. It is intended to afford rational debate, discussion and compromise. The sight of a lone Senator delivering an impassioned speech to an empty chamber is the height of embarrassment to our system of republican government.

You can see the British House of Commons on the telly. It may be a bit unruly, but they are all present, accounted for, and obviously paying attention.

Our Senate could use more face time.


The folks milling around Wall Street are now talking about a national assembly in Philadelphia on July 4th.

They want 870 people – half men and half women – to gather there and draw up a list of grievances to be presented to the Congress, the President and the Supreme Court.

The 870 delegates, it seems, are to be chosen at mass meetings in each congressional district.

So in politics, as in war, the ultimate weapon is boots on the ground.

But boots cost money. Mass meetings have to be organized. And organizers can be hired.

The chicken and egg puzzle of politics: which comes first, the people or the money?

The Wall Street demonstrators seem to have spawned a cadre of anonymous leaders who put up their websites and presume to speak for the masses.

They have drawn up a list of suggested grievances, which will affect the public impression of what their national assembly might do. Candidly, it looked to me to be a Blue State platform, replete with federal spending programs and environmental concerns.

One example: they would outlaw all campaign contributions for federal offices. Presumably that would include individuals, corporations, committees and political parties.

They want all campaigns financed by the federal government. Bad idea. REAL bad idea. If the goal is to entrench career politicians in office, there’s no better way to do it than to let the incumbents decide who gets the campaign money and how much they get.

I don’t know anybody, liberal or conservative, who approves of the way money influences our national politics today. The unholy alliance between K Street lobbyists, corporate cronies and members of Congress as detailed in Professor Larry Lessig’s book, Republic, Lost, is the subject of all kinds of books, blogs and banter on the Internet.

Here’s my take: America has gotten too big for the Capital Building in Washington D.C.

Congress decided to cap the House of Representatives at 435 people in 1913.
We were a nation of 97,225,000 in 1913. Today we are over 312,000,000. Congressional districts average 700,000 constituents.

Bringing a message to 700,000 constituents cost money. Lots of money. Television. Postage. Staff. A campaign for Congress is a big, expensive operation.

And, obviously, a campaign for the Senate is even bigger. And more expensive.

The Founding Fathers set the number of people in a congressional district at 30,000. They could only see down the road as far as 50,000. Maybe that’s where it should have stopped. In a republic of 300 million people, having six thousand representatives doesn’t sound like too much democracy.

Candidates in small districts can go door to door. They can meet their constituents, see them, listen to them, speak to them and speak for them.

The six thousand wouldn’t have to go to Washington. In the 21st century they can assemble on the Internet. The can debate on the Internet. They can vote on the Internet. No big salaries, offices or staffs.

And if Wikipedia doesn’t have as many books as the Library of Congress, at least it’s easier to use.

Much of what Americans don’t like about our government boils down to the culture inside the beltway. Career politicians. A ruling class of elites who talk only to each other. An incomprehensible mumbo jumbo of alphabet soup. Abbreviations and acronyms that separate the insiders from the rest of the people.

Keeping Congress members at home would go a long way toward keeping our government responsive to the voters.

And it’s a lot harder to lobby 6,000 spread all over the country than to buy off 435 in one city.

Monday, October 17, 2011


Two news items crossing the screen today epitomize the culture war in America.

Item number one: Jamie Hubley, a gay 15-year-old commits suicide, leaving blogs on the Internet which chronicle his depression and pain.

Item number two: A Chicago Christian school is vandalized for hosting a pro-family event.

Hubley’s schoolmates plan a memorial performance in his honor. He is remembered as a happy kid, always smiling and giving everybody hugs in the halls.

His blogs paint a different picture. Peppered with F bombs, they reveal a troubled soul who indulged in self-mutilation and hated being the only homosexual in his school.

He expressed love for his parents. Didn’t blame them for his depression. But anti-depressants and counseling didn’t help.

In his final blog, entitled “You can’t break when you’re already broken,” he calls himself ‘a casualty of love.’

Raging teen age hormones, blotting out the call of reason, blotting out concern for parents, blotting out everything but self-loathing and despair.

Pathetic? Certainly. Teen-age suicide is always a tragedy. But the near epidemic of it among homosexuals should hoist a warning flag.

And it does. But the flag gives a mixed message. Some say the message is that universal acceptance and approval of homosexual conduct is needed so that the Jamie Hubleys of the world will not be lonely.

And some say that homosexual conduct is irrational and should be discouraged.

That’s the gist of the message being broadcast by Americans for Truth About Homosexuality, which sponsored a banquet and lecture at Christian Liberty Academy in Arlington Heights, Illinois two days ago.

When the faculty and staff arrived on the morning of October 15, they found a number of windows and doors shattered with bricks. The vandals were not exactly shy. One brick carried a note which read, “This is just a sample of what we will do if you don’t shut down Scott Lively and AFTAH.”

Later in the day, an anonymous posting on the Internet boasted of causing the vandalism to protest the event, accusing Americans for Truth About Homosexuality of being a ‘hate group’ and accusing Lively, who was to be given an award, of founding another ‘hate group’ called Watchmen on the Walls.

An activist organization called the Gay Liberation Network tried to persuade the academy to call off the event, but has taken no responsibility for the damage.

Peter LaBarbera, founder and president of Americans for Truth About Homosexuality, characterized the attack as a ‘hate crime’ against people who espouse Christian values. “If this would have occurred at a gay church, there would have been a public outcry,” he said.

And so it goes.

Eight years ago, in the case of Lawrence v Texas, the Supreme Court of the United States struck down state laws against sodomy. It was a classic example of judicial legislation.

One of the problems with judges making laws is that they tend to get ahead of the curve. Six black robed geniuses in Washington are not competent to declare what is culturally acceptable or unacceptable.

To overturn centuries of human experience and attitude by a 6 to 3 vote is, to say the least, a rather expansive notion of the judicial prerogative.

Did they really expect to silence Mr. LaBarbera with a stroke of the pen?

Or create a welcoming freshman class for Jamie Hubley with their sophistic theories about what the 1789 Constitution ought to have intended?

I suppose there aren’t a lot of folks who would blame Jamie’s suicide or the Christian Liberty Academy vandalism on Justices Kennedy, Stevens, Breyer, Ginsburg, Souter and O’Connor.

But I do.

The Supreme Court never takes a case they don’t want to hear. They should have left Texas law and Texas culture to the people of Texas.

Saturday, October 15, 2011


Just returned from the nation’s capital, where I attended an event at the Heritage Foundation.

Heritage Foundation is a conservative think tank. Very prestigious.

On Tuesday, there was panel discussion with the imposing title, THE CONSTITUTION AND THE COMMON DEFENSE: Who Ensures America’s National Security?

Three heavy hitters led the panel, all former Attorneys General of the United States; Ed Meese, John Ashcroft and Mike Mukasey.

It didn’t take long into the question period before the issue of the drone bombing of Anwar al-Awlaki was raised.

Ashcroft was pretty direct. The President is sworn to protect and defend the nation, said he, and that meant doing whatever was necessary to defend the nation. Successfully, he added.

Neither of the other speakers took issue with that idea. As far as Awlaki is concerned, they all seemed to think that the main reason why he was killed was the same reason Osama Ben Laden was dispatched. The President didn’t want them at Guantanamo.

All of the speakers agreed that the courts have gone too far in trying to referee the war on terror. Apparently, the military now has lawyers in the trenches advising on tactics. Not a very efficient way to win a war.

That said, I was intrigued by a comment made by John Ashcroft at the private luncheon which followed the panel. He confessed to being at least ambivalent about a hypothetic case in which the CIA might take out someone like Awlaki in a Denver condo or an Arby’s in Atlanta.

I think too often we lawyers, and indeed the public at large, assume that only the courts can enforce the constitution.

Ed Meese said it well when he observed that, in the final analysis, the constitution belongs to the people and can be enforced by the people.

Every Congressman and Senator, indeed every elected official in the United States, and every soldier, sailor, marine and airman takes an oath to support and defend the Constitution.

If the President were to authorize the military or the CIA to knock off every suspected terrorist sympathizer with neither writ nor warrant, he should expect to be summarily condemned by the public and impeached by the Congress.

The Awlaki killing was apparently not an isolated event. Just today more American drones landed in Yemen, killing Awlaki’s 21 year old son and eight others suspected of being al-Qaida operatives.

This while 300,000 people demonstrated in Sanaa, the capital of Yemen, demanding the ouster of 31 year President Ali Abdullah Saleh. For their insolence, eighteen protesters were shot to death in the streets.

Apparently what we are doing in Yemen is pretty much what we are doing all over the Middle East. We want to see the long time autocratic leaders ousted, but not by Islamic radicals. We want to build modern democracies in the sand, and turn Bedouin tribal sheiks into precinct captains.

That’s a pretty big finale to the 19th century notion of Manifest Destiny.

And it’s damned dicey.

How, indeed do you distinguish between the radical terrorist revolutionaries and the benign, concerned citizen-demonstrators when they are all mixed together in the park?

Here at home, the 99ers have called for world-wide demonstrations. It looks like they are getting their wish. They’re building tents in Minnesota, burning cars in Rome, raising hell in Madrid.

I went on their web site to see just what it is that they want. One fellow summed it up pretty well. His placard read:


Like life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness?

Monday, October 10, 2011


The folks who have gathered on Wall Street these last few weeks describe themselves as “The 99 Percent”.

They have picked up on President Obama’s repeated insistence that the wealthiest one percent of Americans do not pay their fair share of the taxes.

Other than Susan Serandon and Michael Moore, the crowd seems to be largely made up of students and the unemployed. If they do have jobs, they are taking a lot of time off to demonstrate.

When the Tea Party folks took to the streets, I had a pretty good idea of what it was they were complaining about. Their grievance was the massive federal debt and the continuing federal deficit.

It’s hard to get a handle on the 99ers' complaint. It’s pretty clear that they don’t like rich people. With some exceptions.

Presumably they like movie stars, rock singers, basketball players and philanthropists, especially those whose generosity is directed toward environmental causes and endangered animal species other than homo sapiens.

But they sure don’t like stockbrokers, bankers, and other corporate executives.

Makes you sort of wonder what would change their chanting to cheering.
I suspect that if someone came out on the steps of the New York Stock Exchange tomorrow afternoon about 4 o’clock and announced that the Dow Jones Industrial Average had tanked and lost 98% of its value, a mighty cheer would rise from the milling multitude.

Good. The rich people have lost all their riches. Now we can all go home and live happily ever after.

I don’t think so.

Don’t get me wrong, here. I think there are plenty of good reasons for Americans to be concerned, indeed to join forces and demonstrate. The Tea Party, the Coffee Party, the 99ers and their friends are all pretty fed up with the mess in Washington.

Nobody likes the unholy alliance between well-heeled lobbyists and members of Congress who crawl up K Street begging for bucks.

Making a public fuss about it might just encourage some new leaders to step up and do something.

But I do worry about people taking to the streets for no better purpose than to express unbridled envy of rich people.

The tenth commandment teaches us not to covet the wealth of others. And anyway, who decides how rich is too rich? The President speaks glibly of ‘millionaires and billionaires” as though they both enjoy the same status, even though the “B’s” are a thousand times richer than the “M’s.”

I suppose it makes no difference to a factory worker, a store clerk or a college student. All they know is that however you define it, they ain’t it.

A demonstration without a defined purpose is very like a mob. Without a platform or a plan, it can easily begin to focus on people.

In Egypt and Lybia, Yemen and Syria political demonstrations have morphed into revolutions. Placards become guns. Shouting and shoving turns into killing.

It can’t happen here, you say? Guess again. Remember Newark and Watts and Detroit in the 1960’s. Remember Kent State.

On August 20, 1786, Louis XVI was told that the royal treasury was insolvent. Over the next fourteen years, the government of France came apart at the seams. The guillotine became the symbol of popular government. The Bolsheviks weren’t any kinder to the Tsarists in 1917.

Americans have a great tradition of political activism. Our constitution gives us the right to assemble peaceably and petition the government for redress of grievances.

We have a system of periodic elections. We don’t have to force the government to let us vote.

We also have a constitutional right to come together in convention and fix anything that doesn’t work properly in Washington. There’s no need for blood in the streets.

Saturday, October 1, 2011


Back in the good old nineteen fifties, we used to have Congressional hearings to ferret out the bad guys. You know, the pinko Commie traitors who advocated the violent overthrow of the United States government.

Civil libertarians screamed and hollered. Eventually, the head witch hunter, Wisconsin Senator Joseph McCarthy, was debunked, censured, and faded from the scene.

I reflected on those days as I read news reports about the killing of Muslim Imam Anwar al-Awlaki.

Here’s an example of what the mainstream media were saying about it:

An American-born cleric killed in Yemen played a "significant operational role" in plotting and inspiring attacks on the United States, U.S. officials said, as they disclosed detailed intelligence to justify the killing of a U.S. citizen.

Anwar al-Awlaki was killed early Friday in a strike on his convoy carried out by a joint operation of the CIA and the U.S. Joint Special Operations Command, according to counterterrorism officials. Al-Awlaki had been under observations for three weeks while they waited for the right opportunity to strike.

Another U.S. official said a second American citizen died in the airstrike that killed al-Awlaki. Two other men also perished.

The second American, Samir Khan, edited the slick Western-style Internet publication Inspire Magazine that attracted many readers.

The online magazine published seven issues offering articles on making crude bombs and how to fire AK-47 assault rifles. U.S. intelligence officials have said that Khan — who was from North Carolina — was not directly responsible for targeting Americans.

I wrote a blog three years ago called “Murdering Presidents.” It’s worth another look in light of recent events.

President Obama enjoyed a spike in public approval when Navy Seals killed Osama Ben Laden on his orders. No doubt the pollsters will note a similar boost to his popularity as a consequence of this latest Mafia style hit.

I got to wondering how the people of the United States would have felt if Awlaki had been found in a condo in Colorado rather than a convoy in Yemen. Does the government’s “kill or capture” list specify when and where to kill?

And what about companions and bystanders? Does the official hit list include anyone who might be hanging around with the targeted wrongdoer?

Anyway, who makes up the hit list and when do they do it?

I was surprised to learn that Imam Awlaki led Muslim federal workers in prayer after 9-11, and that he was invited to speak at the Pentagon about the same time, as part of the government’s outreach to Muslims.

So many contradictions.

Cop killer Troy Davis is administered a lethal injection, while hundreds pray and protest in the street. Major Nidal Malik Hasan, the Fort Hood terrorist who killed thirteen people in November of 2009 has yet to be brought to trial. Magazine editor Samir Kahn is killed by the CIA and nobody cares.

At the risk of being branded a constitutional curmudgeon, I have to say that a “kill or capture” list that is prepared by officials of the federal government who decline to identify themselves or speak only on condition of anonymity, scares the hell out of me.

And I am not at all comfortable with the idea that CIA assassinations are OK as long as they are authorized by the President of the United States.

Especially a first term President who is up for re-election.

In the last analysis, liberty is all about due process of law. Before we put up a poster that says, “Wanted: Dead or Alive” there ought to be at least enough evidence to issue a warrant.

Where the heck is the ACLU when their man is in the White House?