Thursday, April 30, 2015


It’s been a busy and interesting month. Polly and I have been celebrating our 64th wedding anniversary. The centerpiece was a long planned ‘bucket list’ cruise on the Rhine River in Germany. We had a fabulous time, and I would recommend Rhine River cruising to anyone with a taste for travel.

We boarded the ship in Amsterdam on the 13th and promptly disembarked to board a smaller sight-seeing vessel that took us around the city. It’s a fascinating metropolis which has been a center of global commerce for centuries.

Over the next week, we traveled up the Rhine river with stops in such storied  places as Heidelberg, Freiburg, and Cologne. Cathedrals, castles and countryside made for a visual experience that almost distracted me from the daily five course dinners on board the ship.

Traveling with Judge Tom, Junior and his wife, Julie, meant trying to keep up with a couple of social dynamos whose dance cards are always filled.

Polly was up for the trip. The weeks before we left were filled with doctors’ and dentists’ appointments, as she worked to find relief from sciatic discomfort and repair of a major piece of bridgework that had picked the wrong time to collapse.

Her Father was from Germany and her Mother was from Hungary. She remembers that German was spoken in her home when she was a tyke. Like tiny film clips, lingering memories of food and phrases and faces that speak to her family’s roots were jogged back to life at every stop along the river.   

I was determined to get some rest. It was a vacation that provided some down time, as the comfortable, modern vessel smoothed its way upstream. Bill O’Reilly’s Killing Patton was primary on my agenda, and I managed to find the account of his assault on the German homeland over the Rhine River at about the time our ship was in that neighborhood.

On the night of March 22, 1945, a patrol from Patton’s Third Army paddled wooden boats across the Rhine near a town called Nierstein. On the other side, they found no evidence of the German army, and they reported the fact to Patton, who instantly ordered a pontoon bridge to be constructed. Within 24 hours, a full division of GI boots were on German soil.

George Patton was given to symbolism. He had long since announced his intention to invade the German homeland, and promised that he would “piss in the Rhine.”

He did precisely that on March 24th and a photograph evidencing the event is included in Bill O’Reilly’s book. As our ship cruised past the town of Nierstein, I took great pleasure in announcing the significance of the location to all the passengers within earshot.

Heidelberg was a particularly intriguing stop. The short bus ride from the dock took us through winding cobblestone streets up steep hills to the remains of the Heidelberg Castle, a storied structure which inspired our guide to spew out a lecture on European history that included the Roman Empire, the Protestant Reformation, the Napoleonic Wars, and a cascading torrent of information far too detailed and esoteric to stick in my craw.

Of special interest was the wine barrel. Built to hold the taxes paid in wine by the people to the Lord of the castle, the Heidelberg wine barrel is said to be the largest in the world. Nearly twenty feet tall, it holds about 58,000 gallons of wine when full.

Interestingly, through, most of the time since 1751 when it was built, the barrel has been empty. A good message there for tax collectors.

Polly was a stalwart sightseer on Friday when we toured Heidelberg. Back aboard ship, we were feted by the crew at dinner. Tom and Julie were celebrating their 38th wedding anniversary and, of course, Polly and I were observing our 64th. At dessert time, the lights were dimmed and a delegation of the wait staff appeared with sparkler candles and individual cakes.

Polly, of course, wanted to acknowledge the attention with a smile. Unfortunately, just moments before, a front tooth cap had come dislodged, and she was hastily trying to find a way to hold the tooth in place.

Needless to say, the dentist’s office was our first stop after deplaning in Tampa.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015


His name is Mike Duggan. He is listed by Fortune Magazine among “The World’s Greatest Leaders.” I was surprised to learn that a number or my rather knowledgeable and sophisticated golfing buddies had never heard of him.

Mike Duggan is a graduate of Detroit Catholic Central High School – my alma mater. He attended the University of Michigan, both undergraduate and Law School.

Mike was active in Democratic politics in Wayne County. That helped him get a job after Law School as an Assistant Corporation Counsel for Wayne County. Eventually, he earned appointment as Deputy County Executive in 1987.

In 2000, Duggan was elected Prosecuting Attorney of Wayne County. With a year remaining on his term of office, he left the County to take on the challenge of managing the Detroit Medical Center, a municipal hospital which was in dire financial straights.

His executive skills made a difference. In eight years, he turned DMC around and it became a profitable enterprise which attracted a buyer from the private sector. Vanguard Health Systems purchased the Detroit Medical Center in 2010.

In 2013, at fifty-five years of age, Mike Duggan chose to resign from the hospital and take on a new challenge. He decided to run for Mayor of Detroit.

Mike and his wife, Lori, bought a gracious old home in Detroit and Mike filed as a candidate for Mayor. Unfortunately, he filed too soon. He had not been a resident of the City long enough to run. It was a careless mistake. Had he waited just another week or so, the filing would have been accepted.

As it was, the City Clerk refused to put Mike Duggan’s name on the Primary Election ballot. A hurried appeal to the courts was unsuccessful. The Duggans were now residents of the City, but Mike was not running for Mayor.

Undiscouraged, Duggan mounted a write-in campaign. It was a decision that most observers thought was utterly impossible. His candidacy seemed doubtful enough, considering that Detroit’s population is mostly black, and the last white Mayor was Ray Gribbs back in the 1970’s. But running as a write-in candidate? What was he thinking?

He was thinking that he knew the City and its people better that his critics. When the ballots were counted, Duggan was nominated with 52 percent of the Primary ballots. He went on to tally a solid 55 percent in the final election.

So who is Mike Duggan? He is the Mayor of Detroit. He has taken on a challenge that would be shunned by any corporation CEO in America, even if multimillion dollar executive compensation were on the table.

When I was elected Judge of the Common Pleas Court of Detroit in 1961, there were 1,800,000 residents of that city. Today, there are fewer than 700,000. To say that Detroit is a ghost town is no exaggeration. Whole neighborhoods that once teemed with children, schools, churches, businesses and block after block of single family homes, have been reduced to weed infested empty lots surrounding pitiful, boarded up buildings.

It’s a city that reflects all the challenges that plague urban life in America. Unemployment, racial tensions, decaying infrastructure, exodus of the middle class, failing schools, drugs, crime. You name it. Whatever is wrong in any city in America is doubly wrong in Detroit.

Why would a  successful hospital executive from Livonia want to take on such a job? And what are his prospects?

I know Mike Duggan. His wife is my my old law partner’s daughter. She grew up calling me Uncle Tom. The Duggans are good people. Mike is not a show boat politician. He is a hard worker with a lot of common sense and good instincts.

My golfing buddies haven’t heard of him because he keeps a low profile. I am sure there are some pundits around the country who think that a white man who can get elected as a write-in candidate in a black town ought to be a shoo-in for a Democratic Presidential nomination some day.

I wouldn’t bet against it. If anybody can revive Tiger Town, Hockey Town and Mo Town, it’s Mike Duggan.  

Friday, April 3, 2015


Many of the folks who want to see an Article V convention called hail from the right side of the political spectrum. That’s largely because the most popular constitutional issue is the need for a balanced budget.

Even the biggest of the big spenders pay lip service to fiscal responsibility, though usually they would balance the budget by raising taxes.

Still, there are a great many conservatives who are torn between the need for fiscal reform and the possible results of calling a convention. Prime among these is the John Birch Society. Those constitution-loving patriots bitch incessantly about the failure of the national government to obey the constitution, but they get nearly spastic whenever an Article V convention is mentioned. It seems that their devotion to the Constitution includes everything but article V.

They make a fuss about a letter written by Chief Justice Warren Burger in which he insists that a convention would be a dangerous thing. They seem to forget that it was Burger who led the Supreme Court to issue its activist fiat in Roe V Wade, perhaps the single most unconstitutional opinion ever rendered by the high court.

Obviously, Burger didn’t want a convention that might undo that decision or disparage the legacy of the Burger Court.

I have spent a good amount of time trying to understand the reluctance of those Americans who agree that the government is dysfunctional and needs fixing, but adamantly oppose the very remedy that our Founders gave us.

The best rationale I can come up with goes like this: Article V requires a convention to be called by Congress on applications by two thirds of the state legislatures. Members of Congress and members of state legislatures are all politicians; they are all either Republican or Democrats. They are all beneficiaries of the existing system of politics, lobbying and favoritism.

The Average Citizen has no confidence that politicians can or will fix the system. Therefore, if Article V is intended to enable state and national politicians to reform our government, it just won’t work. The average citizen just doesn’t want politicians fooling around with the Constitution. It’s as simple as that.

Of course, they ignore the fact that Congress already has the power to propose constitutional amendments. Since Congress rarely does it unless there is a major public uproar, most folks don’t worry too much about it.

But a convention called for the very purpose of proposing amendments, just sounds a lot more activist and potentially dangerous.

The call for a convention is addressed to 308 million Americans who live in a frenetic communications milieu, talking, tweeting and texting at billions of words per second. Information trumps knowledge, feelings trump analysis, and the sound bite has replaced the essay.

In 2015, what a thing sounds like is a lot more persuasive that what it really is.

What a convention really is is a constituent assembly, a gathering of the people of the fifty states, or their representatives, for the purpose of doing what was declared in the Declaration of Independence: expressing the consent of the governed to the form and manner of their government.

It is the embodiment of the idea so eloquently expressed at Gettysburg: government of the people, by the people and for the people.

So the first question to be answered is this: How are the people to be represented in an Article V convention? Do the politicians in Congress decide who is to represent the people? Do the politicians in the State Legislatures decide who is to represent the people?

Or do the people themselves decide who will represent them?

A convention is a law unto itself. It makes its own rules and decides upon its agenda. And most pointedly, a convention is the final judge of the credentials and qualifications of its members.

The framework for such a grass roots effort already exists. It can be found at