Saturday, May 28, 2016


In April of 1958, in his 58th year, my Dad got sick and went to the hospital. No one in his family ever went to the hospital except to have a baby or to  die.

He was in a corner of a large ward, enclosed in an oxygen tent. I remember trying to reach under the tent to touch his hand. He told me to “Gowan home.” It was the last thing he said to me.

I don’t remember ever telling my Dad that I loved him. Not that day. Not ever. I know that I did love him, and I was always sure that he knew it. As little ones, we were expected to kiss our parents good night. I remember once refusing and stomping upstairs in a snit. Dad followed me up the stairs with vigor and discipline.

When our voices changed, the boys shook his hand, and occasionally we men could hug each other or punch a shoulder affectionately.

All that changed for me when I married Pauline. She had buried two brothers, both parents and a grandmother, and she knew the value of loving people and saying so.

In due course, she even nudged my very proper and reserved mother into saying, “I love you, too, dear.”

So you can understand that as we reared six children, watched them marry and welcomed their spouses and the nineteen grandchildren they have spawned, the phrase “I love you” has been a commonplace expression that knows no age, gender or geographical boundaries.

All of which is by way of telling you that as I acknowledged and celebrated the 87th anniversary of my birth there has been a tsunami of greeting cards, emails, text messages, tweets and face book postings in which all of my wonderful relatives augmented by their multitude of friends, not to mention the few of my own who are still living, which have unabashedly expressed warm affection for this old judge and wishes for his continued health, happiness and good humor.

This blog, then, is by way of expressing thanks to all of you.

I have told this story before, and I’ll tell it again. Some years ago, I was in the airport in Newark, New Jersey, walking from one gate to another at some distance. Coming toward me on the concourse, I saw a young family, Mother, Dad and a little boy who could not have been more than two or three.

They stopped me and greeted me warmly, the husband saying that he was a graduate of Cooley Law School and was happily and successfully employed, I seem to recall, as general counsel for a department of the New York State Government.

He was effusive with praise as he introduced me to his wife and his little boy, who looked up at me wide eyed and obviously impressed with his father’s words of appreciation and admiration.

We chatted for a few moments, then said goodbye as I was about to continue toward my gate. But just as I turned to leave, the little boy looked up and, in a most endearing bit of childish talk said, “I wove you!”

It was an encounter I shall never forget.

It has reminded me so many times in the intervening years of the importance, indeed the necessity, of expressing our love for other human beings.

So now, as I stack up the cards, and file away the emails, text messages and  phone calls that lifted my spirits yesterday and helped to remind me that 87 isn’t 90, so I don’t have to hang it up just yet; I simply want to say to all of you my dear ones; Thank you, thank you, thank you so very much for all your good wishes and your “I love you’s.”

I love all of you and I love each of you.

You are in my thoughts, my prayers and my heart, now and every day the Lord gives me on this beautiful Planet.

Sunday, May 22, 2016


There is a symbiotic relationship between wealth and power. People use wealth to get power and they use power to get wealth. The object of both is the same: they enhance freedom.

The more money you have, the more power you have, the more you can do, and the more you can control what other people do.

Typically, people in government have money. Of the 55 men who met in Philadelphia to draft our federal constitution, 39 were lawyers. Others included wealthy farmers, land speculators, and merchants.

From the very first days of our nation’s history, members of  Congress have had sources of income in addition to their their compensation as Senators or Representatives.

The same is true today. Thirty-five percent of the members of the House and fifty-one percent of the Senate are lawyers. Other occupations include teachers, physicians, professors, business owners and executives.

Congress has been called a millionaires club. Forty percent of the members of the House and fifty-seven percent of the Senators report having a net worth in excess of one million dollars. This compares with just over three percent of the population generally.

The Presidential election of 2016 is shaping up to be a contest between wealth and power. Hillary Clinton would be a poster child for the politician who uses power to gain wealth. Both she and her husband have worked the speaking circuit to gather six figure appearance fees. Their charitable foundation has been notoriously benefitted by their political preeminence and power.

The Clinton’s are reported to have amassed a net worth in excess of 15 million dollars.

Donald Trump, on the other hand, is obviously a candidate bent on using wealth to gain political power. He has outspokenly claimed to have spent his own money to gain the Republican nomination.

Megyn Kelly asked Trump how he would feel about his candidacy if he doesn’t win.  He answered bluntly that he would consider the whole process a waste of time, money and effort. Trump is, at the core, an entrepreneur. He considers the money he has spent getting the Republican nomination as an investment, not an expense.

I can’t help musing over how Donald Trump might profit by being elected.

Federal law requires office holders to disclose all of their assets, unless they are placed in a blind trust, managed by an independent financial institution.

I doubt that the law requires office holders to disclose all the assets of members of their families. Indeed, there would be a strong constitutional challenge to any federal law that would require a person to disclose their assets just because a relative was elected to federal office.

Assuming that the Trump financial empire is the property of members of his family, it is doubtful that full disclosure can be required.

Of course, Mr. Trump has never been very secretive about what he or his family owns. The name “Trump” is notoriously featured on his real estate holdings, and his food, beverage and clothing lines.

The Obama and Clinton administrations have been fairly well known to steer government spending toward favored contactors, but not to family members. Jimmy Carter’s younger brother Billy attempted to cash in on President Carter’s fame, but Billy Beer never prospered and lasted only a couple of years.

No doubt there would be a public outcry over news that members of the United States armed forces were eating Trump Steaks or wearing Trump socks.

Be that as it may, I will gladly predict that if Donald Trump is elected President of the United States, he will not leave office impoverished.

Indeed, we can expect that Trump University will be revived and accredited.

Thomas Jefferson founded the University of Virginia; an achievement he insisted be noted on his tombstone.  It’s what Presidents do.

Saturday, May 21, 2016


In August of last year, I wrote a blog which I labeled “Trumped Up.”

It was the first time I commented in writing about the man who is now the presumptive Republican nominee for the office of President of the United States.

My perception of Donald Trump at that moment in time was less than favorable. It was nothing personal. I didn’t know a whole lot about Donald Trump. What I did know was that his candidacy was launched with a vigorous diatribe against the status quo.

Trump was clearly an outsider and one who harbored some very stark opinions about politics and politicians. I compared him to the infamous Howard Beale, that fictional television personality who went berserk and called upon all his listeners to throw open the window and shout “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it any longer.”

In many respects the Tea Party has been a Beale-esque phenomenon. So was the Occupy Movement. So is Black Lives Matter.

These are all the kinds of things people do when they feel put upon and powerless. It is what I call shaking your fist at the sky. It’s a dangerous disposition.  It’s is just inches away from throwing the dishes, kicking the dog and surrendering to a complete emotional melt down.

Still there is something to be said for getting up off of the couch and doing something. A single footstep can launch a journey of a thousand miles. Adlai Stevenson  chided the Republican attachment to the status quo with his quip, “Don’t just do something, stand there.”

What seems to be emerging in this Presidential Year is a kind of public exasperation with politics and politicians. If not outrage, it is at least disbelief and disgust with a government that seems more intent on co-mingling the sexes in the loo than in eradicating the Muslim criminals who behead and crucify Christians.

Donald Trump has emerged on the political landscape as a no nonsense business executive, accustomed to giving orders to the people who work for him and making deals with those who don’t.

In a later Trump centered blog, I suggested that The Donald is not very likable.

His campaign is now working hard at building his likability quotient.  Being liked is important for someone who wants to get elected to public office. I well remember the slogan that elected Dwight D. Eisenhower to the White House in 1952. It was on countless Chevy, Ford and Chrysler bumpers: “I like Ike” said it all.

We are beginning to hear personal stories about Donald Trump that portray him as a decent human being rather than a heartless deal-making profit monger.

His children seem to have their heads screwed on right. His employees exhibit loyalty beyond attachment to a paycheck, and there seem to be a goodly number of examples of personal largess that belie the image of a ruthless captain of business and finance.

Whether Trump will emerge by November as a man who can set the nation on a path to prosperity and felicity only time will tell. 

Is the man egotistical? Most assuredly. But then, who aspires to be the President of the United States without being convinced of his or her special competence and leadership?

If the election comes down to Trump v Clinton, as most folks believe will be the case, we will no doubt hear the oft repeated complaint that our choice is to elect the lesser of two evils.

Many Democrats will pull the lever for Hillary and sigh that it is better to choose the devil we know than the devil we don’t know. Republicans, on the other hand, may be heard to say, “What have we got to lose?”

William Devane keeps telling us on TV to buy gold and vote; and warns that we had better stock up on gold and silver because our paper Federal Reserve notes are going to be as worthless as a wet score card. Hard times are coming.

Never Trump? I dunno. Nobody liked Ty Cobb either, but he was a winner.

Monday, May 9, 2016


Polly and I and our son, Tom, enjoyed breakfast this morning at Muer Kitchens, the cutesy little eatery next door to the New York in Harbor Springs.

Along with our second cup of coffee, we had the pleasure of chatting with Susie Muer, the proprietor. A truly delightful young lady, she is the scion of the famous Detroit Muer family which operated the fabled Joe Muer’s Seafood Restaurant on Gratiot Avenue

She shared with us the news that Muer Kitchens will soon be serving dinners as well as breakfast and lunch. We shared with her the fact that Polly and I were among the guests at the old Joe Muer’s the night Joe closed up after seventy years of family operation.

How well we remember the many, many Friday nights when every Catholic in town could be found crowded around the bar at Muer’s, lubricating our palates in anticipation of the whitefish, lobster, perch, or whatever else had come ashore that morning.

Getting a drink at the bar was always a challenge on a Friday night. One had to exchanger elbow jabs with the likes of Vince Brennan, Jack Kelley, Jerry Cavanaugh, Dick Maher, Jim Ryan, Larry Fitzgerald and yours truly.

Those were the days of the so-called Irish Mafia, better known as the Detroit Murphia, when Red O’Neal could muster an army of Catholic school boys to hand out leaflets at polling places all over the city.

The Muer name reached a pinnacle of expansion when Joe’s younger brother, Chuck was in his prime. Chuck had the dream that the Muer name and tradition of hospitality would prosper in places other than Gratiot Avenue.

And he succeeded, not only in suburban Wayne and Oakland Counties, but in such exotic venues as St. Armands Circle in far away Sarasota. Popular restaurants from Grand Rapids to Palm Beach, like Charley’s Crab, Meriwethers, Big Fish and Blue Water Inn attested to the skill and savvy of Joe Muer’s kid brother.

Among his most spectacular achievements was the 1978 conversion of the majestic Pittsburgh and Lake Erie Railroad Station into an elegant restaurant he christened The Grand Concourse. An 80,000 square foot historical landmark, built in 1901 and incorporating Victorian and Edwardian styles, it was a major hub for transportation in the Eastern United States. In 1974, the building was listed on the national register of historic places. The Grand Concourse remains a tribute to Chuck Muer’s vision and courage as it is, more than four decades later, one of the finest seafood restaurants in the United States.

On March 12, 1993, Palm Beach restaurateur Chuck Muer and his wife Betty, both 55 — left the Bahamas on “Charley’s Crab,” a 40-foot-long boat, along with lifelong friends George and Lynn Drummey. They traveled into the path of a major storm and, despite a 16-day search, were never seen again.

Susan Muer remembers how she and her six siblings struggled to cling to hope as the Coast Guard searched for three days and friends searched until March 28.  About six days into the search, Susan recalled, “I realized my parents were gone because there was no way they could have survived on that water. At some point, your logic takes control.’’
The Muer family’s restaurants, were later sold and six of the seven Muer siblings got out of the restaurant business.

The one exception was Susan. She confesses that cooking is in her blood; she loves the pace of serving meals and the interchange with people that makes the restaurant business so exciting and just plain fun.

I couldn’t help being impressed by her enthusiasm and optimism. Did she think that her little kitchen could compete with the established and beloved New York restaurant next door?

We’re just forty seats, she said with a grin, and we don’t have table cloths.

And they don’t have Susan, I thought as I told her that Polly and I would be back on May 27th to celebrate my 87th birthday.

I may even buy a drink for the house to celebrate her new liquor license.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016


In an effort to reassure unemployed coal mine workers that her administration would not leave them jobless, Hillary Clinton promised to take her husband “out of retirement” so he can work on bringing jobs back.

“I’ve told my husband he’s got to come out of retirement and be in charge of this, because you know he’s got more ideas a minute than anybody I know,” she said in Ashland, Ky.

That commitment had a certain familiar ring. It brought back, in vivid relief, the memory of “Hillarycare” officially known as the Health Security Act.

In 1993, then President Bill Clinton named First lady Hillary Clinton to head up a task force to devise a national health care plan. She did it and for more than a year Mrs. Clinton worked actively to secure the passage of her health care package.

“For Love of Politics” by Sally Bedell Smith, published by Random House in 2007, is a 608 page study of the Clinton marriage and the Clinton White House. Her thesis is clear: the Clintons are a team. Elect either one of them and you get both.

Much was written and said recently, when Nancy Reagan died, about her vitally important role during her husband’s presidency. I was not surprised.

Having been in marital harness for two thirds of a century, I am acutely aware of the collegiality of marital decision making. Even when I think I am making a decision on my own unfettered opinion, the ghost of spousal dissent lingers.

George Washington set a prudent example when he declined to run for a third term. That tradition remained deeply imbedded in the American experiment for almost a century and a half until Franklin D. Roosevelt was elected in 1940 and again in 1944.

Sober reaction to FDR’s reign set in after his death, and by 1947 the Twenty-Second Amendment, setting a two-term limit on the presidency, was proposed by the Congress. In 1951 it became the law of the land.

The Constitution does not prohibit members of a president’s family from seeking the office, and in our nation’s history we have had three ‘related’ presidents:
John Quincy Adams, our 6th President, was the son of John Adams, the 2nd; Benjamin Harrison, 23rd President, was the grandson of William Henry Harrison, the 9th; and of course, in our day, there is Bush 41 and Bush 43.

But there has never been a father and son team in the White House which sought subsequently to be elected as a son and father team.

Hillary and Bill have already had their eight years in the White House.  Enough is enough.