Monday, February 20, 2017


By Act of Congress, we celebrate the third Monday in February as George Washington’s Birthday. The holiday has an interesting history. Washington was actually born on February 11, 1731 calculated on the Julian calendar then used by Great Britain. Britain switched to the Gregorian calendar in 1752, and Washington’s birthday became February 22, 1732.

Through the years, the holiday has been variously known as Washington’s Birthday, Washington’s  and Lincoln’s Birthday, Presidents Day, Presidents’ Day and President’s Day.

Back in the 1950’s there was an effort to make the holiday a celebration of the office of the presidency rather than a commemoration of any particular President. That idea got a push from commercial advertisers.

Today, the holiday is basically a day off of work for government employees and a day on which many businesses offer merchandise as bargain prices.

It’s safe to say that, these days, there is not a whole lot of enthusiasm in America for celebrating the office of the presidency. A few days ago, Intelligence Squared, an organization which sponsors public debates, hosted a debate entitled “Give Trump a Chance.”

The debaters were all serious, intelligent professionals. The audience was polled before the debate began. Only 27 percent agreed that he should be given a chance, while 48 percent disagreed. After the debate, they were polled again. This time, only 22 percent of the audience thought Trump should be given a chance, and a whopping 72 percent disagreed.

I suppose we can discount the numbers somewhat, since Intelligence Squared typically draws its audiences from among the academic and professional communities, which tend to be Democrat and Liberal. 

Still, it is troubling to note that there is a large segment of the American people who not only do not like or support the current occupant of the White House; they adamantly oppose him and want him to fail.

It is hard to imagine how the United States of America might benefit by having a failed President in the White House. Why would any honest citizen cheer an increase in crime or unemployment? Why would anyone who loves this nation want to see its fortunes decline, its factories close, its jobs migrate to other countries?

The fact is that the success or failure of a President is tied to the prosperity and felicity of the nation. In my church, we pray for all of our elected officials, whether we voted for them not. Good citizens want their leaders to lead and to succeed.

The President of the United States is a constitutional officer. His powers and duties are specified in the charter of our nation. There is nothing in the law of the land which requires or anticipates that the President must be or will be a popular leader.

George Washington was popular, indeed, he was elected and reelected by unanimous votes in the Electoral College. He understood, however, that the power of a President does not come from his popularity.

There is a difference between power and authority. Political power flows from public opinion. It is ephemeral, fickle and fleeting. Authority comes from the Law. It is based on the formal consent of the governed, granted in writing and adopted by the people.

George Washington warned us that the Constitution must be obeyed as it was written, “unless and until it is altered by the explicit and authentic act of the whole people.”

Article II Section 3 of the U.S. Constitution requires the President to “take care that the Laws be faithfully executed.”

Ever since Franklin D. Roosevelt appealed directly to the American People on the radio, there has been an increase of direct Presidential governance. Executive decisions, executive orders, and bureaucratic rule making take the place of legislative decision making.

President Trump would be well advised to leave policy making to the Congress. Maybe the nay sayers will agree to give Congress a chance.


Thursday, February 16, 2017


No doubt the most titillating moment in any episode of the popular TV reality show “The Apprentice” came when the host, fabled New York business mogul Donald J. Trump, would look a contestant in the eye, summarize his or her shortcomings and firmly announce, “You’re Fired!”

I suspect that Mr. Trump’s image as a man with sufficient kahoonas to sack an apprentice contributed to the voters’ decision to install him in the White House with a mandate to “Drain the Swamp.”

That said, the President’s request for the resignation of Homeland Security Advisor Michael Flynn, deserves some attention.

Flynn was a very visible supporter of President Trump’s candidacy. Here’s what Wkipedia says about him:

Michael Thomas Flynn (born December 1958)  is a retired United States Army Lieutenant General who was the 18th Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, and was the 25th National Security Advisor, serving President Donald Trump for 24 days, from January 20 to February 13, 2017, before resigning amid controversy over his contacts with Russian officials. Flynn's tenure as National Security Advisor is the shortest in history.

The gist of Flynn’s misbehavior, as reported in the media, was that he lied to Vice President Pence about a conversation he had with Russian Ambassador,
Sergey Kislyak.”according to current and former American officials.”

A February 9th New York Times article by Matthew Rosenburg and Matt Apuzzo asserts that the “American officials” spoke on condition of anonymity because their information was “classified.”

Pretty obviously, the so called “American officials” are members of the vast network of spies often referred to as “the intelligence community.” That would include, the FBI, the CIA, Homeland Security agents and who knows how many other unidentifiable federal employees who constitute the 2017 version of George Orwell’s 1984 Big Brother.

Nameless, faceless, devoid of actual proof of how they learned what they claim to know, these ‘American officials’ speak to the nation through the mainstream media, which guards their anonymity jealously.

My best guess is that U.S. spies regularly tap the telephones of Russian, and probably most other countries’ diplomats, which would explain why they were listening when Flynn spoke to Ambassador Kislyak.

Which would also explain why acting Attorney General Sally Yates, an Obama appointee, claimed that Flynn was vulnerable to Russian blackmail. She apparently knew about Flynn’s calls to Kislyak and that Flynn had lied to Vice President Pence about what the Kislyak discussion involved.

Frankly, the whole rhubarb about Russian interference in the 2016 Presidential campaign is an indictment of the politicization of the federal intelligence community.

The only claim of Russian interference in the 2016 election relates to the Wiki Leaks disclosures about Democratic National Committee favoritism for Hillary Clinton over Bernie Sanders.

Julian Assuage, founder of Wiki Leaks, insists that his source is not associated with the Russian government.

Big Brother hasn’t told us how he knows that the Kremlin is behind the anti Clinton leaks. Still, the Obama Administration, the mainstream media and the congressional Democrats have accepted the story of Russian interference.

Big surprise, They lost the election. They lost the Electoral College vote. They have lost the confidence of the nation.

But they still have a grip on the intelligence community. Their unsubstantiated “disclosures” will prove to be a festering infection for the next four years.

Perhaps President Trump will have to say “You’re Fired” to some of those anonymous ‘American officials.’

Sunday, February 12, 2017


What follows is a transcript of an actual telephone call which took place on Saturday, February 11, 2017:

OPERATOR: AT&T directory assistance. Your AT&T account will only be charged when a listing is provided. Say a city and state like Atlanta, Georgia. You can also say search by phone number.

CALLER: Harbor Springs, Michigan.

OPERATOR: OK, say the name of the business you want. If you don’t know the name of the business, tell me the type of business you are looking for.

CALLER: Residence.

OPERATOR: OK, residence. Say just the person’s first and last name.

CALLER: Joel Dyksterhouse.

OPERATOR: OK, say the name of the business you want. If you don’t know the name of the business, tell me the type of business you are looking for.

CALLER: Residence.

OPERATOR: OK, residence. Say just the person’s first and last name.

CALLER: Joel Dyksterhouse.

OPERATOR: OK, say the name of the business you want. If you don’t know the name of the business, tell me the type of business you are looking for.

CALLER: Residence.

OPERATOR: OK, residence. Say just the person’s first and last name.

CALLER: Joel Dyksterhouse.

OPERATOR: Thank you for calling Directory Assistance. I’m sorry that we were unable to find what you are looking for. If you would another listing, say get another listing.

CALLER: Ha, Ha, Ha, Ha.

OERATOR: I’m sorry, we are unable to find what you are looking for. If you would like another listing, say get another listing,

CALLER: Get another listing,

OPERATOR: OK, say the name of the business you want. If you don’t know the name of the business, tell me the type of business you are looking for.

CALLER: Ha, Ha, Ha, Ha.

OPERATOR: I’m sorry. I am not finding Ha, Ha, Ha, Ha in Harbor Springs, Michigan.

By then, I was not surprised that the operator could find no humor in Harbor Springs, Michigan. Indeed, I was convinced that she could not find her derriere with both hands.

The answering machine civilization has spawned some interesting reactions. My friend Jim Maiolo used to have a recorded message which just said, “Hello…Hello…Hello. This gahdam telephone.” Then it hung up. Handled robo solicitations really well, but didn’t amuse the Pastor.

Another result of pervasive recorded messages is the rise of BPO – business process outsourcing. You’ve heard the ads from companies who will rent you a real human being to answer the phone.

I decided to do some research. Our local phone company, Charter Communications, still has a real human being on hand to help if the recording doesn’t fulfill your needs.

I was curious and called the local 411 to find out if those human beings are employees of Charter or if they are evidence of BPO – Business Process Outsourcing.

The operator sent me to her supervisor, who transferred me to her superior, who told me I would have to talk to the business office, to which she transferred me. The business office telephone was answered by a recording. Press one if you are interested in purchasing television service. Press two if you are calling about internet service. Press three if you wish to report an outage.

We have become a nation of sheep. We can do only what programmers expect us to do.

I just finished reading George Orwell’s 1949 novel, Nineteen Eighty Four. It  describes in chilling detail the lives of a programmed people. It has taken more than twice as long as Orwell predicted, but Big Brother is among us.

Listen carefully, as our options have changed. So have yours. Dial one for English.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017


Neil Gorsuch is a natural successor to Antonin Scalia. He has all the de rigueur qualifications: Columbia undergraduate, Harvard Law, even a Doctor of Philosophy from University College at Oxford.

Gorsuch is legitimately and undeniably conservative, in the sense that he respects the written words of the United States Constitution. His opinions on the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals confirm his identity as an originalist just as was Antonin Scalia, whose chair he will take, if and when he is confirmed  by the United States Senate.

I have no doubt that his confirmation will take awhile, and that it may very well become nasty. Strange as that may seem in light of his unanimous, voice vote confirmation for the 10th Circuit seat.

But the fact is that the Tenth Circuit isn’t able to overrule Roe V Wade. That prerogative rests in the United States Supreme Court; the very tribunal which began the abortion revolution in 1973.

And abortion is the hot button issue which will inflame the U. S. Senate when Gorsuch comes up for confirmation. The odds are heavy that Gorsuch will get “Borked.”

Robert Bork was a Court of Appeals Judge in the D.C. Circuit back in the 1980’s, having been nominated by President Reagan and confirmed unanimously by voice vote in the U.S. Senate. One of his colleagues in D.C. was Antonin Scalia. Bork and Scalia were of the same mind on many issues. They were often called ‘social conservatives.’

On July 1, 1987, President Ronald Reagan nominated Robert Bork to succeed Lewis Powell on the Supreme Court. Within forty-five minutes, Senator Ted Kennedy was on the floor of the Senate decrying the nomination and spewing the most trumped up exaggerations about what Bork would do to civil rights if he were to be confirmed for the post.

The NAACP jumped into the fight. So did the Senate’s Democratic Majority. Joe Biden, Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, wrote a scathing report, filled with exaggerated innuendos. The Committee even went so far as to obtain a list of videos Bork had rented. It turned up nothing, but who knows what they were looking for.
The hotly contested nomination stayed on the front pages all summer and into the Autumn of 1987. Negative ads were presented on television, hosted by beloved motion picture actor Gregory Peck, who described Bork as an “extremist.” Ultimately the nomination of Robert Bork was not confirmed.

In the process, gutter politics to oppose a Supreme Court nomination became what you might call, “verbalized.” In fact the use of the the word “bork” as a verb has actually been included in the standard dictionary.

Thus to “bork” someone is to oppose their nomination to public office by every means – fair or foul. Perhaps the most famous use of ‘bork’ as a verb can be attributed to feminist Florynce Kennedy, who regaled a convention of the National Organization of Women with this comment about Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas: “We’re going to BORK him. We’re going to kill him politically. This little creep. Where did he come from?”

Certainly the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings were a disgraceful charade and a travesty on our constitutional system.

Every indication is that Gorsuch will be the victim of Borking. Hopefully, a Republican Senate majority will not allow the process to become a repeat of the treatment of Clarence Thomas or to drag on and on as his hearings did.

That said, I pray that Judge Gorsuch will be quickly and painlessly confirmed.

Still, being a realist if not a pessimist, I can’t help noting that Judge Gorsuch is a clone of the elitist cadre that now passes for our highest Constitutional tribunal. They are all from Harvard, Yale and Columbia. Several were clerks in the Court. Gorsuch. himself, clerked for Byron White and Anthony Kennedy.

Kennedy, a Reagan appointee, has distinguished himself as a ‘swing’ vote, by which is meant that he ‘swings’ over to vote with the liberal wing of the Court as often as not.

The Supreme Court is like the crew of a space ship. They live close. In time they tend to smell alike, look alike and think alike. The question is: will Gorsuch swing, or will he  rock the boat?


In an effort to forestall the ravages of old age, I have developed the practice of going to the fitness center maintained by the Birchwood Property Owners Association.

Nothing fancy. I just climb aboard the treadmill and mosey along for thirty minutes. The heart rate might get as high as 115, which is about where they wanted me during my last stress test.

The treadmill is equipped with a small television. On the rare occasions when it is functioning, the time passes quite easily and agreeably.


However, I am inexplicably unable to turn it on, or if it is on, to manipulate it to a desired TV station.

I push all the buttons. Nothing happens. Occasionally someone is using the treadmill next to me and they are kind enough to push the buttons for me.

Viola! The TV is on. Viola! It is tuned to Fox News. He or she pushed the same buttons I pushed. I saw it being done.

On those days, I harken back to the last century when Polly and I were building our home on Park Lake Road in East Lansing, Michigan. One of the chores with which we were tasked was to pick out the light fixtures. That involved driving to Detroit, to a large store with a vast show room.

Wandering about, I noticed a very handsome lamp. Despite close examination, I was unable to locate the on-off switch. Intrigued, I asked a saleslady how one was expected to turn it on and off. Was the switch to be located remotely? On the wall perhaps?

Oh no, said she. All you need to do is touch the base on the lamp. She reached out, touched the lamp base and Lo and Behold, the lamp went on. She touched it again and the lamp went off.

Then she invited me to try it. I did. Nothing happened.

So I asked the young lady if there was some trick. Was it necessary to press hard? Or to twist your finger on the surface of the base? Or to touch it with more than just the tip of your finger?

Your finger! Maybe that was it. Which finger did you have to use? Which hand?

None of that mattered, she insisted, giving me demonstrations to prove the point. Indeed, she insisted the lamp would respond to any touch of human skin. Your jaw. Your foot. Your elbow. Your nose.

You could, she insisted, without demonstrating, turn the lamp on or off with a kiss.

I did not contest her assertions, although I did try to turn the lamp on by using my whole hand. Actually both hands. Still, when I touched the lamp and no matter how I did it, nothing happened.

About this time the sales lady caught the eye of the manager and waved him over. “ What seems to be the problem here?” he asked. I think they learn that line in Biz Ad 101.

“I doesn’t work,” said I. He laughed, and touched the base of the lamp. It went on. He touched it again and it went of. He invited me to touch it. I did. Nothing happened.

We picked out our fixtures for the new house. Thankfully, they would all operate from wall switches. But that was the day I learned that I have an inherently, perhaps hereditary, hostile relationship with electricity and electronics.

You can well imagine the confrontations that disability triggers whenever I light up the Mac Book Pro. All I can do is hunt, peck and pray. 

My good friend Chuck Donnelly, the house-calling computer expert, can testify to my frequent frustrations, even when insulated by a keyboard and a mouse.

He has advised me against getting a touch-screen device.