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THE TROUBLES

I should stay out of the storage room. It’s too full of old files, poignant memories, temptations to blog.
This time, I stumbled onto a file entitled “Larry Brennan’s Song.” It was nineteen years ago. Northern Ireland was still mired in “The Troubles” and suffering from endless rounds of murder and revenge between the Catholics and the Protestants of Belfast.
USA Today carried a story about a 52 year old Catholic cab driver who was assassinated while sitting in his parked taxi.
I wrote a song about it:
The Legacy of Larry Brennan
Twenty-five days after Christmas Morn
         In dear old Belfast Town
Assassins hailed a taxicab
         And gunned he driver down
Well, he died for being Catholic
         He died for being Green
His sweetheart was a Protestant
         She’ll never be his queen
No, she’ll never be a Brennan now
         She’ll never share his bed
The Troubles split poor Larry’s brow
         The Troubles left him dead
Now, he was a gen’rous witty man
         Who loved most everyone
And for his kindness he was paid
         Four bullets from a gun
Oh, he had no time for politics
         He helped the sick and old
His killers didn’t care at all
         They left his body cold 
Yes, the Troubles trouble Ireland
         A People torn apart
They took poor Larry Brennan’s life
         And broke his mother’s heart
Then his sister, Lish O’Reilly, stood
         Midst flowers in the hall,
And with good sense she spoke the words
         That echo for us all:
“I forgive them, those that did this thing”
         Her eyes were rimmed with tears
“They’re sick and wounded animals,
         Imprisoned by their fears.
“No, we can’t let hate and bitterness
         Control the Irish heart
If we’re to see the Troubles end
         We’ve got to make a start”
Tho’ two thousand years have come and gone
         Since Christ was crucified
The world still longed for peace on earth
         When Larry Brennan died.
Now his little house on Friendly Street
         Will never be the same
The World has built a friendly shrine
         In honor of his name
So let this be Brennan’s legacy:
         That vengeance won’t be seen
And peace will come to Ireland
         For both the Orange and Green

Historians tell us that the Irish Troubles erupted in 1968 and ended thirty years later with the Good Friday Agreement of 1998. As we gather to celebrate Christmas 2016, in a painfully divided America, let us pray that our troubles will soon be consigned to history as well.

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OLD FRIENDS, OLD DAYS

On April 18, 2016, I sent the following email to four old friends:

Dear, dear friends:

I am hosting a little dinner party at the Townsend Hotel in Birmingham on the evening of April 28, 2016, and I would very much like you to be my guest.

The occasion is the 65th anniversary of the day Pauline Mary Weinberger consented to be my bride. She is the very best person in the whole world, and I am incredibly fortunate that she has spent a lifetime trying to make something of me.

Dinner will be at 6:30 PM. No gifts will be accepted, except the incalculable blessing of your friendship and willingness to share the occasion.

TEB

We started the day as we had started our wedding day 65 years before, by attending Mass. Then, breakfast at the little bakery around the corner before I delivered Polly to the hair stylist and went off to get the car washed.

In about forty minutes, she emerged from the hairdresser’s sporting a perky hairdo and a mischievous smile that told me she was happy with the result.

If you have never been romantically interested in an 86 year old woman, you may not appreciate the heady anticipation with which I drove the 330 miles to the Townsend Hotel in Birmingham.

Suffice it to say that my little dinner party was a roaring success, filled with laughs, and stories of bygone days; the vividly remembered events that called up unforgettable people we all knew and loved, back in the day.

On Friday, after a comfortable night at the Townsend, we drove to the refurbished Book Cadillac Hotel in downtown Detroit to meet Tom, Jr., his wife, Julie and our grandson Patrick.

They were at the Book Cadillac to attend a wedding. But there was more. Tom and Julie were celebrating their 39th anniversary, and Patrick, the lawyer-turned-seminarian has finished his first year of Theology and will be doing some missionary work in Belize this summer.

And so Tom and Julie hosted another celebratory dinner, this time at Roast, the 4.4 star upscale steakhouse in the hotel. They know how to help you celebrate. Of course, the gregarious Tom Brennan, Jr. made sure that every bellman, waitress and bartender knew that his Mother and Dad were celebrating their 65th wedding anniversary, and that we had our first date on April 2, 1948 at a college dance right there in the ballroom of the Book Cadillac Hotel.

Earlier that day, while driving down Woodward Avenue from Birmingham, I had an itch to detour by some of the houses we shared in our 65 years. 19347 Berkeley Road; 17334 Cherrylawn; 12310 Cloverlawn, 10311 Morley; 14921 Ward.

We cruised by the Berkeley house and Polly’s childhood home on Warrington Drive; we saw Gesu, the church where we were married, and our Alma Mater, the University of Detroit across the street.  

But not the other places. A few minutes of sightseeing along Six Mile Road and Wyoming were more than enough to discourage further exploration. The city that lives in our memories is gone; like Father Norbert Clemens, of sainted memory, who married us in 1951, and presided at our silver and golden anniversaries in 1976 and 2001.

The gift of time is a mixed blessing. It fills a life with sights and sounds, with places and people, with events and emotions. My darling wife embraces all of it in her inexhaustible memory.

She can tell you what she wore on our first date, who we saw at the dance, where we went afterwards. All I remember is that I kissed her goodnight. But, hey, that really mattered.

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NEW YORK VALUES

East Side, West side, all around the town. Give my regards to Broadway. I want to wake up in the city that doesn’t sleep. The city that frowns on 16 ounce soda pop. Where musical theater casting agents advertise that white folks need not apply.

The Big Apple. Exciting. Titillating. Vibrant. New York has everything: Carnegie Hall, The Met, The Yankees, Fifth Avenue stores and Madison Avenue admen.  

New York has it all. Everything but values.

Poor Ted Cruz. How dare he insinuate that the people in New York share attitudes and norms that are unique to their city or state. After all, you can find waitresses with green hair in Dubuque, too.

New York welcomes everybody. It is spending 140 million dollars to tell the nation that New York is open for business. Tax breaks galore beckon investors who want to start or move businesses to the Empire State.

Except, of course, if you are pro life. Except, of course, if you think that marriage is the mating of a man and a woman. Except, of course, if you agree with the National Rifle Association.

Governor Cuomo hung out the “not welcome” sign about two years ago.

Conservatives who are pro-life are just not real New Yorkers, according to the Governor. “It’s just not who we are,” says he.

Suggesting, of course, that conservatives are not like us New Yorkers. They don’t think like we do. They don’t – easy now – they don’t share our values!

Is that what the Governor said? Is that a fair translation of his “They are not welcome here” speech?

Poor Ted Cruz. He wants to be President of the United States. He wants to be the President of all the people in all of the States

He wants to wake up in the city that doesn’t sleep. He knows that if he can make it there, he can make it anywhere. He wants those little town blues to melt away.

Politics is a funny business. Here you have the consummate New Yorker, whose name is emblazoned on a Manhattan sky scraper, who has been married three times and sired six children, and who belatedly has come to the conclusion that abortion stills a beating human heart, stumping his home state to huge crowds and fully expecting to win the New York Republican Primary.

In spite of Governor Cuomo. In spite of New York values.

It strikes me that it is just possible that New York isn’t as monolithic as those of us who live in fly over country have been led to believe. Maybe New York values are a thin outer layer. Maybe the nearly 20 millions of people who inhabit the real estate between Staten Island and Niagara Falls

are just like the rest of us.

It might even be possible for a Republican to carry New York in November.

The Party of Abraham Lincoln, the Party that was born under a tree in Jackson Michigan in 1860, the Party that traveled the moral high road of abolition, seems to have been reborn as the Party of Pro-Life. Whatever else the hectic year of primary elections has proven, it is abundantly clear that the GOP is on the side of the unborn.

The Supreme Court usurped the legislative powers of all Fifty States in 1972 when it decided Roe v Wade. That arrogant presumption of power has led to the deepest political divide in the the United States since the abolition of slavery.

Now, somehow, the die is cast. This election year, there will be a clear, undeniable division of the major political Parties over this, the most emotional moral, and philosophical issue of the century.

The Republican Party will nominate a Pro Life candidate. The Democrats will nominate a pro abortion candidate.

Finally, after forty years, the people will be heard.

.    

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Hasan Update

Nidal Hasan isn’t in the news. I can’t find his name in the New York Times or in USA Today. Not last week or last month.

The most recent public mention of the army psychiatrist who murdered thirteen people and wounded dozens more at Fort Hood in 2009 was a story on April 10, 2015 to the effect that 47 people who were injured in the Fort Hood massacre were given either the Purple Heart or the Defense of Freedom Medal.

The Purple Heart has normally been reserved for members of the U.S. military who are wounded in battle. That qualification has been expanded to include members of the armed services who are injured on American soil by acts of international terrorism.

I pondered this story. Certainly the Fort Hood casualties were not injured in battle. If they had been, are we to assume that Nidal Hasan is now classified as an enemy combatant? Or if it was an act of international terrorism, has it been determined that Hasan was acting on instructions from a foreign terrorist organization?

In either case, I have to wonder if the decision to award those medals – which, incidentally involved a reversal of the original classifications of the offense as work place fatigue and/or domestic homicide, might just foretell a request for a new trial based on the claim that Hasan was, indeed, an enemy combatant.

Far fetched as that may sound, the fact is that in August of 2014 Hasan wrote to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, spiritual leader of ISIS, to request that he be admitted to citizenship in the Islamic caliphate Baghdadi leads.

Hasan perpetrated the Fort Hood massacre on November 5, 2009, more than six years ago. The history of his confinement and trial since then is a disgraceful account of American military ineptitude, bungling, stumbling and procrastination.

It took almost four years just to bring Hasan to trial. Among other nonsensical delays was one incident of judicial paralysis brought about by the defendant’s refusal to shave his face before appearing in court.

The best I can divine out of the current Fort Hood news blackout is that Nidal Hasan has been convicted of murder, and the jury has returned a recommendation of the death penalty.

I think we can assume that the jury recommendation will require some sort of judicial confirmation; that sooner or later Hasan will be brought before a military court and a military judge will pronounce the sentence of death by whatever means is specified in the code of military justice, and will order that the sentence be carried out on a day certain to be pronounced by the court.

That court order will trigger immediate appeals, both to the higher ups in the military chain of command and to the Article III courts of the United States, including the Supreme Court.

There is one thing I can predict with almost moral certainty: Nidal Hasan will not be executed during the tenure of Barack Hussein Obama as President of the United States.

From his first moments in office, the forty-fourth President of the United States has postured himself as a diplomatic link between the people of the United States and the 1.7 billion Muslims on Planet Earth. By his name, his paternity, his early education and his political disposition, the President has been perceived as a good will ambassador, whose presence in the White House was supposed by many to be insurance against Islamic hostility.

It has not been so. Neither has the era of domestic post-racial brotherhood he predicted come to pass. Americans have been disillusioned by the ineffectiveness of symbolism especially when augmented by indecision and procrastination.

The Obama era is coming to a close. America needs and perforce will have new leadership. I have Tweeted the major Presidential candidates and the news media, asking who will announce that on his or her first day in office the army will be instructed to carry our the sentence on Nidal Hasan.   

The silence is deafening.

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A CHRISTMAS BLOG

The bedroom is dark. I look for the bright red display of the correct time from the alarm clock on the night stand. Nothing. Polly is awake, looking at her phone. She says it is 7 o’clock.

I inch my way to the bathroom. No lights. Polly calls DTE. They ask for our phone number. They don’t have a customer with that number. I say, “Call Consumers Power.” She does. They don’t have any record of us either.

I stumble downstairs to my office and grope through my files to locate one entitled “Utilities.” Ah Ha. We are serviced by Great Lakes Energy. I call them. The recorded lady’s voice informs me that they have an outage due to high wind damage that affects one third of their grid. About 30,000 homes are without electricity. All of their crews are in the field, but they are certain we will be without power at least until after Christmas.

I call Home Depot on my cell phone. Yes, they have generators. A few. And they are going fast. I throw on some blue jeans and a sweater. I can be there in half an hour. The first obstacle; the garage door opener doesn’t work. Of course not. It’s electric. So is everything else in our world, it seems.

Some tugging and pulling gets the door open and I am at the Petoskey Home Depot before 8 AM. I am looking at a $999.00 generator. Gas powered. It must be kept outdoors. The cord which connects it to the house looks like a power source for a trip to the Moon.

They tell me a full tank takes about six gallons, and will run the machine for about 9 hours. I thank the man, buy some flashlight batteries, and head back home. The gas station is dark. I have half a tank. I make a mental note to fill the tank.

Son Tom Jr., his wife, Julie, their son Patrick, and Father Charlie Irvin are scheduled to come North tomorrow for Christmas dinner and an overnight stay. We call Tom with the bad news. He urges us to come to East Lansing.

Polly vetoes the idea of going down state. The thought of packing clothes, plus all the food we have put in for the holiday weighs heavily against that strategy.

We call the Perry Hotel in Petoskey and reserve a room for two nights. Then we call Tom Jr. and tell him of our plans, with apologies for cancelling the Christmas festivities.

Shortly, Tom calls back. Thankfully we have working cell phones. He has not given up on a family Christmas. They are coming up to Harbor Springs as planned. He has reserved two more rooms at the Perry Hotel.

So be it. Christmas at the Perry. It can be fun. An adventure of sorts. Polly gets on the phone calling around for dinner reservations. A little dicey at the last minute.

I decide to go back into town to get gas for the car. I had managed to get the garage door back down. Now I am shoving it back up. Damn thing weighs a ton.

About five minutes on the road and the phone in the car rings. It’s Polly. Her message is short and ecstatic. “We have power!”

The lights are on at the gas station. I fill the tank and hurry home. With a little effort, I hook the garage door back up to the opener, and delight to see it close automatically. Inside, the house is already warmer. The gas powered fireplace is back in operation, and Polly is in the kitchen busy baking brownies for tomorrow’s dessert.

Funny thing, she says. She was listening, on the battery powered portable radio, to an Episcopalian Mass. Shortly after she found it on the dial, the congregation began to say the Our Father. Sitting on the couch in the cold house, a green Michigan State Spartan blanket over her pink bathrobe, she joined in saying the prayer. Episcopalians say “which art in heaven” and Catholics say “who art in heaven,” but it’s the same Lord’s Prayer.

Praying felt good. She thought, we ask God for things, we thank Him for things, but we don’t often just praise Him. So she did. She said another Our Father, an Ave, and a Glory Be for good measure.

Within a minute, the lights went on.

Praise God, your Christmas will be merry, too.

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MAHER v AFFLECK

A friend of mine, who has travelled to the Middle East many times, sent me a link to the video of a speech by Raheel Raza, the President of the Clarion Project, a Washington non profit activist organization. It is the most complete, factual and statistical explanation of the religion of Islam that I have ever seen. It explains a lot, and demonstrates the need for dialog about Islam in an atmosphere of common sense. Common sense. That would be the opposite of political correctness.

Do yourself and your country a favor. Take just a few minutes to listen to Ms. Raza. http://go.clarionproject.org/numbers-full-film/

The plain truth is that Islam, like all religions, is a roadmap for  how people ought to live. Like many – probably most – religions, Islam purports to convey to the human race the wisdom and wishes of the Creator of the Universe.

Muslims call Him Allah, Jews call Him Yahweh, Christians call Him Father. By whatever name, all people of faith look to God for knowledge, protection, help and patronage of all sorts. Pleasing God is what people of faith do, or try to do, in the belief that God wants us to be happy, healthy and heroic.

So it is that there is a close relationship between religion and morality. Religions teach people the difference between right and wrong. George Washington told us that a few, well educated and intelligent people may be able to figure out a code of conduct for themselves, without any help from the Creator. But he acknowledged that most folks need some fire and brimstone to stay on the right track.

The problem is that Islam has never experienced an enlightenment. It remains a primitive belief system which comingles religious doctrine with civil law. 

American law is an offspring of the English Common Law, which in turn grew out of ecclesiastical courts and a monarchy which enjoyed the imprimatur of the Roman Catholic Church. When the hegemony of Rome was lost in the sixteenth century, a number of Christian Churches were established, and the next two centuries saw almost continuous religious warfare.
The American revolution came about in the wake of those religious wars and was largely affected by the desire to have a government that was neutral on the great religious issues. So if we are a Christian nation, it is a nondenominational form of Christianity. Perhaps is it more accurate to describe the United States as a secular Christian nation, if there can be such a thing.

Ms. Raza insists that the vast majority of Muslims in America are assimilated; that they accept our customs and laws at least to the same extent that conservative Christians do. But I wonder if there is such a thing as secular Islam.

Islam is, by definition an evangelistic religion. Especially in this age of instantaneous electronic communication, Islamic preachers aggressively seek to recruit converts. Even the most peaceable Muslims believe that their faith is the one true religion, and while they may not be given to beheading infidels, they are surely in favor of converting all non Muslims to Islam.

Many American liberals are conflicted about Muslims. A recent debate between television personality Bill Maher and screen actor Ben Affleck gave us a good look at the schizophrenia among Obama Democrats.

I stayed up late last night watching and listening to a video of their debate. The concentric circles of Islamic votaries described by Raheel Raza were the main theme of that debate. Does Maher depart from his liberal persona when he says that the Quran condemns infidels? Is he being reactionary when he says that terrorism is committed in the name of Allah?

I have to say that I don’t think there is much hope of converting even the most ‘progressive’ Muslims to the kind of American secularism endorsed by Ben Affleck. But I do wonder if many of them might accept traditional, conservative Christianity.

Maybe it’s time for militant Christians to remind the world that theirs is the one, true, holy, universal and humane religion, and begin competing vigorously and unapologetically for the hearts and minds of every man and woman on the planet.

  

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CHRISTMAS TIME

Chatting with friends at a party recently, I confessed that I wrote a Christmas song and posted it on You Tube. Then I recklessly agreed to provide a link to it.

So here it is. A cumulating ditty, in the vein of Old MacDonald Had a Farm, or the interminable Twelve Days of Christmas, my contribution to the world of music consists of seven verses which pile up in a cornucopia of repetition that only appeals to party goers who have a reliable designated driver.

I have several boisterous grandsons who chime in with me, especially on the loud verse-ending word TIME.

In quieter moments, I have reflected about the philosophical roots of my Christmas song. The word ‘time’ is repeated no less than 42 times – there’s that word again – and I have a feeling that somewhere down deep in my brain or my heart, I really believe that Christmas is all about time.

The Bible tells us that there is a time for everything and a season for every activity under the sun: to be born and to die, to plant and to harvest, kill and to heal, to weep and to laugh, to mourn and to dance; to tear and to mend, to love and to hate, to make war and to be at peace.

Christmas is, after all, the celebration of a birth; the incomparable gift of time being conferred on another new human being. We focus on a mother and her infant and we envision and experience the joy that a new human life brings to all people.

Joy to the world. Joy to all people who cling to and treasure the gift of time. Joy to everybody, even to the old folks who know they haven’t all that much time left.

A new year is beginning. Another huge dose of days. A fresh serving of weeks and months. Sunrises, sunsets. Rain and snow. Darkness and light.

Things change. Everything changes. That is, after all, the definition of time. It’s the measurement of change. The constant morphing of ‘is’ into ‘was.’

Christmas is a special occasion for remembering. At our house, the ritual of addressing Christmas cards involves laughing again about things that happened long ago. Names we haven’t said or heard since last year. And wondering if they are still alive. Or if they have moved.  And didn’t he marry that girl from Toledo?

This year, it was my turn to write a note for our Christmas card. Contemplating the mystery of time provided me with a simple theme.

On the walls of our library, there are four family portraits. The oldest one, taken about 1971, shows a family of eight. Mom, Dad, a gaggle of teen agers and two little ones.

In the next version, there are twelve. We have added three in-laws and a grandchild. Then there is a group of 19, in which little lap and floor sitters are prominent additions.

The last portrait, at the far end of the room, features 30 people. I don’t know what year that was taken, but Amy Hicks was an infant in her Daddy’s lap. She is now a student at the University of Missouri.

I doubt that there will be any more family portraits. Too big a crowd. Too much geography. And undoubtedly more in laws and little ones.

But there is one more picture. A snap shot taken at Thanksgiving a couple of years ago. Just the eight originals. All grown up now. Tom is 63 and even Ellen is past half a century.

Polly and I see that picture every day, and every day we thank God for the long and happy life He has given us and our children. We see there around us, the smiles of six good, decent, happy and loving people, who know who they are, where they came from, and where they are going. They have all passed the torch, and so our blessings multiply with each passing year.

As we celebrate again the birth of the Christ Child, we welcome the chance to share the joy of our faith and family with you and yours, and to wish you all the blessings of this Holy Season and the many joy filled days of the coming year.

May you relish and savor all the times of your life.

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BOOTS ON THE GROUND

Over breakfast, tuned in to Fox news, I was treated to a hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee in which Senators were cross examining Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Paul Selva about American objectives in Syria and Iraq.
Senators were pushing to get a commitment. When are we going to capture Mosul? How are we going to do it? The city of Mosul on the Tigris River is the home of the University of Mosul. Before the Iraq War its population was over two and a half million. Many have fled since then.

Two years ago, ISIS captured the city and since have established it as an Islamic Caliphate.

How to recapture it? The Secretary and the Chairman weren’t really sure. Indeed their testimony was replete with if’s and’s and but’s. They concede, apparently, that Mosul cannot be recaptured from the air. They seem also to be less than optimistic that the city can be taken back by an elite cadre of American special forces.

And so there was much talk about “our allies in the region;”  The Turks, the Kurds, the Iraqis, the Saudis. What about the Iranians? Well, yes they are fighting ISIS too, but they are not our allies. And the Russians? Also not our allies, although also fighting ISIS.

I don’t recall anything being said about what we might do if the Russians or the Iranians decide to capture Mosul.

Especially since the San Bernardino massacre, it has become popular among the ruling class to insist that we are at war. The favorite slogan is that we are at war with Islamic Terrorism.

I can’t figure out how you can be at war against Islamic Terrorism. You can’t invade Islamic Terrorism. You can’t capture Islamic Terrorism. You can’t kill Islamic Terrorism. Islamic Terrorism can’t surrender. You can’t make a peace treaty with Islamic Terrorism.

It’s sort of like saying we are at war against Murder or Sin. As long as there is still one person who is of a mind to blow himself up in order to kill innocent non believers, Islamic Terrorism will be alive and well.

In the old days, folks used to talk about the British Empire. They said that the sun never set on it, and indeed the Union Jack flew all around the globe from the British Isles to Canada, to Singapore, to India and many points in between.

Ever since Teddy Roosevelt bought into the idea that the United States had a Manifest Destiny to bring civilization to bare foot, uninstructed natives in other parts of the world, we have been inching our way toward reinvigorating the English speaking empire under the Stars and Stripes.

It is high time we had a serious national debate on the issue of our national purpose. Are we a federal republic located in North America or are we a world wide Empire with satellites from South Korea to Saudi Arabia?

Wikipedia says that the Iraq War began on March 20, 2003 and ended on December 18, 2011. The result was that we invaded and occupied Iraq. Naively, when the shooting died down, we oversaw the establishment of a new government, one we thought would be friendly to us, then we went home. Sloppy way to build an empire, I should think.
The Senate Armed Services Committee hearing demonstrated the dismal failure of the Congress to abide by its constitutional duties. It is the job of the Congress to declare war. That means deciding who to fight and why. It involves expressing the reason, the purpose and the object of the war.

Who are we fighting? Why are we fighting them? What do we intend to do?

Nitpicking the military strategy in an undeclared conflict is not the same as declaring war. The Congress is supposed to speak for the people. Do they ever ask themselves: “What do the people want us to do?”  

I don’t know that anybody in this country wants us to invade and conquer Syria and/or Iraq. If you would like to see how popular that idea is, just suggest that we reinstate the draft – including all the girls over eighteen – and build an army of a million troops to invade the Middle East, eliminate all the radical Muslims and silence the religious and intellectual leaders who radicalize them.

Or we could just bring all of our troops home, post some on every street corner, school yard and movie theater and sleep easy.

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SAN BERNARDINO

Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik murdered fourteen people and injured dozens more on Wednesday, December 2, 2015. The site was an assembly room at the Inland Regional Center, in San Bernardino, California. The victims were gathered, as the media has reported, for a ‘holiday’ party, which included the appearance of Santa Claus.

The occasion being celebrated was Christmas, a legal holiday in the United States of America, commemorating the birth, 2016 years ago, of Jesus Christ, an itinerant Jewish preacher who claimed to be the Son of God, and whose followers, known as Christians, have established successful civilizations in Europe, North and South America, and Australia as well as parts of Asia and Africa.

The predominant measure of time on the planet earth dates from the first Christmas, and the years are described as “AD” meaning Anno Domine or Year of Our Lord.

Mr. Farook and Ms. Malik were Muslims, as attested by relatives and friends as well as the presence of the Quran and other other Muslim readings in their home. Ms. Malik is reported to have pledged allegiance to the radical Islamic movement known as ISIS.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation has now apparently concluded that the killings constituted the crime of terrorism. Broadly, terrorism is defined as the random killing of human beings as a means of influencing the government or achieving any political objective.

On June 17, 2015, in Charleston, South Carolina, a young white man entered a prayer service at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church and murdered nine people, including the pastor. Dylan Storm Roof, who has confessed to the crime, is now held for trial by both state and federal officials.

The state prosecutor has charged him with nine counts of murder. The federal authorities have classified his actions as a ‘hate crime’ for which the penalty of death may be imposed.

At eight PM this evening, President Obama took to the air to urge Americans not to panic in the face of domestic terrorism. He reminded us that millions of our neighbors are adherents of the Islamic faith; that they are law abiding, patriotic citizens, who should not be identified with the criminal acts of radical Islamic terrorists.

That’s easy enough to say, and it’s not really debatable. Still, we are human. During breakfast this morning at Muer’s Kitchen in Harbor Springs, I noticed a young man at the next table. There was nothing African about his features, but his skin was darker than mine. For just an instant I wondered if he was Arabic, and in that instant he looked my way.

I looked away, embarrassed, as though somehow he could know what I was thinking. It reminded me of the nervous days in Detroit after the riots of 1967 when you stopped for a red light on Livernois and consciously looked straight ahead. Not right. Not left. Just straight ahead.

We are entering the holy and happy season of Christmas. Somewhere between the shopping and the decorating and the visiting and the eating and the drinking there will be time to ask ourselves what we should do about the madness in the world. The hating and the killing. The murder and the madness.

About 32,000 people die of of gun shots in America every year; 35,000 die in auto accidents. Life is too short and too precious to live in fear of dying.

I am no fan of federal laws against hate crimes or terrorism. Murder is murder, and should be prosecuted vigorously. When the feds stick their noses into law enforcement, they politicize it. If Nidal Hasan had been prosecuted by the Texas authorities, he would have been executed years ago.

The beautifully Christian people of Emmanuel African Methodist Episcopal who prayed for forgiveness and redemption of the man who murdered their pastor set a powerful example. All of us who recite the Lord’s Prayer ask to be forgiven as we forgive others.

Still, the law is the law and murder is murder. Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for justice…

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REFUGEES?

The news of the day is all about Syrian refugees. President Obama chides the Republicans for wringing their hands over the flood of Syrians seeking asylum on our shores. A number of Governors have announced their intention to refuse to cooperate in settling refugees.

It’s a question that has divided our nation. It has become a kind of litmus test that determines whether your concern for the welfare of your fellow human beings out ranks your concern for the welfare of your state and nation.

Our President describes the refugees as women and their three year old children. Surely providing shelter for women and children is a work of charity with universal appeal.

The Governors who would deny refuge see it differently. Many are concerned that refugees are not fully or properly ‘vetted’ meaning that we don’t know enough about them to be confident that they come in peace.

Surely no one wants to welcome thousands of potential Islamic terrorists to our homeland. Some spokesmen for the administration have insisted that we have a ‘robust’ system of vetting, that we can be confident that the refugees come to our shores in peace and brotherhood.

At the same time there are other voices, some quite knowledgeable, who insist that the vetting process is inadequate and deeply flawed. They are saying that we simply do not have reliable background information on most refugees, and we do not have the manpower or resources in place to investigate every person who knocks on our door.

Whether all of the refugees are, as described on the statue of Liberty, “wretched homeless refuse yearning to breathe free” or whether indeed some of them are fanatic Jihad enemies of freedom and democracy is a question we ought to address before we undertake to offer wholesale asylum.

I recently wrote a blog in which I insisted that Syria should be a Syrian problem; that Syrian territory belongs to and should be governed by the indigenous population.

Preparing this blog, I went on Google and asked to see pictures of the Syrian refugees. Google obliged with pages and pages of pictures. To my utter surprise, I discovered that the mass of people known as Syrian Refugees are at least fifty percent males. Military aged males. Young men who, in our country, would automatically be included in what our Constitution calls ‘the militia.’
They are the people who would be drafted to fight for the homeland. They are the able bodied males who are expected to step up and fight to protect their homes, their wives, their children, their families.

Why are they leaving Syria? Aren’t they Syrians? Why won’t they stand and fight for their homes?

Why are 19 and 20 year old men seeking refuge in Europe and the United States when their ancient motherland is in turmoil?

And while we are asking questions, here is another: why aren’t the Persian Gulf States of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qator and Bahrain taking in any Syrian refugees? They have a lot more in common with Syrians then Frenchmen, Germans or Americans do. And they are a lot closer.

All of which leads me to offer this suggestion to the several America Governors who are resisting the influx of Syrian refugees: why not simply declare that no able bodied adult males will be welcomed? That is a form of vetting which is easy to enforce, and should go a very long way to comfort those citizens who are concerned about the Trojan Horse syndrome.

When Bush 43 was told of the attack on the World Trade Center, his immediate reaction was “We are at war.” France’s President Hollande came to the same conclusion after the November 13 attack on Paris. The problem in both cases is defining just who we are at war against.

I should think that a formal declaration of war would define the enemy, and what the object of the war will be. If, as seems to be the case, the enemy is radical Islamic terrorists, (RITS?) what is the goal? How do we define winning? Are we bent on killing all the RITS? Or are we merely intent on punishing those who attack us?

No Christian nation will knowingly adopt genocide as a public policy. The question is, how do you fight an ideology?

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FREE SPEECH AND EDUCATION

The ruckus at the University of Missouri, now spreading to other campuses turns a bright light on the issue of free speech versus political correctness.

I am no fan of political correctness. I am a devotee of freedom of speech.

That said, I will doubtlessly draw a host of disagreement with this blog.

What I want to say here is simply this: an educational institution should have the mission of educating its students. Educating – from the Latin e duco, means leading out. Specifically, it means leading the students out of the darkness of ignorance into the bright light of knowledge.

It means teaching. It means training. Education is more than simply transmitting knowledge. It involves instilling discipline, developing habits of thought, or action, and yes, of speech.

Americans have the constitutionally protected right of free speech. They do not have a constitutionally protected right to attend any particular institution of higher education.

There is nothing in the law to prevent a college or University from imposing discipline on its students, It can require them to wear uniforms. It can require them to sing the school alma mater, recite the pledge of allegiance, memorize the Gettysburg Address or the ten commandments.

A college or University may require its students to address its faculty with respect, refrain from cursing, dressing inappropriately, and yes, engaging in politically incorrect discourse.

There is no reason why a college or University could not ban the use of George Carlin’s ten words you can’t say on television anywhere on campus, and no reason why it cannot ban racial slurs by its students or faculty.

It short, there is nothing in the Constitution of the United States which forbids an institution of higher education from purveying the full measure of  higher education, such that its graduates will not only know things like history, literature, science and psychology, but will be trained to speak and act and think like a truly mature, cultured and civilized human being.

All of which is not to say that colleges and Universities are required to be operated like finishing schools. Indeed, most public Universities are committed to a kind of open ended freedom of thought and expression which is based upon the relativist notion that there is no such thing as absolute truth, and right or wrong are entirely personal opinions that each student is expected to divine for him or her self before receiving a diploma.

Given that kind of a mission statement, it is difficult for the academic administration to impose, retroactively or selectively, specific restrictions on speech or conduct.

Especially so when the ban is imposed at the request of an objecting minority.

Example: A college declines to ban a showing of The Vagina Monologues based on the objection of evangelical Christian students to its libertine message, but is then asked to ban the same movie by transvestites who take personal offense at its content.

Unhappily, much of the discord on college campuses has political overtones. It is not really about free speech so much as it is about who is in charge. 

Experience tells us that radical political change is often incubated on college campuses. Certainly campuses were the battlegrounds of dissent and protest during the Viet Nam War. College students like to chant in unison. They do it at football and basketball games and they do it on the lawn in front of the President or the Chancellor’s house.

There is a certain bravado that comes with solidarity. And solidarity is easier to achieve when condemning a person than when cheering for an idea.

How many “discussions” of issues on the Internet quickly dissolve into name calling. Young people who have not been imbued with a sense of propriety are especially quick to resort to ad hominem argument.

And let’s face it, “I respectfully disagree with your major premise” is not as much fun to say as “Yo Mama wears soldier boots.”  

  

  

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SYRIA

Sometimes called The Arab Republic of Syria, the nation we call Syria was one of the original, founding members of the United Nations.

It remains a fully accredited member of the General Assembly. The government of Syria, which is recognized internationally as the ‘de jure’ or legal government of that country, is headed by Bashar al-Assad, who was elected by the Parliament as President to succeed his father Hafez l-Assad in 2000.

The Congress of the United States has not declared war against Syria. The people of the United States are not at war against the people of Syria.

We hear a lot of talk these days about “boots on the ground” in Syria. Just last week, we were told that President Obama, reversing his previous positions, has authorized the deployment of a limited number of “special ops” onto Syria soil.

This in furtherance of massively expensive ‘training and equipping’ of opponents of the al-Assad regime in pursuit of some unofficial, ill-defined, economic and/or political ‘interests’ of the United States in the Middle East.

Russia has established a military presence in Syria. They are there, presumably at the request of the Syrian government headed by Bashar al-Assad, for the purpose of bolstering his sovereignty.

So here we are, seven years into the reign of President Barack Obama, our erstwhile, amateur Commander-in Chief, literally at war with Russia on Syrian soil.

Here we are, nearly forty years after the end of the Cold War, with the immortal words of  Ronald Reagan demanding that Mr. Gorbachev ‘tear down that wall’ still ringing in our ears, with two generations of cooperation between American and Russian astronauts proving that civilization on this planet has advanced beyond the primitive urge to kill anyone who speaks a different language or worships a different version of the Creator, stumbling into a shooting war thousands of miles from our homeland.

And why? To what purpose? Is the profit of the military-industrial complex so crucial to our economy that the blood of our youth must be spilled on foreign soil to bolster it?

On July 2, 1957, 181 years after the Declaration of Independence, which he called man’s noblest expression against political repression,  John Fitzgerald Kennedy stood on the floor of the Senate and told his colleagues and the nation that the greatest enemy to freedom in the world is imperialism.

Imperialism is nothing more nor less than the extension of sovereignty by force of arms; conquest, invasion and subjugation. Kennedy argued, in brief, that “Algeria is for the Algerians.”

In so saying, he was recognizing the simple fact that political freedom means the right of an indigenous population to do what our founders did in 1776: “to assume among the Powers of the Earth the separate and equal Station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them.”

The consent of the governed is not always given at the ballot box; indeed peaceful revolution is the rare exception in human history.  The majority of the 193 nations represented on First Avenue in New York City are governed by people who came into power or are retained in power by force.

It matters not. People will have the government they choose or the government they tolerate. In the last analysis what matters is that the indigenous population is in charge.

The Soviets learned it in eastern Europe and we learned in it in Viet Nam:

You cannot control or rule a hostile indigenous population.

There was a lot of excitement among well meaning utopians about the so-called Arab Spring, which was touted as a tidal wave of modern democracy washing over the primitive governance of the Middle East.

Not hardly. It turned out to be just another chapter in the seemingly endless tribal and religious warfare that has stained the sands of Africa for centuries.

It is time for us to come home and frack our own oil.

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HUMILITY

Being married to Polly for 64 years qualifies me to brag about my humility.

Back in 1962 when I began service as a Judge of the Detroit Common Pleas Court, several of my lawyer friends used to drive me downtown. One snowy winter morning, the fellows were at the curb honking the horn and I was making haste to get out the door.

Polly pulled my overcoat out of the closet and held it up by the shoulders. I assumed she wanted me to put my arms into the sleeves and turned my back attempting to do so.

Surprise. My dear wife did not hold the coat up. She dropped it on the floor, announcing cheerfully, “Put it on yourself, big deal judge!”

I was still laughing when I got into the car and told the guys. They promptly christened me the “BDJ.” a nickname that stuck for many years. Sometimes you have to wait until all your friends are dead before the razzing stops.

There are many opportunities to exercise and enjoy the virtue of humility. For instance, this morning, while searching for an essay written by a friend, I stumbled onto the web site of The Heartland Institute, a Chicago based think tank which operates a thing called the Center for Constitutional Reform.

Among the pages on that web site, I found a list entitled “Leaders of the Constitutional Reform Movement.” Under that title, a dozen organizations are identified. No mention of Judge Thomas E. Brennan, the book I wrote or Convention USA, which has been on the Internet at www.conventionusa.org  for more than five years.

I suppose that some people who have been writing and speaking about the Article V Convention since 1982 as I have, might be somewhat put off to see that they are not recognized as leaders of the movement.

Not I. I am keenly aware that my efforts are not directed toward a “conventional” convention. I have been cheerfully marching to a different drummer, content in the knowledge that what I am doing is both more practical and more philosophically sound than the efforts of the recognized leaders of the movement.

Here are the differences:

All of the other “Fivers” (supporters of an Article V Convention) are trying to get 34 State legislatures to ask Congress to call a limited convention.

I don’t think Congress will ever call a convention, no matter what the State legislatures ask for or how many of them ask.

All of the other Fivers fear a ‘run away’ convention.

I don’t.

All of the other Fivers want a convention controlled by the State governments.

I believe an Article V convention is an assembly, not of the States, but of the people of the States. There’s a difference.

All of the other Fivers are working within the so-called ‘two party’ system, either proposing amendments favored by conservatives or favored by progressives.

I believe a convention must be non partisan; not bi-partisan. There is a difference.

In short, unlike the recognized leaders of the Article V movement, I believe that the only way the people of the fifty states can take their government back from the career politicians who infest Washington, D.C., is to organize and conduct an amendatory constitutional convention and propose the necessary reforms of our national government.

Whether those reforms are finally ratified and become part of our Constitution is a political question. It will depend on the wisdom and merits of the proposals and the popular support for them.

But that is always the case, isn’t it?

  

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SPEAK UP

If you have been reading my blogs, you know that I sent a survey on constitutional issues to the candidates for President, and that not a single one of them did me or you the courtesy of a reply.

Now I have installed that same survey on the Convention USA web site, and I am inviting all of my blogees and blogettes to speak up on these same issues.

Simply go to www.conventionusa.org and click on the “SPEAK UP” button and you will be taken to the 23 question survey.  We don’t ask for personal information other than age and sex, so you are not going to be flooded with emails or solicitations if you take the survey.

I don’t think the survey is biased either to the left or to the right. We are talking about basic structural issues having to do with the operation of the government and the relationship between the nation and state governments.

From time to time, I will report to you how the voting is going, so that together we can see if there is any chance of public consensus on these important constitutional issues.

Right now, I want to talk a little about just one of the questions which might, at first glance, leave some folks scratching their head.

Question #8 asks this:

Would you favor an amendment prohibiting voting for more than one member of the House of representatives?

Of course today, no one can vote for more than one Representative because House members are chosen from single member districts. So the only reason for the one vote rule is that, when gerrymandering is abolished, there will be many districts entitled to multiple representatives.

So here is the problem: let’s say that a county is entitled to elect 20 members of Congress. And let’s say that the county is 80% Democrat and 20% Republican. If every voter can vote for 20 candidates, all 20 Democrats will receive 80% of the vote and all 20 Republicans will get 20%.

If, however, voters can vote for only one candidate, Democrat candidates will receive an average of 4% of the vote (80% divided by 20 candidates) and Republicans will receive an average of  1% of the vote (20% divided by 20 candidates.)

If the Republicans only nominate five candidates, however, those five will average 4% of the vote, just as the Democrats.

The same math applies obviously to any minority in a large district. If the minority fields only a few candidates, they will have a strong possibility of winning at least a few seats.

My friend Larry Lessig, the brilliant Harvard Professor and political gadfly who is running for the Democratic Presidential nomination, endorses abolishing gerrymandered single member districts, but his solution to voting in multi-seat districts is a novel form of ranked voting. In addition to the fact that it adds an arcane factor to the counting of votes, it really doesn’t prevent the evils of slate voting, as the least popular candidate of the majority will still receive more votes than the most popular minority.
I appreciate the fact that this discussion is technical and for most folks, boring; about as titillating as watching a math teacher drawing boxes and triangles on the blackboard to explain the Pythagorean Theorem.    

But the fact is that we are talking here about the Constitution; the Supreme Law of the Land; the Charter of our liberties. This is not a place to struggle for power or superiority. This is an exercise in seeking agreement on a system; a system that works, even handedly and fairly, no matter who is currently on top of the political heap.

Tonight we will be treated to the third Republican Primary debate. Looks like this time, Ben Carson will be in the middle. I have tweeted all the moderators of the debate, urging them, at least, to ask the candidates if they favor a convention to propose amendments that Congress refuses to consider.

Hardly the kind of emotion laden “gotcha” question most moderators like to ask. Still, some of us would like to know.

  

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FIX THE CONGRESS

The Founders of our nation knew that the love of power is a natural human tendency. They knew from history that people who gain power rarely relinquish it voluntarily and almost always try to extend it.

So it is with the United States House of Representatives. Despite the fact that the Constitution commands that the House expand proportionally to the population of the nation at every census, members of Congress have, for more than one hundred years, frozen the size of that august body at 435.

Why limit the Congress to 435 Representatives? Is it logical to say “because that is the size of the chamber”?  Or, “because that’s all the chairs or desks we have”? Of course not.

The size of the House has been frozen at 435 for one reason and one reason only: because those 435 people do not want to share their power with anyone else. They want to stay in office; they want to gain seniority, they want to get key committee assignments and party offices. And they want the power that comes with those jobs.

The alienation of the American people from their government can be largely traced to this one big power grab. By freezing the size of the House, members have assured that their constituencies get bigger every year. Bigger constituencies mean more expensive elections. And that means more money has to be raised.  

Some years ago the United States Supreme Court pompously announced that the principle of one-man-one-vote must be observed in all federal and state elections. The result has been some very preposterous practices.

Gerrymandering has become a fine art. New York recently reapportioned its Congressional delegation to a standard of plus or minus one person. That is a totally fictional exercise: the census tracts they used were already two years old and were not that accurate to begin with.

And ridiculously, despite such silly hyper-technicality in many states, the actual distribution of seats in the House of Representative is grossly disproportioned when considered State by State. Thus there are 7 States with delegations below 90% of the norm and 4 States whose delegations are above 110% of the norm.

The Founders originally proposed that the House of Representatives consist of one representative for every 50,000 people. That proposal, known as Article the First, was never ratified, and Congress was left to determine the ratio.

Of course, the Founders had no idea that the nation would one day claim a population of 308 millions of people. As a practical matter, the 50,000 ratio would require a very large assembly and would have great difficulty winning popular approval.

But there is another approach, which has been discussed for years. It’s called the Wyoming Plan. The Constitution requires that each State have at least one representative in the House. Since Wyoming has the smallest population, it is logical to use the population of Wyoming as the base for calculating the size of the House.

Fair enough, simple enough. The difficulty is that merely dividing the population of each State by the population of Wyoming results a whole number followed by decimals. What do you do with the decimals?

This question typically leads to two answers: either Wyoming gets one Congress member because its population equals 51% of the norm, or because its population equals 151% of the norm. Putting it another way, either Wyoming gets one member because its population is the bare minimum required, or Wyoming gets only one member because its population is not quite large enough to warrant two members.

I call these three options Half Wyoming, Double Wyoming and Straight Wyoming. Half Wyoming would actually reduce the size of the House to 273 members; Double Wyoming would increase the House to 814; and Straight Wyoming would increase the House to 546.

The United Kingdom has a House of Commons consisting of 650 members representing a population of 64 million. Canada’s 35 million are represented by 338 members of their House of Commons. Both of those nations are seven times more democratic than the good old USA.

And just what are our illustrious Presidential candidates saying about that?

Nothing.  

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THERE IS ALWAYS HOPE

On Friday, October 9th, I drove my little Pontiac G 6 down to Lansing and had dinner with Tom.  Mostly, we talked about golf. On Saturday, we were a two man team in the Walnut Hills Fall Invitational Tournament.

We teed off in a two man scramble format at ten AM on Saturday. Amidst many familiar faces and much fellowship, Tom and I played well – 73 gross, 66 net, earning a three way tie for first place in our flight.

We went to Saturday evening Mass at Saint Thomas, ran into some old friends and made some new ones. Then back to Tom’s for an early bedtime.

Sunday would be a two man best ball, and we both had to be sharp.

I learned a very important lessen that night: Never take a laxative before bedtime, especially when you are playing golf the next day. About 3 AM, scrambling out of bed in the dark, I fell against a bedside table and broke, or at least cracked, a rib on my left side.

Sunday morning was a time for decision. Should I just pack up and drive back to Harbor Springs? Should I go to Emergency at Sparrow Hospital and get an X-Ray? In either case, we would have to go over to Walnut Hills and get my golf clubs. So we went.

My clubs were already loaded on the cart with Tom’s. Just on a hunch, I pulled out the seven iron and took a couple of practice swings. Easy ones. Then I went down to the range and hit a couple of balls. Not bad. I hunted up Doctor Tim McKenna who was also playing in the event. He applied pressure on my side and asked me to breathe deeply. I asked if he thought I could play. His counsel: “If it hurts don’t do it.”

I told Tom I would give it a try, but didn’t know if I could finish the round. We agreed that I should get a second golf cart, so that if I decided to quit at any time, I could leave the course, and he could finish alone.

Our shotgun start was on the tenth hole, a long par four, that runs from the parking lot almost to the club entrance on Lake Lansing Road. After hitting a driver and two fairway woods, my ball was just off the green on the right. I skulled a chip shot and watched the ball roll over the elevated left side of the putting surface. 
Upset with my effort, I jumped into the golf cart, and drove quickly around the front of the green, and onto some rough about three feet left of the green.

I never saw the sand trap. The right front and rear wheels were in the rough. The left wheels went into the trap. It was deep. The face of the trap was at perhaps as much as six feet. I was thrown out of the cart and down into the sand, where I was pinned down by the overturned vehicle.

They say that at times like that, a person’s whole life flashes before their eyes. The only thought I recall having was a sense of  surprise that I was about to die in most unusual and morbidly comical circumstances.

I never lost consciousness. I remember calling for help. Shortly, Tom Jr., Robin Omer and his partner, Keith Froelich, were lifting the cart off of me, Someone called 911.

EMS arrived in an instantaneous eternity, and the men promptly did what they do so very well. Lifted from the sand on a stretcher, I was hustled into the ambulance and taken to Sparrow. Listening to the crisp, professional reports of the first responders to the emergency room, I began to understand why there were no sirens.

I spent the next four days as a guest of Sparrow hospital. Dr. Mike Clarke stopped by. He remembered seeing me there some years ago when I broke a rib trying to maneuver a heavy outdoor barbecue onto a raised deck. My daughter in law, Catherine, works at Sparrow. She made me feel very special. So did my daughter, Ellen.

I didn’t want to scare Polly; didn’t want her to drive down from Harbor Springs, alone and in a panic. I had Tom call her and hand me the phone. I tried to sound O.K. and assured her that I would be home the next day. I don’t think she believed me. Tom drove my Pontiac north and brought Polly back immediately in her car. I was glad to see her.

Sparrow did a thorough job, with scans and x-rays and monitors of all sorts.

The conclusion: no broken bones except the ribs from my Saturday night spill. No internal bleeding. Multiple contusions, abrasions and a deep puncture wound on the left foot.

Funny how the worst kind of bad luck can feel like the best kind of good luck. On the upside, Father Charlie Irvin came, brought Communion, heard my confession and administered the last sacraments. 

I may not be ready for golf for a while, but I feel like I am ready for some more of the wondrous gift of life. Even with the five inches of snow on the back deck. And even with the Wolverines in the lead, on offense, and ten seconds to play. There is always hope.

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COMING OUT

The other night Stephen Colbert had a guest on the Late Show by the name of Ellen Page. Beautiful young lady. A movie star. She was there to plug a recent release called “Free Held” based on a true story about a gay police detective who died of cancer.

Colbert asked her about how her life had changed since she had “come out” as a gay person about five years ago. The audience burst into applause. Whereupon Ms. Page described how good she felt being openly known as a homosexual; how happy she is to be done with shame and self doubt.

Colbert asked her what she thought of the folks who oppose gay marriage on religious grounds. She basically said that they will come around when they have had enough exposure to LGBT people in the movies, on television, and on the Internet.

Ms. Page is very articulate. She evokes sympathy for herself and by extension to all people who identify themselves as Lesbian, Gay, Bi-Sexual or Transgender.

Stephen Colbert asked the question about religious belief in a very friendly way, mentioning that, while he is a man of faith, he knows that he believes lots of things that just aren’t so. Guardian Angels, for example. It gave his guest a chance to assert her unqualified support for the First Amendment guarantee of religious freedom but remind the audience that lots of bad things have been done in the name of religion.

Undoubtedly, the positive audience response to Ms. Page’s outing was in recognition of her courage in confronting the discrimination, ridicule and ill will often heaped upon homosexuals in America.

Other audiences have cheered Kim Davis for her courage in accepting imprisonment rather than offend her personal belief about the morality of same sex marriage. 

And so the battle between religion and sexual liberation spans the gap between a feisty Kentucky County Clerk and a sophisticated late night talk show. For both sides, it seems to be all about how you feel.

What is missing, for me at least, is any conversation about public policy.

Whether homosexual conduct does or does not violate the tenets of any particular religious belief should have no influence on public policy. Some religions abhor dancing or gambling. At one time many States had laws against working on Sunday. So called ‘blue laws’ even prohibited playing baseball on Sunday.

There are few if any vestiges of such laws still on the books. The reason is simple. The general opinion of the citizenry does not support them.

Statutes prohibiting same sex marriage may very well go the way of the blue laws some day. That day has not come, and there is no certainty that it will ever come.

The National Health Interview Survey, administered by a branch of the U.S. Census Bureau, reported in 2014 that 1.6% of the American people identify themselves as gay or lesbian and 0.7 percent consider themselves as bisexual.

Perhaps, as it has been suggested by some, that survey and others which reach similar conclusions are skewered because closeted homosexuals don’t admit to their conduct. Still, there is plenty of evidence from actual referenda on constitution issues that there is overwhelming public support for traditional marriage.

Whether in or out of the closet, “being” a homosexual is like “being” a smoker. It is a status determined by conduct. What you do defines what you are.

Political support for same sex intimacy got its boost from the Supreme Court back in 2006 in Lawrence v Texas. That decision essentially said that what consenting adults do in private is their business and not subject to government control. Now, less than ten years later the Supreme Court has opened the closet door and sanctioned public recognition of homosexual conduct.

In my church we believe that we are all sinners. When we come out of the confessional we feel relieved of shame and self doubt. Maybe even Kim Davis would have applauded Ellen Page.

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COMING OUT

The other night Stephen Colbert had a guest on the Late Show by the name of Ellen Page. Beautiful young lady. A movie star. She was there to plug a recent release called “Free Held” based on a true story about a gay police detective who died of cancer.

Colbert asked her about how her life had changed since she had “come out” as a gay person about five years ago. The audience burst into applause. Whereupon Ms. Page described how good she felt being openly known as a homosexual; how happy she is to be done with shame and self doubt.

Colbert asked her what she thought of the folks who oppose gay marriage on religious grounds. She basically said that they will come around when they have had enough exposure to LGBT people in the movies, on television, and on the Internet.

Ms. Page is very articulate. She evokes sympathy for herself and by extension to all people who identify themselves as Lesbian, Gay, Bi-Sexual or Transgender.

Stephen Colbert asked the question about religious belief in a very friendly way, mentioning that, while he is a man of faith, he knows that he believes lots of things that just aren’t so. Guardian Angels, for example. It gave his guest a chance to assert her unqualified support for the First Amendment guarantee of religious freedom but remind the audience that lots of bad things have been done in the name of religion.

Undoubtedly, the positive audience response to Ms. Page’s outing was in recognition of her courage in confronting the discrimination, ridicule and ill will often heaped upon homosexuals in America.

Other audiences have cheered Kim Davis for her courage in accepting imprisonment rather than offend her personal belief about the morality of same sex marriage. 

And so the battle between religion and sexual liberation spans the gap between a feisty Kentucky County Clerk and a sophisticated late night talk show. For both sides, it seems to be all about how you feel.

What is missing, for me at least, is any conversation about public policy.

Whether homosexual conduct does or does not violate the tenets of any particular religious belief should have no influence on public policy. Some religions abhor dancing or gambling. At one time many States had laws against working on Sunday. So called ‘blue laws’ even prohibited playing baseball on Sunday.

There are few if any vestiges of such laws still on the books. The reason is simple. The general opinion of the citizenry does not support them.

Statutes prohibiting same sex marriage may very well go the way of the blue laws some day. That day has not come, and there is no certainty that it will ever come.

The National Health Interview Survey, administered by a branch of the U.S. Census Bureau, reported in 2014 that 1.6% of the American people identify themselves as gay or lesbian and 0.7 percent consider themselves as bisexual.

Perhaps, as it has been suggested by some, that survey and others which reach similar conclusions are skewered because closeted homosexuals don’t admit to their conduct. Still, there is plenty of evidence from actual referenda on constitution issues that there is overwhelming public support for traditional marriage.

Whether in or out of the closet, “being” a homosexual is like “being” a smoker. It is a status determined by conduct. What you do defines what you are.

Political support for same sex intimacy got its boost from the Supreme Court back in 2006 in Lawrence v Texas. That decision essentially said that what consenting adults do in private is their business and not subject to government control. Now, less than ten years later the Supreme Court has opened the closet door and sanctioned public recognition of homosexual conduct.

In my church we believe that we are all sinners. When we come out of the confessional we feel relieved of shame and self doubt. Maybe even Kim Davis would have applauded Ellen Page.

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KIM DAVIS AND BROWN v BOARD OF EDUCATION

The layman’s notion of judicial review is that the Supreme Court can “invalidate” a state law which it determines to be unconstitutional. Admittedly, this is the way newspapers report so-called ‘landmark’ decisions. 
Judicial review is not limited to the United States Supreme Court. Every court, from the lowest county traffic judge, has the same power to determine whether a state law does or does not comply with the state or federal constitution. If a court decides that a statute is unconstitutional, it is the duty of the judge to decide the case as though the statute in question does not exist.

That decision establishes the law of the case, and unless appealed, it determines finally and irrevocably the rights of the parties to the litigation. 

The decision, however, does not determine the rights of any other party. The Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution affirms that no person shall be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law. Due process requires that a person be given a fair hearing before he or she can be jailed, fined or ordered to do anything by a judge. 

In Brown v Board of Education, the Supreme Court wisely overruled the case of Plessy v Ferguson and opined that the United States Constitution is color blind, ruling that the twenty black children of thirteen Topeka, Kansas parents were entitled to attend their local white public school. 

The order issued in that case affected those 20 children and only those 20 children. It was, however, clear to everyone that the Supreme Court was of the opinion that public school segregation laws were unconstitutional and that any state which would continue enforcing such laws would face the obvious fact that their actions would be challenged in court, and that the lower courts would almost certainly defer to the opinion of the United States Supreme Court, unless there was some logical and significant difference in the facts.

Applying the Brown rule in a nation of over 200 million people was not a simple task. Not only in the previously segregated Southern States, but in densely populated Northern cities, the natural tendencies of people to prefer neighborhoods having distinct racial or ethnic character fostered de facto segregation in many neighborhood public schools.

As a result, a number of new cases were filed, leading to a decision commonly referred to as Brown II. In it, the United States Supreme Court ordered a number of State Attorney Generals to submit, within a stated period of time, their plans for the desegregation of public schools “with all deliberate speed.”

Brown II resulted in a complete reversal of Brown I’s salutary finding that the Constitution is color blind. Quite the opposite, Brown II required that students, both black and white, be assigned to schools based on the color of their skin, in an effort to achieve statistical integration.

The result was a period of more than a quarter century of judicial activism in which federal judges ordered children transported by bus long distances from their homes, ordered local taxes to be assessed, ordered school bonds to be issued and ordered new school buildings constructed.

Now, more than 60 years after Brown, more than 70% of black school children still attend schools which are more than 50% black; more than 30% of black children attend schools that are 90% black and about 15% of black children attend schools that are 99% black.

Those statistics are not the result of any organized effort at nullification. They are simply the consequence of a free people in a free country making their own decisions for their own reasons.

Abraham Lincoln made it clear that the Supreme Court makes the law of the case and not the law of the land. That is not learned only in law school; it should be taught in high school civics. Article III of our Constitution vests judicial power, and only judicial power, in the nation’s courts. Courts are empowered to dispense justice on a case by case basis. They are neither established nor equipped to make laws, amend laws, repeal laws or order legislatures to change laws.

Whether a perceived landmark case like Obergefell v Hodges will result in a significant change in American culture will depend on the extent to which the people of the nation accept and act upon the Court’s opinion. If state marriage laws are changed, a cultural tsunami could well occur. If they are not changed, The Supreme Court will pursue a fool’s mission if it attempts to mandate nationwide compliance with Obergefell one case at a time.  

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Congress questions EPA of law violation on Animas River spill

Gina McCarthy dodges Congressional questions on EPA criminal activity Continue reading Congress questions EPA of law violation on Animas River spill . . . → Read More: Congress questions EPA of law violation on Animas River spill