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CONVENTION OF STATES

The Convention of States, COS, is a nationwide effort to induce State Legislatures to ask Congress to call a convention for proposing amendments to the United States Constitution.
Organized by Michael Farris, Chancellor of Patrick Henry University and Mark Meckler, former President of the Tea Party Patriots, the effort has focused on reining in the federal government.
Their goal, of course, is to induce the legislatures of 34 States to join in petitions required by Article V of the U.S. Constitution, requesting a convention. In order to avoid any technical objection, they are seeking to get 34 States to adopt an identically worded resolution.
Obviously, this takes a great deal of effort and coordination. Their strategy has been to recruit citizen activists in every State legislative district, who will bring pressure to bear on their respective legislators.
COS has been active since 2014. To date, they have succeeded in garnering petitions from only five States. At the same time, they now claim to have recruited citizen committees in every state legislative district in the nation.
Recently, in an effort to bolster their cause, COS has sponsored a simulated Constitutional Convention, giving us a peek at the type of assembly they envision coming together to rein in a rogue federal government.
I watched a good deal of the proceedings on video.
Regrettably, I have to say that the simulation did not inspire much confidence in their vision of constitutional reform. The delegates recruited for the simulation were primarily members of various State Legislatures.
The proposals they concocted were essentially directed at giving themselves the power to override federal statutes, administrative rules and court decisions.
I cannot imagine a more disorganized, helter-skelter approach to reining in federal overreach.
The idea that three-fifths of the State Legislatures could reverse a United Sates Supreme Court decision would be laughable if it were not for the fact that there is so much discontent with so many Supreme Court decisions.
Why it would not occur to the organizers of the simulated convention that the problem with Supreme Court decisions is the composition of the Supreme Court, I cannot imagine. I can only lay it to the myopia of legislators who are reluctant to adjust their mindset and think like constitution makers instead of state legislators.
For the first one hundred and thirty years of our nation, the Supreme Court was understood to be the keeper of the Constitution. That protective tradition
ended with the reelection of Franklin Roosevelt in 1936. Frustrated by the refusal of the Court to approve his social and economic agenda, FDR sought to pack the court with his supporters, saying that he wanted “thumping evangelical New Dealers” on the Court.
He got them. Ever since then, Supreme Court appointees have been expected to reflect the political philosophy of the appointing President. The result: an activist, partisan Court, committed to advancing political agendas.
Forty years ago, North Carolina Senator Sam Ervin proposed a plan for a truly non partisan Supreme Court that would, once again, honor its obligation to protect the Constitution from the vicissitudes of political opinion.
Ervin advocated limiting the President’s power of appointment to a list of nominees presented by the Chief Justices of the State Supreme Courts. Ervin, himself a former state supreme court justice, expected that state court judges would protect the states from the encroachment of federal authority.
It certainly is a whole lot more sensible than a long, convoluted constitutional amendment, allowing state legislators to act as a super Supreme Court.

If the hope of the COS leadership was to show, by simulation,  how their notion of an Article V Convention would work, they surely have missed the mark. If anything, they demonstrated that a convention of State Legislators would not be a true Article V amendatory convention.      

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TORIES AND WHIGS

My cheerfully liberal friend Al Cannistraro sent me an article from the New York Times, asking for my comment. Always obliging, here it is.

The article details the many tax breaks that Donald Trump has been able to muster in developing his Manhattan real estate empire. NYT estimates the total in the range of $885 million.

No doubt Mr. Trump’s opponents will chuckle over these revelations. Clearly, the New York Times, which is no fan of Donald Trump, fully expects to generate a lot of tongue clucking and finger scraping with its Monumental Disclosure.
Truth is, The Donald has made no secret of the fact that he has gamed the system. Whether it is the bankruptcy laws, the tax laws, the eminent domain laws or the jurisdiction of the civil courts, Trump and his minions have scrambled from the trenches and stormed the economic battlefields of private enterprise without compromise or apology.

Is Washington D.C. a cesspool of corporate lobbying, a cornucopia of cash for eager Congressional campaign committees? Trump has been in the thick of it. He knows how it works because he has worked it. He admits it. Nay, he brags about it.

And he says it is wrong. He says he is a different species of Presidential candidate; an American businessman who says “Been there, done that, and it’s not going to happen on my watch.”

Thomas Jefferson, ruminating in a philosophical mood, once observed that the two party system is dictated by the laws of human nature. Whatever names they may claim, whatever people may call them, the two parties are always the Tories and the Whigs.

The Tories are the incumbents, the power brokers, the insiders, the establishment. They are the ruling class. The folks with the money. The haves. They are the system. City Hall. Downtown. Washington, D.C.

The Whigs are the unconnected. The have nots. The outsiders. The wanna bes. The people. Main Street. The Fly over zone. Business owners, entrepreneurs, workers, the taxpayers, the Silent Majority; the faceless mass of humanity that the Tories manipulate every election year.

If Mr. Jefferson is correct, it is perhaps true that Tories are nothing more than Whigs who managed to get elected. It is certainly true that, human nature being what it is, power is a corrupting influence, and those who come to office pledging to plug loopholes are often not above boring a few new holes themselves.

Surely it would be unduly sanguine to suppose that a sweeping Republican victory in November would inaugurate a new era of spotless integrity in our nation’s capital.

Still, there has to be some comfort in knowing that the man at the head of the GOP ticket doesn’t need the money. He may even take a page from George Washington’s book and decline to accept any compensation.

Whatever. In any case, I take solice in the fact that Donald Trump sees himself as a candidate for President of the United States and not a candidate for Governor of America.

Over the last half century, we have had too many candidates from both major political parties who have offered platforms more suited to a campaign for Governor of a State than Chief Executive of of our national Republic.

I hear Donald Trump saying that education, health and welfare, criminal justice and urban housing are matters that should be addressed in places like  Albany, Lansing, and Sacramento.

The upcoming Presidential debate will present a striking contrast between a veteran insider, who has lived in the White House, served in the Senate and presided over the State Department and a consummate outsider, a novice to public office, whose principal assets are business acumen, patriotism and a determination to make America great again.

We are about to witness a classic collision between the Tories and the Whigs. Hang onto your hat. November is coming.

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One People, One God, One Flag.

In Philadelphia, on Wednesday, September 7, 2016, Republican Presidential Candidate Donald J. Trump defined his candidacy in a phrase which deserves to be enshrined in the history of the United States of America.

He urged his supporters to join with their friends and neighbors in uniting our nation as “one people, under one God, saluting one flag.”

That phrase is a mantra putting flesh on the bones of our motto ‘e pluribus unum.’ Trump does not denigrate our diversity. We are white, black, European, Asian, African, Hindu, Buddist, Muslim. That’s the pluribus. Trump doesn’t deny it. He simply asks us to maximize, to emphasize, to focus on the unum.
We are one people because we are all Americans. We speak English. We share a history, a political system, a legal system, an economic system.

And we share one God.

I am surprised that the Clintonites, the mainstream media, the minions of political correctness have not jumped all over Trump’s ‘one God’ statement.

Obama famously declared, while speaking on foreign soil, that America is no longer a Christian nation.

Trump clearly puts himself in opposition Obama’s disavowal. If we are a nation “under one God” what God is it? Whose God is it? Is our God the Great Spirit worshiped by native Americans? Is it the God known as Allah to Nidal Husan and the 9-11 murderers? Is it the impersonal Budda that exists only conceptually in the minds of Tibetan monks?

No indeed. The God enshrined on our currency, the God called upon to witness the truth of testimony in our courts, the God celebrated by Kate Smith when she sang “God Bless America.” is none other than the God of Abraham, the God of Moses, the God of Jesus Christ, the God of George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King, Jr.

We are one nation under one God because we are a Christian nation. We celebrate Christmas and Easter. We count our days and our years from the birth of Christ. We live by a system of common law founded by Christian judges in England before we became a nation.

When the Founders of our nation wrote in the Northwest Ordinance that “religion, morality and knowledge are necessary for good government and the happiness of mankind” they were talking about the Bible; the summary of Judeo-Christian tradition and belief.

They were talking about the book that enshrines a philosophy of human existence on planet earth as a species of animal life endowed with the spiritual dimensions of intellect and free will that distinguish us from every other form of life.

All through human history there have been people who have risen up to remind us of our destiny as the keepers of the planet; prophets who have called on us to repent; leaders who have urged us to seize the moral high ground; thinkers who have opened our eyes to reality and heroes who have inspired our hearts to embrace the true dimensions of our humanity.

Not all of those people were smart or beautiful, or popular or welcomed. Some were tarred and feathered, some were tortured and martyred, many were ridiculed and scorned. Still others were simply ignored.
Whether Donald J. Trump belongs in that company, I cannot say. His words may very well have been the work product of some anonymous speechwriter who will never be identified.

But the fact is that Donald J. Trump is the one who said those words. He may be ill equipped to explain them, to expand upon their message, to defend their importance to all Americans and to our progeny.

I can only hope that he will try. I can only hope that, flawed as he may be by however he has lived and whatever he may have said or done in the past, he will endorse the full meaning of America as one people, believing in one God and saluting one flag. 

If he brings that kind of a profile to the upcoming Presidential debates, he will not only win the election; he will have started our nation on a course that will restore the American dream of liberty under law, and literally make America Great Again.

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SEPTEMBER ELEVEN

It comes around every year. Nine, one, one. The date that echoes our universal distress signal. The call for help. The day that commemorates the vulnerability of our humanity.
And it’s the day that celebrates first responders, rescuers, those who risk and sacrifice their lives to save the lives of their fellow human beings.
The attack on the twin towers of the World Trade Center lives in vivid memory for Americans whose eyes and memories were burned with the sights and sounds that filled their television screens fifteen year ago today.
Last night I watched a video in which President George W. Bush described his actions on that fateful day. It began with a 6:30 AM run on a golf course near the hotel in Sarasota where the President was staying.
As part of an effort to highlight the need for better education, Bush was scheduled to visit a grammar school and watch children in their reading class.
Just before he entered the class room, an aid whispered to him that an airplane had crashed into the World Trade Center. There were no other details, and the President assumed it was some sort of tragic accident.
He took a seat in the classroom and listened while the mostly black students read words on the blackboard. In a few moments, another staffer came in and whispered in his ear that the second tower had been struck.
Bush knew he was being taped on video. He didn’t want to react; didn’t want our enemies, whoever they were, to see him panic or show weakness.
He stayed until the children finished their lesson, and complimented them and their teacher. Then he left the school to become a wartime President.
His staff hurried the President into Airforce One, and when news came that the Pentagon had been hit by a third plane, George Bush realized that we were at war. His immediate concern was to defend against further attacks.
He ordered all aircraft flying over the United States to land and all scheduled flights to be canceled. He issued orders that the Airforce scramble available fighter planes to patrol the nation’s airways with orders to shoot down any aircraft that did not respond to instructions to land. When it was reported that a fourth plane had crashed in Pennsylvania, the President wondered if it had been shot down by U.S. fighters.
President Bush thought about declaring, as Franklin Roosevelt had done after the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, that our nation was in a state of war. He didn’t, simply because the attack was not the work of a nation we could identify. It was rather a cowardly scheme of radical religious madness.
The nine eleven attacks were something new for America. For two hundred years, we presumed that our homeland was safe because we were between two great oceans that separated us from those who might wish to do us harm.
No more. On that fateful day, we realized that enemies can reach us, attack our cities and soak the soil of of our land with the blood of our people.
Over the last fifteen years we have reacted to the 9/11 terror attacks in various ways; improved domestic security, TSA clearance at every airport, and of course, traditional warfare.
We invaded Iraq, not because it was responsible for the World Trade Center attack, but because of some supposed concern that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. He didn’t, as it turned out, but in the minds of many Americans, he was an Arab dictator who represented the anti-American radicalism that motivated the 9/11 murderers.
George Bush was ultimately able to announce that we had won the war in Iraq, and I suppose we did, in the traditional sense. Hussein was ousted, a new government was installed and we came home.
But the drums of war have not ceased. Fifteen years after nine eleven we are still dropping bombs in the Middle East, still trying to define our enemy, still hoping to find him and still determined to kill him.

Perhaps in November we will elect a President who understands that people with a primitive, fundamentalist understanding of the Islamic religion have a vision of life and death that is incompatible with our concept of human dignity, equality and freedom. And that religiously motivated homicide is not protected by the First Amendment.

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TRUMP IN DETROIT

I hear that Donald Trump will be campaigning in Detroit today. He is going to be doing it in the good old fashioned way. In a church.

The New York Times is working very hard to spoil his visit. Their coverage is all about accusing the Trump campaign of scripting his meeting with Bishop Wayne T. Jackson of the Great Faith Ministries International, a mega congregation on Grand River in the Motor City.

The notion that anyone can script a Trump campaign event is ludicrous. He is the most ‘unscripted’ politician in American history.

I hope Mr. Trump spends the day in Detroit. He will be with Dr. Ben Carson, himself a native Detroiter. If the media covers the day honestly, they will discover some very interesting things that are seldom reported in the mainstream of American political discourse.

First of all, black Americans are not racist. Despite the efforts of many radical liberals to persuade black people that that all rich whites hate them, the average black voter is just another citizen who wants our country to be governed by leaders who are responsive to the people. All the people.

I have been there. I have campaigned in black churches, black neighborhoods, black stores, black bars, black homes.

The New York Times, NBC and the rest of the elite on the left are clucking and giggling over Trump’s “What the hell have you got to lose?” speech.

I think they don’t understand the average black American.

“What the hell have you got to lose?” is part of an eyeball to eyeball conversation about the democratic process. It is what the person sitting next to you on the bus might say. It is the way real people talk to each other about voting for President.

And black Americans are real people.

And they are real Americans. Their ancestors have lived in North America for hundreds of years. They speak English. They worship in Christian churches. Their climb from the degradation of slavery, through the horror of the Civil War and the triumph of the civil rights movement is an integral part of American history. Their heroes are our heroes. Their story is our story.

No doubt the Clinton campaign and its minions hope that the people of Detroit will protest Donald Trump’s campaign visit. They will hope for, and probably scheme to help cause, a noisy, perhaps even violent protest of his appearances.

The noisier, more unruly, and hostile the anti-Trump demonstrations turn out to be, the more column inches of newspaper coverage and minutes of television and radio time will be devoted to his visit.

Donald Trump is a businessman; a deal maker. He will be the kind of President who uses the bully pulpit of that high office to push and pull the decision makers in our economy on ways that benefit the people.

I can well imagine a President Trump calling Doug McMillon, the President of Walmart and cajoling him to open two or three stores in Detroit.

Detroit doesn’t have a Walmart. Seven hundred thousand people. Poor people. Working people. It’s a place that ought to have Walmarts. The Democrats let Walmart close up shop in Detroit, just as their policies let Ford move to Mexico.

Lots of people in Detroit are on food stamps. They spend them at the Iranian

owned convenience store on the corner. That’s the Clinton, Obama, Democrat legacy. That is part of what makes Detroit a pitiful comparison to Nagasaki and Hiroshima.

The people of Detroit know a leader when they see one. They elected Mike Duggan in 2013. An outsider who moved to Detroit just to run for mayor. A white man in a black city. They kicked him off the ballot, but the people of Detroit, the black people, wrote his name in and elected him.

Detroit votes Democratic. It has since 1932. But if Mr. Trump goes to Detroit and talks to the folks, he might just win some votes.

After all, what have they got to lose?

 

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BIRCHWOOD FARMS

Polly and I are privileged to be spending our twilight years in a magnificent residential community within sight of the beautiful, crystal blue waters of Lake Michigan, surrounded by stately forests and providing us with all of the amenities associated with the finest country clubs in America.

Twenty-seven spectacular holes of championship golf; an Olympic swimming pool, with a smaller version for the kiddies; tennis courts, pickle ball courts, bocce ball courts, hiking trails, even a fishing pond. And sunsets, you wouldn’t believe.

The developer, a visionary man named Bill Cottrill, wisely provided in the covenants that there would be a Property Owners Association, to which all lot owners would belong. And pay dues. Owners are entitled to the full use of all the amenities.  

Many people, particularly those living in lake front properties, purchased vacant lots at Birchwood Farms for the express purpose of acquiring membership in the Property Owners Association, and access to its many recreational opportunities.

In due course, to emphasize its upscale status, the Property Owners Association adopted the pseudonym “Birchwood Farms Golf and Country Club.” Unlike other country clubs, however, Birchwood was not legally entitled to charge an initiation fee. Membership in the Property Owners Association – the Club, as it came to be known – was automatic and mandatory upon purchase of a lot.

As Mr. Cottrill divested himself of the real estate and other developers came to Birchwood, the practice of paying the club a lump sum upon sale of lots to new members, in lieu of accumulated dues, became common.

Dubbed a “transfer fee” this payment was originally $1,000. In due course, the fee was imposed on every transfer, whether from a developer or any other owner.

Eventually, spearheaded by owners who had paid substantial initiation fees at other country clubs, the “transfer fee” grew from $1,000, to $3,000, to $7,000 and currently to $10,000.

Having been burdened with a classical legal education and some years of experience in the administration of civil and criminal justice, I have opined, for the benefit of anyone who would listen, that the “transfer fee” is illegal, unjust, immoral and just plain stupid.

The stupidity of it has lately come acropper, as home sites at Birchwood are now being advertised for $1.00, hardly a flattering bit of public information about the value of owning a lot at Birchwood.

It has been said that Property Owners Associations are the embryo of democracy. Election to their unpaid governing boards is seen as an admirable community service, and the members of such organizations are prone to leave the decision making to those hardy and sacrificing souls who are willing to take up the yoke.

Still, incumbency is always a heady state. As Lord Acton said, “power corrupts.”

This year, Birchwood, like all such clubs, is feeling the pinch. Some older members, wishing to divest themselves of membership, have discovered that they must pay the club $10,000 for the dubious privilege of selling their lot for $1.00. Their option: pay dues for the rest of your life. 

The Board has concluded that a dues increase of $60 per month is needed. They scheduled three ‘town hall’ meetings to test the receptivity of the members and ostensibly listen to the views of their constituents.

One meeting was enough to suggest that the natives are restless. They hastily circulated ballots for bylaw changes at the September annual meeting which they perceive as protecting the transfer fee from legal challenge, and which emphasize the on going financial obligation of members who may wish to sell or abandon their lots.  

The old judge has had a belly full of public service, dating from 1962. Still, politics at every level is an integral part of the stuff of life. I am constrained to admit that I will vote NO on the Birchwood dues increase, and I will continue to advocate that the Board consider alternative sources of revenue to replace the transfer fee before I will support any dues increase.

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