On the pledge of allegiance – under God

Thomas Jefferson: “Erecting the Wall of Separation between Church and State is  absolutely essential in a free society.” (Photo by John P. Flannery)

Thomas Jefferson: “Erecting the Wall of Separation between Church and State is
absolutely essential in a free society.” (Photo by John P. Flannery)

At the recent Dem meeting, I was asked to lead the meeting in the pledge of allegiance.

I told the group that I do not say “under God” when I make the pledge but that I would pause when leading the pledge for anyone to say those words.

When I finished the pledge, someone shouted out, “God bless you!”

I didn’t respond.  But he was out of line.  He was, in fact and truth, objecting, in his way, that I refused to say “under God,” and would foist his wrong-headed view, in this manner, insisting that I acknowledge that our nation was “under God.”  Well, it’s not.

The Dominican Nuns in the South Bronx instructed us to “render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s” and that “rendering” had nothing whatsoever to do with God or our Roman Catholic religion.

I have refused to say the words, “under God,” ever since Congress added those words in 1954 to fight communism, because congressional zeal violated what Jesus told me and what our constitution prohibited in the very First Amendment to the US Constitution; in other words, it was none of Caesar’s business what even a kid thought was the righteous relationship of god and country. Continue reading

The U.S. constitution bars President-elect Donald Trump from becoming President unless…

THE U.S. CONSTITUTION BARS

PRESIDENT-ELECT DONALD TRUMP

FROM BECOMING PRESIDENT UNLESS…

Stock Photo of the Consitution of the United States and Feather Quill

__________________________

Prepared by

The Honorable John P. Flannery, II[1]

____________________________

 

Alexander Hamilton, “One of the weak sides of republics, among their numerous advantages, is that they afford too easy an inlet to foreign corruption.”[2]

 

  1. I.                   PRELIMINARY REMARKS

President-elect Donald J. Trump must disavow and disassociate himself from his extensive and complex personal holdings in foreign nation states, lest he blatantly disregard the constitutional prohibition that seeks to insulate the President, however virtuous, from the corrupting influence of foreign governments.

Any President-elect, in order to assume the office of President, must take the following oath:

“I do solemnly swear … that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States (underscoring supplied).”

President-elect Donald Trump will violate his oath of office and a critical constitutional precondition for serving as our Chief Executive unless, before he takes the oath, he separates himself completely from all favors and profits, so-called emoluments, from every other nation state.

The “emoluments clause” in the United States Constitution, at Article I, Section 9, clause 8, says, in relevant part, that “no person holding any office of profit or trust shall, without the consent of Congress, accept any present, emolument, office or title, of any kind whatever, from any king, prince or foreign state (underscoring supplied).”

This provision is mandatory, as expressed by the word, “shall,” and not permissive, as would be suggested were the word, “may.”  There was a similar anti-corruption provision in the Articles of Confederation strengthened in the U.S. Constitution by making the provision mandatory – “shall.”

President-elect Trump estimates his personal wealth at $10 billion, and occupies the unprecedented status as a President-elect both of having great wealth and more off shore holdings and foreign entanglements than any previous President-elect.

Worse, the full extent of Mr. Trump’s holding are unknown despite repeated demands that he disclose the full extent of his business “empire.”

According to published reports, Mr. Trump has shunned all advice to date to come to grips with this looming constitutional violation.

In fact, Mr. Trump has said that, as President, he “can’t have a conflict of interest,” akin to the much-criticized formulation President Nixon once invoked, sounding, royally, as a presidential prerogative, entitling the President to be above the law binding everyone else.

Mr. Trump’s anorexic financial disclosures combined with what journalists have uncovered about his offshore holdings beg the question whether Mr. Trump can resist the understandable self-serving impulse to favor his foreign business interests over the interests of the nation.

If Mr. Trump does not cure this divided loyalty, and disregards the constitutional dictate of the emoluments clause barring his easy tolerance of the corrupt conflicting influence of foreign nation states, he risks, indeed he invites, an impeachment resolution under Article 2, Section 4 of the United States Constitution, and it will happen sooner or later, for his abject failure to insulate the office of President from foreign influence.

Mr. Trump may seem immune from impeachment given the electoral reality of Republican majorities in both Chambers of the U.S. Congress.

We should not assume, however, that party loyalty is so ethically elastic that Mr. Trump may forever enjoy an unlimited license to indulge his divided loyalty, to his business’ advantage, no matter what is the best interest of the nation. Continue reading

We the people

Protest in Richmond (photo by John P. Flannery)

Protest in Richmond (photo by John P. Flannery)

There’s a Chinese curse – “may you live in interesting times.”

We are living in “interesting times,” in fact, in quite challenging times.

We worked our heart and soul to elect the first woman president of the United States.

That’s both interesting and “historic.”

Virginia wanted Hillary.

The nation needed her.

According to the popular vote, the nation preferred that Hillary Clinton be our next president.

But the electoral college is the constitutional measure of such things, and thus we shall have a failed casino operator, Donald Trump, as our President – a crass, disrespectful, cursing, hate-filled, lying, intolerant bully, who pretends to know much about everything, while having little experience at much of anything having to do with public policy and governance.

This man ran down our nation for the last year, picking fights, pushing people around, promising somehow, by these tactics, that he’d make America great again.

Trump doesn’t know what makes this nation great.

It is that we conceived of ourselves as a nation as one united – one from many.

This “got-your-back” promise of unity has been our nation’s North Star, what we have fought to perfect from the very beginning.

We have struggled in fits and starts, not without pain, not without blood and suffering, indeed, not without a civil war, not without women being jailed and tortured for demanding the right to vote.

The French made a gift to this still young nation of a tall statue, a maiden who stands with a flaming torch of liberty uplifted high for the whole world to see, beckoning the suffering masses to our shores to find freedom.  We’re not going to go back on that promise, are we?

What could be a more grievous violation of what makes us great, than to divide our nation.

President Lincoln said – “a House divided cannot stand.”

More than any time in my life since the 60s, have we seen such intolerance by a presidential candidate based on a person’s skin color, gender, religion, nation of origin, and sexual orientation.

Mature citizens who are hardly politically obsessive, who are just plain folk, cannot sleep.  Perhaps you couldn’t either.

Children cry at home and in class because they know and they fear we are re-defining our nation’s social contract; they are being counseled.

Protesters take to the streets, the vice-president elect is booed at a theater in New York, and the President rebuffs an actor’s plea for reassurance, signaling the President elect’s low threshold to strike out at others.

We are also hard-pressed in the history of American politics to find anything like Russia’s intrusion into our presidential election.

FBI Director Comey irreparably intruded into this election in the final days of the campaign.

These compromises of our electoral process eclipses Nixon’s dirty tricks in 1972. Continue reading

What we’ve got

Eugene Scheel, map maker, at Bonnie’s

Eugene Scheel, map maker, at Bonnie’s

Maybe some don’t appreciate what we’ve got here in Western Loudoun because they just don’t know.

A fun way to cross that divide, and find out what we’ve got, is to get to know Eugene Scheel.

Eugene draws a line on fine paper to record an historic remnant, the ridge of a mountain, a creek or stream, a graveyard, a church, the place a plane crashed, and he does this with precision, and after much person to person historical research, gathering up the memories of eye witnesses, riding the local roads, and then memorializing the event and the date and the geographic spot where it all happened.

Gene, who is originally from Park Chester, in the Bronx, New York, has lived in Waterford, VA with his wife, Annette, since the 60s, and is best known these days as a mapmaker and historian par excellence.

Gene found he had a strong sense of location and direction walking the rolling ground and woods and rocky hillsides in training missions day and night for eight years as a corporal in the U.S. Marine reserves.

Gene “doodled” imaginary maps as a kid, and, after his service in the Marines, he really learned his craft from his tour of duty with the National Geographic Magazine, and his days at Rand McNally.

When he was a High School student, Gene wrote a letter to Dr. Gilbert Hovey Grosvenor, the first full time editor of National Geographic Magazine, and told Dr. Grosvenor that he liked to “doodle” imaginary countries and islands and was interested in making maps. Continue reading

Humpty Dumpty

humpt_dumpty_starsSo can we put the nation back together again?

Truth be told, perhaps we cannot.

We will be reviewing in the years ahead, the price to our Republic of suffering through a national conversation conducted at the level of a badly cast reality show, when we seemingly lost sight of our shared humanity, endured false aspersions, half-truths, lies, pejorative nick names, in defiance of previously respected norms set by our constitution, statute, case law, tradition, protocol, ritual, and common sense, in other words, the elaborate social contract we’ve negotiated for generations by which our citizens agreed how we could function as a collaborative and peaceful society.

We had one candidate who believed that lies were the coin of the realm and that facts didn’t matter because he expected too few would bother to check or care to find out what was the truth.

Aristotle wrote politics is the highest calling as it has the most pervasive influence on any society.  That was hard to conclude from this year’s food fight.

For starters, if we can’t agree that facts matter, if everyone can choose their own truth, then how are we to inform our judgement about our representatives and the public policy we seek to have them enact or execute.

Aristotle’s second book of Rhetoric states that we are persuaded by emotions and the best way to make an argument is to manipulate the fact finder or voter by moving them to anger, sympathy, envy, love and adoration, as suits the cause one espouses.  Is that what we’ve been doing?  Well, we need more reason, logic and truth than we’ve had.

We call our phone an I-phone, our music I-tunes, our tablets I-pads, and there’s also the I-pod.

Is there any room for an “US” in I?

What we’ve lost this political season is a focus on really important matters that affect us all.

Are we going to continuing compromising our domestic agenda by our urge to rule the world?

When are we going to wrap our arms around the terror of nuclear annihilation?  Can’t we see that there are so many of us compromising the limited resources of our struggling planet, and that we’d better do better than we have?

What are we going doing about a crumbling infrastructure?  What are we going to do to share the wealth fairly?  When are we going to decide that, if we have shifting job opportunities, that we should train those hurt by shifting markets who can’t otherwise adjust themselves?

When and how are we going to remove the obstructions to education for our children and young adults, you know, the high cost of learning and the high interest on student loans?

When are we going to insist that the cost of prescriptions be reasonable, that health care be universal, and especially so for the underprivileged and fragile members of our society?

So many invoke our founding documents but recoil from immigrants and equal rights for all – isn’t it about time we got this right – or returned that maiden lady to France – if we can’t or won’t guarantee liberty for all?

Instead of scratching our collective heads about the new math, let’s embrace innovation and undertake a great challenge to bring the nation together in a positive way, instead of like some dysfunctioning domestic relations disaster.

What are we going to do about the fact that our saged are living longer, what should we do about their retirement, about the contributions they still have to make that society resists because of the oft-ignored bias against our older Americans?

The American brand of liberty, freedom and success has suffered around the world with this disastrous presidential season.

So the question is, can we put the nation back together again?

We can but we have to do this together.

Thomas Jefferson wrote, “A nation that expects to be ignorant and free, expects what never was and never will be.”

It’s time for us to smarten up – if we can.

FBI Director Comey bobbles confidential investigative info

gallery_justiceWhen I was a New York federal prosecutor, in the same Manhattan office where FBI Director James B. Comey served under then US Attorney Rudolph Giuliani, we did not ever say publicly that we had an “ongoing investigation,” because we wanted to protect the investigation from disclosure, it was also against Justice Department guidelines, and we did not want to expose anyone to ridicule and humiliation who might never be charged or prosecuted.

Nor would we release information about a public official in an imminent election, less than two weeks away in the presidential election at hand, and we would never have “suggested” there might be wrongdoing when we had no evidence whatsoever of wrongdoing – and you don’t have any evidence – if you haven’t even asked a federal judge to issue a warrant to review the “suspect” information.

When Director Comey wrote the U.S. Congress, telling them that he had information from an “unrelated” investigation, he admitted he didn’t know if it “contained classified information.”

Nor could he say he had anything “important.”

Director Comey wrote Congress to tell them the FBI had to “assess their importance.”

And Director Comey couldn’t say that what he had was “significant.”  Director Comey confessed that “the FBI cannot yet assess whether or not this material may be significant.”

Director Comey felt he had to explain himself to FBI personnel, as what he was doing was unprecedented; he wrote, “We don’t ordinarily tell Congress about ongoing investigations.”

Director Comey thus did what was extraordinary and he knew it. Continue reading

Packing a hand gun at Starbucks

gwg01No one likes to caffeinate when somebody is “packing” at Starbucks.

Well, almost no one.

Last Thursday morning, the Purcellville Starbucks had its usual ration of Moms with a well behaved child or two, lines of folk waiting for their small or grande caffeinated drinks, a latte or cappuccino, at least one sweet tasting java chip, some patrons sipping their drinks as they headed out quick step for their daily commute, and an array of others, not so rushed, sitting at various counters and tables pecking away at keyboards, telecommuting or indulging a round of social media, others turning the pages of the Washington Post, a few working their cell phones, and chatting up the latest gossip and personal news.

I was sitting at a table revising a memo for court when a broad-hipped large-bellied man in baggy Cami-shorts with a holstered firearm came by, wearing a loose light-green t- shirt with a full size skull on the back, a backwards flag all in red on his shirt’s short cuff, and the word, “Infidel,” in large red letters on his chest.

Eyes noted and averted.  Continue reading

Leadership for a change

LuAnn Bennett for Congress

LuAnn Bennett for Congress

I hear a lot of people saying they wish this election season was over.

As a person who has spent a large part of my life concerned about matters political and legal, I understand the electoral weariness, especially this campaign season.

But how this election is done, how it’s finished, is going to be critically important to the nation and our communities, so, unless we prefer to regret the results at our leisure, we have to pay attention now.

One of my political heroes, Robert Kennedy, was fond of saying when the going gets tough, the tough get going.  This is a tough election and we need to be tougher.

I’ve already decried the Republican presidential nominee as abusive, intolerant, especially abusive of women, and unfit for office.

We must, however, also consider who should represent us in Congress.

Congresswoman Barbara Comstock, the incumbent, is somewhat of a puzzle to me.

I’ve watched Barbara appear at many local events, especially in Western Loudoun, passing out balloons bearing her name, posting those oversized signs that should be banned, and succeeding at remaining as content free of any controversy as one possibly can, offering poll tested nostrums that offend as few voters as is politically possible.

Barbara is a prominent member of a do-nothing Congress directed by her Republican Caucus, led by Speaker Paul Ryan.

The Republican controlled Congress couldn’t move its lumbering “deliberative” self only days ago to grant emergency funds to Flint, Michigan where the health and safety of women and children remain at grave risk.  Continue reading

The fates

trump_donaldSeneca wrote that the fates either lead you to your destiny or drag you to it.  Republican leaders have been dragged to their destiny, when they must belatedly denounce their presidential nominee, Mr. Donald Trump, for what we’ve all known from the outset about his lack of character.

Mr. Trump, the Republican presidential nominee, has proven himself to be a billion dollar failed casino owner, mob associate, serial liar, trash talker, a slanderer, misogynist, and bully to men and women alike.

Mr. Trump has violated all the customary norms of polite and respectful personal conduct.

Mr. Trump relies on a syntax that, when tweeting or speaking, obscures and defies clarity and common language usage bordering on a word salad.

Almost from the time that Mr. Trump announced his candidacy at his gaudy gold plated 5th Avenue tower, seemingly inspired by Ayn Rand’s “The Fountainhead,” America has been on notice that Mr. Trump is intolerant of immigrants, blacks, Muslims, Jews, the disabled, those who are overweight, generals, veterans, war heroes, the parents of a Muslim soldier who gave his life in the mid-east, anyone who crosses him, and his most blatant disrespect is reserved for women.

Mr. Trump was bad news the day he announced, most thought his candidacy was some sort of joke, since Trump has never served the public in any appointed or elected capacity, and, when he won the Republican nomination, too few Republican leaders denounced him. Continue reading

Rick Peck – Loudoun’s “Mr. Wizard”

Rick Peck

Rick Peck

Lovettsville’s Rick Peck, the 6th grade science teacher at Seneca Ridge Middle School in Sterling, Virginia is a passionate, endearing, latter day pied piper, leading his young pupils into the frontiers of the mind like the not so long ago popular TV personality, Don Herbert, more widely known as “Mr. Wizard.”

Like the original Mr. Wizard, Rick has earned a deserved reputation as “the friendly, neighborly scientist.”

I met Rick at the height of his homestead’s rolling hills, by an old-fashioned red country barn.

Rick was puzzling how to straighten 14 hollow plastic tubes slightly curved to use at his 6th grade Monday science class.

Dodging a cloud of no-see-ems, Rick manipulated the tubes, “deformed” by slight arcs, because his intended lesson on fluid density required the students to pour less dense fluids over heavier fluids, without spilling a drop, and then Rick would suggest to the class a last addition to the experiment, a surprising touch of chemical legerdemain, that would disrupt the layered quiescence, guaranteeing the attention and curiosity of his students. Continue reading