Monday, August 12, 2019

Pure Michigan

August 11, 2019
“The natives call it Pure Michigan”

Pat Carter sailing with Hayters at Lake Charlevoix

            Kay and I spent last week with a friend in Michigan. I should have mentioned that to you while we were there, but didn’t have time. Our friend, Pat Carter, hauled our buns all over the place. I didn’t get nearly enough nap time. I would’ve complained more than I did had Pat not let us stay with her in her leased condo on a luxurious resort.
            Pat actually lives around here, but was born and raised in Michigan. She spent some of her adult life living on a sailboat with her husband, Brad. Brad actually built the sailboat. Never built one before, but just had a hankering to build a sailboat. Pat would’ve gladly taken Kay and I for a sail, but she sold the boat a few years back when Brad developed cancer. I never got to know the man all that well, but Pat has told enough stories that make me see him as an old friend. Regardless, there is no way I would voluntarily live on a 26-foot boat… or a cruise ship, for that matter.   

            However, I have heard so many good things about Michigan that when Pat asked Kay and me to visit for a week, I was eager to fly out. I’ve heard great things about the non-Detroit part of Michigan. Were the accounts true, or were they just sneakers filled with sand? – That’s exactly what happened to my sneakers each time we waded along the beach in search of Petoskey stones. 

            Petoskey stones are grey to brownish, relatively round, smooth stones with dots and flowery spots on them. Seems Michigan and the entire Great Lakes area was once part of an ocean that gave way to glaciers that crunched up pieces of petrified coral. Apparently, the town of Petoskey called dibs on naming the coral stone, and named it Detroit. I mean Petoskey. The stones are rare enough to make the wading experience interesting, but just plentiful enough to make the search worthwhile.

            In one location, I found a beautiful stone and gave it to a kid who I thought might enjoy it more than I would. I didn’t realize that Kay would’ve enjoyed it much more had I given it to her. Unfortunately, when I handed the kid the stone he said, “No give backs.” In ’54, Michigan passed a law enforcing “No backs.” That’s the only thing that kept me from wrestling the rock away from the little squirt. At least, that’s what I told Kay. The girl is so gullible. If I make up a “fact” and add to it the time of its occurrence, she’s been known to fall for it. Not in this case, though.
            Moving right along, “Mackinac” is the French spelling of the island just east of the strait between Michigan’s Upper and Lower Peninsulas. (The French named the place after the tribe that lived there when they found it.) Turns out, any word in French that ends with a vowel followed by a consonant, the consonant is silent. So forget you even see the last “c” in Mackinac. Pretend you see a “w” because the British spelled the word according to the way it was pronounced -- “Mackinaw.”

            The city just south of the Island was originally called Michilimacinac, but the British weren’t going to put up with that, so they called it “Mackinaw City.” The British refused to play word games with the Frenchies.

            Most people above the age of 50 will likely remember that the movie “Somewhere in Time” with Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour was filmed on Mackinac Island. The view to and from the gigantic and gorgeous Grand Hotel was a prominent feature in the film. My only view of The Grand was from the road, but it was a sight to see. Here's a link to a short Grand Hotel video Kay took.

            I expected our visit to the island to cost a lot, and everything we experienced supported my assumption. That means I wasn’t disappointed. The one thing that made the trip uncomfortable was the crowd. The density of life on that island surpassed that of Disney World on New Year’s Eve.
You may want to wait until October to make your trip. That’s when they’re supposed to be having a “Somewhere in Time” convention.

            Everything else we did in the northwest of Michigan was terrific. The state has the most fresh water coastline than any state in the lower 48. Beautiful sandy beaches. Once you step into the water, you’re pretty much stepping on rocks, some of which will be Petoskey stones.

            It was in the town of Charlevoix that I bought my only souvenir. It’s a cap with “Charlevoix” sewed onto the crown. I like the name. It’s the French name for a native tribe. Since the word ends with a vowel followed by a consonant, the “x” is silent. The locals’ pronunciation is Char-la-voy.

            The absolute best time during the entire trip was a boat ride we took up and down Torch Lake. Pat’s friends, Bob and Teri, live along the shore of the third most beautiful lake in the World. That’s what National Geographic called it a few decades back. The lake is 19 miles long and two miles wide at its widest point. The forest, the beachfront homes, and the sunset were among the most beautiful I’ve seen.

            With the exception of the crowds at Mackinac, everything about this trip turned out great. Michigan is a state that has most consistently beautiful scenery. And, Pat Carter is one of the finest hosts I’ve ever been hosted by. She would be the absolute finest had she quit griping about me  wanting to take afternoon naps.

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Amendments 1-3

July 11, 2019
“Two bloody bear arms”

            A few years back I taught government at McCullough and Oak Ridge High Schools. I taught several other history courses, but teaching government to seniors was my favorite assignment. It’s amazing how people of all ages know so little about our rule of laws.

              That being said, I’m going to let you be a fly on the wall in one of my classes, as I discuss the first 10 Amendments to the Constitution. We call ‘em The Bill of Rights. By the way, I provide weird hints meant to help students remember each amendment. So, from now to the end of class, regardless of what you see or hear, don’t panic. I have this under control.

             Okay, everyone take a seat. It’s time for us to continue our study of the Constitution of these United States. -- Uh, Meryl, I wasn’t speaking literally, when I said “take a seat,” so, kindly put the chair back where you got it.

            Today we’re going to begin a study on the amendments to the Constitution. By the time I’m through with you, you’ll be able to ace a test on all of those suckers. – I’m sorry? No, Meryl, an amendment is not a flavor of gum. It is something that alters or adds to the Constitution. And, do you wanna know what’s weird? Since the ratification of our constitution, there have been only 27 written changes made. And that, my leaders of tomorrow, explains why we have the oldest working Constitution in world. The thing was so well thought-out.

            While our Constitution can be changed, the process is beastly. It requires two thirds of Congress or two thirds of the states to propose an amendment, and three fourths of the States to agree on it. Today, that’d be 38 states. I’m telling you, it’s beastly!

            For the next two class periods, we’re going to concentrate on the first 10 amendments. Eventually I’ll cover all 27 of ‘em. When I’m through, you will all be able to ace a test over the amendments. At least, that’s my hope… that and a trip to Disney World.

            Amendment 1 is all about five basic, individual rights: Freedom of religion and speech, freedom of the press, freedom to peaceably assemble, and freedom to petition the government about some gripe you might have. These are rights that the colonists were denied when Britain was in charge. So, after we ran the British off, we wanted to make sure that our new government would guarantee us rights.

            Unfortunately, the first amendment is way too vague. Does freedom of speech mean that I can legally make up stuff about a person in order to destroy his reputation? No, we let the Supreme Court come up with rules against slander and liable, through a process called Judicial Review. Although the process is not mentioned in the Constitution, it was derived from one of the most ingenious court rulings in this nation’s history – “Marbury vs. Madison.” We’ll look at it next semester.

            If you have trouble remembering the First Amendment One, keep in mind that it assures that basic rights are guaranteed to each and every ONE of us. Got it? You can better remember the five freedoms by their initials RAPPS. – Religion, Assembly, Press, Petition, and Speech. -- Let’s move along.

            The Second Amendment was also attributed to our war against Britain. When the colonists started getting snitty, the Brits confiscated their weapons and brought in more Red Coats. The colonists were farmers and such, so we had no standing army either during or immediately after the Revolution. As a result, our Founding Fathers came up with the only amendment that gives a reason for its need. Amendment 2: A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

            For whatever reason, our Founding Fathers chose not to write: “The possibility of our government turning on its citizens, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed.” – Of course, a 28th amendment can be added to reword the second Amendment, or the Supreme Court could change the thing by ruling on a case pertaining to the bearing of arms.

            The way you might want to remember this amendment, is to think of a really tough hunter walking up to a bear and tearing its arms off. At that point, he holds up two bloody bear arms. I added the “bloody” part just to create a more vivid image in your minds. (Note to flies on the wall: Today, no one needs any help remembering the 2nd Amendment.)

            Now, you’re really going to need help remembering the next amendment, because it’s never been used… to my knowledge. When we were a colony, the Red Coats would march into a town and the colonists weren’t nice to ‘em at all. Wouldn’t let ‘em camp in their backyards. Stuff like that. So, the Brits issued a “Quartering Act” requiring colonists to house and feed Red Coats. Thus, we have Amendment 3:  “No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house without the consent of the owner; nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.”

            The way to remember this is to picture a soldier knocking on the door of house of a young, recently married couple. The soldier demands entrance, but the husband says, “No way, sergeant! Two’s company and three’s a crowd.”
            I realize that a few of you have been nodding off, so I will now end this lecture, and finish it the same time next week, when I’ll cover amendments four through 10. I’ll use less detail on them. Excuse me. – Yes, Meryl, feel free to use the remainder of class time to pass around a petition stating that I not go over the next seven amendments. And, Meryl, I really hate to encourage you, sir, but you, are a hoot. You remind me of me.

Sunday, July 21, 2019

Amendments 4-7

July 21, 2019

“What are you looking 4?”
            Last week, you went back in time and listened in on one of the lectures I gave my government classes on the U.S. Bill of Rights. Several of you marveled at how we were able to do that. Let’s take a hint from Carl Sagan, who said, Imagination will often carry us to worlds that never were… but without it, we go nowhere.” That guy was, like, really smart.

            If you recall, I was only able to complete the first three amendments. After giving the class a pop quiz on last week’s lecture, we are now ready to cover amendments four through ten. I don’t know if it can even be done in one class period, so might want to buckle up. 
            Okay, Amendment Four involves the cops wanting to break into your house. Before our Independence, the Brits, who were in charge of the colonies, would occasionally storm into somebody’s house, hoping to find some ill gotten goods. – “Ah, here’s a box of donuts without a stamp showing you paid a tax on it. Soldiers, grab the Dad and those two kids holding donuts, while I confiscate the rest in the box.”

            The 1790, the Congress of the U.S. wanted to make sure that couldn’t happen in our new country, so they proposed an amendment that guaranteed the government wouldn’t break into your house without a judge’s warrant explaining what they were looking for, and providing probable cause as to why they thought you were hiding something. Amendment Four dealt with “unreasonable searches and seizures.”

            One way to remember that is to picture a cop standing at your door demanding to search your house. You say, “Stop! Tell me what you’re looking 4?” – Yes, Meryl, if you say, “What are you looking 7?” you’ll have the wrong Amendment. Pardon my sarcasm, but that’s very thoughtful of you. 

            Let’s move along. How many of you know what it means to “Plead the Fifth?” Meryl, put your hand down. I’ll just go ahead and tell you. – When we were a British colony, people could be arrested and thrown in jail until they confessed to committing a crime. After a few days in a cell with Gold Caps Carl, you might confess to anything. Well, I’m here to tell you that the Fifth Amendment says you can’t be forced to be a witness against yourself.

            Nor can you even be brought to trial until a group of citizens called a “grand jury” agrees there is a reasonable cause to “indict” you, which means, “to have you brought to trial.” The amendment also mentions something quite vague. It’s called “due process of law.” It means you can’t have your life, liberty, or property taken from you without a fair trial. And, yes, the meaning of “fair trial” is also vague, and has been changed over the course of a couple of centuries. But, we’ll dive into that quagmire another day.

            As for remembering the Fifth Amendment? Think of someone “Pleading the Fifth.” Someone like me, who says, “I refuse to answer on the grounds that it may tend to incriminate me.”

            Let’s move on to the Sixth, which promises you the right to a speedy and public trial by an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed.” That’s a mouthful of mush, and each morsel is very important.

            Used to, the Brits would haul suspected malcontents across the Atlantic and try them in a hoity-toity British court. The trial would be carried out by old British men wearing white, powdered wigs. That goes against everything American… with the exception of George Washington, who could wear anything he wanted.

            The sixth amendment can be readily called to mind by clinging to the notion of a “speedy trial.” With that in mind, think “Speedy Six!” – By the way, “speedy” has been interpreted to mean from 60 to 120 days. By the way, both those numbers are divisible by six. If your lawyer needs more time to study the case, he will be allowed a “reasonable” extension. Point is, you can’t legally be locked up for years before being brought to trial. – Unless you’re locked up at Guantanamo, where your rights are flushed.

            The seventh amendment is the least thought out. It is actually way too specific. It says that, in civil cases, (someone suing someone), – if the amount you’re suing for is $20 or more, you have the right to a “jury” trial. Back in 1791, $20 was a lot of money. You could buy yourself a motorcycle with that kind of money. Today, it won’t even buy you a side-mirror for your motor cycle.

            If this amendment were taken seriously today, a spat between two neighbors could require six to 12 jurors take off work to settle the tiff. While the right is still valid as it can be, the Supreme Court refuses to uphold it. So far, Congress and the states have considered it too much trouble to change the thing.

            You can remember the Seventh by thinking – “civil seven, civil seven, civil seven.” You need to say it fast, so the words meld. If you can’t remember what a civil case is, you will still get the question about the amendment number right; you’ll just have to make up something about any question that asks you to explain the difference between a criminal case and a civil case.

            I still have three amendments to go, but we’re about to get bell bit. We’ll hafta finish this next time. – Yes, Meryl? Ah, good idea. Yes, there will be a quiz on amendments four through seven next time. And, no, pleading the Fifth won’t help at all. 


Sunday, July 14, 2019

Amendments 8-10

August 4, 2019
“A Lion 8 Him—Your last class”

            Okay, okay, everybody settle down. I am about ready to finish off the Bill of Rights. While you’re getting out your notes, I’m going to take care of something back at my desk.
            For those of you who missed my last two articles, today you will imagine that you’re a fly on the wall in one of my government classes from a few years back. I’m finishing up on a lecture over the first 10 amendments to the Constitution, something we call The Bill of Rights. I’m down to the last three.

            He’s back. Before we get started on Amendment Eight, let’s have a quick review of the first seven. Nancy, what’s the clue to help you remember the need for a search warrant? “What are you looking 4, Mr. Hayter.” -- Super!

            Kyle, what amendment was written assuring you the right to a jury trial when being sued? -“I can’t remember stuff under pressure, but I know the amendment about quartering soldiers. Two’s company, 3’s a crowd.” -- I’ll take it, Kyle.

            Jennifer, you can’t be forced to testify against yourself. -- “I plead the fifth, Mr. Hayter.” Good. – Jackie, which amendment gives you the right to worship a tree? “That is Amendment One, because it gives each ONE of us ‘Freedom of Religion.’” Perfect, kiddo!

            Frank, hand over your rifle. – “Over my 2 bloody bear arms will I give you my rifle, Mr. Hayter!” Ripe on, partner. – Teri, what do you call a case involving a lawsuit? – “That’s a civil case, Mr. Hayter, and it’s mentioned in the Seventh Amendment. Civil seven.” You’re a peach, young lady!

            Curtis, unless the Constitution denies you the right to sing on a street corner, you have the right to do it. -- “Let’s see, the right would be MINE, which rhymes with NINE and stands for pool.” – You’re The Man, Curtis.

            Jessica, a judge sentences you to life in prison for a traffic violation. – “That’d be cruel and unusual, Mr. Hayter. You might say I got “8 by a lion.” Right you are, young lady. – Deni, Texas has the right to collect a sales tax. – “So does TENnessee, Mr. Hayter. Tenth Amendment!” You’re scratching me right where I itch, Deni.
            So, Meryl, you’ve been sitting in jail for two years waiting for a trial. – “Am I in a cell at Guantanamo?” – Nope. – “Well, in that case, I’d say ‘Speedy Six!’ The Sixth Amendment, sir.” --  Meryl, thank you for being serious for a change. – “I was just joking. I meant the seventh?”  

            On that note, let us begin. Amendment Eight is vague, vaguer, Vegas. However, there is a reason for that. Listen to the wording. -- “Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.” The words “excessive, cruel and unusual” were purposefully too general, requiring the courts to rule on their meanings. Over the years, judges would be more likely to let the cultural changes of society affect their sentencing. In 1790, it might’ve been normal to publically apply a whip to a convicted thief. By today’s standards that’d be cruel and unusual, to say the least.

            The way I remember the Eight Amendment is to think of myself being fed to the lions for robbing a bank. Anytime my wife was asked what happened to her husband, she’d say, “Oh, I thought knew. A lion 8 him.”

            The Ninth Amendment is very personal. After the authors of the Bill of Rights came up with all the rights they could think of at the time, one guy mentioned how terrible it would be if they left one out. That’s when they decided to add a “catch all” amendment. It read, “The enumeration in the Constitution of certain rights shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.” -- What that means is – Just in case we forgot to mention any natural right of the people, as long as it’s not denied somewhere else in the Constitution, people can do it.

            The way I remember this is by thinking that any right not denied by the Constitution is still mine, and MINE rhymes with NINE. Get it?

            It’s now time for me to end this thing by explaining the 10th and final amendment to the Bill of Rights. – Hold down the applause, please. --After the Ninth Amendment, it was decided that the STATES needed the same catchall guarantee concerning their POWERS. So, they wrote the following:  “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.” More mush than you can spoon, but again, really important.

            In essence, the 10th Amendment gives states the power to do anything that the National government can’t do. For example, the constitution said nothing about who gets the right to vote, so each state made up its own rules. Speaking of which, in 1890, Wyoming became the first state to allow women to vote. It wasn’t until 1920 that the 19th Amendment was ratified, giving women in all states the right to vote.

            I remember the 10th amendment by thinking of Tennessee, because Tennessee is a state that was named to help us remember the Tenth Amendment. – And that class, and anyone else who might be eavesdropping, is the end of our study on the Bill of Rights. – And the class said? The class said? – “Ding dong the witch is dead?” – Close enough, Meryl.