Archive for January 2014

A Well in Emmaus Chapter 5 “Storm Clouds”   Leave a comment

Chapter 5

Storm Clouds

            They met at a corner bar in a working class neighborhood. Eric heard him out, rolling a beer stein between his two palms, contemplating the dark brew within as if it might have answers. You couldn’t call it fidgeting. If you didn’t know Eric, you’d think it was just an idle gesture, but Mike recognized it as nervous energy.

            “No,” he finally said after Mike had stopped talking. His green eyes hid behind dark lashes as he kept his gaze on the table and that slowly revolving stein.

            “It’s one last job and it’s good money.”

            “Yeah,” Eric agreed. “It’s really good money for in-country. Too good. And, my lease is up. I’m packed. So, no.”

            “I told them you’d say that, by the way,” Mike assured him.

            At the end of the bar, an old man lit a cigarette. The whole place smelled of tobacco, like a 50-year-old never-cleaned ashtray. Mike supposed most of these men spent their lives on these barstools. Why else would they be here on a Friday morning at 10 am. Wait … never mind.

            “I was hoping you were feeling better,” Mike explained.

            Eric’s shoulders slanted. Mike waited. It didn’t do any good to push him to answer. Mike had never known the definition of the word “oppositional” until he’d met Eric.

            “I started feeling better when I made the decision that I was done,” he explained. “So, no.”

            “Yeah. I’ll tell them, but they might not listen.”

            “Slavery’s still illegal in the United States, Mike,” Eric reminded. He’d never stopped the slow revolution of the stein in his hands. Now he took a small sip of the dark beer. “They can’t make me.”

            “No. They can just make you wish you’d said ‘yes’.” Eric shrugged. “So this is it?”

            “I leave Tuesday,” Eric repeated from earlier in the conversation. “I’ll call before I go.”

            “We could get together, tie one last one.”

            “Nah. I think that’s not a really good idea for me. If you and Alicia want to get together for dinner, okay, but drinking …. I think I’ll pass.”

            Mike took a deep swallow of his Dos Equis and nodded.

            “Right. I forget you don’t drink when the pressure’s on. I should know that after all this time.”

            Eric seemed relaxed, except for his hands. Mike wished he knew what that was about.

            “So, this is Alicia’s email. If you want to stay in touch,” Mike said, handing him a strip of paper.

            “I do,” Eric said, securing it in his wallet. “This isn’t me leaving you. This is me leaving the life.”


            “You should think about it, too, amigo. Sooner or later, what we do, that ends in death.”

            “Or as emotional roadkill?”

            “Something like that.” Eric let a silence develop that was painful for Mike. “I am so grateful for your friendship, Mike. You have no idea how much it’s meant to me.”

            “I feel the same. It’s going to feel strange, not seeing you.”

            “BW will give up on me eventually and then I’ll invite you out.”

            “You’ll probably have a flight school.”

            “Don’t know. I’m not where I can see that right now. What is this job that BW is willing to pay so well for?”

            “I don’t know, but they’re activating a lot of us. They want me in New Mexico by Wednesday.”

            Eric set the stein down and looked at the display of his phone. He frowned.

            “I got something I gotta do. So, Alicia’s madre lives in Santa Fe, right?”

            “Yeah. I’m thinking about having her go there so we can meet.”

            “You’ve never met her? Man!” Eric shook his head, smiling at some private joke. “Yeah, you should do that.”

            “Maybe have her join me at the end of the tour ….”

            “No. Go Monday,” Eric suggested. “You’re an SOB when you get off a job. Let her meet the sane Mike before she gets to know you.”

            “Jerk,” Mike teased.

            “I’m right.” Eric tossed some bills on the table, more than generous for the one, albeit imported, beer. “Text me if you want to get together for dinner. Make it tomorrow or Sunday, because I’m out of here first thing Tuesday morning.”

            “Sure. I’ll talk to Alicia. You take care, man.”

            “You know it. One last thing?”

            “Which is?”

            “The movers come for the last of my stuff this afternoon. I’d like not to do a cross-country trip unarmed.”

            “You said you’re feeling better?”

            “I am.

            “For sure?”

            Eric looked Mike right in the eye.

            “I swear I won’t try to hurt myself … at least not before I leave town.”

            “Not the most comforting assurance I ever heard,” Mike told him.

            “I never expected to have it come to that, so …. I can’t make promises for longer than I can keep.”

            “When you get where you’re going, you have family, right?”


            “Then promise me you’ll tell them if you start having those thoughts again.”

            “Sure. I promise.”

            “Okay. It’s your name, alpha-numeric.”

            “Seriously? That easy? I never would have figured that out.”

            “That was the point.”

            They stared at each other, awkward, for a long moment before embracing, then Eric glanced at his phone again.

            “Gotta rock. Call me.”

            The last Mike saw of him was his tall athletic form and dark curling hair going out the door. Mike finished his beer and then texted Alicia — YOU WANT TO GO TO NM, SEE YOUR MOM? MONDAY? SUNDAY? DINNER WITH RIC SAT?

            Mike tossed down some bills atop Eric’s and headed for his car.

            Shane watched him headed for his car from the front window of a coffee shop across the street, a pang of loneliness pricking his heart. His moment of distraction was all it took for Rigby to slide into the seat across from him. This time he looked like a businessman with glasses and a power tie.

            “How are you doing?” Rigby asked.

            “Better. Packing the last of my boxes seems to have helped.”

            “Don’t confuse busy-ness with euthymia,” Rigby responded. Shane grimaced. “I know I said you’d have no responsibility beyond packing, but something’s come up.”

            Shane grew guarded. Rigby had always been more or less straight with him, but his first handler had given him every reason not to trust and that had never worn off.

            “What’s that?” he asked.

            Rigby pushed one of the two coffee cups toward Shane.

            “What I’m giving you is vital. I don’t need you to do anything more with it than put it in your safety deposit box when you get to Emmaus. Someday, someone will come and ask for it. He’ll say Chavez sent him or else it will be Chavez. Or it might be me. Be careful who you give it to. Make sure I don’t have a gun to my head.”

            “Why? What is it?” Shane asked even as he took a sip of the coffee and felt the thumb drive under his hand. How did Rigby know that Shane drank green eye?

            “Now don’t go asking uncomfortable questions at this juncture. You’re out of here Tuesday morning?”

            “Maybe earlier. Once my stuff leaves today, I’m open.”

            “Make sure you are out of here by Tuesday morning. This conversation would usually involve you turning in your work phone and tablet, but I’m not deactivating Eric.” He pushed a portfolio toward Shane, who was surreptitiously sliding the thumb drive into a pocket. “He leaves International for Los Angeles headed to Thailand Tuesday morning. Shane hits US soil in Las Vegas Tuesday night. Your car arrives at Fashion Valley this afternoon. Key and plate number are in the packet. Make sure you’ve headed out before the sun comes up Tuesday.”

            They’d done such car swaps before, but this time Rigby had “laundered” Shane’s Jeep that he’d left parked in a storage unit when he’d gone to South American five years ago. It had been “sold” three times and currently belonged to Joel Rhys, the owner of Jericho Springs.

            “Okay.” Shane slid the portfolio into his inside pocket.

            “I’m serious. No later than Tuesday morning. What are your travel plans?”

            “Spend the night in Barstow, push onto Denver Wednesday, maybe spend the night –.”

            “No! Look at me, Shane!” He always called him Eric in public, so Shane’s gaze came up to meet Rigby’s. “You need to be in Emmaus or at least east of Denver by sundown Wednesday. Don’t be anywhere near any large cities. Got it?”

            “Yeah. Something’s up, isn’t it? BW is activating huge numbers according to Mike.”

            “You know I can’t tell you. Remember to treat this as a job until you get through Denver and swap out your license plates. You gave good advice to Mike about his mother-in-law. Timing’s good. This may well be the last time we speak for a long long time, so I want to say it’s been a pleasure working with you.”

            “How do you know what I said to –?” Shane read Rigby’s expression and shook his head. “There’s no such thing as privacy anymore, is there?”

            “Not in large cities, but maybe where your folks live. Some, anyway. Take care of yourself, Eric. When you get to where you’re going, let it heal you.”

            “Uh, yeah, I don’t think … it’s always been a place to take a break between adventures.”

            “Trust me. Life itself will be an adventure soon enough.”

            Rigby stood.

            “Keep your wits about you,” he advised and then he was gone. Shane shivered. Damned air conditioning! Taking the coffee with him, he headed for his truck.

All rights reserved Laurel Sliney dba Lela Markham 2014

Maybe Politics Can’t Fix This   Leave a comment

Although I vote in every election, I am not all that interested in partisan politics … hence the non-partisan designation on my voter registration card.

Consequently, I’m not really all that focused on who is going to replace Barack Obama in 2016. I waver back and forth between believing he’s going to refuse to leave office (like the supreme leader I believe he wants to be) or he’s going to essentially be replaced by someone of his choosing (like the totalitarian party leader I believe he wants to be). I can think of a few liberty-leaning candidates I would like to see run, but as we’re in the 20-year Democratic portion of the American psychotic political cycle, I’m thinking they’ll never be nominated by the GOP and third-parties just can’t make the ballot under current ballot access laws. So why get all lathered about politics? It won’t matter what we the people want. We have no control over the political cycle.

Maybe it won’t matter, though. Maybe we the people are going to seize control of our own government by doing something we haven’t done in over 200 years.

December 7, 2013, nearly a hundred state legislators, representing 32 states, assembled at Mount Vernon, the homestead of George Washington, just outside the nation’s capital city.

Why? To discuss how to safely revive an overlooked, but invaluable, provision in the United States Constitution that would allow a supermajority of states to rein in a power-drunk federal government.

According to a press release issued after the Assembly’s adjournment, “They emphasized the importance of any convention being done in a way that accomplishes the will of the people while protecting the sanctity of the Constitution, as this action could ultimately lead to proposed amendments to the U.S. Constitution, as authorized under Article V. The subject matter of what those amendments would be was not discussed.”

What a great idea? Plan for an Article V convention, but don’t discuss the possible amendments because the first priority ought to be establishing how to safely conduct this amendment process.  Once prudent ground rules are established, then delegates can consider substantive proposals.

They picked a great venue as George Washington presided over the original Constitutional Convention. Now, lawmakers from a majority of states assembled at his estate to address the issue of how to bring Washington DC back into alignment with the vision of Washington and his fellow founders.

The Mount Vernon Assembly is a noble exercise in federalism. They plan to meet again later this spring, so the present tense is appropriate.

Some will argue that the United States of America is a single nation that is indivisible, but the very title suggests we are 50 states cooperating with one another. The founders didn’t name us the Republic of America. We are 50 states cooperating under a federal government.

Is the federal government out of control?  

Well, there’s evidence that we are. From 1789 to 1900, the federal government spent $15 billion cumulatively. In 2011, the federal government spent $10 billion a day. Sure, you can adjust for population and inflation, but the very fact that we spent more every two days than we did in our entire first century as a nation should make you pause and ask if this is what our Founders set forth and our early statesmen delivered.

Thoughtful Americans of all political stripes find this profligacy sobering. Some of us are sickened by it. Even after adjusting for inflation and population, it is impossible to argue that the federal government has not ballooned well beyond the scope contemplated by the founders. Moreover, students of history and political science recognize that such spending and the debt we’re accumulating with it has destroyed other nations.

What can we do about it? Collapse, revolution … or a third way. Enter the Mount Vernon Assembly.

Some, especially on the left, are attempting to blame federal government dysfunction on the Constitution. Google “Our Broken Constitution” by Jeffrey Toobin in the New Yorker, a stroke through a myriad of somewhat justifiable complaints about America’s founding document.  In it, he argues that the Constitution is old and out-of-date and we should just toss it off and start letting the President call the shots by tossing dice on the White House steps. Okay, that last part is my interpretation of his words. I think the federal government is what’s broken and the Constitution provides the means to bring it back into alignment, because the US Constitution can be amended.

Many Americans feel thwarted by their federal government, feeling the federal government is out of touch with the “consent of the governed.” The Declaration of Independence cites the “consent of the governed” as the source of government legitimacy. Does Congress, with a 9% approval rating, still have the consent of the governed?

Our Founders foresaw a time when Congress would have a 9% approval rating and be unwilling to do anything about government dysfunction. They wrote a mechanism into the Constitution designed to rectify this very problem. Article V allows a supermajority of States – 34 to call a convention to propose amendments, 38 to ratify proposed amendments — to trump an obstructionist federal government and amend the Constitution. The Constitution states:

on the application of the legislatures of two thirds of the several states, shall call a convention for proposing amendments, which … shall be valid to all intents and purposes, as part of this Constitution, when ratified by the legislatures of three fourths of the several states, or by conventions in three fourths thereof….

This provision was inserted at the insistence of liberty-minded Virginia delegate George Mason. According to the Convention records, Mason thought that, if left up to Congress itself, “no amendments of the proper kind would ever be obtained by the people, if the Government should become oppressive, as he verily believed would be the case.” In response, Gouverneur Morris and Elbridge Gerry made a motion to amend Article V to introduce language requiring that a convention be called when two-thirds of the state legislatures petitioned Congress.

This authority of the states to amend the constitution was praised by James Madison multiple times in Federalist #43 — “It, moreover, equally enables the general and the State governments to originate the [Constitutional] amendment of errors, as they may be pointed out by the experience on one side, or on the other.” 

Wisconsin state Representative Chris Kapenga conceived and chaired the Mount Vernon assembly.  Kapenga said in an interview with Forbes:

About a year ago, I visited Mount Vernon for the first time.  I sat on the same porch where George Washington sat with companions such as James Madison, Thomas Jefferson, and Alexander Hamilton.  It inspired me and made me think about how we are dealing with issues now similar to those they were dealing with then: issues of balance.  Then, America had to strengthen its federal government.  Now, the federal government’s power has grown excessive.  The states need to step up and re-balance matters.

That sounds like federalism at its finest, but Phyllis Schlafly responded in Human Events with: “Alas, I don’t see any George Washingtons, James Madisons, Ben Franklins or Alexander Hamiltons around today who could do as good a job as the Founding Fathers, and I’m worried about the men who think they can.”

I found that sort of insulting to the intellect and integrity of the state legislators who participated and led the Mount Vernon Assembly. I greatly admire those who wrote and ratified the US Constitution, but I don’t think greatness died when they did. 

Harry Truman once observed, “A statesman is a politician who has been dead ten or fifteen years.” The jurist Learned Hand gave an immortal speech, The Spirit of Liberty, before a million-plus crowd in Central Park in 1944 on “I Am an American Day, ” observing: “I often wonder whether we do not rest our hopes too much upon constitutions, upon laws and upon courts. These are false hopes; believe me, these are false hopes. Liberty lies in the hearts of men and women; when it dies there, no constitution, no law, no court can even do much to help it. While it lies there it needs no constitution, no law, no court to save it.”

An Article V amendment process is a function of citizen dignity — ‘power to the people.” It leans neither left nor right.  It is federalism at its finest, which is why it has opponents among progressives of every party.  Almost a hundred citizen-legislators, hearts filled with love of country and of liberty, seek to restore liberty in America.  These are the very hearts upon which Judge Hand advised us to rely and they want to set up inviolable guardrails and guarantees to permit us safe access to the Constitution’s emergency brake — contained in Article V — to stop the runaway federal locomotive before it leaves the rails completely.

If it works, the big political news of 2016 will not be the presidential race.  It will be how nearly 100 citizen-legislators began a process that restored liberty to America ….

…or proved to us that we sold liberty down the river a long time ago, so we might want to get started with that revolution* now.

*By revolution, I do not mean violence. The Civil Rights movement proved that peaceful solutions can affect great changes and show the coercive nature of the state while bolstering the cause of liberty.

Why Not a Convention of the States?   Leave a comment

Slate is worried that there is a “secretive campaign by state legislatures to pass conservative amendments” and “rewrite the Constitution.”

When I originally posted this series on Article V, I obviously researched the subject, but the skids are greased now, so there’s been lots going on in those six months.

Slate may believe that “newest movement to save the republic” began in December at Mount Vernon, but the idea has been around since the US Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in 1787. Reporters – Ben Franklin aside – were banned from that convention too because the proposals were not ready for prime time and the delegates were savvy enough to realize that their discussion would be derailed if they went public with their proposals too soon.

What those delegates 217 years ago were proposing were needed changes to a governing document that was not working. The Articles of Confederation had no means for amendment, so the entire document had to be set aside and replaced by another one, which turned out to be the Constitution of the United States. As part of reformulating our foundational document, the delegates included a means to amend the Constitution so that it would not be necessary to shred it in the future. It’s been amended less than 30 times, always be Congress, but our Founders were wary of power in the hands of an elite, so they included a means for the states to amend the Constitution when Congress refused to do so. We’ve come close to an Article 5 convention a few times in those years, but Congress has always moved before things got to that point rather than lose its control of the process.

Sadly, Congress seems unable or utterly unwilling to enact needed reforms now, so 34 states met at Mount Vernon to discuss and plan an Article 5 convention.

That is not a Constitutional Convention. What happened in Philadelphia in 1787 was a Constitutional Convention. This is a states-called convention to propose amendments. The difference matters. Nobody can rewrite the US Constitution using Article 5. They can only propose amendments for the states to later ratify … or not, as the case may be.

When I posted my series, I did not know that Mark Levin was about to come out with the Liberty Amendments. I ended up doing a post on the book when I found out about it. Levin is thinking in this direction because America is thinking in this direction. Congressional approval ratings are in the cellar, the President and Supreme Court are not well-loved, the public feels the federal government is out-of-control and a risk to our liberty, we see corruption, bankrupt entitlement programs, a tax code you need two attorneys and three accountants on speed dial to understand, and a bureaucracy that stifles economic growth and liberty.

Why shouldn’t nearly one hundred state legislators from 34 different states gather to discuss what to do about the current circumstances?

A recent Gallup poll found that 75 percent of Americans support Congressional term limits while other polls indicate 74 percent support a balanced budget amendment. More than 30 states have already asked for an amendment on a balanced budget.

As James Madison describes in his notes, many Framers were concerned that Congress alone would have the authority to propose amendments:

“Col: Mason thought the plan of amending the Constitution exceptionable & dangerous. As the proposing of amendments is in both the modes to depend, in the first immediately, and in the second, ultimately, on Congress, no amendments of the proper kind would ever be obtained by the people, if the Government should become oppressive, as he verily believe would be the case. Mr. Morris & Mr. Gerry moved to amend the article so as to require a Convention on application of 2/3 of the Sts.”

To amend the Constitution, two-thirds of the state legislatures (34) must pass an application for a convention to occur, then 38 state legislatures would need to ratify any one amendment for it to become part of the Constitution. Historically, it has been interpreted to mean that all 34 applications must be on a single amendment request, but the langugage of Article V does not necessarily require that. We’re within one or two applications on a balanced budget amendment, but the opposition is working to nullify some of them, so a general states-called convention may be a better option.

This group plans to meet again this spring. In preparation for that, I’m reposting my series – maybe with some new material.

I don’t think we should be afraid of confronting our national demons and dealing with them. If we continue on the course we’re on without an attempt to fix things, the economy is going to collapse under the weight of an insanely obese federal government and then …? Well, I think the nation is going to dissolve. The question is, do we do it violently (historically, that is how it happens) or do we do it reasonably (historically, that almost never happens). The third way is to avoid the mess by taking steps to fix the problems. We may find in doing this that the progressives come out with a whole bunch of amendments that take away liberty and we may find that the states eat them up like candy. It’s possible. Then we have our answer. What we want to save is a fantasy that is no longer worth saving. But ….

If a states-called convention for proposing amendments produces some real changes toward liberty, then we’ve gotten something worthwhile.

Either way, we have a discussion about what the Constitution really means and whether or not we as a people still hold to those principles.

Free Book to Read   Leave a comment

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Read It for Free!   Leave a comment

A Well In Emmaus is available in serialized form here.

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Four chapters are up so far with more to come.

Example of American Colonial Attitude   1 comment

This article in the GovBeat section of the Washington Post is a perfect example of the United States’ colonial attitude toward Alaska (and Hawaii).

How states spend their cash, in 5 maps by Niraj Chokshi

What’s missing in these maps?

Alaska and Hawaii.

For the record, we are (officially) states and have been for more than 50 years.

I guess that’s a news flash.

Posted January 24, 2014 by aurorawatcherak in Alaska

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So What?!   1 comment

It’s raining in Alaska! So what?

It’s raining all over in Alaska. So what?

Life goes on. If we hit pause for winter, we’d would have no lives.

Yes, sometimes the weather closes the roads. Sometimes it’s just good sense to stay home and not drive. But life goes on. We go to work, the grocery store, etc. The police don’t arrest people for trying to get from point A to point B, so long as they don’t run into one another and then it’s a ticket.

We’re used to winter, but if we get fall weather in January, we adapt.

My 15-year-old son asks “Why don’t they do that in the Lower 48?” Why do the New Jersey police feel they have the right to arrest people who drive in a snow storm? For the record, I could drive in a New Jersey snow storm. A foot of snow is nothing to an Alaska driver.

This is not to say that you should drive in a snow storm. I don’t know your skills and experience. What I am saying is that weather should not be an excuse for state tyranny and that you the people of these states should challenge the assumption that it is an excuse.

It’s raining in Alaska in January. So what? Life goes on and nobody dares to tell us that it shouldn’t.

Posted January 24, 2014 by aurorawatcherak in Alaska, Anarchy

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