The Relevance of the Constitution

The Federal Constitution is the framework of our Republic. My introduction to it came from Roswell Sanger, an American History teacher I still hold in high regard. Drs. Harold Rakov and Owen Stephen Ireland picked up where he left off. I later taught about the Constitution for 34 years.

My mentors made clear that the Legislative branch was intended to be first among ostensible equals; hence Congress was outlined in Article I. The House and Senate, after all, have the power to impeach and remove members of the other two branches, as well as a major role in amending the Constitution.

Before further comment, it perhaps should be noted that the United States Constitution is a masterpiece that holds together brilliantly, has stood the test of time quite well and includes nothing lacking purpose. Its’ language and content are chosen with utmost precision. Context is also crucial.

Article II, section 4 indicates the grounds for impeachment as “treason, bribery and other high crimes and misdemeanors”. Treason is, more, or less, defined in Article III, section 3 and includes, “. . . adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort”. Bribery is fairly straightforward. “High crimes and misdemeanors” is a phrase, like many others in the Constitution, which cannot be strictly defined/constructed and was worded the way it was purposefully to allow for/require interpretation. Otherwise, it has little meaning. The definition of treason, as the authors clearly intended, certainly allows enormous latitude for interpretation.

For another telling example of a section of the Constitution with no clear meaning under the doctrine/notion of “strict construction” one might check Amendment IX. It again makes abundantly clear that the Founders expected much of the Constitution to be loosely constructed. Otherwise, Amendment IX would define no rights whatsoever and there would be no purpose for its inclusion. Such language– as well as Article V– was meant to permit the Constitution to be adaptable to changing circumstances.

A powerful argument can be made that any determined effort to ridicule and devalue institutions whose stature and credibility are vital to our republic provides encouragement to the enemies of the United States. Those who denigrate the validity of our election results, use whatever stature and credibility they may have to question judicial outcomes, seek to undermine respected institutions such as the F.B.I., and regularly impugn the integrity of our free press unwittingly tear the Republic apart from within. As Fran Townsend, George W. Bush’s Homeland Security Advisor, said this week about the current war of words over memo releases, “. . . this public acrimony only benefits our enemies”. Perhaps under Article III, section 3, such political nonsense might qualify as collective treason!

Watching as the United States gets torn apart from within is beyond depressing. It is increasingly clear that patriotism is more than displaying the red, white and blue while simultaneously approximating Sergeant Schultz’ mantra, “I hear nothing; I see nothing; I know nothing”.

Sincerely yours,
Gary Kent
Albion, NY

Response to Senator Ortt

Senator Robert Ortt
175 Walnut Street, Suite 6
Lockport, NY 14094

Dear Senator,

I am receipt of your recent mailer “No NY Tax Breaks for Hollywood Millionaires”. I will not sign it.

First of all, you are connecting Weinstein to the entire film industry. That is wrong.

Second, you write about “Hollywood welfare”, while not giving a hint of concern about one of the biggest welfare scams I have ever seen, the recently approved so-called Tax Reform bill that quite simply rewards the very rich at the expense of everyone else. I am expecting a major impact on my tax obligations because of this bill. If you were being vigilant about taxes and budgets this is what you should be addressing in a taxpayer-financed mailer to your constituents.

Of course, the most reasonable place to address my concerns about federal tax law is my Congressman Christopher Collins, but he steadfastly refuses to respond to any mail, messages or phone calls that I have sent him. He has made it very clear that he is only accountable to his donors. He seems to have missed the lesson in 9th grade civics class that representatives are accountable to all of their constituents. So I am rightly skeptical of new tax laws endorsed by a representative who appears to be afraid of his own constituents.

Senator, I am very disappointed in your mailer. I am very disappointed that you are not addressing the most significant issue related to taxation. I expect better.

James R. Renfrew, Clarendon NY
January 6, 2018

Response to Stephen Hawley

I’d like to take a few moments to respond to Assemblyman Steve Hawley’s reply to the Orleans Hub editorial “GOP State Senate blueprint for NY should include equitable AIM funding for villages”.

Currently, village residents are terribly overtaxed compared to our non-village neighbors. This is directly a result of how localities can tax, how services are provided, and how the state distributes aid to correct for any inequities.

The county taxes all county residents. The towns for the most part tax all town residents (except for paving town roads). The villages can only tax village residents. When villages provide services themselves that means that the county and towns need to provide fewer services. Comparable services of the county and towns get redirected outside of the villages.

The unfairly high village taxes are a prime reason why the tax base has continued every year to gradually shift away from the villages. Every time a person decides to buy a home or property the market corrects for this unfairness by depressing sale prices in the villages.

Mr. Hawley’s response mentioned Medicaid, but the local share is a county expense and hits all county residents equally in the county tax rate. It doesn’t adversely impact village residents.

Mr. Hawley mentions a few bills that he has sponsored. I read each bill and it looks like the first 2 address any future state programs and doesn’t help correct the existing overtaxing of village residents. His response claimed that the 3rd bill would redirect extra AIM funding to villages, but when I read the text it seems to redirect extra AIM funding to towns as well – so, again, no correction to help overtaxed villages.

I expect that if we fail to address the existing unfairness of our local government structure then you will see further decline in the villages going forward. Our state representatives need to start work cooperatively with the state to fix this situation – and lay off unproductive insults of the governor and “downstate politicians”. Our local leaders need to be willing to go outside their comfort zone and consider reorganizing how local governments provides services. A county where all localities thrive is going to be more attractive to outside investment that one with struggling villages.

Jason Dragon
Village of Albion

Disinformation New Network

Dear Editor:

Not to worry that Thomas Jefferson said, “If I had to choose between a government without newspapers and newspapers without a government, I wouldn’t hesitate to choose the latter.” Ignore the fact that the Orleans economy has essentially depended on “chain migration” for many decades. Imagine railing against those who feel ‘entitled’ to disability while you “reform” the tax code and give yourself and your fat cat pals tens of millions in tax breaks. In the President’s words, “My accountant tells me I will get killed by this bill.” Of course, we won’t know until we see his tax returns. Don’t hold your breath.

The seriously naïve among us should consider the grave risks implicit in restricting their television news viewing to what I often refer to as DNN, the Disinformation News Network. Of course, keeping the blinders on will permit them to feign surprise when everything hits the fan. Much of the American electorate appears to have an elementary concept of citizenship in a republic. Why does the President persist in efforts to undermine public confidence in the judiciary? Why does he often question unfavorable election outcomes? Why does he often attack the media and label fact-based truth “fake news”? How does it help the American people to undermine the professionalism of the Federal Bureau of Investigation? Does ignorance alone explain why a President would act to sabotage public faith in so many of the institutions vital to the very existence of our republic?

Why do our intelligence agencies agree Russia sought to influence our 2016 Presidential election in favor of Donald Trump? Does Vladimir Putin have something on his “friend”? What does it mean to be “played”? Why has Russia/the Soviet Union been committed to the use of “disinformation” for decades? What is the Constitutional definition of treason? What did presidential historian Douglas Brinkley mean when he noted eight, or nine, months ago that, “The smell of treason is in the air”? Why did conservative republican U.S. Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona say Donald Trump reminded him of the “Biblical Flood”? Is “fake news” a euphemism for inconvenient truth? Was President Clinton’s relationship with Monica Lewinsky consistent with “other high crimes and misdemeanors” under Article 2, Section 4, of the Constitution?

Do you think the Constitution’s author(s) would view at least some of what is going on today as consistent with language included in Article 3, section 3, of the Constitution? Or, are you for “loose construction” only when it suits you and applies to Democrats? Are you patriotic?

We had all better hope Special Counsel Robert Mueller, a George W. Bush appointee and life-long Republican, succeeds before the President, his Machiavellian allies, and DNN does him in. Finding God soon might make it more likely any desperate prayers get answered before the greatest nation on earth gets taken down. Or did teaching American History and the Constitution for 34 years just make me hopelessly alarmist?

Sincerely yours,
Gary F. Kent
Albion, NY

Collaboration on Local Services

Dear Editor:

Those who did not appreciate Jason Dragon’s thoughtfulness on the subject of increased collaboration—and even consideration of consolidation—where local services are concerned may be experiencing the symptoms of early onset myopia. The key to progress may lie in thoughtful consideration and even tentative inquiry. Outright rejection of the possibilities makes little sense to me.

Even if potential benefits are relatively unremarkable initially, anything gained/saved would be a plus. Even a handful of dollars spent wisely can make a difference.

When I suggested merging the highway operations of Albion and Gaines upon the retirement of the Albion Highway Superintendent a few years ago, my only motive was giving taxpayers a break when an opportunity presented itself. If we do not scour the landscape for such opportunities, we have no-one to blame but ourselves for increasingly untenable “situations”.

A few letters ago, I applauded some of those who have the courage to say what needs saying. In my view, Jason can be added to the list.

Sincerely yours,
Gary Kent

Political Observations

Dear Editor:

What follows is not intended to “hold together” particularly well.

According to the President’s accountant (speaking to the President), “. . . this tax bill is gonna kill you”, or so the President said. Though it is unlikely to hurt the President, as long as his tax returns remain secret, he can make whatever assertions he likes with impunity. Or am I missing something? One thing I do not get—considering its potentially disruptive impact on the economy—is why any tax “reform” effort would include such wide-ranging alterations in the existing code.

I missed whatever Daniel Del Plato had to say that prompted Gerard Morrisey’s November 16th letter. As I recall, the Constitution provides for impeachment in cases of “treason, bribery, and other high crimes and misdemeanors”. It also includes “giving aid and comfort” to the enemies of the United States in its definition of what constitutes treason.

It is unclear to me where the State of Denial is located, but those who live there may benefit from considering why the Russians wanted so badly for a certain enigmatic businessman to become President of Russia’s adversary, the United States of America.

While “we” are going off, what is with “our” fascination for brutal autocrats such as Philippine “President” Dutarte?

Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ testimony this week gives a glimpse into why President Trump is unhappy with him. At the same time, it has to have disappointed some Democrats who were hoping to be handed a “smoking gun”. I watched Ohio Representative Jim Jordan put on a truly theatrical attempt to get the Attorney General to agree to support appointment of a special prosecutor to investigate Hillary Clinton’s role in the Uranium 1 deal. Sessions twice dismissed his entreaty with undisguised disdain (blew him off). Those who understand the importance of maintaining confidence in our institutions and Constitutional system had to be encouraged by Sessions’ refusal to use his position to play political games. As for the “I don’t recalls”, I do not find that so surprising.

With regard to Judge Roy Moore, I predict Alabama voters will refuse to elect the apparently reformed and forgiven woman(teen)izer who either is a great liar or is suffering some serious memory loss.

Ken Burns series on The Vietnam “Conflict” is must see viewing for anyone who didn’t end up there. The fact that I had a close friend die there made it extremely difficult for me to listen to, watch, and process. It aired on PBS Channel 21 last weekend.

Sincerely yours,
Gary Kent
Albion, NY

The Wind Turbine Siren Song

Dear Editor:

Orleans County residents—including those who live in Yates—should be thankful that Jim Simon and John Riggi have shown such unselfish commitment to promoting the best interests of the residents of their town. They are doing their best to educate their neighbors regarding the Siren song of wind energy development in a County as richly endowed with lush wildlife habitat as ours. I recall when researchers from the Nature Conservancy described migrating warblers “dripping from the trees” in Lakeside Park just a few years ago. Bernie Daniels, the President of the North American Bluebird Society, told me about a month ago that the only place he had ever seen a gallinule (such as the one found on our road and sent to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology a few months ago) was in Costa Rica! He asked me to affirm three times in a half hour conversation where I lived (on the Atlantic Flyway)!

Some will fault any democrat for taking issue with the Governor by opposing wind energy development in Orleans. But, as someone who is tired of seeing the County’s assets frittered away by those in power locally, I am unequivocally opposed to clearing hardwood woodlots for the purpose of siting wind turbines. Having gone through this when, as I recall, Jack Gilman was Kendall Town Supervisor, I have concluded that is inevitably what will too often happen due to wind turbine setback requirements.

As Dr. Richard Perez from S.U.N.Y. Albany told us last summer, the future is in energy generated by increasingly more efficient solar panels. According to Dr. Perez, the Chinese get it, even if many here do not. In the not too distant future, wind turbines will be regarded as the energy equivalent of dinosaurs better suited to moonscape environments than one that is as rich as that of a County such as Orleans.

But, make no mistake. For some, the “joke” will be on the vast majority of Orleans residents. Sound familiar?

Quite sincerely yours,
Gary Kent, Town of Albion

Random Observations

Dear Editor:

What follows are some random observations. The reader is certainly free to take exception to any—or all—of them.

A bowling acquaintance observed a few weeks ago that, “They (politicians) are all the same”. His experience is not mine, and he is entitled to his opinion. To me, the view he expressed provides cover for abdicating one’s citizenship responsibility. If one reasons that, “They are all the same”, a “citizen” is absolved from determining who is best for the job. We have a rationale for tuning out. Nonetheless, people with a great deal of credibility have said “tuning out” is not an option in a republic.

Consider how similar such excuses are to dismissing any reporting that challenges your thinking as “fake” news. If difficult to comprehend devastation in Puerto Rico was actually the product of cherry-picked aerial photos and “fake” news, we can dismiss it as just that–“fake news”.

Please understand this. Some people actually do think of themselves as above the law. Revealing tax returns is for lesser beings. Paying contractors who did millions of dollars worth of work for you in Atlantic City is for “losers”. Groping women—according to one prominent “business” man–is apparently not a problem when you have attained sufficient stature.

Take this to the bank: history will portray John McCain, Jeff Flake, and Bob Corker as leaders who displayed exceptional courage.

As I recall, it was Kansas Republican Senator Bob Dole who nagged Bill Clinton to address Bosnian genocide. That WW II veteran’s commitment to the inconvenient truth led to the Dayton Accords and the war crimes tribunal at The Hague that brought Ratko Mladic and Radovan Karadzic to justice. Perhaps Dole was delusional, but he didn’t think the fact that the perps were ostensibly “Christians” and the victims were Muslims mattered.

The October 29th “60 Minutes” segment on master forger Adolfo Kaminsky’s Herculean efforts to save thousands of Jews from Nazi death camps was—to me—inspirational.

A recent letter to the editor bestowed a new title on me. I guess what it said was flattering, though probably undeserved. My problem isn’t with my former student and retired State Trooper. Joe Sidonio—to me—is a stronger candidate.

County Legislature candidates Ken DeRoller, Fred Miller, and John DeFillips have no opponents, but are worthy of public support in my view. Once again, I firmly believe Al Capurso deserves our votes as well.

For those who missed their “opportunity” to cut cabbage Sunday morning in the rain and balmy 40 degree weather, don’t worry. Some shorter people who didn’t have to bend over too far got it done in spite of the mud and somewhat less than ideal conditions. (I have seen worse.) If you haven’t enjoyed the cabbage harvest experience, you do not know what you are missing. Those who think sauerkraut comes from a store might benefit from checking with those who have depended on border area farm labor for at least five decades that I can personally attest to.

My close childhood buddy, George Fischer, tripped a booby trap in Vietnam and arrived home in Holley “closed casket”. Not only did George not care whether our Kendall Cubs center fielder was Black, he didn’t care whether those who had his back in Vietnam were Puerto Rican.

When most people of my ancient vintage heard “Fats” Domino perform, we really didn’t give a rat’s ass what color he was.

After listening to third generation bee keeper and outstanding former student Jim Doan’s presentation to the Orleans Bluebird Society, our non-profit has decided not to spray any of the white dogwoods we planted in the Village of Albion with a product containing imadicloprid.

Finally, those in a persistent state of denial might want to read Connie Schultz’ column in the 10/30 Batavia Daily News.

Sincerely yours,
Gary Kent
Albion, NY

Al Capurso

Dear Editor:

It is increasingly rare that Orleans voters get an opportunity to hold incumbent County Legislators accountable. Every voter in the County has such an opportunity this year as Al Capurso is challenging an incumbent golden boy. That’s right; one out of seven has an opponent this November 7th.

Capurso’s opponent was all in on the sale of the County Nursing Home. Please indulge the sarcasm, but perhaps he didn’t realize that some of its residents are veterans. On top of everything else, selling it effectively raised legislator salaries by 40% as a consequence of a greatly reduced work load.

As I recall, Capurso’s opponent voted to give the District Attorney a new title (Manager of Public Safety) in 2010, along with a $10,000 pay raise. Six months into the job, the Sheriff and Undersheriff told me they didn’t even know the position existed!

Capurso’s opponent once voted to disapprove of proposed State legislation which would have increased the penalties for criminals injuring a law enforcement officer with a firearm during the commission of a crime. Did you have to re-read that one? It might have helped had he read the proposed State law before voting to disapprove of it.

I believe—though I could be mistaken—that Capurso’s opponent voted to approve rifle hunting of deer in Orleans County during his current term. This issue is not the “no-brainer” a determined few would have you believe. Approximately 90% of the sportspersons I know oppose it! It will further remove Orleans hunters from—and gradually reduce their familiarity with– the habitat necessary to support the resource they justifiably value. My guess is that Al understands the subtleties of the issue better than many, but I could be wrong.

But it really doesn’t matter what the public thinks, does it?

It appears some would handle the stone quarrying issue in Shelby by talking it to death. It really isn’t that complicated. The fact is that we are privileged to have a National Wildlife Refuge in a County with enormous environmental assets that we should take pains not to jeopardize. The President of the North American Bluebird Society told me in September that the only place he had ever seen a gallinule was in Costa Rica! He was dumbfounded when I told him I picked one up a half mile north of Route 31 last spring. Where does Al’s opponent stand on Frontier Stone’s proposed operation?

Oh, that’s right; he doesn’t have to say because he has an R beside his name.

Not for nothing, but Orleans County needs more Al Capursos, Paul Lauricellas, Joe Sidonios and Emil Smiths (may he rest in peace) to dare say what needs to be said.

Sincerely yours,
Gary Kent
Albion, NY

Time is Running Out

Dear Editor:

Formal collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians? I have my doubts. Russian meddling in the 2016 election? Absolutely! The question not being focused on enough is why they wanted so badly for Trump to become President. It is the elephant in the room. Our intelligence services agree that Putin wanted Trump to become President.

Why? Why did the Russians see our Presidential election as an irresistible golden opportunity to advance Russian interests at our expense? Face it, folks. They did. Intelligence experts from republican and democratic administrations have admitted it.

So what motivated Putin and company? Why were efforts made by Russian meddlers to sew suspicion and discord in swing states such as Wisconsin and Michigan? Hyping racial tension and a distorted picture of the threats presented by refugees and immigrants helped elect a person who promised to protect America by banning Muslims and building a border wall Mexico would pay for.

Even before the election, candidate Trump did everything he could to demonize the media, those evil people who cannot be trusted to be truthful. The press that our third President and the author of the Declaration of Independence felt was indispensable to a republican form of government could not be counted on, according to the man who said John McCain was a war hero only because he got captured. If you think the Russians didn’t—and don’t—love that stuff, you may be delusional.

Confidence in the independent judiciary considered so vital to a free society, was another casualty of the new master of disinformation. Whenever he disagrees with a judicial finding, the man who knows so little about the Constitution that he can rationalize pardoning Joe Arpaio—a man who thinks you can tell who the Constitution applies to by looking at his/her physical characteristics–takes issue with a judge’s ancestry or dismisses him/her as too liberal or too conservative!

Why wouldn’t the Russians think a President who seriously—though often baselessly—undermines public confidence in the validity of our election outcomes is their kind of guy?

Lately our President has sought to stoke the public’s feelings of resentment over the Federal tax code. While it certainly can be improved, the desire to pursue making it more equitable need not be achieved at the price of fanning the flames of public distrust in the “evil doers” in Washington, D.C..

Unfortunately for President Trump—who certainly inherited every bit as much mess as any modern President—winning is what it is all about. Ethics? Smethics! Whatever it takes to win is justifiable. The end justifies the means, and the chips can fall where they may.

Before dismissing the above as “fake news”, ask yourself to honestly explain what his comments to Billy Bush revealed about him. Explain his disrespect of John McCain and Gold Star Father, Khizr Khan. What did his comment about shooting someone and not losing a vote suggest? The tax returns we haven’t seen are shorthand for, “I don’t really care what you think, folks”. The list goes on, and on, and on.

Admittedly, there may be a method in his madness at times. But when a deficit hawk like Republican Senator Bob Corker can question his stability and competence, and Senator Jeff Flake likens him to the Biblical Flood, it may be time to begin rethinking the narcissist in Chief.

Which of the Constitutional grounds for impeachment applied to Bill Clinton? Which of the Constitutional grounds for impeachment might Trump be impeached for? When Presidential historian Douglas Brinkley said months ago there was a certain smell in the air, what was he referring to? Collusion, though possible, is not a pre-requisite in the case of a President who is in way over his head.

Sincerely yours,
Gary Kent
Albion, NY