TOM DAVIES: The Verdict — Toward a UNITED States Of All Americans

Anyone who believes this country is — and always has been — great had their confidence reinforced by the climate-changing events that have destroyed so many lives and so much property in the past two weeks.

It is not the death and destruction that makes us great, of course. It is the way this country responded to provide help and aid wherever needed to the best of our ability.

Homeland Security Adviser Tom Bossert’s is a name you should remember. While I assumed the Environmental Protection Agency would have been in charge of the disaster relief, it is Bossert and his department’s Federal Emergency Management Agency who gives credibility and intelligence to it.

Bossert is intelligent, articulate and extremely knowledgeable (unique in the administration of 45). He focuses like a laser on what has happened and what this country is doing about it.

He does not puff himself up, does not exaggerate and does not attack people or institutions, but just gives you straightforward facts. When he doesn’t know, he says so … and promises to obtain the answer and get back with it.

He does not attack the press and does not demean or insult those who ask the questions. It is just beyond my wildest expectations that there is a spokesperson in today’s White House whom I admire.

It was Bossert who first announced the advance placement of responders. It was he who talked about the planning that went into stockpiling equipment for use in the disaster and who coordinated efforts with the military to provide disaster relief. He did so in a direct, easy-to-understand fashion without the grandstanding gibberish that other White House spokesmen have utilized.

This man is as good as it gets on the national stage.

I listened in awe as he discussed moving an aircraft carrier, landing craft and personnel into the area to assist in the Florida disaster as well as the other island calamities. He explained that both the carrier and landing crafts carried helicopters to assist in rescue and supply operations. The media showed the around-the-clock efforts of the military and Coast Guard while risking their own lives.

It was Bossert who carefully explained that convoys of gas trucks are headed to Florida and the outlying islands, along with security provided to the drivers to assure their safe destination and arrival.

He also described severe problems with infrastructure. Bridges and roadways have been damaged or destroyed. Power lines and backup sources of electricity — gone. Generators are needed to provide minimum power. No drinkable water supply! Gas supplies are nearly gone; even where they exist, there’s little power to run the pumps. Without power, there’s no air conditioning, no television, few means of communication and hell to pay if, right now, you have a medical or other kind of personal emergency.

I could go on for pages describing the horror of it all … and the great feeling I get when I see Americans, all of them, rallying to help their countrymen in need. Politics be damned! This is the America I know, responding the way I knew it could. In helping others, there’s no R or D or I. It’s all the American way!

Originally I thought the EPA would be the lead agency. Not so — and the reasons are the opposite of the goodness the disaster response demonstrates.

Virtually all scientists acknowledge the science behind the theory of climate change. Yet there are those who refuse to listen to them. You don’t have to hit me over the head with a mallet to get my attention on this issue: Climate change is clearly and definitely real. Yet the deniers in government, from 45 on up, are doing their best to kill education and discussion on the subject.

The mission of the EPA is to protect human health and the environment. Yet look what has happened. Mustafa Ali, head of the agency’s environmental justice program, resigned, citing gigantic budget cuts to the agency and its staff. Elizabeth Southerland, director of science and technology in the Office of Water, resigned after 40 years, citing the “temporary triumph of myth over truth.” She made clear that, contrary to new Director Scott Pruitt, there is no war on coal. There is no economic crisis caused by environmental protection, and climate change is caused by the activity of man.

The EPA’s own regulations require websites on climate change; yet Pruitt has ordered those sites taken down. Never mind that before he obtained his current position, Pruitt was known for his lawsuits against EPA. Guess who profits by his actions? Both he and 45. Rick Perry, energy secretary — though a nice, funny man -— couldn’t find his way to the bathroom without an aid. Perry is in lockstep with Pruitt on this.

My best guess is that 45 and his minions, after considering the nature of the current multiple disasters, will rethink their ill-informed rejection of climate change and learn that it is real — that man contributes to it, and only man can slow it down.

The Chinese, of all people, in a land where pollution abounds, have signed the Paris Accords. They pledge to continue their all-out efforts on pollution control. We’ve become one of only three nations on Earth to refuse to sign.

For those who don’t believe in climate change and that man can do something about it, answer this question: If the air is polluted from automobiles and factories — and when we clean up the autos and factories, the air becomes clean again — is that, or is that not, a manmade disaster and a man-engineered correction?

These hurricane disasters are ongoing. It will take much time to rebuild lives and property. As to property, I hope new building codes will restrict where and how lost structures are rebuilt. I also hope we finally hear an admission that climate change is real. Funding should be restored to the EPA, as well as other environmental agencies and programs that have been decimated because 45 can’t stand anything that Obama touched. That’s sad. We are all Americans. What is good for most should be good for all.

God bless this country and all of its inhabitants. Amen.

TOM DAVIES: The Verdict — Freedom Of Speech Is One Thing, But To Do Harm Is Quite Another

With all of the violence occurring in this country, one has to ask: What can be done to address it? Too often, people are prosecuted after a crime has been committed. What is missing is the deterrent effect of a law that would prohibit or reduce the number of folks who create the problem.

I’m not going to refer to the laws of North Dakota or Minnesota or any individual state. This is a national problem that needs to be addressed head on. This means a focus on federal laws.

18 U.S. Code § 2102 – Definitions

(a) As used in this chapter, the term “riot” means a public disturbance involving (1) an act or acts of violence by one or more persons part of an assemblage of three or more persons, which act or acts shall constitute a clear and present danger of, or shall result in, damage or injury to the property of any other person or to the person of any other individual or (2) a threat or threats of the commission of an act or acts of violence by one or more persons part of an assemblage of three or more persons having, individually or collectively, the ability of immediate execution of such threat or threats, where the performance of the threatened act or acts of violence would constitute a clear and present danger of, or would result in, damage or injury to the property of any other person or to the person of any other individual.

(b) As used in this chapter, the term “to incite a riot,” or “to organize, promote, encourage, participate in, or carry on a riot,” includes, but is not limited to, urging or instigating other persons to riot, but shall not be deemed to mean the mere oral or written (1) advocacy of ideas or (2) expression of belief, not involving advocacy of any act or acts of violence or assertion of the rightness of, or the right to commit, any such act or acts

In March 2016, presidential candidate Donald Trump basically urged the crowd at his rally in Louisville, Ky., to rough up some protesters. Three who were indeed roughed up brought suit in federal court against Trump and his campaign. His words — “get them out” and “throw them out” — started the ball rolling. And roll it, did as the three were pushed, slugged and hustled out the door.

Trump’s lawyers moved to dismiss the protestors’ lawsuit on the grounds that he didn’t intend for his supporters to use force.

Federal Judge David J. Hale rejected his free-speech defense. He ruled that the case against Trump and his supporters could proceed. He found sufficient facts supporting allegations that the protesters’ injuries were a “direct and proximate result” of Trump’s actions. He further noted that the Supreme Court has ruled out constitutional protections for speech that incites violence.

The judge observed, “While the words themselves are repulsive, they are relevant to show the atmosphere in which the alleged events occurred.”

Trump’s lawyers (he picks lawyers who rarely win) argued that the protesters assumed the risk of injury when they decided to protest.

The judge summarized that every person has a duty to every other person to use care to prevent foreseeable injury. He said, “Plaintiffs have adequately alleged that their harm was foreseeable and that Trump had a duty to prevent it.”

To be clear, the judge has not yet made a final determination that Trump violated the law, but there was sufficient evidence for the case to move forward for trial.

I cite this case to show that a complaint filed by citizens or by criminal prosecutors can proceed and can produce results.

When the hate groups verbally attack Jews, flaunt the Nazi flag, bring torches, weapons including guns and other instruments of hate; wave the Confederate flag of the defeated South — it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to conclude bad things are going to happen because good people aren’t going to accept that activity.

Communities (Fargo, are you listening?) can enact measures that may well cut down or eliminate protest problems. A protest is being contemplated for Fargo in October. Because the local media have given the neo-Nazi promoter so much air time, he just might be able to pull it off.

May I suggest that no permit be issued unless the following conditions are met: No weapons of any kind or implements that could be used as weapons; no helmets or military-type body armor of any type; no swastikas or other Nazi memorabilia; no baiting of the Jewish community; no racial slurring.

The harm in using these things I’ve listed is foreseeable, and both the city and the protesters have a duty to prevent it.

Just a suggestion. Freedom of speech is one thing. Freedom to do harm is quite another. Amen.

TOM DAVIES: The Verdict — When Media Are Shut Out, So Are The People

Scott Pruitt, newly appointed EPA administrator, comes to North Dakota for the first time. He is accompanied by Sen. John Hoeven, Rep. Kevin Cramer and Gov. Doug Burgum.

Meetings are held on the publicly owned campuses of North Dakota State University and the University of North Dakota, and the presidents of each institution are in attendance.

In Fargo, the media were banned from the event. In Grand Forks, police actually escorted media away.

The last time I heard, the federal government still represented We the People, and likewise our state elected officials. Odd, then, that they ban our news media, the source of information for most folks and the group who keep politicians (and everyone else, for that matter) honest.

I’m not sure, but I don’t think the presidents of the two institutions have the legal right or authority to ban media from a meeting on state property, absent special circumstances. That the attorney general of North Dakota attended the meeting in Fargo but was kept out of the meeting in Grand Forks (though he was in place) seems to support my position.

At least Sen. Hoeven, to his credit, said afterward that, in retrospect, the meetings should have been open and the press allowed in. I am a member of the Minnesota Newspaper Association and have a press pass of my own. Had it occurred to me that this might happen, I’d have gone to the Fargo event myself. You can bet the farm I’d have gotten in.

The reason I’m confident about my entry attempt is that anyone who knows me knows I do not bluff. I would have made so much noise it would have generated adverse publicity for 45’s minion; I’m hopeful that my cordial relations with NDSU and the Fargo Police Department would have resulted in my admission rather than my ejection.

If you think about it, Mike McFeely could have gone there with McPort … and used McPort as a battering ram. Oh, the opportunities lost!

But back to my point! Those elected officials, if they had the brains God gave a goat, would have told Herr 45’s lackey that in North Dakota, We the People rule, and we don’t tolerate or like secrecy at any level.

Just remember, my fellow Americans: When the media is banned from an event, so too are we — the people who elected the door-lockers.

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I am in awe of and saddened by the events in Charlottesville, Va. A 32-year-old woman was killed by a mad boy in his car, and the terrorist seriously injured 19 others. Two state police officers were killed in a helicopter crash while on duty monitoring the protest and counter demonstrations.

This protest allowed the alt-right, neo-Nazis, Ku Klux Klan, white supremacists, anti-Semitics and white nationalists to march and spread their hate.

Whenever a tragic event like this has happened, prior presidents have immediately focused on the victims and the crimes and condemned them and those who caused them. But 45 waited a few days before he was forced to condemn the white supremacists’ actions. The hate groups have all publicly supported Herr 45, and he did not dismiss their support until the public reaction backed him into a corner.

The notorious online “fake news” site Breitbart News is a mouthpiece for race baiting and hatred. Its founder is in a sensitive position in the White House as one of the president’s most prominent advisers … with no security clearance. Not a discouraging word.

Yet when Kenneth Frazier, the black CEO of Merck Pharmaceuticals, publicly resigned from the American Manufacturing Council to which 45 had appointed him, the president immediately attacked him in a tweet. You see, Frazier was not impressed with the lack of proper response when the Virginia incident occurred.

I have four children. Not one of them, in their youngest years, ranted or chanted or howled or complained anything like the unbelievably childish current occupant of the White House. I guess what 45 needs is a good bottle of milk and a nice big pacifier.

I’ve watched and prayed for improvement in the White House. To the extent the two generals are now involved, it keeps my hopes alive. The secretary of state, however, has too many Russian investments for me to give him any credence. Worse, to this day, Herr 45 has not: 1) commented on the bombing of a mosque in the Twin Cities; 2) mentioned the loss of life incurred by our military in the last two weeks; and 3) said one single bad thing about his real controllers, the Russians.

If the driver of the car that killed the lady in Virginia had been black or, God forbid, a Muslim, 45 would have gone berserk and immediately condemned the actions. He wouldn’t hesitate for a second to brand it what it is — an act of terrorism.

We’re in a period of adjustment. Our troops in World War II did not fight and defeat the Nazis so that some terrorists could waive their evil flag. The only people who can properly wave the swastika were our own brave troops who took it from the enemy in battle … never some let’s-pretend-we’re-military fakes who proudly display both the swastika and the battle flag of the Confederacy.

We’re going to learn from the mistakes of the last federal election and get our focus back. The true America — the Land of the Free, the land that welcomes everyone — will once again take its place of prominence and leadership in the world.

It will take time to undo the damage 45 has caused … but undo it we will. The next elections will be the start, and I’m hopeful special prosecutor Robert Mueller will hasten the exit of 45.

By the way, next time you see Vice President Pence and 45 in the same picture on the TV news, is Pence fawning over and adoring 45, or is it just my imagination? I think since they started together, that’s the way they ought to exit.

Just a reminder: Judge Ronald N. Davies ordered integration of Central High School in Little Rock, Ark., to begin “forthwith.” A few years later, Judge John J. Sirica demonstrated that no president is above the law, and Richard M. Nixon left. I’m hopeful that the spirits of Judge Davies and Judge Sirica inhabit federal judges across this country — and that the courts continue to value the worth of our people and political institutions.

Finally, happy birthday last week to my favorite eldest daughter, Lisa Marie. Amen.

TOM DAVIES: The Verdict — I Beg Your Pardon!

Every presidency ought to have a theme song. For POTUS 45 and his cohorts, it should be “I Beg Your Pardon.”

There’s a lot of loose talk about what a president can and cannot do in the area of pardons, so I did a little research on the subject. My results are drawn from multiple sources, all qualified. If I were to annotate each source, I’d exceed my column’s length parameters, so … trust me on this.

Shortly before President Nixon resigned from office in 1974, the Office of Legal Counsel within the Department of Justice issued an opinion in which they cautioned that “no one may be a judge in his own case.” This is also a principle of so-called “natural law,” meaning that the president cannot pardon himself.

In the case of a self-pardon, ultimately the U.S/ Supreme Court would have to come to its own conclusion on whether the courts should accept such a pardon as constitutionally valid. There would really be no option but to reach an independent judgment on that question and not simply defer to the judgment made by the president.

A president cannot use the pardon power to immunize himself from impeachment or from prosecution by one or more of the 50 states. Were a president to pardon himself, this would surely trigger prosecution within the states (e.g. for fraud, tax evasion, money laundering and so on). Because a pardon would be admissible as evidence of guilt, this would not be a wise decision.

Based on this reasoning, the DOJ’s Office of Legal Counsel wrote in 1974 “Under the fundamental rule that no one may be a judge in his own case, the President cannot pardon himself.”

Days later, President Nixon chose to extricate himself from scandal — not by self-pardon but rather by resignation from office. President Gerald Ford pardoned Nixon after he had resigned. Logic would say this should put an end to the discussion— but it does not.

It can be suggested that President Ford’s pardon of Nixon did end his own political future, as he was defeated in his run for a full term in the first election after Nixon’s resignation.

Impeachment may seem like an adequate deterrent. But because removal from office requires a two-thirds vote of the Senate, presidents normally don’t need to worry about it. It’s possible that a judge would rule that even if a self-pardon would relieve the president of liability for a crime, the act of self-pardoning is itself a crime, obstruction of justice and would independently create criminal liability.

There are two or more potential checks on the pardoning power. First, the Constitution specifically rules out the possibility of pardoning someone for impeachable offenses. Congress could certainly regard an “abuse” of the pardoning power as an impeachable offense, in and of itself, even if one concludes such a pardon would be regarded as legally valid.

Of course, presidents can deceive themselves into thinking that their bad acts are justified for the common good. But the point of the power to pardon is to bestow mercy on another, not to enrich oneself.

President 45’s interest on the scope of the president’s power to pardon demonstrates that he is conscious of guilt. Only if 45 believes that he may be guilty of a crime would he be interested in pardoning himself. This is not the behavior of an innocent man. The same would hold true when he seeks pardon authority for his children and others in his administration.

* * *

One has to wonder when this man actually sleeps. He has meetings all day … when he’s not playing golf … and tweets all night. He who complained about President Obama’s vacations, golf and use of Air Force One for vacation travel has in the first short months of his term exceeded Obama’s whole four years in office.

* * *

Our Denier in Chief does not believe in climate change — notwithstanding the countless educated voices that affirm its existence. That denial allows 45 to write executive orders (which he refers to as “bills,” though they are not) to allow Big Oil to dump waste into our clean waters and allows them to try to intimidate the Native nations, a war that in the long run the Natives will win.

We don’t know if 45 and his gang sleep with the Russians, if he is indebted to the Russians or if the Russians have tapes of El Dumbo doing naughty things. With the exception of the naughty things, 45 could put to rest many of the allegations flying around him and his administration quite easily. All he would have to do is release all of his tax returns.

President 45 and the echo chambers that surround him are the only ones who still claim he is a sharp businessman. His many trips to the bankruptcy courts suggest otherwise, as do the thousands of current lawsuits filed against him and his corporations.

Donald J. Trump holds his own interests and those of his family as his primary concerns. Yet he was elected to be the voice of the American People. The lies he told to get elected— now confirmed as lies — seem to have had little impact on his base.

It makes no difference to me what your political views are; we all have our own. What matters most is that I simply cannot tolerate a serial liar in any capacity or position. We’ve had presidents with flaws, as all of us do — but 45 is in a category all his own. While I wish all of our presidents success, in his case, it simply won’t happen.

Keep watching Special Counsel Robert Mueller. He’s the key to putting this national shame in proper perspective.

* * *

Last but not least, you may have missed the administration’s ballyhooed “Made in America” push a week or so ago. Right up front was Ivanka Trump … all of whose products are manufactured in foreign countries by underpaid employees.

We, the American people of all parties, might be willing to grant our own pardon to 45 and his entire kleptomaniac klan … if they will only just resign and move in with their Russian friends. Amen.

TOM DAVIES: The Verdict — Adventures In The Emergency Room

By this time last week, I had assembled a lot of research on presidential pardons and what a president can and cannot do. Then I left it all on the computer beside my desk and happily jaunted off to the lake for some R&R.

Perhaps my creator didn’t want me to post that blog. On Sunday morning, I awoke to the nauseous feeling in my stomach that generally signals a blockage in my colon. It’s a feeling you never want to have. Off we zoomed to Sanford’s emergency room.

When you’re in the condition I was, every little dip and bump in the road feels like someone punching you in the gut — i.e., the right side of my back was not very comfortable.

Well, my guardian-angel wife may have slightly exceeded the speed limit, but she got me there in one piece. I’ve been in that emergency room so often that I think they all know me on sight. They rushed me into an exam room, where the physicians and nurses went through the whole “what the hell is wrong with him this time” process.

All during this time, I was hoping I wouldn’t throw up. I am what is known as a “power puker.” That means my range of fire is a good 10 feet. Those professionals chanced it; my mechanism just threatened but didn’t fire.

The MRI showed, to my surprise, it wasn’t a colon blockage. Instead, it turned out to be a kidney stone — one for sure and what appeared to be a second. The stones were not in “Charlie,” my little friend, but were higher up, causing swelling and other problems that caused me to be prepped for surgery the next morning.

Not that I’m a chicken — but those orders caused me some concern. Was it worse than I thought?

The doctors told me they wanted me moved right away to Sanford’s new hospital, which was due to open the next morning. I was taken to the emergency garage, where an ambulance and some great attendants welcomed me. Down onto the cot I went, and off we headed to the new medical Taj Mahal. Boy, those ambulances may be equipped like a hospital room, but someone forgot to put shock absorbers in the darn thing.

The ride back from the lake had been bouncy — but it was a luxury ride compared to the suspension (or lack thereof) in the ambulance. When we reached to the new hospital, I asked the driver whether he was a dirt-track driver in his other life. He just laughed.

Up we went to my new digs, and I settled in … or, more accurately, was settled in by the nighty-night pills. When I awoke, the staff wheeled me into surgery. The anesthetist smiled and told me he was going to put me right back to sleep.

I kept cracking jokes, and they were laughing, so they must have been pretty good. He finally put the mask over my mouth and told me he was going to put me to sleep. Right in the middle of one of my smart-ass remarks, he did just that, and I was out like a light.

When I woke up, I learned the doctors had removed not two but three kidney stones by laser. I think if the physician’s laser had missed the target inside me, he’d have blown out a wall in the operating room. My innards are what are known as complicated. That dimwitted clone of POTUS 45 who heads North Korea would be well-advised to not mess with our military. They have lasers, too.

What I’d expected to be an in-and-out ended up taking a more serious turn, and they kept me for a whole week before they sent me home feeling fine. My primary nurse may have been one of the most caring people I have ever met. I also had a couple of traveling nurses who kept my giggle machine going. One, a young man, could do a perfect imitation of Matthew McConaughey, that guy in the Lincoln commercials. He could also carry a tune as well as any singer I’ve ever heard.

Some dimwit is bound to say now that they took such good care of me because I’m supposedly well-known in these parts. Not true. The staff had no idea who I was — they just did what they were trained to do, and did it very well.

OK, since I’ve shared this much of my medical escapade, I might as well divulge the most embarrassing medical encounter of my entire life

J. Gary Zespy and I were born on the same day in the same hospital, and we never lost touch. After we both ended up living in Fargo, we decided to join the senior men’s hockey league. Teams were picked at random, but we generally played for the original team.

Either there were no rules, or no one knew what in hell they were. People were slamming into each other, sometimes by accident, sometimes not. Some of the players were really conditioned guys, and others were more like me — not so conditioned, shall we say.

We were having a great time one night when we got into a five-man battle for the puck. All of a sudden, I felt something like a bee sting on my lip, and blood began flowing all over the place. We all stopped playing. Foolish me yowled, “J.C., who the hell is spraying us with that damned blood?” It was me.

Now, it didn’t hurt, but it scared my behind off. J. Gary drove me straight to the emergency room. They placed me on the table and covered my face, with just one eye-opening so I could see. By the time the doctor came in, my lip was so swollen that it was hard to enunciate. He asked when I’d had my last tetanus shot. I asked, “What they give you a shot like that for?” He told me it would be for cuts, surgery and so on.

I remembered surgery on my deviated septum to allow me to breathe better, so I told him, “The last time I had the shot was my episiotomy.” The doctor, who spoke English as a second language, already had his needle in my mouth, doing the closure on my lip. He started laughing. The nurses started laughing. My friend Gary was laughing so hard that he nearly had a cow. In the meantime, I had to remind the doctor that his laughing was causing him to jerk my tender tissue all over the place.

Remember, this was many years ago. When he’d finished up, the female emergency nurse told me, “If you lawyers wouldn’t try to talk in medical terms, people would stop thinking you’re a know it all.” No, I didn’t hit her… but I wanted to. I truly thought they all had lost their minds. Gary was still laughing when we left, so I asked him what was so funny. He looked at me with a big grin and said, “Damned if I know.”

When I got home, I told my wife that I’d been with some people with the craziest sense of humor. She asked what happened. When I told her, she too started laughing. Finally she composed herself enough to explain what an episiotomy is, and how it’s not performed on your nose. Gary’s wife was a nurse. I’d have like to have been a fly on the wall when he told her the story. Amen.

TOM DAVIES: The Verdict — Hell-Bent On DIY? Read This First

Once upon a time, there was a man named Tom. Tom wasn’t a mechanic. He wasn’t a repairman. He did, however, try to repair or fix things without reading the “How to do it” manuals.

I am that Tom, and here is the result of my latest project.

Years ago, we purchased an early manufactured 12-foot Sunfish sailboat. My wife and kids loved to sail, but I learned the hard way why I won’t.

Here’s why. Our great former neighbors, Walt and Charlene Balmer, invited us to their cottage for the weekend. They had a sailboat, and my wife talked me into going for a ride with Walt in command.

Out we went to the middle of the lake … and then the wind stopped blowing. My personal supply of hot air could not provide sufficient energy.

A few hours later, when we finally made it to shore, my wife was slightly bronzed. I looked like a boiled lobster. It took many moons for the various layers of burned skin to peel off and heal, and for the next few days, I couldn’t do anything but suffer and swear. It was a good thing I wasn’t on the judicial bench by that time, or I tell you, there would have been some naughty sentences imposed on scofflaws.

Despite all that, when we purchased our own cottage years later, we bought the Sunfish in question. I confess, we allowed the Sunfish to deteriorate. Not being any kind of expert in fiberglass repair, I retired it to a place behind our bunkhouse, where it sat for years.

One fine day, I called a guy who said he repaired fiberglass boats. He gave me an estimate, and I delivered the boat to his shop. I gave my wife a photo of that little sailboat for Christmas, along with a promise that it would be ready in the spring. She was overjoyed.

Two years later — yeah, I said two years later — I called the man and asked WTH was wrong? Instead of being decent about it, he quickly replied, “If you don’t like the delay, come get your boat.” He offered no explanation or excuses, just plain sarcasm … something I am familiar with.

I told him to go … play with himself and drove right over to get the boat. It went straight back behind the bunkhouse, where it again sat for another seven or eight years, housing many crawling bugs and critters.

Last summer, while I was cutting the grass behind the building, I turned the sailer over and took a look. I thought, “WTH, I’ll bet I can fix the cracks in the bottom.” I got the supplies, read the instructions on how to mix the fiberglass and hardener, then proceeded to place it over the fiberglass matting and smoothed (kind of smoothed) it over.

After the repairs hardened, I turned the boat over. While the top was pocked and ugly, my wife happily jumped aboard and took off for an afternoon of fun. It actually worked pretty well. But then the season ended. A month ago, the real problem developed.

I looked at the top and the missing edging strips and thought, “Sure, I can repair, replace and paint this.” That is exactly what I did.

I bought the brightest red fiberglass paint that credit could buy, along with another supply of Fiberglas and hardener. I sanded, scraped and sanded again after applying the fiberglass patches. Then, on went two coats of primer and two coats of the red paint. Add the white bumper trim around the whole boat, and, for a do-it-yourselfer, I thought it looked pretty darn good.

Maureen, my wife, took it out on its maiden voyage, around and back. Then we parked it on shore.

My son, Ron, came down last weekend. After some prompting from his mom, he took the red rocket out for a spin. (That’s not its official name, you understand; we haven’t picked that yet.) He sailed it around a bend and out of sight, then seemed to stay out for a very long. He finally returned — frustrated and laughing at the same time.

It seems that the longer he was out, the clumsier the handling became. It was getting really bad by the time he heard swishing sounds, maybe from the hull. The boat seemed to be getting bow-heavy, too, so he moved out of the tiny cockpit toward the back of the sailer. When he made his move, the damned sailboat moved, too —straight up into the air, dumping him on his keester wondering what had just happened. Then the main sail broke and collapsed.

Another boat happened to be nearby, and the folks on board boat were as startled as Ron himself. Suspected cause: water in the hull.

After the boat leveled, Ron eventually made it back by using the sail as a jib. Luckily for him, unlike me on my own maiden voyage years before, he had previously covered all exposed parts in sunscreen.

It took a long time to drain the hull — yeah, that one I’d “fixed” — as it was completely full of water. After it was empty, we tipped it over, and sure enough, there were some hairline cracks … exactly where my “repairs” had been.

So now I’m off to find something to put across the middle bottom of the boat to really seal it and make it seaworthy. There’s a product called KeelGuard that that might do the job. It’s a good thing I’m retired with time on my hands. The adventure continues. I’ll let you know sometime how the final repair turns out.

This article is dedicated to all you do-it-yourselfer who start strong but end up wondering: Should you hired a professional after all? You know the answer now. Amen.

TOM DAVIES: The Verdict — Surprise! Lobsters And Lessons Well Learned

I’ve talked about my adventures with dogs, horses and spiders, but I forgot about one multilegged creature that provided a special moment of embarrassment.

Years ago (too many to count), the Supreme Court honored me with an appointment to attend a judicial conference in Montreal, as a newly elected municipal judge. Although my father was a judge, I knew little if anything about the judicial system’s internal operations.

As my wife and I flew over the waters to Montreal, all I could think about when we crossed the water was man-eating sharks and the fact, if the plane were to land prematurely, I swim like a rock.

But the plane didn’t crash, and we made it safely to our hotel … a collection of long, narrow walkways completely filled with people all day and all night. Apparently, some people either don’t sleep, or sleep all day and socialize all night. I’ve always been (and still am) an early-to-bed type of guy. My wife, on the other hand, has a taste for adventure. She decided to go out walking to see the area and its shops. Not to be outdone, I went to bed.

The next day, she told me about this fantastic restaurant. At least, that’s what I thought she meant. She and the wife of a Supreme Court judge from Tennessee had spotted it the night before and thought we should dine there. So off I go with my wife and a group of Tennessee judges and wives.

We arrived at a cozy little smoke-filled place (emphasis on “little,” and so smoky I wondered if they’d been smoking dope the night before.). I think I was the only one who had never before been in such an exclusive place. We were all dressed in business casual, while the waitstaff was all dressed to a T. I knew right off the bat that the bill for this meal was going to exceed my annual income, but we were there so we were going to eat.

The staff in all their finery provided place settings fit for kings, complete with drinks and a wide variety of foods. I even got used to the smoke, which turned out to be from cooking and not cigarettes and cigars. I was carrying on a conversation with one of the wives. We were laughing it up (nope, no drinks yet) and just having a fun time. The servers wheeled up a tray of delicacies to choose from.

The lady and I were examining what was in front of us until I noticed what I thought was a movement on the tray. I continued talking while I looked around again … and by golly, there were giant man-eating-sized lobsters on that table lying on crushed ice.

I may have mentioned before that I have a fear of multilegged critters that look like spiders. As I focused on one of these monsters, the damn thing moved.

Remember, this was years before I ever went to Red Lobster and got used to seeing them in person. When it moved, I shrieked out a shrill yell like a child who’d been dropped on his head. I pushed away from the table in utter panic.

My wife should have poured a drink on my head at that point, but she kept her cool. Everyone thought it was funny but me. I had seen myself jump out of my skin on previous occasions when I’d been startled. They had not. The friendly lady from Tennessee just about passed out from laughing at my unplanned antics. But karma was about to strike her.

Our meals arrived. Just like in the movies, everything was delivered under glass or, in her case, beneath a solid cover.

Well, we had ordered the same thing, fish. Mine came without its head. Such was not the case for hers. When the waiter pulled the cover off of her meal, the fish not only had its head on — its mouth was wide open. She let out a shriek; like me before, she pushed her chair back and really let out a holler. Hell, I thought someone was stabbing her! I asked her what was wrong and how I could help. Her reply: “Cut off its head! It’s looking at me!) I looked around us, wondering whose head she wanted removed. I didn’t realize it was the fish until she pointed.

I don’t know who cut its head off, but things settled down after that. We were once again just a group of people enjoying a quiet meal — surrounded by other patrons who wondered what planet we had arrived from.

* * *

The shock and awe of the Fourth of July reminded me of a good friend from our neighborhood in Grand Forks who found a 50-caliber machine gun shell back when we were in seventh grade. Naturally, he placed it in in a vice in his basement and slammed it with a hammer.

I wasn’t in attendance for the demonstration but found out later that it blew a hole in the basement wall and scarred his hands pretty badly. He was lucky, I suppose, that he did not blow his fingers off or worse. But when his dad entered the scene, he caused some serious damage to my friend’s behind. It was one of those situations when, after something bad has happened, you are so happy that your loved one wasn’t hurt that you beat the hell out of them.

This same friend lived next door to Porter’s Grocery. The store was on the main floor of the building, and the owners lived above it, on the second. Access to their living quarters was by a long flight of stairs straight up.

Being young and stupid, we dropped a load of firecrackers at the steps to the second floor down at ground level — two years in a row. We then sat back and waited for the owner (who, by the way, was a really nice man) to go running around the block seeking the blasters.

We weren’t caught the first time. But when the next year came around, our store owner turned out to have a good memory. We waited until the lights were out, then struck again. We lit those firecrackers and turned to run — right into his chest. He was there in the dark waiting for us. We shrieked like babies in a crib. He could not have possibly scared us more than we scared ourselves! Instead of killing us and burying our remains, he laughed and told us never to do it again. And we didn’t.

We had what we thought was fun at the expense of others while we were growing up — but it always caught up with us, and turned out to be a great learning experience. Note: I do not recommend that the youth of today copy any of the adventures outlined in my columns because today you’d end up in juvenile court with Scott Griffeth and Susan Solheim, the local juvenile judges, and they do a great job. Amen.

TOM DAVIES: The Verdict — Oh, Say, Can You See?

You’re never too old to learn! I’m no history buff, but it came as a surprise to learn the significance of July 2, while we Americans celebrate the Fourth of July as a national holiday.

Here’s either what I never knew, or had forgotten: During the American Revolution, the legal separation of the 13 colonies from Great Britain in 1776 actually occurred July 2, when the Second Continental Congress voted to approve a resolution of independence that had been proposed in June 1776. It declared that the United States were independent from the rule of Great Britain. (“were” is grammatically correct because at the time the colonies were still a group of separate entities.)

After voting for independence, Congress turned its attention to a statement explaining its decision. It debated it, revised some wording and finally approved it two days later … on July 4.

So, there you have it. Without July 2, 1776, there would have been no July 4 celebration.

* * *

We had a lot of family at our cottage last weekend. I’m glad they brought their dogs with them —  glad because I learned about dogs’ reaction to loud explosions and noise. I found it somewhat similar to humans like me, who jump up, down and sideways when there is a loud noise.

One dog quietly went into the small bathroom and simply slept. Another dog simply stood at attention and looked around — I believe he may have been thinking how to kill the SOBs using the howitzer for fun — but showed little reaction. These two belong to my daughter, Diane.

Then there’s my wife’s dog. (At one time, I’d thought she was my dog, but the dog thought differently.) She and daughter Lisa’s dog had similar reactions. At each boom … abject terror. Ears down, crouched low to the ground, they’d just about crawl looking for a place to hide. Both usually turned to the bedrooms to temporarily find solitude.

Exit the ladies, who went outside to further damage their eardrums. At that point, the real war began. Damned explosions rocked the cottage. The two dogs who’d been in hiding bolted from their bedrooms right across and over the chair and couch and landed on me. On my right was Lisa’s dog, shaking like a leaf. On the left was my (oops — my wife’s) dog, who cuddled next to me with head on my leg.

Violent outbursts like those scare the bejeezus out of animals, as well as some humans. I can’t imagine how some of our military who have experienced combat deal with the explosions in a supposed peacetime setting.

We should be way past explosive celebrations. The Fourth can be fun without explosions. Aerial displays are both beautiful and not so noisy. Those damned cannons, or whatever you call those ear-shattering, close-to-the-ground explosions, just aren’t needed.

* * *

Fourth of July in years gone by, however, had their moments. My brother, Tim, had a way of rigging up fireworks explosives that were louder and more powerful than anything on the market today. I really think it may have been World War II surplus munitions. Unfortunately for some, he also knew how to aim.

Well, as the warfare began in the early afternoon one year at his lake cottage, one of the county’s finest (a cop) drove up and stopped. Like a startled deer, I grabbed my family and went into hiding, along with most of Tim’s family.

My dad, the federal judge, said he’d handle it. He promptly extended his 5-foot-1-inch frame and stepped up to the 6-foot-plus deputy. With a smile on his face, he said something like, “I’m Federal Judge Ronald Davies and we’re in the same business -— how can I help you?”

Not to be outdone, the deputy responded, “I’m in law enforcement so you judges have a job. You can do your job after I’ve done mine.” Rarely did I see my dad without a response, but he had none to that.

The deputy asked the judge if he could quiet things down. Dad’s  response was truly “judgely” -— you better believe he would — and so he did. (I know “judgely” isn’t a word, but neither are “yuuuuuge” or “bigly,” if you get my drift.)

* * *

The Fourth of July also reminds me of my first horse, Silver, who was gentle enough but had no braking system. If you let her run, you couldn’t stop her because she had a hard mouth. Horse folks know what that means.

One fine day, I looked kind of cowboyish, dressed to a T in western garb with a .22 pistol and holster, along with a belt full of .22 shells. I’d seen so many western movies in my younger days that it’s a wonder I ever found time to sleep. In all those movies, the cowboys and Indians were shooting pistols and rifles on horseback from a stop to the walk and the run. And in all those movies, their horses were well-behaved.

Well, my damned horse had never been to the movies. Without giving that a thought, I rode out into the pasture, drew my pistol and fired a shot into the air.

Now, if you’d seen Silver, you’d know that jumping was not that little porker’s forte. But when my pistol fired, all I can remember is that she went forward, up, down, sideways … and somewhere in between her jumps, I became airborne and landed in a heap. I was shaken, not stirred, but still alive. I never fired a weapon around a horse again.

I have wondered ever since what would have happened had someone dropped a firecracker in front of her while I was on board. Methinks the results would have been the same, if not even worse.

* * *

My dad was a judge, but he was also an entertainer.

One year, when we rented our first cottage on Big Detroit, we decided to go for a ride around the lake, with me driving the boat. For some strange reason, on this particular Fourth of July, everyone on shore and on the lake seemed to be waving at us. I thought it strange but kept waving back. Then my little son, Greg, tugged at my arm with a little boyish grin and pointed behind me.

I twisted around to see what he was pointing at. There was Dad in shirt, slacks and a captain’s cap, standing on the back seat saluting everyone he could see.

It was fun at the time. When I think back to that day, I remember that I hadn’t known he was standing up. He could swim essentially like a rock, and I myself swim like a sack of rocks. If I’d hit the gas, it would have made for an interesting scene. Or not.

Hope you’ve had a safe and healthy Fourth of July this year! Amen.

TOM DAVIES: The Verdict — Don’t Build The Convention Center Downtown

The creation of the new 400-plus parking ramp on Roberts Street in Fargo does not impact whether the proposed convention center should be built downtown. Most of its space has been rented to tenants.

That should provide some relief to existing businesses that hope that the ramp will at least take employee parking off the streets and allow for more customer parking and access.

Add the proposed Block Nine high-rise west of First Bank and Broadway, and there will already be more need to accommodate the occupants of the new building — but less parking, since it will occupy what’s now a lot.

An aside: Some serious thinking needs to go into downtown before any decision is made going forward. Consider that ugly new floodwall along Second Street North. It blocks what was a beautiful view of the Red River. I know it’s now too late now to speculate — coulda, woulda, shoulda — but wouldn’t it have been nice to raise the road to the height of the wall, preserving the natural beauty while still providing the essential flood protection? If I had to define “ugly,” that wall would qualify. (This comment on the wall also endears me to my wife, Maureen, who planted the seed in my mind.)

So, then, let’s consider the impact of putting the convention center downtown. Assuming it will be as widely used and contribute as predicted to the overall economy of the city, easy and convenient access will be essential. Think for just a moment what would happen downtown if all of the current traffic from the Fargodome were to be diverted there! We can quickly conclude there would not be sufficient roadway access and parking to accommodate it.

Even if our city planners stood on their heads and planned for eons, no plan could be possibly be developed that didn’t disrupt and partially destroy neighborhoods. New and improved access roads would be absolutely required. Ultimately, we’d need to build the largest parking facility on the planet to accommodate the needs of the folks who would use it.

I’m not suggesting that the Fargodome site on the North Dakota State University campus is necessarily the best spot for the center — just that downtown would not suffice and ought to be excluded from consideration.

* * *

While on the subject of traffic, I have my own little ax to grind. My home overlooks Elephant Park, aka Percy Godwin Park. I’m on the curve on 18th Avenue North, and no amount of money could replace our view.

The best soccer in the area is played there evenings, regardless of weather, by a group of really good players. (I think they attend North Dakota State University, but this might just be a group of men who love the game.) They are as courteous a group of men as I have ever known.

Whenever the soccer ball ends up in my yard, they always offer me an apology that I don’t need. I’ve told them that if the ball bounces into my yard, just come through the gate and get it … no permission necessary. Yet they always ask.

Now to my point: There’s no parking on the curve where they play, but they do attract onlookers. At the same time, many walkers and bikers — both children and adults — move around it. I’ve seen parents pushing baby strollers along that stretch with other children walking or biking ahead of them.

Unfortunately, some true donkeyholes also use that road and apparently drive with blinders on. Pedestrians entering from the north can’t see oncoming cars and vice versa, which creates a really hazardous situation. In the winter, the jeopardy is even worse; we’ve actually witnessed speeding cars slide off the road and down the hill.

Our neighborhood has asked the city to install speed bumps and reduce speeds to 15 or 20 mph. The most they’ve done is to install “no parking” signs in the area … which are usually ignored.

The speed limit on the wide open road on Edgewood Drive in North Fargo is 20 mph, and it has speed bumps. When those speed bumps are installed, they do just what they are supposed to do: They slow traffic waaaay down.

I hold my breath when pedestrians and motorized vehicles meet each other along that curve. And I ask myself: Will it take the death or injury of a pedestrian, probably a child, to get the city to do something about this obvious hazard?

There’s no sense in adding more police patrols; everyone slows down when police are present but ignores the limit when they’re not. But the same holds true all the time when a speed bump is installed. Everyone slows down!

* * *

Since I’m on the subject of traffic, I wonder whether the city’s sound ordinances have been eliminated. All kinds of trucks, cars and motorcycles have modified mufflers — or none at all. When their drivers so desire, they stomp on gas and create deafening noise on purpose. Some of these scofflaws are in high school, some in college; some work at the Veterans Administration Hospital, and other just drive around thinking that making noise means they’re cool.

I’ve always found it odd that a decibel meter can lead to a ticket for vehicle noise or unlawful equipment … but dealers can still sell mufflers (or otherwise modify them) that are quiet if you drive correctly, but sound like a jet taking off on one cylinder if you stomp on the gas.

It’s a problem all over town. Park on any corner near West Acres and count the number of loud, noisy or defective mufflers passing by. Pickup trucks rank No. 1. I’m not just talking about junkers. The modified late-models are enough easy to spot. They’re followed by cars, No. 2 and — in third place — motorcycles.

It would not take a patrol officer long to direct many of these noisemakers into Fargo Municipal Court or (or in the case of sheriff’s deputies and the highway patrol) into Cass District Court. Peace and quiet!

I do know none of our police officers spend their shifts letting dust gather under their feet. But every once in a while, everyone has quiet time. How better occupy it than to sit, listen and cite the noisemakers?

* * *

Last but not least, since I’m on the subject of vehicles, I’ve noticed a lot of gals driving motorcycles wearing helmets and shorts — young men, too. While jeans may not provide much protection if you fall, shorts provide none at all. You can save a lot of skin if you find yourself sliding down the pavement just by dressing correctly.

And I still see many young adults riding double on cycles and scooters with neither wearing a helmet or other protective head gear. That ride may be fun with the wind in your hair, but one accident can turn that fun into a life-changing disaster. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to give a serious thought to safety.

With that, please note that I’ve not made even one political comment this week. Live with it! Amen.

TOM DAVIES: The Verdict — Memories Of Dad’s Days In Little Rock

Most children miss their deceased fathers, especially around Father’s Day. Like them, I miss my dad, Judge Ronald N. Davies. I was sorting through some papers and came across an article by his court reporter and secretary, the late Zona A. McArthur. To my knowledge, this personal account has never been published before. If you like history, you may enjoy it.

Who Reported It?

By Zona A. McArthur

It was in 1957, a long time ago, but a time in history that held a unique experience for me.

It began with the assignment of United States District Judge Ronald N. Davies of Fargo, North Dakota, to Little Rock, Arkansas. Judge Davies had been sworn in on August 16, 1955, and I became his official court reporter less than a week later. In those days in less populated districts, the court reporter also acted as the judge’s secretary, so I went along to Little Rock.

When we arrived in Little Rock during the latter part of August, it seemed to me that no one was expecting us. As a matter of fact, the clerk of court was on vacation, and no calendar was ready.

Judge Davies began hearing matters on Aug. 29. The next day, among other cases, he heard the matter of John Aaron, et al, versus William G. Cooper and the Little Rock Independent School District, a corporation, et al. Six attorneys appeared. Then the chaos began.

A transcript was requested of the judge’s order. I prepared one, with a good many copies. The deputy United States marshal stood outside my door to hand the transcript to news reporters. They literally grabbed it and ran to write their stories.

During this period, I was greeted by a host of newsmen every morning. Finally, a deputy United States marshal was more or less permanently stationed at my door. Thereafter, the only — for lack of a better word — “static” I got was from the long-distance telephone operators. I had been told not to put through any long-distance calls to the judge, and this upset the operators.

At one point, the bailiff came in with a huge stack of mail for Judge Davies. He said they had been holding the mail in the clerk’s office because it might hurt the judge’s feelings. Judge Davies was given this mail, and thereafter similar stacks of uncomplimentary and sometimes threatening mail came in for him on a daily basis.

Judge Davies had indicated early on that it was not necessary to provide him with protection from the marshal’s office. However, after Judge Davies had read the mail and also upon the insistence of the United States marshal that it was his duty to protect him, Judge Davies accepted protection and was guarded day and night.

Of course, Judge Davies heard other matters in addition to the school desegregation case. But, as you can imagine, the halls and courtroom were packed and the atmosphere tense during those particular hearings.

There were, of course, many members of the out-of-town news media present. Toward the end of this matter, those media representatives came around wearing red ribbons, which they said were battle ribbons for serving in the “Battle of Little Rock.”

On a day when Arkansas Governor Orval Faubus was flying to a meeting of governors, President Eisenhower took over the Arkansas National Guard. When the governor left his airplane, he was interviewed about this on television. He said that, like General MacArthur, he had been relieved of his command.

Later on, I sat in my hotel room one evening watching the news and was relieved to see a caravan of covered trucks coming across the bridge into Little Rock. The 101st Airborne had arrived.

I felt lucky to be staying in a hotel about six blocks from the courthouse. After all, sometimes the only exercise a court reporter gets is by walking to and from work. None of the employees at this hotel knew what my job was. In fact, one waitress who thought she did said, “I know who you are. You’re a magazine writer.” Anyone reading this article can easily tell I am not a magazine writer.

At any rate, I did not bother to enlighten her. For several years while I was freelancing, I had lived in the South and been the beneficiary of some of the fine hospitality for which this area of the country is famous. So, having lived in this area, I was aware of local feelings and customs. I tried to maintain as low a profile as possible.

However, Judge Davies stayed at the hotel directly across the street from the courthouse and was under constant guard. Of course everyone knew who he was. How he ever managed to maintain his excellent sense of humor through this whole ordeal, I will never know. I never heard him express any rancor. In fact, he told me he would like to go back to Little Rock someday so he could see the city in the daylight. He said he was sure it was a beautiful city, but the only time he had gotten to see it was at night, “with the marshals riding shotgun.”

I know this experience is one I will never forget, but I doubt if I would “volunteer” for another like it.

*  * *

Zona was most protective of my dad. As any lawyer and members of the media will affirm, to get through to Judge Davies, you had to go through Zona first. If you didn’t have a good reason, you didn’t get by her.

When they first arrived in Little Rock and saw it was not, legally speaking, a safe place to be, Dad told his staff that anyone who wanted to bail and return to North Dakota could. Only his law clerk (not Thomas J. Gaughan) took him up on the offer and went home.

Another reason Judge Davies accepted protection from the marshals was that my mom had told him he would, period. The only person on the planet who could “direct” my father was my mom.

Wow, think for a moment how this case would have been handled by the media if all of the current means of communication had been available then. Amen.