Tuesday, March 31, 2015

David Cox Letter To Oriental Town Commissioners

On January 26, I sent a letter to Oriental's Town Commissioners that, among other things, proposed options for protecting the public and private interests of Oriental property owners in the new Town Dock. I had made similar suggestions in 2012 before filing my suit. In 2012, the Mayor's answer was "we don't want to tie our hands." In January the answer was a flat rejection.

The purpose of rule of law instead of arbitrary authoritarianism is precisely to "tie the hands of government."

In January, the Town Board simply rejected my proposals.

Here is the letter:

"January 26, 2015

From: David Cox

To: Commissioners, Town of Oriental

Subj: South Avenue

Dear Commissioner:

As you are aware, I have filed an appeal of the Superior Court’s recent orders dismissing my challenge of the Board’s decision to close South Avenue.

I am writing to explain my appeal, to assess the current status and potential future paths for my challenge, and to describe a proposal I am submitting to the Town’s attorneys.

First, I must explain that my challenge to the Board’s closure of South Avenue is not identical to my challenge of Avenue A. If it were identical, I would not pursue the South Avenue challenge after the Court of Appeals decision in Avenue A, and I certainly would not appeal the case to the same court which upheld dismissal of the Avenue A case.

The difference between the two cases is that in Avenue A I complained of infringements on “public rights,” while in South Avenue I also complain of infringements on my private property rights. To understand the importance of this difference, it is helpful to look closely at what the Court of Appeals decided in Avenue A and what it did not decide.

The Court of Appeals limited its decision to determining whether my complaint and arguments qualified me as “a person aggrieved” as that undefined term is used in the appeal provision of the street closure statute.

My basic argument in the Avenue A case was that I was a “person aggrieved” because:
1) the closure of Avenue A infringed on the rights of the public to use the public right of way;
2) I am a member of the public; and
3) I am “aggrieved” in the dictionary meaning of the term (“discontented”) with the closure.

The Court of Appeals did not accept this argument. Instead, the Court borrowed from cases defining the term “aggrieved parties” in zoning cases to decide that “any person aggrieved” in the street closure statute means:

“one who can either show an interest in the property affected, or if the party is a nearby property owner, some special damage, distinct from the rest of the community, amounting to a reduction in the value of his property.”

As the Court noted, I did not allege in my Avenue A complaint that the closure of that street caused any personal injury to my private property rights or damage my property value, but instead alleged only violations of “broad, public rights.” Given the Court’s definition of the term, it found that my “public rights” complaints did not qualify me as a “person aggrieved” under the statute.

The Court did not decide whether the Town’s deal with Mr. Fulcher and the closing of Avenue A pursuant to that deal was a lawful exercise of the Town’s legal authority.

The Court did not adopt the Town’s arguments that only abutting property owners may challenge street closures. If the Court believed that, it would have defined “person aggrieved” as including only persons owning property abutting the closed street.

The only thing the Court of Appeals determined was that because I had not included in my complaint any allegations that I had suffered personal injury to any private property interests of my own, I did not qualify as a “person aggrieved” within the meaning of the statute which establishes the procedure for appealing town street closures.

The Court went out of its way to note (twice) that it was not ruling on my separate challenge to the South Avenue closure. In addition, the Court made it clear that if I did include allegations and arguments showing personal injury to my own private property interests in the South Avenue challenge I could qualify as a “person aggrieved” with standing to pursue that separate challenge.

Because I have alleged the South Avenue closure caused injury to my private property interests, and because I am arguing in this case, based on a long line of North Carolina Court of Appeals and Supreme Court decisions, that my property interests include a private property right in the South Avenue right of way, my South Avenue challenge satisfies the elements the Court of Appeals found lacking in the Avenue A challenge.

Unfortunately the Superior Court ignored the central ruling of the Court of Appeals’ Avenue A decision and the fact that my South Avenue challenge includes the elements required to show I am a “person aggrieved” with standing to appeal the South Avenue closure. This is unfortunate because it will now require an appeal to the Court of Appeals before the case can proceed to the next steps.

Keep in mind that the question before the courts right now is not whether the town acted within its authority in closing South Avenue. The question at this point is simply whether I am a person who can ask the courts to determine whether the town did act within its authority. I am confident that the Court of Appeals will find that my South Avenue complaint meets the requirements that Court set out in its Avenue A decision for establishing the right to have the courts review the closure.

While I believe that upon review of the Board’s closure vote, the courts will find that the Board did not comply with the statutory requirements for closing a street, at this point the issue under appeal is my right to have a court review whether the closure complied with the statute, and not the “merits” of whether it did comply with the statute.

That said, I am increasingly dismayed at the amount of taxpayer money which is being invested in delaying a trial on the merits of my challenge.

Though I would prefer that South Avenue be returned to its status as a street because I believe it is a superior open space and water access point compared with the “net-house” property, I do wish to present the Board with a proposal to end further legal proceedings.

I am therefore separately forwarding to the Town’s attorneys a proposal which would satisfy my most serious concerns about the Town’s deal with Mr. Fulcher, and also allow the Town to use the new property as a “replacement” public space and water access park.

My proposal would permit the kinds of plans the Board has been considering for the property, including attendant buildings and service potential. It would require that promises which the Board has already made about the property, but which have not yet been put into effect, be fulfilled.

In order to help you understand why I continue to challenge the South Avenue closure, and the purpose of some elements of my proposal, here is an abridged version of the arguments I will make to the Court of Appeals if we are unable to reach a settlement.

My Private Property Rights in South Avenue

The Town’s attorneys have argued to the courts that the Town has a right to close public rights of way. I agree that a town may close a public right of way, if, and only if, the requirements of the closure statute are met. Obviously I do not agree that the statutory requirements were met in the closures of either Avenue A or South Avenue, or I would not have brought legal proceedings seeking to reverse those closures.

As explained above, however, the question I am currently appealing is only whether I have a right to seek a court determination of that question.

The Court of Appeals ruled in the Avenue A case that to establish my right to seek such a determination, I must complain that the closure injures my personal property interests.

Unlike my Avenue A complaint, my South Avenue challenge does allege that the closure injures my personal property interests. That complaint is supported by innumerable North Carolina court decisions over the course of more than 100 years which establish:

“It is a settled principle that if the owner of land, located within or without a city or town, has it subdivided and platted into lots and streets, and sells and conveys [any of] the lots … with reference to the plat… he thereby dedicates the streets, and all of them, to the use of the purchasers, and those claiming under them, and of the public.”

Purchasers of [such subdivision] lots … acquire vested rights to have all and each of the streets shown on the map kept open.”

To have deprived those who purchased lots with reference to the original map, and those claiming under them, of appurtenant rights in and to the streets, for the purpose of vesting such rights in another merely for private use would run counter to provisions of the Constitution of North Carolina, Art. I, Sec. 17, and to the 14th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.”

Town of Blowing Rock v. Gregorie, 243 NC 366 (1956)(emph. added)

The “vested right” in subdivision streets acquired by subdivision lot purchasers are usually described as an “easement appurtenant” – this means property interest is an “easement” which is “appurtenant” (attached) to the purchased lot. The right not only belongs to the original lot purchaser – it is passed as part of the lot to subsequent heirs or purchasers of that lot.

While the above quotes from the Gregorie case describe these rights as arising when a subdividing landowner sells lots with reference to a plat, the same rights arise when the subdividing landowner sells lots bordering on streets which are actually laid out and marked on the ground, or by reference to a map of streets adopted as an official town map. The principle is the same – when the landowner sells the lots according to a plan of streets, the right to use the planned streets is an inducement to purchase the lot, and is part of the value for which the lot purchaser pays.

The courts have also recognized that these rights to all of the planned streets arise when multiple landowners sell lots out of their respective lands according to a common street plan. A purchaser of a lot from one landowner’s property obtains rights in the planned streets which cross the other landowners’ properties if both landowners are selling according to the same street plan.

This is what happened in Oriental in 1899. All of the owners of properties within the original town sold lots according to a plan of streets laid out and marked on the ground, and later surveyed and mapped by the Town. Oriental’s founding landowners agreed in concert to develop their properties according to this common plan. Because all of Oriental’s founding landowners cooperated in selling lots according to that plan, all lot purchasers obtained appurtenant easements in all of the planned streets, including the portion of South Avenue leading to Raccoon Creek.

Mr. Clark Wright, representing the Town, acknowledged to the Superior Court that subdivision purchasers obtain such rights. Mr. Wright, however, asserted that these rights simply do not apply when a town closes a street, and that I therefore do not have standing to challenge the closure. I believe Mr. Wright is incorrect and his assertion is not supported by case law.

As for the merits of the case, should we ever reach that point, in certain limited circumstances a town may close a street even though the closure interferes with private appurtenant easements. Otherwise there would be no purpose to the street closure statute. For example, in the 1965 case of Wofford v. NC State Highway Commission, the North Carolina Supreme Court recognized a narrow “public interest” exception to “takings” claims, based on legitimate exercise of the state’s police powers .

This narrow “public interest” exception is the source of the “public interest” language in the street closure statute. As Professor David Lawrence points out, the purpose of the statute is to prohibit towns from closing streets if such closures would give rise to compensable takings in violation of the U.S. and North Carolina statutes.

You may disagree with my position that the closure of South Avenue was not within the “public interest” exception allowed by the closure statute. It may be that the courts ultimately disagree with me on that question. But that question is not related to whether I have standing to have a court determine the matter.

The purpose of the appeal provision of the closure statute is to allow a court to review whether the closure complies with the provisions of the closure statute, including the “public interest” provision. The Court of Appeals’ Avenue A decision held that the question of whether or not I have standing is determined by whether or not I have claimed a property interest in the “affected property” or damage to my property value that is different from the rest of the community, not whether the Town has the right to close a street despite such property interest or damage.

It is very clear under North Carolina case law that I own a vested private property interest in the South Avenue right of way. The elimination of that right of way necessarily reduces the value of my property interest, particularly considering the water access rights included in that right of way. This meets the Court of Appeals’ definition of a “person aggrieved” with standing to bring an appeal of the street closure.

In a series of protracted court battles, subdivision owners with private appurtenant easement rights in the public streets of the Town of Oak Island successfully challenged that town’s attempts to misuse subdivision water-front street ends for non-street purposes (construction of parks), and I believe the Court of Appeals will apply the same reasoning and hold that I have standing to challenge Oriental’s closure of South Avenue.

Whether the Town acted lawfully in closing the street pursuant to its deal with Mr. Fulcher will then be directly before the courts.

Because the Town closed the street in order to benefit Mr. Fulcher and to acquire valuable real property which the Town may at any time close off to the public, or lease or sell to private interests in order to raise revenue, I believe the closure constitutes an unlawful taking of my Constitutionally-protected property rights without due process and compensation.

While I could seek compensation for that taking in inverse condemnation proceedings, I instead prefer to have South Avenue continue to be available, which is why I have sought a reversal of the Board’s closure vote.

My Proposal for Settlement of Litigation

The agreement between the Town and Mr. Fulcher stated that after the closure of South Avenue, Mr. Fulcher would “rededicate” a portion of South Avenue leading to the new property acquired by the Town. So far as I can tell, this has not been done. The deed transferring the new property to the Town describes the entire parcel as a fee simple conveyance to the Town, including former portions of South Avenue. Dedication and acceptance of public amenities would tie the Town’s hands. Three years ago, the mayor informed me he didn’t want the Town’s hands tied.

The Board unanimously adopted a resolution declaring its intent “that any property obtained by the Town of [Oriental on] Raccoon Creek, as a direct or indirect consequence of closing the right of way on South Avenue, will be dedicated as a public park, with public Water Access on Raccoon Creek.” No dedication has occurred, and the resolution appears without legal effect on the future of the property. The Town has argued (citing Watts v. Valdese) that regardless of any past use or how acquired, a Town has complete discretion to sell or exchange any real property it owns. I agree. But there are ways to preserve amenities for future generations, typically through dedication and acceptance. That should have been done at the time of the transfer.

If these matters were properly addressed in a way to preserve the amenities for the future, I might be willing to abandon further litigation. Such measures should include at least :
1. Proper dedication of the new property to the public and acceptance by the Town on the public’s behalf;
2. Dedication of the property as an easement appurtenant to all properties within the original borders of the Town;
3. Abandonment by the Town of all efforts to seek sanctions under rule 11.

This proposal will not only effectuate promises already made by the Board, but will ensure enforceable public and private rights to use the property for water access purposes for future generations.

David R. Cox

Cc: The Honorable Bill Sage, Mayor"

Monday, March 30, 2015

Only Two Doolittle Raiders Left

April 18, 1942, 16 US Army B-25 Medium Bombers took off from the Navy Carrier Hornet to attack the Japanese home islands. This was one of the most remarkable military operations in history. It happened only four months and eleven days after the attack on Pearl Harbor. The raid didn't do much damage, but it showed Japan they were vulnerable and changed the course of the war. If you haven't seen the movie Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo, put the movie on your list.
Retired Lt. Col. Robert Hite, one of the famed World War II Doolittle Tokyo Raiders, has died. He was 95 and had Alzheimer's disease .
LA Times

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Town Of Oriental v. Lacy Henry (Highlights)

Remember the previous South Avenue Case? The Town spent tens of thousands of dollars to win clear control over the terminus of South Avenue.

Lacy HENRY and wife, Judy
B. Henry, Defendants.
No. COA08–896.
Court of Appeals of North Carolina.
July 7, 2009.
Background: Town filed suit against purported owners of portion of street that was
never paved or used for vehicular traffic,
seeking to clear title to property. Defendants filed motion to dismiss for failure to
state a claim upon which relief can be
granted. Town filed motion for summary
judgment. The Superior Court, Pamlico
County, Kenneth F. Crow, J., denied
town’s motion, treated defendants’ motion
as one for summary judgment, and granted summary judgment to defendants.
Town appealed.
Holdings: The Court of Appeals, Stephens, J., held that:
(1) unpaved portion of street that was never paved or used for vehicular traffic
remained dedicated to public use;
(2) withdrawal of dedication of portion of
street that was never paved or used for
vehicular traffic by its former owner
was ineffective; and
(3) purported owners were not permitted
to acquire possession of the property
by adverse possession.
Reversed and remanded.
1. Appeal and Error O893(1)
Standard of review for summary judgment is de novo.
2. Dedication O19(5), 29, 31
Generally, where lots are sold and conveyed by reference to a map or plat which represents a division of a tract of land into subdivisions of streets and lots, such streets become dedicated to public use, and the purchaser of the lot or lots acquires the right to have each of the streets kept open; [There is more, but this is pertinent to Cox v. Town]

Appeal by Plaintiff from order entered 2
May 2008 by Judge Kenneth F. Crow in
Pamlico County Superior Court. Heard in
the Court of Appeals 29 January 2009.

Wheatly, Wheatly, Weeks & Lupton, P.A.,by Stevenson L. Weeks, Beaufort, and Davis,Hartman, Wright, PLLC, by Michael ScottDavis, New Bern, for Plaintiff.Lee, Hancock & Lasitter, PA, by Moses D.Lasitter, and McAfee Law, P.A., by Robert
J. McAfee, New Bern, for Defendants.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Cox Surrenders to Town Government's Taking

This is to let readers of my blog know that I have formally surrendered in the court case of Cox v. Town of Oriental in what I still view as a swindle.

I call it a swindle because when Town Government closed the terminus of South Avenue, they took my personal property right (and the right of other property owners in the Village) to an easement in that street and gave it to another citizen. Not because I say so, but because more than a hundred years of NC Supreme Court decisions say so. The Court of Appeals spelled it out in the second paragraph of their 2009 opinion in the case of Town of Oriental v. Henry: "Generally," the Court said, "where lots are sold and conveyed by reference to a map or plat which represents a division of a tract of land into subdivisions of streets and lots, such streets become dedicated to public use, and the purchaser of the lot or lots acquires the right to have each of the streets kept open...." 

I didn't surrender because the Town had the right to close South Avenue - they didn't. I surrendered because I no longer have the material and emotional resources to continue the fight, even though the prospects for a win at the Court of Appeals were excellent. But I had to face the possibility that even after a win I might face additional years of litigation.

I'm sorry the elected officials of the Town spent so much money on the effort to keep the legal issues from being ruled on by the Court of Appeals. I'm sorry the Town Government has done nothing to protect future public access to and ownership rights of the new Town Dock, as I urged them repeatedly to do.

From 2002 to 2009 the Town Government spent tens of thousands of dollars to defend its control of South Avenue and to defend the rights of its citizens to use that public way to access public trust waters. That effort sought to bring legal issues before the Court of Appeals. Now the Commissioners claim to have spent more than 80 thousand to abandon the fruits of that victory for the Town's citizens and property owners. This time the Town Government's purpose in the court fight was to keep the issues away from the Court of Appeals.
I am grateful to the Court of Appeals for spelling out in its opinion on Avenue A what I needed to do to win on South Avenue. I am also grateful to the Court that it did not affirm a single one of the Town's claims to have lawful authority to do what they did.

That being said, I could easily foresee two or three more years of effort to oppose this taking, with an uncertain outcome. I have other things to do.

I have abandoned the court fight, but I will not abandon my concern for public access to public trust waters.

Thanks for your support.

David Cox

Friday, March 20, 2015

Town of Oriental Press Release

Readers of The Pamlico News will know about the lengthy screed published on the front page of Wednesday's edition. The lead in paragraph described the screed as the "settlement agreement" between the Town and me.

It is not.

The document, described as a "Press Release," was forwarded to local press by Town Hall, with the following message:

"From: Town Manager <Manager@townoforiental.com>
Date: Tue, Mar 17, 2015 at 12:42 PM
To: editor@thepamliconews.com, Jeff@compassnews360.com, Charlie Hall <charlie.hall@newbernsj.com>, Town Dock <info@towndock.net>

Good Afternoon,
Please see attached Press Release. Any further comment from the Town can be solicited from Mayor Bill Sage at 252-670-8227.

David Cox Comment: The Town's "Press Release" is quoted below. I have been told by a usually reliable source who wrote the document, but until the author has the fortitude to sign it, I prefer to call the author "anonymous" or "concealed."

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE—March 17, 2015—Oriental, NC
To paraphrase Gerald Ford, “Our long David Cox nightmare is over.” A full release including a dismissal with prejudice of all lawsuits and appeals filed against the Town by Oriental resident David Cox has been executed by Cox and Oriental Mayor Bill Sage on behalf of the Town. The long and expensive ordeal began when Cox challenged the Town’s authority under state statutes to close the street rights-of-way at South Avenue’s western terminus at Raccoon Creek and all of Avenue A. Cox filed a lawsuit in August 2012 objecting to the Town’s closing of Avenue A, which was done by order of the Board of Commissioners after a public hearing in July 2012. After a hearing in Pamlico County Superior, Senior Resident Superior Court Judge Benjamin Alford, on April 6, 2013, dismissed all counts of the complaint filed by Cox . Cox had represented himself, pro se, in the court hearing. Cox then obtained an attorney who filed an appeal to the North Carolina Court of Appeals from Judge Alford’s order dismissing the case.
After the dismissal of the lawsuit, the Town entered an order to close the western end of South Avenue to the waters of Raccoon Creek. The order announced the intention of the Board to dedicate the property as a park providing public access to Raccoon Creek and public amenities to be constructed thereon. Picnic tables were purchased and placed on the property as part of the process of making it a first-class amenity for the Town citizens and visitors alike.
Notwithstanding that his case had been dismissed and an appeal filed, Cox (again acting pro se) filed a second lawsuit against the Town for the closing of a portion of South Avenue. This meant that the Town had to pay its attorneys not only for successfully obtaining dismissal of the first suit and to fully brief the issues to the Court of appeals, but now also to start the process again on the second lawsuit. The Town’s legal bills began mounting to tens of thousands of dollars. The Town filed motions similar to the earlier motions in the first case to dismiss the second and for sanctions against Cox for filing the second suit. Superior Court Judge John Nobles entered a stay of the second action pending the outcome of the appeal, on the grounds that the appeal would likely resolve the second case.
On the first of July 2014, the Court of Appeals filed its opinion and order affirming Judge Alford’s order dismissing the first lawsuit. The opinion found that Cox had no standing to bring the first suit. By this point, the Town had spent more than $60000 on the Cox lawsuits and the Town’s attorneys invited Cox to dismiss his second action in light of the Court of Appeals’ decision, to end the farce once and for all, warning Cox that sanctions would be pursued if he refused. Cox refused to take a dismissal and, therefore, the Town was obliged to file yet another exhaustive brief to the Superior Court and to renew its formal motions to dismiss. Judge Alford held a hearing on November 24, 2014 on the motions and subsequently issued his order dismissing all of the second lawsuit, another complete victory for the Town, but at considerable additional cost. Cox then did the unimaginable. He filed an appeal to the Court of Appeals of Judge Alford’s order dismissing the second case.
Judge Alford had indicated that the Town’s motion for sanctions was still ripe and that he would hear a motion if the Town pressed it. Further talks between the Town attorneys and Cox ensued and as deadlines at the Court of Appeals approached and passed, Cox finally agreed to dismiss the appeal and all matters and suits against the Town. The Town merely agreed not to pursue sanctions any further. The release and dismissal was signed and will be submitted to the Court this week. The total cost to the Town of Oriental of David Cox’s actions is likely to be in excess of $80000.
During this expensive and lengthy process, the Town proceeded with completing the partially built dock on the property obtained from Mr. Fulcher. We now enjoy a beautiful new eighty-foot public dock for visiting boaters to The Sailing Capital of North Carolina. In addition, the Town applied for and has been awarded grants for the construction of a public restroom facility on the property and for acquisition and placement on the property of a waste pumpout station for vessels visiting the new Town Dock Number Two. Plans are approved and construction is proceeding. The old historic boathouse on the property is to be fully renovated into a Visitors Center, adding yet another much needed amenity to the Town assets for visiting boaters and other tourists.
The Town Board of Commissioners and the Manager and her staff are about to enter the budget process for the next fiscal year. But for Mr. Cox and his lawsuits and appeals, there would be many more dollars available for Oriental to use in providing facilities and services to its citizens and visitors."

Diane H. Miller
Town Manager
Town of Oriental, NC
507 Church St PO Box 472
Oriental, NC 28571
Pursuant to NC General Statutes Chapter 132, Public Records, this electronic mail message and any attachments hereto, as well as electronic mail message(s) that may be sent in response to it may be considered a public record and as such are subject to request and review by anyone at any time."

David Cox Comment:

I urge any member of the public having questions about the document to follow the instructions and call Mayor Bill Sage.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Good For David Boren

David Boren, President of the University oF Oklahoma, has a moral compass.

He also knows how to take decisive action. Would that more of our leaders take heed.

David Boren is not a household name in most of the country. In fact, no University President anywhere across our land is likely to be as well known as the football or basketball coach. Nobel laureates on the faculty? Who cares!

David Boren is unusual. Former governor of the state of Oklahoma, former senator from Oklahoma, he resigned his senate seat to accept the position as President of OU. In his campaign for Oklahoma governor, he defeated James Inhofe. Boren was a Rhodes Scholar.

As for decisive action, he has expelled two members of SAE who were ringleaders in the racist chant, closed the SAE fraternity and forced them to move out of their building on campus.

"Sooners aren't bigots," he announced.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

47 Senators Violate Logan Act

Is there something significant about the number 47? That's the same number Mitt Romney used to describe the percentage of Americans who weren't going to vote for him. Just sayin'.

Those curious about US law may have learned that the 47 Republican senators signing the letter to officials of Iran appear to have violated the Logan Act and be subject to 3 years in prison.

So who was Logan and why was the Act passed? Here's a good summary of the history of the Act. And it is a long history.

In 1798 a certain American citizen named Logan travelled to France and worked to improve US - French relations and to free Americans captured by France during the Quasi-War. Logan was a follower of Thomas Jefferson (of the Democratic-Republican party). President Adams, of the Federalist Party, was outraged.  This was not just about Constitutional prerogatives - Adams sought improved relations with Great Britain while Jefferson sought improved relations with France.

So much for the idea that "politics stops at the water's edge."

It never did.

In more than two centuries, there has never been a prosecution under the Logan Act, though there have been some close calls.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Powerful Words

In yesterday' Atlantic, James Fallows pays tribute to President Obama's words on the Pettus Bridge at Selma.

None of us can add to the President's eloquence and wisdom, but Fallows helps us fit the passages into our own hopes and dreams: http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2015/03/finally-i-hear-a-politician-explain-my-country-the-way-i-understand-it/387178/

There were, in the President's words, echoes of Lincoln. And of Jefferson - and of those who cobbled together a rickety Constitution to hold together a great nation whose citizens often didn't like each other much. But no matter.

We can overcome our divisions and do great things together - and have done so, on occasion.

We are not perfect - or even close, but we can become more perfect if we so choose.

I was also reminded in the President's words of the voice and vision of a great poet who celebrated

"the American muse, whose strong and diverse heart
So many men have tried to understand
But only made it smaller with their art,
Because you are as various as your land,"

Don't take my word for it, read John Vincent Benet's epic poem John Brown's Body  for yourself:

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Yankee Station And Selma

Fifty years ago, my ship was boring holes in the South China Sea, firing projectiles into the jungles of South Vietnam at targets we couldn't see - some nine miles away. It was hard and challenging work and our sailors did it well, but in the end it had little effect.

Meanwhile, brave Americans marched to Selma, stood up for freedom in Greensboro, marched in Memphis, and changed America for the better. These were real patriots and I salute them.

And so did President Obama:  http://www.vox.com/2015/3/7/8168085/president-obama-selma-50

Monday, March 2, 2015

Nemtsov Memorial March

I was glad to see photos of crowds marching in Moscow in honor of Boris Nemtsov.

This march really took more courage than the "Je suis Charlie" demonstrations in France. Supporters of Nemtsov could be in real danger from the Russian state.

Good for them.