Category Archives: Law

Some Advice From Your Substitute Teacher

Greetings from Your Sub!

Dear Student:

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I occasionally work as a substitute teacher in Minnesota.  From time to time, students will ask personal questions about me, and more often than not, the answer I give is “Google me.”  On the off chance that some student took me up on that request, I applaud your curiosity and welcome you to my blog.

As you might have guessed (yet surprisingly, many students have not figured this out), I do not earn a living substitute teaching.  In fact, it would be very difficult to do so, since it pays only about $130 a day in most districts.  I’m actually an attorney, and I get most of my income by providing continuing legal education programs to attorneys in several states.   For the skeptics who want to see my attorney license, here it is.  And for the more justifiable skeptics who want to see my teaching license, here that is.  If you’re curious why I enjoy working as a sub, that’s explained at my earlier blog post.

Why I Told You to Drop Out of School

Most of the students I have occasion to teach are great.  And on the relatively rare occasions when they’re not, I don’t need to come back!  That’s the nice thing about substitute teaching.  If I don’t like my work environment, I’m only stuck there for one day, and I can easily find a better one.  If I want to work some particular day, there are almost always numerous options, and I’m free to chose any of them.  Or I can simply take a day off whenever I feel like it.  So if I’m in your class one time, it could very well be a random occurrence.  But if you see me a second time, it’s because I want to be there (or possibly because I forgot how bad you were).  Very few jobs have that level of flexibility.  Your regular teacher is probably stuck with you for an entire year.  But I have a choice.

But there’s one group of students that is a particular concern.  They’re a relatively small percentage, but they pose a frustration.  I’m not worried about the kids who misbehave.  The misbehaving students don’t really bother me, and if they do, I simply don’t come back.  The ones that cause frustration are the ones who appear to be totally disengaged.  Occasionally, I give them a surprising piece of advice, namely, that they should drop out of school as soon as they are legally able to do so.

This probably comes as a surprising piece of advice, and I suspect that other teachers don’t say this.  But in some cases, it is in the student’s best interest.  (There is another possible course of action for them, which I’ll explain in a minute.  But my advice that they drop out of school is an improvement over what they are currently doing.)

As far as I can tell, there are three reasons for you to be in school.  You are apparently already aware of one of them, or maybe even two of them.  But you don’t understand the third reason.  And unless you understand the third reason, there’s really little reason for you to be there, and you would actually be better off just dropping out of school.

Reason 1: The Compulsory Attendance Law

gavelYou already know about the first reason for being in school.  You’re in school because you have to be in school.  Specifically, there is a Minnesota law that says you have to be in school until you are 17 years old.  If this is the only reason you are in school, you are engaging in a tragic waste of time.  At the end of the day, you are an day older, but you have absolutely nothing to show for it.  In your case, the law is doing more harm than good.  It’s unlikely that you’ll be able to convince anyone to change the law.  Therefore, if this is the only reason you’re in school (and for a handful of you, it apparently is), then my advice stands.  You will be better off if you drop out of school.  If you do drop out, you won’t learn anything, and you won’t get a high school diploma.  But if you continue as you are now, those things aren’t going to happen anyway.  So rather than continue to waste your time, my advice still stands.  You’ll be better off if your drop out the moment you’re allowed to do so legally.  Here is the Minnesota law on compulsory attendance. In general, it says that you can drop out the day you hit 17.  And that will work out better for you than what’s currently happening.  On behalf of the voters in the state who gave you this law, I apologize that you have to wait this long.

Reason 2:  Getting a Diploma

My advice changes, however, if you are in school not merely because you have to, but because you want a high school diploma.  If you attend school for thirteen years and do the bare minimum, then you’ll get a piece of paper from the school district attesting to this fact.

I don’t wish to unnecessarily downplay the importance of receiving that piece of paper.  There are certain jobs which will require your having that piece of paper.  And if you research the history of the diploma pictured here, you’ll discover that a lot of brave people who went before you fought for the right of everyone to earn that piece of paper.  So if you’re in school with the goal of earning that piece of paper, then I guess perhaps I’ll take back my advice.  Perhaps you shouldn’t drop out.  Earning the diploma is not particularly difficult, but there are some hoops you will need to jump through.  And you can’t do that if you continue to be as disengaged as you were when I saw you.  If you just sit there every day and make no effort to do the things the teacher asks you to do, then I have some bad news for you:  You’re not going to get one of those pieces of paper.  So if that’s the case, my original advice still stands.  You’ll be better off if you drop out as soon as you are able.  Your time in school will be utterly wasted.  You won’t have anything to show for it.  You won’t be any smarter, and you won’t get a diploma.  If you drop out, at least maybe you can start earning some money.  And you’ll probably learn more than if you wasted all that time just sitting in school doing nothing.

But perhaps I just caught you on a bad day.  You didn’t want to learn anything from the sub, but perhaps you occasionally let your other teachers teach you something.  If that’s the case, then I take back my advice, and I tell you now not to drop out.  At least you’ll get that piece of paper.

Before I tell you my final reason for being in school, I have a couple of secrets for you.  The first is that the piece of paper, the diploma, has much less value than you think it does.  It is the bare minimum requirement for a lot of jobs.  So if you don’t have a diploma, you will be excluded from most of the economy.

But especially after a few years, nobody will really care if you have a high school diploma.  (To a large extent, that’s also true of college diplomas, but I’ll talk about that some other time.)  It’s just a piece of paper.  People will look down on you if you don’t have one, and you’ll be excluded from most jobs if you don’t have one.  But other than that bare minimum, nobody will really care if you have one.  In short, it’s not a particularly worthy goal in and of itself.  Yes, it’s something you need.  But nobody will be impressed that you have it.

The other little secret is that the school board, the administration, and your teachers have various incentives to make sure you get a diploma.  It reflects poorly on them if you drop out (unlike your substitute teacher, who doesn’t really have any incentives one way or another, and who can thus speak the truth).  Because of those incentives, your teachers will help you and do everything in their power to make sure you get a diploma if it is humanly possible.

Along the way, there will also be some standardized tests.  Your teachers also have have various incentives for you to do well on those tests.  But even more so than with the piece of paper you get after 13 years, nobody else really cares how well you do on those tests.

Your teachers might even cut corners to “help” you graduate.  For example, they might say that you passed the class, when you really didn’t learn anything.  You get the diploma, they get credit for making sure you got one, and everyone is happy.

In most cases, your teachers and administrators are much more motivated than this.  They actually want you to do well because they are good people.  They became teachers because they actually want their students to learn, and the good ones could have made more money by doing something else.  But while they have incentives to make sure you get a diploma, they don’t really have any incentive to prepare you for life.  They’re good people, but they have their limits.  At some point, as long as they make sure you get a diploma, they’ll eventually give up.  Anything beyond just getting the piece of paper is your responsibility.

For them, it’s a success if you graduate, and nothing more is expected of them.  But all you have to show for it is a piece of paper.  They were successful in getting a diploma in your hands.  But will you be successful?  It will take more than that piece of paper to make you a success.

The Third Reason for Being in School

brainThat brings us to the third reason for being in school.  We’ve already addressed the first two:  The first is because you have to be there, which is not a good enough reason, in my opinion.  The second reason is so that you can get a diploma, which is just barely a good enough reason to stay.  It’s great for your teachers, because they get credit for graduating you.  But who is more important, you or your teachers?

If you think you are more important, then you need to think about the third reason for going to school.  And that third reason is to actually learn something.  And unfortunately, there is only one person who is ultimately responsible for that, and that person is you.

Now, I will admit that some of what you learn in school is utterly useless.  As you put it, you will never need to apply this information “in the real world.”  But there’s actually less of that than you would think.   And unfortunately, neither I nor anyone else will sit down and tell you what is useless and what is important.  You need to figure that out yourself.  In fact, figuring out what’s important and what’s not important is the single most important thing that you’ll actually learn.  And to learn that, you’ll need to be exposed to both the useless and the useful information.

And even though it’s not immediately obvious, much of what you learn in school will actually be helpful in life.  However, in most cases, it will not be directly helpful.  For example, it’s unlikely that you will ever need to use the quadratic formula.  It’s certainly not necessary that you have it memorized, since you can look it up in the unlikely event you need it.  But even though you will not directly apply this one piece of knowledge, there are many times that you will need to indirectly apply the knowledge you have learned.  You need to be able to recognize that there is such a thing as the quadratic formula, and you will need to solve similar problems in life.  Very few will have anything to do with mathematics, but the same problem-solving skills will apply.  Unfortunately, I can’t prove this to you.  It’s one of those things where you’ll have to just take my word for it.

What you are really learning is that certain types of questions can be answered, some of them can be answered easily, and some can be answered only with great difficulty.  You will also learn that some questions can’t be answered.  Being able to recognize the difference is the main thing that you are learning in school.  You will be successful if you learn how to recognize the problems that can be solved easily.  If you don’t learn this, you’ll waste your life trying to solve problems which have no solution.  It’s best to simply avoid such problems.  And in school, you’ll learn how to recognize them.  And unfortunately, for now, you’ll just have to trust me as to the truth of that statement.

You should also be aware that other people will frequently give you the wrong answers to questions.  Sometimes this is intentional, but the motivation of the other person is rarely relevant.  The important thing to know is that you will often be presented with information that is wrong.  This means that you need to be able to figure out things for yourself.  Your teachers might also give you misinformation.  But in the process, they will also be giving you the tools to figure out that the information is wrong.  Again, the facts that you learn in school are generally unimportant.  But in the process of learning them, you will also learn how to separate reality from the fantasy that is presented by someone else.  The piece of paper won’t help you with this–it’s necessary to go beyond the bare minimum.

In summary, if you are only in school because you have to be, then my advice stands:  You should drop out, because you’re wasting your time.  If you’re there to get a diploma, then I guess that’s marginally useful  But at the very least, you need to make some effort to meet the minimum requirements for the diploma.  Merely showing up isn’t quite enough.

But since you’re going to be there anyway, then you may as well make an effort to learn something.  If the classes you are in have absolutely no relevance to your life, then talk to your counselor, and get put in different classes.  But even if that’s not possible, you’ll probably learn something that’s useful, albeit not immediately useful.

I enjoyed having you in class, even if I told you to drop out.  But I hope you understand that it would be better for you if you don’t drop out.  But in order for that to work, you’ll need to start actually doing some of the things the teacher asks you to do.  If you don’t, then my original advice stands.

If I was wrong, and my advice doesn’t apply to you, there’s no need to prove that to me.  There’s only one person to whom you need to prove that I was wrong, and that is yourself.

Sincerely yours,

Richard Clem, Minnesota Substitute Teacher

Judge Addison Brown: Renaissance Man

Addison Brown by Whipple, 1852.png

Addison Brown. Wikipedia image.

When you think of federal district judges, you generally don’t think of botany or astronomy.  But that’s because you haven’t heard of Judge Addison Brown, Judge of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.

In 1878, while a New York attorney, Brown traveled to Colorado to observe a total eclipse. His observations of the eclipse were published by the Naval Observatory in 1880.

Brown first notes that his telescope “arrived uninjured after its journey of 2000 miles,” and then laments that during the week previous to the eclipse, his bodily indisposition prevented his performing a fair share of the preliminary work of his team’s mountain encampment at an elevation of 9000 feet. Nonetheless, Brown kept the chronometer properly set, relying upon a colleague at Central City, CO, which had telegraphic communication with Washington in order to receive daily time signals from the Naval Observatory.

One of Brown's sketches of the 1878 eclipse. GoogleBooks.

One of Brown’s sketches of the 1878 eclipse. Google Books.

Brown apparently overcame his altitude sickness and was in camp the day of the eclipse on July 29, 1878. He noted that “the only disadvantage of the elevated station was its exposure to the high southerly and westerly winds which prevailed. On the morning of the eclipse, warned by the furious gale of the day previous, which nearly carried away our encampment, the telescope was removed to the partial shelter at the rear of our extemporized observatory, where comparative quiet was secured. In other respects, the day was faultless; the atmosphere was clear and brilliant, and the few fleecy clouds that appeared after noon offered no obstruction to our work.”

To ensure that his eyes would adjust to having good night vision at the moment of totality, Brown bound a bandage around his eyes five minutes before totality. Upon totality, he removed the bandage, allowing him to make his description of the corona. Brown notes that, to his surprise, “the light was sufficient to read the print of the New York Tribune’s editorials without difficulty.” He described the corona as having a yellowish hue, rather than the “pearly white” he had expected.

After ten seconds’ observation of the corona, Brown turned his attention to the horizon, which was a “gorgeous glow of orange-yellow light, with scarcely any red intermingled.” The wind, which had been strong before the eclipse, gradually lessened as totality approached. By the time of totality, it was hushed to nearly a perfect calm.

After observing the horizon for but a few precious seconds, Brown returned to his telescope, where he made more observations of the corona, the sketches of which were included in his accounts.

Judge Brown’s scientific pursuits were not limited to astronomy.  Brown was the author, along with Nathaniel Lord Britton, of the three-volume Illustrated Flora of the Northern United States and Canadawhich is still available from Amazon at the links below.

Brown was named to the bench as a recess appointment by President Garfield in 1881.  He was formally nominated and confirmed by the Senate later that year.  He retired in 1901 and died in 1913.

Jim Crow, 1937


Eighty years ago today, Life Magazine,  May 24, 1937, carried these images of two separate but “equal” rail cars in the southern United States.  The car on the left was reserved for white passengers, with the one on the right for African Americans.  The caption noted that the car for whites was spotlessly clean and air conditioned, with individual seats.  For the same fare, black passengers travelled in a dirtier car without air conditioning with standard seats.

The magazine feature was prompted by a lawsuit by Rep. Arthur Mitlchel of Illinois, who was then the only black Member of Congress. In April, he had traveled by rail from Chicago to Hot Springs, Arkansas. He traveled in a Pullman car and first class coach until the train reached the Arkansas state line. At that time , as required by Arkansas law, the conductor asked him to move to the Jim Crow coach, which the Congressman called filthy.

He brought suit against the railroad, but made clear that he was not crusading for the end of Jim Crowism. Instead, he was seeking merely the “equal accommodations” promised by the law. He lost before the ICC and the District Court, but ultimately appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The case, Mitchell v. United States, 313 U.S. 80 (1941) was decided in Mitchell’s favor on April 28, 1941.  In 1896, the Court had ruled in Plessy v. Ferguson, 163 U.S. 537 (1896), that “separate but equal” satisfied the Equal Protection clause.  That case wasn’t overruled until 1954 in Brown v. Board of Education, 347 U.S. 483 (1954).  But in Mitchell, the Court held that equal does, indeed, mean equal.

The railroad and the ICC had argued that there was little demand for first class accommodations by African-American passengers.   In fact, the evidence suggested that Mitchell was the first black person to request first class accommodations on the train. But the court held that this was irrelevant, since the ruling “made the constitutional right depend upon the number of persons who may be discriminated against, whereas the essence of that right is that it is a personal one.”

The practical difficulties were irrelevant, according to the court. It was enough that the discrimination had taken place.



Congress Institutes Draft: 1917

On this day one hundred years ago, May 18, 1917, Congress passed the Selective Service Act of 1917, authorizing the military draft, now that the nation was at war.

Unlike the draft for the Civil War, the act specifically prohibited the hiring of substitutes:

No person liable to military service shall hereafter be permitted or allowed to furnish a substitute for such service; nor shall any substitute be received, enlisted, or enrolled in the military service of the United States; and no such person shall be permitted to escape such service or to be discharged therefrom prior to the expiration of his term of service by the payment of money or any other valuable thing whatsoever as consideration his release from military service or liability there to.

The first registration under the act, for men age 21-31, was set for June 5, 1917.  18 year olds were set to be registered in 1918.

In 1918, the U.S. Supreme Court held the Act constitutional.


Texas City Disaster, 1947

Parking lot a quarter mile from the blast. Wikipedia photo.

Today marks the 70th anniversary of the deadliest industrial accident in U.S. history, the Texas City disaster of April 16, 1947, which started as a fire aboard the French-registered vessel SS Grandcamp docked at Texas City, Texas, with 2200 tons of ammonium nitrate. The disaster killed at least 581 people, including all but one member of the Texas City fire department.

Smoke was spotted in the cargo hold of the Grandcamp at about 8:00 AM. The captain ordered his crew to steam the hold, which probably made matters worse by converting the ammonium nitrate to nitrous oxide.

Spectators gathered, believing that they were a safe distance away. The sealed hold began to bulge, and water splashing against the hull began to boil.

The cargo detonated at 9:12 AM, with a blast leveling over a thousand buildings on land and destroyed the Monsanto chemical plan and ignited refinery and chemical tanks on the waterfront. Bails of twine from the cargo were set afire and hurled around the city. People in Galveston, 10 miles away, were forced to their knees, and the shock wave was felt as far as 250 miles away.

The ironically named SS High Flyer was docked nearby, and the blast set fire to that ship’s cargo of ammounium nitrate. Fifteen hours later, that ship exploded.

As might be expected, the blast destroyed much of the city’s communication infrastructure, and amateur radio operators quickly responded to fill the gap.  Many of these stories are detailed in the July 1947 issue of QST (pages 38-40).

B.H. Standley, W5FQQ, on the air at city hall, along with city clerk Ernest Smith, Nurse Mrs. E.L. Brockman.

B.H. Standley, W5FQQ, on the air at city hall, along with city clerk Ernest Smith, Nurse Mrs. E.L. Brockman.

By noon, the first amateur portable and mobile stations had moved into the city and were on the air, working in conjuction with Army, Navy, Coast Guard, U.S. Engineers, FBI, and local and state police. Links were quickly set up between City Hall and stations in Houston and San Antonio. Most traffic was handled on 75 meter phone and 80 and 40 meter CW. W5KMZ reportedly handled over 200 messages, mostly involving needed medical supplies. As the hours went on, additional traffic was handled by W5FQQ at the mayor’s office, with over 300 messages passing on behalf of city officials, the Army, Red Cross, and Salvation Army.

An impromptu three-way net was established on 3989 kHz between Texas City, Galveston, and Houston.

Two hams, W5FQQ and W5EEX, had been advised to evacuate but remained at their stations. They narrowly escaped death when the High Flyer lived up to its name with its explosion. W5FQQ was on the air at the time of the blast, and the blast was heard by W5IGS in Houston. 21 seconds later, the Houston station experienced his windows shaking.

W1AW declared the emergency to be over 11 days later, on April 17.

As might be expected, considerable litigation followed, much of it under the Federal Tort Claims Act for alleged negligence of the U.S. Government. The case ultimately made its way to the U.S. Supreme Court, Dahelite v. United States, 346 U.S. 15 (1953), in which the court held that the Government was not liable, since all of the claimed government negligence amounted to discretionary acts.

Old Glory: Banned in Boston


We recently carried an image , a smaller version of which is shown at the right above, of the SS Kansan, illustrating how the U.S. flag was illuminated to make abundantly clear that the ship was a neutral vessel.  The image appeared on the cover of the January 1917 issue of Electrical Experimenter.

Newsstand readers in Boston, however, didn’t see the flag.  Instead, some of them saw a sticker of Santa Claus.  Massachusetts law forbade the sale of goods displaying the flag, so news dealers were forced to obscure it.  In this case, Santa Claus got the honors of being the censor.  The image above is taken from the magazine’s March issue, which explained the odd juxtaposition.

Justice William O. Douglas, 1947


Shown here 70 years ago at the soda fountain of a drug store near the U.S. Supreme Court is Associate Justice William O. Douglas.

The 17 year old soda jerk serving him is his daughter, Mildred Douglas, and the picture appeared in the February 24, 1947, issue of Life magazine. According to the magazine, she was somewhat abashed by the publicity, and announced that she took the job for the money, earning 65 cents per hour. Her younger brother, Bill, 14, had a paper route.

Douglas was four times married and three times divorced. He divorced Mildred’s mother, also named Mildred, in 1953.  The children were subsequently estranged from their father, and the younger Mildred was later quoted as saying that the Justice “never talked to us like we were people” that “when he got angry at us, which was often over the slightest things, he would simply not speak to us for days on end,” and that she “didn’t like him very much because of the way he treated my mother.”

When the elder Mildred died, the Justice was not immediately informed, since neither sibling felt the desire to inform him.

Editorial Endorsement: Gary Johnson for President

Today, we interrupt our normal programming and announce our endorsement for President of the United States.

I am a lifelong Republican, and have voted for every Republican nominee since Ronald Reagan in 1980. In some cases, I cast my vote enthusiastically. In other cases, I only reluctantly voted for the nominee. But in each case, I believed that the nominee more or less reflected the principles of the party of Abraham Lincoln and Ronald Reagan. I am also a card-carrying Republican, both as a precinct officer and delegate to the Minnesota state Republican convention (although the party would certainly be within its rights to remove me for publishing this endorsement.)

For the first time in 36 years, I will be voting for someone other than a Republican for the nation’s highest office. This year, I will be voting for the Libertarian nominee, Gary Johnson. It is with a certain amount of sadness, but also with hopefulness, that I publicly endorse him.

Obviously, this amounts to a vote against Trump, and I want to explain why I am voting against him. It is not because I subscribe to the conventional wisdom and believe that Trump is Another Hitler, because I don’t think he is. I might be wrong, but it seems to me equally likely that Hillary Clinton would actually turn out to be the Another Hitler. I don’t think she is either, but it’s just about as likely.

The real reason I’m voting against Donald Trump is because he fails to embody the principles for which the Republican Party has stood for over 150 years. First and foremost, the Republican Party is the party of Liberty–and that includes both personal and civil liberties as well as economic liberty. A free people best govern themselves when personal decisions are left to the individual, with an absolute minimum of government coercion.  That’s what Republicans believe, and it’s what I’ve always believed.

In the economic realm, this means that every person should be able to succeed or fail on his or her own merits. And as a conservative, I believe that the Free Market is in the least worst way of determining who should succeed and who should fail. If there’s no market for my product or service, then the public is best served if I fail and abandon that product or service in favor of another. My resources and my talents are wasted if I devote them to something the public neither wants nor needs. And the best way to deliver that message to me is to have consumers stop patronizing me.

If another casino is what we need, then the free market should bear that out for someone who wants to take the risk to open one.  But the full coercive power of government shouldn’t be called upon to decide that a casino is the highest and best use for private property.

I have no doubt that Donald Trump was a successful businessman. But he did not become a success by means of the free market. For the most part, he became successful because of what are euphemistically called “public-private partnerships,” or what we used to call Mercantilism. (Or what we could call Fascism, as the word was originally defined.)  He was successful because the full coercive power of the state sided with him. Perhaps another real estate developer would have been more successful, but we will never know that. The other real estate investor didn’t get the imprimatur of the regulators.

Hillary Clinton is no better. The only difference is that she sat on the other side of the table in many a “public-private partnership.” Her attitude is best exemplified in a 1993 quote in which she said, “I can’t be responsible for every undercapitalized entrepreneur in America.” This was in reference to whether health-care mandates would drive small businesses out of business. It didn’t matter to her, because she dismissed those businesses as “undercapitalized.” But they are undercapitalized only because they are not established players in a given industry. I used to believe the Democrats when they said that they cared for the little person in the fight against big business. But I started to notice that the largest established players in any given industry tend to favor greater government regulation. This is because the established players can bear the costs of overregulation, unlike their “undercapitalized” competitors and startups. It’s merely another way in which the government is able to pick winners and losers. The established competitor is favored by regulation, and innovative newcomers are locked out of the market.

There’s only one logical choice for President, and that is someone who exemplifies those principles that the Republican Party once stood for, and that choice is Gary Johnson. He’s a fiscal conservative, but more importantly, be believes in both personal liberty and economic liberty. He was a successful businessman, not because he received a favored position in a “public-private partnership,” but because he provided goods and services that the public wanted.

I don’t agree with Gary Johnson on every issue. Fortunately, however, he is not running to be the absolute dictator; he is merely running for President of the United States. He cannot act unilaterally on most issues. And critically, he seems to understand the Constitutional limitations of his office and would not act unilaterally.

I won’t catalog every issue on which I disagree, but I will mention the most troubling. Gary Johnson is apparently pro-choice. I am pro-life, and I believe that the state has a legitimate duty to protect innocent human life. To the extent that President Johnson acts in accordance with his stated principles, I will oppose him.

But I’m also aware that the President of the United States does not perform abortions, nor does he order that they be performed. He has no power to permit or outlaw abortion. Donald Trump claims to be pro-life (although he declared himself to be staunchly pro-choice in the past).  But whether or not the president is pro-life has little effect on whether innocent lives will be slaughtered. The nation’s policy on abortion should be, in my opinion, properly vested in the state legislatures, who have legislated criminal codes since before the beginning of the Republic. The policy is currently vested (improperly, in my opinion), in the judiciary. But it’s not currently vested in the federal executive branch, nor should it be. So in a sense, whether or not Gary Johnson is pro-life is irrelevant. More importantly, as a proponent of limited government, Johnson himself should see it as irrelevant to his office.

Donald Trump’s sole redeeming quality is his apparent willingness to appoint conservative justices to the U.S. Supreme Court. For example, one of the names that is allegedly on his short list is that of Minnesota Supreme Court Justice David Stras.  As a committed federalist, Stras, or someone like him, would be an excellent choice for the nation’s high court. Again, Trump’s pledge to nominate someone like Stras is the candidate’s sole redeeming quality.

But frankly, I don’t trust Donald Trump enough to vote for him based upon one single pledge. And given Gary Johnson’s apparent willingness to embrace the U.S. Constitution, I do trust him to appoint constitutionalist judges, even if he has not yet named names.

Roe v. Wade won’t be overruled by the executive branch, no matter how zealously pro-life the president happens to be. And it certainly won’t be overruled just because the candidate says that he’s pro-life, despite a long history of saying that he’s pro-choice. In my opinion, Roe v. Wade is a constitutional aberration that ought to be overruled. I believe that a constitutionalist judge would agree if the issue were squarely presented. And I believe that Gary Johnson is the most likely presidential candidate to appoint constitutionalist judges.

In short, Gary Johnson is not a perfect candidate. But he is the closest to a perfect candidate that I’ve seen in the past 20 years. More than any other candidate in the race, he best exemplifies the values of the Republican Party, whether or not he bears that label.

And no, I don’t believe that I am “wasting” my vote by voting for Gary Johnson. I have never voted for a candidate merely because I though he or she was going to win. In fact, as a Republican in a staunchly Democratic state, I rarely vote for the winning candidate. For example, I don’t believe that I have ever voted for a candidate for the state legislature who actually won. In every single legislative race since 1980, I have voted for the loser every single time.  For 18 straight elections, I have consistently voted for the losing candidate.  I’ve volunteered for losing candidates, knowing full well that they were going to lose.  I’ve even served as the campaign treasurer for a losing candidate, knowing full well that she was going to lose.  But I never considered my vote wasted. The purpose of the whole exercise is to determine who the majority supports.  And for that process to work, the people voting for the minority candidate must see their candidate lose.

This year, it’s quite likelty that I’ll be voting for the losing candidate for President.   But that’s nothing new for me.  Even if I do vote for the loser, I won’t consider my vote wasted.

However, I am not convinced that Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton will be the next President. I’m not the only person who believes that there should be another choice. I’ve seen as many Gary Johnson signs as I have seen signs for Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump. I’ve seen more support for Gary Johnson on social media than I’ve seen for either of the other candidates. If all of those people vote for Gary Johnson, then he might win. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy to vote against him merely because he will lose.

It seems unlikely that Gary Johnson will be the winner as of election night. But it seems quite plausible to me that he will carry enough states to deprive either of the other candidates a majority in the Electoral College. If that happens, then our Constitution calls for the President to be selected by the House of Representatives, voting by State. In that case, the House will be called upon to select the President from among the top three in the Electoral College. In that scenario, it seems likely that Johnson would be elected, as the only palatable compromise candidate. No Democrat is going to vote for Donald Trump, and very few Republicans are going to vote for Hillary Clinton. Johnson is probably the only candidate who can win. Or to put it another way, members of the House would be wasting their vote by casting it for either Trump or Clinton.

Currently, Gary Johnson has more endorsements by major newspapers than Donald Trump. Most recently, the Chicago Tribune endorsed Johnson. For whatever its worth, now joins them in endorsing Gary Johnson for President.

Tomorrow, we return to our normally scheduled programming, consisting of pictures of old radios.

This page was prepared and paid for by Richard P. Clem. This page is not endorsed by any candidate or candidate’s committee. Minnesota attorney Richard P. Clem is solely responsible for the content of this page.

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Endorsements: Craig Foss for Minnesota Supreme Court, Ryan for Congress, in the August 9 Primary

I’m sure most readers have been eagerly waiting for my endorsement for the contested Minnesota Supreme Court seat, so here it is.

There are three candidates running in the primary election. Voters are asked to vote for one candidate. One will be eliminated from the race, and the remaining two candidates will appear on the November ballot. This is the only statewide primary election.

The incumbent is Justice Natalie Hudson, who was appointed to the bench in 2015 by Governor Dayton. Prior to her appointment to the Supreme Court, she served from 2002-2015 on the Minnesota Court of Appeals, and before that as an Asistant Attorney General. She began her legal career in 1982 as a staff attorney for Southern Minnesota Regional Legal Services. I will probably be voting for Justice Hudson in the November general election. You can read her response to questions by the Minnesota State Bar Association at this link.

Justice Hudson faces two challengers, Craig Foss and Michelle MacDonald.

Mr. Foss unashamedly states that he wants to become an appellate judge because “the demand for legally blind attorneys is not high. So I decided to see if I could get elected to a job.” He is a duly licensed attorney in the State of Minnesota, and has been since 1995.  He therefore meets the minimum legal and constitutional requirements for the position he seeks.

Ms. MacDonald is also a duly licensed attorney and has been since 1987.  Therefore, she also meets the minimum legal and constitutional requirements to appear on the ballot.  Ms. MacDonald also ran for Supreme Court in 2014 and sought, and obtained, the Republican endorsement. I was present at the 2014 state Republican convention when she was nominated, without discussion, after the now dissolved judicial elections committee recommended her nomination. (For the record, I did not vote for her during the otherwise unanimous voice vote.) Unfortunately, the committee recommended her without disclosing that she was then facing criminal charges. She was ultimately found guilty of some (but not all) of those charges. When her criminal charges came to light, the party backpedaled its support and refused to offer her a spot at the Minnesota State Fair. Ms. MacDonald showed up anyway and created a scene.

In 2016, she once again sought the Republican endorsement. This time, with her record known to all of the convention delegates, the party wisely decided not to endorse. In fact, it went a step further and disbanded the judicial nomination committee.  I voted with the majority on both of those votes.

For these reasons, I recommend voting against Ms. MacDonald in the upcoming primary. It is very likely that Justice Hudson, because of her incumbent status, will be one of the two top votegetters in the August 9 primary. Therefore, to ensure that Ms. MacDonald does not appear on the November ballot, I will be voting for Craig Foss. There will be two candidates in the November general election. In my opinion, Ms. MacDonald does not have the required judicial temperament to serve on the state’s high court. On the other hand, I have no reason to believe that Mr. Foss would not serve fairly and impartially. Indeed, his disability would probably bring an unrepresented point of view to the high court. I doubt if I’ll vote for him in November, but if he’s elected, I have every reason to believe that he will take his position seriously and will serve with distinction. He would not be an embarrassment to the state or to the legal profession.

Therefore, I endorse Craig Foss for Justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court in the August 9 primary election.

I also endorse Greg Ryan in the Republican primary for U.S. Congress in the 4th District (St. Paul area).

Attorney Richard P. Clem is solely responsible for the content of this page. This page is prepared and paid for by Richard P. Clem, and is not paid for by any candidate or candidate’s committee.

14th Amendment 150th Anniversary


Today marks the sesquicentennial of the passage by Congress of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution on June 13, 1866, which was ratified on July 9, 1868.  Section 1 provides:

All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.


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