Thursday, April 9, 2015

The Alleys of Lititz

This was originally published in the Lititz Record-Express in my column named "On Second Thought."  Hope you enjoy the reprise.

What happened to the Alleys?  Not the bowling alley (it was torn down to make more parking space for the Warwick House—now the Tin Soldier—that’s another column), but the street wannabes that ran between the streets?  I grew up in an alley.

The alley between Lincoln Ave. and Market Street was my domain.  I prowled it like a tiger cub learning the predatory ways.  What, at the time, were my best friends were on the other side of the alley.  Mike Long, Yvonne Yeagley, Marcia Male (and her brothers) and Ed Wiker (who lived in the converted warehouse along Liberty St) were the main contributors to youthful crime and childhood warfare.

It was this alley where I was first shot in the head.  Explains a lot, doesn’t it?  I was shot by a BB gun and it did, “almost put my eye out”.  I never did find out who fired the shot [UPDATE:  After this appeared in the local newspaper the perp confessed but I choose not to make this information public.], I just know I was hurt and bleeding and my mother was going to pour hydrogen peroxide into the gaping wound (slight exaggeration for effect).  The scar eventually joined the one I got while living at Poplar Grove when “Timmy Tokes hit me with a wock”.  Jim Stokes is all grown up now and doesn’t even remember inflicting the pain—but he sure does know how to split wood (and the price is pretty good).

Go west on this alley and you eventually end up on Broad St.  But before you get there, there is another small alley that runs north and along it was my first Disneyland.  Snavely’s Auction was a barn along Market St. and a covered area in which items to be sold at the next weekly auction would be stacked.  I believe that it was at Snavely’s auction that my grandmother got me my hobby horse which passed down to my son Christopher and is now in the possession of Cole Aspen Knight, who enters his second year in March [UPDATE:  He's a teenager now and will probably be angry with me if he reads this].  It’s still in Lititz.

It was also at Snavely’s that I picked up (for $2.50) a cordless record player.  It stood four feet high and had to be carted home on my red Radio FlyerÔ wagon.  It required no electricity and all you had to do was crank it up to play a record.  I loved the auctions, partly because I could get a complete meal for 15 cents (a 10 cent half pint glass bottle of chocolate milk and a 5 cent bag of Burkholder’s Potato Chips).

Bruce Smith was the bully of Lincoln and Liberty and was the reason I would cut through the Klopp walkway (across Lincoln) and into the alleys behind, on my way to school.  Passing Lincoln and Liberty would get me beat up (I never was beat up but I sure was intimidated).

The alleys south of Lincoln Ave. were fantastic.  Coming out the back gate at the Klopp house you entered onto an alley that curved south to butt up against another alley and intersect with yet another that heads toward Five Points (and Clair’s Store), but curves west again at the church (now an apartment building) to meet up with Liberty.  It was my own personal labyrinth but contrary to the myth, my Minotaur was at Lincoln and Liberty.

One of the alleys in this maze was named Rodney and would get you to Annie Hershey’s Store on New (or Apple or New whichever it was that year) St.  Along the way you would pass one of Lititz’ nascent industries, operating out of a garage.  Oehme Bros. began baking pies and inventing pie-baking equipment in a garage that was just down the alley from their home, which was sort of the center of my meandering alleys.  There were days that on my way to school I would pass by the bakery and smell apple pie in the offing while at the same time get a whiff of chocolate from the Wilbur-Suchard plant.

Alleys conjure up many scenes of youthful days in Lititz.  Lanes?  Well, lanes just sort of sit there keeping streets from banging into one another.  This, apparently, is progress.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Obama the lawless President

“I wish Obama would obey the Constitution.”

A good friend who is intelligent, level headed and fair in his dealings made that comment over breakfast this morning.  It is a very prevalent thought and it highlights just how little the great mass of U. S. citizens knows about their form of government.

We are a representative democracy guided by the outline of the Constitution and under those constraints President Obama is well within the parameters of his office.  There has never been a government like this in the history of the world and after two and a half centuries we are still trying to figure it out and make it continue to work.

Under Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution, the President, as the chief executive, “. . .shall take care that the laws be faithfully executed. . .”  Another way of saying that is he shall “prosecute” the laws.  That means he must do what he feels must be done to make the laws work.  Congress is notoriously vague when it writes laws and when they don’t do it right there are two avenues to correct a law and make it work.  The first is for the executive to interpret the law and issue orders on how it is to be implemented and the second is for the Supreme Court to order how the law is to be implemented.

The courts have called the executive’s prerogatives “prosecutorial discretion” and absent laws or court rulings that specifically prohibit an action the President has unlimited prosecutorial discretion.  President Obama has used Executive Orders to explain his decisions.  Yes, in the past Barack Obama has said that some of what he has done, he thought, would be in violation of the Constitution.  After all, he is a Constitutional scholar.  Theoretically that is correct but in reality, there is no law or court opinion prohibiting what he has done, lacking action by the Congress, so he has not violated the Constitution even though he once thought that it might, and in fact still might feel that way.

If, for instance, President Obama has stretched beyond his prosecutorial discretion in stopping some actions on immigrants, there are two ways to turn it around.  One is for someone—with standing--to bring suit in a federal court which may eventually end up being decided by the Supreme Court.  If the Supreme Court declines to take up the case it is declaring that the President’s actions fall within the Constitution.  If they take up the case they will decide either way.

A much easier and quicker solution is for the Congress of the United States to pass a law on the subject.  The law may well be vetoed by the President but the veto can be overridden by a two thirds vote and it becomes law without the President’s signature.  That law would have precedence over prosecutorial discretion and the Executive Orders become null and void.  The only thing that could change it is a Supreme Court decision.  President Obama cannot be criminally charged for those excesses but a future President who did the same would then be in violation of the Constitution.  Prosecutorial discretion does not apply to settled law.

Our Constitution of the United States of America is a living, breathing document.  It can change from day to day but so far everyone in our current government is operating well within the parameters of their offices.  President Obama is out on a Constitutional limb because Congress will not act.  He may well be proven wrong but for now he is simply doing his job.  It is up to Congress to do its job and if it doesn’t like the President’s perfectly legal Executive Orders, change them with a law that defines the parameters.

My advice to everyone calling President Obama a lawless executive is to shut up until Congress does its job.  But lately it has been a lot easier for Congress to lie and stir up discontent than it is for them to actually do the job we elected them to do—govern.