Thursday, June 30, 2011


When President Barack Obama was awarded the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo, everyone asked what had he done to deserve it?

Now we can all fairly ask what has he done to deserve to keep it?

In 2009, the Nobel Committee said that it was honoring Obama for his “extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples.”

Oh really.

Our peace president let fly many more drones into Pakistan, and made Afghanistan his war of choice, while remaining in the Iraq theater that he promised he’d leave.

President Obama signed an 007 shoot-to-kill death warrant, very James-Bond-like, on an American citizen (Anwar al-Awlaki) without any judicial review - and not so much as a rubber-stamping grand jury ever considered the charge or the Alice in Wonderland ?sentence-first-no-trial-to-follow.

President Obama sent missiles to kill crazy Qaddafi (a precedent for taking out heads of state that will yet have somebody trying to send drones into the West Wing).  Did I overlook to mention the carpet bombing we’ve unleashed on Libya?  We kill and destroy to save other lives.  At least, that’s how I understand our rules of engagement in a civil war that threatened us not at all.

I hate to imagine what a warring president would be like if this is the peace president.

Nor should my chortling friends in the Republican party take heart from this critique of the Democratic incumbent - as if their plowshares to weapons side show offers this nation any better hope of peace.

The Republican leadership and its candidates don’t want us out of Iraq. 

They can’t stand the thought of us reducing troops in Afghanistan.  They insist we are going to “win” that war in Afghanistan - when someone defines what “win” means.

The Republican’s beef about Libya - is that we don’t have “boots on the ground,” meaning putting more American service men and women at risk of life and limb in another war theater for an uncertain military objective when we have hardly the resources or treasure to continue the wars that we have elsewhere.

When we had imperial adventures in the recent past, the barely concealed message was that, we did so because we could - and no one had the chutzpah or resources to stop us.

By contrast, the Congressional Budget Office tells us that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan could cost $2.4 Trillion and it’s costing us more because we are fighting these wars on the American family credit card.  

Think of that the next time you buy that product from China in its toxic card board wrapping; appreciate that you are funding our nation’s major creditor. 

The former chief economist of the World Bank and the winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics said more recently that it could cost us $3 Trillion.


Our elected “leaders” are debating how to cut $3 Trillion dollars from the budget over the next decade. 

If it’s not from war spending, it will be from your Social Security, Medicare, Education, Infrastructure and other services now taken for granted.

We need a peace dividend to avoid a surplus of despair. 

Speak up now or regret at your leisure.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

GAZETTE COLUMN: Kayci at the Barn by John P. Flannery

Kayci - with her prize winning steer
At a time when our elected leaders give us pause, when we can hardly rely on what they say, given how little they actually accomplish, more and more we look to our friends and neighbors in the community to get the job done – to do what makes life friendly and productive.
Let’s face it – we can’t wait for our public officials to get it right, and they hardly set the table any time without it becoming a food fight.
Among the most encouraging sign I find among us real folk are the young people, the next generation, who are motivated by family and personal interest to make a difference – and at a difficult time in our nation’s history.
There are lots of great organizations but one that just doesn’t get enough attention in my opinion is our 4-H Club.
Your son or daughter, if five to nineteen years of age, should think of joining. 
The goal of 4-H is to learn to lead by leading.
It’s about a lot more than agricultural, how it got started, but I’d still like to focus on 4-H’s natural origin – and not just because we have the Loudoun County 4-H auction on July 29th. at the fair grounds on Dry Mill Road.
It’s because Kayci Dukes wrote me to spark my interest in a steer she hopes to auction.
She wrote me that she had this “beautiful dark red tiger striped steer that took reserve champion at the Northern District Livestock Show.”
About a month ago, “Red Tiger” tipped the scale at 1,060 pounds, and he was then gaining weight at the rate of 3 pounds a day.
Plainly, Big Red is no candidate for weight watchers.  Of course, how many who go to weight watchers have a natural diet of pasture grass and hay, or lick a mineral salt block, or consume ground grain from Armarc Farms.
Kayci not only has raised this prize winning steer, she has learned how to sell and to do it, in a way, that is sensitive to us folk who want to buy local and green; she wrote me that this prize steer has no steroids – none.
Kayci’s Dad, Tom, created the environment that made her curious, caring, and devoted to nature as well as animal husbandry.
After working in refineries for about 20 years in Texas, Tom returned to Purcellville, and there were no refineries here, and, Tom says, “I didn’t want to fight traffic at 5 am, in order to work a ‘real’ job,” so he learned how to be a farrier, and does; his “only regret,” he says, “is that I didn’t start doing this 20 years earlier.” 
Kayci is just one example of the 6 ½ million 4-H members in the United States at about 90,000 clubs; it shouldn’t surprise you that there are also clubs in 80 other countries around the world.
If you’re wondering what the 4 Hs mean that adorn the 4 leafs of the clover that is the club’s symbol, they are for a head (that thinks), a heart (that cares), hands (that work), and health (that flourishes).
I asked Kayci what was the 4-H motto; she said, “To make the best better.”
Imagine how much better off we’d be if that was the motto for our public officials.
# # #

Thursday, June 16, 2011


Shuttle docked at Internation Space Station
Photo NOT by John Flannery
Yeats wrote, it’s an Irish curse, to dream things that the world has never seen.
President Jack Kennedy dreamed we could go to space and do the other things.
Because of this dream and a devotion to science, we went to the moon.
I was in France driving a BSA motor bike through a small village in late July 1969, and a local work man stopped me on the cobblestone street, waved me down, and asked, “Are you American?”
I said, “Yes,” uncertain of what to expect.
He invited me to this nearby bar restaurant, quite dark inside, except for the tv.  As best I could tell, he told everyone I was an “American.”  Then they brought me closer to the tv to watch a man, an American, Neil Armstrong, placing his foot on the moon.  There were cheers.  I gave rides up and down the street to the boys and girls of the town, and was feted because America put Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on the moon.
We often hear politicians these days say we can do anything because we put a man on the moon; in truth, we put a dozen men on the moon on 6 flights from earth to the moon.
But we didn’t get to the moon because we wished it. 
It happened because we cared to study math and science, to compete with the Soviets, and to dream that we would do what no one on our planet had ever done, that we had men and women of courage, mostly test pilots, who set out to do what one President dreamed was possible.
Has this nation lost its ability to dream and then to make its dreams come true?
I was in Titusville, Florida on a court case about a week ago. 
This Oceanside town is a rifle shot from where the Shuttle Endeavor lifted off, and I was there the day before it returned from the International Space Station (ISS), on the next to last manned space mission; after that last mission, American astronauts will have to thumb a ride with the Soviets to the ISS.
There’s something impermanent about the look of most Oceanside communities.  That’s part of their attraction.  Titusville is no different.  But Titusville is about to lose some 26,000 jobs because the Endeavor is our next to last launch and we no longer dream of returning to the moon or going to Mars with manned aircraft.
One shop keeper who owns T-bone Designs created a t-shirt, “It’s a disgrace that America won’t launch a man into space.”  He’s right.
Frederick Jackson Turner espoused his “frontier thesis” in 1893.  He argued that what made Americans so egalitarian, democratic, aggressive and innovative was the American frontier, as it continuously moved westward, and had an enriching effect on the American pioneers and thus the American “can-do” character.
Frontiers broke down customs, offered new experiences, and prompted new institutions and activities. 
When we had conquered the last western frontier, the question was, “what was the motor for change that would continue to make America special?” 
President Theodore Roosevelt’s answer was to look to other continents to conquer for the frontier. 
But I prefer Jack Kennedy’s New Frontier, and it wasn’t just his policies, it was that space ships replaced covered wagons.
# # #

Thursday, June 9, 2011


His Dad was a textile mill floor worker in North Carolina; but he went on to become a highly successful trial lawyer, a U.S. Senator and a candidate for President; but then the golden boy became leaden, and, when not snickering or tongue clucking, we should be asking ourselves, “How did John Edwards go wrong?”
We have to take a closer look at the effect the medium, our political system, has on our elected officials who too often become servants of power rather than of the people they purport to represent, obsessed with ascending a ladder of insider privilege, increased political potency, and wide recognition and doing so at almost any financial or human or ethical cost including the abandonment of the ideology that they first espoused to get elected.
Marshall McLuhan made the oft-quoted statement, “the medium is the message,” but later allowed for its modification, re-stating his famous nostrum as “the medium is the massage,” meaning that our senses are altered, “massaged,” by the medium.
When John Edwards lost his 16-year old son Wade in a freak traffic accident in 1996, Edwards was at a loss to find a way to grieve and to honor his dead son’s memory.  He decided to run for public office because his son had wanted him to do so, and because his son wrote a prize-winning essay, “What it means to be an American,” focusing on his father’s vote at a local North Carolina fire house.
In that first Senate campaign, Edwards said, “We are a country that speaks out for those without a voice … we stand up for people.”  He promised to any and all who would join his campaign that “the folks in Washington and on Wall Street will hear you loud and clear.”  That was then.
Jeremy Larner, who wrote the academy award-winning script for “the Candidate,” insisted that politicians “don’t sell out,” but “they evolve into something else.”
We all know that wonderful morality play by Carlo Collodi, adapted to the screen as “Pinocchio,” a popular Disney classic, that featured a “pleasure” island that encouraged its island visitors to misbehave badly, to fight, to destroy, to engage in self-abusive practices, until each transformed, or devolved, into a jackass.
Edwards lost his “Jiminy Cricket” conscience, beginning his devolution, sometime after he arrived in the political pleasure island we call Capitol Hill, when he got a taste of real power.
Edwards betrayed his son’s expectation that his father would be “brave, truthful and unselfish,” the telling difference between Pinocchio being human or remaining stuck as a puppet.
Edwards falsely denied the affair that he had during his presidential bid, and made it appear that the love child he fathered was fathered by a campaign worker instead, and he funded the lie with mislabeled contributions from two close friends, pretending the monies were for furniture, rather than a cover-up.
This nation can’t trust its helm to a coward who lies about his self-centered behavior.
Unfortunately, we have a political system that corrodes the conscience of its elected officials – and routing out one bad one doesn’t address the problem we have. 
We have to reform our system -- if we hope for this nation to survive as anything resembling a democracy.
# # #

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Find a friend who gave his life in Vietnam - and take a moment. John Flannery

First you click on a state.  When it opens, scroll down to the city and the names will appear.  Then click on their names.  It should show you a picture of the person, or at least their bio and medals.
This really is an amazing web site.  Someone spent a lot of time and effort to create it. The link below is a virtual wall of all those lost during the Vietnam war with the names, bio's and other information on our lost heroes. 
Those who remember that time frame, or perhaps lost friends or family can look them up on this site. 

Saturday, June 4, 2011


On Memorial Day, we remember those who served in war and acknowledge their sacrifice of time from family and friends, from young ambition, and from life itself, so that they could give to a nation to preserve and protect the freedom it represents.
These recruits were almost always young and that made their sacrifice the greater. 
Brothers Charles and John enlisted in what many thought was the greatest war, the war against Hitler.  Their parents were supportive.  Irish friends thought, however, they should be helping Hitler instead – to beat the English for what the Brits did to Ireland. 
Charles went to Europe and John was stationed stateside in the Army Air Force on ground crews fixing and maintaining aircraft.  John spent the war “trying to get into it.” 
Charles fought through Sicily with General Patton’s forces and then, on to the boot of Italy.  That’s where Charles was taken prisoner of war.  When they landed on Italian soil, they had to fight to take weapons from Mussolini’s forces.  Charles was standing by a truck after the fighting – so he thought - when he was shot in the chest.  It lifted him in the air and sent him flying backwards where he lay until enemy forces took him away.
            John was distraught.  He had become a family man and a patriot for his country, in that order, and the price was separation from his new wife and his imprisoned brother.  John kept trying to get to Europe to join the fighting, and perhaps help his brother, but his duties kept him pinned down in Texas and then in the San Joaquin Valley.
So many times John and his family had thought Charles lost to the war.  Charles’ Mom and Pop aged with Charles’ uncertain absence – tortured with the uncertainty whether he was alive or not.  They were also afraid John might convince some CO to let him go “over there.” 
After the war was over, and his brother Charles was released by the Allies, he was light like those prisoners at Dachau, and Charles didn’t want to look like that again.  He ate as if he were continuously building up stores against his days in captivity when he was starved.  It was clear that Charles had not gotten the right treatment as a prisoner.  He was a walking, living breathing man, and yet a casualty
John’s wife had a miscarriage after the war; they were going to call the child, Charles.  They considered this a bad omen.  A few years later, Charles died from internal bleeding, from his war wounds.  John’s wife wailed, keening, like the women of old Eire.  Charles finally paid the price for his service to his country.
John looked upon his brother’s face in an open coffin, and though dead, it was reassuring somehow to see Charles for the last time -- the only man my father John ever loved after his own father. 
Charles is beneath a marble gravestone at St. Raymond’s Cemetery in the Bronx. 
My father John is at Arlington National Cemetery with his wife Rusty.
# # #