Monday, December 31, 2012


Teacher, Victoria Sota, 27, misled the gunman in Newtown, Connecticut,
 told him her children were in the gym,
when she had hidden them elsewhere;
she died to save her students.

This simple phrase, “A Teacher in every gun store,” was posted on Facebook by a friend. 
It was in counterpoint to the crazy ideas  that we should arm every teacher in every class room, with a PPK or assault rifle, and have a cop in every school – but not every classroom. 

Nor should we overlook the “other” substitute initiative for gun reform, that this nation should take a closer look at those who are mentally ill.  Unfortunately, we’re talking detection and discrimination, scapegoating really, not about acceptance or treatment. 

Consider the fact that Asperger’s Syndrome, a developmental disorder, suffered by our latest horrific shooter, Adam Lanza, is not a disorder associated with violence.

The NRA’s Wayne LaPierre, undeterred by Lanza’s mental state, railed against the nation’s mental health: “The truth is, that our society is populated by an unknown number of genuine monsters.  People that are so deranged, so evil, so possessed by voices and driven by demons, that no sane person can ever possibly comprehend them.”

Is LaPierre suggesting a policy that every gun owner must undergo a mental examination at the time of a weapon’s purchase or transfer?  Hardly!

LaPierre calculated he had to divert the nation from any discussion of true gun reform, with forehead slapping distractions.  He also sought to instruct the Republican T-party members in Congress that this stratagem was how to defend gun reforms against those who rebel against the notion that the gunfight at the OK Corral should be the law enforcement model we emulate. 

LaPierre railed at the media for its coverage (even as he manipulated the media to cover him), refusing to answer any questions.

The run up to LaPierre’s statement was orchestrated with NRA-endorsed elected officials calling for pistol-packing teachers in the classroom.  This was a stratagem to make the cop in every school sound almost reasonable by comparison, ignoring the fact that there were armed guards at Columbine and Virginia Tech and other killing fields, that made no difference.

Anyone who has fairly studied the current system involving “School Resource Officers (SROs),” knows it really should be called “Cops in Schools,” and that,  instead of protecting our children from violence, it has criminalized our students, turning the school corridors into court anterooms. 

Critics call the “Cops in Schools” initiative a “school to prison” pipeline.  For example, in Spotsylvania County, in Virginia, a freshman honor student shot spit balls at another kid in class.  For this, he was suspended for a year and charged with three criminal misdemeanor assault charges. 

In a class action lawsuit in New York, students complained they were arrested for minor, non-criminal activities, handcuffed and locked away without teacher or parental consent, and then taken to hospitals for psychiatric evaluations. 

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie (R), a former federal prosecutor, gets it.  Christie has rightly opposed this “cop in a school” initiative, saying, “You don’t want to make [schools] an armed camp for kids.”  Nor a place to ruin their lives with trumped up criminal charges.

If we really thought a cop in every school was necessary – because this time the mayhem was at a school, by logical extension, we should have cops at all the other places where guns mowed down innocents - in churches, movie houses, shopping centers, and more. 

Instead of cops, the answer is we need to control who gets what weapons instead.  While it may not make much sense to put a teacher in every gun store to instruct on the values of evolving civilizations, it really might be a good idea to put cops in gun stores instead - and at gun shows – and also at gun manufacturing plants, for at its origin, where the manufacture, supply and distribution of guns occur, that’s where we have our problem. 

We should also have a public debate about demanding reparations and damages for victims from these carefree and reckless gun manufacturers, dealers and traders, and impose taxes on guns while dedicating the proceeds to the victims and their families.

Or we can ignore all this, do what we’ve done since Columbine (where there were armed guards), since Virginia Tech (where there were armed guards), look the other way until, of course, the next innocent is killed – but then we might have to admit, after so many deaths, how we have failed these victims, our friends and neighbors, by acting not at all.

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Thursday, December 13, 2012


The Loudoun County Board of Supervisors compromises the Courthouse Green

There they go again. Our Board of Supervisors can't help itself.

We have another in your face - "you're not as religious as we are" - December moments. I'm talking about our Board's assembly of preferred religious symbols on the courthouse grounds to the exclusion of others.

These Supervisors are the same people who would insist the problem with America is that we don't abide by the U. S. Constitution. Yet it is so very hard for our Supervisors and their learned counsel to read and abide by the First Amendment to the Constitution that prohibits the establishment of religion.

So they decided to pick a list of religions and say, implicitly, who can be offended by that? One practical answer is every other religion that was not included. But the right answer should be everyone including the included.

Today in Loudoun County we choose several religions to honor and advocate, tomorrow, we choose one, and then we choose a sect of one religion. This was President Thomas Jefferson's concern, that there would be warring sects and whichever prevailed would dictate what the nation must believe.

Years ago, my wife Holly and I visited Bali, a more beautiful place in the world is hard to imagine. Religious symbols abound. The entrance ways to homes are studies in religious meditation. The Bali government, however, requires its citizens to identify themselves by one of three specified religions, Hindu, Muslim, or Christian. I asked, "What if I am a Jew?" The answer was, "Well, then you'd identify yourself as Christian." I said, "But that's not Jewish!" My respondent shrugged.

What if this was the forced choice in America? No doubt some anti-Semites would be pleased with the exclusion of Jews but find it disconcerting to highlight and endorse or "establish" religions that were not Christian. There's the rub when government prefers and chooses one or several religions as permissible.

We don't believe our Board misunderstands the First Amendment. We believe instead they are imposing their religious views on the community - a very un-judaeo-christian thing to do as I read the scriptures, not to overlook that it's also extra-legal and unconstitutional.

The Board has tried some sleight of brand in support of constraining our individual rights and liberties. They have had the gall to say that they were allowing for the exercise of free speech. But a government advocating for and establishing religion is not free speech. Nor is the speech contemplated by another phrase in the First Amendment "free" when the government authorizes what may be said, purposefully excluding what else might be said. The freedom of speech is an individual and personal freedom enjoyed by the people, not by the government, and rebels against the controlling and channeling of such righteous exertions by the government as the Board is doing in our fair county.

Some say, "what's the big deal?" This is oft said by those unaffected by the unconstitutional constraint - in the past, for example, those who didn't have to sit in the back of the bus. It is by tolerating such offenses against individual rights, even when we are unaffected, a kind of "das macht nichts" (it doesn't matter) approach, that we all lose our rights by not so subtle degrees. For next time, the incursion may be about "your" rights.

In the category of calling the kettle black, we have Leesburg Supervisor Ken Reid, the most formidable aspirant to the intolerant-as-a-bed-bug designation, currently held by the orange-hatted Supervisor Eugene Delgaudio, for calling atheists, "terrorists." When called on it, caught at it, Supervisor Reid gave some iteration of I-misspoke-intolerantly and I should have used better code to communicate my real biased thinking to those that agree.

Supervisor Reid's spoken aloud sentiments reveal his unconcealed bias that no person may embrace the uncertainty of life and say he or she disbelieves in a divinity that has a Judaeo-Christian origin. The "terrorism" of which Supervisor Reid rails is the dissenting belief system that conforms not at all with his own. The specific objection that he made was against atheists who would express these views on a court house lawn that Supervisor Reid had declared sacred to certain specified religions for a season that our Board has chosen.

Supervisor Reid's confessional gaffe instructs us as to the true meaning of this array of select religious symbols on the civic space to the exclusion of others that represent belief and unbelief systems that the board did not select and that the Constitution assures are protected.

Perhaps next year the abundant private venues all around our court house grounds will suffice to allow each person to celebrate what he or she chooses to express without interference by public officials who swore to uphold a Constitution that they'd rather violate instead.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Gazette Article: To Secede is Not to Succeed by John P. Flannery

By John P. Flannery

I’m sitting on a ship watching 12 foot waves crest as we cut through the Tasman Sea from New Zealand to Sydney, Australia, and I’ve learned about an astonishing citizen’s petition, reportedly supported by some folk in all fifty states, that defies law and good sense (visit our traveling blog – ).

At last count, about 8,000 Virginians signed a petition that they submitted to the White House saying that they want Virginia to secede from the Union; while I can’t say whether there are any signatories from Loudoun County to secede, there are some from nearby Manassas.

At first, I thought, these petitioners wanted to cheat the electoral outcome, President Obama’s re-election, and I’m sure that’s part of it.  This, by itself, is distressing since, for myself and most Americans, we would never consider such an extra-legal, and unlawful response, to the election of the candidate we opposed, and I’m saying that applies even when, from my partisan perspective, then Governor George Bush stole the White House in 2000 with the highly controversial and unprecedented assist from the U.S. Supreme Court.

Next, I thought, we are just going to have to teach history and civics better than we are, if anyone honestly thinks, as a matter of our constitutional government, that any state may petition to withdraw from the union.  

It is daunting how many people reference documents, constitutional, legal and scriptural, that they have never read.

We had a civil war that, among other propositions, concerned itself with this precise question, whether Carolina’s John C. Calhoun was right, by his compact doctrine, providing that individual states could secede from the union. 

President Abraham Lincoln and General Robert E. Lee and the U.S. Congress resolved the matter firmly against secession and in favor of union by the results of that war.

Nevertheless, these petitioners have fellow and gal travelers in every state and Texas may be leading the pack right now with about 118,000 signatures.  To put this in perspective, that is ½ of 1 % of Texas’ population.  Hardly a ground swell.  According to blogs, supporters most frequently complain about outsiders “messing with Texas.”  To Governor Rick Perry’s credit, he does not support this initiative, says he “believes in the greatness of our union” – and we have to credit his leadership on this issue because he twice had a more “relaxed” view on the subject back in 2009.

One Texas petitioner, Larry Scott Kilgore, a gubernatorial wannabe, said Texas could survive on its own because, he wrote, Texas’ “economy is about 30 percent larger than that of Australia;”  by the by, Larry is changing his middle name, “Scott,” to “Secede.”  Mr. Kilgore has not considered Australia’s relationship, legal or economic, with Great Britain, nor, on the other hand, all those federal facilities, grants, tax breaks, or the millions in federal aid Texas welcomed to repair the wildfire damage; you also have to wonder how Texas would defend its borders with Mexico – if that concerns them – once they achieved “independence.”

At the end of the day, all these petitions may prompt, if they receive 25,000 signatures, is a White House response, nothing else, and don’t expect the President to affirm that there is any legal basis for Texas re-asserting itself as an independent nation like it was in 1846; by my estimate, the President’s “response is due” on or about December 10th.

We are all familiar, or at least most of us are, with President Abraham Lincoln’s biblical invocation about what it means to have a house divided, and how it cannot stand.  In Lincoln’s First Inaugural,on March 4, 1861, he said, of our democratic character, “if the minority will not acquiesce, the majority must, or the Government must cease.  There is no other alternative, for continuing the Government is acquiescence on one side or the other.  If a minority in such case will secede rather than acquiesce, they make a precedent which in turn will divide and ruin them, for a minority of their own will secede from them whenever a majority refuses to be controlled by such minority.”

Speaking of the impending secession, Lincoln asked, “why may not any portion of a new confederacy a year or two hence arbitrarily secede again, precisely as portions of the present Union now claim to secede from it?  All who cherish disunion sentiments are now being educated to the exact temper of doing this.”

It is an undemocratic, egocentric, unconstitutional minority in this nation that invoke the rules of elections but, when they lose, want to pick up their bat and ball and go elsewhere – knowing not where or how they would survive, unconcerned about the general welfare or the integrity of the nation that they would compromise.

On this voyage I’ve had the chance to talk to people from Australia and New Zealand but also from Germany, Japan, the Netherlands, France, and South Africa, and, while it may not matter to our “secessionists” what the world thinks about us, they look askance at our division and political paralysis; we are all in this together including those who want to quit and be let alone, and we’d better figure out how to work together – as we’re not doing a very good job right now.
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Friday, November 30, 2012


IN THE BLINK OF AN EYE By John P. Flannery We live a life that is a blink of an eye as compared to the more than 4 Billion years that passed before our mothers sent us down the birth canal into the world as we know it. Our human forbears and our generation and those aborning have only been here for about 150,000 years. But we don’t have much cause to think about this fact, of our temporal insignificance, unless we have a heated argument with someone who thinks the earth has been here for thousands of years rather than billions. I’ve had conversations with some in Loudoun County who believe that the earth is only 8,000 years old because of a sequence of Biblical “begats” that added, one to the other, yield this sum of years and no more. This was a laugh line in the Scopes Monkey Trial. But it’s no laughing matter for many in America. When these folk who believe this nonsense are pressed about the evidence of fossils, carbon dating, layers of sediment, Arctic and Antarctic ice samples that prove that the Earth has been here 4 Billion years and that we humans are recent inhabitants, some have actually said, that “God only makes the earth look older.” (I have not gotten a satisfactory answer as to why the mind of God would “think” to do such a thing – to deceive us – but there it is.) Nor is this bizarre “belief” system an eccentric phenomenon. U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), a nascent presidential candidate, was recently asked how old the earth is for a magazine article, and reportedly answered, “It’s one of the great mysteries.” Senator Rubio is the same person who compared the teaching of evolution to some form of communistic indoctrination. He prefers creationism that has no scientific antecedents. Plainly some can’t distinguish a religious from a scientific text. And this has its consequences to public policy and what we are doing to protect our children and their children. When geological truths are “a mystery,” then we can’t rightly consider global warming, and how humans prompt this endangerment and how they squander our world’s finite resources. We plainly don’t believe, like our species depended on this fact, that we need to be stewards of this planet, itself a small blue spot in an expanding universe of light and dark masses, electrical and magnetic forces, and barely understood physics, not even when scientific studies indicate that, whatever happened in the history of the universe, the delicate balance of gasses and environmental conditions on this blue cat’s eye marble make human life possible when life may exist nowhere else. We tolerate fossil fuels and fight for the right of coal to burn even as it compromises our very existence. Nor is there any doubt about this fact. Some say the planet cools, like in the ice age, or warms, as now. But it’s more complicated and dangerous than that. It cooled when we had too little Carbon Dioxide and it’s heating when we have too much. This is true as a matter of scientific fact. Not our melting polar caps, retreating shorelines, changing and more violent weather patterns, shifting vegetation, lost species, accumulations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, prompting the greenhouse effect, warming our planet, seems to alarm our world leaders. With about 6.7 Billion humans on the planet, we still have political, community and religious leaders, in the highest rank, inviting even more unplanned parenthood, more unwanted children, as many as possible apparently, expecting the food air and water fairy to provide for these armies of maladapted children – persisting in this wrong-headed fashion until, sooner than we think, everyone on the planet has so little space that they are standing shoulder to shoulder, face to face, unable to move, and then, privacy, freedom and human dignity shall be a distant memory. Even in our County, we’ve observed this indifference to the challenge of sustaining our environment so we may continue to survive. We want to drink clean water but won’t act to clean our streams. We put filters in our home air conditioning systems but don’t fight air pollution. We avoid poisons in our home but support sprays in our gardens and from the air, now fifty years after Rachel Carson first spoke of the adverse health effects in “Silent Spring.” Chief Seattle once famously said, “we belong to the earth,” that “we are but one strand within the web [of life,]” and that “whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves.” Those who invoke the bible for science would better serve us all if they read it for spiritual guidance instead, including the commandments, particularly the Eighth Commandment that says, “Thou shalt not steal,” for we are the future eaters, and, if we fail to act, we steal the future from our children, even as we say that we care for them – and that nothing’s more important than our children and grand-children.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Gazette Column - Come Clean on Gene by John P. Flannery

By John P. Flannery
You know that old question about whether you can characterize government in two words, as government “in action”, or by one word, government “inaction”?
We’ve become accustomed to the latter, and expect less to be accomplished, rather than more.
The latest disappointment is close to home, involving our own Loudoun County Board of Supervisors, because an orange-hatted Member of “the team,” Eugene Delgaudio, from Sterling, identified as the head of a hate group that bashes gays, has been charged with campaign finance misconduct, raising funds in county office space, using county staff, and, oh yes, there are additional questions about whether Mr. Delgaudio’s gay-bashing advocacy went so far that he may have violated privacy and copyright laws; in any case, that’s the subject of a pending law suit naming Mr. Delgaudio.
Mr. Delgaudio has been an object of derision and caricature and, with him, so has our county and its reputation in the region and nationally.
Our Board of Supervisors hasn’t helped matters.  They have so mishandled the accusations that they’re now in the line of fire – and viewed by some with the same distrust and reservations as Mr. Delgaudio.
The stone walls rose up around the bunkered Board of Supervisors, apparently because they are more concerned about protecting one of their own, at the risk of their own reputations, instead of doing what’s right for them and for the County.
Let’s run this reel back to the Board’s first initiative to “handle” this matter.
The Chairman of the Board, Scott York, learns of the allegations and sends some information about the alleged misconduct, under seal, not disclosed to the public, not even now, to the Loudoun County Commonwealth Attorney, Jim Plowman, who passes some or all of it on to the Arlington County Commonwealth Attorney who says, faster than you can say, white wash, “ah, there’s nothing there,” and “clears” Gene Delgaudio.
With twenty-twenty hindsight, it sure looks like the referral was anticipating the Washington Poststory published in September, alleging in some detail Gene’s questionable conduct and identifying one of several witnesses, Donna Mateer, a Delgaudio aide.  Perhaps it was hoped they could say they investigated the matter and it amounted to nothing.  But the public outcry was so loud and clear that the Board had to do more than cite some questionable referral clearing Delgaudio.
So the Board of Supervisors lurched into action, let’s call this Plan B, promising a full “independent” investigation and a public hearing.  We suspected they would fail on both promises.
They voted to appoint an “independent” investigator and set aside a measly $15,000 for the job. But don’t you wonder why Gene Delgaudio votes for his own investigation – and no one thinks to ask him to recuse himself because it’s about him and ordinarily that’s a disqualifying conflict?
The “independent” investigator they appoint, Dan Wright, turns out to be anything but “independent.”  His name was found on the list of political donors that Delgaudio was mining for contributions, as Mr. Wright had contributed to Republican Delegate Tag Greason’s campaign in 2009.  Don’t ask why no one reviewed the list before hiring him – or why they proceeded if they had reviewed the list.  Mr. Wright resigned.  This begs the question, how close and narrow, was the Board’s search for an “independent” investigator that turns up an active Republican campaign donor to conduct an investigation into a list that includes himself.
As for what happens next, the Board resumes plan A.
Our Loudoun County Commonwealth Attorney refers it to the same Arlington County Commonwealth Attorney who cleared Mr. Delgaudio once – asking her to investigate Delgaudio again.  Is that really the best way to go?  How can we trust any “independent” counsel or prosecutor after this contorted collection of political pirouhettes?
By the by, remember how the Board of Supervisors promised a public meeting to discuss how to handle Delgaudio?  Well the Board has now canceled that meeting.
You have to suspect decisions made in the shadows, meaning any public official’s aversion to act in the disinfectant of sunlight.
The cure is to stop these stone-walling practices and make public whatever the Board knows that we don’t.  
First, Donna Mateer obviously has no objections at making public what happened, read theWashington Post where she discloses everything, and any privacy that the County has asserted , claiming they are protecting her privacy, appears calculated to protect Mr. Delgaudio and the Board of Supervisors instead. 
Second, the best if not the only way to do this is to have Gene Delgaudio appear at a public hearing and to answer questions under oath on all these matters.
I’m prepared to believe it’s not too late for the Board to set this matter right and come clean on Gene. 
But it will take public disclosure and Delgaudio under oath to make me a believer. 
How about you?

Thursday, November 15, 2012


Billions of campaign dollars spent on a presidential election and what have we learned about our nation?

Charles Reich wrote a book in the 60s titled, the Greening of America, about humans, not so much nature, and a “consciousness” that looked beyond the system as we find it.

Reich was concerned about the restraint on personal liberty.

In this last election, there were several strains that suggest the kind of 50s thinking that former Governor Romney offered was not, on balance, where the nation wanted to go.

When I was a young pol on the East Side of Manhattan, a political patron of mine repeatedly instructed that you can’t pretend to be hungry.

Republican leaders made many groups hungry for change because of what Republicans pronounced what they thought best for women, gays, immigrants, the young, and the working man and woman.

We had Republican white males telling women they were going to probe them if they ever thought of having an abortion. 

We had Republican legislators compromise the medical services a woman could obtain if she chose an abortion.

We have Republicans joining with Catholic Bishops to tell women staff what kind of medical procedures they may have insured and whether contraceptives may be taken.

We have had other Republicans running for the U.S. Senate this year talking about “legitimate rape” and the rape that God intends.  Plainly, these candidates spoke neither for women nor for God.  Exit polls confirmed that 59% of voters believe that abortion should be legal.

Yet, there are Republicans scratching their collective heads after the election trying to understand why President Obama won 36 % more single women to his candidacy over Governor Romney, and how these several women, Heidi Heitkamp (ND), Elizabeth Warren (Mass.), and Tammy Baldwin (Wis.), could best Republican candidates for U.S. Senate seats, giving Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Democrat, an even stronger hand to play than before the presidential election.

We have had more sanctimonious gay bashing by Republicans in the last couple of years than I’ve seen my whole life, and the Catholic Church doubled down in conjunction with Republican forces to stop same sex marriage initiatives in several states, and these initiatives were rightly upheld by the voters at the ballot box.

When Governor Romney offered no hope for the children of immigrants schooled in America and spoke about “self-deportation,” he should have expected that Hispanics and other immigrants would hunger after an alternative that he did not offer.  The Governor garnered only 27 percent of the Hispanic vote; by contrast, former President Bush received 44% Hispanic support when he embraced immigration reform.  President Obama granted work permits to undocumented people brought here as children who graduated High School or served in the military.  Omayra Vasquez, 43, from Denver, reportedly said, he voted for President Obama because, “I feel closer to him” and “He cares about Spanish people.”  The President ran away with 71 percent support among Hispanic voters.  That’s how the President won Florida, and Colorado and Nevada.

Republicans talk about the next generation, those aged 18 to 29, but their policies fell far short on school tuition assistance and loans, and on unemployment.  Also, the young felt an affinity with women of all ages, the Dream Act, and same sex marriage.  Perhaps the Republicans believed some polling “experts” who didn’t think the young would be a factor in this election, or as much as the last election, but their participation actually increased, though slightly, by 1%.  The young made up 19% of those voting and President Obama won 60 percent of their votes, as compared with 37 percent for Governor Romney.  Had Mr. Romney split the “youth” vote with the President, he would have been President instead. 

There is a shift in the nation’s consciousness and it’s away from the 50s.  As Charles Reich wrote, “Power is not exercised in this country by force of arms, as in some dictatorships.  Power rests on control of consciousness.  If the people are freed from false consciousness, no power exists that could prevent them from taking the controls.”

While to some, it looks like nothing has changed, there has been a “greening” in America’s consciousness.

Nor am I saying that the Republican party does not have a role to play as a partner in this grand political adventure.

While the House of Representatives did not change many seats, leaving Speaker John Boehner in charge, he reacted by seeking to engage but it remains to be seen if he can navigate his caucus to a more moderate agenda.

Former Congressman Tom Davis told several of us about a week or so ago that a Speaker without regard to party can’t make up a majority for a vote that doesn’t include a majority of his own party caucus.  That’s what derailed the agreement on the debt limit when the Speaker negotiated with the President but, in my opinion, couldn’t deliver because of the now marginalized Tea Party faction.

It is my hope, however, that we find a way through our past differences to engage and resolve America’s challenges, and that we give effective structure to a changing, greening, America.