Thursday, February 23, 2012



Not everyone believes women are equal to men.
One former Virginia Governor who believed that “all men are created equal” had a different view of women; he wrote, “Were our state a pure democracy, there would still be excluded from our deliberations … women, who, to prevent depravation of morals and ambiguity of issues, should not mix promiscuously in gatherings of men.”
That seemingly unenlightened gentleman was none other than Thomas Jefferson.  But he is not alone in the history of this still young nation.
The good news is that the Virginia Senate took up the equal rights amendment (the “ERA”) to the U.S. Constitution in the current legislative session to assure equality among the sexes; the ERA says, in relevant part, that “equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.” 
It was passed by Congress and sent to the states in 1972.  It is amazing it has not been passed.  Luckily, the intervening span of years is no obstacle to approving it now.  By way of precedent for its belated passage, consider the “Madison amendment,” regarding the compensation of elected representatives, introduced in 1789, which languished for 203 years before garnering three-quarters of our states for its approval as a constitutional amendment.  The U.S. Supreme Court has said Congress can determine how long to allow for the ratification provided there is no such limitation in the amendment as it is written; and there is no such limitation in the ERA.  So it does still matter if Virginia becomes number 36 of the 38 states necessary to ratify the ERA.
Virginia narrowly rejected the ERA in 1980.  Former State Senator John Chichester famously abstained from voting, interposing a “conflict of interest,” saying, he was after all, “married.”
The intervening years have underscored that this amendment is needed and not surplus verbiage.  Associate Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia wrote in September 2010 that the U.S. Constitution does not protect against sex discrimination.  What Justice Scalia was saying is that “sex” is not a “suspect” classification like race or religion or national origin. 
Those who say we have various statutes that protect women at the state or federal level, they ignore the legal process by which any mere statute may be ignored, enforced unevenly or negligently, drastically changed or repealed entirely, and with judicial impunity.  But a constitutional provision is a fundamental and supreme law, a standard by which deprivations of rights and liberty may be measured and remedied in court if necessary.
In the current legislative session, Senator Bryce Reeves (R- 17th SD) voted for the equal rights amendment in committee, saying, “I have a wife and daughter, I’m for it.”  But he voted against the amendment when it came to the full Senate, saying it was no longer necessary.  What persuaded him that his wife and daughter no longer needed to be considered equal?
Senator Jill Vogel (R- 27th SD) also reportedly voted for the ERA in committee but then voted against it on the floor of the Senate.  We sincerely hope she’ll reconsider her vote and lobby for its passage in the next legislative session. 
When the amendment came to the Senate floor, Senate Majority Leader Tommy Norment (R-James City) asked to delay the vote on ratification – as if we need more time to understand this issue. 
Senator Norment explained the reason for delay, by charging that Senator Janet Howell (D-Reston) was among the bra-burning feminists who favored the ERA 40 years earlier, and the delay, he said, was because Senator Howell “still needs some more time to gather up lingerie to burn and protest on this.” 
In the end, the ERA passed the Senate in a bipartisan vote, and the Senate at least revived its reputation.  But the House of Delegates buried the ERA in Committee without a floor vote.  Now, how cowardly is that?
Senator Yvonne Miller warned the General Assembly that the failure to vote for the ERA would lead citizens to understand “that Virginia is a backwards state.”
She was right – we are - so let’s reason with our elected representatives so we can become a forward looking state and get it right the next time – with a bi-partisan vote in both chambers, and finally correct the mis-spoken statement that Jefferson made that he can no longer correct himself.

Monday, February 20, 2012

ML KING Tribute - 3/1/12 - 7:30PM - ST JAMES - LOVETTSVILLE - presenter: JOHN FLANNERY


Please attend our FAITH & LIFE FORUM

THURSDAY, MARCH 1 2012 at 7:30 PM


King spoke of "Beginning the world over again: A challenge to racism, materialism, and militarism."

Rev. Don Prange: "On the heels of Black History Month, we are taking note of the dream of the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. to 'make the world over again.'"

"John Flannery, a friend of mine, will pay tribute to the vision of Dr. King," Reverend Prange announced, "and John will discuss how Dr. King's message remains relevant today, teaching us how we are still confronted by the triple threat of racism, materialism and militarism."  The Rev. Prange said, "a discussion will follow John's remarks."

Our facilitating speaker: JOHN P. FLANNERY II

About John: He is a former federal prosecutor, former Special Counsel to the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee and to the U.S. House Judiciary Committees, a civil rights lawyer and political activist who served as the Virginia state-wide co-chair for Jesse Jackson?s presidential campaign (in 1988)(Jackson won that Virginia primary but not the nomination); John is also active in the community with his wife Holly Flannery, practices law at his firm in Leesburg, and writes columns and often speaks on tv and radio about law and politics; likely, you?ve seen John appear on Fox TV as part of their "fair and balanced" coverage.

      As for what Mr. Flannery might say, he said, "it was particularly relevant what Dr. King said in a speech he gave in 1967 speech just one year before he was assassinated; that's the starting point for this tribute ? that we still have work to do."
      This is the relevant section of Dr. King's 1967 address: 

      "I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of a world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values.  We must rapidly begin the shift from a 'thing-oriented' society to a 'person-oriented' society.  When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered."

Friday, February 17, 2012


Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney doesn’t consider “the poor” part of his mission as president if he’s elected.  The lips of Lady Liberty, inviting the world, “Give me your tired, your poor,” are words unheard by Mitt.
The poor have a safety net, Mitt says.  But not too long ago he said the safety net didn’t work meaning it didn’t help – and therefore wasn’t needed – and there was just too much overhead he said – though the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities says that as much as 99 percent of the dollars set aside for the poor are actually spent on the poor.
Mitt is a well-oiled political weather vane spinning wildly in the winds of public opinion.  Republican activists and Independents fear he is an invertebrate without any principles at the center that one could mistake for political character.  In a recent turn in the news spin cycle, Mitt was caught up short for his hard hearted indifference toward the poor.  He back-filled saying that he’d “fix” the safety net if it needed fixing – the net that he had found unnecessary.
Mitt’s mind is blind to the fact that our “safety net” is not only necessary but it falls short and is past due for a fix for the one in six poor who go hungry, and a third of the poor who have no health insurance.  Incidentally, Mitt wants to cut a few holes in the health insurance net by reducing Medicaid.   Not the kind of “fix” you’d expect from someone who cares about the poor.
You might think Mitt made the calculation that the poor don’t vote – and that the nation doesn’t care about the poor.  But I believe we are all better than that and it explains why Mitt scrambled to explain that he “misspoke.”
Perhaps Mitt thought he was merely topping the chorus of the callous.  Republican Presidential primary candidate, Speaker Newt Gingrich, thought it was funny that so many must rely on food stamps so they don’t go hungry. 
There is this absurd Dickensian projection embraced by the unfeeling, Mitt and Newt included, that gives them some solace, the belief that all poor are malingerers, faking hunger, homelessness, and illness.  Mitt and Newt want us to believe that the poor really could work and earn a living – if they just chose to do so.
Mitt says he favors the middle class.  If so, he ignores the fact that the shrinking fractional proportion of our polity that is the middle class is not being promoted into Mitt’s nether regions of scandalous investment incomes.  The middle class shrinkage means some of us are joining the poor, losing our jobs, home, health care and retirement.
By contrast, the social contract that has worked for this still young democracy is to promote the good life for one and all by encouraging wealth, but also while creating a climate of public and private incentives favoring jobs for the middle class and transfer payments for the poor.
Our society is out of whack.  The true class warfare is the notion that any group has gotten “its own” and the other segments of society must fend for themselves.  Many of the rich get it.  Mitt is not one of those.
Mitt should read the Book of Mormon more carefully for there it is written:
“But wo unto the rich who are rich as to the things of the world.  For because they are rich they despise the poor, and they persecute the meek and their hearts are upon their treasures; wherefore, their treasure is their god.  And behold their treasure shall perish with them also.”  2 NEPHI 9:30.
So may his candidacy perish -- if not before Tampa then in November!

Thursday, February 2, 2012


            When I was a law student in 1972, a bunch of us wrote and solicited articles that we published about the horrors of the government invading our individual right to be let alone; it was all about government surveillance and the right of privacy.
            The best part was a meeting with Senator Sam Ervin from North Carolina who agreed to write an article for our publication, the Columbia Human Rights Law Review; this was before the nation knew Senator Ervin as the Chair of the Senate Watergate hearings. 
The Senator was concerned in 1972 about the “insatiable curiosity of the government to know everything about those it governs.”  He said, “Some agencies take the attitude that the information belongs to them and the last person who should see it is the individual whom it is about.”  At the time, “Army agents were sent throughout the country to keep surveillance over the way the civilian population expressed their sentiments about government policies.” 
Our article on remote camera systems for surveillance of public streets seems quaint when you consider “modern” technology.  Thanks to Justice Department funding, Mt. Vernon had installed in 1971 low light TV cameras from Sylvania that could rotate 355 degrees in a horizontal plane and 120 degrees in a vertical plane; they could read a license plate or see a face ½ mile away, and could take photographs even through store or apartment windows.
George Orwell’s dystopian Novel, 1984, included telescreens by the ruling party of Oceania, monitored by the thought police, to watch its subjects, supposedly so they could stop any chance of secret conspiracies against the government.
If we fast forward to the present, we have the biggest, “baddest” computing power in the world, as well as the Internet with its digital back alleys, GPS satellites, thermography, electronic bugs, and all manner of possibly intrusive devices that may infringe upon our privacy.  In order to bank, phone, and transact business online, we surrender private information for good reason that can be used for wrong and unconsented purposes.  Private Telecomm carriers reportedly are cooperating with the government to collect and analyze data about all of us.
There is encouraging news, however, that the supreme law of the land still favors our individual privacy.  Last week, the Supreme Court curbed the government’s excessive reliance on GPS surveillance techniques – and made some significant observations about hi-tech devices that threaten to hi-jack our privacy.
In the case that was decided, the government placed a tracking device on Antoine Jones’ Jeep Grand Cherokee for four weeks without a valid warrant.  The government knew within 50-100 feet where Jones was 24/7 and generated 2,000 pages of personal data about his personal activities.
Justice Scalia, writing for the Court, said the Fourth Amendment guaranteed each individual the right “to be secure” in his person, house, paper and “effects” and a “vehicle” was an “effect” that was impermissibly searched by this GPS monitoring technique.
Justice Sotomayor said that we are not only protected against trespass of our “effects” but also violations of our “reasonable expectation of privacy.”  She charged that this e-surveillance “chills associational and expressive freedoms” and is “susceptible to abuse” and “inimical to democratic society.” 
Sotomayor expressed the concern that we are going to have to re-visit how we handle abuses of the information that we disclose to third parties for one purpose that is abused for different purposes and that includes the phone numbers we dial, the text messages we send, the urls we visit, the e-mails we write and receive, and the online purchases of books, groceries and medications. 
Justice Alito joined the chorus of concern with a somewhat different analysis but focused as well on how “closed-circuit television video monitoring is becoming ubiquitous” on toll roads and elsewhere.
While this decision is a hopeful sign that we may still have some right of privacy, we are going to have to be vigilant.
By the way, does anyone know what those cameras at the traffic stop in Leesburg on East Market Street are capturing – they appear to be on 24/7?