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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