Father Dan

danielBerriganFather Daniel J. Berrigan, a saintly Jesuit, has died at 94 years of age.

In his 94 years, he saved many lives and souls because he believed that being spiritual meant doing justice.

Father Dan once wrote of “the poem called death” yet “unwritten,” while walking “patiently through life,” and coping with “the mind’s dark overflow,” awaiting “the violent last line.”
Few thought of Father Dan as “patient.”

When they say, “Give me some of that old time religion,” I’d like to think they were talking about Father Dan’s brand of belief.

In sharp contrast, we are overrun these days with pulpeteers spewing forth hate, intolerance and dispirited bile.

The Berrigan Brothers, Dan and Philip, a World War II vet and religious himself, dedicated their lives to non-violent protest on behalf of peace and love and a just society and, in ironic response, were arrested for breaking the law. Continue reading

A barrel of monkeys? – no, of rain water!

Peter Holden – on making a rain water barrel and why

Peter Holden – on making a rain water barrel and why

It’s not clear that a barrel of monkeys is much fun.

Nor maybe a barrel of rain water either.

But collecting rain water in a barrel is quite useful.

Peter Holden of the Loudoun Soil and Water Conservation District came out to Lovettsville last Wednesday to the Quarter Branch Barn, in partnership with the Town, to help the local folk to build or buy barrels to collect rain water.

Some may think that there’s so much water, that it’s quaint to collect rain water in a barrel.

Although 70% of the earth is covered in water, less than one half of one percent of all that water is fresh, available and drinkable.

That’s not a lot worldwide, particularly when some is wasted, compromised by pollution, and not where it’s needed.

It’s startling that one fifth of all the world’s fresh water is found in Lake Baikal in Siberia.

We should be concerned because water is right up there after air for our survival.

The world record for holding one’s breath is 22 minutes for a trained free diver, Stig Severinsen (after Stig hyperventilated to rid himself of carbon dioxide). But many can hardly hold their breath for even a minute.

As for living without water, three to five days is about right although it depends on your physical condition.

Many presume that water is free. But mostly it costs to treat and recycle it. Town folk pay water taxes. Away from sources of public water, homeowners and renters maintain well and septic systems and filters and pumps.

Harvesting falling rain water in a barrel lightens the burden on public and private water sources.

Peter said, “Rain barrels are an old technology that has come back into style as people focus on conserving our resources and minimizing the impact on the environment.” Continue reading

One man, little or no vote

Alexis de Tocqueville

Alexis de Tocqueville

Ever since the ancient Greeks, and long after Attica and Pericles, we arrived, by fits and starts, at an understanding that democracy, and the right of the people to vote, is how we overthrow kings, dictators, and corrupt political elites.

Many suffered and died when resisting those who opposed the popular vote.

We are engaged in a struggle over what the franchise means in this presidential election year.

Alexis de Tocqueville wrote that, “America is great because she is good. If America ceases to be good, America will cease to be great.”

What is especially “good” about America is that “we the people” can say directly or indirectly how we are governed by whom we may elect with our votes.

Thomas Jefferson believed that, “[s]hould things go wrong at any time, the people will set them to rights by the peaceable exercise of their elective rights.”

Republican voters are asking this year whether their “elective rights” have anything like the bang per vote they thought they enjoyed.

In the Republican primaries, we have seen how the votes of one man may be reduced to a fraction, or be treated unequal to another man’s vote, or may even wither until a nullity, void and of no effect whatever.

Harry Enten studied the variance in the recent Republican primaries and caucuses, focusing on how many voters it took to elect a delegate.

Mr. Enten found a range, how it took 52 votes to elect a Republican delegate in the Northern Mariana Islands, but 2,516 votes in Nevada; the insider caucuses, he concluded, invited outsized elite influence, requiring fewer votes to elect more delegates.

The orange canary in the Republican presidential primaries has been Billionaire Developer Donald Trump. Continue reading

Black lives matter

Jamycheal Mitchell

Jamycheal Mitchell

On April 22, 2015, Jamycheal Mitchell, 24, a schizophrenic, walked into a 7-11 in Portsmouth, and took a Mountain Dew, a Snickers bar and a Zebra Cake.

The value of these three food items was $5.05.

He was charged with trespass, and petit larceny, misdemeanors.

What do you think his bail should have been?

Whatever you think, you likely got it wrong.

He was denied bail entirely, and held in custody at the Hampton Roads Regional Jail, according to the Portsmouth Case Information System.

Every person accused of a crime, particularly a misdemeanor, has a constitutional right to be released on bail if they are not a risk to themselves or to the community.

There is no indication that Jamycheal posed any risk when arrested.

But the Magistrate denied him bail, and kept him in custody.

Jamycheal wasn’t released from jail a month later.

Instead, Judge Morton V. Whitlow ordered Jamycheal to be transferred to the Eastern State Hospital since he was deemed incompetent to stand trial on the misdemeanor shoplifting charges, and presumably remain there until he was competent to stand trial.

If that sounds bizarre, this Dickensian nightmare for Jamycheal and his family was hardly over.

Nor would it end anything like Victor Hugo’s famously wronged fictional inmate, Jean val Jean, who stole a loaf of bread, rather than a Snickers.

There was no room at Eastern State for Jamycheal. So he remained at the Hampton Roads Regional Jail. In fact, Jamycheal was never taken to receive any treatment.

Jamycheal reportedly paced his cell naked, ate little or nothing, lost weight, and had no visitors.

On July 31, 2015, when he appeared before the court, he was visibly thinner, his face emaciated, but the Court simply reiterated his earlier direction, that Jamycheal be transferred to the Eastern State Hospital.

Having seen Jamycheal in court on July 31, 2015, a least one family member reportedly called the jail and asked that he be transferred to the emergency room. But that didn’t happen.

On about August 17, 2015, Jamycheal was dead. Continue reading

Full court press

President Ronal Reagan nominated 9th Cir. Court Judge Anthony Kennedy and he was confirmed unanimously by the US Senate in 1988 – a presidential election year

President Ronal Reagan nominated 9th Cir. Court Judge Anthony Kennedy and he was confirmed unanimously by the US Senate in 1988 – a presidential election year

The Republican Majority Leader of the U.S. Senate, Mitch McConnell, and the Republican Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Charles Grassley, both insist that a nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court should not be approved in a presidential election year and they insist instead that the nation wait until the next President is elected, about nine months from now.

Nonsense!

Both Majority Leader McConnell and Chairman Grassley approved and voted for President Ronald Reagan’s Supreme Court nominee, Circuit Judge Anthony Kennedy, in a presidential election year, 1988, when President Reagan was a “lame duck.” (You may want to listen to what Chairman Grassley said in 1988 at Judge Kennedy’s confirmation hearings – http://www.c-span.org/video/?c4580671/grassley-supports-kennedy).

The vagaries of when a presidential nomination may occur has no bearing on what the constitution requires.

Especially when there have been 13 other Justices approved in presidential election years in our nation’s still young history including Justices Oliver Ellsworth (1796), Samuel Chase (1796), William Johnson (1804), Philip Barbour (1836), Roger Taney (1836), Melville Fuller (1888), George Shiras (1892), Mahlon Pitney (1912), John Clarke (1916), Louis Brandeis (1916), Benjamin Cardoza (1932), and Frank Murphy (1940).

The Senate’s refusal to meet its constitutional obligation has allowed us to see how the independence and function of the Supreme Court shall be compromised. Continue reading

Why do we war in the Mideast?

unknownsoldierI have heard it said about Lahore and Brussels and Paris and New York that the reason the “terrorists” attack “us” is that they hate “our way of life.”

I don’t think that’s it at all. Yet, this explanation is repeated after every one of these tragic attacks.

I don’t think a man, no matter his religion or ideology, blows himself up because he envies us, acting out a terminal case of Freudian status-envy.

An obvious explanation, the terrorists offer, is that they bomb our innocent civilians because we’re bombing their women and children in the mid-East.

After the tragic 9-11 attack, we recovered computer records from an al-Qaeda office in Kabul. Al Qaeda calculated that, after the 9-11 attack, we’d either withdraw from the Muslim world, or launch a massive invasion that would drain our treasury, and force America to leave the Muslim world anyway. We charged into Iraq, took out Saddam Hussein, kind of left, and thus made ISIS possible.

It is my hope, therefore, that our councils at the so-called “defense” department, the CIA, NSA, HSA, and when all those acronym-laden experts gather at the White House, that they’re discussing something a lot more nuanced than how terrorists envy our way of life.

We can’t make decent foreign policy decisions based on BS “intel” that “terrorists” envy our burgers, reality tv and sprawling malls.

You have to suspect, that this line is meant only for our consumption, so we don’t ask why we’re really in the mid-East.

The powers that be assume most Americans have no idea where Belgium is, and a vague sense it has something to do with waffles.

The Economist said last November that Belgium has “a scabrous reputation as an incubator of jihadi ideology and a paragon of law-enforcement incompetence.” I’m not vouching for the foreign coverage. But is anyone reading this stuff? The Economist knew something was likely coming. And it did. But still Brussels was caught Flemish flat-footed.

The public has to be informed at home that what’s going on, prompting terrorism, is so much more complicated than nation-state envy?

Let’s level with the American people. Why exactly are we fighting in the Middle East? Is this an extension of dollar diplomacy, of securing mineral rights, of taking oil, of hegemony in the region, of exploiting a political vacuum we caused when we charged into Iraq, of securing Israel, of honoring commitments to Turkey (against Syria). Why are we there?

It’s hard to swallow the oft-cited claim that, “We’re just there to help the innocent women and children,” when we are dropping bombs on them with quite a bit less precision than you’ve grown to expect watching the current blockbuster action flicks.

Nor can we ignore that we have our latter day Crusaders who believe this is a holy war against Muslims. Save us!

No matter what is our true rationale, we should understand that when we drop bombs on population centers and strike civilians in the mid-East, we can expect that violence to come back on us, in Europe, Pakistan, and the United States.

The “terrorists” are curing the world of the sanitized TV version of the mid-East war, as a distant encounter that need not concern us, by concerning us, by bringing the fight to those nation-states, mixing into the centuries of religious wars they’ve endured. The cliché applies – “What goes around, comes around.”

So, it would be really good to define why we’re at war, for Aristotle said, nothing improves your aim like having a target, and if we can’t say why, we should get out of it.

Lighting the fire

[John P. Flannery appeared before the BOS on St. Patty’s Day to argue for full funding - https://youtu.be/QChPkkF0xo0

John P. Flannery appeared before the BOS on St. Patty’s Day to argue for full funding

There was an Irish poet, William Butler Yeats, who wrote that education is “not the filling of a bucket but the lighting of a fire.”

What should we spend as a government to spur a child to learn, and perhaps to “catch fire?”

Last year, we had a public discussion about full funding for our schools, and yet, here we are again, after an election, seemingly surprised that it’s going to cost us more again to get it right, and we are debating, once more, “Should we fully fund our schools?”’

Of course, we should. Spend the 2 cents!

We are prepared to fully fund everything else in the budget, at $1.15, but we’re hesitating about spending the funds on education, at $1.17, begrudging the 2 cents.

Our County invited families from far and wide to come to live with us in Loudoun County, and promised services if they did so.

Are we now going to say, forget it? Continue reading

Eat local

Paul Mock's Lettuce

Paul Mock’s Lettuce

Increasingly, folk want to eat local, safe, fresh, organic greens and meats with no additives or pesticides or antibiotics or GMOs for fear of what is known and yet unknown about their effects.

While runaway development everywhere threatens this effort to go green and fresh, pricing small farmers out of the market, nevertheless, the public appetite for good and better food is growing, and people are prepared to pay more to eat better.

At a Rural Innovation Confab in Winchester last Thursday, Lovettsville’s goat cheese meister, Molly Kroiz, said “real cheese tastes better, and people are tired of eating Kraft singles.”

Molly said cheese is a “combination of science and art” and allows for experimentation that lends a pleasurable flavor from how you make it, and where it’s made. Molly’s place is a farmstead meaning that she milks the Alpine goats, who forage on her rich pasture, and at this same farm, her husband Sam and she make the cheese. Molly said, “This quality is called, ‘Terroir,’ the taste of place.”

Some talk as if California is a “local” market, but a market truly local allows a farmer who favors craft to produce food that can be distributed close to the farm and consumed fresh. Continue reading

The desperate candidates – and their party

gopPresDebateWhen did the Republican presidential primary become a Bravo Reality TV series – “the Desperate Candidates?”

We have trash talk from a bombastic billionaire developer, Donald Trump, putting down the “Republican Establishment,” and those, who he convincingly says, are his “establishment” competitors.

In the latest round of churlish misconduct, Trump blasted one opponent based on his height (“little Marco”), countered by the charge that Trump was a crook (“con man”) according to Senators Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, prompting Trump to come back on Senator Cruz (“lying Ted”), and Senator Rubio’s toe-curling grammar school innuendoes followed, knocking Trump’s face, hair and, the most controversial, Trump’s sexual prowess (“small hands”), causing Trump to offer a national on-air description of his private body parts (“no problem there”).

In Loudoun County, despite Senator Rubio’s “below the belt” rhetoric, he was enthusiastically invited to Patrick Henry College to rally his true believers at a school founded “to impact the world ‘for Christ and for Liberty.’”

At the rally, Senator Rubio promised to compromise the medical care anyone was receiving under the Affordable Care Act, to step up the war on terror, to keep Guantanamo open and to “find out everything they [the prisoners there] know,” without saying precisely how he’d make that happen within the law and “as a devout Christian.” Congresswoman Barbara Comstock touted Rubio as “the most conversant on all of the top issues of the day.”

The Republican presidential candidates, including those deeply mired in this dehumanizing dialogue, undeservedly affect a moral superiority as compared with Trump. Continue reading

Begin the world over again

mlkMarchingTom Paine wrote that our new nation had the opportunity “to begin the world over again.”

This election year, voters seem to want to do just that – but the ratio of incomprehensible noise to common sense has been five to one.

The Reverend Martin Luther King said, “Let us be those creative dissenters who will call upon our beloved nation to a higher destiny, to a new plateau of compassion, to a more noble expression of humaneness.”

When marchers walked on Martin Luther King’s Day from the court house to the school house. the diverse community of warmly bundled marchers, were conscious that their only inconvenience was the wind and weather.

The march in Selma, Alabama, however, was conducted at some risk, and helped to win the voting rights legislation in 1965.

Selma succeeded because, as King described it, a “stubborn sheriff” acted so wrongly in handling that protest, he “stumbled against the future.”

The Reverend King was focused on what was just and fair, on equality, and the guide for his activism was the non-violence of Jesus and of Gandhi.

After Selma, King said that, “Occasionally in life one develops a conviction so precious and meaningful that he will stand on it till the end. That is what I have found in nonviolence.”

Anticipating his own death, King said in the Ebenezer Church in Atlanta, that he identified with those who were poor and hungry and, “[i]f it means dying for them, I’m going that way, because I heard a voice say, ‘Do something for others.’”

The challenge for our nation, in his mind, was human rights. Continue reading