Things fall apart

FalcolnWilliam Butler Yeats wrote that “things fall apart” and “the center cannot hold.”

By his dark and beautiful poetry, Yeats wrote what he saw and felt after the close of World War I.

Yeats described the alarming trends we find today in the too easy inclination among some citizens to redress the effects of conflict and war by isolation, intolerance and doomsday desperation.

Our political partisans fail to work together to hold the center.

This condition is not without historical precedent.

In Great Britain, the citizens voted to withdraw from the EU and only after they voted did they bother to learn what EU meant to their economic well-being and national security.

The Tory Prime Minister (PM) David Cameron couldn’t get his Labor Party opposite, Jeremy Corbyn, to join the fight to remain in the EU.

The former London Mayor, Boris Johnson, the PM’s old Eton “friend,” took up the “leave the EU” campaign in opposition.

“Light information voters” are voters too lazy to know much about what they are voting on; many EU voters, however, had “no information,” not a clue about the EU.

Yeats wrote how, “Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,” listen here.

Public policy generated by a voter’s xenophobic intolerance is anarchy.

Yeats described how “the blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere the ceremony of innocence is drowned.”

The ceremony of sense, of comity and of tolerance fell beneath Britain’s electoral wave. Continue reading

The nation’s untreated wound

Terrorist_nation_gunsThe nation suffers an open wound that we refuse to treat even after the worst mass shooting in American history.

In Orlando, a semi-automatic assault rifle, in the hands of a soulless assassin, hurled 20 deathly shots every 9 seconds, ripping the flesh and organs of the young and defenseless with the fury and power one could hardly resist.

Innocent young men and women who tried to hide couldn’t.

In the moments before the rain of fire, they were unsuspecting, happy, having fun, dancing at a club about to close in the early morning hours, and, what sounded like fire crackers, as they couldn’t know better, was gunfire; those who were not close to an exit to escape, were stranded, shot at will, as they cowered, and, in the end, 49 would die, and another 53 would be injured or left fighting to live.

Those who ran and escaped were torn, felt guilty, for those they left behind.

This place of unholy devastation was encircled by a community of compassion while the killer continued to hunt those trapped inside.

A Mother traded anxious texts with her son, hiding inside, waiting for the police, hoping to be reunited with his Mom, until the moment he texted, “I’m gonna die.” And he did. Continue reading

The glass ceiling shatters!

Hillary Clinton – shattering the glass ceiling

Hillary Clinton – shattering the glass ceiling

Shirley Chisholm in 1972 was the first black person to announce for President, and the first woman as well.

Shirley said, “I met more discrimination as a woman than for being black. Men are men.”

Shirley faced death threats and knew she might likely fail but ran anyhow to “change the face and future of American politics.”

In 2008, two separate candidates vied to “change the face” America presents to the world.

America fulfilled part of Shirley’s prophecy in 2008 with the election of then Senator Barack Obama.

This year we are trying to meet Shirley’s second hope – to inoculate the oval office against the sexual discrimination Shirley suffered.

I’ve worked for some great women over the years who pushed against the glass ceiling and some were certainly inspired by Shirley.

What sex discrimination has been and mostly remains today is that a woman must excel, be better than a man, to hope to be treated equally.

Over the years, I’ve worked with Bella Abzug, and Liz Holtzman and Mary Sue Terry and Emilie Miller and Kathleen Kennedy Townsend and Maxine Waters and Loretta Sanchez and Nancy Pelosi. I served as Special Counsel to Rep. Patsy Mink from Hawaii and Rep. Zoe Lofgren from California.

All these women were strong, striving to make a difference, to advance individual rights, with the stamina required of women to break through the slights they suffer, like when a woman makes a point among men and women, but is not heard until a man repeats the point she made.

It’s an encouraging shift toward equal rights this year that more men found they could hear what Hillary had to say.
Continue reading

Loudoun citizens battle AT&T, declaring “not on our mountain”

The “view” from the Lovettsville Squircle on Memorial Day

The “view” from the Lovettsville Squircle on Memorial Day


The Short Hill Mountain is a scenic and pre-historic geologic treasure for which the County Board of Supervisors is responsible as stewards to maintain and preserve and protect; the County’s Comprehensive Plan memorializes this praiseworthy obligation.

Many citizens have objected that AT&T wants to deface the mountain, by placing a Costco size industrial building, atop the mountain, visible for miles around, sucking up millions of gallons of water, and megawatts of electricity, in a rural and residential area, and the community is calling foul, and demanding that the Board stop AT&T in its tracks.

Citizens on both sides of the Mountain are demanding that the Board overrule the permit that the Planning Commission, they charge, improvidently granted, and that the Board do this at its meeting scheduled for June 23, 2016.

There have been public and private gatherings all for the purpose of defeating this permit. There have been statements and letters published and forwarded to the Board and on social media. There are resolutions to this effect. Some are drafting reports they may submit to the Board. Citizens are seeking audiences with their elected representatives at every level – county, state and federal government. Continue reading

Religion in Moscow

The Churches within the Kremlin (Photo by John P. Flannery)

The Churches within the Kremlin (Photo by John P. Flannery)

In Moscow, I saw churches and domes throughout this modern cosmopolitan city of 15 million people, 600 Christian churches in all, and I visited several sanctuaries within the Kremlin Walls (Assumption Cathedral, the Church of the Deposition of the Robe, and Necropolis of the Archangel Cathedral).

When the Tsars reigned, the Churches were integral to the autocratic state, one lever of control by which to govern the masses.

Lenin fairly charged that the Church was “used for the protection of the exploitation and the stupefaction of the working class.”

When the final revolt came in 1917, the Bolsheviks took down the Tsar, but also the Tsar’s partner, the Church, in all its manifestations, outlawed its influence, even its existence.

In 1997, Russia reformed its past prohibitions, distrusting the Church less, declaring religion part of its “historical heritage” following upon Mikhail Gorbachev’s policy of glasnost (“openness”).

The most significant difference, before the Revolution, was that the Tsars made the Church a governing partner with the Nobles.

This error of making any religious institution preeminent in secular governance is not limited to the Russian experience.

As an Irish Catholic kid from the South Bronx, I saw how Catholics were treated in the U.S. when they ran for office, Governor Al Smith being the prime example, and I celebrated when JFK became President declaiming that his Roman Catholic religion would ever affect his judgment as a public servant. Discrimination against “papist” Catholics made his assurances necessary, although it’s a guarantee every candidate should make, that religion will not be allowed to interfere with governance.

When a religious sect is integral to governance, it comes at the cost of intolerance toward those who profess any “disagreeable” faith; as for the “faithful,” they are manipulated by the fear that any dissenting word or conduct may earn them temporal punishment and bar their “eternal reward.” Constantine, for example, had the skin torn off bishops who refused to believe the communion host became flesh. Continue reading

Political Magic

magiccardsNow you see it. Now you don’t.

Since I was a kid, I’ve loved magic, learned and performed tricks with cards, coins, magnets, (foam rubber) rabbits, large silvery clanging rings, false bottom boxes, ropes, and guillotine-like finger “slicers.” I found Harry Houdini mesmerizing, and I still love going to a good old fashioned magic show – as I did the other day to watch a self-described “Hogwarts graduate,” Michael Barron, who does “magic tricks for a living.”

We know that magic is an illusion, that the finger sliced off when the blade falls will be restored, yet we scream, for our collective mind suspends its disbelief, wanting to believe we’ve observed a magical singularity defying all past experience and common sense.

We play the fool, indeed we crave to be deceived, so we may puzzle, “how do you suppose he fooled us?”

How is this like politics?

It’s similar but not so harmless.

In politics, we often have the oleaginous con, the pol who does not perform as well as a tyro carney magician, he may even appear to be a clumsy oaf, stumbling to speak, having nary an original thought, a slender resume to fill the elective post he seeks, but he searches cleverly, like a political dowser might, to find the wellspring of our hope or fear that he promises to satisfy – while our jimminy cricket whispers, “you know, he can’t possibly do that.”

You’ve heard it this silly season.

One says – Walls will go up I tell you.

Another – Opportunity will rise – beyond your wildest dreams.

There’s a high price we pay for being suckered by such political misdirection. Continue reading

Divided devotion

ironcrossI ran Sunday morning.

It was on an island, Vasilievskiy, in St. Petersburg, Russia, a long walk or a short taxi ride across one of several bridges from the island to the Hermitage or the main drag, Nevsky Street,

The island had hardly any traffic, and few stragglers, in contrast with the celebrations across the Neva River, at the center of St. Petersburg, commemorating Russia’s 1945 victory over Germany in World War II.

There were local parks and broad avenues to run, until the streets narrowed into a warren of quaint back streets, and I came upon some local folk walking, heads slightly bowed, speaking softly in Russian.

I stopped running, and was soon walking with them.

The women wore muted colored scarves pulled over their heads. The men were unsmiling but not unpleasant. The children were moderately respectful of their parents’ directives.

After a block or so, adult singles, couples and families, turned out in pleasant dress and manner, formed a swelling stream of humanity headed toward a narrow security gate just ahead.

A solitary thin woman in a long black dress stood across the street, not far from the gate, framed by a magnificent small church topped with sunlight brilliant gold eggs, each the height of five men, with crosses fixed above that brushed the blue sky.

The crowd gathered at the narrow check point, just past the darkly dressed lady, crossed the barrier, and marched onto a broad walkway.

It first appeared to be a park or garden, but then more like a natural forest.

It was the Smolenskoye Cemetery, hundreds of years old by the dated headstones.

Crosses standing over unseen grave sites emerged from a back lit growth of grasses like they were flowers instead.

Concordant with the complexity of nature, there was a harmony in this place of what is with what was.

Nature seemed to embrace and lend life to the dust we contemplate is our end, salving the pain of the living walking among their remembered loved ones.

A large crucifix lay flat on the ground, at an angle crossing the grave site, resting on a bed of flowers.

There were the signs left by the living in memory of those they lost, saying something about who they were and why they mattered and still do to those who are with us.

One family had placed photographs encased in aged porcelain of a married couple, in separate photos, smiling as they had before they left us for this garden of what was.

Those who bury their loved ones know such places.
Plainly, the people of this island in St. Petersburg struggled to find a way to say something special and different; the usual just wouldn’t do.

This was a place of grief but also a place of love and reconciliation and respect.

An older slight lady, in a warm sandy coat, weighing as much as her frail self, bent by age, a royal purple scarf about her head, sat by the side of the walk way, a bag of her things beside her, her white cane resting against the slight hill’s decline. She didn’t ask for alms except by the sad empathy that hung about her. I had only a few quarters, and no rubles. I gave her what I had. She looked up into my eyes and crossed herself.

russianwomanHard nerveless working men wrapped their arms about their women as they left. Some cried. They comforted each other. Young and old, comfortable and working poor, all made their devotions in different ways. Young children seemed to learn something from their visits – if their restrained and respectful conduct, as they were leaving, was any indication.

How can people around the world feel love for those they lose and still harbor hate and suffer division from others who care as much for those they’ve loved and lost?

Why does human kind suffer this arrhythmia?

Reality check

trumpfuReality TV has always struck me as cultural porn, transfixing bystanders with the participants’ non-stop trash talk, wrong headed views, erratic and impolite behavior, not to overlook their clumsy violence, cursing intolerance, calculated to demean each other “for amusement.”

The tv participants in these seemingly impromptu presentations are indifferent as to how they appear as long as they are being watched.

If the “players” have any sense at all, they know they are being abusive, even sadistic to one another.

Those watching are masochistic, as they submit, and perhaps even embrace this misconduct.

It’s not like a road side accident because this is no accident. “Huge” amounts of time and money and promotion are spent on this immersion “entertainment.” Parents reform a child’s worst impulses to act this way but disregard what they teach.

Marshall McLuhan studied cultural phenomenon and wrote how the “medium is the message” and how it forms our daily conduct. There could perhaps be no better example of McLuhan’s instruction than how reality tv has crossed over and embedded itself, compromised our “culture,” as it’s being mimicked increasingly off-camera, and is the latest in-your-face fashion this presidential season. Continue reading

Loudoun Water allegedly let Goose Creek run dry

We received a report from the Loudoun County Soil and Water Conservation District that alleges  actions by Loudoun Water halted the flow of water over Beaver Dam for two periods during the summer of 2015. The report begins:

The Loudoun County Soil and Water Conservation District Board passed a resolution, appointing the undersigned as Special Counsel, to inquire into whether Loudoun Water had failed to pump water into the Goose Creek Reservoir and whether, because of that failure, Goose Creek ran dry; otherwise, the assignment was to suggest what recommendations, if any, might cure this failure going forward.

John Flannery, one of our bloggers, submitted the report and will serve as the undersigned Special Counsel.

beaverdam goosecreekmap goosecreekflow beaverdamarial REPORT OF SPECIAL COUNSL_BEAVER_DAM_4_14_16_Approved_4_29_16

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