How many gun dead does it take?

The Florida Shooter – Esteban Santiago

The Florida Shooter – Esteban Santiago

When you can’t use your mind, you may only act physically.

Guns empower true physical violence, wielded at a distance from the human target, who is unarmed, unsuspecting, innocent, a truly one-sided “fight,” with surprise on the side of the assailant, that reduces his risk of harm.

Guns are easy to get in America no matter how little you know about handling weapons, no matter how unhealthy mentally you may be.

A troubled Iraq vet, Esteban Santiago, 26, upon his return stateside, according to his Aunt, lost his mind in the mid-east and was hospitalized.

Last November, Estaban told the Anchorage FBI that there was a CIA plot against him, and related a tale of paranoia that would be hard to imagine.

Esteban surrendered an ammunition clip to the FBI.  The FBI confiscated his gun.  Esteban was admitted to a hospital.  Shortly afterwards, he was released from the hospital, his gun returned, and Esteban flew from Alaska to Florida, to kill five people with the very same gun the FBI returned to Esteban. Continue reading

Are we soon “gonna” burn books?

booksgalore-1Are we really going to ban Johnny’s chances to read whatever he wants to read – including age-old literature classics?

Some misguided parents and fellow travelers in Accomack County want to create a list of “banned” books including “To Kill a Mocking Bird” and “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” and remove them from classrooms and libraries.  Could it be that some want to conceal the storied picture of intolerant whites in the South?  A parent in Fairfax wanted Toni Morrison’s Pulitzer prize-winning and National Book award book, “Beloved,” having to do with slaves, banned.  There are Richmond legislators who think we need a black list of banned books.  They made a run at this wrong-headed legislative initiative last year and, mercifully, the Governor vetoed this backward idea.

We also have Del. Bob Marshall (R.-Prince William) who insists we “resolve” to do something (Bob’s doesn’t say what) to redress the pornographic “epidemic.”

The complaining parent, who wanted “Beloved” banned, said she was really concerned about sexually explicit elements in the prize-winning novel.  The Governor refused to ban the book based on a single scene exclusive of the novel’s context.

The targeted books so far have to do with race relations or sex that consider our nation’s failure to fulfill its unfulfilled promise of equality, and a complex of issues that affect the human condition including our youngsters. Continue reading

On the birth of Jesus

xmastree-1In a High School Theology Class, at Fordham Prep, a Jesuit explained to several of us Science and Greek Honor Majors that the word translated in the bible as “virgin” may more properly be translated as “maiden” – meaning only unmarried.  To this day, I find that moment of instruction reassuring.

It allowed us young men to discount the significance that so many believers ascribed to the conception of Jesus in terms defying how every other natural person is born.

Some told us that it was a mystery, the “virgin birth,” that must be taken on faith, but our Jesuit teacher showed us how what is natural was not necessarily contradicted in scripture.

The world is a terrible place if one takes everything literally, does not question the facts, and can’t understand the role of metaphor and symbolism.  I’m grateful for my early faith – or indoctrination –and an appreciation that symbols and metaphors are means that are transparent to transcendence.

When considering the liturgy, we know that some aspects of “the faith” and its liturgical events were taken over wholesale from “pagan” rituals.  Pagan was a term of slander for religions other than what was Christian.

That adoption of the rites of other religions appealed to my political understanding, but it also depreciated what many insisted to be true, that the Christian was the one true faith, although it’s challenging to know which sect of Christianity we’re talking about – the Roman Catholic, Anglican, Protestant, Baptist, Lutheran, Fundamentalists, Pietism, Evangelicalism, Pentecostalism, Latter Day Saints, Eastern Orthodox, or Gnosticism.  Continue reading

America’s loss of virtue

G. Washington looking on at the Constitutional Convention (photo by John P. Flannery)

G. Washington looking on at the Constitutional Convention (photo by John P. Flannery)

These are the worst of times, in part, because President elect Donald Trump has flagrantly flaunted American law and sound principles of governance.

Mr. Trump betrayed the nation by publicly inviting Russian President Vladimir Putin, the head of a foreign nation state at odds with America, to interfere in our elections and to commit cybercrimes – to hack American party emails and servers.

President-elect Trump plainly intends to dismantle our system of laws.  The various Departments in the Executive Branch have evolved over time by complex statutory rights and obligations.  President elect Trump might therefore seek to revise a Department’s legislative authority.  Instead, Trump is infecting these Departments with incompetent pathogens, persons with no experience and antagonistic agenda at odds with the several Departments’ missions.

The Republican Party, the party of President Abraham Lincoln, has elected a man who would install as Attorney General a man who discriminated against blacks.

The party of President Teddy Roosevelt, who pressed the Congress to enact the Food and Drug Act in 1906 (the Wiley Act), has elected a man who would undermine that worthy legislation, that is, if you care what you eat or the prescriptions you use.

The party of President Dwight Eisenhower, who signed the National Defense Education Act in 1958, marking the beginning of large-scale involvement of the U.S. federal government in education, has now elected a man who would depreciate public schooling, by nominating Betsy DeVos, an antagonist of public schooling.

The party of President Richard Nixon, who created the EPA, at first by Executive Order, cared deeply how humans were compromising the quality of air that we breathe and the water we drink, has now elected a man who has nominated an Oklahoma AG who does not believe humans have any adverse effect on the environment. Continue reading

The living legend – farmer “Jimmy” Spring

The Movie – the Living Legend - “Jimmy” Spring

The Movie – the Living Legend – “Jimmy” Spring

Another example of why Western Loudoun is worth preserving and maintaining is the kind of farming folk that made this County.

Perhaps more people need to understand and consider what kind of people made Western Loudoun what it is, and why it must be preserved because what’s best about the West is a lot more than geography.

It’s about core values that sustain a community when the center doesn’t appear to hold any longer.

We have just recognized a “living legend,” long time Lovettsville farmer, James “Jimmy” Spring, 95.

Jimmy likes to tell stories, but this story I’m telling is about “Jimmy.”

It’s about Jimmy’s values, the ones we treasure as a community, that we celebrate, seek to emulate, because these values he shares give us a place to stand and enable us to achieve a worthy objective, whether it’s farming or anything else we might consider worthwhile.

Aristotle said, “Nothing improves your aim like having a target.”

Jimmy had a target, and a way to reach it, because he had the character transparent to everyone else, revealing exactly who he was, and what he was made of.

His force of character defines his life, as a living legend, and it’s particularly instructive for all of us to consider this man in our time of fact-free discourse of a seemingly rudderless and unworthy cast.

This past Sunday at about 3PM, at the local Lovettsville Lutheran Church in the basement, a crowd of 120 came to hear Jimmy’s story, and to watch a movie prepared by yours truly that expands upon the remarks I’m making here (the movie was posted on line after its premier at the award ceremony – and it’s free – https://vimeo.com/195151504 ). Continue reading

On the pledge of allegiance – under God

Thomas Jefferson: “Erecting the Wall of Separation between Church and State is  absolutely essential in a free society.” (Photo by John P. Flannery)

Thomas Jefferson: “Erecting the Wall of Separation between Church and State is
absolutely essential in a free society.” (Photo by John P. Flannery)

At the recent Dem meeting, I was asked to lead the meeting in the pledge of allegiance.

I told the group that I do not say “under God” when I make the pledge but that I would pause when leading the pledge for anyone to say those words.

When I finished the pledge, someone shouted out, “God bless you!”

I didn’t respond.  But he was out of line.  He was, in fact and truth, objecting, in his way, that I refused to say “under God,” and would foist his wrong-headed view, in this manner, insisting that I acknowledge that our nation was “under God.”  Well, it’s not.

The Dominican Nuns in the South Bronx instructed us to “render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s” and that “rendering” had nothing whatsoever to do with God or our Roman Catholic religion.

I have refused to say the words, “under God,” ever since Congress added those words in 1954 to fight communism, because congressional zeal violated what Jesus told me and what our constitution prohibited in the very First Amendment to the US Constitution; in other words, it was none of Caesar’s business what even a kid thought was the righteous relationship of god and country. Continue reading

The U.S. constitution bars President-elect Donald Trump from becoming President unless…

THE U.S. CONSTITUTION BARS

PRESIDENT-ELECT DONALD TRUMP

FROM BECOMING PRESIDENT UNLESS…

Stock Photo of the Consitution of the United States and Feather Quill

__________________________

Prepared by

The Honorable John P. Flannery, II[1]

____________________________

 

Alexander Hamilton, “One of the weak sides of republics, among their numerous advantages, is that they afford too easy an inlet to foreign corruption.”[2]

 

  1. I.                   PRELIMINARY REMARKS

President-elect Donald J. Trump must disavow and disassociate himself from his extensive and complex personal holdings in foreign nation states, lest he blatantly disregard the constitutional prohibition that seeks to insulate the President, however virtuous, from the corrupting influence of foreign governments.

Any President-elect, in order to assume the office of President, must take the following oath:

“I do solemnly swear … that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States (underscoring supplied).”

President-elect Donald Trump will violate his oath of office and a critical constitutional precondition for serving as our Chief Executive unless, before he takes the oath, he separates himself completely from all favors and profits, so-called emoluments, from every other nation state.

The “emoluments clause” in the United States Constitution, at Article I, Section 9, clause 8, says, in relevant part, that “no person holding any office of profit or trust shall, without the consent of Congress, accept any present, emolument, office or title, of any kind whatever, from any king, prince or foreign state (underscoring supplied).”

This provision is mandatory, as expressed by the word, “shall,” and not permissive, as would be suggested were the word, “may.”  There was a similar anti-corruption provision in the Articles of Confederation strengthened in the U.S. Constitution by making the provision mandatory – “shall.”

President-elect Trump estimates his personal wealth at $10 billion, and occupies the unprecedented status as a President-elect both of having great wealth and more off shore holdings and foreign entanglements than any previous President-elect.

Worse, the full extent of Mr. Trump’s holding are unknown despite repeated demands that he disclose the full extent of his business “empire.”

According to published reports, Mr. Trump has shunned all advice to date to come to grips with this looming constitutional violation.

In fact, Mr. Trump has said that, as President, he “can’t have a conflict of interest,” akin to the much-criticized formulation President Nixon once invoked, sounding, royally, as a presidential prerogative, entitling the President to be above the law binding everyone else.

Mr. Trump’s anorexic financial disclosures combined with what journalists have uncovered about his offshore holdings beg the question whether Mr. Trump can resist the understandable self-serving impulse to favor his foreign business interests over the interests of the nation.

If Mr. Trump does not cure this divided loyalty, and disregards the constitutional dictate of the emoluments clause barring his easy tolerance of the corrupt conflicting influence of foreign nation states, he risks, indeed he invites, an impeachment resolution under Article 2, Section 4 of the United States Constitution, and it will happen sooner or later, for his abject failure to insulate the office of President from foreign influence.

Mr. Trump may seem immune from impeachment given the electoral reality of Republican majorities in both Chambers of the U.S. Congress.

We should not assume, however, that party loyalty is so ethically elastic that Mr. Trump may forever enjoy an unlimited license to indulge his divided loyalty, to his business’ advantage, no matter what is the best interest of the nation. Continue reading

We the people

Protest in Richmond (photo by John P. Flannery)

Protest in Richmond (photo by John P. Flannery)

There’s a Chinese curse – “may you live in interesting times.”

We are living in “interesting times,” in fact, in quite challenging times.

We worked our heart and soul to elect the first woman president of the United States.

That’s both interesting and “historic.”

Virginia wanted Hillary.

The nation needed her.

According to the popular vote, the nation preferred that Hillary Clinton be our next president.

But the electoral college is the constitutional measure of such things, and thus we shall have a failed casino operator, Donald Trump, as our President – a crass, disrespectful, cursing, hate-filled, lying, intolerant bully, who pretends to know much about everything, while having little experience at much of anything having to do with public policy and governance.

This man ran down our nation for the last year, picking fights, pushing people around, promising somehow, by these tactics, that he’d make America great again.

Trump doesn’t know what makes this nation great.

It is that we conceived of ourselves as a nation as one united – one from many.

This “got-your-back” promise of unity has been our nation’s North Star, what we have fought to perfect from the very beginning.

We have struggled in fits and starts, not without pain, not without blood and suffering, indeed, not without a civil war, not without women being jailed and tortured for demanding the right to vote.

The French made a gift to this still young nation of a tall statue, a maiden who stands with a flaming torch of liberty uplifted high for the whole world to see, beckoning the suffering masses to our shores to find freedom.  We’re not going to go back on that promise, are we?

What could be a more grievous violation of what makes us great, than to divide our nation.

President Lincoln said – “a House divided cannot stand.”

More than any time in my life since the 60s, have we seen such intolerance by a presidential candidate based on a person’s skin color, gender, religion, nation of origin, and sexual orientation.

Mature citizens who are hardly politically obsessive, who are just plain folk, cannot sleep.  Perhaps you couldn’t either.

Children cry at home and in class because they know and they fear we are re-defining our nation’s social contract; they are being counseled.

Protesters take to the streets, the vice-president elect is booed at a theater in New York, and the President rebuffs an actor’s plea for reassurance, signaling the President elect’s low threshold to strike out at others.

We are also hard-pressed in the history of American politics to find anything like Russia’s intrusion into our presidential election.

FBI Director Comey irreparably intruded into this election in the final days of the campaign.

These compromises of our electoral process eclipses Nixon’s dirty tricks in 1972. Continue reading

What we’ve got

Eugene Scheel, map maker, at Bonnie’s

Eugene Scheel, map maker, at Bonnie’s

Maybe some don’t appreciate what we’ve got here in Western Loudoun because they just don’t know.

A fun way to cross that divide, and find out what we’ve got, is to get to know Eugene Scheel.

Eugene draws a line on fine paper to record an historic remnant, the ridge of a mountain, a creek or stream, a graveyard, a church, the place a plane crashed, and he does this with precision, and after much person to person historical research, gathering up the memories of eye witnesses, riding the local roads, and then memorializing the event and the date and the geographic spot where it all happened.

Gene, who is originally from Park Chester, in the Bronx, New York, has lived in Waterford, VA with his wife, Annette, since the 60s, and is best known these days as a mapmaker and historian par excellence.

Gene found he had a strong sense of location and direction walking the rolling ground and woods and rocky hillsides in training missions day and night for eight years as a corporal in the U.S. Marine reserves.

Gene “doodled” imaginary maps as a kid, and, after his service in the Marines, he really learned his craft from his tour of duty with the National Geographic Magazine, and his days at Rand McNally.

When he was a High School student, Gene wrote a letter to Dr. Gilbert Hovey Grosvenor, the first full time editor of National Geographic Magazine, and told Dr. Grosvenor that he liked to “doodle” imaginary countries and islands and was interested in making maps. Continue reading

Humpty Dumpty

humpt_dumpty_starsSo can we put the nation back together again?

Truth be told, perhaps we cannot.

We will be reviewing in the years ahead, the price to our Republic of suffering through a national conversation conducted at the level of a badly cast reality show, when we seemingly lost sight of our shared humanity, endured false aspersions, half-truths, lies, pejorative nick names, in defiance of previously respected norms set by our constitution, statute, case law, tradition, protocol, ritual, and common sense, in other words, the elaborate social contract we’ve negotiated for generations by which our citizens agreed how we could function as a collaborative and peaceful society.

We had one candidate who believed that lies were the coin of the realm and that facts didn’t matter because he expected too few would bother to check or care to find out what was the truth.

Aristotle wrote politics is the highest calling as it has the most pervasive influence on any society.  That was hard to conclude from this year’s food fight.

For starters, if we can’t agree that facts matter, if everyone can choose their own truth, then how are we to inform our judgement about our representatives and the public policy we seek to have them enact or execute.

Aristotle’s second book of Rhetoric states that we are persuaded by emotions and the best way to make an argument is to manipulate the fact finder or voter by moving them to anger, sympathy, envy, love and adoration, as suits the cause one espouses.  Is that what we’ve been doing?  Well, we need more reason, logic and truth than we’ve had.

We call our phone an I-phone, our music I-tunes, our tablets I-pads, and there’s also the I-pod.

Is there any room for an “US” in I?

What we’ve lost this political season is a focus on really important matters that affect us all.

Are we going to continuing compromising our domestic agenda by our urge to rule the world?

When are we going to wrap our arms around the terror of nuclear annihilation?  Can’t we see that there are so many of us compromising the limited resources of our struggling planet, and that we’d better do better than we have?

What are we going doing about a crumbling infrastructure?  What are we going to do to share the wealth fairly?  When are we going to decide that, if we have shifting job opportunities, that we should train those hurt by shifting markets who can’t otherwise adjust themselves?

When and how are we going to remove the obstructions to education for our children and young adults, you know, the high cost of learning and the high interest on student loans?

When are we going to insist that the cost of prescriptions be reasonable, that health care be universal, and especially so for the underprivileged and fragile members of our society?

So many invoke our founding documents but recoil from immigrants and equal rights for all – isn’t it about time we got this right – or returned that maiden lady to France – if we can’t or won’t guarantee liberty for all?

Instead of scratching our collective heads about the new math, let’s embrace innovation and undertake a great challenge to bring the nation together in a positive way, instead of like some dysfunctioning domestic relations disaster.

What are we going to do about the fact that our saged are living longer, what should we do about their retirement, about the contributions they still have to make that society resists because of the oft-ignored bias against our older Americans?

The American brand of liberty, freedom and success has suffered around the world with this disastrous presidential season.

So the question is, can we put the nation back together again?

We can but we have to do this together.

Thomas Jefferson wrote, “A nation that expects to be ignorant and free, expects what never was and never will be.”

It’s time for us to smarten up – if we can.