War madness

The Dying Gaul

The Dying Gaul

In a world that prefers to war, can’t get enough of it, innocents are killed, and those senseless incidents in turn provoke more war.

It happened in the Ukraine and the testosterone is running high.  Ukraine calls to the West to put up or shut up with military force, not just economic sanctions.  The US saber rattles in response.  Partisans insist we must do more.

It could be as “simple” an error in the Ukraine as giving the separatist “freedom fighters” weapons that they should never have had.  The Russians entrusted these weapons in the Ukraine conflict. They thought they’d trained them no doubt. When the plane went down, the “freedom fighters” said they’d downed a military transport.  When they found out otherwise, the separatists went dark.  The United States weighs giving these weapons to other “freedom fighters” in Syria.

Not only do we have to trust these people – freedom fighters – if you must – to use the weapons in a just war, whatever that is these days, we also have to trust that they really know how to use the weapons at all, under the right circumstances, and, oh yes, that they won’t lose, give or sell the weapons we supplied to be used against us. Continue reading

The scent of reform

Lawrence Gaughan, 5th District Congressional Candidate (photo by John P. Flannery)

Lawrence Gaughan, 5th District Congressional Candidate (photo by John P. Flannery)

Lawrence Gaughan, 47, his family name pronounced “Gone,” as in “Gone with the Wind,” has launched a special political campaign in Virginia’s Fifth Congressional District as the Democratic nominee.

“This is the district,” Lawrence says, “where it all began,” a large district from Fauquier in the North to Danville, where the nation was conceived, declared independent of Great Britain, given birth when the constitution was ratified, and re-born at Appomattox after our civil war.

In a year with few rhetorical campaign excursions beyond the same-old wedge issues that manipulate voters at the polls in cookie cutter campaigns, Lawrence is staking out some plain talking common sense basics to get the nation going again, focusing on governing our nation, instead of tearing it apart. Continue reading

Pasty and white

Frank Wolf, Andrew Nicholson, and Barbara Comstock.

Frank Wolf, Andrew Nicholson, and Barbara Comstock.

Andrew Nicholson, Chair of the Clarke County GOP, recently wrote a letter to the Leesburg Today. Sue Liggett, Chair of the Clarke County Democratic Committee, noticed something. She responded:

Dear Editor: I recently read a curious letter to Leesburg Today from an Andrew Nicholson of Berryville, promoting Republican candidates for Congress. To the casual observer, the letter would appear to be written by an unaffiliated member of the public. It wasn’t.

Andrew Nicholson is the chairman of the Clarke County Republican Party, a position that would typically be disclosed in a letter to the editor.

Is it possible that Norm Styer, editor of the Leesburg Today, or members of his staff haven’t run into Nicholson, or heard his name? An editor covering 10th CD politics ought to know who the players are and provide the necessary attribution. But beyond that, why did Nicholson himself fail to disclose his important political position? Obviously, Nicholson wanted to appear to be “an unaffiliated member of the public” rather than what he is, a political party leader. And it’s understandable that he wanted to be deceptive, given his use of language like this [emphasis mine]:
Continue reading

Tobacco companies get rich on child labor

Children working Tobacco Fields – Source: Human Rights Watch

Children working Tobacco Fields – Source: Human Rights Watch

We talk so much about saving the future for the young from our selfish excesses.

We should therefore be stopping tobacco companies right now in Virginia, North Carolina, Kentucky and Tennessee, from using child labor as young as 7 years old as field hands to pick poisonous tobacco leaves under hazardous working conditions.

We obviously need to pass a law to prohibit child labor from picking tobacco younger than eighteen and tobacco companies should refuse tobacco from suppliers who use child labor – and are paid less than the minimum wage – no exceptions.

We probably all recall when the great leaf tobacco companies were immortalized, raising their right hands, at a widely publicized congressional hearing in 1994, solemnly swearing that nicotine was not addictive.  (See the sworn corporate denials on line)  These tobacco corporations confessed four years later at another set of congressional hearings that tobacco was indeed addictive.

Michael Moore, the Mississippi Attorney General, who was the lead negotiator in the settlement with the tobacco companies said these tobacco companies were “the most corrupt and evil corporate animal that has ever been created in this country’s history.  They sell the drug, they make a drug, and they sell it knowing that it’s addictive.  They market it to our children, who they know will become addicts and they know that they will die from … tobacco related disease[s].” Continue reading

Want a government job? What’s your religion?

Arlington Commonwealth Attorney Theo Stamos

Arlington Commonwealth Attorney Theo Stamos

If you were asked to disclose your religion to get a job in government, you’d say, “that’s none of your business.”

Any public employer who wants to know your religion is wrongly using your response to prefer or reject you for a public job.

The interview question also violates federal and state constitutional rights and statutory prohibitions against asking a job applicant about his faith.

The Commonwealth Attorney from Arlington, Theo Stamos, nevertheless told a court last week that there’s nothing wrong about “probing” a public job applicant’s “religious beliefs.” Continue reading

Frank Wolf rebukes his own church on the House floor

Frank Wolf trains Eugene Delgaudio (Sterlingfest, 2006)

Frank Wolf trains Eugene Delgaudio (Sterlingfest, 2006)

Congressman Frank Wolf, “our human rights advocate” rebuked his own Presbyterian church on the House floor yesterday.

Calling himself a “follower of Jesus,” Wolf said he’s “deeply grieved by what transpired at last week’s gathering of the PCUSA’s general assembly.”

Speaking on the House floor Tuesday, Wolf said the vote violates the biblical definition of marriage as a joining of one man and one woman.

Is this what Congress is for, to engage in public, sectarian, anti-gay hissy-fits? Thanks for representing your constituents, not!

 

The R-word

Geronimo defended Apache lands against Mexicans and Texan forces (by Edward S. Curtis)

Geronimo defended Apache lands against Mexicans and Texan forces (by Edward S. Curtis)

One of the first books I read was James Fennimore Cooper’s, “The Last of the Mohicans.”  Cooper also wrote, a book titled, “Redskins,” a term much discussed, and rightly so, these days.

In March 2013, Cooper’s hometown, settled by his father, retired the High School’s team name, the “Redskins.”

When I watched tv  as a boy, or went to the local movie house, it was cowboys killing savage “redskins.”

Cooper wrote in his book, “Mohicans,” that, “History, like love, is so apt to surround her heroes with an atmosphere of imaginary brightness.”

Consider General Jeffrey Amherst, the Commander-in-Chief of the British Forces.  In 1763, Amherst sought to exterminate Indians by injecting blankets given to American Indians with small pox.

Most Americans look at the large sculpted heads on Mount Rushmore of Presidents Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt, and they see the founding fathers – they see heroes.

The surviving descendants of indigenous tribes observe a somewhat dimmer image of flawed men who sought to destroy their race.

In 1799, General Washington gave orders to “lay waste to all the [Iroquois] settlements around … that the country may not be merely overrun, but destroyed.”

In 1807, President Jefferson said, “…if ever we are constrained to lift the hatchet against any tribe [,] we will never lay it down till that tribe is exterminated or is driven beyond the Mississippi.”

President Lincoln in December 1862 ordered 38 members of the Dakota Sioux Nation hung for fighting for the food our government promised for their land – but then failed to provide.

President Roosevelt, a self-described Indian fighter, said, “I don’t go so far as to think that the only good Indians are dead Indians, but I believe nine out of ten are, and I shouldn’t like to inquire too closely into the case of the tenth.” Continue reading

Government inaction

There are dual claims to good government, first, we need access to know what the selected “elected” are doing, and, second, we need to have the truth when they purport to tell us what they’re “really” doing.

The political class often fails miserably to conform with either of these two basic principles of transparency which is absolutely necessary so that we can decide whether we need to appear at hearings, to object to proposed policy initiatives, and to vote for our representatives.

While this applies to all government, we cannot ignore the fact that the entire U.S. House of Representatives is up for election this year, so we have an amazing opportunity to get answers while these candidates are the most vulnerable, namely, when they want our vote.

We must demand that every congressional candidate tell us what he’s going to do differently to make Congress work, lest we fail to ask, and are forced to watch another season of that too terrible, long-running, reality c-span tv show, “Government Inaction!” Continue reading

Guess who’s coming to Virginia

AFP sponsored anti-medicaid expansion event with Delegate Tag Greason and Randy Minchew. The sign behind Greason reads "HANDS OFF MY HEALTH CARE"

AFP sponsored anti-medicaid expansion event with Delegate Tag Greason and Randy Minchew. The sign behind Greason reads “HANDS OFF MY HEALTH CARE”

We can’t ignore how money is spent in political campaigns because, plainly, those who contribute expect something in return.

If you give a $100 contribution hoping that will offset the cost of a candidate’s flyer or postage, there’s little expectation that this relatively unsubstantial sum will buy a candidate’s undying obeisance to your wishes should your candidate prevail in November.

But what if you are contributing hundreds of thousands of dollars in ads that your dream media team creates, if you are glorifying “the candidate” and slander-blasting any opponent to kingdom come with half-truths and whopper lies, if you bundle the contributions of others to show the reach of your influence, if you provide endorsements from organizations that you control that appear independent of each other (but are not), and, if you do snazzy multi-color snail mail mailings, robo-calls, push polls, social media, print and electronic blast “press” releases tearing down the opponent, who may be financially unable to shout back with anything like equal force, while, all the time, continuing to deify your candidate?

The scale of influence enjoyed by this Daddy Warbucks’ species of no-holds-barred contributor tilts the scales of our electoral process from anything fair to grossly inappropriate because the candidate elected by such extraordinary largesse is beholden to the contributor who brought him or her to our dysfunctional political hoedown – the U.S. Congress.

This pay-to-play phenomenon appears to be the rule, as evidenced by the fact that candidates raise millions to get jobs that pay less than two hundred thousand dollars. Continue reading

Mame – you may have known her

Mame Reilly was a democratic activist who cared deeply about the issues and the causes that make a civilization and enrich and sustain a people and she made a difference touching and leading so many political campaigns and inspiring so many pols and people.

Her time was too short.

This remarkable lady has died but I can see her broad smile as if she were standing before me right now ribbing Jim Moran.

It is an Irish curse, Yeats said, to dream things the world has never seen. Mame Reilly dreamed and acted upon those dreams, the unfinished American dream, and, because of her belief, of her belief that things needed to change, she helped make those changes for the middle class, for women, for persons of color, for so many who needed a fair break.

Mame was also a nice and kind person with a gentle way in a hard business, politics, the business she did best.

When I left the Hill in December 2001, after 9-11, I was spoiled for politics. Mame sensed I needed a cause to get me going again. That’s how she was with every one.

When we all worked in the presidential campaign in 2008, Mame always seemed to be within two degrees of separation of anything you might be doing in that historic primary and the general election campaign. We had a battle between two great Americans in the primary that defied the conventional wisdom that no black or woman would or could become president.

Mame was loyal and good and true as only the Irish can be.

There’s a harp playing an Irish jig in her honor in memory of this great lady.

I can hear her humming that Irish tune.

Mame, how we all loved you!