The futility of political discourse?

What a civil political forum looks like

What a civil political forum looks like

Has our political discourse grown futile?

The combination of misdirection, false statements, exaggerations, misplaced emphasis, character attacks, slander, lies, and too little time to research all of the above for anyone but political obsessives (like myself) makes an intelligent vote a somewhat elusive outcome in what passes for our modern political campaigning.

That said, I had an opportunity this past Saturday to participate in a civil, disciplined, even enlightened political process that just might serve as an antidote to the modern campaign.

This past Saturday, two seasoned political journalists asked each of our partisan gubernatorial candidates, Democrat Ralph Northam and Republican Edward Gillespie, who they are, why they are running, and what hopes they may harbor for the Commonwealth if elected this November.

Among the “hard questions” posed, Dale Peskin asked Mr. Gillespie about his “attack ad” charging that Mr. Northam was indifferent to MS 13 gang crime, that he’d release gang members to the streets, and that he favored “sanctuary cities.”  No matter that there are no sanctuary cities in Virginia, that Mr. Northam opposes the creation of any, and that Mr. Northam supports prosecuting any and all crime, whether it’s the MS-13 gang or any other kind.  Mr. Northam said the ad was “despicable and inaccurate” and nothing less than “fear mongering.”  Later that day Mr. Gillespie campaigned with Mr. Trump’s Vice President.  Mr. Northam compared how Mr. Trump campaigned last year with how Mr. Gillespie was campaigning this year. Continue reading

Flabbergasted at FEMA

A healthy stream

A healthy stream

Lovettsville’s Chris Van Vlack, an Urban/AG conservationist, with the Loudoun SWCD, made a presentation at the Potomac Watershed Roundtable about a recent FEMA policy, that Daniel Moore, from Virginia DEQ characterized as “flabbergasting.”

Greg Prelewicz, of Water and Wastewater Utilities, said he found it “baffling.”

It’s a FEMA policy that adversely affects Loudoun County’s efforts to preserve and protect our soil and water.

 

 

Chris Van Vlack at the presentation

Chris Van Vlack at the presentation

The Potomac Watershed Roundtable Forum is “a regional government-citizen forum that promotes collaboration and cooperation among local governments and stakeholder interest groups,”

By way of background, Chris explained that there is a regular set of best management practices (BMPs) that keep our waters clean and flowing to the Potomac without eroding the rich soil so necessary to farm and garden.

It’s pretty straightforward.

Keep the animals (and their “nutrients”) out of the water, and plant cover crops and trees to slow the flow of water that might otherwise carry away the soil.

It’s so important a function that federal, state and local authorities, by conservation districts across Virginia and the nation, share the cost with farmers and land owners to make these remedial practices possible.

The cost of these practices are funded up to 80 percent of what it costs to fence in livestock from streams, to install water troughs, to implement livestock crossings, and to plant what restrains and controls surging rain waters.

Fencing by a stream

Fencing by a stream

These best practices were instituted after the infamous tragedy of the dust bowl, so vividly described by John Steinbeck, in “Grapes of Wrath.”

It was the ignorance of right-minded soil and water practices that caused choking dust to block out the sun, sweeping the country in high winds from west to east, killing people, livestock, and crops.

Now FEMA says that Loudoun County may not use these salutary best practices in any flood plain.  They convinced the County earlier this year to conform with what many of the speakers characterized as a wrong-headed policy. Continue reading

Our criminal justice system is no “system” at all

Law and JusticeWhen we think of the Salem witch trials or Sacco and Vanzetti, our impulse is to discount that anything like that could ever happen now.

Yet it does.

We have all sorts of things going wrong in our judicial “system.”

Nor has it gotten any better in the Trump-Sessions notion of “criminal justice.”

We have too many cases because “stats” drive funding rather than policy driving order and peace.

The more sensational the case, the more winning the case “trumps” doing justice.

The more sensational the case, the more likely that the accused doesn’t have the resources to fight back.

We flood our courts with “drug” cases but not like the ones I handled as a federal prosecutor in New York against large heroin suppliers.

We spend our tax dollars chasing mostly kids and adults who possess to use, in such small quantities, mostly for personal use, and they are arrested on ruses – faux probable cause to toss cars with dogs – a kind of catch and release if they find nothing after the “search” – all so they can affix a stigma to the apprehended for pot or prescription drugs that, by the fact of arrest, may haunt their quality of life, foreclosing opportunities life-long. Continue reading

Underground economy

Nuclear Bunker Queen-size Bed – courtesy – Atlas Survival Shelters

Nuclear Bunker Queen-size Bed – courtesy – Atlas Survival Shelters

Not since the ‘50s have citizens hunkered after an underground nuclear bunker something like the shelters that the feds have established to protect the governing elite in the event of a nuclear attack.

We have several government shelters nearby – and they are so open a secret that is hardly reassuring for the community’s safety and security.

It’s hard to say, however, who among our neighbors may have a life-saving “private” bunker already.

Atlas Survival Shelters estimates that “[t]here are over 100,000 [nuclear] round corrugated pipe shelters in America” that they have installed.

It’s hard to say who has a shelter because the shelter owners don’t want anyone else to know that they have a shelter – and some citizens make it harder to know by avoiding any building permit.

There is a grave despair that a nuclear attack will occur, and a need to hide, arising even before the traded tirades between our Chief Executive, Mr. Donald Trump, and the Korean President Kim Jong-Un; Mr. Trump threatened to “totally destroy North Korea,” and President Jong-un answered he might just set off a hydrogen bomb over the Pacific.

Many discount these expressions as impulsive. Continue reading

Brother, could you spare a glass of water?

waterglass - 1We are not at the point where we’re out of water.

The supply of ground water for our wells, however, is not infinite.

The question experts are raising is, “Do we have enough ground water in Loudoun to meet the current demand and the ‘new’ development discussed in the County, especially for Western Loudoun?”

Fauquier County is concerned about its ground water supply for its wells given the increased development that burdens its aquifers and compromises their ability to re-charge.

This summer, the USGS issued a “groundwater resource assessment” for Fauquier, outlining how best to sustain Faiquier County’s Water Supply.

Loudoun County has a similar profile, contemplating another 50,000 residential units, referenced in its recently issued ENVISION report.

Does Loudoun have sufficient water resources to support such aggressive residential development?

While most of any new residential units may be served by Loudoun Water and the towns, there could be as many as an additional 11,000 homes in the Rural Policy area.  That can only mean that thousands of new private wells will be drilled, adding to the existing 15,000 wells.

Fauquier is a rapidly growing suburban area near Washington, D.C., encompassing parts of three distinct geologic provinces that are underlain by fractured-rock aquifers that are currently relied upon to supply about 3.9 million gallons a day of groundwater for public supply and domestic use.

Loudoun is not that different.  Continue reading

Delegate Dave LaRock no show for Farm Bureau

Tia Walbridge In the past, Delegate David LaRock, who represents the 33rd District in the General Assembly, has failed to show for political debates and joint forums with his general election opponents.

Off to a shaky start this political season, Delegate LaRock is a no-show for the Farm Bureau’s Candidate Forum scheduled for September 19, 6PM, at Harmony Hall at the Hamilton Fire Station; he first committed to participate and then said he wouldn’t.

Mr. LaRock apparently doesn’t want to be in the same room at the same time as his Democratic challenger.

Tia Walbridge is a farmer herself.

By contrast, Mr. LaRock is a builder.

Chris Van Vlack. the President of the Loudoun Farm Bureau, said, “the Candidates Forum is part of our Loudoun Farm Bureau Annual membership meeting.”

Asked if Mr. LaRock said he would appear at the forum, Mr. Van Vlack said, “Initially both Tia [Walbridge] and Dave [Larock] had confirmed their attendance, but after learning that the state AgPAC committee had not solely endorsed him, Del. LaRock had decided to drop out.” Continue reading

Jim Crow legislature protected Confederate States

General_Assembly_1902We have an opinion from Virginia’s Attorney General that a statute passed by the Jim Crow General Assembly in 1902-04, and in its various iterations since, protects the offending Confederate soldier statues around the Commonwealth including the confederate soldier statue in Leesburg, erected in 1908, hefting his rifle, pointed toward all persons approaching the County courthouse.

The Attorney General states that “[t]he historical antecedent” was passed by the General Assembly in February 1904, providing that such a monument could not be “disturbed” and had to be “protected.”

The Attorney General in an advisory opinion states that we should make “a careful investigation of the history and facts concerning a particular monument in a given locality.”

Rather, we should investigate “the history and the facts” of the racially intolerant legislators who passed this law in 1902-04, as part of a constitutionally impermissible schema, calculated to offend and suppress blacks in Virginia.

In 1902, our elected representatives with too few dissenters to matter sought “to purify” the ballot box, to chill and bar blacks from exercising the franchise, and to discourage the belief that it was a self-evident truth that all men and women were created equal.

Virginia created a distasteful constitution in 1902 with the express objective of restoring white supremacy.

Presiding over Virginia’s constitutional convention in 1902, John Goode said that the 15th amendment, providing for African American suffrage, was “a stupendous blunder” and “a crime against civilization and Christianity.” Continue reading

The conscience of an American

Birmingham_fire_hoses_1963When I was 14, my friends and I were playing at Richard’s tenement apartment in the South Bronx, and Richard’s Mom asked quietly if I would leave and get my friends to go as well.

I must have looked puzzled when I said I would because Richard’s Mom said in a whisper, “You can come back later but don’t bring Stevie.”

Stevie was black.  He was one of my friends.

It was my first encounter with racism.

This is how an individual conscience awakens to bigotry.

In the neighborhood, among us kids, we were from lower middle class families, nobody had gone past High School, not the parents, nor the kids, we were a mixed lot of Irish, Italian, Jewish, Black and Puerto Rican boys mostly.

We played stickball, sewer to sewer, hand ball, swung from the hanging ladders off the fire ‘scapes at street level, ran up and down alleys, through basements and court yards.

We were friends with unnoticed differences, who talked trash, had fist fights, but got along.

Senator Patrick Moynihan might have considered us a species of his “melting pot” but we were hardly homogenous.  We celebrated our differences while remaining companionable.

There’s a lyric in the musical, South Pacific, that “You’ve got to be taught to hate and fear.”  We neither did hate nor fear. Continue reading

Pipe dream or nightmare?

Work on the MVP pipeline

Work on the MVP pipeline

Last Saturday, Lovettsville residents and citizens from across Virginia and other states as far away as Georgia, traveled to the Bears’ Den on the Appalachian trail on the Loudoun County side of Mount Weather, to share the view that fracked gas pipelines must be stopped and the scenic trail saved from “desecration.”

The folks who came were young and old, some ordinarily political partisans, but they came together, despite their differences, resolved to stop these pipelines.

If there could be any doubt about what they “really” thought, they posed with a mock 1-foot diameter pipeline segment, “inscribed,” “NO FRACKING PIPELINE.”

It was only a hint of the EQT and Nextra’s proposed 300-mile $3.2-Billion Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP), a pipe almost four feet in diameter, carrying dangerous odorless fracked gas from West Virginia that threatens the trail and the environment.

There were testaments from the speakers, objecting to taking the land by eminent domain, and complaints about the proposed pipe’s adverse effects including air pollution, soil erosion, groundwater contamination, terrible noise levels, lowered property values, and possible onsite accidents including gas explosions like has already occurred in Appomattox, Virginia.

If the pipeline is sited as presently proposed, speakers charged, it shall destroy once and forever the natural view shed along 100 miles of the 2,200-mile scenic Appalachian Trail, including Angels Rest, Kelly Knob, Rice Fields and Dragons Tooth — among the most visited and photographed locations on the entire trail that extends from Georgia to Maine. Continue reading