Packing a hand gun at Starbucks

gwg01No one likes to caffeinate when somebody is “packing” at Starbucks.

Well, almost no one.

Last Thursday morning, the Purcellville Starbucks had its usual ration of Moms with a well behaved child or two, lines of folk waiting for their small or grande caffeinated drinks, a latte or cappuccino, at least one sweet tasting java chip, some patrons sipping their drinks as they headed out quick step for their daily commute, and an array of others, not so rushed, sitting at various counters and tables pecking away at keyboards, telecommuting or indulging a round of social media, others turning the pages of the Washington Post, a few working their cell phones, and chatting up the latest gossip and personal news.

I was sitting at a table revising a memo for court when a broad-hipped large-bellied man in baggy Cami-shorts with a holstered firearm came by, wearing a loose light-green t- shirt with a full size skull on the back, a backwards flag all in red on his shirt’s short cuff, and the word, “Infidel,” in large red letters on his chest.

Eyes noted and averted.  Continue reading

Leadership for a change

LuAnn Bennett for Congress

LuAnn Bennett for Congress

I hear a lot of people saying they wish this election season was over.

As a person who has spent a large part of my life concerned about matters political and legal, I understand the electoral weariness, especially this campaign season.

But how this election is done, how it’s finished, is going to be critically important to the nation and our communities, so, unless we prefer to regret the results at our leisure, we have to pay attention now.

One of my political heroes, Robert Kennedy, was fond of saying when the going gets tough, the tough get going.  This is a tough election and we need to be tougher.

I’ve already decried the Republican presidential nominee as abusive, intolerant, especially abusive of women, and unfit for office.

We must, however, also consider who should represent us in Congress.

Congresswoman Barbara Comstock, the incumbent, is somewhat of a puzzle to me.

I’ve watched Barbara appear at many local events, especially in Western Loudoun, passing out balloons bearing her name, posting those oversized signs that should be banned, and succeeding at remaining as content free of any controversy as one possibly can, offering poll tested nostrums that offend as few voters as is politically possible.

Barbara is a prominent member of a do-nothing Congress directed by her Republican Caucus, led by Speaker Paul Ryan.

The Republican controlled Congress couldn’t move its lumbering “deliberative” self only days ago to grant emergency funds to Flint, Michigan where the health and safety of women and children remain at grave risk.  Continue reading

The fates

trump_donaldSeneca wrote that the fates either lead you to your destiny or drag you to it.  Republican leaders have been dragged to their destiny, when they must belatedly denounce their presidential nominee, Mr. Donald Trump, for what we’ve all known from the outset about his lack of character.

Mr. Trump, the Republican presidential nominee, has proven himself to be a billion dollar failed casino owner, mob associate, serial liar, trash talker, a slanderer, misogynist, and bully to men and women alike.

Mr. Trump has violated all the customary norms of polite and respectful personal conduct.

Mr. Trump relies on a syntax that, when tweeting or speaking, obscures and defies clarity and common language usage bordering on a word salad.

Almost from the time that Mr. Trump announced his candidacy at his gaudy gold plated 5th Avenue tower, seemingly inspired by Ayn Rand’s “The Fountainhead,” America has been on notice that Mr. Trump is intolerant of immigrants, blacks, Muslims, Jews, the disabled, those who are overweight, generals, veterans, war heroes, the parents of a Muslim soldier who gave his life in the mid-east, anyone who crosses him, and his most blatant disrespect is reserved for women.

Mr. Trump was bad news the day he announced, most thought his candidacy was some sort of joke, since Trump has never served the public in any appointed or elected capacity, and, when he won the Republican nomination, too few Republican leaders denounced him. Continue reading

Rick Peck – Loudoun’s “Mr. Wizard”

Rick Peck

Rick Peck

Lovettsville’s Rick Peck, the 6th grade science teacher at Seneca Ridge Middle School in Sterling, Virginia is a passionate, endearing, latter day pied piper, leading his young pupils into the frontiers of the mind like the not so long ago popular TV personality, Don Herbert, more widely known as “Mr. Wizard.”

Like the original Mr. Wizard, Rick has earned a deserved reputation as “the friendly, neighborly scientist.”

I met Rick at the height of his homestead’s rolling hills, by an old-fashioned red country barn.

Rick was puzzling how to straighten 14 hollow plastic tubes slightly curved to use at his 6th grade Monday science class.

Dodging a cloud of no-see-ems, Rick manipulated the tubes, “deformed” by slight arcs, because his intended lesson on fluid density required the students to pour less dense fluids over heavier fluids, without spilling a drop, and then Rick would suggest to the class a last addition to the experiment, a surprising touch of chemical legerdemain, that would disrupt the layered quiescence, guaranteeing the attention and curiosity of his students. Continue reading

Looking for a moose

maine_2016_lighthouse_walkI went for a morning run in Owl’s Head, Maine, along the Northern coast, in the light cool rain – and no one was on the roads or the paths through the woods.

In the difficult places, in the woods along the waters of Owl’s Head, you have to pause to walk or run slowly, to move more carefully.

In this way, alert to a trip or a fall, I found inch high purple orchids, slightly agape, hanging in an array, against a seeming wall of wide green leaves and stems.

There were large patches of soft green-white moss beneath my foot fall, and tender fibrous growths clustered on obstructing over-hanging limbs.

Where there wasn’t moss on the forest floor, there was what had once been vibrant flora, flattened dead tree limbs, pressed moist leaves and branches, fallen by age or wind or the brush of a deer, or even another human passerby.

You had to dodge and tip toe carefully past swollen tree roots snaking across the narrow path, holding fast the earth below, knitting together what had been proudly strewn about the walk way over time.

Last week, there were leaves already turning to bright colors, ferns bordering the dark woods beyond, where there were shimmering shapes in the near distance in the morning’s soft wet breeze.

There were open air views from within the woods, indeed a vast dramatic expanse, when you looked out from the forest, to peak from the paths, as you turned around this or that deciduous column in the natural cathedral that held you close, reminding you, you have to do more of this.

There were the waters far below the cliffs, ebbing and flowing away, in rolling translucent waves of softly-changing colors, in elongated pools of blues, and greens, sometimes almost black, with silvery highlights, all the way eastward toward the gray morning light.

The moist air filled you up, opening your lungs, almost as effectively as a shot of espresso.

And it was quiet, except for the sound of the surf and the leaves and the trees brushed by the wind.

Man more and more exists separate from this entwining connection with nature that can make us whole and authentic. Continue reading

Presidential timber

hillary_clintonWhat kind of person climbs out of bed to fight to lead the country when told to stay in bed because of pneumonia?

What kind of person, still sick, wearing a bullet proof vest, in the heat of a NY day, but on a momentous public day, especially for NY, forgoes recovery, an easy excuse, because she doesn’t want to miss a ceremony, a public ritual, remembering and honoring those who died on 9-11?  It meant that much to her.

Plainly, it’s the kind of person who has given all her life and was first noticed when she spoke truth to power in a graduation address.

And she hasn’t stopped since to speak her mind and make a difference when and as she had the opportunity, and, when no one else would lead, Hillary did.

Women have always had to do more, and to do it better, to be taken seriously in this nation – even now

Wouldn’t you know in this election year there is a roar of sexism and male chauvinism tearing at Hillary Rodham Clinton at every turn, from the clothes she wears to the way she laughs, how serious she is, indeed every act or decision she’s made in her life, for fear the nation will follow electing a black man with electing a white woman, to steer the ship of state.

Like many, I felt a sense of deep concern when Hillary had to leave the NY ceremony because her recovering body wouldn’t let her stand and stay, and this was soon replaced by rage at what people said and now say, days later, about Hillary, for being human, for giving her all, to the point of exhaustion, and contracting pneumonia.

I know more than ever, given her sacrifice to lead, her warrior commitment, what a fine example she is, for every other citizen to mimic, who claims to be a patriot, that the choice is clear, favoring the only candidate who cares about everyone from kids to seniors and everyone in between.

We need a person, and Hillary is that person, who will work for us no matter our color, our nation of origin, our sexual identity or preference, even, I believe, our partisan preference.

We need a person who has cared her whole life for this nation and its promise.

We need a woman who will bring us together.

Not drive us apart. It was a former great official from Illinois who warned that a nation divided could not stand.

This year there is a pathogen loose in our politics preaching division and disunity and hate and intolerance.  Continue reading

Is protest the only way to be heard?

Phil Little Thunder Sr. protesting

Phil Little Thunder Sr. protesting

Phil Little Thunder Sr. joined the protest of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in North Dakota – an iconic figure marching with thousands from other tribal nations – in order to stop a noxious crude oil pipeline from tunneling under Lake Oahe, a tribe’s crucial water source, fearing the pipe will leak its oleaginous poisons into these life-giving waters, and because the line, if not adjusted, will destroy the tribe’s burial grounds, and historic and ancestral cultural sites.

The proposed Dakota Access pipeline, if allowed to proceed, under the auspices of “Energy Transfer Partners,” would travel 1,170 miles, crossing the Sioux land, en route to the Gulf coast.

You may think this has nothing to do with the Commonwealth of Virginia.  But there are lessons to learn so we may resist the risky fossil fuel industry energy choices close to home including Dominion’s effort to lay 550 miles of fracked gas pipelines within feet of the homes of many Virginia landowners, at the risk of these volatile gases exploding, as did occur in Appomattox, Virginia.

We can’t count on the General Assembly, not the Democratic nor Republican parties, as Dominion has showered its financial largesse on key members of both parties.

The success or failure in fighting this Dakota pipeline and the key lessons learned from the defeat of the XL pipeline instruct us how to represent ourselves when those elected fail to represent us.

Last Friday, U.S. District Judge James E. Boasberg denied the tribe’s demands to stop the pipeline, saying that the tribe had failed to show “it will suffer injury.”  In what alternate universe is the risk that a critical water source may be destroyed not a cognizable “injury?”  Continue reading

Land of the free? About our national anthem!

Flag_wavingOn Friday night, my wife Holly and I took out the Iron Horse (little Harley) and had dinner at Anthony’s in Purcellville.

A Starbuck’s friend at the next table over asked what I thought about the quarterback, Colin Kaepernick, with the San Francisco 49ers, who wouldn’t stand during the national anthem.

I said I had no problem with his protest.  And I don’t.

I think there is good cause because of our poor race relations that we promote discussion about race and equality – so that we might thereby achieve the equal rights for all Americans, male and female, and fulfill the promise of equality that has eluded this nation’s grasp since we declared our independence.

Blacks failed to become full “persons” in our much revered Constitution at the birth of our nation; they were recognized as fractional three-fifths “persons” for purposes of allocating political representation among the several states, but not allowed the vote.

Still, we have folk insisting on the “original” meaning of the constitution, what our founders “believed.”

What our founders “believed” was that it was necessary to compromise individual rights to ameliorate regional differences.

In 2011, there was some congressional embarrassment when our U.S. Congress thought to read the Constitution on the floor of the House so that we could focus on our nation’s “original” meaning.

The “reading” deleted certain “original” passages from the Constitution including the language in Article I, Section 2, that references slaves as “three fifths” persons.

Many are beside themselves that anyone would protest the Anthem?  But we should examine the context and content of the Anthem.  I have never done so, not from the perspective of being black, or having had ancestors who were slaves.  When you do, you can’t ignore that our Anthem contains these words, “No refuge could save the hireling and slave, from the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave.”

Continue reading

The canary in the stream

Horse fly larva

Horse fly larva

The expression and the actual practice is “the canary in the coal mine,” a means to detect deadly levels of carbon dioxide gas that overwhelms the canary, signaling to the miners that they might succumb next, and so they are fairly warned to escape.

There are comparable early warning signs, using other small creatures, to detect whether the river and stream waters that we drink, fish and swim in may be “impaired,” or significantly degraded.

Unfortunately, we do have “impaired waters” – so this is not an academic question.

All our County’s streams are affected by human activities, especially development, and some do not meet the standards of the Clean Water Act and Virginia Water Quality Standards for recreational use and aquatic life.

We have to be concerned about Catoctin Creek and Goose Creek and their tributaries, Little River, Limestone Branch, Piney Run, Broad Run and Sugarland Run.  We all have an obligation as stewards to use but not alter or compromise this most essential natural resource, the waters by which we live.

We have pollution from storm water runoff, grazing, failing septic tank systems.  The more impervious surfaces we have, the more our watersheds are compromised.  Nor can we ignore the fecal bacteria mostly due to livestock.  We have to remediate against these polluting practices.

The good news is that there are things we can do to protect and preserve our waterways and we have the means to detect when our streams are “impaired.” Continue reading

Homeland insecurity

concordmilitiaWe have changed our definition of what’s freedom.

I stand in court rooms in defense of the Accused and invoke the presumption we are all innocent including those charged.

Our government treats us, however, as if we are all presumed guilty, that we must prove otherwise, and we are all treated as suspect for the commission of some unstated possible terrorist act – without any evidence whatsoever.

We have become accustomed to being searched and radiated at airports and public buildings, though we comply reluctantly.

For years now the government, “our” government, has also been collecting every bit of information it can about who we are, what we do, what we say, where we go, what we write, our financial holdings, and with whom we associate.

Our personal information is being inhaled into the government’s mammoth data banks at the cost of our expectation and right to be let alone.

Yet, we brag our freedom is the envy of the world.

The fear of those who would govern this nation is compromising the freedom of the governed.

When 9-11 occurred, I was ashamed of the members of Congress.  Little has changed since. Continue reading