Let’s re-examine the police function post 9/11

Militarized Police in Ferguson, MO confront an unarmed citizen

Militarized Police in Ferguson, MO confront an unarmed citizen

Ever since 9-11, the federal government has dehumanized its citizens by compromising individual and collective liberties.

The federal government has fostered indiscriminate surveillance, encouraged citizens to inform on their neighbors, relied on questionable snitches, profiled racial and religious types, increased security screenings at public buildings and events, conducted harassing investigations, but the worst of it may be — how the federal government has re-shaped our local law enforcement offices.

Our Congress and federal government have channeled supplies of battle-tested military weapons from Afghanistan and Iraq and Southeast Asia to local police forces across the nation, provided flash-bang grenades, machine guns, ammunition magazines, camouflage, night vision equipment, silencers, armored cars, mine-resistant ambush protected vehicles (MRAPs), even aircraft, bullet proof vests, and this has changed the rules of engagement for our local police from the traditional domestic police function that used to serve civilian neighborhoods to a military force you’d expect to find on a battlefield.

This militarization of our local police forces is most shamefully on display in Ferguson, Missouri.  Continue reading

Iraq attack

Yazidi refugees

Yazidi refugees

Once again, Barack Obama, our peace president, has authorized acts of war.

It would seem that no one who occupies the office of president is able to resist the call to war.

We just can’t leave this open sore we call Iraq alone.

The President has explained that his current foreign policy stance is based on the theory of “No victor, no vanquished.”

Some might fairly ask, is that what the US is really doing in Iraq?

President Obama ordered drones into the skies, and jet planes to commence fire, to drop quarter ton bombs in Northern Iraq, because the Yazidi, an ethnic and religious minority, were stuck on a mountaintop named Sinjar, starving and under attack from the Islamic State that insisted the Yazidi renounce their religion and convert, or die.

President Obama ordered military intervention to thwart the Islamic State.

When we favor one side over another in a military exercise, we have to admit we really are choosing a preferred “victor.”

We are also up to a lot more than just saving the Yazidi off a mountain top.

The President announced, “This is going to be a long-term project.”

Then he said a few days later, that we would stand with Iraq if Baghdad could form a unified and inclusive government to counter the Sunni militants.

This is mission leap — not mission creep. Continue reading

Yes, Virginia, Marriage is a Fundamental Right

wedding-ringsSpecial op-ed by David Weintraub published in the Purcellville Gazette, August 2 2014.

On November 7, 2006, Virginia voters were presented with the choice to add an amendment to our state constitution. This amendment would not only prohibit civil marriage between two people of the same sex – which had already been banned legislatively several times over – but would also ban any other “union, partnership, or other legal status to which is assigned the rights, benefits, obligations, qualities, or effects of marriage,” or which “intends to approximate the design, qualities, significance, or effects of marriage.” This expansive language gave Virginia the dubious honor of having adopted the most extreme so-called “marriage amendment” in the nation.

In a decision announced Monday, The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals found that prohibition unconstitutional, joining an unbroken series of rulings affirming marriage as a fundamental right that cannot be denied because of gender.

At the time of the amendment’s passage (it was approved by 57 percent of voters), I was told jubilantly by a local supporter that it would “protect” his model of marriage in Virginia “for at least a decade.” This prediction has turned out to be remarkably accurate. In the past decade, we have witnessed a shift in opinion like no other toward support of the right for loving gay and lesbian couples to marry. At the same time, courts have come to the long overdue conclusion that the U.S. Constitution really does mean what it says about the rights guaranteed to ALL Americans.

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Relentless fundraising spam

sendMoney

I’m so fed up with countless Dem fundraising emails asking for money to fund a non-existent impeachment fight – especially given that the U.S. House Judiciary Chairman, Bob Goodlatte, who heads the House Committee that would have to pass on any impeachment resolution, said there is none under consideration nor contemplated; in agreement, we have House Speaker John Boehner who heads the Republican Caucus saying the same thing.

Yet we folk who have been identified as partisans (or even possible contributors) are receiving gigabytes of sky-is-falling e-alerts that, we’re told, just have to be answered immediately to fund the defense of the impeachment that never was or will be, concluding with the imperative direction – you’d better “donate” and “now.”

I’m no less angry at the Rs for the BS law suit against the President they’re pushing that has no legal legs, prosecuted with faux outrage at the discretion they’ve so recently “discovered” the President has to execute the laws of the land. 

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True liberty

Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor asks the question

Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor asks the question

You often hear the rough definition of true liberty is every person’s right to do what you want up to the tip of someone else’s nose.

Does a corporate employer who believes in faith healing invade your rights when refusing to allow your health insurance to cover any medical procedure?

If the employer is a corporation, and closely held, and three of the five shareholders are faith healing believers, while the other two are dissenting physicians, does the corporate majority determine health care for an employee may only be faith healing?

Just imagine you were denied health insurance to cover your children because it defied his faith healing belief.

Some children have died because of the misguided religious faith healing belief of parents who refused medical procedures to save their children.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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