THANKS – also means giving

tgturkeyWhen we asked a local Lovettsville resident what he was doing for Thanksgiving, he said he was going to be with his mother-in-law, and family.

Not everyone, however, is with his or her family or loved one.

The service men and women we so recently celebrated may be abroad in theaters of war and at risk. They won’t be sitting down with their family at home.

Even here on the home front, it is true we have those separated from family and friends by obligations at work, the expense of travel, perhaps illness, maybe they are in a hospital recovering, or told they shouldn’t travel, and an array of circumstances too varied to imagine or recount.

This separation doesn’t mean that they have nothing to be thankful for.

Despite time and distance and obligation and whatever has caused separation this season, they still have each other to cherish, know they are loved, draw strength and meaning from their connection, what they were for each other in the recent and distant past, and the knowledge that they will be together again.

There is another group of people we cannot overlook on Thanksgiving, who have little to be thankful for, the homeless and the hungry.

We cannot celebrate ourselves without giving these poor souls hope.

Nor can we ignore the fact that the plight of the homeless and hungry is not limited to a single day.

We should especially be aware, as the days grow cold and the morning sun burns off the frost, what the homeless and hungry shall suffer.

In the good book, in Ezekiel, we are encouraged to be “given [of our] bread to the hungry.”

We should not be prideful that we are better if we have food or a home. We should make it part of our thanks to be giving to others.

We are soon upon the season when we celebrate in an annual rite of passage a young couple that could not find a home to give birth to a small child. In this timeless story, there was no room at the inn. Matthew wrote how -“Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” Nor do many of our sick and poor have a place to lay their heads. If you truly believe we are made in “his image,” then how can anyone not care to help the homeless? Continue reading

The abyss revisited – Vietnam

The Vietnam Memorial

The Vietnam Memorial

On Veterans’ Day, we rightly celebrate the sacrifice of our young service men and women but don’t ever speak enough about how we decided to engage in the wars that risked their lives.

This was especially the case in the Vietnam War when young men were drafted to become cannon fodder in a war that defied the wisdom of Indochina history and based on the lie that it was a war of defense.

We “60s kids” were a generation that believed the government would tell us what was true and right for the nation; Vietnam was our awakening that the government could not be trusted.

It’s instructive to re-visit how we went wrong in Vietnam because we have since repeated this questionable toxic war scenario in the Middle East.

In the late 1940s, Ho Chi Minh told the French, then occupying Vietnam, “You can kill ten of my men for everyone I kill of yours, but even at those odds, you will lose and I will win.”

Ho Chi Minh spoke of the resolve of a nation to be let alone, and his challenge was not meant for the French alone.

Ho Chi Minh succeeded. He beat the French.

An arrogant United States, however, thought to defy philosopher George Santayana’s caveat that “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

We never held the high ground in the Vietnam War.

Our government lied that we needed to war in defense of American interests,

President Lyndon Johnson’s war powers relied on a manufactured pretext to go to war. Our government claimed the USS Maddox was targeted in Vietnam’s Gulf of Tonkin by communist forces. This was untrue. The USS Maddox was never at risk, there was no provocation, and former Secretary of Defense, Robert S. McNamara, admitted as much – albeit, long after the fact.

Nevertheless, our Congress empowered the President to war against “communist aggression,” a fatal deceit that killed our young men in combat actions having nothing to do with our national defense.

The United States was complicit in the political assassination of a corrupt Vietnam head of state we had championed, ignored the sanctity of other nation states when we bombed Laos and Cambodia, and lied to the American people about kill ratios and accumulated Viet Cong deaths, and the progress of the war generally.

On January 30, 1968, on the Tet holiday, the Vietnam New Year, a combined force of 80,000 Vietcong and the People’s Army of Vietnam launched a country wide offensive against 100 towns and cities; it was an assault few observers thought was possible; support for the war evaporated; the bold attack proved the communist forces were hardly on the run in Vietnam.

By the time the last American troops left Vietnam on August 15, 1973, Presidents Johnson and Nixon dropped 4.6 million tons of bombs on Vietnam.

We lost almost 60,000 service men and women and millions of Vietnamese were killed.

I do believe that we should honor those who served in Vietnam and every other war.

But we would honor them and this nation more if we only waged righteous wars of defense that were based on what was true, rather than the bald lies, the false propaganda, that the public is urged to believe instead

Post modem post election

electionSigns2015Every election has its themes and forces that shape its outcome – that is – who will govern and implement what policies?

While there were a series of familiar campaign issues in this last election, there was an underlying concern about the character of our Loudoun County government.

We had a crowded field of experienced and inexperienced candidates offering themselves for public service.

Experienced hands enjoyed some special advantages, name recognition of course, but also incumbency, and those solidly gerrymandered election districts strewn across the Commonwealth’s electoral maps.

The greatest and most telling changes to the County’s character came, however, in several key contests for the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors.

Eugene Delgaudio, the orange-hatted incumbent Sterling Supervisor, has been attacked for years for his allegedly questionable ethical and discriminatory antics on and off the Board of Supervisors. To its credit, the Board itself recoiled from Mr. Delgaudio’s misconduct, citing a scathing special grand jury report to do so. The Republican Party members took the Republican Board to task for its modest sanctions against Mr. Delgaudio, signaling a split in the party that proved deeper than may have been first understood.

Mr. Delgaudio’s conduct prompted a bitter and abiding distaste more generally for the Board’s ethical ambiguities.

There was legitimate unease with the Board’s cronies in construction and development who contributed heavily to Board members. Continue reading

Taking its toll

i66trafficWe have high occupancy lanes on the highway, I-66, that reward those drivers inside the beltway who plan ahead and take one or more extra riders and car pool; this sensible traffic policy cuts down on highway congestion, moves cars along otherwise frozen in space and time, and contains pollution.

What’s interesting, as a matter of social engineering, is that there remain so relatively few car poolers and yet the high occupancy lanes still move faster than the congested traffic lanes.

Some might rightly think that, if requiring two riders for a high occupancy lane eases traffic flow, then why not increase the requirement to three riders? But, the plans for this innovation won’t occur until at least 2020.

Instead, we have a short-sighted controversial proposal on the table, scheduled for 2017, allowing well-heeled solo drivers to buy a faster ride, to use one high occupancy lane during peak periods of traffic — if they pay for the privilege.

The policy is a shame and a disgrace.

It’s one thing to modify personal behavior with a salutary public policy such as carpooling; it’s quite another, however, to “license” the violation of that sound policy for a fee. Continue reading

Hard knocks

braininjuryThe brain is not meant to be jarred, hit hard, nor to hit something itself.

A concussion, a brain injury, is not something to ignore – not on a pro football team, nor in student athletics, nor any other activity including car accidents, domestic violence, or a “simple” fall.

About 20 to 30% of all Americans have experienced one or more head injuries. If there are repeated head injuries, deficits in cognitive functioning may remain.

Little wonder, some parents are pulling their children from high impact sports; my parents did; President Barack Obama said, if he had a son, he wouldn’t let him play football; NBA all-star LeBron James said the same thing.

Local parents who wanted to have their sons try out special helmet sensors were rebuffed by our County’s schools; it was a light weight micro-electromechanical, tri-axial acceleromoter capable of measuring acceleration from any direction, attached to the helmet, interfering not at all in the field of play. Good enough for the pros, but not for our kids. A no-brainer you might say. Continue reading

To vote or not to vote

voteThis year we have we have many elective posts in Loudoun County that will be filled with candidates in opposition to each other for the countywide board of supervisors, for constitutional offices, for the school board, for the soil and water board, and for the general assembly.

These offices generally and specifically determine policy that intimately affects the lives of each and every person living in the County.

But many won’t vote.

Indeed, it is highly likely that non-voters will determine the election by failing to vote; the number of non-voters is so large, it’s often referred to as the party of non-voters.

One observer noted that maybe what we are losing among the non-voters are a disproportionate number of the uninformed and uneducated who wouldn’t vote intelligently anyhow.

That may sound harsh but there is data that those with more schooling and more income are much more likely to vote in any election.

Thomas Jefferson once said, “A nation that expects to be ignorant and free expects what never was and never will be.” Continue reading

The new police rat app

ratjfAbout a week ago, our Lovettsville Mayor passed along to the community a bulletin from the Loudoun County Sheriff, Michael Chapman.

It was billed as the “launch” of “the first-ever law enforcement app for Loudoun County.”

It shouldn’t have ever been launched.

By way of background, this app is “available on the iTunes App Store (IOS) and Google Play (Android)” and “will allow “users” who download this app, according to the Sheriff’s release, “to be able to submit crime tips anonymously, including the ability to send photos and videos from their smartphone.”

You may wonder what the Sheriff means by a “tip.”

Well, the Sheriff confirmed it’s not a “crime in progress.”

Without any standards whatsoever, citizens are being invited to say what they think is “suspicious,” based doubtlessly on incomplete information, little or no investigative experience, personal bias, rumors, overheard conversations, maybe even an unconsented taped conversation, and, finally, by forwarding this “packet” of “tip” text, with accompanying stills, audio and video documents – all done anonymously.

This “first ever” initiative is like the “Sound of Music” come to Loudoun – inviting us to mimic the misbehavior of that Nazi twit who turns in his girlfriend’s Von Trapp family.

We have tried before having something like a Stasi volunteer network.

After 9-11, the federal government invited us one and all to rat out “suspicious” neighbors or “strangers.”

But 95% of those “tips” turned out to be nothing at all.

Worse, it is daunting to imagine our Sheriff’s Department having the wherewithal to consider whether these anonymous tipsters have an axe to grind, a motive to hurt or slander another, or whether they are just plain reckless.

Other communities have recoiled at such law enforcement techniques. In Boston, the community started wearing t-shirts that read, “Stop Snitchin’.’” Continue reading

The developers are coming (again)!

handshakeIf you’ve looked around, you’ve seen our rivers overrun and mud and dirt flowing across the road. It’s because we’ve had a lot of rain in recent days. We may be surprised and concerned at these torrential conditions. But the real problem is – it could get much worse if some developers have their way.

The Developers want to build on steep slopes and in flood plains, now prohibited.

Our Board of Supervisors is considering allowing them.

The name, flood plain, is self-descriptive. If either side of a stream or river is prone to flooding, then it’s a flood plain.

As a trial lawyer, I imagine someone building in a flood plain, their home then flooded, and asking, “How did that happen?” Answer: – our Board of Supervisors changed the ordinance because that’s what their contributors wanted.

Of course, more happens than a homeowner or commercial business getting flooded.

If a storm water pond floods, it’s likely to send polluted sediment and water downstream.

If waters overrun a parking lot in a flood plain, you can have toxic run off from the vehicles.

If you have barrels of petroleum, consider the disaster should that petroleum be carried off downstream.

An area is declared a flood plain as a buffer, with limited uses, as a guard against having to clean up, at taxpayer expense, should one build in that area.

As for steep slopes, have you ever tried to plant cover on a steep slope. If you don’t have something that holds that soil together, everything you plant (dumbly) will just run down hill.

A “steep slope” is an incline greater than 25 degrees. That slope has a high potential for erosion and mudslides. What do you think would happen if you were to place a development on or below a steep slope? You’re right. Disaster.

Could some engineer re-make the contours of the land? Sure, I suppose, by destroying what exists, but such development is destructive and that’s what the current County policy acknowledges, and prohibits.

So why should we change either our ordinance limitations on flood plains or steep slopes, since they appear to be quite responsible? We shouldn’t.

The Citizens have already recoiled from the Board’s proposals to modify the steep slopes prohibitions, so the Board retrenched, directing the County Staff, “the Imagineers” (you might call them), to come back and present “a compromise.”

How in the world do you think that “compromise” can work?

The truth is the Board is delaying, waiting for a Hail Mary pass, because they are inclined to do what their bosses, the developers, want, and to push this round peg through a square hole– at a date to be determined – if we don’t fight them and stop this wrong-headed revision.

Our Board, transparently lackeys for the developers, want Loudoun County to be “more business-friendly,” so they say, by making more land available for commercial development.

The Piedmont Environmental Council (the PEC) issued an alarm, rightly declaring, that these proposed changes are plain wrong, and, as for Loudoun County becoming more “business friendly,” the PEC says, “that storyline just doesn’t add up. Loudoun has significant vacant commercial space, and more than 3,100 acres of commercially zoned land (greater than 50 million square feet of space) on the market that hasn’t been built yet.”

So what’s the real story?

On the off chance this Board is not returned to office, a much hoped for electoral result, they are going to reward those developers who brought them to the dance, by passing these revisions.

Don’t wait until the election to vote them out of office, appear at the public Board hearing on Flood Plains on October 14 at 6:00pm, and tell them to represent the public interest, and not the Developers.

Rep. Barbara Comstock – the closer (of governments)


Northern Virginia’s Congressperson, Barbara Comstock (R-VA), doesn’t care so much about breast cancer, or a woman’s constitutional right of privacy and choosing when and whether to have a child – not as much as Barbara cares to impose her religious belief on everyone else — that a “person” exists at the moment of conception.

Barbara was ready to close down the government based on this superstitious belief.

Barbara believes no woman should have an abortion any time after that elusive indeterminate moment when conception has occurred. That’s the only way you can understand her public statement that Roe v Wade should be reversed.

Barbara is free to practice her religious belief but not in disregard of the constitution and laws that she swore to uphold that permit abortion. But she looks for her openings to squeeze and restrict a woman’s right of choice even while Roe remains the law of the land.

In 2012, when Barbara was in the General Assembly, she voted for a bill to require women to undergo transvaginal ultrasounds before having an abortion; she sought to discourage abortions. Continue reading

Political brawling in Loudoun

boxingBrawlFighters like politicians don’t always know when to step down.

Loudoun County Board Chairman Scott York is that kind of fighter who doesn’t know when to quit.

On about January 8, 2015, Scott said he’d put a lot of thought into whether he’d quit and decided his future “just didn’t include being Chairman for another four years.”

If Ali, a three time heavyweight champ, had listened to Doc Ferdie Pacheco, he might have gone out like undefeated heavy weight champ Rocky Marciano, physically intact, laurels strewn in his wake, without the humiliation of a drubbing by Leon Spinks and Larry Holmes.

York badly wanted those laurels from the Chamber of Commerce and he told them, rumors to the contrary notwithstanding, not to worry, he really wasn’t going to go for a fifth round to get elected.

The Chamber conferred on pug Scott York his desired “laurels,” and, no sooner did they rest upon his hallowed crown, did he throw a sharp left jab at his own integrity, and jump into the political ring, seeking re-election.

“Slippery” Scott is like a small club fighter who slips punches, shifts his stance to suit election year allies, tracks backward in the ring, the “Slippery” Scott shuffle, and, between rounds, his corner men treat his cuts, an expanding contributing entourage of developers, according to VPAP, including real estate developers, general contractors, highway contractors, building trades, excavation contractors, so they can have their hoped-for fifth round, more pay days by our County, for even more development. Continue reading