Ban guns

Rep. Zoe Lofgren, reviewing amendments to deal with Columbine, with her Special Counsel, John Flannery.

Rep. Zoe Lofgren, reviewing amendments to deal with Columbine, with her Special Counsel, John Flannery.

Once again, the hand wringing commences in Virginia and across the nation.

Guns again destroyed a network of family, friends, of co-workers, and, in a city, Roanoke, where the victims were known and loved; indeed, many watched them killed on tv in real time.

Before the camera, a young popular reporter, Allison Parker, 24, and her cameraman, Adam Ward, 27, were shot dead; the shooter filmed the murders as well, and posted the carnage he created on line.

These deaths by gunfire will shortly be regarded as indifferently as the 20 children who were killed in Newton, Connecticut, those children killed at Columbine in Colorado, and those students killed at Virginia Tech.

Our nation’s sense of morality and of conscience has grown weak to the point of complicity in these murders for our failure to act to stem the flood of weapons that make any one that we care about more at risk every day.

Our elected “leaders” cower before the “new” NRA, a cultish front group for the firearms industry leaders who sit on its Board and who help fund the organization. Politicians fear that they will lose the approaching election without the NRA’s political support if they dare to think to say or do anything that might control gun violence in America. Continue reading

The unwanted child

Bobby

Bobby

What kind of life does an unwanted child have?

Years ago, I represented Bobby, 19, a red-headed boy, charged with killing a young Korean immigrant about his age, only two years older, in a Sterling dry cleaners in Loudoun County.

When Bobby was born, both his parents abandoned him at the hospital. His father had been discharged from the military because of his schizophrenia. So Bobby didn’t have a good start genetically either. His grandparents accepted him into their home but they kept Bobby in a closet and fed him like an animal. Bobby never walked quite right.

Bobby was finally adopted by a loving family in Loudoun, under another name, his background a secret to his parents. Bobby did well at school, wrestled on the team, had a job, and a girlfriend.

Bobby wrote an essay that he wished he had never been born, wished that his mother had an abortion.

He knew he was unwanted at birth – and for some time afterwards.

Bobby robbed the Sterling dry cleaners of $200 because he believed his girlfriend was pregnant – and he had this new responsibility – another unwanted child.

I fought to save Bobby from being executed when he didn’t want to be born in the first place. Bobby is alive, in custody, and eligible for parole.

Bobby’s story is not unique among unwanted children. Continue reading

In your Facebook

potbellypig

You’ve probably all noticed how, like the spreading tongues of flame, a fire of intolerant discontent burns off the reason of dissenters in Facebook (FB) groups with insulting in-your-face remarks, all too often for my taste, calling for intemperate action, unconcerned as to what the facts may be, or what ordinarily is considered right conduct.  Indeed, impetuous irresponsibility is the most obvious increasing characteristic of these FB group exchanges.

In my neighborhood, the greatest offender is “Lovettsville 20180.”

Amidst sensible posted discussions, someone strikes a match and we have an eruption of mostly macho trash talk threads that rival hunger strikes.

But the latest flare up comes from down Middleburg way – from a group named – “Middleburg Uncensored.”

It was about a sighting of two pigs.  Some say they’re pot-bellied pets.  Others insist they’re the scariest weightiest wild tusked boars that you’d ever care to imagine.

They were seen wandering in pastures.

One group wanted to approach the problem carefully:  “Save the pigs – and find the owner.”

But the gunpowder crowd knows what to do: “Kill the animals.”

This is a picture (above) of one of the terrifying “pig monsters,” courtesy Penny Loeb (copied and cropped – so you can better see the pig – from Penny’s FB post).

This is a pot bellied pig.  It’s a grass eater.  It’s eating grass.  Penny was a restraining voice of reason and caution, concerned to be deliberate in capturing these pigs.

But that was not to be the fate of one of these pigs. Continue reading

The little woman

The Donald

The Donald

We’re at high tide for Miss-ogyny in America and the poster child surfing this wave of sexist intolerance is “the Donald.”

Mr. Donald Trump is proud of the fact that he’s called women “fat pigs, dogs, slobs and disgusting animals” and he admits that this abuse goes “well beyond” his slander slap fight with Rosie O’Donnell.

Confronted with his sexist locker room remarks about a contestant on Celebrity Apprentice by Fox Correspondent Megyn Kelly during last week’s presidential debate, the Donald said, “I think the big problem this country has is being politically correct.”

Yeah, what’s this “correctness” thing? Are you supposed to respect women? Who knew? As Governor Christy might say, “forgeddaboudid.”

The Donald said, “I don’t frankly have time for political correctness.”

Donald is, by his own words, all about “hav[ing] a good time.”

As for Ms. Kelly who asked the question, the Donald said, “And honestly Megyn, if you don’t like it, I’m sorry. I’ve been very nice to you, although I could probably maybe not be …”

“The Donald” then twitted the night away not being very nice to the correspondent including the remark– “I thought Megyn [Kelly] behaved very badly.”

The bullying woman-bashing Donald makes himself out to be the victim because Ms. Kelly “outed” what a pig the Donald truly is. Now that’s chutzpah.

But this is not just about “the Donald.” The dog whistle war waged by Republicans against women was never for the Donald. He puts it right out there, unabashedly, and, when he did last Thursday night, somewhere in America a guy sitting in a lounge chair, a tall beer at hand, dropped his half eaten bag of Doritos, and arm pumped a cheer, for the Donald for saying it “like it is” – that “this country doesn’t have time” to be politically correct, and certainly not about women. Continue reading

Take down those signs

blackKingSignsWestern Loudoun was and still is mostly a garden of delight. And other sections of the County have their special and distinctive charms.

I can’t say from observation what’s going on in the East but I suspect it’s about the same, as I’ve been told it is, especially along Sterling Boulevard.

In the West, I can tell you, the rolling green fields and three board horse fences are punctuated, awfully close to the road, with offensively large, in-your-face, self-adoring, political signs, at many turns in our local highways and dirt roads, the letters as tall as a small child, and thick in their indecent calligraphic display.

These monster signs have been posted by Republican pols who, for the most part, are characteristically comfortable with any development, almost no matter how it compromises or may ultimately destroy our marvelous countryside.

These signs are “the medium” for their “message.” (This is a nodding adaptation of Marshall McLuhan’s oft-quoted sentiment that – the “medium is the message.”

If President Reagan had a bipartisan sense of humor, he might say, “Take down those signs.”

As an old hand at this political business, I know that pols believe that 85% of a vote in an election is name recognition. So these signs don’t say anything but the candidate’s name and office.

I strongly suggest that you note the names on these signs and recoil from pulling the lever on any one of them – if you find their postings in as off-puttingly bad taste as I do.

We judge character by a person’s actions – and publishing these obnoxious larger than life, narcissistic nudges to our memory lobes, and leaving these monster signs out there as a persistent eyesore for months before the election, squatting on the good taste of the community, plainly suggests that these wannabe electables, view any objection to their signs, like Rhett Butler might in “Gone with the Wind” – “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn!”

Those hosting the signs no doubt make the lame protest – we can do what we want with our property, or with the consent of the property owner. Well, there really are some things one should not do. And maybe there should be a law about this – if the current freedom comes unrestrained by responsibility. Continue reading

In the way

Fred Lonas, taking stock of his supplies, before a long ride.

Fred Lonas, taking stock of his supplies, before a long ride.

“The Tour de France is very popular in Europe,” David Milburn said, “but here in the United States a biker pedaling alongside the road is considered ‘a nuisance.’”

Too many get mad at bicyclists, ride up on the biker’s rear wheel, flash lights, hit the steering wheel, and honk, furious that the biker is “in the way.”

Frederick Lonas lived in Purcellville, and rode his bike all over the area. Then he moved with his wife to Grants Pass, Oregon. But he still rode his bike every day. It kept him fit. No question it was energy efficient.

“In his early 70s, Fred rode his bike back from Grants Pass to Virginia to visit family and friends,” said David.

“Fred said the part of his cross-country trip that concerned him,” according to David, “was those mid-west logging trucks; it’s because they don’t give a shit. That’s what Fred said.”

What does it take for a car or truck to watch out, and go slow for 40 seconds, to give a three foot berth, before speeding off? Too few appreciate that life has a speed limit.

“Fred was in the insurance industry, at Mutual of Omaha, and studied risk,” said David, “and when he lived here in Purcellville, I’d often see him on the bike trail. He’d always have on his orange yellow vest. He wore flip flops with socks over them, as his bike shoes. He kept a steady pace, about 10 miles an hour, slower than mine, but, when I saw him at Starbuck’s, I’d always say, so everyone could hear, how he passed me. Fred enjoyed my kind obeisance.”

“We’d sit around at Starbuck’s, Fred wearing his riding shorts, one leg over the arm of the chair,” said David, “and he’d hold forth on all manner of issues, discussing everything you could imagine with Mark Levit, myself, and whomever came over. Then, coffee and conversation done, Fred would ride back from Leesburg to Purcellville on his bike.”

“Fred was last here a few weeks ago, he was 75 this trip,” said David, “he was getting ready to ride back to Grants Pass in Oregon from Leesburg. That’s a ride of more than 2,500 miles.”

Before he set out for Oregon, Fred said, “I’m so proud that my granddaughter painted my nails. I’m keeping them just as they are until I get back to Oregon, to show ‘grandma.’”

“Fred would stop along the way, observe the sights, stay at hostels,” said David, “so some days he’d make 50 miles, other days about 100.”

But on July 11, 2015, driving through Stutsman County, North Dakota, having biked about 1,500 miles, and traveling West on N.D. Highway 46, 10 miles short of US Highway 281, at about 6:35 pm, Fred was overlooked.

A 2007 400 horsepower Freightliner, weighing about 18,000 pounds, with a Reinauer flatbed trailer, struck Fred riding his bike on the far right of the westbound lane.

Fred was thrown into a ditch. The impact had to be bone crushing, instantaneous and unimaginable pain. Fred was likely dead before he hit the dirt. He was wearing a helmet, and his brightly colored vest, but that Freightliner driver didn’t give a shit.

Mark found the clipping in the Jamestown Sun, walked up to people in Starbuck’s who knew Fred, and asked, “Did you hear?” No one had.

“He was an amazing guy,” David said.

Drivers around here begrudge bikers that fraction of a minute delay they “endure” to pass a biker “in the way.”

Well, Fred’s no longer “in the way” because another driver didn’t care enough.

Drone on

droneAs a kid, I was really taken by Sputnik, a shiny Soviet satellite that circled the earth, and then I was captivated by anything having to do with the American astronauts, crossing the airless dark void, leaving earth behind, to walk on the moon.

I was equally fascinated, however, by the lower stratospheric aerodynamic marvels of Igor Sikorsky who made the most amazing helicopters – the most massive heavier-than-air machines that hovered like humming birds.

In May, on my birthday, I became the proud owner of a remote control quadcopter, the Phantom, more popularly known as “a drone,” of course, quite smaller than the tiniest Sikorsky helicopter, but amazing in its own way, hovering at eye level right in front of you, brushing your hair back with the surprising force of its spinning rotors, carrying a photographic payload that takes high-def pictures, when the drone shoots straight up at impressive speeds to a 1,000 feet and higher.

Once you’ve assembled this flying machine, requiring that you have actually read the instructions, it soon becomes clear that the average drone is light enough by weight that you have to become adroit at yaw (think rudder control or angular velocity), roll (left-right) and pitch (front/back) to surf the slightest wind pressing against your light weight drone. (You can study my early efforts on YouTube – 1st – https://youtu.be/_YnZmJmnb-4, and 2nd – https://youtu.be/WF0ga_iYaM8 ).

In January of this year, there was a big flap about how the White House radar, intended to detect flying objects like planes and missiles, missed entirely a drone like my own that crashed into a tree on the South Lawn about 3 AM. What I find entirely credible is that the owner of the drone said he lost control of it – and lost control of his privacy in the bargain. For good reason, the tyro drone operator was not charged with any crime. Continue reading

To save a mocking bird!

mockingbirdAtticus Finch was the champion of a black man’s rights in Harper Lee’s Pulitzer prize-winning book, “To Kill a Mockingbird,” a story instructing one and all to be tolerant and have courage in the face of racial discrimination; it was later made into an academy award winning blockbuster with the renowned actor, Gregory Peck, playing the young lawyer, Atticus.

Harper Lee wrote another book about Atticus Finch, as an elder, when he’s 72, called. “Go Set a Watchman,” and the novel has been kept secret since the 1950s.

Only now is it being released.

I’m very clear, after seeing the book reviews, that I’m not ever “gonna” read the new version of the elder Atticus in “Watchman.”

In this new version, Atticus is a confessed racist who attended KKK rallies.

I know enough about that kind of unreconstructed southern segregationist – as I presume is fictionalized in Lee’s “Watchman” – that I don’t need to read it.

After all, the significance of the title, “to kill a mocking bird,” is that it means to kill innocence, and to denigrate Atticus in this successor novel is the same thing.

While Atticus may have been a conflated creation of Harper Lee’s imagination, I know that there really did exist men and women like the Atticus of “Mockingbird,” who showed courage in the face of racial intolerance.

The nation needs such vision now, a standard, an uplifting idea, to focus the scattered energy of our people, by which we may measure how and whether we are moving forward.

The nation is hurting but there have been southern winds of reform that are significant and encouraging because they represent change.

Aristotle taught that “spoken words” are symbols of “affections in the soul.”

There are of course many other means of expression that are symbols revelatory of the soul.

We live in a symbol system in the South of flags, place names, statues, and more that are inherent in the regional culture that reflect grave disaffection in a collective soul and perpetuate the wrongly learned values of rebellion, intolerance, segregation, slavery and hate.

This ante-bellum “arrangement” may well suit those in an enduring “rebellion” but not those who are the objects of intolerance. Continue reading

The Fourth of July

flagfourthThe Fourth of July is a pageant celebrating our independence from an Imperial nation that denied us self-rule, dignity and freedom.

It’s a time of marching bands, waving flags, gathering family and friends close, eating and drinking all kinds of delights, laughing, talking, hugging, sharing pleasant thoughts, and capping it all with cloud-brushing, soaring multicolored flashes of fireworks, lighting the night sky with the oohs and aahs of crowds across the nation.

It’s a holiday from work in a ritual that celebrates our best qualities as a people.

It evokes the language of the declaration hammered out in a hot Philadelphia Hall, striking and revising the words of Thomas Jefferson with phrases refined to define who we were and what we were undertaking.

We should reflect upon the sentiments of this grand occasion, and how we may fulfill them today – in our day and time.

We declared that “all men are created equal,” and we’ve struggled to perfect that sentiment ever since, and we’ve made great strides, but like all great and historic undertakings, there remains more to be done – and now is the time to do it. Continue reading

Replace that Confederate statue!

“I may not get there with you,” Martin Luther King.

“I may not get there with you,” Martin Luther King.

In 1908, there was a statue erected of a confederate soldier, rifle drawn, standing vigil before the Loudoun County courthouse, as if an armed sentry demanding that any person approaching the court must first seek permission to proceed any further.

No one asks why this statue was not erected sooner than 40 years after the Civil War.

No one is curious why the citizens didn’t forge a statue of a Union and Confederate soldier standing side by side, at peace, weapons at rest, given that Loudoun County had civil war combatants on both sides of that divisive struggle.

It’s because this statue was never intended to bring us together.

Consider the historical context in Virginia after the Civil War.

In 1868, a Richmond editorial praised the KKK for “not permit[ting] the people of the South to become the victims of negro rule.”

Even the 15th Amendment to the United States Constitution, granting Black men the right to vote, did not prove an effective remedy.

Racial segregation appeared and persisted. A white dominated political system established itself throughout Virginia. From 1880 to 1930, mobs in Virginia executed seventy blacks.

In 1890, a local Hamilton contingent of blacks formed the Loudoun County Emancipation Association “to work for the betterment of the race – educationally, morally and materially.”

In 1896, the Supreme Court shored up segregation in Plessy v. Ferguson pronouncing that “separate” was just fine for Blacks.

In 1902, the hateful Klan was summoned back into service. Thomas Dixon, Jr., a fiction writer, favoring white supremacy, told the nation that the Klan was an heroic force. The Virginia Constitution was amended to limit the voting rights of Blacks, by requiring screened interviews in order to vote and imposing a poll tax. The number of black voters in Virginia declined from 147,000 in 1902 to less than 10,000 by 1904. Continue reading