Yearly Archives: 2017

Killing off our natural legacy

Utah’s Bears’ Ears

Utah’s Bears’ Ears

If you get a cut, it very likely will heal.

If you cut a femoral artery, you may bleed to death in minutes.

A forest fire may not destroy a woodland.

But development and coal and gas and uranium mining surely will destroy a woodland and all that is seen above and exists below the surface that has existed for hundreds and thousands of years, never to be restored, and dead to us forever.

Teddy Roosevelt, a rough rider, and a lifelong Republican, discovered nature in the Dakota Badlands.

In 1888, he wrote “the time has come to inquire seriously what will happen when our forests are gone, when the coal, the iron, the oil, and the gas are exhausted, when the soils have still further been impoverished and washed into the streams, polluting the rivers, denuding the fields and obstructing navigation.”

In 1905, President Roosevelt created the United States Forest Service, and after that, 150 national forests, 51 federal bird reserves, 4 national game preserves, 5 national parks, and 18 national monuments.

The American Antiquities Act became law in 1906 and protected 230 million acres of public land because the Act gave the President the discretion to create national monuments – and he did.

After camping in Yosemite National Park, Roosevelt said, “It was like lying in a great solemn cathedral, far vaster and more beautiful than any built by the hand of man.”

Jim Wine, an acknowledged conservationist, now living in Stockholm, relies on the early legal doctrine of “usufructus” to state our legal obligation, a right to use the land (usus) in one’s lifetime, provided that its fruits (fructus) are not wasted and passed on to the next generation undiminished.

This past week, Mr. Trump violated this principle in a massive assault on protected public lands, two magnificent monuments in Utah, Bears Ears, and the Grand Staircase-Escalante.

Mr. Trump preferred the interest of large development and fossil fuel and uranium miners, insiders and contributors, who got him a desk in the Oval Office. Continue reading

A patriot in our midst

o-PAUL-REVEREWe survived the American Revolution, the war with Britain afterwards, our slave war among the states, the Civil War, Jim Crow laws, the exclusion of blacks and women from the voting rolls, the Spanish American war, Pearl Harbor, World wars, the McCarthy era, the Cuban Missile Crisis, ‘Nam, Nixon, Billygate, the Iran Contra scandal (“Contra-Fawn-and-Ollie (North)), and 9-11.

But, at long last, will we survive the despot in the West Wing, Mr. Donald Trump, a failed casino operator, intolerant of one and all but especially women and persons of color?

Mr. Trump is best imagined as a relentless undignified thug, engaged in a never-ending assault, elbows akimbo, pushing dignitaries out of the way, hurling insults and trash talk, worst of all, attacking this nation’s first principle, as expressed by Thomas Jefferson, namely, that we are all equal, worthy of respect, amazingly diverse, and all in this together.

Mr. Trump runs down our government, the Courts, Congress, Mr. Trump’s own cabinet, as well as his Republican Party.

Mr. Trump sees himself as the one and only authority that matters.  But what else may one expect of a despot? Continue reading

Annie get your semi-automatic rifle for Xmas

Warner Workman’s gun shop

Warner Workman’s gun shop

Our local Lovettsville gun merchant, Warner Workman, posted a controversial sign on Thanksgiving outside his shop – urging folk – to get their semi-automatic AR-15 assault rifle in time for the holidays – it said – “buy now, buy often.”

Not everybody thought this was what we really need to be advertising and selling in a peaceful family oriented community.

Janice’s reaction was: “Disturbing!!!”

Lynda said, “Really !! All about the money grab.”

Ray underscored the fact that the AR-15 was a military style killing machine, responsible for mass shooting deaths in Aurora, Orlando, Las Vegas, Sandy Hook, Umpua CC, San Bernadino and Sutherland Springs.

Sandy Hook Elementary School is one of those tragic incidents that stands out from all the others.  It was a break with past shooting horrors, even including Columbine, and caught the nation’s attention because 20 students and 6 adults were killed in an elementary school class by a gunman armed with a semi-automatic AR-15 assault rifle made by Bushmaster and pistols made by Glock and Sig Sauer.   Continue reading

An inspired community

Karen Watson – Infusion Arts

Karen Watson – Infusion Arts

We live in a community of hardworking folk and, among us, is a community of artists who lend grace, beauty and a wealth of spirit to the region.

They are down the side streets in spaces that they’ve set aside for their art, in converted farm buildings and garages, having overrun kitchen counters, closets, and cluttered places in their homes.

The soil and clay around these parts is fertile for the various arts.

They work at their crafts down dirt roads, make and show what they’ve wrought on town and county art tours, and bring their inspired creations to local festivals when they are not shown on-line.

They work at their art because they love it, inspired by the smoothness of formed clay, an attempt to synthesize a media array, to play with the forgiveness of oil brushed on a stretched canvas, the challenge of water colors, or acrylics, or a charcoal drawing stick, a string of stones to make a necklace, or wool to make a scarf, inspired to try to create something no one’s ever made quite like what they’ve imagined and made concrete and real.

They have a passion to invoke their gifts, creating when they can get away from their “real” work, until, they dream, they can make their art full time, and give up “their day job.”

Thus has it always been.

Jill Evans-Kavaldjian, the President of the Loudoun County Arts Council said, “I was struck by the reflection of the trees outside on the tiles inside and captured what I saw with colored pencils and a varnish.”

Tiles

Tiles

Continue reading

The election – Virginia chose civility and reason

election-signs-2017-va - 1Hardly a person fails to follow the polls to consider the trend of opinion approaching the day of election.

In Virginia that appeared to favor Republican Gubernatorial Candidate Edward Gillespie closing in on his Democratic opponent.

There was a pol that had Mr. Gillespie’s opponent, Democratic Gubernatorial Candidate Ralph Northam, with a 13-point lead in September, then a 6-point lead weeks ago, and a 2-point lead the weekend before the election.

There was much concerned talk among Dems and joyfully anxious conversation among Republicans.

As they went from polling place to polling place on the day of the election, many wondered if Northam might be the only member of the Democratic slate left standing by election night.

This seeming trend toward a narrow victory for Northam augured badly for down ticket Dems who rely on the tail of the statewide ticket to pull them over the electoral finish line.

Polls and pundits, however, were astonished at the results several hours after 7PM when the precincts across the state closed and began reporting their results. Continue reading

Black lives should be honored – not just tolerated

Congress approves DC statue of Frederick Douglass in Capitol complexIt’s high time that we had a statue placed on the Loudoun County Court house lawn honoring abolitionist Frederick Douglas and the black Union troops from Loudoun County that fought for the union and for their freedom from slavery.

In Washington, DC, there is a statue to Black Union Troops.

There is a statue of Frederick Douglas in the Capitol.

But we have no memorial in Loudoun.

You may not appreciate that there’s good and sufficient history to do so.

Kevin Dulany Grigsby, a Loudoun native, believes his black ancestral heritage from the Civil War has been overlooked, invisible in Loudoun County, particularly how Blacks fought for the Union.

“It was the movie, ‘Glory’,” Kevin said, “while I was a Junior at Loudoun County High School, that revealed to me that there had been black soldiers fighting for the Union in the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry.”

“It was my cousin, Vernon Peterson,” Kevin said, “who first told me, that there were Black Soldiers from our Loudoun County who fought for the Union.  He told me the story of Dennis Weaver, an African-American Civil War veteran, who was buried in the Rock Hill Cemetery in Southwestern Loudoun.”  Weaver, Kevin learned, had been a slave in the Bluemont area and enlisted at – what we now know – as Theodore Roosevelt Island.

These revelations contrasted sharply with what Kevin had been taught about blacks in school.  “In our Loudoun County school text book,” Kevin said, “they pictured blacks as families of slaves, the few pictures they showed, and all I could see was pain and suffering.  I was embarrassed, and it brought upon me a sense of shame.” Continue reading

Civil public dialogue

Senator Orrin Hatch and your correspondent

Senator Orrin Hatch and your correspondent

I studied law because I wanted to be involved in politics.  Thomas Jefferson told a cousin who sought his advice that, if he wanted to go into politics, he should study the law.  I figured Jefferson knew what he was talking about.

My party preference was set when I heard Senator Jack Kennedy, running for President, speak at Fordham University when I was a High School freshman at the Prep.

Senator Ted Kennedy and, well, yours truly

Senator Ted Kennedy and, well, yours truly

I didn’t give a thought to whether preferring one political party or another could bar one from public service.

After Columbia Law School, I was appointed a law clerk in the 2nd Circuit by an Eisenhower appointee, a NY federal prosecutor by a Nixon appointee, special counsel to the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee by Senator Strom Thurmond, and special counsel to the U.S. Senate Labor Committee by Orrin Hatch; all of these appointments were by Republicans.

In those days, you could find a worthy challenge in public service without regard to party affiliation.

In 1980, I was a Director of Citizens for Kennedy in New York, when Ted challenged Jimmy Carter to be the party’s nominee for President.  But it was not to be.

When I was appointed by Senator Hatch as his Special Counsel after Ted’s campaign, I arrived early to an empty Senate Labor Committee Hearing Room, except for Senator Kennedy who was the ranking member on the Committee.

Ted asked, “What brings you here?”

“I’m Special Counsel to the Senate Labor Committee,” I answered.

Ted laughed, “No, you’re not. I didn’t appoint you.”

“No,” I said, “You didn’t but Orrin did.”

Ted came closer, speaking softly, in a mock conspiratorial way, and asked, “Does he know about us?”

I said, “Yes, he does.” Continue reading

All that jazz

In the congressional office Congressman John Conyers

In the congressional office Congressman John Conyers

Jazz originated long ago in a soulful look inward, as an outward expression of anxiety, isolation, pain, suffering, and seeking calm, a release, in blue and bent notes, in clubs at night, with instruments that gave flight to the spirit, pushing back against the offending spaces that were America, in obeisance to jazz’s melodic musical parentage – the blues and ragtime.

Jazz is free, smooth, wobbly, looped, and loved.

It’s Duke Ellington perfect, distinctive, improvised, unique, revealing, harmonic, healing, binding one who can hear and feel to the sound of beat, bass, brass and a Miles Davis’ trumpet.

The heart strikes with its rhythm, breaths inspire and conspire with its cadence, the foot taps, to this easy swaying sound.

It should be the music of our divided day – as it suits the times – and its musical themes are those we should all share and many do.

Of course, there are others who resist the message of jazz, of collective inclusion, of diversity, recoiling even at the soft brush on a cymbal or a snare drum.

Is the beauty of jazz inaccessible to some because it was first the song of slaves?

Louie Armstrong once sang, “My only skin is my skin.  What did I do to be so black and blue?”

Billie Holiday sang a song in later years how “southern trees bear strange fruit, blood on the leaves and blood at the root, black bodies swinging in the southern breeze.”

Benny Goodman, who was white, resisted the notion that an all-white band could make jazz and added vibraphonist Lionel Hampton to his ensemble.

Charles Mingus, crafted a song, the “fables of faubus,” and he sang, “Oh, Lord, don’t let ‘em shoot us!  … Oh, Lord no more swastikas!  Oh, Lord, no more Klu Klux Klan!” Continue reading

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