RFK – A Man of Courage and Compassion

RFK, Investigator Walter Sheridan, and their “target,” IBT Pres. James Hoffa

RFK, Investigator Walter Sheridan, and their “target,” IBT Pres. James Hoffa

Robert Fitzgerald Kennedy was killed 50 years ago on June 5, 1968.

In difficult times, “Bobby” had spoken of the dignity and equality that was the promise of the Declaration of Independence yet to be fulfilled.  He also spoke of peace.

In 1967, I was a Fordham College Physics undergrad when one of our political circle, T.R. Ellis, who was working for “Bobby,” writing speeches, told us we were welcome to spend time with Bobby when he visited the Bronx Rose Hill Campus to give an important address.

Bobby was soft spoken, seemed modest, and we talked.

When the time for Bobby to give his address was upon us, we stood nearby, about 50 feet from Bobby, on University steps overlooking a field before us of eager witnesses, quite eager ourselves.

A change came over Bobby, he seemed to gather himself, his voice loud and firm, he spoke with passion.

Bobby said, there was a Chinese Curse, “May you live in interesting times.”

He said, “Like it or not we live in interesting times.”

He paused, “These are times of danger and uncertainty but they are also more open to the creative energy of men than any other time in history.” Continue reading

Remember Vets – By Doing Something!

At the Vietnam wall of remembrance

At the Vietnam wall of remembrance

We have had another Memorial Day and remembered the sacrifice of the men and women who served this nation.

But we really should be doing a lot more than simply – “remembering them.”

We must do better and demand that our elected and appointed officials “do something.”

My late uncle, Charles Flannery, served in the armed forces led by General Patton when the Allies attacked by way of Sicily, landing on the beaches of Italy.

Charles was shot in the chest, lifted off his feet, spun around, knocked unconscious, and taken prisoner.  He returned home quite emaciated.

Years after the war, Charles died in a hospital in the Bronx that, according to my elders, refused to give him more blood, to save him from that earlier chest wound.

Ours was one family, as young as I was, that resented the nation’s unfulfilled promise to our Uncle Charles.

Our nation has been long on promises to vets when leaving our shores to serve our nation abroad, and quite uneven, often indifferent, falling way short to meet their needs, upon their return home broken and damaged by their service at war.

One clear indication of how we are currently failing our service men and women is the statistic that we lose so many soldiers upon their return to suicide. Continue reading

The War Continues

Paul Muth, Vietnam Vet

Paul Muth, Vietnam Vet

Brunswick’s Paul Muth was a medic assigned to Anloc in ‘Nam.

An Lộc is in Bình Phước Province in South Vietnam, about 72 miles north of Saigon.

Paul left the service in ’74 and thus not before the North Vietnamese offensive in ’72, when 100s of the North Vietnamese, the Army of the Republic of Vietnam, outnumbering Paul’s Division, overran their position along Highway 13.

There was hand-to-hand fighting and Paul only lived by pulling a dead body on top of himself in a trench, hidden from the enemy’s advance by this fleshy cloak of death.

When the Viet Cong attack was successfully halted and pushed back, Paul was saved by the airborne; they pulled Paul from beneath his brother-in-arm’s lifeless body.

Paul’s war nevertheless continues. Continue reading

Enough Development Already!

Lovettsville Glen structure

Lovettsville Glen structure

There was a professor of political science at Columbia College, Charles Hamilton, who wrote how citizens are manipulated.

Those in power allow for the expulsion of political energy by the masses who oppose change.

The political class proposes a path of exhausting process, seemingly giving the public a voice to object, knowing full well that the process is outcome determinative, and will end as it was contemplated to end when it began.

Under a veil of legitimacy, the process begins, wheels spin, springs compress, political levers are applied, and the public immerses itself in meetings, soft-voice facilitators, hearings, digitally memorialized opinions, statements, and papers galore.

The public enjoys high hopes that what they honestly want will be enacted by their “elected” representatives.

Many well-meaning citizens are thus engaged, and mollified with the hope of prevailing, as they participate like the dickens in the process until the last suspenseful moment, when they find that their “vision,” and all that they said and did, was never meant to be taken seriously. Continue reading

Truth Ache

jonflan-shadowWe do not need to read the philosophy of Wittgenstein or Socrates to know what is true or false.

But perhaps we need to review what goes awry in human psychology when a person with a seemingly right functioning mind defies what is known to be transparently true and argues instead for what is patently false.

Some clearly suffer an impaired cognitive function when their operative principle is that they wouldn’t see it — if they didn’t already believe it.

Plato devised an allegory of citizens in a cave, locked in position, looking forward, seeing only the reflected shadows before them on a wall projected by unseen actors behind them; shadows were their reality.

Others know very well what is true but they lie as a means to an unworthy end. Continue reading

AT&T’s uphill battle – to put a long pole on a short hill

AT&T SCHEMATIC OF 155 FOOT MONOPOLE

AT&T SCHEMATIC OF 155 FOOT MONOPOLE

AT&T won no friends in Western Loudoun with its earlier shuffle on the topmost ridge of the Short Hill Mountain, shaving off trees and tunneling into the mountain, day and night, so secret, that almost everyone was convinced it was the “guv’ment” up to its old tricks, and the “data center” that AT&T claimed it was, had more to do with Mount Weather, the designated bunker for well placed elite government workers in the case of a nuclear attack, and that AT&T’s project was most certainly something other than a data center; the questions remain unresolved.

Emboldened by the local government’s seeming pliability, AT&T is now demanding a special exception to erect an 155 foot hi-tech shaft monopole on the crest, the very top, of the Short Hill Mountain.

The community is gathering its forces to give our public officials a spinal implant and to stop AT&T, on the merits, and based on the County Ordinance, from erecting this 155 foot monopole, and setting a bad precedent for projects on the crest of the mountain. Continue reading

Indifference to the Earth, Our Home

Open field (photo by John P. Flannery)

Open field (photo by John P. Flannery)

There is this ridiculous notion that the earth is some magical waste dump that can absorb every harmful thing we do.

Some believe we can spew forth every kind of toxic garbage into the air, water, and earth and, magically and somehow it’s all good.

This happy time worldview is a direct result of a rampant childlike indifference to preserving and protecting our natural resources, and our own lives.

The “need for greed,” to get top dollar, that infects our energy industry “leaders” makes them distort the facts of global warming in the junk science they publish.

Our leaders take the corporate contributions of fossil fuel predators and vote their way, insisting that we not trust our senses that that’s what they are doing, even as they do it at the cost of our health and safety and survival.  In the bargain, they stall cleaner, safer renewable energy sources.

Remember those tobacco execs swearing before Congress that they weren’t spiking cigarettes with nicotine, and that no one’s health was at risk. Continue reading

Inside the Belly of the Beast – The Just Us System

Sworn as an AUSA by US Attorney Paul Curran, SDNY

Sworn as an AUSA by US Attorney Paul Curran, SDNY

I’m a recovering N.Y. federal prosecutor.

I say “recovering” because you never quite get over the power and authority you enjoyed as a young man – as a ‘puppy” prosecutor.

In New York, a port city, the cases are a big deal, mobsters plot their crimes a few blocks from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in lower Manhattan, vast quantities of drugs, heroin and cocaine come into the Big Apple from every direction imaginable, there are illegal transfers of money, in and out of banks, securities fraud and oceans of bad acts and words deceiving the public, plots and devices hatched by a variety of rogues within walking distance of Foley Square, where the Courts and federal prosecutors are lodged.

If you do it right, when you’re a prosecutor, no matter the jurisdiction, your mission is to do justice for the individuals charged.

The Executive US Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Sylvio J. Mollo, pulled the flag around him while he was testing my resolve to become an Assistant U.S. Attorney.

Sylvio said, “when you stand before the court as an Assistant U.S. Attorney, you represent the people and the government, but, like the flag [that he had in his hand], those you represent are silent, not there with you, and they depend on you to do what’s right.”

Years after walking out of my last grand jury as a prosecutor, I started representing the Accused, upset about how the government was pushing around those they accused – in a way I’d been instructed was just plain wrong. Continue reading

Non-Fat Meat and no Dead Animals – Really!

Best selling Author, Paul Shapiro – “Clean Meat” (courtesy photo)

Best selling Author, Paul Shapiro – “Clean Meat” (courtesy photo)

Many of us have cut off the fat on meat.  I did as a kid.  Some of us go further, and cut out meat entirely.

It may be because it has fat you don’t like or because you dread to kill an animal to eat its meat.

You can’t ask an animal, for example, to contribute only, say, his leg because that’s all you want, begging the question whether we must waste the whole animal for some small part of the evening repast.

There is also a drain on our limited natural resources, on our eco-system, and, to choose a simple example, consider what it takes to make a single egg or a gallon of milk.

Paul Shapiro, the former head of the Humane Society of the United States, wrote it takes fifty gallons of water to make a single egg – “enough to fill your bathtub to the brim.”

As for our bovine bounty, Paul wrote, it takes “nine hundred gallons of water needed for every gallon of cow’s milk…”

Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright has famously said that the compromised purity and shrinking inventory of the world’s water supplies will be the oil crisis of this century.

In 1932, the famous WWII PM, Winston Churchill, predicted, “Fifty years hence, we shall escape the absurdity of growing a whole chicken in order to eat the breast or wing, by growing these parts separately under a suitable medium.”

Paul has now written a best seller, titled, “Clean Meat,” that describes a “suitable medium” to escape Churchill’s attack on his observed wasteful “absurdity.” Continue reading

Rising Waters

jonflan-surf - 1

I was at a fair a few years ago, to attend a live broadcast, and don’t remember our topic, but, on the way, in somewhat of a rush to find the set on time, I passed by two booths, side by side, one with a realtor, and a contingent of members from the Union of Concerned Scientists at the other.

The realtor had houses for sale on the seashore at North Carolina’s Outer Banks.

The scientists had pamphlets discussing the consequences of global warming including rising seawaters.

I suggested the realtor might want to talk to the next booth about his business plan, and just perhaps consider renting out properties instead of selling them.

According to coastal geologists, storms, development, and sea level rise have caused sections of this 200-mile island chain we know as the Outer Banks to collapse.  Shifting sands, new inlets, newly formed ecosystems are transforming the banks.  More houses on spindly stilts now rest in the surf.  Continue reading