The Eye of a Needle

According to the World Health Organization, very basic health care could be provided to everyone in the world lacking in it for a cost of $10 billion per year over what is currently spent. Experience suggests that the resulting drop in infant mortality would slow the population explosion because people would not hedge their bets by producing so many infants.

Ten billion dollars is 4 percent of what the world spends each year on cigarettes. It’s what the world spends every four days on read more

Low Taxes or Big Egos?

(published in the Culpeper News, 29 June 2000)

What motivates every single county supervisor and town council member in Culpeper to advocate “growth” or “development”? Many people in Culpeper with whom I’ve spoken don’t favor this. They don’t vote or organize or write letters to the editor, but when you ask them they say they don’t favor this.

To our north are populations brimming over with regret and desperation and candidates running on anti-growth read more

Wet Lands

A World Bank/ United Nations study to be released in September, 2000, reports that half the planet’s wetlands and forests were lost during the 20th century, and 20 percent of freshwater fish are extinct, threatened or endangered. According to the EPA, one of the worst areas for wetlands loss in the U.S. is a part of Virginia that includes Culpeper.

Is everyone aware of this? Surely our local governments are aware and doing everything they can to prevent further destruction.

Actually, no. read more

Defending Slavery

We published several weeks ago in the Culpeper News a letter rightly condemning our Governor’s misguided declaration of “Confederate History Month.” The flood of letters defending Robert E. Lee and so forth was predictable up until May 25, when we printed a letter from Lorie Brown of Tombstone, Arizona, which – in so far as sense can be derived from it – appears to defend slavery (before making the usual assertion that slavery had nothing to do with the war).

The read more

Beauty and Community in Italy

(published in the Culpeper News, 1 June 2000)

I’ve lived most of my life in the United States, and the rest of it – for various periods at various stages in my life – in Italy. The U.S. is my home, but sometimes I tend to think it is almost exclusively the daily use of the English language that I refuse to part with. I find so much about life in Italy preferable that if I could have my mother tongue there there’d be no question about where I’d want to live.

Of read more

The Bible Bus

Many people, even residents of Culpeper County, Va., are shocked to learn that public school students in the county are routinely taken out of class to be proselytized with Christianity. “That’s illegal!” everyone exclaims. If more people knew about this practice outside of Culpeper and other counties where it goes on, I imagine it would receive as much attention as proposals to have a “moment of silence” or post ten ancient orders on a wall. On the other hand, read more

Make DNA Testing Universal and Repeal the 21-Day Rule

(Published in the Culpeper News, 8 June 00)

I took him four months, but Governor Gilmore has now decided to grant a request for DNA testing that could for the first time release a wrongly convicted Virginian who spent time on death row, namely Earl Washington. At the same time, Texas Governor George W. Bush – whom many accuse of denying DNA testing in cases of dubious guilt and going ahead with executions – has for the first time blocked an execution until testing can be done.

“Any read more

Innocence and Anger

The only thing we have to be angry about is anger itself. We encourage each other to be angry and to seek to satisfy our anger with revenge. This does not work, but it makes us angrier. It pisses me off.

I suppose I should be pleased that the seasonal discussion of capital punishment has taken one more upswing in popularity and that DNA proof of innocence is a prominent feature of the chatter. I’m not.

Capital punishment is a sexy topic relevant to a tiny fraction of prisoners, guilty read more

Crimes Against Whom?

The kinds of crimes that most disturb me are crimes against people. What other kinds are there? Well, there are crimes against non-human animals and against the environment – which greatly disturb me as well. There are even some crimes against companies that we should worry about.

But what to make of Virginia’s ban on “crimes against nature”? Who is “nature” and why should I care about crimes against him or her? If “nature” is a mythical religious read more

Sewer and Water

The “negotiations” between the town and county governments over how to provide water and sewer service to a bunch of non-existent but hoped-for customers just outside the town may have been going on for six years now, but you couldn’t prove it by the infantile display of power-grabbing put on in the Culpeper Regional Hospital board room last week. The county declared what it wanted, and the town what it wanted. “Is there anything you agree on?” one member of the read more