Category Archives: Uncategorized

Happy Teapot Dome day!

On this day in 1924, Secretary of the Interior Albert Fall is indicted for taking bribes from the oil industry to lease government owned oil reserves in Teapot Dome, Wyoming.   Before Watergate (1972-74), the Teapot Dome oil scandal was considered the most sensational in American politics, although many previous scandals had involved oil and politics.

A green Nixon doesn’t wash

Published in Environmental Health News, Jan. 9, 2013.

Richard Nixon would be 100 years old today, and on the anniversary of his birth, it’s tempting to portray the 37th U.S. president as a major environmental advocate.

That would be a mistake, for it would let modern-day politics trump an important history lesson.

Nixon did say and did things about the environment that seem courageous from today’s perspective:  “Clean air is not free, and neither is clean water,” he said in his 1970 State of the Union address. “Through our years of past carelessness we incurred a debt to nature, and now that debt is being called.”

Such rhetoric has made Nixon’s environmental legacy a source of ongoing debate among environmentalists, scholars and reporters. Not long ago, Michael Lemonick of the news site Climate Central said Nixon was “a champion of protecting the environment, like no president before him since Teddy Roosevelt and like no president since.”

But Lemonick and others holding that view displace history with politics. One of history’s first lessons is the need to understand people and events in the context of their times…

What’s the press?

Linda Greenhouse who covers the Supreme Court for the New York Times has been following a particular debate over the legal status of the press.

What, today, is “the press” anyway? It’s a question without a simple answer, either in today’s chaotic and rapidly changing media landscape or in Supreme Court doctrine.

The First Amendment prohibits Congress (and, by later interpretive expansion, the states) from “abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press.” Do the dual references to speech and press amount to one and the same, or does the amendment place “the press” in a special position, with rights not accorded to other speakers? The Supreme Court has never fully resolved this question.

Free speech and international law

Konrad Lorenz and his dog.

Austrian psychology professor Konrad Lorenz used to tell a story about his dog.  On their regular walks, his dog would always run along a neighborhood wall and bark at another dog that was on the inside of the wall.

The two dogs continued this  behavior for years, barking and snarling at each other every day,  until — one day — an accident took out part of the wall.   That day, the two dogs raced along the wall as usual but then came to the broken spot. And  the two dogs faced each other for the first time. After a moment of confusion, they quickly returned to their respective sides of the wall  and started barking across the wall again.

So the lesson, Lorenz said in his 1955 book Man Meets Dog, is that this ability to moderate aggression is a survival skill that animals seem to have.  Could we learn something from their example that applies to our communication problems today?   Continue reading

Appalachia’s Lorax passes into legend

(Published in Earth Island Journal, Sept. 11, 2012)

Radford University journalism students are challenged by Larry Gibson during a 2008 mountaintop mining tour.

Larry Gibson’s parents never worried about finding him, when, as a boy, he wandered out into the forest. All they had to do was spot the hawk that followed him from the air. That’s how close Gibson was to the West Virginia mountains.

He pined for those mountains after his family joined the exodus from Appalachia, moving to where the jobs were, into Ohio and Pennsylvania, in the 1950s. But finally, in the 1990s, he was able to move back to a small cabin on the land owned by his family for generations.

By that time, the nearby town of Kayford was nearly gone. And the hills where he once roamed trembled under gigantic bulldozers and leviathan drag lines that were pushing back the woods, reaching down into the earth, and tearing out the coal.

Mountaintop removal mining tore something out of him, too, but he found a way to fight back. And in the process, Larry Gibson became something unexpected, a unique species of Appalachian Lorax, a small man in bib overalls who could elevate your vision with a few dozen words. Continue reading

Nobel Peace Prize winners say US must lead global peace efforts

CHICAGO (AP) April 23, 2012  — Poverty, a lack of education and arms proliferation present daunting obstacles, yet peace can be achieved if world leaders are more willing to talk and young people are encouraged to get involved, Nobel Peace Prize winners said Monday at their annual meeting.  MORE (Washington Post) 

Virginia Tech anniversary events

Memorial events at Virginia Tech, including noon to 2:30 p.m.: Center for Peace Studies and Violence Prevention open house; second floor of Norris Hall.

Preventing Holocausts – April 18

The Program in Peace Studies and the Scholar-Citizen initiative are sponsoring a talk in honor of World Holocaust Remembrance Day:

Dr. Glen T. Martin – “How to Prevent Holocausts”
Wednesday, April 18, 7-8:30 PM,  Hurlburt 248

Steve Vetter on water & poverty Tuesday 2-3

Tuesday, March 13, 2012, 2:00 – 3:00 p.m., Hurlburt 248 (Combo Room), the Environmental Center will sponsor a talk by Mr. Stephen Vetter, Woodrow Wilson Visiting Fellow.  The focus will be on the environment (specifically water) as a factor in international development and poverty alleviation efforts.  Mr. Vetter will also address what you as a volunteer can do.  All are welcome.

Study abroad in Costa Rica meeting

There will another Info session for the study abroad in Costa Rica this Maymester:  PEAC 200 (3 credits in 3 weeks),  $4500 for in-state tuition (complete):

Friday, Feb. 17, at  5 PM,  in Hurlburt 210.