Future Programs

Posted June 27th, 2011 by Bruce Saunders
Categories: Future, Programs

The public is welcome to our meetings that take place at the Senior Center on the second Wednesday of the month from 1:30 to 3:00 p.m. The Senior Center is located at 1180 Pepsi Place in Charlottesville — www.seniorcenterinc.org.

Wednesday, October 8: Geoffrey Skelley, Associate Editor, Sabato’s Crystal Ball, University of Virginia Center for Politics

Wednesday, November 12: Allen Lynch is professor at the UVa Woodrow Wilson Department of Politics and a specialist on Putin and Russian politics speaking on the Ukranian Situation.

Wednesday, December 10: Annual meeting at the Branchlands Manor, 12:00 noon.

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Past Programs

Past programs are arranged in inverse chronological order.  Speaker bios and links to podcasts are given, with a program summary written by SSV Board member Jim Peterson.

Update on the Supreme Court

Posted September 13th, 2014 by Administrator
Categories: Programs

Dahlia LithwickDahlia Lithwick recaps the highlights of the last Supreme Court term and gives a brief preview of the term to come.  The program was moderated by SSV board member Grace Zisk.  Interesting questions and answers follow her talk.  Listen to her lively presentation on the podcast.

Ms. Lithwick is a senior editor at Slate Magazine, and in that capacity, writes the “Supreme Court Dispatches” and “Jurisprudence” columns. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Harper’s, The New Yorker, The Washington Post, and Commentary, among other places. She won a 2013 National Magazine Award for her columns on the Affordable Care Act. She has been twice awarded anOnline Journalism Award for her legal commentary and was the first online journalist invited to be on the Reporters Committee for the Freedom of the Press. Ms. Lithwick has testified before Congress about access to justice in the era of the Roberts Court. She has appeared on CNN, ABC, The Colbert Report, and is a frequent guest on The Rachel Maddow Show. Ms. Lithwick earned her BA from Yale University and her JD degree from Stanford. She is currently working on a book about the four women justices of the United States Supreme Court.

Program Summary

The Daily Progress has a nice summary of Ms. Lithwick’s presentation.  Click here to read it.

The Virginia Foundation for the Humanities

Posted August 17th, 2014 by Administrator
Categories: Programs

Andrew Wyndham

Andrew Wyndham is the director of the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities Media Programs and creator and executive producer of the national weekly public radio program, BackStory with the American History Guys. He also executive produces With Good Reason—a public radio program that features teachers and scholars from Virginia’s public colleges and universities. In this podcast, he talks about the role of the humanities in society.

 

Mr. Wyndham spoke at the Wednesday, August 13, 2014 meeting of the Senior Statesmen of Virginia. The meeting was held at the Senior Center in Charlottesville. Following the presentation, questions were taken from the audience. The program was moderated by SSV Vice President John McCauley.

The coordinating administrator and fund-raiser for BackStory, Mr. Wyndham is responsible for hiring and for personnel and programming oversight and evaluation; proposal writing in support of the project; distribution and promotion; and communication with media consultants, press, and cooperating organizations and agencies. He works to guide the development of the program, with an eye to broad issues of mission and accessibility. With a national consultant, he coordinates BackStory’s promotion to stations, and he works with staff to support the development of digital strategies. He also manages BackStory’s live programming and other special events.

Andrew developed and served as project director for the 2003 Re-Imagining Ireland international conference and festival, which featured more than 130 scholars, journalists, politicians, artists, and citizen activists from Ireland. This program, which was opened by then-President Mary McAleese of Ireland, won the 2004 Helen and Martin Schwartz Prize, awarded by the Federation of State Humanities Councils. Andrew also executive-produced and directed the nationally and internationally broadcast, one-hour Re- Imagining Ireland video documentary and edited Re-Imagining Ireland, a collection of essays published in 2006 by the University of Virginia Press.

Mr. Wyndham also conceived and organized the 1996 international conference and festival, Irish Film: A Mirror Up to Culture, which was opened by Ireland’s Minister for Arts and Culture, Michael D. Higgins (now President of Ireland) and featured 40 Irish filmmakers, writers, and scholars. For fourteen years, he coordinated the Southern Humanities Media Fund, which supported outstanding documentary films and radio programs on the Southern U.S. He earned a B.A. degree with honors at Washington and Lee University and an M.A. in English from the University of Virginia, where he also pursued doctoral studies.

Born in England of Polish-Irish parents, he lived in Ireland from the age of five, coming to the U.S. and Virginia when he was thirteen.

Program Summary

Roger Mudd, broadcast journalist and PBS board member, once asked Andrew, “We’re all about the humanities, right? What is a humanity, anyway?”  Andrew used this question to begin his talk about the nature of the humanities.  The word humanity has to do with an implied contract that we all share that is based on an implicit or assumed trust as we move forward together in life.  Without a shared sense that we can both be trusted, we really couldn’t get on with anything.

What is our responsibility to humanity?  His doctrine is (and he emphasized it was not the official doctrine of the VFH!) when you go a little bit beyond the contract of our humanity and add in the complex experiences that everybody brings and are inevitable, then questions about our humanity in relation to each other can become really puzzling, even confusing and very complex.  We use stories to explore questions about our humanity and give us perspectives on possible answers.  So in answer to Roger Mudd, humanities are the various ways we formally express our sense of and explore our humanity.

No summary can do justice to the intricate interplay of the concepts he explored, but you can listen to the entire presentation above, provided by the Charlottesville Podcasting Network.

Can Virginians Pass a Constitutional Amendment Ending Partisan Gerrymandering?

Posted June 17th, 2014 by Administrator
Categories: Programs

The work of Congress has largely ground to a halt. It seems to be unable to address the problems and opportunities we face in a meaningful way. That same gridlock seems to be invading our state legislature more and more. Leigh Middleditch and Terry Cooper are part of a group that’s trying to do something about that. OneVirginia2021: Virginians for Fair Redistricting, is a nonpartisan group that believes that a major cause of our legislative gridlock is partisan gerrymandering, the drawing of legislative districts’ lines for the purpose of partisan advantage.

OneVirginia2021 is seeking to amend Virginia’s Constitution to take that power away from the legislators and delegate it to an independent, nonpartisan commission of Virginia non-politicians who will have to draw the district maps in strict compliance with common sense, nonpartisan standards — like respect for city, county and voting precinct boundaries, compactness and contiguity.

Background and details of this effort were presented by Terry Cooper and Leigh Middleditch, and moderated by SSV President Bob McGrath.  Listen to the podcast here.

Leigh Middleditch (Left) and Terry Cooper speaking at the Senior Center in Charlottesville.

Leigh Middleditch (Left) and Terry Cooper speaking at the Senior Center.

Terry CooperTerry Cooper does political research, principally opposition research for Republican candidates. He is a graduate of Episcopal High School, Princeton University and the University of Virginia School of Law, where he was research editor of the Virginia Law Review, a member of the National Moot Court Team and elected to the Order of the Coif, the law-school equivalent of Phi Beta Kappa. He practiced law with the Wall Street firm Sullivan & Cromwell and held executive positions with three Fortune 500 companies before founding his firm, Terry Cooper Political Research, in 1982. Terry has taught opposition research at the Republican National Committee’s Campaign Management Colleges, at American University’s Campaign Management Institute, at George Washington University’s Graduate School of Political Management, at the University of Florida and at training programs sponsored by the state Republican parties of Virginia, Delaware, Illinois, Michigan, Tennessee, Wisconsin and Washington State.

Leigh MiddleditchLeigh Middleditch is a vice president with McGuireWoods Consulting where his practice is now concentrated in the nongovernmental and exempt organizations fields. Leigh has previously served on the Board of Visitors and as the legal adviser to UVa and was a founder of the Sorensen Institute for Political Leadership. He also held the position of university lecturer in the Law and Darden Graduate Business Schools and is co-author of Virginia Civil Procedure. Leigh has been chair of the University’s Health Services Foundation; Virginia Health Care Foundation; Charlottesville-Albemarle Chamber of Commerce; Virginia Chamber of Commerce; Senior Lawyers Division of the American Bar Association, and a member of the ABA Board of Governors. He has also served as a director of the United States Chamber of Commerce; trustee of the Thomas Jefferson Foundation (Monticello); and University of Virginia Law Association. He currently is on the Board of the Montpelier Foundation; the U.Va. White Burkett Miller Council and Foundation for the Study of the Presidency; and is a Trustee of the Claude Moore Charitable Foundation. Leigh served on active duty with the United States Navy from 1951-1954 and retired as a Captain USNR.

Program Summary

OneVirginia2021 is seeking to amend Virginia’s Constitution to take that power away from the legislators and delegate it to an independent, nonpartisan commission of Virginia nonpoliticians who will have to draw the district maps in strict compliance with common sense, nonpartisan standards — like respect for city, county and voting precinct boundaries, compactness and contiguity. 

Mr. Middleditch began by stating that every 10 years after the decennial census is conducted, the party in power in the state gets to draw the lines of the districts both for the state elections and for Congress. The natural tendency is for those in power to draw the lines to protect incumbents. From time-to-time in Virginia there have been efforts in the legislature to change the power structure and to go to an independent commission to draw the lines. For example, Creigh Deeds had this as a plank in his platform and has introduced bills for a number of years. It is evident now that a constitutional amendment will be needed, and that requires an identical bill passed in two general assemblies with an election in between the two. It will be an uphill battle. OneVirginia2021 will start with a grassroots effort and plans to have 1,000 people signed up as supporters within a year and will raise $500,000 (42 percent of that goal has already been raised) and eventually it will cost $3 million to run an effective campaign.

Mr. Cooper said that he would focus on the why and how of redistricting reform. A common complaint he hears is that our politics, especially at the national level, are too polarized–that elected officials are less concerned with solving our problems and seizing our opportunities than they are about scoring political points at the expense of the other party. He went on to describe the definition and constitutionality of gerrymandering and how it is handled today, and also the measures that four states have enacted to forbid gerrymandering and that have been seminal in their thinking as to the type of constitutional amendment we want. Mr. Cooper’s remarks were packed with data and information. It is a good cause to support.

Report on the 2014 General Assembly

Posted May 16th, 2014 by Administrator
Categories: Programs

Senator Creigh Deeds (D) and Delegate David Toscano (D) provided their perspectives on the issues that came before the 2014 Virginia legislature at our May 14, 2014 meeting. Senator Bryce Reeves (R) and Delegates Rob Bell (R) and Steve Landes (R) were invited but responded they had scheduling conflicts. Delegate Matt Fariss (R) was also invited but did not responded. The program was moderated by SSV President Bob McGrath. Listen to the discussion by podcast.

Senator Creigh DeedsSenator Creigh Deeds (D) represents the 25th Senate District, which includes the counties of Alleghany, Albemarle (part), Bath, Highland, Nelson, and Rockbridge, and the cities of Buena Vista, Charlottesville, Covington, and Lexington. He serves on five Senate standing committees: Transportation (Chair); Finance; General Laws and Technology; Privileges and Elections; and Rules. He was first elected to the House of Delegates in 1991, winning reelection five consecutive times before leaving the House to fill the seat of the late Senator Emily Couric in a special election in 2001. He was the Democratic nominee for state Attorney General in 2005, losing that race by the closest margin in Virginia history and was the Democratic nominee for Governor in 2009.

Delegate David ToscanoDelegate David Toscano (D) represents the 57th District in the House of Delegates (Charlottesville and part of Albemarle County) and, since 2011, has served as House Democratic Leader. He is a member of the Courts of Justice; Transportation; and Rules committees. He is also a member of the Disability Commission and has served on the special Joint Subcommittee to Study Land Use Tools in the Commonwealth and the Joint Committee to study Math, Science, and Engineering. He is a member of the Manufacturing Development Commission, the Virginia Adopts Statewide Steering Committee, the Virginia Alcohol Safety Action Program Committee, and the Board of Directors of the New College Institute. He is also a member of the United Way Board.

Program Summary

Senator Creigh Deeds and Delegate David Toscano provided their perspectives on the issues that came before the 2014 legislature.  Judy Wyatt, Delegate Landes’ legislative director, attended in his absence.  Both Senator Deeds and Delegate Toscano emphasized that service in the General Assembly is a part-time job with full-time responsibilities, and the members have to work for a living, and so sometimes there are things they can’t attend because of other responsibilities and the need to pay their bills, and so some of the legislators who aren’t here, can’t be here.

Senator Deeds noted that the legislative session is still in session. The regular session ended the second Saturday in March, but they are required to pass a two-year budget and if the budget is not in place by July 1, we will be in absolutely unchartered water. Senator Deeds has been there for 23 sessions and as Virginians, he said we can be very proud of the legislative process, and what happens here happened first – in 1619. But the process has become more partisan. Yet by working together, two major things were accomplished. The front-end crisis intervention piece of mental health treatment was addressed and will continue over the next four years to develop a model of mental health treatment. The second major accomplishment was to craft legislation to reduce the number of SOL tests and set up an educational accountability council to figure out how to replace the SOLs. The hang up is over the budget and Medicaid expansion. There are 400,000 people in Virginia that would qualify for Medicaid expansion and Virginians are paying for it already. The question is, do we bring those dollars back to Virginia—5 million dollars a day. There is bipartisan agreement in the Senate to move forward.

Delegate Toscano has participated in the SSV legislative report program every year since 2006 when he was elected to the General Assembly, and that year the legislature went up to June 30 before they passed a budget, and the delay was largely due to debates over transportation funding. He cited a few victories in the current session, including the SOL and mental health reforms, and a little bit of a budget reform bill that passed in the aftermath of the scandal involving Governor McDonnell. In terms of where we are right now, the Senate has refused to take up the House budget, and the House has refused to take up the Senate budget. So much has to do with the politics on the ground. The Republicans are scared to death of being primaried by folks from the Tea Party ilk who, if a Republican votes for anything that smacks of supporting Barrack Obama, is going to get primaried. But in the end, Delegate Toscano believes that most of his colleagues realize you can’t kick away 5.2 million dollars a day. You’ve got to find a way to get our money back. There are hundreds of millions of dollars at stake for UVa.

Rockfish Wildlife Sanctuary

Posted April 14th, 2014 by Administrator
Categories: Programs

Ninety-nine percent of injured or orphaned wildlife are due to human actions. What measures should you take when you discover injured or orphaned wildlife? Noted Scottish-American naturalist John Muir wrote, “When we tug at a single thing in nature, we find it attached to the rest of the world.”

Jessie ColeSince its inception in 2004, the Rockfish Wildlife Sanctuary has treated almost 3,000 wild animals, representing 60 species of native birds, mammals, reptiles, and amphibians. It has educated local audiences throughout Central Virginia about the habitats and needs of our native wildlife and provided information on what to do when an injured or orphaned animal is found and who to contact for help.

Wildlife rehabilitators Jesse Cole and Nathou Attinger spoke at our Wednesday, April 9, 2014 meeting. The program was moderated by SSV board member Jim Peterson. In the podcast,  Jesse (pictured here) and Nathou talk about some of the organizations past and future projects. Their slide show can be downloaded here, which will add much to the appreciation of their talk.

Jessie Cole grew up in Charlottesville, Virginia, around animals and nature her whole life. Her wonderful parents, who are animal lovers themselves, instilled in her a passion for helping all kinds of wild and domestic animals. That, coupled with her love of nature, led her to Rockfish Wildlife Sanctuary (RWS). Jessie has been working at RWS rehabilitating wildlife, training interns and volunteers, and working on public outreach since 2008. She attended The Covenant School after which she continued her education at Christopher Newport University, where she earned a BS in Biology with a minor in Anthropology. When she graduated in 2008, she returned to Charlottesville where she met Nathou Attinger, founder of RWS, and began her apprenticeship under her guidance to earn her wildlife rehabilitator’s license, which took two years to acquire. Jessie says of RWS, “Every day is a reward to be able to help Virginia’s wildlife, and I could not imagine spending my time on earth any other way. I am so lucky to be a part of such a wonderful organization.”

Nathou AttingerNathou Attinger was born in France, and moved to the United States at age 3. Nonhuman animals always fascinated her, and as soon as her family moved to a house with a yard, she started taking care of them. Dogs, cats, turtles, pigeons, raccoons, anything that seems to need her help is scooped up and taken care of in her bedroom. She got her BA in French Literature at UVA, got married and had a daughter. In 1982 she started the Elementary Montessori School of Charlottesville (Mountain Montessori) for her daughter while she was working as the administration head of the Emergency Room at UVA Hospital. Her love of the outdoors won out, however, and she attended Piedmont Virginia Community College at night to learn about landscaping. She then started her own landscaping company. While landscaping, she also attained her wildlife rehabilitator’s license and began to start working with wildlife. She would take baby animals with her while she was landscaping to make sure they could be fed during the day. Finally, in 2004, the Rockfish Wildlife Sanctuary was born, and has been growing ever since.

Program Summary

Jessie Cole, wildlife rehabilitator with the Rockfish Wildlife Sanctuary (RWS), assisted by a screech owl and an opossum, described the services available for injured and orphaned wildlife. Also participating in the presentation were RWS board members Nathou Attinger and Jim Peterson.

The sanctuary was founded in 2004 by Nathou Attinger to provide care for injured and orphaned wildlife while they are being prepared for release back into the wild. The sanctuary is staffed by licensed rehabilitators, student interns, and trained volunteers. Over 600 animals received services in 2013.

In addition to direct care for birds, mammals, and reptiles, RWS educates people about the needs and habitats of wildlife and their impact on the environment. Urban development is increasingly encroaching on wildlife habitat, and as a result, more and more of Virginia’s native animals are in need of the care RWS provides.
Persons caring for wildlife must be licensed by both the state and federal government or be under the direct supervision of a licensed rehabilitator.

Since its inception, the sanctuary has been housed at a private residence. For the past several years efforts have been underway to secure a permanent home for the program, and recently 20 acres in Nelson County were purchased. After the necessary zoning, engineering and building requirements were addressed, construction began in December. The board raised $350,000 between April of last year and the present to cover the costs of site work and construction. Completion is expected in June.

The Community College: Access and Excellence

Posted March 17th, 2014 by Administrator
Categories: Programs

2014-03-12-1-friedmanAt the March 12, 2014 meeting, Dr. Frank Friedman, president of Piedmont Virginia Community College, discussed its mission, enrollment, curriculum, student outcomes, facilities and funding. The program was moderated by SSV Past President Sue Liberman. Listen to the podcast of his comments.

Frank Friedman serves as president of Piedmont Virginia Community College. As president, he provides leadership and management for an institution of 5,500 students, full-time faculty and staff, and a budget of over $24 million. Dr. Friedman has served as a faculty member and an administrator in community colleges since 1977.

Prior to becoming president of PVCC in 1999, he served as executive vice president of Austin Community College in Texas. He has experience as a chief academic officer, chief student services officer, director of institutional research and planning, and as a faculty member in psychology and education. Dr. Friedman has a doctorate in educational psychology and a master’s degree in experimental psychology from Purdue University and a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Muhlenberg College.

Dr. Friedman has served on national higher education advisory commissions with the American Association of Community Colleges and The College Board. He served six years as a commissioner of the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools and served three years as the elected Virginia representative to the 13-member Executive Council of the Commission. Among his accomplishments are being named a Phi Beta Kappa scholar, recognition by Who’s Who in American Education and Who’s Who Among America’s Teachers, and receiving the Community Service Award by the Virginia Piedmont Technology Council in 2005.

In Charlottesville, Dr. Friedman is on the Board of Directors of the Central Virginia Partnership for Economic Development, the Thomas Jefferson Area United Way, the Jefferson School Foundation and the Entrepreneurial Village, and serves as first vice-president of the Charlottesville Regional Chamber of Commerce. His wife, Sue, is President of the Alzheimer’s Association of Central and Western Virginia. They have one son, Alex, a 2009 graduate of the University of Virginia.

Program Summary

The subject of the program presented by Dr. Frank Friedman, president of Piedmont Virginia Community College was, “The Community College:  Access and Excellence.”  Dr. Friedman began by passing out a 10- question quiz about PVCC to everyone in the audience—but more about that later.

Dr. Friedman first provided a context with a brief overview of community colleges in America and then turned his attention to six topics specific to PVCC:  mission; enrollment; curriculum; outcomes for student; facilities; and funding.   The 23 public community colleges in Virginia all opened between 1966 and 1972.  It was a movement in American higher education.  Now in America there are 1,100 community colleges with 7.5 million students enrolled in credit courses and another 5 million in noncredit courses.  There are 180,000 students enrolled in credit courses in Virginia’s community colleges.

There are four parts to PVCC’s mission:  (1) access–a post-secondary education should be available to everyone (gender, age, life-long learning, all educational backgrounds, inexpensive as possible; (2) student success—build in numerous supports to engender success; (3) teaching—not a research institution; small classes, faculty teach—typical load is 15 credit hours (five 3-credit course per semester).  “If you don’t want to spend your life teaching, don’t take the job here.” (4) community–we are here to support the educational needs of our community and especially to link in with the workforce and economic development needs of our community.  For example, PVCC offers a program in viticulture and enology (winemaking) which has enrolled over 400 students; graduates of the program have started 10 wineries and vineyards in the area.

PVCC has experienced a very rapid growth with enrollment expanding from 4,100 in 2006 to 5,600 now–much of this fueled by the recession.  Seventy-five percent of the students are part-time. Only 500 students come directly from high school; 80 percent work; 40 percent are over the age of 25; 1,200 are still in high school in a dual-enrollment program earning college credits at no cost; 50 percent receive financial aid—and when there is talk about cutting back on Pell Grants, just remember that they are the single largest source of financial aid for PVCC students.

Half of the students use PVCC as a steppingstone to a bachelors degree through a transfer program with guaranteed admission as a junior to UVa, Virginia Tech, William and Mary and many other universities and they save $25,000 along the way.

Caregiving: The Unexpected Career

Posted February 15th, 2014 by Administrator
Categories: Programs

How many Alzheimer’s caregivers are there in Virginia? How much does the care-giving role cost the female caregiver? What percent of the median household income for people over 65 in Charlottesville does a year in the nursing home represent? These and many more questions are answered by Dr. Richard Lindsay in his presentation at the February 12th meeting.  Listen to the podcast for the answers. Following the presentation, questions were taken from the audience. The program was moderated by SSV President Bob McGrath.

Dr. Richard LindsayRichard W. Lindsay, M. D., Emeritus Professor of Internal Medicine and Family Practice and former head of the Section of Geriatric Medicine, University of Virginia Health Science Center, grew up in Upstate New York, where his father was a family physician. He attended Cornell University and New York Medical College from which he received his M.D. degree and where he was a member of Alpha Omega Alpha. Following an internship at Buffalo General Hospital in Buffalo, NY, Dr. Lindsay practiced briefly with his father in Old Forge, NY, and then completed a residency in Internal Medicine at the University of Virginia Hospital. Following active duty as a Major in the US Army Medical Corps, in 1969 he joined the faculty of the Department of Internal Medicine at UVA.

Dr. Lindsay is a champion skier, plays the trumpet, and loves to fly-fish. He is also recognized for his work in the field of aviation photography. He plays a wicked game of tennis, and is a dyed-in-the-wool fan of the Cavaliers. He has three grown children and two grandchildren.

Program Summary

Dr. Lindsay’s father was a country doctor and his mother had very serious Alzheimer’s disease. Although caregiving is the unexpected career, it is one that can be the most satisfying thing anybody can do. The rewards for caring for a loved one are inestimable, but at the same time it is a very difficult and taxing career. If you’re looking for a job consisting of hard work, bad hours and no pay, then caregiving is the career for you.

By 2050, it is predicted that 82 million citizens will be over the age of 65. In 1900, the average life expectancy for women was 47, but is now over 81, and men are very close. Our goal should be to increase the “health span” where we’re living healthier longer, not just living longer. Currently there are seven people to give care for each person receiving it, but in 2050 the ratio will be down to one in three. The baby boomer bulge is growing older, and every day since January 2008 and for the next 20 years, 10,000 additional persons will be eligible for Medicare and Social Security.

For healthcare in the future you’re going to see a lot of people other than the doctor. The family caregiver must be part of the team and not dictated to but rather be a part of the decision-making process. All of the puzzle pieces must be linked together for the benefit of the patient: hospital, insurance company, family caregiver, primary care doctor, community, home health agencies, all of them to shore up the family caregiver.

Life in the Emerging American Police State

Posted January 15th, 2014 by Administrator
Categories: Programs

John Whitehead is a Charlottesville-based attorney and author who has written, debated, and practiced widely in the area of constitutional law. A prominent leader in the national dialogue on civil liberties and human rights and a formidable champion of the Constitution, Whitehead’s concern for the persecuted and oppressed led him in 1982 to establish The Rutherford Institute, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the defense of civil liberties and human rights.

2014-01-08-2-whiteheadAt the January 8, 2014 meeting, Whitehead explored the many ways in which our freedoms and privacy rights have been eroded in recent years as documented in his new book, A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State. Whitehead’s book paints a chilling portrait of a nation in the final stages of transformation into a police state, complete with surveillance cameras, drug-sniffing dogs, SWAT team raids, roadside strip searches, blood draws at DUI checkpoints, mosquito drones, tasers, privatized prisons, GPS tracking devices, zero tolerance policies, over-criminalization, and free speech zones. It also reveals the inner workings of an increasingly pervasive surveillance state, including the NSAs program to track the communications of all Americans and map the daily activities of all people in the United States. As nationally syndicated columnist Nat Hentoff observed about Whitehead: John Whitehead is not only one of the nation’s most consistent and persistent civil libertarians, he is also a remarkably perceptive illustrator of our popular culture, its in-sights and dangers.

The program was moderated by SSV board member Charles Smith.

Annual Meeting of 2013

Posted December 30th, 2013 by Administrator
Categories: Programs

The annual meeting was held on December 11, 2013 at the Branchlands Manor House, where a delicious buffet lunch was served.  The election of officers and directors was held at the meeting. The nominating committee, comprised of John McCauley, chair, and Bill Davis, presented the following slate of nominations for 2014 SSV officers and directors: Sue Liberman, past president; Bob McGrath, president; John McCauley, vice president and program chair; Madison Cummings, secretary; Jim Peterson, treasurer; Terry Cooper, Jeff Gould and Nancy Hunt, directors. Charles Smith and Grace Zisk will continue on the board as they enter the second year of their two-year terms. The slate was elected by acclamation.

Special recognition was given to Tom Boyd, Bill Davis and Jim Perkins, members who have concluded their terms and will not be continuing on the board in 2014. Sue Lieberman was recognized for her leadership during her term as president. Also recognized for their outstanding contributions were Berta Hysel, Betty Vargas and Dan Gould.

Vice President Bob McGrath gave a slide presentation of the year 2013 in review. It was truly a banner year for excellent programs.

Reflections on the Supreme Court

Posted November 17th, 2013 by Administrator
Categories: Programs

Henry J. AbrahamWhat are our most important recent decisions? How would our founding fathers view them? What happens when a new Supreme Court justice needs to be appointed? Can a non-lawyer serve on the Supreme Court?

What differences have the current justices made individually? Or from a gender standpoint, since there are now four women members for the first time in history? Does race make a difference in decisions? Should we have more members of the Supreme Court, as Roosevelt attempted?

These questions were answered at the November 13, 2013 meeting and a recording is available below. The program was moderated by SSV board member Charles Smith.

Henry J. Abraham, James Hart Professor of Government Emeritus at the University of Virginia, graduated from Kenyon College in 1948 with a bachelor’s degree in political science, first in his class, summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa. He earned his M.A. in public law and government from Columbia University in 1949, and received his Ph.D. in political science from the University of Pennsylvania in 1952, where he began his teaching career. In 1972 Dr. Abraham became a chaired professor in the Department of Government and Foreign Affairs at the University of Virginia. In 1983 he was awarded the University’s most prestigious recognition, the Thomas Jefferson Award, and in 1993 he received the First Lifetime Achievement Award of the Organized Section on Law and Courts of the American Political Science Association. He retired from full-time teaching in 1997 after nearly a half-century in the classroom.

Professor Abraham is a leading authority on constitutional law, civil rights and liberties, and the judicial process. A pioneer in comparative judicial studies, he has served as a Fulbright Scholar in Denmark and has lectured throughout the world. The author of 13 books in 48 editions including The Judicial Process: An Introductory Analysis of the Courts of the United States, England and France, 7th ed., and Freedom and the Court: Civil Rights and Liberties in the United States, 8th ed., he continues to research, publish and lecture. His most recent book is Justices, Presidents and Senators: A History of Supreme Court Appointments from Washington to Bush II. In addition, he has published more than one hundred articles, book chapters, essays and monographs. His record of civic and university service is as long as it is distinguished.

Henry and his wife Mildred, a rare books collector and bibliographer, live in Charlottesville. They have two sons and four grandchildren.

Program Summary

Dr. Abraham’s presentation should be heard on podcast to be appreciated, but here is a sampling of the points he addressed.

The courts represent the favorable choice of more Americans by 10-20 percentage points over the other two branches of government.

The constitution includes two very significant concepts with regard to the Supreme Court. First, who is on the court (the members are not elected but rather nominated by the president and confirmed by the Senate); and second, their perception of their judicial role, which is the line between judicial activism and judicial restraint. There are phrases in the constitution which explains why the court so frequently seems to be out of balance.

There are four reasons why presidents select people for the judiciary: merit, political and personal friendship, a person’s real politics, and the notion of representativeness. The presidents have done pretty well with selecting members of merit. Only one member has been impeached and he was not convicted; indeed, he was a good jurist but he just had a big mouth. Of the 112 members who have served on the Supreme Court, Dr. Abraham considers only six as failures. He says that 12 are regarded as giants and great justices. The current court is okay!

Religion is one of the representative notions, but the present court is not characteristic. Historically, there have been 92 Protestants, 12 Catholics and eight Jews, of the 112 members. The present court has six Catholics and three Jews. However, religion does not play a major role in their positions on cases.

A typical perception is that there is a great deal of strife on the court. Actually, the strife is embedded in the cases, and when it comes to their personal and social relationships, the justices are all quite friendly and socialize together.

The current nine-judge court is divided four liberals to four conservatives, with Anthony Kennedy, who is basically a conservative, but who likes to be in the middle. Chief Justice John G. Roberts is a conservative. The most conservative member is Samuel A. Alito, although Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas are very close. Stephen G. Breyer and all three women, Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, are liberals with Justice Ginsberg the most liberal.