Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Affirming Life

Today is the Day to Mail Red Envelopes

Each envelope is empty to represent a life lost to abortion.

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed." -- American Declaration of Independence

Today many of us will mail red empty envelopes to the president with a prayer that he will reconsider his sacred duty to protect even the most vulnerable of us. Here's the address:

President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue
Washington D. C. 20500

Four years ago today Terri Schindler Shiavo died after she was denied nourishment and water. Our prayers are with her brother as he continues to speak for those who cannot.

The Terri Schindler Schiavo Foundation [click to read] continues to work for the basic rights of the disabled.

Dennis Prager's Column Today [click to read] is right on.


The White House Confirmed it Received More Than 2 Million Red Envelopes [click to read]

Monday, March 30, 2009

The Wall That Heals

Replica of the Vietnam Veterans' Memorial Coming to Harrisonburg

It's an exact half scale replica of Maya Lin's famous wall. The names are all there so you can touch (and be touched by) history. Here are the Details from SWAC Girl:

Memorial in Harrisonburg April 2 [click to read]

Maya Lin's Website [click to view] interesting!

VDOT, Need a Pothole Filled?

KFC Stands Ready to Help!

Colonel Harland Sanders.

I am not making this up! KFC is Filling Potholes [click to read] as a service to the community. Advertising Age reports the chicken giant is filling potholes as a public service in Lousville Kentucky. My son sent this to me as we have been having an ongoing discussion of corporations building service to others into their business model.

It all started when he propped his canvas TOMS shoe on the dash as we drove to Dulles Airport. TOMS sells canvas shoes and for every pair you buy they give a pair to someone in an impoverished nation. We both thought that was a pretty cool business model.

But if you remember Colonel Sanders' beginnings its hard to imagine him having a lot of love for the highway department. He operated a motel and restaraunt that was bypassed by interstate 75. The business he received from travellers dried up overnight.

Sanders' took his famous chicken recipe and began selling it to other resaurants. He travelled many miles, often sleeping in his car, but he built a brand and travellers sought out his crispy chicken. The rest is history. His persistance gave us the famous chain we know today. His famous 'Colonel' outfit and goatee branded his chicken as a dependable meal in the best traditions of the South.

In a day when franchising and licensing were in their infancy the Colonel built a textbook example of how to do it.

Sanders was no stranger to adversity. He dropped out of school after the seventh grade. He ran away from home to escape abuse and became a steamboat driver, an insurance salesman and many other varied careers. He joined the Army at 16 by falsifying his age.

By age 40 he owned a gas station in Corbin Kentucky. He served chicken lunches out of the gas station too. Of course that led to his expanded hospitality business that thrived until the coming of the interstate.

The original home of Kentucky Fried Chicken in Corbin Kentucky.

A River Runs Through It

Even in New York Nature Can Grab You

Special thanks to SWAC Girl for this image.

My nephew lives in New York City and was flying to Raleigh on US Air when a gentlemen asked if he could sit next to him. "Sure," he said. The man sat down and explained that he wanted to change seats "because the last time I sat where I was just assigned we ended up in the Hudson River."

Friday, March 27, 2009

Natural Inspiration

Creativity is Best Learned in Creation

This morning I was listening to Harvey Yoder on WNLR radio out of Churchville. He was discussing a book by Richard Louvs: "Last Child in the Woods." He repeats the often observed problem of kids who simply have no contact with nature. He goes so far as to say one should choose where to live in order to be close to woods, hiking trails, agriculture.

Diane Gordon writes:

"Richard Louv is convinced that such early nature experiences are essential if we are to produce tomorrow’s creative thinkers and change agents. To help prove his point he asked his teenage son, Matthew, to look up biographies of those he calls “the famously creative.” What a wonderful eclectic list he compiled: Science fiction author and futurist Arthur C. Clarke, whose budding cosmic consciousness was awakened by childhood bicycle rides under starry skies: a two-year-old Jane Goodall, sleeping with earthworms under her pillow; Thomas Edison who, as a very young child was found sitting on a clutch of goose eggs, hoping to hatch goslings; and the young Cesar Chavez, inspired by the land, soil, and waters of Arizona’s Gila River regions. Others who made Matthew’s list were Samuel Clemens, T.S. Elliot, John Muir, and Eleanor Roosevelt. "

But that is not news to me. My youth was spent in the woods for as much time as I could get away with. Even as a young child I was able to wander a lot of wonderful wooded places. Perhaps the abundance of such places close at hand was more of a blessing than I will ever know. I'm trying to imagine young Thomas Edison trying to hatch goose eggs.

At The Edge of the Village [click to read] there is a world that each of us, if we are honest, longs to explore. Supressing that longing may be far more dangerous in the long run than indulging it.

Hard Lessons of Wilderness

The men and women who created this Nation and our way of life were largely close to the land. They had learned many lessons there that are all but forgotten in our time. When one considers the mortality rate of settlers like the Pilgrims and the Jamestown settlers, it is clear that nature had provided them with lessons in the unique resourcefulness that built our society.

"It is nearly impossible for modern man to imagine what it is like to live by hunting. The life of a hunter is hard, seemingly continuous overland travel... A life of frequent concerns that the next interception may not work, that the trap or the drive will fail or that the herds will not appear this season. Above all, the life of a hunter carries with it the threat of deprivation and death by starvation." -- John M. Campbell, The Hungry Summer

One has only to visit a cemetary that's existence spans a few centuries to see that survival and reliance on one's wits were important. One's own skills were not enough to guarantee results and faith in the Divine became far more important. A man's atheism was likely to be cured long before he ever saw a foxhole.

Perhaps our greatest loss in an era that considers itself "secure" is the natural destruction of that false confidence that we truly cannot fail. Such hubris seems evident in the recent financial crisis, our continued dependence on foreign oil and our current plans to spend ourselves out of a recession. History shows that we have faced graver challenges in the past, but men came out of our mountains who knew risk and were willing to endure hardship because they had learned it on the edge.

Sunlight in the forest.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Big Brother Update

Google to Monitor Your Electric Consumption

It sounds like a good idea on the surface, but Google PowerMeter [click to read] which shows consumers their electricity consumption in near real-time in a secure iGoogle Gadget. The president mentioned it in his internet "town hall." Rush Limbaugh was quick to point out the potential for abuse.

Already Google Neighborhoods is considered an invasion of privacy by some and I've Documented How Tax Assessors Use Google Earth [click to read]. It's kind of like Orwell's 1984 with the Big Brother eye in your house. Also they collect preference keywords from your gmail. That's how they target the ads to you. This article: Google is Big Brother [click to read] will get you thinking.

In 2003 Google Watch expressed the following concerns:

1. Google's immortal cookie: Google was the first search engine to use a cookie that expires in 2038. This was at a time when federal websites were prohibited from using persistent cookies altogether. Now it's years later, and immortal cookies are commonplace among search engines; Google set the standard because no one bothered to challenge them. This cookie places a unique ID number on your hard disk. Anytime you land on a Google page, you get a Google cookie if you don't already have one. If you have one, they read and record your unique ID number.

2. Google records everything they can: For all searches they record the cookie ID, your Internet IP address, the time and date, your search terms, and your browser configuration. Increasingly, Google is customizing results based on your IP number. This is referred to in the industry as "IP delivery based on geolocation."

3. Google retains all data indefinitely: Google has no data retention policies. There is evidence that they are able to easily access all the user information they collect and save.

4. Google won't say why they need this data: Inquiries to Google about their privacy policies are ignored. When the New York Times (2002-11-28) asked Sergey Brin about whether Google ever gets subpoenaed for this information, he had no comment.

5. Google hires spooks: Keyhole, Inc. was supported with funds from the CIA. They developed a database of spy-in-the-sky images from all over the world. Google acquired Keyhole in 2004, and would like to hire more people with security clearances, so that they can peddle their corporate assets to the spooks in Washington.

6. Google's toolbar is spyware: With the advanced features enabled, Google's free toolbar for Explorer phones home with every page you surf, and yes, it reads your cookie too. Their privacy policy confesses this, but that's only because Alexa lost a class-action lawsuit when their toolbar did the same thing, and their privacy policy failed to explain this. Worse yet, Google's toolbar updates to new versions quietly, and without asking. This means that if you have the toolbar installed, Google essentially has complete access to your hard disk every time you connect to Google (which is many times a day). Most software vendors, and even Microsoft, ask if you'd like an updated version. But not Google. Any software that updates automatically presents a massive security risk.

7. Google's cache copy is illegal: Judging from Ninth Circuit precedent on the application of U.S. copyright laws to the Internet, Google's cache copy appears to be illegal. The only way a webmaster can avoid having his site cached on Google is to put a "noarchive" meta in the header of every page on his site. Surfers like the cache, but webmasters don't. Many webmasters have deleted questionable material from their sites, only to discover later that the problem pages live merrily on in Google's cache. The cache copy should be "opt-in" for webmasters, not "opt-out."

8. Google is not your friend: By now Google enjoys a 75 percent monopoly for all external referrals to most websites. Webmasters cannot avoid seeking Google's approval these days, assuming they want to increase traffic to their site. If they try to take advantage of some of the known weaknesses in Google's semi-secret algorithms, they may find themselves penalized by Google, and their traffic disappears. There are no detailed, published standards issued by Google, and there is no appeal process for penalized sites. Google is completely unaccountable. Most of the time Google doesn't even answer email from webmasters.

9. Google is a privacy time bomb: With 200 million searches per day, most from outside the U.S., Google amounts to a privacy disaster waiting to happen. Those newly-commissioned data-mining bureaucrats in Washington can only dream about the sort of slick efficiency that Google has already achieved.

Now consider how PowerMeter could be used [or abused] by an overreaching government attempt to ration power consumption. I'll stick with the old electric meter, thank you!

California's 'Black Car Ban'

Also in the works in California is a Proposal [cick to read] to ban dark paint on cars. The agency proposing the ban justifies this action because black paint is less reflective and your air conditioner will probably run more.

Update: From American Thinker:

Google Blocks Conservative Websites [click to read]. Unbiased search results. Sara for America reports: Here's more evidence that our fears about Google aren't unfounded. I plugged in these keywords "sarah for america 2009", and the Google search engine returned a website definition that included the words "brainless diet soda guzzlers". I wondered where in the world that came from --- browsed my site and found it was an anti-Sarah Palin post way deep in my blog. OF ALL THE THINGS (an unbiased?) Google could have used to define/summarize my website, that is what it came up with.

Sara for America Sara for America, Member of the Resistance. Boston Tea Party Member 2009. ... Brainless DIET-SODA GUZZLERS - January 8th, 2009 at 1:59 am ... www.sarahforamerica.org/ - 111k - Cached - Similar pages

Happenstance? Computer Models? Human "Error"? You decide. I am convinced that Google is our enemy, and it is winning.

Sara continues: During the past election, I "invested" $1,000 into Google ad-words.The game that Google plays is sickening. I was told, at first, that my site sold "an unacceptable product" and my keywords were rejected. I sold no product at all, zilch. It was simply pro-Sarah Palin. I tried again after requesting info regarding the rejection. This timeI was informed that the site was rejected because it made "personal attacks" on Obama. These supposedly personal attacks were videos of Obama and Michelle speaking - their own words. I hadn't even added my own thoughts.In the meantime, people who were searching for Sarah Palin were getting anti-Palin websites all dressed up as pro-Palin (until the reader got into the gist of the site.) Funny how that all worked out, complements of Mr. Google.

To be fair, the website blockage American Thinker initially mentions could indeed be the result of 'human error.' It happens. The question then becomes one of responsiveness to customer concerns.

Google's products and services are good. I use Blogger and Gmail although I wouldn't transmit really sensitive information through a gmail account. Google Earth and Sketchup are great too.

Eric Schmidt is free to be one of the biggest donors to Barack Obama because all of us are free to put our support behind our candidate. The problem is similar to the one that led to regulation of the railroads in the Nineteenth century. When a large business entity operates in a discriminatory manner, it invites some sort of outside oversight with all of its unintended [mostly bad] consequences. One reason Google should want to play fair is that in the future it is a very real possibility, given the nature of economies, that sometime in the far future controlling interest in the company might be acquired by someone interested in surpressing the liberal perspective. A neutral standard really serves everybody's interests better in the long run.

You can bet that if someone like Newsmax.com acquired controlling interest in Google there would be a hue and cry for some sort of "internet fairness doctrine." There is a bit of reasoning behind my use of Yahoo based Goodsearch as my primary search engine. A competitive marketplace is a healthy influence on corporate behavior. Also I like being able to designate myself who get's the 'charitable contribution' from my search activity advertising revenues.

In a competitive marketplace, customer service inevitably improves. Google is great at product development and leads the industry here but anyone who has had to bring a complaint to the search giant knows the hard truth; Google doesn't answer their mail. If you are China and they want to do business in your country they'll acknowledge yourwishes but if you are a small web developer and can't get the help you need, "don't bother to write."

Google's corporate motto is often misquoted as "don't be evil." The exact quote is "you don't have to be evil to make money." Parse that statement as spoken by a bunch of very young guys who found success right out of college. They still think most money is accumulated by a bunch of old guys who stole it [if they were paying attention in class], and they think, having stumbled onto American entreprenuership, that they've invented it. That changes everything, doesn't it?In the long run Google could really build trust by similarly "inventing" customer service. In the end it really pays to serve the little guy with a problem because he or she becomes your best advertisement.

William Howard

A Soldier's Story Comes to Light

Grave of William H. Howard
The Grave of Willam Howard.

Hiking along Brown's Gap Turnpike in Shenandoah National Park I found the headstone. It was not dated but I immediately thought of how Thomas Jackson had led his men through just about every crossing through these mountains during his Valley Campaign. Modern generals still study how Jackson carried out that campaign. The single headstone seemed odd. Had this been a sick or injured man who died alone? The battles of this campaign did not happen in the passes, did they?

There did not seem to be any record of a William H. Howard. Then I Saw This [click to read] at Rightside VA. Here is some new information on the story:

For many years Browns Gap was one of the principal routes for taking farm produce from the Shenandoah Valley to Richmond. Browns Gap and the turnpike were used briefly during the Civil War. On May 2, 1862, at the beginning of his Valley Campaign, Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson marched his entire army through Browns Gap. From June 9 to June 12, after the Battle of Port Republic at the end of the Valley Campaign, Jackson's army camped in and near Browns Gap. On September 25, 1864, General Jubal Early and his army, after their defeat at Winchester, fortified themselves here and fought off Sheridan's attacks for two days while awaiting reinforcements. Today Browns Gap Turnpike is a SNP fire road.

The grave marker along Browns Gap fire road notes William H. Howard, Company F, 44th VA. INF, C.S.A. One of the two Fluvanna infantry companies which enlisted in the spring of 1861, the "Fluvanna Hornets", had formed at Kent's Store on May 20 under Captain Thomas K. Wiesinger.The Fluvanna Hornets would be the name of Company F. Of the 88 men which enlisted in Company F, 28 would die before the war ended.

The roster shows that there were three Howard brothers in company F:
Howard, John T.; Private *
Howard, Napoleon B.; Private
Howard, William W.; Private *
*= died during war.

According to the White House of the Confederacy, both William and John both suffered from Typhoid fever in the camp. Typhoid is a bacterial dysentery, Salmonella thyphosa, which from poor sanitary conditions can lead to dehydration and death. It is unclear why William is buried along the Browns Gap fire trail. Records shown that he enlisted June 12, by August he was sick at camp, and died at Camp Allegheny on Oct 1, 1861. Possibly he was being transported home to Fluvanna and was buried along the way. The middle initial "H" is likely an error from poor records, as a sloppy "W" may look like a sloppy "H" . The grave headstone does not have a date, but lists only Company F, 44th Infantry, CSA. His brother John died 1 Aug 1861 at Monterey, but his other brother Napoleon survived and was promoted to Sergeant, only to be later taken as a prisoner of war at Gettysburg.

Special thanks to Rightside VA [click to read]!

Grave of William H. Howard
The Grave of William Howard, a Confederate soldier, in Shenandoah National Park. His body was laid to rest near the old Brownsville Turnpike.

Spring budding forth in the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Tea Parties for All

The Movement is Growing!

"We must not let our rulers
load us with perpetual debt."
--Thomas Jefferson in a letter
to Samuel Kercheval , July 12 1816

April 15, 20096:00 - 8:00 pm
Kanawha Plaza, South 8th Street
*Near Richmond Federal Reserve Downtown Richmond

Here is a Listing [click to read] of Virginia Localities hosting Tea Parties! It keeps growing. Of course, if you don't have one nearby may I suggest that Sara James' Tea Party in Downtown Richmond would be a good choice. The media would have a hard time ignoring a really large crowd in Kanawha Plaza. Also, the organizers are offering a Pork BBQ Sandwich [click to read] on their RSVP Form [click to rsvp]. Nice!

Update: Richmond Tea Party:

Attn: SWAC Area Residents! Want to join the Richmond party?

A motorcoach may be available for SWAC area residents for $21 per person if there is enough interest. Ride in comfort, no parking issues, and enjoy the fellowship of others on the trip!

If interested, send an email.

Patrick Henry would know what to do!

VDOT Workers' Memorial

On Interstate 64, Tribute is Paid to Road Workers

The memorial is at a scenic overlook on the Eastern side of the Blue Ridge Mountains.


All photos by Bob Kirchman

Let's face it. Road workers are often some of the most underappreciated members of our society. The work they do is often as dangerous as it is thankless. The VDOT Workers' Memorial on interstate 64 remembers the names of those highway workers who died in the line of duty.

The memorial honors state highway transportation workers who died performing their jobs. It is a place where family members, friends and colleagues can reflect on their loss and where the traveling public can become more aware of sacrifices made by state highway transportation workers.

The names of 131 employees are engraved on the memorial. The employees died between 1928 and 2005. Their names appear randomly in columns. The state highway organization was established in 1906. It is now known as the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT).

No public funds were used to build the memorial. It was entirely self-funded with donations of money, materials and time from VDOT employees and retirees, family members, businesses and organizations throughout the state. Nearly $172,000 was contributed for the monument and surrounding features.

The monument was dedicated on Sept. 17, 2004, in a ceremony attended by nearly 200 family members. The first of what is hoped to be an annual remembrance ceremony was held on April 4, 2006, during VDOT’s annual Work Zone Awareness Week.

To qualify for inclusion on the memorial, the deceased must have been an active full-time or part-time state highway transportation employee. The death must have been from a work-related accident, injury or illness. All confirmed for inclusion thus far died from on-the-job incidents. Many of the deaths occurred in work zone incidents.

The fund-raising effort was carried out through a non-profit group of VDOT employees who represent a variety of positions and professions throughout the agency. Pam Kida, founder of Pathways of Virginia, an organization that promotes highway safety, was also a member. Mrs. Kida is the widow of VDOT employee Alan Rotach, who was killed along Interstate 295 in 1993.

The memorial is 13 feet long and nearly 10 feet high. It sits on a large grassy area within the second scenic pulloff on I-64, east of Afton Mountain between mile markers 103 and 104.

The site was selected because it belongs to VDOT, it is easily accessible by interstate and major highways, and it overlooks a beautiful, serene view of a valley.


The design shows three profiles of workers wearing hard hats cut into black, white and gray granite layers. The layers are intended to reflect the diversity of VDOT's employees. An open profile at one end implies a "missing" worker and lets visitors see the scenic view of the overlook.

The memorial's design was selected from 41 entries submitted by VDOT employees. The design was submitted by Fredericksburg District Location and Design Engineer Harry Lee and his daughter, Stephanie, a studio arts senior at Mary Washington College at the time.

A landscape plan featuring a native perennial wildflower bed, colorful trees and a walkway was selected to complement the memorial. It was developed by Scott Johnson, then VDOT’s Richmond District wildflower program and landscape design manager. A daylily bed has been added to the site.

Several state transportation agencies have employee memorials. Among them are Arizona, Kansas, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Washington and Wisconsin. The memorials were built with donations, state funds, grants or a combination. Their designs range from realistic statues to abstract monuments, plaques and memorial gardens.

Source: VDOT Memorial Fact Sheet

State Sovereignty

Walter Willams Reports on the Next Revolution

States Rebellion Pending [click to read]. Williams writes:

"In 1994, the Colorado Legislature passed a 10th Amendment resolution and later introduced a bill titled "State Sovereignty Act." Had the State Sovereignty Act passed both houses of the legislature, it would have required all people liable for any federal tax that's a component of the highway users fund, such as a gasoline tax, to remit those taxes directly to the Colorado Department of Revenue. The money would have been deposited in an escrow account called the "Federal Tax Fund" and remitted monthly to the IRS, along with a list of payees and respective amounts paid. If Congress imposed sanctions on Colorado for failure to obey an unconstitutional mandate and penalized the state by withholding funds due, say $5 million for highway construction, the State Sovereignty Act would have prohibited the state treasurer from remitting any funds in the escrow account to the IRS. Instead, Colorado would have imposed a $5 million surcharge on the Federal Tax Fund account to continue the highway construction."

Here's a good reason to make VDOT transparency a priority. Federal mandates are a major waster of state resources.

Global Warming Treaty with the Brits [A Cautionary Tale]

In light of the observations presented by Mr. Williams, it behooves us to call our state officials to account with increased seriousness. Consider the following press release [which I am NOT making up] from Governor Kaine's office:

RICHMOND-Governor Timothy M. Kaine and Her Majesty's Ambassador to the United States, Sir Nigel Sheinwald of the United Kingdom, signed a bilateral "Climate Change Action Agreement" at the Virginia Capitol today that commits each government to the common goals of combating the effects of climate change and developing a more climate-friendly economy.
"Virginia and the UK recognize that climate change is a global phenomenon and combating it requires global partnerships," said Governor Kaine. "Sir Nigel and I believe this agreement will help bring together Virginia and UK researchers, entrepreneurs, and environmental educators to achieve greenhouse gas reductions, promote energy efficiency and independence, and promote the development of a green economy."

Virginia is the fifth state to enter a bilateral Climate Change Action Agreement with the United Kingdom—joining California, Florida, Wisconsin, and Michigan in a growing global effort to address climate change issues. Under the terms of the agreement, Virginia and the United Kingdom jointly agree to:

Promote policies that cut emissions and develop a green economy at home.
Promote market-based policies that reduce emissions globally.
Improve scientific understanding of climate change's effects.
Develop technology to mitigate and reduce the effects of climate change
Encourage climate-friendly economic development.
Raise public awareness of the effects of climate change.

As Virginia and the UK work together on strategies to combat global warming, their governments will seek opportunities to share relevant research and encourage trade in alternative and renewable energy technologies. In particular, the agreement signed today advances a number of recommendations made by the Governor's Commission on Climate Change launched in 2007 by Executive Order 59 . It emphasizes the importance of a market-based cap-and-trade program designed to limit carbon dioxide emissions that are contributing to the earth's warming. Great Britain currently participates in the European emissions trading program, which has a goal of reducing greenhouse gases on a continental scale by 8% below 1990 levels by 2012. Governor Kaine has long advocated a federal, nationwide cap-and-trade program to bring about annual CO2 reductions in the United States and has proposed a 19% reduction in electricity consumption in Virginia by 2025, the top recommendation of the Governor's Commission on Climate Change.

The Virginia-UK agreement also recognizes the two governments share research interests and assets, especially in offshore renewable energy production. The Virginia Energy Plan, released by Governor Kaine in September 2007, encourages research and development of the state's coastal resources for energy production—including offshore wind, current, and marine biomass production. Virginia's colleges and universities and the Virginia Costal Energy Research Consortium are considered leaders in the development of this technology domestically while the UK is recognized internationally as a leader in offshore tidal and wind energy research and production.

"Today the UK and Virginia sign an agreement to strengthen our relationship and to work together to cut emissions, increase the use of renewable energy, and better understand the science of climate change," said Sir Nigel Sheinwald. "Meeting the challenges of energy security, economic growth and climate change will define the economic and environmental health of our two countries, and of states like Virginia, in the 21st century."

Today's announcement comes as Governor Kaine continues to move his "Renew Virginia" initiative. Renew Virginia is focused on promoting renewable energy, creating green jobs, and encouraging preservation of the environment.

Here's the Actual Press Release [click to read] for those who think I've lost it. Yes, it commits us to reduced emissions and Cap and Trade! I've discussed the bad effects of Cap and Trade Elsewhere [click to read].

What is Required

Nothing short of a resurgence of Dangerous Self-Educated People [click to read] who will hold their leaders accountable is needed.

The VDOT Diet

Mark Obenshain's VDOT 'Waste Reduction' Program

Here is a great idea seen by SWAC Girl [click to read]. Mark Obenshain's VDOT Waste Website [click to read] offers a forum for citizen input. Obenshain says:

“All of us can give examples of hard-working VDOT employees who are dedicated to keeping our roads safe,” said Obenshain. “I consider them allies in this fight. This is about getting our priorities straight: let's make sure that we spend our scarce transportation dollars wisely, maintaining our existing roadways, prioritize – not politicize – new construction projects, and above all, let's make sure that wasteful spending doesn't take away from top safety priorities like clearing snow, grading roads, and keeping the rest stops open.”

I think Dr. June McCarroll [click to read] would have loved it.

Bull Run Conservancy

The White Rocks

Bull Run Conservancy
The white rocks visible from interstate 66 are worth the hike.

Hiking Bull Run Conservancy:

If you want to hike Bull Run Conservancy Here is an Exellent Guide [click to read] with printable trail map from Hiking Upward. The Conservancy's Website [click to read] also has a lot of good information.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Into the Wild II

Thoughts on Wilderness and Shaping the Spirit

Poplar Sky
Poplars in Shenandoah National Park frame a blue sky.

A virtuous man when alone loves the quiet of the mountains
A wise man in nature enjoys the purity of water
One must not be suspicious of the fool who takes pleasure in mountains and streams
But rather measure how well he sharpens his spirit by them
-Muso Soseki

'But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed'
-Luke 5:16

Afer exams were over one spring a group of us went to see the movie Jeremiah Johnson. The story is of a man who 'disappears' into the Western wild. Early on he meets a native American who will forever after know him as 'the man who fishes poorly.' Thankfully Jeremiah learns the ways of the wild from both the Indians and an old 'griz' hunter. Of course we wanted to wander off into the wilds ourselves. And wander we did.

I can remember wandering into Linville Gorge in North Carolina once. We were pretty ill prepared as I remember but our adventure was relatively tame and we emerged unscathed. Honestly, Chris McCandless's story is one I identify with all too well. My parents were aerospace engineers as well. Dad was a department head at NASA during the sixties and seventies. As a young man I was drawn to some adventures that Chris was. Of course this was the Twentieth Century so people no longer disappeared into the wilderness, right?

Still I had dreams of Alaska myself. Working as a graphic designer for a non-profit organization in Virginia I found myself frustrated. Our president hired me, told me I was brilliant, and then insisted that every publication we print look like "Sword of the Lord," A text heavy publication that was basically a reprint of sermons. "Sword of the Lord" looked like it was designed in the 1940's. I felt like we needed to make our materials more interesting if we wanted to reach more people with our message but never really was able to make a good case. Most of my best designs ended up in files somewhere.

My secret plan was to get to Alaska and work on the pipeline somehow. I'd build things up there! Well, if I couldn't build things I'd try to get a job driving on the 'Haul Road' as the Dalton Highway was known then. Yes, I had dreams of gently steering a truckload of pipe through Atigun Pass as snow obscured the road. Having been a grill chef, I'd probably be happy to get a job as the camp cook. In any case, Alaska became a romantic obsession.

I really didn't tell anyone though. My brothers both became NASA engineers and carried on Dad's legacy. My coworkers were mostly married guys and would not exactly be the best co-conspirators in an Alaskan adventure.

My Grandmother's brother, Jack Dalton [click to read], son of T.S. Dalton [click to read], had been a professional baseball player and later settled in Emmitsburg Maryland.Then one day he just disappeared. No one ever figured out where he went. Of course I have my theory that he lived out the rest of his life in Alaska.

The authorities in Alaska do their part to discourage those who would come. One Park official has gone to great lengths to paint McCandless' story as totally reckless. He's doing his job but he's missing the core of the story. Chris made some mistakes but he certainly did his best to prepare for his journey. To me his biggest tragic error was that he simply took what he learned in the Southwestern United States and tried to do the same thing in a different wilderness. Native Alaskans have a wealth of experience that is unique to the country they live in. Sadly, Chris had no time to absorb their wisdom before he struck out on his own.

It took me a while to get to Alaska. I've had plenty of adventures in the mountains of Virginia though. I've shown my children black bears foraging in the wild and in no way feel deprived. My lovely wife and I did go to Alaska for our 25th anniversary and loved it. It is a magnificent land and we hope to go back.

Driving to Dulles, my son and I talk about Chris' story. We do so with reverence. We talk about father wounds and the future. We spend a good bit of time in silence. For us this young man had quite a bit to say.

Hubbard Glacier
Alaska's Hubbard Glacier.

Augusta Assessment Battle Continues

This Discussion is Far From Over

David Hickey Defends His Company's Work [click to read] as Citizens Move to Remove Supervisors [click to read].


Tomorrow's BOS Meeting [click to read] to set the tax rate should be interesting.

Communism's Cruel Legacy

How Come the Nazi's Get All the Bad Press?

Dennis Prager [click to read] asks the question. "Why Doesn't Communism Have as Bad a Name as Nazism?" Sadly history seems to have little to say about world leaders who murder millions of their own people.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Bull Run Conservancy

Wilderness Near Washington

On the White Rocks
Self portrait on the white rocks of Bull Run Conservancy.

This weekend was the end of my son's spring break from Moody Bible Institute. We're driving to Dulles for him to catch his plane Sunday afternoon when we catch a glimpse of the white rocks on the last ridge driving in on interstate 66. I said "I'll be waving to you from up there when you take off." After our goodbye at the airport I drove out to where you could get over to Virginia route 55 and made my way to Chapman's Mill where the trail starts.

The parking area was full. I expected little solitude and almost bailed out for the North District of Shenandoah. I'm glad I stayed though. Most people were coming off the mountain by the time I got there and my visit to the white rocks was shared with one young couple. I had passed them twice [I stopped to take pictures]. We got to talking and they asked me if I knew anything about Old Rag. "That's our next hike we want to do" she said. "Yes, I do as a matter of fact. We take the church youth there every year." I replied. "I hear it's pretty tough. Do you think we'll be able to do it?" the young woman asked. "Oh, you'll do fine," I answered and described the moves necessary for some of the trickier climbs.

Its not a very long hike to the rocks but the map the Conservancy publishes doesn't really tell you where they are. You need to follow the Ridge Trail and pass onto private land for a bit before you get to the rocks you see from the road.

The rocks really were interesting. They would have been an interesting place to take in the sunset but the Conservancy closes at sunset. Reluctantly I made my way back so as to be off the trail in time.

Hiking Bull Run Conservancy:

If you want to hike Bull Run Conservancy Here is an Exellent Guide [click to read] with printable trail map from Hiking Upward. The Conservancy's Website [click to read] also has a lot of good information.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Into the Blue Ridge

Some of My Favorite Hikes in Shenandoah National Park

Hiking Guide [click to read] that I wrote a while back. I still enjoy heading out on these trails and many others.

Into the Wild

One Young Man's Tragic Journey

My son gave me a copy of Jon Krakauer's "Into the Wild." I couldn't put it down. It is the true story of a young man named Chris McCandless who dissappeared into the wilds North of Denali. It is a sad story and one worth reading. More than once I recognized myself in McCandless' adventures. All young men who are honest must have some. Who hasn't read a bit of Jack London and wanted to follow Buck's trail into wildness? Krakauer writes for 'Outdoor' Magazine where the story first appeared. Outdoor is a great publication featuring stories of raw adventure interlaced with articles on proper gear and technique. Of course that wonderful tension between preparedness and following your wits is where "Into the Wild" takes us off the trail. Krakauer had written the initial story of McCandless for Outdoor and expanded it for the book. The expanded work is a wonderful examination of the relationship of man and wilderness, preparedness and risk and the whole range of emotions and experiences surrounding our venturing into the uncharted realms of our world and our souls.

'Baptizing the Devil'

The Amazing End of the Hatfield-McCoy Feud

I'll Bet You Haven't Heard This [click to read] even though the names Hatfield and McCoy are household words synonymous with conflict.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Flowering Trees

Over in Charlottesville Spring is in Evidence

Spring in Charlottesville
Tree blossoms in Charlottesville.

The Teleprompter Has a Blog!

The President's Telepromter in His Own Words

The Offical Blog of the Teleprompter of the United States [click to read]

As featured on Rush! It had to happen. After the Prime Minister of Ireland and the President read each other's lines by mistake its time we hear from the teleprompter himself!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

This is Just Wrong!

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's Missile Range Should Concern You

Here's how far Mahmoud Ahmadinejad can shoot.

Investors Business Daily/TIPP poll found that:

65% of Republicans favor using military force against Iran, while 23% oppose
48% of Democrats favor the use of force, while 43% oppose
44% of Independents favor a military option, while 45% oppose

Here is a man who openly advocates the destruction of Israel and the United States. Yeah, like we can just sit down and talk with him with no preconditions, right?

This is Just Wrong!

President Tells Wounded Vets to Take Their Care to Private Insurers

Here's a story that should anger all of us. When soldiers go into harm's way for us they deserve to know that we will be there for them when they need us. This Story [click to read] in World Net Daily shows how the president is wanting to tell our wounded soldiers to 'take a hike' when it comes to their healthcare.

First of all, as a freelancer I can tell you this; when you show up to get insurance with a pre-existing or chronic condition, you'll pay through the nose for the coverage in the first place. OK, the government can mandate the insurance companies, then everybody's rates rise. Really this could be nothing more than a gutless tax increase.

Second, the VA hospital system gives us a microcosm of government run healthcare. Shouldn't it do such a wonderful job with such efficiency that we aren't having this discussion? Ask anyone who has to travel out of their community to get care, driving past the local hospital in the wee hours of the morning on their way to Roanoke or Bluefield for health services. I've often wondered if the VA benefits would work better if we let them be used in the private system like other insurance. Privatize the treatment but not the coverage. Then the market will provide better care and hopefully real savings.

Third, and most important. We made an agreement with our soldiers and its a matter of honor.

Saving Acorn Instead of Private Ryan

The administration hopes to save $540 million with this change. I just looked at what they want to give activist groupa like ACORN and the veterans' healthcare is a fraction of that money. Some estimates have as much as $4 BILLION going to administration interests like ACORN.

One of My Mentors

Back thirty years ago I worked with a man who had served in the great war. He liked to tell stories. When he returned to civilian life he was still suffering the ravages of milaria and he would have had a tough time working a 9 to 5 job. He was a gifted artist though and found work as a sign painter for a small outdoor advertising company.

His boss understood his condition well enough to tell him what had to be done and send him out. When my friend's condition required, he often lay down behind the billboard untill his condition improved and he finished many a sign in the light of a late summer evening. Both employer and employee benefited from an undocumentable work pattern that served them both.

It would be hard to find such grace in the modern workplace. This insurance mandate will only further discourage such partnerships.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Chris Lassiter's Grand Idea

New Life for a Downtown Store

Sketch by Bob Kirchman, The Kirchman Studio.

Grand Furniture is leaving downtown Staunton and News Leader Columnist Chris Lassiter has a grand idea for filling the vacant store. He proposes a Childrens' Museum similar to the ones in Richmond, Harrisonburg and Charlottesville. Here's What Mr. Lassiter Has to Say [click to read]. Here's an even better idea: Let's do it without government help. Oh, we'll take the tax credits for our in-kind donations, but I'd love to see this happen simply because the people of Staunton and their businesses want it enough to build it. Remember how the Gypsy Express was rebuilt because the people wanted it. The city cut it out of the budget, remember?

For too long we've come up with grand ideas and assumed we needed the government to step in and fund it. I think we can reclaim civic pride and have some fun in the process!

Now, what do you think the BAR will think of my caryatids?

Lynn [click to read] likes the idea.

T. J. Collins and Son

These Architects Gave Staunton Much of its Character

T. J. Collins Studio
The T. J. Collins Studio. Photo by Bob Kirchman

More Photos [click to view]

Reinvigorating the Value of Virtue

Brilliance is Overrated, Virtue is Underrated in Our Day

Do you remember when Dangerous Home Schooler [click to read] Noah Riner who was then student body president delivered this address to the incoming freshmen at Dartmouth?

"You've been told that you are a special class. A quick look at the statistics confirms that claim: quite simply, you are the smartest and most diverse group of freshmen to set foot on the Dartmouth campus. You have more potential than all of the other classes. You really are special.

But it isn't enough to be special. It isn't enough to be talented, to be beautiful, to be smart. Generations of amazing students have come before you, and have sat in your seats. Some have been good, some have been bad. All have been special.

In fact, there's quite a long list of very special, very corrupt people who have graduated from Dartmouth. William Walter Remington, Class of 1939, started out as a Boy Scout and a choirboy and graduated Phi Beta Kappa. He ended up as a Soviet spy, was convicted of perjury and beaten to death in prison.

Daniel Mason '93 was just about to graduate from Boston Medical School when he shot two men – killing one – after a parking dispute.

Just a few weeks ago, I read in the D about PJ Halas, Class of 1998. His great uncle George founded the Chicago Bears, and PJ lived up to the family name, co-captaining the basketball team his senior year at Dartmouth and coaching at a high school team following graduation. He was also a history teacher, and, this summer, he was arrested for sexually assualting a 15-year-old student.

These stories demonstrate that it takes more than a Dartmouth degree to build character.

As former Dartmouth President John Sloan Dickey said, at Dartmouth our business is learning. And I'll have to agree with the motto of Faber College, featured in the movie Animal House, "Knowledge is Good." But if all we get from this place is knowledge, we've missed something. There's one subject that you won't learn about in class, one topic that orientation didn't cover, and that your UGA won't mention: character.

What is the purpose of our education? Why are we at Dartmouth?

Martin Luther King, Jr. said:
"But education which stops with efficiency may prove the greatest menace to society…. We must remember that intelligence is not enough. Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education."

We hear very little about character in our classrooms, yet, as Dr. King suggests, the real problem in the world is not a lack of education.

For example, in the past few weeks we've seen some pretty revealing things happening on the Gulf Coast in the wake of hurricane Katrina. We've seen acts of selfless heroism and millions around the country have united to help the refugees. On the other hand, we've been disgusted by the looting, violence, and raping that took place even in the supposed refuge areas. In a time of crisis and death, people were paddling around in rafts, stealing TV's and VCR's. How could Americans go so low?

My purpose in mentioning the horrible things done by certain people on the Gulf Coast isn't to condemn just them; rather it's to condemn all of us. Supposedly, character is what you do when no one is looking, but I'm afraid to say all the things I've done when no one was looking. Cheating, stealing, lusting, you name it - How different are we? It's easy to say that we've never gone that far: never stolen that much; never lusted so much that we'd rape; and the people we've cheated, they were rich anyway.

Let's be honest, the differences are in degree. We have the same flaws as the individuals who pillaged New Orleans. Ours haven't been given such free range, but they exist and are part of us all the same.

The Times of London once asked readers for comments on what was wrong with the world. British author, G. K. Chesterton responded simply: "Dear Sir, I am."

Not many of us have the same clarity that Chesterton had. Just days after Hurricane Katrina had ravaged the Gulf Coast, politicians and pundits were distributing more blame than aid. It's so easy to see the faults of others, but so difficult to see our own. In the words of Cassius in Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, "the fault, dear Brutus is not in our stars but in ourselves."
Character has a lot to do with sacrifice, laying our personal interests down for something bigger. The best example of this is Jesus. In the Garden of Gethsemane, just hours before his crucifixion, Jesus prayed, "Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done." He knew the right thing to do. He knew the cost would be agonizing torture and death. He did it anyway. That's character.

Jesus is a good example of character, but He's also much more than that. He is the solution to flawed people like corrupt Dartmouth alums, looters, and me.

It's so easy to focus on the defects of others and ignore my own. But I need saving as much as they do.

Jesus' message of redemption is simple. People are imperfect, and there are consequences for our actions. He gave His life for our sin so that we wouldn't have to bear the penalty of the law; so we could see love. The problem is me; the solution is God's love: Jesus on the cross, for us.

In the words of Bono:
[I]f only we could be a bit more like Him, the world would be transformed. …When I look at the Cross of Christ, what I see up there is all my s—- and everybody else's. So I ask myself a question a lot of people have asked: Who is this man? And was He who He said He was, or was He just a religious nut? And there it is, and that's the question.

You want the best undergraduate education in the world, and you've come to the right place to get that. But there's more to college than achievement. With Martin Luther King, we must dream of a nation – and a college – where people are not judged by the superficial, "but by the content of their character."

Thus, as you begin your four years here, you've got to come to some conclusions about your own character because you won't get it by just going to class. What is the content of your character?

Who are you? And how will you become what you need to be?"

Brilliance alone is not enough. In fact Read What Dennis Prager Has to Say [click to read] and you may come to the same conclusion. Our brilliance is wasted if it has no light to guide it.

Noah Riner.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Reinvigorating Religion

G-d Will Provide Unless the Government Gets There First

Brad Wilcox in the WSJ [click to read].

"48 million people between the ages of 18 - late 30’s in the U.S. with energy, ideas, creativity, and passion. It must be the priority of the Church to empower this generation to use their gifts for the benefit of people and the purposes of God." -- Young Adult Ministries


Victoria Cobb Comments on Mr. Wilcox's Article [click to read] Exellent!

Take note of the disturbing rise in problems for children when families participate less in the community of faith.

"So, bigger government means less religious participation and less religious attendance means behavioral and educational challenges for children. As we continue on the road to the great welfare state, let’s be sure we know the end game." -- Victoria Cobb


Do We Really Want to Be Like Europe [click to read] by Suzanne Fields

Reinvigorating Suburbs

It's Time for Creating Jefferson's Nation of Villages

Proposed Renewal of the Crozet Shopping Center.

Suburb bashing has always been a fashionable intellectual pastime.That is one reason I like Robert A. M. Stern. He sees the reasons people seek out single family dwellings of a traditional form. I have a friend who lives on the upper West side and his penthouse with a view of the Hudson is very nice but give me my gardens.People put up with the wretched infrastructure overload and strip centers because the village is still appealing. The residential areas become landscaped oasis for their residents. Kids play outside the house in view of the kitchen window. People visit at the back fence.Moreover the suburbs are seen by their dwellers as affirming opportunity and safety. If people had no emotion for their homes they would be fine with Le Courbusier type high rises but that is simply not the case.The problem is really one of infrastructure and public space [or lack therof]. Strip malls and box stores create a sterile wasteland but they may become the village centers of the future.

Time magazine features a piece called 'Repurposing Suburbs' which shows some fine examples of recreating this type of public space. This Crozet project turns a tired strip mall into a village center. One cannot wait for Crozet's redesigner to get his creative hands on some of the new "Town Center" projects which are now just collections of big box stores. Some time ago I drew a concept where the CSX tracks between Staunton and Charlottesville became a light rail line connecting Staunton, Fishersville, Waynesboro, Crozet, Ivy, The University of Virginia Medical Center and Downtown Charlottesville. The result would be a series of village centers and a better utilization of existing infrastructure.

City Journal's writers draw conflicting conclusions. Houston is touted as encouraging its middle class while Gotham offers limited options. Dense urban areas do tend to create energy efficiency. The trick is to see opportunities to improve the communities we have already created.That would certainly involve offering condominiums and a pedestrian friendly center to suburban communities and reclaiming all those wonderful old low density neighborhoods of our cities.

Google Earth for Tax Assessors

Beta Test Version Released

Screen shot from Beta Test Version of Google Earth for Tax Assessors.

It should be pretty obvious that now that the BOS have 'preserved' the questionable assessment that now they'll meet and lower the rate. This will in all likelihood be somewhat revenue positive but will [they hope] accomplish a degree of rage-reduction. Since the assessments vary so much, you reduce the number of really angry citizens [they hope] at this stage.

But let's visit Michigan where the State Senate is even now considering a new form of taxation designed to get you in the end. This bill creates a new government bureaucracy to oversee the ongoing inspections of septic tanks. Home and business owners would be responsible to pay the fee for these inspections. The cost of new construction would also increase as a result of the additional fee. The taxpayer would also be on the hook to pay for the newly created On-site Wastewater Treatment System Advisory Council and the Alternative System Technical Advisory Committee. Eternal vigilence right?

Update: Absurdity Illustration Gone Scary

It happens a lot to Rush Limbaugh, he sets out to illustrate the absurdity of some policy by making a joke only to find it playing out in reality. So check out How Tax Assessors are Using Google Earth [click to read] from their own blog!

King Solomon and Bernie Madoff

Finally, a Rabbi Makes the Story Meaningful

The Bernie Madoff story never grabbed my interest in spite of the media's obsession with it. Perhaps it was because of the media's obsession with it. Then I read Rabbi Pinchos Lipschutz's Piece on the Real Lessons [click to read] in Jewish World Review. We seem to be constantly tripping over our obsession with the trappings of success. We seem to have an apalling lack of curiousity about its real roots.

Consider the two greatest rulers in history. King Solomon and his father. My morning reading was the story of Solomon asking G-d for wisdom as told in 1 Kings:3:

"5In Gibeon the LORD appeared to Solomon in a dream by night: and God said, Ask what I shall give thee. 6And Solomon said, Thou hast shewed unto thy servant David my father great mercy, according as he walked before thee in truth, and in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart with thee; and thou hast kept for him this great kindness, that thou hast given him a son to sit on his throne, as it is this day.

7And now, O LORD my God, thou hast made thy servant king instead of David my father: and I am but a little child: I know not how to go out or come in. 8And thy servant is in the midst of thy people which thou hast chosen, a great people, that cannot be numbered nor counted for multitude. 9Give therefore thy servant an understanding heart to judge thy people, that I may discern between good and bad: for who is able to judge this thy so great a people?

10And the speech pleased the LORD, that Solomon had asked this thing. 11And God said unto him, Because thou hast asked this thing, and hast not asked for thyself long life; neither hast asked riches for thyself, nor hast asked the life of thine enemies; but hast asked for thyself understanding to discern judgment; 12Behold, I have done according to thy words: lo, I have given thee a wise and an understanding heart; so that there was none like thee before thee, neither after thee shall any arise like unto thee.

13And I have also given thee that which thou hast not asked, both riches, and honour: so that there shall not be any among the kings like unto thee all thy days. 14And if thou wilt walk in my ways, to keep my statutes and my commandments, as thy father David did walk, then I will lengthen thy days."

Then there is the story of his father from 1 Samuel 16:

"1And the LORD said unto Samuel, How long wilt thou mourn for Saul, seeing I have rejected him from reigning over Israel? fill thine horn with oil, and go, I will send thee to Jesse the Bethlehemite: for I have provided me a king among his sons. 2And Samuel said, How can I go? if Saul hear it, he will kill me. And the LORD said, Take an heifer with thee, and say, I am come to sacrifice to the LORD. 3And call Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will shew thee what thou shalt do: and thou shalt anoint unto me him whom I name unto thee. 4And Samuel did that which the LORD spake, and came to Bethlehem. And the elders of the town trembled at his coming, and said, Comest thou peaceably? 5And he said, Peaceably: I am come to sacrifice unto the LORD: sanctify yourselves, and come with me to the sacrifice. And he sanctified Jesse and his sons, and called them to the sacrifice.

6And it came to pass, when they were come, that he looked on Eliab, and said, Surely the LORD's anointed is before him. 7But the LORD said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart.

8Then Jesse called Abinadab, and made him pass before Samuel. And he said, Neither hath the LORD chosen this. 9Then Jesse made Shammah to pass by. And he said, Neither hath the LORD chosen this. 10Again, Jesse made seven of his sons to pass before Samuel. And Samuel said unto Jesse, The LORD hath not chosen these.

11And Samuel said unto Jesse, Are here all thy children? And he said, There remaineth yet the youngest, and, behold, he keepeth the sheep. And Samuel said unto Jesse, Send and fetch him: for we will not sit down till he come hither. 12And he sent, and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, and withal of a beautiful countenance, and goodly to look to. And the LORD said, Arise, anoint him: for this is he. 13Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the midst of his brethren: and the Spirit of the LORD came upon David from that day forward. So Samuel rose up, and went to Ramah."

Rabbi Lipschutz is right. We have better qualities to look to than the ones we tend to revere in our leaders.

Warren Buffet's Buyer's Remorse

Even Rich Guys Regret Some Investments

Remember back during the election when a lot of bloggers who lean in a different direction than I do were saying things like: "Warren Buffet's smart, he's got to know something here." This in reference to his support of the young candidate from Chicago. Well, I'll leave it to you decide if Warren Buffet was smart or drank the coolaid, but This Piece in American Thinker [click to read] makes you think Mr. Buffet is having some serious 'buyer's remorse.'

Issue by issue, Buffet has some strong disagreement with the president. Rush Limbaugh [click to read], who we're not supposed to listen to, brought this news to light last week. He's critical of Cap and Trade [click to read], the Energy Rationing and Taxation Redistribution Cleverly Disguised as Free Market Action program. Likewise Card Check [click to read], the Union Thug Relief Act has some bad financial reprocussions.

"If you're in a war, and we really are in an economic war, there's a obligation to the majority to behave in ways to not go around inflaming the minority. If on Dec. 8, or maybe it was Dec. 7, when Roosevelt convened Congress to vote on the war. He didn't say, ‘I'm throwing in about ten of my pet projects,'" Buffett says.

Still, Mr. Buffet says it is important to support the president. I say we support him best by making sure he sees the facts of our present economic situation.

Rush's Required Reading List:
(straight from the colossal stack of stuff)

American Thinker: Obama supporter Buffett strongly criticizes the president
New York Times: Buffett: Cap-and-Trade Is a 'Regressive' Tax New
NewsBusters: Kernen Asks Buffett: 'You Might Not Have Fixed Global Warming' After D-Day
Wall Street Journal: Buffett Says Economy Has 'Fallen Off a Cliff'
American Thinker: What the Government Worker Unions Know
Heritage: Card Check Creates Government-Run Workplaces
Heritage Jobs Report: February Employment Losses Would Be Worse with Card Check
American Spectator: Card Check's Bounce
HotAir: Card Check Fading in the Senate?

Saturday, March 14, 2009

We Surround Them

Thoughts on the Glenn Beck Meetup

See the mosaic Here [click to view]

Friday's get together in Waynesboro was one of those 'crowd in with people you really like to be close to' type of events. It's like the folks at church, or fellow sports fans, or fellow citzens packed together at the County Government Center. You have a good time being there!

I squeezed in next to a really nice gentleman from Staunton and we enjoyed our conversation together. Commercial breaks were where I learned about his work, his thoughts and his views. It was really a positive time. Both of us loved the story of Chris Gardner who overcame destitution to become a millionare. When he came on we were enthused to say the least. We'd both listened to the rebroadcast earlier that day of Rush Limbaugh's CPAC speech and shared his desire that those with a podium and a voice encourage Americans to be the best that they can be. He's fed up with the mass marketing of despair and I think most of us would relish the kind of encouragement Rush is talking about.

So I was a bit surprised to read Sara for America's Take [click to read] on the Richmond Meetup. It is offered merely as an example of how different people see things. To me the whole thing was not about Glenn Beck as much as it was about the gathering of Americans. I don't really expect Glenn Beck to do more or less than what he does so well. I do graphic design and I liked the collage.

They had 300 people and little old SWAC had 200. SWAC Girl [click to read] had a similar experience to mine. But looking forward to September 12, it is going to be up to us to make it special.

Next Up: April 15

"We must not let our rulers
load us with perpetual debt."
--Thomas Jefferson in a letter
to Samuel Kercheval , July 12 1816

April 15, 20096:00 - 8:00 pm
Kanawha Plaza, South 8th Street
*Near Richmond Federal Reserve Downtown Richmond

“Never let a serious crisis go to waste … What I mean by
that is it’s an opportunity to do things you couldn’t do before.”
-- Rahm Emmanuel

Now check out his 40 Year Wish List [click to read] in the Wall Street Journal. Warren Buffett is now expressing honest opposition to policies like 'cap and trade' and other administration programs. I wonder if he's feeling 'buyers remorse' about the guy he supported for president?

What's Happening at the Kirchman Studio

The Economy is Slow, But the Work is Still Interesting

Zion Baptist Church
Rendering of Zion Baptist Church

Check out Case Studies [click to read] and you will see that some projects are still being drawn up. Things are still really slow but I did pull an all-nighter Thursday! That seems like a good sign.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Glenn Beck Meetup in Waynesboro

Just When You're Starting to Feel Alone...




Chris Gardner, his true story was portrayed by Will Smith in 'Pursuit of Happyness' and his story encouraged Glenn's viewers!

...You find out We Surround Them! [click to view]. This is totally cool! You've got to see for yourself what they did with all the pictures!

The Nine Principles:

1. America is good.
2. I believe in God and He is the Center of my Life.
3. I must always try to be a more honest person than I was yesterday.
4. The family is sacred. My spouse and I are the ultimate authority, not the government.
5. If you break the law you pay the penalty. Justice is blind and no one is above it.
6. I have a right to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness, but there is no guarantee of equal results.
7. I work hard for what I have and I will share it with who I want to. Government cannot force me to be charitable.
8. It is not un-American for me to disagree with authority or to share my personal opinion.
9. The government works for me. I do not answer to them, they answer to me.

The 12 Values:

Hard Work
Personal Responsibility

Public Servants

Thankfully There Are Those Who Take this Trust Seriously

IMG_1714 IMG_1709
...And we thank them!

It is a good thing to Remember the Hour of Hard Work [click to read] by Francis Chester on behalf of the good citizens of this county. It is good to remember the people in government who endure the scorn of their peers when the serving of the public good is more urgent. It is good to remember the young supervisor who listens to the assembled voices and votes to affirm them.

Those who distributed and collected petitions, tried to educate your neighbors, held to your convictions; Thank you all!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

A 'Green' Revolution We Need

Fighting Famine with Genetic Engineering

Bjørn Lomborg Writes in City Journal [click to read] yesterday about exciting advances in science that could help ease World famine. Unfortunately there is a lot of hysteria about Genetically modified food that might limit its application.

Timing is Everything...

Assessors Hearing Notification Mailed March 11

The envelope was in today's mail.

"Based on your recent appeal at the Board of Assessors' hearings, the assessment of the above described property has been carefully reconsidered. It has been concluded that no justification exists for further adjustment to your valuation. Therefore, no changes to your assessed value has been made."

Date of Mailing: March 11, 2009

Coincidence? If you got your notification today too Let Me Know [click to email].

What's a Mother to Do?

Opressive Overreaching Mandate Update:

Here a Homeschooling Mother in North Carolina [click to read] is being ordered to send her children to public school. Like many homeschooled kids they test better than a lot of their public school peers. She should just obey the law, right?

'Of the People'

A Representative's First Mandate is to Represent

Here is the big take-away from last night's board of supervisors meeting. At one point we were lectured that our distaste for following laws was why we have so many problems as a Nation. Wrong! Isn't our distaste for opressive mandates the reason we have a Nation in the first place? Not that I am advocating wanton civil disobedience here but it is clear that our founding fathers saw unchecked government as a major problem. In fact, it was seen as disobedience of a more basic set of laws, the rights and dignity asserted by our Creator.

Tracy Pyles and Jeremy Shifflett are following in the finest tradition of our representative government when they seek to give us a voice in the face of unclear State mandates that result in shoddy and unfair tax policy. They are to be commended for recognizing the higher law that binds us together as a free people.

A patriot from the past.

Massive Protest of Mass Appraisal

Augusta Supervisors Reject Motion to Scrap Assessment

Augusta residents filled two meeting rooms and a hallway as many more were turned away for lack of space. Over forty people spoke to the board asking how land values were being raised 30 to 100% at a time when Nationwide they have declined an average of 18%! Clearly few were comfortable with how the process had played out and the rush by the board to certify the results. Most people I talked to had gone for a hearing. None had heard back from Blue Ridge Mass Appraisals. Clearly the work was not finished and the hasty certification raised questions.

Frustration was in the air but the crowd was friendly. Strong sentiments were expressed and crowd reaction was strong enough to be gavelled down a few times but the large number of deputies on hand for the event ended up functioning as ushers for what turned out to be a very orderly group.

Francis Chester had 10,047 Signatures [click to read] to his petition and he brought up some clear conflicts of interest on the part of the Assessment company. The owner, David Hickey and his family do own considerable properties in Augusta. Hickey Defends the Reassessment [click to read] in a News-Leader editorial. He is quick to point out how the bubble grew but cannot seem to come to terms with the bubble's burst. Unfortunately the best comparables are the ones that have sat on the market for over a year even at greatly reduced prices. They don't become statistics on Mr. Hickey's computer model, as they have not been recorded as sales.

Supervisor Tracy Pyles motioned to set aside the 2008 assessment and was seconded by Beverly Manor Supervisor Jeremy Shifflett . Riverheads Supervisor Nancy Sorrells said she didn't think Virginia code allowed them to touch the assessment and spoke in opposition to Pyles' motion. In the end it was a 5 to 2 vote with Pyles and Shifflet standing alone.

Here is the News Virginian Story [click to read]

Every Seat Filled
Every seat was filled. Another meeting room was filled and people sat in the hallways.

How big was the crowd? The Largest Ever for A BOS Meeting [click to read] as reported by SWAC Girl. A thousand or more! Francis Chester had asked the County to provide a larger venue and it was obvious that people were turned away in the end.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Augusta Meeting Tonight

7:00pm at the County Government Center

I plan to be there by 6:30 as there should be a bit of a crowd. Here is a Map [click to read] if you need it.

There is Much More Information Here [click to read].

Together, Augusta ... we can make a difference!

Albemarle County Town Meeting

"Who Want's a Tax Increase?"

From Albemarle Truth in Taxation Alliance (ATTA)....

The Albemarle Board of Supervisors is hosting a series of Town Hall Meetings this month. At the March 3rd town hall meeting in Earlysville, 45 attendees overwhelmingly rejected the so-called "rainy day fund" being promoted by some supervisors.

Watch a short video of this poll by CLICKING HERE.Understanding the "rainy day fund" is merely a 3.6% tax increase, the straw poll taken by Supervisor David Slutzky clearly indicates Albemarle Citizens feel a tax increase this year is a "bad idea."Please forward this email to your friends, family, neighbors, co-workers -- anyone who wants to know the true public sentiment about the proposed tax increase. We need this video to "go viral" on YouTube, to get as many people as possible to watch it and forward it on!

Some Observations:

Albemarle County is an interesting place. It is fairly wealthy and has become a favored place to live by at least two movie stars who have portrayed farm wives. They have big farms of their own there. Charlottesville was written up about twenty years ago as "one of the ten best places to live in the US" and an influx of new residents [largely from Northeastern states] followed.

In the 2004 election, Albemarle went from Red to Blue, largely reflecting its new demographics. Still it is a well documented fact that many of these new residents were leaving states and localities with very high local tax rates. It's pretty obvious that a lot of them sought tax relief along with a beautiful place to live.

ht/SWAC Girl

Straight Talk on Stem Cells

What Happens When Faith and Science Agree?

It is a known fact that much scientific discovery has been made in stem cell research. The promise of cures for a host of ills drives that research -- all derived from work with Adult Stem Cells. Embryotic stem cell research has simply not produced the results seen with the adult stem cell studies.

Yesterday the President reversed a long standing policy banning federal funds for embryonic stem cell reseach. But those who cheered this move were not scientists. They are members of the pro-choice movement. Those who deride Christian beliefs as 'restrictive' have their own set of beliefs that guide them. Even when the facts suggest that embryonic stem cell research is a long shot and adult stem cell research is actively providing cures, the notion that unborn humans are due the same protection as those who have made it into the world seems to be their real stumbling block.

Here is a Piece by Kathleen Parker [click to read] that provides a lot of insight into the whole matter.


Victoria Cobb of Virginia Family Foundation Has This to Say [click to read].