Monday, February 28, 2011

THYME Magazine

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor

Volume III, Issue IX

Understanding Pain at the Pump

This week the 'other' weekly news magazine's Asia edition dealt with Moammar Kadafi while the US edition published 'Understanding Pain.' THYME goes where few venture to tread, so we're combining TWO covers of the 'other' news magazine to deal with understanding pain at the pump.

It is no surprise that unrest in Libya has sent gas prices through the roof. What IS surprising is that our nation's leaders continue to ignore the need to produce our own. While our President's party tilts toward windmills, real threats exist in lands we depend on for the free flow of oil at market prices.

Gasoline and other fossil fuels are still relatively abundant and the market is telling us so. Green technology requires massive subsidies to compete. Virginia's Governor wants to drill offshore but the President's moratorium, overturned by a Federal Judge, still stands. Ignoring the rule of law and the will of the people, the President continues to promote experimental and unreliable 'green' solutions. I have a 1991 Mazda that gets close to 40 miles per gallon. It does not require the battery array needed for a Prius or a Volt. It will not require the replacement of said array, which is not all that environmentally friendly to produce. It does not need to be charged on the electrical grid. Cars charged on the grid are in effect 60% coal powered.

Improving the efficiency of simple engines might be the best short-term investment besides domestic energy production. Energy independence should be a priority for security reasons along with economic ones.

A rainy day driving on Interstate 81.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Mural at Staunton Alliance Church

A Bavarian Boy in Lederhosen Takes Shape

Neushwanstien Castle and the Alps will be in the background.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Incredible Journey of Henry 'Box' Brown

For Him, Thinking Outside the Box Meant Getting in One

Henry 'Box' Brown

He was born a slave in Louisa County Virginia in 1815. On March 29, 1849 Henry 'Box' Brown literally mailed himself to freedom, no mean feat for the two-hundred pound 5' 8" man, who had a carpenter build him a special wooden shipping container.

Mr. Brown was a worker in one of Richmond's tobacco factories but when his family was sold and taken away to North Carolina he grieved their loss and eventually knew that he wanted to seek his freedom. He sought out an agent of the Underground Railroad who arranged contacts for him in the city of Philadelphia [Pennsylvania was a free state]. Brown devised his unique escape and had a carpenter build the box. Care was taken to provide inconspicuous air holes and the box was clearly labled "This Side Up With Care."

Cleverly disguised as a shipment of dry goods, Brown was transported by wagon to the RF&P Railroad for a trip to the Potomac. A ferry took him accross the river to continue his journey by train to Philadelphia. The box was handled roughly and was placed upside down a few times but Brown was able to remain silent and avoid detection. The journey lasted 26 hours.

He arrived at the doorstep of James Miller McKim, a Philadelphia abolitionist, who had agreed to receive the shipment. He greeted the men who uncrated him, saying "How do you do gentlemen," then sang a hymn that he had chosen to celebrate his freedom.

Mr. Brown became a popular speaker and when the Fugitive Slave Law was passed in 1850 he went to Britian. In 1875 he returned to the U.S. and continued as a popular speaker and entertainer.

'But Smooth the Road...'

Recognizing Transportation's Role in Virginia's Vitality

"But smooth the road once, and make easy the way for them, and then see what an influx of articles will be poured upon us; how amazingly our exports will be encreased by them, and how amply we shall be compensated for any trouble and expence we may encounter to effect it." -- George Washington in a letter to Virginia Governor Benjamin Harrison, October 10, 1784

Governor Bob McDonnell announced that Norfolk Southern Railway Company is acquiring 1,500 new railcars from Chicago-based FreightCar America, Inc . The high-capacity coal cars will be manufactured at FreightCar America’s facility in Roanoke beginning in May of 2011. The order totals more than $100 million.

In the early days of our history, men like George Washington saw the need for a strong transportation system. Washington served as a director of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal Company. Later the railroads would create the smooth road West that Washington saw as so essential. Claudius Crozet would later pioneer the construction of railroads through Virginia's mountainous regions. The region's prosperity in the decades that followed owes much to the forward thinking of such leaders.

Modern Virginia Governors do well to be equally committed to 'smooth the road' for Virginia's commerce. Governor Bob McDonnell, through a number of initiatives, is showing that the current administration shares in the vision of men like Washington and Crozet.

James River and Kanawha Canal
James River and Kanawah Canal.

Mount Vernon, October 10, 1784.

Dear Sir:

Upon my return from the western Country a few days ago, I had the pleasure to receive your favor of the 17th. ulto. It has always been my intention to pay my respects to you before the chance of another early and hard winter should make a warm fireside too comfortable to be relinquished. And I shall feel an additional pleasure in offering this tribute of friendship and respect to you, by having the company of the Marqs. de la Fayette, when he shall have revisited this place from his Eastern tour; now every day to be expected.

I shall take the liberty now, my dear sir, to suggest a matter, which would (if I am not too shortsighted a politician) mark your administration as an important era in the Annals of this Country, if it should be recommended by you, and adopted by the Assembly.

It has been long my decided opinion that the shortest, easiest, and least expensive communication with the invaluable and extensive Country back of us, would be by one, or both of the rivers of this State which have their sources in the Apalachian mountains. Nor am I singular in this opinion. Evans, in his Map and Analysis of the middle Colonies which (considering the early period at which they were given to the public) are done with amazing exactness. And Hutchins since, in his topographical description of the Western Country, (a good part of which is from actual surveys), are decidedly of the same sentiments;
as indeed are all others who have had opportunities, and have been at the pains to investigate and consider the subject.

But that this may not now stand as mere matter of opinion or assertion, unsupported by facts (such at least as the best maps now extant, compared with the oral testimony, which my opportunities in the course of the war have enabled me to obtain); I shall give you the different routs and distances from Detroit, by which all the trade of the North Western parts of the United territory, must pass; unless the Spaniards, contrary to their present policy, should engage part of it; or the British should attempt to force nature by carrying the trade of the upper Lakes by the river Outawaies into Canada, which I scarcely think they will or could effect. Taking Detroit then (which is putting ourselves in as unfavourable a point of view as we can be well placed, because it is upon the line of the British territory) as a point by which, as I have already observed, all that part of the trade must come, it appears from the statement enclosed, that the tide waters of this State are nearer to it by 168 miles than that of the river St. Lawrence; or than that of the Hudson at Albany by 176 miles.

Maryland stands upon similar ground with Virginia. Pennsylvania altho’ the Susquehanna is an unfriendly water, much impeded it is said with rocks and rapids, and nowhere communicating with those which lead to her capital; has it in contemplation to open a communication between Toby’s Creek (which empties into the Alleghany river, 95 miles above
Fort Pitt) and the west branch of Susquehanna; and to cut a canal between the waters of the latter, and the Schuylkill; the expence of which is easier to be conceived than estimated or described by me. A people however, who are possessed of the spirit of commerce, who see, and who will pursue their advantages, may achieve almost anything. In the mean time, under the uncertainty of these undertakings, they are smoothing the roads and paving the ways for the trade of that western World. That New York will do the same so soon as the British Garrisons are removed, which are at present, insurmountable obstacles in their way, no person who knows the temper, genius, and policy of those people as well as I do, can harbour the smallest doubt.

Thus much with respect to rival States; let me now take a short view of our own; and being aware of the objections which are in the way, I will enumerate, in order to contrast them with the advantages.

The first and principal one is, the unfortunate Jealousy, which ever has and it is to be feared ever will prevail, lest one part of the State should obtain an advantage over the other part (as if the benefits of trade were not diffusive and beneficial to all); then follow a train of difficulties viz: that our people are already heavily taxed; that we have no money; that the advantages of this trade are remote that the mostdirect rout for it is thro’ other States, over whom we have no controul; that the routs over which we have controul, are as distant as either of those which lead to Philadelphia, Albany or Montreal; That a sufficient spirit of commerce does not pervade the citizens of this commonwealth; that we are in fact doing for others, what they ought to do for themselves.

Without going into the investigation of a question, which has employed the pens of able politicians, namely, whether trade with Foreigners is an advantage or disadvantage to a country. This State as a part of the confederated States (all of whom have the spirit of it very strongly working within them) must adopt it, or submit to the evils arising therefrom without receiving its benefits; common policy therefore points clearly and strongly, to the propriety of our enjoying all the advantages which nature and our local situation afford us; and evinces clearly that unless this spirit could be totally eradicated in other States, as well as in this, and every man made to become either a cultivator of the Land, or a manufacturer of such articles as are prompted by necessity, such stimulas should be employed as will force this spirit; by shewing to our Countrymen the superior advantages we possess beyond others; and the importance of being upon a footing with our Neighbours.

If this is fair reasoning, it ought to follow as a consequence, that we should do our part towards opening the communication with the fur and peltry trade of the Lakes; and for the produce of the Country which lies within; and which will, so soon as matters are settled with the Indians, and the terms on which Congress means to dispose of the Land, and found to be favourable, are announced, settle faster than any other ever did, or any one would imagine. This then when considered in an interested point of view, is alone sufficient to excite our endeavours; but in my opinion, there is a political consideration for so doing, which is of still greater importance.

I need not remark to you Sir, that the flanks and rear of the United States are possessed by other powers, and formidable ones too; nor how necessary it is to apply the cement of interest, to bind all parts of the Union together by indissoluble bonds, especially that part of it, which lies immediately west of us, with the middle States. For, what ties, let me ask, shou’d we have upon those people? How entirely unconnected with them shall we be, and what troubles may we not apprehend, if the Spaniards on their right, and Gt. Britain on their left, instead of throwing stumbling blocks in their way as they now do, should hold out lures for their trade and alliance. What, when they get strength, which will be sooner than most people conceive (from the emigration of foreigners who will have no particular predilection towards us, as well as from the removal of our own citizens) will be the consequence of their having formed close connexions with both, or either of those powers in a commercial way?
It needs not, in my opinion, the gift of prophecy to foretell.

The Western settlers, (I speak now from my own observation) stand as it were upon a pivot; the touch of a feather, would turn them any way. They have look’d down the Mississippi, until the Spaniards (very impoliticly I think, for themselves) threw difficulties in their way; and they looked that way for no other reason, than because they could glide gently down the stream; without considering perhaps, the fatigues of the voyage back again, and the time necessary to perform it in; and because they have no other means of coming to us but by a long Land transportation and unimproved roads. These causes have hitherto checked the industry of the present settlers; for except the demand for provisions, occasioned by the increase of population, and a little flour which the necessities of Spaniards compel them to buy, they have no incitements to labour. But smooth the road once, and make easy the way for them, and then see what an influx of articles will be poured upon us; how amazingly our exports will be encreased by them, and how amply we shall be compensated for any trouble and expence we may encounter to effect it.

A combination of circumstances makes the present conjuncture more favourable for Virginia, than for any other State in the Union, to fix these matters. The jealous and untoward disposition of the Spaniards on one hand, and the private views of some individuals, coinciding with the general policy of the Court of Great Britain, on the other, to retain as long as possible the Posts of Detroit, Niagara, and Oswega &c. (which, tho’ done under the letter of the Treaty, is certainly an infraction of the spirit of it, and injurious to the Union) may be improved to the greatest advantage by this State; if she would open the avenues to the trade of that Country, and embrace the present moment to establish it. It only wants a beginning; the Western
Inhabitants wou’d do their part towards its execution. weak as they are, they would meet us at least half way, rather than be driven into the arms of, or be made dependant upon foreigners; which would, eventually, either bring on a separation of them from us, or a war between the United States and one or the other of those powers, most probably with the Spaniards.

The preliminary steps to the attainment of this great object, would be attended with very little expence, and might, at the same time that it served to attract the attention of the Western Country, and to convince the wavering Inhabitants thereof of our disposition to connect ourselves with them, and to facilitate their commerce with us, would be a mean of removing those jealousies which otherwise might take place among ourselves.

These, in my opinion are; to appoint Commissioners, who from their situation, integrity and abilities, can be under no suspicion of prejudice or predilection to one part more than to another. Let these Commissioners make an actual survey of James river and Potomack from tide-water to their respective sources. Note with great accuracy the kind of navigation, and the obstructions in it; the difficulty and expence attending the removal of these obstructions; the distances from place to place thro’ the whole extent; and the nearest and best Portages between these waters and the Streams capable of improvement which run into the Ohio; traverse these in like manner to their junction with the Ohio, and with equal accuracy. The navigation of this river (i.e., the Ohio) being well known, they will have less to do in the examination of it; but nevertheless, let the courses and distances of it be taken to the mouth of the Muskingum, and up that river (notwithstanding it is in the ceded lands) to the carrying place with Cayahoga; down the Cayahoga to Lake Erie, and thence to Detroit. Let them do the same with big Bever creek, although part of it is in the State of Pennsylvania; and with the Scioto also. In a word, let the Waters East and West of the Ohio, which invite our notice by their proximity, and the ease with which Land transportation may be had between them and the Lakes on one side, and the rivers Potomac and James on the other, be explored, accurately delineated, and a correct and connected Map of the whole be presented to the public. These things being done, I shall be mistaken if prejudice does not yield to facts; jealousy to candour, and finally, that reason and nature thus aided, will dictate what is right and proper to be done.

In the mean while, if it should be thought that the lapse of time which is necessary to effect this work, may be attended with injurious consequences, could not there be a sum of money granted towards opening the best, or if it should be deemed more eligible, two of the nearest communications, one to the Northward and another to the Southward, with the settlements to the westward? And an act be passed (if there should not appear a manifest disposition in the Assembly to make it a public undertaking) to incorporate, and encourage private
Adventurers if any should associate and sollicit the same, for the purpose of extending the navigation of Potomac or James river? And, in the former case, to request the concurrence of Maryland in the measure. It will appear from my statement of the different routs (and as far as my means of information have extended, I have done it with the utmost candour), that all the produce of the settlements about Fort Pitt can be brought to Alexandria by the Yohoghancy in 304 Miles; whereof only 31 is land transportation: And by the Monongahela and Cheat river in 300 miles; 20 only of which are land carriage. Whereas the common road from Fort Pitt to Philadelphia is 320 miles, all Land transportation; or 476 miles, if the Ohio, Toby’s Creek, Susquehanna and Schuylkill are made use of for this purpose: how much of this is by land, I know not; but from the nature of the Country it must be very considerable. How much the interests and feelings of people thus circumstanced would be engaged to promote it, requires no illustration.

For my own part, I think it highly probable, that upon the strictest scrutiny (if the Falls of the Great Kanhawa can be made navigable, or a short portage be had there), it will be found of equal importance and convenience to improve the navigation of both the James and Potomac. The latter I am fully persuaded, affords the nearest communication with the Lakes; but James river may be more convenient for all the settlers below the mouth of the Gt. Kanhawa, and for some distance perhaps above, and west of it: for I have no expectation that any part of the trade above the falls of the Ohio will go down that river and the Mississippi, much less that the returns will ever come up them; unless our want of foresight and good management is the
occasion of it. Or upon trial, if it should be found that these rivers, from the beforementioned Falls, will admit the descent of Sea vessels; in which case, and the navigation of the former’s becoming free, it is probable that both vessels and the cargoes will be carried to foreign markets and sold; but the returns for them will never in the natural course of things, ascend the long and rapid current of that river; which with the Ohio to the Falls, in their meanderings, is little if any short of 2000 miles. Upon the whole, the object, in my estimation is of vast commercial and political importance: in these lights I think posterity will consider it, and regret (if our conduct should give them cause) that the present favourable moment to secure so great a blessing for them, was neglected.

One thing more remains, which I had like to have forgot, and that is the supposed difficulty of obtaining a passage tho’ the State of Pennsylvania. How an application to its Legislature would be relished, in the first instance, I will not undertake to decide; but of one thing I am almost certain, such an application would place that body in a very delicate situation. There is in the State of Pennsylvania at least 100,000 souls west of the Laurel hill, who are groaning under the inconveniences of a long land transportation; they are wishing, indeed they are looking for the improvement and extension of inland navigation; and if this cannot be made easy for them, to Philada (at any rate it must be lengthy), they will seek a mart elsewhere; the consequence of which would be, that the State, tho’ contrary to the policy and interests of its Sea-ports, must submit to the loss of so much of its trade, or hazard not only the trade but the loss of the Settlement also; for an opposition on the part of Government to the extension of water transportation, so consonant with the essential interests of a large body of people, or any extraordinary impositions upon the exports or imports to, or from another State, would ultimately bring on a separation between its Eastern and Western Settlements; towards which, there is not wanting a disposition at this moment in that part of it, which is beyond the mountains. I consider Rumsey’s discovery for working Boats against stream, by mechanical powers (principally) as not only a very fortunate invention for these States in general, but as one of those circumstances which have combined to render the present epocha favourable above all others for fixing, if we are disposed to avail ourselves of them, a large portion of the trade of the Western Country in the bosom of this State irrevocably.

Lengthy as this letter is, I intended to have written a fuller and more digested one, upon this important subject, but have met with so many interruptions since my return home, as almost to have precluded my writing at all. What I now give is crude; but if you are in sentiment with me, I have said enough; if there is not an accordance of opinion I have said too much and all I pray in the latter case is, that you will do me the justice to believe my motives are pure, however erroneous my judgment may be on this matter, and that I am with the most perfect esteem etc.

Claudius Crozet first pushed the railroad through Rockfish Gap in the Blue Ridge Mountains. His Monument may be seen today on the grounds of the Virginia Military Institute.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Fire Closes Trails in Shenandoah Park

North District Affected by Forest Fires

The Appalachian Trail near Sawmill Ridge Overlook in Shenandoah National Park.

Lynn Reports [click to read] in the Washington Examiner on the fires burning in Shenandoah National Park.

Fiscal Health and Local Government

Visible Debate by Visible Lawmakers... A Healthy Sign

The Augusta County Government Center.

Nichole Gelinas in City Journal writes about the indicators of health in local and state finances. Her article: Hidden in Plain Sight [click to read] says that disclosure requirements are a step in the right direction, but they alone will not fix the situation.

Think of our own local government and the recent property assessment battle. The historical pattern had always been one where assessments were performed in a rather casual way to follow the then predictable rise in real estate values. Governments planned expenditures based on this pattern and boards of supervisors rubber stamped the whole process.

In a steadily growing economy there was no need for questioning reality, after all. The can kicked down the road was highly unlikely to roll back on you.

After 2006, reality changed. The appraisal and budget process that followed underscored the need for lively and open debate. Tracy Pyles, supervisor from the Pastures District, took the bold and necessary step of addressing flaws in the process that would eventually come back to bite us. The assessors were using values derived from a real estate bubble that had already burst. There was no reality in letting tax rates be driven by these numbers. Furthermore, the inflated numbers created a false report to state revenue agencies, resulting in reduced payments to the county from state taxes collected.

The inability of other local elected officials to throw themselves into this debate is telling. In low-crime Mayberry, Barney Fife can keep his service revolver empty and his bullet in his pocket. If revenues can be counted on to rise 'safely,' we can afford to let the supervisors kick the can down the road, or so it might seem. Actually the need for open and honest debate is even more important when we might plan honestly for a range of contingiencies. The best reforms happen quietly and in a timely manner. They may never show up in print.

The 2011 campaign for supervisor's seats in Augusta County should create no less than a mandate for the kind of debate that will monitor county vital signs BEFORE a fiscal disaster occurs.

Note: The Author of this post actively serves in the campaign of David Karaffa for Supervisor.

Taking a different path. Governor McDonnell in support of Governor Walker.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Bill Bolling's 4th Annual Bloggers' Day

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor at the Capitol

David Karaffa and Jason Bibeau at the Capitol.

Lynn captured it so well. Four Bloggers [click to read] from the Valley got to spend the day as guests of Lt. Governor Bill Bolling and his staff. Here We are [click to read] at the morning briefing. In an economic climate that is abysmal on a national level, the administration was able to list a balanced budget and real job creation among its accomplishments. Lively discussion and a straight-up approach to addressing real issues appeared to be a genuine priority.

Delegate Ben Cline [click to read] and Senator Mark Obenshain [click to read] took the time to visit with us. These fine Conservative leaders genuinely value input and discussion of the bills before them.

Several times during the day I heard the expression: "in a perfect world..." usually referring to the need to find compromise or develop attainable goals. There was some good discussion about economic incentives. "In a perfect world..." companies would need no additional incentive to locate in Virginia. In the world we live in, it is sometimes necessary to make concessions in order to secure the committment of a company like Northrup/Grumman. Economic development sometimes requires investment.

The Transportation Bill was often part of our discussion as well. The Administration pooled money found in the VDOT audit, bonding authority already in place and some new borrowing to put our infrastructure needs on the front burner. Exit 91 on Interstate 64 will receive a much needed upgrade to handle traffic near the hospital. This will allow development to happen in this growing area without restrictions caused by the present narrow bridge.

After making hard cuts in the overall budget, the infrastructure investment is an investment in Virginia's long term future that can be safely made.

Here are Pictures [click to read] of us observing the legislative sessions.

Lynn Writes [click to read] in the Washington Examiner about Bloggers' Day.

THYME Magazine

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor

Volume III, Issue VIII

Ten Days that Shook the World

The 'other' Weekly News Magazine [click to read] is calling the young revolutionaries in Egypt 'the Generation that is Changing the World.' The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Back when Russia last had a real Tsar, Nicholas II, to be exact, a lot of his political enemies were in exile. The year was 1917 and Russia was at war with Germany.

In February of that year, Nicholas II abdicated his throne. The war was going badly and people in Petrograd [St. Petersburg] were starving. A provisional government consisting of a coalition of conservative, moderate, and liberal socialists came into power. Aleksandr F. Kerensky, the minister of justice, was an important figure in the Provisional Government.

One of the first actions of the provisional government was to free the political prisoners. Vladimir Ilich Lenin returned from exile. The stage was being set for the October Revolution. On October 24 and 25, 1917, pro-Bolshevik soldiers, sailors, and Red Guards stormed the Winter Palace and arrested members of the Provisional Government. A period of civil war followed this 'bloodless coup' that placed the Bolsheviks in power.

Many who sought legitimate reform were swept away and the Soviet State came in to being. Reform was soon lost in a new form of repression that would last for decades.

The same pattern was to repeat itself in every hemisphere of the world. The best and brightest young minds would be recruited to press for change. They would eagerly join the movement and flood the squares.

When the new regime came into power, however, they would often find themselves the object of surpression by the government they had fought to install.

Workers' Strikes in Wisconsin

Today the public sector employees of Wisconsin are striking to protect their collective bargaining priviledges. The language of this upheaval is disturbingly familiar. The state's economy is in deep trouble but the workers are resisting a move to have them contribute to their own pension plans. Resisting this reasonable reform creates an unsustainable situation where the state will not be able to pay out what it is obligated to.

At that point there will be no choice but to cut as much spending as possible and cut positions. The benefits will then become an albatross around the public employees' necks.

The path from revolution to wreckage is wide and well paved.

Another Path is Needed

One state that will not make the news, but is making history by making hard choices early is Virginia. The Virginia pension system is exploring the possibility of having workers contribute 5% to their plans. Virginia's current administration inherited a $6 billion deficit and in a bold stroke moved budget spending to 2006 levels.

Resisting the calls for more taxation, Virginia insead concentrated its efforts on creating a more hospitable environment for business growth. Even in this deep recession, state revenues are up 12.6% and job growth is happening. Much of the economy, building in particular, are still in trouble but the overall climate is attractive to companies looking to flee high tax states such as New York and California. That translates into a private sector that provides employment opportunities and real resources on which to build economic growth.

The pension bomb still needs to be dealt with, but the discussions in Richmond point to a future where the state will avoid going the way of those now near default. By monitoring her vital signs early, Virginia might lead a true revolution... one that need not ride the back of upheaval.

Egypt's Unborn Revolution

While a political transformation continues, an economic one has yet to begin. Egypt's Unborn Revolution [click to read] by Guy Sorman in City Journal.

"Many Westerners, watching the revolution in Egypt, are wondering whether the outcome will be true democracy. Less often asked but equally important is whether Egypt can reform its economy in ways that are necessary for democracy to thrive. As history has demonstrated in such places as Russia under Putin, Chile under Allende, and Iran under the mullahs, nations can be democracies at least in a technical sense—that is, they have elected leaders—but a democracy without a free economy has no future." -- Guy Sorman

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Bloggers' Day at the Capitol

The Sights of Richmond's Capitol Square

George Washington astride his magnificent horse.

The afternoon shadows by the Capitol Building grow long.

The White House of the Confederacy.

SWAC Blogger David Karaffa at the Capitol.

Lt. Governor Bill Bolling briefs bloggers before a full day of informative events.

Bloggers' Day at the Capitol

Lt. Governor Bolling Hosts Citizen Journalists


SWAC Bloggers at the Governor's reception.

Bloggers had the opportunity to observe the Senate in session...

Why Citizen Journalism Matters

There's an old saying: "Nobody's life or property are safe when the legislature is in session." Case in point: Family Foundation Blog writes: "Just beginning to explain the twists and turns of what is happening in the Virginia Senate over property rights would rival War and Peace. Forget about the whole story. So much to say, so much to keep confidential. Maybe a book, one day, is in the offing, or a screenplay. Okay, maybe an op-ed in the Richmond Times-Dispatch. You have to have goals." If you didn't have the Blogosphere, you might be tempted to believe that Virginia had taken care of the problem by statute after Kelo.

Contact your senator and urge him or her to vote for HJ 693, (Delegate Johnny Joannou, D-Portsmouth) to support your property protections from big government and big corporations: by e-mail; by General Assemby office phone. Limiting government’s power of eminent domain limits government growth and intrusiveness.

Family Foundation Blog [click to read] has more on the subject.

IMG_2467 well as the House of Representatives.

At 6:00pm, Lt. Governor Bolling returned to the Capitol to preside over a late session of the Senate.

Portraits of Pocahontas in the Mansion

A Figure from History in the Executive Mansion

Her eyes meet yours as you enter the Virginia Executive Mansion. A young girl from days long ago, yet her presence in the foyer immediately captured my attention. There are two portraits of Pocahontas in the room, one in English clothing (below) and the more familiar rendering seen above.

Pocahontas's formal names were Matoaka (or Matoika) and Amonute. Pocahontas is a childhood name that perhaps referred to her playful nature. After her marriage to John Rolfe, she was known as Rebecca Rolfe.


Tuesday, February 15, 2011

A Walk around Capitol Square

Thomas Jefferson's Magnificent Capitol, the Centerpiece

Capitol Square
The temple form in the center is Jefferson's original Capitol, modeled after the Maison Carrée at Nîmes in southern France, an ancient Roman temple. Jefferson had the architect, Charles-Louis Clérisseau, substitute the Roman Ionic order over the more ornate Corinthian column designs of the prototype in France. The cornerstone was laid on August 18, 1785, with Governor Patrick Henry in attendance. The General Assembly first met there in October of 1792. All photos by Bob Kirchman.

Capitol Square
The wings were added in 1904 to provide enlarged chambers for the House and Senate.

Capitol Square

Capitol Square

Capitol Square

Capitol Square
The Executive Mansion. Designed by Alexander Parris and completed in 1813, it is the oldest occupied governor's mansion in the United States.

Capitol Square
George Washington on horseback commands the Western side of Capitol Square.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Love Makes the World Go Around

'Love' in Philadelphia and Israel

Robert Indiana's 'Love Sculpture' in Philadelphia. The original 'Pop Art' graphic was created for a MOMA Christmas card.

'Love' in Hebrew, also by Robert Indiana. This sculpture is at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem. Photo by Talmoryair.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

"They" Say "No One's Out There" for 2012

"They" Need to Listen to these Clips!

Herman Cain at CPAC.

Here is Mitch Daniels [click to watch] on C-Span. Watch out for the 'media templates' that keep repeating the myth that the 'party of NO' has no message... and nobody will emerge as a clear voice in 2012. Here are just a couple of people 'they' ignore at their own peril. ht/Joy.

American Thinker [click to read] offers ten reasons you should look closely at Herman Cain.

"Even those conservatives who will not vote for Herman Cain to win the Republican nomination should hope that he does run -- and that his candidacy lasts a long time during the nomination process, perhaps even succeeding.

Not the least of reasons is that a Cain candidacy would be a hoot. And I do not mean that in a derisive or condescending way at all. I mean that it would be the kind of doggone honest and refreshing campaign the country needs. It would be the opposite of the stale McCain run. Cain does not speak Washington drivel, and he's not afraid to take a strong position." -- C. Edmund Wright

View from Betsy Bell Mountain in Staunton.

Mural at Staunton Alliance Church

A Spanish Girl Comes to Life as Laney Paints Her

This one is all Laney's design. She had already finished most of the color when I walked in!

Though no one in the New Earth would 'tilt at windmills,' Don Quixote would feel right at home nonetheless. I painted the windmills and a Spanish castle in the background.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

THYME Magazine

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor

Volume III, Issue VII

Man and Machine... Immortality or Terror?

Is the 'other' Weekly News Magazine [click to read] a Science Fiction magazine now? Raymond Kurzweil may be able to make a machine mimic human intelligence. Hey, a computer can even win at chess or Jepoardy, but didn't Stanley Kubrick explore the dark side of this all in the movie 2001? As Dave disables the malevolent "Hal," it becomes clear that human miscalculation of machine dependability has even greater reprocussions when one pushes them to extreme heights. Machine assisted immortality smacks of Nimrod's 'Tower to the Heavens' as well. One is messing around in the Divine's private chambers here.

That is not to say that machines have no place in improving the human contition. Consider the story of James Edward Hanger, a resident of Churchville Virginia in the Nineteenth Century. Hanger lost his leg in the Civil War and was recuperating in his Churchville home when he surprised his family by fabricating an artificial leg from whittled barrel staves.

"Hanger was a Churchville teen who wanted to enlist in the Grand Army of the Republic in 1861. A food ambulance corps, laden with supplies for the Confederacy, passed through town on its way to West Virginia. Hanger hung on to the group and bedded down with them in a nearby barn, fired up and ready to go. At dawn he woke suddenly to the sound of gunfire. Hanger jumped from a hayloft to grab his horse, but he never left town. In the skirmish, he was severely wounded by a cannonball." -- Sharon Cavileer, "The First Amputee of the Civil War."

Union troops found the wounded Hanger and a surgeon amputated his leg above the knee. His invention thus required him to hinge the prosthesis to simulate the flexibility of the human knee. The state commissioned Hanger to make artificial limbs for other veterans. Hanger founded Hanger Orthopedic, a company to manufacture the device. When he died in 1919, the J. E. Hanger Company had branches in London, Paris, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Atlanta, and Saint Louis.


Today assistive technology is reaching new heights. Radio Host Rush Limbaugh is deaf but is able to do his show thanks to modern technology. Might we look forward to a day when the blind might see, thanks to digital signals delivered to the brain?

Alexander Graham Bell did much of his work in the hopes of giving hearing to the deaf. Today's pioneers in invention are challenging new frontiers as well.

But the Holy Scriptures tell us that the Lord knows the number of a man's days, and that life does indeed continue... but not here. Eternity holds wonderful promises for those who would seek its Master!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Talking about the Weather since 1816

A Brief History of 'Climate Science' 'Erupts'

J. M. W. Turner's painting: "Chichester Canal." Turner's brilliant sunsets may reflect vivid skies caused by volcanic ash.

Redstate [click to read] offers a great compilation of 'scientific observation' all the way back to the Nineteenth Century!

The most amazing weather event of the Nineteenth Century has to be 1816, the "year without a Summer."

In 1815, volcanic Mount Tambora erupted on the island of Sumbawa, Indonesia, sending tons of volcanic ash into the atmosphere. The result was a period when the sunset skies were particularly beautiful. J. M. W. Turner captures this in his paintings from that time. The following Summer would prove to be most unusual in Europe and North America.

In the Spring of 1816 a 'persistant dry fog' was observed in the skies. When crops were planted in May, they fell victim to frost. In June, snow was still falling in New York state and Quebec had a foot of it. Frozen rivers and lakes were observed well into August in Pennsylvania.

The result was a food shortage of epic proportions. Britian and Ireland saw famine, as did the Northern portion of the United States. Food prices soared and the people struggled to bring food in on America's minimal road system. Even as far away as China, trees and water buffalo were killed by extreme temperatures and flooding destroyed crops.

The following Winter was also severe. New York's Upper Bay froze. You could drive a sleigh on the ice from Manhattan to Governor's Island.

Gradually the normal patterns of climate and seasons returned. Today the 'Year without a Summer' is a little-known chapter in a long history.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Our Leaders' Beliefs Affect their Actions

Why We Should Know What a President Believes

National Cathedral
The National Cathedral. Photo by Bob Kirchman.

"But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was." -- James 1:22-24

Here [click to read] is a thought provoking article form American Thinker. ht/Joy.

In the Shadows of Monticello

Thomas Jefferson's Home is Part of His Story

Monticello, as painted in the Hampton Inn murals by Bob Kirchman and Russ Fisher. The enigmatic dome replaced an earlier full upper story as Jefferson restyled the house.

Myron Magnet has written a series of written portraits of our founding fathers that are significant in that they paint them neither as demigods or demons, but as actual men. That is what they were, ordinary mortals who found themselves at a crossroads of history.

Our founders were men with human weakness and human passion. Thomas Jefferson [click to read] as revealed by Magnet in City Journal is no exception.

Most instructive is Magnet's study of the beliefs and principles that guided Jefferson. Ideals and realities in conflict, to be sure. Jefferson's final great work was to be his University of Virginia... architecturally a study in the pure classical forms. He laid out his 'Academical Village' to reflect an order and vision for an educated Virginia population. The first students would prove to be another lesson in human nature. Still Jefferson began this institution with great optimism. This experiment in the Enlightenment idea of mankind's perfectibility was the crowning achievement of his 'retirement' years.

"But as an intellectual enterprise, the university proved less satisfactory to its creator when it opened the year before he died. The students turned out to be not so much an aristocracy of virtue and talent as a gang of rowdy young men with a taste for drink, gambling, breaking windows, firing guns into the air, and thrashing professors who tried to stop them. The horrified Jefferson came down from his mountain to Charlottesville to reprimand them. Flanked by his dear friends and fellow trustees, James Madison and James Monroe, the frail 82-year-old patriarch drew himself up to his full six foot two, began to speak, and burst into tears." -- Myron Magnet.

My rendering of the Monticello Visitor's Center. designed by Ayers Saint Gross. The rendering by The Kirchman Studio was used for promotion and development purposes. We are pleased to have had a small part in this great project.

Monday, February 7, 2011

The Dilemmas of Democracy

Problems and Perils Of our Beginnings as a Nation

Montpepier, home of James Madison. Mural in the Charlottesville Hampton Inn by Bob Kirchman and Russ Fisher.

What kind of government did the Father of the Constitution envision? Myron Magnet writes in City Journal on the Challenges of Democracy [click to read] as James Madison saw them.

Friday, February 4, 2011

THYME Magazine

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor

Volume III, Issue VI

America's Revolution... A Model to Emulate

"I consider it an indispensable duty to close this last solemn act of my official life by commending the interests of our dearest country to the protection of Almighty God and those who have the superintendence of them into His Holy keeping." -- George Washington

"If my people...shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face...then shall I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land." -- II Chronicles 7:14

The 'other' Weekly News Magazine [click to read] features the cover headline: 'Revolution.' Today's revolutionaries would do well to remember at least a very basic history of revolutions.

The French Revolution (1789-1799) created chaos. The Bolshevik Revolution in 1917 led to another dark tyranny.

Rare in history is the casting off of tyranny successfully accomplished and followed by the creation of a system of government that allows for the peaceful transfer of power... through the ballot box.

It is well known that George Washington inspired his men through the difficult days of Valley Forge and the Battle of Trenton... the nation's future very much in the balance. Perhaps not so well known is that Washington had to put down mutinies by Continental soldiers after the war... unpaid by a bankrupt Congress.

Our nation's survival of those days was miraculous. The creation of her Constitutional government was no less miraculous. Today, Federal judges invoking the Commerce Clause participate in an equally miraculous continuation of that same experiment.

Their Freedom is Not Our Freedom

These Observations [click to read] by Diana West in Jewish World Review give clarity to what 'they' want. Universalists believe all peoples prefer freedom to its absence, which is probably true. But they also believe all peoples define "freedom" in the same way. Is that true?

Celebrate Arab democracy? [click to read] by Caroline B. Glick in Jewish World Review.

No summary will do this damning article justice.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Infrastructure as Investment

The Economic Impact of Improved Tansportation

Interstate 66 in Vienna.

The Impact of 16 Infrastructure Projects
on the Commonwealth of Virginia Economy

This Report [click to read] by Stephen S. Fuller, Ph.D, makes the case. Virginia’s economy would expand by $4.1 billion and support 56,798 additional jobs if 16 infrastructure mega-projects being considered by the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) are completed. The research conducted by Dr. Fuller, a George Mason University Professor in the School of Public Policy and Director of the Center for Regional Analysis, supports the Governor's proposed highway improvements as a long-term investment in Virginia's future.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Understanding Events in Egypt

Jewish World Review Offers Plenty of Helpful Insight

A gull visits a sandcastle pyramid. Photo by R. S. Kirchman

Egypt and the 'Freedom Agenda' [click to read] by Jeff Jacoby in Jewish World Review.

"Yes, supporting freedom is the best policy. Not just because freedom is better than stability. Not just because tyranny breeds extremism. But because it is unworthy of a nation as great and free as ours not to promote the values it most esteems. It shouldn't take an upheaval in the Arab street to remind us that it is always in America's interest to promote liberal democracy." -- Jeff Jacoby

Mubarak's Supporters Struggle to be Heard [click to read] by Timothy M. Phelps in Jewish World Review.

"For the most part, the subset of Mubarak supporters consisted of those with something to lose, such as engineers, government employees and shop owners. Though one man said he was a driver and another an auto mechanic, there was an air of class distinction in the marchers' comments." -- Timothy M. Phelps

A Look at the Major Players in Egypt's Crisis [click to read] by Jonathan S. Landay and Miret El Naggar in Jewish World Review. To fully grasp what continues to happen in Cairo, there's a necessity to understand who the world is dealing with.

"Started by Hassan al-Banna in 1928, the Muslim Brotherhood is one of Egypt's oldest political organizations and its largest, most cohesive opposition movement." -- Jonathan Landay

Will the dominoes continue to fall? [click to read] By Borzou Daragahi and Stephen Starr in Jewish World Review.

"The dramatic political unrest in Egypt, long a pivotal nation in the Arab world, has intensified demands for change across the region and spurred attempts at reform by nations long ruled by autocrats." -- Borzou Daragahi and Stephen Starr

"Augusta Al' Didn't See His Shadow

Mysterious Marmot Fails to Materialize

'Augusta Al' hasn't come out yet. He may be history.

It is a bright sunny day. Of course that would mean six more weeks of Winter as 'Augusta Al,' the largest groundhog in our neighborhood, would undoubtedly see his shadow.

But, alas, I fear the untimely demise of 'Augusta Al' has occurred... victim of my neighbor's pistol practice. I'll keep you posted if I do see him.

Update: Bill O'Reilly actually interviewed Mr. Gore recently and Gore told him that the great blizzard over the Great Lakes region is actually the result of 'global warming.' Thus we are to assume that Augusta Al slept in today and did not see his shadow, Winter is no more due to 'global warming,' but if it snows 24" tomorrow that is a normal result of 'global warming.' WHATEVER weather comes our way is the result of 'global warming.'

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Our G-d, Our Help in Ages Past

Our Hope and Inspiration, the World to Come

'Angel Musicians' -- Ghent Altarpiece by Jan van Eyck. I like the portrayal of rich color and music in a Heavenly scene.

"Death is merely moving from one home to another. The wise spend the main efforts of life trying to make their future home, the more beautiful one." -- The Kotzker Rebbe

Our G-d, our help in ages past,
Our hope for years to come,
Our shelter from the stormy blast,
And our eternal home.

Under the shadow of Thy throne
Thy saints have dwelt secure;
Sufficient is Thine arm alone,
And our defense is sure.

Before the hills in order stood,
Or earth received her frame,
From everlasting Thou art G-d,
To endless years the same.

Thy Word commands our flesh to dust,
“Return, ye sons of men:”
All nations rose from earth at first,
And turn to earth again.

A thousand ages in Thy sight
Are like an evening gone;
Short as the watch that ends the night
Before the rising sun.

The busy tribes of flesh and blood,
With all their lives and cares,
Are carried downwards by the flood,
And lost in following years.

Time, like an ever rolling stream,
Bears all its sons away;
They fly, forgotten, as a dream
Dies at the opening day.

Like flowery fields the nations stand
Pleased with the morning light;
The flowers beneath the mower’s hand
Lie withering ere ‘tis night.

Our G-d, our help in ages past,
Our hope for years to come,
Be Thou our guard while troubles last,
And our eternal home.

This hymn was sung at the fun­er­al of for­mer Bri­tish prime min­is­ter Win­ston Church­ill in St. Paul’s Ca­thed­ral, Lon­don, 1965.

Functional organ pipes in a leaded window. Design by Xaver Wilhelmy, illustration by Bob Kirchman.

Thirty-two Years Ago Today

The Return of Ayatollah Khomeini to Tehran

The return of Ayatollah Khomeini in 1979.

Abolhassan Bani-Sadr was the Iranian President in the post-revolution days. Thirty-two years later he says an open future for the Arab world could mean the flowering of democracy -- or resurgent dictatorship. To keep a new strongman from taking over, certain conditions must be met: His Thoughts [click to read] in Jewish World Review today.

The Muslim Brotherhood [click to read] by Frank J. Gaffney, Jr. in Jewish World Review.

Resentment toward US Growing in Egypt [click to read] by Edmund Sanders in Jewish World Review.

What have we learned... thirty-two years later?