Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Finding a Prayer in a Painting...

Rainbow as the Sky Opens Over the Blue Ridge Parkway

Parkway Rainbow
"And the bow shall be in the cloud; and I will look upon it, that I may remember the everlasting covenant between G-d and every living creature of all flesh that is upon the earth." -- Genesis 9:16

Hurricane Sandy has beaten a path of devastation up the East Coast. The skies are clearing over our region and we pray for those who are facing the Herculean task of cleanup and restoration. We think of the linemen working around the clock to restore power and all who are out working to repair the damage.

Thousands are affected, some have lost loved ones. We pray G-d's comfort and strength for all.

Operation Blessing [click to help].
Samaritan's Purse [click to help].
American Red Cross [click to help].

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Taking The True Measure of a Man

Americans are Meeting the Real Mitt Romney...

Mitt Romney meets the crowd in Ashland Virginia.

...and They Find Him a Very Likeable Person

An observer of the last Presidential debate, a man much more observant of these things than I am, said he couldn't figure out what was happening there at first. The President seemed eager for a fight, indeed, many said he seemed quite petulant at times. He gave Romney ample opportunities to dig into Benghazi and a host of other issues.

But Mitt Romney was paying no attention to the little man in the corner. He took full advantage of the opportunity to have a chat with the undecided voters who had tuned in. Mitt was unruffled and spoke directly to those who needed to know the man who was asking them to support his bid for the Presidency.

Some say he lost the debate on style, but Romney was more concerned that Ms. Undecided Voter got to meet the 'Real Romney,' the man who had showed up at all three debates. The President's campaign has spent a lot of advertising money to paint Mitt Romney as a cold-hearted corporate villian, but that was not the man who actually showed up.

Deroy Murdock writes in Jewish World Review: Romney's Ignored Mitt-zvahs [click to read], a recounting of acual stories of the man. In it you learn of a man who you would love to have for a neighbor. Romney and his family lived out their Faith in helping those around them. It was a way of living for them.

Mitt might have driven a nice car, but he didn't think twice about packing it with firewood so he and his boys could deliver it to a single Mother who's heat had been turned off. The stories Murdock recounts sound a lot like those I heard about my Grandfather, who loaned money to people and then turned the loan into a gift.

When a neighbor's house caught fire, the Romneys, led by Mitt, rushed in to rescue the family's possessions. They carried out whatever they could save before the firefighters arrived. Murdock concludes with this story:

"The Romneys were vacationing in New Hampshire in 2003 when screams shook the Independence Day air. Some 900 feet from them, New Jersey’s Morrisey family and their leaky boat were sinking into Lake Winnipesaukee.

Romney’s sons Craig and Josh sped into the lake on a Jet Ski. “We tore out of there, and my dad hopped on the other Jet Ski and came out right after us,” Josh Romney told the Boston Herald. They found three men and three women bobbing in the water in barely buckled life vests. Massachusetts’s then-governor pulled the two younger women onto his three-seat Jet Ski, while his sons assisted their mother. They then whisked these women safely to shore, along with McKenzie, their Scottish Terrier. Meanwhile, the three men treaded water under the sons’ watchful eyes until Mitt made two more trips to rush them to dry land. Previously, while spearheading the 2002 Olympics, Romney and his sons used a boat to rescue several kayakers as high winds slammed them onto rocks.

Why is the real Romney totally unlike the terrifying caricature that has haunted this campaign? Team Obama’s distortions and lies have conspired with Mitt Romney’s modesty to mask his good deeds. Instead, Romney fans should make these secrets famous."

Thursday, October 25, 2012

THYME Magazine

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor

Volume IV, Issue XLV

What Would Lincoln Do?

The 'other' weekly news magazine asks That Question [click to read] this week. A better question would be: "What did Lincoln do?" Indeed, Lincoln faced a Nation divided and took steps (some might say oversteps) to preserve the Union. Utah artist Larry Winborg created the above painting as a companion piece to the famous painting of George Washington praying at Valley Forge. The point of both works, that great Presidents faced great challenges on their knees.

A visitor to the White House during the Civil War recounts hearing the sound of Lincoln falling to his knees in the room above him during the night. The man says that at that point he felt assurance in his heart that the Union was in good hands.

But let us look at Lincoln's own words, in the resolution which he endorsed during that troubled time. Senator James Harlan of Iowa, whose daughter later married President Lincoln's son Robert, introduced this Resolution in the Senate on March 2, 1863. The Resolution asked President Lincoln to proclaim a national day of prayer and fasting. The Resolution was adopted on March 3, and signed by Lincoln on March 30, one month before the fast day was observed.

By the President of the United States of America. 

 A Proclamation.   Whereas, the Senate of the United States, devoutly recognizing the Supreme Authority and just Government of Almighty G-d, in all the affairs of men and of nations, has, by a resolution, requested the President to designate and set apart a day for National prayer and humiliation.   And whereas it is the duty of nations as well as of men, to own their dependence upon the overruling power of G-d, to confess their sins and transgressions, in humble sorrow, yet with assured hope that genuine repentance will lead to mercy and pardon; and to recognize the sublime truth, announced in the Holy Scriptures and proven by all history, that those nations only are blessed whose G-d is the Lord.   And, insomuch as we know that, by His divine law, nations like individuals are subjected to punishments and chastisements in this world, may we not justly fear that the awful calamity of civil war, which now desolates the land, may be but a punishment, inflicted upon us, for our presumptuous sins, to the needful end of our national reformation as a whole People?

We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of Heaven. We have been preserved, these many years, in peace and prosperity. We have grown in numbers, wealth and power, as no other nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten G-d. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace, and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us; and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the G-d that made us!   It behooves us then, to humble ourselves before the offended Power, to confess our national sins, and to pray for clemency and forgiveness.   Now, therefore, in compliance with the request, and fully concurring in the views of the Senate, I do, by this my proclamation, designate and set apart Thursday, the 30th. day of April, 1863, as a day of national humiliation, fasting and prayer. And I do hereby request all the People to abstain, on that day, from their ordinary secular pursuits, and to unite, at their several places of public worship and their respective homes, in keeping the day holy to the Lord, and devoted to the humble discharge of the religious duties proper to that solemn occasion.

All this being done, in sincerity and truth, let us then rest humbly in the hope authorized by the Divine teachings, that the united cry of the Nation will be heard on high, and answered with blessings, no less than the pardon of our national sins, and the restoration of our now divided and suffering Country, to its former happy condition of unity and peace.   In witness whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.   Done at the City of Washington, this thirtieth day of March, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the United States the eighty seventh.   By the President: Abraham Lincoln   William H. Seward, Secretary of State.
Source: Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, edited by Roy P. Basler.



Sunday, October 21, 2012

John Harper, The Hero of the Titanic

Baptist Pastor from England Ministered to the Perishing

The Reverend John Harper.

My friend, Pastor Bruce Hankee, of Greenmonte Fellowship in Stuart's Draft recounted the amazing story of John Harper, hero of the Titanic. Harper's early life may have been prophetic, as he nearly drowned on three separate occasions in his younger days. Receiving his call early, he preached his first sermon at age 18.

Harper worked in a mill until Pastor E. A. Carter noticed the young man's preaching and sent him to Scotland, where he became a Pastor. Many hearts were turned to G-d by his ministry in Glasgow.

In the Spring of 1912, the 39 year old Harper was a widower. He and his daughter Annie Jessie (Nana) were travelling to the United States so that he could preach for several weeks at the Moody Church in Chicago. They had booked passage on the ill-fated liner Titanic.

When the ship grazed an iceberg, breaching six compartments, on the night of April 14, 1912; Harper and his daughter went up on deck. Placing Nana in a lifeboat, he tearfully kissed her, saying: "I will see you again." Harper then began assisting people to the lifeboats, urging: "Women, children and the unsaved..." to go first. To anyone who would listen, he shared the message of Acts 16:31: "And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house."

First Harper preached on the deck, later in the freezing water. Harper swam about ministering to those perishing in the water. One man, when asked if he was saved, said no. Harper explained the way of salvation to him. When the young man refused, Harper took off his life vest and put it on the man, who had none. He said: "You need this more than I do."

At a meeting of Titanic survivors, this man recounted the story of how John Harper had ministered to him. The man had come to Christ. Many remembered the man who, when most were trying to save their own skins, was sincerely concerned for the lives around him.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

A Walk on Shenandoah's Wildcat Ridge

Autumn Color Paints Virginia's Blue Ridge Mountains

Rocks Mountain is visible from the trail on Wildcat Ridge.

Friday, October 19, 2012

President Obama's 'Mission to the Moon'

"That's One Small Step for [a] Man..."

The first step on the Moon. NASA Image.

"...One Giant Leap for Mankind." -- Neil Armstrong

In my youth, President John Kennedy laid out the original challenge to put a man on the Moon and return him safely to Earth. Thus was born the mission of NASA. In one short decade, men walked on another heavenly body for the first time. The priority of keeping pace with a hostile Soviet Union was brilliantly carried out by a civilian agency in a peaceful mission.

Today another 'race to the Moon' threatens the financial foundations of the nation that put a man on the Moon. My friend Jamie Waltz elaborates in his video: Moon Stacking President. As you watch the presentation, keep these facts in mind: The Average Distance to the Moon is 218,857 Miles. The Thickness of a One Dollar Bill is .0043 Inches.[1.]

Moon Stacking President, sung by Jamie Waltz.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

THYME Magazine

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor

Volume IV, Issue XLIV

Rethinking College (& Education)

The 'other' weekly news magazine presents Reinventing College [click to read]. Clearly changes are needed. The average US student graduates with $26,000 in college debt, with total college debt around one trillion dollars. Unfortunately the job market often presents a hostile reality, the field they have prepared five years to enter isn't hiring. TIME's Amanda Ripley looks at new trends, such as online learning and how the way we learn is already changing.

The rise in online learning and for-profit colleges is challenging the traditional academy. Ostensibly this is the underlying tension behind recent events at Charlottesville's University of Virginia, where popular President Teresa Sullivan was forced to resign and then quickly reinstated.

College costs are rising at a rate outpacing the economy at large. At the same time many are questioning its value, even as it is being touted as "being as essential now as high school was in the 'Fifties." Many young men are foregoing college and entering fields such as technology, finding that to offer a more rapid path to a paycheck.

My Father became an engineer in an era where Engineering schools did not bother to teach Literature. He struggled in high school, and framed a letter from a high school advisor stating bluntly that he should pursue a field other than Engineering. Undeterred, Dad enrolled in Junior College, then transferred to Notre Dame. He worked for Wright Aviation before taking a job at the Martin Company's Middle River Plant in Baltimore. He framed the letter.

Dad worked on the seaplanes that were used in WWII, then as Middle River closed down, he started his own test lab. He opened it in one of those buildings with spaces for contractors that had a garage door and an office. His neighbors were plumbers and HVAC companies. He hired a lot of his old colleagues from Martin. Then he was hired by NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, where he wrote the procedures for testing spacecraft.

Though his education did not include great literature, Dad was a Renaissance man who built his own great library. He read the classics for the pure joy of learning, and was as knowledgeable about literature as many who teach it. When I was young he would read to me from great volumes such as the works of Rudyard Kipling. What magical moments those bedtime stories would become! Little did Dad know he was innoculating me to survive industrialized education.

My point? Learning can be more pragmatic, learning should be lifelong. More people need to read thick wonderful books to their kids. Making young minds cram great literature for exams may leave a bad taste and leaves no room for rumination. Dad often let me work alongside him doing projects. He taught me how to work, how to design a greenhouse, and most importantly; Dad taught me how to teach others.

I was the right-brained child who struggled in school. Dad apprenticed me in the skills I needed to eventually overcome that. It is my sincere hope that Apprenticeship will experience a Renaissance as we seek to develop the G-d-given gifts of the generations to follow. Will we again find deep satisfaction in training our own replacements? It is my sincere hope that industry, the professions, and most importantly gifted individuals will step up to the challenge!

The Lawn of the University of Virginia originally opened to the surrounding community and countryside. Photos and rendering overlay by Bob Kirchman.


Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Solving Home Problems

Permanent Fix For Leaking Standpipe Boots

Screw-down boot seal from Creative Composites.

It's inevitable; the water stain on the bathroom ceiling that tells you the rubber seal around the standpipe is leaking. You can tackle the problem yourself with silicone caulk or electrical tape, you can replace the seal, or you can pay a roofer hundreds of dollars to do it for you.

Water on the ceiling is a bad thing. I have a deep seated hatred for mold in structures, and I'm no fan of falling plaster either, so when I saw this simple installation device from Creative Composites [click to read] I was intrigued. After a trip onto the roof to measure the standpipe diameters, I placed my order.

Two days later, a small package arrived with the seals nested inside. Installation of three seals took less than forty minutes (including photographing the installation and setting the ladder twice). I referred to the video on Creative Composites' website before installing (no instructions were provided in the shipping box).

Most houses will require less than $50.00 (including shipping) to equip with the devices. Be sure to measure each of your standpipes before ordering. The result is a professional looking installation that will outlast all other options.

Be sure to clean off your old caulk and electical tape where the new seal will meet the pipe and the flange. Slide the new seal over the pipe and tighten the top collar to install.

Running Against the Last Four Years

Some Thoughts on the Second Presidential Debate

Hill's Auto Parts. Photo by H. Peterson.

Resembling a boxing match, more than a town hall meeting at times, the second Presidential debate was a lively exchange. THYME has these thoughts:

First of all, both men appeared to be running against the actual record of the last four years. Mitt Romney again emphasized his plan for energy independence and tax simplification. The President chimed in with a "Me too" statement, but left himself open to criticism as his administration has actually stifled domestic energy production. Energy Secretary Steven Cho's statement that: “Somehow we have to figure out how to boost the price of gasoline to the levels in Europe,” though later retracted, is telling, nonetheless. Romney clearly wants to go after proven traditional resources while advancing market-ready renewables. The President's actual record does not support claims to be advancing energy independence. His 90 billion dollar 'investment' in green energy has not produced results.

Exploration for new resources off the coast of Virginia are on hold, blocked by the Administration, as is the full construction of the Keystone Pipeline. Romney correctly asserted that actual energy production gains have occurred on private land, such as in the case of the Bakken formation. Indeed, the Administration has reduced permits while encouraging South and Central American nations to go for resources in the Gulf of Mexico.

Obamacare continues to make employers wary of new hiring, and rather than reduce costs as promised, it adds a new layer of penalties and mandates to an already stressed system. Indeed, the middle-class has suffered most from employer uncertainty, with average net income for those who are still working down. Unemployment stubbornly hovers above eight per-cent, even when you remove from the count those people no longer actively looking for work. Add these individuals and the underemployed and you are looking at a much worse scenario.

The President talked about legislating pay equity for women, but Romney pointed out that more women are simply unemployed. Romney's 'solutionist' discussion of workplace flexibility actually adressed the structural reality of women simply not staying in the workplace long enough to break the 'glass ceiling.'

Romney could have stressed more emphatically that tax reform and simplification, with lower rates, would actually increase revenues (both JFK and Reagan actually did this). Focusing on taxing the rich more will only send them (and their creative investments) offshore.

The answer to the country's economic problems would be to restore healthy growth along with fiscal responsibility. Romney could point to examples from his prior experiences. The President, hoping to sway undecided voters, actually had to argue that in the future he would govern more like Romney.

On foreign policy, the President seemed to want to adopt the policies of George Bush. He "got" Bin-Laden and though moderator Candy Crowley asserted that the President had said Benghazi was an act of terrorism in a Rose Garden speech, she was later forced to retract it. Indeed, the notion that those events were a spontanious riot had been perpetuated by UN Ambassador Susan Rice days after that speech.

THYME's analysis of the debate is thus: The real Mitt Romney showed up again, the President showed up to agressively argue that he wasn't who his record suggests he is. It did make for an interesting conversation.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

'This is My Father's World'

Illustrating a Favorite Hymn with Photography






Photographs and montage of rendering with NASA imagery by Bob Kirchman.

Monday, October 15, 2012

THYME Magazine

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor

Volume IV, Issue XLIII

The Tradition of Public Service

Bill Bolling, Virginia's Lieutenant Governor, was in Waynesboro [click to read]  Saturday. He spoke candidly about the challenges facing Virginia and the nation. Bill Bolling was first elected to serve as the 40th Lieutenant Governor of Virginia in 2005 after campaigning throughout the state and in Augusta County. Re-elected in 2009, he was appointed as Virginia’s Chief Jobs Creation Officer to serve in Governor Bob McDonnell’s cabinet where he has worked with the Governor on getting the Commonwealth’s economy going again and creating jobs. Certainly Mr. Bolling is responsible for much of the health of Virginia's economy today.

Perhaps Bill Bolling's best lesson of the morning was what he didn't say. While candidly adressing issues that should concern every voter this November, Bolling avioded personal attacks and hearsay. He spoke as a statesman and a public servant, looking to build consensus and solve problems.

Indeed, he was in a place where people wanted to hear constructive dialogue. Augusta County's three Independent supervisors were on hand. These candidates ran on the promise of doing the people's business in plain view of the people. They have done so. Media pundits and cartoonists may have painted them as in lockstep, but the recent discussion of tax issues should have put that notion to rest. "What's happening with your guy Karaffa?", a friend recently asked; "he's talking about RAISING taxes!" I assured my friend that he was now being made party to a necessary discussion of funding LOCAL responsibilities, such as schools.

In the discussion of how to deal with a shortfall in revenues necessary to fund essentials, the Supervisors debated using money from the Capital Fund or increasing the car tax. In the end, the discussion was a healthy excercise in public servanthood. The discussion was not in some closed meeting, but in plain view.

Bill Bolling has been able to work with a diverse group of people and agencies to make economic progress possible. He is a shining example of someone with deeply held convictions who can find areas of agreement and forge real solutions to problems.

Passing the torch: North River Supervisor Marshall Pattie introduces his Son to Lt. Governor Bill Bolling at the SWAC Breakfast on Saturday.

Lynn Has More Photos [click to read] of the SWAC Breakfast in Waynesboro.


Augusta County Historic Churches

Sanctuary Windows, Central United Methodist Church

With the pews removed for renovations, the rose window and the three arched windows create a unique play of light and color on the pine floor.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

THYME Magazine

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor

Volume IV, Issue XLII

The Leader of the Free World

The 'other' weekly news magazine this week features China's Xi Jinping [click to read], calling him "the new president who really matters." Indeed, China matters, as a holder of a large portion of our national debt, but that debt largely speaks to a lack of leadership in the FREE world! Fortunately there is one Free-world leader who stands out for his clarity, Israel's Binyamin Netanyahu.

Given a steady stream of despots lining up to disparage the United States and Israel at the UN these days, Netanyahu stands out because he has to face certain truths others are inclined to ignore. When Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran says he wants to destroy Israel (and the U.S.), Netanyahu knows Iran's ICBM capacity already gives them the ability to strike his country. When he stands in the United Nations to discuss Iran's nuclear program, holding an illustration of a bomb, he's talking about them rapidly achieving the ability to destroy his land.

Growing up in the Cold War era, there was the idea among civilized nations that nuclear weapons were so terrible that we should learn a lesson from Hiroshima and create a world where they would never be used. The concept of 'mutually assured destruction,' with Soviet missles pointed at the U.S., and vice versa was to create a scenario where no SANE leader would ever push the button to launch them.

While it resembles a dangerous game of 'chicken' in its description, and situations in Turkey (US missles close to Russia) and Cuba (Soviet missles close to Florida) almost resulted in nuclear disasters, it can be argued that Europe enjoyed a respite from the ravages of war for well over half of the last Century.

Sadly, we have seen the proliferation of these weapons to the point that North Korea and Iran now stand at the threshold of joining the nuclear powers of the world. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad addressed the UN and spent a lot of his speech preaching. At the end of his speech he talked about the promise of a just world ruled by the "perfect man" and that this paradise was coming soon. That the perfect man would appear soon arriving with Muhammad and "Jesus Christ." Ahmadinejad boldly proclaims this! This is important to understand when dealing with Iran. Ahmadinejad believes he is called by Allah to usher in his version of the Shiite Messiah, the 12th Imam, and the way to speed that process is to "set the world on fire."

While one might hope that "setting the world on fire" was a metaphor, and seek to reason with him, Binyamin Netanyahu makes a good case for reasoning with such men from a position of superior strength.

Taking Ahmadinejad literally is not an unreasonable thing to do, however, based on the history of the past three decades. Netanyahu knows that the rockets being fired into Israel are being financed by Iran. He can imagine a nuclear armed Ahmadinejad following through on his clearly stated mission.

Israel's detractors would do well to visit the actual country. There they would see a prosperous land where Arabs serve alongside Jews and minority Christians in the Knesset, Israel's unicameral legislature. It is not a perfect place, but it is a beautifully functioning nation with representation for most of her people. Contrast that with the surrounding nations of the Middle East and you will find yourself most at home in Israel.

The Biggest Obstacle to Peace in the Middle East

In The Nakba Obsession [click to read] Sol Stern in City Journal presents a clear-headed analysis of the Palestinian problem and why it needs to be better understood.

"There is only one just compensation for the long history of suffering, say the Palestinians and their allies: turning the clock back to 1948. This would entail ending the “Zionist hegemony” and replacing it with a single, secular, democratic state shared by Arabs and Jews. All Palestinian refugees—not just those still alive of the hundreds of thousands who fled in 1948, but their millions of descendants as well—would be allowed to return to Jaffa, Haifa, the Galilee, and all the villages that Palestinian Arabs once occupied.

Such a step would mean suicide for Israel as a Jewish state, which is why Israel would never countenance it. At the very least, then, the Nakba narrative precludes Middle East peace. But it’s also, as it happens, a myth—a radical distortion of history." --Sol Stern

The problem today is that the origins of the problem are ignored in the discussion. The original attack on Israel and the subsequent refugee problem are succinctly stated in Stern's piece. Also noted is the fact that Israel's neighbors, who could have assimilated the refugees, have instead chosen to perpetuate their status. The Left today has run with the Nakba Narrative. Anti-Israel sentiment runs high, often bubbling over in Vitriol of the Worst Sort [click to read], but it was not always so.

The Left, in fact, once viewed Israel as a great triumph. Stern Chronicles journalist I. F. Stone's initial praise of the modern Jewish State and his subsequent conversion to Palestinian apologist. The progressives who once lauded Israel for its... progress... cutting edge agriculture and technology, modern cities and inclusive government later abandoned her as they took up the causes of victimology and redistribution.

The Left's own narrative that those who have achieved prosperity have obviously stolen it from the disadvantaged plays well here. Also ignored in this narrative is the fact that Israel groans under the burden of the many refugees it has brought in, such as the Russian Jews who populate places like Sderot and often bear the brunt of missle attacks from places like Gaza.

Perhaps a better narrative for this part of the world would be one that sees most everyone in the region... Jewish, Coptic or Palestinian as one who has suffered under or fled the forces of oppression.


Friday, October 5, 2012

THYME Magazine

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor

Volume IV, Issue XLI

The Real 'Fact Wars' and Why They Matter

This week the 'other' weekly news magazine looks at 'Fact Wars' [click to read]. They ask: "Who is telling the truth?" THYME asks: "What is truth?" Here are some of the cold hard facts, as we see them.

America is at a crossroads. Her greatness is challenged. Many of her citizens are despondent, having lost jobs or seen paychecks diminished. Businesses are failing. Unemployment is over 8% and probably closer to something over 11% if you take into account people who have just stopped looking. I don't even show up in these statistics though, working a couple of other jobs to support my small business.

Government stands in the way of America exploiting her natural resources. We are 'outsourcing' our energy production. Build the Keystone Pipeline and some new refineries and, guess what, American workers will make good money creating our own energy. Offshore Virginia there lie exploitable resources that could bring steady royalty revenue into state coffers. The current administration has stopped exploration.

The 'Promise of America' has been replaced by promises from the President, funded by the bank of China! Every citizen now owns about $50,000 in Federal debt, and an ever growing portion is not 'money owed to us,' but rather, money owed to foreign lenders. The administration promises money for college loans, forgetting that crushing debt and increased taxes to pay for it will continue to kill jobs. They promise everyone access to contraceptives while quietly taking $700 billion from Medicare to pay for Obamacare. (That's money paid in from paycheck deductions, with a promise of medical care).

In such a climate, it is reasonable to ask if paying for a Federal program is worth the debt. Public broadcasting already depends on private underwriters, and will not go away if it cannot receive public funds. Big Bird licensed merchandise could probably fund the entire program. Have you visited Toys R Us lately? The notion that something is not available if government doesn't provide it is simply false.

For years, the National Endowment for the Arts has funded a variety of projects; everything from great orchestras to crucifixes submerged in urine. What many do not realize is that their funding is noteably absent in the case of realist painters, many of whom work in the Southwest. Private patrons will not allow great art to cease, but some avant-garde artists may have to learn some economics. The question: "Is this worth saddling my Grandchildren with foreign debt?" is a necessary one.

The truth is that we have a choice this November. We can continue doing what we are doing, or choose candidates who have actually worked with budgets and institutions. Paul Ryan earned the respect of both Democrats and Republicans for his financial expertise. Bill Clinton has been caught on video admitting as much. Mitt Romney worked with a Democrat legislature to strengthen Massachussetts. Those who long for a truely bipartisan Washington would do well to change horses right now.

Candidates Visit Fishersville, Virginia with Trace Adkins

Lynn Has Photos [click to read] of the visit to the Valley by Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan. Wayne LaPierre was there to endorse them. 10,000+ people were there to welcome them. I don't think the pollsters have talked to many of those who were in the crowd. Exit 91 on Interstate 64 was crowded to a standstill and some people only arrived in time to hear the last ten minutes of the program.


Thursday, October 4, 2012

Mr. Romney Takes Charge in First Debate

What a Man Who's "Inherited a Mess" Should Say

Last night many people watched the Presidential debate and got their first direct look at Mitt Romney. One of my relatives even commented that this didn't seem like the Romney she'd been seeing in the news. "He sounds different."

Indeed it was clear from the beginning that Mr. Romney took charge of the discussion. He was clear, confident and presented a concise vision for restoring America. Romney, unedited by a less than adoring media, was a man with a vision for reigning in record deficits, unleashing domestic energy production and restructuring tax code and institutions to deliver government's essential responsibilities efficiently and responsibly.

He made eye contact with the President and the people. There was confidence in his demeanor... attitude that reflected leadership. He was polite, but like a firm adult, he ruled the room. Jim Lehrer was not in charge, Mr. Romney was. Romney showed up ready to govern.

Sky over the Capitol Building.

The President, at one point, drilled his opponent for 'specifics.' What he got was a civics lesson from a man who had significant experience working with a legislature made up largely from the other party. The man who had promised to bring unity in purpose to Washington was forced to listen to the man who had actually done so in Massachussetts.

Last night, even Bill Maher thought the President needed a teleprompter. The President looked down a lot and seemed to lack his signature passion and charisma. At one point the President asked Mr. Lehrer to move on to another question.

Mitt Romney moves on from the debates having established himself as a man who can stand shoulder to shoulder with leaders like Binyamin Netanyahu. Today he will speak in Fishersville, Virginia at 6:00pm.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Nehemiah: Competing Visions for America

We Must Strive for Civil Debate, but Not Compromise

A sign on L. E. Woods heavy equipment dealership in Fishersville, Virginia says it clearly: Pray for recovery.

"There are now two Americas. Not a rich one and a poor one; economic status plays little role in this division. There is a red one and a blue one." --Dennis Prager

Politicians of all persuasions express a desire to bring Americans together bound by a common vision for the common good. Dennis Prager Points Out the Fallicy of this Reasoning [click to read] in Jewish World Review. Really, it's time to admit that there are two different ideologies out there and they are in fierce competition for the heart and soul of the Nation. Without this basic understanding of the conflict it is impossible to understand why it must be debated. Indeed the political manifestation of this conflict is merely the tip of a cultural rift caused by very different world views.

Our founders looked to the order of Judeo-Christian principles as they framed a government based on a balance of tensions that would reign in human tendencies in order to create an orderly society. Individual liberties and individual responsibilities played a large part and government was purposely limited to avoid tyranny. Certain Truths were held to be self-evident. Man was seen as a special creation who bore the mark of his Creator, yet was fallen in nature--often acting along the lines of these baser inclinations. Thus government sought at once to reign the base and give liberty and expression to the higher aspirations of mankind.The secular humanism that has come to replace a sense of Divine order has given rise to a new paradigm where government, individual liberties and individual responsibilities are re-prioritized. Thus we no longer see the Divine stamp, Imagio Deo, on humanity. On one hand we have created arguments that if man is all there is [no G-d], then man's self-actualization is the main thing. A sense of greater purpose such as that that drove the American Revolution is impossible but we can grab for the highest experiences to justify ourselves. On the other hand, if man is the end of things, then what's so special. The extinction of some rare snail can be elevated above the plight of starving children in Africa. Indeed some radical environmental groups are making that exact argument.

The American left is actually a coalition of many of these often contradictory conclusions and yet they are strongly united in the desire to cast off the "old" constricting beliefs of our forefathers. That is why you will see those who promote the value of free speech in most areas suddenly veer into an irrational supression of religious speech in the public square. The state is now asked to take an even greater role in promoting the well-being of its citizens. The answer must for them be secular, not spiritual. If there is no higher authority it is left to us to pragmatically define and enforce 'virtue.' How else can you explain the fact that after Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac failed from reasons stemming from corruption in government oversight, the answer can only be more government oversight

The Left and Right See 'Freedoms' Differently

The ACLU was founded ninety years ago by Roger Baldwin. He was a socialist thinker who said things like: "America must follow the example of Stalin's Soviet Union where greater freedoms exist than anywhere else in the world". Wow, I never would have known from the history I read! Knowing America would never follow the path to 'social u[dys]topia because of her Judeo-Christian foundations, Baldwin set out to diminish the influence of Christianity in America.

For 80 years the ACLU has twisted the Constitution to exclude Christianity from the public square and the public discourse. That sense of mission is what drives the endless stream of lawsuits against prayer and Christian expression. That is why your kid's 'religious' message is excluded from the poster contest. That's why the school 'Winter Holiday' assembly is devoid of sacred traditional music. Thankfully there is the Alliance Defense Fund [click to read] which was founded to counter this destructive movement.

The Left and Right See Different Americas Altogether

First you have President Obama saying: "You go into some of these small towns in Pennsylvania, and like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing’s replaced them. … And it’s not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations."

Or consider this quote from Senator Mark Warner: "One of the things you are going to see is a coalition that is just about completely taken over the Republican Party in this state and if they have their way it’s going to take over state government. It is made up of the Christian Coalition, but not just them. It is made up of the right-to-lifers, but not just them. It’s made up of the NRA, but not just them. It is made up of the home-schoolers, but not just them. It’s made up of a whole coalition of people that have all sorts of differing views that I think most of us in this room would find threatening to what it means to be an American."

What does Senator Warner mean: "threatening to what it means to be an American?" Dennis Prager [click to read] writes in his columns that there are two visions for America in competition. One is the vision passed down to us by our WWII parents, the other: a diminished America and an increased role of government, (in a secularized society), we might take a lesson from Nehemiah, chapter 4:

“But it came to pass, that when Sanballat heard that we builded the wall, he was wroth, and took great indignation, and mocked the Jews. And he spake before his brethren and the army of Samaria, and said, What do these feeble Jews? will they fortify themselves? will they sacrifice? will they make an end in a day? will they revive the stones out of the heaps of the rubbish which are burned?

Now Tobiah the Ammonite was by him, and he said, Even that which they build, if a fox go up, he shall even break down their stone wall. Hear, O our God; for we are despised: and turn their reproach upon their own head, and give them for a prey in the land of captivity: And cover not their iniquity, and let not their sin be blotted out from before thee: for they have provoked thee to anger before the builders.

So built we the wall; and all the wall was joined together unto the half thereof: for the people had a mind to work. But it came to pass, that when Sanballat, and Tobiah, and the Arabians, and the Ammonites, and the Ashdodites, heard that the walls of Jerusalem were made up, and that the breaches began to be stopped, then they were very wroth, And conspired all of them together to come and to fight against Jerusalem, and to hinder it.

Nevertheless we made our prayer unto our God, and set a watch against them day and night, because of them. And Judah said, The strength of the bearers of burdens is decayed, and there is much rubbish; so that we are not able to build the wall. And our adversaries said, They shall not know, neither see, till we come in the midst among them, and slay them, and cause the work to cease. And it came to pass, that when the Jews which dwelt by them came, they said unto us ten times, From all places whence ye shall return unto us they will be upon you. Therefore set I in the lower places behind the wall, and on the higher places, I even set the people after their families with their swords, their spears, and their bows. And I looked, and rose up, and said unto the nobles, and to the rulers, and to the rest of the people, Be not ye afraid of them: remember the Lord, which is great and terrible, and fight for your brethren, your sons, and your daughters, your wives, and your houses.

And it came to pass, when our enemies heard that it was known unto us, and God had brought their counsel to nought, that we returned all of us to the wall, every one unto his work.”

Indeed, those of us who are involving ourselves in this great work must not be distracted. The rebuilding needs to begin with prayer and revival. Our greatest woes are not economic. Yet that does not free us from the task of rebuilding our section.

That should not preclude civil debate, but there are times when, like Nehemiah, we must say to those who oppose us: “I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down: why should the work cease, whilst I leave it, and come down to you?” — Nehemiah 6:3.

Life Lesson from Some of G-d's Creatures

The Family that Plays Together and Stays Together

Sea otters hold hands while they are sleeping so that they don't drift apart.

“We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.”
-- George Bernard Shaw ht/Chuck Balsamo and Laney Riley.

Monday, October 1, 2012

'How Great Thou Art'

Illustrating a Favorite Hymn with Paintings













Here 'How Great Thou Art' is illustrated to fit the Facebook 'cover' format. Paintings: B. Riley, Laney Riley and Bob Kirchman.