Thursday, November 29, 2012

U.S. House schedule for November 30, 2012

From Majority Leader Eric Cantor's office....


On Friday, the House will meet at 9:00 a.m. for legislative business.
First and last votes expected: 11:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.

One Minute Speeches 

H.R. 6429 - STEM Jobs Act, Rules Committee Print (Closed Rule, 90 Minutes of Debate) (Sponsored by Rep. Lamar Smith / Judiciary Committee)
Special Order Speeches
Science, Space and Technology Subcommittee on Energy and Environment hearing on
Tapping America’s Energy Potential Through Research and Development
(Friday, November 30, at 9:30 a.m.)
Printable PDF

Monticello: $5 admission week of December 7-11, 2012

In celebration of 25 years as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, we're going back to 1987 ticket prices for 5 days December:
Individual General Admission prices are $5 from December 7 - December 11, 2012!

December 7, 2012 – December 11, 2012
All tickets $5 - Children under 6 free
Tours Subject to Availability
Reservations can be made by calling (434) 984-9880
Advance tickets can be purchased online at

Offer good for individual, general admission tickets only; not applicable to group tours. Special offer must be used during the dates of December 7 – December 11, 2012. Not applicable to any special tours, premium ticketed events, workshops or programming. This offer cannot be combined with any other offer. 
25 years ago, Monticello and the University of Virginia’s Academical Village were together named a UNESCO World Heritage Site

Thomas Jefferson, third president, philosopher, scientist, historian, and author of the Declaration of the Independence, helped establish the foundations of self-government and individual freedom we know today. Jefferson’s words—the Declaration and his more than 19,000 letters—and his architecture—including Monticello and the University of Virginia— provide a lens for scholars and visitors today to view the beginnings of early America.

In December 1987, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage Committee recog­nized the significance of Jefferson’s architecture and its importance for future generations. During its 11th session in 1987, the UNESCO World Heritage Committee met for five days in Paris, France, to examine more than 60 prospective World Heritage Sites.

Photo by Francesco Bandarin for UNESCOPhoto by Francesco Bandarin for UNESCO 
Delegates considered each site and took account of the recommenda­tions of the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) and the International Union of the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN). At the end of the meeting the committee announced the inclusion of 41 cultural and natu­ral properties on the World Heritage List—among them was the world’s longest human-made structure—the Great Wall of China; the ancient Acropolis in Athens, Greece; the city of Venice and its lagoon; the Roman City of Bath in the United Kingdom; and Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello and the University of Virginia’s Academical Village.

The World Heritage Sites were chosen because they “represent a masterpiece of human creative genius” and “exhibit an impor­tant interchange of human values.” Monticello is the only U.S. presiden­tial and private home on the UNESCO World Heritage List. The designation’s “Statement of Significance” details Thomas Jefferson’s architectural inge­nuity and use of neo-classical elements in creating both Monticello and the University of Virginia. The commit­tee also took note of how Jefferson’s architecture symbolizes the ideals of the enlightenment and the awareness of Monticello’s natural surroundings in its construction.

A self-taught architect, Jefferson referred to Monticello as his “essay in architecture,” and construction continued on the mountaintop for forty years. The final product is a unique blend of beauty and function that combines the best elements of the ancient and old worlds with a fresh American perspective.

In 1782, the Marquis de Chastellux visited the “first” Monticello and wrote a brief description of it for his Travels in North America:

My object in giving these details is not to describe the house, but to prove that it resembles none of the others seen in this country; so that it may be said that Mr. Jefferson is the first American who has consulted the Fine Arts to know how he should shelter himself from the weather. 

Jefferson designed Monticello after ancient and Renaissance models, and in particular after the work of Italian architect Andrea Palladio. In location—a frontier mountaintop—and in design—a Renaissance villa—Monticello was intentionally a far cry from the other American homes of its day.

“On the world’s stage, Monticello symbolizes how Jefferson took Enlightenment ideals about the rights of man and crafted them into a new nation introducing self-government, liberty and human equality. As the creator of both Monticello and the Declaration of Independence, he introduced world-changing ideas which have given hope to people everywhere,” said Leslie Greene Bowman, President and CEO of the Thomas Jefferson Foundation. “It’s no coincidence that every year on Independence Day, we recognize Jefferson’s authorship of our nation’s birth certificate and naturalize a class of new citizens, very thoughtfully, on the steps of Monticello.”

About the University of Virginia
Thomas Jefferson founded the University of Virginia in 1819. He considered the founding of the University to be one of his greatest achievements and what he called “the Hobby of my old age.”

Jefferson designed the Academical Village, a terraced green space surrounded by residential and academic build­ings, gardens, and the majestic center-point—the Rotunda. The most recognizable symbol of the University, the Rotunda stands at the north end of the Lawn and is half the height and width of the Pantheon in Rome, which was the primary inspiration for the building.

Read Monticello & U.Va.’s UNESCO World Heritage Statement of Significance

Southern traditions and signs of the season in South Carolina

The South ... where tea is sweet and accents are sweeter. Summer starts in April. Macaroni and cheese is a vegetable. Front porches are wide and words are long. Pecan pie is a staple. "Y'all" is the only proper noun. Chicken is fried and biscuits come with gravy. Everything is "Darlin'" and someone's heart is always being blessed.

Photos by Lynn R. Mitchell
Young Plantations
Fort Mill, SC

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Rep. Goodlatte elected chair of U.S. House Judiciary Committee

From Congressman Bob Goodlatte's office....

WASHINGTON, DC-Congressman Bob Goodlatte (R-6th) today was elected by the House Republican Conference to serve as Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. His chairmanship will begin in January when the 113th Congress convenes.

“I am honored to have been chosen to serve in this position of leadership,” Goodlatte said. “The House Judiciary Committee will certainly be at the forefront of some of the most significant issues facing Virginia and the Sixth District, including protecting Constitutional freedoms and civil liberties, oversight of the U.S. Departments of Justice and Homeland Security, legal and regulatory reform, innovation, competition and anti-trust laws, terrorism and crime, and immigration reform. It is likely that many of these issues will be the deciding factors in determining the future direction of our nation.”

Congressman Goodlatte has been an active Member of the Judiciary Committee since arriving in Congress, serving in a variety of leadership positions on the Committee including Chairman of the Subcommittee on Intellectual Property, Competition, and the Internet (112th Congress), Vice Ranking Member of the Judiciary Committee (111th Congress), Ranking Member of the Task Force on Judicial Impeachment (111th Congress), Ranking Member of the Antitrust Task Force (110th Congress), and Vice Chairman of the Subcommittee on the Courts, the Internet, and Intellectual Property (109th Congress).

“Congressman Bob Goodlatte is a conservative leader committed to pro-growth policies that protect American innovation, boost economic growth and create jobs,” said House Majority Leader Eric Cantor. “As Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, he will play a key role in promoting common sense solutions to help people get back to work, lighten the regulatory and tax burden on small businesses and limit wasteful government spending. I look forward to continue working with my good friend and fellow Virginian and know he will proudly serve the people of Virginia's Sixth District.”

Earlier this week, a 31 member Republican Steering Committee, primarily composed of Republican House Leadership, interviewed Goodlatte for the chairmanship. Following the interview, the Steering Committee voted and then made their recommendation to the House Republican Conference, which is composed of all Republican Members of the House of Representatives. The Republican Conference later voted to confirm Goodlatte’s chairmanship.

“I'm pleased to learn that our Congressman, Bob Goodlatte, will be serving this district -- and the nation -- as the next House Judiciary Chairman,” said Virginia State Senator Mark Obenshain. “As a lawyer myself, I know what an important position this is. For it to be filled by our Congressman is an honor to the district and a credit to Congressman Goodlatte. Congressman Goodlatte clearly has the background, knowledge and experience necessary to be an effective leader for this important committee in these challenging times.”

“The Judiciary Committee, which has far-reaching legislative jurisdiction, is one of the most active committees in Congress,” said Goodlatte. “Under my leadership, the House Judiciary Committee will play an active role in advancing a pro-growth agenda that will help to create jobs and restore economic prosperity to America.”

Goodlatte continued, “It is truly an honor to serve Virginia and our nation in this new capacity. While there is much to do, the outlook for a stronger, more competitive America is promising and I look forward to continuing to work toward these goals as the Chairman of the Judiciary Committee in the coming Congress.”

Goodlatte becomes the first House Judiciary Committee Chairman from Virginia in the last 125 years. The last Virginian to serve as Chairman of the Judiciary Committee was John Tucker, who was Chairman from 1883 to 1887. Goodlatte becomes only the fourth Virginian to serve as Chairman of the Judiciary Committee since the Committee’s creation in 1813 and he is the first Republican from Virginia to hold this position.

“With Bob’s familiarity with the federal judicial system and his attention to principles and details, I can think of no one better suited to lead the House Judiciary Committee,” said Donald W. Huffman, founding partner of Huffman & Nixon, P.C. located in Roanoke.

In addition to being elected Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Goodlatte currently serves as a senior member of the House Agriculture Committee. Goodlatte is also the Co-Chair of the Congressional Internet Caucus, Chairman of the House Republican Technology Working Group and Chairman of the Congressional Civil Justice Caucus.


Photo by Lynn R. Mitchell
November 2012

Bill Bolling suspends campaign for Governor


When I was growing up my dad was a coal miner and my mom waited tables.  We didn't have much, but my parents instilled in me a love of Virginia.  I never dreamed that I would one day have a chance to help lead this wonderful state, but thanks to you, that has been my privilege.

Throughout my 21 years in public service I have done my best to stand strong for our shared conservative values, while at the same time working with Republicans and Democrats to get things done in state government.  I think that effort has been successful, and I hope you agree.

For the past seven years I have had the honor of serving as Virginia’s Lieutenant Governor, and it had been my intention to seek the Republican Party’s nomination for Governor in 2013.  However, not everything we want in life is meant to be.

I am writing to advise you that after a great deal of consideration I have decided to suspend my campaign for the Republican Party's nomination for Governor of Virginia.  Needless to say, this was a very difficult decision for me, and I know it will come as a surprise and disappointment to you, but I am confident it is the right decision.

Four years ago I decided to set my personal ambition to be Governor aside and join with Bob McDonnell to create a united Republican ticket.  Time has proven the wisdom of that decision.  Governor McDonnell and I were elected in 2009 by historic margins, and for the past three years we have successfully worked together to get Virginia back on the right track.

I had hoped that Attorney General Cuccinelli and I would be able to form that same kind of united Republican ticket in 2013.  However, late last year Mr. Cuccinelli unexpectedly announced that he intended to challenge me for the Republican Party's nomination for Governor. 

While I was surprised and disappointed by Mr. Cuccinelli's decision, I was confident in my ability to win our party's nomination for Governor in a statewide primary election, which was the method of nomination that had previously been adopted by the State Central Committee of the Republican Party of Virginia.

However, in June of this year the newly constituted State Central Committee voted to change the manner in which we will nominate our candidates in 2013 from a statewide primary to a closed party convention.  While I did not support that decision, it had a dramatic impact on the 2013 campaign.

For the past several months my campaign team has worked hard to restructure our campaign to effectively compete in the convention process.  While we have made a great deal of progress, I reluctantly concluded that the decision to change the method of nomination from a primary to a convention created too many obstacles for us to overcome.

In addition, I know how divisive conventions can be, and I was concerned that a prolonged campaign between Mr. Cuccinelli and me could create deep divisions within our party.  The convention process would have forced Republican activists to take sides against their friends in local committees all across our state.  The wounds that can develop from that type of process are often difficult to heal.

Conventions are by their very nature exclusive, and at a time when we need to be projecting a positive image and reaching out to involve more Virginians in the Republican Party, I am unwilling to be part of a process that could seriously damage our image and appeal.

While it may have been in my self-interest to have continued the campaign and done my best to win without regard to the consequences of those actions, I have never chosen to place my self-interest ahead of our Party's best interest, and I will not do so now.

I know that my decision will surprise most people and disappoint many people, but I'm confident it is the right decision.  I hope that my friends and supporters, as well as those who have chosen to support Mr. Cuccinelli, will respect and appreciate the reasons for my decision.   

It has been a great honor to serve as Lieutenant Governor of Virginia for the past seven years, and I wouldn’t trade the experiences and opportunities we have had for anything in the world.  You helped make that possible, and for that I will always be grateful.

I look forward to serving the remainder of my term as Lieutenant Governor and as Virginia's Chief Jobs Creation Officer, and working with Governor McDonnell and the rest of our great team to build a better Virginia.

I want to personally thank everyone who has done so much to support Jean Ann and me over the years, and I especially want to thank the thousands of people who had already pledged their support to my campaign for Governor.  Your support means more to us than words can express.  My greatest regret in suspending my campaign is the thought that I have let you down.

In the coming days Jean Ann and I will be evaluating our future political options.  I love Virginia and I value public service a great deal.  I assure you that I will continue to look for ways to make a contribution to the public life of our Commonwealth. 

I can tell you this, I intend to remain actively involved in the 2013 campaigns – perhaps not as the Republican nominee for Governor, but as a more independent voice, making certain that the candidates keep their focus on the important issues facing our state and offer a positive and realistic vision for effectively and responsibly leading Virginia.

Thanks again for your friendship, confidence and support.  It is a privilege to serve you, and I look forward to seeing you soon in our travels across Virginia.


Lieutenant Governor Bill Bolling

Bearing Drift's Jim Hoeft & Shaun Kenney to lead 'Media Relations in a New Media World' seminar at GOP Advance

This weekend's 29th Annual Donald W. Huffman Republican Advance will be held at Virginia Beach and features workshops and seminars on Saturday about a variety of topics.

For anyone running for public office or running the campaign of a candidate, there's one seminar you should attend. "Media Relations in a New Media World" will be led by Jim Hoeft and Shaun Kenney, two new media professionals in Virginia communications, and principals of Virginia Line Media LLC. In today's competitive political world, it is imperative for a modern campaign to understand how to implement an effective communication strategy that utilizes all media tools at their disposal.

Hoeft and Kenney will provide the tools necessary for activists and leaders to develop and execute an effective campaign communication strategy before a crisis -- and what to do when there is one. Topics covered will include media relations, online media, social media, and marketing/public relations. A sample campaign will be developed, with a discussion of what works, what doesn't, wasting time online versus being productive, and the amount one should spend on media relations.

Virginia Line Media LLC is a Chesapeake-based network that features radio, print, and Bearing Drift, known as Virginia's conservative voice, an online source for news, opinion, and information. Created in 2004 by Hoeft, Bearing Drift is home to some of the most recognized names in the Commonwealth's blogosphere.

"Media Relations in a New Media World" will be offered on Saturday at 9:45 a.m. and 3:45 p.m. in Coral Reef D room of the Cavalier Hotel.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

U.S. House schedule for Wednesday, November 28, 2012

From Majority Leader Eric Cantor's office....

On Wednesday, the House will meet at 12:00 p.m. for legislative business.
No votes are expected in the House.
One Minute Speeches
Legislation Considered Under Suspension of the Rules:
1) H.R. 6604 - To designate the federal building currently known as Federal Office Building 8, located at 200 C Street Southwest in the District of Columbia, as the “Thomas P. O’Neill, Jr. Federal Building” (Sponsored by Rep. Nancy Pelosi / Transportation and Infrastructure Committee)

2) H.R. 6374 - To designate the facility of the Department of Veterans Affairs located at 180 Martin Drive in Carrollton, Georgia, as the "Trinka Davis Veterans Village" (Sponsored by Rep. Phil Gingrey / Veterans’ Affairs Committee)

3) H.R. 5788 - To designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 103 Center Street West in Eatonville, Washington, as the "National Park Ranger Margaret Anderson Post Office" (Sponsored by Rep. David Reichert / Oversight and Government Reform Committee)

4) H.R. 5738 - To designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 15285 Samohin Drive in Macomb, Michigan, as the "Lance Cpl. Anthony A. DiLisio Clinton-Macomb Carrier Annex" (Sponsored by Rep. Candice Miller / Oversight and Government Reform Committee)

5) H.R. 3892 - To designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 8771 Auburn Folsom Road in Roseville, California, as the "Private First Class Victor A. Dew Post Office" (Sponsored by Rep. Tom McClintock / Oversight and Government Reform Committee)

6) H.R. 2338 - To designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 600 Florida Avenue in Cocoa, Florida, as the "Harry T. and Harriette Moore Post Office" (Sponsored by Rep. Bill Posey / Oversight and Government Reform Committee)

7) H.R. 3912 - To designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 110 Mastic Road in Mastic Beach, New York, as the "Brigadier General Nathaniel Woodhull Post Office Building" (Sponsored by Rep. Tim Bishop / Oversight and Government Reform Committee)

8) H.R. 5954 - To designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 320 7th Street in Ellwood City, Pennsylvania, as the "Sergeant Leslie H. Sabo, Jr. Post Office Building" (Sponsored by Rep. Jason Altmire / Oversight and Government Reform Committee)
Special Order Speeches
Rules Committee meeting on “H.R. 6429 – STEM Jobs Act of 2012
(Wednesday, November 28, at 3:00 p.m.)

Monday, November 26, 2012

Taking the back roads home to the Valley

 The back roads from Richmond to the Shenandoah Valley showcase some of the most beautiful countryside in Virginia. Traveling from Chesterfield to Henrico, through Goochland, Fluvanna, Albemarle and Nelson to Augusta County, there are farms, horses, wooded landscapes, and mountain vistas. How many people can pass by Mr. Jefferson's Monticello and Michie Tavern on their way home? I love the history and beauty of my native state.

The autumn woods of the Richmond area began to give way to the winter woods the further west we drove.

Driving toward Afton in the Blue Ridge Mountains ... home is on the other side.

Photos by Lynn R. Mitchell
November 25, 2012

Kents Store ... paging Supervisor Shaun Kenney

Kents Store? Paging Fluvanna Board of Supervisors Chairman Shaun Kenney. As we meandered along the back roads on our way home to the Shenandoah Valley, we passed near the Kenney homestead.

Photo by Lynn R. Mitchell
November 25, 2012

Midlothian ... Thanksgiving autumn leaves

While the winter woods have returned to the Blue Ridge Mountains, I found these beautiful gold-colored trees on the lawn of Salisbury Country Club in Midlothian on Thanksgiving weekend.

Photo by Lynn R. Mitchell
November 24, 2012

Shopping local for Small Business Saturday

Small Business Saturday ... November 24, 2012

Photos by Lynn R. Mitchell
November 24, 2012

Staunton 2012 Christmas Parade is tonight

A festive atmosphere will take over downtown Staunton tonight as shops sparkle and lights twinkle in storefronts while the parade passes by on Beverley Street. This is always a popular event with the streets crowded four-deep as young and old alike line up to watch the float entries of local churches, businesses, and civic groups, and to hear from local high school bands and wave to friends in the parade.

The parade begins at 7:00 with lineup near the fire station on Augusta Street. The entries will turn left onto Frederick in front of Mary Baldwin College, then right onto Market for one block, and right onto Beverley for several blocks where the largest crowds will be located.

Folks begin lining up an hour ahead of time, and some streets are closed to traffic. Parking will be available at the Wharf parking lot as well as the parking garages on Johnson and New Streets.

Seasonal weather will see children bundled as they wait to see Santa at the end of the parade. Afterward, there is Shenandoah Pizza and Byers Street Bistro and Depot and other local restaurants for hot chocolate or a late supper, and the Split Banana has ice cream treats. Catch the free trolley and ride throughout the city taking in the beauty of Christmas lights, or drive through Gypsy Hill Park where community Christmas displays are lighted for all to see.

Christmas in Staunton and the Shenandoah Valley ... it doesn't get much better than this!

U.S. House schedule for Tuesday, November 27, 2012

From Majority Leader Eric Cantor's office....

On Tuesday, the House will meet at 2:00 p.m. for legislative business.
Votes will be postponed until 6:30 p.m.

One Minute Speeches

Legislation Considered Under Suspension of the Rules:
1) H.R. 6025 - Mandatory Operational Control Reporting and Performance Measures Act of 2012, as amended (Sponsored by Rep. Candice Miller / Homeland Security Committee)

2) H.R. 5913 - DHS Accountability Act of 2012, as amended (Sponsored by Rep. Mike McCaul / Homeland Security Committee)

3) Senate Amendment to H.R. 915 - Jaime Zapata Border Enforcement Security Task Force Act (Sponsored by Rep. Henry Cuellar / Homeland Security Committee)

4) H.R. 5997 - Medical Preparedness Allowable Use Act (Sponsored by Rep. Gus Bilirakis / Homeland Security Committee)

5) H.R. 6328 - Clothe a Homeless Hero Act (Sponsored by Rep. Kathy Hochul / Homeland Security Committee)
Special Order Speeches

Printable PDF

Sunday, November 25, 2012

RTD: 'The McDonnell Way: Look to Richmond, rattled Republicans'

After Republicans lost the presidency this year, some saw only a bleak future. Columnist Bob Raynor, however, sees the silver lining in that loss, writing in Sunday's Richmond Times-Dispatch:
* Capturing 48 percent of the vote against an incumbent with a $1 billion war chest and a deeply loyal base is no reason to panic, even if you did lose to a guy presiding over an economic recovery that's weaker than a turkey's knees the day before Thanksgiving.

* You'd best ignore advice from the media - except from me, of course - which may not always have Republicans' best interests at heart. The kernel of most proffered punditry seems to be, "Abandon your principles and be more like Democrats!!!"

* Pay attention to Richmond. It's a more sensible place than Washington, even if our baseball stadium's not quite as nice, and the guy in the Executive Mansion here is more adept at pushing progress without calling people names and making everyone mad at everyone else.
He is very complimentary of Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell, a sometimes-overlooked leader who possesses charisma, leadership abilities, and military-induced discipline, and enjoys one of the highest approval ratings of any governor in the country.

After noting many of the Governor's achievements, Raynor writes:
McDonnell has compiled a record that other Republicans should emulate. He has focused on practical solutions, spending restraint, low taxes and economic progress, as he promised to do in his 2009 campaign.
I hope the naysayers are reading this, those who insist on attaching made-up grievances on this principled man. Raynor writes:
His style relies on reasoned arguments delivered in civil tones. Occasionally, fellow Republicans have been heard to grumble that he's too nice. Yet it's hard to recall an occasion when McDonnell has backed away from his core conservative philosophy. Instead, he seeks original compromise.

This combination of principle and pragmatism extends most skillfully to the governor's handling of social issues, where he might best be described as gently unwavering.
Raynor gently chides Republicans who may have taken the recent loses too seriously, concluding:
A recent survey from Quinnipiac, the little university in Connecticut best known for its many political polls, found that Virginians approve of the job McDonnell's doing by a 2-to-1 margin - and he's even stronger among independents. He outperforms your typical Republican in many of the groups that helped re-elect President Obama this month.

"As Gov. Bob McDonnell enters his final year in office, he remains one of the nation's more popular chief state executives," said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.

"He is the only Republican officeholder in the seven states surveyed by Quinnipiac University who gets positive ratings from women, almost 2-1 in this case, and a plus score from black voters. A 2-1 approval rating among young voters doesn't hurt. Are national GOP leaders paying attention here?"

They'd better be.
Hear, hear.

Cross-posted at Bearing Drift

A look back at Thankgiving 2012

Mini pumpkins from SWAC Husband's Shenandoah Valley garden found a home at my sister's home in Midlothian.

My brother-in-law grilled chicken this year and it was fabulous. Yum.

Macaroni and cheese ready to go into the oven ...

... and table decor being readied for dinner.

While we sat around the fire Thanksgiving night, the kids threw a glow-in-the-dark Frisbee in the cold November night.

Over the river and through the woods ... to Mom's house.

The autumn trees along Mom's street.

After we cross the mighty James River, we're almost to Mom's house.

Rt. 250 ... the road less traveled ... took us through the beautiful Virginia countryside.

Photos by Lynn R. Mitchell
Thanksgiving 2012

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Eric Cantor: 'How to prevent the next clash with Hamas'

Virginia's Eric Cantor, who represents the 7th Congressional District and is Majority Leader of the U.S. Congress, wrote Friday at CNN, How To Prevent The Next Clash With Hamas. In it, he noted that all hope the cease-fire between Israel and Hamas will hold and went on to say:
However, we must recognize that Hamas and its terrorist partners bear responsibility for instigating the latest round of this conflict and need to refrain from further rocket and terrorist attacks. Israel exercised its inherent right to self-defense only after weeks of unprovoked attacks against civilian targets. Having picked a fight like a playground bully, Hamas cannot now credibly claim to be a victim.

Israel, like the United States, places a premium on avoiding collateral damage and has spent hundreds of millions of dollars on sophisticated weaponry to minimize to the greatest extent possible civilian casualties.

Hamas intentionally launches unguided rockets into densely populated areas to cause wanton destruction and kill as many innocents as possible. Hamas exploits their own citizens as human shields, locating rocket stockpiles in population centers, hopeful that images of dead Palestinians will rally the world to their extremist cause.

It is important to understand how this conflict started and how responsibly Israel has behaved, but also how future conflicts with Hamas can be prevented.

Israel has made tremendous progress in reducing Hamas' capacity to threaten Israel and in restoring its deterrence. Israel's military operations in Gaza have been informed by impressively accurate intelligence and have been conducted with great precision and success. Significant stocks of long-range rockets have been destroyed, although remaining weapons stockpiles -- located in densely populated areas -- may require risky ground operations to secure should Hamas resume firing at Israel.
To make the cease-fire hold, Congressman Cantor went on to say:
For any enduring cease-fire, the onus must be on Hamas to control its fighters, cease rocket attacks, abandon terrorism and accept Israel's right to exist -- conditions it has long refused to accept despite Israel's commitment to a two-state solution and persistent willingness to negotiate with its Palestinian neighbors.

Israel's Arab neighbors have an important role to play. Egypt deserves credit for its efforts to craft a cease-fire, but initial inflammatory public statements and actions of its leaders unfortunately served mainly to legitimize Hamas.

If Egypt is serious about playing a positive role in the region, it will redouble its efforts to combat terrorist activities in the Sinai, police its border with Gaza, and prevent Iran and others from resupplying Hamas with rockets and other weapons. If Hamas rearms, it will be only a matter of time before the cease-fire breaks down. Despite President Obama's friendship with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdogan, his recent behavior has been incredibly disappointing. Erdogan, not for the first time, this week referred to Israel as a 'terrorist state' and has solely blamed Israel for the conflict, despite Hamas' preceding campaign of terror.
He notes disappointment at some of the actions of surrounding countries and concludes with:
Any enduring solution must consider the pressing need to cut Iran's military supply lines to terrorists in Gaza. The conflict in Gaza -- as well as the one in Syria -- demonstrates that the threat posed by Iran goes well beyond its pursuit of nuclear weapons. Indeed, the most pressing challenge for Obama in his second term may be the dual task of thwarting Iran's push for nuclear weapons and combating its support for terrorism.

The international community and especially the neighboring Arab and Muslim states, if they truly care for the Palestinians, should make clear that terrorism will never earn the Palestinians statehood and encourage all Palestinian parties to return to the negotiating table to seek a peaceful solution to this decades-long conflict.
To read Congressman Cantor's entire CNN column, go here.

Shop local today ... support Small Business Saturday

Today is Small Business Saturday, a reminder to shop local and support the Mom-and-Pop stores as well as small businesses in your community. 

In 2010, Small Business Saturday (SBS) was created in response to small business owners' most pressing need: more customers. Falling between Black Friday and Cyber Monday, SBS has taken off as a national movement to drive consumers to shop at local, independently owned businesses during the heaviest shopping weekend of the year.

More than 2.7 million Facebook users, 230 public and private organizations, 75 corporations, and elected officials in all 50 states and Washington, D.C., declared their support in 2011.

In 2011, more than half a million small business owners leveraged an online tool or promotional materials for SBS, and 15,000 businesses signed up for free Facebook advertising to promote their products and services in the run up to SBS. One of the founding partners is American Express.

In Virginia, Lieutenant Governor Bill Bolling encouraged shoppers to participate in this year's event to be held today, Saturday, November 24, 2012, by noting:
“I hope that all Virginians will participate in Small Business Saturday. Small businesses are the heart of Virginia’s economy. They make up 98% of all businesses in Virginia. We should do everything possible to lend them a helping hand in this uncertain economy. Please take this opportunity over the holiday weekend to patronize small shops, restaurants and service providers that help Virginia’s economy grow.”
According to the inaugural Small Business Saturday Insights Survey, released by the National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB) and American Express, 46% of independent merchants plan to incorporate Small Business Saturday as part of their holiday strategy, and the majority (67%) of them say they will offer discounts on November 24th.

Small businesses are critical to the nation’s overall economy. Over the past two decades, small businesses have generated 65% of net new jobs. Small businesses currently pay 44% of total U.S. private payroll.

Today, shop local.

Afton ... no 'Bethlehem Village' in 2012

There will be something missing from this year's Christmas celebration. Bethlehem Village, a twelve-year project for Hebron Baptist Church in Afton, will not be back this year. The website says simply:
At this time there are no plans to open Bethlehem Village in 2012. Feel free to look through this website for information and photos from years gone by.
Word of its demise began circulating around Facebook a week before Thanksgiving. Many who had followed the star and enjoyed the simplicity and quiet of a Blue Ridge Mountain recreation of the greatest story on earth realized that experience would not be available this year.

The beauty of the Bethlehem Village was its unique simplicity in the hubbub of the twenty-first century, a reminder of far different times, and the quiet that settled along with the cold December air over the recreated structures and animals and visitors. I wrote about it often over the years including this 2010 remembrance.

During the winter of 2009-2010, Bethlehem was ready to open for the Christmas season but the incredible snows of that winter caused the church to cancel the event.

There is no explanation of why Bethlehem is not opening this year. One can speculate. It was a huge undertaking requiring many volunteers, financial backing, and organization. If help is needed, perhaps the church will get word into the community. With the reactions to its closing, one has to think the community would respond and, perhaps, Bethlehem could be part of future Christmases.

Meanwhile, we are grateful to Hebron Baptist Church for inspiring so many to follow the star to Bethlehem and celebrate the birth of Christ.