Monday, March 31, 2008

Ronald Reagan's encouraging words ... be a proud conservative

"So it was our Republican party that gave me a political home. When I signed up for duty, I didn't have to check my principles at the door. And I soon found out that the desire for victory did not overcome our devotion to ideals."

-- Ronald Reagan, Republican National Convention in New Orleans, August 15, 1988

Thank you, President Bush....

I'm free, safe, and living in the most open, giving country in the world. Thank you, President George W. Bush, for your strong leadership at a time of war, a time when we have had no more terrorist attacks since 9/11 on our shores.
Thank you, President Bush!

Remember our heroes in Iraq and Afghanistan....

Remember our American heroes in Iraq and Afghanistan ...
the men and women in uniform who fight to keep us free.

American flag in honor of SSgt. Herb Harman, Churchville, VA.

Thank you for your service. May God bless....

Welcome home, Stonewall Brigade, Staunton, VA.
March 2008.

President Bush with American troops.

President Bush with the troops.

Vietnam Wall....

May we never forget.

Newspaper ad revenues see biggest plunge in 50 years

Editor and Publisher reports that newspaper ad revenues have plunged to their lowest point in 50 years.

Here's a clue for newspapers ... stop alienating your readers!

Stop calling campaign volunteers in the community names such as "snakes" and ridiculing them for participating in the political process as was the case with the Staunton News Leader after last year's Sayre-Hanger race.

When meeting with folks from the community, don't turn around and write a gossipy column about the encounter such as J. Todd Foster did in the Bristol Herald-Courier.

Stop using pettiness in expressing your disapproval of public officials such as the Staunton News Leader has done with Ben Cline, Bob Goodlatte, Jerry Kilgore, and others.

This is commonly known as biting the hand that feeds you ... and the down-tick of ad revenue numbers proves it.

Maybe newspapers should get out of the business of propaganda and back into the business of unbiased news reporting ... fair and balanced would be nice. Perhaps they would find their businesses more in the black....

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Serenity in the middle of the hectic world of politics....

In the middle of the hectic SWAC area political goings-on Saturday with the Staunton GOP mass meeting and being in the presence of some uncivilized people, there was a calmness when I arrived home to find a friend and her new baby visiting my daughter.

Once a mom ... always a mom. I took that sweet baby in my arms and began the "mommy rock," a slow swaying back and forth that I think is ingrained in every female who has had children ... and she went to sleep on my shoulder. SWAC Daughter took a photo as I gently rocked her....

Photo by SWAC Daughter

St. Mary's Wilderness wildfire ... sleet & snow move into area

Sleet and snow have moved into the Shenandoah Valley and surrounding mountains this morning which may help firefighters who are on the St. Mary's Wilderness wildfire in southern Augusta County. Calm winds have also helped slow the fire that has now spread to over 4,000 acres, causing almost 200 local, state, and federal personnel to be involved in working it.

Today's Waynesboro News Virginian has the latest information.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Augusta County ... did Six Flags amusement park look at Expo area?

The sudden unexpected denial by Expoland's board of directors to allow a motocross park that had been approved through all other channels makes the rumor of a possible Six Flags inquiry more believable to some in the community.

Rumor has it Six Flags Over America amusement park had looked at Expoland and surrounding property. A local engineer confirmed that he had heard the rumor and, in light of that information, was almost sure that Expoland would end up refusing the Argenbrights' request to locate the motocross park at Expoland even if the Board of Zoning Appeals approved it, possibly under pressure from one of the principles involved in the issue.

Is there additional information about this controversy? More and more details are coming out....

I-64 sniper shooting affects SWAC area....

Update: Sniper suspect arrested

An Augusta County man was one of those shot by unidentified snipers early Thursday morning on I-64 in Albemarle County during what may have been a shooting rampage that spread to Waynesboro before the night was over. The DuPont Credit Union and a house in Waynesboro were both hit by gunfire during the night.

SWAC area athletic events were cancelled at the advice of school officials who said they had the safety of students and spectators in mind. Affected were Waynesboro and Augusta County schools including cancellation of soccer and tennis games.

The headlines in today's Waynesboro News Virginian shout "I-64 SHOOTINGS SPARK MASSIVE MANHUNT." The entire front page concentrates on the sniper story. With a total of two people and six vehicles struck by sniper fire, and a possibility of two gunmen involved, the Valley is a little unsettled waiting for police to round up suspects. Meanwhile, police have urged motorists to remain vigilant while driving on I-64.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Fire on the mountain! St. Mary's Wilderness wildfire

St. Mary's Wilderness wildfire in the Blue Ridge Mountains....

Road to St. Mary's Wilderness. "Road Closed Ahead ...
St. Mary's Wilderness Area & Trails Closed Due to Wildfire."

U.S. Forest Service Command Center at Vesuvius.

U.S. Forest Service helicopter to work with fire....

We drove down Cold Springs Road to the Vesuvius area of Augusta County today to eyeball the St. Mary's Wilderness wildfire that has consumed 1,300 acres in the Blue Ridge Mountains . Stopping along a rural road to take photos, I talked with Jimmy LaRoue of the Waynesboro News Virginian who was on the story, taking photos and talking with folks.

Also talked with a retired U.S. Forest Service man who had been called in to help. He showed us where the fire started ... near the top of the mountain just below the ridge ... but they have been unable to determine the cause of the fire at this time because there was no lightning or bad weather at that time, there are no trails nearby, and it is extremely rugged terrain in that area.

The Blue Ridge Parkway is closed for approximately eight miles between Rt. 56 and Love Gap, with firefighters using it as a staging area to work from. The Augusta Springs Hot Shots are on the fire ... those firefighters who train in the western Augusta County area and respond to the need to fight forest fires nationwide.

The little bit of rain today was not enough to help but, with more moving into the area, perhaps it will be what is needed. Winds are fairly calm at this time but expected to pick up. Yesterday's winds spread the fire all along the mountain, burning from the top downward.

Those forest service folks and firefighters are truly appreciated for the job they are doing.

Fire on the mountain! Updated

Update: Thursday, noon - Over 1,300 acres have burned in the Blue Ridge Mountains near the Sherando/ Vesuvius area of Augusta County since a wildfire started three days ago. Strong winds are expected later today but rain has moved into the area and may help the situation.

St. Mary's Wilderness area is remote and rugged and difficult to access for the 80 firefighters working to bring the blaze under control. An additional 50 firefighters will arrive this evening to join in the battle.

It's prime time for forest fires in the national forests as dry conditions and high winds combine to make March and April the busiest times to fight fires. That was proven to be true Tuesday as a wildfire swept through parts of the St. Mary's Wilderness area of Augusta County.

The U.S. Forest Service has fought over 700 fires since the beginning of the year, and that number is expected to rise as dry conditions continue. Read more about the St. Mary's fire here.

Chairman Kurt Michael supported by Yankee Philip

Kurt Michael (left), Chairman,
Augusta County Republican Committee

Yankee Philip supports Kurt Michael in his re-election bid for Chairman of the Augusta County Republican Committee. Check out his thoughts about the SWAC area Republicans.

Crabtree Falls ... 25 victims have fallen to their deaths

The signs posted at Crabtree Falls in Nelson County are prominent for all to read:


Fences act as barricades between the trail and the falls. Warnings are posted that those between 18 and 25 years old are most likely to fit the profile of those who have plunged to their deaths in the past.

And, yet, the lure of the falls entices many to climb over the barriers and out onto the rocks.

Saturday's victim, 26-year-old Robert Slimak, had climbed over the safety wall and then slipped on the moss-covered rocks, causing him to fall into the river where he was swept over the falls to his death on the rocks 150-200 feet below. It was a tragic ending to what had been a fun-filled weekend with college buddies.

He was victim # 25.

Welcome newest ODBA members ... the College Republican Federation of Virginia!

When the CRs asked about joining the Old Dominion Blog Alliance, I was thrilled. They are a great group of young people and I have enjoyed working with many of them over the years including Jarrett Ray who just completed his term as president of the Virginia CRs, Kevin Bolling who is current president of the JMU CRs, both James Madison University students, and many others.

Together they all have worked to build a first-class blog that shares information, highlights candidate appearances, and offers opinion pieces. They have consistently rated in the Top 20 of Blog Net News (BNN) as one of the more influential political blogs in the Commonwealth.

Our young people are the future of the Republican Party so we are happy to welcome them and thank them for the work they do.

College Republican Federation of Virginia, welcome to the ODBA!

Spark It Up!! has a welcome here. I'm Not Emeril welcomes them here. Scott's Morning Brew welcomes them here.

SWAC Niece and our Easter break....

Duck pond at Staunton's Gypsy Hill Park.
We spent Easter break with SWAC Niece and her mother (my sister), an all-too-brief opportunity to visit at my house. Monday was spent tooling around Staunton. A stop at Gypsy Hill Park offered the opportunity to walk and enjoy the area on a brisk day.

There is a miniature train at Gypsy Hill Park so SWAC Niece decided to check it out.

The miniature train tressel (background) crosses Gypsy Creek.

We caught the trolley and rode it downtown to eat lunch at the Pampered Palate and to stroll the streets in snow flurries that reminded us that spring wasn't here quite yet.

SWAC Niece reading on the trolley.

SWAC Niece has returned home with her mom because they had things to do and needed to get back. I was sad to see her go but enjoyed our time together and am looking forward to her next visit. I have lots of places to take her when she returns ... the fun of the Shenandoah Valley....

Photos by SWAC Girl

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Politics 101: Communication

Communication: The transmission and exchange of ideas or information.

Communication is important in every aspect of life but especially important in politics. Phone calls, emails, blogs, newsletters ... they all offer opportunities to share information with one another.

Autumn 1999: There was no communication in the SWAC area. Pick up the local newspaper and see where George Allen had been at Wright's Dairy Rite yesterday. I wanted a way we could know ahead of time that he would be there.

Working on the Bush for President campaign, I started an e-newsletter as a way to disseminate information to the Bush supporters about local upcoming events, meetings, and candidate appearances. It grew over the years to include many Reublicans in the SWAC area.

Kurt Michael has been especially effective at communicating and being available to the grassroots, volunteers, and electeds throughout his years in leadership.

Will the candidates running against him for Augusta County GOP Chairman be as open and available to discuss issues as Kurt has been? It's an important part of leadership.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

VCU College Republican Chair endorses Alex Davis for Staunton GOP Secretary

From Aine Norris, President of the Virginia Commonwealth University Republicans....

There are many reasons why Alex Davis is ideal for continuing his position of Secretary of the Staunton Republican Committee. I could spend hours talking about his achievements and long list of accomplishments.

Or, I could simply state this: You will not find a more hard-working, honest, and dedicated man as Alex Davis. His loyal ways and strong beliefs shape his core, while his humor and bright, personable outlook mold the rest.

I've had the pleasure of working with Alex on the political trail and am consistently impressed with his ability to maintain conservative values while still be-friending and appealing to a mass audience.

It is with pride that I endorse Alex Davis, a strong American and natural leader, on this endeavor.

Aine Norris
Virginia Commonwealth University Republicans

Monday, March 24, 2008

B & B ... the GOP gubernatorial Dream Team

Bob McDonnell and Bill Bolling running for governor and lieutenant governor ... it doesn't get much better than that! With Bill Bolling's announcement today that he would seek re-election as LG, the deal was sealed with Bob's support of Bill and Bill's support of Bob.

Thank you, Lt. Governor Bolling, for taking one for the team, working to try and unite this fractured Republican Party. With two excellent candidates, it was going to be a difficult decision for many throughout the state. This has opened the door for everyone to support each candidate 100%, run them as a ticket, and win back the governor's mansion.

B & B ... the winning team! Victory in 2009.

Unexpected snow in the Shenandoah Valley

Snow-covered forsythia bushes....

The back yard was a winter wonderland....

An unexpected spring snow shower in the Valley this afternoon covered the ground and everything else in a white blanket. It was beautiful, and we donned caps and jackets and headed out to enjoy it. A walk in the woods was truly a winter wonderland while it lasted....

Photos by SWAC Girl

Lt. Governor Bolling will announce today at 1:30

Lt. Governor Bill Bolling's office has sent out a notice that he will make a major announcement on the 2009 election today at 1:30 ... but what will it be? Will he announce he will run for the top spot and challenge Bob McDonnell for the GOP nomination? Will he announce he will run for reelection as Lt. Governor and pull a divided Republican Party together? Will it be something entirely different? Stay tuned.

Crabtree Falls claims another victim

Crabtree Falls, located off the Blue Ridge Parkway in Nelson County, is the highest vertical-drop cascading waterfall east of the Mississippi River and, sadly, one of the most dangerous. Its victims over the years have climbed onto the rocks that are deceptively slippery with moss from the spray of the water and slipped to their deaths 150 feet below. Saturday, it claimed its latest victim.

Robert Slimak, 26, a student at the University of Richmond's law school, fell around 3:30 Saturday afternoon, slipping off the rock and plunging to his death while hiking with college friends. His wife said it was one of his favorite places to visit in the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Signs are posted warning of the dangers of climbing on the rocks, and a split rail fence is in place as a barrier between the trail and the rocks ... but many hikers enjoy the up-close feeling of the falls.

Our sympathy goes out to Robert Slimak's family. Read more about it in the Richmond Times-Dispatch, page B5.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Thanks, Mom! Another oldie but goodie....

From Terry Fator and Kermit the Frog and "Johnny" as James Taylor....

H/T to my mom

What a Wonderful World!

One of my favorite songs throughout the years ... sung by "Winston" and Terry Fator.

H/T to my mom - Thanks, Mom!

The betrayal....

Judas. He betrayed Jesus even though he had been His close friend, His disciple. He began to find fault with the things Jesus said and did. He complained to Jesus and, when Jesus gently rebuked him, Judas was incensed.

Luke 22:3-6 tells what happened next:
Then Satan entered Judas, surnamed Iscariot, who was numbered among the twelve. So he went his way and conferred with the chief priests and captains, how he might betray Him to them. And they were glad, and agreed to give him money. Then he promised and sought opportunity to betray Him to them in the absense of the multitude.
Not even Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem as King of Israel could dissuade Judas from his course. Judas had convinced himself that Jesus was a false Messiah and that He had to pay for His deception.

So Judas betrayed Jesus, who was arrested, tried, convicted, and sentenced to die -— just as He had foretold. With the prophecies fulfilled before his eyes, Judas Iscariot saw how He had misunderstood all along.

Matthew 27:3-5 says:
Then Judas, His betrayer, seeing that He had been condemned, was remorseful and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, saying, "I have sinned by betraying innocent blood." And they said, "What is that to us? You see to it!" Then he threw down the pieces of silver in the temple and departed, and went and hanged himself.
But it was too late. All the remorse in the world could not undo the damage he had caused. He had condemned the Savior of the world, the King of kings, to a cruel, shameful, painful death by crucifixion.

Good Friday. Jesus agonized on the cross for three hours while the sun was darkened. With a loud cry, Jesus gave up his spirit. There was an earthquake and tombs broke open.

The centurion on guard at the site of the crucifixion declared, "Truly this was God's Son!"

All-time record snows creating havoc in Canada

[This was written by Joseph D'Aleo, CCM, at ICECAP]

There are many media reports on the impact of the records snows. This one from the Agence France-Presse is entitled “Record Snowfall Provokes ‘Snow Rage’ in Canada.” A record snowfall in eastern Canada this winter has inspired some, crushed others, led to a rash of snow-blower thefts and incited at least two armed clashes, authorities said Wednesday.

Police and psychologists describe the latter incidents as “snow rage,” akin to road rage or assaults by frustrated drivers in traffic. Quebec City police say they received more than a dozen calls this winter from warring neighbors upset that snow was being shoveled onto their driveway or sidewalk by the folks next door.

The city was buried this winter in a record 460 centimeters (183 inches) of snow, and is running out of places to put the fluffy white powder until spring arrives and it melts.

In nearby Montreal, where residents are recovering from a ninth major snowstorm this season, a man was charged this week with threatening a fellow motorist with a toy gun over a rare parking spot on a snow-clogged street.

And in likely the worst case, an elderly Quebec City man pulled a 12-gauge shotgun on a female snowplow operator on Sunday for blowing snow onto his property, after warning her.

“How can you fight a three-ton snow-blower?” he told the Globe and Mail newspaper, accusing her of trying to run him over with the plow. “It takes a man who stands up.”

“People are sick of snow,” Quebec police spokeswoman Sandra Dion told AFP.

In this story, in the Montreal Gazette, entitled “City Close to Breaking Snow Record” they reported, “So far this winter, 347 centimetres of snow has fallen in Montreal. The city needs another 37 centimetres of snow to break the record of 383 centimetres of snowfall set in 1971.”

“It is only March 10 so we still have a chance to break the record,” said Environment Canada meteorologist Andre Cantin. “It is common to get big storms in March and last year we received 15 centimetres in April.”

Finally this story by the UK Met Office, we read, “Thick ice in the port of Sydney, Nova Scotia, resulted in a ferry being blocked, coast guard officials have said. United Press International reported on March 19th that a Canadian Coast Guard icebreaker headed to the port to assist the vessel on Wednesday.”

Friday, March 21, 2008

The Shenandoah Valley full moon....

Full moon taken without camera flash....

Full moon taken with camera flash....

This was the moon tonight as seen from my deck. It is beautiful hanging over the Blue Ridge Mountains....

Photos by SWAC Girl

Trace Adkins one of two finalists on Celebrity Apprentice summed it up best:
Trace Adkins' integrity and passion for his charity was enough to qualify him as one of the two finalists in this season of the TV reality series, The Celebrity Apprentice. With four finalists remaining when Thursday night's (March 20) episode began, Donald Trump fired model Carol Alt and boxer Lennox Lewis to leave Adkins and British media personality Piers Morgan as the last contestants standing.

Adkins chose Lewis and actress Marilu Henner to be on his team to determine the decor and entertainment for a charity event. One of Adkins' tasks was to fulfill requests made by the event's musical headliners -- the Backstreet Boys. Adkins is appearing on the show to raise money for his charity of choice, the Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network. This season's winner will be announced live on a live, two-hour broadcast of The Celebrity Apprentice airing Thursday (March 27) on NBC.
I watched the very first Apprentice, that Donald Trump show, a few years back because I wanted to see the politics of a group of people, divided into two teams, working together but for themselves, too.

This season I tuned back in for "Celebrity Apprentice" to see how a group of already-made celebrities would act or react in situations to earn money for their favorite charities.

From the beginning my favorite was Trace Adkins, that slow-talking country singer who does not say a lot but, when it does, it is worth listening to. His six-year-old daugher has severe food allergies and he agreed to be part of the show to earn money to help medical researchers who may be able to help her and others like her.

In 2005, Trace Adkins recorded Arlington, that song about sacrifice and the soldiers, Marines, airmen, and sailors who are buried in Arlington Cemetery. It is mournful and sad and poignant, and it is dedicated in memory of Marine Corporal Patrick Nixon. The mood of the song matches the mood of the place. Trace has many other songs, too ... a country music star whose love for his child propelled him to get involved in Celebrity Apprentice.

Against the odds, Trace is one of the two finalists in next week's finale. It's the good guy against the bad guy ... Trace against Piers Morgan, the brash, boastful British personality and editor ... the USA versus Britain. It should provide an entertaining show. I will be rooting for Trace because I would like to see the good guy finish first.

The complete lineup of celebrities at the beginning, besides Trace and Piers, included Carol Alt, actress/model; Gene Simmons, rock star from "Kiss;" Jennie Finch, gold medalist; Lennox Lewis, boxer; Marilu Henner, actress; Nadia Comaneci, gymnist gold medalist; Nely Galan, producer; Omarosa, reality personality from first "Apprentice;" Stephen Baldwin, actor; Tiffany Fallon, playmate; Tito Ortiz, fighter; Vinny Pastore, actor.

Tune in Thursday to see who best completes their task on Celebrity Apprentice. Go, Trace!

Buffalo Gap road racing fatality leads to felony charges

In the wee hours of the morning on October 23, 2007, on a straight stretch of Rt. 42 in the rural Buffalo Gap area of Augusta County, several vehicles raced one another at speeds exceeding 100 mph. By 3:00 a.m. tragedy had struck and 18-year-old passenger Brittany Engleman was dead.

Road crews had earlier repaired that section of Rt. 42. A patch of loose gravel caused 22-year-old Cory Beasley to lose control at 100 mph and flip several times, killing his passenger. Several others were arrested including 22-year-old Torrance Mack, who was racing Beasley, and 21-year-old Robert Gaylor who was parked in the Buffalo Gap High School lot having just completed a race. Who knows how many others were there since they may have scattered after the wreck to avoid detection by the state police.

Road racing in the county is popular throughout the nation. While living in a rural area of North Carolina years ago, we had an incident where the high school students were playing "chicken" on the road, racing toward one another on the same side of the road at a high rate of speed to see which one would be "chicken" first and pull away to the opposite lane to avoid a head-on crash. Only problem was, neither driver "chickened" out and they both ended up dead. They were only teenagers.

This brings to mind the proposed motocross track at Expoland. Wouldn't it be nice to offer an alternative to local young people? I doubt it would completely do away with road racing ... but it could help.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Full moon in the Shenandoah Valley tonight....

As I drove home tonight, the moon was full and the stars were out as the cold winds blew, making it feel quite chilly for the first night of spring.

The moon was so bright that I took my little inexpensive Nikon camera and snapped a photo, not sure if it would turn out. Amazingly, the moon showed up in the picture. I tried to get the mountains beneath but the moon had risen too high in the sky from my vantage point so I just leaned on my car and enjoyed the view, scanning the sky to see what stars were visible.

It's spring in the Valley....

Photo by SWAC Girl

"Speak English" sign not violation in Philly cheesesteak shop

This story made waves two years ago. The owner of the shop has been vindicated:
PHILADELPHIA (AP) - The owner of a famous cheesesteak shop did not discriminate when he posted signs asking customers to speak English, a city panel ruled Wednesday.

In a 2-1 vote, a Commission on Human Relations panel found that two signs at Geno's Steaks telling customers, "This is America: WHEN ORDERING 'PLEASE SPEAK ENGLISH,'" do not violate the city's Fair Practices Ordinance.

Shop owner Joe Vento has said he posted the signs in October 2005 because of concerns over immigration reform and an increasing number of people in the area who could not order in English.
English should be the official national language.

Happy 154th anniversary, GOP!

Today, Republicans celebrate -- or should celebrate -- the 154th anniversary of our Grand Old Party.

At the time, the Democrats in control of Congress were moving toward passage of their Kansas- Nebraska Act, allowing slavery to expand into the western territories. The Democrat President said he would sign the bill into law.

Amid the intense reaction, a grassroots movement arose to oppose the pro-slavery policies of the Democratic Party. In just a few months, these town meetings and demonstrations coalesced into the Republican Party.

Several sites share the credit as its birthplace, but the GOP was named in Ripon, Wisconsin. At a March 20, 1854, meeting convened by anti-slavery activist Alvan Bovay, fifty-five men and three women called for all opponents of slavery to unite in a new organization, to be called "the Republican Party." This name had a past as well as a future. Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and many other Founding Fathers had called themselves "Republicans."

The Ripon meeting was widely reported in the newspapers. Just two months later, Members of Congress who opposed slavery declared themselves to be Republicans. In July, the Republican Party held its first state convention, in Jackson, Michigan.

Within two years, the GOP became a major national party, controlling the U.S. House of Representatives, and in 1860 Abraham Lincoln was elected the first Republican President of the United States.

Republicans today would benefit tremendously from appreciating the heritage of our Grand Old Party.

Michael Zak adapted this article from Back to Basics for the Republican Party, his acclaimed history of the GOP cited by Clarence Thomas in a Supreme Court decision. Hundreds more articles are available on the Grand Old Partisan blog, each day celebrating 154 years of Republican heroes and heroics.

Michael Zak is a popular speaker to Republican organizations around the country. See Republican Basics website for more information.

Ronald Reagan on March 20, 1981

On this day in 1981 Ronald Reagan addressed the Conservative Political Action Conference (C-PAC) for the first time as president.

Ronald Reagan understood that burdening Americans with heavy taxes stiffled their prosperity which was why he signed the largest tax cut in American history at the Reagan Ranch in 1981.

"I have only one thing to say to the tax increasers ... go ahead, make my day," he said.

He also said, "Those doing all the criticizing had their chance. In the four years before we got to Washington they had it all. They had the whole enchilada ... they virtually had a free hand and all they could think to do with that free hand was stick it in your pocket."

Low taxes, responsible spending ... the principles of Ronald Reagan Republicans.

Goodlatte: Working to decrease America's dependence on foreign energy

Each week, folks across the Sixth District and the nation are confronted with the rising cost of energy, from the gas pump to their electric and gas bills. Energy is vital to every sector of the U.S. economy, including homes, small businesses and industries. When energy supplies are tight, families and businesses are severely impacted by the resulting increase in energy costs.

The Congress needs to act but it has been pushing energy policy in the wrong direction. Recently, I voted against legislation passed by the House of Representatives that includes $21 billion in tax increases on producers of American energy here at home. These tax increases will send good-paying jobs overseas and further increase our dangerous dependence on foreign oil. Even more shocking, the legislation provides an exemption for the Venezuelan oil giant, CITGO, just as Venezuela’s dictator Hugo Chavez is threatening to cut off energy supplies to the U.S.

While the legislation does include good provisions, such as tax credits to encourage solar and wind energy production and tax incentives to make energy efficiency improvements to homes and businesses, its overall effect will be to increase America’s dependence on foreign sources of energy. To move America toward energy independence we need a comprehensive and strategic plan that increases the supply, security and diversity of American energy and puts real alternative fuel sources in the hands of consumers to lower costs.

We must diversify our energy supplies with alternative fuels, including renewable energy from our farms and forests but we must do so without the government mandates and subsidies that are today driving the cost of food and animal feed up as we produce more ethanol from corn. We should develop a renewable policy where the government incentivizes the development of new technologies but does not mandate the use of any particular fuel like corn-based ethanol which drives up costs for consumers.

Further, in promoting green energy we should encourage the production of more nuclear power which provides CO2 emission-free energy. We generate only 20 percent of our energy from this clean technology. France produces nearly 80 percent of its electricity from nuclear power.

Abundant and affordable energy and energy conservation are the keys to a strong economy. Until alternative fuel technology becomes more affordable and convenient, our cars, our jobs, and our economic growth will run on traditional energy sources, like oil, natural gas and clean burning coal. We should encourage environmentally sound ways to find and use more of these resources in our own country.

I will continue working to promote proposals that will seek to lessen our reliance on foreign energy, and allow us to become energy independent. We need to support policies that will encourage promotion of exploration, innovation, and conservation and lower energy prices for consumers, to make America stronger.

Cross-posted at

GOP condolences to 6th District Democrats on loss of their chairman

Democrat Sixth District Chairman David Layman, 60, of Botetourt, collapsed and died Tuesday at a meeting in Lexington, apparently of a heart attack. He had served as chairman for six years and vice chairman for four years.

Jim Crosby, former Botetourt Republican chairman and current 6th District GOP vice chairman, knew Layman and offered sympathy at the sad news. "My condolences to the David Layman family at this time of his passing with gratitude for his long-time service to the Democrat Party," he said.

Layman is survived by his wife, two children, and six grandchildren. The Sixth District Republicans send condolences to his family at this sad time.

Update: I received a statement of condolences from Fred Anderson, GOP Chairman, 6th District Congressional Committee:

"I regreat hearing of the death of my counterpart on the other side of the aisle. David Layman was a worthy adversery in the world of politics. My wife, Ann, joins me in sending heart-felt sympathy to his wife and family. May God grant them peace that passes all understanding."


Welcome, Spring!

Homecoming ... a brother returns from Iraq

The Marchi Family

A joyful reunion with his parents and brother at Fort Bragg welcomed Jonathan Marchi who has been in Iraq the past 15 months. His unit, 2-325 AIR, 82nd ABN DIV, was part of the first brigade sent to Iraq as part of the “surge.” They spent most of their time on the outskirts of Sadr City. Not all made it back.
Proud brother Ben Marchi (top photo), VA director of Americans For Prosperity (AFP), kept us updated throughout Jonathan's deployment. He sent the photos and wrote that he wanted to "thank everyone for the packages, prayers, and support of Jonathan, his men, and our President (who had the courage to see this through to the success if has become)."
Welcome home, Jonathan. Thank you for your service.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

ODBA's Josh Levy advocates "Win the War" as he completes UVA Law School

Josh Levy (photo by Daily Progress)

Josh Levy is a young man I admire very much for standing up for what he believes in. His blog, "Win the War," advocates victory in Iraq and he backs it up with sound arguments and background information. He talked with the Charlottesville Daily Progress about school, his role in supporting the troops, and his future. One of his passions is his support for John McCain for President.

Josh organized a "Win the War" rally last June in Charlottesville when anti-war protester Cindy Sheehan was in town, a job he very successfully succeeded in by pulling in over 100 pro-victory supporters from the surrounding area including SWAC. It was the first time I had met him in person and I found him organized, pleasant, and determined in his beliefs. He was not afraid to stand up to the rabid anti-war protesters. He was standing up for the silent majority, the people who could not be there or felt uncomfortable in the presence of people who shouted them down and called them names.

The Daily Progress put it well:
... with the next presidential election around the corner, Josh Levy, a third-year University of Virginia law school student, believes it is critical to speak to what he views as America’s new "silent majority": those who support or could be persuaded that it is in America’s best interest to achieve what Levy and others view as victory in Iraq. Levy organized a "pro-victory" rally in July, when anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan came to Charlottesville, and is thinking about starting a citizens advocacy group to argue, in part, that withdrawal now would mean "retreat."

But he knows that time is of the essence.

"When a president takes a country to war … an invisible clock starts ticking," said Levy, 34. "[Americans are] not going to wait forever."
It is an excellent article and well worth the read. Carl applauds Josh over at Spark It Up!!

From McCain VA Co-Chair Chris Saxman

Dear Friends,

Since securing the necessary votes to win the Republican presidential nomination on March 4, John McCain has continued to campaign across the country gathering new supporters, raising money, and taking his message to voters.

McCain’s experience and readiness to lead from day one, his expertise on national defense issues, his commitment to fiscal conservatism, and his willingness to tackle tough issues like entitlement and earmark reform is connecting with voters across the nation. Recent polls show McCain leading nationally against Clinton or Obama, winning in crucial swing states like Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Florida, and running strongly in New Jersey and California.

I expect the Democrat nominee to make a serious effort to contest Virginia and the McCain campaign is currently working on assembling a grassroots team to ensure Virginia remains in the Republican column this November. As co-chairman of the McCain campaign in Virginia, I am asking for your assistance with this effort.

An important part of spreading Senator McCain’s message is local party leaders keeping the McCain campaign informed of upcoming events in your area and what events you would like surrogate McCain speakers to attend. Please send me event listings and/or surrogate speaker requests as soon as possible and as they become available.

Additionally, many of you have requested bumper stickers, yard signs and other McCain materials for your local committees. Please send me those requests as well and I will make sure you receive those items as soon as they become available.

Thank you for your leadership, support, hard work, and enthusiasm. Please contact me as soon as possible with events details and your requests. This is an exciting time for our party and Virginia.

Together we will win in November!


Chris Saxman

Cross-posted at

Gilmore campaign corrects inaccurate AP story

March 19, 2008

Mr. Bob Lewis
The Associated Press, Capitol Bureau
State Capitol
Richmond, VA 23219

Dear Bob:

We would appreciate it if you would immediately correct the following factual errors and incorrect implications in your story about former Gov. Jim Gilmore and Everquest Financial which moved on the Associated Press wires last night and has been reprinted by several Virginia media outlets.

1. Everquest Financial is not, and has never been, "subsidiary" of Bear Sterns. It is an independent company.

2. Everquest has not and does not "market" high risk securities. It does not market securities; it buys and holds them in its portfolio.

3. The primary holdings of Everquest Financial are assets based on sound corporate loans.

4. Everquest is an asset management corporation. It is not a "hedge fund" and it does not operate a hedge fund.

5. As a result of sound management, Everquest is thriving and has earned $100 million in revenue for its shareholders.

6. When Jim Gilmore was Governor of Virginia, in the wake of 9/11 and a during a national recession, Jim Gilmore balanced the Virginia budget, gave working families $1.5 billion in tax cuts and left a record $1 billion in the state's Rainy Day Fund.

7. The deficit in the state budget, as defined by Mark Warner, was the difference between state revenues, which had decreased in the recession; and what Mark Warner wanted to spend in future years.

8. This shortfall in his spending plans is what Mark Warner used to justify raising taxes on working Virginians by $1.4 billion in 2003 - a year and a half after Jim Gilmore left office.

Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter.


Dick Leggitt
Campaign Manager
Jim Gilmore for Senate

Cross-posted at Bloggers 4 Jim Gilmore

5 years later ... Operation Iraqi Freedom has been successful

"Five years into this battle, there is an understandable debate over whether the war was worth fighting, whether the fight is worth winning, and whether we can win it. The answers are clear to me: Removing Saddam Hussein from power was the right decision -- and this is a fight America can and must win." -- President George W. Bush, 3/19/08
Five years after the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom, many Americans nationwide have stood firm in support of our troops by publicly voicing that support throughout the years.

Today's Waynesboro News Virginian has an article on the war and how those in the SWAC community feel about it. We have many military members here because of the Stonewall Brigade that is stationed at the Staunton Armory so we are more of a pro-victory area than someplace like Berkeley, California. Support the Troops rallies routinely outnumber anti-war protests ... but there are still those who have been out there since the beginning protesting every step the President has taken to protect America.

President George W. Bush, addressing members of the military at the Pentagon, said today, "Five years ago tonight, I promised the American people that in the struggle ahead 'we will accept no outcome but victory.' Today, standing before men and women who helped liberate a nation, I reaffirm the commitment. The battle in Iraq is noble, it is necessary, and it is just. And with your courage, the battle in Iraq will end in victory."

After 9/11, President Bush said, "We will not tire, we will not falter, and we will not fail." He will continue to fight freedom's enemies and protect the American people from terrorism.

Thank you to our troops and their families. Thank you to the families of those who have given the ultimate sacrifice. Thank you to our veterans.

And thank you, President Bush, for your leadership at a time of war.

Delegate Ben Cline questions VA lottery on wasteful spending

Should the Virginia lottery pay Donald Trump half-a-million dollars for his picture to appear on lottery tickets? How about $800,000 for use of the name "Deal or No Deal" and Howie Mandel's image? Delegate Ben Cline (R-Rockbridge) says no, and has exposed what he considers wasteful spending of money that could be used for education, the intent of lottery proceeds.

The Waynesboro News Virginian backed Delegate Cline which brought questions from lottery officials.

Yesterday's editorial in the NV followed up on the issue as they reemphasized their backing of Delegate Cline in his pursuit of cost-cutting efforts for the Commonwealth.
Miffed by our editorial last week backing state Del. Ben Cline’s push to halve what he described as a $26 million advertising budget, a Virginia Lottery official fired off a missive that we published Sunday disputing the figure. Lottery officials say the advertising budget is $20 million, not $26 million.

Cline tells us he arrived at the latter figure in consultation with House Appropriations Committee budget writers, who, presumably, know a thing or two about budgets. Lottery officials in response told reporter Bob Stuart that they simply defined the advertising budget more narrowly than did Cline. We’ll stick with the House and Cline on this one.
Read the entire editorial here.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Feds cut rates by 3/4 percentage point ... stocks up

Federal Reserve cut rates today....

AG McDonnell continues anti-gang initiative in Shenandoah Valley

OAG Budget to Fund Special Prosecutor; State Budget Funds Statewide Crime Analyst; OAG Uses Asset Forfeiture Funds to Provide New Equipment to Local Law Enforcement

[Many thanks to Bob McDonnell for his continuing interest in the serious problem of gangs in the Shenandoah Valley. --SWAC Girl]

Weyers Cave- Attorney General Bob McDonnell announced today the continuation of a successful anti-gang initiative in the Shenandoah Valley. Among those joining the Attorney General at today’s announcement were John Brownlee, the United States Attorney for the Western District of Virginia, and Senator Mark Obenshain (R-Harrisonburg).

McDonnell specifically announced that a special prosecutor, currently funded through a federal grant set to expire, will join the payroll of the Office of the Attorney General. He also announced securing of state budget funding for a statewide crime analyst, currently funded through the same expiring federal grant. In addition the Attorney General announced that his office would provide state of the art equipment to local law enforcement, purchased with asset forfeiture funds.

The highlight of today’s event was the formal announcement that Phillip O. Figura, Special Counsel to the Shenandoah Valley Multi-Jurisdiction Grand Jury and Special Assistant United States Attorney for the Western District of Virginia, would remain on the job, despite the elimination of federal funding for his position. Figura was brought on board in March of 2006 through a federal grant secured in 2005 with the assistance of Congressmen Frank Wolf and Bob Goodlatte. The federal grant enabling this hiring will expire in June.

During this past session of the General Assembly, McDonnell and local legislators attempted to secure a budget amendment to provide for state funding for this effective prosecutor position. However, that funding could not be secured. Recognizing the importance of the gang prosecutor to the Valley, McDonnell announced today that through cost cutting measures and a reallocation of resources within the office, he will fund this initiative directly through the budget of the Office of the Attorney General. Figura will continue his duties as an Assistant Attorney General.

Speaking about today’s announcement, McDonnell remarked, “We stood before you two years ago to announce this important initiative. Three gang related murders and a rash of violence made it clear to me, my predecessors in this office, and the local Commonwealth’s Attorneys that a gang prosecutor to coordinate use of the multi-jurisdiction grand jury and handle gang cases would be critical to an effective law enforcement strategy to combat gangs. While we have achieved a great deal of success, we must continue this coordinated offensive against gang violence. We had hoped to do so within the state budget, but given the tough economic situation faced by the Commonwealth, this was not possible. Therefore we have gone within the existing budget in our office to find the resources necessary to continue this post. My foremost commitment is to ensure the safety and security of all the citizens of Virginia, and in the Shenandoah Valley that means finding a way to keep our anti-gang efforts underway and fully funded. We have done that.”

In addition, McDonnell also announced that the new budget provides funding for the Office of the Attorney General to use in employing a statewide crime analyst to assist law enforcement and prosecutors as they investigate and prepare their gang cases for trial. Currently, David Graham, operating under the same expiring federal grant as Figura, has been effectively working with the law enforcement team in the Valley and contributing to the successful investigation and prosecution of a significant number of cases. The new budget will allow these vital services to continue.

McDonnell also used today’s event to formally present, for use by local law enforcement, a variety of much needed equipment to aid criminal investigations. The equipment was purchased by the Office of the Attorney General, using asset forfeiture funds, after consultation with law enforcement regarding their needs. The equipment will be used by law enforcement investigators working cases for the multi-jurisdiction grand jury.

United States Attorney for the Western District of Virginia, John Brownlee, also spoke at today’s event, noting, “As Virginia’s top law enforcement official, Bob McDonnell has aggressively pursued violent criminals” Brownlee continued, “our joint efforts against gangs and drug dealers has resulted in safer and more hopeful communities.”

Marsha Garst, Commonwealth’s Attorney for the City of Harrisonburg and Rockingham County stated “I applaud Bob McDonnell’s leadership and I am pleased to be a part of a cutting edge approach to combat criminal street gangs. The multi-jurisdiction grand jury has been a tremendously useful and effective tool to make our Valley a safer place.”

Thanks to a provision introduced by Senator Obenshain in 2004, multi-jurisdiction grand juries are able to effectively investigate gang crimes. The investigations conducted through use of this single grand jury, by law enforcement throughout the Valley, have produced more than 90 state and federal indictments that have resulted in gang members and their close associates being incarcerated for more than 150 years.

Gangs in the Shenandoah Valley
Based on information provided by local area law enforcement, there are known to be over 300 documented gang members or affiliates currently in the Shenandoah Valley. Since 2001 there have been three gang-related homicides in the area.

In 2001, Christopher Scott Kenedy, a member of the “Crips” was killed in Augusta County for attempting to leave the gang.

In 2001, Brenda Paz, a member of MS-13, was killed in Shenandoah County for agreeing to testify against other gang members.

In 2005, William Pannell, Jr., was killed by William “Tim Tim” Jones, a member of the Bloods, because Pannell would not remove a blue bandana. (seen as a sign of membership in the Crips)

Participating Partners in the Shenandoah Valley Anti-Gang Effort

Local Partners

Commonwealth’s Attorneys
Marsha Garst, of the City of Harrisonburg and Rockingham County;
Albert Mitchell, of Shenandoah County;
Raymond Roberts, of the City of Staunton;
Charles Ajemian of the City of Waynesboro;
Lee Ervin, of Augusta County;
Robert Joyce of the City of Lexington and Rockbridge County.
Christopher Russell of the City of Buena Vista
John T. Hennessy of Page County

Randy Fisher, Sheriff of Augusta County
Tim Carter, Sheriff of Shenandoah County
R.W. Day, Sheriff of Rockbridge County
Don Farley, Sheriff of Rockingham County
Daniel Presgraves, of Page County
Randy Hamilton, Sheriff of the City of Buena Vista
Alex T. Caldwell, Sheriff of the City of Staunton

Police Chiefs
Colonel Don Harper, Harrisonburg Police Department
Chief Jim Williams, Staunton Police Department
Chief Doug Davis, Waynesboro Police Department
Chief Steve Crowder, Lexington Police Department
Chief Lewis Plogger, Buena Vista Police Department

State Partners

State Senate
Emmett Hanger, 24th District
Mark Obenshain, 26th District
Creigh Deeds, 25th District

House of Delegates
Steve Landes, 25th District
Chris Saxman, 20th District
Ben Cline, 24th District
Todd Gilbert, 15th District
Matt Lohr, 26th District

Virginia State Police
Colonel W. Steven Flaherty, Superintendent
Captain Rick A. Jenkins, Second Division, Culpepper
Captain Frank T. Whitehurst, Third Division, Appomattox
Captain George (“Stick”) W. Austin, Jr., Sixth Division, Salem

Virginia ABC
Frank Monahan, Director of Enforcement
Roger Stevens: Regional Agent in Charge

Federal Partners
Senator Jim Webb
Senator John Warner
John Brownlee, United States Attorney for the Western District of Virginia.
Congressman Bob Goodlatte
Congressman Frank Wolf

Cross-posted at

Obama's pastor said "God damn America"?

Barack Obama's pastor has been in the news the past week and I have not commented until now. But I have heard this passage over and over ... and it makes me cringe everytime. I have never heard my pastors over the years curse in church or rail against America, the greatest country in the world.

Jeremiah Wright has been described by Obama as his spiritual advisor, the man who helped him find Christ, the leader of his church for 20 years, the man who married him and his wife, the man who baptized his children. Wright associated with Louis Farrakhan. Wright blamed America for 9/11.


Monday, March 17, 2008

J. Todd Foster & Bristol Herald Courier irking Southwest Virginia

Remember J. Todd Foster? He's the guy who used to be at the Waynesboro News Virginian a couple of years ago, the guy who had worked for People Magazine and had that big-city edge to him that went against the grain of many locals. He was sued by a City Council member and left the area soon after that.

Now Foster is in southwest Virginia at the Bristol Herald Courier and he's causing waves with folks down that way. Thanks to fellow ODBA bloggers Carl Kilo at Spark It Up!! and Jerry Fuhrman at From On High, we learn of an editorial by Foster that is eye-opening, to say the least. The newspaper has been against Dominion Power's new power plant, and now Foster, doing what Foster does best, is dropping names of folks who are upset with him.

Glad we don't have to deal with that anymore....

St. Patrick's Day 2008 ... top o' the morning to you!

May your day be touched
By a bit of Irish luck,
Brightened by a song in your heart,
And warmed by the smiles
Of the people you love.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Highland Maple Festival Part 1 ... almost heaven

I could see the snow-covered Alleghany Mountains this morning from my house after cold rain fell in Augusta County last night. Everyone else was busy so I decided to head west to the Highland Maple Festival this afternoon ... it was the last day and my schedule had prevented me going earlier ... and the mountains were calling me. The air was crisp and in the 40s when I threw a sweater, coat, and gloves in the car and headed out.

Top of Shenandoah Mountain. This is the line between Augusta County (Pastures District) and Highland County.
View of Highland County from top of Shenandoah Mountain. Many of the Virginia and West Virginia mountains were snow-covered.
Entering McDowell in Highland County.
Heading north toward Eagle Sugar Camp. I was getting closer to the snow....

Eagle Camp is about 10 miles north of McDowell. Driving to the little village of Doe Hill, turn left and follow the signs up the mountain.Driving toward Eagle's, there was the snow....
Although there are a number of sugar camps in Highland, Eagle's is my favorite because it is nestled in the woods and looks like a mountain camp, the family members who run it are friendly and they still gather sugar water the old-fashioned way ... by tapping trees and attaching buckets like in the photo above. Inside the building are evaporating units which are wood-fired to boil down the sap. There is also a newly-constructed room for purchasing maple products as well as local crafts. They have a snack area selling lunch items as well as maple donuts.

Eagle's Camp is set on a wooded mountainside....
Eagle's is the closest camp to Augusta County which makes it convenient ... and avoids the crowded areas of McDowell and Monterey.
The bucket on the right is filled almost to the rim with sap. The trees were working overtime today in the upper 30s temperature....
Firewood is stacked to fire the evaporating units.
Trees along the creek were tapped with buckets attached to collect sap.
Eagle's has a picnic area in a wooded area for those who want to buy lunch from them or have a cup of hot chocolate or just take a break.

Photos by SWAC Girl