Thursday, May 30, 2013

Former DNC Chair Howard Dean says press is 'thin-skinned and sanctimonious'

Thursday morning found former Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean as co-host of the "Morning Joe" political wake-up show on MSNBC. He was the typical, combative Howard Dean, not backing down from his opinions on a variety of issues.

This time his anger was directed at the press, calling them "thin-skinned and sanctimonious."

Well, o-kay.

Editorial pages? "I don't read editorials because I don't give a damn what those people think."

Twitter lit up after Dean's comments.

It's not every day you have a Democrat going after the press.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Spring gardening in the Valley

 Spring means hands in the dirt, blooming perennials and trees, and planting bountiful pots of annuals that will grow and bloom into the fall. This purple salvia perennial has been especially pretty this year.

The plants in this flower box will grow and fill in the empty spaces until it is overflowing and draping over the sides.

 The rhododendron bloomed while we were on vacation so we're catching the last of the fading blossoms.

 Throughout the yard the sweet-smelling peonies are showing off in a way only peonies can.

A tender, colorful Columbine.

 Tools of the trade ... new potting soil each year helps grow gorgeous flowers.

 All these plants were transferred into terra cotta pots and window boxes, and will now spread their roots and flourish with watering and fertilizing through the growing season.

 Besides perennials that are already growing in the yard, the new crop of annuals includes white impatiens and red geraniums for the back yard/porch and for the front yard/porch/deck there's pink and purple dianthus, purple alyssum, white alyssum, violet petunias, and yellow zinnias. As scraggly plants are marked down in garden centers, I'll add some new varieties and nourish them from ugly ducklings into beautiful swans.

 More tools of the trade: planting pots. I love the texture and Old World look of terra cotta.

These two were ready to be placed on the porch. As the alyssum grows and spreads, it will fill in under the dianthus.

Sadly, we lost our bluebird babies Tuesday when a five-foot black snake crawled up the post and got into the house. The parents had been busy all morning flying back and forth feeding their little ones but the snake had wiped them out by the time SWAC Husband found him. He won't be back.

We're back into the mowing-gardening routine, and ready to begin outdoor entertaining. It's spring in the Shenandoah Valley....

Photos by Lynn R. Mitchell
May 28, 2013

McDonnell's years of work lead to voting rights restoration ... Cuccinelli jumps on board

 Photo by Lynn R. Mitchell

Since 2010, Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell has restored the voting rights of 4,843 nonviolent felons, a campaign goal the Republican leader has pursued for years.

Effective July 15, he will automatically restore those rights to nonviolent felons on an individual basis, writes reporter Olympia Meola at the Richmond Times-Dispatch:
Gov. Bob McDonnell today will announce that he is automatically restoring the voting rights of nonviolent felons on an individual basis.

The sweeping administrative action -- while not an instantaneous blanket restoration -- is as far as the governor can go within current Virginia law, administration officials said.
Janet Kelly, Secretary of the Commonwealth, added, "We are on the as-soon-as-possible timeline."
Wednesday's announcement is just the latest installment on an issue McDonnell has been working on since the beginning of his administration.

Reporter Meola explained the process:
McDonnell's change applies only to nonviolent felons. Under current procedures, there is a two-year waiting period before a nonviolent felon can apply for restoration of rights. Under the current process, the governor does not have to approve any particular application.

McDonnell is removing the waiting period and the subjectivity. Once the administration verifies that a nonviolent felon has completed his sentence and probation or parole, and paid all fines and restitution, the governor will send the person a letter restoring his rights, provided the individual has no pending felony or misdemeanor charges.
Staff members have said that former prosecutor McDonnell believes in punishment but he also believes in redemption and opportunity.

"Virginia is one of only four states to permanently take away the right to vote from citizens with felony convictions," write Darrell K. White and Mark Croston at the Times-Dispatch.

White, president of the Baptist General Convention, and Croston, president of the Virginia Baptist State Convention, noted that "restoring voting rights sends the message that citizens who want a second chance are welcome as full members of our communities," and added:
Gov. Bob McDonnell understands this. A man of deep Christian faith himself, he has repeatedly called on the General Assembly to pass a constitutional amendment to automatically restore rights to people with nonviolent felony convictions upon completion of their sentences. “Once individuals have served their time, and paid their fines, restitution and other costs, they should have the opportunity to rejoin society as fully contributing members,” McDonnell said in a January statement. “As a nation that believes in redemption, we want more productive citizens and fewer people returning to prison.”
Unfortunately, the governor’s pleas to the legislature have gone unheeded. The General Assembly has refused to pass several proposals for automatic voting rights restoration, leaving no further legislative options. But there is another way. While Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli recently announced his view that McDonnell does not have the constitutional authority to issue an executive order to automatically restore civil rights for citizens with felony convictions after they have completed their sentences, we disagree with that analysis. The Virginia Constitution makes it clear that the governor has the exclusive power to do so, making a difference for hundreds of thousands of citizens who have paid their debts to society.
Perhaps in a bit of "me, too" campaign enthusiasm, Republican gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli jumped the Governor's planned announcement with one of his own on Tuesday. Virginian-Pilot reporter Julian Walker took a look at Cuccinelli's change of heart:
Time and again during his state Senate service, Ken Cuccinelli opposed attempts to change Virginia’s Constitution so certain nonviolent felons automatically regain their voting rights.

Now, the attorney general and Republican gubernatorial candidate has positioned himself at the vanguard of efforts to improve the state’s rights-restoration process, saying he has had a change of heart.
Governor McDonnell has public opinion on his side as well as the Baptist Assembly, the Catholic Conference of Virginia, the United Methodist Church, and the Presbyterian Church USA, proving once again to be a leader who is willing to fight for the issues that are important for Virginians.

Facebook cracking down on hate speech

After protests from various activist groups, Facebook has rolled out a new policy on hate speech.

In a post on Facebook, Marne Levine, vice president of Global Public Policy, made the announcement that began:
Recently there has been some attention given to Facebook’s content policy. The current concern, voiced by Women, Action and The Media, The Everyday Sexism Project, and the coalition they represent, has focused on content that targets women with images and content that threatens or incites gender-based violence or hate.

Many different groups which have historically faced discrimination in society, including representatives from the Jewish, Muslim, and LGBT communities, have reached out to us in the past to help us understand the threatening nature of content, and we are grateful for the thoughtful and constructive feedback we have received. In light of this recent attention, we want to take this opportunity to explain our philosophy and policies regarding controversial or harmful content, including hate speech, and to explain some of the steps we are taking to reduce the proliferation of content that could create an unsafe environment for users.

Facebook’s mission has always been to make the world more open and connected. We seek to provide a platform where people can share and surface content, messages and ideas freely, while still respecting the rights of others. When people can engage in meaningful conversations and exchanges with their friends, family and communities online, amazingly positive things can happen.
There followed a number of steps that Facebook hopes will prevent further issues as they noted they are constantly working to balance open communication with protection of users.

Hundreds of comments left on the post ranged from praise to criticism as commenters debated the pros and cons of the new policy.

BREAKING: Michele Bachmann will not seek reelection to Congress

Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann surprised many with a YouTube announcement Wednesday morning stating that she will not seek reelection to Congress in 2014 after serving four terms representing the 6th District, and after last year's brief run for President of the United States.

Emphasizing that she will remain a staunch conservative for the remainder of her term and beyond, she expressed a concern for the country but said she strongly felt term limits should apply for all, and that her eight years had been long enough. She also noted that the mainstream media would probably put a detrimental spin on her decision but that she would take that as a badge of honor for her conservative service to the citizens of her District.

Monday, May 27, 2013

American flags on Memorial Day

SWAC Husband, U.S. Air Force veteran, put his Americans flags out bright and early on Memorial Day morning including the POW-MIA flag (center).

Photos by Lynn R. Mitchell
May 27, 2013

Shenandoah Valley: Churchville ceremony honors America's fallen soldiers

 World War I Dough Boy tombstone for Russell Snyder, located in Green Hill Cemetery, Churchville, Virginia. Born Aug 30, 1892, died Oct 8, 1918. Pvt, 11 Co CAC, Fort Mott, Salem, NJ. The statue is extremely detailed and must have cost a fortune. Here is a better photo of the dough boy tombstone.

 It was a peaceful setting with the Appalachian Mountains of western Augusta County in the background as a warm breeze blew on the bright sunny day.

 Will Bear and Charlotte Young.
Mrs. Young and the Churchville Christian ladies hosted the event each year. Since disbanding, Mrs. Young has carried on with the help of Will who carried out her vision of the event, and presided over the ceremony.

Mr. Will Bear and Mrs. Charlotte Young.

Rev. Reed Hopkins, pastor of Loch Willow Presbyterian Church in Churchville, led with devotions and prayer.

Bugler Billy Brooks, Esq, of Washington, D.C. ... the National Anthem.

Churchville resident Enrique Mencia may have been born in Cuba but he appreciates the freedom offered in his adopted country and the small Virginia town where he lives. On Sunday, he shared the restrictive government history of Cuba, honoring Armed Forces members who died protecting the freedom enjoyed by Mr. Mencia and other Americans.

He took time to tell of Cubans' quest for freedom and the sacrifices made by many throughout the years, including Americans, to stand up for Cuban citizens. When Cuba was overtaken by Fidel Castro in 1959, the first mandate was the absolute surrender of all privately owned firearms which essentially left residents helpless. It was a reminder that we have much to be grateful for in this country. His remarks are below.

The Fifth Virginia Infantry, Company L, West Augusta Guard of Staunton.


A casualty of World War II, he is buried in France but a headstone in Churchville is a reminder of this native son.

I got a phone call last week while out of town from Augusta County's Will Bear with an invitation to join the Churchville community for a Memorial Day commemorative service in Green Hill Cemetery. "If I'm back in town," I told him, not sure when we would return. Will, who co-owns Bear Funeral Home with his family, was helping Mrs. Charlotte Young carry on the tradition that had been hosted by the Churchville Christian ladies before their group disbanded.

Sunday turned out to be a beautiful sunny day with temperatures in the low 70s so I headed to Churchville and turned onto the winding country road that led to the cemetery. Crossing a small stream, I stopped on the bridge to take a picture of the peaceful-looking creek with wildflowers blooming on its banks, and then continued along the shady lane with blooming blackberry vines on both sides. I arrived early, wanting to get a feel for where the ceremony would take place since Will had offered that I could take photos. The only person there when I arrived was Will who had set up an awning, chairs, podium, and was ready with programs for guests.

He pointed out a spot to park, and then I walked back down the drive to where he stood in the shade of the ancient oak trees. His knowledge and memory of the cemetery is amazing although, after the ceremony, he referred to his dad's incredible memory on some questions about the location of particular tombstones.

The next to arrive was Enrique Mencia, the guest speaker, who was driving Mrs. Young, his across-the-street neighbor in "downtown" Churchville. Others filtered in including members of the Fifth Virginia Infantry who hurried to Churchville from Staunton's Thornrose Cemetery where they had participated at that annual service at the Confederate memorial.

Everyone gathered for the small but solemn Churchville ceremony in a beautiful rural setting with the Appalachian Mountains as a backdrop, appreciative of an opportunity to honor those who paid the ultimate price for our freedom. After 30 minutes, it was over. It had included Taps and the National Anthem from bugler Bill Brooks who grew up in the area and, though he lives in Washington, D.C. and is a lawyer at his day job, attends both the Thornrose and Churchville ceremonies every year to bugle in memory of fallen Armed Forces members.

It also included remarks of faith from Reverend Reed Hopkins, the Pledge of Allegiance led by Bob Watson from the Churchville Ruritan Club, and all was led by Will. As I drove home afterward with the sun lowering in the western sky, I was grateful to have had the opportunity to join my neighbors.

Photos by Lynn R. Mitchell
May 26, 2013

Remarks by Enrique "Rick" Mencia
Memorial Day Service
Green Hill Cemetery, Churchville, VA

Why is Memorial Day important to the Cuban-American population? Because it is a day to remember those who died in the different wars or conflicts, not only in your own country, but in other countries as well, helping to liberate the general population from oppression and injustice.

Cuba is situated in a strategic position at the entrance to the Gulf of Mexico, 180 miles south of Florida, and was discovered by Christopher Columbus in 1492. Guanatanamo Naval Base is located in the southern part of the most eastern province of the country.

1868-1900: The Cubans were fighting to liberate themselves from Spain. Teddy Roosevelt and his "Rough Riders" came to help, which culminated with the defeat of the Spanish troops. This took place around the area where the Guantanamo Naval Base was constructed.

1902: The Cuban independence was achieved becoming a Republican with its own flag and code of arms. Right about this time, the sinking of the U.S. battleship Maine took place where many died. It had been sent to ensure the transition into an independent and free country.

To date, a lot of things have happened.
1914-15: First World War
1940s: Second World War
1952-53: Korea
1960s: Vietnam

1/1/59: Castro takes over Cuba and the first mandate was the absolute surrender of all privately owned firearms, ensuring the absolute control of the country politically, militarily, and economically. If nobody but the government has firearms, it is easy for it to eventually "slave" the people.

1961: The Bay of Pigs attempted invasion by the Cuban Freedom fighters, to free the country from a communist liar, Fidel Castro. Their honorable but futile heroic efforts brought to many an early death unnecessarily. The landing site was intentionally changed in the last minute from deep water where the landing site would have been close to the mainland, to a very low and swampy three miles from shore. It was an absolute massacre, and few made it to shore.

Of late, we have had Sarajevo, and the Gulf Wars, which encompass Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan, etc., where many continue to be crippled or killed deefending and trying to implement human rights and democracy.

Memorial Day is a day of mourning, to be forever honored and remembered since it represents the day in which a nation, the U.S., and others like it, are and always will be honoring their dead patriots and heroes. These are men, women, and children at times, whose souls still live and their heroic actions represent the freedom that we have today, a freedom that we will defend forever.

Memorial Day: The uncle I never knew

Memorial Day is a time to reflect on our military men and women who have paid the ultimate sacrifice in protecting our country. For my family, that includes an uncle who was killed in the closing days of World War II, an uncle I never knew, my mother's older brother.

Mom was a student at Thomas Dale High School in Chester, Virginia, when her brother Clarence, the oldest of nine siblings, died. She still remembers her mother's reaction that fateful day when the official government car drove up the driveway of their farm many decades ago, and how her mother's knees buckled as she realized the presence of that car meant her son had been killed. Mom says her mother, who lived into her 80s, never completely got over the loss.

After retiring, my mother spent hours researching to discover what exactly happened to her brother and eventually found Clarence's lieutenant living in Texas. She traveled there to talk with him and hear about her brother's final hours, something she documented for our family.

In 2012, Mom wrote:
My brother, Clarence, would be 94 years old August 1st ... and it has now been a little more than 67 years since he was killed in Germany during World War II, only six weeks before Germany surrendered and the war in Europe ended.

Clarence was a 'foot soldier' and had fought for 15 months, from southern Italy to the liberation of Rome, then from the Riviera of Southern France all the way up to Germany's Siegfried Line, liberating the people of those two countries who had been prisoners of the Germans for several years.

Clarence was killed as they were crossing through the Siegfried Line from France into Germany. I think of him often and think about the fact that if we had not won World War II, there would no longer be a United States of America because Germany would have taken control of our country and our lives.
There was nothing romantic or glorious about how he died. His unit had encountered the almost impossible difficulties of fighting in mud, the freezing conditions of snow and ice. There was no time to mourn when a buddy died ... they had to move on, and returned later to recover their dead.

His name is carved into the granite walls of the Virginia War Memorial that overlooks downtown Richmond and the James River. Today we remember his sacrifice along with that of other fallen heroes who have fought for our country ... another reminder that freedom is not free.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

'When you go home, tell them of us....'

"When you go home, tell them of us and say,
'For your tomorrow, we gave our today.' "

In memory of Augusta County's fallen heroes...

Jason Redifer, 19
USMC, KIA, Operation Iraqi Freedom
January 31, 2005

Daniel Bubb, 19
USMC, KIA, Operation Iraqi Freedom
October 17, 2005

Daniel Morris, 19
USMC, KIA, Operation Iraqi Freedom
February 14, 2007

Freedom is not free.

Today: Churchville Memorial Day 2013 Service

A small town in America honors fallen Armed Forces, Memorial Day 2013.

A community-wide service will be held today, May 26, 2013, in Churchville in observation of Memorial Day to honor military members who have died while defending our country.

Will Bear, co-owner of Bear Funeral Home in Churchville, called earlier this week to extend an invitation for all to attend this somber event to be held at Green Hill Cemetery at 4:30 p.m. When entering the gates of the cemetery, drive to the crest of the hill toward the back where there will be a thirty-minute service with remarks from local citizens and military honors from a local reenactment group.

Green Hill Cemetery is located on Green Hill Lane (Rt. 836). From Rt. 250 in Churchville, turn south onto Rt. 42 (Buffalo Gap Highway) to Bear Funeral  Home on the left in the sharp curve. At the curve, continue straight onto Rt. 836 (Green Hill Lane) for 0.7 mile. Cemetery will be on the left.

A Memorial Day message from Congressman Eric Cantor

From Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-7th Congressional District)....

This weekend and Monday most Americans will take some time off and spend it with their family and friends. Traditionally, we recognize this time of year as the beginning of summer. There are many fine traditions associated with this weekend, from the Indianapolis 500 to local parades to family backyard barbecues.

But I hope that you will join me in remembering what is really important this weekend. Over the course of this Memorial Day Weekend, please take a moment to remember and appreciate all those brave individuals who made the ultimate sacrifice so we can enjoy the freedoms we do today.

Also, please remember the men and women of our armed services who continue to serve in harm’s way. They will not spend this weekend with their family and friends because they are risking their lives to protect and preserve our liberty. We owe them all a great debt of gratitude.

Please have a very safe and happy Memorial Day Weekend and I look forward to seeing you soon.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Walton County, FL: Eden Gardens State Park featuring Wesley Mansion

Eden Gardens State Park features the antebellum-inspired Wesley mansion: The focal point of this 161-acre park is the beautifully renovated, two-story Wesley house with its elegant white columns and wrap-around porch. The moss-draped live oaks and ornamental gardens inspire visions of hoop skirts and landed gentry. Named after a wealthy Florida timber family, the park is part of the family's estate. In 1963, Lois Maxon bought and renovated the home, creating a showplace for her family heirlooms and antiques. The house holds the second largest known collection of Louis XVI furniture in the United States. Visitors can also take a stroll along the grounds and enjoy the picnic area.

The “Friends of Eden Gardens State Park” was founded as a volunteer organization to assist the state park staff to repair, maintain and enhance facilities. The park covers 124 upland acres in the midst of South Walton County in the Florida panhandle, along the shores of Tucker Bayou and the Choctawhatchee Bay.
Of particular note at Eden are the numerous gardens on the 10.5 acre public grounds, the beautiful legacy of the many gardeners and master gardeners who belong to the Friends and give lovingly of their time and labor to create these enjoyable places to relax and behold.

The movie "Frogs" was filmed at Eden in 1972. It starred Ray Milland, Sam Elliott, and Joan Van Ark.

Picnic tables overlook Choctawhatchee Bay and Tucker Bayou.

Photos by Lynn R. Mitchell
May 2013