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A “nothing” in a tomb, rising in glory

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A recent article, “A Place Of Lost History And Identity”, addressed the search for the graves/markers/names of those buried in an African- American cemetery. Highlighted was one Carolyn Jenkins.

It really touched my heart, for this lady was at the “bottom” of the social and economic “ladders” – a “nothing” if you will. For she was a slave, knowing only bondage to her master(s). An almost miraculous chain of events, though, brought her freedom and its promises, including citizenship and being a land owner!

Her marker reads, “And the finger of God touched her and she slept”. This, to me, would say she knew of and possibly believed in Jesus as her Lord and Saviour. Jesus said of Lazarus that “he sleeps”, but later added that “Lazarus is dead”.

So, Carolyn is to be considered dead; her body art rest “in the Lord”. Another miraculous event took place. Jesus called out, “Lazarus come forth”, and he came out of his tomb! Folks, this is beyond miraculous, it is something only God can do. And because Jesus has the power, even Carolyn is subject to His awesome words: “…all those in the grave shall hear my voice and shall come forth”!

Yes, yes, Carolyn is even now in the presence of Jesus and her body will rise from its tomb. Jesus said, “…because I live ye shall live also”.

Folks, this is what Easter (Resurrection Sunday) is all about. A “nothing” in an old, lost tomb rising in glory to everlasting life and joy in the presence of God our Saviour! Lost and forgotten? Never! He won’t forget us, for He is preparing a white stone bearing a new name for each one of us.

Well, to say a New name means He must know/remember the Old name. Think about that! A totally new and everlasting I.D., if you will!

When we get to heaven, if I can remember her name, I could look her up! In that event, I wonder if she might say, “Jess, I sure do like your letter”.


Rev. Jess Shifflett
Front Royal, Virginia

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What has happened to Front Royal?

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After retiring from our respective jobs in the Washington, D.C. area, my wife and I moved to Front Royal, living there roughly from 2001 to 2005, before gravitating to Colorado (my home state). We thoroughly enjoyed our stay in Front Royal, meeting some wonderful people, enjoying the beautiful environs of the area. We only left because of my obsession to return to Colorado after a 30-year hiatus.

I always thought that Front Royal had a Mayberry tenor to it, i.e., quiet, friendly town, a haven from the fast-paced big-city life. Now, from reports I hear from friends who live in the area, it’s shocking to hear about the multi-million financial scandal that has left a former EDA executive jailed without bond, and a former sheriff dead from an apparent suicide.

This news, combined with the report that your former mayor had to resign because of prostitute solicitation, I ask what in the hell has happened? And, as a side note, I hear that the once-lovely Shenandoah has turned into a toxic body of water. This all sounds like a plot for a grade B movie, and it saddens me to no end.

I surely wish the good citizens of Front Royal can overcome these horrific incidents. You deserve better.

Jon Weimer
Denver, Colorado

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Political Miracle Grow

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Ridding the political garden of stubborn crabgrass weeds can be challenging. The solution requires recognition of the problem and continual vigilance once identified. You must apply preventative measures and fertilize, replant with good grass, water and watch over the process until the garden is full, green and beautifully lush again.

This will be the task at hand now facing our community if we want to prosper in the future. Let’s break down what will be needed as we regrow our community.

First and most important, we must attract candidates with impeccable character who have a vision and desire to improve the quality of life for all citizens, candidates who are not wrapped up in party politics or the self interest of a few, focused on what is the best interests of the entire community.

These are our gardeners, clearly absent out-sized egos and self- importance. They will provide proper oversight, watching and protecting our community as new opportunities begin growing, providing living wages, promoting a safe family environment and protecting the quality of life we all desire. Once the political partisan crabgrass is eradicated, more qualified candidates will be encouraged to come forward and step up.

Once new visionary candidates begin to engage, they will move quickly to evaluate and identify what businesses can best flourish in our community in the years to come.

The next step will be to assess if our soil can support and attract these businesses to our community. We can help achieve this by establishing zones of prosperous opportunity for growing businesses. We will fertilize these areas by developing a benefit’s list highlighting the advantages of planting a business in our community. Our newly elected gardeners will be the driving force in managing this process.

The crabgrass metaphor is illustrative of the past eight years of the leadership of the EDA and Council. None of the positive steps outlined above have been implemented.

Just drive around and look at the number of empty spaces in the shopping areas of Main street. Look at the condition of many of the buildings that need repair or are dilapidated eyesores. Imagine what could have been done with the $21 Million Dollars (and rising) that the EDA misused and wasted over the last eight years, absent effective oversight by Town and County leadership.

On an interesting note, several years ago the Mayor’s Vision Committee met and developed an 8- point Front Royal Business Plan for Economic Growth to bring affluence to our community.

Unfortunately, the elected leadership neither embraced nor possessed the vision to move on the plan and things continued to slowly deteriorate – status quo.

I personally introduced the 8-point business plan to the Council several months ago, hoping it would get the support needed to move forward. At this time, I do not feel confident that most of the current elected or appointed members of the Council leadership are sufficiently focused or concerned enough to grab and run with this plan for our future.

It’s time to find new community gardeners to oversee the economic workings of our community. We are looking for a few good visionaries to come forward and help us build and grow our future.

Fern Vazquez
Front Royal, Virginia

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When pay isn’t the problem in our schools

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I had the privilege of being welcomed into the Front Royal community two years ago as a school counselor with Warren County Public Schools. I am also one of the employees you may have read about throughout the debate over the tax increase. I gained experience at WCPS as a new counselor, built my resume, and am now moving to a higher paying school district. I want to take a moment to clarify something – leaving the district is not only about the money. It is about dignity.

As I clean out the filing cabinet in my office, I am seeing a hodgepodge of items I’ve kept. I have countless thank you letters, small gifts I’ll treasure forever, and thoughtful emails from parents. Unfortunately, I also have “nasty-grams.” I have emails from parents in all capital letters “yelling” at me in disagreement over a consequence their child was given by a teacher. I have a memo a parent drafted using legal jargon requesting I no longer meet with their student, on which they cc’d the school board (I checked, the school board never received a copy, this was a scare tactic). I think back to amazing meetings where I’ve been respectfully corrected, where parents have been kind and forgiving and we came to a mutual understanding. I also think back to highly confrontational meetings where I questioned my safety and the well-being of their child. As I’m reflecting back I can’t help but wonder, did my students know I am being treated this way?

I often joke that I did not get into the field of school counseling for the fame and fortune, I got into the field to be an adult who will hold an accepting space for students. An adult who will celebrate in student triumphs, fight back tears myself as they cry, and guide them towards the decisions that will lead them into a healthy, functional adulthood. I entered into the field for the same reason as teachers do: because I love kids. I do. We all do. But I also love myself and cannot accept the mistreatment that is sometimes excused, or emoted, by parents.

As I look back at the mess of support and frustration in my filing cabinet, I see deep distrust in the community between the public and its schools. Parents and students often forget that no educator gets into the field of public education for the money. We are not here to sabotage or place obstacles in your child’s way. We enter the field to enrich the lives of children and by extension, their families. We want to foster good citizens and support the community. School staff – from teachers and administrators to cafeteria workers and custodians – deserve to be treated with dignity. If you get a call home that your child has treated staff with anything but respect, please hold your student accountable. We staff are imperfect humans that have the best intentions with your child. If you disagree with staff, give us the benefit of the doubt until we can discuss the issue at length. When students see their parents mistreating us, they learn it is okay to mistreat school staff as well. I guarantee if you yell at us, your child will in turn to do the same thing when the opportunity arises.

It is all too easy to forget the golden rule but we must remember as our children are watching. Support those who support your kids and WCPS will be all the better for it. It may even save you a few tax dollars in the future and increase staff retention. For me, I’ll be recycling the nasty-grams and taking my treasures (and dignity) with me.

Amanda Purrier
Front Royal, Virginia

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On Creation, a Synopsis

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The psalmist wrote: The heavens declare the glory of God.

Today he might add: All nature declares the glory of God.

Why? Well, at the time Psalm 19 was written, humankind had not been aware of the Creator’s instructions written upon genetic strands of DNA, nor had we been able to read the fingerprint-like identity of all matter by means of spectroscopy.

With these two advances of science — the ability to read DNA and to identify every substance in the universe — we humans can now see that God our Creator provides us a complete blueprint with which we can identify every bit of living organism and every bit of inanimate matter. In brief, all of the stuff of the universe — be it human or beast, be it fish or fowl, be it reptile or insect, be it Giant Sequoia or diminutive clover, or be it rock or swirling cosmic gas. The Creator’s catalog of pieces, parts, and designs. It’s all there for us to see.

And this is probably why the Apostle Paul left us these thoughts:

Romans 1:19 — For what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them.

And:

Romans 1:20 — For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood from His workmanship, so that men are without excuse.

And let us not overlook these final words: so that men are without excuse.

Without excuse for what? Well, that’s made clear by the next verse: For although they knew God, they neither glorified Him as God nor gave thanks to Him, but they became futile in their thinking and darkened in their foolish hearts.

Now consider this question: what do rocks, buffalos, ice cubes, and the Sun have in common?

Being subject to the laws of nature, each of these is continuously recycled. Continuously!

So in all of creation, nothing is wasted. Everything is and continues to be.

We calls this phenomena “cycles.” The petrologic cycle (rock), biologic cycle (living organisms), hydrologic cycle (water), and astronomic cycle (stars, galaxies, and beyond).

And where we have cycles, we have recycles.

Of most recent attention is the astronomic cycle. Easy to visualize. Think supernova. We now perceive the life cycle of a star: birth, growth, maturity, aging, death.

We see fascinating Hubble photographs revealing post-supernova and pre-star formation. Swirling dust and gases destined to become new stars.

So “creation” offers DNA instructions, spectroscopy fingerprints, and discernible cycles. Everything identified. Everything in motion. Everything used not once, but countless times. And we humans have the unmitigated gall, the audacity, the insolence, to consider ourselves the equal of our Creator! Woe the day we are recycled — still arrogant, still unwilling to humble ourselves!

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On Socialism: Grandpa to Grandkids

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An Meine Enkelinnen (To My granddaughters)

I am compelled by the tenor of our times. I am compelled by the fact that you are flesh of my flesh, bone of my bone. I am compelled because time is precious. I am compelled because I love you.

I must share with you or forever regret that I failed to do so.

First, I must remind you of my bona fides, that is, the documentary evidence of my legitimacy, my credentials. Your professors call this Curriculum Vitae. It’s how they explain the alphabet soup they place following their names.

Most professors offer you the vegetables of their personal garden plots. Doctoral dissertations. Masters theses. Few, if any, of these academics can match my bona fides.

My sources are what I have seen and experienced, in situ, that is, in and within its original place. My sources are street-level, nitty-gritty, real people who lived with and during socialism, communism, and national socialism. I spoke, and still speak, face-to-face with these people. I dined with them. I lodged with them. I went to their weddings and their funerals. I wept with them and laughed with them. I went with them into their churches, their schools. I worked and sweat with them. Picked mushrooms in the forests with them. I shopped with them. Played cards and chess with them. I learned their language, their history, their culture.

So, damn it, when I tell you what I know about socialism, communism, and national socialism, listen to me!

Your professors can lecture you on Engels, Marx, Hegel, Trotsky, and Lenin. That’s their turf. I, on the other hand, offer you a reality check. Consider this: if I throw an apple to break a window, does that rob all apples of nutrients? Ought we campaign to remove all apples from the grocer’s shelves? Alas, this is the flaw in the writings of Engels, Marx, and the rest. I won’t argue whether these scholars observed abuse at the hands of some they called capitalists. But we don’t behead a sick hen in the attempt to cure her! At least not if we wish to continue having eggs. This is likewise the very illogic indulged in by many who today call themselves progressives or liberals and seek to cure our ills with socialism. They speak of utopian dreams. I reduce those dreams to hard facts.

Let’s start with hard fact number one. Let’s say I apply to an apple a sticky-label reading “banana.” Does the apple become a banana? Of course not. And the same is true with the label “socialist” and, for that matter, “communist.” If I label an autocracy as socialist, it remains an autocracy. Likewise true for a communist state labeled “Democratic Republic.”

Have I ever seen a communist country bearing the label “Democratic Republic”? Well, yes, as a matter of fact, I have! I have even traveled to and within such a place. The German Democratic Republic. That happens to be the place your grandmother Josefine was born.

Problem is, only one word of that label was true. It was German. But it most assuredly was not democratic. Nor was it a republic.

The point here is that just as we cannot judge a book by its cover, neither can we judge a country by its label. We have to examine how it behaves and what it does. Only then can we decide what it is.

Speaking of labels and terminology, stop for a moment and reflect on these questions:

What is the difference between an oligarchy and an autocracy?

Who has greater prestige – the proletariat or the bourgeoisie?

How does socialism differ from communism?

Is one better off being an Apparatchik or being a Politburo member?

Is the United States a democracy? Or, is our country a republic?

What is the meaning of the suffix “cracy”?

If you can answer these questions with ease, thank your high school teacher or your college professor. If, on the other hand, you struggle with any of these, your professors may not be worth their paychecks.

Now, let’s get back to labels. And some facts.

Russia was not a communist country. But it was an oligarchy hiding behind the label of communism. Had it been communist, it would have been a classless society. But it wasn’t, and still isn’t. Those at the helm of leadership and most of their apparatchiks had privileges not available to the rest of society. They had special stores where they could buy Western products. They had private country villas (dacha — a country house or cottage). They drove quality cars – the Volga rather than the Lada. The working-class rode — and still ride — street cars, buses, and subways.

Definitely not classless. The oligarchs lived a lifestyle several notches above that of the commoners. “But they have elections,” you might say. True, but their elections are like crystal selling for the price of diamond. Later we’ll examine detailed facts about elections in Russia, Cuba and Iran. But for now, ponder, please, on this:

2018 – Vladimir Putin, President (Prime Minister is Dmitry Medvedev)

2012-2018 Vladimir Putin, President (Prime Minister is Dmitry Medvedev)

2008-2012 Vladimir Putin, Prime Minister (President is Dmitry Medvedev)

2000-2008 Vladimir Putin, President

This exercise of musical chairs is oligarchy at its most brazen. And what your professors likely do not tell you is this: Executive power in each of these political dances always remained with Putin. When Medvedev was president, the office was ceremonial head of state, while the office of prime minister under Putin wielded executive power.

What I most hope you will discern is how people who seek power will abuse labels – sort of the wolf in sheep’s clothing – to gain control over others. Hopefully, once adequately informed, you can avoid buying into the deceit offered by those who choose to ignore, or hide, reality.

So let’s take a closer look at elections. What I am about to reveal to you is true for Russia, China, and Cuba to mention only three. But it also is true for Iran. Iran? Yes, but the labels are different. A hammer remains a hammer even when it has a religious label!

I don’t wish for this essay to grow to the 560 pages of Marx’s Capital, so I’ll be concise. I’ll focus on common denominators to put it arithmetical terms. Let’s start with a few quotes from sources you might recognize. These folks are telling you what I – as noted earlier – already know because I have seen and witnessed these events over a period of years.

First this from Cuba’s most recent election:

“If the Cuban Communist Party — the only party allowed to participate in elections under the one-party regime….”

“The 86-year-old Castro will remain head of the Communist Party, which is designated by the constitution as ‘the superior guiding force of society and the state.’ As a result, he will still be the most powerful person in Cuba for the time being.”

“As in Cuba’s legislative elections, all of the leaders selected Wednesday were picked by a government-appointed commission. Ballots offer only the option of approval or disapproval and candidates generally receive more than 95 percent of the votes in their favor.”

And now this from Iran’s most recent election:

“The Supreme Leader — currently an ultra-conservative cleric named Ayatollah Ali Khamenei — helps appoint the Guardian Council, an unelected panel of conservatives that decides who gets to run for president (and who doesn’t). Many popular reformist candidates have been disqualified from running in recent elections.”

“But not everyone is allowed to take part. The guardian council, a powerful body of six clergymen and six jurists, vets each candidacy. Political competence and loyalty to the fundamental principles of the Islamic republic and its religion are among the main issues considered by the council. This year, out of more than 1,600 who applied to run, only six candidates were accepted.”

Not too difficult to spot common denominators, eh? Single party, government appointed commission, only “vetted” candidates permitted. And, yes, the labels vary, but this process is the same for Russia and China.

Do you really need arithmetic now to grasp why candidates in these –and other such – countries receive 95% of votes cast. (Okay, sometimes for appearance sake we’ll see only 75% or so. That usually means that only 75% voted, not that 25% voted for another candidate. After all, there was no other candidate.)

Now let’s shift our attention to economics.

You may notice I’ll be making little distinction here between communism and socialism when it comes to economics. That’s because it’s sort of a Fifty Shades of Grey thing. What one calls state ownership of the means of production, the other calls social ownership and workers’ self-management of the means of production. With Cuba, it’s blatantly black-and-white. Not much grey. Here is how the New York Times puts it:

“The Cuban military, through its conglomerate Gaesa, owns the vast majority of firms that operate engaged [sic] in trade, from hotels to foreign exchange houses to ports, which gives it control of up to 60 percent of incoming hard currency. Any economic reformer knows that breaking a monopoly is difficult, even more so if the monopolist also holds power over arms and intelligence. Cuba’s military is committed to not just one-party rule, but also, it seems, to one-firm economics. And because Cuba’s economy is so closed, the private sector is small and weak.”

Just for emphasis if not for clarification, I would add this: Cuba’s military and Cuba’s communist party is a symbiotic relationship so tightly bound it could pass for a Möbius strip.

But let’s get to the point here. When we speak of socialism/communism, we must clearly discern its effect on a nation’s economy. Otherwise, we are simply fooling ourselves. Or, we are allowing ourselves to be fooled. Take your pick.

Here the Chicago Tribune puts it well:

“He (Castro) has failed to fix the generally unproductive and highly subsidized state-run businesses that, along with a Soviet-model bureaucracy, employ three of every four Cubans. State salaries average $30 a month, leaving workers struggling to feed their families, and often dependent on corruption or remittances from relatives overseas.”

Don’t allow the arithmetic to slip past you here. A whopping 75% of Cubans earn an average of $30 a month. Keep that in mind as adherents of socialism in our country block your view with labels!

Speaking of $30 a month, allow me to share with you how and where I learned about the “benefits” of socialism. In this case “democratic socialism.” That’s a blended system. Seen in such places as Sweden, Norway, and Denmark.

So, what do I know about Socialism in Denmark? Well, I lived and worked side by side with two Danes for a full year. In a place called Thule. Owing to periods of 24-hour darkness and others of 24-hour daylight, there’s plenty of time for chatting. Their names were Michael Lindblad and Lars Norgard and what they had to say astounded me, then and still does today.

Unlike the Americans who spent a year at Thule (a U.S. Air Force Base not far from geographic North Pole, which itself was not far from North Magnetic Pole) many Danes remained living and working at Thule for 10, 15, or 20 years before heading back to Denmark.

One day I asked Michael and Lars why they stayed so long at Thule. They explained it was because of taxes. As long as they worked at Thule, their income was 100% tax-free. And that made a lot more sense when they added the rest of the story. Danes back home paid taxes of 60% on their income. Sixty-percent! Reverse that and you’ll see that Danes receive only 40% of their income. For every 10 hours of work they’d receive 4 hours of pay.

Do I need to tell you more about Socialism? I will, because there’s much more to tell. But keep this image in mind. It’ll be useful as we progress.

Progress. That’s an interesting word. It can be a noun. It can also be a verb. Notice the shift in sound. What we need to notice is that progress, in the sense of productivity, is what suffers first and most when socialism (or unions) change the emphasis of a company from creating and producing widgets to creating and fostering a social agenda for the workers.

Here’s what happens. A company is founded by one or more investors. These folks invest cash to launch the company. They do so in a quest for profit. That’s not evil, by the way. Especially when investors use profit to build more companies. More workers have jobs.

Okay, so that’s a brief primer on free enterprise, also known as capitalism. (Investors put up the capital. They also shoulder the risk of failure.) Investors fund research and development. When it’s time to produce widgets (my term for any product), the company hires people. Then the buzz begins. Investors purchase raw materials. Transportation enters the picture. Company work staff assembles and finishes the widgets. Transportation reenters the picture. Move the widgets from the factory to the marketplace.

And so it goes. Until? Well, until we look at the impact of socialism – by whatever label. Now, don’t get me wrong here. I am not saying that labor and management in free enterprise should not identify and address issues to improve the workplace and the workforce. That’s an obvious win-win for all concerned. The issue is a matter of responsible balance. In most successful businesses, this practice is already well-established.

The impact of socialism has already been partially addressed. Earlier I mentioned what suffers first and most when socialism (or unions) change the emphasis of a company. There is a shift from creating and producing widgets to creating and fostering a social agenda for the workers. In my Air Force career, we spoke of “time over target,” and in my teaching career we spoke of “time on task.” Both of these referred to the amount of time devoted to a particular task. (Though the Air Force term could also refer to time-of-arrival over target.) So, let’s focus on widgets and the time necessary to produce them.

Here, the number 86,400 comes to mind. That’s the total number of seconds in a day. Now let’s reduce that to a standard 8-hour shift at work in the factory. Now we’re down to 28,800. That’s the number of seconds workers in any factory have to produce widgets. That looks like a hefty number of time until we reduce it to minutes. We have but 480 minutes in that 8-hour shift to produce widgets.

This makes it easier to see the impact of socialism in the factory environment. The first thing we lose is time-on-task. That translates to fewer widgets. And that, in turn, translates to fewer sales. You see where this is going, right?

Socialism (and our own labor unions) bring about a second reduction in both productivity and profit owing to the issue of work incentives. But before departing too far from that word profit, let us keep in mind that it is profit in free enterprise business that allows owner-investors to fund growth in the company. Often, this is overlooked by critics of capitalism.

Now, returning to work and work incentives, allow me to remind you that my source materials for the following are both my own personal experience (labor union) together with the experience of family, friends, and co-workers I mentioned above.

Labor unions reduce productivity in this way: Labor and management negotiate to establish a quota. Let’s say 15 widgets produced per hour per employee. An employee – eager to achieve – produces 20 widgets per hour. This employee will be severely ostracized, cold-shouldered, shunned by fellow employees and especially by the union. Why? First, because the overachiever makes fellow employees appear to be laggards. But more important – to the union – is that owner-management would be encouraged to raise the quota having seen the achievement. But union leaders do not want a quota raised. Why? They want owner-management to hire additional employees. Why? Each union employee pays monthly dues to the union.

We’ll return to the effects of Socialism upon a nation’s economy following this brief segue into labor union realities. Looking solely at the AFL-CIO (a federation of some 56 unions), here are some revealing facts which illustrate the above “why” questions. This federation of unions:

Has 12,475,220 members.

Collects member monthly dues of $112,276,800.

That’s an annual sum of $1,743,321,600.

Pays its top 10 employees an annual sum of $2,413,604.00.

Contributes $1,562,358,840.00 in election donations.

Of these election donations 93.5% goes to Democrat Party.

(I did not “invent” these facts. They come directly from this web page

And, please, don’t overlook this rather salient detail: That annual sum of employee dues paid is $1.7 billion that would have gone into employee paychecks and into the economy had it not gone to the union! And that’s just AFL-CIO money. If you have a bit more curiosity than a lizard has fur, you might ferret out an aggregate figure for all union dues. I’d be impressed!

Now let’s review those “why” questions:

But union leaders do not want a quota raised. Why? They want owner-management to hire additional employees. Why? Each union employee pays monthly dues to the union.

With this as a means of comparison, not to dollar figures, but to the effects of socialism upon a nation’s economy, let’s dig deeper.

While I know from personal observation and family discussions what follows, I’ll be quoting from a clearly written article. I’ll source the article for you at the end of this section. You might want to read “the rest of the story” to quote Paul Harvey. But let’s begin with these nuggets:

Socialism creates a strong incentive to shirk.

Socialism penalizes industrious behavior.

Socialism rewards sloth and indolence.

Socialism promises prosperity and freedom. But the incentives created by socialism place it in a dilemma. If the workers are allowed to remain “free,” they will not produce. To stimulate production, they must be denied their freedom. Thus, socialism cannot achieve both prosperity and freedom. Usually it results in neither.

This anecdote reveals the conundrum:

Assume that an individual, Clem, is a member of a socialist commune. Assume that there are 1,000 members of the commune and that the output is divided equally among the members. (For the sake of simplicity, we will ignore matters such as capital investment.) Let’s say that the production of the commune totals 100,000 bushels of wheat a year, or an average of 100 bushels per member. At a price of, say, $5.00 per bushel total receipts for the commune are $500,000, or $500 per member. The question is: How is Clem likely to behave? Will he work hard? Will he shirk?

Let’s assume that Clem is both naturally industrious and socially conscientious. He is concerned about the overall good of the commune. As a result, Clem works very hard and increases his production from 100 to 150 bushels of wheat a year. This increases the annual output of the commune from 100,000 to 100,050 bushels. At $5.00 per bushel the income of the commune increases from $500,000 to $500,250. Since total income is divided equally among the members, the income of each member rises from $500 to $500.25 a year. Thus, because of his extra work Clem’s production increased 50 per cent. But his income increased by a mere 25¢ or by 0.05 per cent. Moreover, the income of the other 999 members also increased by 25¢ even though they did not work any harder and their productivity did not increase.

Clearly, Clem’s activities benefited everyone in the commune except himself. Everyone else had his income increase without increasing his work. But Clem’s income increased only 25¢ despite increasing his work load by 50 per cent. While the benefits of the extra production were diffused throughout the commune, the costs were concentrated on Clem.

Poor Clem! He’s no better off than the American union laborer who gets ostracized for exceeding his quota. Hmmm.

But thanks to Clem, we are now in a better position to understand today’s Cuba and this quote:

He (Castro) has failed to fix the generally unproductive and highly subsidized state-run businesses that, along with a Soviet-model bureaucracy, employ three of every four Cubans. State salaries average $30 a month, leaving workers struggling to feed their families, and often dependent on corruption or remittances from relatives overseas.

So, returning to where we began. Your professors can lecture you on Engels, Marx, Hegel, Trotsky, and Lenin. That’s their turf. I, on the other hand, offer you a reality check.

That is what I am compelled to do. Because I love you enough to give a damn!

-30-

Compassion!

It is written:

Feed a man a fish for he has hunger.

Teach a man to fish, he’ll feed himself.

The first sates his hunger.

The second grants him dignity.

The first without the second creates dependency.

The second without the first invites failure.

So, which is compassionate?

Clearly both.

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OPINION: Pig in a Poke?

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“Pig in a Poke” is an old saying with a possibly fresh application in Warren County. The involvement of our local government/EDA in a little-known cattle feedlot scheme is a bizarre twist to the still unraveling $17-1/2 million dollar county embezzlement scandal.

Truc “Curt” Tran became an instant superhero in Warren County when he proposed his IT Federal LLC/Royal-Phoenix Trading LLC business on the old Avtex superfund site, but he also had a suitcase full of other dreams and LLCs. Surely encouraged by the red carpet treatment given by EDA, he hatched another plan, “Front Royal Farms, LLC” (a subsidiary of his VDN Systems, Inc.).

Recently posted EDA documents on the public Facebook blog, “One Mad Mother”, show this was to be a 1,000 acre beef cattle operation, coupled with an $8 million dollar worker training facility, and purchase, with expansion, of a local slaughterhouse. The trick was that others were going to buy and build this using no money from himself. The training facility would be used to train agricultural labor to run the cattle operation and to train workers in other professions, like baristas. Part of the complex would be a firing range. His plan was to process the meat using a local slaughterhouse and ship it by train, via the Inland Port, to Asian countries.

Tran’s secret proposal for the project showed $9 million coming from the county, $2 million from the state, $800,000 coming from the federal government, and a whopping $30 million coming from EB-5 investors, those being foreigners willing to invest their way into U. S. residency through the EB-5 program.

Tran was after land for his cattle feedlots. He approached one farmer in the Rockland area of Warren County to sell but was turned down. Tran said that none of the money for this project would be coming out of his own pocket. The same farmer was later approached by county officials to sell the farm for a training facility, but they were turned away, too.

Tran was counting on $30 million dollars from EB-5 investors. That would have required thirty EB-5 investors (foreigners, in probability, a majority of Chinese), putting in the required $1 million dollars each (incidentally, it is illegal for Chinese people to make this level of investment in a foreign county, but they find ways around it).

Run this scheme by a farmer if you don’t think it sounds crazy.

Documents show Tran was counting on funneling the EB-5 investors through his newly created “American Commonwealth Regional Center LLC”, which would have performed like a money corral. In exchange for $1 million, each foreign investor would be given a stake in the Front Royal Farms LLC. This EB-5 “regional center” was at one time registered by the US Customs and Immigration Service (USCIS), but we note that its status was revoked on 10 May 2019.

How Tran’s interest in farmland and a training center possibly connects with then-EDA director Jennifer McDonald and then-Sheriff McEathrons’ controversial land purchases, using non-Tran LLC’s, namely, “DaBoyz, LLC” and “MoveOn8, LLC”, remains unclear. Also unclear is whether this proposed agricultural training facility was related to the failed EDA/Tran police training academy project at the Happy Creek Industrial Park.

A local attorney was used as the original registered agent for MoveOn8 LLC. That may mean no more than he agreed to be the mail address for it, but who drafted the LLC operating documents, and who paid for them? Should these operating agreements be made public?

Our local officials have clammed-up because of the ongoing legal proceedings, and according to the chairman of the Board of Supervisors, some have signed confidentiality agreements. Some have already been called before a grand jury. Does silence sometimes sound better than excuses?

How did Tran expect $9 million from the county for this project? Those taxpayers presently being wrung-out for the recently passed 6-1/2 cent county tax increase, these being the same folks already swindled for $17.5 million dollars, might have minor curiosity.

Was Tran getting $30 million from EB-5 investors a pipe dream? Was he just a fellow with big ideas? How hard had he thought this through? Was this plan like a lottery jackpot, so big—job numbers and money invested—that Warren County would find it irresistible? In the Avtex/ IT Federal deal, Tran’s plan looked so good that Front Royal officials fell all over themselves to rush him a 10 million dollar loan at the get-go. When Tran scaled back his plans, he and local officials shifted blame, not surprisingly, to those who had questioned it, like then-Front Royal councilwoman Egger.

Who was planning to make Warren county’s taxpayers unwilling investors in such an insane high-risk investment? Gamblers like McDonald, who at the time, bragged about her slot machine winnings for a local newspaper article?

At some point, the Front Royal Farms project fizzled-out, the LLC currently showing as “canceled”, but the website for it is still up, showing a business address on Happy Creek Road.

Nationally, EB-5 programs are notorious for fraud and failure. On one end, foreign EB-5 investors can lose their money; on the other end, localities can lose their grants and incentives.

Three federal agencies conduct EB-5 fraud investigations: the SEC (Security Exchange Commission), the USCIS, and the Department of Labor. The SEC even has whistle-blower awards to expose EB-5 fraud.

Tran was able to get the Virginia Employment Commission to certify his Avtex IT Federal location would be eligible for the lower cost $500,000 per investor version of EB-5, based on unemployment statistics. He included a Virginia state certifying letter on his website. Assuming the document is legitimate, how was the VEC able to derive an unemployment number of 10% for a census area in Front Royal when the county average was around 4-5% at the time of the calculation? Tran needed an 8% figure to offer his investors this “Dollar Menu” version of the EB-5 for the Avtex project.

Former US Rep. Goodlatte was one of the main players in Congressional EB-5 legislation in this time-frame. He was also the one who brought Tran into Warren County. E-mails show aides were applying pressure on the USCIS to expedite Tran’s EB-5 regional center, and also to get it passed by the USCIS Administrative Appeals Office (suggesting that it was rejected initially). Tran was on a first name basis with these folks. In a recently released police video, Ron Llewellyn, a former EDA board member, said Goodlatte, or someone in his office, felt “harassed” by questions on the IT Federal project submitted to them by a local radio station reporter, Norma Jean Shaw: “Goodlatte called us and said, you gotta resolve this, so Jennifer [McDonald] notified the radio station owner and he fired her… in reality, she was probably let go for that reason”. It is ironic that Goodlatte, an expert on the EB-5, should have his own EB-5 project go awry.

During his last days in Congress, Goodlatte tried to keep the EB-5 program alive. Some experts have called for its elimination, however. In the article, “The EB-5 Program Is Legally Defective and has become a Scam”, 2018, attorney Douglas Litowitz predicted, “The EB-5 program will not end well.  It cannot be ‘fixed’.  It is shot-through with fraud. The honest course is for the SEC to admit that the program has mutated into a scam, even in ‘normal’ projects.”

Hope for some return of the money and land to the Warren County taxpayer might rest on whether Tran represented himself and his plans honestly. Tran lists numerous federal contract numbers on his website to indicate his business activities; it should be an easy matter to verify whether those contracts are legitimate. Current records at the Virginia Security Exchange Commission show he has four active LLC’s, four canceled LLC’s, and one active corporation.

John Thomson
Front Royal, Virginia

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