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Facts, Accounting, and Homework, Oh My!! A Library Supporter Digs Into the Finances



If you don’t care to read this long and detailed letter about the library’s finances, here’s the takeaway: At the insistence of 90 individuals who question the existence of LGBTQ+ people, the library will close next June, at the latest, unless the 20,549 library card holders in Warren County speak up ASAP and VOTE for candidates who support our library. Botetourt County supervisors just said NO to library detractors Tell your county supervisor to do the same.

Now for the facts: Having read Richard Jamieson’s letter of August 6 regarding Samuels Library’s one million dollar Investment Account, I decided to take advantage of Interim Director Eileen Grady’s offer to discuss the library’s finances in person. A summary of our conversation follows, all of which may be confirmed by any member of the Board of Supervisors (BOS), but in particular, Chairperson Vicky Cook, who attends library board meetings as BOS liaison. In the interest of transparency, I am a former board member of both the library and the Friends of Samuels Library. I have never been paid by the library for any of the services I have offered, which included assistance in raising funds to build the current facility. I also bring to bear a twenty-year career as a fundraising and organizational development consultant to a national clientele of nonprofits classified as 501(c)(3) by the IRS.

And – since I first started researching this letter, Mr. Jamieson has issued a new one (August 14), denying library board treasurer Peter Walker’s accusation of a smear campaign. In my humble opinion, if it quacks like a duck … well, you know the rest. In any case, you can judge for yourself after reading the facts, which are, I confess, rather dry. Should you get bored, I’ve inserted headings below to help you skim.

What is a nonprofit? By definition, all 501(c)(3)s are public charities or private foundations. Absorbing Samuels Library into the county government, as suggested by Mr. Jamieson, would not alter its public mission. In addition, all nonprofits are incorporated, as indicated by Inc. on their tax forms. There is nothing devious about this.

Assuming that most readers are avid to learn about nonprofit finance, I refer you to the Library of Congress website (, where nonprofit tax returns, called Form 990s, are made available as soon as they are released by the IRS, which can take up to 18 months. Due to its fiscal year (FY), July 1 to June 30, Samuels filed its 990 in November. The FY-21 990 (July 1, 2021-June 30, 2022) is available for review on under About Us/Policies & More. The FY-22 990 (July 1, 2022-June 30, 2023) and the 2023 Financial Report will be made available following the state-mandated annual audit, which takes place in the fall. For enthusiasts, the Library of Congress also features tutorials on how to read Form 990.

Samuels Library adheres to best management practices for nonprofits, which, unlike those applicable to for-profit entities, are based on their charitable public service mission rather than financial profit. As stated by the National Council of Nonprofits (, While there is no single definition of leading or best practices for nonprofit organizations, there are well-recognized ethical standards and accountability practices that every staff and board member of a charitable nonprofit should be aware of. Specific legal obligations vary state by state, so many state associations of nonprofits share resources on state-specific legal requirements, as well as promote best practices to raise awareness about how ethical, accountable, and transparent practices make nonprofits more effective. Recognizing and adopting these practices not only benefits individual charitable nonprofits, but also donors, and the individuals and communities that charitable nonprofits serve.

Why not turn Samuels over to the county? Mr. Jamieson’s comments focus on the need for and management of the library’s investment fund. Best practices (see recommend reserves of 9-12 months for operations in case of emergencies (such as the pandemic) or shortfalls (caused, for example, by a tax-supported county budget that does not recognize inflation). Therefore, in keeping with best practices, I was pleased to learn that the library has approximately $962,500 in its investment account and maintains a balance of $40,000-$75,000 in its liquid (cash) reserve fund.

Unfortunately, like our own personal retirement savings, the accumulation of these funds usually requires years of fundraising and judicious investment. In addition, portions of donated funds may be restricted by donors for specific purposes. Therefore, contrary to Mr. Jamiesons assumptions, if the BOS decides to defund the library, Samuels might be able to operate through the end of the fiscal year (June 30, 2024). After that, if not before, closure is guaranteed. – But then, what would happen if you were required to spend all of your retirement savings in one year?

Mr. Jamieson claims that this situation could be avoided if the County would simply take over the library. Of course, as an independent 501(c)(3), the library would have to agree to that first. But according to Ms. Grady, who served on the Town Council from 2004 to 2008, when the library budget was shared by the County and Town, a County-run library would actually cost more. For one, government entities must meet state-mandated standards for employee compensation, insurance, and pensions, all met by Warren County for its own employees but significantly higher than the library’s current staff costs.

Furthermore, donations and volunteer participation would likely diminish since most people don’t see why they should support a government institution beyond their tax dollars. (My own experience as a fundraiser for dozens of organizations confirms this.) In FY-23, Samuels volunteers donated 8,308 hours, equivalent to eight full-time positions at the library’s average staff salary of $33,000. Loss of volunteer power would thus increase the need for more staff.

Show me the money!  Eighty percent of the library’s budget comes from the County, 15% from the State ($197,222 in FY-23), and 5% from its own fundraising. County funding has remained relatively stagnant: $991,758 in FY-20, $1,003,087 in FY-21 and FY22, and $1,024,000 for FY23 and FY24 (a 2% increase over FY-21-22). It is important to note that state aid is tied to County funding via a complicated formula (, not to exceed $250,000. And, as per Virginia Administrative Code 17VAC15-110-10: Requirements: Local operating expenditures from taxation or endowment for any library, or library system, shall not fall below that of the previous year. Therefore, even if the County funds the library below last years allocation, state aid will be discontinued.

Mr. Jamieson claims that the library’s investments have been poorly managed. The library’s highly readable investment policy prioritizes balanced growth and income with a moderate tolerance for risk. (Please see under About Us/Policies & More).

For a decade, investments have been managed by an advisor from Truist, who gives an annual report at the September board meeting, open to the public.  At this time, the Investment Account includes:

  • Proceeds invested from the Countys purchase of the Villa Avenue facility in 2012, now the Warren County Community Center. The original mortgage of $293,628 was paid to the library by the County over a period of years, terminating in 2019;
  • A $57,000 restricted endowment. This is divided between a donor-restricted bequest of $50,000 in 2021 and a $5,000 seed fund created simultaneously by the library so that other community members could donate smaller amounts to a permanent endowment.
  • Additional funds donated by other community members and organizations. In FY-23, 427 donors contributed to the library. Of these, 52% (344) were individual community members, 35% (23) community groups such as Rotary or Elks, 23% (56) local corporations, 9% (3) regional foundations, and 1% (2) government entities (other than Warren County and Virginia Library Foundation). These figures, representing a 25% increase over FY-22 and 51% over FY-21, indicate strong and growing support from the community.

As per the Library’s Investment Policy, Samuels is also allowed an annual distribution of 3% or less from the Investment Account, “as the Board shall specify, or unrestricted principal” … “for use in special projects, or as otherwise determined by the Board.”

The library’s Reserve Account houses 1) donations restricted to the current fiscal year (for example, most community groups donate to specific programs or purchases) and; 2) a portion of unrestricted donations to cover shorter-term (2-4 months) cash flow shortages, emergencies (e.g., unanticipated attorney fees (!) or an HVAC repair), or planned projects that exceed the county’s allocation (e.g., the newly reconfigured Young Adult section).

Mr. Jamieson cites a loss of $93,649 during FY-22. Like many investors, the library experienced strong returns during the extended bull market. Indeed, at the beginning of FY-22 (July 1, 2021), the balance of the investment account was $984,154. Due to the recession, it had shrunk to its low point, $890,505 by June 30, 2022, the end of the fiscal year. However, despite withdrawals of $29,317 in FY-22 and $24,879 in FY-23, the balance now stands at $962,517 (July 31, 2023). Had the county’s allocation kept pace with inflation, no withdrawals would have been required. Instead, withdrawals were required to cover cost-of-living adjustments (COLA), keeping salaries apace of the rampant inflation we’ve all experienced over the past two years.

Mr. Jamieson’s letter also cited a decrease of $52,904 on July 10, 2023, apparently attributed to poor management or needless spending – he’s not really clear. Coincidentally this figure accords with the value of the endowment around that time, and there is no record of a withdrawal, so perhaps he’s confused an asset with a loss.

Assuming a new Memorandum of Agreement is approved by all parties, County funding is likely to remain flat – necessitating further withdrawal from the Investment and/or Reserve Account. In FY-24, this translates to a total withdrawal of $67,590 in order to balance the FY-24 library budget. As mentioned, the County’s allocation fails to account for COLA, medical insurance hikes (which have increased 8-10%), increases in utilities such as the $75,000$80,000 cost of heating and cooling a 28,000-square-foot building, and other practicalities. 

Community members respond. Spectacular volunteer support (mentioned above) and an outstanding 65% repeat donor rate (donor retention) that exceeds the national average of 45% believe Mr. Jamieson’s claims that the library fails to serve its community, to say nothing of 2,035 new patrons registered during FY-23 alone. (Approximately half the residents of Warren County now hold library cards.) Last week, an anonymous donation of $25,000 was made in memory of a transgender family member. This is hardly the portrait of an institution that has failed to fulfill its community mission – unless, of course, you believe that these people are fictitious.

Quacking like a duck: The third definition of “smear” in the Merriam-Webster dictionary is “a usually unsubstantiated charge or accusation against a person or organization — often used attributively.” “Smear campaign” is given as an example.  ( Giving the benefit of the doubt, in Mr. Jamieson’s “Lotta Money” letter of August 6, he apparently lacked the time to prepare a fully documented case or didn’t know where to find the answers to his questions. Among the many unsubstantiated claims and inferences in his penultimate paragraph:

  • That Warren County taxpayers would pay for legal fees and communications consulting. In essence, this is true. Assuming that library supporters are also Warren County taxpayers, the library has received a total of $7,736 in unsolicited donations from more than 40 community members toward legal fees.
  • That potential litigation against the County would be funded by taxpayer money, which he states has the feel of extortion. So far, in addition to the contributions just mentioned, the library is covering the rest of its reserves, funds that could be better spent for community programming, and the purchase of library materials.
  • That there was no discussion about these additional budget items. I guess he didn’t attend the May 8 library board meeting (or request the minutes), during which this decision was discussed in preparation for a July vote.

Democracy anyone? Our nation’s founders believed that democracy depended on an educated populace. Children of the Enlightenment promoted civil discourse, scientific methods, and reliance on reason in order to prevent voters from falling prey to superstition, rumor, and demagoguery. Researching and writing this letter required a week of my time. My disappointment in Mr. Jamieson, soon to assume stewardship of our public resources, stems from his failure to verify his claims of financial impropriety. The job of county supervisor comes with a lot of homework. How can democracy function if those we elect betray our trust through negligence or, worse, intentional proliferation of misinformation?

Please take advantage of your local library to educate yourself about the world in its infinite variety – and about the library itself. Learning about complex topics such as finances takes time, dedication, and energy, but the rewards are many for you and your country. Even though I am not running for office, I take full responsibility for any errors cited above and would appreciate any verified factual corrections. Thank you – and please speak out on behalf of your library.

Sonja Carlborg
Front Royal

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in the letters published on this page are solely those of the respective authors and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the Royal Examiner’s editorial team, its affiliates, or advertisers. The Royal Examiner does not endorse or take responsibility for the accuracy, completeness, or validity of any statements made by the authors. The statements and claims presented in the letters have not been independently verified by the Royal Examiner. Readers are encouraged to exercise their own judgment and critical thinking skills when evaluating the content. Any reliance on the information provided in the letters is at the reader’s own risk.

While the Royal Examiner makes every effort to publish a diverse range of opinions, it does not guarantee the publication of all received letters. The Royal Examiner reserves the right to edit letters for clarity, length, and adherence to editorial guidelines. Moreover, the Royal Examiner does not assume any liability for any loss or damage incurred by readers due to the content of the letters or any subsequent actions taken based on these opinions.

In submitting a letter to the editor, authors grant the newspaper the right to publish, edit, reproduce, or distribute the content in print, online, or in any other form.

We value the engagement of our readers and encourage open and constructive discussions on various topics. However, the Royal Examiner retains the right to reject any letter that contains offensive language, personal attacks, or violates any legal regulations. Thank you for being a part of our vibrant community of readers and contributors, and we look forward to receiving your diverse perspectives on matters of interest and importance.

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Boondoggled or Railroaded?



As the beginning phase of the grade separation project of the Rockland Road overpass begins with the relocation of utilities, neighbors in the area are beginning to see just how much of an inconvenience this project is going to be, and some wonder what is the true value.

Yes, there were a number of hearings prior to reaching the current stage of progress, but when dealing with entities such as Norfolk Southern, Vdot, the Port of Virginia, and the Warren County BOS, looking at a gift horse in the mouth. I, like others, have never heard reasonable answers to often-asked questions, just how badly this improvement is needed to improve our quality of life in the Rockland area.

Some of those include.

  • Emergency access during construction- With the fire and rescue station located less than a mile from the railroad crossing, will there be some sort of provision to allow access during construction, or will they have to make the 6-mile detour around Fairground Road to respond?

Keep in mind, there are probably less than 200 residences from the railroad tracks to the intersection with Bennys Beach Road including the residences of Bennys Beach and Windy Hill. From Bennys Beach to Fairground Road only has maybe 4 property owners.

  • Rockland Road from Bennys Beach to Fairground Road- This rural road is far from Vdot standards, with narrow widths, blind hills, sharp turns, no shoulders, and rock outcroppings that challenge normal traffic volume. Now, all 200 residences are forced to use a road that is dangerous as is, with more opportunity for something bad to happen, especially with about 8,000 dump trucks importing fill material to build the ramps to the bridge. It would be a shame, although a real possibility, that this railroad crossing claims serious injury or, worse, a life due to the detour.
  • Rocklands Rural Character slowly diminishes- The railroad tracks have always separated the industrial portion of Warren County to the rural portion. This project, with its 40-foot-wide roadway and bridge, will still get you to the rural part of the county, just quicker and without delay due to a train blocking the tracks. It still ends in a 20’ wide rural unimproved roadway, but at least the major expense of further development is out of the way and opens the door for more development.

So with that, what are the benefits?

Norfolk Southern will no longer hear complaints about blocking the crossing to change out crews or to let other trains pass. My experience is when the port or other businesses with sidings along that section of track block the crossing it is only for short intervals while building the train.  Norfolk Southern also benefits so that if and when they do install a third rail, there will be fewer obstructions in their way.

The Port of Virginia comes out with less complaints from the community, more flexibility in using the mainline tracks in building their trains, and kudos for providing the grant that allows for such a project to be done. There are other communities in the county that don’t have a choice of another route out if the train blocks their crossing (Shenandoah Shores) and probably won’t until some entity grants funding for such.

Warren County and the BOS no longer have to field complaints about blockages and will now have an important and expensive piece of the puzzle needed to increase the development of this area of the county. All that will be left to do is install a bridge over the river to make a loop to Shenandoah Shores (giving them another way out), and the entire area becomes a target for development.

We, as residents, once we tolerate the 18-24 months of construction inconvenience and the project is completed, get the benefits of no-hassle egress to and from 522, a utilitarian highway overpass leading to our rural country setting, and most likely even more through traffic.

A boondoggle is defined as ‘work or activity that is wasteful or pointless but gives the appearance of having value.’ Not really having comments, suggestions, or opinions addressed or otherwise coerced is a form of being railroaded.

Have we been railroaded or boondoggled with this project?

17 Year Rockland Resident

David Anderson
Warren County

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in the letters published on this page are solely those of the respective authors and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the Royal Examiner’s editorial team, its affiliates, or advertisers. The Royal Examiner does not endorse or take responsibility for the accuracy, completeness, or validity of any statements made by the authors. The statements and claims presented in the letters have not been independently verified by the Royal Examiner. Readers are encouraged to exercise their own judgment and critical thinking skills when evaluating the content. Any reliance on the information provided in the letters is at the reader’s own risk.

While the Royal Examiner makes every effort to publish a diverse range of opinions, it does not guarantee the publication of all received letters. The Royal Examiner reserves the right to edit letters for clarity, length, and adherence to editorial guidelines. Moreover, the Royal Examiner does not assume any liability for any loss or damage incurred by readers due to the content of the letters or any subsequent actions taken based on these opinions.

In submitting a letter to the editor, authors grant the newspaper the right to publish, edit, reproduce, or distribute the content in print, online, or in any other form.

We value the engagement of our readers and encourage open and constructive discussions on various topics. However, the Royal Examiner retains the right to reject any letter that contains offensive language, personal attacks, or violates any legal regulations. Thank you for being a part of our vibrant community of readers and contributors, and we look forward to receiving your diverse perspectives on matters of interest and importance.


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VIEWPOINT: Thanksgiving: So Much More



How many of us observe Thanksgiving Day as a day of turkey, pumpkin pie, and football, with some thought to the Pilgrim’s Thanksgiving (1621), but give minimal thought to God’s blessings?  Thanksgiving should be much more.

We know we’re to express thanksgiving often: “In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:18), but we often don’t.  Yes, Thanksgiving Day was created when America was truly Christian, before cultural Marxism’s (wokism) assault.  Even so, Thanksgiving remains a federal holiday in which we can express our gratitude for God’s blessings and others’ favorable actions toward us.

Gratitude – expressed through thanksgiving – is an esteemed virtue within Christendom.  Virtues are God’s standards of moral goodness/moral excellence concerning how we’re to live, as opposed to Satan’s standards of vices and sin.  Gratitude is a subset of “love,” that virtue most identified with God: “He who (doesn’t) loves (doesn’t) know God, for God is love” (1 John 4:8).

America’s Thanksgiving originated from Western Civilization, with its Biblically based Judeo-Christianity moral values.  Ancient Israel included a sacrifice of thanksgiving to God.  “And the LORD spoke to Moses saying…  And when you offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving to the LORD, offer it of your own free will” (Leviticus 22:26, 29); and “(It’s) good to give thanks to the LORD…” (Psalm 92:1).

New Testament examples of thanksgiving follow: “And let the peace of God rule in your hearts … and be thankful”… “Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving” (Colossians 3:15; 4:2), and “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness … because, although they knew God, they (didn’t) glorify Him as God, nor were thankful …” (Romans 1: 18, 21).  I’ve read, “Thanksgiving is Trinitarian… that God the Father is the object of thanksgiving, God the Son is the person through whom thanksgiving flows, and God the Holy Spirit is the source of thanksgiving.”  When we fail to practice the spirit of Thanksgiving, we become like ingrates and gluttons.

While colonial America observed thanksgivings, President Washington was the first president to designate (1789) the last Thursday in November of that year as a day of “public thanksgiving.”

Other presidents intermittently declared days of thanksgiving until Thanksgiving Day crusader Sarah Hale convinced President Lincoln to declare (1863) an annual national day of “Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens,” for the last Thursday in November, calling on the American people to also, “with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience… fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty hand to heal the wounds of the nation.”

Most Americans came to accept the first Pilgrim’s Thanksgiving (1621)  – with its symbolism and despite its controversy – as America’s first Thanksgiving, as described in Plymouth Colony Governor William Bradford’s Of Plymouth Plantation and Plymouth founder Edward Winslow’s short account written in December 1621 and rediscovered in the mid-19th century.

Happy Thanksgiving!  This federal holiday – our national tradition for recognizing gratitude – is our opportunity to thank God forthrightly for His blessings bestowed upon our Constitutional Republic, our families, and ourselves.

Donavan “Mark” Quimby
Shenandoah Christian Alliance

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The Lost Game: Gridiron Memories of November 22, 1963



(Writer’s note: this was written in 2006. Small edits acknowledging the passage of time since are included toward the end of this updated version.)

I was playing quarterback in a high school intramural flag-football championship game around 1:30 p.m. on Nov. 22, 1963. The game went into overtime as the class time ground into its last minutes. My team needed a score to even the alternating possession OT (we were ahead of our time) and extend things to the following day. Impatient, I lofted one deep and up for grabs – like Brett Favre occasionally does – that some defender out-jumped my guy for.

BANG! We lost, no tomorrow.

Little did I know that the bang of defeat that had just gone off in my head was the mere echo of a much louder bang that went off almost simultaneously some 1,330 miles to the southwest.

That other bang I had yet to hear was one of another kind of defeat that I will, it seems, carry with me to the grave.

Somewhat dejected I headed back to the locker room to shower before heading to my fifth period English class. Someone ran out of the locker room to meet us and said, “The president’s been shot!” Bullshit, that kind of thing doesn’t happen except in history books, I thought, “That’s not funny,” I said.

Inside the Alexandria, Virginia high school, not eight miles from the White House, things seemed normal as I prepared to shower. No solemn faced coaches, no lock down to protect then Republican House Minority Whip Gerald Ford’s sons. “The president’s been shot” was lost beneath what seemed normal adolescent, locker room banter. I began to return to a 15-year-old’s reality: sport, the thought of the girl’s locker room on the other side of a thick cement wall.

Then the PA system crackled and the locker room went unnaturally silent as the principal’s voice, not a secretary’s, asked for attention. A chill went down my spine, perhaps as a subconscious premonition that things were about to change in previously unimaginable ways flashed along sub-atomic particles throughout my brain. The tone first, then the words “President Kennedy has been shot” gravely confirmed what I had immediately denied as a plausible reality. One kid, a little red around the edges for that suburban Alexandria high school said something to the effect of “good.” Though we were casual friends and recent teammates, I started swinging and we went into a pile on the floor only to be quickly pulled apart by classmates and coaches. I had never wanted to damage someone as irrevocably as I did at that moment and the two of us never spoke again, leaving a silent distance between us that precluded the necessity of re-engaging that primal impulse toward some sort of irreversible destruction.

President Kennedy leaves the White House for the final time. JFK photo sources, credits: Public Domain; White House Photographs; John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston; Robert Knudson; Paul Vathis; Abraham Zapruder; “The Men Who Killed Kennedy” Nigel Turner-produced British TV documentary series; AP; Roger Bianchini at Newseum, Washington D.C.

The emotions were immediate, deep and apparently ran in the family. I didn’t find out until years later that at almost the same moment, following a similar remark, my father, a WW II Army veteran who had lived through Normandy and the Battle of the Bulge, was decking a total stranger in a D.C. medical building on I Street where he was waiting for my mother to complete a routine checkup.

Across the Potomac River, we sat quietly in our classrooms: no teaching, no discussion, no emergency mentoring. We sat alone, grappling with our thoughts, as was our teacher. The principal came on again and said the president was dead. The reaction was subdued except for a girl named Jacqueline Kennedy – though I think she spelled her first name differently than the president’s wife. Spelling aside she went off, sobbing, hysteria rising. The teacher took her outside the room to settle her down. Didn’t work, she ended up in the infirmary. I sometimes wonder what happened to Jackie Kennedy, my classmate. How did she ride out that 15-year-old’s identification with the now blood-stained Queen of Camelot?

Forty-odd years later I know that day was the measurable beginning of the direction of the balance of my life. Despite the immediate profundity of a presidential assassination, I couldn’t have recognized that JFK’s violent death would lead directly through a five-year span of political upheaval between my formative 15th and 20th birthdays. This and three other domestic assassinations – of Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Francis Kennedy – seemed to earmark the time through a litany of foreign political intrigue, murder and assassination that always seemed to lead in one direction – to the right, toward war, toward implicit corporate profiteering from war, toward social division, toward lies.

That is my perception, my belief – the bad guys won. That is my psychological watershed. Rather than living under the auspice of a state favored by both man and God, I was floating through the most recent episode of civilization in decline, fueled by greed, power, murder and conquest.

It took all of those next five years for me to begin to appreciate what had begun during that that lost football game. By 1969 it was becoming apparent that a hopeful youth-driven world counterculture, as well as the best and the brightest within the world political system reflecting or inspiring the social idealism that characterized that counterculture, the Americans named above, Salvadore Allende, Alexander Dubcek, Patrice Lumumba, Che Guevara and others, were beaten.

Around the world we had lost.

We would either be annihilated or assimilated – a foolish, inaccurate footnote to American and World History X – the fiction written by the winners.

I left Alexandria in 1967 for college. I moved from the specter of the federal capital to Richmond, the historical capital of the American Confederacy that had fought the ascendance of that federal system just over a century earlier. In retrospect it seemed an unconsciously profound symbolic move. Though I was through and through a son of the federal government in whose shadow I was raised by two parents it employed, I was soon to become suspicious, some would say paranoid, about its machinations, its intent, its history.

I followed my intellectual instincts for the next five years, studying sociology and psychology – how society and the human mind work. I guess I wanted to know why I had grown so alienated from the culture in which I lived. Was I crazy or did I live in an insane world? I learned things about myself and my society between 1967 and 1973 and most of what I learned took me back to the day my team lost that high school, intramural football game.

In college I learned that three days before John Kennedy’s inauguration, his predecessor, Dwight David Eisenhower, made an astonishing observation in his farewell address to the nation. I had grown up thinking of Eisenhower as a doddering, old, golf-playing general rewarded with the presidency for a job well done holding the Allied war effort together in Europe during World War II. My interest in the fate of his successor led me to a different view of Eisenhower. It began with that farewell address of Jan. 17, 1961.

Presidents Kennedy and Eisenhower at Camp David, April 22, 1961, five days after the first crisis of JFK’s presidency, the failed CIA-sponsored Bay of Pigs invasion.

On that day Eisenhower, the West Point graduate, career military man, general and president who led his country and its allies, first against Nazi Germany and then through the height of the Cold War with the Soviet Union, told his nation that the greatest threat it faced as he prepared to leave office was that born of its own military and corporate institutions in a profoundly changing American landscape.

“This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience,” Eisenhower told the American people of the corporate, political, and military landscape that had arisen in the wake of World War II. “The total influence – economic, political, even spiritual – is felt in every city, every Statehouse, every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society.

“In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist,” Eisenhower concluded.

The career soldier turned politician had apparently not thought it a sin to normalize relations with the Soviet Union, then our recent military ally, and reduce the rapidly expanding American military budget. This belief, according to Eisenhower biographers, led to much behind-the-scene infighting with the evolving military and industrial institutions Eisenhower spoke of at the end of his eight-year presidency.

Less than three years after Eisenhower’s dour warning, his successor had his head blown off in the streets of Dallas, Texas, while I played football a half a continent away. That successor, John Fitzgerald Kennedy, had also bucked the American military-corporate apparatus during his presidency, and perhaps fatally, more directly and in more immediate situations than Eisenhower had.

First, just three months in office Kennedy refused to commit to direct American military involvement during the 1961 invasion of Communist Cuba by a CIA-trained militia despite the urging of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and CIA Director Allen Dulles. As a result of the intelligence misinformation and personal coercion he endured during that experience, Kennedy fired Allen Dulles as director of the CIA. He also developed enough distrust of the U.S. military command to avoid the armed, likely nuclear confrontation they suggested over Cuba during the missile crisis less than two years later.

President Kennedy addresses the nation on live television during the Cuban Missile Crisis, when the U.S. and Soviet Union came to the verge of nuclear war according to later unclassified Soviet intelligence documents. It appears that Kennedy and Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev’s willingness to negotiate a mutually satisfactory compromise – that the Soviets pull their offensive nuclear missiles out of Cuba, and America would dismantle its offensive nuclear missile bases from the Soviet border in Turkey – averted a potential nuclear holocaust.

Kennedy is even reported to have stated the intention of scattering what was threatening to become a rouge intelligence agency resistant to presidential oversight “into a thousand pieces” following a 1964 re-election that seemed a sure thing.

A great deal of debate still exists over whether Kennedy was planning implementation of another post-1964 election plan that would have flown further in the face of Eisenhower’s originally-named American “Military-Industrial-Congressional Complex”. That much-discussed plan was a lessening of direct American involvement in Vietnam. That involvement in the fall of 1963 was 16,000 “advisors” compared to the half million combat troops that would be sent there after his death. If true, as key Kennedy insiders assert, that plan reflected JFK’s growing belief that the Vietnam conflict was ultimately a civil war that would have to be won or lost by the South Vietnamese themselves – a decade and the bulk of 65,000 American and two million Vietnamese lives later that belief proved correct.

Many years after the fact I heard a European investigative report that quoted Kennedy archives indicating his ambassador to South Vietnam, Henry Cabot Lodge, reporting back to Washington that presidential directives relayed through the embassy in 1963 ordering CIA operatives in country to back off of aggressive covert actions, including assassinations, were simply being ignored in the field. I wondered then if those “rouge” CIA elements had an inkling those directives would soon change despite Kennedy’s overwhelming popularity as the 1964 election approached?

No, probably just a coincidence that Kennedy was soon shot down like a rabid dog on a parade route whose path had been realigned that day to go down Elm Street in front of the Texas School Book Depository in a town whose mayor was reportedly the brother of Allen Dulles’s former military liaison officer.

Coincidence too, I expect that a former Marine named Lee Harvey Oswald worked in that School Book Depository. Oswald was the prodigal American son, who had “defected” to the Soviet Union with a perfect command of the Russian language following his assignment to a top-secret American military intelligence base in Japan from which American U-2 spy flights were launched over the Soviet Union. Later, the prodigal son would reconsider that defection – perhaps because the Soviets thought he was an American spy and kept a close check on him. I sometimes wonder at the benevolence of a nation that would welcome back its prodigal son with camera equipment to start a “new” career, rather than a little prison time for his alleged departure with top-secret information that was claimed to have compromised America’s U-2 spy missions. But how could his native land stay mad at the whimsical Oswald, who despite his highly public pro-Castro activities in New Orleans, cultivated associations with a number of right-wing, anti-Castro associates based in both New Orleans and Miami as he “floundered” philosophically in the years between Russia and Dallas?

Above, JFK and Ike at Camp David in the days after the failed Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba – likely when the sitting president found out he had been lied to by the CIA about the previous president’s authorizations, or lack thereof, for a CIA-sponsored invasion of Cuba. Photographer Paul Vathis wrote ‘They looked so lonely.’ Below, Vathis’s photo juxtaposed on the wall of the Newseum in D.C. with mob-connected Jack Ruby’s silencing of Lee Harvey Oswald, who died claiming he was set up as a patsy in the JFK assassination.

Pondering these things after launching my own college term paper research on the JFK assassination in 1969, I told my mother, “There are circumstances leading a lot of people to think your old (CIA) bosses were behind it.”

“I wouldn’t be surprised, the way they talked about him,” the former secretary of one of the deputy directors surprised me with a frank appraisal of her early 1960s superiors at the top of the American intelligence apparatus.

And now 59 years gone from that day in 1963, I remain the paranoid-tinged, conspiracy freak sitting alone in the dark corners of dark bars, reflecting on the familiarity of low times and low lies glowering at me from the “enduring freedom” of a television screen hovering slightly above my still focused eye.

And now I recall, as I did in 2006 when this personal memoir was written 43 years gone from that long-lost childhood football game, I find myself still choking down one final coincidence – that the U.S. president (George W. Bush) gesturing at me from that TV screen, circa 2006, explaining the necessity of this country’s ongoing military-industrial occupation of Iraq, one of the world’s two primary oil fields, and the ultimate evil of its oil-rich neighbor Iran, is heir to a family legacy the roots of which run deep into Texas oil, American politics, and the directorship of the CIA.

Roger Bianchini
Front Royal, Virginia

(Writer’s note: First published on November 22, 2013 as part of a pull-out section of the Warren County Report on the ongoing significance of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy 50 years later.)

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VIEWPOINT: Uncommon Valor



“Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13)

Do you want to give your family (especially your kids) an experience they will remember forever? By all means, set aside a few hours to visit the nearby Marine Museum at Quantico, VA… a few miles south of DC, just off I95 or US 1 (less than a 90-minute drive from Front Royal).

This is an ideal way to show the entire family (in a first-hand, up close and personal look) just how much has been done (and is being done) worldwide by a relatively small group of dedicated, patriotic Americans who understand the meaning of loyalty to our country and their comrades and the necessity for the discipline and commitment to make this nation safe for you and I and future generations still to come.

The displays are “life-size and lifelike” and bring the viewer into the moment that is being displayed, making you feel like you are actually there… you need very little imagination to experience the artillery fire and the cannon shells, and you get an intimate view (and sense of sharing) of the hardships that are/were endured in repelling our nation’s enemies and protecting this country that we all love and honor.

Today, there are those who try mightily to disparage our progress as a Christian nation founded on Judeo/Christian values who would likely be unwilling to lift a finger to defend this nation and our values…  but the Marines do not subscribe to that “hogwash.” The Marines’ love of country and willingness to make the ultimate sacrifice for their families and yours is seen and felt everywhere, from the burning hot beaches in the South Pacific to the freezing winters in Europe, Korea, and some of the far-most reaches of the world.

When you have the privilege to see how much effort, blood, and dedication has been given (and is being given as you read this) for a country that is constantly under attack internally from such a large number of eternally ungrateful liberal leftists, you cannot but feel an even greater sense of gratitude for the efforts and sacrifices made by a few good men and women.

A visit to the Marine Museum is a wonderful destination and outing for any family and will be something talked about for many years to come.

Do yourself a favor and schedule a trip to visit the Marine Museum today for you and your family and friends. Don’t forget to bring your camera (you can bring lunch but there is food aplenty in the cafeteria). As an extra bonus, there is no charge for entry or parking, and the Museum is open every day except Thanksgiving and Christmas Day from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.


Dale Carpenter
Shenandoah Christian Alliance

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Hamas: A History of Violence



On the morning of Oct 7, the nation of Israel was attacked by rocket fire coming from the Gaza Strip in southern Israel. The missile attacks acted as a screen as thousands of Hamas militants viciously attacked towns and cities in southern Israel, killing more than 1,000 Israelis and kidnapping many others.

The attack was the single bloodiest day in the nation’s history and was carried out by a group known as Hamas, a branch of the Muslim Brotherhood that is labeled a terrorist group by the U.S. and Israel but seen as the legitimate government in the Gaza Strip. While there is no place for this type of violence, and Israel has the right to retaliate as aggressively as they feel necessary, I have found that the question my students have asked the most is why Hamas would commit such acts knowing the repercussions? I have found myself telling this story to each of my classes in the past weeks and thought it worth sharing.

The Gaza Strip, in southwestern Israel, borders the Mediterranean Sea and Egypt’s Sani Peninsula. It was originally part of the Ottoman Empire from 1285 to 1917. After WWI and the defeat of the Ottomans, the land was given over to Great Britain as part of the Palestine Mandate.

The British agreed to allow European Jews escaping persecution to settle in Palestine after the war. In the beginning, there were no issues between the Jews and Palestinians, but as more Jews arrived and bought up more land, displacing the Arabs, Palestinians began to resist. This caused the British to cut off immigration.

However, after WWII and the Holocaust, Britain and the United Nations once again opened the doors to Palestine for Jewish settlement. At first, the U.N. tried to divide Palestine into two regions, but in 1948, the Jews declared themselves the Nation of Israel, and their military drove the majority of the Palestinians into refugee camps in the Jordanian-controlled West Bank and the Egyptian-controlled Gaza Strip.

In 1967, when Egypt, Syria, and Jordan amassed armies on their borders in preparation to attack, Israel struck first with precise accuracy, taking out the armies of the aggressive nations. Israel then moved into and acquired more land, including the Gaza Strip. Israel controlled the Gaza Strip and its two million inhabitants until 1993, during which the first Intifada occurred, and Palestinians rose in protest of the Israeli control. In 1993, U.S. President Bill Clinton helped broker the Oslo Accords between Israel and the Palestinian Liberation Organization.

The Accords established a path to peace as the PLO recognized the State of Israel, and Israel recognized the PLO as the official representatives of the Palestinian people and acknowledged they had a right to self-rule. A month later, Israel pulled its forces out of Gaza and left the PLO in charge.

In 2006, Gaza held elections, and Hamas won. No elections have been held since. In 2007, when Hamas refused to renounce violence against Israel, both Israel and Egypt (who have been fighting the Brotherhood in their own nation for years) set up a blockade of Gaza, cutting off most of their water, food, and electricity. The blockade has caused severe hardships in Gaza and has been criticized by the U.N.

During the Israeli occupation of Gaza, specifically during the Intifada, Hamas came into being. It was founded by Ahmed Yassin, a quadriplegic nationalist scholar. Born in Palestine, Yassin was injured at age 12, leaving him paralyzed. He was educated in Egypt and was introduced to the Muslim Brotherhood. He returned home to Gaza and became a teacher while also establishing an Islamic charity associated with the Brotherhood. In 1985, he was arrested for stockpiling weapons and then, during the Intifada, established Hamas to destroy Israel and establish an Islamic state in Palestine.

1993 was an important year for Hamas as it detonated its first suicide bomb and began its fight against Fatah, the leading organization in the PLO, who had been working towards peace with Israel as part of the Oslo Accords. Hamas denounced the Accords and detonated bombs in Israel to try to disrupt the process. Over the next several years, Hamas continued its campaign of terror while Israel continued to respond, including the 2004 rocket attack that killed Yassin. Yassin’s death did not stop Hamas’ attacks. As new leaders emerged, many live outside of Israel. As said before, Israel pulled out of Gaza in 2005, and Hamas won the election in 2006 and kicked out Fatah in 2007. Fatah had changed from being the most infamous terrorist organization to one seeking peace.

In the years that followed, Hamas and Israel have continued their hostile relationship. Hamas continued to attack Israel while Israel retaliated. Israel has come under condemnation from some international human rights groups, claiming their retaliations are out of scale. An example was in July of 2014 when Hamas killed three Israeli teenagers. Israel responded with a two-month attack that left 2,100 Palestinians dead. Another example is during a very violent May in 2021 when Israel responded to an attack with missiles that collapsed a 13-story residential building. However, in each case, Israel justified their actions as necessary as organizations like Hamas and Hezbollah, not to mention nations like Iran, have pledged its destruction.

It is true that Gaza is a hellish place to live and that the Palestinian situation started when the Jews kicked them out of their homes in 1948. Yet now, 75 years later, the situation is what it is. Israel is there to stay, and that is not going to change. The only solution seems to be a two-state solution, even if that may seem unfair. Even groups like Fatah have agreed that peace is more important than holding out for the right of return.

I know this is easy for me to say in my comfortable home, far away from the situation. Instead, I will end with an Israeli perspective – the best and fairest I have ever read. Sandy Tolan’s “The Lemon Tree: An Arab, a Jew, and the Heart of the Middle East” gives an excellent true story account of the Israel/Palestine situation. Tolan’s principal character, Dalia Eshkenazi, presents what she thinks is the only way forward. Dalia survived the Holocaust as a young child before arriving in Israel and receiving a home of an Arab family that had been forced out. She believes the answer is the three As: Acknowledgement, Apology, and Amends. Jews must acknowledge what they did in 1948 and the pains they caused, but the Arabs must also acknowledge they are not innocent with the many acts of terrorism they have committed. For amends, she said, “It means that we do the best we can under the circumstances towards those we have wronged.” For Dalia, amends could not mean the full right of return, as she said, “the Palestinians have the right of return, but it is not a right that can be fully implemented because the return of millions of Palestinians would effectively mean the end of Israel.”

James Finck, Ph.D., is a professor of history at the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma. He can be reached at

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Commentary: The Quiet Rresolve of Election Eve – A Remembrance



This time tomorrow, Virginia voters will be busy electing a new General Assembly in another of the elections we hold every November. Here, we never take a year off.

This evening, before the polls open, take a stroll if you can through your neighborhood. Maybe even drive around your community — roll the window down, weather permitting. Look around. Listen. Feel. Breathe in the cool fall air.

Election eve long ago became perhaps my most special night on each year’s calendar. It was because of the resolute, almost reverential calm that pervaded the darkened streets and neighborhoods.

For the overwhelming balance of my adult life, elections were my business. I lived them as a newsman and political correspondent.

Before the weekends preceding each election, I had studied published polls and campaign finance data and traveled extensively across Virginia. I had made countless phone calls to local party leaders, candidates, campaign professionals, registrars and “real people” I had met in my reporting. Rarely did any election night result surprise me.

Reporters and editors spent Mondays before elections polishing the background and contextual material at the bottom of stories that would be transmitted the next day to publications and broadcasters across Virginia and beyond. That material would remain unchanged but the tops of the stories were revised many times Tuesday night into Wednesday’s wee hours with fresh tallies and trends until, eventually, The Associated Press declared a winner and announced it with a bulletin, the next-highest priority level for wire-service reports behind a flash.

Such was the caffeine- and adrenaline-fueled work within the pressure cooker that was election night in AP’s state control bureaus as vote totals flooded in.

But the night before, when I would invariably leave work late, I’d often take the long way home, sometimes varying my route through different parts of town.

The streets were conspicuously empty and quiet except maybe for falling leaves rustling in the breeze. Bars and eateries, where autumn Monday nights normally meant lively pro football crowds, seemed sparse and subdued. Some households had displayed their support for certain candidates with yard signs that, by then, had largely exhausted any expectation of influencing the undecided.

After all the biting rhetoric and the acidic ads, after all the claims and counterclaims and liberties taken with the truth, after all the debates and breathless campaign reporting, after all the final rallies had ended, now the voters would have their say – the only say that matters.

The anticipation felt palpable: the people’s pent-up will was about to be made manifest in the seminal triumph of representative democracy. It seemed an almost sacred moment, and it always inspired me. It probably will tonight, too.

This evening, let yourself believe in our collective wisdom; that we as voters get it right more often than not. Even if the candidate (or candidates) of your choice fall short, trust that it’s better than unaccountable and unelected power imposing its will upon us.

Trust that your votes are being fairly and faithfully collected and counted by honorable people just like you who are doing their best, because they are.

Another edifying aspect of my years of daily political reporting was Election Day visits to urban, rural and suburban polling places where I met citizens who gave earnestly of their time and worked long, tiring hours at local precincts to ensure that their neighbors’ votes mattered. The same goes for dutiful, skilled career election professionals, regardless of the party in power, who kept the processes clean and transparent.

Government of, by and for the people took root here 247 years ago. Over that time, suffrage was justly expanded to populations once disenfranchised — women and the descendants of enslaved people chief among them. There is still work yet to do. However, there is no guarantee that our constitutional democracy will make it to 250 years, as malignant forces hell-bent on authoritarian rule seek power by any means, up to and including seditious violence.

One generation cannot bequeath the blessings of freedom to the next. It must be earned and defended anew through informed vigilance, intentional electoral participation, and the courage to stand against those who prosper from dividing Americans and turning one against the other.

So tonight, take it all in. Savor the quiet resolve of Americans — Virginians, your neighbors — about to choose their government in our fragile annual exercise of the peaceful delegation of power.

Tomorrow, cast your vote and then watch the machinery of democracy and the rule of law run their righteous course.

Remember and cherish it. We risk its loss sooner than we dare imagine.


by Bob Lewis, Virginia Mercury

Virginia Mercury is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Virginia Mercury maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Sarah Vogelsong for questions: Follow Virginia Mercury on Facebook and Twitter.

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