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OPINION: Layton has ethics and experience



When we heard that Bryan Layton was running for Warren County Commonwealth’s Attorney we felt compelled to speak.

Bryan Layton is honest, ethical and very hard working. He is committed to seeing justice done and doesn’t play games with the criminal justice system. If someone is guilty he will work hard to make sure that they are appropriately punished. However, Bryan will work equally hard to make sure that an innocent person is not convicted unjustly.

Prosecutors wield a great deal of power in Virginia. This is the reality of the system. With a piece of paper they can have a person arrested and held in jail. This is one of many reasons why Bryan Layton is one of the best prosecutors we have seen, in both skill and ethics. He has shown us repeatedly that he wields power justly.

Those of us who have both worked with Bryan Layton and fought against him in court know him as the right kind of lawyer for Warren County Commonwealth’s Attorney. He is tough and fair, and has the experience to do the job well.

William A. “Beau” Bassler
David L. Hensley
Nicole M. Spicer

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Norma Jean Shaw departs the Royal Examiner team



Norma Jean Shaw in her element, during Royal Examiner video interview with Deputy Warren County Treasurer and Treasurer candidate Jamie Spiker.

We at Royal Examiner regret the departure of Editor Norma Jean Shaw. Shaw was a valued member of the Royal Examiner editorial and news department from the online newspaper’s inception in early October 2016.

Her presence on the news staff was valued to the extent that accommodations were made to allow her to continue in her editor’s role following, first a minor relocation out of the community to her husband’s residence in Stephens City; and then a further move several months ago when she followed him to his new job in far southwest Virginia.

We wish Shaw and her family the best of luck in the next phase of her and their personal and professional lives.

Mike McCool – Publisher
Roger Bianchini – Managing Editor
Malcolm Barr – feature writer
Kim Riley – staff reporter
Bruce Beavers – advertising
Amanda Callihan – graphics & webmaster
Mark Williams – video, tech support

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On Global Warming & Facts



On global warming

Some of us don’t seem to care much about facts these days. Especially abhorrent are facts which disagree with pronouncements made by activists who would prefer for us to believe their views without regard to facts. Or at least without regard to certain facts.

Case in point. Global warming and “ocean temperatures spike” (Star, January 19, 2016). Now I would not presume to argue against global warming. Nor would I consider myself sufficiently erudite to dispute the notion that global warming might result in ocean warming. But I do wish that “scientists” who publish their findings in journals would exhibit a wider range of their academic credentials. I mean, didn’t Geology 101 precede a post-graduate scholarly study in the journal Nature Climate Change?

Global warming band-wagoneers from one end of this planet to the other seem to have slept through the first chapter of Geology 101. That’s the chapter explaining that our planet has experienced at least five major and several minor periods of “ice ages.” Now here’s a fact these “scientists” seem to have ignored. Each of those “ice ages” was followed by global warming. How do we know this? Well, for starters, the ice melted.

Of greatest interest to us – the modern day descendants of homo east-coastus-Americus – is the most recent of these many ice ages. You see, that “ice age” of the late Pleistocene epoch is the one whose glaciers, according to New York “literally created Long Island, and carved out the landscape we know today as the New York City region. Moraines, lakes and ponds, kettle holes, peat bogs, melt water streams and valleys – all are relics of glacial topography.”

So it seems some scientists use “ice age” information one way, some another. If your business is constructing One World Trade Center, you most assuredly want to know the difference between bedrock and a glacial moraine. But many “scientists” whose favorite topic is global warming seem eager to ignore the lessons of ice ages.

It takes little more than an introduction to Logic 101 for most of us to recognize that for every ice age there has followed a period of global warming. (Please check a geological time scale.) Moreover, climate change is influenced – and has been so for eons – by many factors. Solar energy output varies; both the sun and our planet earth are constantly in motion. Everything out there where “the heavens declare the glory of God” is moving. Earth spins (rotates) and races around its orbital path. And so does the Sun whose orbit takes it on a journey through our galaxy. Small wonder, then, that a wobble here and a solar eruption there might result in a pile of ice once and clouds of steam the next time.

So, please. Let us recognize that when we are faced with political posturing and perambulation, we are better off to rely upon facts – even the inconvenient ones – than to beguile ourselves with half-baked writings of “scientists” who slept through Geology 101.

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On Erasing History: Painting over a San Francisco mural of George Washington due to liberal sensitivities



Boston Common George Washington monument at Massachusetts USA

What is the best way to be certain we will repeat the errors of the past?  Before we attempt to answer this, let’s visit a coach and two books.

The best of football coaches – be they NFL or collegiate – are those who remember and teach the team’s history.  From the days of flickering black-and-white 16mm and 35mm motion picture cameras, right up today’s HD videos, football coaches have used game videos.

An idle study?  A pleasant pastime?  Not at all.  Our football coaches require their teams to review videos of past games.  Our own team.  Opponents.  Identify errors.  Notice weaknesses.  Learn from errors.  Improve performance.  Prepare for the next game!

If you want to see a stark-raving mad coach, try telling him you just accidentally erased all video of last week’s game!  A seething outburst of anger may be the least of your worries.

Now let’s consider two books.  One portrays the 1789 French Revolution.  This was just a few years following the end of our own American Revolutionary War: freedom and independence won from Britain, remember?  This book –

– reveals aristocrat tyranny as a cause of war and revolutionary excess, a result of war.  Charles Dickens presents us with visions of revolutionary excess with gruesome scenes of bloody guillotines.

If you fail to see what Dickens’ novel and our football coach have in common, let’s take a look at a second book.  This book features a wicked queen.  She destroys righteous men who oppose her, even priests and prophets. Another character in this book is an evil idol-god who demands sacrifice of children.  He uses fire to destroy children.  The queen?  Jezebel.  The idol-god?  Molech.  The book?  The Bible!

So, yes, even the Bible depicts flawed human behavior.  Such examples serve to illustrate errors.  Now return to the football coach.  His team studies errors along with “best plays.”  This is also why we read A Tale of Two Cities and, for that matter, the Bible.  The idea is to improve the present by studying the past.

In America it has taken us well over 200 years to correct some of our worst errors.  Why would we want to erase artifacts of our history?  Should we remember our past and correct errors, or forget and repeat our worst behaviors?

I argue in favor of remembering.  Historic art – like San Francisco’s George Washington mural, now set for destruction, is such an example.  Statues, bridges, buildings, highways, schools – everywhere we see proposals to destroy.  Books – yes, also the Bible – monuments, and art offer us an opportunity to learn from our mistakes and correct our behavior.

We should not hide our history.  We should use our history.  In all of its forms and genres, our history is the “how-to” book for self-improvement!

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Remarks presented to WC School Board



July 3, 2019

Ms. Chairwoman and School Board Members:

I appreciate the opportunity to address my fellow citizens who make up our School Board in Warren County. In the next few minutes I’ll relay my concerns and things I’d like to see implemented in our school system. I know being on the school board is not about all the money you receive but the desire to make our schools the best in Virginia and I thank you.

First, Mr. Drescher I’m sure you are very talented however I do not understand how you had time to be on the EDA Board with two failing schools. This is your first time as a superintendent and I would have thought maybe your time should be spent helping the failing schools reach a standard of excellence. Did anyone of the school board members say anything to your desire to be on the EDA?

Next is a question for Ms. Bower and the board… Mr. Drescher was under contract from July 1, 2015 thru June 30, 2019 at a salary of $154,000. Why give him a new contract at a higher salary $165,837 when he was already under contract ? I’ve been in sales for many years and been under contract, if I had gone into my superiors and said how about a raise during the middle of my contract I would have been laughed out of the building.

Did Mr. Drescher really deserve a raise because our schools went from two failing schools to one? You have teachers leaving the county because they do not make enough and Mr. Drescher gets almost a 12K raise. This is not a wealthy county yet you are spending money like a wealthy county. His total compensation seems to be close to 180K, where does this rank compared to our neighboring counties?

I understand that someone authorized a new roof for Ressie Jeffries and gave the contractor a million-dollar bonus to do the work at night and this does not count the actual cost of the roof. Please tell me my information is wrong. If this is correct why couldn’t you wait a couple months until school was out and saved a million dollars. I’ve read your goals and maybe someone needs to review the Master Plan for maintenance.

I was not a good student and I wasted my mother’s money going to college. College is great for some but I would have been better off going into the military to grow up. When I read your mission statement and goals it seems to me that you are focused on higher education. My guess is that’s fine for 50% of your students but others maybe needed a different type of education. I’d really like to see a new larger expanded technical school in Warren County teaching young people to be electricians, plumbers, HVAC techs etc. I recently read in the newspaper about Lord Fairfax having a simulator for heavy equipment… it be nice to have one in our technical school? If I remember correctly they start out at $45K. That’s great for an 18 or 19 year old.

I’d also like to see an Ethics class being mandatory to graduate. Growing up I don’t remember my parents cussing and I try not to ever use those words as I believe there are better adjectives. I’m not saying I never say one but it’s very rare. An Ethics class can cover many things like being a better classmate, to being honorable in business and finding better adjectives.

In closing, in your Long Range Plan Review Committee maybe it’s time to replace Jennifer McDonald. Thank you for listening and I hope that you spend the counties money wisely like it is coming out of your own wallet.

James Harper
Front Royal, VA

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56 men, or 56 hate mongers?



About those 56 men…

If today we were to find fifty-six men who would publicly proclaim such statements as these, the likelihood is that each and every one of these men would be cast as pariahs of society. They would be shunned. They would be ridiculed. They’d likely receive a summons, be hauled into court, and be indicted for engaging in a “hate crime.” Punitive actions against such men would be justified, many would agree, even if all fifty-six of them were successful businessmen, members of respected community organizations, or elected local government officials from mayor to governor.

What sort of statement or proclamation might spawn such public chastisement? Well, here are four candidate statements:

  • There is a deity who has established the laws of nature, and this deity is God.
  • There is a Creator who has created all men.
  • There is a Supreme Judge of the world to whom all may appeal in times of peril.
  • There is a Divine Provider of protection upon whom all can rely.

Many citizens of today hold such speech to be medieval utterances of the feeble minded. Do we not consider this type of speech to be unsuitable in the public forum? Controversial commentary of this type ought to be restricted to the confines of churches! And surely, candidates for public office ought never be elected after making statements like these.

And yet fifty-six men did publicly make these very proclamations! They boldly put their signatures to the statements and risked their very lives in doing so! Surely they must have realized that the courts have enacted prohibitions against promoting religious beliefs in public surroundings. Where did these Bible-thumpers come from?

Well, that part we can answer. They came from Delaware, New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, and New York. Some were from New Hampshire, others from Georgia, North and South Carolina, and Rhode Island. A few were from Virginia and Maryland. Five were from Massachusetts.

They had ordinary names like William, John, and Samuel. Some were George, a few were Thomas. One or two had rather unique names. Not so common was a fellow called Button. Another was named Caesar. Altogether, the fifty-six men had the look of commonplace Americans.

But what they proclaimed – well, as noted, it was controversial at the very least. And probably criminal. Today.

After all, they did claim that there is God. Not just “a” God. God. Creator. Divine. And according to all fifty-six of these men, God created all men!

Isn’t it politically incorrect, unacceptable, to speak this way? In America? The land of the tolerant? It would seem so. Today. But these were fifty-six men who “hold these truths to be self-evident.”

Surely, by now, most of you have recognized the source of what these men proclaimed. You have also probably guessed the date. Sure, July, 1776.

So, were these men “wackos” or delirious ne’er-do-wells? Not at all. They were the authors and signatories of our Nation’s Declaration of Independence!

So what has changed in our country?

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If WW II’s was the ‘greatest generation’ – how will those since be remembered?



A collage of Roger Bianchini Sr.’s military pins, patches and photos, the latter while being transported across the Atlantic to enter the war front against European fascism – RB Sr. is solo at left, top right at the lifeboat, and at far right of group standing at stern looking toward camera. Photos personal collection or public domain

Memorial Day, May 31; D-Day, June 6; and the Fourth of July – the memories of a nation and people’s commitment and sacrifice swell up in a five-week span commemorating the best the American nation has to offer.

As a part of what is sometimes referred to as the “greatest generation” my late father was a veteran of World War II. A mortar unit staff sergeant, he landed at Utah Beach on that “Longest Day”- June 6, 1944. Later he went on to fight with General George S. Patton’s Third Army during the Battle of the Bulge. As recounted in the 1979 movie “Patton” starring George C. Scott in a remarkable performance as the main character, during that battle that repelled the German counterattack following the invasion of the European mainland, Patton’s Third Army moved more men and equipment farther in the least amount of time than any army in history. And Patton and his Third Army’s movement and counterattack during which my father was wounded assured the Allies would not be driven back into the sea from which they had come on June 6, 1944.

My father carried a piece of shrapnel next to his spine for the rest of his life from a wound received during that decisive battle for Europe. And he carried his memories of the war against European fascism almost as close to the vest as that piece of shrapnel by his spine. He also carried a deep respect for Patton, his final battlefield commanding officer, that he said was not uncommon among the men Patton commanded.

Today I find myself missing the character and commitment of that “greatest generation” and its leadership as the nation now grapples with the evolution of its own homegrown corporate neo-fascism. It was a threat of domestic origin predicted in 1944 by Vice President Henry Wallace as the battle against European fascism ground inexorably forward.

Vice President Henry Wallace was prescient in 1944 in predicting how the threat of fascism would rise in post-World War II America.

“The really dangerous American fascists are not those who are hooked up directly or indirectly with the Axis (Germany-Italy-Japan), the FBI has its finger on those,” Wallace told The New York Times in an interview published April 9, 1944.

“The dangerous American fascist is the man who wants to do in the United States in an American way what Hitler did in Germany in a Prussian way. The American fascist would prefer not to use violence. His method is to poison the channels of public information. With a fascist the problem is never how best to present the truth to the public but how best to use the news to deceive the public into giving the fascist and his group more money or more power.

“They claim to be super-patriots, but they would destroy every liberty guaranteed by the Constitution. They are patriotic in time of war because it is to their interest to be so but in time of peace they follow power and the dollar wherever they may lead.”

The flow of history

Sixteen years later the distinctly American evolution of that domestic threat first cited in 1944 by a sitting vice president was termed “the military-industrial complex” by President Dwight D. Eisenhower during his Jan. 16, 1961 farewell address to the nation.

Fifty years ago during the height of a nuclear-armed “Cold War” with the Soviet Union, Eisenhower, who had commanded all Allied troops on the European front during World War II, called what he had initially termed “the military-industrial-congressional complex” the greatest threat to the security of this nation – not the Soviet Union, not nukes, not illegal immigrants but our own homegrown form of corporate and money-driven fascism.

“This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence – economic, political, even spiritual – is felt in every city, every Statehouse, every office of the Federal government,” Eisenhower observed. “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.

“We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.”

In an era before radical partisan ideologies hijacked American politics, Republican President Dwight D. Eisenhower echoed in 1961, Democratic Vice-President Wallace’s warning of 1944 about the danger of evolving political, industrial and military institutions on the American landscape.

What were first, Democrat Wallace and then Republican Eisenhower warning us against?

Inherit the whirlwind

Look around you – it’s here, driven most prominently by corporate-owned news stations (poisoned channels of public information) and a bought-and-paid-for Congressional majority dedicated to stamping out every basic social and economic security for all but those at the top of the economic food chain.

The American neo-fascists we have been warned about since 1944 and 1961 are an economic elite reflective of those who throughout history have sought to control wealth and power in order to shape the fate of nations and peoples to their personal and shortsighted benefit – they are not prone to compromise because wealth and the “might” it purchases “makes right”.

It is not an elite identified by royal blood or Divine Right, but simply by the acquisition of great wealth. So logically, it is an elite that would have you measure individual and spiritual value by the acquisition of wealth. And despite assertions to the contrary, it is not a Christian elite. In fact, if Jesus said “it is harder to pass a camel through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven” I’d say it’s more a satanic cult than anything else.

Eisenhower, who removed “Congressional” from his description of the threat from within so as not to appear to be making a partisan attack on a Democratic Congress, lauded his and that Congress’s efforts to work together for the good of the nation.

“The Congress and the Administration have, on most vital issues, cooperated well, to serve the nation well rather than mere partisanship, and so have assured that the business of the nation should go forward. So my official relationship with Congress ends in a feeling on my part, of gratitude that we have been able to do so much together,” Eisenhower observed.
It is a political sentiment far from the new partisan mantra of no compromise, but rather partisan ideological victory over all. Such partisan “victory” will eventually come at the expense of every average American – but never at the expense of the politician’s billionaire corporate sponsors.

As he prepared to become a private citizen after eight years in the White House, Eisenhower looked toward the future, telling the American public, “Down the long lane of the history yet to be written America knows that this world of ours, ever growing smaller, must avoid becoming a community of dreadful fear and hate, and be, instead, a proud confederation of mutual trust and respect. Such a confederation must be one of equals. The weakest [nations] must come to the conference table with the same confidence as do we, protected as we are by our moral, economic, and military strength. That table, though scarred by many past frustrations, cannot be abandoned for the certain agony of the battlefield.”


What has changed in the last half century since career soldier and Republican President Dwight David Eisenhower preached not just a national, but international equity in shaping all our futures?

This photo by the AP’s Paul Vathis on display at D.C.’s Newseum, was taken April 22, 1961 as Eisenhower visited President Kennedy at Camp David as the Bay of Pigs crisis was in its sixth day. ‘They looked so lonely,’ the photographer wrote of the two presidents. Could they have already discussed what CIA operative E. Howard Hunt would later write about – his alteration of a presidential document signed by Eisenhower authorizing the infiltration of 40 U.S. ‘advisers’ into Cuba to aid anti-Castro rebels, so that Kennedy would be presented with ‘authorization’ of a 4000-man invasion?

Perhaps the only change is the arrogance with which corporate super wealth, buoyed by its hired political lackeys and mercenary guns (military-industrial-congressional complex), wages its economic world conquest against enemies both domestic and abroad.

I fear that if this generation of Americans doesn’t rise to the challenge and just say a resounding NO to the lies, to the legalized graft and corruption, to the bigotry, and self-serving political hypocrisy, all the heroism and sacrifice of that past “greatest generation” of which my father was a part will have been for naught.

If the generation that fought and defeated the rise of European fascism in the 1940s is remembered as this nation’s greatest, will those that sat idly by as our own corporate fascists casually walked over us and the world in banker’s pin-striped suits be remembered as our worst?

(An earlier draft of this personal memoir was published in June 2011 in The Warren County Report.)

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