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The Pot calling the kettle black – Partisanship and Public Education: a move to isolate, defund, and weaken Warren County Public Schools from within?

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This observer finds the Warren County School Board debate over continued membership in the Virginia School Boards Association (VSBA) disturbingly ironic and troubling in its timing. The latter as the county board of supervisors plods along six weeks into the new fiscal year without an approved public schools budget and cuts on the table that could lead to program and staffing cuts and additional losses, including a potential exodus of teachers facing contract cuts here to surrounding communities still looking to fill post-COVID teaching vacancies at already approved wage levels. And that public school budget debate here continues despite no increase in local funding being sought to support that FY-2023 WC Public Schools budget proposal.

See: “Teachers remain uneasy about ongoing delays in approval of FY-2023 Public Schools Budget”

As for irony, the move for withdrawal from VSBA appears to be led by home-schooling mother and North River District Public School Board member Melanie Salins. Salins, with some public support offered, including by fellow Warren County Republican Committee member and Front Royal Town Councilwoman Amber Morris, has set about to label the VSBA a partisan lobbying organization openly critical of Republicans.

A logical question prior to a vote to disassociate from what appears to have been a longstanding and productive relationship for Warren County Public Schools would be that if, in fact, the VSBA lobbies, what does it “lobby” – or as its website states: “advocate” – for? The answer from information on its website appears to be for the interests of its School Boards membership, as in adequate funding of and state policies to the benefit and protection of public education in the Commonwealth of Virginia. If that is a “partisan” agenda might it be because those labeling it as such have made it so?

Is it surprising that an organization created to protect and promote public education in Virginia would be at odds with people, including members of a political party, who appear to have embraced ways to reduce funding for public education? And this is not to say that all Republicans favor reduced community support of public education. But as the Grand Old Party as the GOP tag comes from, fights internally to determine who and what philosophy will control the Party’s future direction, one side of that in-house political struggle steeped in a universe of “alternate facts” and conspiracy theories seem to have found willing allies within the reduced funding of public schools community.

But is there such a defunding of public education agenda in motion in Virginia?  Evidence would seem to be mounting, including right here in Front Royal and Warren County, which may be the perfect petri-dish for such a policy experiment. And if it were to exist, what strategies would indicate that existence and how would such a defunding-of-public-schools agenda be pursued?

A 3-step game plan

For starters, the candidacy and election of like-minded people approaching public school operations from a cynically negative perspective. And that is not to demean honest due diligence in exploring budget variables and cost proposals, just acknowledgment that “due diligence” can sometimes be used as a cover for other motives.

Second, isolate the target – perhaps remove the local School Board from a statewide support group of school boards, especially if it provides independent legal representation and advice for its members’ protection. For those wishing to shift the impetus of community education away from factually based, non-partisan public education, withdrawal from membership in an organization like the Virginia School Boards Association would seem a logical strategical step in isolating your target. That second step would likely be followed shortly by proposals for a fundamental shift in taxing policies supporting the community’s educational systems.

That third step, and this is where the endgame begins, would be to reduce operational funding to public education, as noted above is currently being debated in the halls of the Warren County Government Center.

One way to limit that funding not yet on the table here – but how close might it be? – would be the offering of tax exemptions regarding support of public schools, first to home and private schooling parents, and ultimately perhaps to anyone who does not have a child in the public school system. Such exemptions if achieved would essentially be an economic death blow to public education as we know it.

To those supporting such a reduced public schools funding agenda, public education is no longer a critical part of the entire community’s life to be supported by all that community’s taxpayers to the ultimate benefit of the community as a whole, as in an ability to attract significant economic development and better jobs to that community. Rather, it is a philosophical enemy to be weakened and dismantled to the political and economic benefit of special interest groups with their own ideological lobbying interests in tow.

Disturbing irony

So, does openly stated opposition to those politically advocating reductions to public school  funding make VSBA a partisan lobbying organization? An answer reflects the “disturbingly ironic” part of the question on the table.

If critics of VSBA as partisan lobbyists are themselves part of a philosophical and/or political ideology targeting support and funding of public education because it does not advocate for or teach their preferred ideological beliefs, attempting to identify public educational advocacy from an alliance of statewide School Boards as “partisan lobbying” seems overwhelmingly ironic, and more particularly hypocritical and self-serving. Excuse me if I am skeptical of Salins’ qualification against lobbying from any political perspective.

One might ask what the $9,521.19 annual VSBA membership fee does for the county’s public schools. As reported by Royal Examiner’s Kim Riley (story link below), VSBA offers its members: “a variety of services, including governance training; strategic planning services for developing and implementing focused plans of action; assistance with searching and selecting a superintendent; networking; subscriber policy services based on state and federal laws, regulations, and case law; legal information and limited attorney consultation; and collective bargaining services”. Riley further quoted Public Schools Superintendent Chris Ballenger observing that “VSBA also offers high-quality webinars, conferences, conventions, meetings, podcasts, and other trainings for school board members and for school board development.”

See: “School Board debates membership in Virginia School Boards Association”

Hmm, legal information and attorney consultation, as well as policy services based on state, federal, and case law; not to mention a statewide network of School Boards bringing their own perspectives and group unity to evolving issues faced by public schools in this third decade of the 21st century.

Action Agenda

I suggest the citizens and taxpayers of this community not philosophically connected to a desire to weaken independent, non-partisan, fact-based public education not wait to see how this debate concludes. Rather, proactively contact your School Board members immediately with a demand the Warren County School Board maintain its membership in VSBA. I searched “Warren County Virginia School Board” online (Google search engine) and clicked on the first link to get a full email/phone # list of members.

But with a potential vote on the FY-23 school budget as early as Tuesday, August 16, don’t stop there. Also contact and urge the Warren County Board of Supervisors to insist that public schools receive adequate Operational funding independent of past or current Capital Improvement Project debt service variables, with additional tax revenue when and if necessary (not this year), for what, along with Public Safety, is one of the two most important functions of county governments – Public Education. I searched “County of Warren Virginia Board of Supervisors”, clicked on first link, then on “Government” on top row, then to left on “Board of Supervisors” and scrolled down several turns to get emails and phone #s for all members.

For if this battle is lost, prepare for the rest of those above-described strategies to eventually be put on the table at the long-term expense of, not just Warren County Public Schools and the students and staff in them, but this community as a whole.

Roger Bianchini
Front Royal

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Are You Struggling To Start Your Day Off Right?

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Are you struggling to start your day off right? Do you feel overwhelmed by the number of things that need to get done?

If you’re looking to start your day positively, you need to have a plan. And there are a lot of ways to start your day positively.

Getting up early in the morning might not be everyone’s favorite thing to do. But starting your day off right is important for your productivity and keeping you focused throughout the day.

Many of us wake up in the morning and ask ourselves, “How am I going to start my day?”

When you’re unsure what to do first, it can be hard to start off positively. In this post, we’ll talk about some simple things you can do to start your day positively and feel more productive and less stressed out.

Positive Ways To Start Your Day

One of the biggest challenges for most people trying to be productive is starting the day off right. Trying to get some serious work done is usually not as easy as just waking up and working for hours straight.

Your brain wants to rest, so you’ll feel sluggish, tired, and unmotivated for the first few hours. That’s why it’s essential that you find a way to start your day on a positive note so that you can build momentum from there on.

For starters, the most important thing you can do is stop and breathe. Most of us don’t do this at all or tend to ignore it, which is why our minds get overloaded and stressed out.

When you’re feeling calm, you’re less likely to get frustrated over things, and you’re more likely to perform better. Start off the day by taking time to clear your head and center yourself.

The next thing you need to do is drink some water. Drinking plenty of water throughout the day keeps you hydrated and replenishes your body. The other reason you should drink water is that it’s a great way to flush out toxins in your system.

Another way to start your day positively is to exercise. Going for a walk or jogging, if you can, will give you more energy to get things done, and it’ll make you feel better.

These are a few of the best ways to start your day positively. You can pick and choose what you want to do, but just ensure that you’re starting off on the right foot.

Prepare The Night Before

Most people spend their entire day running around doing whatever they need to do. But most people have no idea how to prepare for the day ahead.

Instead, you should come up with a simple and short list of things you’re going to do each day before you start your day – preferably the night before.

If you do this, you’ll be able to get your head in the right place as the day progresses. You’ll know what you need to do and what you need to leave to other people to do.

You’ll know what you need to do and leave it to other people, and you’ll also know what needs to be done the next day. This will make your day more efficient, and you’ll be able to do more of what you need to do without having to run around trying to figure out what you need to do.

You’ll then be able to spend your day in a productive manner, without wasting any time, and actually get a lot more done than you ever thought possible.

Organize Your Day

There are many reasons why people fail to progress on their goals. Most times, it’s due to one thing or another that keeps them from actually achieving anything.

That being said, one of the most common reasons people give for failing to accomplish any of their goals is a lack of organization. They don’t know how to prioritize things, they don’t know what steps they need to take to get to the next step, and so on.

If you’re looking to get to your goals, you will need to become organized. That means creating a to-do list that will help you make the necessary moves and follow through on them. You’ll need to take your goals very seriously and make sure you put them on your to-do list every day.

You might start off small, but before you know it, you’ll have several tasks on your list. Before you know it, you’ll be on the road to accomplishing your goals.

In order to do this, you’re going to have to figure out the most important thing you need to accomplish. If you’re just setting your goals and not putting them into action, you’ll never actually progress towards them.

You can think of your to-do list as a simple calendar. Every day, you’ll write down what you want to accomplish for the day, what’s the most important task to get done, and what’s the least important.

You can also add your goals to your to-do list. The easiest way to do this is to write them down in an actual physical calendar. When you’re out and about, you can simply flip to that day and see what you need to get done that day.

It’s really as easy as that. Now, you might be wondering if you should also include your dreams on your to-do list. While dreams are great, they’re not really meant to be accomplished in such a short timeframe.

You can always write those down, but they’re only meant to be a part of your overall goals. After all, achieving your dreams is much easier once you’ve already achieved your other goals.

If you’re having a hard time thinking of what your to-do list should look like, you can use the following method to help you:

Break your to-do list into smaller parts. You want to break your to-do list into parts that are easy to complete. Don’t think of it as a giant list.

Think about what you need to do and what your to-do list should look like.

Break it down into the most important steps, then continue from there. By breaking it down into smaller steps, you will be able to accomplish your goals and reach your dreams.

Once your goals are set, your to-do list should be relatively easy to figure out.

When it comes to achieving your goals, there’s no better time than now. You might not be able to start now, but once you get going, you’re sure to get moving. You can’t start now and then wait for the right moment to get started.

The right moment is now. You just need to get up and get going.

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Commentary: Why not Virginia? An open letter to Florida, Texas guvs on immigrant junkets

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Dear Govs. Greg Abbott of Texas and Ron DeSantis of Florida,

I have watched with keen interest your kind efforts to provide free transportation for new immigrants to visit some of our nation’s grand cities.

I recall the time in my childhood when I first saw the gleaming towers of New York City – magical sights I had only glimpsed in movies and on our black-and-white TV of buildings that seemed to comb the clouds.

Same for Washington, D.C., and its venerable sites such as the Capitol, the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial, the White House and the Pentagon – symbols of American freedom and might known worldwide.

Ditto for Los Angeles, San Francisco and Chicago. The list goes on and on.

To round up these new arrivals from abroad — the tired and the poor, the huddled masses yearning to breathe free, as it were — from their entry points in your states and whisk them off on one-way chartered bus and airplane junkets to these enchanting metropolises with literally just the clothes on their backs is so darn … special.

But come on, guys. Spread the wealth!

So far, you’ve shared these new Americans-by-choice only with political jurisdictions governed by Democrats.

For instance, New York City: The mayor is Democrat Eric Adams, and it’s in a state whose governor is Democrat Kathy Hochul. Chicago’s mayor is Democrat Lori Lightfoot, and another Democrat, J.B. Pritzker, is the governor of Illinois. The mayor of our nation’s capital, Muriel Bowser, is also a Democrat, as are the mayors of L.A. and San Francisco and the governor of California.

Y’all sensing a pattern here?

You both have an embarrassment of riches – particularly you, Gov. Abbott, with families crossing the Rio Grande in unprecedented numbers in their flight from the brutality, lawlessness and repression of failing communist regimes in places like Venezuela and Nicaragua. These folks, children and adults, have trod thousands of dangerous, blistering miles across South and Central America to reach the land of the free and the home of the brave so they can feed and shelter their families.

And, Gov. Abbott, you have a point that migrants are crossing the border with Mexico, including your state, in increasingly high numbers, a fun fact borne out by the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol’s own data. It shows that more than 200,000 a month have entered by the southern border since March.

So I get it. Texas shouldn’t be expected to handle this solo. To a lesser extent, same goes for Florida and the refugees who reach its shores from Cuba, still an insular gulag and an economic basket case 63 years after Fidel Castro’s communist revolution.

Then why limit your immigrant excursions to cities and states governed by the opposition party? That I don’t get.

Consider my beloved Virginia. Opportunity abounds here!

Almost every year, the financial news cable network CNBC ranks our commonwealth either the very best or among the top states for business. And those businesses need workers! Bigly!

Across the spectrum, from private business to government offices, people left the workforce during the “great resignation” at the height of the pandemic with no plans to return, a phenomenon not reflected in unemployment statistics. Many businesses are so short of staff that they burn their employees out working them overtime just to keep their burgeoning backlogs manageable.

Why are these people enduring such peril and privation to reach the United States? For freedom and security, yes, but specifically for jobs: An honest day’s wages for an honest day’s labor. What they need, Virginia has.

Yes, there are states more needy, but WalletHub ranks Virginia ninth in its research on states where employers are struggling the most with hiring. The same study shows conditions are less dire for employers in Texas (ranked 26th) and the Sunshine State (46th).

And Virginians are among the most giving folks in the country, according to U.S. News & World Report. Its research ranks Virginia as the eighth most charitable state. Not to throw shade on your states, sirs, but the same survey ranks Florida 37th and Texas 40th. (OK, I was throwing shade.)

Surely you’re not holding out on us because our governor, Glenn Youngkin, is a Republican, as are our lieutenant governor, attorney general and lower legislative chamber. Hey, if that’s an issue, ol’ Glenn’s hardly even around here these days. He’s spending tons of time in other states (maybe even yours?) stumping for fellow Republicans in governors’ races. I suspect it will be that way until Election Day … also maybe in the early part of 2024.

Also, if it helps, we’ve got two Democratic U.S. senators in Tim Kaine and Mark Warner. A majority of our U.S. House delegation is blue too, but we do have a couple of super competitive congressional races in which Republicans have a decent shot at flipping seats now held by Democrats. I’m sure those GOP House candidates would welcome your new arrivals into their districts with a laurel and hearty handshake if you saw fit to send them. Shucks, Gov. Abbott, one of them, Yesli Vega, the Republican challenging Democratic Rep. Abigail Spanberger, is a Houston-born daughter of Salvadoran immigrants!

I’m sure there are other needful Republican-governed jurisdictions that would gladly welcome “the homeless, tempest-tost,” just as it says on the Statue of Liberty.

Why, I’d be shocked — shocked! — if GOP governors like Kay Ivey in Alabama, Brian Kemp in Georgia, Tate Reeves in Mississippi, Jim Justice in West Virginia Asa Hutchinson in Arkansas and Kevin Stitt in Oklahoma haven’t already contacted y’all about taking some immigrants off your hands.

Bear in mind that your GOP brothers and sisters will expect a neighborly heads-up well in advance as to how many are inbound and when and where they’re arriving so they can plan a proper reception and whatnot. I know neither of you did that for the surprise charters you’ve dispatched to date, and that’s something that’s not fair either to the host cities up north or to these weary travelers who have never seen snow, have no concept of the freezing temperatures they will experience in a few weeks and have never possessed a heavy coat. Using those people as political props made your largesse look like a petty partisan prank rather than responsible and compassionate governance.

I’m sure that was just an oversight – a repeated, hateful oversight.

But I do believe you’d find life a lot easier if you shared the abundant human resources that have blessed your borders by reaching out to all of your gubernatorial colleagues with goodwill, with common courtesy and without regard to geography or partisan affiliation going forward.

Saludos cordiales,

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: info@virginiamercury.com. Follow Virginia Mercury on Facebook and Twitter.

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Commentary: EXODUS 20:22 – Upheaval in Gorky Park

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Are we watching the last days of Vladimir Putin’s rule in Russia? The Russian President is cornered like never before. The Russian people are in the streets, his friends have vanished, his army is in tatters, and his allies are running for cover. Exodus stage left.

In the wake of a colossal setback on the battlefields of Ukraine, he recently called for 300,000 Russian reservists for immediate duty on the front lines. Mr. Putin is quite aware of how this is perceived in foreign capitals. Desperate times require desperate measures. These reservists are desperately needed to fill holes formerly defended by his elite Guards Tank Army. The remnants of that army were last seen fleeing back to Russia a few weeks ago. The opposition is currently upgrading their tank brigades with the spoils deserted by Putin’s legions. The last time Russia mobilized the populace was in response to Operation Barbarossa.  (Hitler’s invasion in 1941). Putin is enduring mass protests and a mass exodus from Mother Russia. Long lines of cars are making for the borders, and international flights to anywhere are overbooked. Despite Putin’s best home-spun propaganda – the Russians aren’t buying it anymore and frankly just don’t have the will to fight this war. They want him to leave.

For Putin, this is the worst nightmare he can fathom. The fundamental problems undermining Putin’s effort to mobilize his people to fight are so deep that they cannot be fixed in the coming months.

Time to commit the Reserves

Unfortunately for Putin, Russia does not have the infrastructure to organize, train, and equip these reserves, which can result in any semblance of combat power in the near term. The last time many of his reservists donned a uniform, it was adorned with Soviet patches. That was 1989. Many of these recruits are older, no longer in good physical shape, and obviously aren’t motivated. They are headed to the meat grinder, and they know it. Drone coverage and mainstream media reports mass departures of military-age males in response to Putin’s call to arms. Additionally, most of Russia’s military ‘boot camp’, like training personnel, have already deployed to Ukraine. Putin is not concerning himself with technicalities, though – he just needs people to jump into foxholes immediately.

Aside from the challenges of getting reservists ready for battle, there is also the question of whether the Russian military has enough modern weapons and other equipment for the hundreds of thousands of new troops being pushed forward. All the new stuff has been expended, destroyed, or captured already.


How did things go south so rapidly?

After all, the west has been cowering in the face of his intrusions in Crimea, Libya, and Syria for almost a decade. A quick answer is that the antagonist in all this is one man – Vladimir Putin – not the Russians themselves. He alone is responsible for the deaths and carnage. He has painstakingly fostered a cult of personality – centered on himself and gradually pushed his rivals aside in his march to dictatorship. Bravado and a few uninvited visits into foreign conflict zones helped his mystique along. The masquerade is convincing, given that he does have the world’s largest arsenal of tactical and strategic nuclear weapons in his pocket. His conventional facade surely impressed NATO and fooled the Western Intelligence Community. Now we see that the threat of nukes is all Putin has. Russia’s hollow interior and failures on the battlefield are smudging the strong man’s veneer. His regime is ridden with increased elite in-fighting, bureaucratic empire building, and systemic corruption. Cronyism rules. The economy has transformed into a source of personal enrichment for competing elites. Now we find out that the state’s vaunted military modernization was rubbish. The Russians are forced to open their Cold War storage facilities in hopes that the old tanks and machinery still work.

Over the past 20 years, Putin’s state-controlled propaganda ministry has promoted the theme that Russia is great again. Twenty years of hype has crumbled in the aftermath of Putin’s ill-advised invasion.  The war has delivered a body blow to the state and to Putin’s painstakingly crafted image. His military has proven to be a paper tiger. The battlefield setbacks and the impact of Western sanctions are choking the economy, along with unrestrained theft of scarce resources by the Russian elite.

The impact of Putin’s decisions

The invasion in February proved to be the spark that threatened to burn the Russian state. Putin is rapidly losing legitimacy at home and abroad. The secret police are angry with him for blaming them for the military fiasco. The generals that haven’t been killed yet are angry that the war is destroying the armed forces. And the blinded populace is, alas – opening their eyes.

As former U.S. Army General and Secretary of State Colin Powell said, “In prosperity, our friends know us; in adversity, we know our friends.” Putin is running out of friends. Iran may be his only pal now. Russia’s foreign allies are starting to telegraph their concerns and gradually distancing themselves from Putin, as illustrated in multiple scenes on the international stage. As alluded to earlier, the mobilization announcement has resulted in mass upheaval. Thousands massed in Gorky Park to protest. The public is becoming aware of the meat-grinder and doesn’t want their husbands and sons sent to the front. Over a thousand people have been arrested; many others have bought one-way airline tickets or driven their cars to the nearest border. The exodus is only being stifled by state controls and bordering nations like Norway – closing their gates.

Meanwhile, an armed ANTIFA-like resistance movement appears to have emerged in Russia and is actively fire-bombing draft boards and derailing trains. A social media channel that caters to Russian partisans provides instructions on how to assassinate officials. Recently, a military officer at a recruiting station was shot. Local elites throughout Russia are demanding Putin’s resignation.

The Russian army increasingly refuses to fight, and desertions are mounting. So much so that the Duma has passed recent legislation imposing stiff penalties for desertion, surrender, and insubordination. Given the poor condition of front-line soldiers, Moscow has taken to enlisting senior citizens, mercenaries, and hardened criminals. None of these groups can be expected to fight with enthusiasm. The criminals are more likely to vanish into the countryside at first sight. Imagine being an officer in charge of this lot – especially when you sympathize with their disdain.

Putin’s military machine kills foreigners and commits atrocities with abandon — and now it is sending in old men to stop bullets. All that’s left to do is for Russian elites and masses to realize this predicament and do something about it. They need to force the restructuring of the Russian Federation with a post-Putin regime. Most of us can’t believe what we are seeing, but the realization of the Russian state’s collapse is approaching.

On the other hand, Vladimir Putin is quite the savvy operator. He didn’t become dictator of Russia by luck. Unfortunately for us, he still has an ally lurking around the corner – the infamous Russian winter. Putin is counting on the winter to slow the Ukrainian advances and dampen the local protests as the masses move indoors to the fireplace. Meanwhile, he will use this winter pause to shore up his forces and enact measures on the home front to suppress the upheaval.

All this is not lost on Ukrainian President Zelensky. He is rapidly moving food, petrol, and ammunition forward and issuing winter garments to his troops. He must take advantage of his opposition’s low morale and sustain the wave of euphoria from recent victories. He would very much like to utilize the frozen bogs as thoroughfares for an armored spearhead. After all, what else is he expected to do with the influx of Russian armor he recently inherited? Hopefully, he takes a page out of George Washington’s playbook and hits the Russian camps in the winter.

With luck, we will soon be rid of Mr. Putin and write a new chapter with his Exodus 20:23.

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History repeats

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I was advised early in my business career to learn from history because if you don’t, it will likely happen again with the same consequences.

I have been following the new town developments regarding the reluctance of the Council to release the resumes of individual applications for the open Council seat.

Let’s look back over the last several years of the lack of transparency of the Council when a mayor was selected without the Council releasing any of the resumes of the other individuals that were being considered

This lack of transparency continued when the council selected an interim Town Manager without vetting the individual resumes of the individuals being considered.

We are still dealing with the negative aftermath resulting from the Council’s lack of transparency of not vetting or sharing all the interested individuals for these positions

Now fast forward to the recent appointment of the Republican Party Officer to the council. I personally have nothing against the individual appointed. While researching the qualifications of the other candidates, it became apparent there were other candidates that were much more qualified with both management and financial experience that would be great to have in this position.

This continues to propagate the community’s belief that the Council selections, both past and current, are for the betterment of a small group of people that are focused on their self-interest and party instead of the community in a nonpartisan town environment.

It’s time again for the Council to appoint another person to fill Joe McFadden’s seat. Again, as history repeats itself, it seems the citizens will not have an opportunity to see the different resumes of the interested parties or even know who these individuals are that could be representing us on Council.

History will continue to repeat itself if we do nothing to stop it.

Michael Graham
Front Royal

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Abortion: Don’t tread on me—or my values

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While he may not want to talk about it, it’s no secret that Ben Cline is staunchly anti-abortion, believing that human life begins at conception and, accordingly, that a woman has no right to terminate a pregnancy. He has signed onto proposed legislation prohibiting abortions nationwide, with no exceptions for rape, incest or protecting the life or health of the mother. He has also voted against a law safeguarding the use of contraceptives like birth control pills to prevent pregnancy. I certainly can respect another’s deeply-held moral or religious beliefs, Mr. Cline being a conservative Catholic. What I do object to, however, is having him or anyone else impose those beliefs on me and oblige me to conform to them.

If a couple is unable to prevent an unwanted pregnancy, they can face catastrophic consequences, and their lives can be devastated. A child may demand a level of financial, emotional and material support completely beyond the ability of the couple to provide. The end result is that the child becomes a ward of the state, and we all pay the costs through our tax dollars. While talking about these effects of an unwanted or unplanned child may seem heartless or cruel, they are undeniably real.

I just cannot accept that Mr. Cline or anybody else feels that he can have control over a very private decision that belongs to me and my wife. I’m sorry, but in matters of ending a pregnancy or using birth control pills, the woman gets to decide what to do–naturally in consultation with her partner, in the privacy of their bedroom and consistent with her own moral and religious beliefs. Mr. Cline and the government have no business getting involved–at all. Since he apparently believes otherwise, I do not plan to vote for him in November.

D.J. Murphy
Fishersville, VA

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Dr. Petrolove or: How I learned to stop worrying and love fossil fuels

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We always knew it would come to this.

That it would start … out there. Out on the Left Coast where all the loonies live: California, the land of surfboards and wildfires; of Google, Apple and Microsoft; of swimming pools and movie stars. And godless liberals.

That’s the sort of place where wild-eyed, un-American ideas get seeded by some radical who dares to think beyond this decade and where it would take root and, before you knew it, creep across the purple mountain majesties and the fruited plain like kudzu.

Sure ’nuff, it happened: a sneak attack. OK … a sneak attack with 13 years’ notice, but that’s no time at all when you’re talking about ending the sale of new gasoline-powered cars.

Youngkin’s my name. Glenn Youngkin. I command this conservative outpost called Virginia, and if those granola-munching, tree-hugging, Birkenstock-wearing lefties are spoiling to go toe-to-toe over our precious petroleum fluids, well … hold my Chardonnay.

A slick-haired, tan-from-a-can dandy named Gavin Newsom, my counterpart in California started this dust-up. And I aim to finish it. It was his doing and that of the lefty legislature out in the so-called Golden State that flat-out dictated that come 2035, there would be no more brand-new cars sold that rely on internal combustion of petroleum distillates for locomotion. If you buy it new off a dealer’s lot or order it online factory-fresh, it’ll run off hydrogen fuel like some spaceship or you’ll have to plug it in like some lowly vacuum cleaner or washing machine.

That’s pretty rich, ain’t it? A state that barely a week ago was warning of rolling blackouts on account of a freak heat wave draining its power grid is going to force folks to buy cars that run off the very electricity that they already can’t make enough of.

Not that it’s any skin off ol’ Glenn’s hind parts if Californians won’t have the privilege of paying upwards of seven frogskins a gallon for regular gas – nearly nine bucks for high-test – as they did several weeks ago. What slaps my chaps is that what Newsom did means I’d have to do the same thing across the country here in god-fearin’, carbon-lovin’ Virginia, too.

Like hell I will.

The Biden administration’s goal to have half of all U.S. vehicles be electric by 2030, will require increased production of minerals such as lithium, nickel and cobalt used in batteries. (Sarah Vogelsong/Virginia Mercury)

I’m pulling Virginia out of this Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative and I’m asking the General Assembly to repeal this perfidious state law the Democrats passed in 2021 that requires us to follow California’s lead on emissions policy. Seventeen other states are part of this same devil’s deal, but I can only strike a blow for the good of our fossil fuels here in Virginia (unless I strike it lucky in the 2024 presidential primaries, but that’s another tale).

Here comes Lionel Mandrake, my somewhat uptight, British-born environmental policy wonk, walking into my office. Right on time.

“Mandrake, have a seat,” I said, motioning to the chair opposite my desk.

“Good evening, sir. Do I understand correctly that we’re threatening to leave the multi-state vehicle emissions compact and that you’ve placed the House of Delegates on Condition Red?” Mandrake said. “Good idea. Keep the lads on their toes.”

“I’m afraid this isn’t a drill, Mandrake,” I replied.

“Oh dear. Is California involved?”

“Looks like it. Could get pretty hairy.”

I took a sip of my preferred cocktail, an oaky Pinot Grigio and rainwater. “Mandrake, I can no longer sit back and allow leftist infiltration, leftist indoctrination, leftist subversion and the international leftist conspiracy to sap and impurify our precious petrochemical fluids!”

“But sir, might we be acting a bit … rashly? I mean, the whole bloody point will likely be moot by 2035 whether we act or not. The mass conversion to electric vehicles is well under way. Detroit and the world’s other automakers are retooling and switching entire model lines pell-mell from internal combustion engines to electric motors. Why, there’s even a new start-up right here in Virginia that’s in business converting big-rig tractors from diesel engines to electrical. Our own transportation department just announced plans for a major expansion of electrical charging stations along interstates across Virginia. And our friends at Dominion are ever so keen on the idea of vehicles that use electricity,” Mandrake said.

“Friends? Dominion?” I said, giving Mandrake the stink-eye.

“Dreadfully sorry. Habit from the not-too-distant past,” he said.

“Mandrake, do you realize that EV dominance is the most monstrously conceived, leftist/environmentalist plot we’ve ever faced?”

“Nevertheless, sir, carmakers are going where the money and incentives are, and if a market the size of Cali goes EV, so shall they. Were California, its own country, it would be the world’s fifth-largest economy ,right behind Germany and just ahead of the United Kingdom — God save the king. California’s almost $3 trillion annual GDP accounts for nearly 15% of the entire American economy,” he continued in a pleading tone.

“And sir,” Mandrake continued, “General Motors has already announced it will bring 30 new EV models to market in just the next three years and manufacture EVs exclusively by 2035. Ford has invested $22 billion into electric vehicles, and 40% of all that it produces will be all-electric by 2030. Besides, sir, this shan’t affect the sale of pre-owned petrol-powered cars by one tuppence.”

“Sit down and chill, Mandrake. I’ve already gotten the ball rolling with Todd Gilbert and our boys in the House. There’s no stopping it now,” I said.

“I beg of you, Glenn – politics aside — have you considered the climatological implications? It brings us incrementally closer to … the Doomsday Machine,” he said ominously. “It’s getting worse every year, sir: triple-digit temperatures in Portland, Oregon, and even Scotland, for goodness sake; a full-blown hurricane now forecast to blast the Canadian coast near Newfoundland; estuaries and reservoirs drying up in the American Southwest; hundred-year floods happening every year.”

“The libs have been using that global warming hooey to try to scare the bejeebers out of us for decades now. Every study the petroleum industry pays for proves the same thing: science can’t be trusted,” I replied.

“But you don’t have to believe me, Mandrake,” I continued, buzzing my receptionist. “Can you send in Dr. Petrolove?”

Petrolove sir?” Mandrake asked. “Wasn’t he …”

“Yeah. I put him on retainer after he made parole for his part in that Enron nastiness back in the 2000s. Knows every dirty secret in the oil and gas biz and some they haven’t even thought up yet. If your ‘Doomsday Machine’ exists, Petro will know about it.”

“’Sup, chief?” Petrolove called out in his Texas twang as he strutted into my office.

“Petro, Mandrake here tells me there’s the risk of some ‘Doomsday Machine’ that could plunge humanity into environmental oblivion if we keep standing up for our friends in the carbon-energy sector,” I said. “Go ahead and tell him how full of malarkey he is.”

“Um …,” Petro said, shuffling his cowboy boots, unable to look at me.

“Go ahead, Doc. School Mandrake for me.”

“Well, el hefe,” Petrolove said, haltingly clearing his throat, “the Doomsday Machine is real and terrifying, but completely credible and easy to understand. If we don’t decrease the carbon that we’re pumping into the atmosphere, it will create a doomsday shroud around the planet.”

Chills ran down my back. I swallowed hard. Suddenly I understood. Why hadn’t I seen the devastating truth of this all along? Why had I clung to naïve beliefs in the face of clear evidence? It was, indeed, an inconvenient truth, but it was high time I accepted it … and spoke it.

“Damn shame the libs got to you, too, Petro. You’re fired.”

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: info@virginiamercury.com. Follow Virginia Mercury on Facebook and Twitter.

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