I spent a lot of time growing up on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Back then the weathermen named hurricanes, and nobody named snowstorms. Now we are more into equality. We name hurricanes after both men and women, and we even name snowstorms.
Silly people don’t think enough. Very few men ever display the raging, flaring temper of an angry woman, and those men we put in jail. When compared to hurricanes, snowstorms are just not worth naming.
Just the same the snow is falling, and it looks like we will get lots of it. Since noon we have already gotten several inches, and just keeps snowing harder. It is good thing tomorrow is Saturday.
Anyway, Virginia is in a state of emergency. That means stay home. On the other hand, if this were a hurricane and your home was on the beach, staying home would be a very bad idea.
The National Weather Service has a good website, and they don’t bother with the hype or the advertisements. So that is generally where I go for weather info, but there is more out there related to weather emergencies..
Yesterday, Delegate Bob Marshall provided his constituents an email with a bunch of links. Here is the email.
As you are probably already aware Virginia is expecting a significant winter storm beginning tomorrow, Friday, January 22nd and extending through Saturday. Below are a number of resources you may find helpful before, during and after the storm:
VDOT is preparing for this storm and is pre-treating roads in areas where the temperatures will allow today. Once the snow is falling you may want to check out VDOT’s snow plow tracking tool that allows you to check the snow plowing status of your neighborhood. VDOT and VA Dept of Emergency Management also suggest the following in the case of a winter storm:
Get where you need to be before the weather gets bad. If possible, delay travel to allow VDOT crews to clear the roads. Most accidents happen within the first two hours after a storm begins. If you must drive, wear a seatbelt and drive slowly.
Monitor media outlets for notices of closures of government offices or private operations to avoid unnecessary travel.
Make sure you have essential supplies on hand: at least three days of food that does not require refrigeration or electricity to prepare; at least three days of water (one gallon per person per day); a battery-powered and/or hand-crank radio to get information from local media; a family emergency plan.
To check road conditions, you can call 511, go to www.511virginia.org or download the mobile app at the 511 web site.
On Monday I sent a letter to Secretary of Transportation, Aubrey Layne and the Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB) asking them to delay their vote yesterday to give preliminary approval to the I-66 Outside the Beltway tolls until they could meet in Northern Virginia and hear from concerned citizens. (Check out the Fox5 story above.) Unfortunately, they ignored my request. The final CTB vote to go ahead with the tolls in the I-66 project will be on December 9th in Northern Virginia. If you live in Northern Virginia I encourage you to contact VDOT at email@example.com with your concerns and plan to attend the meeting if at all possible. If you don’t live in Northern Virginia this should still be an issue of concern to you since it will set a precedent that the Governor and unelected Board members can take a road that is already paid for and slap tolls on it in spite of massive citizen opposition.
I have reviewed the Transform 66 website (www.transform66.org) and sent another letter today to Secretary Layne and Governor Terry McAuliffe encouraging them read VDOT’s own website because it conflicts with some of the statements they have made with regard to the Transform I-66 projects.
VDOT’s own 2012 and 2013 studies said:
tolls would be from 15-20 cents per mile;1
the conversion of existing I-66 lanes to toll lanes “do not assume that existing lanes would be tolled,” and “were not analyzed;”2
that public support for tolls would have to be generated, and that questions remained about tolling existing lanes.3
Secretary Layne and Governor McAuliffe are undermining public trust for this project by failing to properly inform the public. No I-66 Message Boards were used to alert drivers to potential tolls and they have provided no analysis nor justification for such tolls.
The 2014 VDOT I-66 survey of I-66 users mention tolls four times, but not the price of such tolls. How can the Commonwealth Transportation Board vote to give authorization to this project without even know the costs of the potential tolls?
I fully support the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority prioritizing using the annual $315 million in funds they receive from the Northern Virginia taxes collected to widen I-66 inside the Beltway, expedite extending VRE to Gainesville/Haymarket, add additional parking at VRE and Metro parking lots and create 4,000-6,000 park and ride spaces in areas that do NOT take family farms.
Delegate Bob Marshall
1 “The toll for the peak periods in the peak direction for Package 1 was set at 15 to 20 cents per mile (in 2007 dollars), depending on the demand in each segment. In the reverse-peak direction for the peak periods the toll was about 20 percent lower than the peak.”[page 3-25 I-66 Multimodal Study Final Report, June 8, 2012 http://www.virginiadot.org/projects/resources/NorthernVirginia/I-66_Multimodal_-_Final_Report.pdf 2 “ … Options that simply converted existing lanes to tolled lanes were not analyzed; rather it was assumed that any tolling option would require adding additional capacity.”
“… the tolling scenarios assessed for this high-level Tier 1 tolling analysis do not assume that existing lanes would be tolled, but rather that tolls would be applied to new roadway lanes, with the most likely scenario resulting from tolls applied as part of a HOT lanes system that allow 3+ occupant vehicles to avoid paying the toll. [Page 9-8, Transportation Technical Report, I-66, http://www.vdot.virginia.gov/projects/resources/NorthernVirginia/I66_TransportationTechnicalReport_2013-02-25-ForWeb.pdf ] 3 “Policy issues with tolling existing capacity on an Interstate wold need to be addressed; Potential policy issues with tolling Dulles Airport users; Public support for tolling existing capacity would need to be addressed.” [page 1-4, I-66 Multimodal Study, Supplemental Report, August, 2013, http://www.virginiadot.org/VDOT/Projects/Northern_Virginia/asset_upload_file118_54324.pdf
I-66 Improvements Study, Finalized Survey, Southeastern Institute of Research.
What do the possibility of tolls on I-66 and President Barack Obama’s veto of the National Defense Authorization Act have in common? How could these two seemingly unrelated stories have anything in common? Both are part of a greater, national story, a true story of frothing mad greed.
Think about that old children’s tale. Here is version from Aesop’s Fables.
ONE day a countryman going to the nest of his Goose found there an egg all yellow and glittering. When he took it up it was as heavy as lead and he was going to throw it away, because he thought a trick had been played upon him. But he took it home on second thoughts, and soon found to his delight that it was an egg of pure gold. Every morning the same thing occurred, and he soon became rich by selling his eggs. As he grew rich he grew greedy; and thinking to get at once all the gold the Goose could give, he killed it and opened it only to find,—nothing.
Tolls On I-66
Unfortunately, the idea of tolls on I-66 is something VDOT likes.
Virginia Secretary of Transportation Aubrey Layne today announced a plan to ease congestion on the traffic-clogged Interstate 66. Proposed improvements would move more people, enhance connectivity and provide new travel options on I-66, from I-495 (the Capital Beltway) to U.S. Route 29 in Rosslyn.
Tolling is proposed on this section of I-66 in both directions during rush hours to deliver free-flowing and more reliable travel, and support multimodal improvements that benefit I-66. Vehicles with three or more people would travel the lanes for free during peak periods, while other drivers would pay a toll to use the lanes. The lanes would remain free to all traffic during off-peak periods. (Continued here on VDOT’s website)
What would be done with the money? Our glorious leaders would collect the money from I-66 commuters and spend it on other, unnamed projects. Essentially, the toll is just a another way to milk the “rich” in Northern Virginia.
Here are some sample news stories.
I-66 inside Beltway toll plan unpopular at town hall (potomaclocal.com): Covers a Haymarket, VA townhall on the subject. Delegate Bob Marshall (R) expressed this observation: “These tolls will affect the value of your home and the number of businesses that will locate here.” Don Shaw, his Democratic Party opponent said: “This is not a partisan issue.” Apparently, Shaw wishes Governor Terry McAuliffe, a DEMOCRAT, had waited until after the election to propose more taxes.
Sen. Dick Black Fighting I-66 $17.00 Tolls (www.facebook.com): Similarly, Senator Dick Black (R) is against the I-66 toll. His problem is that his opponent wants to paint him as against birth control, but think about it. Even if he was totally against birth control, what could he possibly do about it? It is a non-issue, a silly, lying distraction, by a candidate who is vehemently supported by that reliable bastion of truth, justice, and the American way, Planned Parenthood (Do you need parts from a dead baby? Give them a call.).
President Barack Obama Uses His Pen To Veto A Defense Bill
That, congressional Republicans said, is an unprecedented and irresponsible use of the veto power.
“The president has vowed to veto it. Why? Because he wants to stop and spend more money on his domestic agenda,” House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said Wednesday. “It’s time to put our troops first, time to stop playing political games.”
Since Congress started passing annual defense policy bills in 1961, they’ve been vetoed four times by Presidents Carter, Reagan, Clinton and George W. Bush. Each time, it was for a specific policy reason: a nuclear aircraft carrier for Carter, missile defense for Reagan and Clinton, and Iraq policy for Bush. (from Obama vetoes defense bill in high-stakes showdown over spending (www.usatoday.com))
Think about what Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said. That defense bill is $612 billion. As big as that sounds, the defense budget is still only a small part of the Federal Budget. In 2016, the Federal Government is expected to spend about $0.9 trillion on defense out of a $4.0 trillion budget (from here). Yet consider how Sequestration works.
What is sequestration?
Sequestration is a tool to implement strict spending cuts agreed to under the 2011 Budget Control Act, which required $1.2 trillion in automatic cuts split evenly between Defense and non-Defense agencies. (from here (www.afge.org))
What was Boehner thinking when he agreed to such nonsense? Isn’t NATIONAL DEFENSE the primary job of the Federal Government? Apparently not. Half the Federal Budget goes into Social Security and health care programs. So it is now “politically safer” to cut defense spending.
What is Obama up to?
“Obama says he opposes the bill because it uses creative budget maneuvers to boost defense spending by $38 billion without increasing domestic spending. Obama wants higher spending for both,” reports ABC News, which also mentions the President was upset that the bill would make it harder for him to close the terrorist detention facility at Guantanamo Bay. (from Obama Vetoes $612B Defense Bill Over Gitmo, Increased Defense Spending (www.breitbart.com))
As usual, Obama wants to waste more money, and he apparently wants to turn terrorists loose on us too.
What will Republicans do? If history is any indication, they will make some noise. In fact, the clucking chickens have already started.
Republicans erupted in near-universal criticism. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., the Senate Armed Services Committee chairman, called the veto “misguided, cynical and downright dangerous.” And more than a dozen House and Senate Republicans, including Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, joined in accusing Obama of putting politics ahead of the troops. (Obama vetoes $612 billion defense policy bill over budget dispute with Republicans (www.usnews.com))
However, Republicans will probably fold.
Republicans have pledged to attempt to override Obama’s veto, but it’s unlikely they have the votes to do so.
The Senate voted 70-27 to pass the bill, and overriding the veto would require 67 votes. But Democratic leaders have said some members would switch their vote to avoid defying the president.
The House vote count, 270-156, would not be enough to override a veto, which would take 290 votes.
Asked how confident the White House is Obama’s veto will be sustained, White House spokesman Eric Schultz replied: “very.” (Obama vetoes defense bill (thehill.com))
Consider the temptation. Republicans now have a ready-made excuse to increase spending. They can blame Democrats.
Here we will look at our leadership, but first a diversion.
Fun On A Saturday Afternoon
On Saturday afternoon, I attended Delegate Bob Marshall‘s Campaign Kick-Up” Event (Virginians will vote on November 3, 2015.). It was fun, good food, dancing, and politics. Got to watch Delegate Marshall dance with his lady, Cathy, and Senator Dick Black dance with his lady, Barbara. That obviously made the ladys happy. Now my wife is after me to dance. Oh well….
I was there for the food and the politics. In addition to Delegate Marshall, Congressman Rob Wittman, Senator Black, Supervisor Jeanine Lawson, and Willie Deutsch (candidate for Member School Board – COLES DISTRICT) spoke. Clerk of the Court Michele B. McQuigg also attended. McQuigg surprised Marshall a bit when she declined to speak, but she did had little reason to do so. Wittman and Marshall both spoke glowingly of her, and she obviously supports Marshall. And there were plenty of good speeches.
Strangely, however, what I found most memorable was a speech not given by a politician. Instead, the fellow giving the invocation made the most powerful statement, and his quotes of Charles Finney and Noah Webster formed the core of his speech. I then decided quotations from those two gentleman would form the core of this post.
Why Must We Choose A New Leadership?
Many wise and learned men have written about the problem of finding good leadership for a republic. That includes why we must be careful.
It is to deny, what the history of the world tells us is true, to suppose that men of ambition and talents will not continue to spring up amongst us. And, when they do, they will as naturally seek the gratification of their ruling passion, as others have so done before them. The question then, is, can that gratification be found in supporting and maintaining an edifice that has been erected by others? Most certainly it cannot. Many great and good men sufficiently qualified for any task they should undertake, may ever be found, whose ambition would inspire to nothing beyond a seat in Congress, a gubernatorial or a presidential chair; but such belong not to the family of the lion, or the tribe of the eagle. What! think you these places would satisfy an Alexander, a Caesar, or a Napoleon?–Never! Towering genius disdains a beaten path. It seeks regions hitherto unexplored.–It sees no distinction in adding story to story, upon the monuments of fame, erected to the memory of others. It denies that it is glory enough to serve under any chief. It scorns to tread in the footsteps of any predecessor, however illustrious. It thirsts and burns for distinction; and, if possible, it will have it, whether at the expense of emancipating slaves, or enslaving freemen. Is it unreasonable then to expect, that some man possessed of the loftiest genius, coupled with ambition sufficient to push it to its utmost stretch, will at some time, spring up among us? And when such a one does, it will require the people to be united with each other, attached to the government and laws, and generally intelligent, to successfully frustrate his designs. (from here)
Note that Lincoln speaks of only the chief leader. He predicted that some leaders would be controlled with only the greatest difficulty, and we now have a leader who speaks brazenly of the power of his phone and his pen. Yet what is our real problem? Is President Barack Obama a man possessed of the loftiest genius, or is it that at every level of public office we have elected unscrupulous men and women? Thus, when our president does not fulfill the obligations of his office — when he violates his oath and breaks The Law Of The Land — he finds support. Therefore, we cannot stop him. We cannot even slow him down. And so our leader, the leader of the world’s most powerful nation, has set the whole world in turmoil, and we can only watch the unraveling.
What have we failed to do?
Some call Charles Finney the Father of American revivalism. Whether he was such or not, Finney spoke at a time preachers were willing to speak of politics.
The church must take right ground in regard to politics. Do not suppose, now, that I am going to preach a political sermon, or that I wish to have you join and get up a Christian party in politics. No, I do not believe in that. But the time has come that Christians must vote for honest men, and take consistent ground in politics, or the Lord will curse them. They must be honest men themselves, and instead of voting for a man because he belongs to their party, Bank or Anti-Bank, Jackson, or Anti-Jackson, they must find out whether he is honest and upright, and fit to be trusted. They must let the world see that the church will uphold no man in office, who is known to be a knave, or an adulterer, or a Sabbath-breaker, or a gambler. Such is the spread of intelligence and the facility of communication in our country, that every man can know for whom he gives his vote. And if he will give his vote only for honest men, the country will be obliged to have upright rulers. . . . As on the subject of slavery and temperance, so on this subject, the church must act right or the country will be ruined. God cannot sustain this free and blessed country, which we love and pray for, unless the church will take right ground. Politics are a part of religion in such a country as this, and Christians must do their duty to the country as a part of their duty to God. It seems sometimes as if the foundations of the nation were becoming rotten, and Christians seem to act as if they thought God did not see what they do in politics. But I tell you, he does see it, and he will bless or curse this nation, according to the course they take. (from here)
Was Finney right? Is politics part of the religion in a country such as this? All I know is that who we vote for reflects a moral choice. When fail to vote for the welfare of our family, friends, neighbors, and countrymen — when we vote selfishly — God cannot sustain us as a free and blessed country.
Noah Webster is famous as a lexicographer for his commitment to education. He stated our obligation as voters this way.
When you become entitled to exercise the right of voting for public officers, let it be impressed on your mind that God commands you to choose for rulers, “just men who will rule in the fear of God.” The preservation of government depends on the faithful discharge of this duty; if the citizens neglect their duty and place unprincipled men in office, the government will soon be corrupted; laws will be made, not for the public good so much as for selfish or local purposes; corrupt or incompetent men will be appointed to execute the laws; the public revenues will be squandered on unworthy men; and the rights of the citizens will be violated or disregarded. If a republican government fails to secure public prosperity and happiness, it must be because the citizens neglect the divine commands, and elect bad men to make and administer the laws. (from here)
So what should we do? How should we select good leaders? Fortunately for us, the Bible offers us some good advice. A couple of thousand years ago, here is what the Apostle Paul told a young protegé about selecting leaders for the church in Ephesus, which was then a corrupt city.
3 This is a true saying: If a man is eager to be a church leader, he desires an excellent work. 2 A church leader must be without fault; he must have only one wife, be sober, self-controlled, and orderly; he must welcome strangers in his home; he must be able to teach; 3 he must not be a drunkard or a violent man, but gentle and peaceful; he must not love money; 4 he must be able to manage his own family well and make his children obey him with all respect. 5 For if a man does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of the church of God? 6 He must be mature in the faith, so that he will not swell up with pride and be condemned, as the Devil was. 7 He should be a man who is respected by the people outside the church, so that he will not be disgraced and fall into the Devil’s trap.
We tend to overlook Paul’s advice and think only of church leaders. Yet our nation’s borders envelope thousands of churches. Our political leaders ensure the morality of our laws. Like it or not, our leaders impose their values upon society. When our leaders are immoral, they endanger our own values and the values of our family, friends and country.
We also may think of Paul’s advice as quaint, not appropriate for today. For example, when Paul wrote this passage, he wrote to people who would not have seriously considered women as leaders. Paul, however, appointed women to positions of trust, and he readily accepted their help. As 1 Corinthians 9 explains, Paul adapted to the culture of each people he visited. He wanted people to listen to when he preach the Gospel, not argue over side issues.
22 Among the weak in faith I become weak like one of them, in order to win them. So I become all things to all people, that I may save some of them by whatever means are possible.
23 All this I do for the gospel’s sake, in order to share in its blessings.
Thanks to a couple of thousand years of such patient Christian teaching, in this country we no longer allow men to select themselves to lead by using the point of their swords. Instead, we vote. Hence, each Christian now has an obligation to demonstrate how a Christian should participate in politics. When we support our candidates, and when we vote, we can put Paul’s words to action. We can back the candidate we would most like to have in charge of our church. If he (or she) is not fit for that job, he probably won’t do a good job as a leader of our county, our city, our state or our country.