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Archive for July, 2009

Although a vast majority of cars don’t sport bumper stickers, there are still a number of us who do. Some are for candidates or issues, while others tell us where the occupant has been. And then there are ones that express a joke or vulgar suggestion. The common thread is that each one tells you a little something about the owner. As for myself, with the exception of a pro-life sticker, all of mine have been for our political representatives (no great surprise there huh?) Campaigns tell us that a bumper sticker is typically as valuable as a several hundred-dollar donation to the candidate. After all, visibility and name recognition are a critically important component of victory.

Anyway, while driving to work yesterday, I traveled behind an otherwise forgettable car. Although the vehicle in front of me expressed a handful of messages, one and only one of them stuck in mind. It was a simple black and white one, which read, “America Bless God”. It is a twisting of the more traditional “God Bless America”. At first glance, I thought it a call to a renewed spirituality. So many professing Christians believe that the nation as a whole has lost its moral bearing and we are awash in moral relativism, the premise that morality is fluid and personal, rather than fixed and universal. This idea is troubling to both Christians and conservatives alike.

Upon further reflection though, I discovered a whole different shade of meaning. Think about it. America bless God? Does that statement make sense? How can America bless God? I suppose it depends on how you define “bless.” Typically when I think of blessing something or someone, it is to grant some sort of special favor or to make holy. Obviously America can do neither of these two things to God. According to my Microsoft Word dictionary the word can also mean “to declare approval and support for somebody or something” or “to express heartfelt thanks to somebody”. Regardless, the phrase “America Bless God” jogged my memory of a Bible verse. Hebrews 7:7 reads, “And without question, the person who has the power to bless is always greater than the person who is blessed.” (NLT). Applying this verse to the bumper sticker leads to some rather unsettling conclusions. If America can bless God that means that America must, by this definition, be greater (more powerful, holier, etc) than God. I doubt (or at least hope) that the owner of the car doesn’t hold America in higher regard than God. In my mind, the whole “America Bless God” rhetoric harkens back to the McCain campaign’s slogan “Country First”. Don’t misunderstand…I love this country as much as anyone else, but if you were to strip away the ideological and religious foundations you will invariably be led to blind patriotism, worship of the state, and totalitarism. Although they both sound good on the surface, their deeper meanings place America above principles, above God, über alles. Is that the kind of bumper sticker values you have plastered on your vehicle?

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Let me start with a personal note. You may be wondering why I haven’t been updating as often as I normally do. Well…as I’ve mentioned in a previous post, I’m still on the hunt for a new job. With my last days at my present job looming in the not too distant future, I’ve been devoting huge chunks of my free time to looking for my next opportunity. The prospect of unemployment, especially in our present economy is grim indeed. Once this present unpleasantness is settled, I promise to update regularly again. Ah, but enough about that…on to a post!

Whenever you enter Virginia, you are always greeted with a sign welcoming you to the state as well as one of our state-run rest areas. These rest areas not only provide needed restrooms, but also vending machines, and grassy patches with tables for picnicking. They aren’t limited to merely a handful of places, but they are spread throughout our interstate system…or at least they used to be. With the massive budget shortfalls, these examples of southern hospitality have been drastically scaled back as of late and will now disappear completely.

This morning, I received an email from my State Senator, Mark Obenshain (R-26) concerning this situation. He writes,

—– || Rest Areas, R.I.P. || —–

They are among the most literal signs of Virginia’s ongoing budget crisis, and if you’ve pulled off the interstate at a rest area lately, perhaps you’ve seen one: within the last two weeks, signs went up at eighteen rest areas across the Commonwealth announcing their imminent closure. These rest areas will officially shut down at midnight tonight – just as many motorists and truckers are looking for a place to stop for a break.

Some will see in these newly barricaded entrances a grim commentary on the Commonwealth’s openness to tourism, travel, and commerce. Shuttering these rest areas makes those long stretches along our interstates less inviting to those contributing to Virginia’s billion dollar tourism industry. As one op-ed columnist observed, a visitor to Virginia might soon tell friends and family that the Blue Ridge Mountains are spectacular, but, on the flip side of the ledger, Virginia closed all the restrooms.

But I have a still more pressing and immediate concern: as many as twenty percent of all highway accidents are caused by “drowsy driving,” and eliminating places to pull off, stretch one’s legs, or use the restrooms may sometimes be more than inconvenience. It rises, at times, to the level of a safety concern.

Virginia’s budget is a mess; there’s no getting around that. Cuts are unavoidable, and no department or agency is immune. Eliminating nineteen rest areas – eighteen on July 21 and another in September – to save a mere $9 million is, however, reckless and unnecessary.

As I have long pointed out, the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) and the Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB) are no strangers to pork-barrel and wasteful spending. Scrapping plans for a single public rail pilot project, for instance, could fund keeping these nineteen rest areas open for another three years.

Several decades ago, a new term entered the political lexicon: the Washington Monument Strategy. Year after year, Congress would call upon the National Park Service to find ways to operate more efficiently, and invariably the response would be that if they had to cut one more penny, they would have no choice but to close the Washington Monument. Something very similar seems to be taking place here: ordered to make cuts, VDOT has responded by making the most painful and public cuts they can get away with in a game of brinksmanship in which Virginia’s motorists are unfortunately cast as mere pawns.

Under federal law drafted in, and more appropriate to, a much earlier era, we do not have the option of commercializing or privatizing our rest areas to make them profitable or at least less fiscally burdensome. Sadly, last week Congressman Frank Wolfe’s efforts to change that federal law were rejected with speed seldom seen in the halls of Congress — speed seemingly reserved for “stimulus” bills, bailouts, and possibly now for the nationalization of our healthcare system.

We do, however, have the option of cutting elsewhere. Delegate Todd Gilbert and I have called for an outside performance audit of VDOT which could identify far better targets for elimination.

The barricades are going up tomorrow, but it didn’t have to be this way: with a little prudence and an eye toward eliminating needless expenditures, we could have recouped this cost and far more.

Don’t let anyone tell you that this was unavoidable: there were always other options. Funds are tight, and painful cuts will continue to be necessary across the board, but the closure of these nineteen rest areas became a foregone conclusion because those who could have charted a different course chose to do nothing.

That’s not a legacy I would want.

With best regards,
Mark D. Obenshain
Virginia State Senator

Nor would I Senator Obenshain…nor would I. Once the economy turns around, I hope these rest areas will once again reopen.

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A friend recently asked me why I hadn’t written about Sarah Palin’s resignation as Governor of Alaska. While I answer that question, let me share with you a recent comic by Tatsuya Ishida. Certainly her resignation came as quite a shock. After all, how often, besides a scandal or the threat of impeachment, does a public official resign? A good number of us on the right fell in love with Palin when she ran for Vice President, supporting McCain’s bid for the presidency not out of any burning desire to see McCain actually elected, but rather based upon the future hopes of a more conservative Palin administration in 2012. Although I thought Palin to be a good pick, it quickly became apparent that the single choice alone was insufficient to salvage the campaign. Despite what some pundits thought, I was fairly convinced that Palin would not be the Republican nominee in 2012. Now, with her resignation looming, I am certain of it.

How many vice presidential nominees who lost the election went on to become president? Sure, we’ve had one vice president lose an election and later become president, that being Nixon. But vice presidential nominees? In recent memory Bob Dole tried in 1996 and lost. Only Franklin Roosevelt (nominee in 1920 with James Cox) went on to win in 1932 (unless you count James K. Polk in 1840, which you shouldn’t in my opinion given that he was not the official nominee).

Furthermore, resigning as Governor of Alaska makes her further irrelevant. If she couldn’t even finish her term as Governor, what makes you think that she’d be a good choice for President. What skeletons are in her closet? Why couldn’t she finish out her term? Is 2010 just too far away?

I hate to be the one to break it to you, but she is not the conservative leader we need right now. Sure, she is conservative, but there are a considerable number of presidential hopefuls who are more conservative, more constitutionally minded, and more experienced. Therefore, unless something dramatic happens between now and the primaries, Sarah Palin will not be the nominee in 2012. So to answer the question of why did I not comment on Governor Palin before now, it is for the simple fact that her political future and clout will likely vanish as quickly as a gust of wind. I suppose you could say that she’s now palin’ in comparison.

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This evening, while working at the store, a customer mentioned to me that the cosponsors to HR 1207 (Audit the Fed) had now reached 245. Therefore, once I got home, (and remembered) I scanned the list to see the new names. Ok, ok…most of them I didn’t recognize. After all, there are 435 of them. Who can keep them all straight? Anyway, I was both surprised and pleased to see Rep. Eric Cantor’s name on the list. I guess that your all’s hard work has paid off. Thank you Representative Cantor for doing the right thing! If you live in his district, let him know that you appreciate it when he works to reduce the size and scope of Washington.

But the work is far from over. Assuming that it passes through committee and all of the supposed cosponsors actually for it, we still have the Senate. Therefore, we must stress the importance of this bill to our Senators. Three have already signed on: Crapo (ID), DeMint (SC), and Vitter (LA), with Senator Jim DeMint being the very first. If you are a Virginian, Senator Webb’s Washington number is 202-224-4024 and Senator Warner’s number is 202-224-2023. You know the drill.

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With every new revelation offered by South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford, I am continually amazed at the sheer audacity of his remarks. It seems to me that he has stuck his foot so deep in his mouth that he should be choking on leather. Perhaps some newcomers to this blog might find it strange to focus on Mark Sanford; after all, he is the Governor of South Carolina and not Virginia. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, Mark Sanford and I share many of the same political philosophies and he was (yes, was) my choice for the Republican nominee for President. Now that he has ensnared himself in this web of adultery, his support from people such as myself is quickly vanishing.

Rather than taking the traditional mea culpa: begging for forgiveness from his wife, his children, and his constituents, he instead goes so far as to call his mistress his “soul mate” and, though apparently grudgingly, concedes the need for reconciliation with his family. Even the sexual deviant, President Clinton, when caught both in an affair and lies associated with the event, pretended that he was sorry. However, this shocking twist clearly illustrates that despite his rhetoric, Mark Sanford’s primary motivation in life is the happiness of Mark Sanford, everyone and everything else be damned.

As I recall from the Monica Lewinsky scandal, many of Bill Clinton’s supporters argued, “what does his personal life have to do with his ability to perform his job?” Now, as both a social conservative and a Christian, I do expect our leaders to serve as moral examples to the general public. Don’t we seek the very best of us to guide and represent our interests in government? But, even if you disagree, I ask you, how can you trust a man who cheats on his own family? Don’t those very relatives rely on him far more than the voters of South Carolina can, or ever will? It is true that Mark Sanford has damaged and betrayed both the conservative movement and the people of South Carolina with his sin, however these marks pale in comparison to the damage inflicted upon his family. Governors come and go, and someone somewhere will claim the mantle of limited government conservatism for 2012; but the family unit is the bedrock foundation of our society, our religion, and our state. Therefore, until and unless Governor Sanford admits his guilt, turns away from his errant path, and seeks the forgiveness of his wife and his children, he will know neither true happiness nor peace. Will he rise above this wrongdoing? Or will he plunge further into the depths of selfishness? Therefore, I implore you, the reader, to pray for Mark Sanford and his family.

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