Enough is a Feast – 7 Things To Do Instead of Shop

What a bizarre world we live in that some people got up at 4 am on November 26—not to meditate, not to practice yoga, not to write in their dream journal—but to get in line to shop for “Black Friday.”

I decided nearly 40 years ago to abandon the custom of gift giving at Christmas. I used to make a practice of staying away from stores like Walmart from Thanksgiving to well past Christmas. When I became seriously interested in yoga, about 25 years ago, I learned that part of the practice includes observing ethical precepts, and one of those is aparigraha, or non-grasping, non-hoarding, essentially non-greed.

Of course, other spiritual traditions also emphasize the value of simple living, and value spiritual practices and traditions over possessions. In the Christian faith, Continue reading “Enough is a Feast – 7 Things To Do Instead of Shop” »

This post was submitted by Diana Woodall.

FOIA Requests Sent to Richmond on Global Warming

On August 26, 2010 at a town hall meeting at James Madison University, Harrisonburg, Virginia, Governor Bob McDonnell stated, in response to a question I posed on global warming, that the science of anthropogenic climate change was debatable. When I countered that there was not significant debate on this issue, he replied, “I’m telling you, there is.”

At that same town meeting I also spoke with Deputy Secretary of Natural Resources and Senior Advisor on Energy, Maureen Matsen. She stated that the science is not clear that climate change is man made, going on to say that, in any event, addressing energy issues was synonymous with addressing anthropogenic climate change. The problem with this reply is that it implies that as long as we get the amount of energy we need, it does not matter that the source of energy is climate harming fossil fuels. When I suggested to her that the United States has hundreds of years of coal and natural gas, and, therefore, there would be no reason to develop renewables except for concern with greenhouse gases, she chose not to respond.

I thereupon sent freedom of information requests to both Governor McDonnell and the Secretary of Natural Resources, asking each to produce any documents they had to support their positions that anthropogenic climate change was invalid science or debatable. The response was: Continue reading “FOIA Requests Sent to Richmond on Global Warming” »

This post was submitted by Bishop Dansby.

Do the Super Rich Owe America Anything?

The bipartisan National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform released its report to a cheering crowd of enthusiastic supporters of fiscal responsibility but those cheers were drowned out by the thunderous roar of just about everybody else. Unlike the hoax of global warming, the growing national debt is a real and serious problem that will spell doom if not addressed immediately, so say neo-conservatives. The Commission, in its reserved and even-handed examination of the facts and figures, has decided that the working poor must bear as much of the burden as the super rich to rectify this difficult situation. We are Americans; we can do this!   Continue reading “Do the Super Rich Owe America Anything?” »

Fair Questions for the DNR

With a summit on justice issues just passed, it’s a good time to ask if the local newspaper can be a part of the discussion, or is part of the problem.

Take, for instance, last Tuesday’s front page (November 9, 2010). Four teens were arrested in Georgia for a murder at a party that got out of hand.  The story was sensationalism.  That’s not a dig.  During my tenure as a newspaper editor many, many years ago, a story being sensational was enough reason to run it.  One editor I worked with called them “Hey, Mabel” stories.  Others referred to them as back-fence stories.  You run them because people are talking or because you want them to.

What’s less understandable is the information the newspaper chose to run about those arrested.  Their names, ages, and addresses did not appear in the story.  The only identifying information was their surnames, run underneath photos cropped so tightly they purveyed only one fact about the suspects: They were black. Continue reading “Fair Questions for the DNR” »

This post was submitted by JGFitzgerald.

Patriotism Prevails

I suppose it is the confluence of Veterans Day, Election Day and of course, Halloween that compels me to re-examine my deepest feelings about the country in which I am so fortunate to have been born. I fly our flag on appropriate holidays, remembering the days I was in uniform performing color-guard duty. I became very proficient at raising, lowering and folding Old Glory. Now, I just spinher around the staff, fasten her with a rubber band and stick her in the corner of the garage until she is needed again. Continue reading “Patriotism Prevails” »

In Support of the 10-Point Grading Scale

Switching to the 10-point system will not lower the bar for Rockingham Co. students because their teachers will likely change the manner in which they grade slightly enough to make the change less abrupt than some perceive it to be. This idea of the bar being lowered appears more like simple pessimism to overall change.

The change will balance out for several reasons. First, most teachers will likely raise their standard grading procedures to meet the change of scale, thus keeping the standards the same and only changing there numerical representation in order to make them consistent with colleges, universities and the majority of the nation?s public schools. Second, the teachers who do not change their grading procedures at all will be balanced by those who do. The amount of potential detriment here is extremely low and in no way substantiates a refusal to join the majority of public schools already using the 10-point scale.

Universities say they look at grading scales and are able to distinguish between the different grading systems, but it is unnecessary and simply redundant to ask them to spend extra time trying to approximate equivalencies between student grades per grading system. As a parent and former public schools teacher, I simply cannot assume that the institution of higher education that my children wish to attend will distinguish them from other children who come from schools using the 10-point scale.

I have heard institutions such as UVA claim to make the distinction between grade point scales when looking at GPA scores, but I have yet to hear how exactly they do that. Perhaps they use some formula for students to equalize all the GPA scores before assessing the scores as a whole. Even if this is not the method, they obviously are claiming to do something of the sort out of fairness. Therefore, out of fairness they will in the end render the distinction between grading scales useless, unnecessary and simply irrelevant.

The counter argument here is that students will work harder for an A in the current system because they will need a score of 94% in order to get it. The problem with this consideration is that it ignores other potential changes within the system that will balance out the admittedly abrupt change of going from the current system to the 10-point system. Overall it seems teachers would readjust their grade giving procedures making it require nearly the same effort to get an A in a 10-point system as it is to get an A in the current system.

All assignments are not numerically equitable. A math test translates to numerical grading practices easily, whereas an essay does not. Even if the teacher uses a rubric to grade student writing, they will at some level ask themselves ?Is this an A, B, C, D or failing paper?? Oftentimes this will be the starting point and from there the teacher will approach a numerical grade based on the merit of the particular paper among others receiving the same letter grade. In this circumstance I see very little potential for negative change from going to the 10-point scale.

There is no doubt that the change would require effort and there may be a period of getting used to the 10-point scale, but it would be worth it in the end. I have yet to hear the school systems that have switched from our current grading scale to the 10-point scale discontented with the change they decided to make for the sake of simplicity and fairness. So the question I pose to parents, teachers, administrators and school boards working in the current grading scale is this: In a national system such as the public schools, which rely on standards and the consistency of standards, why would we refuse to use what has become he standard grading system of US Public Schools?

This post was submitted by Paul Somers.

Do We Need to Correct Our Thinking About Corrections?

As a a long time advocate of criminal justice reform, I was heartened by something our new governor Bob McDonnell included in his January 10 Inaugural Address to the Joint Houses:

“Tough sentences are only half of the equation in making Virginia safer. We must provide real opportunities to prisoners to turn their lives around, and to become responsible and contributing members of society when their sentences have concluded. A failure to do so only leads to more crime, and more victims. I will work with faith-based and community organizations to create an effective prisoner re-entry program to keep people out of jails and prisons. It’s smart government, and will save money.”

These are bold words from a governor of a state with the 8th highest per capita incarceration rate in the US, the nation with the distinction of holding more prisoners than any other country in the world, including China. Continue reading “Do We Need to Correct Our Thinking About Corrections?” »

This post was submitted by Harvey Yoder.

Tea Party Revolts over Nothing

The Tea Party/Republicans claim the Democrats are dismantling free enterprise and building up unprecedented debt. Bailing out Wall Street and the car industry, and stimulating the economy were emergency measures. The Tea Party/Republican complaints go to the long term, what to do about the crushing entitlement costs.   Continue reading “Tea Party Revolts over Nothing” »

This post was submitted by Bishop Dansby.

Terrorist Victory?

http://www.globalsecurity.org/security/profiles/images/9-11_1.jpgNine years after the most horrendous attack on American soil, we look back on that tragic September day and reflect on what has transpired since then. When those nineteen fanatics commandeered four jet airliners to use them as weapons against us, we were dumbfounded that our open society could be so vulnerable. The sense of horror and frustration soon gave way to anger, and under the leadership of President George W. Bush, we mobilized an international coalition of nations to take the fight to the terrorists. Continue reading “Terrorist Victory?” »

Governor McDonnell: Global Warming Skeptic

Governor Bob McDonnell held a town meeting at JMU last week. I had an opportunity to ask him whether he was prepared to support policies that would reduce greenhouse emissions to avoid the worst impacts of global warming (see video inset).
In the course of his answer, he revealed that he thought it was still debatable as to whether climate change was anthropogenic (caused by man). This and other statements made it clear that none of his policies would be based on the assumption that man’s use of fossil fuels was the cause of climate change.

It is clear that this administration takes its cues from coal and the electric utilities that run largely on coal. McDonnell specifically stated that he is a “supporter of coal.” He more than once stated that no one Continue reading “Governor McDonnell: Global Warming Skeptic” »

This post was submitted by Bishop Dansby.

Cuccinelli Abuses Office

Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli (Image from AP)

Virginia Attorney General Cuccinelli has filed a petition on behalf of the Commonwealth of Virginia to request the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to reconsider the regulation of greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide.  The petition says that the hacked emails (“climategate”) of the scientists coordinating the International Panel on Climate Change (IPC) raise such doubts as to the integrity of the IPCC conclusions that the EPA should reconsider regulation. In general, the petition questions the validity of anthropogenic climate change, that is, global warming caused by man made emissions.

On July 29, 2010, the EPA denied the AG’s petition, citing the Continue reading “Cuccinelli Abuses Office” »

This post was submitted by Bishop Dansby.

Passing Loudly in the Dark

The Obama administration and the current Congress faced two historically difficult problems, namely, an unexpected financial breakdown, and global warming. The other issues are relatively routine: terrorism, health care, immigration, the largest environmental disaster in U.S. history, and dealing with the long term cost of entitlements. What! Are you saying that terrorism and health care are routine, or near ruination of the whole Gulf of Mexico is routine?

The fact is that terrorism is a scourge so surreal that it seems more suited to the Old Testament that the 21st Century. Yes, it, too is historically unmanageable and disruptive. Presidents and Congresses since Truman have tried to implement some form of universal health care, and all have failed, so health care reform can hardly be considered routine under normal circumstances. The Gulf Oil leak feels like a Hollywood disaster movie.

And yet, these extraordinary problems are Continue reading “Passing Loudly in the Dark” »

This post was submitted by Bishop Dansby.

Will malpractice reform really lower healthcare costs?

Doctors, do you really think getting the attorneys off of our backs will lessen healthcare costs? Think again.

I’ve used the argument dozens of times myself and it goes something like this: Tonight in the USA at least a thousand people will visit America’s ERs with complaints of a headache. Doctors will order a thousand CT scans to the tune of nearly a thousand dollars a piece to diagnose the one patient who has a rare aneurismal bleed. They say the million dollars of expense is necessary because of the threat of a malpractice suit if the one patient who needs the CT scan didn’t get it. We call this scenario “defensive medicine.”

But I’m not buying my argument anymore. It just doesn’t pan out.  Republicans are crying for repeal. Let’s scrap this healthcare bill and start over. Doctors have been crying for a long time: Tort reform is the answer. “Get us out from under the threat of malpractice!”

Is tort reform the answer? Continue reading “Will malpractice reform really lower healthcare costs?” »

This post was submitted by Harry Kraus, MD.

Will You Be My Friend?

“Seinfeld” fans know that one of the most endearing yet agonizing traits of Jerry’s knucklehead neighbor Kramer was that he would blurt out what everyone was thinking but had better sense to say. In one episode, he blatantly told George’s girlfriend she could use a nose job, at which point, all the other characters cringed. Most of us have the good sense to keep to ourselves matters that are unnecessarily embarrassing or hurtful… not so for the Republican candidate for Harry Reid’s senate seat, Sharon Angle.

Angle has had problems with the press NOT misconstruing her bizarre comments and she is fed up. In a recent interview on Fox News, she is quoted as saying: Continue reading “Will You Be My Friend?” »

This post was submitted by David Rood.

Liberty and Justice for All

When the Age of Enlightenment was suddenly and inexorably replaced with the Age of Romanticism at the end of the 18th Century, the notion of liberty was exalted and the virtue of Justice was trampled by the mobs blinded by vengeance. The American Revolution straddled those two eras. Reason and Justice were the foundations of that revolution but once underway, reason (Thomas Jefferson, Ben Franklin, etal) was set aside in favor of angry rhetoric (Patrick Henry, Thomas Paine, etal) and the middle ground vanished. One was either a Tory or a Patriot. Bystanders were advised to get out of the way.  It seems that now we Americans are being compelled to choose between Right and Left.  While the Right preoccupies itself with Liberty, the Left tenaciously holds on to its complementary value, Justice.

Faith and Civic Response to Climate Change

In the wake of the worst recession since the Great Depression and through the din of climate-gate and right wing media, there is a tendency to overlook just how deep and wide is public support for doing something about global warming.

All of the relevant scientific, governmental and business organizations have made it clear they accept the conclusions of the IPCC that man made climate change is serious and must be dealt with by dramatically reduced use of fossil fuels and more enlightened land use practices. While ExxonMobil and Shell Oil had already gotten on board, the American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG) itself at first urged further research on whether the warming was man made (anthropogenic), but now even the AAPG seems to have thrown in the towel.

These higher level organizations have the serious responsibility and the wherewithal to understand and respond to the science, but what about organizations a tier or more beneath? Here I take a look at the positions taken by religious and civic groups, with particular focus on the Presbyterian Church and the Rotary Club. Continue reading “Faith and Civic Response to Climate Change” »

This post was submitted by Bishop Dansby.

Halloween on July 4

Shenandoah Valley Tea Party in Harrisonburg's July 4th Parade

April 16th marked the passing of former Los Angeles police chief Daryl Gates. His death went virtually unnoticed by the media. However, the page-five news item brought back several memories seared into my brain from the violent Sixties. Gates was a very conservative, no-nonsense law and order guy, who was regarded by many as a racist and bigot. His response to the riots spawned by the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr. and later Robert F. Kennedy in 1968 was swift and brutal. He quickly became the darling of the Nixon crowd and a symbol for law and order.

How times have changed. Today the extreme Right is the faction preaching revolution, and with guns if necessary. Continue reading “Halloween on July 4” »

Buy Your Downtown

The Laughing Dog is one of many locally-owned downtown businesses.

I grew up in Harrisonburg in the 60’s and 70’s. At that time there were no malls, cell-phones, Internet, remotes, gangs etc. It was a small town. JMU was for the most part a women’s college. The Cloverleaf shopping center “was” the mall!

Once, at the same time, these stores all existed downtown. They were profitable because the community had no where else to go. They were/are the Virginia theater, the State theater, Grants, McCroys, Woolworth, Klines, Glens, Alfred Neys, Joseph Neys, Charles Fauls, Leggits, Charles Mathias, Jack Collins shoes, A & N, the Arcade, Novelty News, Warrens Cut-Rate, Salts barber-shop, L & S diner, Jesse’s, Va. Ham, Downtown Grill, Julius’s, George’s, Peoples Drug, Hostetters, Western Auto, Schewels, Denton’s, Grand Piano, Advance, Hawkins Hardware, Sears, Sherwin-Williams, Cato’s, and a Singer sewing machine store.

The question remains, what happened? Continue reading “Buy Your Downtown” »

This post was submitted by Jim Purcell.