Friday, March 31, 2006

Whose coverage would you trust?

In articles about the immigration news conference by House conservatives in Washington yesterday, there is a comment by Virgil Goode being angry about recent demonstrations across the country in which the people protesting are waving Mexican flags. While looking at a few articles online, I found the following quote by Fox News:

Referring to a wave of demonstrations in recent weeks, Rep. Virgil Goode of Virginia said, "I say if you are here illegally and want to fly the Mexican flag, go to Mexico and wave the American flag."

I thought to myself, “I wonder if he knows how stupid that really sounded.” But, as I continued to look, I found this quote in a Richmond Times-Dispatch (RTD) online article:

"I say if you are here illegally, and you want to fly the Mexican flag, go to Mexico to fly the Mexican flag!"

While I felt better about his ability to speak in public and questioned the authenticity of the Fox News report, I continued to search. A second RTD article quotes it the same way as their first article. But an ABC News article also has Virgil telling them to wave the American flag, as does Yahoo news, CNN and every other instance of this quote I found on the Internet.

It seems that every news outlet that used the Associated Press version has the first quote listed, while the RTD’s own Washington correspondent Peter Hardin has changed the quote to obviously reflect better on Virgil.

And guess what? There’s a link to give your opinion on one of the two RTD articles. You can believe I sent my opinion of this blatant distortion of the truth. Now we’ll just have to see if the RTD will print it online. : )

Fox News or the Times-Dispatch—now who would you believe first?

UPDATE: Well, the RTD did not publish my comment. So I'm sending them an email about it and also sending the information to Media Matters. Newspapers should state the truth as it is said--and, if they change anything, should be sure to let us know.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Republicans hoping for Bush numbers

Michael posted a link to National Journal’s The Hotline today. The story was about the Republican National Committee memo telling Republicans not to criticize President Bush. The basis of the memo is “If Bush drops, we (Republicans) all drop.”

I found the comments to be very much what I would expect from Democrats who are angry about the current state of our nation and those government officials who have caused it. One comment, however, struck me in the list. It was:

*Wanna get elected?

Be competent.

Be honest.

Be responsive to greater good instead of catering to the whims of corporate overseers.

Get it?

Show some integrity.

B. Butler | 03.28.06 07:39 PM*

This entire piece speaks to me on so many levels, but the third item on being “responsive to the greater good instead of catering to…corporate overseers” made me think of the mess in Washington with Duke Cunningham, Jack Abramoff, Tom DeLay and MZM’s Mitchell Wade. Wonder if Virgil reads The Hotline? If not, I'm sure he might have seen it in other places--because it's being discussed all over the web.

UPDATE: Not sure what the President's approval rating looks like across the US? I found a link to this picture while looking around on Waldo's site. His comment:

There are now three "red states” in the entire nation. From sea to shining sea, shades of blue.

How sweet it is!

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Delivery Confirmation

(Click on the picture for a larger version.)

Mailed in Cumberland VA at 4:07 P.M. on Tuesday, March 21, 2006.
Accepted in Washington, D.C. at 9:41 A.M. on Monday, March 27, 2006.

Discounting Sunday, that's just barely over 4 days to get from Cumberland to D.C.

No other comments necessary.

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Monday, March 27, 2006

FEC Complaint tops list of Entry Pages

It's official--my posting about filing an FEC complaint against Bern Ewert is my number one entry page, according to Site Meter. It now has beat my blog home page as the top page people are looking at first.

Of course, my entry about Lorenzo Grant is running a good third. I hear people are talking about that one as well.

On the flip side

In response to Greg Kane's comment about my FEC complaint filing on Waldo Jacquith's site, I posted the following comment this morning:

Yes, we have found the Internet in Cumberland County, Greg. Interesting that you do not refute even one of the posts I've put on my site--you only attack our committee's lack of a website.

On the flip-side, are you saying that the other county committees who do not have a website haven't found the web yet? I'm referring to Bedford City, Bedford County, Brunswick County, Campbell County, Charlotte County, Greene County, Halifax County, Henry County, Lunenberg County, the City of Martinsville, Mecklenberg County, Pittsylvania County and Prince Edward County.

More often than not, county committees do not have a website or at least one linked to the district website. So be careful what kind of comments you throw around, since you leave a lot open to conjecture.

Thanks, Waldo, for the sideblog. I’ve posted about your generosity on my own site.

I read several blogs each week and enjoy what they have to say. For more information on what's going on politically and otherwise, check out the blogs in my Links section. There are several excellent ones listed there. Each of them has another list of links to blogs across the Internet on their own pages.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

PWC - Part I

A couple of things I’ve learned along the way:

Figures don’t lie—although the analysis can sometimes be wrong.

It takes more than one person to effect a change in a classroom, school, town, city, county, region, state or nation.

While one person can bring in some new and innovative ideas, it takes a “village” to make it work.

That being said, I’ve found a new site that I just love. It gives me historical labor and employment information from 1990 to the present at the click of the mouse. So I checked into some figures for Prince William County (PWC) and you wouldn’t believe what I found:

(Click on the picture to see a larger version, which is easier to read.)

It looks really good, doesn’t it? The years when Bern was there correspond to a drop in the unemployment percentage for the county. But, being the skeptic that I am, I said to myself, “Hmmmm, wonder what the figures look like for the counties and cities surrounding Prince William for the period that Bern was working there?” So I went out and got those figures for 1996 to 2001. And guess what?

(see the next post!)

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PWC - Part II

(Click on the picture to see a larger version, which is easier to read.)

All of them pretty much show the same trend. Although some are a little better and others a little worse, every piece of the data falls below the state unemployment average for the time period. This means the entire five county/three city region was experiencing a growth spurt in employment and a related reduction in unemployment. Manassas Park exhibited a tremendous drop in unemployment rates—from 3.7 to 1.9% in only one year. With all of this going on around PWC, there may have been new jobs locating there without anyone doing anything to attract them. I wondered about that. Bern claims he attracted 3,000 high tech jobs. While I didn’t check into the different industries’ numbers, I did check the civilian labor force figures.

Prince William County



Labor Force














Total Jobs Created


The total job growth for Prince William County during the time when Bern was there was excellent, with almost 20,300 new employees entering the labor force. Of course by implementing a controversial growth barrier proposed by Bern, the county’s Board of Supervisors put a halt to some of the housing construction in their attempt to slow down county expenditures for schools, roads, libraries and parks as well as other county services and make the area more attractive to high-tech companies. The unemployment rate pretty much bottomed out and flat lined at 1.8 percent for the last two calendar years he was there (1999 and part of 2000). The economic development continued after he left. But the unemployment rate began to rise again and continued to go up—just like in every other county and city around PWC.

Go figure. One person can't do it all and one person can't stop it all. Sometimes stuff happens regardless of what we do.
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Thanks, Waldo!

My site has been experiencing a lot of activity lately. In checking my referrals on Site Meter, a lot of them have come from Waldo sideblogging my FEC complaint story. Pretty soon that post will replace my blog homepage as the number one entry page. Of course, the Joe Knollenberg story comes third in my list right now. I even found some people in Michigan looking at that one. I am finding the blogging experience to be fascinating--especially when you can check all the statistics. I just love facts and figures.

Interestingly enough, even Bern Ewert's webmaster has posted a comment on Waldo's site about my complaint. He wrote several paragraphs actually--a lot of which is probably questionable since he is paid by Bern. Ironically he doesn't refute anything I've said, just made a lot of dismissive statements. Most of them are directed at the local county committee, of which I am a member only. The committee doesn't tell me what to do on this blog and I don't ask for their approval of what I write. Unlike Greg, no one pays for my time either--for research, web work or writing. I'm simply tired of dishonest candidates and I'll work for free to get the message out whenever I feel the need.

Greg and Bern have not really checked into the local committee here. Bern did not even respond to personal invitations to speak to us that were made two weeks before this blog ever went online. Yes, Bern, you were issued invitations on February 11, 2006, in Richmond to speak to our committee and to attend our Patriot Day celebration this spring. Thanks for getting back to us. Of course, with the non-functional calendar on the Ewert campaign website, we can't even check to see if you've penciled us in anyway.

Whether you want it or not, here's some information for you, Greg :
  • The Democratic Committee's chairmanship changed in the last three months. Our leader is a long time Democrat and activist. He's been watching politics since the late 1970's and has been working on campaigns since 1984. So he's not a new kid on the block and we are not the same committee that we were even six months ago.
  • Our chair has also been playing around on the Internet since 1993--before it ever became the World Wide Web as we know it now. He has worked on several websites, including some locally. As a computer literacy instructor, I am far from a newbie as well. When it comes to a county committee website, we've talked about it. But right now a couple of us are planning to do an Anti-Virgil website instead. Another chance to put those research skills to use. [I'm sure if I was using them against Virgil when Bern was the only Democratic candidate, there wouldn't be any problem with what I was doing.] We'll focus our energies on that site and then work on a county one later. It's not like we're the only committee without a website. Are you throwing rocks at them, too?
  • Vitriol? Obviously, Bern is now feeling abused, poor thing. Well, all I have to say about that is this: If Bern had been more honest about his record in the first place, then none of this would have come out in an effort to fill in the gaps he created in his own background. The same goes for not answering my questions regarding my concerns and his FEC filings. And let's not forget the still missing Dickie Cranwell support letter in this as well. Everybody talks about it, Bern uses the information at every opportunity, but no one can find it. What is that old saying? Either put up or...
  • Valid, but marginal--valid I can see, since the details I provide usually speak for themselves and I link to the original sources. Marginal? That's more difficult. Let's see.... How about: Despite the fact that Bern keeps saying that no one has ever come back from 36% to win an election, I can't find any evidence to verify this statement anywhere. Bern claims that Al Weed will not win against Virgil even if he is nominated at the convention. You know, Virgil Goode's website doesn't mention Bern Ewert anywhere at all. I can't even find a recent article where Virgil has even mentioned Bern as one of his opponents. Although I can find plenty where the Democrats are talking about Virgil. Marginal must therefore describe Virgil's opinion of Bern as a contender for the 5th District Democratic candidacy.
  • Lots of things have been slipped past some of the 5th District voters--but not all of us. In Cumberland, we are watching all of the candidates--and so far Bern is the one that has been found to appear the most dishonest. [Of course, until this recent fiasco involving MZM, many in the 5th District felt that Virgil was honest too. And some still do. We'll see how that changes as more details come out while Mitchell Wade's case progresses.]
Like it or lump it--we're not going to change here in Cumberland. As my grandma always said, "Make sure your nose is clean and your conscience won't have anything to worry about."

Update on jobs--Roanoke

While I posted some information on Roanoke the other night, I find these figures much more telling:

Roanoke City


Annual %


Labor Force


Unemployment Rate





































Total jobs:


Average = 6.3

If Bern brought in 5,000 jobs as his campaign handout card states, then I’d like to know where they are in the state’s figures. The figures they have show a net loss of jobs from 1978 to 1986 of -652. Of course if you remove the 1986 figures (since Bern was no longer city manager), the net loss is 2,012—that’s right, -2,012. More jobs were lost than created during the period when Bern was city manager. As you can see, the unemployment rate also was higher for several years during his tenure as well.

Do figures lie? Not usually. Political candidates? That a different answer entirely.

For the record

Including the Danville breakfast on February 24, 2006, I have met Al Weed twice (the first time was in his 2004 run for Congress) and Bern Ewert once. I have not met or talked to either one since. Bern had told me that day to contact him with my concerns. I did by email and got no response. I emailed his campaign's webmaster too with the same result. I have sent emails to both candidates and their campaigns asking questions, etc.--most of which are posted on this blog. I finally got a response from Bern's campaign saying that I clearly support the other candidate.

I haven't come out publicly or financially in support of either candidate. While Al's record is pretty complete and can be easily verified, Bern's is not. I have taken a lot of time to research both candidates. If pointing out (and filling) the gaping holes in Bern's record, highlighting the inconsistencies between his information and the public record, questioning why he doesn't answer direct questions on the issues, looking at the campaign's poor job in filing FEC paperwork, and focusing on his poor people skills and repeated involvement in public relations nightmares for the localities he has been hired to represent is seen as an automatic endorsement of Al Weed by the Ewert campaign, then I guess I've done a better job at my research than I thought.

I just know which one appears to be more honest about his record, supports his stance on the issues based on his beliefs, and is cooperative in his dealings with people. And, like many others I meet on a daily basis, an honest, ethical and cooperative person is what I want to represent me on any level of government--including local and state.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Unemployment Figures--courtesy of Virgil Goode

Virgil is taking credit for all the fine work he’s done for the district. He even has his friends write letters to support him and tell what a wonderful job he’s done for the 5th District. Some of us are a little harder to convince, however.

His stand on several key issues reminds me of what David Brooks (a right wing conservative) put in a March 15, 2006, editorial piece in the Farmville Herald:

“…Call for less foreign adventurism and more spending at home to win the Democratic base. Go hard against illegal immigration to win the working class. Rail against China and free-trade deals to build support…” (permalink unavailable)

Of course, Brooks was talking about how someone can win a seat at the White House table; but, the premise is still the same: Keep dragging out the party agenda whenever someone will listen. Virgil must be following that party line. On his own website, he says:

Economic Development: We need a greater federal investment in the economy of the Fifth District of Virginia… Measures that I have secured… have been important to keep and attract business and industry to the Fifth District.

Immigration: We need to stop illegal immigration...

International Relations: I oppose the placement of our Armed Forces under United Nations command. We need to curtail expenditures to the World Bank, the IMF, and to many foreign nations.

Trade: Agreements like NAFTA and the trade provisions in fast track authorization lead to the erosion of this country's vital manufacturing base. I do not favor international trade agreements such as these that result in a loss of American sovereignty and jobs.

Well, it all sounds good, but here’s the real deal. Following is a table of unemployment rates for January 2006 in the counties and cities of the 5th District. Included are the averages for the 5th District and the state of Virginia. Where does your locality fall?

January 2006 figures

Unemployment Rate (%)

Greene County


Fluvanna County


Nelson County


Bedford County


Franklin County




Cumberland County


Campbell County


Appomattox County


Buckingham County


Bedford City


Albemarle County


Prince Edward County


Fifth District


Brunswick County


City of Charlottesville


Lunenberg County


Henry County


Halifax County


Pittsylvania County


Mecklenberg County


City of Martinsville


Charlotte County


City of Danville


Thanks, Virgil—this table wouldn’t have been possible without you.

Friday, March 24, 2006

What was Lorenzo Grant (VA-01) thinking?

(Click on the picture to see a larger version, which is easier to read. I'm sorry it's not in the original red, white and blue.)

You know, it’s bad enough that Lorenzo is almost plagiarizing Tim Kaine’s campaign materials. The conventional wisdom says that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery; but, come on, guys, show a little more originality here. A campaign is your chance to show what you can do—not how well you can mimic others’ materials. Are you going to copy his speeches and legislative agendas as well? I don’t think it will work, but you can always give it the old college try.

NOTE: An anonymous commenter on the above link says bloggers should talk about the issues instead of the campaign’s lack of creativity. So, in deference to this person who will not own up to his own comments, I will now address Lorenzo and his campaign’s poor judgment in reporting his opponent’s stand on the issues.

However, when he misquotes a Daily Progress article on that aforementioned literature to claim that the Republican incumbent doesn’t care about various issues, then he’s being downright dishonest. And that’s just not right—whether he’s a Democrat or not.

Using a December 22 Daily Press article as his source for each issue, Lorenzo claims that Jo Ann Davis’ stand on the issues is:

Transportation: No Problem. Jo Ann Davis is not aware of any transportation problem in the First District or the state.

Education: No Problem. The only educational concern Davis has is whether high school bands can give holiday concerts.

Quality-High Paying Jobs: No Problem. No public statement or action regarding this issue.

Healthcare: No Problem. Not an issue with Jo Ann Davis. You are on your own.

Public Safety: No Problem. No public statement or action regarding this issue.

Well, I looked at the article in question and I’m appalled. There is not even a mention of transportation, jobs, or public safety in the whole piece. The educational information on holiday concerts relates to a non-political Congressional resolution in support of Christmas, which has since been highly criticized—although it passed the house by a vote of 401-22. (By the way, did anyone tell Bill O’Reilly about this?)

And Lorenzo’s claim about Jo Ann and healthcare? The piece quotes her as saying she does not support a national health plan. She thinks

“everybody should have access to a large group plan, but I do not think a business should be required to pay for it.”

That’s a long way from “You are on your own.”

So, come on, Lorenzo, get YOUR facts straight. People are watching and your dishonesty could cost you some voters, if not the election. Jo Ann Davis does need to be replaced, but you should show yourself as the better candidate and get some new media materials. (Or perhaps even some new advisors!)

NOTE: A permalink to the 12/05/2005 Daily Press article is unavailable.

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Civilian Labor Force in Roanoke

(Click on the picture to see a larger version, which is easier to read.)

According to labor figures for Roanoke City when Bern was City Manager, the civilian labor force dropped drastically after the first year and never regained its initial level.
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Unemployment Rate in Roanoke

(Click on the picture to see a larger version, which is easier to read.)

Even during the years he was in Roanoke, the unemployment rate was above that of the state. During the time period shown, the average unemployment in Roanoke was 6.3%, while statewide it averaged 5.6%.
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Full Disclosure

It must be tough on political candidates to have everyone watching what you are doing. Must be even worse to have your constituents (or possible future constituents) look into your background and question your record, including what you’ve left out—in some cases intentionally. I guess that’s why “full disclosure” is always the best policy. I’ve always tried to be that open and honest. I wish more politicians and wannabes were the same way.

So, in the spirit of full disclosure, I am divulging what I’ve been up to for the last week or so. After looking into the FEC complaint procedure, I have mailed an official complaint about Bern Ewert’s FEC filings to the Office of the General Counsel in Washington, D.C. There are too many details that just don’t add up, in my opinion. We are talking about someone who began talking about running for Congress and getting letters of support in “late spring or early summer;” had radio and newspaper publicity in the middle of November; and made his official candidacy announcements in Charlottesville, Danville, and Bedford on December 3, 2005. We’re talking about someone who told 5th District Democratic chairs that he had “filed in January but the FEC did not get his documents,” signed “replacement” paperwork one day before he told a reporter he “doesn’t know why it (his name) is not listed on the agency’s Web site,” and, at the same time, reported that he had raised between $20,000 and $30,000 by the third week in February. You know, my BS indicator goes crazy over this kind of stuff. Therefore, I am questioning his filings, how much he spent in the 7-8 months from first talking about it until the end of the year and how much he had in donations (including in-kind).

I mailed my notarized document (original letter with documentation plus four copies) on Tuesday, March 21, 2006, at 4:07 P.M. At least that’s what my postal receipts say. The one for certified mail is hand stamped with the various postage amounts and the date, while the computer-generated receipt has only the total money amount but also included a timestamp in addition to the date. We are definitely high-tech at the local post office.

Receipts can tell you a whole lot about a mailing transaction. My certified mail slip also records that I wanted a return receipt as well. I want to know who signed for the documents and exactly how long it takes for a package to get to Washington, D.C., from little ol’ podunk Cumberland County. We’re pretty much out in the sticks here—not like Charlottesville, which is right on a major interstate. So it won’t be long before I have the answers to my “who” and “how long” questions.

Of course, with online tracking I’ll know when it was delivered long before the little green postcard arrives in my mailbox. And, hopefully, the FEC can clear up some of the mysteries about Bern’s filings as well. I’ll keep you posted.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Joe Knollenberg: A Connection to Corruption?

When you look back at Bern Ewert’s contributions to other campaigns over the years [NOTE: click the link and then insert Ewert, Henry into the boxes before you hit the Get Listings button], the ones that stand out in my opinion are two to Joe Knollenberg for Congress, a Republican Congressman from Michigan. Of the $1550 that was donated over the years, $1000 was donated on May 2, 2002 (in two $500 amounts). While Bern related to a group in Danville on February 25, 2006, that the donations were a business investment involving a project in Northern Virginia, it is interesting that neither his business nor his occupation are listed on those receipts. Even more interesting are the ties that are being exposed between Joe Knollenberg and Brent Wilkes, one of the co-conspirators in the Randy “Duke” Cunningham case along with Mitchell Wade of MZM.

And this is not the only association with lobbyists or the connection to corruption. Just recently Knollenberg received bad press for a trip to Hawaii with his wife that was paid for by lobbyists for the American Association of Airport Executives. He has also received over $10,000 from Tom Delay’s ARMPAC (and voted with Delay approximately 96% of the time). In addition, the Democratic National Committee quoted a December 2005 New York Times article where Knollenberg had

“inserted a provision into a transportation bill that earmarked $8.3 million dollars to Amtrak if the railroad company dramatically increased the amount of freight it hauls. The sole supplier of rail cars to haul such freight is ExpressTrak, a company owned by one of Knollenberg's largest donors, Anthony Soave.”

Even Joe’s own constituents are upset about the corruption they see in him.

All this information makes me wonder what type of project Bern was doing in Northern Virginia in 2002 and what Joe Knollenberg was voting on.


For all that he claims to be forward thinking and has brought high-tech companies and/or jobs to various areas in which he has worked, Bern Ewert is surprisingly behind the times. His company website, where his personal email address is attached, is simply a placeholder. For those who may not understand that term, it is similar to a name card at a dinner table. It marks a spot whether anyone shows up or not.

And obviously no one is at home at Ewert and Company. Despite the fact that the site was created on September 9, 2005, no work has been done on the webpage at all. There are no pictures or projects for us to examine as a way of checking what he claims about his company on his resume. There are no testimonials from satisfied customers. There isn’t even any contact information for potential clients to utilize.

In this day of online businesses, web searches on anything from all over the globe, and immediate contact with people we don’t even know, simply having a place on the web is just not good enough in today’s world. Many people, myself included, research products and ultimately companies before we buy anything. Does this mean that Ewert and Company doesn’t have anything to sell? You’ll have to decide that for yourself.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Speaking of Education

While looking at a site of George Mason University salaries for the Spring, Fall and Summer sessions of 1995, I found the following information listed for each of the three:


(If it’s not Bern, then it must be a very close relation. And if it is him, then why isn't it listed anywhere on his resumes?)

Knowing he had worked with the Mellon Foundation as part of his work in the Czech Republic and considering that the foundation is active with George Mason, it’s not hard to guess what MELLON stands for. I also understand that the professorship was in Economics and Management, although the meaning of REF escapes me. But what I really don’t know was if the amount of $103,399 was paid for the entire 1995 year or for each specific term for which it was listed. I’m also not sure if he taught there before 1995 since that’s the first year for which the information is available. Regardless that’s a lot of money for someone who doesn’t even have a Master’s degree.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006


Why is it when people want to attract and keep teachers as voters they talk about paying for college-level classes, increasing the tax deduction for teacher-purchased school materials and increasing salaries? How many of you that teach get letters from state legislators and national leaders telling you what they have done for educators in the past session? While I appreciate hearing what they have done and benefit from their work, I also know why they do it: because it’s good public relations and will ultimately increase their chances of being re-elected.

All candidates make promises to different groups of voters—and our 5th District Congressional candidates are no different. Al Weed has an entire list of education initiatives, while Bern Ewert lists only one education item in his “Strengthen and Expand the Middle Class” section. When it comes to education, Bern has a plan on only one subject. He is using the “paying for classes” ploy in his attempt to get the Democratic nod for the 5th District and ultimately the Congressional seat in Washington. However, when it comes to the schools in the fifth district, he obviously doesn’t have a clue about what is being done about his issue in the area.

In Cumberland, we have a tuition assistance program for both teachers and administrators taking classes. While some apply for reimbursement of classes needed to get or update their certification, others are working toward advanced degrees. While the fund is “first come, first served,” the funds are there and the amount available increases each year. In addition, grant funds are available for annual professional development, additional college classes, reduced rate classes, and tuition-free classes. Our paraprofessionals have benefited over the past three to four years from free classes offered by the school system to assist them in meeting national certification requirements.

Additionally, there are specific programs for teachers to meet No Child Left Behind (NCLB) mandates. In Region 8 (which includes Cumberland) and in other Superintendent’s regions across the state, there are highly qualified workshops that will help special education teachers meet the increased requirements for teaching students with special needs. Other programs are being offered for Earth Science teachers, math teachers, etc. So funding is already available—on more than one level.

I have always said that if I was in teaching for the money, I would not have stayed at Cumberland all these years. I appreciate those candidates who want to bring money to the localities to make things better overall—not just spouting pipe dreams of free college classes and, ultimately, degrees. The realities of NCLB do not support those promises. If the federal government will not fully fund that program to support the students (who are the “Child” in NCLB), what makes Bern think that the federal government will subsidize college classes for teachers across the nation? Let’s get real here—there are more pressing issues in education in this area than that. He should do a little research of his own.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Bern and Religion

Is Bern Ewert a man of faith? He never talks about it. I can find nothing in my research—not even on his campaign materials—to point out where his religious ties are currently found or even his religious background. He speaks of his professional values, but what about personal values, moral convictions, and religious affiliations?

At the February 1 DFA debate in Charlottesville, the Daily Progress reported that

One person asked how each candidate would deal with the hot-button issues of "God, guns, gays and immigration."

Ewert, from Charlottesville, said he'd stress "bread and butter" issues such as jobs and healthcare and highlight his experience in local government.

Isn’t that a non-answer? Or is it misdirection instead? I feel this is one more indication that Bern is not comfortable answering any questions that are asked of him—especially if they are not related to economic development. Shouldn’t Bern have been able to answer this question? And why do people who support him not ask him about these values more often?

On the other hand when asked the same question,

Weed, a Nelson County vintner, said that in order to win, a Democratic candidate must confront those issues head on.

"The simple answer to the four hot-button issues, God, guns, gays and immigration, is, 'I'm for them,'" Weed said. "If you dismiss them, then you lose them."

Whether you agree with his response or not, that is a direct answer to a direct question.

What do I find when I look for Bern Ewert (all of his given names) and religion on the Internet? The only hits are on his own site, where I see Bern relying on his association with Larry Campbell, Assistant Pastor at Bible Way Cathedral, to bring in voters. He is also using a 20 year-old civil rights record endorsed by the wife of a deceased Baptist minister to help in this area as well.

Is he a man of faith? Is he a man of no faith? Is he ashamed of his faith? I guess that’s between God and Bern. And neither one seems to be talking about it at all.

A 5th District Independent Candidate?

While doing some more researching this morning, I found this site. Imagine my surprise to see that another candidate is running for Virgil's seat--from the Independent Greens party: Joe Oddo.

Does anyone know anything about the candidate or the party?

How Sweet! (yeah, right!)

In answer to my questions about Bern’s claims in Danville about hiring African-Americans and women in Charlottesville while he worked there as deputy city manager, he has posted a letter on his site about his civil rights work in ROANOKE.

Way to go, Bern! What an excellent way to dodge the question. Do you think that will cover you from answering questions that you yourself caused to be asked? Your lack of honesty, your constant misdirection, and the inconsistencies in your record are mounting.

And I am watching…

(Now, if only he could find that letter from Dickie Cranwell!)

Saturday, March 11, 2006

My favorite cartoon of all time!

What's yours?
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An idea worth considering

Although the national media has focused on Virgil Goode’s involvement in the scandals involving MZM, Mitchell Wade, Duke Cunningham and, more recently, Katherine Harris, many of the local newspapers and city guides are following their partisan lines and downplaying both his role and the impact on the upcoming election in the 5th District. I have been reading Mar’s postings on this topic. I always enjoy the descriptive way he gets his irritation over their biased reporting across to his readers. : )

A link in a recent posting by Waldo about Virgil sent me to Wikipedia, where I followed another link to the word “blog.” [I’ve been enjoying this one so much that I wanted to learn more about them!] While reading through the history of this alternative media, I found a comment that was particularly interesting:

… In 2002, many blogs focused on comments by U.S. Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott. Senator Lott, at a party honoring U.S. Senator Strom Thurmond, praised Senator Thurmond by suggesting that the United States would have been better off had Thurmond been elected president. Lott's critics saw these comments as a tacit approval of racial segregation, a policy advocated by Thurmond's 1948 presidential campaign. This view was reinforced by documents and recorded interviews dug up by bloggers. … Though Lott's comments were made at a public event attended by the media, no major media organizations reported on his controversial comments until after blogs broke the story. Blogging helped to create a political crisis that forced Lott to step down as majority leader…
It made me think. While 5th District bloggers may not be able to have an impact on Virgil stepping down from office, we CAN do some digging and keep putting the information out to local media in letters about his record, campaign contributions and perhaps even his spending patterns (check this site in response to the one sideblogged by Waldo). We can provide data to his opposition after the 5th District caucuses and convention in April for use during debates with Virgil and publicity pieces. We can show up at events and ask questions. And hopefully that will make people in this district begin to think about the paradox represented by this question:

Why would anyone with a net worth of $1.2 to $3.3 million dollars be driving around in a vehicle with 270,000 miles and duct tape and maintain a rickety office in Rocky Mount?
Is he trying to dupe the voters into thinking he’s just like them? Is he advertising hard times in order to fit in? Therefore, I feel we need to look into his background a little more closely. Where does he live and what does his house look like? Does he actually drive that old vehicle around in Washington—or just around the district? Where does his campaign spend funds and for what? We all have the means to do a little digging—and, if the local media won’t do it, then we have the right to let the truth be known.

We might actually be surprised at what we find. For example, I was intrigued to see in last Sunday’s Richmond Times-Dispatch an article (5 March 2006, starting on page A1) stating that Danville has the fifth-worst job market in the nation—behind New Orleans and Biloxi, victims of the last hurricane season. I was also unaware that, while 2,500 jobs had been created in the last two years, the net loss of jobs in the city is still 1700 (listed on page A13). Bringing jobs to the 5th District is what Virgil keeps talking about. Who knows, there might actually be an amendment to the bill he introduced in the House about the border fence between America and Mexico that requires 5th District voters to be given jobs on the project!

Friday, March 10, 2006

Facing the Reality

As a teacher, I’ve taught at all levels in our public school system and I have always emphasized the multicultural aspects of my classroom. From information on various cultural holidays throughout the year to Black History Month, I have attempted to make information available to my students. I feel it’s my duty to make sure they know their own history—and the background of their own as well as other cultures.

This year I have been teaching high school English in a self-contained special education classroom. After spending time last fall writing research papers, the students and I went on to the stories and poetry of Edgar Allen Poe. We listened to audiotapes of short stories by O. Henry. We read novels by Jules Verne and Robert Louis Stevenson. In between we talked about American tall tales and European fairy tales and fables and how they mirror real life at times. Then, for the last few weeks, I chose to celebrate Black History Month in my classroom.

Black History Month has been officially celebrated in the public school system for years. From time to time, the various schools where I’ve worked have had trivia questions, poster contests and speakers or programs about famous African-Americans during February. The students can tell you about Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, Rosa Parks, and Douglas Wilder. They might have heard of George Washington Carver, Booker T. Washington and Frederick Douglass. That’s been a part of the lessons they’ve gotten over the years. But, in the teaching of this latest unit, I realized how limited the students’ exposure to all aspects of their history has really been.

As a part of our study, I had my students reading selections by African-American authors from our literature books. We discussed the stories’ conflicts (slavery, being poor, and segregation). We read about the amazing things done by some of the poems’ characters (Harriet Tubman, the 54th Massachusetts Regiment, and John Henry). We even talked about conditions which existed during the various pieces’ settings (the crowdedness of the slave ships, the secrecy and danger of the Underground Railroad, and the unfairness of separate bathrooms, water fountains and seats on buses). And my students were amazed at these historical and social aspects of their culture. But not as amazed as I at what else they didn’t know.

These students are not familiar with the music and literary history of their own people. In all of their music classes over the years, they had never heard of Duke Ellington, Bessie Smith, Louis Armstrong or Charlie Parker. Their opinions of the original recording of Paul Robeson singing “Ol’ Man River” by Thomas Edison ranged from “scratchy” to “too slow.” They didn’t even connect to the fact that the recording was over eighty years old and was sung by a black man who couldn’t use the same stage door as the actors with which he worked.

They knew nothing about Langston Hughes, Lucille Clifton, and Eloise Greenfield. When Langston Hughes talked (in an audio collection) about Josephine Baker arriving in Paris while he was there, they had no clue who she was or why she had to go to Paris to become famous. And Langston Hughes’ poetry was weird because it didn’t rhyme. Listening to Lucille Clifton recite her poem “Homage to my Hips” on the Internet made them laugh. But they didn’t understand the meaning behind many of the lines. Don’t get me wrong. There were a few bright spots where they could relate to what we were discussing. As we read excerpts from Eloise Greenfield’s “Childtimes,” I showed them the clapping game “Old Mary Mack.” They recognized the rhyme as something they had learned when they were younger, although their versions differed from both mine and Greenfield’s. They also remembered “Mother May I” and the big giant steps. This led to further discussions of other childhood games like “Red Rover” and “Simon Says.” But, the discovery that children of all ages and all times have played the same games was truly eye-opening for some of them.

My students also didn’t realize what their ancestors have gone through for them to be where they are now. While reading “Lineage” by Margaret Walker, we discussed how hard it had been for the women to plow the fields back in the old days with a horse and mule. We talked about the injustices of the sharecropper system—just one step above slavery at times. In “Ballad of Birmingham” by Dudley Randall, the students were shocked to learn about four young girls who died in a church during a freedom march protest. Before we read the poem, I asked them the safest place for a person to be and they automatically replied, “A church.” In “She Taught Me Purple” by Evelyn Tooley Hunt, we talked about how parents have always encouraged their children to rise above where they grew up—and reach for the gold that lies just out of reach. (I chose this poem for the unit because it was the inspiration for “The Color Purple” by Alice Walker, which was made into the movie of the same name starring Oprah Winfrey.)

It is not just their youth that has caused this deficit in knowledge, as they also don't know about contemporary writers as well. When I mentioned that Tupac Shakur wrote poetry, most of my students thought I was only referring to his songs. One student had transferred into my class from an inclusion class and knew a little about his work. Amazingly, Maya Angelou was an unknown entity as well. So, I didn't push the issue any further. However, you can believe I am already planning my literature unit for next year’s classes. I’m also planning to bring some of my own music collection to class for them to listen to this spring as well—especially the jazz, big band and blues CDs by the artists listed above. I will include more recent artists as time goes on.

Today, as we prepared to move on to “The Red Badge of Courage” by Stephen Crane, I asked them to use their laptops to brainstorm and research the Civil War. While some of them were more interested in listing how many battles had been fought and naming the various generals from their side of choice, others were more impressed by the audio clips of slave stories and songs collected about the time period and made available over the Internet. Perhaps I’ve made an impression on a couple of them. Only time will tell.

Note: Currently, my enrollment is about one-half African-American and one-half Caucasian. In about two months my sole Hispanic student will return from Florida, where her migrant family lives during the winter. I can’t wait to welcome her back, as I’ve truly missed her eager attitude and smile. I’ll be sure to also include some stories by Hispanic authors from our literature books as well. And we'll just have to see where those discussions lead.