Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Guest Post: Was the 'real' St. Valentine a patron of love?

Lisa Bitel, University of Southern California – Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences

On Feb. 14, sweethearts of all ages will exchange cards, flowers, candy, and more lavish gifts in the name of St. Valentine. But as a historian of Christianity, I can tell you that at the root of our modern holiday is a beautiful fiction. St. Valentine was no lover or patron of love.

Valentine’s Day, in fact, originated as a liturgical feast to celebrate the decapitation of a third-century Christian martyr, or perhaps two. So, how did we get from beheading to betrothing on Valentine’s Day?


 Relics of St. Valentine of Terni at the basilica of Saint Mary in Cosmedin.

Relics of St. Valentine of Terni at the basilica of Saint Mary in Cosmedin.
Dnalor 01 (Own work) , CC BY-SA



Early origins of St. Valentine


Ancient sources reveal that there were several St. Valentines who died on Feb. 14. Two of them were executed during the reign of Roman Emperor Claudius Gothicus in 269-270 A.D., at a time when persecution of Christians was common.

How do we know this? Because, an order of Belgian monks spent three centuries collecting evidence for the lives of saints from manuscript archives around the known world.

They were called Bollandists after Jean Bolland, a Jesuit scholar who began publishing the massive 68-folio volumes of “Acta Sanctorum,” or “Lives of the Saints,” beginning in 1643.

Since then, successive generations of monks continued the work until the last volume was published in 1940. The Brothers dug up every scrap of information about every saint on the liturgical calendar and printed the texts arranged according to the saint’s feast day.

The Valentine martyrs


The volume encompassing Feb. 14 contains the stories of a handful of “Valentini,” including the earliest three of whom died in the third century.



 St. Valentine blessing an epileptic.

St. Valentine blessing an epileptic.
Wellcome Images, CC BY



The earliest Valentinus is said to have died in Africa, along with 24 soldiers. Unfortunately, even the Bollandists could not find any more information about him. As the monks knew, sometimes all that the saints left behind was a name and day of death.

We know only a little more about the other two Valentines.

According to a late medieval legend reprinted in the “Acta,” which was accompanied by Bollandist critique about its historical value, a Roman priest named Valentinus was arrested during the reign of Emperor Gothicus and put into the custody of an aristocrat named Asterius.

As the story goes, Asterius made the mistake of letting the preacher talk. Father Valentinus went on and on about Christ leading pagans out of the shadow of darkness and into the light of truth and salvation. Asterius made a bargain with Valentinus: If the Christian could cure Asterius’s foster-daughter of blindness, he would convert. Valentinus put his hands over the girl’s eyes and chanted:

“Lord Jesus Christ, en-lighten your handmaid, because you are God, the True Light.”

Easy as that. The child could see, according to the medieval legend. Asterius and his whole family were baptized. Unfortunately, when Emperor Gothicus heard the news, he ordered them all to be executed. But Valentinus was the only one to be beheaded. A pious widow, though, made off with his body and had it buried at the site of his martyrdom on the Via Flaminia, the ancient highway stretching from Rome to present-day Rimini. Later, a chapel was built over the saint’s remains.

St. Valentine was not a romantic


The third third-century Valentinus was a bishop of Terni in the province of Umbria, Italy.


 St. Valentine kneeling

St. Valentine kneeling.
David Teniers III



According to his equally dodgy legend, Terni’s bishop got into a situation like the other Valentinus by debating a potential convert and afterward healing his son. The rest of story is quite similar as well: He too, was beheaded on the orders of Emperor Gothicus and his body buried along the Via Flaminia.

It is likely, as the Bollandists suggested, that there weren’t actually two decapitated Valentines, but that two different versions of one saint’s legend appeared in both Rome and Terni.

Nonetheless, African, Roman or Umbrian, none of the Valentines seems to have been a romantic.

Indeed, medieval legends, repeated in modern media, had St. Valentine performing Christian marriage rituals or passing notes between Christian lovers jailed by Gothicus. Still other stories romantically involved him with the blind girl whom he allegedly healed. Yet none of these medieval tales had any basis in third-century history, as the Bollandists pointed out.


St. Valentine baptizing St. Lucilla. Jacopo Bassano (Jacopo da Ponte)

St. Valentine baptizing St. Lucilla.
Jacopo Bassano (Jacopo da Ponte)



In any case, historical veracity did not count for much with medieval Christians. What they cared about were stories of miracles and martyrdoms, and the physical remains or relics of the saint. To be sure, many different churches and monasteries around medieval Europe claimed to have bits of a St. Valentinus’ skull in their treasuries.

Santa Maria in Cosmedin in Rome, for example, still displays a whole skull. According to the Bollandists, other churches across Europe also claim to own slivers and bits of one or the other St. Valentinus’ body: For example, San Anton Church in Madrid, Whitefriar Street Church in Dublin, the Church of Sts. Peter and Paul in Prague, Saint Mary’s Assumption in Chelmno, Poland, as well as churches in Malta, Birmingham, Glasgow, and on the Greek isle of Lesbos, among others.

For believers, relics of the martyrs signified the saints’ continuing their invisible presence among communities of pious Christians. In 11th-century Brittany, for instance, one bishop used what was purported to be Valentine’s head to halt fires, prevent epidemics, and cure all sorts of illnesses, including demonic possession.

As far as we know, though, the saint’s bones did nothing special for lovers.

Unlikely pagan origins


Many scholars have deconstructed Valentine and his day in books, articles and blog postings. Some suggest that the modern holiday is a Christian cover-up of the more ancient Roman celebration of Lupercalia in mid-February.

Lupercalia originated as a ritual in a rural masculine cult involving the sacrifice of goats and dogs and evolved later into an urban carnival. During the festivities half-naked young men ran through the streets of Rome, streaking people with thongs cut from the skins of newly killed goats. Pregnant women thought it brought them healthy babies. In 496 A.D., however, Pope Gelasius supposedly denounced the rowdy festival.

Still, there is no evidence that the pope purposely replaced Lupercalia with the more sedate cult of the martyred St. Valentine or any other Christian celebration.

Chaucer and the love birds


The love connection probably appeared more than a thousand years after the martyrs’ death, when Geoffrey Chaucer, author of “The Canterbury Tales” decreed the February feast of St. Valentinus to the mating of birds. He wrote in his “Parlement of Foules”:

“For this was on seynt Volantynys day.
Whan euery bryd comyth there to chese his make.”

It seems that, in Chaucer’s day, English birds paired off to produce eggs in February. Soon, nature-minded European nobility began sending love notes during bird-mating season. For example, the French Duke of Orléans, who spent some years as a prisoner in the Tower of London, wrote to his wife in February 1415 that he was “already sick of love” (by which he meant lovesick.) And he called her his “very gentle Valentine.”

English audiences embraced the idea of February mating. Shakespeare’s lovestruck Ophelia spoke of herself as Hamlet’s Valentine.

In the following centuries, Englishmen and women began using Feb. 14 as an excuse to pen verses to their love objects. Industrialization made it easier with mass-produced illustrated cards adorned with smarmy poetry. Then along came Cadbury, Hershey’s, and other chocolate manufacturers marketing sweets for one’s sweetheart on Valentine’s Day.

Today, shops everywhere in England and the U.S. decorate their windows with hearts and banners proclaiming the annual Day of Love. Merchants stock their shelves with candy, jewelry and Cupid-related trinkets begging “Be My Valentine.” For most lovers, this request does not require beheading.

Invisible Valentines


It seems that the erstwhile saint behind the holiday of love remains as elusive as love itself. Still, as St. Augustine, the great fifth-century theologian and philosopher argued in his treatise on “Faith in Invisible Things,” someone does not have to be standing before our eyes for us to love them.

The ConversationAnd much like love itself, St. Valentine and his reputation as the patron saint of love are not matters of verifiable history, but of faith.

Lisa Bitel, Professor of History & Religion, University of Southern California – Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.



Guest Post: Why do Christians wear ashes on Ash Wednesday?


Michael Laver, Rochester Institute of Technology

This coming Wednesday many Christians will arrive at work with a black cross smudged on their foreheads; countless more will slip into a church or a chapel during their lunch break or after work to receive the sign that tells the arrival of Ash Wednesday, the traditional start of the Christian season of Lent.

As both a priest in the Episcopal Church as well as a historian of Christianity, I’ve come to appreciate many of the liturgies and practices that characterize the modern church and have their roots in ancient traditions. The practice of donning ashes is one of them.

Ashes in Bible stories


In the Bible we are told that when the prophet Jonah pronounced God’s wrath on the city of Nineveh for its “wickedness,” likely because of the worship of idols or “false” gods, the king, in an act of sincere penitence, put on sackcloth and sat in ashes.

God was moved by this genuine act of repentance and spared the city from destruction. This story was meant to demonstrate that God is merciful and heeds true remorse.

This spiritual dimension of ashes is emphasized all through the Bible. In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus deplores the lack of concern for the poor and marginalized on the part of the establishment of the day, as he passes through some towns.

He called out the hypocrisy of religious leaders who taught righteousness on the one hand, but lived lives of luxury and wealth at the expense of the poor on the other. At one point Jesus condemned the religious leaders as “whitewashed tombs, which on the outside look beautiful, but inside they are full of the bones of the dead and of all kinds of filth.”

When pronouncing these judgments, Jesus makes reference to sackcloth and ashes as a form of penitence.

How the practice evolved


As early as the ninth century the church started to use ashes as a public demonstration of repentance for sins.



Pope Urban II by Artaud de Montor (1772–1849).

Pope Urban II.
Artaud de Montor (1772–1849).



It was only in 1091, however, that their use was ritualized. Pope Urban II decreed the use of ashes to mark the beginning of a 40-day season of Lent, a time when Christians imitate Christ’s 40-day period of fasting. This period is said to have prepared Christ for his three-year ministry that would culminate in his arrest, crucifixion and resurrection.

With the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century, the use of ashes generally fell out of favor in non-Catholic denominations. However, it returned in the 19th century when many Protestant churches entered into intentional dialogue with each other and with the Catholic Church, a phenomenon that is called the “ecumenical movement.”

Today most “mainline” denominations, including Catholics, Baptists, Episcopalians, Methodists, Presbyterians and others allow for the “imposition” (as called in Catholic and Episcopalian prayer books) of ashes during an Ash Wednesday service. In some churches, the ashes are obtained by burning the palms blessed in the previous year’s Palm Sunday service – a time for Christians to remember Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem days before he was crucified. The resultant ash, depending on local practice, might then be mixed with oil to make them adhere more easily to the forehead.

Modern-day practice


In recent years several churches have put a new spin on the traditional Ash Wednesday service by providing what has been called “ashes to go.” In this new take on an ancient practice, a pastor stands in a very public, often busy, place and offers the ashes to any passersby who wishes to receive them, whether or not the person is Christian.

Stories abound of pastors providing “drive-through ashes” in which the penitent does not even have to get out of the car. A website called “ashes to go” provides not only a list of global sites at which one can receive ashes in this way, but also has an FAQ section containing advice for churches contemplating such a service.

For a supremely ironic twist on Ash Wednesday, one only has to observe that the Gospel reading appointed for the day is from Matthew, chapter 6. Here Jesus rails against religious hypocrisy by criticizing those whose religious piety is done mainly for show:

“Whenever you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces so as to show others that they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that your fasting may be seen not by others but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”

The ConversationChristians bearing the sign of the cross on their forehead this Wednesday will be sharing a formal practice that dates back over a thousand years, and more than that – in a tradition that goes back much earlier.

Michael Laver, Department Chair, Associate professor, Rochester Institute of Technology

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Guest Post: Dave Chappelle Understands Free Trade Better Than Most Politicians

Chappelle’s words of wisdom should be inscribed on plaques to be placed on the wall in the White House.


by Allan Golombek

Dave Chappelle free trade policyDave Chappelle is a great comedian. But he may be an even better economist. He certainly understands free trade a lot better than some of the people who are currently in charge of directing U.S. trade policy.

In a recent comedy routine, Chappelle provided a succinct explanation of why it makes more sense for the United States to import some goods from China rather than try to pursue a protectionist trade policy aimed at producing everything domestically.

The Difference Between Wearing and Making Nikes

Chappelle summarized President Trump’s position vis-à-vis China: “I’m gonna go to China, and I’m gonna get these jobs from China and bring ‘em back to America.” Chappelle then interrupted his Trump soliloquy, asking: “For what, so iPhones can be $9,000? Leave that job in China where it belongs … I wanna wear Nikes, I don’t wanna make those things. Stop trying to give us Chinese jobs.”

Chappelle’s words of wisdom should be inscribed on plaques to be placed on the wall in the White House, the office of the US Trade Representative, and the Department of Commerce — and the trade ministries of some other countries. The reason people buy imported goods is because they feel they are getting a better deal for their money than if the product was made domestically.

Would it make sense for us all to make our own footwear, assemble our own smartphones, grow our own food, and — for that matter — build our own homes? If we tried to do that, where would we get the time and energy to treat cancer, create new technologies and medications, or give Pilates lessons? If we had to make our own iPhones and Nikes, would we be able to afford to buy them? And what would we have to give up to be able to?

Moreover, by offshoring the assembly of iPhones and Nikes, we actually keep domestic jobs competitive. Most of the value added to an iPhone occurs in the United States — Chinese workers assembling them and adding some of the parts just makes Americans more competitive. Nike employs tens of thousands of people in Vietnam, but the company also employs thousands in metropolitan Portland — jobs that pay better, jobs that can be maintained only by offshoring some of the less complex and lower-paying work.


Warning: NSFW Language

An Economy Needs More than Exports

Growing an economy is not a matter of turning imports into exports. Robust economies do more of both. The opportunity to import actually helps achieve productivity and prosperity more than the opportunity to export because it does more to broaden choice. Importing widens the circle of potential suppliers competing to meet the needs of intermediate producers. When a country opens its borders to imported goods, it facilitates comparative advantage, importing inputs from countries that are more efficient at making them — and thereby making domestically-produced final products more competitive.

On the other hand, countries that have tried to fight reality and produce everything for themselves have paid the price. In which economy would you rather live — North or South Korea? In the early 1970s, both countries had roughly the same GDP per capita. One of the reasons South Korea has raced ahead is that North Korea has pursued autarky. South Korea has become so much wealthier not simply because it exports far more, but because it exports and imports far more. By buying things they need from other countries, they free themselves to do the things they are best at doing. Importing is not a necessary evil; it is a necessary ingredient.

Unfortunately, many look at imports as money leaving an economy instead of value entering it. Many look back fondly to a time when almost all goods sold in the United States were manufactured in the United States. Perhaps we could resurrect that world — but only if we were willing to give up the iPhones, Nikes, laptops, medical technologies, and all of the other modern goods that trade has made possible.

The reason we are able to maintain a 21st-century lifestyle is because we pursue a 21st-century economy. Bringing back the 1970s economy would also entail bringing back the 1970s lifestyle that came with it.

By importing from developing countries, we are in effect hiring people at a cheaper price than we could obtain at home. There is a word for the result — “progress.”

Reprinted from RealClearMarkets.

Allan Golombek White House Writers Group free trade

Allan Golombek is a Senior Director at the White House Writers Group.


This article was originally published on FEE.org. Read the original article.



Monday, February 12, 2018

From the Archives: Virginia governor hopeful Tareq Salahi is 'pro-same-sex marriage,' pro-hemp

Virginia governor hopeful Tareq Salahi is 'pro-same-sex marriage,' pro-hemp
February 12, 2013 4:11 PM MST

While the two major parties have essentially decided on their nominees for governor of Virginia this year – Terry McAuliffe is the presumptive Democratic nominee and Ken Cuccinelli will be the Republican nominee, barring unforeseen events – there is also one declared independent in the race.

Warren County businessman Tareq Salahi originally entered the campaign for the Republican nomination but later announced he would be running in the general election for governor as an “independent Republican.”

Even though Salahi has served as a gubernatorial appointee to the Virginia Wine Board, the Virginia Wine Tourism Office, and the Virginia Tourism Office, he is best known as one of the “White House gatecrashers” who attended a state dinner without an invitation in 2009 -- an experience he does not omit in recounting his past.


'Socially moderate'
Salahi sat for an interview with the Charlottesville Libertarian Examiner in his home near Front Royal and answered questions on a wide range of issues, including transportation, legislative redistricting, and attracting new businesses to Virginia.

Tareq Salahi Virginia governor 2013 election candidate White House gatecrasher
Describing himself as “fiscally conservative” and “socially moderate,” Salahi talked about his views on legalizing marijuana and same-sex marriage, two hot-button social issues.

He said he supports repealing the 2006 Marshall-Newman Amendment to the Virginia Constitution, which prohibits same-sex marriages and civil unions.

Government, he said, does not “belong in the bedroom. Love is love, a relationship is a relationship. There's just no room and no reason for the U.S. or state government to be involved. That [amendment] needs to be repealed. I'm just pro-same-sex marriage. I'm pro-gay rights.”

Salahi emphasized his point by adding, “My views on this are very clear. We haven't made that very loud yet. I'm sure that's going to be coming. I'm pro-same-sex marriage. Yeah, we need to move forward on this in Virginia”

He asserted that Virginia's ban on same-sex marriage hurts the state's economy.

“Virginia's a good leader in the country,” he said.

“We need to continue to be a good leader. We're a leader in many areas. We're one of the best places to do business. I don't want to see businesses not come to Virginia because we're against their [employees'] rights.”

'Hurting jobs'
Why, he asked, “would want to do that? Why would we want to discriminate against [them]? That's hurting jobs and that's hurting bringing more business to the Commonwealth of Virginia.”

White House gatecrasher Tareq Salahi Virginia governor Warren County
Salahi suggested that continuing Virginia's ban on gay marriage was the result of shortsightedness among policymakers.

“People don't see the bigger picture sometimes,” he said. “They can have a very narrow mind because of the way they were taught or what they were told was the only way to be. But again,” he concluded, “government doesn't belong in the bedroom and I don't want to see it in there in any form.”

On the question of legalizing marijuana, which led to national headlines when Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli entertained it, Salahi said he is “open to the idea” but that his campaign team would want to study it by polling Virginia voters “o see what Virginians want.”

If he finds out that “Virginians want it and if it's good for Virginia,” he explained, and if legalizing marijuana “can make money for Virginia and become a profit tool for Virginia,” he will favor it.

'More jobs'
Salahi pointed out that in Colorado and Washington state, where personal use of marijuana was legalized by voter initiative last year, “they're talking about not just a few million, they're talking about hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue for their states.”

Therefore, he concluded, if “it's good for Virginia and Virginians want it and it brings more jobs and it brings more economic impact to the Commonwealth, then I'm not opposed to it.”

Salahi was unequivocal when asked a related question about ending the prohibition on producing industrial hemp on Virginia's farms.

“Yeah, no question,” he said. “There's no reason why we shouldn't” legalize the growing of hemp for industrial purposes.

“If it's positive, if it's good, if it's handled properly and done correctly, then yes,” he said, apologizing for "a long answer for that question.”


Publisher's note: This article was originally published on Examiner.com on February 12, 2013. The Examiner.com publishing platform was discontinued July 1, 2016, and its web site went dark on or about July 10, 2016.  I am republishing this piece in an effort to preserve it and all my other contributions to Examiner.com since April 6, 2010. It is reposted here without most of the internal links that were in the original.


Sunday, February 11, 2018

Briefing with Congressman Tom Garrett and Afghan and Czech Ambassadors

Tom Garrett Hamdullah Mohib Hynek Kmonicek Monticello
Fifth District Congressman Tom Garrett on Friday hosted several diplomats on a tour of Thomas Jefferson’s home at Monticello. After the tour, he and two of them – Ambassador Hamdullah Mohib from Afghanistan and Ambassador Hynek Kmonícek from the Czech Republic – answered questions from the local Charlottesville news media.

Garrett explained that even though, as a slaveholder, Thomas Jefferson was a flawed individual, the Declaration of Independence that he drafted was a “brilliant” document that led to freedom not only in the United States but around the world. Both Ambassador Mohib and Ambassador Kmonícek acknowledged that they learned things about U.S. history and Jefferson himself by taking the tour of Monticello, and that there are lessons they could convey to their compatriots back home.

(Ambassador Kmonícek joked that, where he comes from, a 200-year-old house is considered new.)

You can see the entire press conference here:

Congressman Garrett also answered questions about current domestic policy. Tyler Hawn of the Charlottesville Newsplex asked him about the budget bill that was passed late in the night and signed Friday morning by President Trump, and whether the process was frustrating. Garrett replied (starting at the 9:28 minute mark in the video):
It’s ironic that we stand at the home of Thomas Jefferson, who drafted the Declaration of Independence, which was signed by people who knew when they put their name on that paper that if they were captured they would be killed. We’ve devolved into a political class with the inability to say “no.”

I voted against the National Defense Authorization Act even though people would describe me as a hawk, because thirty-plus years ago department of defense agreed with other federal agencies to be audited – it’s never been audited.

To continue to spend and spend and spend is a symptom of a political class without the courage to do what they think is right when it’s too difficult and standing for reelection having done what you said, even when it was difficult or uncomfortable, is the hallmark of who we are supposed to be as a people.

I voted against that. I think President Trump was wrong to capitulate on heightened spending. He can spin it however he likes. We need to draw lines and assure that taxpayer dollars are being spent efficiently and on the core functions of government. We’re not doing that. It wasn’t OK when President Obama spent profligately. It’s not OK when President Trump does it. So, yes, I’m frustrated.
Garrett also answered a question (about 10:40 in the video) about pending immigration legislation and how it will affect participants in DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals).
That’s going to start in the Senate, for sure, because that’s the chamber where I think they can get something out. I’ve spoken with dozens of DACA recipients – dozens may be low – they can prove it because they’ve filmed me. I’d love to have a solution for DACA. I don’t think deferred action is the proper long-term solution but I’m not going to vote for anything until we secure our southern border.

To do the same thing again and again and expect a different result is the definition of insanity. And I’ve said this to these people with whom I’ve spoken: I think border security should be this AND that, not a this THEN that. We tried this in ’86 with a this-then-that and it failed. And I haven’t had any of the people with whom I’ve spoken who are DACA recipients have a problem with that.

So, I think if we set aside some of the hyperbolic rhetoric that we can get something done but right now people need to step back from the rhetorical edge, acknowledge the existential reality to the young people who are DACA recipients, and also acknowledge that it makes no sense not to take action to secure our southern border.
There are plenty of other gems in the conversation, from both the ambassadors and from Congressman Garrett, who said he would like to do more programs like this, perhaps three or four times each year, bringing ambassadors from Washington to Charlottesville to visit both the University of Virginia and Monticello.

In addition to Tyler Hawn of the Newsplex, Pete DeLuca of NBC29 covered the press event in the Robert H. and Clarice Smith Gallery at Monticello's David M. Rubenstein Visitor Center.

This article was previously published, in slightly different form, on Bearing Drift.


Friday, February 09, 2018

From the Archives: Virginia political leaders mourn passing of Supreme Court Justice Leroy Hassell

Virginia political leaders mourn passing of Supreme Court Justice Leroy Hassell
February 9, 2011 1:53 PM MST

Virginia Supreme Court justice Leroy Hassell
On February 9, the Virginia Supreme Court announced the death of one of its members, Justice Leroy Rountree Hassell, Sr., who had served on the state’s top bench since 1989. He also served as Chief Justice from 2003 through the end of last month.

Born and raised in Norfolk, where he attended Norview High School, Hassell was a graduate of the University of Virginia in Charlottesville as well as of Harvard University Law School. He was 55 years old at the time of his death.

Governor Bob McDonnell has ordered that all flags at local, state, and federal buildings in Virginia will be flown at half-staff until Justice Hassell’s burial.

Calling Justice Hassell “a personal friend who will be greatly missed,” Governor McDonnell recalled “numerous private lunches” with the judge, in which he displayed “keen insights into the human spirit.”

'Brilliant legal mind'
With Hassell’s death, McDonnell said, “Virginia has lost a brilliant legal mind, accomplished jurist and devoted public servant.”

Hassell, McDonnell added, had passion and drive that led to his becoming a state Supreme Court justice at the age of 34, “one of the youngest justices in the history of the court.”

McDonnell noted that when Hassell became the first African-American chief justice in 2002, it was “a monumental achievement for Virginia and for him.”

The Governor praised the Hassell for “standing his ground on principal in the court, making his concerns known in an effort to improve the judicial system.”

'Well respected by all'
Lieutenant Governor Bill Bolling also issued a statement, saying in an email message:

“Chief Justice Hassell’s impact on Virginia’s judiciary will be felt for many years to come. As the first African-American Chief Justice of the Virginia Supreme Court, Chief Justice Hassell played an important role in continuing our state’s progress toward a more perfect union. He was well respected by all who knew him and worked with him.”

'Culture of merit and justice'
Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli said in his own statement that “Chief Justice Hassell played an important role in helping our generation look beyond the racial lines that separated us, and toward a culture of merit and justice that unite us. He was both generous and resolute in his determination to help his fellow man. Virginia is greater and stronger because of his example, and he will be greatly missed.”

According to the Governor's office, Justice Hassell's body will lie in state in the capitol building in Richmond prior to his burial. At press time, complete funeral arrangements had not been released.


Publisher's note: This article was originally published on Examiner.com on February 9, 2011. The Examiner.com publishing platform was discontinued July 1, 2016, and its web site went dark on or about July 10, 2016.  I am republishing this piece in an effort to preserve it and all my other contributions to Examiner.com since April 6, 2010. It is reposted here without most of the internal links that were in the original.

From the Archives: Ken Cuccinelli clarifies remarks on marijuana legalization as federalism issue

Ken Cuccinelli clarifies remarks on marijuana legalization as federalism issue
February 9, 2013 1:16 PM MST

Replying to a question from a self-described former addict about marijuana legalization, Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli used the opportunity to explain his views on federalism to an audience of Republican activists in Albemarle County on February 9.

Cuccinelli, a candidate for governor in 2013 and author of a new book scheduled to be published on February 12, The Last Line of Defense: The New Fight for American Liberty (Crown Forum, 272 pages, $25), said that “one of the problems with the ever-layering on of federal regulations and commands about how we all run our governments, our local governments, our businesses, is this sort of maniacal drive that we all be the same.”

Diversity, Cuccinelli explained, “is a strength of this country. We shouldn't try to wring it out, including intellectual diversity and policy diversity, because we get these sorts of experiments and some of them don't work and some of them may work.”


Colorado and Washington
Earlier in the week, the Attorney General had told students at the University of Virginia that, with regard to the legalization of recreational use of marijuana by voters in Colorado and Washington state, “I and a lot of people are watching Colorado and Washington to see how it plays out.”

Cuccinelli used his appearance at the Albemarle GOP breakfast to clarify and expand on his remarks at UVA.

“What I expressed to [the students] was an openness to observe how things work there, both in terms of the drug side and the economics. One issue that is often discussed is how the war on drugs itself has played out. Have we done this the right way? It's been phenomenally expensive.”

If the government, he said, is “going to put people in jail and spend $25,000 [to] $30,000 a year for a prison bed, do we want it to be for someone who's pushing marijuana or pushing meth? I'll tell you what, that $30,000 for the meth pusher is well worth the deal.”

Different kinds of illicit drugs, he said, are “not the same” and policymakers have to set priorities in terms of law and of how the laws are enforced.

“We have limits on our budget and our ability to police this, so we've got to make these kinds of distinctions over time.”

'Simple federalism experiment'
Ken Cuccinelli federalism marijuana weed 420 pot cannabis
The benefit of the legalization of cannabis in Colorado and Washington, he explained, is that “having data from a couple of states, whole states, that go down this path may not be good news but it will be interesting and it will be something we can learn from.”

The situation in those two Western states “is going to be interesting on several levels,” he said, including “as a simple federalism experiment.”

What, he asked, is “the federal government going to do? What are they going to do? How is this interaction between the states and federal government going to take place?”

Cuccinelli said he has no “problem watching that. It's a peculiar subject but I do think it's important that states try some things they think are appropriate and whether the federal government approves or not, the rest of us watch and learn.”

Undermining federalism
He explained he had told the UVA students, “I'm ready to watch and learn. I'm not ready to do it [legalize marijuana] but I don't want to just never ever say never to the possibility in the future.”

When the federal government forces all states to be uniform, he said, diversity and experimentation are undermined.

“We're not going to have any [experiments] if the federal government is just squashing all of us,” Cuccinelli said, adding: “That's something I have fought against as AG.”

At the same time, he continued, “I don't want you to think that I'm going to land in the governor's office and sign a legalization bill. I don't think you have to worry about it getting to the governor's desk but it's worth knowing what your candidate's saying.”


Publisher's note: This article was originally published on Examiner.com on February 9, 2013. The Examiner.com publishing platform was discontinued July 1, 2016, and its web site went dark on or about July 10, 2016.  I am republishing this piece in an effort to preserve it and all my other contributions to Examiner.com since April 6, 2010. It is reposted here without most of the internal links that were in the original.