On Saturday I attended the 2019 Rural Broadband Summit sponsored by Congresswoman Abigail Spanberger. The summit drew a large crowd from Louisa, Goochland and Orange counties.
In the opening session I heard a range of questions and comments from concerned parents, small business owners, local farmers and residents trying to telecommute. There was also valuable information provided by the panelists on programs and grants that are available to help expand broadband in rural areas such as Louisa County.
Unfortunately, what I did not see was any member of the Louisa County Board of Supervisors or any member of the county’s broadband authority. Several members of the audience asked questions regarding the board’s efforts (or lack thereof) to expand broadband, but there was no one there to respond.
No one to discuss the status of the broadband towers we have been waiting for. No one to explain why county residents must pay two or three times what non-rural Virginians pay for slower, less efficient broadband.
This should not be a partisan issue. One audience member mentioned a bill sponsored by Rep. Rob Wittman (RVA) that would provide some funding for rural broadband. Rep. Spanberger immediately agreed to cosponsor the bill. Broadband access should be an issue with bipartisan support.
Editor’s note: This letter to the editor originally appeared in the August 22 edition of the Central Virginian, and has been re-posted here with the author’s permission.
July, we hear, was the hottest month on record. We in central Virginia were spared the worst, but as records for heat worldwide continue to be broken, we are not likely to be spared in the long run. We need action to address the causes and adaptations to this threat. But causes and adaptations, just like the effects, are global. We couldn’t, for instance, put a dome over Louisa County and expect to keep out the changes. What can we do locally, to help correct the problem?
I believe that we should elect those who are willing to roll up their sleeves and work on the problem, rather than try to ignore it. Time is short, so we need to start now. (We needed to start yesterday, maybe, but late is better than never.) State and local elections are coming up this November, and we can put in place those who pledge to work on this problem. The work will take cooperation and determination.
Juanita Jo Matkins will do more to enable our future than the incumbent in the House of Delegates. John McGuire’s web site lists nine issues that are important to him, but I could find not a single word about this most pressing issue of our time. Yet if we can’t solve climate change, we will not have the opportunity to solve anything else.
Juanita Jo’s background in science education gives her the understanding that while the problem is global, the solutions involve local actions all around the globe. That is why she wants clean energy and broadband access for us, grants and tax credits for local home energy improvements and an emphasis on science education in the schools.
Her outlook on local efforts for solutions to big problems is why I will vote for her this November.
Editor’s note: This letter to the editor originally appeared in the August 22 edition of the Central Virginian, and has been re-posted here with the author’s permission.
Gov. Ralph Northam called a special session of the legislature in response to the Virginia Beach shooting that killed 12 people and wounded four on May 12. On July 9, after only 90 minutes, the Republican-controlled General Assembly adjourned without the slightest consideration of the 60 bills that had been submitted in regular session.
Gun violence is not a single phenomenon, but includes many types of tragedies: domestic violence (averaging 50 women a month shot and killed by their partners), children killing children because a gun in the house was left unsecured, suicides (including many veterans), rampant gun trafficking (New York City has been complaining for years that guns bought in Virginia show up on its streets).
And then there mass slaughters of hundreds every year with military-style weapons, such as El Paso (22 killed, 24 wounded), Dayton (nine killed, 27 wounded), and Las Vegas (58 killed, 422 wounded).
Finally, there’s thoughtlessness in relation to guns, as when Nick Freitas tried to take his loaded pistol through security at Washington Dulles International Airport in 2013.
Now a state delegate, Freitas stoutly defended gun rights in last Sunday’s Culpeper Star-Exponent.
Bryce Reeves was proudly pictured firing an Army cannon.
Sen. Amanda Chase, R-Colonial Heights, wears her pistol on her hip in the Virginia Senate.
Speaker Kirk Cox gaveled the House of Delegates out of session July 9 without considering a single bill presented by Northam.
These are a few people among the many Virginia Republicans who continue to do absolutely nothing to address gun-violence tragedies.
The specious argument that mass murder is a people problem caused by video games, lack of prayer in school or the breakdown of the family is not supported by facts. If true, one would expect similar gun violence in other countries.
And if one suggests there is a national mental-health problem involving gun violence, that would require vast resources to address.
What jumps out in most of mass killings is the effectiveness of rapid-fire, military-style firearms with high-volume magazines.
The Dayton police force estimates the shooter fired more than 30 shots in only 30 seconds. He still had plenty of ammunition. The story in El Paso was even worse—rapid-fire, plenty of bullets, lots of dead and wounded. What do you think the death toll would have been if the Dayton, El Paso or Las Vegas shooters were armed with revolvers? Or knives? The obvious conclusion is that military-style rifles, ammunition and magazines are what makes such attacks so lethal.
Any combat veteran or doctor can tell you that military ammunition travels at such a high velocity that, in tumbling and tearing through the human body, its shock wave shreds organs and breaks bones, even if they’re not directly hit. Victims may require multiple subsequent operations to piece their bodies back together. Imagine what the Sandy Hook children looked like.
In order to calm a tsunami of criticism, President Trump and some congressional Republicans recently intimated they might look at background checks and red-flag laws, i.e., handling gun violence like a people problem. Does anyone have faith that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who has taken up no meaningful legislation passed by the House this entire year, will do so in this case?
There is no way to get around the one indisputable fact in these mass shootings: Lethality belongs to the military-style assault weapon.
But our society is not defenseless. Volunteer with Moms Demand Action and other groups fighting to reduce gun violence. Educate yourselves. Lock up your firearms.
No politician in either party in Central Virginia wants to take away your guns, but something must be done to stop the killing. Vote for candidates who will address these problems, instead of mouthing platitudes and National Rifle Association talking points.
Elections have consequences. Vote on Nov. 5.
David Reuther, a retired foreign service officer, chairs the Culpeper Democratic Committee. These are his personal observations.
Editor’s Note: this op-ed originally appeared in the Culpeper Star Exponent and has been re-posted here with the author’s permission.
An earlier Blue Louisa piece discussed some of the ways Republican’s exploit emotional issues to distract from their hidden economic agendas, and here's how it works in Louisa County
Most of the CV’s readers would have little reason to recall their in-depth 2016-17 coverage of the James River Water Project. Stories which clearly indicated that the intake for the pipeline would be built on top of a known archeological site, presumably information the Board of Supervisor’s took into consideration in their subsequent decisions about projects depending on this pipeline.
So how did they fail to anticipate the Monican Nations concerns, knowing that until they were resolved, any work on the pipeline was unlike to start, and that it would cause significant delays and likely cost overruns? The short answer — such absent mindedness, including their most recent proposed “fix” of taking even more water from the Green Springs aquifer for a residential development behind the Wal-Mart has always been a feature of their economic plans, not a bug.
Unlike the attitudes of the James River Water Authority, it appears that the reasons for the Board’s deeds are rooted in Virginia’s peculiar mythology. From my transplanted Yankee perspective, the “Virginia Way” can best be described as a deep-seated cultural acquiescence to authority, one little removed from the thinking of the plantation era.
Bland acceptance of that’s the way things are, accompanied by it’s hypocritical cousin, “get along to go along,” where maintaining the appearance of genteel collegiality regardless of any legitimate differences becomes more important than effective government.
Considering that Virginia started as a “royal charter,” where the investors profits took precedence over everything else, it should come as little surprise to discover that this mindset has dominated the Commonwealth’s politics at every level since the 1600’s. Where “the business of government has always been business,” no matter who’s running things.
A unique form of American capitalism centered around slavery, where their harsh treatment was a daily reminder for everyone else to stay in line. Where in a time when land prices were low, financial products like mortgage-backed securities were written against the indirect value of the enslaved.
Where most of the southern banking industry backed the slaves value, and the banks in the north and especially Europe made lots of money from their misery. Where accounting concepts like depreciation and hierarchical management structures were first developed for the plantation, not the railroads and industry of the later industrial age.
A set of practices, which University of Wisconsin-Madison sociologist Joel Rogers has termed: Low-road capitalism A mindset which lives on today, with local county officials and Supervisors praising today’s version of prosperity gospel with all the evangelical fervor they can muster.
Promises of a glorious future/past indifferently mixed with antediluvian notions like; Segregation… ahem …“economic growth now, economic growth tomorrow, economic growth forever.” Pointedly ignoring realities like the availability of water, particularly ground water sets the upper limit for any growth.
Such emotional misdirection’s and false promises are how Republican’s have operated since the day’s of Nixon’s “Southern Strategy,” hiding behind a veneer of hypocritical civility, calls for law and order, using coded emotional appeals while governing with tax cuts for the rich and regulatory rollbacks.
Considering what has happened in adjacent counties where the Tea Publicans have taken over, the Boards plans are more likely to entrench ideological … I mean economic [and racial] segregation now, tomorrow and forever.
A land where local officials apparently only know one tune, Virginia's oldest cultural earworm " I wish I was in the land of cotton, old times there are not forgotten, Look away, look away, look away, Dixie Land." A land where inequality reigns and poverty remains endemic just as it has for decades.
Nor does it matter if it’s due to an overly deferential and incurious mindset, typified by the Boards three biggest sclerotics … I mean … get along’s, Barlow, Barnes and Gentry; who consistently fail to exercise any due diligence or oversight, convinced if there’s no conflict there’s no problem. Or because of the closed doors schemes of radical ideologists [aka Replican’ts ] like Wade, Adams and Williams and others.
The results will be the same; a rigged game where only a select few reap the economic benefits.
Until the people of Louisa demand accountability from the Board for their actions, and make a concerted effort to change who sits on the Board, they will continue to ignore the advice of their committees; from the Planning Commission to the Broadband Authority.
And they will continue to ignore common sense proposals; like putting a roof over, and heating the County pool for year round use, calling it government waste and socialism. And they will continue to do everything possible to ensure that the profits of these economic ventures are privatized while the losses are socialized
An earlier piece, vote for progress not emotions, discussed how many of the candidates running for local office are not using social media platforms like Facebook to promote their re-election or candidacy for office, and others appear to have little understanding of how to communicate with potential voters, making little if any attempt to persuade anyone to vote for them.
Weeks after speaking with multiple candidates a surprising number of them still don’t have a Web or Facebook campaign page. Some like our current Treasurer, Henry Wash after spending ~ $ 8 K on signs during his first campaign 8 years ago, says he doesn’t see any need to promote himself any further.
Since he’s running unopposed, and given the number of Wash signs around the County he’s probably right.
Other incumbents like Cuckoo Supervisor Willie Gentry, also running unopposed, says “people know who I am”, and doesn’t feel any need to go over the $ 1K threshold that would require him to file financial reports, and from all appearances is content to let his personal Facebook page double as a campaign page.
Surprisingly, staying under the $ 1K threshold is a sentiment shared by Charles Rosson running for the open Commissioner of the Revenue seat, who has yet to put up a campaign FB page, and it's probably why he has so few campaign signs up.
While Republican Dan Braswell, also running for the open Commissioner of the Revenue seat, and Eric Purcell currently running unopposed for the open Louisa Supervisor seat, discussed their plans at the AG fair for using social media to reach voters. Yet weeks later, neither has a working campaign page.
Although in Eric's defense, he says that he has information ready to be posted, and he confirmed at the recent Rural Broadband Summit that he will be getting together with his IT person about getting it online. While Braswell is seemingly content to let his personal FB page double as his campaign page.
Troy Painting who is running a quixotic campaign for Sheriff appears to be relying on the volume of his signs around the county to win the day, and has no Web or Facebook campaign page.
Meanwhile, the other two Republicans running for office; Donnie Lowe for Sheriff, and Toni Williams for Jackson District Supervisor, Facebook pages are little more than placeholders, with no meaningful information about the candidates. What both of these pages have in common is that their primary message is an emotional appeal, not content which might inform potential supporters.
Nor is this an oversight, it is a deliberate attempt to control the flow of information, ensuring that voters can’t readily scrutinize their past deeds, what they stand for, or even what they propose to do in the future.
A tactic they have copied from their upstream brethren, Delegate John McGuire and Senator Bryce Reeves whose Facebook pages are filled with fluff about all the “important” people they met with. What is left out of their one sided messaging is that their meetings always were closed to the “public” so unless you’re a like minded soul with money to give, you ain’t invited, and definitely aren’t welcome.
In Donnie Lowe’s case, all the public is “allowed” to know about him consists of a barrage of signs around the county, and after the fact notices about this or that “community unity” event he attended. And while Toni Williams Facebook page isn’t over the top like John McGuire’s constant second amendment, flag flying freak.
His content free Facebook page is aimed squarely at an audience that overlaps McGuire’s 2A fanatics, his evangelical brothers and sisters. And the subtle “Christian whistle” visual iconography on his campaign page will fly right by the uninitiated without a second glance.
In direct contrast; the two independent candidates with working Facebook pages, Bernie Hill who is running for the Jackson district Supervisor seat, and Stacy Coleman Fletcher running for the open Commissioner of the Revenue seat, that she has held since the previous Commissioner resigned 8 months ago.
Are openly talking about what they bring to the job, what qualifies them for this office, and where they stand on relevant issues. And in Bernie’s case, he is taking his message directly to the residents of the Jackson District with the first in a series of mass mailers.
Something he will need if he is to have any chance of countering the weekly letters to the editor Toni Williams fellow congregation members and evangelical supporters are submitting on his behalf.
I first met Juanita Jo Matkins over 25 years ago when she was teaching a class for the Virginia Extension Office on Heart Healthy Recipes. I didn’t realize at the time that she was a teacher for many years at Piedmont Christian and Jouett Elementary teaching science and gifted education. In fact, she won a national award in for her teaching – the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science and Mathematics.
I was busy working and raising a family at Blue Ridge Shores so our paths did not cross again for a few years. After my kids got to high school, I became a graduate student at the Curry School of Education at the University of Virginia. Juanita Jo was an Associate Professor there teaching Science Education. UVa is pretty selective about hiring professors so I was impressed that a fellow Louisan had a position on the staff.
Fast forward a few more years. My husband and I had been to many of the Christmas Cantatas and other special events at Yanceyville Christian Church over the years and we liked the church so we decided to join. At that time, Juanita Jo was a church elder and she led the liturgy service every Sunday. I was impressed with the church for accepting a woman as a church leader and impressed with Juanita Jo for bringing intelligence, passion, and a sense of grace to the weekly ceremony.
My husband and I attended church there for many years and Juanita Jo was a church trustee was an active member of the Sunday School, always bringing new ideas and concerns to the conversation. Like my husband who was a physicist for the Army at Ft. Belvoir, Juanita Jo was a commuter to her job in Northern Virginia as an assistant professor at George Mason University. They shared many “road warrior” stories about Northern Virginia’s traffic problems and relished the fact that they could enjoy a home in rural Louisa.
Over the next few years, we got to know Juanita Jo and her husband, Don Short, former Commonwealth Attorney for Louisa County. Juanita Jo was an avid horsewoman as a young woman and her family had a small horse farm in Louisa County. Juanita Jo helped her father breed, train and show horses.
One summer, Juanita Jo came by our farm to catch some frogs from our pond for her summer session at William and Mary training science teachers how to do hands-on science in the lab. Along with a fellow professor, she had written and was administering several multi-million dollar grants to develop techniques to train teachers to upgrade K-12 science curriculums all over the country.
She retired in 2015 from William and Mary University as a Full Professor. But retirement did not mean resting on her laurels. She served on the Louisa County Zoning Commission. She joined a county gospel choir. She helped found the Louisa Chapter of Spread the Vote and worked to register new voters. At church, she took on the job of full-time organist. With other members of the church, she helped found the Yanceyville Summer Nature Camp for children.
Juanita Jo Matkins has been a resident of Louisa County for many, many years. She taught in the schools. She raised her family here. She worked at many universities but she always made her home in Louisa. She has been an active member of the community for most of her life.
Now she is running as a candidate for the Virginia 56th House of Delegates, which includes all of Louisa County. She will work to improve and keep our schools and state universities top notch. She is determined to help bring broadband and decent internet service to our rural communities. She believes that everyone should have access to good health care. If you want someone who will represent our interests in Richmond, then vote for a Louisan. Cast your vote on Nov. 1st for Juanita Jo Matkins for 56th House of Delegates. She’s got your back.
I’d like to bring it to the attention of Virginia voters that women still do not have equal rights guaranteed by the US Constitution. Congress passed a Constitutional amendment, the Equal Rights Amendment, (ERA) in 1972 which would give women the right to be paid the same wages as men for equal work. It would also give us equal standing in legal matters such as property and divorce. This would affect 160 million American women.
It order to be enacted, 38 states must ratify the amendment. As of now, 37 states have voted to ratify. Public polling done in 2018 shows that 88% of Virginians support ratification of the amendment.
Ratification was proposed in the most recent session of the General Assembly where it was sent to a committee. The committee prevented it from passing forward to a full floor vote. John McGuire, who currently represents all of Louisa County was on that committee and did not support it.
Virginia could be the state that makes this amendment become federal law. Historically, Republicans were strong supporters of women’s rights. Obviously, John McGuire is not a supporter. We need someone who is.
I’m voting for Juanita Jo Matkins for 56th District Delegate this November. With her support, Virginia can become the last state needed to finally, 47 years later, make this amendment the law of the land.
Editor’s Note: this op-ed originally appeared in the August 8th edition of the Central Virginian, and is re-posted here with the author’s permission.
Flipping the coin on Jon Russell’s Star-Exponent column, “Politics mars Trump’s Jamestown visit,” the U.S. president has an obligation to honor the office he holds, and all Americans, when acting in an official capacity, regardless of who resides in the White House.
Virginia’s commemoration of its 400th anniversary as the Western Hemisphere’s first representative legislative assembly took years of planning. Inviting the President of the United States to speak was likely suggested years ago. That Donald Trump happened to be president when the day arrived was obviously viewed as a blessing to some, and a distasteful coincidence to others.
Most, I think, would have preferred for the event to have been a non-partisan celebration marked by camaraderie.
Unfortunately, President Trump used the days leading up to this historic occasion to fan the flames of anti-immigrant, anti-minorities sentiments and thus incited others to angrily push back. As they say, leadership begins at the top.
Take one step down and we see Trump’s administration in a constant churn of incompetency—and to be sure, the recent Democratic debates included plenty of wackadoodle ideas and self-destructive infighting.
The cast of characters competing in the past two GOP primaries were hardly prime examples of competency and leadership either.
Have we Americans lost all ability to lead and to govern?
Like Mr. Russell, I am also concerned for our future generations. Their turn is fast approaching, and I fear they are being shortchanged.
Today’s candidates say they support education. Insist they support it with robust educational funding for rigorous curricula featuring inclusive, non-biased American and world history, and straightforward non-partisan civics, in all public, private, and home schools. Some remedial training might benefit us all.
Editor’s Note: this letter originally appeared in the Culpeper Star Exponent, and re-posted here with the author’s permission.
Despite the CSE’s recent policy of printing this disclaimer at the end of their featured columnists pieces, “... opinions represent his personal views only,“ it in no way changes the fact that Mr. Russell is the Executive Director of ACCE, a spin off of the better known Koch brothers front group ALEC, and his opinions rarely differ from their partisan propaganda.
I’d like to commend David Holtzman for pointing out in last week’s edition of the Central Virginian how Republican Delegate John McGuire connects with his supporters on social media. And for quoting Stephen Farnsworth, a political scientist at the University of Mary Washington — “By focusing on the issues [guns and abortion] that generate a strong emotional response, it maximizes the chances they’re re-elected,” laying out the psychological underpinnings behind those messages.
Still both observations fall short of capturing the magnitude of what McGuire, and indeed the entire Republican Party is doing and will continue to do right up to election day.
Deliberately attempting to short circuit peoples ability to think clearly, using messages designed to cause them to become captives of their own emotions. Too angry to even think, let alone ask questions everyone should be asking of their elected officials regardless of their own tribal affiliations.
Questions like; How have your actions this past session benefited the people of the 56th district and can you cite some specific examples?
McGuire’s strategy is simple; distract from relevant issues by saying one thing while communicating an entirely different message. In the not too distant past these messages were coded racist “dog whistles,” today they barely attempt to conceal their contempt.
Paul Krugman of the New York Times says these inherently racist messages have been the Republican’s bread and butter, since the 1970’s when the Party was taken over by economic radicals, “determined to slash taxes for the wealthy while undermining the social safety net.” And that this agenda has been unpopular for decades, since “most voters believe the rich should pay more, not less, in taxes, and want spending on social programs to rise, not fall.”
With such a negative agenda, the only way Republicans could win elections was to campaign with coded appeals to racial hostility, with phases like; “welfare queens,” and “invading hordes,” knowing that after they won the election they could safely return to implementing privatization and tax cuts.
And with ®esident45’s increasingly “audible” racism — rising well beyond the “dog whistles” of the past — any “plausible deniability” which Republican's previously used to deny that their own racist feelings were driving their political allegiances have been eliminated.
Unfortunately, it won't change the fact that racism has become such an integral part of Republican politics that only the willfully blind can't see it.
The leaders of the Republican Party will never admit that racism, right-wing extremism, and the rise in stochastic terrorism [aka mass shootings] we’ve all seen over the past decade are a threat to American society, because doing so would threaten their ability to exploit racial hostility, and more importantly their ability to implement their economic goals.
Nor should anyone be shocked to discover that many of John McGuire’s [and Bryce Reeves] supporters have long been “radicalized” – willfully ignorant — irrationally angry — and increasingly willing to sanction racial mayhem.
Just take a look at his Facebook page where he displays images like the one below, proudly flying his coded freak at every opportunity, while hypocritically calling the El Paso shooting an “evil and cowardly attack” and calling for “thoughts and prayers’ for the victims.
Distractions away from the real issue, that the recent mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton were in no small measure “enabled” by a decade’s long NRA campaign to block any legislation that might have prevented tragedies like these. One that Republicans at every level of government willingly embraced.
And why wouldn’t they; by claiming to support second amendment “rights,” Republican’s have the perfect issue for every situation, one which enthralls the rubes, gets them elected, gives them cover for their economic agenda of privatization and tax cuts, and as an added incentive, they get to line up like hogs at the trough.
While media coverage of mass shootings long ago went down the “if it bleed, it leads” rabbit hole, the simple fact is that for decades, the leading cause of gun death has been suicide, not homicide, or the “acts of deranged individuals.
According to the National Center for Health Research, “Gun violence is a public health issue, but politics has interfered with research to determine how to reduce suicides or homicides caused by guns. Research is necessary for legislators to create effective gun control policy.”
The absence of statistically reliable information about gun violence is no accident, since the Clinton era, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) has been prevented from collecting any data on gun violence, because Congressional Republicans have refused to approve any funding for research.
Yet another indictment of how completely our legislators, particularly those on the Republican side of the aisle have failed to address the reality that anyone, anywhere in the country has unfettered access to guns, particularly weapons of mass mayhem, and we’re the only developed nation in the world where this is happening.
In response to McGuire’s hypocritical flag waving, and sanctimonious attitude, one person called him out out on his Facebook page, saying, “Oh no Johnny boy you do not get to comment on the murders of innocent Americans to score political points. You and the rest of the Republicans slunk away from Richmond without discussing even ONE bill to help save Virginians.”
Meanwhile, Republicans across the country are taking refuge behind the usual talking points; “it’s too soon to talk about it,” blaming "violent video games," or “we need to deal with mental illness,” and in Orange Julius’s case doing everything he can to undermine public safety.
And it’s the same playbook of watered down misdirection that the people of Louisa are seeing from local candidates running under Party banners, Facebook pages that have if any meaningful content that might assist voters in evaluating what they bring to the table, or even where they stand on relevant issues.
Although in Tony Williams case, it should be noted that he’s following Duane Adams 2017 playbook, using like minded proxies to flood the CV with letters of support. And while these are activities that any elected official or candidate worth their salt should be engaging in.
What few of the CV readers will notice is that they follow a similar pattern of pattern of distraction as the higher level Replican’ts [McGuire and Reeves] or that their claims are little more than an assortment of what-about-isms, and inflated accomplishments.
Some local officials currently in office and surprisingly some new candidates for office are content to run their campaign on the down low; depending almost entirely on word of mouth, keeping their “expenses” at such low levels that they won’t have to file any financial reports.
While other have taken to littering the roadways with signs, convinced that volume is a substitute for substance, and others are content to reach out to voters by using their personal Facebook pages as campaign pages.
Nor is it any coincidence that you’re not seeing this kind of pabulum on local independent candidates Facebook and web pages, not just because they want to be elected, but because they’re not afraid to talk about the issues.
Make no mistake, whichever lever you choose to pull on November 5th this year, and the following year, those decisions will likely be the most critical votes of your lifetime, and will play a major part in which direction this country takes for decades to come.
Whether you like it or not, there no longer is any comfortable middle ground, or room for indecisiveness, your choices are simple; either you’re for social progress, justice and a working government, or your not. And by your silence in the face of non stop racism are supporting a Party which has become a "systematic enabler" of white supremacist terrorism.
And as Paul Krugman, pointed out, if you want to know why, just “follow the money."
Editor’s Note: this is an expanded version of a letter published in the August 8th edition of the Central Virginian.
This is a rebuttal to the letter from Ty Fabling in last week’s edition of the Central Virginian. Toni Williams’ voting record is available for public viewing in the minutes to the Board of Supervisors meetings. My Facebook post on BernieHill4Supervisor regarding Toni Williams voting record is entirely accurate and can be corroborated by those Board of Supervisor minutes. I have made verification easier for the reader by embedding those dates, within my Facebook post, for all of Toni’s votes against broadband.
Mr. Fabling’s misunderstanding of the role of the Louisa County Broadband Authority is apparent throughout his article. The Broadband Authority is composed of volunteer citizens that have been appointed to advise the Board of Supervisors on matters related to broadband within the County.
Contrary to Mr. Fabling’s claims, the Broadband Authority does not have the legal rights to enter into contracts or spend money. County leaders - NOT the Broadband Authority - administered the contract to build the broadband towers.
After the Board of Supervisors approved the tower-construction contract, the tower project became part of the Louisa County Capital Improvement Program administered by County officials.
Therefore, Mr. Fabling’s attacks on the Broadband Authority were misdirected.
Editor’s note: This letter was originally submitted to the Central Virginian for their August 8th edition, as a rebuttal to a letter the previous week from one of Toni Williams supporters and was denied because it’s not the CV’s policy to publish letters from active political candidates.
Often as residential and commercial developments have occurred across our country, land investors and developers have bought rural land on speculation. They rezone their properties, then build homes, apartments, stores and office buildings.
Investors often reap tremendous profits by such re-zonings and the subsequent developments that follow. No doubt, there’s much hard work, luck, and funds invested for developers to earn their rewards. But many times taxpayers have been left to pay for the capital cost burdens this growth brings: new roads and improvements, more classrooms, school buses, police cruisers, recreational facilities and parks, fire houses and trucks.
Zion Crossroads, thanks to its water and sewer infrastructure, a catalyst for development, is now experiencing a massive spike in growth. The county currently is considering three large-scale development proposals that would build approximately 1,200 residential units at Zion.
Much planning has gone into each proposal. But one aspect has been largely ignored in all three applications: the costs to the county for capital improvements. Yes, the costs for overlooked, forgotten, or ignored new roads/road improvements, classrooms, buses, police cruisers, ladder fire trucks that will be needed if these proposals are approved. And these costs are not insignificant.
Taxpayers must insist now before the rezoning applications are considered for approval that county officials do their job. They must hold developers accountable for their fair share of these largely yet undetermined costs. This accountability must be codified in the county’s written approval of large-scale growth proposals to define clearly and bind legally all stakeholders to their financial responsibilities.
Otherwise, several years later, while sitting in traffic jams with multiple cycle traffic light delays while our children attend overcrowded schools and our law enforcement officers or fire and rescue personnel can’t reach us in time to prevent a tragedy, we Louisa citizens will wonder: How did this happen? Who will pay to fix it?
If the developers refuse to help shoulder the burden their growth will bring, perhaps they should be told their proposals are too costly for Louisa. What happens at Zion will impact all of Louisa. We taxpayers and voters will be watching.
Editor’s Note: this op-ed originally appeared in the August 1st edition of the Central Virginian, and is re-posted here with the author’s permission.
While the subject of ®esident45’s mental health has been a concern before he was elected, and throughout his time in office, and most reasonable people recognize that his antics are how a raging narcissist behaves, his recent actions have raised those concerns to 5-alarm fire levels.
Over the past two months, there have been numerous public examples of his mental and physical decline, and invoking the 25th amendment to remove him for office is necessary. Under normal circumstances, that process would start with the Vice President, and members of the cabinet. However, these are not normal times, because Orange Julius has filled his cabinet full of ideologues, sycophants and yes men, and Vice President Pence is as spineless as they come.
So by default, it becomes Congresses responsibility under section 4 of the 25th Amendment to create a “disability review body” which would rule on the Presidents disability. To be clear, we’re not talking about impeachment for “treason, bribery, and other high crimes and misdemeanors,” but removing him from office because he’s unable to perform the most basic executive functions without being constantly stage handled.
Having a figurehead serving as president is unfortunately, something this country has seen before.
First, with Woodrow Wilson incapacitated by a stroke, and most recently with Ronald Reagan suffering with Alzheimer’s for the better part of two terms. Considering the Mango Mussolini’s family history with Alzheimer’s, and his actions so far, there are legitimate concerns that he is a prime candidate for his following his father into the inescapable labyrinth of dementia.
Given his unusual physical mannerisms, and behavior during recent public appearances, it’s likely that he’s showing signs of a form of dementia called frontotemporal dementia. What’s not debatable is his narcissistic and infantile behavior, which if allowed to continue unchecked, will leave us with a poltergeist ®esident at the helm of the world’s largest economic and military power. Something, the people of this country and this world can ill afford.
Even more so than the circumstances surrounding Reagan’s presidency, his enablers in the White House and power brokers financing the ® Party will continue to manipulate and use him, allowing him to literally fall to the ground in the later stages of dementia before they will acknowledge there’s even a problem, because he’s their “useful idiot.”
To be even clearer, the 25th amendment process must start when Congress resumes this fall, not at some politically convenient time that won't interfere with the 2020 campaigns, or even during (gasp) during his second term. At this point, discerning and skeptical readers should be saying, “so where’s your evidence for invoking the 25th amendment?”
Especially, since these alarmist claims seem little removed from the video’s that everyone from conspiracy sites to British tabloids were circulating as “proof" that Hillary Clinton was at deaths doorstep during the 2016 campaign. And this is where the notion of “who are you going to believe, me or you lying eyes,” and the vast differences in people’s perceptions comes into play.
Some will look at these recent pictures and videos of our ®esident and promptly dismiss them as “fake news,” while other will say, “I didn't know what I was looking at.”
Figure 1- Leaning and using others to “balance” himself with the classic spread feet, butt back, forward leaning, arms out posture
Figure 2 -Leaning forward hanging on to the podium using his body to balance himself.
Figure 3 - When Trump sits on a chair, he not as many people would interpret this body language, “asserting his dominance,” he’s sitting on the edge to spread his weight between his butt and his legs. If he sat back in an over-stuffed chair, he would move about with obvious twitching and writhing, and is compensating for that by leaning forward to brace himself
Figure 4 - Sitting at his desk, feet pressed to the floor, butt on the edge of the chair, using his left arm, palm flat on the desk to braces himself.
As his unsteady gait, rigid body posture, muscle weakness and twitchy mannerisms become more noticeable, expect to see him appear less and less frequently in public, and future senior moment videos like this one with Nobel Prize recipient Nadia Murad edited out. Particularly videos like this one with Buzz Aldrin commemorating the 50th anniversary of the moon landing, where he repeatedly looks to his handlers for cues.
While there clearly are two divergent reactions to the same information, these differences are largely attributable to how people perceive the world around them, on one side are folks capable of changing their existing “opinions” based on new evidence, because they are grounded in tangible reality.
On the other side, are those who will cling to their beliefs no matter what new information they might encounter, with multiple studies showing that these divergences between “liberals” and “conservatives” are measurable and attributable to differences in how they manage fear.
While a certain amount of fear is reasonable and indeed healthy, for example; should a lion suddenly walk into your living room, only a complete fool wouldn’t be fearful and make every effort to avoid becoming dinner. According to these studies, what most conservatives dread, is rarely this tangible, it’s a entirely different kind of apprehension.
A fear that the world is not as they imagine it to be, and when faced with a world which rarely conforms to those preconceptions it's no great leap of logic to understand why their first and often only “rationale” for why the world doesn’t match their preconceptions is that “something or someone is preventing it.”
As rationalizations go, it’s hard to beat “it’s not your fault, its all [fill in the blank] fault,” as the reason why the world isn’t the way you think it should be. Like “faith” in most western religions, it’s a mindset which can never be disproved, because it only exists is in ones imagination.
For many conservatives, the downside of their blanket acceptance of a “faith based” worldview is that it leaves them highly susceptible to the messages of demagogues, particularly those who preach that blaming others for everything under the sun is acceptable. And in following these messages, it often sets them on a lifelong journey down one rabbit hole after another forever chasing the next scapegoat and bogeyman.
In that regard, Hillary Clinton completely failed to grasp how the so called “deplorables,” view themselves. In their minds, they were not being racist, sexist and homophobic because they supported an even worse presidential candidate, they’re simply “wretched refugees” adrift in a sea of liberal socialism desperately searching for magical solutions … I mean validity.
Should Congress decide not to invoke the 25th amendment, we shouldn’t count on the pundit class or the lamestream media to stay focused on the fact that the ®esident is unfit for office and should be removed ASAP. It will be up to concerned citizens around the country to keep repeating this message, ®esident45’s is sick and is unfit to be in office.
Words, which will no doubt enrage him, spurring him on to even more bizarre behavior, but it will be a message that will turn off some of his supporters, who like their idol will have no sympathy for a sick, weak, old “loser” man. While that may strike some as being unnecessarily mean spirited, it’s where we are as a society, either we resist this administrations growing fascism with every means at our disposal, or we will be consumed by it.
Special Counsel Mueller’s testimony before two congressional committees last week starkly described Russian interference in the American 2016 elections. Wikileaks released Democratic Party emails stolen by Russian government hackers. Mueller noted there were signs of Russian targeting of state voting systems, with the expectation that the American public would lose confidence in its ballot. Mueller put a huge number on the fake Facebook groups and messages as the Russians flooded social media with false news reports and incendiary political ads designed to boost Trump’s campaign.
One of the great American stories is its immigrant tradition. America, the beacon of freedom. Americans take pride in the Statue of Liberty and the poem by Emma Lazarus—a symbol recognized throughout the world. Remember the student demonstrators in Tiananmen Square in June 1989 made their own Statue of Liberty to represent their hopes and dreams.
Since the founding of America, its leaders were aware of its diversity. That’s why America’s motto is e pluribus unum. The Constitution was written with diversity in mind. The 2004 book “The Island at the Center of the World” by Russell Shorto describes the religious, racial and ethnic diversity that was already in place in the 17th century Dutch colony of New Amsterdam. Diversity has been here all the time.
However, our diversity has not always been honored. Ask Japanese-Americans interned during WWII; ask the Chinese who built America’s railroads and faced the Chinese Exclusion Act, which was not changed until well into the 20th century. Ask the Greeks and Italians who faced discrimination in more recent times. The list is long and domestic forces are making it longer.
There has been much immigration legislation submitted in the U.S. Congress in the last two decades, but little has gathered the necessary bipartisan consensus needed to pass. As time passes anti-immigrant rhetoric has become more vicious. Current U.S. leaders justify deporting perhaps millions of people by describing Hispanics here illegally as rapists, murderers, and gang members. Yet the rhetoric often doesn’t match the mothers, husbands, and grandparents who are being stigmatized and deported. The Russians see an opportunity to distract America, a sprawling, diverse nation with a long history of ethnic assimilation, from finding creative solutions for a strong immigration regime and secure borders.
Much of what America has done in the last two years follows the path of dehumanizing immigrants and attacking them with uncaring cruelty. The Trump administration has verbally obliterated the difference between legal asylum seekers and random border-crossers. People are denied long-accepted rights; U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents put people of all ages in cages and unsanitary, even unhealthy situations. These conditions bring to mind the fact that Anne Frank didn’t die in the gas chambers; she died of typhus in an overcrowded concentration camp. Leaders of any country play a major role in setting the tone, defining the hopes, and encouraging basic human decency for their societies. This is particularly true in the United States, a nation that takes pride in the assertion, “...all men are created equal ... that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights.” The Mueller Report suggests Russians want to undermine the American dream. Today internal forces awaken fears with derogatory stereotypes, and Russia stokes the flames.
Dr. King stirred the soul talking about his dream for a diverse nation. As we approach another November election, are there any who have a different hope than the Charlottesville chant, “Jews will not replace us?” Any who lift their eyes rather than bow their head? Perhaps in the quiet of the polling booth, some will dream the dream of hope. Otherwise the Russians have a plan for us.
Editor’s Note: This op-ed originally appeared in the Culpeper Star Exponent and has been re-posted here with the author’s permission.
As chairman of the Black Caucus of the Hanover County Democratic Committee, I am concerned about the Hanover County Board of Supervisors’ very anemic response to the Ku Klux Klan’s appearance and protest in Hanover.
With the exception of Supervisor Faye Prichard, those of you who responded didn’t seem too concerned that Hanover was the place the Klan picked to demonstrate and asked for membership support and those with no response, well “the silence was deafening”.
Bigotry and disdain for any human being is like a cancer and it eats at the core of our inalienable and God-given rights as our Constitution’s 9th Amendment so states the concept of “inalienable rights”.
The Ku Klux Klan ideas represent a deadly poisonous venom spewed on black and people of color and there is no place in Hanover County or America for this deep-rooted hatred because of the color of anyone’s skin.
Our nation thrived on diversification and will continue to do so. We fought that war and “WON” -- it ended May 9, 1865; this is 2019.
We, as Americans have too many issues to deal with these immoral and hateful acts and we will continue to stand and fight against theses vile forms of oppression.
We support the Hanover NAACP’s call on the Hanover County Board of Supervisors to speak out against racism and inequality and replace it’s cavalier message with one of dignity, moral character and support for all of the people they serve, all people of Hanover County.
Sandra R. Howard Chairman Black Caucus, HDC
Editor’s Note: this op-ed originally appeared in the July 16th edition of the Hanover-Mechanicsville section of the Richmond Times Dispatch, and has been re-posted here with the author’s permission.
Once again, we come to a time in the history of Hanover County where we can choose to move forward or continue to live within the impenetrable “legacy” thought process. What is that legacy?
If you look strictly at one segment of the population it appears that legacy means continually celebrating the history of the losers of the Civil War: the Confederacy. It appears that they forget that the Confederacy lost the war.
Another aspect of the population wants to move forward with a united Hanover where all are celebrated and where we can celebrate as the Declaration of Independence says, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal . . .” We want to create a NEW Hanover legacy of justice and equality for all.
And yet, we witness a Ku Klux Klan rally staged to gain membership in front of OUR Hanover Courthouse. Why would they feel comfortable enough to come to Hanover to do this? Would it have anything to do with the “rumble in the jungle” of the 97th District of the Republican Party where the man who stood up to help those of lesser means in his district was tossed out of office and replaced with a commander of one of the six local Confederate groups in Hanover?
Were they aware of the tossing off the board of Earl Hunter Jr., an African-American with no reason for his dismissal and said that is our kind of town.
Even more recently, they witnessed the dismissal of Marla Coleman who made one mistake in their estimation -- she voted for a change in the names of the Confederate name schools. After all, she was representing all people.
Perhaps they followed the story of the tossing of Dr. Kevin Washington and his wife from a “town hall” meeting of the NRA and the GOP. They were the only two people of color in attendance as Dr. Washington went to become informed on the NRA stance in his bid for the seat in the 97th District.
Dr. Washington wants to represent all citizens. Would it have to do with well-qualified candidates of color continually applying for a seat on the Hanover County School Board and not being appointed?
Most recently, one of the Hanover County Board of Supervisors members admitted Rev. Scott Bray had great qualifications as candidate, but how many times, how many years have we heard that?
Nah, we can’t put you here but look, we’ll give you this instead.
Rev. Bray, it was reported, was assured he’d get another appointment soon. Would it have to do with the overwhelming support they see of our board of supervisors as they refuse to do anything to change the names of the two schools in Hanover County that still carry the names of the losing generals of the Civil Wars Lee Davis and Stonewall Jackson?
Throughout the country there are less than 100 schools that still carry the name of Confederate generals, they are mostly in the Deep South.
Virginia has started moving toward being a state for all people and now has only 13 schools still carrying the names of the Confederate generals.
Yet, Hanover, in its infinite wisdom, has the distinction of having two schools still named after these generals. The Board of Supervisors would have you believe they left the decision up to the citizens of Hanover. They knew the result before the vote because of the reputation Hanover has.
They know the percentage of minorities in Hanover and knew they could depend on the people of Hanover not taking into consideration the feelings of minorities as they decided to stick with their legacy -- a legacy of schools honoring the losers of the Confederate war. WHY? They could dismantle this controversial issue and bring Hanover together as a place for ALL people with one positive decision. CHANGE THE SCHOOL NAMES. Get us off the news cycle on TV and in the newspapers, where we are reported to continue living in the past. We made not only The Mechanicsville local, the Roanoke paper, the Richmond Times-Dispatch and the Washington Post.
Hanover wonders why they have a hard time getting teachers/administrators of color in our schools. It is hard to find a person of color willing to put up with what they know they will face in schools that profess their legacy so blatantly.
When will this Board of Supervisors decide to do the right thing for ALL people? If they can’t make that decision, it is time for the good people of Hanover to decide we need new blood, a board that sees clearly the future and not the past.
We need to vote to have an elected school board -- a school board that represents all of the people of Hanover County.
I don’t want my grandchildren living in a place where the KKK feels comfortable coming for the recruitment of new members. My family has been in Hanover County as long as any of the families of the board of supervisors.
Don’t we, the minority citizens, deserve some consideration? After all, we were on the right side of history.
And as we looked for a rebuke of the actions of this group, all we got was a shallow response from the chairman of the Board of Supervisors. “I 100% support citizens of this community and country being able to express their opinions — as long as they do it peacefully,” said W. [Canova] Peterson, while noting that he disagrees with those who appeared at the rally on Saturday. “There’s a lot of people who disagree with me, but I’m not going to try and shut them down.”
Editor’s Note: this op-ed originally appeared in the July 16th edition of the Hanover-Mechanicsville section of the Richmond Times Dispatch, and has been re-posted here with the author’s permission.
Our president said over the weekend that certain politicians should “go back” to “the totally broken and crime-infested places from which they came.”
It is widely believed he was referring to four United States congresswomen. Since they were all elected to Congress, having passed the first hurdle to election of becoming a U.S. citizen, he must mean the states they came from. This type of rhetoric coming from the primary defender of our Constitution seems wildly out of place in both the political and religious founding of this great country. I’m sure certain fundamentalist organizations, like the Klan, are cheering today just like certain countries are alleged to have cheered over 9-11.
Bias, bigotry and lack of tolerance seem to permeate Washington. But Richmond is no slacker in this either. This November, we get to choose new representation in state politics. If you are a woman or a minority perhaps you’ve noticed that Bryce Reeves voted against the Equal Rights Amendment, along with other members of his party. Is this what we Virginians want – a return to barefoot and pregnant? Continued “pay them less because they’re not men?” Deny them control over their bodies? Is it bad to have an abortion, but OK to kill children in schools or coworkers with guns in the hands of those undergoing some sort of breakdown?
While I don’t think abortion is a good idea, it’s not my decision (plus abortions are declining anyway). While I keep and shoot guns, it’s not right to ignore the pain caused by a less-than-rational shooter.
The president will be voted in or out next year (and that’s important); but what about our election this year? Let’s look at our local politicians and decide if they truly represent all of us.
Get out and vote this November, especially if you are a woman or a minority.
Editor's Note: this originally appeared in the July 19th edition of the Central Virginian, and has been re-posted here with the author's permission.
What occurred July 9 during the General Assembly’s Special Session should be a wake up call. Three Virginians die every day from gun violence. The majority of these deaths are suicides. Many others are the result of domestic violence.
The current NRA mantra is that a good guy with a gun is the best defense against a bad guy with a gun. But where’s the “good guy” when a person commits suicide? What about women killed by their ex-husbands, husbands, boyfriends or ex-boyfriends? How about a young child who finds a carelessly stored gun? It seems in our society we value human life, except in these cases.
The Governor’s request was simple. After the mass shooting in Virginia Beach, he wanted legislators to reconsider gun legislation that failed to pass a few short months earlier. Virginia’s failure to act has a long history. Twelve years after 32 people died at Virginia Tech we still have no meaningful gun safety legislation. Recommendations from a bi-partisan Blue Ribbon Panel generally have not been acted on. After 12 years of inaction, more than 11,000 Virginians have since become victims of gun violence.
To pretend we are powerless to address gun violence is ludicrous. After the 90-minute charade I watched last Tuesday, even after some influential legislators promised to submit legislation for debate, Virginia’s legislators simply chose to dodge their responsibility to provide for public safety. Many other states have passed legislation to protect lives. It’s time for Virginia to join them.
The Governor said he expected better. We all should expect better. Families who have and will continue to use lose loved ones deserve better. On November 5, it’s time to remove from office those individuals who won’t even consider common sense public safety solutions.
Editor's Note: This originally appeared in the July 17th electronic edition of the Culpeper Star Exponent, and has been re-posted here with the author's permission.
I hereby announce, “No liver will be served in this house.” So does this mean I can be labeled a “vegan,” “pescetarian,” “animal lover” or “animal hater?” No, it means if you’re coming to a potluck at my house, leave the pâté at the end of the driveway.
Was this a bold move? Maybe no one would bring pâté; so just consider it a warning that if you might, don’t. Maybe The City of Charlottesville and Albermarle County’s announcement that their police forces would not participate in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raids was also just a warning. I don’t know. I wasn’t part of the decision. I can’t read minds. Enter Jon Russell on July 14, 2019, with his article in the Star-Exponent, "Two communities, two immigration stances," and his labels of a “bold move,” “a political stunt designed to make headlines,” and evidence these communities are “de facto sanctuary communities.” Fact Check: there is no legal definition of a sanctuary community, and such continuous labeling until perceived as truth is a tactic straight out of Propaganda 101.
Last year Sheriff Jenkins signed a 287(g) agreement with ICE; one of two Virginia counties to do so. So far I haven’t seen massive reports of immigrant criminals running rampant in the other 93 counties. I also haven’t seen any hard data from Sheriff Jenkins. How many have been arrested? What were the charges? How many convictions? Deported? Monies received? Spent? Has 287(g) been effective in keeping our community safer, a deterrent in keeping criminals away, or has it merely stoked fear in our minorities and votes for our politicians?
You can count me among the compassionate and the committed to the rule of law, and Mr. Russell and Sheriff Jenkins are welcome to bring the facts to my house anytime. Just leave the propaganda at the end of the driveway.
Editor's Note: This originally appeared in the July 15th electronic edition of the Culpeper Star Exponent, and has been re-posted here with the author's permission.
The state of Wisconsin recently maneuvered itself into a position of granting enormous tax breaks – and other advantages that included providing additional infrastructure – to a company (Foxconn) that made grandiose promises that weren’t intended to be kept, were unable to be kept, and have no hope of being kept
You have to ask relevant questions to get some insight or to speculate about the motivation and the ability of any government level to impose a financial burden on an unsuspecting public and expect it to willingly submit to its backdoor machinations. Tony Evers, the new governor or Wisconsin inherited the responsibility to resolve the sham that was named “economic development.”
Without an investigation, there is only speculation about how that fiasco occurred but we can also use that speculation to consider if Louisa County is headed for a similar disaster with the Shannon Hill Project – or Megasite
The Wisconsin Foxconn projections were overly optimistic from the start, but who could’ve known that of the thousands of estimated jobs, only about four to six actual employees had been identified. How certain are we that the Megasite projections don’t have similar flaws? Someone should’ve anticipated what would happen.
We can be confident that the Foxconn mishap likely has its origins in misinformation, disinformation, and intimidation (to some extent). There are really three participants in this drama.
All the participants have access to varying levels of information but in typical fashion, taxpayers have the least information, which almost always manifests itself as the amount of the bill when government and business complete their collusion in a financial enterprise. The victim role is the one assigned to taxpayers, while government and business exchange levels of culpability and responsibility for perpetrating deception. It’s conceivable that government can rightly plead “not guilty” in a few instances when it allows itself to indulge in gullibility.
Business is the “usual” culprit in manipulating and taking advantage of the Economic Development mechanism in its continuing quest for profit – it’s a natural pheromone. Government misunderstands it but submits to the overtures of financial promises, even if they’re unrealistic. But, does government really know how to make a sound business determination?
Taxpayers are at the greatest disadvantage because they lack the exposure to the language and experience with the processes that the government and business have created and protected between themselves.
Land ownership is a significant incentive to entice “development,” especially if the price is right and there’s no further use for that land. If a significant short-term profit can be made because of bleak long-term prospects some business enterprise will certainly offer a large tract of land. Business is extremely adept at getting government to become an accomplice in any venture as long as the magic word is used – Economic Development.
Misinformation can easily be viewed as the propagation of incorrect information without any necessary intent to deceive. This is a familiar pattern with large and diverse groups. It’s a natural phenomenon that’s displayed in communication models as “noise.” It can happen through honest misinterpretation at the start of sending information; through the various levels of business, government, and public; and, the final destination where taxpayers are usually expected to suffer the consequences of mutated information.
Part of this noise is the result of bias and unreasonable expectations. The concept of Economic Development creates optimistic – but unrealistic – expectations even when there is no justification for it. As a society, we tend to ignore any deeper meaning beyond the sound bites we’ve grown accustomed to receiving. The inquisitiveness that accompanies critical thinking has moved along the path of atrophy.
This is a dangerous state that leaves citizens exposed to manipulation by business – sometimes with the aid of government, unwittingly caught in the misinformation trap. And this is only the most benign of the “bad things” that can happen.
Disinformation is even more sinister – an active attempt to deceive and mislead. It becomes worse when government willingly and knowingly abets business. Elected and appointed officials do not simply fail to perform all the fiduciary duties and responsibilities on behalf of the taxpayers, but actively participate to disrupt and distort information. Under these conditions, the reaction is to preserve the undeserved image of a functioning government.
Claims of restrictions to sensitive information are only used to add to the perception of importance – if you believe government can be serious about that. If these distractions work, the government is emboldened to continue its deceit – in concert with business – and increases the risk of further damage to the financial structure that should be benefiting citizens, instead of business.
Intimidation has many facets but its utility is best seen when there is insufficient justification for a planned enterprise and a false choice is offered between only two options when other possibilities exist. Taxpayers are challenged and humiliated to participate in the process – this is the intimidation – then that participation is trivialized when blic comments don’t allow enough time to adequately express concerns.
This is in direct contrast to the audience granted to business. Any obstacles the government places to prevent or minimize public participation are intimidation. Another example of intimidation is government dismissively taunting the public to vote its representatives out of office if the decisions are unsatisfactory. By then, too much time would’ve gone by and even more disasters burden the taxpayers.
The problem with either, misinformation or disinformation is that the results are the same. And, the solutions are the same:
That perspective may have complemented or conflicted with the government understanding, but the right of the people takes precedence. In Louisa, it might make a difference to its citizens if they knew that the biggest beneficiary of Option 1 to the Shannon Hill Industrial Park Development is a Richmond entity – not someone from Louisa. Under Option 3 of that plan, the only beneficiary of the land sale is the Richmond entity.
That information is available if someone knows where to look for it, but it wasn’t forthcoming from the Louisa County government.
Consider how Wisconsin could have facilitated the participation of its citizens to reach an equitable agreement with Foxconn – if all the information were made available. The government could have ensured that all reports and studies would be readily available well in advance of decision milestones, if for no other reasons than:
Exchange of clear information is necessary for the security of the public – both financial security and, especially, political security. Sometimes we can see the government adopt an arrogant tone with voters because of how it manages to portray itself in the hierarchy. Too often, that kind of intimidation succeeds because citizens don’t always realize the rights that they still have, or the rights they’ve abdicated along the way.
Consider what the Wisconsin voters could have done without the arbitrary obstacles of a government. As a society, we’ve become too timid – timid to the point where our employee, the government, is telling us what to do. In some ways, it’s the same thing as a contractor (business) telling the government what to do. There’s very little difference. Business tells the government; and the government tells the people. This is the process of government going in the wrong direction.
Is there that much difference between the state government of Wisconsin and the county government of Louisa?
In magnitude, yes. In the ability and capability to serve all the information to the taxpayers that allows a consensus decision, both the government and business are successful in isolating the public from deciding on those issues that affect it.
Is there that large a difference between the vulnerability of the citizens of Wisconsin burdened with Foxconn and the citizens of Louisa disadvantaged by the Megasite?
The risk to and alternatives for the public don’t get to be addressed when the path to “Economic Development” machinery is already in motion.
Do the citizens of Louisa County deserve the risk and burden of Shannon Hill Industrial Park turning into a Wisconsin Foxconn?
The taxpayers of Louisa still haven’t received a full accounting of the decision made by its government. The voters of Wisconsin could have avoided the Foxconn fiasco with information, participation, and control. These same things are needed in Louisa because of the steps taken by the government without our consent.
We make the mistake of sometimes forgetting that our elected officials work for us. It’s not up to the government to make decisions for the people; it’s government’s duty and responsibility to implement the decisions of the people.
We have just celebrated one of our founding fathers’ greatest achievements—the Declaration of Independence, penned by Thomas Jefferson, listing grievances of the colonies against the governance of King George III of Great Britain.
Jefferson wrote a mission statement that still guides the hearts of free men everywhere. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”
The Declaration challenged George III’s unbridled authority to interfere with local government, abuse taxation, and maintain an army, while at the same time not protecting the settlers against the Indians on the frontier. Discouraging immigration and suborning justices to comply with the King’s will were listed. There are 27 indictments in all.
Jefferson ended with the observation, “In every stage of these Oppression's, we have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.”
With British abuses in mind, the Founding Fathers designed the Constitution. When I became a presidentially appointed Foreign Service Officer, I swore an oath to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic. My military colleagues, other public servants, the Congress and even the vice president take the same oath.
In their day, Jefferson and his colleagues swore an oath to a person: The King. The Founding Fathers took great pains to construct an instrument of law that contained the unbridled powers of the monarchy they opposed. Hence, the Constitution is the reason Americans believe no one is above the law.
John Marshall, the fourth Chief Justice of the United States, summed up the constitutional project by saying, “If Congress or any other department of government can ignore the limitations of the Constitution, all distinction between government of limited powers and a government of unlimited powers is done away with.”
Further, “the people themselves cannot make treaties, enact laws, or administer the government. They must do such things through agents. That these agents might abuse this power was no argument against giving it, for the power of doing good is inseparable for that of doing some evil.”
Thus, the Constitution deliberately created a balance of power between the three branches of government. The First Amendment protects the press, which we have long called the fourth branch of government.
Jefferson himself was very aware of how frustrating the press could be, but he also saw it as a protection against tyranny. The Founding Fathers would never have labeled the press the “enemy of the people.” In fact, the great contemporary defense of the Constitution comes from the Federalist Papers—which were printed, not in book form, but as newspaper articles.
The Constitution requires much of us. It also assumes that representatives and senators will represent the interests of their constituents. That assumption was embedded in Lincoln’s eloquent phrase, “of the people, by the people, and for the people.”
Today, we have representatives who seem more interested in getting their dogma straight than their constituents’ problems solved.
We have a president who talks about “my army” and “my generals.” That’s the people’s army, thank you. We have a president who talks about foreign policy as a function of his feelings about other leaders. He does not talk about what best protects America or its image in the world.
We must ask ourselves, if avoiding the tyranny of George III is the steel in the construction of the Constitution, are we honoring the Founding Fathers and the Culpeper Minutemen, who fought tyranny to live like free men, when we forget what the Constitution requires of us?
Editor’s Note: This piece originally appeared in the Culpeper Star Exponent and is re-posted here with the author’s permission.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.