I grew up in the West. Every family vacation, we would collect our gear and head off to the National Parks. We camped and explored the incredible beauty and majesty of Yosemite, Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, Zion, and others. Along the way, we took in lessons on geology, geography, and read road side markers which told the history of the states we passed through. We were proud that all Americans could visit these sights.
Our National Park System is truly a national treasure. Its development was championed by great photographers like Ansel Adams and railroad posters that still show up on The Antiques Roadshow. A long line of presidents from Teddy Roosevelt to Barack Obama added to its splendor. The exquisite travelogue and historical essay, “The National Parks: America’s Best Idea,” the Ken Burns series broadcast in 2009 reminded us of this heritage.
In early November, the Board of Supervisors voted on a Culpeper Tourism sponsored resolution opposing a recently announced increase in Shenandoah National Park entrance fees. The peak season fee increase for Shenandoah was 280%. An additional sixteen other National Park properties would also see a significant hike in their entrance fees.
A National Park Service bulletin said that our neighboring Shenandoah Park has $11.3 billion in unfunded maintenance costs. One wonders why the Congress has been unable to fund this American treasure, a treasure which years ago required displacing families that had been living and farming there. In addition to the fee increases, this Administration’s budget for the National Parks decreases funding the jewels in America’s crown by 12.9%. Are the fees supposed to pay for the budget cuts?
Inattention to the joys of the National Parks is unfortunate because the parks attract visitors who also spend money in the areas and facilities near the parks. Having Shenandoah in Culpeper’s backyard is a win-win. The new fees, however, mean Culpeper’s economy will shrink by the decrease in tourist traffic. At another level, the new fees mean that parks are reserved for the wealthy who can pay, certainly not the descendants of the families who were forced into the settlement areas.
The turn to fees for services is a growing trend in America. The taxpayer used to pay for public schools. Now individual families spend their money to buy the tools and equipment the schools used to provide. The annual backpack drives are symbolic of the decreased public funding of education. The rich of course, can go to their private academies.
The I-66 tolls are another illustration of the pay for service mentality. If you want an efficient road system, strap on a flex pass and drive. Some will probably have these toll fees paid for by their employers, for the rest of us not so much.
The discussion of the present Administration’s un-designation of the Bears Ears Monument is also part of a larger trend. The current Administration rules that this fabulous American natural treasure and archeological site doesn’t belong to the American people. It is to be sold off to the highest bidder, whether uranium, oil or gas interests.
Obviously, the highest bidder is rarely the common man. When you review the specific parts of the recently passed Senate and House versions of the Tax Bill, and you ask who gets the money, you can be certain it is not the middle class. We are now in a world of where resources, such as our National Parks are not for our families. They are for a select few, and I fear, their decline in use will be used as ammunition to do away with the National Park system altogether.
The decline of the middle class and the preservation of resources for the rich and powerful reminds me of the WWII Bill Mauldin cartoon showing two officers standing on a cliff looking at the beautiful Italian mountain scenery. The cartoon’s caption is “Beautiful view. Is there one for the enlisted men?” Probably not, as the inequalities in the American economy and society grow daily. Perhaps, however, as shown in Virginia and most recently in Alabama, the common man in the quiet of the polling booth will reassert his claim to the land, air, and sea – the jewels in America’s Crown.
David Reuther is a retired Foreign Service Officer with more than 40 years of experience in intelligence and State Department tours in Asia, the Middle East and the Pentagon. He lives in Culpeper.
Editors Note: This has been reposted with the author's permission, and originally appeared in the December 16th print edition of the Culpeper Star Exponent, and will not be available online until the following Monday. For now it is only available on-line here.
Since the FCC has decided to eliminate Net Neutrality, this piece could well be one of the last commentaries from Blue Louisa which is readily accessible on the internet.
My mom used to say this when I was a kid. It’s an old-fashioned term and I didn’t know what it meant until much later. A term that survived from the Middle Ages, it describes buying one thing and getting another. You think you’re getting pork but what you’re really getting may be dog. Paying good money for something you thought was one thing but getting something entirely different. In other words, you get conned.
These adages stay around so long because they are true. This one has particular relevance today. Many people voted for Donald Trump because he made big promises—better deals, more jobs, lower taxes, better wages, great healthcare, fixing roads and airports, draining the swamp, kicking out the Wall Street billionaires and on and on. It sounded great – almost too good to be true. And it was.
What Trump has delivered instead is a pig in a poke. He has put in jeopardy what has really made America great in the first place—our first-rate economy, our role as a world leader, our national security, our educational system, our values.
He has delivered NO jobs that were not already in the works in 2016. Wages are NOT rising but inflation will increase prices. He has jeopardized markets for American farmers and others by attacking NAFTA. There are no new highway, rail or airline projects being planned. In fact, with the trillion dollar deficits that the new GOP tax bill will bring, there will never be any money for these projects.
He has tried, and may succeed, in dismantling the present healthcare system and replacing it with nothing but higher premiums and no healthcare at all for millions of Americans.
With a fox in the hen house approach, he has appointed millionaire Wall Street bankers to regulate the very organizations that brought us the 2008 financial crisis.
He has helped the stock market go sky-high with the promise of lower corporate taxes and no regulations. Has that helped the average American? YES for those who have stocks and IRAs. NO for those depending on a living wage or fixed income to survive, with rising prices and less help from the government.
The GOP tax bill puts more, more, more money in the pockets of the very wealthy and does very little for the middle and working classes. The bill gives a little tax relief but cuts programs for healthcare, meals on wheels, school lunches, education, veteran benefits and so many more programs that help regular Americans.
And the biggest Trump lie of all—we will “never touch Social Security.” Hah! GOP House Speaker Paul Ryan and GOP Senator Marco Rubio have already admitted that, with the need to reduce the trillions in deficits created by the GOP tax bill, Social Security and Medicare are on the chopping block for 2018!
How do you like that pig in a poke you voted for now?
Editor’s Note: this has been reposted with the author’s permission, and originally appeared in the December 14th edition of the Central Virginian, and is only available on line to paying subscribers, or here.
Since the FCC’s decided to eliminate Net Neutrality, this piece may well be the last commentary from Blue Louisa which is readily accessible.
When it comes to resisting the Borg like activities of this administration and the Republican’s controlling Congress it helps to be informed about the issues and the political dynamics underlying them. Personally, I’ve always found it helpful to read from a variety of sources, and weigh out the facts for myself.
Unfortunately, that’s something few of us have either the time or the energy to do, so another alternative is to start with places that aggregate information you can use. Sources like the Louisa Democratic Committee’s web site which has been in operation for a little over 5 months now.
And like many things on the internet, it has taken it a while for it to go “viral,” with the first few months being limited to viewers searching for content like; "Contact Us," “About Us,” or downloading membership forms. But recently things have changed dramatically, as these statistics below indicate.
Unique viewers for Louisa Democratic Committee Web site (November - early December)
Early December page views
And as you can see, this past week has seen a dramatic uptick in people going to our website, going from the usual 200 -250 viewers a week to well over 700, with traffic to specific Blue Louisa blog posts representing the greatest percentage of that traffic.
And where 7 out the 8 most widely read pieces were posted during the months of November and early December. Unfortunately, what those statistics can’t tell us how effective those posts, particularly the calls to action on the Wealth Care bill being rammed through Congress and Net Neutrality were, issues which should be of vital concern to anyone reading this blog.
While it’s easy to be overwhelmed by the speed at which this administration and Congress has been moving these past few weeks, it should also be clear that what’s happening is nothing less than a wholesale restructuring of American society. And unlike the great reforms of the past; like the “New Deal” or Voting Rights Acts of 1960’s these won’t be a positive changes.
What most American have lost track of in the midst of all of this Sturm und Drang is that the Republican controlled Congress is now more than 60 days past when they should have approved the 2018 federal budget, and are about to run headlong into a December 8th deadline. Should they fail to approve a budget the government will shut down this Friday at midnight.
What will happen in the meantime is anyone’s guess, but if the last time the Republican controlled Congress held their breath like a child in the middle of a temper tantrum is any indication, their continued inability to govern will likely set back our fragile economy and cost the American people billions
Even if they follow their usual tactic of passing another continuing spending resolution, nothing changes. It only postpones the day they decide to hold the government hostage – using the threat of fiscal Armageddon to extort “concessions,” that they could have never hoped to achieve otherwise. For all practical purposes, this has been the Republicans MO since the early days of the previous administration, hostage taking with a mindset little removed from Tony Soprano’s “nice place you got here, shame if something were to happen to it.”
What we have been watching unfold is the culmination of their massive resistance approach to governance.
In the coming weeks, either we do everything possible to resist or we will we will face an irrevocable alteration in our way of life. From watching our costs of living go up dramatically, and should the FCC pass their changes to Net Neutrality next week, our very ability to organize against these draconian changes.
In addition to petitioning the FCC, and contacting your representatives in the House and Senate, I urge everyone to either participate in, or lend financial support to the many protests taking place on the 7th, and the 14th in front of Verizon stores around the country. I also urge you to write and call your Congressmen, and Senators urging them to stay this madness.
The tools and information you need to do this has been repeatedly posted on the Louisa Democratic Committee’s Facebook page and many other places as well. Either we make every effort to resist the coming changes or we will be consumed by them.
To many of us, Robin Hood was one of our childhood heroes, whether our parents read us the stories, or we watched swashbuckling Errol Flynn in the movies. We loved the Sherwood Forest bandit who stole from the rich and gave to the poor. The tale has marked overtones of Christian charity, as well as the triumph of good over evil.
We are on the cusp of a great overhauling of the American tax code, conceived by one party in secret, with no public hearings, no debate, and it is being rushed to a vote in a Republican-dominated Congress with a Republican in the White House desperate for some legislation to sign. This is the story of Robin Hood in reverse, where Prince John and the Sheriff of Nottingham are robbing the poor to pay the rich.
What do we know about the 500-plus pages of this “tax reform?” The other day, Senator Mark Warner informed us that the Republican-controlled “Senate Budget Committee just voted — without debate — to increase the national debt by $2.2 trillion, all to pay for tax cuts for large corporations and the wealthiest Americans.” The House bill cuts the top rate that large corporations pay from 35 percent to 20 percent, the biggest one-time drop in the big-business tax rate ever. Despite strident insistence by phony fiscal conservatives like Dave Brat, the vast majority of genuine economists have proved that so-called “trickle-down” economics is demonstrably false. Here is the ugly truth.
Huge tax breaks for the rich and the big corporations are permanent; small tax breaks for the middle and lower income groups are temporary and will disappear after 2023, causing our taxes to increase. Just for fun, I calculated the effect of these bills on my own taxes – they’ll go up by almost $2,300. Try it for yourselves. You may be surprised.
The wealthy get a lot of other benefits in the bill. The estate tax goes away entirely in 2024 for the richest 108 families subject to the current provisions. The mega-wealthy also would get to keep charitable deductions and they no longer would have to pay the alternative minimum tax (AMT), a safeguard against excessive tax dodging that's been in place since 1969. Overall, the non-partisan Tax Policy Center found that two-thirds of bill’s benefits go to the top 1 percent by 2027.
Hypocrisy abounds: the bill allows big corporations to deduct new inventory from its taxes, but eliminates the $250 tax break for teachers who purchase supplies for their students. Almost all itemized deductions for the rest of us regular people are going away, except for three. The final House bill keeps the deductions for charitable donations, property taxes up to $10,000 a year, but the mortgage interest deduction would be capped at $500,000 (down from $1 million now). This tax bill is being sold as as simplifying the tax code; reducing the loopholes; filing your taxes on a postcard. False. The wealthy and the multinational corporations, along with their attorneys and accountants will be making billions of dollars while scamming the government out of badly needed revenue.
In America, there is arguably no engine of advancement as powerful as a college degree. At the moment, low and middle-income Americans can deduct up to $2,500 a year in student loan interest, but this bill eliminates that deduction at a time of mammoth student debt. In addition, graduate students who get tuition waivers because they teach or do research would now have to pay income tax on the waivers, resulting in 300% increases in their taxes.
The Republicans have repeatedly and unsuccessfully tried to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Not giving up, the Senate bill would eliminate certain financial pillars of the ACA in an indirect attempt at repeal. The impartial Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates it will take health insurance away from more than 13 million people and raise rates for millions of others in the lower and middle classes. The draft Republican legislation will also eliminate the tax deduction for medical expenses next year – so, no more help with your medical expenses. If you’re sick, you really are on your own. You could die. They don’t care.
I have touched on just a few illustrations of the horrors contained in this budget bill. Republicans are sinking to new depths of recklessness, irresponsibility and hypocrisy so that the current occupant of the White House can sign something – anything – into law before the end of the year. Meanwhile, Congress faces and even more critical and pressing problems. The Children’s Health Insurance Program expired in September leaving 9 million children in limbo. Nothing has been done for the Dreamers. Congress must come up with a budget deal by the end of this week to avoid a government shutdown. Trump doesn’t care.
We are being ripped off. Where is Robin Hood when we really need him?
Editors Note: This has been reposted with the author's permission, and originally appeared in the December 2nd print edition of the Culpeper Star Exponent, and will not be available on line until the following Monday. For now it is only available on-line here.
Why is a former professor endorsing policies that do not support education? Dave Brat previously taught economics at the small private Randolph-Macon College in Ashland, Virginia before he was elected to the House of Representative in the 7th Congressional district of Virginia in 2014. Mr. Brat just voted in favor of the tax change bill, but it does not support education.
A native of Michigan, he was the oldest of three sons of a physician and a social worker. Clearly, he was taught the value of education in his home as he, himself, pursued advanced degrees and then taught others. And yet, he voted for a plan that will make education harder on families in four important ways.
First, no longer will families be allowed to deduct student loan interest from their income. Why does Mr. Brat want to penalize people who want to further their education? Second, it also will no longer allow employer-funded postsecondary education to be exempt from taxes. So, if you got a great job that will pay your child’s college tuition you will have to start paying tax on that benefit. Why does Mr. Brat want to increase taxes on those families? Third, if your child goes on to graduate school, their taxes on tuition will go up 400 percent. Why is Mr. Brat discouraging people from getting advanced degrees like he himself has done? Fourth, and finally, schoolteachers who are allowed to deduct up to $250 for classroom supplies each year will have that small help eliminated. What a slap in the face to them. Why are we picking on teachers when there is a national teacher shortage?
Louisa County is only four percent of the district, so, Mr. Brat may not care what our opinion of him is. But here in Louisa County, we have a great school system! In comparisons to the 15 closest high schools, we were recently ranked at the top in math and English and tied in science and social studies. And of course our football team is winning!
We need an elected representative who will support the fantastic work our public school teachers and staff are doing, will help families to afford college for the kids who choose to go that route, and will allow the fewer to pursue graduate research that helps us all. Mr. Brat is not helping our future. Who is he helping? Louisa, we can do better.
Editors Note: This has been reposted with the author’s permission, and originally appeared in the November 30th edition of the Central Virginian, and is only available online to paid subscribers, or here.
The FCC’s proposed changes to Net Neutrality called “Restoring Internet Freedom” which they will be voting on December 14th is anything but. If passed, it would allow major Internet Service Providers; like AT & T, Verizon and Comcast to charge their customers premium prices to reach certain content and throttle back services, and it would destroy open internet access, and affect everything we do online, from the connections we make and the communities we create.
Chairman’s Ajit Pai’s claim that allowing broadband providers more control would spur investment is a dubious proposition at best, and in many respects reflects the Republicans reliance on the big lie… I mean faith based notions, like trickle down economics. What is clear based on what we’ve already seen happen in Portugal is that these changes will carve internet access into fast and slow lanes, favoring the traffic of large content providers who can afford their premium prices, consigning all others to the wayside.
If the rationale behind the FCC’s proposal was unconvincing, their process for public commentary is even worse. With New York Atty. Gen. Eric Schneiderman investigating what appears to be an organized campaign of fake comments, an inquiry which from all appearances the FCC is actively stonewalling, having “refused multiple requests for crucial evidence.”
Meanwhile the Government Accountability Office is currently looking into the FCC’s dubious claims that several distributed denial-of-service attacks were responsible for their servers crashing, preventing an unknown number of citizens from getting their comments into the official record. Like many of the actions undertaken by this current administration, these deconstructive actions are not in the best interests of the American people.
It is another attempt to rush an ideological agenda through with as little scrutiny as possible. This proposal only benefits the largest ISP’s, and should the FCC commissioners fail to hold public hearings around the country before voting on this matter, their lack of responsiveness will give the public just cause to question who FCC really works for.
If you don’t want to see this pass, direct your phone calls and emails to the FCC’s three Republican members: Ajit Pai – 202 418 1000, Ajit.Pai@fcc.gov, Mike O'Rielly – 202 418 2300, Mike.ORielly@fcc.gov, Brendan Carr – 202 418 2200, Brendan.Carr@fcc.gov, and submit your public comments online to: http://bit.ly/2zorO7T
And be sure to follow up on this matter with your 7th District Congressional representative Dave Brat at (202) 225-2815 and two State Senators; Tim Kaine at (202) 224-4024 and Mark Warner at 202-224-2023 and tell them voice their objections to the FCC’s attempts to eliminate Net Neutrality.
Editor's Note: This is an expanded version of a letter submitted to Louisa's paper of record, the Central Virginian by one of our “ghost writers” and was later withdrawn from consideration and is only available on-line here.
While many of the Central Virginian’s readers will blithely dismiss Melvin Burress’s November 16th letter, that would be a serious mistake since the Presidents efforts to sabotage the Affordable Care Act is a major component of the Republicans effort to funnel the nations wealth upwards to their benefactors.
Anyone who’s been following the antics of Congress this year knows that they have accomplished nothing of any significance, and are desperate for a victory, no matter what it costs the American people. And to no one’s surprise the House passed their wealth care — I mean “tax reform” bill along straight party lines just before departing for their Thanksgiving vacation.
The primary reason for their hurried vote last week was that they know their proposals won’t stand up to the slightest scrutiny. The Tax Cut and Jobs Act (H.R. 1) should have been called the Leona Helmsley Act after the New York hotelier who just before being convicted of tax evasion declared that “only the little people pay taxes.” where the less you actually do to earn your income, the bigger the tax break.
And why after repeatedly promising that all Americans would get a tax cut, Republicans are now changing their tune. Now that this bill will be moving to the Senate after Thanksgiving, expect to hear even more lies — like Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell claiming “I misspoke on that.”
When even Senator Lindsey Graham rises from his fainting couch to tell us the real reason the House passed it so quickly, and why the Senate will likely follow in their footsteps — is because “the financial contributions will stop,” should they fail to pass it. And when coupled with claims that failing to do so would fracture the Republican Party — leading to far-right wing primary challengers — presumably being bankrolled by the same donors, such admissions should get your attention.
Yet somehow in the midst of all these half truths, Graham and his fellow Republican’s failed to mention that their so called tax reform was never about helping the middle class or improving economic conditions, it was always about giving massive tax cuts to their wealthy patrons. And Gary Cohn, the White House’s economic advisor and former CFO of Goldmine Sachs grandiose claim that “the most excited group out there about our tax plan are the big CEO's” indicates the extent to which they are lying, engaging in propaganda which is little removed from the Nazi’s techniques of telling the big lie.
Statements which former Reagan administration policy adviser Bruce Bartlett puts in proper perspective, saying that “He’s there to sell his boss’s product. The product may be crap but he’s being paid to promote it.” And since their wealth care bill will leave at least a $1.5 trillion hole in federal revenue — it will predictably lead to Republicans returning to being hypocritical deficit hawks, demanding immediate spending cuts.
And since discretionary federal spending is mostly — Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid — all which benefit the middle class, it will leave most working Americans, even those who aren’t facing direct tax increases, much worse off, just so a tiny minority may reap the benefits.
Unsurprisingly, the Republican’s wealthcare plan is being called out by some of America's most powerful business alliances, such as: the National Association of Home Builders, National Association of Realtors, and the National Federation of Independent Business. Even some Wall Street executives, are calling it a “ponzi scheme,” one that would start a chain reaction in the housing market, and quite likely the “first tax cut in American history which actually results in a recession.”
Now that the wealth care bill has passed the House, it goes to the Senate where Republicans after returning from their Thanksgiving vacation will attempt to pass it as quickly, and with as little scrutiny as humanly possible. One indication of the magnitude of their dishonesty is that whenever anyone attempts to point out these facts, they literally start yelling obscenities.
Or conversely, openly acknowledge that they’re using gimmicks to pass a bill which permanently cuts taxes on corporations, like budget director, Mick Mulvaney recently did, while telling us little people not to worry about the details.
If you don’t want to see this massive transfer of wealth (and political power) become a reality, make it your business to contact your two state Senators, Tim Kaine (202) 224-4024 and Mark Warner 202-224-2023 and tell them to vote against it.
Editor's Note: this is an expanded version of a letter submitted to Louisa's paper of record, the Central Virginian and was intended to appear in their Thanksgiving week issue. And for now the only place this content is available on-line is here.
Now the CV has failed to print any commentary in their November 16th issue about the Houses efforts to pass wealth care, or the Senates efforts in either their Thanksgiving or November 30th issue, the day the Senate was scheduled to vote on their version of wealth care, it's up to readers of this blog to prevent this heinous bill from passing.
While I encourage people to contact those Republican senators who are wavering on passing this bill, please be aware that several of them have instructed their staff to refuse to accept calls from people outside of their state, and your best bet to reach them is by email.
Daines (MT) www.daines.senate.gov/connect/email-steve
Flake* (AZ) www.flake.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/contact-jeff
Corker* (MT) www.corker.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/emailme
Johnson (WI) https://www.ronjohnson.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/email-the-senator
Lankford (OK) www.lankford.senate.gov/contact/email
Moran (KS) www.moran.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/e-mail-jerry
Collins (Mn) www.collins.senate.gov/contact
Murkowski (AK) www.murkowski.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/contact
* = retiring in 2018
Another way to reach them is to use use Indivisible’s Peer to Peer calling tool : https://www.trumptaxscam.org/calls-to-kill-the-tax-scam to contact people in their state, and ask them to call their Senators to tell them to vote against this bill. And if you feel the need to call them directly, here's how.
Daines (MT) 202-224-2651
Flake* (AZ) 202-224-4521
Corker* (KY) 202 224-3344
Johnson (WI) 202-224-5323
Lankford (OK) 202-224-5754
Moran (KS) 202-224-6521
Collins (ME) 202-224-2523
Murkowski (AK) 202 224-6665
Democracy is all about voting. The trajectory of voting from the founding of the United States has been to increase the number of participants, from the colonial yeoman farmer and town craftsman to today’s diverse society of high tech workers, indispensable teachers, farmers, entrepreneurs, and health care providers.
The voting franchise has been inseparable from the progress of democracy. Following the Civil War, African-Americans were denied the vote in brutal and insidious ways for more than a hundred years. Women fought and died for it, and are still under-represented in our governments. Immigrant groups had to secure it. Even today, the President asserts, without evidence, that he won the popular vote total, because winning the vote is a mark of legitimacy in a democracy. Nevertheless, armed with exaggerated fears of virtually nonexistent voter fraud, the Republicans march on with new Jim Crow like restrictions, which in North Carolina’s case, the court decreed were surgically precise in restricting the vote of African-Americans, the elderly and other minorities.
It is therefore with some astonishment that we look at the results of this month’s election in Virginia. High Democratic voter turnout was the first breathtaking part of this election. Pre-election polls predicted a close race, but in the end, Democratic candidate for Governor Ralph Northam won a substantial victory by 54% to 45%, his running mates, Justin Fairfax and Mark Herring won by similar margins. Democratic voter turnout was not only substantial in urban Virginia, but rural Culpeper also saw significant voter totals for the state-wide candidates and for the two local House of Delegates candidates.
I cannot emphasize enough how much voter turnout was due to the many grassroots “indivisible” groups that sprang up after the election of Donald Trump and the women’s march the day after his inauguration. We have four such groups that are extremely active, right around here: “The Culpeper Persisters,” “All in 4 All,” “Straight Outta Warrenton,” and the “Madison Huddle.” There are 58 more of these groups within a fifty-mile radius.
Another noteworthy factor in this election was the number of Democratic candidates who ran for 88 of the 100 House of Delegate seats. As of November 16th, they felled twelve Republican incumbents and flipped three open seats to the Democrats. eleven of the victors were women. Presently, Republicans hold a slim 50-49 majority, with three races headed for recounts. As, “The Nation” put it, “A stunning wave of first-time female candidates won races for the Virginia House of Delegates Tuesday night—and helped propel their all-male slate of statewide candidates to a decisive victory.” A slew of conservative white men was replaced by candidates who represented precisely the targets the white supremacists in Charlottesville tried to dehumanize. These robust candidates drew highly motivated people to them who knocked on doors, made phone calls to neighbors, revolutionized the use of social media, and attended fundraisers in large numbers. One homeowner living on a dead-end road in rural Madison County remarked that he had never had a candidate come to his door and was astonished to see Ben Hixon standing there.
If Democracy has returned to the ballot box, then perhaps it will return to the deliberations of the Virginia Senate and House of Delegates. If the two parties are evenly split or only one or two votes apart, gone will be socially divisive bills like the transvaginal ultrasound, anti-immigrant measures, voter restrictions, or a whole host of other bills on issues, like nonsensical bathroom bills, that do not solve real world problems. Perhaps a more evenly divided legislature will make real efforts to expand rural broadband to all parts of the Commonwealth to help our farmers run their businesses and expand their markets, help students do their homework and make better lives possible for all. A more evenly divided legislature may mean less ideology and more compromise. Governor-elect Ralph Northam has a relationship with Republicans that goes back many years and hopefully this will contribute to making governing more civil.
Elections have consequences – a theme we frequently repeat – and to have the consequences you would like to see, then you must vote. If you don’t vote, don’t complain. Democrats stood up and were counted in this election. But, they must not rest on their laurels. There are other elections on the horizon: next year’s Senate and House of Representatives, and in 2019, the Virginia Senate and House of Delegates elections, which are key to ending gerrymandering in Virginia, once and for all.
Resist, insist, persist, enlist.
Dave is a retired Foreign Service Officer with more than 40 years of experience in intelligence and State Department tours in Asia, the Middle East, and the Pentagon. He lives in Culpeper
Editor’s Note: This op-ed has been re-posted with the author’s permission, and originally appeared in the November 18th print edition of the Culpeper Star Exponent, and later on-line on the 20th and can be seen here.
The election is over and it’s my turn to speak out. Congratulations to our citizens who came out in the bad weather to cast their vote for democracy. The Republican tax plan would immediately increase taxes for millions of middle-class families in Louisa County by an average of about $2,000, as stated by The New York Times. By 2026, nearly half of middle-class families would pay more in taxes. Instead of raising taxes for middleclass families in Louisa County, we should support tax reform that grows the economy, creates jobs and improves the financial security of our families.
President Trump’s decision to pull the United States out of the Paris Climate Accords will undermine American global leadership and endanger the future of our planet. We must safeguard our planet and ensure our children and grandchildren become good stewards and inherit a clean, healthy future.
The Social Security Administration (SSA) has announced that recipients will receive a two percent increase in their benefits in 2018; I am pleased that over 66 million Americans will get an increase in their social security benefits next year. However, there is more to be done to ensure that older citizens in Louisa County are not left behind. Our seniors living on fixed incomes face large increases in their costs of living, but their social security benefits are not keeping up. We must support a more realistic assessment of how much elderly Americans must get by on each month, considering rising costs like health care.
Health care is a fundamental human right, All Louisa County residents should be afforded access to high-quality health care and should not struggle to afford health insurance or go without care they need. By expanding Medicaid, we can ensure that every citizen in Virginia has access, guaranteed by law, to the highest quality health care services regardless of employment, income or health care status.
Let’s stand against President Trump’s efforts to sabotage the Affordable Care Act (“ACA”). President Trump cannot get enough votes in the Senate to take health insurance from millions. However, President Trump says he will “let Obamacare fail.” What he means is he will make ACA fail.
The president has deliberately and recklessly tried to sabotage the ACA. He’s even created uncertainty over whether the government will continue sharing the costs of premiums with hard-working Louisa County families who need assistance to afford coverage. Such callous actions discount the health and lives of millions, and it’s time to stop the attacks on our health system. Call our elected representatives to voice your concerns and let them know they represent the citizens of Louisa County. Senator Mark Warner can be reached at (202) 224-2023, Senator Tim Kaine at (202) 224-2024, and Representative David Brat at (202) 225-2815.
Editor’s Note: this has been re-posted with the author’s permission, and originally appeared in the November 16th edition of the Central Virginian, and is only available online to paying subscribers, or here.
Additional Commentary: This letter serves as a bookend to another piece about Congresses attempts to “reform taxes,” and is a reminder that what we are seeing unfold on both fronts is an unprecedented and coordinated power play, one designed to transfer even more of the nations wealth into the hands of those who need it least.
And should it come to pass, it will cripple our government’s ability to function, consigning most Americans to a lifetime of economic servitude. Nor is any coincidence that both end with pleas to contact your representative asking them to vote against this massive transfer of wealth and power.
Should we fail to act during these next few weeks and months, I fear that any window of opportunity for keeping Congress from achieving immortality—I mean infamy through spectacular error will likely be closed for the foreseeable future.
Anyone who’s been following the antics of Congress this year knows that they have accomplished nothing of any significance, and with their vacations—I mean the holiday’s coming up Republican’s are desperate for a victory, no matter what it costs. And since their most important priority has always been to pass “tax reform” it helps to understand what’s driving their radical agenda
Despite the fact that their plan is unpopular “even among Republican voters,” they are determined to unashamedly lie about what it actually does, and pass it as quickly as possible. Knowing the more closely it gets examined the harder it will be to ignore that their Tax Cut and Job Act (H.R 1) should have been called the Leona Helmsley Act after the New York hotelier who just before being convicted of tax evasion declared that “only the little people pay taxes.”
Where the less you actually do to earn your income, the bigger the tax break, and why after repeatedly promising that all Americans would get a tax cut, Republicans are changing their tune—like Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell admitting “I misspoke on that, when in fact the proper term is “lied,” pretending that his and his Party’s previous statements were not calculated to sell tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy.
And it’s why we are hearing remarks like this from; Congressman Chris Collin of New York who when asked about what his constituents think about this bill, replied “Who cares.” Or watching Senator Lindsey Graham get off his fainting couch to say that failing to pass it means “the financial contributions will stop,” and would fracture the Republican Party, leading to far-right wing primary challengers—presumably backed by their former donors.
Meanwhile, Gary Cohn, the White House’s economic advisor and former CFO of Goldmine Sachs inadvertently let the cat out of the bag after saying on a Sunday talk show that “the most excited group out there about our tax plan are the big CEO's.” and despite previously saying that bill would not give the wealthy a tax cut, is now claiming that if they did somehow wind up getting a break it would be by chance.
When former Reagan administration policy adviser Bruce Bartlett says that “He’s there to sell his boss’s product. The product may be crap but he’s being paid to promote it,” it’s a good idea to listen, especially since this money grab favors wealth, especially inherited wealth, over work. And buried in the legislation are multiple measures that would make it much harder for the children of the middle and working classes to work their way up.
Making this not just the usual top down class warfare we’ve come to expect from the Republican Party; but an entirely new kind of warfare, one aimed at perpetuating inequality into future generations that would not just reinforce plutocracy, but entrench a hereditary plutocracy.
Not to mention that this tax reform would leave a $2.4 trillion hole in federal revenue—where predictably, Republicans will to return to being hypocritical deficit hawks, demanding immediate spending cuts. And since federal spending is dominated by— Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid — that benefit the middle class, it will leave most working Americans, even those who aren’t facing direct tax increases, will be worse off, just so a tiny minority may reap the benefits.
If you don’t want to see this happen, call your Congressman Dave Brat at (202) 225-2815 and tell him to reject this bill. And should it pass the House, make it your business to contact your two Senators; Tim Kaine at (202) 224-4024 and Mark Warner at 202-224-2023 and tell them to vote against this bill.
Editor’s Note: this is an expanded version of a letter submitted to Louisa County’s paper of record, the Central Virginian, and was originally intended for their November 16th edition, but was not printed ahead of the House wealth care vote.
Hopefully, the CV will print a revised version of this letter in their November 22nd issue ahead of the Senate's post Thanksgiving wealth care vote. And for now this commentary is only available here.
Recently, several letters to the editor, along with expanded commentary in Blue Louisa raised the subject of how a majority of voters in Louisa County continue to vote their tribal allegiances, regardless of the material facts. And this election certainly validated those observations, since the all the state level Republican candidate’s totals were remarkably consistent.
With less than 200 votes separating each of them, as were all of the state Democratic candidates. A pattern that was repeated throughout the Central Virginia region; with Republican House of Delegate candidates, Frietas (30th), Orrock (54th), Fowler (55th), Bell (58th), and Farris (59th) all wining by similar margins.
Meanwhile, the voters throughout the rest of the state sent the Republican Party a resounding message by electing Democrats to the State’s top three offices, and reducing their control of the House from a near supermajority (66 seats) down to — depending on the outcome of several recounts, a 50/50 margin.
The loss of this many seats in a single election should be an indication that the people of Virginia are tired of their extreme and “divisive rhetoric” — and that such barely concealed bigotry and hatred will not be tolerated anymore. Bringing us to the only Republican “victories” in Louisa County where John McGuire and Duane Adams who were also elected by similar percentages.
A peculiar set of circumstances which the James Bond villain in “Goldfinger,” characterized as “once is happenstance, twice is coincidence, and three times is enemy action.” These two decepti-con’s were elected largely on the strength of their public relations campaigns and avoidance of discussing the issues in any meaningful manner, coupled with their supporter’s willingness to suspend their own critical thinking skills.
The good news is that they can no longer hide behind these smokescreens, and will now have to run on the strength of their records, and in McGuire’s case, his deficits will become readily apparent during his first term in the House of Delegates. Where a lack of accomplishments — like introducing bills which are sound public policy — followed by a willingness to follow his counterparts down the rabbit hole as they assuage their wounded pride and loss of power by doubling down on the stupid like their counterparts in Congress.
Whereas Duane’s tenure in office will be marked by a string of disappointments, unable to implement even simple changes, like making the Board meetings more accessible to the public by holding them in different locations. Just like his vague pledge to work in “partnership” with cooperatives in bringing high speed internet into the County.
And its how an astroturfed candidate backed by the American's for Prosperity wing of his Party operates, with false promises that deliver little — other than AFP’s and a host of others outside entities agendas. Fortunately, with the election of Bob Babyok, his and the other radicals on the Board plans will be balanced by prudence and common sense.
Now all that remains to be seen is which way the remaining “get along to go alongs” on the Board of Supervisors decide to go.
Editor’s Note: This letter has been re-posted with the author's permission, and appeared in the Central Virginian's November 16th issue, and is only available online to paying subscribers or here.
When it comes to local politics, the Central Virginian’s coverage of elections in Louisa County has improved from years past, going from virtually no coverage of the issues and the candidates, to a collection of factoids little better than what you find in papers like USA Today. And judging from their November 2nd issue, its infotainment that's supposed to give their readers an overview of what’s happening in this county.
A brand of low information reporting which fails to take into account how those local candidates and political stories might also be related to circumstances and influences from well outside of the county. And it's an approach to journalism which is little removed from “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.”
More importantly, despite having been made aware of numerous pieces of information which would add significant context to their local election coverage, they have chosen not to do so. Such unwillingness to examine the larger picture has two important consequences for their readers; it allows them to continue foisting their brand of conservative content on them, and allows the existing status quo locally and regionally to remain unquestioned and unchallenged with virtually no pushback.
Such low information journalism is little more than a collection of micro-aggressions against their readers, one which fails to adequately inform them of the issues, and insults their intelligence. It’s also an approach which blinds them and their readers to the possibility that the very status quo they’re so anxious to preserve, is and continues to shift right under their noses.
Like a frog in water gradually brought to a boil, by the time they realize anything; their decision making process and indeed very ability to comment about those changes has become completely cooked — I mean compromised.
Take for example, their November 2nd story about the amount of money various campaigns had raised and where it was coming from. While accurate in outlining that the state Republican Party gave Duane Adams the “the equivalent of nearly $ 18,000” this factoid pointedly avoided discussing the larger context. That these actions are unprecedented for a local Supervisors election in Louisa County, and that similar actions are happening at the local level all around the Commonwealth.
Or that these actions are part of a well coordinated effort involving, among others; the Republican State Party working with a host of shadowy groups like Americans for Prosperity, and the American Legislative Exchange Council in an effort to maintain their stranglehold on the Commonwealth’s and the nations ability to govern themselves.
Having effectively captured the legislative bodies of many states, including Virginia’s General Assembly, these groups are now extending that same ideologically based control to local jurisdictions through the nation. With the Republican Party working in conjunction with groups like ALEC’s latest spin off, the American City County Exchange.
Dark money groups who are literally pouring rivers of virtually untraceable outside funding intended to change the outcome of local elections for candidates who will do their bidding. Just take a look at what’s happened with the Hanover Board of Supervisors where the AFP backed Tea Party has taken over the counties levers of power, to Henrico County where Republicans are fighting to maintain their slim majority.
Of particular concern for all citizens in Louisa County is what has been happening with School Boards around the country. This 2015 piece from the Washington Post, along with their follow up piece this year about how School Board races in Colorado are funded, is a real eye opener.
And local papers in Colorado are also reporting how AFP is funding many school board races around the state, and how some those school board members they helped get elected were not only able to survive a citizen lead recall, but are running for re-election with their support this year.
This quote from one of these articles sums up what is happening not only in Colorado, but around the country:
“This is really part of a national agenda by special-interest groups like Americans for Prosperity to privatize public education,” said Gurdikian, who has two children in the Jefferson County public schools. “We have a nearly $1 billion budget, and I think a lot of people look at that and want a piece of it. Privatization can work for some things, but not really public education. It really is a common good.”
And it is happening in Fluvanna County, where Tyler Pieron (who unsuccessfully ran for Louisa’s school board in 2015) and Andrew Pullen are running with the backing of the State Party, and Congressman (5th CD) Uncle Tom Garrett, and most notably Shaun Kenney.
Should they manage to parlay this support into victory for these legally mandated non partisan offices it won’t take them long to return Fluvanna County’s educational funding to levels not seen since Shaun Kenney, who served as Supervisor in the Columbia district from 2010 to 2013 helped to eviscerate Fluvanna’s school funding.
For those of you unfamiliar with Mr. Kenney, he is long time political operative who served as the Republican Party of Virginia’s communication director in 2007 when “Enron Ed” Gillespie was the Party’s chair, and later became one of their executive directors after leaving the Fluvanna Board of Supervisors when the late Pat Mullins of Louisa ran the State Party.
He is also the co-founder of the Jeffersoniad Blog Alliance and Red Storm PAC, conducting social media campaigns within Virginia, and presumably in his spare time, runs another blog, devoted to the role of religion and politics in public life. Nor is any coincidence that these two races have sunk to levels of nastiness previously unknown in these parts, where an army of local trolls … I mean supporters, including members of Tom Garrett’s and Dave Brat’s staff who have taken to smearing anyone who questions their clandestine agenda
Should these two succeed in being elected to the Fluvanna School Board, we can only hope that their predictable misdeeds will lead to a grassroots effort similar to what we saw in 2012 in the State of Wisconsin when the people of that state attempted to recall Governor Imperial Walker … I mean Scott Walker. And that the people of Louisa County will remain on guard against something like this happening to their top rated school system.
Which brings us to Duane Adams who is running for the Mineral District Supervisor, who makes no secret of the unparalleled fact that he is being backed by many of the Republican Party's most extreme members; "Enron Ed" Gillespie, Senator Bryce “AFP” Reeves, "Uncle Tom" Garrett, and Dave Brat, and in all likelihood several unnamed and unaccountable outside dark money groups that we will only learn out about well after the election is over.
And it's a level of hands off support which allows Adams to claim with a straight face that "those aren't my words," and "I'm not responsible for what others choose to say," allowing their lies to circulate unchallenged.
A unique form of conservative hypocrisy, that is aided by the CV’s annual ritual of transforming their op-ed section the week before the election from a “rebuttal” page of previous political letters into a Republican show of faith. Actions which help conceal in plain sight their role in promoting Mr. Adams.
Like the sham debate they agreed to “moderate” for the recently resurrected Mineral Industrial Development Corporation, or how they refused to print statements from both the Koren campaign, and the Louisa Democratic Committee, categorically denying Republican Party of Virginia’s claims.
Perhaps expecting their readers to forget that their “interpretation” of the available facts isn’t tainted by their own Chamber of Commerce sensibilities and that they are failing in their duty to report about the real issues driving local elections.
While it’s probably true that many of the CV’s readers would prefer their news in easily digestible chunks of false equivalencies, and prefer to look at the world in ways that won’t challenge their own cultural assumptions, or increase their knowledge of the facts.
The problem with covering local issues like this is that in lieu of any meaningful discussion of the issues and the candidates, such tabloid journalism only serves to reinforce their reader’s already questionable decision making skills, or address the fact that many of them chose to vote strictly along tribal lines, allowing them walk away any responsibility for their own actions.
Although as the deeds of these local officials become more obvious, such hypocrisy will be even harder to ignore in the years to come.
Editor's Note: This is an enhanced version of a letter submitted to Louisa's paper of record, the Central Virginian for their November 9th issue. And for now is only available on-line here.
The Koch Brothers/Koch Industries are flooding the current electoral races in Virginia with donations and money funneled through organizations such as Americans for Prosperity, the Republican Governors Association, and the State Policy Network.
Recent campaign flyers for Manoli Loupassi (house district 68) and Kirk Cox (house district 66) clearly bear the Americans For Prosperity logo. Ed Gillespie, Jill Vogel, John Adams, and Loupassi—Republican candidates for governor, lt. governor, attorney general, and house delegate, respectively--have all received donations in the past few months from Koch Industries according to the Virginia Public Access Project, or VPAP.org.
Their dark money isn’t just in Virginia, of course. Many Koch affiliated/funded representatives populate congress as do several appointees in the Trump administration, including EPA chairman Scott Pruitt, VP Mike Pence, FCC chairman Ajit Pai, Dept of Education head Betsy DeVos, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, and Supreme Court justice Neil Gorsuch. Pence has a long history with the Koch’s. Beginning in 2009 after taking a "No Climate Tax Pledge" while in congress, he has forged a cozy relationship with the Koch brothers. Many feel he is clearly positioning himself for a presidential run, one funded by two brothers and who’s bottom line benefits enormously from as little environmental regulation and oversight as possible.
The Koch’s are strategically gaming the U.S. democratic system to favor the .01%--themselves. Americans MUST be aware of their plan and take action before it’s too late. In Virginia, we have the chance to elect candidates who are not part of the Koch infused network of dark money. We the people do this with our votes. November 7th is D-Day for Virginia, and is the bellwether election for which way the democracy pendulum will swing. If you live in Virginia, please PLEASE vote Nov 7th!!"
Editor's Note: this article has been posted with the author’s permission, and is an advanced preview of a letter submitted to the Richmond Times Dispatch, and for now is only available here.
With elections every single year, Virginians are notorious for sitting out non-presidential years. We must get out the vote this year because local and state elections are where decisions are made that affect your own daily lives and those of your families, friends and neighbors, on a personal level – where the rubber meets the road, so to speak. Your delegates to the General Assembly, your county supervisors and town council members, your school board members, all determine what happens to you, personally. One could argue that our Congressmen and Senators in Washington, DC have much less an effect on us because, as we have all seen lately, nothing has been getting done for years now. Former House Speaker Tip O’Neill is famously quoted as saying “all politics is local.”
One of the great disincentives to voting is the discouragement caused by gerrymandering, where incumbents are rarely challenged, and where the politicians choose their voters, rather than the voters choosing their representatives. Most Americans believe in fair play, but gerrymandering is cheating. Virginia is one of the most heavily gerrymandered states in the nation. The delegates we select this very year, and the choices we make for governor, lieutenant governor, and attorney general, will determine whether Virginia can throw off the yoke of gerrymandering after the 2020 census. If we make the wrong choices this year, then we can expect 10 more years of gerrymandered strangulation of our Commonwealth, and our hopes for better schools, roads, healthcare and jobs will be dashed.
For those who may not know, the nationwide gerrymandering that occurred after the 2010 census was engineered by none other than Ed Gillespie, former Republican National Committee chairman, Virginia senator and governor wannabe, and long-time and very skilled K Street lobbyist and Republican establishment insider. The program, called REDMAP, established voting districts that were drawn surgically and precisely with sophisticated GIS mapping software; informed by a cloud’s worth of data from the census, voting records, consumer preferences and even social media “likes;” and they’re built to endure for a decade, if not longer.
Gillespie’s opponent, Lieutenant Governor Ralph Northam has stated, unequivocally, that "I will stop gerrymandering, and I will not sign a map unless it is signed by a nonpartisan redistricting committee." That is why he deserves your vote.
This brings us to our choices for delegates to the General Assembly. Ben Hixon, running in the 30th District (Culpeper, Madison and Orange counties), and Tristan Shields, running in the 18th District (Culpeper, Fauquier, Rappahannock and Warren counties), are representative of today’s younger, forward looking progressive activists who want to rebuild the party as an integrated grassroots political network to take on the far-right ideology that now shamefully dominates American politics. If the Democrats who voted in last year’s election turn out this year, we could flip the House of Delegates and turn the Commonwealth around.
Ben Hixon (30th) believes that the Party of Freedom is, in fact, the Democratic Party – he’s a progressive libertarian who believes in freedom of speech, press, religion, and self-defense. Hixon has knocked on literally thousands of doors since his campaign began in order to meet his constituents face-to-face, unlike Nick Freitas, who spends most of his time in other districts disingenuously vying for some higher office. He believes that “If you don’t have the education to get a good job, you are not free. If you don’t have adequate health care, you are not free. You are one sickness away from bankruptcy. How can we be free to live our lives if we're not safe from disease and terror? Healthcare is a human right. Food, water, housing and education are human rights.” You can examine his stand on the issues right here: http://www.benhixon.com/
Tristan Shields (18th) believes that “Trump and Virginia Republicans, especially our own Delegate Webert, are keeping us in the fog about healthcare, education, and the economy. They are leading us nowhere and not getting anything done. I know how hard it is to be an entrepreneur in this area. Young people leave and rarely come back. We need to keep our talent here by expanding opportunity. I am one of the few younger people in this region who came back to run a business. It’s a primary reason why I decided to run for political office. Today’s disruptive economy and uncertainties demands leaders who see opportunities among the fog and have the courage to act… keeping the people of the Piedmont first is what makes me the best option for Delegate." Learn where Tristan Shields stands right here: http://tristanshields.com/issues/.
Ben Hixon and Tristan Shields believe in making sure we have access to the tools we ordinary people need to improve our lives, and to keep government from getting in our way once we do, and they will work for everyone in Culpeper and the surrounding counties. These are the candidates that deserve your vote. If we vote, we win.
Editor's Note: this article has been posted with the author’s permission, and is only available here. It was submitted to the Culpeper Star Exponent as part of their featured writers program, where letters from each side of the political aisle appear on alternating weekends. And for some reason, their new editor has decided to not to honor this long standing tradition this week.
Dark money has infiltrated U.S. politics and institutions on a staggering level. It’s a term used to describe money funneled to groups such as Americans for Prosperity, the US Chamber of Commerce, the American Legislative Exchange Council, and the Federalist Society, among many others while its donors remain hidden in the shadows thanks to loopholes in disclosure laws. The Supreme Court’s Citizen United ruling in 2010 opened the door for dark money to flood in with its core statement “Corporations are people too.”
In addition to local, state, and national politics, the money reaches into universities, think tanks, and “outreach” programs that target specific groups such as Latinos, women, and veterans. It’s used to buy and operate media outlets and data mining companies that actively perpetrate agenda-driven campaigns of misinformation, untruths, and lies such as “climate change is a hoax.”
There are a few select super rich people and families who are behind much of this dark money. Two of these families, the Koch’s, Charles and David, and Robert and Rebekah Mercer, are billionaires with narrow, laser-focused ideas of what they think America should look like.
The Mercers funded much of the 2016 Trump presidential campaign and own Breitbart, a far right “news” outlet that publishes extremist fringe articles fomenting anti-immigration, racist, and xenophobic points of view. Robert Mercer is part-owner of Cambridge Analytica, a company that mines and analyzes social media data from user profiles specifically to manipulate electoral outcomes. (Steve Bannon was on the board of CA before working on the Trump campaign; he’s now back helming Breitbart after leaving the Trump administration in August).
The Koch’s ideal almost completely dismantles our democratic republic to reshape it into a Free Market economy with no regulations to inhibit the growth of their wealth (to date, approximately $94.4 BILLION).
Two primary sources of their riches come from the petroleum and paper industries. Petroleum is used in products we all use every day: plastic bags and bottles, Lycra in our clothes, and Stainmaster on our carpets. Koch Industries also produces asphalt, diesel, gasoline, several toilet paper brands, as well as chemicals used in fracking. The Koch’s bottom line GREATLY benefits from a lack of environmental regulations and they spend enormous amounts of money trying to persuade members of congress to vote against environmental regulations and oversight.
Many Virginia legislators are complicit in using dark money for their campaigns. Recent flyers for Manoli Loupassi and Kirk Cox, for example, clearly bear the Americans For Prosperity logo. Ed Gillespie, Jill Vogel, and Dave Brat all spoke at AFP’s recent Defending the American Dream summit. Many Koch affiliated appointees populate the Trump administration, including Scott Pruitt, Betsy DeVos, Ryan Zinke, Mike Pence, and Supreme Court justice Neil Gorsuch. Dark money has infiltrated all three branches of our government.
The terrible reality is these very few individuals alone are strategically gaming the US democratic system to favor the .01% of the population--themselves. We MUST be aware of their plan and take action before it’s too late.
Editors Note: This is a preview of a letter submitted to the Chesterfield Observer, for their November 1st edition, and has been reposted with the author’s permission, and for now is only available here.
RT Williams III October 26th letter titled “Accountability with party Affiliation,” is the most dangerously misleading letter I’ve ever read in the Central Virginian. His claim that "if anything party affiliation holds elected officials accountable to their campaign promises" is a deliberately deceptive statement which doesn’t hold up to the slightest scrutiny.
When the reality is, the Republican Party's campaign promises, and indeed notions of policy are premised on ideology versus responsible governance. One only has to take a look at the actions of Virginia’s Republican dominated General Assembly over these past 4 years. Or the deconstructionist deeds of this administration and Republican controlled Congress this past year to see that this is not just a simple misrepresentation, it’s a flat out lie.
One compounded by another half truth that “the local parties do not have “Whips” to make sure that their elected officials always toe the party line.” No, they don’t have whips in the same sense as the General Assembly or Congress. But what he’s really asking the Central Virginian’s readers to do is ignore evidence which indicates that today’s Republican Party isn’t a vertically integrated cartel, which operates much like the Robber Baron’s of the 19th Century.
Using unscrupulous means to promote their philosophy in ways little removed from William Randolph Hearst’s infamous comment, that “you furnish the pictures, I’ll furnish the war,” like the non-stop campaign ads we’ve been seeing on TV. Constantly manipulating their messages to fit a predetermined ideology, regardless of the actual facts, using captive public relations organizations like; Fox News, and coming to a TV station near you Sinclair Broadcast Group to manipulate the American peoples perceptions of reality.
In an unremitting barrage of propaganda which has helped bring this nation to the brink of anarchy; with states dominated by a single party, a dysfunctional Congress, and now a dangerously ignorant President. Having effectively captured most of the states and Congress, Republicans intend to bring this same ideologically based dysfunction down to the County level.
Working with a host of allied groups; such as AFP, ALEC, and most recently ACCE, the American City County Exchange to extend their aggressive brand of privatization and tax cuts to places like Louisa County. Grooming a farm team of corporate-friendly politicians and equipping them with the resources to promote special-interests at the local level.
And it’s why they are endorsing Duane Adams for the Mineral District Supervisor. For those of you unfamiliar with how local elections are done in the Commonwealth of Virginia, candidate’s from Sheriff to Board of Supervisors with rare exceptions ran as independents, with no party affiliation.
A quaint Southern tradition which was scrupulously observed until the Bush era, and was the case in Louisa County, at least until Tom Garrett (Now Congressman Garrett) ran for Commonwealth Attorney in 2007. And up until this year, no Supervisor other than Bill Small's fated attempt to unseat Fitzgerald Barnes in 2009 had ever run under any party banner.
Nor was it any coincidence to learn that Republican Senator Bryce Reeves, who rode into office in 2011 on a Tea Party wave of discontent is supporting him. Or that Mr. Adams son, Tyler is Reeve's finance manager, and that this flyer emulates the same dishonest tactics Reeves used to unseat a 28 year Democratic incumbent.
Just some of the many inconvenient details that Louisa County's paper of record the Central Virginian has been aware of for some time, yet for some reason has chosen to remain silent about. And when it comes to covering stories and events which might portray conservatives, aka Republicans in a less favorable light, their standard response has been to say nothing.
Starting with two Town Halls in 2014 that our Republican state legislators; Senator’s Garrett and Reeves, along with Delegate Peter Farrell which was described by the Richmond Times Dispatch as “welcome to the echo chamber.”
For a small town like Louisa, the odds that these two Town Halls, along with a third Town Hall in 2016 with Congressman Dave Brat would not be covered by a the only local paper in the County defies belief. In fact, unless their readers happened to read the two letters to the editor; Louisa’s Town Hall Meeting and GOP holds the state for ransom over Medicaid, they would have had no idea that these meetings even happened.
Which brings us to this year, when the Mineral Industrial Development Corporation, a local legal entity which hasn’t conducted any meaningful business in decades suddenly announced they were hosting a debate between various Supervisor candidates, including Mr. Adams, and that it would be “moderated” by the Central Virginian’s editor.
Considering that their membership consists solely of staunch Republicans and the person Ms. Koren defeated four years ago, it would appear that it was resurrected just to promote Mr. Adams. A chain of circumstances which raises two possibilities; either the Central Virginian's staff were duped into agreeing to moderate this debate, or they knowingly chose to advocate for this group, and Mr. Adams.
Given their legacy of not covering the only three town halls in our town’s history and downplaying the ongoing misadventures of the Louisa Board of Supervisors, perhaps their readers should decide for themselves.
Editor’s note: This is an expanded version of a letter submitted to the Central Virginian for their November 2nd so called "rebuttal" issue, and since they declined to print it's only available on-line here.
During his campaign for the 56th District House of Delegates seat, John McGuire has said little about his views on public education, an area in which the decisions of state legislators have a far-reaching impact on our community.
McGuire skipped the Mineral Industrial Development Corporation’s debate last week, where his opponent, Melissa Dart, spoke extensively about education for all students and properly funding our schools.
Since McGuire has failed to make any substantive policy statements, we must dig deeper for evidence of where he stands. As is so often the case in politics, we must follow the money.
McGuire’s top donor, Hanover County businessman Robert Bailie, has given lavishly to efforts to pass school voucher legislation in the General Assembly. According to the Virginia Public Access Project, which tracks political contributions, Bailie has donated more than $1.1 million to the Middle Resolution PAC, a political action committee that has lobbied tirelessly to siphon our tax dollars from public schools and into the pockets of folks who choose to send their children to private institutions.
Louisa County’s school system has worked so hard to become one of the top divisions in our area and support from the community, including our taxes, has played an important role. We cannot let politicians and lobbyists, funded by wealthy donors, undercut our teachers’ and administrators’ efforts.
When you go to the polls on Nov. 7, cast a ballot to support public education in Louisa County. Cast a ballot for Melissa Dart.
Editors Note: This article has been reposted with the author’s permission, and originally appeared in the October 26th edition of the Central Virginian, and is only available online to paying subscribers, or here.
Once again, our future is at stake. On November 7, we should go to the polls and vote for the best future for Virginians for the next four years. The Democrats have done good job in the past four years. Terry McAuliffe has closed 1,032 economic development deals (worth Virginia $18.52 billion in capital investment in Virginia’s economy.) Facebook is now building a $ 1 billion facility in Virginia. Ralph Northam has plans to recharge rural economies by expediting small business development and waiving some taxes during early development. These jobs will help every Virginian. The state unemployment rate is 3.7% and will go lower if this rate of economic development continues.
The bustling Virginia economy isn’t the only reason you should vote for Democrats this November 7th. They are keeping educational standards high in Virginia to attract world-class businesses. Companies don’t move here for an uneducated and untrained workforce. Unlike Ed Gillespie’s plan to divert money from public education to private schools, Democratic candidates are strong supporters of PUBLIC education.
Attorney General Candidate Justin Fairfax believes we need to expand early childhood education to provide high-quality preschool to all children. With his own children in public schools, he has followed the SOLs and supports efforts to reform them, eliminate much of the taking/retaking of tests, redesign the curriculum to match student needs, and expand workforce training so those who want can get the training needed to have a career and make a decent living.
Delegate Candidate Melissa Dart has a Masters in Science and Healthcare Administration and has worked in the field for many years. She understands the issues that confront Virginians and their healthcare. She will bring expertise and experience to helping solve those issues for Virginians.
Melissa’s own children are in the public school system and she believes in improving public education and maintaining the excellence of our schools for all children. Melissa also advocates for increased emphasis on skill training programs and supports funding for the Virginia Community College System and its network of campuses around the state.
Mark Herring has done much in Virginia to protect citizens - prosecuting criminals, going after those perpetrating fraud on senior citizens, and establishing a consumer protection service for citizen complaints. Herring has made efforts to reform the criminal justice system, protect Virginians from discrimination and protect their right to vote.
All of the candidates on the Democratic ticket have come out strong for stimulating the economy through small business growth, strengthening public education and expanding workforce development, and improving healthcare for Virginians.
Compare this with their GOP opponents – Gillespie is a professional Washington lobbyist (from the swamp that Trump wants to drain). Attorney General Candidate John Adams, a details guy, got his law license suspended for not paying his dues to the bar. He will be minding the store. Hah!
The candidate for 56th delegate – John McGuire -is a personal trainer by trade. Does this offer any useful experience for work in the House of Delegates? Maybe he will start a morning exercise class for the members.
Editors Note: This article has been reposted with the author’s permission, and originally appeared in the October 26th edition of the Central Virginian, and is only available online to paying subscribers, or here.
This is in response to Jerry Reynolds’s letter to the editor, “Spare Me the Democrat Party’s agenda.” Just like his glorious leader, President Donald Trump, Mr. Reynolds is sure he knows more than anyone else in the world, regardless of scientific research, stringent record keeping, and worldwide blatant destruction of earth and species. According to Mr. Reynolds, climate change is a gimmick started by Al Gore to get rich quick.
Undoubtedly, Mr. Reynolds has not been paying attention to the increased magnitude and frequency of floods, mud slides, tornados, hurricanes, earthquakes, wildfires, heat levels, rising rivers and ocean waters, and volcano eruptions that have occurred in 2017 alone.
Just this past week there was a news story about penguins. Out of a colony of 18,000 pairs of penguins, only two young penguins survived. The water around their breeding ground had gotten too warm to sustain the food the parent penguins needed to feed their chicks. By the time the parents returned with food, the chicks were dead. In a recent issue of Richmond Times Dispatch, there is an article that states pollution in all forms kills nine million a year and costs $4.6 trillion a year. Environmental pollution kills more people every year than all wars and episodes of violence, smoking, hunger and disease epidemics.
The Paris Agreement on climate change has been approved by 196 countries because they all recognize we have a problem. Through his infantile wisdom, Trump dropped out of the agreement. Not because it was not a good idea, but because regulations were hurting the bottom line profit for his cronies, and most importantly, it was because former President Barack Obama supported it. Mr. Reynolds will have to forgive me for not getting into the fray about Clinton and Benghazi for now. After all, she was exonerated by at least three Republican panels. We’ll have to see what went wrong, why and who was responsible for the recent deaths of four of our finest military personnel in Africa. This is not a Democratic agenda item, it is a worldwide agenda item. Mr. Reynolds may want to step outside and try to get a breath of air while he can.
Editors Note: This article has been reposted with the author’s permission, and originally appeared in the October 26th edition of the Central Virginian, and is only available online to paying subscribers, or here.
A very smart person once said that "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” When I read Jerry Reynold’s October 19th letter extolling the virtues of the conservatives, I wondered how voters expect to “Make American Great Again” when Republican’s are dishonestly framing moral issues.
Mr. Reynolds claim that “Conservatives care about clean air and water and the good life for all citizens …” shows he is oblivious to what Congress recently passed. E.g., HR953 prohibiting the EPA from requiring permits for the discharge of pesticides into waterways; and HR806 which delays adoption of enhanced standards for Clean Air.
Or that our 7th District Representative Dave Brat voted against providing hurricane relief (HR601). Where is his moral compass?
I am proud to be a progressive because those are the values our Country was founded on, and they are the freedoms authoritarian Conservatives of today are trampling upon. Progressives brought women the right to vote and workers healthcare, pensions and decent working conditions. They fought for civil rights for minorities, Social Security, and Medicare for the elderly. Progressives fight for better public schools and preserving the land, air, and water.
Republicans deregulate the government agencies that protect our economy and our environment to maximize profits for the wealthy.
Their agenda is to stay in power by branding progressives challenging them as evil. Their promise “Buy American, Hire American” is based on outsourcing jobs, lowering wages and exploiting American workers.
The administration of almost every government agency is now in the hands of Corporate Czar intent on deconstructing the agencies they run. John Whitehead of the Rutherford Institute say’s the American government has become a “dysfunctional politics … ruthlessly contrived governance carried out behind the entertaining, distracting and disingenuous curtain of political theater.”
On November 7, we will have state and local elections. I hope voters will elect nurturing progressives to lead us forward. In the 56 District Delegate race, Democrat Melissa Dart is facing Republican John McGuire. Melissa worked in healthcare and is passionate about improving public education and healthcare for all especially for children and the elderly. McGuire’s life experiences offer nothing on either issue. McGuire believes the poor and minorities don’t deserve help from the government. He promotes additional tax cuts for the wealthy which translates into cuts in public schools and healthcare.
Choosing the right person as State Delegate should be based on more than profit making, it should be based upon their desire to promote the common good for everyone in our District. Melissa will respect the constitutional rights of women and minorities. As a compassionate person, she will fight to protect public health, public education, and human dignity for all people.
From a moral and family values perspective the choice is clear, vote for Melissa Dart as your next Delegate! For the only way to stop Conservative insanity in government leadership from spreading is to VOTE on November 7th.
Vote now while Conservatives still let you!
Mark S. Chapman
Editors Note: This article has been reposted with the author’s permission, and originally appeared in the October 26th edition of the Central Virginian, and is only available online to paying subscribers, or here.