Well…the U.S. is in a trade war with China. But if the U.S. complaint is about Chinese subsidies for state-backed enterprises, overcapacity in steel and other basic industries, and on the practice of forcing investors to hand over valuable technology, why are Culpeper soybean farmers being punished?
America is a vast continental economy that produces a multitude of goods and services. Post-war WWII trade agreements focused on creating opportunities for free trade and market access. Trade disputes are not uncommon as one economy adjusts to its role in the world and seeks a balance of accommodations from its trading partners. Usually delegations meet back and forth and over time reach those negotiated accommodations.
These days, however, America is playing its hand differently. Rather than enter negotiations, the current administration started out by imposing tariffs on steel and aluminum imports. This blunt tactic is an unusual way to start negotiations, it is is equivalent to a union calling a strike and shutting the plant down, before negotiations begin.
This blundering tactic took everyone by surprise. Confusion continues as presidential tweets mischaracterize the role of tariffs and who pays. As we learned in Economics 101, a U.S tariff is a tax on the U.S. economy. It raises the price of all the parts used to make a product. In a free enterprise economy, all businesses are cost sensitive. Hence, steel users such as Harley-Davison and General Motors reacted in a manner that any economist could predict. They moved to offset the tariffs’ new costs by announcing they would move production to a location with cheaper material and labor costs, or close plants.
A student of an International Relations 101 class could predict China’s initial response. Seeing the tariff move as heavy handed and heading an economy that is the second largest GNP in the world, it is difficult to see that China would just knuckle under. Its vast holding of U.S. Treasury Bills would also give it confidence to resist. Academic observers note that the list of U.S. demands and deadline presented to China at Buenos Aires read like the terms for a surrender rather than a basis for negotiation.
The Chinese leadership also could take confidence in the response of the American stock market. Earlier this week when the administration announced a Buenos Aires agreement, the American stock market soared. Later in the week when it was realized that Trump’s assertions of success were lies, the stock market fell 800 points.
China responded to the blunt U.S. move by instituting its own tariffs. But for Culpeper, the Chinese soybean tariffs are key. American farmers sold more than $12 billion worth of soybeans to China last year, the world’s largest buyer of soybeans.
From the perspective of a Culpeper soybean producer, the trade war with China has depressed prices, because there is now considerable stock that can’t be sold. Farmers are looking at loans they assumed under a steady market. Storing the harvest requires money and capacity for silage. There is limited silo capacity in Culpeper, so crops will need to be stored in the open, on the ground. There will be spoilage. The Nebraska farm bureau reports losses of $1 billion so far. Farmers shouldn’t be victims of government-caused market disruptions. The government should let free enterprise work.
We often think of the high pursuit of diplomacy as something that happens over the horizon. Rarely do we think foreign policy could jeopardize the family farm. The stakes in the trade war between China and the United States could be that serious, and that local.
Editor’s Note: This op-ed originally appeared in the Culpeper Star Exponent, and has been re-posted here with the author’ permission.
Those of you who have been following the commentary in Blue Louisa from members of the Culpeper Dems, Mike McClary and Dave Reuther know that their op-ed’s are also printed in the Culpeper Star Exponent.
What you may not know is that up until the tail end of last year, the Star Exponent also printed Dr. Tom Neviaser’s far right batshit crazy screeds. Long story short, after one of the editors questioned the accuracy of his claims, he walked off in a huff.
At least until last month, where he took his act to the Culpeper Times, part of the insidenova chain of local weekly papers. While the screenshot below of last months op-ed is relatively tame compared to his previous rants in the CSE, the quantity of disjointed RW talking points crammed into such a short op-ed is worth noting.
In response, Dave Reuther penned this letter to the editor, which appeared in this week’s issue.
A letter that the Culpeper Times chose to title “Spanberger shouldn’t copy Republican tactics.” Whether their choice represents an attempt to drum up reader interest, or is a ham-fisted to attempt to negate the letters content is immaterial.
What is relevant is that such actions represent one of modern journalism's deadly sins; the promotion of false equivalencies. By reprising Dr. Neviaser’s “As I See It” column, and not challenging his claims before they are printed, the Culpeper Times is effectively giving his serial falsehoods credence.
And there will be at best, a limited response to such deceptive op-eds given most local papers strict word limitations. Something the Central Virginians readers are quite familiar with, where year’s worth of far right syndicated content are seldom commented on.
The danger of such systemic habituation, like a frog in a pot of water slowly brought to a boil, is how effectively it serves to normalize extreme ideas, to where few will even remember why X, Y or Z was such a bad idea to begin with.
Another dubious practice is the reflexive presumption that there are always two sides to any issue, one which assumes that both sides are; A) equally valid and B) are arguing in good faith. Like their coverage of the October Brat/Spanberger debate.
Clearly many of the thing’s Brat said during that debate were; inflammatory, misleading, or flat out lies. Other than pointing out his Tourettes like repetition of Nancy Peloisi, there was little mention of the veracity of his other claims, or Spanberger’s for that matter.
If one didn’t watch a video of the debate, it would have been easy to think that based on what they read, particularly in the smaller local papers, that this debate was accurately reported. When in reality, both the Culpeper Times and the Central Virginian’s coverage of the debate were heavy on the factoids, and light on critical commentary.
A journalistic malpractice which allows disingenuous extremists like Brat, Bryce Reeves, and John McGuire, to say almost anything, without any meaningful response from the local community.
So how comfortable is that warm water feeling now?
Dave Reuther and Jon Taylor
Many of Blue Louisa’s readers will recall how after redrawing of legislative boundaries in 2011 that Republicans gained enough seats for a supermajority in the House, and a tie in the Senate, and how only one out of 140 seats changed hands after the 2015 election.
What they may not know is just how badly such partisan gerrymandering distorts the outcome of state elections. By any standard, the outcome of Virginia’s 2015 election was a statistical outlier, one that far exceeds historical averages of 97% of incumbents being re-elected.
For example, during this year’s election, Democrats in Wisconsin out voted Republicans statewide by 8%, yet won 28% fewer seats.
Even with this years “blue wave,” which saw Democrats retake the House in Congress there remains a persistent pattern of “underperformance” in Republican controlled states.
What makes this practice so insidious is that legislators in “safe’ seats are effectively insulated from any pressure from, or need to respond to their constituents. Moreover, for most of this decade, Virginia’s Republican controlled General Assembly has done what ever their donors, particularly Dominion Power wants.
Even after losing the Governors mansion in 2013, they continued to browbeat successive Democratic administrations into submission. Now that they face losing both chambers, they will do whatever is necessary to maintain that power, supported by Speaker Cox’s Colonial Leadership Trust PAC, a host of national PAC’s, and unknown quantities of mystery money.
Next year, Virginia will be the purplest of the states holding “off year” elections, what happens in the Commonwealth will be a strong indication of how the 2020 elections will go. Considering that the state Democratic Party spent a lion’s share of their resources retaking 15 seats in the House last year, if they are to retake the General Assembly, it is critical that the national Party support their candidates.
The best chances of retaking the Senate are in three districts adjacent to and within the 7th Congressional District, where Democrat Abigail Spanberger’s victory over Dave Brat was their first in 48 years. The same electoral calculus, which propelled Spanberger to success in Henrico and Chesterfield County’s will continue to be a significant factor in 10th, 11th, and 12th Senate District races, where three extreme incumbents; Sturtevant, Dunnavant, and Chase hold those seats.
While with the exception of outlying parts of Fredericksburg, Bryce Reeves 17th Senate district is mostly rural, as is 56th District Delegate, John McGuire. Fortunately, neither McGuire nor Reeves will be able to conduct business as usual next year.
Especially after what happened to soon to be former Congressman, Dave Brat it should be clear that limiting their public interactions to “members only” meetings, and group clown halls is a loosing strategy.
Meanwhile, it remains to be seen whether in the face of this challenge to their authority, if the Republican controlled General Assembly is capable of maintaining their genteel “Virginia Way” facade, or if they will attempt to retain power regardless of the elections results as we’ve seen recently in Wisconsin, Michigan, and North Carolina.
On November 19, 2018, the Louisa County Board of Supervisors held its regular scheduled meeting, which is open to the public for comments. The main topic of concern was the vote for investing taxpayer dollars into the development of an industrial park in the Shannon Hill area of Louisa County. As expected, there was a large public turnout to voice opposition to this form of development. The public comments were contentious with unanimous disapproval to continuing the project. The question was asked and no Louisa County citizen indicated support for this funding.
The due diligence reports were concluded and the financial aspect did not adequately support economic expansion of the type that was proposed. With so much public animosity displayed against this venture and the lack of financial justification, you have to wonder why the Board of Supervisors was split 3 to 3 on the vote to continue this development. As it finally, turned out, the Board voted to defeat the expansion and the wish of the citizens was granted. But why should there have been so much controversy and angst to overcome in the first place?
While participating in this endeavor I also took great pains to make sure that I observed and understood as much as possible. I learned a number of things – some unsurprising and some disturbing. A retrospective of events, even regular and seemingly insignificant, is always a good idea before setting out to repeat the same mistakes. My personal retrospective follows the chronology, which may be a better way to explain the progression.
Louisa County Procurement Process Needs Significant Improvement
In the business world there are assorted Good Business Practices or Good Management Practices, which don’t preclude implementation by government agencies whether federal state, or local. Procuring goods and services by the Louisa County Administration has to be performed, keeping in mind the best interest of the citizens of the County. Getting information to help with a decision about how to spend millions of taxpayer dollars requires more scrutiny and insight than what was available for the Shannon Hill Expansion; something that should have been done with better effectiveness. Below are the missing components from an effective process for the procurement of services in Louisa County.
This isn’t a complete list of missing components that should have been resolved with a documented procurement process, but it should be evident that there are a number of things that would work better if some Good Business Practices were known and implemented.
Louisa County Evaluation Of Due Diligence Report For Deciding The Development Project
One specific report that was anxiously waited for was the Economic Due Diligence Report. This is a 49 page document that became available approximately November 8, 2018. The next time the topic would come up for discussion would be at the November 19, 2018 Board of Supervisors meeting, which would be open to the public for comments. Given the amount of time available – from receiving the Due Diligence Report, to reviewing it, to understanding it, and preparing for the meeting – these steps were challenging.
That challenge would be enough for the members of the Board to read and understand by the November 19 meeting, but the public was especially disadvantaged because it didn’t know when the report was available, where it would be posted, and in most cases would be unfamiliar and uncomfortable with trying to read and understand a relatively complex technical document on short notice. Even the elected officials on the Board must’ve had some difficulty because none addressed any of the report’s critical findings listed below.
Public Comments About The Megasite Were Stifled
The claim that public comments are stifled is real, in fact, it becomes more obvious by examining events and the process of public meetings. If you ask about what constitutional right voters exercise by attending public meetings, most would guess the answer is the 1st Amendment of Freedom of Speech. That answer is anecdotal without the formality of a valid survey. There appears to be one part of the 1stAmendment that often gets forgotten, maybe because it doesn’t sound as dramatic: “… petition the government for a redress of grievances.”
Members of the Board of Supervisors frequently make comments that sometimes sound critical – that the public should participate more than it does. This invitation sometimes sounds more like an admonishment than a welcome, but it’s true, the public should play a larger role in how it’s governed. There should be more thought to determine why there may be little public participation and more work in solving how to solicit larger public involvement.
Lead time for review and comprehension of documents is too short
As mentioned previously, the Due Diligence Report became available approximately November 8 with an expected Board of Supervisors meeting scheduled for November 19. The next Board meeting would be December 3 because of a December 4 deadline for committing to continue the project. Given the length and technical nature of the report it is unreasonable to assume that the pubic, in general, has the experience with reading and understanding the content within the timeframe and still comment about the flaws and any possible merits with any comfortable degree of confidence. This would even be a daunting task for the Board members, which may well have been, since there was little discussion about the Critical Findings that invalidate the basis for funding the Megasite. The most significant finding is the report author’s disclaimer about using the report to make a decision based on the report.
With the report written the way it was, it inherently discourages those without the background to analyze the information. Reports of this kind should include a section written specifically for the general public using layman terms.
“The definition of genius is taking the complex and making it simple.” – attributed to Albert Einstein
Limited public speaking time
The right to “petition the government for a redress of grievances” implies that the Freedom of Speech is not abridged in a way that would impact that petition. For some people, 3 minutes is insufficient to express and explain the specific nature of a grievance especially with information is presented with the complexity of the Due Diligence Report. The problem is aggravated by the short time between receiving the report and appearing at the public meeting. The problem may be further exacerbated by invoking parliamentary rules, such as, Robert’s Rules of Order, or similar restrictions. The formal rules of order may be necessary for a small group of public servants but this imposes an unfamiliar burden on an unsuspecting public. This doesn’t mean that there shouldn’t be some “Rules of Engagement” but those should be clear, understandable, and unintimidating. Some parliamentary procedures are intended to facilitate discussion, but discussion is limited with a format that doesn’t allow for an immediate exchange of ideas and rebuttals.
Rationale is missing for decisions
During the public meetings, it appeared that the Board of Supervisors had expectations for the public to present its case against the Megasite without emotions. Because it is the “public,” that could very well be an unreasonable expectation. People get emotional about increased traffic, destroying scenery, interruptions in livelihood, and a whole host of even “tiny” assaults on lifestyle.
That’s the public!
That’s the voting public!!
In some sense, the process of public meetings and decision making should be treated along the lines of due process. Advocacy, for or against the Megasite, needs clear and adequate rationale to justify decisions on behalf of the public. A simple “Yes” or “No” doesn’t do that because there’s no indication that our elected representatives even understand the issues well enough to make a decision, one way or the other. Without including a discussion of why the vote was made, there’s little confidence the voter can have about the capability of its elected representatives.
In many ways, the Board of Supervisors owes the voting public more than just a public meeting to be heard. The voting public needs to be listened to. Comments from some of the members of the Board of Supervisors indicted that the hearing part functions much better than the listening part. That perception is enhanced again when some members of the Board claim that if the voters are unhappy with a decision, that member can be voted out in the next election. After some research, it appears that Virginia is one of two states that have a legislative recall mechanism for elected state and local officials.
All the above represents what I observed and what I concluded, mostly about the interactions between the public and the officials that were elected to represent it. Looking at this from a communication point of view, the picture is dismal, but it can be shored up with outreach by the Board of Supervisors that would hopefully lead to more interest and enthusiasm by the public. The occasional high-emotion motivator, like the Megasite, could be avoided with long-term consistent involvement by the public, and a Board of Supervisors that focuses on soliciting what the public wants rather than assuming that it can determine what the public needs. With the right discussion methods in place, the public can be satisfied and the Board of Supervisors can make its own work easier.
Editor’s note: This letter originally appeared in Richmond2Day, and has been reposted here, with the authors’ permission.
Editor’s commentary: Transparency has never one of the Louisa County Board of Supervisors priorities, who IMHO value getting along to go along above all else, even if it means getting nothing done.
And after what would be a humbling experience for most, it remains to be seen if they are capable of learning, or will they continue to govern along the path of least resistance? And will we see even more extreme candidates, like Williams and Adams emerge next year?
Even with this years Blue Wave which saw the Democrats retake the House of Representatives in Congress, and approximately 300 of the thousand plus state level seats they lost during the Obama era, it should be clear that based on how most of the country voted, many would still vote for a dead man as long as there was an R next to their name.
Meanwhile, the biggest story of this election, widespread voter suppression continues to be under reported. Republicans are prepared to use any means necessary to keep people from voting, as this report from Florida makes clear. Even after the elections are over, they will continue to use tactics little removed from the 2000 Brooks Brothers riot to keep the votes from being counted.
If they were counting on gerrymandering, where after the 2010 census they packed many vote rich suburbs into “safe” Republican districts to save their bacon, those plans backfired spectacularly. Thanks in no small measure to the widespread unpopularity of Orange Julius, and his heavy handed crassness. With college-educated women denouncing him in droves, voting heavily for Democrats, a degree of self-inflicted damage so severe its hard to see how Republican hope to win them back anytime soon.
All that being said; based on the results in many rural counties in the Central Virginia region that logic doesn’t seem to apply to thoroughly despicable candidates like Cory Stewart, who got 60 % or more of the vote. The biggest reason for that is because of hypocritical evangelists, who as a group consistently and overwhelmingly vote for the most extreme candidates, largely because of their fear of people of other creeds, colors, and languages.
And it’s why they will continue to support radical candidates at the state and local level in the 2019 and 2020 elections far more than they ever supported Bush, McCain, or Romney. Their enthusiasm for hard core rhetoric has never been about terrorism or enforcing laws, its always been about fear. And according to one report, “White evangelicals overwhelmingly back hardline positions on immigration…”
A hypocrisy which has become a wholesale surrendering of their own values and moral judgment, and abdication of any sense of social responsibility, something which we will see play out in Tuesdays special Senate election in Mississippi, where the people of that state will likely elect an openly racist Senator. And we will see that same dynamic in next year’s state and local elections, as well as the 2020 presidential election.
Until last year when the Democrats unexpectedly took 15 seats in the House of Delegates, most of the Central Virginia's regions state Delegate and Senate races typically went 65/35 or more in favor of Republican candidates, who rarely faced any opposition. During this year’s Congressional elections that previously insurmountable margin appears to have dropped even further, in many cases all the way down 55/45 splits, making many formerly uncompetitive and often uncontested districts competitive for the first time in living memory.
Louisa County followed this trend with overall support for Republicans candidates dropping by 6% from the 2016 election cycle, and seats which have long been controlled by Republicans like the House of Delegates 56th district were no longer automatic victories.
This trend is important, because which ever Party controls the House of Delegates and the Senate after the 2019 elections will be in charge of the 2020 redistricting which sets the boundaries for all state and federal districts for the next decade. So consider how during the 2010 redistricting, House and Senate Republicans abused that power to gerrymander themselves into a permanent majority.
A one sided relationship which made them immune to any pressure from their constituents, allowing them to effectively pick their voters rather than the voters electing their representatives.
Actions which delivered immediate results for them in the 2011 statewide election for Delegates and Senators, giving Republicans a supermajority in the House of Delegates, and a 20-20 tie in the Senate. Along with the 2015 statewide election where only one out of 140 seats changed Party’s, a statistical improbability which far exceeds national historical norms of 97 % elected officials being re-elected.
A toxic majority which allowed them to implement what ever policies their donors wanted, particularly during the Sponge Bob McDonnell era. Even after losing control of Governors mansion in 2013, Republicans in the General Assembly maintained enough clout to force two consecutive Democratic administrations into doing Dominions bidding.
Faced with the prospect of loosing their slim majorities in the House and Senate, it should be clear that Virginia’s Republican Party will do whatever is necessary to maintain control. And we should expect to see many Republican Delegates and Senators being heavily funded by State Party PAC’s, like speaker Cox’s Colonial Leadership Trust PAC accompanied by national Party money and rivers of untraceable outside dark money from the likes of AFP and other Koch Brothers controlled groups.
Given what’s at stake; and that winning 15 seats last year in the House of Delegates took up a lions share of the State Party’s funds, it remains to be seen if the state Democratic and national party is prepared to pony up the money needed to retake the General assembly in 2019.
And in this neck of the woods, if unaffiliated and “non partisan” groups like Indivisible Louisa who were indispensable in local canvassing and GOTV efforts for Abigail Spanberger will continue to put forth similar efforts on behalf of Democrats and independents in 2019 and 2020.
In an extremely close election, Abigail Spanberger captured the 7th District’s seat in the U.S. House of Representatives—one that had been in the hands of the Republican Party for almost 50 years.
She succeeded in this “unwinnable” campaign by focusing on the needs of the people in the district and the issues that affect their lives: Affordable and accessible health care, equitable tax policy and sustainable growth, infrastructure expansion like broadband that can bring economic and educational opportunities to our communities, protecting our natural resources and safe and nurturing well-funded public schools.
The message in her victory declaration was one of unity and working for all her constituents: “We are for ensuring the rights of all of our neighbors no matter who they are, where they live, who they love, what they look like, who they worship and where they’re from. We succeeded at the polls tonight because voters rejected the politics of hate, the politics of division and the politics of ideology. I am committed to bringing you the kind of responsive and accountable leadership you deserve.”
Culpeper citizen John Owens presciently posted this on the Culpeper Persisters’ Facebook page two hours before the polls closed on Election Day: “I think it’s important that we stop to look at the amazing, unifying force that Democrats in Culpeper county and central Virginia have become.”
“When I moved here in 2011, I did not feel this was a very welcoming place for a Democrat. We now have an active, vibrant, unified force for change that showed up en masse today to help take back a country For All and restore decency and common sense in government. In the last year, the (Culpeper County Democratic Committee), Persisters and other groups have mobilized in a way that I never thought I would see in this area.”
The Virginia Public Access Project’s (VPAP.org) analysis, comparing the 2016 presidential election with the 2018 midterms, showed that Democrats gained between 5 percent in the Lignum precinct and 21.7 percent in Willow Shade. The East Fairfax, Willow Shade and South Ridge precincts flipped from red to blue. West and East Fairfax, Eggbornsville, Browns Store and Brandy Station each increased their spreads more than 13 percent.
Change is coming to Culpeper, and though the Blue Wave may have merely lapped at its shores in this election, it is a fact that Abigail Spanberger won her seat in the House of Representatives by 6,587 votes. It is a fact that Culpeper County delivered to her 7,906 votes. Elections have consequences. Every vote matters.
Voters and poll greeters at each of the precincts again showed civility and friendliness toward each other despite differences in political opinions, proving again that Culpeper is a cut above the nastiness that has been going on in other parts of the country.
Culpeper’s Board of Elections and its very able registrar, James Clements, again proved that we have honest, open and fair elections here. Georgia and Florida could learn some lessons from Virginia.
There is some talk of perhaps having a bipartisan social gathering after the first of the year, to help show the way in solving problems in a spirit of compromise and to promote good governance and community well-being.
On Jan. 3, our newly elected congresswoman, Abigail Spanberger, will take office along with her colleagues, who will collectively transform the House of Representatives back to its proper Constitutional role as a check and balance to the executive branch. She will work for all of us, not just the ones who voted for her. We should all cheer her on.
Editor’s Note: this originally appeared in the Culpeper Star Exponent, and has been re-posted here with the author’s permission.
When it comes to Dominion Power and Virginia politics, we can’t be reasonably expected to be energy experts, or knowledgeable about what’s happening in other State House of Delegate and Senate districts, a little knowledge goes a long way. And in the aftermath of Democrats picking up 3 Congressional seats in Virginia, comes this betrayal.
With Delegate Jennifer Boysko (HD 86) running for the now vacant 33rd State Senate seat, that opened up after Jennifer Wexton’s recent victory over Barbara Comstock for Virginia’s 10th district Congressional seat.
Should she win this Saturday firehouse primary against Democrats Sharafat Hussain, and Charlotte McConnell, she becomes a heavy favorite to win the “special election” held on December 18th, against whichever patsy the Republican’s end up nominating for this seat
Given that Governor Northam just replaced every air quality board member opposed to the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, and that she has repeatedly refused to take the Activate Virginia pledge - not to accept any contributions from Dominion and Appalachian Power which almost all of the new Delegates took in 2017, claiming with a straight face that “I can take their money and vote against them.”
It’s clear that she prefers to be part of Democratic Senator “Dominion Dick” Saslaw’s dirty Dominion money machine, rather than maintaining her independence. More importantly, if elected to a the 33rd Senate seat, it would give the Republican’s a two vote majority in the House of Delegates, as well as giving Dominion another reliable vote in the Senate.
Update: With Eileen Bedell running for the 10th District Senate seat next year, the chances of her winning in 2019 are good, since Clinton won this district by 12 points in 2016, and Ralph Northam won by 15 points in 2017. And the odds of the Senate being controlled by Democrats in 2020 just went up.
I know that the RTD is a Conservative newspaper. But, I am disappointed that you ignored the facts in choosing to endorse Dave Brat in Virginia's 7th Congressional District.
--You didn't mention that Mr. Brat knowingly voted to increase our national debt by $2.5 trillion. (H.R. 1, H.R. 6756, H.R. 6757, H.R. 6760).
--You ignored the fact that Mr. Brat has opposed any action by the Federal Government to alleviate the effects of climate change, thus endangering our grandchildren's future.
--You forgot to mention that Brat has stated his intent to cut Social Security and Medicare, threatening the economic security of America's seniors.
--Maybe you didn't know that Brat has acted to allow mentally incompetent individuals to acquire guns and to remove the minimum sentence for criminals who use silencers on their weapons.
--You didn't mention Brat's vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which would leave millions without health care.
--You ignored the fact that Brat acted to restrict EPA's ability to enforce the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts
--You apparently are unaware of Brat's refusal to approve comprehensive immigration reform legislation.
--You didn't consider Dave Brat's intent to use public education money for school vouchers.
--You apparently don't care that Brat has acted to defund family-planning organizations.
I am sure that had you actually considered the facts you wouldn't have endorsed Dave Brat. I hope that now that they know the facts, your readers will vote to retire Brat on Election Day.
Editor’s Note: This letter originally appeared in the Times Disgrace, and has been re-posted here with the author’s permission.
After a lifetime of searching for the lessons in our history, I feel compelled to say as emphatically and humbly as I can that I am deeply troubled by what the 2016 election sanctioned, our current political discourse, and the human values we are trading for a pot of porridge (to draw on the Biblical story). They are hauntingly similar to how politicians “redeemed the South” for white rule after Reconstruction, to why America tolerated the Jim Crow and Racial Purity laws of the 1900s, the blind frenzy of the Red Scare in the 1950s, and many other examples. I think we have arrived onto dangerous ground.
We’ve repeatedly seen resentment; fear, anger, and vilification of “the other” ignite violence, from lynching to modern mass murders. Many of you are friends or acquaintances who usually vote Republican. No matter party preferences, I hope we share a desire for our leaders to cease abusing our trust through stoking fear and lies, speaking of opponents with open scorn and disdain, and peddling short-term economic gains that threaten our future and the better part of our American character. Where are the voices to build our courage instead with statements like, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”?
If Republican leaders, afraid to split with President Trump and his voters, continue to dominate both houses of Congress, they will succeed in creating policies and their consequences we may be unable to reverse in the future. It’s unlikely that any of us – on either “side” - will change our sentiments on actual issues. But, based on honest moments with some of you, I know that you are also troubled by our current leadership. Some of you even turn off the television when the President is speaking because you don’t want your grandchildren to think his language and bullying is something they can emulate. How can that be OK with us as a nation? Is it really OK with you?
I implore each of us to think deeply about our motivation as we vote in Tuesday’s election. Maybe some of you are consoled that the Supreme Court now has a conservative majority. If so, will you risk joining me, even just in this one particular election, in voting for Senator Tim Kaine and Abigail Spanberger to ensure we have voices in Congress willing to challenge our current president’s increasing power when it is important to do so? Whatever the election results, I trust we can find ways to work together as a community and not be divided here in Louisa by what is playing out on our national stage.
Editor’s Note: This originally appeared in the Central Virginian and has been re-posted here with the author’s permission
Are your parents or grandparents retired? If so, you have a big stake in the Nov. 6 election. Medicare and Social Security are on the table for budget cutting. As a matter of fact, Senate Leader Mitch McConnell (R) has said the present budget deficit is “driven by the three big entitlement programs that are very popular: Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid.” According to McConnell, these programs are the problem and must be “reformed.” That’s another word for cutting their budgets or privatizing them.
These programs were created to keep seniors out of poverty and provide healthcare to them in their aging years. All of us Americans have paid into these programs during our working years so that they might provide for us during our retirement years. Both programs have been very successful in providing for seniors. But the Republican Senate and House are determined to cut these programs and perhaps privatize them so that Wall Street and insurance companies can make a profit from them, all in the name of reducing the ballooning deficit (which they created).
Keep in mind that since Trump and the GOP have controlled the presidency and Congress, the debt has doubled and it is growing rapidly. The deficit has grown from $548 billion in fiscal year 2016 to $985 billion in fiscal year 2019, and it is growing every day even during these non-recessionary times. The recent huge tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations have not paid for themselves and likely won’t.
This ballooning debt is not the fault of Social Security and Medicare. These programs have remained stable because of fiscally disciplined management. In fact, the Social Security Administration expects Social Security “to be payable in full on a timely basis until 2037, when the trust fund reserves are projected to become exhausted. At the point where the reserves are used up, continuing taxes are expected to be enough to pay 76 percent of scheduled benefits (from the SSA website). In fact, Medicare will be able to fund Part A health care expenses for beneficiaries through 2028, and the program can adjust for inflation and increase deductions to fund the program well into the 2030 decade.
These programs are not in crisis! In fact, there are many reform efforts being proposed in committee, reforms that serve the needs of the middle class and working people who rely on these programs. Social Security and Medicare must not be cut to provide tax cuts for the wealthy who don’t need these vital programs.
Again, these programs are NOT responsible for the acceleration in the national debt. The recent huge tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations, along with fiscal mismanagement by the President and the Republican Congress, are responsible for the alarming rise in the deficit.
Social Security and Medicare were created by Democrats. They have been defended over the years by Democrats. If you want to preserve them, I recommend you vote for Democrats this Nov. 6th.
Editor’s Note: This originally appeared in the Central Virginian and has been re-posted here with the author’s permission
Dave Brat in Virginia’s 7th District, and other Republicans, have called on Trump to lessen “burdensome regulations,” and make “it possible for people to once again buy the low-premium coverage they prefer.” (Dave Brat, “We Still Can’t Get Healthcare Right,” March 27, 2017).
President Trump responded by recently expanding “short-term,” inexpensive health plans, known as “skimpy” policies. They became available on the ACA Exchanges in October.
As Dave Brat has called for– these “skimpy” policies increase competition, lessen regulation, but they also gut consumer protections. “Skimpy” plans don’t have to cover pre-existing conditions, or cover 10 Essential Benefits on the ACA– such as ER care, prescription-drugs, mental-health/ substance-abuse counseling, cancer treatments, etc. Some doctors call these “skimpy” policies “junk insurance.”
The Trump administration says “skimpy” plans are good for young/ healthy people. However, young people who get critically injured in car accidents, have substance-abuse issues, acquire youth cancers (testicular cancer, or leukemia), might be left high and dry on “skimpy” plans.
Also, economists warn if younger/healthier people pull out of the ACA– premiums may skyrocket for sick and older folks left on Exchanges. And buyers beware: ‘Skimpy” plans historically have been falsely marketed–promising to cover conditions that in the fine print (few read) are not actually covered.
Dave Brat is also advancing high-deductible Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) to add competition in the healthcare marketplace. These accounts, often invested in the stock market, allow consumers to save for medical care tax free. People who rarely get sick/ injured make out best with HSAs.
Brat’s biggest contribution to healthcare is that he co-sponsored a bill raising dollar limits people can contribute to HSAs each year– up to $9,000 for individuals and $18,000 for families. The higher your earnings, the higher your tax deduction with HSAs, so these accounts clearly favor wealthier consumers.
Abigail Spanberger, also running for congress in the 7th District, wants to increase competition in health care, too. Spanberger wants to maintain coverage of the 10 Essential Benefits in the ACA for all Americans, as well as protections for pre-existing conditions. She also believes Medicare X (which is not universal health care) would compete on Exchanges with private insurers, encouraging them to lower overhead and thus premiums.
Medicare X would be a public option on ACA Exchanges, which consumers could voluntarily buy at any age. This plan uses the same doctor networks in traditional Medicare (the popular seniors government healthcare plan) but would also cover maternity/pediatrics.
Importantly, Medicare X would not touch the Medicare Trust Fund, or change its solvency, because consumers would pay premiums. But Medicare X would be affordable, because unlike private insurers, it doesn’t have high overhead. That’s because it doesn’t have to pay shareholder profits/ big CEO bonuses, or spring for expensive TV ads/ fancy PR.
Importantly, Medicare X would be rolled out in rural areas first, since rural areas have little competition on the Exchanges and many rural hospitals are struggling to survive.
Knowing how candidates define “competition” in healthcare helps constituents be more educated voters.
Editor's Note: This originally appeared in Richmond2Day, and has been reposted here with the author's permission.
Like most current Republicans, Representative David Brat (VA-7) offers considerable misrepresentation of his background and talents. He labels himself as the only economist in the Congress. This claim might have redeeming value if Brat’s academic writings were on economic subjects, such as a study of the Federal Reserve, the economics of development, or the mechanics of the housing market. But his major academic writings are not in the field of economics.
Even as a legislator Brat has little influence on economic issues. He has sidelined himself by joining the minority Freedom Caucus of Republicans and is not a major player on any of the economic/commerce committees. To ingratiate himself with the Republican leadership he parades the standard Republican talking points. Like most Republicans he was critical of the Affordable Care Act on the grounds that it would increase government debt. Like most Republicans, he is silent about the impact on the debt of the Republican tax bill of 2017. Nor has Brat complained about the fact that the bill makes tax breaks for corporations and the 1% permanent, while middle class tax breaks will expire shortly.
If he is not an influential legislator, what kind of economist is former professor Brat? Not a very ethical one according to recent commentary from the world of economists. It seems Brat plagiarized major parts of a paper he published. Typical of Brat’s research interests, this paper was not about trade, or monetary policy, or other typical subjects of the “dismal science.” No, this bungled paper was a rewrite of the theme of his doctoral dissertation.
His doctoral dissertation copies German philosopher Max Weber’s thesis highlighted in his 1905 book The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. Weber proposed that Protestantism was one of the major influences associated with the rise in the Western world of market-driven capitalism and the bureaucratic nation-state. He argued that it was the basic tenets of Protestantism which gave capitalism a boost. To Weber Protestant religious values were inherent to the spirit of capitalism. Or, as Brat wrote in his dissertation “the Protestant effect may simply be viewed as the absence of the negative Catholic effects” he described earlier (p. 118).
His dissertation goes on at great length about the failures of Catholic societies. His dissertation is really not about economics at all but drifts into the literature of sociology. To substantiate Weber’s thesis, Brat’s dissertation compares England and Protestant Germany to Catholic France. After discussing comparative education and government systems Brat opines that France is less capitalistic because of its lack of scientific inventions in the 1800s and weak organization of its academic institutions. Not much core economics here, but Brat offers a not so subtle attack on Catholic institutions.
In the current campaign, Brat’s weak background and glaring prejudices are beginning to erode his base. His fundraising is anemic. Vice President Pence recently threw him a life line via a fundraiser in Washington. His staunch support of the Administration raises eyebrows.
His avoidance of town halls and his decidedly weak performance at the only candidates’ debate fades his academic image. His lack of grasp of the issues during this debate did not help. His academic plagiarism makes it difficult for him to separate himself from the ethical problems of the Administration. While Brat likes to characterize himself as an economist, he has not shown much economic sophistication in voting for increased government debt or parroting the Republican promise to cut Social Security and Medicare. Brat’s claim to be an economist is as hollow as his lack of compassion.
Brat’s opponent, Abigail Spanberger, could not be more different. She is a former CIA officer, who is used to collecting information and presenting it in a factual way to policy makers. She has practical operational experience in national security and foreign policy. She has accumulated significant labor and other endorsements including that of veterans in the 7th District and national media attention. She also has the advantage of being born and raised in Virginia. Her practical experience and openness versus his reliance on Republican talking points has moved the needle in the gerrymandered 7th Congressional District from leaning Republican to a toss-up
Editor’s Note: Ockams Razur is a nom-de plume of one of the Culpeper Dems, and this piece originally appeared in the DailyKOS, and has been re-posted here with the author’s permission. So be sure to give them some love over there.
Watching Dave Brat campaign on a platform of brazen, unmitigated dishonesty has been one of the most demoralizing experiences in all my years as a voter. Not only because my Congressman has abandoned any concern for telling the truth, but because he actually expects his constituents to believe him.
The way he faked a Washington Post “4-Pinnochio” fact check of his opponent, Abigail Spanberger, was an insult to anyone with even a modicum of critical thinking ability.
His Pavlovian debate performance made a mockery of civil discourse and showed that he is wholly uninterested in (or incapable of) engaging in an earnest exchange of ideas. His TV spots—like the ironically titled “Double Down” ad—pollute the air with insipid, facile and repetitive lies that have been routinely disproved.
Does he honestly believe people are going to buy this?
Yes. Yes he does.
In fact, Dave Brat not only thinks his supporters are dumb enough to believe it, he’s counting on it. And to be perfectly honest, I can see why. He’s run a laughably inept, infuriatingly dishonest, and notoriously lazy campaign.
He’s made no real attempt to reach out to people in this community, nor to make his presence known beyond road signs and purchased media. And the feeble, half-hearted outreach attempts he does make result in egregious unforced errors. (Consider the incident from the Congressman’s visit to Chesterfield County Jail on October 17. When an inmate opened up to him about her struggles with drug addiction and her concerns for rebuilding a life after confinement, he tried to one-up her by unloading his own problems.)
He’s the very model of incompetence, and he’s proven time and again that he’s woefully undeserving of a seat in Congress. In a perfect world, Dave Brat’s re-election prospects would be abysmal.
Yet the race is still considered a toss-up.
So, he maintains course and speed. His lies about his opponent continue unabated (and easily refuted). His community engagement remains sparse, exclusionary, and secretive. His deceitful approach hasn’t changed one bit, even when exposed for the farce that it is. Because he thinks he’s getting away with it. He’s counting on the ignorance and indifference of his base to nullify any consequences for it, and to carry him to a third term.
In short, Brat voters, he not only thinks you’re all idiots, he needs you to be. Boy I sure hope you let him down on November 6.
Editor’s Note: this letter originally appeared in Richmond2day, and has been re-posted here with the author’s permission.
Rep Brat’s recent tone-deaf comments at the Chesterfield jail underscore that as the Tea Party Spokesman for the 7th District he only sees labels, not people. He made the same point during the debate in Culpeper failing to address himself to the centrist campaign of Abigail Spanberger, but trying to label her as “Nancy Pelosi.” Even the bipartisan crowd at the Beer Hound laughed in unison at his weak debate technique.
Dr. Neviaser’s column in the last edition of the Culpeper Times trotted out more labels while also claiming Brat’s vote for the Republican tax bill was good for the economy. But in fact it will blow a $1.5 trillion hole in the budget. The government debt is rising as we speak.
Now when President Reagan increased the debt, at least he bought something – more equipment for the U.S. military. The bill Brat supported bought nothing. It gave tax revenue back to corporations and the 1%.
This inequity explains why our industrial and farm incomes have not grown. From 1997 to the present the top 10% received all of the U.S. income growth and the bottom 90% received nothing.
BTW where is your tax money Brat gave to the top corporations going? The financial news is the companies are recycling it through the stock market. After all, CEOs receive bonuses if the stock price increases. Do consider that when you go to the polls this November.
Editor’s Note: this letter originally appeared in the Culpeper Times, and has been re-posted here with the author’s permission.
The most important election in our lifetimes is just nine days away.
The only debate between Dave Brat and Abigail Spanberger was held on October 15th here in Culpeper. Due to a lack of any legislative accomplishments that helped Culpeper families, Dave Brat unsuccessfully tried to tie his opponent to Nancy Pelosi 25 times. That’s all he had.
In a nutshell:
“I question again if Congressman Brat knows which Democrat he is, in fact, running against. I am not the Democrat that supported single payer in the primary, I am not Nancy Pelosi, and I am not President Barack Obama. I am a woman who grew up in Henrico County, who grew up in this community, who was taught service, hard work, and a commitment to the belief that the American people can be anything, and we will lead the way in this world, and that’s who I am.
“I returned four years ago because I wanted to get my kids closer to my parents, closer to my in-laws, closer to my family, and I am committed to this community. I am committed to making it stronger, and I am committed to policies that make sense and that are fiscally responsibility because to me it is absolutely hypocritical to have someone stand on stage, talk about fiscal responsibility, after adding 1.9 trillion dollars to the deficit, after voting against hurricane relief, after voting against the omnibus bill, after voting against budget after budget because he didn’t want to add to the deficit, but when it came time to give 42 billion dollars in tax breaks to the pharmaceutical companies, there he was.”
Representative Brat, and his Super PAC allies, like Paul Ryan’s cynical Congressional Leadership Fund, savagely and cruelly attack Abigail Spanberger with lies and distortions because Brat has no record to run on. During his four years in Congress, he has introduced only one bill that has been signed into law – renaming an arboretum at the Veterans hospital in Richmond. He spends most of his time prating on extremist radio shows. He brags about his carefully-staged photo ops instead of getting out into his district and answering the questions of his constituents.
By Election Day, Abigail Spanberger, will have held more than 150 meet and greets all over the ten counties in the 7th District that have been open to everyone.
It is quite easy to discover where she stands on the issues. Her website, www.abigailspanberger.com, is detailed and totally transparent. She discusses all the issues important to our citizens: healthcare and the opioid crisis, preventing gun violence (not abolishing the 2nd Amendment), protecting Social Security and Medicare, promoting jobs, the economy, and public education, pushing for immigration reform while opposing open borders and sanctuary cities, reforming Federal marijuana laws that would allow states to enact marijuana laws without federal interference. Promoting good governance and strong national security and foreign policies, civil rights and equality, campaign finance reform and an end to gerrymandering. Protecting the environment and diversifying our energy resources. Promoting technology and providing rural broadband. Actually fighting for veterans.
Brat’s insistence that “we don’t know what Spanberger stands for,” is patently ridiculous. Don’t just take my word for it. Look these things up for yourselves. Where does Dave Brat stand? He is very vague.
Vote like your lives, the lives of your children, and your grandchildren depend on it. The choice is clear.
“I want to serve this community. It’s the community that made me who I am. And, I ask for your vote on November 6th. Abigail Spanberger is my name.”
Editor’s Note: this was submitted to the Culpeper Star Exponent, and should appear in this Sunday’s issue, and has been re-posted here with the author’s permission.
Yes, I’m very fond of the fact that she supports many issues I care deeply about. She supports working to prevent insurance companies from doing away with plan protections due to preexisting conditions, she supports women having the right to choose what happens to their own bodies, and she supports protecting our country’s natural resources from pollution. The list goes on and on.
Abigail Spanberger had my vote months and months ago, but for once in my life – because of a few fleeting but noteworthy interactions – I’m sitting down and writing more than just a quick “Vote for so-and-so” social media post about a political candidate.
My wife and I are new parents. Other parents reading this know what I mean when I say parenthood is often all-consuming. In the days before our daughter, JuneBug as we call her, when my wife was perfectly round-bellied and we both had no idea how full our lives were about to become – we talked about how we were bound to become less politically active. Between both of us working full-time, trying to keep our home somewhat presentable, and caring for Junie – we often end our nights on the couch watching old episodes of “The Office” and being too exhausted to climb the stairs up to our room. Needless to say, our premonitions about our diminished energy for politics was more than true.
Lucky for us, we have some incredibly enthusiastic and energetic friends when it comes to positive change in today’s wounded political climate. So many of them were posting about Abigail on social media. They were attending fundraising and meet and greet events, posting photos of themselves canvassing together, and encouraging friends to do their research about this individual working so hard to “flip the 7th.” I found myself thinking, “Who is this woman?”
So, my wife and I started attending events where we got to meet and interact with Abigail. Each time, she was incredibly personable. At Virginia Pride she crouched down on our blanket we’d laid out on the grass on Brown’s Island and kissed our baby girl. She laughed as Junie tugged at her hair and seemed to have to be almost pulled away by her assistant who seemed eager to get Abigail to their next destination, no doubt feeling the pressure of the less-than-two-months-until-voting-day. Abigail, who proclaimed herself to be a lover of babies, seemed entirely present in that moment with us – with our family, kissing our JuneBug’s perfectly plump cheeks.
Our next meeting was just days ago. My (chosen) Mother and ginormous Abigail Spanberger supporter was co-hosting a Meet and Greet and Fundraiser – the Spanberger campaign’s 136th. As the evening was winding down, Abigail found her way to where my wife and I were standing, blowing raspberries at our JuneBug. She seemed to remember us, and held out her arms to Junie. We all chatted with ease – Abigail never once asking overly personal questions that we are too-often asked, like “Did you adopt?” “Which one of you carried her?” or the dreaded “Which of you is the mother?” – To which we always reply, “both of us.”
After snuggling our wide-eyed, fresh-from-a-nap-but-still-sleepy baby for a few minutes, JuneBug leaned toward me the way little ones do when they’re tired and are ready to be in the arms of a parent. Abigail said, “Oh you want to go back to your Mama?” And that right there. That sealed the deal for me. I wanted to do more than vote – I want to help encourage others to do so as well.
You may be thinking “Really? That’s it?”
But, so often, I’m overlooked as a Mom. My wife, still breastfeeding, is so clearly a mother. It could be that folks don’t know my wife and I are a couple – or they’re afraid to acknowledge it for fear of offending us if they are wrong – but, we do all the things any straight couple with a kid does in public. We hold hands, I’ll smooch her on the top of her head as we shop for groceries, or we’ll both play peek-a-boo with JuneBug while waiting in line at a coffee shop.
Abigail sees and acknowledges my family — literally the biggest part of who I am. Abigail hasn’t shied away from being vocal regarding her opinion on civil rights or LGBTQ equality. More and more, as I listen to her speak, or listen to what my LGBTQ family is saying about her – I learn something remarkable about her: she not only supports Virginia’s LGBTQ community, she interacts with us with the familiarity and ease only a true friend of our vibrant and thriving community could.
Her name is Abigail Spanberger, and on November 6th, she’s got this mom’s vote. I hope she has yours too.
Editor's Note: this letter originally appeared in Richmond2day, and has been re-posted here with the author's permission.
I was one of the lucky few who was able to get a ticket to the debate of two of the 7th district Congressional candidates in Culpeper. I prefer to see people in person than through the filter of the television. Putting political theater aside, I tried to focus on the issues important to me: prescription drug costs, CTE education, and the cost of college.
I was first impressed by Ms. Spanberger’s opening message of optimism as there is simply too much division in our country right now. She also had specific data to share which I appreciate more than rhetoric.
I did not know that the corporate tax cuts resulted in $42 billion going to the top five pharmaceutical companies. She also pointed out that prescription drug costs are 80 percent lower at the VA than in a commercial pharmacy. This made me wonder why Mr. Brat has not pursued legislation to address this issue to help all of us, not just veterans.
Ms. Spanberger’s knowledge of pending legislation made her appear more like an incumbent than someone new to politics. She had clearly done her homework and prepared well. Mr. Brat stated, “We’ve done the right thing on the education front,” but he voted against a bill funding career and technical education. Our CTE program is very important here in Louisa and I was disappointed that he did not support funding it.
He seemed unconcerned that there is now more student loan debt than credit card debt in our country. We have got to help our young people have a future. Ms. Spanberger cited a current bill in committee that would allow students to refinance their loans and provide incentives for employers to help students pay off their debt. Finally, over a 90-minute debate each candidate spoke approximately 45 minutes.
During the course of his time Mr. Brat referred to Nancy Pelosi at least 21 times. It was out of place since so much of the discussion was about issues affecting those of us who live here in the 7th. He did not seem to understand who he is running against. His repeated use of Pelosi’s name became so comical that those in attendance laughed out loud the longer it went on. I was embarrassed for him.
After seeing the candidates in person having to answer the exact same questions, the choice for me was clear: Ms. Spanberger has earned my respect. She is an earnest, well prepared candidate interested in the issues affecting those of us living here in the 7th district and her opponent is out of touch with the district.
For these and many other reasons I will be voting for Abigail Spanberger for Congress and I hope each of you will carefully research the candidates on issues important to you. Your vote is an important responsibility.
Editor’s Note: This originally appeared in the Central Virginian, and has been reposted here with the author’s permission.
Without hesitation, I will be voting for Abigail Spanberger for Congress. She has more energy and drive than virtually any candidate for political office I have known over the years. A natural leader, she appreciates making decisions based on documented facts - not “alternative facts” - and has made a concerted effort to meet face-to-face with hundreds of 7th District residents to understand their needs. Most of all, her common-sense positions on Social Security, Medicare, healthcare, the economy, education, the workforce, broadband, and public safety are of central importance to the residents of the 7th Congressional District.
Abigail is willing to work across the aisle with members of both parties in Congress to seek the best outcomes for our community and our nation. Today we are raised to think that when opinions differ, one person has to win and the other has to lose. We are not accustomed to working out win-win solutions because it is much harder to do and requires more effort. The win-win outcomes, however, should be worth it to all that are involved. We can come up with better solutions. As Abigail believes, whether in parenting, employment settings, business transactions or political situations, we must ask probing questions to get down to the root cause of our differences. Then we must talk to each other. This exemplifies “reaching across the aisle”. We, the people of the 7th District, are tired of our elected representatives digging in their heels and saying “no” to opposite party members. This is unacceptable behavior and one that needs to be changed.
Abigail is the one to make that change. She understands that with great power comes great responsibility to the people of the 7th Congressional District. She has served her country and community and has put her life in danger for citizens of the United States. She grew up in Henrico County and understands local issues important to us. And above all, she is not taking money from corporate PACs.
Voting is how we raise our voices and let our current elected officials know that not working across the aisle has failed to produce any meaningful results for regular people and that we have had enough. Join me in voting for Abigail Spanberger for Congress. She will work for ALL of us.
William E. Quarles, Jr.
Editor’s Note: this letter was submitted to the Goochland Gazette, and has been re-posted here with the author’s permission.
It’s all too familiar. We see the Trump Administration and the rest of the Republican Party chipping away at our liberties in various ways. We see this, and some of us have seen it coming for a long time but how many people don’t know and or bother to find out how our civil liberties are being attacked. When it’s too late they’ll be wondering what happened. I made observations of the local political social media and came to some unsettling conclusions.
There are various forms of censorship, so let’s start with something that everyone’s familiar with and bring it closer to home; the Facebook page of Dave Brat. Brat won the vote to become the Republican Congressman of the 7th District of Virginia in 2014. He’s coming to the end of his second term and struggling to get re-elected for a third. He is doing whatever he can to reach that goal; constitutionality and ethics only seem to get in the way.
The constituents of the 7th District have complained to Brat for a long time about access to his office simply to express their concerns about various legislation. They have had reasonable expectations for Brat to listen so he can represent their interest in Congress. That’s his job, his only job and he must do it because of “the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances. ”Brat continues to be inaccessible and simply by not listening, he establishes just a “little bit” of censorship. He’s probably hoping that “little bit” of censorship will carry him a long way.
We already know about the Trump model of censorship on his Twitter account, where people who disagree with him were blocked. The courts ruled that action unconstitutional because he is currently the President of the United States and is required to allow public access.
Dave Brat has had his own share of controversy with his Facebook page when, last year, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported that Sara James – who handled his social media communications and events, along with being his campaign manager for about 3 months– was trolling his Facebook page using aggressive and “unkind” comments to constituents while still being paid by Brat’s campaign. That didn’t seem to bother Brat in the least. For all the times that he’s mentioned ethics, you would think that he would be capable of making a better moral decision about attacking the constituents of the 7th District from his office.
There were also concerns raised about Brat’s Twitter account, earlier this year, where “Likes” were adjusted by his staff to place him in a better light.
Using staff members to intimidate people from posting their views is a form of censorship. This is a bullying tactic taken directly from Donald Trump’s playbook, except that Brat isn’t brave enough to do it on his own.
Adjusting “Likes” on his Twitter account is a step up on his Censorship Ladder. It’s not exactly deleting words, but when someone “Likes” on a social media platform, they’re making a statement. They’re expressing themselves and are relying that no one – especially Dave Brat – will resort to “abridging the freedom of speech.” And yet, that is exactly what he’s doing, “abridging the freedom of speech.” This is undeniable. I would also say that this is immoral, unethical, and unconstitutional.
We might as well take a look now at what happens on the next step of Dave Brat’s Censorship Ladder by returning to his Facebook page to examine current activity. The “Sara James” like trolls seem to have increased both in number and venom. On the surface it would seem that the attacks are organized, and I suspect that they really are. The venom takes the usual form of name-calling, and in some instances, taking someone’s last name and morphing it into forms that are purposely obscene. Brat has claimed that obscenities have been directed at him but it appears that a constituent who posts any opposition to Brat’s Republican stance is simply getting their “just” reward and are beneath his responsibility to represent.
My reason for believing the trolls are organized under Brat is that there have been exchanges when someone posts a comment to Brat that is unflattering or seen as negative; at that point an exchange occurs when the trolls attack the person who commented. There is a trail of comments, then at some point, the original comment the person made remains, but their responses to the replies from the trolls have been deleted. This kind of censorship is intended to discourage posting comments that aren’t favorable to Brat. And, a good question to ask is:
Why does Dave Brat allow his staff to delete constituent comments at will?
Suppression of Voters by Depression of Voters!!!
We can see further expansion of Brat’s Censorship Ladder by taking a further look at this step. If you disagree with Brat, if you ask legitimate questions about policies and positions, if you reference a real news item that contradicts Brat’s position (instead of FoxNews or InfoWars), or interject a meme or that is critical of Brat, Trump, or the Republican Party, then you should get ready to be blocked or have your comment deleted.
Have these things actually happened? Unfortunately, the answer is yes!!
Numerous comments get posted that take issue with Brat’s policies and positions. His Facebook page itself is deceiving because it gives the impression that the comment has been posted – unless you refresh the page and you go back to look at your own comment – you wouldn’t know that the comment was deleted. Depending on the topic, the number of comments, and the identity of the commenter (sometimes specifically targeted), the rate of comment deletion can be as high as 18%. Sometimes comments get deleted after a few weeks even though there hasn’t been any activity during that time, that is – no one has posted additional comments. The question that now comes to my mind changes slightly:
Why would Dave Brat, a Republican Congressman, who is supposed to represent the voters of Virginia’s 7th District be deleting the comments of his constituents? Doesn’t he want to hear from them? Shouldn’t he be taking his responsibility seriously of preserving “the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances?”
His Town Hall meetings have been inadequate for communicating with the voters because of his inability to address constructive criticism and legitimate concerns along with his morbid fear of confrontation. He leaves his constituents to the obscurities of his Facebook page with at least one troll guarding each post and waiting to intimidate and delete.
This is what censorship looks like on Dave Brat’s Facebook page.
Voters from the 7th District have a number of concerns. Most of the topics are important but for each constituent one topic may have the highest priority. Racism has been a concern, not only in Virginia, but across the nation. The incidents of verbal and physical assault have been increasing in number and intensity. Since we don’t have Town Hall meetings and are relegated to Dave Brat’s Facebook page “to petition the government for a redress of grievances,” it’s Brat’s duty and responsibility, under the Constitution, to acknowledge the voters’ concerns about racism.
Certainly, that’s the least he can do. Since Corey Stewart, who has leanings to and favors White Supremacists, is on the ballot as a Republican candidate for Senator of Virginia. Any mention of that candidacy, with a reference to an article from the Washington Post about him, results in deletion of that comment. Brat hasn’t even had any significant posts about how to reduce violence and discrimination against minorities. He doesn’t do that, but he does delete comments that question his stand on racism.
This is what censorship looks like on Dave Brat’s Facebook page.
A fairly innocuous example of a comment is a simple link to a JPEG file containing a meme. Specifically, there is a meme that is a photograph of a skeleton in a relaxed pose on a park bench. The comment associated with the photo is: “What’s left of the US after Brat and the GOP. No profanity. No bad language of any kind.” There’s sufficient precedence for this type of expression and the freedom to use it. Simply a meme that is relatively indistinguishable from any other, except that it was posted on Dave Brat’s Facebook page where the constituents of the 7th are provided this venue as the only option “to petition the government for a redress of grievances” and to express their concerns and dissatisfaction any number of ways – including a skeleton sitting on a park bench.
Dave Brat is too sensitive to that kind of material?
Dave Brat is currently the Republican Representative in Congress for the 7th District of Virginia and can’t cope with an innocent meme.
This is how we get censorship on Dave Brat’s Facebook page.
Probably the most sinister activity by Brat extends to yet a higher step in his Censorship Ladder. We all know someone who has more than one Facebook account, and we all know someone who chooses to remain anonymous. There are good reasons for anonymity, and there are a number of nefarious reasons as well. The nefarious would apply to the trolls on Brat’s Facebook page who engage in intimidation tactics against those who dare to question the policies of Dave Brat and the rest of the Republican Party.
Having multiple Facebook accounts isn’t unconstitutional or illegal. Supposedly, it’s against Facebook policy, but no one really cares too much about that; besides, that doesn’t rise anywhere near in severity to the censorship that Brat exercises against his constituents who have the right “peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances” on the only available venue where he’s safe from personal contact. A legitimate and extremely serious question to ask now is: How does Brat know that a constituent has another Facebook account within one hour of its creation?
This goes well beyond censorship. The 4th Amendment states that the “right of the people to be secure in their person, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches ….” In addition to violation of the 1st and 4th Amendments, perhaps we should be looking into violations of the Constitution by Brat – and in his name. Rather than explaining this as extraordinary clairvoyant capabilities, my inclination is to assume the worst, a deliberate violation of the “right of the people to be secure in their person, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches ….” After all, Brat has an excellent track record of abusing the constituents of Virginia’s 7th District. Why not include intruding on and invading their privacy as well?
Those who blindly support the policies of Dave Brat, Donald Trump, and the rest of the Republican Party should be looking behind their backs and wondering whether they will be subjected to the same violations of their Constitutional rights, because it would only be a matter of time. If Brat does it to someone else, you only have to wait a while before he’ll be looking for you. For all the peddling of his Judeo-Christian ethics, I find little evidence that he has any kind of ethics. If you don’t look, you won’t see.
Everyone, Save Your Rights!!
Editor’s Note: this piece originally appeared in Richmond2day, and has been re-posted here with the author’s permission.
1- If you are worried about the effect climate change will have on your children and grandchildren, you better vote for Abigail Spanberger. Brat opposes Federal Government action to alleviate climate change and has supported legislation to prevent such federal action.
2- If you believe you have a promise from the United States Government to provide you Social Security and Medicare when you retire, you better vote for Spanberger. Dave Brat wants to drastically reduce these programs.
3- If you think that something needs to be done to reduce gun violence, you better vote for Abigail Spanberger. Brat opposes any restrictions on gun access, even for suspected terrorists or persons adjudged to be a threat to themselves or others.
4- If you believe that all Americans should have access to quality, affordable health care, you better vote for Spanberger. Brat voted to repeal the Affordable Health Care Act. He favors personal Health Savings Accounts (i.e., self insurance) instead.
5- If you want to save the environment, you better vote for Abigail Spanberger. Brat has acted to restrict EPA's ability to enforce the Clean Water and Clean Air Acts.
6- If you think that legislative action must be taken to fix our immigration system, you better vote for Abigail Spanberger. Dave Brat opposes comprehensive immigration reform.
7- If you think that public education is vital to the future of the United States, you better vote for Abigail Spanberger. Brat supports using public education money for school vouchers.
8- If you believe that all woman should have access to specialized women's health care, you better vote for Spanberger. Dave Brat favors defunding Planned Parenthood and other family-planning organizations.
9- If you are worried about the national debt, you better vote for Spanberger. Dave Brat has knowingly voted to increase our indebtedness by $2.5 trillion and pushes tax loopholes that will further increase the debt.
Editor's Note: this letter has been published here with the author’s permission.
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