Four days ago, a deranged teenager armed with an AR-15 military-style rifle murdered 17 people and wounded 14 more at a high school in Florida.
Politicians bought off by the National Rifle Association, the premier lobbying organization for the merchants of death, will decry the 30th mass shooting since the beginning of this year but will continue to stymie any reasonable efforts in this country to curb gun violence. Meanwhile, the NRA will keep on promoting the sale of weapons designed solely for killing people, along with all the ammunition and paraphernalia such as silencers and bump stocks, to anybody who wants them, including the mentally ill (thanks to Trump).
“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” People have been arguing about the poor grammar, the ambiguity and the meaning of the “right to bear arms” ever since.
The population of the United States in 1787 was only 4 million. There was no standing army. “Arms” meant weapons for military use and consisted of mostly large caliber, smoothbore flintlock muskets and bayonets, cutlasses, and pikes. They, and the necessary gunpowder, were stored in “magazines” like the one you can still see in colonial Williamsburg. Long rifles for hunting were generally only .32 caliber and few people possessed them except for those in rural areas or on the frontier. They were all exceedingly difficult to load and fire. I know. I have a reproduction .50 caliber flintlock Hawken rifle.
When I was as kid, the NRA was a respected proponent of civilian marksmanship, sportsmanship, hunting, and gun safety. In those days, people were proud of America’s frontier heritage. Hunting fees and licenses paid for conservation efforts that saved deer, bear and wild turkey populations from extinction. Most handguns were western-style revolvers.
Those days are dead. Nowadays, the NRA prides itself on the hundreds of millions of dollars it spends lining the pockets of our legislators so madmen can effortlessly arm themselves to the teeth and then go out and kill as many innocent people as they can, often starting with their wives and relatives, before they kill themselves or are killed by police; not, as the NRA would have you believe by “good guys with guns.” Following the Las Vegas massacre, the New York Times reported that the best-rewarded Republican Senators and Representatives, all of whom sanctimoniously offered up their thoughts and prayers, received a total of $47,114,952 in funding support from the NRA.And, that’s just the top twenty out of our 535 legislators at the federal level.
Yes, Democrats are among those bought off, too, just not quite so many. Locally, one sees Dave Brat, grinning like an idiot in a picture all over social media, sporting his “Guns Save Lives” badge on his lapel. Nick Freitas’s office in Richmond is festooned with guns. Bryce Reeves brags about his A rating and NRA endorsements; our representatives, hard at work keeping us safe.
Last Wednesday, Senator Chris Murphy said, “This happens nowhere else other than the United States of America, this epidemic of mass slaughter, this scourge of school shooting after school shooting.” Last Thursday, the So-Called Ruler of the United States, sophomorically read his prepared remarks off the teleprompter and offered no sincere condolences nor solutions, but merely platitudes.
How do you suppose all those thoughts and prayers are working out for the grieving relatives, classmates and friends of the latest victims? How long are we going to allow this madness to continue? Vote in November.
Editor's Note: A printed version of this letter originally appeared in the February 16th edition, the Culpeper Star Exponent, and is now on-line here, and has been re-posted on this blog with the author's permission.
I was there. I was a witness.
Kirkland Cox, Speaker of the Virginia House of Delegates, unilaterally decided to kill popular legislation in a blatant abuse of power. Bills preventing discrimination against LGBTQ citizens in commercial housing and public employment easily passed the Senate for the third consecutive year with bipartisan support in a vote of 29 to 10.
Speaker Cox then hurriedly sent the bills to the House General Laws Subcommittee #1. This committee is lopsided and stacked in favor of Republicans 5-2. Cox instructed his minions to summarily kill the bills.
On Thursday, February 8, despite the hurried move with little public notice, many people waited to share comments with legislators. Approximately 30 people spoke in favor of ending state-sanctioned discrimination. Both private citizens and company representatives spoke in favor of the bills. A transgender citizen who works at the Newport News shipyard, a parent of an adult gay man, and a woman who was part of the marriage equality decision in the Supreme Court, among others, spoke in support of the bills.
The nonprofit Housing Opportunities Made Equal presented a study where 44 percent of same-sex couples were discriminated against. A representative of Diversity Richmond pointed out that it is illegal to fire someone for their political or religious beliefs, but not because of who they love.
A representative of the Human Rights Campaign pointed out that the vast majority of Virginian’s support these bills. The Homebuilders Association supported these bills. The Association of Realtors supported the bills. Despite overwhelming support from citizens across the commonwealth, Delegates Hyland Fowler, Thomas Wright, Barry Knight, Richard Bell, and Jason Miyares callously disregarded the wishes of the people and dutifully did the bidding of their party by killing the bills.
Many of these legislators expressed support for the bills privately but refused to support them publicly. Hypocrites.
These men are all a disgrace to the offices they hold. This was a shameful display of extremist partisan politics. And to what end? How does state-sanctioned discrimination help our commonwealth in any way?
Hate was on full display in Richmond and it was ugly.
This is in response to a letter to the editor in the Jan. 18 edition of The Central Virginian submitted by Robert Murto from Orange, Virginia, “The truth is always the first casualty.” Mr. Murto obviously does not understand how to discover the “truth” surrounding the myths of American economics.
The theory that Congressional legislation benefitting the rich will trickle down to all citizens sounds great, but reality tells another story. The Republican promotion of the trickle-down myth ignores three basic issues: (1) unemployment is a lagging occurrence of tax breaks and employment doesn’t always occur in the corporate host country getting the tax break. (2) Lower corporate tax rates do not increase economic growth. (3) Lower and middle income people don’t get the same benefits of tax cuts as the wealthy do.
During the years 1979 and 2005 (the Reagan and Bush tax cut eras), the bottom fifth income level after-tax household income rose 6 percent whereas the top fifth income rose 80 percent, and the top 1 percent tripled their income. Sounds more like “trickle up economics” to me.
The Brookings Institution’s William Gale and Dartmouth College’s Andrew Samwick state “that tax cuts are unlikely to substantially boost growth and that tax cuts that increase deficits can harm growth… Conservatives often point to President Ronald Reagan’s 1981 tax cuts as evidence that supply-side tax cuts accelerate economic growth. In fact, despite the legend, there is little evidence that the personal income tax cuts enacted by President Reagan in 1981 meaningfully boosted the economy; “… the so-called Reagan recovery of the early 1980s was driven by monetary policy, not tax cuts.”
On the state level, compare the results of tax cuts for the wealthy in Kansas in 2012 to the tax increases for the wealthy in California. Since then, California has enjoyed one of the strongest economic growth rates of any state, while Kansas has lagged behind other states and fallen below average in economic growth and job creation. Kansas’ tax cuts have severely worsened the state’s fiscal situation, resulting in deep cuts in education and other state services.
Economist Jared Bernstein states that there is “no correlation between the top marginal tax rate and per capita economic growth — nor between the top marginal tax rate and growth in employment, capital investment, productivity, or pretax median family incomes. Cutting taxes for the wealthy does not result in faster growth or increasing living standards. “
In truth, federal investments in education, research, and infrastructure all create jobs and long-term economic growth. Researchers have found that Medicaid, nutrition assistance, housing subsidies, tax credits and environmental protection all improve health outcomes and, subsequently, increase productivity and increase children’s educational attainment and future earnings. Then why are “conservative” Republicans cutting these federal programs? Thus, tax cuts that threaten these programs undermine the goal of our country’s prosperity. This is the goal of the ‘conservative” Republican agenda and it is changing America for the worse!
Mark S. Chapman
Editor's Note: this piece was submitted in the past to the CV but was never published.
Training and educating low-income people to find better jobs, and to start small businesses, and promoting social businesses (see Yunus Social Business at www.yunussb.com) could unleash a huge reservoir of untapped creativity. This could be an enormous driver of sustainable economic growth and strength. This could do it much better than trying to bring corporations to the U.S. by cutting corporate taxes. What company would want to prefer locating in a country that trashes its infrastructure? Businesses are attracted to locate in countries that value and grow their infrastructures. Providing real economic opportunity for the poor, and repairing our infrastructure makes a lot more sense than cutting taxes for the wealthy. We need fresh ideas to replace the stale worn out slogans and spin promoted by the current Congress.
David G. Schwartz
Editor's Note: This letter was submitted to Louisa County's paper of record, the Central Virginian, but was not printed, and has been re-posted in it’s entirety on this blog with the author's permission.
We hear it commonly said of illegal immigrants, “They broke the law. We are a nation of laws.” Oh yeah? The last time I checked, fraud, money laundering, bribery, corruption, and larceny were breaking the law. How about we wait to deport these undocumented taxpayers, business owners, and people who raise and pick our vegetables, care for our children, and clean our houses, until the following are behind bars: The CEO’s of the pharmaceutical giants who committed many of the above crimes, including public endangerment with dangerous drugs, but got off with multimillion dollar settlements (small change, just the cost of doing business)?
See Dr. Peter Gotzche’s book Deadly Medicine and Organized Crime. And what about the big banks’ CEO’s that brought the economy to its knees in 2008 by fraudulent practices but were never charged with crimes? Until they are brought to justice, maybe while we are at it, why don’t we just release from prison the young black men who are in for smoking marijuana (while many more white smokers were never arrested)?
If you are white, wealthy, and well connected, justice can be tempered with mercy, flexibility, and leniency. Far too often, if you are black, poor, “out of the loop,” or “not a member of the club,” you get the letter of the law fully enforced.
Our justice system needs a little work done on it so we can have a little more respect for the law.
Editor's Note: A version of this letter originally appeared in the February 8th edition of Louisa County's paper of record, the Central Virginian, and has been re-posted on this blog with the author's permission.
Well, Trump, his ill-advised cronies and the crass Republican Congress have put the nation through another exercise in futility—the latest, but perhaps not the last, government shutdown. The next one might occur in as little as two weeks.
The primary stumbling block to yet another continuing resolution to fund the government—since Republicans have been unable to actually pass a budget—was the DACA (Deferred Action for Children of Immigrants) program, which 90 percent of the country supports. Trump cold-bloodedly and single-handedly rescinded DACA in order to cater to his base. Despite Trump’s six-month deadline, the Republican Congress has refused to deal with DACA and would just let 800,000 Dreamers face deportation, their dreams shattered. Trump, of course, could easily solve the problem by simply reversing his decision.
The House of Representatives, in a cynical effort to force Democrats to vote with Republicans in the Senate, cruelly tied the expired CHIP (Children’s Health Insurance Program) funding to their continuing resolution bill.
Democrats finally voted to reopen the government because they not only cared about children (much like the mother in Solomon’s judgement) but because Trump irrationally rejected two bipartisan proposals that would have given him much of what he wanted for his stupid border wall (remember how effective were Hadrian’s Wall and the Great Wall of China?).
With his refusals, Trump bears the responsibility for shutting down the Government – after all, the buck stops with him.
Let’s be clear: Republicans control the White House, the House of Representatives, the Senate, and the Supreme Court. Blaming the Democrats because Republicans can’t muster the votes to govern is not going to fly with the vast majority of Americans. Trump’s base, of course, would be perfectly happy if the so-called leader of the Free World shot an immigrant in the middle of 5th Avenue while waving a Confederate Flag and cursing African and Caribbean countries in the vilest terms.
Our very own Congressman, Dave Brat, in the meantime has been all over Facebook in recent weeks, applauding these Republican dirty tricks, while assiduously avoiding his constituents, except in friendly photo-ops. He has made it abundantly clear that he would never vote for anything that represents immigration reform. He and his Tea Party ilk in the House will enable Mitch McConnell to renege on his promise to do something about DACA.
Many on the left have criticized Schumer for “caving” to McConnell, but the upshot is that CHIP has been preserved for an additional six years. For those that may be unaware, that means healthcare for 100,000 Virginia children. If you are interested in Schumer’s response to these criticisms, you can watch it right here:
Bipartisanship has been mostly dead in this country ever since Republicans took control of the Congress in 2010. They relished blocking virtually every single bill proposed by Democrats while legislating nothing of their own. Trump continues this legacy by trying to dismantle every one of President Obama’s achievements: DACA, the Affordable Care Act, the Paris Climate Accord, reigning in Wall Street, the Iranian nuclear deal – the list goes on and on. This country under the current administration is descending into chaos. Every single day I wake up thinking things cannot possibly get worse, but Trump proves me wrong.
Responsible citizens, of whatever political persuasion, must save the country from this debacle. You can help in the get-out-the-vote effort by getting off your sofa and becoming an activist for responsible government. Resist, insist, persist, and enlist. There is only one solution: go to the polls in November and vote all these miscreants in Congress out of office.
Editor’s note: this op-ed originally appeared in the January 27th edition of the Culpeper Star Exponent, and has been re-posted here with the author’s permission.
Just after the Louisa County Board of Supervisors (BOS) defeated a motion by Duane Adams, Mineral district representative, to stop wireless broadband from providing broadband access to Louisa citizens, he removed the Mineral representative from the Louisa County Broadband Authority (BBA). This is his right as the incoming supervisor.
However, according to a source inside of the BBA, Mr. Adams wants to replace the Mineral representative with a resident of the Patrick Henry district and wants the BOS to change the by-laws of the BBA to allow him to do it.
What part of representative government is being tampered with here?
The broadband authority has been extremely slow to act. This is true. However, it was founded on the principle that each of the seven voting districts would be represented by a resident of that district. The BOS correctly reasoned that since the BBA was to be countywide in scope, it should have members who could represent the interests of the entire county.
Mr. Adams would eliminate Mineral from voting representation on the BBA. For what reason? Is it because Mineral residents spoke out against his failed motion? Does he hope to derail the BBA by placing a “ringer” in the BBA? Does Patrick Henry need two votes on the BBA?
You’ve got to wonder what Mr. Adams is thinking and who he expects to serve in this county. Unless I failed to listen in my history classes, this country was founded on representative government. It appears that Mr. Adams is attempting to subvert the working of the BBA from within since he was unable to subvert it by a vote of the entire BOS.
Editor’s note: this piece originally appeared as a letter to the editor in the January 25th edition of the Central Virginian, and has been corrected to reflect which district the replacement for the Mineral representative on the Broadband Authority is from, and has been re-posted here with the author’s permission.
Reneging on a promise is never a good thing. Two years ago, the Louisa Board of Supervisors voted to fund a study for broadband for this county. Private sector carriers were unwilling to make the infrastructure investment to bring in broadband to Louisa. The board made a commitment to voters that they would address this very important issue because so many voters had reached out to them about this.
I can’t emphasize how popular this project is. The supervisors took it on because there was so much demand from their constituents. People signed petitions and made phone calls. Crowds showed up at board meetings to speak in favor of it. It is probably the single most popular project that the Louisa BOS has ever considered. As one person commented at a recent meeting. “This is the one chance we have to tell the board what we want our tax money spent on.”
People in the county don’t want broadband just to watch movies and play video games. Many, many people run small businesses or work from their homes. You can’t run a business without the internet. Parents sit in the parking lot of the library or McDonalds so their kids can do homework. People with digital health devices need to upload data. Older people have virtual doctor visits so their kids don’t have to take off a workday to drive them to the doctor. New businesses refuse to locate in the county because there is no broadband (increased unemployment). Real estate agents can’t sell properties in the county because people will not move here with bad internet options (reduced tax base).
So a broadband commission of local experts in the fields of telecommunications and business was formed to study the issue. Coverage was no small feat considering that the county is geographically huge with 511 square miles and the population is mostly spread evenly around the county.
A plan was developed by the commission and the consulting firm they hired (which had successfully developed this kind of plan for other rural areas). The plan consisted of building 180 foot towers around the county so that private Internet Service Providers (ISPs) could mount wireless transmitters and receivers and offer connection plans to citizens. Covering the initial infrastructure cost would encourage private carriers to build on the towers.
The last step was to fund the construction of the towers ($1.2 million) which finally happened at the December 2017 Supervisor’s meeting. In January, new Supervisor Duane Adams moved to defund the towers, breaking existing construction contracts (at a great cost to the county). The board was voting to break its promise to the citizens to bring broadband one month after it passed the funding. Thankfully, the motion failed.
We should thank the board members who have consistently supported broadband - Fitzgerald Barnes (Patrick Henry), Willie Gentry (Cuckoo), Tommy Barlow (Mountain Road) and also new supervisor Bob Babyok (Green Springs).
The three supervisors who voted AGAINST finishing these projects were Troy Wade (Louisa District) , Duane Adams (Mineral District covering Lake Anna and Yanceyville), and Toni Williams (Jackson District covering Bumpass and Locust Creek). Don’t forget their names because they will be up for reelection in the future.
The people of Louisa County have spoken on this issue – loud and clear. They want the county to help deliver this valuable and NECESSARY service to county residents. Listen to them!
Editor’s note: this piece originally appeared as a letter to the editor in the January 25th edition of the Central Virginian, and has been re-posted here with the author’s permission.
Safeguarding lives and properties in Louisa County is “good government.” But the 2016 Louisa County Board of Supervisors’ decision to remove the county from the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) is not. The issue needs revisiting.
Here’s what the county lost as a result of the 2016 decision. There are no NFIP insurance policies or renewals available to any county resident; and, for high-risk flood areas, no federal disaster assistance for damage caused by a flood, no federal grants or loans for acquisition or construction of buildings, and no federal mortgage insurance or loan guarantees.
There is no proven long term substitute for the NFIP. Many mortgage lenders only accept NFIP coverage for high risk properties. Although private/for-profit insurers offer alternatives to the NFIP, the unreliability of the private market is the reason the NFIP was created. Private policies are still a relatively small portion of the market and there may not be enough funds collected from premiums to cover disasters and some policies are not backed by the state guaranty fund for bankruptcy.
Flooding remains one of the most deadliest and costliest natural disasters in the nation. The general rule of thumb for flood insurance is that if your home experiences rain, it can experience a flood. At least 25 percent of NFIP flood claims come from low and moderate risk areas across the country.
There were two main drivers of the 2016 decision–the perception that FEMA standards amounted to overregulation and the inaccuracy of FEMA’s maps depicting the county’s high-risk flood zones.
Updated FEMA standards govern all development and activities in a high-risk flood zone called a floodplain. Those standards ensure that both residential and commercial development is regulated by special permit. During the 2016 board meetings, prominent landowners and developers, including agricultural and timber interests, spoke out against these standards as being federal government “overreach.” The board’s decision seems to have been influenced primarily by this view without considering longer-term impacts. Based on the board’s meeting videos, at no time during the 2016 meetings did board members discuss or debate publicly the issues and implications involved. Some supervisors admitted that they needed more time to digest the subject, their comments ignored.
Inexplicably, the board of supervisors enacted a new flood ordinance that essentially provides no specific floodplain regulations at all. Construction and repair of habitable buildings are permitted if in compliance only with standard state/county building codes. All other uses of the land are effectively allowed without a building permit. This failure to regulate is a costly mistake. Any land development in a floodplain can significantly affect water flows and drainage patterns over time, increasing flood hazards.
The other key concern, now overtaken by events, was FEMA’s lack of precision data (elevation data) in mapping floodplain boundaries. But FEMA recently produced more accurate maps using updated technical tools that measure the needed information.
Why is Louisa County the only county in Virginia without even the minimum national standards for flood protection? This short-sighted decision should be reversed.
Editor’s note: this piece originally appeared as a letter to the editor in the January 18th edition of the Central Virginian, and has been re-posted here with the author’s permission.
Tyler Adams, in his January 11 letter to the editor, claims that some of us are unaware of how government operates. To imply that the citizens of the county don’t know where their tax dollars go is condescending. Of course there’s no “underground vault” where the government hoards services. It’s patronizing to assume we’re so uninformed.
Regarding taxation, Adams proposes that instead of raising funds by tax “coercion,” we can meet our needs through “voluntary exchange” transactions, in which buyers and sellers freely engage in market exchanges – buying food or clothing, for example.
Adams claims taxation is also a transaction, but different in that taxation is involuntary and we are at the mercy of politicians who select the services we receive. Perhaps he forgets that it’s the public servants we elect, who – collaborating with other elected officials – decide by majority how to use taxpayer funds to best support the community.
Governments have a right to levy taxes. And there are solid reasons why we should pay them. Local taxes fund schools, parks, athletic facilities, fire and police, and all functions of local county government. At the state and federal level, taxes are collected for a multitude of services necessary for the economic, safety and social health of the state and its citizens, including national defense.
We are all taxed for services from which we receive no benefit. Taxes are not menu items. If they were, consider these examples:
• I have no children, so I have no vested interest in the school system. Suppose the thousands of us in the county, who don’t have children, decide not to pay taxes for education. Let those who have children in school foot every penny.
• I never drive on Rt. 33, so I don’t want to pay state tax for paving and maintaining this route. Let others who use the road pay for it through increased taxes or high tolls.
• I decide to pay my county taxes for police and fire service. You, my neighbor, elect not to. My house catches fire and the flames move to your house. The fire department extinguishes my house fire but not yours. Sorry.
The same principle applies to funding the county’s broadband towers, which will provide the infrastructure for internet providers. The taxes we will pay for the towers are not only necessary, they’re essential to obtaining the service so many
of us need.
Expenditures from taxation, whether we benefit from them or not, ensure that our county remains economically viable and socially responsible.
Adam’s letter may arise from a desire to install fiber optics, a more robust method of delivering internet service. But fiber will not be installed in the county in the foreseeable future. The population is not large enough. If there were a business case for bringing in fiber, service providers like Verizon and Comcast would already be investing the tens of millions of dollars required for installation.
The board has already voted to construct the towers. Consider this issue resolved and move on.
Editor’s note: this piece originally appeared as a letter to the editor in the January 18th edition of the Central Virginian, and has been re-posted in it’s entirety with the author’s permission.
With the New York Times citing a White House aide, saying that the Drumpf spent Saturday frustrated and angry, obsessively watching videos of him bashing President Obama’s leadership during the 2013 shutdown. Other sources are saying that he is absolutely livid because he hasn’t been able to leave for Merde-A-Lago, where he had planned on marking the first anniversary of his inauguration with a celebratory fundraiser at his resort.
With tickets starting at $100,000 a pair, enough money to pay for dinner and a photograph with the president, or for just a few thousand dollars more ($250,000) a couple could participate in a roundtable with his orangeness. This event was hosted by Ronna Romney McDaniel, the chairwoman of the Republican National Committee, and the casino mogul Steve Wynn, the RNC’s now deposed finance chairman and reportedly to benefit his presidential campaign and the RNC.
Just in case you were wondering, McDaniel’s maiden name, Romney, was nowhere to be found anywhere on the written invitations that were sent out, since the Drumpf has such testy relations with her uncle Mitt Romney. And since he was unable to travel to Florida this weekend to attend his own fundraiser, he sent his sons, Uday and Qusay … ahem Donald Jr. and Eric to represent him.
While this administration is attempting to portray his inability to attend this fundraiser as some kind of noble sacrifice since he’s voluntarily forgoing a hard earned weekend of schmoozing and golfing to take care of the “peoples business” in Washington, the fact that Congress has done nothing over the weekend to keep the government open, makes that claim hard to swallow.
There's also speculation that another reason he’s staying in Washington, is to avoid any public back lash over the optics of attending a lavish party just after the Government has been shutdown. Although it must be said in all fairness, since when has the Drumpf ever given a rat’s ass about any appearances of impropriety.
Perhaps a better explanation can be found in his well know unwillingness to pay for anything when he can get some other chumps to pay for it, like his traveling on the taxpayer’s dime for his many golfing vacations.
And since this weekend gala was in fact a fundraiser, and federal law clearly prohibits him from using government resources like Air Force One for that purpose, perhaps a more pressing reason was that the Drumpf and his family would have to pay for their flight down to Florida out of their own pockets.
But just in case there was any doubt about this administrations and his families cluelessness about appearances, Eric Drumpf went on Fox News shortly before filling in for his father at his fundraiser to defend the Administrations policies. Saying “I think it's a good thing for us,” expecting people to believe that the public would blame Democrats for the paralysis in Washington, and for the forced furlough of hundreds of thousands of federal employees.
Apparently convinced that the American people are goldfish swimming in a bowl of amnesia, totally oblivious to the possibility that they far more likely to recognize that Congressional Republicans took both the 8.9 million children enrolled in CHIP program and the 690,000 DACA enrollees hostage, then had the nerve to tell Congressional Democrats that they have to choose between them.
Or that Congressional Democrats have rightly chosen not to negotiate with kidnappers And are more likely to blame the Republican controlled Congress and White House for failing to reach a deal to fund the government.
Meanwhile the Drumpf’s notion of being a leader consists of sending out clueless tweets like this: “Democrats are holding our Military hostage over their desire to have unchecked illegal immigration. Can’t let that happen!”
To changing the White House phone message to: “Thank you for calling the White House. Unfortunately, we cannot answer your call today, because Congressional Democrats are holding government funding, including funding for our troops and other national security priorities, hostage to an unrelated immigration debate. Due to this obstruction, the government is shut down. In the meantime, you can leave a comment for the president at www.whitehouse.gov/contact. We look forward to taking your calls as soon as the government reopens.”
Along with campaign … I mean propaganda ads like this:
There’s a lot of talk and misinformation coming out of the self-righteous and fear-mongering Republicans that the Social Security Program is in trouble. I’ve heard it from Dave Brat at a town meeting at Moving Meadows in Culpeper last year.
Please stop calling Social Security an “Entitlement Program.” That’s Republican lingo for government handout. Social Security is an insurance program into which individuals and companies contribute (6.2% of earned income each) and self-employed individuals (12.4% ). The current cap on Social Security taxable income is $127,200 for fiscal year 2017.
Once, your earnings go above that limit, you are no longer subject to paying social security withholding tax. Please calculate the amount of social security tax that could collected from a Wall Street investor who earned $100,000,000.00 last year if there were no cap on Social Security earnings – an additional $6,192,113.60. Is this fair?
Should these wealthy people contribute more to those less fortunate (the children, the disabled, the Vets with PTSD, mothers with chronic diseases) than the minimum that a cap of $127,200 allows? Where is the concept of the “Common Good”? Virginia is not a state; it is a Commonwealth: the title means we hold values and wealth in common with every other citizen in this polity.
Dennis F. Verhoff
Editor’s note: this piece originally appeared as a letter to the editor in the January 18th print edition of the Culpeper Star Exponent, and has yet to appear on-line, and has been re-posted here with the author’s permission.
Editor's Note: This is from the 2015 Blue Louisa Archives
Back in 2015, Blue Louisa outlined a project to take control of villages, towns, cities and counties was being managed through an ALEC spin off, known as the American City County Exchange (ACCE) and coordinated through ALEC state chairs.
Here in Virginia the person best know as man behind the ALEC curtain is House Speaker Bill Howell, who coincidentally was the national chair of their effort to bring back wayward corporations who fled when their participation was publicly exposed several years ago, along with Louisa’s own Pat Mullins, the soon to be retiring Chair of the Virginia Republican Party.
Like ALEC, the American City County Exchange (ACCE) offers corporate America a direct conduit into the policy making process of city councils and municipalities. Where lobbyists acting on behalf of major businesses are able to propose resolutions and argue for new profit-enhancing legislation in front of elected city officials, who will then return to their council chambers and seek to implement the proposals.
Just in case your inclined to think that claims like this are little removed from tin foil hat wearing conspiracy theories, consider that ALEC’s own website proudly announced this past July that according to the Culpeper Star Exponent, Jon Russell, director of the American City County Exchange, had just been sworn in as a Culpeper city councilman.
While it’s true that one isolated example of their involvement isn’t sufficient evidence of a trend, you should be aware that Culpepper has become a hotbed of Republican activism, and that their local paper the Culpepper Star Exponent has been giving them an unusual amount of exposure. So much exposure, that one would be tempted to call them fluffers for the cause.
For example, take this thinly disguised op-ed, dated November 13th 2014 by Kara Kerwin the president of The Center for Education Reform calling for increased local support for charter schools.
Given the long standing conservative history of our own local paper, The Central Virginian, most letters to the editor from local conservatives should be taken with a very large grain of salt. But this letter from Christina Shaw of Culpeper a few days later also calling for local support of charter schools was unusual enough that it should set off anyone’s BS radar.
Exactly where Peter Ferrell fits into this picture of promoting charter schools is a matter of conjecture, but the best guess is that he and his parties support for this innocent sounding proposal to allow local school boards to set their own schedules will follow their usual pattern of stealth legislation, with some kind if hidden provision being added to the bill giving local school boards even more autonomy.
When it comes to making such sweeping educational changes the smart thing to do if you going to create legislature based on a hidden agenda is to proceed incrementally, implementing a little “reform” here and some more there, using the “frog in the slowly boiling pot of water” technique to gradually raise the temperature before anyone realizes what’s happening then unveil your true intentions.
In the aftermath of Republicans victories last year, and the General Assemblies past history of this kind of legislative behavior don’t be surprised to see them think they have mandate, and go for broke and give school boards the “freedom” to authorize charter schools. A move that would virtually guarantee that school boards would be headed for a collision course with the county and city boards over the economics of education.
Like most of his fellow Republicans, Ferrell supports the notion of a free market world where government doesn’t interfere with business freedom to dictate what kind of education our children should have. If you haven’t noticed this national trend before, charter schools are increasingly being imposed on communities – either by legislative fiat or well-engineered PR campaigns.
This business at any cost mentality dovetails nicely with the goals of the Christian home-school movement where supporters of evangelical home-schooling are demanding increasingly greater levels of “separation” from the Secular World.
As far as these educational charlatans are concerned the home schooled religious right are the best kind of useful pawns, people who have willing allowed their energy and paranoid hatred of “sinful” America to be exploited, enabling these profiteers along with the GOP to launch a religious, social, and economic crusade against their own country.
Speaking of the devil, or as one of the local Democrats like to call him Smiley, it’s telling that when the subject of ALEC came up in a conversation after last April’s Clown Hall meeting which Ferrell, Senator Garrett and Reeves hosted in Louisa, he immediately chimed “I’m not a member of ALEC, my wife won’t let me spend that much time away from home.”
Too bad no one thought to ask him, “so why are you following Speaker Howell’s and ALEC’s agenda so closely?” For the rest of us a better question might be who is ALEC and what do they really want?
Another example of how corporate interests are trying to take over local legislatures was in 2014 in Chesterfield County, when Ben Knotts, the director of coalitions for another one of ALEC’s allies, Americans for Prosperity a national conservative organization founded by billionaire brothers David and Charles Koch spoke at the County Board meeting urging county residents to oppose a 4.5 cent increase in the counties proposed budget.
Prior to this meeting, AFP had been robo-calling Chesterfield residents, urging them to oppose this increase in the county’s proposed budget.
When the people attending this meeting publicly called him out as a representative of the Koch Brothers, and not a local citizen who has legitimate interests in the affairs of Chesterfield County he immediately retreated to the standard Republican tactic of bullying a local resident, Reportedly this confrontation was so bad that a sheriff’s deputy had to run over ran to break it up.
By not participating in local affairs and elections we are in essence giving corporations and other vested interests free reign in taking over our government at the county and city level. If we continue to allow our local counties and city politicians to represent organizations like the American City and Council Exchange along with Americans for Prosperity interests and not yours, this will happen in county after county and in city after city.
The only way you can stop this from happening is to pay close attention to what is going on at the local level, participate in local government and politics and vote the worst of them out of office as they come up for re-election.
In marked contrast to years past, when bills, particularly progressive ones died quietly and by unrecorded voice votes. The General Assembly’s committee’s proceedings (and votes) are now being officially recorded for the first time.
And while Republican’s controlling the General Assembly would have you believe that they are finally responding to a long standing public outcry for transparency in how the Commonwealth’s legislative bodies conduct their business.
Another interpretation is that after being publicly shamed last year by the efforts of Progress Virginia, a nonprofit dedicated to furthering progressive causes, who started doing what the General Assembly has refused to do for years: video recording, live-streaming and archiving committee hearings, on their website; EyesOnRichmond.org.
This legislative session, despite having slim majorities in both the House and the Senate, Republicans in the Virginia’s General Assembly are determined to keep their thumbs firmly pressed down on the scale ensuring absolute control over which bills make it to the floor.
So expect to see many progressive bills like this, and like these die in plain sight in these committees, on federal holiday's like Martin Luther King day and in the days to come.
Where despite the heroic efforts of women from around the state, including Invisible Louisa, should there shouldn’t be much expectation that Senate Joint Resolution No. 4 (SJ4), House Joint Resolution No. 2 (HJ2), or House Joint Resolution No. 4 (HJ4) for the state of Virginia to Ratify the Equal Rights Amendment to the United States Constitution have any chance of making it out of these stacked committees.
Unlike years past; where ERA died because of the rampant sexism and misogyny and visceral reactions against “uppity women,” and their white male privilege being threatened, it will die because they are scared. Their near defeat in the House of Delegates last year awoke something deep within their reptilian …. ahem authoritarian brains.
Where at a subconscious level they understand that their entire ideology and rationale for existence is being challenged, and after years of blind faith support from unengaged and willfully blind voters, they are from all appearances reacting like tyrannical dictators to the fact they have been exposed as populist frauds and tools of their benefactors, and are willing to do anything to avoid coming to terms with that reality.
The first signs of their desperation will start on Martin Luther King day, where you should expect to see many important bills to die long before they reach the floor of either chamber. Like how SB 5 died by a party line Senate subcommittee vote to great fanfare.
One measure of depths of the Republican’s hypocrisy is how 7th Congressional District Congressman Dave Brat took time off from his busy schedule to show his “support” for the Senate Committee on Courts of Justice hearing after they killed Universal Background Checks for gun sales in Virginia.
Nor should anyone be surprised to see the Republican controlled Senate vote YES along party lines for SB 48, SB 372, and SB 493, all of which would allow blanket carry of concealed weapons in school and churches in the days to come, or for the House of Delegates to follow suite with similar bills.
Of greater concern for everyone in the Commonwealth, and the nation is a stealthy campaign backed by the Koch brothers, and other aspiring oligarchs along with their affiliates at the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) for a convention of the states, for the purpose of rewriting the constitution. Their dark money contributions are why many Republican controlled states over the past few years have passed legislation calling for a convention of the states.
So far, 28 state legislative bodies have already passed a call for a states convention, and four more Republican controlled states are on the verge of voting on this issue: South Carolina, Kentucky, Montana, and Idaho. Virginia, Maine, and Minnesota are other battleground states that the Koch's, Mercer's, and other oligarchs are pushing hard to pass this. And they are trying to justify this under the deceptive camouflage of enacting a Balanced Budget Amendment to the Constitution.
When even a staunch conservative like the late Antonin Scalia admits that a convention cannot be limited to one topic, and a visit to the website of Convention of the States Project, one of the most prominent organizations in favor of the convention, reveals that it would be nothing more than device for political and economic sabotage.
It's clear that by limiting a constitutional convention to radical Tenth Amendment solutions would for all practical purposes eliminate the government’s ability at the state and federal level to control any private enterprise. And if passed it would represent a return to Gilded Age economics coupled with a modern day version of the Confederate States of America.
Nor is it any coincidence that here in Virginia, Republican State Senator John A. Cosgrove, Jr. has introduced SJ 11, calling for "United States Constitution; application for a convention of the states; balancing the federal budget. Makes application to the United States Congress to call a constitutional convention for the purpose of proposing an amendment to the United States Constitution that pertains to the subject of balancing the federal budget."
Or that Republican State Senator, Emmett W. Hanger, Jr. has introduced a similar bill SJ 26 with virtually identical language, accompanied by Republican Senator Mark J. Peake’s SJ 31, which codifies the above by calling for the selection of Interstate commissioners and committee procedures.
For those readers living in Louisa County, it should noted that Senator Peake, who represents the most Republican portion of Louisa County, and unless they happen live in his district, they shouldn’t expect anything other than the usual Americans for Prosperity (AFP) & ALEC talking points should they ask him why he has introduced this bill.
Meanwhile over on the House side there is; HJ49 introduced by Republican Delegate Marc Cole, which also establishes how Interstate commissioners are selected and committee procedures are conducted. And it should be noted that in years past, his committee has long been known as an elephant’s graveyard where bills go to die.
Since Cole makes no bones about his role as the House’s designated hit man for progressive legislature, and the Party's determination to push their hard line ideology, I wouldn’t expect Louisa’s freshman Delegate, John McGuire III, or any his legislative assistants (804) 698-1056 to deviate from the Party line on this issue.
Keep in mind that we are seeing take place in the General Assembly this year and indeed with the radicalization of our own Louisa County Board of Supervisors is not happening in isolation. Collectively their actions represent the end stages of a decades long effort by individuals like the Koch Brothers, and organizations they and other oligarchs sponsor to shift and weaponize cultural, political and economic narratives.
Efforts which have been conducted in secret by deep pocketed, dark money groups like; Americans for Prosperity (AFP), the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), and their recent county/city level spin-off the American City County Exchange (ACCE) who are determined to make permanent legislative changes in their sponsors favor at every level, and are currently on the cusp of making their dreams a dystopian reality for all of us.
I would recommend that readers of this blog take a look at this revised piece submitted to our local paper, the Central Virginian back in April 4th, 2011 and ask yourself have things improved or gotten worse?
Blast from the Past; April 7th, 2011
Confused about what's happening around the country? — Don't be.
Take a closer look at the actions of organizations like the American Legislative Exchange Council, who are at the center of a well-developed process supported by wealthy oligarchs like the Koch brothers, and hundreds of corporations and business associations shaping legislation in state legislatures across the country.
The definitely aren't the bipartisan non-profit 501 (C) (4) association for like minded state legislators they claim to be. The are heavily funded by corporations and lobbyists, and not by member contributions. While mounting evidence shows that their decidedly pro corporate "model legislation" continues to be adopted in Republican controlled states.
ALEC, who is obliged by tax law to work for charitable — not private — purposes, works by exploiting a weakness in most states legislative process. Only seven states have full-time state legislatures; six convene every other year; and in 38 states, legislators have no paid staff.
So if you're a state politician with limited time and resources, ALEC conveniently steps in to provide one-stop boilerplate solutions for your legislative needs. This year, thousands of bills will be considered by the 50 state legislatures, and ~ ¼ of them will become law. Collectively, they will affect the lives of millions of Americans.
Through the work of organizations like ALEC and National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) the goal is to standardize –– through legislation –– interlocking laws aligned at the federal, state, and local level which benefit their sponsors. And conservative Republicans have been working behind the scenes, and presumably harmoniously to effect these ‘necessary’ changes.
At the state level, ALEC is the designated hitter for corporate interests. During the 2009/10 legislative session they helped to develop 826 state bills, with 115 of them becoming law. These bills do not represent the interests of most Americans.
In 2010 Republicans picked up more than 700 state seats and control of 25 state legislatures. According to GOP strategists the money and power of public-employee unions were the reason why they only took 12 governorships vs. 20. “We are never going to win most of these states until we can do something about those unions," said one key operative.
Top Conservatives are determined to break union-to-Democrat-to-union power as they are doing in Wisconsin. According to Edwin Bender, executive director of the National Institute on Money in State Politics, "Corporations can implement their agendas very effectively using ALEC.”
Another Conservative organization, the Club for Growth, also backed by the billionaire Koch brother’s has an ingenious strategy, only funding candidates who agree to sign pledges not to raise taxes and to oppose regulations of any kind, particularly those dealing with environmental and energy regulation.
In return, they're given enough funds to swamp reasonable candidates on either side of the ailse in local state and congressional elections. Over the past decade, this has resulted in a dramatic ultra conservative shift within the Republican Party to the point where even Reagan wouldn't recognize it.
Through organizations like ALEC, NCSL, Club for Growth and dark money super PAC’s, Republicans are systematically engaging in a coordinated effort across state lines to turn this country at every level legally and permanently conservative. This is a mafia like activity being conducted across state lines, and in a just world would be investigated under existing RICO statutes.
Republicans are not concerned about jobs, or even debt. What they want is a weak captive government, despising practically everything it does, except promoting business interests, and would have us return to an era when the Robber Barons ruled and local and Federal governments had to subsist off excise (whiskey) taxes.
Just as Republicans at the state level, particularly their take no prisoners Tea Party brethren are increasingly advocating for “States Rights,” there is a similar movement within their ranks promoting “local control” especially of school boards. And if you wade deep enough into this muck, you will find an offshoot of ALEC – The American Legislative Exchange Council called the American City County Exchange (ACCE) somewhere at the bottom of the ooze.
The question readers of the Central Virginian should be asking themselves, how much longer do they intend to allow Republicans to legislatively codify their masters pursuit of privatizing their profits, while socializing their losses on their backs?
Editor's note: This piece originally appeared in the April 4th, 2011 edition of the Central Virginian, and as my intellectual property, has been modified exclusively for this blog, and I welcome other progressive blogs, websites and Facebook pages to distribute it as they see fit.
A great awakening is emerging in America. People from the great diversity of our national experience are coming together because, as a society, we have more common interests than in those that divide us. Democracy has been breaking out all over Virginia as well, and Culpeper is no exception.
Ever since the Women’s March on Washington, last January 21st, we have seen the growth of new progressive activism across the Commonwealth. More than one hundred grass roots organizations have been formed, including the Culpeper Persisters, the Madison Huddle, and Fauquier Indivisible. The Persisters, in particular, have had an impressive number of accomplishments in just one year. Check them out on Facebook.
In Virginia, we saw an explosion of Democratic Party candidates in House of Delegate races where there had never been any competition, including right here with our very own Ben Hixon and Tristan Shields. They offered distinct alternatives to Republican incumbents Nick Freitas and Michael Webert. Freitas blew off his own constituents to set the foundations for his Tea Party campaign against reactionary Corey Stewart to oppose Senator Tim Kaine. Hixon’s vigorous campaign against this cynical abandonment of citizens of the 30th District resulted in his getting more votes than any other Democratic candidate in many years.
Energetic Democratic candidates across the state, particularly women, provided a magnetic core around which people could rally and openly express their commitment to liberty and freedom for all. They came from a diverse range of backgrounds, but all spoke to common issues of improving lives, creating jobs, providing real healthcare, solving the opioid crisis, legalizing cannabis, enhancing education, handling traffic problems, and promoting rural internet connectivity. These were serious and pragmatic neighbors standing up and offering their talents to the community. And, they won. Only the luck of the draw kept them from overturning the musty, reactionary traditions that had mummified Richmond.
In our 7th Congressional District, Democrats Helen Alli, Diane Fraser, Abigail Spanberger, and Dan Ward are vying to challenge our incumbent congressman, Dave Brat – a creature of the now-ousted Steve Bannon and his Alt-Right cronies – who has noticeably avoided his constituents by hiding behind friendly Facebook photo opportunities in recent weeks. After touting himself as an economist, a fiscal conservative, and, as usual, a seminary graduate, he voted with the rest of the irresponsible Republicans for the biggest ever tax bill giveaway to the wealthy and huge corporations, increasing the national debt by over one and a half trillion dollars over the next ten years. His vote was neither good economics nor charitable to our grandchildren, who will have to pay the Republican piper down the road. He needs to be retired this November.
More than one hundred interested citizens gathered on the second floor of the A.P. Hill building at the corner of Main & Davis on the evening of January 4th to watch the election of an entirely new slate of leaders for the Culpeper County Democratic Committee for 2018-2019. The new team is headed by the very same Ben Hixon and Tristan Shields, who campaigned for an open and transparent, inclusive, robust and activist program Everyone is welcome and encouraged to attend the next meeting on January 25th.
Be a part of this awakening. We should not fear arousing the Alt-Right. Let’s allow them to show the rest of us how disturbed and out of touch with reality they really are. We must not apologize for being Democrats in Culpeper, but shout it from the rooftops. Most importantly, make your vote count in the quiet of the ballot box on Tuesday, November 6th.
Editor’s Note: This has re-posted with the author’s permission, and originally appeared in the January 14th print edition of the Culpeper Star Exponent, and appears on-line here, and here on Blue Louisa.
A new year holds the promise of a new beginning and positive change. If you make one resolution this year, resolve to vote. Recently in Virginia elections, we have been reminded that every single vote counts. In one House of Delegates race the difference between the two major candidates was around 100 votes. In another it was a tie with over 11,000 votes on each side!
Our history of voting rights is fascinating. White males who own property have been able to vote since the early days of the United States. Different states have had changing laws. Some let women who owned property vote and then took that right away. Some let freed slaves vote and then took that right away.
In Virginia changes in voting rights have come from amendments to the U.S. Constitution. The 15th amendment of 1870 said that voting rights could not be denied based on race, color, or previous condition of servitude. Voting rights for women were included in the 19th amendment to the U.S. Constitution in 1920. However the conservative southern Virginia General Assembly did not ratify the 19th amendment until 1952. In Virginia a poll tax was put in place in 1902 and not banned until 1964 by the 24th amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Prior to that if you were too poor to pay the tax, you were not allowed to vote. If your voting rights have been restricted check to see if they have been restored. It happens more often than you think that rights were restored many years ago and the person simply does not know. Take the time to find out and if not apply to get them back. No matter who you are, people literally died so you could have the right to vote. Respect their sacrifice enough to exercise that right at every opportunity.
As a country we perform poorly in voter turnout when compared with other developed countries and come in around #14. In November 2016 only about 58% of registered voters turned out to vote while other countries hit near 90%. In Virginia in November 2017 only 46% of registered voters bothered to go to the polls. We can do better. Let’s show the country how a record turnout is done in Virginia on November 6, 2018 and start with Louisa County!
The founders of our country envisioned a participatory democracy and Virginia has a very short history of allowing everyone to take part. So this year resolve to participate by voting. Maintaining freedom requires your effort. Find out who is on your ballot ahead of time and what their platform is. Make an informed choice. Take your child or a friend with you when you go to your polling place. Vote in the primaries. Vote for your local offices like town council, school board, and board of supervisor. Vote for your U.S. Representative and your U.S. Senator. Bea voter, get your sticker, and have your voice heard. Mark it on your calendar right now and make this a New Year’s resolution that you keep.
Editor's Note: A different version of this letter originally appeared in the January 4th edition of Louisa County's paper of record, the Central Virginian, and has been reposted on this blog with the author's permission.
Make no mistake about it: “Conservative” Republicans voted in favor of their tax plan because their wealthy campaign donors required it. Their tax plan doesn’t “conserve” our economy… it weakens it! It doesn’t “conserve” equality… it widens inequality! And it doesn’t “conserve” our national debt… it increases the national debt by $1,500,000,000,000 over the next decade. And how do these Republicans convince their gullible middle class “Conservative” voting followers to support their tax plan? Myths, myths and more myths….
The “Conservative” Republican manure being spread to promote their tax plan spins around the myth that foreign corporations are taxed at lower rates than US corporations, the myth that tax cuts on big corporations and the wealthy will create more jobs in America (trickle down economics), and the myth that tax cuts will provide incentives for small businesses to invest and create more jobs. History and corporate nature have proven these claims to be myths.
Big corporations already have so much money that (thanks to Citizen’s United) they can now fund huge campaigns for Congressional Representatives so that once elected they will channel public money in their direction. Americans should understand that when voting for a Republican they are voting for a Representative of big corporations of whom many shareholders are foreigners. The additional trillion dollars in tax cuts will only raise their corporate executives pay and result in decreasing investments in American education, healthcare, the environment and jobs…. The “Conservative” Republican tax plan doesn’t trickle down as history showed during the tax cuts of Reagan era economics. During this era, salaries of the middle class actually dropped and families needed two incomes to survive. With the “conservative” Republican tax plan the middle class will have less income because they’ll be paying more for health care, quality education, clean air and water, food…. The “conservative” Republican tax plan won’t change most of small businesses because they already pay the lowest corporate tax rate. In fact, the tax plan will make it easier for big corporations to under- cut local small companies and thus force them out of business.
The “conservative” Republican tax plan primarily benefits the wealthy 1% who already own 40% of the total wealth in America… the middle class is disappearing. To believe otherwise is the mythology intended by Republicans to confuse and divide us as a nation. We no longer have a democracy in America founded upon the principles of “for the people and by the people” but an engineered take over of our elections by “Dark Money” from the wealthy 1% and by a Congressional gerrymandered electorate which is kept divided, politically uneducated and/or misguided by corporate owned media myths and deliberate lies. “Conservative” Republicans have lied to the American people about the long term impact their tax plan will have on the middle class (what’s left of it). Their tax plan is an immoral scam; so remember this the next time you are tempted to vote for them.
Mark S. Chapman
Editor's Note: A different version of this op-ed originally appeared in the January 4th edition of Louisa County's paper of record, the Central Virginian, and has been re-posted on this blog with the author's permission.
David McCullough, in his excellent biography of John Adams, whose ideas were enshrined in the Constitution, discusses how the founding fathers constructed their vision of government. One of the seminal ideas to the balance of power of the three branches of government was the conviction that the country would be ruled by laws of reason. They rebelled against a government that was capriciously ruled by the monarchy and the oligarchs of the East India and Virginia Companies, and they sought something different.
Each subsequent generation accepted the ideal that America was a country of laws, without fear or favor, not a country subject to whims and fads of the moment. In recent months we have witnessed a stunning abdication of commitment by government to the ideal that America is a country of laws and that each man stands equally before the law. Donald Trump’s attempts to derail the Russian collusion investigation are an example of this. In May, Trump fired FBI Director Comey because Comey would not abrogate his duties and responsibilities under the Constitution for a pledge of personal loyalty to Trump.
Today, every effort is being made to criticize, deride, undermine and compromise Special Prosecutor Mueller’s investigation. The Republicans, in strident chorus, declare that Mueller should be fired. This is in marked contrast to the seven different hearings/investigations that consumed Congress over Benghazi, or the thousand days of Kenneth Starr’s investigation of Bill Clinton’s transgressions. The hypocrisy is appalling.
Trump criticizes his own judicial and intelligence departments and organizations that the taxpayers have paid good money for, over decades. Suddenly, in his ill-informed opinion, they are not satisfactory. After firing the leadership, his latest target is the whole of the FBI, demeaning its professionalism and patriotism. If America’s top law enforcement agency is deemed inadequate, to whom do we turn for justice, the irrational whims of Donald Trump?
Just wait. In the coming months, if unchecked, you will see a systematic dismantling of the laws that protect our democracy: Voting rights, the social safety net, healthcare, education – all will be tossed on the rubbish heap in the Republicans’ flagrant attempts to turn our country into a Russian-style oligarchy. Consider also that laws against emoluments, pederasty, sexual harassment, the dealing by civilians with foreign governments, will be ignored with abandon, and the picture gets even darker.
But, there are even more areas of concern, it is becoming clear that this Administration’s judicial appointees are woefully inadequate and are picked solely for their loyalty to Donald Trump’s ideas of justice. Appointees, such as Matthew Petersen, are showing up completely bereft of any judicial knowledge or experience. This incompetence taints all nominees and the ideal of commitment to the law.
Early on, Trump showed no respect for the judicial branch of the government. He criticized the ethnicity of a judge in a case in which his assets were involved. As a businessman, he sued the contractors he stiffed, using the courts as a billy club, not an instrument of justice. Joe Arpaio’s pardon was an outrage. The Republican handling of the Supreme Court vacancy leading to Gorsuch’s appointment was a complete travesty. The list goes on and on, but only highlights that this country is fast becoming a nation without laws and without order, which undercuts the very foundations upon which our country was built.
What to do? Give up hope, and just hunker down in our own private little worlds, and hope that by some miracle, things will get better? No, it will be far better to follow the example of the women of this country who rebelled against the very idea of everything that Trump stands for when they marched to Washington the day after his inauguration. Out of this came the “Indivisible” movement that has galvanized grass roots efforts to start changing politics at the local level, including the Culpeper Persisters right here in our own community.
The recent elections in Virginia that turned the House of Delegates upside down gives us hope that we can sweep the miscreants out of the House of Representatives in 2018 and return the nation to democracy in 2020, if not sooner. It will be hard work. Don’t sit this one out. Resist, insist, persist, enlist.
Editors Note: This has been reposted with the author's permission, and originally appeared in the December 30th print edition of the Culpeper Star Exponent, and is only available online on-line here, and here.
For those of you who weren’t able to attend this past Monday’s Board of Supervisors meeting, you missed one of the most entertaining meetings in years Where according to our local paper, the Central Virginian, in a “hotly contested 4-3” vote, the Board of Supervisors approved a contract to build six wireless towers and two co-locations which would extend high-speed internet service across the county.
The six towers and two co-locations approved by the board of supervisors, together with a seventh proposed tower at Twin Oaks Community, for broadband internet service in the shaded areas on the map.
Well that’s certainly one way to characterize it, although like many of their stories, they got the basic facts correct, yet somehow managed to overlook the nuances and background details which turned this meeting into an exercise in Kabuki theater. Starting with the public comments period, where constituents spoke for the Broadband project and against it.
Where they minimized the fact that there were twice as many people speaking for the Broadband project as were against it, and that several of those speaking against it appeared to be reading from the same script. Particularly Jim Ogg and Supervisor elect Duane Adams who did everything they could to inject ambiguity into the discussion.
Like Ogg’s misleading claims about the uncertainty of the future of Broadband in light of the FCC's recent ruling against Net Neutrality, along with unsubstantiated claims that wireless technology is not "robust" enough to meet customer’s bandwidth needs, to asking the board to take a "pause" before making their decision.
Although for outright chutzpah, Duane Adams claims that the Board approving the towers now, rather than until next year, when he would be sworn in amounted to making "political" decision” is a whopper that will be hard for anyone top. Perhaps expecting the Board and the public to forget that’s exactly what happened during their December 2015 meeting when the Board was discussing whether to fund the Broadband project.
Where they voted to “postpone” making that decision until January 2016, where presumably the addition of newly elected supervisor Tony Williams would alter the outcome of their vote. A decision which incidentally went 5-2 for approving $1.1 million for the Broadband towers, with Troy Wade and Williams voting against it.
During the public comments period, John Koren, who like Mr. Ogg spent his career working in telecommunications, pointed out that the “technical problems” being raised by Ogg were nothing more than red herrings, since the wireless technology which this Broadband project is based on is constantly changing, and claims which might have been accurate several years ago, no longer apply today.
According the Central Virginian the decision by the Central Virginia Electric Cooperative to provide broadband internet directly to its customers somehow threw the supervisors a curveball, and caused one supervisor who had previously supported the broadband authority’s efforts, Tommy Barlow (Mountain Road), to vote no.
A claim which if one was being extremely charitable should be called disingenuous, since the CV has printed several articles starting in February of this year outlining CVEC’s plans, with specific details of their plans appearing in their December 7th issue.
Information which Barlow and all of the Board members should have been well aware of before their December 18th vote, not to mention that this topic was addressed in detail by the Broadband Authority. Making Barlow’s claim that “I want to give us time to evaluate the new stuff that has come up,” nothing more than a craven refusal to make a decision.
And it's one of the defining characteristics of how the Louisa Board of Supervisors has been operating for years.
A topic which Melvin Burruss, a member of the Louisa County Broadband Authority indirectly brought up during the public comment period, saying that “to keep kicking it [making a decision] down the road is nonsense.” And given Barlow’s history of asking questions which are so out in left field at board meetings, it’s a strong indication that at a minimum he doesn’t bother to read the information packets that are given to him at every meeting, and at worse chooses to be willfully ignorant.
But the true masters of deflection and distraction at this meeting, were Supervisors Wade and Williams, who during the subsequent presentation by the Broadband Authority on the status of the project, went out of their way to raise “concerns,” and make numerous apples to oranges comparisons disguised as hard questions.
And despite presenting a comprehensive review of the project and the current state of Broadband in Louisa County, along with being prepared for a wide range of what most people would consider “reasonable” questions, it was striking how much difficultly the two Broadband authority members, Garth Wermter and Mary Johnson, along with the consultant from Wide Open Networks, Matt Bussing had with answering obvious "gotcha questions," from Williams and Wade, who from all appearances were determined to derail this vote.
A dynamic which remains a concern for the citizens of Louisa County as this project moves forward. Especially with Duane Adams joining the Board next month, and who will likely be joining Wade and Williams in looking for any excuse to "justify" why this project is a bad idea as the roll out of the towers proceeds.
What the Central Virginian has chosen not to pursue in their coverage of this issue is the easily verifiable fact that during the recently concluded election that Duane Adams was heavily backed by State Senator Bryce "AFP" Reeves. And that delaying and denying the implementation of Broadband in localities is one of the telecoms, along with American’s for Prosperity (AFP) and the American Legislative Exchange Council's (ALEC) priorities.
Nor would it be unreasonable to anticipate that any future "objections" we hear from these three Board members will closely mirror those groups talking points. And with Supervisor Barlow swinging like a weather vane in the wind, it's quite likely that we could see the Board of Supervisors united 4-3 against the Broadband project next year.
Should the Board vote to sustain this project, it would not be unreasonable to expect these three Supervisors to attempt to slow walk the project by delaying the permits for the towers & downstream poles, and funding for equipment which goes on the towers. And as the data comes back from the implementation of these Broadband services, lodge a barrage of objections to everything from number of customers served to questioning the quality of service.