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 Trump cold-bloodedly and single-handedly rescinded DACA in order to cater to his base.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 over videos of him bashing President Obama’s leadership during the 2013 shutdown. Others are saying that he is absolutely livid because he hasn’t been able to leave for Merde-A-Lago, for the first anniversary of his inauguration with a celebratory fundraiser at his resort.
With tickets starting at $100,000 a pair, enough money enough to pay for dinner and a photograph with the president, or for a little 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 Casino mogul Steve Wynn, the RNC’s now deposed finance chairman reportedly to benefit the Drumpf’s 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 to keep the government open, makes that claim hard to swallow.
Its also been said that he’s staying in Washington to avoid any public back lash over the optics of attending a lavish party just after the Government has been shutdown. Although in all fairness, since when has the Drumpf ever given a rat’s ass about appearances of impropriety.
Perhaps a better explanation can be found in his well know unwillingness to pay for anything if he can get some other chumps to pay for it, like traveling on the taxpayer’s dime for his many golfing vacations. 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.
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.
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 From the 2015 Blue Louisa Archives
Back in 2015, Blue Louisa outlined a project to take control of villages, towns, cities and counties 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’s.
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 you’re inclined to think that claims like this are scarcely removed from tin foil hat wearing conspiracies, consider that ALEC’s own website proudly announced this past July that according to the Culpepper Star Exponent, Jon Russell, director of the American City County Exchange, had just been sworn in as a Culpepper city councilman.
While it’s true that one isolated example 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, enough to call them fluffer’s 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 lump 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 to set off anyone’s BS radar.
Exactly where our Delegate, Republican Peter Ferrell fits into this picture of promoting charter schools is a matter of conjecture, 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 similar 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 history of this kind of 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 many 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’s 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 in “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 at the time to ask him, “Is that why you are following Speaker Howell’s and his ALEC’s agenda so closely?” For the rest of us a better question iswho is ALEC and what do they really want?
Another example of how corporate interests are trying to take over local legislatures took place 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 alledgely 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. And 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 died often by unrecorded voice votes, particularly progressive ones. Many of the General Assembly’s committee’s and sub committee 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 public outcry for transparency in how the Commonwealth conducts their business.
Another interpretation is that after being publicly shamed last year by Progress Virginia, a nonprofit dedicated to furthering progressive causes, 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, 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 has any chance of making it out of these 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 Republican’s are scared. Their near defeat in the House of Delegates last year awoke something deep within their reptilian & 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 tools of their benefactors and populist frauds, and are willing to do anything to avoid coming to terms with that reality.
The first signs of their desperation started on Martin Luther King Day, where many important bills died long before they reach the floor of either chamber. Like SB 5 which 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 bodies have already passed a call for a convention of the states, 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 even if they live in his district, 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 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 leading the Party's push for hard line ideological bills, Louisa’s freshman Delegate, John McGuire III, or any his legislative assistants (804) 698-1056 shouldn’t be expected to deviate much from the Party line.
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
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 groups like the American Legislative Exchange Council, 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. They are heavily funded by corporations and lobbyists, and not member contributions. And mounting evidence shows that their decidedly pro corporate "model legislation" continues to be adopted in Republican controlled states.
ALEC, 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.
If you're a 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.
The goal of organizations like ALEC and National Conference of State Legislatures NCSL 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 effecting these 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, bills which do not remotely represent the interests of most Americans.
In 2010 Republicans picked up more than 700 state seats and took control of 25 state legislatures. According to GOP strategists the money and power of public-employee unions were 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.
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 group, also backed by the billionaire Koch brother’s, Club for Growth, strategy is to only funding candidates who agree to sign pledges not to raise taxes and to oppose regulations of any kind, particularly those dealing with environment and energy.
In return, enough funds to swamp reasonable candidates 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. A mafia like activity conducted across state lines which in a just world would be investigated under RICO statutes.
Republicans have never been concerned about jobs, or even debt. What they really want is a weak captive government, despising everything it does, except when it comes to promoting business interests, returning us to when Robber Barons ruled and local and Federal governments lived off excise (whiskey) taxes.
Thanks to efforts conducted in secret by deep pocketed groups; Americans for Prosperity (AFP), the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), and their recent county/city level spin-off the American City County Exchange ACCE 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.
My question for the readers of the Central Virginian is why do they continue to let Republicans to privatize the profits, while socializing the losses on their backs?
Editor's note: This piece originally appeared in the April 7th, 2011 edition of the Central Virginian, and has been modified for this blog. I welcome other 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.