The most recent of school massacres, in a long line of them, has been Parkland in Florida, with the expectation of many more to come. The other day, the Daily Progress reported that a teenager in Louisa County was taken into custody for making violent threats against his high school. That seems to be the way of the world in the United States. Keep your eyes open and your head down, and that has nothing to do with books. The discussion about these events typically centers on safety vs. gun rights. I’d like to suggest that there’s another, possibly more important element that is either forgotten in the fray, or intentionally ignored by sweeping things under the rug. Where is the 1st Amendment in all these discussions?
Dave Brat knows, and I’ll be getting to that.
We all know – at least I think we know – that politicians have a tendency to forget the truth when they speak to the electorate. Some forgetfulness is more intentional than others. When that forgetfulness gets to be a habit because of ideology, we citizens have a big problem. It means that so-called representative of the people isn’t paying attention. There’s no difference between that and censorship, only this form of censorship is more subtle.
There are ways of not paying attention. Dave Brat has demonstrated that many times in the past. He holds “town hall” meetings in ways to avoid facing his constituents who disagree with his policies. Blackstone VA in February 2017 is a perfect example. This was where he was unable to answer difficult questions and all he could do was belittle the people who had concerns and took the time to go this meeting. That is censorship. That is denying Freedom of Speech.
Another way he doesn’t pay attention is when constituents ask for a personal meeting with him while Congress is on recess. To “facilitate” the meeting, he asks those constituents to submit questions in writing so he can prepare for a “meaningful” discussion. The translation of this is that he finds an excuse to cancel the meeting. He will not meet with those who disagree with him. That is censorship. That is denying Freedom of Speech.
He has at least one page on Facebook where he supposedly communicates with his constituents. At one point, Sara James was his paid troll to intimidate those who disagreed with him. He doesn’t even have the courage to meet the constituents himself, but has to have someone do it for him.
Maybe he considers that his light work. That is censorship. That is denying Freedom of Speech.
The point that I want to bring up is his Facebook page, especially during these heated discussion about the school massacres that occur around the country without any legitimate solutions offered by the GOP. My suggestion for anyone is to go to Brat’s Facebook page and find his comments about the Parkland shooting of February 14, 2018. That’s what I did. Try to make some disparaging comments about Wayne LaPierre and the NRA. You’ll be singled out as a spammer. That is censorship. That is denying Freedom of Speech.
The discussions have been about school safety and so-called gun rights. You can add Freedom of Speech to this discussion as well because it looks as if the Republicans, the NRA, and Brat specifically want to infringe on that right to the point where it goes away. It’s such a bother to them. It interferes with their contributions and power positions.
Why should Freedom of Speech be important? Because that’s what Republicans, the NRA, and Dave Brat specifically are afraid of. What the electorate must do is send the message in such a way that it can’t be avoided by any of these methods used by Brat. It should be made clear to 2nd Amendment supporters that losing the 1st Amendment right is more dangerous to Republicans, the NRA, and Brat.
Vote out the Republicans.
Vote out Dave Brat.
Stop the influence of the NRA.
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.