I want to share a letter that I sent to the Louisa County School Board.
“After reviewing what some of the kids at the high school did on their inspirational video for the March 14 protest, I must say I was really moved. They did a wonderful job. Did all the kids get to see this video on the 14th?My daughter in the middle school did not see the video. It should have been mandatory that students at both the middle and high school see this video.
However, I was disappointed that the Louisa County Middle and High Schools were not allowed to participate in the 17-minute school walk-out in solidarity with all the other youth across the country. Visual protest is necessary for folks to see. I am afraid that too many of our residents in Louisa will never see the video.
Does the county school system have forums on a regular basis, where kids can express themselves about issues that have an impact on their own health and welfare, as part of a regular school curriculum? Their issues should be acknowledged.
Not all students feel comfortable in public speaking. We should not be silencing the students who have strong feelings and concerns. We should be emphasizing and fostering political engagement skills. It is my understanding the doors were locked and school administration blocked the exits to keep kids from leaving. What kind of message is that?
There is another school walk-out planned for Friday, April 20. There is plenty of time to implement an assembly or newsletter to explain and allow those students who would like to participate to do so. Those who participate should not be penalized for doing so. I know
I will be there with my daughter, Emma. I request that you read my letter to the other members at your next meeting.”
Editor’s Note: This has been reposted with the author’s permission, and originally appeared in the March 29th issue of the Central Virginian.
As a young woman, I was a student at Kent State University in Ohio and witnessed school violence in May of 1970. I am a mother of six children, who had two join the military and serve in Afghanistan and Iraq. I am a gun owner. I ask myself “What are the questions, answers and solutions to reduce gun violence?”
What is the definition of “assault weapons?” What is the definition of “gun violence?” What are the loopholes in our current gun laws?”
What are the statistics that need to be included: racial, economic, mental, and the education level of each individual in each incident? What “triggered” the individual to commit the “acts of violence?” Who are the “victims?”
I believe, after these questions and others are “honestly” answered, a pattern will become evident. The pattern could be anything from “a cry for help,” mental instability, unemployment, to pure domestic terrorism. Only then can we as individuals, plus local, state, and federal governments enact solutions.
Some of these solutions could be better parenting, improved education regarding safety in school, understanding our history and preparing our children for the jobs going forward, better control on cyber bullying, better mental and physical health care and updated gun laws etc.
I believe it is a multi-level answer. But if we, “as an individual and nation,” choose not to answer these questions “HONESTLY,” then as an individual and nation, we will continue to be victims of violence.
What do you choose?
Editor’s Note: This has been re-posted with the author’s permission, and originally appeared in the March 29th issue of the Central Virginian.
White supremacy, not just the KKK or Nazis, is a power structure that is harmful to us all. It demeans people of color and deprives them of education, voting rights, employment, and many opportunities. This system is enforced by financial, political, judicial, and social norms, legal and illegal. It has been endemic, persistent, and pervasive in all aspects of our lives since 1492. This cloud hangs over people of color 24/7, every day of every year.
This poison harms white people morally, spiritually, and emotionally, from not following Jesus’ teachings, and erodes self-esteem, consciously or unconsciously, with guilt and hypocrisy from avoiding the recognition of the unearned “white privilege.” It isolates us and deprives us of the rich and open communication with our sisters and brothers of color.
So it is the structure of white supremacy that “poisons the water,” causing interracial anxiety and hostility. It may be more constructive to speak less of racism and more about this power structure. “Racist” is a label that judges people and is not conducive to dialogue and problem solving.
Historic progress has been made through legislation to weaken white supremacy, but laws can only do so much. We have preferential arrests of black people who possess marijuana, and other law enforcement actions that target blacks over whites, resulting in their mass incarceration.
People of color often have to be much better at what they do than whites to get jobs and promotions, and have twice as good a credit score to get a loan. To be a black president, you have to be very mild mannered, easy going, have a model family, and no hint of corruption in your administration. John’s and Mary’s applications get attention first, and Shamika’s and Tyrone’s resumes get shoved to the bottom of the pile, (with no identification of race). These are a few of the ways legal discrimination occurs. Also, since it is “who you know” that gets you positions and opportunities, the blacks and the low income whites are often left “out of the loop.”
We could ease the burden of both black and white working class people by curtailing off shoring, limiting automation, making trading practices fairer, and requiring re-training of laid-off workers. If working class blacks and whites will unite against the wealthy corporations that oppress them both, instead of opposing each other, all will gain.
We need facilitated workshops for people who genuinely want to air their frustrations and listen to others about racial issues in a safe environment. We need more assistance to people of low income for better access to better jobs, education, housing, and massive workforce re-training, to partly compensate for the “out of the loop” restricted access to these opportunities. Maybe we could levy a special “de-facto” discrimination tax on large corporations, banks, lenders, and real estate firms to pay for this.
Personally, we can remember to speak respectfully and politely to people of color, and we can refuse to collude with other whites’ slurs, smirks, eye-rolls, and derogatory remarks about people of color.
We all need to work together on this.
David G. Schwartz
Editor’s Note: This has been re-posted with the author’s permission, and originally appeared in the March 29th issue of the Central Virginian.
Meanwhile, the Koch’s increasing control over a wide ranging consortium of fundraising entities, such as; super PAC’s, 501 C 3’s and C 4’s and other forms of dark money helped them become the 3rd largest political donor in the country by the end of the 2012 election. Another reason for their success was their funding of Themis (now i360) a database company in 2011 backed by the Koch Brothers’ Freedom Partners and serving as repository for the Kochs’ political data.
In 2014, they brought out GOP Data Trust, the company owning the Republican’s database and merged it with Themis giving the Republican Party full access to the voter data collected by the Koch’s Freedom Partners entities and clients — entrenching the Koch-to-pus deeper within the GOP. Because political parties are not allowed to accept corporate contributions, it would have been illegal for the Koch’s to simply give their massive databases to the Republican National Committee directly.
So to avoid any appearances of illegality, the Koch’s did what any self respecting plutocrat would do, they brought them out. The Koch’s operational control of the Republican Party’s national database, along with donations of at least $400 million during this last 2014 mid term election helped the Republicans regain control of the Senate, and they have made it clear they don’t intend to stop there.
They are upping their game considerably. During the 2016 presidential campaign the Koch’s plan on spending at least $900 million making them by far the biggest political donor in the country, considerably larger than either of the two major political party’s. The fact that these two individuals have used their wealth to become the nation’s largest political party in less than a decade is one that will remain carefully hidden behind a host of distractions all the way through the 2016 elections.
Like the many repressive laws we’ve seen recently pass in state after state. With Indiana’s “right to be a bigot” law coming to the forefront. Remember that this law is hardly unique in this country, during the past decade; twenty other states including Virginia have enacted similar laws. While none of them go quite as far in being explicitly discriminatory that’s mostly because these states have preexisting laws which provide some additional measures of protection.
Whereas Indiana offers no such protections, dominated by a legislature convinced it’s their moral right to pass gay Jim Crow. With Governor (now VP) Mike Pence passing this law it caused such a nationwide backlash that Indiana recently hired a PR firm to rebuild the states image.
A move which will cost Indiana’s taxpayers $2 million plus advertising cost, one of the many ways which movement conservatives successfully pass the costs of their bad decisions to the public. A mindset which has already caused other “unintended consequences,” like last year when they passed a law eliminating needle exchange programs, and after suffering a severe AIDS epidemic this year Governor Pence temporarily reversed course.
Or despite the fact Texas has the third highest rate of HIV infection in the country, the Texas House recently passed a bill taking millions away from HIV and STD screenings and giving it to abstinence only education programs. With Texas State Rep. Stuart Spitzer saying “My goal is for everybody to be abstinent until they’re married.” If that level of willful ignorance wasn’t enough, they went on to ban Planned Parenthood and other “abortion affiliates” from providing sex education materials in schools.
South Carolina recently filed an amicus brief with the Supreme Court, suing for the right to discriminate, disingenuously claiming that the 14th Amendment—which guarantees “equal protection of the laws” to every “person”— permits discrimination against married women, so it must also allow discrimination against gay people who wish to wed.
The intertwined concept of “religious freedom” and “states rights” used to nullify the constitutional rights of certain classes of people is no longer a provincial brand of cultural and religious bigotry or the exclusive providence of the Deep South. What has changed during our lifetimes is how widespread this twisted notion of denying others their rights to preserve “individual freedoms” has become a national issue …I mean distraction, one which will play a major role in the actions of state legislators around the country.
Keep in mind that since the time of Nixon, movement conservatives have been hard at work exploiting the emotions and prejudices of the American people, allowing the plutocrats to continue privatizing their economic gains while socializing society’s losses. If you have any doubts about how ideologically committed they are to their brand of “freedom” take a look at the economic chaos they have caused in states like Wisconsin, Michigan, and conservatives and their Kansas.
While all of this is happening, you can count on the Koch Daddies and their minions breaking out more distractions all the way up to the 2016 election.
Editors Note: This originally appeared in an April 14th 2015 Blue Louisa Blog post, and is now housed on this web site under the Archives drop down menu.
Most everyone suggests America has a “broken” political system. Third Party movements embrace the “broken” idea and hope to ride it to power. However, few critics identify specific problem areas. Even candidate Trump was no more specific than “Trust me, I will drain the swamp” and he did the exact opposite.
So let’s define some of the political changes over the last two or three decades that have bent American democracy.
First change was Grover Norquist’s “no new taxes” pledge: Norquist’s pledge polemics found many Republican adherents in the late 1980s. Strict adherence to this policy meant that your local representative no longer represented your local needs in education, transportation or public health, but now danced to an ideological song.
Second nomination goes to Citizens United: a clever ploy to allow corporations to dump vast amounts of money into the political system. Time Magazine reports the Koch machine alone plans to spend a record setting $400 million this election cycle. Such money put a heavy thumb on the scales of justice. The recent tax bill gave the rich and the corporations which benefited from Citizens United an extra $1 trillion dollars to spend in the political system.
A third major shift was the Hastert Rule, which says that all bills in the House must pass the Republican caucus before they can be brought to the floor and voted on. Bipartisanship has no role. If pundits and third party advocates confine their criticisms to the label “partisan politics,” then they really don’t know the specifics of what has changed in recent decades and hence how they would correct it. Third party advocates are particularly handicapped because Citizens United makes it almost impossible for them to get their message out. Unless they covertly attach themselves to the Koch monies.
Editor's Note: This letter originally appeared in the March 8th print edition of the Culpeper Star Exponent, and is now on line here, and has been re-posted on this blog with the author's permission.
Culpeper voters have important choices to make – first, in the June primaries, and then, in the November election. Those choices may not be easy for any number of reasons, no matter what your political persuasion may be.
There are three Democrats running in the June 12 primary for the opportunity to defeat 7th Congressional District incumbent Dave Brat. Five Republicans, so far, are vying to challenge Democratic Senator Tim Kaine. They are: Corey Stewart, E.W. Jackson, Bert Mizusawa, Ivan Raiklin, and our very own 30th District Delegate, Nick Freitas, despite having just begun his second term. Do your homework. Check out their websites.
Helen Alli is a U.S. Army veteran, a small business owner in the health care industry and a community activist and organizer. She serves as the legislative chair for the Crusade for Voters which led the referendum on the ballot this November to modernize Richmond’s public schools.
Abigail Spanberger grew up in Henrico County just outside Richmond and graduated from the University of Virginia. She began her public career as a law enforcement officer with the U.S. Postal Inspection Service working drug and money laundering cases. She later spent ten years planning and conducting covert operations with the Central Intelligence Agency. She brought her family back to Virginia in 2014 and has been working with local colleges and universities to create diverse student bodies, increase graduation rates, and break down financial barriers to higher education.
Dan Ward is a 25-year veteran U.S. Marine Corps fighter pilot who served in Iraq, Bosnia and Kosovo. He also served as a military advisor with the Department of State and ran cooperative defense programs involving Syria and Ukraine. He currently flies Boeing 777s for United Airlines and has advocated for increased aviation safety on behalf of the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA). He grew up here in Central Virginia and now lives on a farm in Orange raising cattle. As a teenager, he worked part time at the McDonald’s in Culpeper.
Their opponent, Congressman Dave Brat, has spent most of the past four years touting his experience as an economics professor and reminding everyone that he went to seminary. He has bound himself tightly to the Trumpian agenda and the House do-nothing Freedom Caucus. His main legislative accomplishment has been to rename a Richmond arboretum. He has held only one genuine town hall, in faraway Blackstone, and later complained about women, “getting up in my grill.” Instead, he attends photo opportunities with friendly audiences.
Corey Stewart is well known to Virginia voters for his extreme views and he may very well be the Republican nominee, due to his appeal to Trump’s supporters and the name recognition he achieved as Ed Gillespie’s opponent. E.W. Jackson, also an extremist, ran for Lieutenant Governor in 2013 and was soundly beaten by Ralph Northam. Misuzawa and Raiklin are relatively unknown.
In the midst of campaigning for his delegate’s seat in the last election, after only two years in office, Freitas also start campaigning for the United States Senate, Freitas’ March 2nd speech on the floor of the House of Delegates has gone notoriously viral, as he to implied that abortions and broken homes were the root causes of gun violence, among other things. I urge everyone who’s interested in the truth to read the transcript of his speech, posted in the Star Exponent on Sunday, March 4th, do your own fact-checking, and draw your own conclusions.
Tim Kaine’s remarks at a meeting with about 120 Culpeper citizens this past Saturday, were quite a contrast in tone, substance, humility and public service.
Editor's Note: This letter originally appeared in the March 8th print edition of the Culpeper Star Exponent, and is now on-line here, and has been re-posted on this blog with the author's permission.
Join us Monday, March 12 to hear the candidates vying to run against Rep. Dave Brat in November. Three candidates are running in the primary on June 12—Helen Alli, Abigail Spanberger and Dan Ward. All three will talk about the issues and make a case to try and win your vote.
Ask yourself—has Dave Brat really represented the interests of the 7th District or the state of Virginia in his four years in Congress? He has supported shutting down the federal government and laying off government employees. The federal government is Virginia’s largest employer with civilian staff, federal contractors and the military in Virginia.
Brat also supports President’ Donald Trump’s offshore drilling program, which would have a dramatic and negative effect on three of Virginia’s largest industries – tourism, fisheries and the military bases on Virginia’s eastern shores. Brat does not support helping localities with broadband in rural areas. The lack of broadband slows the economic development of rural areas, keeping the unemployment rate high and tax collections low, depriving localities of much needed revenue for schools, roads, fire and police, and other services.
Brat does not support making our schools safer by passing background checks and banning assault weapons.
So. let’s send Mr. Brat home and send someone to Washington:
• who won’t try to shut down our largest employer,
• who won’t try to irreparably damage some of our largest Virginia industries,
• who supports safe schools
• who will not support a president who is selling out the country and making a personal fortune off U.S. taxpayers.
The candidates for the job have impressive resumes. Helen Alli is a Henrico resident. She is an Army veteran and runs her own healthcare business. Abigail Spanberger is a Henrico resident. She is a former law enforcement officer and former CIA operative. Dan Ward is an Orange County resident. He is a small farmer, former Marine and commercial pilot.
The candidate forum will be held on March 12 at 6:30 p.m. at the VFW Hall Post #8947 at 201 Mineral Avenue in Mineral. Come on out and help interview Mr. Brat’s replacement.