Blue Louisa: A blog Covering Central Virginia & national politics from a progressive perspective
When did America become such a mean country? The white supremacists, neo-Nazis and Klansmen who ignited the conflagration in Charlottesville focused the nation’s attention on this question. This is particularly pertinent when the president of the United States intones that some Nazis are fine people. Trump is setting a very low bar for the category of “fine people.”
Many of our families fought the Nazis, and other fascists, in World War II and none of us expected to see them, zombie-like, reappear in America—the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave. It was not bravery that amateur neo-Nazi James Fields was demonstrating when he allegedly drove his car into a crowd and murdered a Madison County woman and injured 30 others. Nor was it very brave for the torch-bearing crowd that moved onto the University of Virginia campus, without a permit, to threaten the statue of Thomas Jefferson, and struck a counter-protester who later suffered a stroke and remains in critical condition.
Are civility, hope and charity just a thin veneer which can be torn away so easily, revealing virulent hate and barbarism underneath? How are we to justify behavior which imitates the German Nazi movement from the raised-arm salute to threats against people of the Jewish faith? America took in more than 600,000 displaced persons and refugees after World War II. The recent calls for a sanitized immigration and refugee policy are out of sync with American history. No one who came to America as a refugee was required to learn English beforehand, or had to pass the sorts of requirements like those put to African-Americans before they could vote under Jim Crow. Can you imagine what such policies would have meant for the Vietnamese after the fall of Saigon? Or, the Cubans escaping Castro?
Few immigrants that came to the United States spoke English or were familiar with American customs. That’s why we have immigrant communities known as “Little Italy,” “Chinatown,” “Little Mogadishu” and the like across the country. Washington, D.C. is home to the largest Ethiopian community outside of Africa. The second and third generations of these communities embrace American culture thoroughly and try to achieve the hopes and dreams of the first generation. This propels them to endeavor to succeed.
Even so, many communities, old and new, retain their traditions. The Amish preserve the old ways, the Sikhs wear turbans, Jews their yarmulkes. We will see lederhosen worn at the Culpeper HoptoberFest. Is there a uniform standard for assimilation? Greeks go to Greek Orthodox churches. Russians go to Russian Orthodox churches, Jews go to temple. The Wat Lao Buddhavong temple is less than 30 miles away near Catlett on Route 28. Members of Culpeper’s Islamic community are going to finally achieve their dream of having their own mosque. Our conservative neighbors argue that if people go to the mosque they are not assimilating. What nonsense. Where is it written that coming to America requires giving up one’s religion?
In fact, the opposite is the case. Most colonists in New England were fleeing religious persecution. The same was true for the Catholics that founded the Maryland colony. Pennsylvania was settled by Quakers, Ulster Scots and Germans seeking religious freedom.
President Kennedy spoke about a new world of law, where the strong are just and the weak secure and the peace preserved. In contrast, this past week in Phoenix, Trump descended to a new low in sowing lies, hate and divisiveness. What standard of decency and public service is he displaying by railing against fellow Republicans and the media and threatening to shut down the government if he doesn’t receive funding for his wall? He can’t do this, of course, because Congress, according to our Constitution, has the sole “power of the purse,” concerning whether the government is funded to operate.
What happened to his promise that Mexico would pay for it? And, our Congressman, Dave Brat is right up there calling for the American taxpayer to foot the bill. Brat distinguished himself again this past Tuesday for refusing to meet with his constituents at a citizen-initiated town hall in Glen Allen.
It is time for all of us—from the Greatest Generation and the Baby Boomers, to Generation X, the Millennials and today’s youngsters—to embrace our freedoms and the rule of law embodied in our Constitution. It is time to reject those that demonize religions and persecute peoples of different ethnicities.
America is no place for xenophobia. We are a land of immigrants—38 million of us came here between 1820 and 1930. If you want to march against something, march against the demagoguery, hate and propaganda represented by the white supremacists and by the Trump administration. If you want to march for something, march for the freedom and progress that Ben Hixon and Tristan Shields are calling for in their campaigns for delegate in the 30th and 18th Districts, respectively. And, more than anything else, march to the ballot box this November and make your voice heard.
Editors note: This has been reposted with the author’s permission, and originally appeared here.
As much as I’ve been ragging about Louisa’s only paper of record, the Central Virginian of late, their brand of cut and paste journalism doesn’t even put them in the running for being the worse offender in the region. That distinction goes to the Buffet chain’s flagship , the Richmond Times Disgrace, whose penchant for journalistic malpractice, is only exceeded by their unapologetic promotion of the worst ideas and politicians you can imagine.
And perhaps because they have much wider circulation than smaller papers and their biased stories and op-ed's are read by more people, that the omission’s and skewed slant of local papers like the CV often goes unnoticed. And even when these local papers do print stories of vital interest, their readers often respond with the sounds of silence.
I recall the CV in one of their rare editorials complaining about how few people bothered to show up to a Candidate Forum they sponsored. Hopefully, they have learned something from this experience and will be heavily promoting this year’s forum hosted by the League of Women Voters.
So far, the first notices of this “event” are on the two candidates FB pages. How successful the CV and the hosts will be in drawing people to this forum remains to be seen. Or will it will be another dog and pony show, like the Chamber of Commerce sponsored 56th House Delegates one last May was.
And it is precisely this kind of information which consistently gets lost; not only in their coverage of local stories, but in a palatable lack of any meaningful commentary about issues affecting the community. Like their coverage of what happened in Charlottesville earlier this month, where they ran a front page article about the Louisa man who was arrested, along with several related Facebook posts.
Yet, their FB version was markedly different from their printed story, where they downplayed the fact that people were severely injured in this march, or that someone was killed until several days had passed. And in keeping with their minimalistic brand of journalism they reposted this syndicated article on their FB page two days later.
Perhaps thinking that since more people appear to be following their FB posts than the actual paper, that nobody would notice just how much their rehashed “10 things you should know” link was promoting that false equivalency that both sides were somehow "equally" responsible for what happened.
And until they posted another syndicated link up on their FB page about a memorial service for Heather Heyer several days later, their FB page danced around acknowledging that someone was killed.
But when it comes to avoiding talking about what happened in Charlottesville, and what it means, the CV’s has chosen to double down on the Drumpf’s and indeed the entire Replicant party’s belligerent deflections and false equivalencies, starting with this op-ed cartoon in their August 24th edition.
And should be pointed out that the CV’s heavy reliance on secondary sources is probably why they missed certain details in their August 17th front page story about a Louisa resident who was arrested for allegedly punching a reporter and who was supposedly “seen on video waving an antifascist flag.”
Perhaps he was, but after being unable to find that video on the internet, I contacted David Holtzman of the CV about his story, and he said there was a video. I asked him if he could send me a copy of that video, and left that conversation with the distinct impression that he would be sending it to me shortly.
And after asking what the hold up was, I received the following email message, “I'm sorry if I gave you that impression. I didn't mean to. I cannot send you the video,” with no explanation of why.
It should also be noted that during that conversation, I asked if he had reached out to Mr. Smith to see what he had to say, and he said that he hadn’t. I also asked if he had looked at Mr. Smith’s social media profile to get some idea what he was all about.
Especially since even a cursory glance at his FB page shows no support for any of the groups, left or right, or would indicate that he has any ideology whatsoever. Bringing up the question of why he was even there, and what made him react like that?
To find out, I contacted Mr. Smith, who claims that he no longer lives in Louisa, and that he’s been living in Charlottesville for quite some time. And given his guarded responses, it remains to be seen these preliminary conversations culminate in an interview.
But when it comes to reinforcing false narratives, the CV is hardly the county's guiltiest party. Since most of their readers comments about their FB version of this story were with rare exceptions along the lines of “what an embarrassment to Louisa.” And while such judgmental opinions have long been one of the consequences of an unengaged and incurious citizenry.
That same lack of perspective, goes a long way towards explaining why those Facebook comments about Charlottesville were dwarfed by an avalanche of gossipy comments to their Facebook post about someone’s cremains being found in a Mineral restaurant.
But when it comes to promoting false narratives about the implications of what happened in Charlottesville, no one does it better than the Virginia Republican Party, headed by John “Anti-Semitic Joke Dude” Whitbeck. And who from all appearances are prepared to say anything in an effort to manufacture support for overt racism and hatred of others. And make no mistake, messages like this, are just a taste of things to come.
Whether their limp wristed retraction several hours later was in response to the twitter storm which followed, or this pithy reply from Ralph Northam, we’ll probably never know.
Meanwhile, here’s a clip of “Enron Ed” Gillespie at an AFP function claiming with a straight face that on a 1-10 scale, white supremacists/neo-Nazis are "yellow":
So if you’re tired of seeing week after week of false equivalencies and distractive narratives like this being promoted by your local paper ... take the time write them a letter to the editor, and give them a piece of your mind.
When the recent governmental shutdown occurred, I can’t tell you how many times I heard people say something to the extent of, “Good riddance! I think we need to get these guys out of office and start all over.”
It’s a noble intention, but I can’t help but skeptically scoff a majority of the times I hear it.
Though it’s an oft-repeated phrase, there are a few categories of people who say it.
There are the ones who say it but continue to blindly vote in each election, knowing barely anything about their candidate of choice besides their hair color and many flaws pointed out by opposing candidates .
There are the ones who say it, yet have no intentions of voting, citing their disgruntled opinion of politics.
And finally, there are the ones that say it, and also have no intentions of voting, simply because they aren’t sure of what the candidates stand for.
It’s a paradox for me. It’s comical that people demand change, yet find so many excuses as to how to avoid it. It’s like Congress is our mother-in-law. She’s in the house, and we’re really not big fans, but we just aren’t grown up enough to push her out the door.
To clarify, I love my soon to-be mother-in-law, I use the analogy only for clarification.
One major problem is that people don’t look at voting as the privilege that we once held it as. Voters tend to forget that the power of the country is ultimately in their hands.
Listen to the words of men who we could learn a thing or two from. Men who shaped the foundations of the greatest nation the modern world has ever known.
“Let each citizen remember at the moment he is offering his vote that he is not making a present or a compliment to please an individual – or, at least, he ought not to do so – but that he is executing one of the most solemn trusts in human society, for which he is accountable to God and his country,” Samuel Adams said.
“When a citizen gives his suffrage [vote] to a man of known immorality he abuses his trust,” Noah Webster said. “He sacrifices not only his own interest, but that of his neighbors, and he betrays the interest of his country.”
“Should things go wrong at any time, the people will set them to rights by the peaceable exercise of their elective rights,” Thomas Jefferson said .
Look at those words. You can feel the passion can’t you? When you look at Jefferson’s quote, his confidence that voters will hold their leaders accountable is palpable.
But, statistics clearly show one thing: we’ve failed them.
Studies by the Washington Post have shown that voter turnout in Virginia has decreased in presidential, gubernatorial, midterm and off-year elections since 1976. Further studies have shown that trend continues in almost every other state.
In 2011, a professor from George Mason showed that nearly 40 percent of eligible voters in Virginia don’t vote in general elections.
When the debate was held at the Louisa Arts Center on Tuesday, Oct. 29, which featured candidates running for the school board, county supervisor and governor of Virginia, many of the auditorium’s 200 seats were empty.
By the way, don’t complain that it wasn’t advertised. This very publication ran a 400-word story about it on the top of the front page two weeks ago, as well as running a half-page advertisement and promoting it on social media.
So, chances are high that if you’re reading this column, you saw at least one of those posts the other day.
It’s a pandemic called voter ignorance. It means that, likely, people didn’t show up because they didn’t care – in which case your complaints about the government should cease – or because they already had their mind made up.
And oh, what a mind voters have. Another study by Ilya Somin, a law professor at George Mason University, detailed this in his book, Democracy and Political Ignorance. He found that 58 percent of Americans can’t name the three branches of government. Almost 70 percent can’t name their state’s senators, and 72 percent can’t name more than one or two rights guaranteed in the First Amendment.
I bet most of those people can complain at lengths, though.
I know I’m preaching a sermon that has been reworded and rehashed so many different times that it now resembles a plea.
Our forefathers gave us the ability to freely criticize our government, but they also gave us a way to correct it.
Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 5. If we can find some time to rip ourselves away from the latest televised sporting event, reality shows and Facebook statuses, we might be able to make a positive improvement to this country, which to me is the very definition of a modern day patriot.
There’s no denying that we are unhappy with government, various polls show Congress’s approval rating sits at 10 percent. But all of those members of Congress didn’t just show up for work one day, they won small-town elections or were voted to low-profile seats on county boards. Change, true change, starts from the ground up. So far, I’ve seen more heads in the ground.
Those seats at the debate weren’t the only things that were empty. It seems the words and actions of our citizens might be too.
Editors Note: This op-ed originally appeared in the October, 31st 2013 edition of the Central Virginian, just before Election Day, and has been re-posted in it's entirety to provide additional context to current articles in Blue Louisa.
What happened in Charlottesville earlier this month revealed many things about the American people, especially the Replicant Party. Who with few exceptions failed to condemn the racists and Nazi’s who invaded this city.
And like the Drumpf started out with half heartedly denouncing their deeds, before changing the subject, and doubling down on false equivalencies like “both sides are responsible.” Knowing they can equivocate and prevaricate to their hearts content, because as long as their base remains solidly behind the Drumpf nothing they say or do matters.
Knowing that the more his supporters agree with his blatant in-your-face nationalism, the less work they have to do to get elected and stay in office. And that deadly combination of willful ignorance and cognitive dissonance was put on full display right here in Louisa; where Duane Adams, candidate for the Mineral District Supervisor posted this on his campaign’s Facebook page:
And it’s worth noting that this was the only thing he could be bothered to say about Charlottesville.
Like John McGuire who had this to say:
While he did much a better job of addressing what took place in Charlottesville than the rest of the Replicants, it doesn’t change the fact that his response is part of a familiar pattern. Make a big show out of denouncing something, while supporting the same retrograde attitudes responsible for those deplorable words and deeds.
While the local Replicant Party of Louisa who continues to demonstrate their irrelevance had nothing to say.
Unlike Dave Brat, who couldn’t keep himself from compulsively mirroring Adams antediluvian comments with these distractions:
Only to show up on FAUX Noise later that same day and claim that the real problem is the “hard left,” not white supremacists, going so far as to compare constituents protesting his fake clown halls earlier this year to violent terrorists.
And it's another deflective projection which reinforces Replicant’s shared delusions that there are vast legions of “libruls’ determined to take everything they hold dear. One of many underhanded tactics that Brat and his Party employ, blaming others for the very things they are doing, and that they’ve been doing for over three decades.
But now that the Drumpf has completely destroyed their ability to hide behind coded “dog whistles,’ without insulting their supporters, that deception is becoming harder and harder to sell. But leave it to Virginia’s Replicant’s to double down on their fascist messaging.
This is how Virginia’s Replicant’s roll, dehumanizing the opposition, and feeding inflammatory rhetoric to their base. Using carefully crafted language which makes them feel like they are being oppressed. Making false claims that their guns will be taken away, and breaking out every trick in their arsenal in an attempt to shift the conversation.
So rather than talk about white supremacy, they are promoting false controversy over Confederate monuments. A smart move because, while only a small minority of Americans openly support white supremacy, while a recent poll showed that 62 percent of Americans support keeping those statues.
Meanwhile they will continue to use their dog whistles to goad mainstream Replicant’s along with their hard core white nationalist supporters into reacting without thinking, and in some cases committing even more heinous deeds.
Which is why it was so encouraging to see a rally in Boston the following weekend, where somewhere between 30,000 and 40,000 people marched in counter-protest, chanting "No Nazis, no KKK, no fascists in the USA!,” wearing these:
And carrying banners with slogans like "Stop pretending your racism is patriotism."
While less than 100 people participated in the Free Speech rally, with one member claiming that "the point of this is to have political speech from across the spectrum, conservative, libertarian, centrist." Perhaps, but since they left the pavilion without giving any of their planned speeches, it was a distinction with out a difference.
And as they started to exit the Commons under police escort, hundreds on the other side started dancing in circles singing, “Hey hey, ho ho. White supremacy has got to go.”
If the turnout in Boston is any indication, resistance to everything the Replicant's stand for, including the Drumpf has taken a quantum leap, and it’s making them nervous, because the true purpose of these rally’s has always been not so much stiring up discontent, as to reinforce the perception of support for their racist ideology.
And it’s a distraction which allows Replicant’s to cling to the illusion that they are supporting a just and righteous cause, one which puts them on the right side of history, when in fact nothing could be further from the truth.
History is replete with lessons of what happens when we allow demagogues like the Drumpf to fan the embers of hatred and violence into full blown Reichstag fires. Although in the case of what happened in Charlottesville Friday night, “Citronella Putsch” might be a better description.
Over the past few decades, and particularly since the Bush/Obama administrations, Replicants like Cantor, Brat, Reeves, and Garrett have used these distractions to get elected and quietly pass the most heinous legislation imaginable. And make no mistake it is legislation which only benefits their ultra-wealthy and corporate benefactors.
So why in the hell should we perpetuate that dysfunctional dynamic any further by continuing to elect more craven politicians like McGuire and Adams? That’s where our focus should be.
Because by reacting to and protesting everything, we risk loosing track of something which billionaire Warren Buffett said several years before Citizen United, “There’s class warfare, all right, but it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning.”
And make no mistake; Replicant’s in the Commonwealth will do anything to make sure that happens, redoubling their efforts in 2019 in an attempt to turn their slim majority in the Senate into another supermajority. Allowing them press their thumbs down even harder on the Commonwealth’s legislative and electoral scale.
Because they know which ever Party controls the House of Delegates in 2020 will be able to set — or in the case of the Replicant’s — gerrymander the Commonwealths legislative districts, from State Delegates and Senators, all the way up to Congressional districts in their favor.
Currently, Replicant’s need to flip just one more seat in the House of Delegates this year to ensure a veto proof super majority. And on the other hand, if Democrats can flip a few seats, combined with a Democratic Governor it might be enough to keep the Replicant dominated General Assembly from running completely amuck.
Because if they manage to elect “Enron Ed” Gillespie as Governor this year, Virginia will follow in the legislative and economic footsteps of states like Wisconsin, Michigan, Mississippi and Kansas even without any supermajorities.
And while there has been a lot talk about flipping enough seats to allow the Democrats to regain control the House, that’s not likely to happen given the Replicant’s decades long stranglehold on the rural parts of the state. Where they hold a vice grip of cultural conditioning which is little removed from Joseph Goebbels’s infamous “big lie.”
Where as Nazi Minister of Propaganda, he said, “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it,” much like the Bush administration lied to the American people that Iraq was behind 9/11. He also recognized that “The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.”
And the states … aka Governments ability to monitor and suppress dissent has been a reality ever since the Bush administration frightened Congress into passing the Patriot Act, and Military Commission Act, enabling the government and private contractors to become so deeply ensconced within the “Military-Industrial Complex,” that they will do anything to protect their power.
And we’ve all seen how the Obama administration treat whistleblowers. But that’s not likely to be how the Drumpf administration suppresses dissent, because they are taking a more devious route; one which threatens to make any government agencies irrelevant. Starting with deeds like gutting the State Department, leaving the country with no diplomatic channels anywhere, to systematically deleting the EPA’s references to global warming, rolling back regulations, and killing a host of vital studies.
Drumpf’s administration and his Replicant toadies are literally taking George Orwell’s notion that “Whoever controls the past controls the future, and whoever controls the present controls the past,” to revise the nations history. Deleting or suppressing any information held by Government agencies which doesn’t agree with their twisted version of reality.
Stooping to depths that even the Bush administration wouldn’t dare go. For now, Congressional Replicant’s are content to give the appearance of supporting the Drumpf, because they know he will sign whatever they put in front of him …. at least as long as he can hog the glory.
Right now their biggest challenge is to keep their lies going and people from realizing that they’ve never given a shit about who suffers the consequences. And make no mistake; they will continue to lie their asses off and do their plutocratic overlords bidding until they are voted out of office.
So if you don’t want to spend the rest of your life the bottom end of their pyramid, now is the time to get off your butt, and support you local Democratic candidates and vote these Replicant’s out of office.
I’m a “Yankee.” During my military career, I spent time in the South and with guys from the South while I’m a “Yankee.” During my military career, I spent time in the South and with guys from the South while serving overseas. I found it amusing that many would repeat the phrase, “The South shall rise again.” I’m not sure what they meant by that, but surely they couldn’t believe they would bring slavery back.
They deluded themselves into believing the Civil War was about states’ rights but the only states’ right it was about was preserving slavery. Anyone who doesn’t believe the Civil War was about slavery should read the secession documents of the Southern states. The intent was clear in writing. From the 1890s to the 1920s, Southern states erected more than 38,000 monuments to the Confederacy in an attempt to rewrite history. The only ones they were fooling were themselves.
Robert E. Lee took the same oath to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States, as I did when I joined the United States Army. My oath survives my military retirement. Lee apparently believed his oath did not survive his resignation. He betrayed that oath and became a deserter as did the other United States Army officers and soldiers who left to fight for the South. The oath he betrayed was not to the Commonwealth of Virginia but to the United States of America.
Jefferson Davis and the wealthy southern landowners duped the poor, and working class of the South into fighting for their economic benefit. But it gets worse than that.
An honorable leader will do what is for the good of his people and yet, when the war was lost at Gettysburg in July 1863, they fought on. Out supplied, out maned, out gunned, they fought on and allowed for the total destruction of the South.
As Hitler allowed for the total destruction of Germany, and Japan did not surrender after the first atomic bomb, they refused to face reality, fighting on out of pride, and greed as hundreds of thousands more died. Only when Jefferson Davis and the leaders in Richmond were imperiled did they surrender to save their own skins.
I don’t care if the South wishes to keep their monuments to these people. They betrayed the United States and well as the people of the South. I would honor the soldiers who fought but not the leaders who betrayed their efforts. I do not want any Confederate monument on federal property. What states do is their own business. Get rid of the fake history and teach the truth to our children. Let them do what they wish with these “monuments.”
Editor’s note: this has been reprinted with the author’s permission, and has been edited for clarity and originally appeared here.
U.Va.’s historic Lawn, to symbolically “take back” our university from the torch-carrying Neo-Nazis who invaded Thomas Jefferson’s space one week ago. Eight hours earlier, as many as 1,000 people squeezed into the historic Paramount Theatre in downtown Charlottesville to honor and celebrate Heather Heyer. Friday and Saturday, thousands more will gather to recognize and mourn two state troopers who died doing their jobs protecting the citizens of the Commonwealth.
The assault on American values embodied in the reprehensible “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville last weekend demands that we take stock not only of what it means to be an American, but also about what constitutes leadership in this country. White supremacists and nationalists descended on our progressive town from across the country, some with red “Make America Great” hats, many with helmets, batons, or shields, and more than a few in camouflage with guns and rifles. Their common denominator was hate for those who do not look like them, think like them, or worship like them.
They thought they could intimidate us, and other Americans in the process. They were wrong. They came to weaken us. They did not. And, with one cowardly act by an Ohio man using his car as a weapon of terror, they inflamed a nation that has grown all-too-accustomed to the rhetoric of hate and division. Their attacks left our city deeply shaken, but also strengthened and emboldened to confront the forces of evil and hate they represent.
And while white nationalists may feel encouraged, they are politically damaged. Almost every single elected leader in the country has condemned their actions in the strongest possible terms—except our President, who asserted that some of the white supremacists and Neo-Nazis were “good people” and insisted that counter-protestors were just as responsible for the violence as those who beat them with batons, and constructed homemade battering rams to split and injure their rivals.
We grieve the terrible losses of Heather Heyer, Lieutenant Jay Cullen, and Trooper Berke Bates, and pray for their families in their time of sorrow.
We congratulate the courage of UVA students, who defended the statue of Jefferson in the face of torch-carrying supremacists.
We salute the law enforcement personnel, first responders, emergency technicians, nurses, doctors, and volunteers who provided aid in a chaotic situation.
We celebrate the clergy, both from Charlottesville and around the country, who bore witness to the power of love to conquer hate.
And we join this community in solidarity with one another in resistance to white supremacy in all its forms.
Words – Or Silence – Have Consequences
The kind of hate shown last weekend in Charlottesville has been building for decades, but its spread has accelerated since Donald Trump’s candidacy and his election to the Presidency. The President did not initiate last weekend’s events, but his encouragement of violence at his political rallies, his constant criticism and threats directed at political opponents, and his crippling dependence on white nationalists such as Steve Bannon have undoubtedly fed the growing beast of intolerance. His stumbling through Saturday’s press conference without condemning white supremacy, focusing instead on “violence on many sides,” must be described as what it was—a colossal failure of leadership. He attempted to recover on Sunday, but his unscripted Monday comments left the nation reeling, the major exception being people like David Duke and the supremacists themselves. Contrast this with our own Gov. McAuliffe, who declared early and clearly that these ideas have no place in American society. Is Trump responsible for what happened in Charlottesville? No. Did he fuel the fire that led supremacists to Charlottesville? Definitely. And did his Monday press conference forever damage whatever moral authority he might have had and further undermine his Presidency? Undoubtedly.
Political leaders of both parties are repudiating the President every day for his statements about Charlottesville events. With a few notable exceptions, however, Virginia Republicans remain timid and silent. Disavowing a President from your own party is difficult, but he has surrendered the moral high ground on this issue, and continued silence will increasingly be viewed as condonation, a position which will prove untenable to both the party and the person.
What Do We Do Next?
So what is next? Community meetings and demonstrations of support for Charlottesville are happening all over this country. These are linked to efforts at civic engagement and political involvement. At the local level, the debate on statue removal will continue, but it is very difficult to argue that these should remain, as they have now become the rallying point for forces of hate and division, and any possible utility of retaining them to educate the public about the history of slavery and white supremacy has been obliterated by torch-carrying Nazis and an ISIS-style terrorist attack. City and state police have begun a thorough review of the events to determine how law enforcement can do a better job keeping people safe.
At the state level, we are developing executive and legislative actions that address safety while disempowering the white supremacists. Can and should we restrict the ability of citizens to carry weapons during a demonstration? Or after declaration of a state of emergency? Can and should we prohibit what appear to be citizen militias, dressed to give the impression that they are law enforcement and often armed to the teeth, from participating in protests? Shouldn’t the state have a role in issuing permits that may require the deployment of substantial resources to protect the public? Should criminal and civil penalties be increased for those who create this kind of mayhem and violence as part of their protest activity? At the very least, we should amend Va Code section 18.2-287.4 to add Charlottesville to the list of Virginia communities where carrying certain loaded weapons in public areas is prohibited.
Some of these efforts will prove a heavier lift than others. Many will involve serious discussions of the first and second amendments to the U.S. Constitution. But Charlottesville and our Commonwealth are strong, and we can serve as an inspiration to others throughout our nation who seek to cast out hate and violence from their communities. To paraphrase an oft-cited quote, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good people to do nothing.” Our country has plenty of good people, and we realize that “doing nothing” is no longer an option.
Delegate David Toscano
Editors Note: this op-ed has been re-posted with the author’s permission, and originally appeared here.
For those of you who don’t read the Central Virginian, the politest thing I can say is that you’re not missing much. And with their most recent issue containing several distinct distractive narratives they are finally worthy of discussion.
Like their follow up to last weeks story about the Board of Supervisors firing Eric Purcell, accompanied by multiple letters to editor condemning the Board’s actions. And while few should have any problems with those opinions, it doesn’t change the reality that Board won’t reverse its decision.
Nor was this an isolated incident, this self induced fiasco was one of the Board's chair, Troy Wade’s and the board’s many recent missteps. Something the CV seems reluctant to notice, whether it’s because they’ve chosen not to print any letters, or won’t comment about it, isn’t entirely clear.
But when it comes to misleading narratives, Jim Ogg’s letter supporting last week’s half page ad takes the cake. Not only has he drunk the kool-aide, he insists on spraying everyone else with it. And if that name sounds familiar; you might remember him as the guy providing a running barrage of approval for whatever claptrap fell out of Brat, Reeve’s, Garrett’s and Farrells’ mouths at our three Clown Halls.
Where anyone walking into one of those meetings might have thought they’d accidentally wandered into a tent revival meeting.
As a former telecom executive, he knows full well that there is no incentive for the major ISP’s to let the electrical cooperatives compete with them in any way shape or form, let alone allow them to connect to their fiber backbones.
Perhaps the CV's readers should know about a deal he made with one of them in exchange for “allowing” them to put up a tower on his farm, persuading them into installing a loop of fiber from their tower to his house, where presumably his grandiose notions of “If you ain’t in Dutch, you ain’t much” can now be exercised at the highest speed possible.
Having held lengthy conversations with him over the years while handing out literature at the Patrick Henry 2 precinct, I was struck by his ability to spew talking points, along with his inability to explain them or why they were important.
And it is a common trait among authoritarians, much like his unwavering commitment to humble bragging about being an extractive rentier whenever possible. And when pressed for clarification about basic Republican principles, he would invariably end conversations with “I’m not going to convince you of anything.” True, but that’s never was the issue.
He’s not saying “let’s agree to disagree,” he’s deliberately derailing any future conversation, and it’s a pattern of willful deflection found throughout the entire Republican Party. His words are a distraction intended to keep people focused their frustration over internet access. Where the only thing they hear, is the County is wasting money and fiber is the way to go.
Thinking that if voters are angry enough, they will latch onto the illusion of fiber, and won’t realize that this is another broken promise … I mean deliverance from their frustrations which never comes. And like all good lies, it works because it contains a grain of truth.
Of course fiber is faster and more reliable than any other type of internet connection. But as Bernie Hill’s of the Broadband Commission points out it would cost $100 million or more to run fiber to every house in Louisa County. Nor did Mr. Ogg or Adams seem to have the slightest idea where that kind of money would come from, other than an abiding faith in the magical properties of the free market.
Not that it will ever happen, any more than the Board is likely to fast track the County’s current broadband project without considerable push back from the voters. And given how grudgingly they approved funding for its initial phase, it remains to be seen how successful they will be in balancing that same voter discontent over a lack of access to broadband against future requests for the remaining $ 4 to 4.5 million need to bring wireless and presumably high speed internet to Louisa County over the course of the next few years.
Perhaps they're convinced that the County's two most trusted sycophants ... I mean Board members will be re-elected, and that by putting all their eggs into one basket in an effort to unseat Stephanie Koren in the Mineral district they will have enough toadies on the board to make this “problem” go away.
What got left out of the CV’s narrative about Broadband, and the Boards behaviors, were the questions of; who’s behind this sudden push and who really benefits? Had they bothered to conduct any basic research, no doubt they would have found organizations such as Americans for Prosperity hiding under most of the rocks they turned over.
So why would anyone listen to these guys shill for one of the Koch brothers spin-offs?
Because AFP and a host of other dark money groups are determined to seize control of the Commonwealth at every level imaginable; backing candidates like Duane Adams in Louisa, John McGuire in the States 56th district, along with Gillespie’s unholy trinity of extremists. Knowing full well they will respond to their dog whistles, because they have grown accustomed to decades worth of resentment.
And their base will respond with incoherent rage, boiling over with frustration that their life isn’t going well, and they have no internet. And since resentment is the only “solution” Republicans have to offer, don’t let them use it to fool you into believing that local government being involved in bringing high speed internet into the county is somehow a fool’s game.
When in fact, had the County not taken up this issue, and gotten the ball rolling, we wouldn’t be hearing a peep about this from Mr. Adams or his AFP surrogates, because it would have no longer been a divisive enough issue.
Meanwhile, they are depending on people to forget that divide and conquer is the only thing Republican’s have ever offered, and they will continue to support their candidates no matter what they stand for.
Several large corporations, such as Google and Microsoft, have launched initiatives to address the problem of limited internet access. Because of the high costs of running fiber and improved wireless technologies, most of these companies have shifted their efforts to wireless solutions for broadband.
Google has suspended its fiber-to the-home plans in favor of a wireless broadband strategy that will deploy faster and with less cost. The days of being tethered to cables and wires are over – citizens want mobility – not hardwired solutions that dictate their location for access to broadband and internet.
Likewise, the Louisa County Broadband Authority (LCBBA) has opted to implement a wireless infrastructure for broadband in Louisa County rather than using costly fiber. The first steps include the construction of 10 towers throughout the county that will provide a broadband wireless infrastructure. We are now finalizing site plans for these towers and soon will solicit bids for their construction – anticipated to begin during the fall of 2017. The LCBBA will be partnering with local internet service firms to deliver broadband internet directly to homes via wireless technologies.
Expert analyses have shown that it would cost nearly $100 million to extend broadband fiber to all households in Louisa County. Obviously, that’s not a practical solution. The LCBBA is exercising due diligence with taxpayers’s money, while at the same time, moving toward a broadband strategy that is viable and sustainable.
I encourage you to keep up-to-date with LCBBA activities via: http://louisacounty.com/632/BroadbandAuthority.. At that web site, you can find minutes to our meetings and contact email addresses.
Bernie Hill Louisa County Broadband Authority
Editors Note: this letter has been reposted from the Central Virginian, and is only available online to paying subscribers. It is an example of what the proper response from an appointed official to astroturfed lies and misrepresentations should look like.
Upon hearing reports that it had successfully miniaturized a nuclear warhead for its missiles, Donald Trump issued an impromptu and apocalyptic warning to Pyongyang that North Korea “will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen.” This has alarmed many people around the country and around the world, especially as it coincides with the 72nd anniversaries of the American atomic bombings of Japan.
That’s why Secretary of State Tillerson tried to walk back Trump’s unseemly rhetoric and is pushing for cooler heads and continued diplomacy. Conversely, Defense Secretary James Mattis added to the saber-rattling by calling on North Korea to halt any actions “that would lead to the end of its regime and the destruction of its people.” It’s no wonder that the professionals in the world of foreign affairs and international relations are uneasy and on edge. When bullies shout at bullies, it is not going to turn out well.
Trump boasted Wednesday in a tweet that his first order as president was to renovate and modernize our nuclear arsenal and claimed that it is now far stronger and more powerful than ever before. This is simply not true. Our country’s nuclear stockpile is considerably smaller than at the height of the Cold War, the modernization program of which he spoke was initiated during the Obama administration and it does nothing to make nuclear yields any “stronger” or more powerful.
On Monday, the New York Times reported that the average temperature in the United States has risen dramatically since 1980, according to a federal report it had obtained. The government document is awaiting approval by the Trump administration. It apparently was leaked because scientists were fearful that the Trump administration would suppress the findings. Like many of the president’s appointments, Scott Pruitt, the EPA administrator, is tasked with dismantling the agency he heads. A former Oklahoma attorney general who built a career out of suing the EPA, he is moving effectively to dismantle regulations and international agreements on environmental issues.
Trump’s Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity lurched into action recently with a letter to all 50 states requesting full voter-roll data, including the name, address, date of birth, party affiliation, last four Social Security number digits and voting history back to 2006 of potentially every voter in all states. The request sparked widespread bipartisan push back among the states. Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe said in a statement. “I have no intention of honoring this request. Virginia conducts fair, honest, and democratic elections, and there is no evidence of significant voter fraud in Virginia.” Despite state laws which govern what voter information may be made public, Trump lashed out at the more than two dozen reluctant states by saying, “What are they trying to hide?”
It’s a good question, one that should be applied more broadly. What is this administration trying to hide? Almost every single day the country’s focus is distracted by one crisis or another, one issue or another, one attack or another. I think we know the answer: Russia, Russia, Russia.
The White House is desperate to divert our attention from the most egregious attack on our country since 9/11—Russian interference in our last election with the possible, indeed probable, collusion in that effort by individuals in the Trump campaign. Only this past Wednesday did we learn that the FBI conducted a pre-dawn raid on Paul Manafort’s house on July 26—the day after his appearance before Congress. You’ll recall he was Trump’s campaign manager last summer and has extensive ties with Russia. He was present at the infamous meeting where the Russians offered “dirt” on Trump’s opponent. It is worth noting that the FBI must convince a federal judge that it has “probable cause” that a crime has been committed to obtain a search warrant. No Trump tweets about this FBI raid on his old crony? Coincidence? Then there were the firings of Preet Bharara and all the other federal prosecutors who were investigating Trump’s Russia dealings long before Robert Mueller got involved.
The United States prides itself on being a county of laws. The American Revolution was a break with the idea that government was the whim of one man. The Founding Fathers built a structure that required respect among all three branches of government and the First Amendment enshrined respect for a free press. The president’s policy-by-tweet does not communicate well researched and planned initiatives. It is, however, a great device for sowing confusion and diverting our attention away from the real issue at hand—the Trump campaign’s alleged role in Russia’s tampering in our elections. It is up to “we the people” to ensure that the truth wins out and that our republic is devoid of foreign meddling.
Editors Note: This piece is re-posted with the author’s permission, and originally appeared here.
What’s the connection between the Louisa County Board of Supervisors "firing" Eric Purcell from the Planning Commission, oversize political ads, and the current broadband project?
They're all based on an uncommon devotion to dogmatic thinking and the deconstruction of the administrative state, where government regulations and agencies tasked with protecting citizens and their interests are systematically eliminated.
And it’s one of the biggest reasons why we have such a dysfunctional Board. Nor should it come as any surprise to learn that some of their recent actions were not based on best practices, but ideology.
And it's an autocratic approach to governance which starts with their current chair, Troy Wade, and county administrator, Christian Goodwin participating in a five county rebellion to “force” the Central Virginia Regional Jail to spend all of their remaining reserves before any of the counties would chip in another dime.
Who will piously claim to their dying day that they were only interested in saving the county money, deliberately leaving out the part were those actions did absolutely nothing in the long run to control expenses.
One of many inconvenient details; like delaying the vote on funding the Broadband initiative, at least until a more amenable supervisor could be sworn in. To holding additional hearings on bio-solids to “explore public sentiment," along with completely repealing the County’s A-2 housing, flood plain and bio-solids ordinances, apparently with little awareness of, or thought given to what the consequences of those actions might be.
Of the four Board of Supervisor’s elections this year, two are being contested, and two are running unopposed. Unfortunately, that same split helps to protect the County's two most useless supervisors who should have been voted out of office ages ago. Nor is it likely they will be leaving this year.
The best opportunity to fix our dysfunctional Board comes in 2019 when Willie Gentry, Troy Wade, and Tony Williams are up for re-election. And if a recent survey showing that more than half of Republicans are “convinced” that millions voted illegally in this past election, and would have few qualms if the Drumpf decided to postpone the 2020 election is accurate, many in their districts will continue to blindly support them no matter what they do.
Meanwhile, the only “competitive” race appears to be between Stephanie Koren and Duane Adams in the Mineral District. Given the CV’s history of under reporting the issues and the candidates, it remains to be seen what they will say about this race, or the 56th State Delegate contest between Melissa Dart and John McGuire.
And will they continue to promote syndicated op-ed’s at the expense of local commentary, while ignoring easily researchable facts, like which local and state candidates are being supported by out of state plutocratic concerns like Americans for Prosperity, a known Koch brothers front.
Editor's note: A version of this op-ed was submitted to the Central Virginian, and after two weeks, it's safe to say they have no intention of publishing it.
Dave Brat represents the 7th district of Virginia in the U.S. House of Representatives. The 7th district is made of up of parts of Amelia, Chesterfield, Culpeper, Goochland, Henrico, Louisa, Nottaway, Orange, Powhatan and Spotsylvania counties. Louisa County cast about five percent of the total votes for him in the last election of 2016.
Though Albemarle County is not within his district, many of us shop there and spend time there. We regard the city of Charlottesville and Albemarle County as friendly and safe places. Several constituents have contacted Mr. Brat with concerns regarding the planned appearance of a hate group in Charlottesville this weekend.
Rather than using his office to denounce the spread of hate speech and divisiveness among Americans, he instead defended the group’s right to free speech. Does this mean that he agrees with the hate speech? It is unclear. It is worth noting that hate speech is not protected as free speech.
He stated that members of Congress cannot discriminate against anyone and yet he himself refuses to meet with any constituents who disagree with him. Despite running on a campaign promise of being the most accessible member of Congress, he refuses to hold town hall meetings because the majority of participants disagree with him.
Finally, in his response to concerned constituents he further stated “As a devout Christian, I believe we must love one another and treat others with respect.” Hate groups are certainly not respectful. So which is it Dave? Are you living your Christian values, or are you afraid to alienate any voters who may hold the same hateful views as those coming to Charlottesville this weekend?
Editor’s note: this letter originally appeared in the August 10th edition of the Central Virginian, and has been reposted with the author’s permission, and is only available online to paying subscribers.
While Virginians can rest a little easier today as the latest Republican assault on the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has been defeated, challenges remain, and could find their way into the next General Assembly session.
Since Donald Trump’s inauguration as President in January, Virginians have been dodging bullets from Washington, D.C., as the White House and Republicans in the U.S. House and Senate propose policy after policy, which, if enacted, would dramatically impact our citizens, particularly those who are most disadvantaged.
Many citizens have focused intently on the Russia probe, Trump’s tweets, his travel ban, his treatment of our allies, his boorish behavior, his attacks on his own Attorney General, on transgender military personnel, and even his not-so-subtle efforts to undermine the 1st Amendment. But while we are justifiably concerned about all of these issues, Virginians and our economic security are put even more at risk from other policies that Trump and his allies are advocating, particularly in the health care arena. Virginia Republicans, from Ed Gillespie to members of the House of Delegates, have either fully embraced these hurtful policies, or have tacitly done so by remaining silent.
Trying to take the “care” out of health care
Candidate Trump promised to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) on “day one” of his Presidency. But President Trump was not able to force immediate action, and the fact that he failed to do so has saved Virginians considerable pain and insecurity to date.
Earlier this year, Virginia House Democrats challenged our Republican colleagues to join us in a letter to our Congressional delegation, expressing concern that repealing the Affordable Care Act without a replacement would hurt Virginians significantly and create a huge deficit in our state budget. Not one Republican delegate signed the letter, and Republicans in Congress kept pushing. In March, the Republican-controlled House ultimately rejected a straight repeal, and instead moved forward with a “repeal and replace” plan, which also placed Virginians at substantial risk, jeopardizing health insurance for over 500,000 Virginians (23 million Americans, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office) and reducing support for our state’s Medicaid program, placing thousands of elderly and disabled who rely on it at serious risk. What did Virginia Republicans say about this measure? Nothing!
It took two tries, but the U.S. House of Representatives passed their bill. The Trump White House celebrated, and the bill went to the Senate, where Republicans generated an even a more draconian proposal. Developed in secret, it received almost no support from those who either understand health policy or practice in the area. Physicians and nurses, hospitals, and even the insurance industry opposed the Senate plan. The public rose up and stated unequivocally that this was not a plan that they could embrace.
Nonetheless, Senate Republicans regrouped around a hope of finding 50 votes for straight repeal. This would mean insurance companies could discriminate against Virginians with preexisting conditions and plans would no longer need to provide for “essential” health care benefits. Insurance markets would likely head into a tailspin. And where were Virginia Republicans on this issue? Silent!
Straight repeal failed and the Senate then considered “skinny repeal,” a measure that Majority Leader Mitch McConnell admitted was no more than a partisan maneuver to keep the assault on the ACA alive via a conference committee with the House. Without the courage of several Senate Republicans who joined their Democratic colleagues, the “skinny repeal” measure could have moved forward. Last Friday morning, this effort also failed, and the Republican attack on the ACA is over, at least for the moment.
What will Washington try next?While the one-party legislative repeal effort has not been successful, Virginians are not out of the woods. Trump can undermine the ACA through executive order action and Republicans can try to destroy it through the budget process. Paul Ryan’s proposed budget would cut $487 billion in Medicare spending over the next 10 years, and could cost Virginia as much as $1 billion in Medicaid funding per year over the next decade. If the insurance marketplaces are undercut by machinations in Washington, Virginians may be left with fewer options to obtain coverage than they have at present. That is why we need to continue to speak up and demand that representatives advocate for our citizens. And we need to engage with this fall’s election, which is the first about the direction of the country in the aftermath of Trump. Ed Gillespie and Republican incumbents have thoroughly embraced repeal of the ACA; Virginians should show them that this approach will not work in our Commonwealth.
Delegate David Toscano
Editor’s note: this piece has been reposted with the author’s permission and originally appeared here.
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