In 1789, when Culpeper was part of the 5th Congressional District, candidates James Madison and James Monroe duked it out to see who would become its first Representative. One of their debates, concerning the fate of the new Constitution, took place on a snowy Sunday night on the steps outside the Hebron Lutheran Church in Madison, which still stands to this day. That may have been our shining moment.
With a population of 12,063, Culpeper was the forty-seventh largest of Virginia’s 148 counties in 1860. More than half of that population was African American, including 6,675 slaves.
Culpeper’s history regarding its non-white citizens is not admirable. Its legacy continues today with the outcry against our Muslim residents and the Sheriff’s enthusiastic promotion of anti-Muslim training and harassment of our Hispanic residents through the 287(g) program. Our community needs to become one of tolerance, inclusiveness, acceptance, and equal opportunity. Our population is now quite diverse: we’re no longer a sleepy southern backwater – our population is more than 52,000. Twenty-five percent of our population is under the age of 18. Fifteen percent are older than 65. Fifteen percent are black, 11% are Latino, almost 3% are Asian, Pacific Islander, and Native American. Women comprise half of our population.
Following the Civil War, Virginia was not readmitted into the United States until 1870, after adopting a new constitution. Culpeper became part of the 8th Congressional District and remained firmly in the hands of the unreconstructed Southern Democrats, under the leadership of John S. Barbour, Jr., who formed a political machine in the late 1880s that dominated Virginia politics for 80 years until the demise of the Byrd Organization in the late 1960s.
Virginia’s Democratic Party embedded Jim Crow laws in the Virginia Constitution of 1901/2, that effectively disenfranchised all blacks and some poor whites. Those with any African ancestry could not serve on juries or run for any office, and so lost any political voice. Most blacks remained disenfranchised until after the mid-1960s, when President Lyndon Johnson and the civil rights movement gained passage of federal legislation to enforce integration and voting rights.
Incredibly, Culpeper has only seen 16 representatives since Reconstruction. One of them, while Culpeper was part of the 8th District, was the notorious Dixiecrat Howard W. Smith, the architect of massive resistance to desegregation, from 1930 to 1966. During his 1964 reelection, at the height of the fight for integration, Culpeper voted for him by a margin of 77.3%. Culpeper was the last county in Virginia to desegregate its public schools.
Culpeper moved from the 8th to the 7th District in 1965. Until this June, the only Democratic primary ever held in the 7th District since the founding of the Republic in 1789, was in 1962, when John O. Marsh beat 4 other candidates and went on to win the general election by 598 votes. and he served four terms, until losing to J. Kenneth Robinson, a member of the Byrd Machine despite being a Republican, in 1970 and Republicans have retained the seat ever since.
Don’t get me wrong, I love Culpeper, ever since moving here nine years ago. I have personally met many of my interlocutors and almost without exception we treat each other with good humor and respect, despite our political differences. We can make that happen for all.
The Declaration reminds us that all men are created equal. If we can’t achieve that in our own communities under our own power, then the Constitution provides us with the mechanism to make it happen: at the polls. Vote on November 6th.
Editors Note: This letter originally appeared on line in the Saturday, July 14th edition
of the Culpeper Star Exponent, and has been re-posted here with the author's permission.
Readers of the Central Virginia should recall learning that their sister papers, the Hanover Herald-Progress, and the Caroline Progress went out of business this past spring. With the CV’s editor, asking in an editorial “Where will the people in those communities get that type of information now?”
A question which Lee Shaker, a professor of politics and media at Portland State University has looked into, finding that self-reported measures of civic engagement – like contacting an election official or attending a local civic organization - dropped significantly after a local paper shut down, rebounding to just half of previous levels after two years.
Other political scientists Jennifer Lawless and Danny Hayes studied the effect of both closures and curtailed coverage across America on elections for US Representatives, races which are for national office, but where voters are local.
Hayes says when papers close or cut coverage, people are less capable of identifying who's running, know what the candidate's positions on the issues are, and ultimately less likely to vote "When local papers cut coverage there's essentially nothing to take its place in these local communities," he says, adding while there have been many online local news experiments they tend to be in already media-rich environments or not as focused on public affairs.
This affects everyone, Hayes says, even those who are considered politically engaged. "I suspect over the long term, people who are pretty politically engaged figure out ways to sort of maintain their level of participation," he says. "I'm not sure they'll be necessarily as knowledgeable as they were."
Penelope Muse Abernathy, a professor and researcher at the University of North Carolina, says the closure of community newspapers means more than a loss of information.
Local news helps set the agenda for public debates by bringing particular issues to public attention, encourages regional business development by connecting local businesses with local residents (whether through ads or coverage) and can reflect what's similar or different about a national problem on the local level, she says.
"A strong local newspaper shows you how you are related to people you may not know you're related to," Abernathy says.
There are other effects too. A recent study found cities' borrowing costs to build projects like roads and schools rose after newspapers closed - making those projects more expensive to taxpayers. As similar areas without a newspaper closure did not see those effects, they hypothesize that the loss of scrutiny on local government led to more mismanagement of public funds.
Which brings up the question; what happens to communities when their local paper has other priorities? It’s no secret that the Central Virginian frequently reprints op-ed's from organizations like The Family Research Council, and The National Review, or that their commentary is extremely far to the right.
Whether these pieces are “must run” content, as with FOX NOISE and local Sinclair TV stations is irrelevant, the fact remains that they are intended to reinforce retrograde attitudes, distort the issues, and misinform their readers. What is relevant that it is being driven by their parent company Lakeway Publishers rentier mentality, focused on promoting their brand as cheaply as possible regardless of the consequences.
A mentality which apparently drives the CV’s "just the quotes" brand of reporting, where obvious follow up questions are not asked, and important local events aren’t even covered. Most notably, the three Town Hall Meetings in 2014 &15 with Louisa’s two state senators and delegate.
If local citizens hadn’t submitted multiple letters, most of the CV’s readers would have never known these meetings took place. The politest thing one can say about such selective coverage is “Once is an accident. Twice is a coincidence. Three times is an enemy action.”
So pardon my cynicism as the CV claims in oversized ads that they support their readers’ right to know, when their editorials actively promotes extreme and misleading narratives, and their reporting minimizes the consequences of local official’s actions.
That being said, the CV has improved the quantity and quality their local coverage. Now instead of minimal news, the CV’s readers can look forward to reading a collection of disjointed “factoids.” Like this weeks front page article about state laws which just went into effect.
While this “accurate and factual information” represents a marked improvement over their previous practice of cutting and pasting information about the General Assemblies affairs from Delegate Farrell’s press releases. For most of their readers, there was so little meaningful context to this “information” that it might as well been factoids from outer space.
Likewise, the CV printed eight stories this year about the Broadband Authority and the Board of Supervisors, consistently avoiding discussing the three elephants in the room. That Supervisors Wade, Adams and Williams were attempting a hostile takeover of the board, doing everything they could to subvert the broadband authority and derail the Broadband project, among other things.
The closest the CV ever got to admitting this reality was when they quoted now outgoing Supervisor Troy Wade claiming “I used to be the one with new and fresh ideas, but I ‘m not that one anymore.”
In the months leading up to the mid terms, and the 2019 state elections, elections which will include three members of the Board of Supervisors, it remains to be seen if the CV can identify who has the “fresh ideas,” and what if any merit those ideas have, or if we will get more of the usual stenography?
The president has implemented a policy of zero tolerance for immigration. This means separating the children from parents. Why is he doing this? In my opinion the president is using the children as pawns to get money for his wall on the southern border. Really!
These families are walking hundreds of miles and/ or days with few clothes, little money and leave behind their life to get to the border of the United States to ask for asylum. They are fleeing poverty, crime, drugs and death only to be told “no” because there is no room, or being blocked from stepping on U.S. soil.
We are all immigrants. At some time your family decided to come to the United States. What if your ancestors were blocked and/ or denied entry. Where would you be?
Put yourself in these immigrants’ shoes. I am a mother of six children. If I thought my children were being recruited for drug gangs, my daughters were being raped or receiving death threats, I would move heaven and earth to get them to safety. This is what is happening to most of these families.
Instead, when they ask for asylum, the parents and children are separated. The parent(s) is charged with a crime. The children are taken away crying, screaming, further frightened — and apparently the children are unable to be touched by those caring for them while confined.
There is even the possibility these children may never see their parents again. They are put in internment camps (jail) just like during WWII with the Japanese camps in the U.S., Hitler in Germany, and Mussolini in Italy. Is this what we have become?
First, the president had a Muslim ban, now it is Mexico and south. I see a pattern; it is called brown skin. If we don’t speak up now, what policy will the president enforce next? Are you next?
Whatever happened to compassion, heart and love thy neighbor as you would love yourself? I keep hearing “We are better than this.” Maybe not!
Editors Note: this originally appeared in the June 28th edition of the Central Virginian, and has been re-posted on Blue Louisa with the author’s permission.
In an interview on Richmond’s Lee Brothers show, Dave Brat said, ““I like bringing everybody together. I went to seminary, and I’m going to run positive, on the issues.”
I’m not sure what kind of economic professor Brat was but I can tell you even his worst student would question the thesis in his June 3 article in this newspaper. Brat, Trump and the Republicans have already moved the old Jim Crow stereotypes from African-Americans onto Hispanics: lazy, criminals, gangsters, rapists. In his column it’s this new group that needs to be feared. Seriously? These families being cruelly separated at the border are desperately seeking asylum from almost certain death in places like Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador. “Huddled masses yearning to be free,” anyone? Brat continues to defend the many lies that Trump and his administration have told the American people about this terrible situation. Where is his humanity?
His column is disrespectful both of democracy and his job as a representative of a government “of the people, by the people, and for the people.” He has not held a real town hall in more than 410 days. “The women are in my grill no matter where I go.” He substitutes meaningless friendly photo ops for meaningful dialogue with his constituents. As a member of the Freedom Caucus, Brat suggests that ideological purity is more important that solving peoples’ problems. That is why Senator John McCain characterized Brat and his ilk as the “no-to-everything” caucus.
Brat’s column insists that when Blue voters “get to the low-tax, high growth areas, they vote in favor of policies that undermine the economic environment they were attracted to in the first place.” Brat’s analysis—that population shifts represent people trying to avoid paying taxes—is neither economically nor sociologically sound. It is, however, useful for and designed to divide American citizens against each other. Just like Trump does.
Brat gets personal and uses Henrico County as a place, once deeply red, where new people are bringing their blue state values with them See Carolyn Walker’s excellent rebuttal to this idiotic theory, in her Letter to the Editor of June 11th—“Brat has it wrong about “red” and “blue”.
While Americans may prefer lower taxes, they also want the government, at every level, to be involved in ensuring things like affordable healthcare, quality education, safe roads, bridges and airways, and a fair business environment. Republicans, however, will drop many of these things by the wayside in their quest to constantly reduce taxes so they can appeal to their woefully ignorant base in order to get reelected. Now, they’re putting Social Security and Medicare on the chopping block. Look at Kansas to see Republicanism in action. Its Republican government drastically reduced taxes, its infrastructure crumbled, its deficit skyrocketed, and its economy tanked. It can only afford four days of school per week.
We must all energize ourselves and our friends to get out the vote in November to send Brat into retirement, so he can re-immerse himself in his Judeo-Christian economic nonsense (did I mention he went to seminary?).
After so many years of being ignored by Cantor who was pursuing loftier ambitions, and the spectacle of Brat’s do-nothing buffoonery over the past four, we must finally elect someone to the House of Representatives, who will actually work to represent us, and help us solve the nation’s problems. That person is Abigail Spanberger.
Editors Note: This letter originally appeared in the Sunday June 24th edition of the Culpeper Star Exponent, and has been re-posted here, with the author's permission.
I hope everyone has had the opportunity to read Senator John McCain’s recent book, “Restless Wave,” or watch the HBO documentary on his life, “John McCain: For Whom the Bell Tolls,” which aired this past Monday (it’s “on demand”).
I didn’t vote for Senator McCain when he ran for president, but I respect him as a Navy fighter pilot, courageous prisoner of war, a long-serving legislator, maverick, patriot and American hero. He is the epitome of “Duty, Honor, Country.”
It is outrageous that Cadet Bone Spurs treats McCain with such contempt for being captured. The Congress sent Trump a massive VA reform bill on May 23rd but somehow, Memorial Day passed without him getting around to signing it.
Where have all the other Republicans of courage gone? Republican legislators are running away from the Constitution they used to honor. Free speech? Not for football players. Freedom of religion? Not for Muslims. Rule of law? Not for immigrants or the Central Park Five. Not for the victims of former sheriff and convicted felon Joe Arpaio, whom Trump pardoned. Now, we have ICE channeling the Gestapo.
The Founding Fathers wrote our Constitution to create a federal government with three main functions: First, it established a national government consisting of a legislative, an executive, and a judicial branch, with a system of checks and balances among the three. Second, it divided power between the federal government and the states. And third, it protected individual liberties of American citizens. These elements put a premium on cooperation, compromise and mutual benefit. Trump and his Republican allies, especially the laughably-named “Freedom Caucus” that Senator McCain calls “the say-no-everything crowd,” have shredded these functions and protections. Never has the Congress so thoughtlessly abandoned its high ground against a reckless executive.
We need senators and congressional representatives that are not complicit with the dismantlement of the Constitution.
As citizens, our duty is to use the voting booth to elect people who will speak for us, not Wall Street, K Street lobbyists, or the Koch Brothers.
The Virginia primary election takes place on June 12th. Republicans who decide to vote in their own primary must choose among Nick Freitas, Corey Stewart and E. W. Jackson – all Trumpians – to run against Senator Tim Kaine. The rest of us, in Culpeper and across the 7th Congressional District, will choose between Abigail Spanberger and Dan Ward to run against incumbent Dave Brat, who has distinguished himself by avoiding his constituents, grandstanding on conservative talk shows and for closed, hand-picked audiences, while reminding everyone that he thinks he’s an economist and went to seminary. The only bill he has introduced during his entire time in the Congress that actually became law was to rename an arboretum.
Spanberger and Ward, on the other hand, have outstanding records as patriots, public servants, and strong credentials in national security. They are grass roots candidates not beholden to the party establishment. They want to represent the interests of all their constituents, work across the aisle to solve problems, and restore checks and balances among the three branches of government – unlike Dave Brat.
I will mourn for John McCain. He may be the last of the truly great United States senators. As for his Republican colleagues in the House and Senate, they are standing neck-deep in Trump’s swamp. They must all go – and, you can start that process by educating yourself, picking your champion, and voting on June 12th. This may “only” be a primary, but it is a watershed moment for Culpeper and for Virginia.
Be a part of history.
Editors Note: This letter is appeared in the Sunday June 3rd edition of the Culpeper Star Exponent, and has been re-posted here, with the author's permission.
Dave Brat brags about the Republican Tax Reform and says it will help “those that need it most.”
I want to know how making golf courses and private airplanes tax exempt helps those “who need it most.” I would also like to know how doubling the amount of tax-exempt inheritance to $11 million for singles and $22 million for couples helps “those who need it most.” Meanwhile, every penny of interest earned on money most of us try to save toward our retirement or emergencies is taxed!
Brat has been extolling that the change in the standard deduction will result in major savings for the majority of lower and middle income people, mostly because the standard deduction was raised from $12,000 to $24,000 for couples. Sounds good, doesn’t it? Unfortunately, we can no longer take the personal exemption of $4,050 per person, or $8,100 per couple, as a deduction. A family of four would lose $16,200 in personal exemptions.
Adding the previous standard deduction of $12,000 to the exemptions the family was able to deduct $28,200 in 2017--$4,200 more than the new tax plan. Millionaires are paying millions less in taxes while middle class people are paying a few dollars less and in some cases more. Tax cuts for the rich are permanent. Tax cuts for the rest of us will expire in 2025 or sooner and will cause our taxes to go up. How is the reform “helping those who need it most?”
Brat has stated that many corporations have handed out bonuses and given pay raises. One company he identified was Wal-Mart, probably one of the biggest employers in the world. Wal-Mart gave some employees bonuses and pay raises, and in the meantime, they fired thousands of employees and closed 26 of their Sam’s stores. A survey showed that only 14 percent of corporations said they would provide bonuses, pay raises, and hire more personnel because of tax reform. What the absolute majority is doing is buying back their own stock so that their profits will be larger. As for the unemployment rate going down, most of the new jobs are seasonal and temporary.
Brat gets a lot of free publicity from the media. He writes quarter-page commentaries which have been published in almost all local papers. Candidates running against him do not get the same advantage. Without an official title behind their name they have to pay for publicity.
The next thing on the Republican agenda is to make cuts to Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and the Children’s Health Insurance Program in order to reduce the billions in debt they created by giving billionaires and millionaires large tax breaks. We need someone who will look at each bill carefully and vote according to the needs of his constituents instead of blindly following the party line. Vote Brat out of office before he does further damage instead of helping “those who need it most.”
Editors Note: this originally appeared in the May 31st edition of the Central Virginian, and has been re-posted on Blue Louisa with the author’s permission.
One of my favorite freedom discussions took place a few years back when a friend and I were conversing with our five-year-old daughters about whether they could or could not go play at the neighbors’ house. My friend told her daughter no, she couldn’t. Not until she was able to take responsibility for getting home at a certain time, at which the five-year-old yelled loudly with hands on hips: “I don’t want responsibility! I want freedom!”
So, to respond to Duane Adams’ letter to the editor published May 17, yes, we all want freedom. That would be great. Regulations are annoying. They slow me down and get in my way. Sometimes they are so poorly written they are laughable.
If we all took responsibility, we would have no need for government regulation. But we don’t. We are lazy. We are greedy. We say, “Everybody else is doing it.” We litter. We pollute the air and water.
Edmund Burke, widely regarded as the philosophical founder of modern conservatism, made a distinction between ‘individual liberty’ and ‘social liberty.’ “
“Permit me then to continue our conversation, and to tell you what the freedom is that I love, and that to which I think all men entitled. This is the more necessary, because, of all the loose terms in the world, liberty is the most indefinite. It is not solitary, unconnected, individual, selfish liberty, as if every man was to regulate the whole of his conduct by his own will. The liberty I mean is social freedom. It is that state of things in which liberty is secured by the equality of restraint. A constitution of things in which the liberty of no one man, and no body of men, and no number of men, can find means to trespass on the liberty of any person, or any description of persons, in the society. This kind of liberty is, indeed, but another name for justice; ascertained by wise laws, and secured by well-constructed institutions.”
Can we, by participating in our democracy, and by electing leaders not beholden to one group or another, construct better institutions, and thereby achieve this social freedom in which we maximize each one’s liberty without treading on others?
P.S. - For those who think that we should rely on the unseen hand of the marketplace: It doesn’t work when economic power and political power are one, which is what seems to have happened.
Editors Note: this originally appeared in the May 24th edition of the Central Virginian, and has been re-posted on Blue Louisa with the author’s permission.
For those of you who read the Central Virginian, you might have noticed two letters in their May 17th op-ed section. One by Mr. Jackson defends Dave Brat, claiming he has made a “difference.” And like Mr. Reynold’s and Hogan’s pieces from the week before, he makes little effort to point out where he made a difference.
Other than a vague libertarian proclamation that he supports “reining in the Federal Reserve banking cabal,” a grandiose rationale little removed from Mr. Adams assertion that extreme Senate candidate Nick Frietas “will defend our freedom,” from government micromanagement.
What these letters have in common is their reliance on ideological faith to justify Republicans social and economic policies, using deceptive claims like “Conservatism is a positive, uplifting philosophy” and “economic and personal liberty are the keys to prosperity” in an effort to normalize their Party’s extreme agenda.
Nor does one have to look very hard to find evidence of this mindset in Louisa, like this week’s front page story about the Board of Supervisors and Broadband.
Reporting which glosses over the fact that the Board is being hijacked by a gang of three in plain sight, starting with their 7-0 decision to allow two at-large members to serve on the Broadband Authority, a “compromise” which is intended to allow the likes of Jim Ogg, one of the persons most opposed to the Broadband project to have a say in deciding the Broadband Authorities future.
On a related note; most of this blogs readers know that the CV has refused to allow either Abigail Spanberger, or Dan Ward to respond to Dave Brat’s misleading letter last month. According to representatives of both campaigns, the CV claims it’s because they have a policy of not printing letters from political candidates or their campaigns.
A decision which is certainly their prerogative and one which they have repeatedly failed to exercise equally, like turning last year’s election week op-ed section from a “rebuttal” edition into one promoting Republican candidates, just as they did the year before.
What people don’t know is that Adams letter to the CV was also broadcast verbatim via a State Party controlled email system the same day this letter came out. If this were the first time that something like this happened one might be tempted to simply dismiss this as a local paper being duped by slick operators.
But it’s hardly the first time, and likely won’t be the last.
And while the CV may profess they have a responsibility to keep their readers informed about what’s going on in Virginia’s General Assembly and Congress, it should be said that they only started “informing their readers” about the deeds of the General Assembly after being called out by multiple letter writers for failing to report on several town halls with our state representatives.
And that their notions of what constitutes informing their readers consists of reprinting material straight from the legislators fliers, web and Facebook pages, regardless of how accurate or truthful it is. Such willingness to accept whatever these representatives say as the gospel truth shows that the CV’s editor and reporters either don’t have enough knowledge of the issues to ask relevant questions, or aren’t interested in asking those questions.
Inactions which allow them to call political propaganda informing their readers, and why when provided evidence that these legislators are clearly misrepresenting the material facts, and that their “guest commentaries” are appearing in other local papers and RW blogs around the state, the CV’s response continues to be the sound of silence.
On the day that the White House celebrated a day of prayer, Rudy Giuliani said that multiple payments to numerous women on behalf of the Donald Trump may have been possible. Now, it appears that Michael Cohen was reimbursed to the tune of $500,000 by a Russian oligarch close to Putin. Meanwhile Speaker Ryan tried to fire the chaplain of the House of Representatives, Reverend Patrick Conroy, a Jesuit priest who offered a mild prayer for justice during the debate over the GOP tax cut.
Scott Pruitt continues his corrupt lifestyle at the taxpayers’ expense while destroying environmental protections as fast as he can. Ryan Zinke, at Interior, is selling off our National Parks and Monuments. The swamp is not being drained; it’s becoming an open sewer with many new inhabitants.
Most egregious of all his egregious decisions, just this past Tuesday, Trump abrogated America’s partnership in the international agreement that was also signed by the United Kingdom, France, Germany, the European Union, Russia, China, and Iran. It is a multilateral arms control deal, unanimously endorsed by a United Nations Security Council Resolution. We are now in violation, and Iran is free to restart its nuclear weapons ambitions if it so chooses.
The other signatories are decrying Trump’s decision, and informed military, scientific, national security and diplomatic experts who have served in both Republican and Democratic administrations are all horrified. The International Atomic Energy Agency has determined, through remote monitoring and unprecedented intrusive access to all Iran’s nuclear facilities, that Iran is, indeed, in complete compliance. Bush abrogated the last agreement with North Korea and now Trump has demonstrated that, once again, the United States cannot be trusted to keep its international commitments.
But change is sure to come, and the 7th Congressional District will be right in the middle of it. Excited about the extraordinary quality of the candidates who stepped up to run against Steve Bannon protégé Dave Brat, for the first time in years, the Democratic Committee of the 7th Congressional District decided to hold a primary and let the people choose between candidates Dan Ward and Abigail Spanberger, who have been crisscrossing the district in an intense but civilized campaign for votes.
This is a clarion call for democracy and a demonstration of the Democratic Party’s robust confidence in the will of the people. If you truly want America to become great again, then it must start here in the 7th District by kicking Dave Brat out of office, reelecting Senator Kaine, and taking back Congress from the Republican Party, which has effectively blocked any progress in this country for the last ten years.
The Primary is scheduled for June 12th. Be sure your voter registration is up-to-date, that you have the proper identification, and that you know where your polling place is (you can do all this at one website: http://www.voteinculpeper.info/). Then, go exercise your rights.
The deadline for registering to vote in the June 12th Primary is May 21st. Absentee voting has already begun. June 5th is the last day you can request that an absentee ballot be mailed to you. June 9th is the last day you can vote absentee in person at the Registrar’s office. The polls open at 6:00 am on June 12th.Candidates’ yard signs are popping up around town. Volunteers have begun canvassing door-to-door, and you may be receiving phone calls urging you to register, vote, and support one candidate or the other. The important things are to become informed on the issues, where the candidates stand on them, and then exercise your franchise.
Editors Note: This letter is scheduled to appear in the Sunday May 13th edition of the Culpeper Star Exponent, and has been re-posted here, with the author's permission.
Mr. Reynold’s and Hogan’s May 10th letters in the Central Virginian were similar to their previous ones; filled with misrepresentations of the material facts, unsubstantiated claims, and outright lies. Like how Mr. Hogan professes to be; a concerned citizen, not affiliated with any party, and a former CPA, yet declines to discuss the tax bill he’s ‘rebutting.”
Instead he chooses to divert the conversation with declarations that Democrats will spend millions unseating Brat. Perhaps, but with all that dark money pouring into his campaign coffers, it’s more likely they will be significantly outspent.
He gives lip service to the notion of following the rule of law with fancy words like obstreperous, while claiming his president is being targeted by a special prosecutor and a judicial system run amuck. Attempting to move the conversation away from our being a nation of laws where all are accountable, to antiquated ideas like constitutional revisionism.
And yet claims that he favors “not electing a representative who can just give a good speech,” knowing full well that Brat is a born carnival barker, who won’t be out shilled, at least when people aren’t up in his grill. Perhaps that’s why for over a year, his man has been limiting his public appearances to closed audiences.
But when it comes to defiant misrepresentations, half-truths and outright lies Jerry Reynolds has no peer
Demonstrating his cluelessness after citing Apple’s announcement of “the largest share buybacks in American corporate history’’ and that they are “making out like bandits,” as proof of how well things are going well. Completely oblivious to the dangers which accompany such concentrated wealth.
Whether November produces a Blue Wave, or Democrats are swept out of the Senate, Republican’s will continue to distort the facts. Like Jerry’s claim that President Obama’s economic message was, “the best days are behind us. Get used to the decline. America has no Exceptionalism about it. America never was that great.”
Misrepresentations aimed at those who feel their status and privilege is being threatened, speaking to their disillusionment and anger with the modern world. A dissatisfaction which leads one to either embrace reactionary politics fetishizing the past, or progressive politics which aims to create a better future.
Republicans are doing everything they can to redirect that anger, “not towards those who are the cause of their misery but against those who are just below them on the economic ladder,” using the sheer repetition of their small lies to convince the public that theirs is the only truth.
Meanwhile, piece by piece, notions of objective reality dissolve as facts give way to a unending barrage of alternative facts until people become so habituated to their distractions that their openly racist and xenophobic messages become normalized.
Jerry’s claim that people despise Trump depends on who you talk to. His supporters will approve of his actions no matter what the consequences by overwhelming majorities. Meanwhile, he and Republican leaders continue to circumvent the rule of law, deconstructing and politicizing our government at every opportunity.
If they are being scorned, it’s because of these deeds and growing confirmation of widespread corruption.
A reality which many Republican’s will deny as long as there are FOXified myths like American Exceptionalism for them to cling to.
While many had hoped that when the Drumpfs policies started to affect his supporters that they would start to see the error of their ways. I suspect their capacity for delusion and rationalization exceeds any means of measurement, and his supporters will continue to be willfully defiant.
Like Eddie Devine, owner of Devine Creations Landscaping in Kentucky who says restrictions on seasonal foreign labor may put him out of business, and that “I feel so stupid” and that “I feel like I’ve been tricked by the devil.”
But what makes him angriest is that Trump’s properties in Florida and New York have used 144 H-2B workers since 2016. “I want to know why it’s OK for him to get his workers, but supporters like me don’t get theirs,” Devine said.
Observations which signal two possibilities about Trump's supporters; either they voted for Trump because he is a racist or they voted for him despite his racism, which they did not see as a disqualifying character trait. They were not duped or tricked into supporting him.
They made a conscious and intentional decision: Now some are upset that he has not honored his part of the bargain. While others like Bryan Hall, owner of G.W. Hall and Sons Seafood packing plant on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, continue to cling to the belief that “Trump can fix it with his pen.”
Living in world where any rationalization will do, incapable of admitting their hero’s actions is the cause of their circumstances, and virtually unreachable even when their livelihoods are at risk.
I read with dismay Representative Dave Brat’s highly partisan defense of the new tax law which mainly took effect on January 1. Representative Brat has ignored many important points.
The first point he has failed to mention is that the individual cuts are temporary and will expire in a few years. These temporary rate cuts come with many reductions or eliminations of certain deductions. Personal exemptions are gone, hurting most larger families. There are new limits on mortgage interest and real estate tax deductions. Miscellaneous deductions are gone.
This will hurt many individuals, such as salesmen who use their vehicles for business; medical personnel and law enforcement officers who must maintain their uniforms; contruction workers and mechanics who must purchase their own tools, as well as many others.
Many larger, very profitable corporations will see their tax rates go down from 35 percent to 21 percent. Personally, I have been in favor of this type of corporate tax reform for many years. However, most smaller, less profitable corporations will suffer as they will experience a tax increase from 15 percent to 21 percent.
The estate tax exclusion has been doubled. This will be a huge benefit to a very small number of very wealthy Americans.
It is time we have a tax code that is simpler and fair to all Americans—one that does not just pick winners and losers. I wrote to Mr. Brat prior to the vote, but unfortunately his reponse seemed full of platitudes. I would welcome any reasonable dialogue he would like to have with me regarding these matters.
Stephen Wunsh, CPA
Editors Note: This letter originally appeared in the May 3rd edition of the Central Virginian, and has been re-posted with the author’s permission.
In his guest column in the April 19 issue of The Central Virginian, Congressman Dave Brat painted a rosy picture of the effects of the Tax Reform Act. He claims that over 90 percent of middle class Americans will get a tax cut of $2,000 this year.
But wait a minute—you have to be making $76,000 a year to get that size reduction. And that is a single person’s income, not a family income. For that to be the average, you have to be using a really wide brush to paint such a picture of the middle class. It certainly isn’t the average or median income family in Louisa County.
If you are making minimum wage, your reduction will be less than $200 annually.
Mr. Brat extols the reduction of tax rates on small businesses. That’s great. But wait a minute? What do you call small? What about the dramatic reduction in corporate taxes, from 35 percent to 21 percent? That’s not just for “small” businesses.
There is a problem with reducing taxes. If the government takes in less revenue, how will we pay for roads, schools and other infrastructure? We won’t be able to, and they are already talking about cutting Social Security and Medicare because we “can’t afford” them.
Editors Note: This letter originally appeared in the May 3rd edition of the Central Virginian, and has been re-posted with the author’s permission.
Like most of us, I recently sent in my income tax forms. I owed and sent in a check. Then I took a look at what the Republican tax cut was going to do for me. After all, I’m a member of the middle class, so I should be happy right? Wrong. Very wrong. Next year my taxes will be higher, much higher and they’ll continue to go up as more of the so-called cuts go away.
Contrast this with Ford Motor Company, which just published its financials. They had a billion-dollar profit in the first quarter and expect to pay only nine percent in effective tax. Not the 21 percent the tax cut calls for. Without the tax cut their effective tax rate would have been 13 percent. So, loopholes prevail, and I’m getting hosed while Ford sends more money to their stockholders.
According to the Congressional Budget Office, the Republican tax cut will add 1.3 trillion dollars to our national debt. Isn’t it the Republicans who scream about raising the debt? Why did they do this?
And why would Rep. Dave Brat write an op-ed claiming the tax cut was a good thing? Is he so misinformed, or is he just parroting the party line? I believe he’s parroting and knew the tax cut would hurt me and many like me.
As an independent voter, I’m going to be looking for a suitable replacement for Dave Brat. Someone I can talk to and see in person once in a while. Dave Brat has made himself practically invisible here in Louisa County. We voted out Eric Cantor (our last congressman) for many of the same reasons.
For now, I need to review my budget to see where the additional tax will hurt the least. I hope you are doing the same.
There are primaries coming up in June. Please vote.
Editors Note: This letter originally appeared in the May 3rd edition of the Central Virginian, and has been re-posted with the author’s permission.
Rep. Dave Brat said in his letter last week that middle-income families will get a lowered tax this year. But he failed to say that the highest-income families will benefit even more. I got this information from the web site of the same center Brat mentions—the Tax Policy Center.
The Tax Policy Center, in addition to calculating that middle-income families will, in general, receive a tax cut, points out that the benefits are (surprise, surprise) “tilted toward higher income taxpayers,” not only in dollar amount (which you would expect), but as a percentage.
I notice that Brat did not mention this in his commentary. The Tax Policy Center (web site taxpolicycenter.org) also discusses the unpredictability of the long-term effects of such a large money stimulus, since the economy is already at near full employment.
Another concern is the increased deficits if the GOP’s pie-in the-sky expectations for economic growth are not met. The TPC calls these concerns “a large fiscal experiment.” But Brat might only be trying for his re-election, rather than creating an economy we can all benefit from long-term.
Editor's Note: this letter originally appeared in the April 26th edition of the Central Virginian, and has been re-posted here with the author's permission.
When the Louisa County Board of Supervisors adopted the FY2019 budget last week, the majority of the board refused to make the Louisa County Public Library a priority. The board killed a motion to allocate an additional $19,000 in funding, which would have enabled the library to open four more hours per week.
Supervisors Bob Babyok, Fitzgerald Barnes and Willie Gentry supported the motion while Troy Wade, Toni Williams, Duane Adams and Tommy Barlow opposed. In making this move, at least one board member offered unconvincing reasons for doing so. Another supervisor was scornful of our library throughout the budget process.
Supervisor Duane Adams claimed the library was unwilling to compromise on its funding request even as he voted against a motion that was clearly a compromise. The motion, which sought to fully fund the library’s budget request, was amended on the floor to cover only funds necessary for an increase in hours. In comments at the meeting, a library official laid out a number of ways the facility could expand services while receiving less than full funding. The library was flexible. The majority of this board was not.
During a budget work session, Supervisor Toni Williams was openly dismissive of our library, derisively suggesting that the county replace it with a Starbucks. With comments like this from the board’s vice chairman, is it any wonder that the majority of supervisors refused to fund any upgrade in services?
This board passed a $108 million budget and the county boasts an $11.8 million unrestricted fund balance. Millions of dollars are being funneled into costly water infrastructure. Yet, this board can’t find an extra $19,000 for a longstanding community institution. The only additional funding the board granted the library, early on in the budget process, amounts to a cost of living increase: an allocation to help cover employees’ rising health insurance costs.
The Louisa County Public Library has a committed staff. It’s a vibrant community hub that offers thousands of books and so much more. But, if it’s not adequately supported by our county, it will fail to meet the dynamic needs of a growing community. Already Louisa’s library is the only branch in the JMRL system that operates less than 48 hours a week, lagging behind libraries in both Nelson and Greene counties.
Our library weathered the storm of lean economic times. With a strengthening economy evidenced by more money in the county’s coffers, the library hoped to restore hours cut during the recession. But the majority of this board made clear that no matter the fiscal climate, our library is not a priority. If you care about this critical institution, I urge you to hold our elected representatives accountable and contact them directly to voice your concerns.
Editor's Note: this letter originally appeared in the April 26th edition of the Central Virginian, and has been re-posted here with the author's permission.
For those of you who read the April 19th edition of the Central Virginian you may have noticed representative Dave Brat’s op-ed claiming that according to Americans for Tax Reform, “… over 500 companies are directing part of their tax cut savings to their combined four million employees in the form of higher compensation.”
Despite being a flat out lie, he doubles down on that claim saying; “Small businesses are also big winners under the new code. They receive a new 20 percent tax deduction on their earnings. This will allow them to keep more of their earnings to pay down debts, improve or expand their operations, and reward their employees.”
He invited the CV’s readers to join him in celebrating how tax cuts work at an event hosted by the Job Creators Network, claiming that these “… tax cuts amount to real savings.” Since he first ran for office, deliberate obfuscation’s, misdirection’s accompanied by astroturfed support from front groups like AFP and the Koch Brothers are all he’s ever offered, unless one counts xenophobic dog whistles.
Perhaps that’s why his supporters were outnumbered by protestors at this event.
Unfortunately what he’s really talking about is savings for the wealthiest amongst us, while the rest of us are left with the “crumbs.”
Those of you who have read my letters in the CV and pieces in Blue Louisa over the years know that I’ve never made any bones about their shameless promotion of far right ideology and tact acceptance of extremism; whether it’s in their syndicated columns, or reprinting whatever Brat, Reeves, and Garrett have to say, regardless of how accurate or truthful it is.
What you probably don't know is that for the past 6 months, the CV editor has refused to print my letters, claiming that's “it’s our decision," while refusing to elaborate further. So if you want to see more letters discussing local, regional and national issues, keep writing to them. Meanwhile, Blue Louisa continues to offer local writers an alternative platform free of their restrictions.
But keep in mind that even the most widely read piece in Blue Louisa will reach a few hundred Democratic and progressive readers, while the CV's letters reach thousands. And with regard to Brat's misleading op-ed, any public response falls to local writers and hopefully the two candidates running against him, Abigail Spanberger, and Dan Ward.
So it should be most interesting to see what the CV prints in the days to come
Next: Blasts from the Past; June 2014, What really happened and local attitudes
This recent Republican primary was one where roughly 8% of the voters showed up to vote. Such low turnout meant that relatively few voters had the power to make a huge difference. On the Republican side; traditional conservative’s were outnumbered by Brats tea party supporters, followed by an unknown number of Democrats, many of who held their noses and voted for a candidate even further to the right than Cantor.
Leading to speculation that there were large numbers of Democrats crossing over and voting for Brat and swinging the election. The fact that Virginia has open primaries which allow this left that possibility open. But the broad consensus is that, no, Democrats aren't to blame or thank. They may have added to Brat's margin, but it doesn't look like they were single handedly responsible.
Like wise with the appealing narrative that he got taken down by redistricting; certainly his loss underscores the dangers of overenthusiastic gerrymandering. Virginia Republicans efforts to fix Cantor's district in 2010 did have the effect of making it far more conservative. In Eric’s case you “live by the redistricting sword, die by the redistricting sword”.
Brat’s camp might like to claim that this election was “an absolute repudiation of establishment politics” and that Eric was voted out of office because he wasn’t “sufficiently conservative” making populist claims that Eric was in bed with big business.
Brat’s claims that Eric supports "amnesty" for illegal immigrants, and was "soft" on immigration, was nothing but a coded appeal to his tea party supporter’s native prejudices.
Trite as it may seem, the more convincing explanations are based more on variations of Cantor having gone native in Washington DC … gotten too big for his britches…. lost sight of the little people back home. "Mudcat" Saunders, a well-known Democratic consultant, offered this explanation to Time:
"Was immigration an issue? Yes. Was it the deciding factor to the tune of 11%? Not no, hell no. It's a fairy tale,"
The idea of Cantor having lost touch with the voters is especially vivid when compared to the story of South Carolina Senator, Lindsey Graham, who, when faced with the same sort of skeptical constituents, restored his relationships with local GOP officials, stumped aggressively around the state, running a slew of positive TV spots focusing on what he’s done.
Cantor, on the other hand, threw a barrage of negative ads at the problem—a tactic which may have a backfired, their ham-fisted attacks only raised Brat's previously-invisible profile—while he continued to stay inside the Beltway, laying groundwork toward taking the speakership. Like spending that fateful Tuesday morning meeting with lobbyists and donors in Washington, rather than campaigning
Cantor demise has Shakespearean overtones as he became the epitome of everything that's wrong with Washington by his own actions, becoming the perfect lightning rod and the “only conduit voters had to express their anger”.
Despite all these factors working against him with his constituents and in Congress, it’s frequently true that when it comes to winning elections that “money talks and everything else walks.” So how did Cantor manage to lose after outspending his opponent 40 to 1, spending approximately $ 5 million to his opponents $ 200,000?
According to his campaign filings, Dave Brat didn't have support from any of the big-money Tea Party organizations, like Freedom Works, Club for Growth, Americans for Prosperity etc., or from any of corporate PACs, who apparently didn't want to risk pissing off the Majority Leader and possible next Speaker in case of an anti-Boehner revolt.
According to Thom Hartmann, one of the reasons, if not the biggest reason, Eric Cantor lost this primary election was that he completely underestimated the dark money machine that was the real force behind David Brat’s campaign.
Dave Brat pretty much owes his current job as a professor of economics to people like the Koch brothers and their cronies. John Allison, the former CEO of BB&T bank and the current head of the Koch-founded Cato Institute, gave Brat's college a $500,000 grant back in 2010 to set up the BB&T Moral Foundations of Capitalism Program at Randolph Macon University.
This is just one of 68 programs around the country that BB&T sponsors, according to Allison “at most of the major universities in our operating area.” Their reading list usually features reading of Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, and the size of the money pile "donated" ranges from $500,000 to $2 million depending on how vigorously universities agree to promote this quackery.
Allison boasts that “many [students] indicate the program is the first time they have heard capitalism defended from an ethical perspective,” attempting to steer the next generation of young people into buying their brand of Ayn Rand-ism and libertarian economics. Like hundreds of other college professors across the country, David Brat is little more than a bought-and-paid-for shill.
But the connections between Brat and the dark money machine don’t stop there. He is a hand picked candidate of the Koch-backed world.Over the past few months, right-wing radio hosts like Laura Ingraham and Mark Levin have been pushing Brat and attacked Cantor non-stop on their radio shows.
Beyond well know names like Rush Limbaugh; most of us remain unaware of the size and influence of a parallel universe of toxic messaging that is being broadcast over the nations radio waves. A few months ago Politico covered this story, which was completely ignored by the mainstream media, just like they did three years ago. Their reports covered a fast growing and influential network of conservative radio talk show hosts who are driving the countries so called conservative movement.
“Filings with the Internal Revenue Service and Federal Election Commission, as well as interviews and reviews of radio shows, found that conservative groups (such as Americans for Prosperity) spent nearly $22 million to broker and pay for involved advertising relationships known as sponsorships with a handful of influential talkers... Since then, the sponsorship deals have grown more lucrative and tea party-oriented.”
Let’s be clear, David Brat isn’t just some college professor, he’s foot soldier of the libertarian billionaire class and its army of talk radio hosts. This is the brave new world of dark money politics, a raving-loon industrial complex of radio shows financed in some way or another by a vast lagoon of plutocratic payola.
Regular readers of Blue Louisa and our local paper the Central Virginian may recall an earlier commentary which covered the pervasive and corrosive influence that FOX news has on its viewers particularly those over 65, along with the subsequent wave of vitriolic responses it generated.
Generating a host of comments spread over several letters ranting about how liberals “blame the religious right, the Tea Party, and folks over 65 for not understanding,” or how they are trying to “silence them with vicious attacks”. To being offended by the observation that conservatives are “consistently on the wrong side of moral and social progress”.
To claiming that that “Fox News is the most fair, accurate, and balanced news organization in existence today”, the “only news outlet that has not been co-opted by this government” To ending their letters with “thank God for Fox News”, and “God bless the USA!”
Comments to which the comic Ron White once remarked, “You can’t fix stupid”.
It should be noted that those responses came from the same folks who voted overwhelmingly for Brat; considerably older, whiter, staunchly religious, rabidly conservative who viscerally reject the idea of any compromise.
They don’t want any of that old school backroom deal making, nor do they want the pretense of it either. They want continuous confrontation, stonewalling, brinksmanship and repeated government shutdowns, preferring to live in a state of permanent dysfunction, and racial balkanization because it feels more “honest.”
And here in the 7th district being a know-nothing isn’t just a political opinion; it’s a way of life.