Legendary journalist Bob Woodward’s latest book, "FEAR: Trump in the White House," is a chilling portrayal of the unending chaos at the very center of our government, where Trump’s aides desperately attempt to protect the country and themselves from his erratic, lying, ignorant, unrelenting, and stubborn, narcissistic behavior on a daily basis.
You should read it—it’s stunning. Woodward, of Watergate fame, helped bring down another lying president, Richard Nixon. Woodward has written books about our nine most recent presidents—20 percent of all America’s chief executives. Woodward is careful and meticulous – writing "FEAR" based on real interviews with people involved with this administration, on “deep background,” meaning that their identities would not be revealed.
If they asked to say something “off the record,” he would say no. In most cases, the respondents would go on with, “Well, I’ll just tell you anyway.” He has tape recordings of all these interviews, and in reading the anecdotes, there can just be no doubt that the dialogues in “quotations” are absolutely true-to-life.
Despite Trump officials’ blanket denials, they have not, in fact, denied anything that Woodward has quoted them as saying.
The Washington Post’s Fact Checker has calculated that Trump has lied more than 5000 times since his inauguration. In Montana last week, he made 125 false or misleading statements in a mere two hours.
As Hurricane Florence approached the Carolinas, he had this to say: "3,000 people did not die in the two hurricanes that hit Puerto Rico. When I left the Island, AFTER the storm had hit, they had anywhere from 6 to 18 deaths. As time went by it did not go up by much.
Then, a long time later, they started to report really large numbers, like 3000... This was done by the Democrats in order to make me look as bad as possible when I was successfully raising Billions of Dollars to help rebuild Puerto Rico. If a person died for any reason, like old age, just add them onto the list. Bad politics. I love Puerto Rico!” These appalling and bald-faced lies have infuriated Republicans and Democrats alike all across the political spectrum.
Bob Woodward calls this, and similar behavior coming out of every part of his apparatus, “the war on truth.” Unfortunately, as in other fascist governments, millions of people have been duped into believing propaganda.
Not surprisingly, Trump’s Republican war on truth is being fought at every political level. Corey Stewart is a racist bigot who embraces white nationalists and spreads vicious lies about Tim Kaine.
Our very own Congressman, Dave Brat, is a prime example of a politician who twists facts, insinuates lies about his opponent, and repeatedly lies to his own constituents. According to PolitiFact, 67 percent of Brat’s statements are rated either “False” or “Mostly False.” In contrast, only 17 percent are rated “True.”
Check for yourselves. If Brat had the slightest bit of character or a shred of human decency, he would have disavowed the gross invasion of privacy, perpetrated by Paul Ryan’s “Congressional Leadership Fund” PAC, after Spanberger’s Personal Security Questionnaire was illegally released to them.
Culpeper’s town councilman, chair of the local Republicans and founder and national director of the American City County Exchange (ACCE) an ALEC spin off, Jon Russell, foolishly promotes Brat by repeating lies about the so-called “deep state” and accusing Spanberger of running as a tool of the Democratic establishment.
You have a choice on November 6. Abigail Spanberger has taken the high road and is running on her vision of service to her constituents, not promoting negative ads nor lying about Dave Brat. She doesn’t have to. His record and his behavior speak for themselves.
Editor’s note: This originally appeared in the Culpeper Star Exponent, and has been modified with the author’s permission to clarify Mr. Russell’s relationship with ALEC and ACCE.
With weeks remaining until the election, Republicans controlling the House and Senate will double down on their attempts to remain in power. Whether it’s another tax cut for the wealthy, or yet another continuing resolution which keeps the government open a little longer, the results will be the same.
Less tax revenue, more borrowing and increased federal debt. And less money for vital social programs, all part of their ongoing efforts to reduce our government to where it’s “small enough to drown in the bathtub.” While fiscal responsibility should always be a priority for Congress, Republicans are willing to use any means necessary to blow up the Federal budget as a pretext to their real goal; eliminating Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.
And whenever they’ve had full control of Congress and the presidency, they’ve passed budget busting legislature like the 2001-2003 Bush tax cuts, the 2004 Medicare part D donut hole, and most recently last year’s tax cut which doesn't take full effect until after the mid-term elections.
The fact that the latter adds another $1.9 Trillion to the deficit, and their proposed tax cut 2.0 would increase the deficit by another $3.8 Trillion isn’t relevant to Congressional Republicans. What is relevant in the words of Grover Norquist is that they can; “... inflict pain. It is not good enough to win; it has to be a painful and devastating defeat. We're sending a message here. It is like when the king would take his opponent's head and spike it on a pole for everyone to see.”
While their take no prisoner’s attitude appeals to their supporters basest tribal instincts, ultimately it’s a distraction, one which allows Republicans to hide in plain sight the fact that they continue to “socialize the losses, and privatize the profits,” passing the risk for shady financial practices to the American people, setting the stage for another worldwide economic crisis.
With the Drumpf threatening more trade wars, and shutting down the government if he doesn’t get his border wall, the chances increase with every misstep. Meanwhile Republican leaders claim they have a plan to avert a government shutdown on September 30th, hoping to postpone that fight until after the midterm elections.
Having allowed our government to shut be down twice this year, once in January and again, briefly, in February and demonstrating a great reluctance to confront a President who thinks that government shutdowns are a “great political issue”, it remains to be seen how successful they will be.
One indication of just how clueless the Republican’s economic policies continue to be comes from an April 2011 letter to the Central Virginian. Where “Many of the world’s leading economists believe that this country cannot move forward on a psychological level when their government refuses to even admit culpability in the continued cover up of the greatest illegal transfer of wealth our nation and the world has ever witnessed.”
“Restoring trust is crucial to our economic recovery, and trust will not be restored until those responsible for the financial crash are held accountable.”
Since that didn’t happen, the political consequences of the 2008 financial collapse here and abroad were largely ignored. With Columbia economic historian Adam Tooze pointing out in his book, “Crashed: How a Decade of Financial Crises Changed the World,” we are still living with the consequences of that crash.
The Fed’s decision to use taxpayers’ money to bail out the banks in 2009 and not the American people was intrinsically a political decision, one which has facilitated the upwards transfer of trillions of dollars of wealth from the middle class to the .1%
According to Tooze the Fed covertly provided close to five trillion dollars in liquidity and loan guarantees to non-American banks, along with roughly ten trillion dollars to foreign central banks through currency swaps. With an official at the New York Federal Reserve telling Tooze that it was like “a guardian angel was watching over us.” If the full scope of what the Fed was doing were known, there would have been a massive uproar.
Perhaps more accurate statement should be; this happened because our justice system has stopped punishing financial criminals, and has evolved into a protection racket — no matter who's in office or which party's in power.
Since 2003, the Justice Department has practiced a policy of deferred prosecution agreements, allowing companies to escape criminal convictions in exchange for promising not to engage in any further illegal activity, along with a nominal fine. Leading several federal judges to call it a “façade of enforcement,” a way to avoid the consequences of their illegal behavior because they are now “too big to prosecute.”
Actions which have fueled the resentment of people around the globe, an anger that was exploited in this country by plutocrats like the Koch brothers with their astroturfed Tea Party movement in 2009 and culminating with the Drumpf as the loudest voice in the room.
Tooze writes that “it is an open question whether the American political system will support even basic institutions of globalization, let alone any adventurous crisis fighting at a national or global level.”
Meanwhile, this administration and their G.O.P. cronies are busy hastening the next financial crisis along —doing everything possible to undermine our ability to deal with it. What often gets lost in most conversations about the Great Recession, is the magnitude of the damage that the 2008 financial contagion wreaked on democratic governments around the world.
According to Stanford University Business School Professor Anat Admati, the actions taken by our government and indeed governments around the world have contributed to a widespread breakdown and a lack of trust in any institution.” “What we witnessed here … is kind of ominous. It raised a lot of questions about who controls society ― corporations or the elected government.”
Nor is any coincidence that in the past few years we’ve seen a dramatic increase in nationalistic and fascist rhetoric from political candidates and leaders around the world, particularly this administration. Or that the Republican’s messages have evolved from coded dog whistles straight into fear and conspiracy theories.
If we're going to have any chance of preserving what’s left of our democracy, now is the time to throw the Republicans out office. So get out there and cast your vote for Abigail Spanberger as your new 7th CD representative, and re-elect Tim Kaine as our Senator.
Four years ago we hired Dave Brat to carry out one job–to be our Representative in the House of Representatives. Now, Dave is back asking us to rehire him for two more years. As with any job you have ever held or, if you’re in business, with any employee you’ve ever hired, the main question in determining whether you keep your job, or whether you keep that employee on the payroll, is how well they have done that job.
It is clear that Dave Brat has NOT done a good job at being a legislator. Of the legislation he has sponsored, only one bill has become law, and that one was to name the arboretum at the Richmond VA hospital. Most of the legislation Dave has sponsored or co-sponsored has not even gotten out of committee. Even members of his own party don’t support his legislation: six of his introduced bills have not been cosponsored at all; seven bills have been cosponsored by only one other member.
Apparently, Dave Brat didn’t read the job description when he ran for Congress. He does not view the House of Representatives as a legislative body, but as a pulpit for espousing his vision of a free-market society in which everybody gets rich, free from government control. He has spent far more energy in Congress trying to block things from getting done than legislating.
Dave Brat is a true believer. He thinks that compromise is a show of weakness and he will not compromise. And it makes him particularly unqualified to be a legislator. Accomplishing anything in a legislative body requires you to argue strongly for your position, and then to bargain and compromise to get the best enacted law you can get.
It’s up to you and me to decide if Dave Brat gets rehired. Whether you are an Independent, Republican or Democrat, when you vote in November you need to ask, “what has Dave Brat done for me”. If you’ve been paying attention, you will realize that Dave Brat has done nothing for you, and vote accordingly.
Editor’s note: this letter originally appeared in Richmond2day, and has been re-posted with the author’s permission.
I’ve given the proposed mega industrial park a good bit of thought and driven through a number of (mostly empty) business parks in this county and others. I agree with the argument that we need business to support the residential growth. However, this endeavor is quite misguided. My arguments fall into two categories.
First is the location. The proposed site intrudes into space that was designated Rural in the comprehensive plan. It abuts land that our church owns and has been using as a retreat. We felt confident that we could count on the continued quiet and peacefulness of the site given the rural designation. Would we be putting our efforts into creating this space for contemplation if we had known that the board of supervisors could just wipe out that designation and put industry, noise and traffic right next to it? People need to be able to count on these designations to make plans and decisions. People have put enormous energy into creating homes for their families. The proponents and the economic planners claim there will be buffers, but we have no guarantees that these will be significant or effective.
Second is the highly speculative nature of the concept. When they describe it, it sounds great. All the things needed to attract the ideal businesses. Money rolling in. Lower taxes for us. What could go wrong?
They say it will attract clean quiet businesses that pay workers well. Every county wants those. There are other mega sites in the state that are about ready to go (Berry Hill). To lay out millions of dollars of our tax money to buy and develop this land and then hope they will come is not a good way to do business. When the most highly prized businesses choose elsewhere, then we will be stuck with accepting less desirable ones. We will be in debt and will have no way to be selective. What’s to prevent Louisa from ending up with the noisiest, smelliest, most water polluting, low wage paying businesses?
Is that the county I want to live in?
I want to live in a county that values small, locally owned businesses. I want to live among entrepreneurs not underpaid wage slaves. I would love to see our county come up with a plan for incubating and supporting small businesses.
Mary Kranz Louisa
Editor’s Note: This letter originally appeared in the September 6th issue of the Central Virginian, and is reposted here with the author’s permission.
Liberals and Conservatives do not have to always be in conflict. They are not two separate things. They are like two sides of a coin. They need each other to balance each other out, and it would lead to stagnation if everyone was a moderate and there were no Conservatives or Liberals. Here are some qualities of each that most of us could agree with:
Conservative: Hard work, discipline, order, planning ahead, cleanliness, punctuality, conserving resources, reasonable caution, making changes carefully, safety, protection, individual freedom, self-reliance, independence, and decisiveness.
Liberal: Music, dance, laughter, play, recreation, flexibility, open to new ideas, welcoming changes, creativity, compassion, caring for the sick and the poor, protecting minorities, advocating human rights and democracy, forgiveness and non-judgment, and cooperation.
I’m sure you can come up with more qualities for each that are positive and constructive. Neither has monopoly on truth or lies, violence or nonviolence, justice or injustice, respect or disrespect, love or hate.
Conservatives and Liberals can compromise to work together.
None of their above- mentioned qualities are absolute. To rigidly hold to either side as if these qualities were mutually exclusive, black or white, with no shades of grey, is “stinkin’ thinkin’,” reminiscent of alcoholism and other addictions. We would have to give up being “right,” vs. being “wrong” to get past this.
There are some things we should not compromise on: Actions that advocate stealing, deliberately lying, cheating, physical and sexual abuse, especially of children, violence, and obvious violations of the Constitution. And you could think of more vices not to compromise on. But there is a lot we could work together on if we listened to each other instead of keeping our heads glued to our own echo chambers.
David G. Schwartz Louisa
Editor’s Note: This letter originally appeared in the September 6th issue of the Central Virginian, and is reposted here with the author’s permission.
As a presidentially commissioned Foreign Service Officer, who also worked at the Department of Defense and at an intelligence agency, I was shocked to read the Patrick Wilson article in the Star Exponent’s August 30th edition that a Republican PAC had fraudulently obtained a copy of Abigail Spanberger’s Questionnaire for National Security Positions (SF-86). I filled one out in 1967 and every five years after that until I recently retired. Every veteran and civil servant in your readership knows this document and its importance to national security.
I also have worked FOIA cases at the Departments of State and Defense for 20 years and know that it is impossible under FOIA regulations to legally obtain this highly personal document. It is not an application for employment. It is a list of all the jobs you had, places you worked, your relatives, your travel, friends you have, foreign contacts, medical information, your use (or not) of drugs or alcohol, and credit file information. This form is the basis for a full intrusive background investigation and used to interview virtually every person you list. It is the first line of defense for the entire security system. It is very telling that nothing in it caused the Postal Service or the CIA to refuse employment.
The Postal Service acknowledged that it released Abigail Spanberger’s SF-86 and that it was not released through the FOIA process. Inadvertent or not, its release is illegal. The actions of the Republican PAC in obtaining this form and making it public should make every citizen concerned about privacy and good government cringe, and bring shame on the ethically corrupt operatives who committed this crime.
By the way, this is the same form that Jared Kushner had to fill out multiple times because he kept failing to completely disclose information about his finances and foreign contacts.
Paul Ryan’s PAC blows up the nation’s first line of defense for what? To launch spurious innuendos against a dedicated public servant and her family to influence a Federal election? She is a former CIA officer challenging Rep. Dave Brat here in Virginia’s 7th Congressional District. Party above country, again. Much was said about Dignity, Compassion, Dedication, Duty, and Love of County at Senator McCain’s memorial service in Phoenix. Paul Ryan and his PAC could have learned something about important American values, if they were inclined to watch the service.
Editor's Note: This letter was submitted to the Culpeper Star Exponent, and is scheduled to be published later this week.
If your reading of newspapers extends beyond Louisa's, The Central Virginian, you may appreciate revisiting a 2014 letter in the Fredericksburg Free Lance Star from A. Beecher Sutherland, a former member of the Orange County Republican Committee.
Where he states that “The Republican Party or, more specifically, the tea party Republicans, have just slit their throats in the 7th District of Virginia,” and when you “… mix enthusiasm with stupidity … you soon have … what Vladimir Lenin once referred to as “useful idiots.”
These tea party supporters certainly did their part in ridding our district of Eric Cantor, and initially I thought they did us a great service, but now I’m having second thoughts. Especially when you ask them why they worked so hard to get rid of him, they are unable to give any coherent answers.
Since most of these folks responded so enthusiastically to Cantors dog whistles for the past 6 elections, one has to ask; what changed their minds? Was it really because his messages were sounding less and less “real” as the years went by?
Or was it because they needed something which could keep all their fears and prejudices “fresh,” giving them a new relevancy? Like Brat attacking Cantor for not being "harsh" enough on illegal immigration.
The central problem in the 7th District and around the county is one of identity. And conservative identity is wrapped around being opposed to everything liberal, to the point of despising anything even associated with it. Since liberalism represents empiricism and reason, the incentives for conservatives to reject it multiply.
To be a “conservative” increasingly means taking a contemptuous view of reality. And so the proudly ignorant grow more belligerent, day after day, attitudes the astroturfed Tea Party and their useful minions are more than happy to exploit.
Along with Dave Brat, a product of the BB&T Moral Foundations of Capitalism Program funded by John Allison, head of the Koch funded Cato Institute. According to Allison, this is just one of 68 programs around the country “at most of the major universities in our operating area.” Boasting that “many [students] indicate the program is the first time they have heard capitalism defended from an ethical perspective.”
Brat isn’t just some random conservative economics professor; he's a bought-and-paid-for shill, part of a coordinated effort to steer the next generation of young people towards libertarian economics. But the connections between Brat and his supporters doesn’t stop there, he is one of many Manchurian candidates from the Koch-backed stable.
Over the past few months, right-wing radio hosts like Laura Ingraham and Mark Levin have pushed Brat non-stop on their radio shows. Politico recently reported on a fast growing and influential network of conservative radio talk show hosts who are driving the countries conservative movement.
“Filings with the Internal Revenue Service and Federal Election Commission, as well as interviews and reviews of radio shows, found that groups (such as the Koch Brothers sponsored group Americans for Prosperity) spent nearly $22 million to broker and pay for sponsorships with a handful of influential talkers… Since then, the sponsorship deals have grown more lucrative and tea party-oriented.”
Brat's one of many foot soldiers of the libertarian billionaire class and their army of talk radio hosts. A brave new world of dark money politics, a raving-loon industrial complex of radio shows financed by a vast lagoon of plutocratic payola. His sole purpose is to convey his master’s message to the people of the 7th District.
Some may recall how he ran against Cantor attacking “crony capitalism” and the incestuous relationship which exists between big money and politics. Like all good misrepresentations; it worked because it contains an inescapable grain of truth, that our political system represents the interests of the .1% like the Koch Brothers.
If this speech at a recent press conference where he spoke for a few minutes, and took no questions is any indication, nothing has changed except for who's running on the Republican ticket. Speaking of revolving doors ... I mean the usual suspects; shortly after winning the primary, he replaced his 23 year old campaign manager with Amanda Chase who coincidentally used to be Eric Cantor’s campaign manager, and is now a Virginia State Senator.
While his newly appointed communications director, Brian Gottstein used to be Ken Cuccinelli’s communications director when he was Virginia’s Attorney General. Nor was it any coincidence that the extreme wing blog, Breitbart.com was the only news organization which covered this "press conference."
Such extreme and controlling practices like this are why Mr. Sutherland decided to leave the party. Let’s hope more Republicans come to their senses and follow suite, lest they be exposed as willfully ignorant supporters of a paid shill.
Dave Brat likes to complain.
The 7th District Congressman, whose district spans from Nottoway to Culpeper, is a frequent guest on cable news and talk radio.
One of his favorite topics: complaining about his job and, more specifically, his constituents.
Brat regularly makes the rounds among the press, pundits and political sycophants to talk about the pesky people he was elected to serve. He infamously complained that women were “in his grill” when they approached him to share their concerns about health care. Last August, as neo-Nazis wreaked havoc in the streets of Charlottesville, he took to the airwaves and quickly shifted the conversation, bemoaning the behavior of constituents who attended one of his rare town halls.
I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised when I encountered Brat at the Louisa County Agricultural Fair and quietly listened as he chatted with supporters.
Brat didn’t offer an uplifting message about the work he is doing on our behalf in Washington. Instead, he complained about a significant slice of the 7th District electorate, demonizing those who dare to disagree with him and suggesting a dark conspiracy concerning his district’s geography.
In one encounter, Brat discussed the redrawing of his district in 2016, mandated by a federal court to help remedy the unconstitutional gerrymander of a nearby district, “I lost all of Hanover. They did it on purpose…I taught there for 20 years so everybody knows me,” he said.
He added that he was “dumped,” then pointed out that he picked up Amelia, Powhatan and Nottoway counties. “But I didn’t teach there for 20 years so I gotta go meet people.”
It’s Dave Brat’s job to represent us in Congress—all of us. We pay him to go to Washington and speak up on our behalf. But, for Dave, it’s a chore to travel across his district and listen to our concerns. It’s a pain to meet people in Nottoway. It’s a bother to talk with women, worried about losing their health care, in Henrico.
This November, let’s do Brat a favor and relieve him of his duties.
Editor’s note: This originally appeared in the Blackstone Courier-Record, and is only available to paying subscribers
“The truth is not the truth.” – Rudy Giuliani
“What you are seeing and what you’re reading is not what’s happening.” – Donald Trump
Congressman Dave Brat recently instituted “mobile office hours,” because his constituents demanded accessibility, as he hasn’t held a town hall for fifteen months. I met with him Tuesday morning for my ten minutes – one of only nine “lucky” constituents in the one and a half hours allotted to Culpeper County with more than 50,000 registered voters.
My primary topic – the “rules” limited us to one – was foreign affairs and the Iran nuclear deal, in particular. I have thirty years of experience in that field under several Republican and Democratic administrations. The nuclear deal, in particular. I have thirty years of experience in that field under several Republican and Democratic administrations. The nuclear deal was a multi-national effort that halted Iran’s nuclear weapons program in its tracks. Trump’s irresponsible abrogation of that deal is one of the biggest foreign policy blunders in modern history. Mr. Brat simply dismissed its success and parroted Trump’s talking points that the deal should have covered multiple issues.
He couldn’t come to grips with how an international consensus on multiple issues was difficult to reach. Mr. Brat’s view is that “Iran wants to whack us. Their people are totally opposed to the regime. They are the number one sponsor of state terrorism.” I seriously doubt that Iran will ever have the capability to “whack” us and his view of domestic Iranian politics may be wishful thinking. I should fact check things, he said. Seriously? He doesn’t know that about me yet? Several times I was compelled to say, “that’s just not true.”
Dave Brat was interviewed by NBC12 in Richmond recently. When asked why he has not denounced Corey Stewart’s blatant bigotry and racism, he responded that he only deals in policy, but it didn’t keep him, in the same interview, from trying to tar Abigail Spanberger as a rabble-rouser because (he said) she was sitting in the front row at the Chesterfield town hall. Ms. Spanberger was there, alright, taking notes as a constituent and private citizen. She didn’t announce her candidacy until July. Screaming and cursing during the prayer? See for yourself, Brat lied.
People became enraged because he ignored their questions about the proposed repeal of the Affordable Care Act and just regurgitated his scripted talking points. When the interviewer later asked why he was on Alex Jones ultra-far-right radio program with his “conspiracy-laced rants that make [Beck and Limbaugh] “sound like tea-sipping NPR hosts on Zoloft.” – Rolling Stone, Brat said it was just an opportunity like any other.
Contrast this with Abigail Spanberger’s professional performance in her interview on NBC12. The differences between the two could not be starker. It is even more apparent if you listen to Mr. Brat and conservative radio show host John Fredericks, who bills himself as “America’s Godzilla of TRUTH.” Mr. Brat’s attacks on Ms. Spanberger were desperate, unhinged, and patently false, see for yourself.
Watch Mr. Brat’s first TV campaign ad, posted just this past week In it, he takes credit for things he had nothing to do with, except party line votes. One statement, that he wrote a law shutting down child-trafficking websites, is a total lie. All he did was sign on as a co-sponsor to a bill introduced by a Democrat four months earlier.
Conservative columnist George Will recently observed “The midterm election won’t be about liberals versus conservatives. It won’t be about Democrats versus Republicans. That election will be about moral, decent human beings versus Trump supporters.” Dave Brat will stand solidly behind the unindicted co-conspirator, Donald Trump. Where will you stand?
Editors Note: This letter originally appeared in the Culpeper Star Exponent, and is re-posted here with the author’s permission.
Something really big is going on in the Republican Party. The organization Republican Majority for Choice will no longer support the party.
Susan Bevan and Susan Cullman, co-chairwomen of the RMC, say the reason for no longer supporting the Republicans is the general hostility toward women within the GOP’s culture.
The co-chairs noted that, over the years, the organization has supported Republicans who embraced family planning because it reduces poverty, increases educational attainment and workforce competitiveness and improves health. However, the party has moved to the extremes, socially and fiscally, since the new administration came into power and is now punishing millions of women by shutting down health care clinics offering cancer screenings, basic health services and family planning.
The Republican Party has taken actions to deny birth control coverage, while complaining about unintended pregnancies. Their extreme views against and general nastiness towards women is making many RMC members rethink their loyalty to the party. Also, the general unrest in the country, unleashed over the past two years, is making both men and women who have forever been loyal Republicans move away to another point of view.
The former Republicans are making tracks to the other side. The Pew Research Center has recently noted that 56 percent of women identify as or lean towards Democrats, and the gap is wider among college graduates and minority voters. Seventy percent of millennial women have either registered as Democrats or lean Democratic.
Locally, here in the First District, every voter now has the opportunity to fix those things that have been going wrong in this country by voting in the November midterm elections.
Editor’s note: This letter originally appeared in the Fredericksburg Free Lance Star, and is re-posted here with the author’s permission.
I have been trying for over a year to meet with my Representative or his staff. When he first ran for office he promised to be the “Most accessible Member of Congress” but that has not been the case. While I am sure that many special interest groups lobby Mr. Brat, of the over 700,000 registered voters in the 7th district I bet not that many private citizens ask to meet. I had a meeting scheduled in April of 2017 with a staffer. She cancelled an hour before and refused to reschedule.
He has gotten a lot of negative press with his “Women in my grill” comment and the fiasco at the late opening of his campaign office last month. He emailed an invitation to constituents. Those who wanted to attend pre-registered. The disaster happened when those people arrived with their printed confirmed tickets and were either turned away or threatened with arrest if they did not leave.
You must be joking. Is this the United States?
His staff knew that damage control was needed but like most hastily thrown together reactive plans, a great idea was executed poorly. Coming to the county and offering to meet with interested constituents was a great idea. It was poor form to only inform select constituents, inconsiderate to give 24 hours notice, and out of touch to hold it during the work day.
We were graciously allowed 25 minutes where we brought up concerns regarding his lack of accessibility to constituents, poor response after the tragedy in Charlottesville last year, his habit of quoting a hate group on his Facebook page, lack of leadership on ethical issues, fostering division among citizens, and inconsistencies between his words and actions.
Sadly after all this time waiting to actually have a conversation with the man I was greatly disappointed. He seemed to have no idea how to conduct civil discourse and to have an intellectual discussion about differing ideas. He was arrogant, defensive, and provided information that was untrue. He seemed unable to grasp any viewpoint that is different from his own or to consider a different interpretation of his words and actions. People who cannot separate their self-value from their ideas are unable to compromise in order to work well with other legislators.
I have had an opportunity to speak with both candidates for the 7th congressional district and my choice is an easy one. I will vote for the candidate who is well informed on current pending legislation, has foreign policy experience, cares about issues specific to the rural areas, and understands the challenges of raising a family. She is a true public servant and I hope you will join me in supporting Abigail Spanberger for Congress.
Editors Note: This letter has been submitted to the Central Virginian, and is reposted here with the author’s permission.
This letter is an attempt to address the characterization of Islam raised by Pastor Harrelson (June 14) in a letter to the editor and again mentioned in a letter by T. A. Johnson (July 22). Pastor Harrelson has already put himself forward to block a mosque in our community.
Islam, or people who identify as Muslims, comprise over 2.2 billion of our earth’s 7.3 billion population, with Indonesia being the most populous Muslim country (88% of its 261 million people identify as Muslim).
Islam is a very complex and multifaceted religion. As a system of beliefs, Islam is more than the Quran (which actually translates as “recitation”). In addition to the Quran there are the Sunnah – the narratives on the life of Muhammad – which are a second source of Islamic teachings. Simplistic analyses of one or two Suras (chapters) will produce un-researched, unsupported conclusions.
To explain the Hadith and the Quran there are various historical, legal, and scholarly schools that have rendered analyses and conclusions concerning every Sura of the Quran. These schools of study and analysis offer interpretations of the meanings and importance of various texts. Al-Azhar University was established in Cairo, Egypt in 970 A.D. to concentrate on the study of the Quran and the Hadith, and remains a chief center of Islamic and Arabic learning to this day.
I doubt that Pastor Harrelson has immersed himself in such rigorous study of Islam. Nor does he seem to accept the idea that charlatans of any religion can or would hide themselves behind a holy book. The KKK passed itself off as a Christian organization. From our own history we know there is a difference between religion and charity and religion used to harm, discriminate, and support injustice.
We also know that some commentators have ulterior motives when they characterize the religion or habits of others. I’ve lived in a Muslim country and experienced zero fear, but only warmth, understanding, friendship and caring. Assigning or designating “otherness” to our fellow human beings – people of color, of different nationalities, of different ethnic groups, religious affiliation or even geography (e.g. Africa) is the basis of fear, hate, lack of empathy, and in the final analysis, an act of cowardice and weakness, not strength.
Editor’s Note: this letter originally appeared in the Culpeper Star Exponent, and is re-posted here with the author’s permission.
The Administration is considering expanding tariffs to apply to another $500 billion worth of Chinese imports. This move would double the number of tariffs that the Administration has imposed on Chinese goods and would include nearly all Chinese exports to the United States. Looking at the Administration’s tariffs George Will recently called protectionism “socialism for the well-connected” as the government picks winners and losers. Expanding tariffs is a gross example of a negotiation scenario called a circular firing squad.
The Administration’s approach to international negotiation is to aggressively demand much so that the other party will surrender without negotiating. When you don’t know anything about international relations and the other countries’ history, bullying may appeal to the naïve, but the experts know otherwise. China withstood an American economic boycott for 30 years and is now the second largest economy in the world. Preserving Face is an important cultural attribute in Asia. China proved the point by robustly responding to U.S. moves by cutting purchases of American goods, a major component of which is agricultural products. China is not about to be bullied and it knows Europe is not a substitute market for the volumes China buys.
The Administration did not expect a robust response from China and will have to lay out $12 billion to mitigate some of the damage done to the farm sector as China called its bluff. That $12 billion in debt is on top of the $1.5 trillion debt from the Republican Tax Bill. The Administration’s half-baked $12 billion sop just puts the American farm sector on welfare, probably jeopardizing the American family farm. The Administration does not have a good track record at winning bets like this.
Trump braggadocio while refusing to release his taxes strongly suggests he is not a successful businessman. For example, he filed for bankruptcy on his three Atlantic City casino properties. First was the Trump Taj Mahal in 1991—which was $3 billion in debt after just one year in operation. Four years later, Trump missed an interest payment on a $53.1 million bond; the company declared bankruptcy and walked away. How do you lose money running a casino?
Then again, Trump took out a $245 million loan to purchase the planes and routes of Eastern Air Shuttle. Two years after he launched Trump Shuttle, the airline wasn’t making enough money to even cover the $1 million monthly interest payment on his loan. Trump ultimately defaulted, surrendering ownership of the airline to his creditors.
If he couldn’t make it in casinos, or airlines, or steaks, maybe Trump could sell vodka? The trademark was abandoned in 2008, and the liquor was out of circulation by 2011. We know what happened to Trump University. The underlying story is business man Trump borrows money he can’t repay. It is not clear that $12 billion from the U.S. Treasury can fully cover all the farmers’ losses or that the Republican Party will allow this executive policy.
What the farmer knows is that once a market is lost, it is difficult to recreate without subsidies, which is why George Will warned about the government picking winners and losers.
An important part of Culpeper’s economy is agriculture. Let’s hope the soybean producers around here are not among the losers. Culpeper Republicans proudly boast about “free enterprise.” George Will makes clear that tariffs are taxes and do great damage to free enterprise. Nevertheless, it remains to be seen whether Republican candidates in the midterm election adhere to Trumps coattails or abandon him and embrace the economics of free enterprise.
Editors Note: This letter originally appeared in the Culpeper Star Exponent, and is re-posted here with the author’s permission
Over the past 18 months, Congressman Dave Brat (R, VA07) has been heavily criticized by his constituents for being inaccessible and unresponsive. This condemnation came to a head last Friday during an event at Brat's campaign headquarters. Constituents on Brat's email distribution list had been invited to and issued tickets for the event which was described as an "open house" and "birthday celebration" for him. However, several attendees were denied admission and/or asked to leave the event. No explanation was provided by Brat's staff as to why these constituents were refused access to their Representative.
Testimonials from a few such folks were posted on social media, and a certain level of uproar ensued. On Monday, I contacted Brat's office and the woman who took my call refused to "get into it" with me about what happened on Friday. When I politely pressed her about why ticket-holders were told to leave, she said "because we know who you are." Does that mean Brat's staff refused access to those it assumed had not donated money or time to Brat's campaigns, and thus are unworthy?
Facing a great deal of negative comments from his constituents and remembering he is up for re-election in November, Brat has now set up "mobile office hours" to meet with some folks in his District over the next couple of weeks. However, there are quite a few caveats to his pseudo-invitation to voters:
• In each County in VA07, Brat will hold a mere 90 minutes of office hours.
• People can request an appointment to discuss an item currently before Congress, or to request assistance with a federal agency.
• Individuals/groups with the same general concern may be seen together.
• Appointments are limited to 10 minutes in duration.
• No audio or video recordings of meetings are permitted.
• After an appointment is requested, Brat's staff will let you know if and when you can arrive for a meeting.
So, let's boil this down. Congressman Brat will meet with 9 individuals/groups (90 minutes of office hours / 10 minutes each) in each County. Nine. How the lucky nine are chosen is a mystery – Brat's email makes no mention of this. Is it first-come, first-served? Is it by luck of the draw? Is it by who is the most vocal supporter?
Now, let's say you are one of the lucky nine. You now have 10 minutes to address your one allotted concern with Mr. Brat. Ten. Don't forget, though, you may not be having a one-on-one meeting; you may be grouped with others who have a similar general concern. Good luck actually getting your question posed, much less answered to your satisfaction. Whatever response you do get, remember to take good hand-written notes, as audio and video recordings are not permitted. What is THAT about? What is he afraid of?
What Mr. Brat thinks these office hours will achieve is unclear. Are they to make up for his holding no open, public town hall event in over 400 days, despite frequents requests for such events? Are the office hours to evoke an aura of transparency and accountability to his constituents? It is telling that Brat is only offering to discuss issues currently before Congress. Why would he refuse to respond to questions regarding his views on other items of local or national importance?
Some will want to give Congressman Brat credit for setting up these mobile office hours. Brat seems to count dropping by and chit-chatting with random folks at local businesses as 'constituent meetings,' so I am certain he will toot his horn loudly over these formal times now being established for meetings. However, remember what this publicity stunt really is: Nine people; Ten minutes each; One issue. If you're lucky.
Editors Note: this is a preview of a letter submitted to the Richmond Times Disgrace, and the Chesterfield Observer which due to its length will probably not be published in either paper, and in anticipation of that is re-posted here with the author’s permission.
Six months ago, a piece titled White House’s Week from Hell was posted in Blue Louisa about the antics of this mis-administration. And judging from their actions over the course of the past two weeks, they have found new ways to take their greed and lust for power to another level.
A descent into Seven Hells which even the writers of “Game of Thrones” would be hard pressed to top. And with self inflicted trade wars that could have a devastating effect on the worlds economy, trashing our European allies and NATO already fading into distant memory, one can only ask, what else could go wrong? The Drumpf could have a summit in Helsinki, a “personal” conversation with Russian President Vladimir Putin with no government officials keeping any records of the meeting.
And where it appears at the press conference afterwards that Putin was the only one keeping track of what was said.
Nor does the Drumpfs body language remotely suggest that this was a meeting of equals.
Given his penchant for “going rogue” even employing Occam’s razor to describe what transpired isn't adequate. The most logical explanation for why he excluded any official from the U.S. government from being in the room with him with Putin is because he did not want any official from the U.S. government to know what was said or agreed to in that room.
Leaving U.S. officials at the highest levels and the American people completely dependent on whatever spin the Russian’s want to put on this meeting. And if those actions were not tone deaf enough, the Drumpf “follows up” on this disastrous summit by inviting Putin for a second summit in Washington DC and a self congratulatory parade.
Meanwhile there clearly is something off about the Drumpfs administrations actions since the Helsinki meeting. Either he is an agent of Russian interest or is so profoundly ignorant, insecure and narcissistic that he’s incapable of realizing that he’s advancing Putin’s agenda.
While some may believe he’s a Russian agent that seems unlikely because the Russians would never allow a true mole to take such crazy risks of exposing themselves. With a former head of CIA operations against Russia observing "he's not a controlled agent because if he was, they'd tell him how to behave so as not to endanger himself."
And while Vladimir Lenin’s famous phrase "useful idiot," is often used when describing the Drumpf, the technical Russian term for an unwitting but helpful asset is a "confidential contact." What he has to offer Russia isn't necessarily information, but his willingness to act as a human wrecking ball against America's traditional allies and trading partners.
A willingness to appease which the Republican Party was more than happy to exploit, taking their grandiose notions of “deconstructive government” to levels that even the Bush/Cheney junta never dreamed of. And it might explain why they have responded so strongly to the recent arrest of a Russian agent, ahem NRA gun moll and the Department of Justice’s indictment of 12 Russian intelligence officers.
With the Treasury Department saying that that it will no longer require certain politically active nonprofit groups, like the National Rifle Association, to identify their financial donors to U.S. tax authorities. And the Republican controlled House refusing to fund the DOJ’s election cyber terrorism efforts.
Actions which in the light of recent revelations about the scope and ongoing nature of Russian interference in our elections, prompted Rep. Lloyd Doggett, to say that their refusal to spend more money on election security "represents nothing less than unilateral disarmament" against Russia, citing the U.S. intelligence community's finding that Russia intervened in the 2016 election.
Nor should anyone forget that even before all this broke out that Congressional Republican’s lead by Free-dumb Caucus members, Jim Jordan and Mark Meadows launched a preemptive shot across the bow to sabotage the investigation into Russian interference by proposing a bill to impeach Rod Rosenstein, the Deputy Attorney General, and coincidentally Muller’s boss.
Or that in an earlier maneuver, Republican Senate Majority leader, Mitch McConnell refused to allow a vote on a bill which would have protected Muller’s investigation from the Oval office interference.
The simplest explanation for the Drumpfs incessant claims of “fake news” and “no collusion” during his campaign and throughout his term in office is more likely attributable to his fears of being exposed as a grifter only interested in enriching his ego and pockets. And that he likely knew about Russian interference with our election during his campaign, and definitely knew about it before his inauguration.
And while it remains to be proven that Russian agents funneled money through intermediaries to Republican campaigns, including Trumps, given what we know about the indictments of Paul Manafort, and Mike Flynn and their roles in procuring foreign support, coupled with the recent revelations that the NRA was acting as a cut out for Russian funds there’s more than just the appearance that other members of the Republican Party are also complicit.
If there’s a method to all this chaos, it raises the distinct and unpleasant possibility that the Drumpf and the Republican Party have already moved from trying to normalize their behavior to doing everything possible to ensure that their ability to collaborate and collude with dark money groups and foreign powers remains unchecked.
Meanwhile, Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein announced this past Friday at the Aspen Security Forum that, the DOJ will inform American corporations, organizations and even individuals if they're being targeted by foreign operations in an attempt to influence the country's elections. Saying said that "exposing schemes to the public is an important way to neutralize them," and that "the American people have a right to know if foreign governments are targeting them with propaganda."
At the same forum, Microsoft VP for customer security and trust Tom Burt revealed that his team discovered a spear-phishing campaign targeting three candidates vying for re-election in 2018, and that they traced it back to Russian intelligence agency GRU, the same organization behind the DNC hacks in 2016.
How this will affect the outcome of the 2018 election is anyone’s guess since there are many factors to consider. Forces which like Newton’s first law, once put into motion tend to stay in motion unless acted on by other external forces.
On one hand there’s the reality that the Drumpf and the Republican Party will continue to weaponize their brand of magical thinking and ensuing chaos. Creating a pervasive atmosphere of resentment where their loyalists feel “safe” supporting their xenophobic and racist views.
And barring a major catastrophe; like 9/11 or a world wide economic crisis will remain constitutionally incapable of entertaining the concept that the object of their idol worship, and indeed the entire Republican Party are corrupt and compromised beyond all redemption.
Nor should anyone underestimate impact of the Republican’s on going voter suppression efforts, or that they are doubling down on them, emboldened by Supreme Courts recent decision.
On the other side of the coin, voter registration amongst first time and younger voters is up significantly. Whether that translates to a surge at the polls remains to be seen. Another encouraging sign is the gender gap, which is the largest on record. And finally, there indications that many surveys are underestimating the number of Democratic voters.
Speaking of surveys, it’s no coincidence that there are far more publicly available Democratic polls than Republican ones, since Replicant’s at every level are busy downplaying the fact that their brand isn’t polling well. Something which will be critical in Virginia, with congressional candidates like Barbara Comstock and Dave Brat find themselves boxed in by their support for the Drumpfs and their Party’s extremism.
And like Cory Stewarts delusional tweet just before this past Saturday’s Senate “debate” with Tim Kaine, they will find themselves unable to control their own narratives, or keep people from laughing in their faces.
One thing is for sure, in the months leading up to the election, we all will have front row seats as these two forces collide. So if you’re serious about “taking your country back,” get out there and vote for Abigail Spanberger and Tim Kaine this November.
An earlier post on Blue Louisa asked if the CV’s readers were ready to be subjected to more “just the factoids” coverage of important local issues, like the County’s Comprehensive Plan? If their last three issues featuring opinion pages filled with syndicated stream of consciousness pieces and no local content is any indication, they will continue publishing conservative narratives at the expense of other voices.
In light of the Board of Zoning Appeals 4-3 vote upholding the county’s height restriction ordinances this week; the CV’s readers should expect to see many letters about the Confederate flag off of I-64 in the weeks to come.
And as meetings about the County’s Comprehensive Plan unfold over the course of the next seven weeks, additional local commentary about the plans merits and shortcomings.
What the CV will print remains to be seen, but what gets lost in the conversation is the fact that over the past few months they have been doubling down on ultra-conservative narratives with misleading op-eds from national politicians and syndicated “experts” in an effort to frame the issues. Narratives which are reinforced by letters from political operatives, like Tyler Adams, who this year had four of his brain droppings … ahem agitprop pieces printed.
To the extent that everyone is entitled to their opinion, well thought out letters, even Republican ones should be welcome. Although in the case of serial ranters like Jerry Reynolds, Robert Merto and Jim Hogan exceptions should be made. What the CV’s reader might not have noticed is how effectively their editorial practices have consigned most meaningful local commentary to the back of the bus so to speak.
Whether this is a byproduct of their “must run” policies, or are the result of deliberate actions is immaterial. The fact remains that local letters, particularly progressive ones are increasingly being written in reaction to something previously printed in the CV, not discussing relevant issues. Like the five letters debunking Dave Brat’s deceptive April 19th op-ed. Lies which were shamelessly repeated in several regional Buffet controlled papers.
IMHO, the CV's journalistic practices go well beyond cutting and pasting factoids, and misleading op-eds. It’s a wholesale commitment to conservative ideology regardless of any inconvenient facts. For their readers, it’s like the story about the frog sitting in warm water which is being slowly raised to a boil. And like the frog, by the time their readers realize anything is amiss, it’s too late.
Take for example, their coverage of the County’s Comprehensive Development Plan, a working blueprint for the County’s economic and residential growth over the next decade, where they have printed two articles and one unsigned editorial. Now compare that coverage to their eight articles and one editorial about the County's broadband project this year.
While both issues are of great interest to their readers, given the importance of county’s development plan what kind of continuing coverage the CV will be give this story as it moves forward remains to be seen. Thus far, their July 5th piece has been the most useful for county residents.
Where Andrew Williams, chief operating officer of The Berkley Group, a planning consulting firm which advises towns and counties throughout Virginia, commented on how difficult it can be to draw broad interest in the planning process. “You can have as many forums as you want, but unless there’s a hot issue, a lot of times people don’t show up,” he said. Adding that “[You have] to cast a wide net throughout the county and have different types of forums for different audiences, and not rush through it.”
With the first of seven meetings taking place on Wednesday the 25th, and continuing every other Wednesday until the first week of September, it should be noted that most of the meetings will taking place during the dog days of August when many are on vacation, and it remains to been seen how that affects the County’s ability to engage people. Mr. Williams specifically recommended that the county concentrate on local festivals, and churches and other groups which are active in the community.
Williams noted that his group often starts the process by sending out a survey to raise people’s interest and then organize forums. To that end, the Community Development Department has placed advertisements in the last two editions of the CV. And in a conversation with their staff , they said that they weren’t aware that their first advertisement (July 12th) had an incorrect number for their office, and stated that the county is currently in the process of putting up notices at their trash and recycling centers, and have plans to put additional signage at key intersections.
Comprehensive plan notice
The biggest concern everyone should have about the Comprehensive Plan is whether the Board of Supervisors is serious about getting “… the community involved as much as possible.” When in light of the last major overhaul of the plan in 2001, the Board was “skittish about too much public involvement in rewriting the document …”
One indication of the Board’s ambivalence is the fact that they “directed the Louisa County Planning Commission to update data in the plan about the county’s demographics and economic indicators, but not to make more substantive changes to the document, and that since the Commission approved those updates in March the Board has yet to approve them. Whether this is out of an abundance of caution“ … fearing a chaotic and time-consuming process,” and is part of the normal process remains to be seen.
According to Jeff Ferrel, assistant county administrator, county residents attending these meetings will be given paper copies of the plans goals and objectives, along with comment cards, and will use color coded stickers to place alongside the posted goals and objectives.
Some might ask why such elaborate preparations are necessary for what are likely be non-substantive changes. And the more cynically minded might see these meetings as another exercise in Kabuki Theatre, and that the entire process was always going to be a dog and pony show, and not a more substantive community based review of the plan.
That being said, the issue of how to make local government more transparent and responsive to the needs of the citizens they serve remains one of the biggest challenges of a representative Democracy, one which only works when the people have real choices, and are informed enough to make educated decisions.
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.