Local Deflections and Misleading Narratives

For those of you who don’t read the Central Virginian, the politest thing I can say is that you’re not missing much. And with their most recent issue containing several distinct distractive narratives they have finally become worthy of discussion.

Like their follow up to last weeks story about the Board of Supervisors firing Eric Purcell, accompanied by multiple letters to editor condemning the Board’s actions. And while few should have any problems with those opinions, it doesn’t change the reality that Board won’t reverse its decision.

Nor was this an isolated incident, this self induced fiasco was one of Troy Wade’s and the board’s many recent missteps. Something the CV seems reluctant to notice, whether it’s because they’ve chosen not to print any letters, or won’t comment about it, isn’t entirely clear.

But when it comes to misleading narratives, Jim Ogg’s letter supporting last week’s half page ad takes the cake. Not only has he drunk the kool-aide, he is spraying everyone else with it. And if that name sounds familiar; you might remember him as the guy providing a running barrage of approval for whatever claptrap fell out of Brat, Reeve’s, Garrett’s and Farrells’ mouths at our three Clown Halls.

Where anyone walking into one of those meetings might have thought they’d accidently wandered into a tent revival meeting.

As a former telecom executive, he knows that there is no incentive for the major ISP’s to let the electrical cooperatives compete with them in any way shape or form, let alone allow them to connect to their fiber backbones.

Perhaps the CV and their readers should know about a deal he made with one of them in exchange for “allowing” them to put up a tower on his farm, persuading them into installing a loop of fiber from their tower to his house, where presumably his grandiose notions of “If you ain’t in Dutch, you ain’t much” can now be exercised at the highest speed possible.

Having held lengthy conversations with him over the years while handing out literature at the Patrick Henry 2 precinct, I was struck by his ability to spew talking points, along with his inability to explain them or why they were important.

And it is a common trait among authoritarians, like his unwavering commitment to bragging about being an extractive rentier whenever and wherever possible. And if pressed for clarification about basic Republican principles, he would invariably end conversations with “I’m not going to convince you of anything.” True, but that’s never was the issue.

He’s not saying “let’s agree to disagree,” he’s deliberately derailing any future conversation, and it’s a pattern of willful deflection found throughout the entire Republican Party. His words are a distraction intended to keep people focused their frustration over internet access.  Where the only thing they hear, is the County is wasting money and fiber is the way to go.

Thinking that if voters are angry enough, they will latch onto the illusion of fiber, and won’t realize that this is another broken promise … I mean deliverance from their frustrations which never comes.  And like all good lies, it works because it contains a grain of truth.

Of course fiber is faster and more reliable than any other type of internet connection. But as Bernie Hill’s of the Broadband Commission points out it would cost $100 million or more to run fiber to every house in Louisa County. Nor did Mr. Ogg or Adams seem to have the slightest idea where that kind of money would come from, other than an abiding faith in the magical properties of the free market.

Not that it will ever happen, any more than the Board is likely to fast track the County’s current broadband project. And given how grudgingly they approved funding for its initial phase, it remains to be seen how successful they will be in balancing that same growing voter discontent over a lack of access to broadband against future requests for the remaining $ 4 to 4.5 million need to bring wireless and presumably high speed internet to Louisa County over the course of the next few years.

Perhaps they’re convinced that the County’s two most trusted sycophants … I mean Board members will be re-elected, and that by putting all their eggs into one basket in an effort to unseat Stephanie Koren in the Mineral district they will have enough toadies on the board to make this “problem” go away.

What got left out of the CV’s narrative about Broadband, and the Boards behaviors, were the questions of; who’s behind this sudden push and who really benefits? Had they bothered to conduct any basic research, no doubt they would have found Americans for Prosperity hiding under any rocks they turned over.

So why would anyone listen to these guys shills for one of the Koch brothers spin-offs?

Because AFP and a host of other dark money groups are determined to seize control of the Commonwealth at every level imaginable; backing candidates like Duane Adams in Louisa, John McGuire in the States 56th district, along with Gillespie’s unholy trinity of extremists. Knowing full well they will respond to their dog whistles, because they have grown accustomed to decades worth of resentment.

And they will respond to those resentful dog whistles with incoherent rage, boiling over with frustration that their life isn’t going well, and they have no internet. And since resentment is the only “solution” Republicans have to offer, don’t let them use it to fool you into believing that local government being involved in bringing high speed internet into the county is somehow a fool’s game.

When in fact, had the County not taken up this issue, and gotten the ball rolling, we wouldn’t be hearing a peep about this from Mr. Adams or his AFP surrogates, because it would have no longer been a divisive enough issue

Meanwhile, they are depending on people to forget that divide and conquer is the only thing Republican’s have ever offered, and they will continue to support their candidates no matter what they stand for.

Jon Taylor

Distractions attempt to pull focus from Russia’s meddling

Upon hearing reports that it had successfully miniaturized a nuclear warhead for its missiles, Donald Trump issued an impromptu and apocalyptic warning to Pyongyang that North Korea “will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen.” This has alarmed many people around the country and around the world, especially as it coincides with the 72nd anniversaries of the American atomic bombings of Japan.

That’s why Secretary of State Tillerson tried to walk back Trump’s unseemly rhetoric and is pushing for cooler heads and continued diplomacy. Conversely, Defense Secretary James Mattis added to the saber-rattling by calling on North Korea to halt any actions “that would lead to the end of its regime and the destruction of its people.” It’s no wonder that the professionals in the world of foreign affairs and international relations are uneasy and on edge. When bullies shout at bullies, it is not going to turn out well.

Trump boasted Wednesday in a tweet that his first order as president was to renovate and modernize our nuclear arsenal and claimed that it is now far stronger and more powerful than ever before. This is simply not true. Our country’s nuclear stockpile is considerably smaller than at the height of the Cold War, the modernization program of which he spoke was initiated during the Obama administration and it does nothing to make nuclear yields any “stronger” or more powerful.

On Monday, the New York Times reported that the average temperature in the United States has risen dramatically since 1980, according to a federal report it had obtained. The government document is awaiting approval by the Trump administration. It apparently was leaked because scientists were fearful that the Trump administration would suppress the findings. Like many of the president’s appointments, Scott Pruitt, the EPA administrator, is tasked with dismantling the agency he heads. A former Oklahoma attorney general who built a career out of suing the EPA, he is moving effectively to dismantle regulations and international agreements on environmental issues.

Trump’s Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity lurched into action recently with a letter to all 50 states requesting full voter-roll data, including the name, address, date of birth, party affiliation, last four Social Security number digits and voting history back to 2006 of potentially every voter in all states. The request sparked widespread bipartisan push back among the states. Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe said in a statement. “I have no intention of honoring this request. Virginia conducts fair, honest, and democratic elections, and there is no evidence of significant voter fraud in Virginia.” Despite state laws which govern what voter information may be made public, Trump lashed out at the more than two dozen reluctant states by saying, “What are they trying to hide?”

It’s a good question, one that should be applied more broadly. What is this administration trying to hide? Almost every single day the country’s focus is distracted by one crisis or another, one issue or another, one attack or another. I think we know the answer: Russia, Russia, Russia.

The White House is desperate to divert our attention from the most egregious attack on our country since 9/11—Russian interference in our last election with the possible, indeed probable, collusion in that effort by individuals in the Trump campaign. Only this past Wednesday did we learn that the FBI conducted a pre-dawn raid on Paul Manafort’s house on July 26—the day after his appearance before Congress. You’ll recall he was Trump’s campaign manager last summer and has extensive ties with Russia. He was present at the infamous meeting where the Russians offered “dirt” on Trump’s opponent. It is worth noting that the FBI must convince a federal judge that it has “probable cause” that a crime has been committed to obtain a search warrant. No Trump tweets about this FBI raid on his old crony? Coincidence? Then there were the firings of Preet Bharara and all the other federal prosecutors who were investigating Trump’s Russia dealings long before Robert Mueller got involved.

The United States prides itself on being a county of laws. The American Revolution was a break with the idea that government was the whim of one man. The Founding Fathers built a structure that required respect among all three branches of government and the First Amendment enshrined respect for a free press. The president’s policy-by-tweet does not communicate well researched and planned initiatives. It is, however, a great device for sowing confusion and diverting our attention away from the real issue at hand—the Trump campaign’s alleged role in Russia’s tampering in our elections. It is up to “we the people” to ensure that the truth wins out and that our republic is devoid of foreign meddling.

Mike McClary

Editors Note: This piece is re-posted with the author’s permission, and originally appeared here.

 

 

 

What’s the connection?

What’s the connection between the Louisa County Board of Supervisors “firing” Eric Purcell from the Planning Commission, oversize political ads, and the current broadband project?

They’re all based on an uncommon devotion to dogmatic thinking and the deconstruction of the administrative state, where government regulations and agencies tasked with protecting citizens and their interests are eliminated.

And it’s why we have such a dysfunctional Board.  Nor should it come as any surprise to learn that several of their actions were not based on best practices, but ideology.

An autocratic approach to governance which starts with their current chair, Troy Wade, and county administrator, Christian Goodwin being part of a five county rebellion to “force” the Central Virginia Regional Jail to spend all of their remaining reserves before any of the counties would chip in another dime.

And who will piously claim to their dying day that they were only interested in saving the county money, leaving out the part were those actions did absolutely nothing in the long run to control expenses.

One of many inconvenient details; like delaying the vote on funding the Broadband initiative, at least until a more amenable supervisor could be sworn in, to holding additional hearings on bio-solids to “explore public sentiment.”  Along with completely repealing the County’s A-2 housing, flood plain and bio-solids ordinances, apparently with little awareness of, or thought given to what the consequences of those actions might be.

Of the four Board of Supervisor’s elections this year, two are being contested, and two are running unopposed. Unfortunately, that same split helps protect the two most useless supervisors who should have been voted out ages ago. Nor is it likely they will be leaving this year.

The best opportunity to fix our dysfunctional Board comes in 2019 when Willie Gentry, Troy Wade, and Tony Williams are up for re-election.  And if a recent survey showing that more than half of Republicans are “convinced” that millions voted illegally in this past election, and would have few qualms if the Drumpf decided to postpone the 2020 election is accurate, many in their districts will continue to blindly support them no matter what they do.

Meanwhile, the only “competitive” race appears to be between Stephanie Koren and Duane Adams in the Mineral District.  Given the CV’s history of under reporting the issues and the candidates, it remains to be seen what they will say about this race, or the 56th State Delegate contest between Melissa Dart and John McGuire.

And will they continue to promote syndicated op-ed’s at the expense of local commentary, while ignoring easily researchable facts, like which local and state candidates are being supported by out of state plutocratic concerns like Americans for Prosperity, a known Koch brothers front.

Jon Taylor

Editor’s note: A version of this op-ed was submitted to the Central Virginian, and it has yet to be published.

Dave Brat is a scaredy cat

Dave Brat represents the 7th district of Virginia in the U.S. House of Representatives. The 7th district is made of up of parts of Amelia, Chesterfield, Culpeper, Goochland, Henrico, Louisa, Nottaway, Orange, Powhatan and Spotsylvania counties. Louisa County cast about five percent of the total votes for him in the last election of 2016.

Though Albemarle County is not within his district, many of us shop there and spend time there. We regard the city of Charlottesville and Albemarle County as friendly and safe places. Several constituents have contacted Mr. Brat with concerns regarding the planned appearance of a hate group in Charlottesville this weekend.

Rather than using his office to denounce the spread of hate speech and divisiveness among Americans, he instead defended the group’s right to free speech. Does this mean that he agrees with the hate speech? It is unclear. It is worth noting that hate speech is not protected as free speech.

 

He stated that members of Congress cannot discriminate against anyone and yet he himself refuses to meet with any constituents who disagree with him. Despite running on a campaign promise of being the most accessible member of Congress, he refuses to hold town hall meetings because the majority of participants disagree with him.

Finally, in his response to concerned constituents he further stated “As a devout Christian, I believe we must love one another and treat others with respect.” Hate groups are certainly not respectful. So which is it Dave? Are you living your Christian values, or are you afraid to alienate any voters who may hold the same hateful views as those coming to Charlottesville this weekend?

Aleta Strickland

Editor’s note: this letter originally appeared in the August 10th edition of the Central Virginian, and has been reposted with the author’s permission, and is only available online to paying subscribers.

 

Virginian’s dodge another healthcare bullet from Washington

While Virginians can rest a little easier today as the latest Republican assault on the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has been defeated, challenges remain, and could find their way into the next General Assembly session.

Since Donald Trump’s inauguration as President in January, Virginians have been dodging bullets from Washington, D.C., as the White House and Republicans in the U.S. House and Senate propose policy after policy, which, if enacted, would dramatically impact our citizens, particularly those who are most disadvantaged.

Many citizens have focused intently on the Russia probe, Trump’s tweets, his travel ban, his treatment of our allies, his boorish behavior, his attacks on his own Attorney General, on transgender military personnel, and even his not-so-subtle efforts to undermine the 1st Amendment. But while we are justifiably concerned about all of these issues, Virginians and our economic security are put even more at risk from other policies that Trump and his allies are advocating, particularly in the health care arena. Virginia Republicans, from Ed Gillespie to members of the House of Delegates, have either fully embraced these hurtful policies, or have tacitly done so by remaining silent.

Trying to take the “care” out of health care

Candidate Trump promised to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) on “day one” of his Presidency. But President Trump was not able to force immediate action, and the fact that he failed to do so has saved Virginians considerable pain and insecurity to date.

Earlier this year, Virginia House Democrats challenged our Republican colleagues to join us in a letter to our Congressional delegation, expressing concern that repealing the Affordable Care Act without a replacement would hurt Virginians significantly and create a huge deficit in our state budget. Not one Republican delegate signed the letter, and Republicans in Congress kept pushing. In March, the Republican-controlled House ultimately rejected a straight repeal, and instead moved forward with a “repeal and replace” plan, which also placed Virginians at substantial risk, jeopardizing health insurance for over 500,000 Virginians (23 million Americans, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office) and reducing support for our state’s Medicaid program, placing thousands of elderly and disabled who rely on it at serious risk. What did Virginia Republicans say about this measure? Nothing!

It took two tries, but the U.S. House of Representatives passed their bill. The Trump White House celebrated, and the bill went to the Senate, where Republicans generated an even a more draconian proposal. Developed in secret, it received almost no support from those who either understand health policy or practice in the area. Physicians and nurses, hospitals, and even the insurance industry opposed the Senate plan. The public rose up and stated unequivocally that this was not a plan that they could embrace.

Nonetheless, Senate Republicans regrouped around a hope of finding 50 votes for straight repeal. This would mean insurance companies could discriminate against Virginians with preexisting conditions and plans would no longer need to provide for “essential” health care benefits. Insurance markets would likely head into a tailspin. And where were Virginia Republicans on this issue? Silent!

Straight repeal failed and the Senate then considered “skinny repeal,” a measure that Majority Leader Mitch McConnell admitted was no more than a partisan maneuver to keep the assault on the ACA alive via a conference committee with the House. Without the courage of several Senate Republicans who joined their Democratic colleagues, the “skinny repeal” measure could have moved forward. Last Friday morning, this effort also failed, and the Republican attack on the ACA is over, at least for the moment.

What will Washington try next?

While the one-party legislative repeal effort has not been successful, Virginians are not out of the woods. Trump can undermine the ACA through executive order action and Republicans can try to destroy it through the budget process. Paul Ryan’s proposed budget would cut $487 billion in Medicare spending over the next 10 years, and could cost Virginia as much as $1 billion in Medicaid funding per year over the next decade. If the insurance marketplaces are undercut by machinations in Washington, Virginians may be left with fewer options to obtain coverage than they have at present. That is why we need to continue to speak up and demand that representatives advocate for our citizens. And we need to engage with this fall’s election, which is the first about the direction of the country in the aftermath of Trump. Ed Gillespie and Republican incumbents have thoroughly embraced repeal of the ACA; Virginians should show them that this approach will not work in our Commonwealth.

Delegate David Toscano

Editor’s note: this piece has been reposted with the author’s permission and originally appeared here.

Vote for freedom, your own freedom

Ben Hixon is campaigning for delegate in Virginia’s General Assembly to represent the 30th District, which includes part of Culpeper County and all of Madison and Orange Counties. He will fight for your freedoms – freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom from want, and freedom from fear. If you don’t think they are under attack, think again. The evidence is everywhere around you.

Here’s one example: Did you know that you can be pulled over for a broken tail light, and then have your money, your car, and its contents confiscated by the government? Good luck on getting it back. Virginia gets a D-minus grade in terms of its “civil assets forfeiture system.” One recent proposal would redirect some of that confiscated property towards treatment and rehabilitation for addiction. Seriously? Taking from the impoverished communities where many drug addicts come from in order to pay for one step in the recovery process for those addicts not already caught up in the net of the criminal justice system is simply a way of enforcing the status quo while patting yourself on the back. Not only is this more of the same, but allowing government to steal taxpayers’ property to pay for public works is the antithesis of freedom. Ben Hixon would work to reform that system, as well as working to end “prisons for profit,” where thousands of nonviolent offenders unjustly languish.

A resident of Culpeper, he launched his 2017 campaign for delegate of the 30th District with a vision to build the local economy and help Virginians get back to basics: freedom and opportunity for all. His family’s southern heritage dates to the American Revolution. Hixon is a native of Louisiana and he has also lived in Tennessee and Washington state. He is a computer programmer and former National Science Foundation research fellow with multiple publications in the field of artificial intelligence, and holds an engineering degree from the City University of New York with doctorate studies in computer engineering at the University of Washington. A champion of personal and economic liberty, Hixon supports concepts such as universal healthcare, broad access to education, and limited government regulation as fundamental American freedoms. More information on Ben Hixon’s background, viewpoints, and ideas can be found at http://benhixon.com.

Ben is a genuine person who says what he means and means what he says. What some may see as a mild demeanor belies a toughness that is apparent when he advocates for his policies and positions. Ben is a fresh, young face in Virginia’s staid political scene. He simply doesn’t fit the hackneyed politician stereotype. In many ways, Ben is the unlikely candidate. His skills weren’t forged in the public eye—instead, he worked diligently in front of a computer screen where he built artificial intelligence programs which allowed machines to adapt to new environments. He’s humble, and sometimes quiet. He doesn’t have the look of a politician. He’s a perfect example of the distinct, young breed of patriots that have stepped forward since November to fight for the idea that the future doesn’t belong to spotlight-obsessed reality stars, but to motivated, dedicated thinkers that have been inspired to public service out of a concern for their country’s future.

How many of us are frustrated by the lack of broadband internet coverage in our rural areas? How many of us despair at the lack of employment opportunities for our young people that is driving them to the big cities? Without rural broadband access, this is just another empty promise. We support parents being given the option to homeschool their children, and we think vocational training is crucial, but rural counties like ours will not be able to compete in a modern economy without the freedom of a developed, modern infrastructure provides. Lack of broadband short changes our children’s education and prevents farmers from learning market conditions in a timely manner. Ben Hixon has plans for not only increasing broadband but also for vocational training that can prepare our high school students for a brighter future.

The country, the Commonwealth, and Culpeper need a new beginning. The astonishing spectacle that has embroiled the country for the past few weeks has got to come to an end. It is time for all political parties to put aside the extremism and partisanship that has torn America apart for the past few years and the past few months. It is time for compromise and working together with common purpose to truly further the interests of the working people of this country. It’s time for a new birth of Freedom.

Mike McClary

Editor’s Note: This op-ed has been reposted with the author’s, permission and originally appeared here.

 

How Healthcare becomes Wealthcare

Senate Republicans concern’s with healthcare “reform” are all about tax cuts for the wealthy. And they are leaving no toadstool unturned in their efforts to make it happen. Their brand of hypocrisy starts with voting for a motion to proceed … I mean debate without having the slightest idea of what they would be voting on, passing it by a 51 to 50 margin, with Vice President Mike Pence casting the tie-breaking vote.

After watching his previous efforts failed, Senate Majority Leader McConnell went the full Hail Mary, shaking his etch-a-sketch, resetting the legislative board as it were. First, telling Senators they just voted to “debate” the House’s version of zombie care, the American Health Care Act, and then changing directions by opening the floor for debate on the Senate’s previously failed plan A; repeal and replace which promptly collapsed.

By these actions, McConnell makes it clear that he intends to do everything possible to by-pass the Senates usual deliberative process, where only minor amendments to House bills are even considered. Unlike the Kabuki like spectacle of flying John McCain cross country, fresh from his brain surgery, so he could deliver his hypocritical vote, and speech to the sounds of thunderous applause.

Over the course of the next few days, we shall see if Senate Republicans procedural smoke and mirrors provides  them with enough cover to pass something really bad like the “Skinny Repeal,” or will they have to settle for the simply heinous? Now that plan B; partial repeal has failed, it remains to be seen if they can they fabricate a Trojan horse big enough to hold 50 Republicans for their final vote, or if they capable of getting any plan through?

Should they manage to pass some version of wealthcare through, the Senate and House bills go to a “Conference Committee” where a small group of Senators and House Representatives hammer out final language. Assuming they can agree on the final language, both chambers must pass that bill before sending it back to the Drumpf to sign or veto.

As depressing as all this sounds, this isn’t over, it’s just the beginning. If Republican’s efforts to repeal the ACA are stopped in the Senate, they will have little choice but to move on to more pressing issues, like the debt ceiling and the budget. However, if it manages to gets to conference, they will rewrite it to be as draconian and punitive as possible, knowing they have the numbers to pass it in both chambers.

So if you want to protect your access to affordable healthcare, don’t waste energy kvetching, stay focused and start calling your Senators to defeat this wealthcare bill.  And since most of the Senators are from other states, here’s a guide to how you can help pressure them to vote no on Zombie care.

The health care industry represents roughly one sixth of the US economy with Americans spending significantly more per capita than other developed nations, with far worse outcomes. Even the ACA’s biggest beneficiaries, the medical, insurance and pharmaceutical industries are saying that if it is repealed, the effects will ripple throughout our society.

The first wave will be 20 to 30 million people loosing their health care, whose growing use of emergency rooms will tax an already overwhelmed system. Accompanied by many rural hospitals and clinics providing care, particularly opioid treatment closing due to a lack of funding, leaving more damage in their wake.

And despite Republican’s claims otherwise, their cuts to Medicaid will screw folks with physical and cognitive disabilities, and particularly the elderly ten ways from Sunday. While millions of others with traditional health insurance will end up paying more for in premiums for substandard healthcare thanks to unchecked free market forces.

Beyond ensuring tax breaks for the wealthy, Republicans intend to bring back; life time caps, along with pre-existing conditions, actions which will effectively put affordable and reliable health insurance out of reach for all but the wealthiest. Convinced that enough people buy their lie of “you’re not loosing health care; you’re gaining the freedom to choose.”

No one will notice what they really mean by freedom is that it’s just another word for nothing left to lose.

Jon Taylor

Editors Note: this is an expanded version of an unpublished letter submitted to the Central Virginian, Louisa county’s paper of record.

 

Virginia’s heat climbs while leaders nap

Let’s say you’re inclined to think that the whole climate-change conversation is, okay, overheated. It’s a swelter out there, but so what? It’s July in Virginia, right? Give me a minute, just the same, to make the case that it’s way past time to get a lot more serious about Virginia’s climate future.

This threat is not distant in space or time. It’s immediate and right here in the Bristol area. According to the University of Virginia Climatology Office, if the warming trend here in Virginia continues to rise at the same rate it has since the mid-1970s, it will surpass 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit of additional heat — that’s a statewide annual average — by around 2050.

Your grandkids will be right in the middle of that. Worldwide, that much heat has been characterized as “could be dangerous” by climate scientists.

Over sixty percent of Virginia is forested. As the heat trend continues, we risk losing huge expanses of those forests to fires and heat-stimulated insects (that’s already happening in western states).

You can also see that troubled horizon in projections made by climate physicists Katharine Hayhoe and Sharmistha Swain of Texas Tech. On average each year, the Bristol area saw about nine days that were 90 and above, during the last three decades of the 1900s. But climate disruption will be 47 days by around the year 2065. That means we’ll be living with almost seven weeks of stifling heat, the projections suggest — but only if the world continues to use the atmosphere as an open sewer for greenhouse gas emissions from electric power plants, car exhausts and burning forests. That’s called the “business as usual” scenario.

Looked at another way, Virginia’s climate will be something like South Carolina’s by mid-century and something like Louisiana or Alabama by the end of the century. If the world works very hard, very quickly, on the greenhouse gas problem, climate change could slow. It could level off by 2100. Do we want to take the chance?

Virginia Democrats and Republicans have a serious case of the slows though, perhaps hoping the problem will just go away. Maybe that’s explained, in part, by where much of their campaign donations come from: fossil fuel corporations, Dominion Energy, Appalachian Power. Ask your current political representatives or candidates in the upcoming elections why that is and what they’ll do about it. Compared to other states, Virginia is failing to push for rapid conversion to solar power and other renewable energy sources, aggressive fuel economy requirements for cars and planning for the changes we will face.

Gov. Terry McAuliffe has indeed told the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality to propose regulations to reduce carbon pollution at power plants — but not until just before he leaves office in January, and with no set goals for those cuts. He took office in … What was it? Oh yeah, January 2014. Republicans, predictably, condemned the governor’s new move as “overreach” that will slow economic growth. Z-z-z-z-z — the usual sleepwalk.

Already in the state’s most populous area, Norfolk and Virginia Beach have chronic flooding — about half of it the result of sea level rise caused by global warming as it heats the oceans and melts polar icecaps. Our coastal waters could be about 1.5 feet higher sometime between 2030 and 2050, according to the Virginia Institute of Marine Science. That’s almost enough to drown or put at risk several billion dollars worth of commercial and residential real estate, dozens of miles of highways and rails and a third of our port facilities.

Even more irreparably, it will mean the potential loss of Virginia’s wetlands. They support a couple of dozen kinds of commercially valuable fish and innumerable wildlife species.

In our legislature, though, climate disruption isn’t about science. It’s about what’s expedient, or for some, it’s a kind of political religion. That will change, of course, as the disruption accelerates. No political leader who doesn’t respond to a threat of this scale and intensity will be electable. But the longer we take to engage with reality, the steeper our losses will be.

2016, 2015 and 2014 were the hottest years on record around the planet, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. How long will any political party be able to stay “in denial?”

Stephen Nash

Editors Note: this op-ed has been re-posted with the author’s permission, and originally appeared here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Taking a look at Republicans of yore

People today make sweeping statements about political parties or the direction of the country, but they often misrepresent the facts and engage in labeling rather than rigorous research.

Then again, political change may often only be seen in hindsight. We all remember Republican Joe McCarthy — the spinner of tales that found communists under everyone’s bed. He destroyed himself in the 1950s when he attacked the U.S. Army which was still remembered fondly as useful during World War II.

One of the first Republican Senators to call him to task was Margaret Chase Smith of Maine. The Senate record quotes her as saying, “I speak as a Republican. I speak as a woman. I speak as a United States Senator. I speak as an American. I don’t want to see the Republican Party ride to political victory on the four horsemen of calumny — fear, ignorance, bigotry and smear.

After the marches in Selma in 1965, the Senate passed the Voting Rights Act later that year. The 16 Democratic Senators (plus Harry Byrd of Virginia) who voted against the Voting Rights Act in 1965 were all from the South. Over the years, southern Democratic voters and party leaders moved to the Republican Party, as Strom Thurman (SC) and John Tower (TX) had already done. Except for Virginia and Florida (Senator Nelson), all of these “Confederate” states are today represented by Republicans in the U.S. Senate. Abraham Lincoln would be appalled.

Nevertheless, Republicans pridefully boast that that the Voting Rights Act was a model of bipartisanship and that Republicans should be given credit for their supportive vote. Indeed, they should be, except that none of them were from today’s core Republican base — the South.

Nor were they today’s ultraconservative Republicans. They were northerners and westerners from the states that brought down the Confederacy and preserved the Union. Those Senators — a different breed entirely — included such luminaries as Everett Dirksen of Illinois, Margaret Chase Smith of Maine, Leverett Saltonstall of Massachusetts, Clifford Case of New Jersey and Jacob Javits of New York.

The reality is that the Republican Party of today would not welcome those centrist Senators of 1965. Today’s Republican Party enacts voter suppression measures throughout the United States, just like the old Democratic party of Reconstruction and Massive Resistance. In the case of North Carolina, the court noted that the barriers were put into place with “surgical precision” to suppress the black vote.

Today’s Republicans, including Trump, insist that there was massive voter fraud in the last election, although no such evidence has been found. Trump’s claim that 3 million fraudulent votes were cast in the last election is an insult to state-run elections and all those who put their integrity on the line to make them fair.

The Republicans of today are asking the states to turn over the crown jewels of each state’s voter rolls so that it can find fraud where none exists. This is all done in the name of a political party that has prided itself on the narrative of creating fear about government overreach. This is the new Republican Party: frozen in ideology, dismissive of public discourse, creating “alternative facts” and further enriching the wealthy at the expense of the rest of us.

We just celebrated our 241st Independence Day — a day when we remember Thomas Jefferson’s ringing words about freedom and the rights of the common man. Which party is truly for freedom? Is it the party that offers new and creative restrictions on universal suffrage, or is it the party that would continue historic expansion of the vote?

As Pennsylvania Republican House Leader Mike Turzai bragged in 2012, his state’s voter ID laws were specifically designed to disenfranchise as many citizens (primarily minority, elderly and urban voters) as possible.

This is now typical of a party that displays racism and xenophobia, embraces Jim Crow and the KKK, supports government intrusion into personal decisions, takes health care away from millions of Americans, robs the poor to give to the rich, destroys the environment, defunds education, impoverishes college students, colludes with Russia to interfere in our last election and emboldens a man who has become the laughingstock of the rest of the world.

If you don’t believe me, just look at the good country doctor’s column in last Sunday’s paper, or read some of the truly despicable hatred and ignorance exhibited by a few select online commenter’s in this paper. For shame.

Mike McClary

Editor’s note: this op-ed is re-posted with the author’s permission, and originally appeared here.

The Essences of Fraudulence

In the Senates rush to pass their version of healthcare “reform” next week any shady dodge will do.  And with the Better Care Reconciliation Act, or BCRA, their plan is simple; lie, misrepresent what they are doing, when confronted, misdirect and lie some more. Because they are convinced they have found a loophole to exploit, one where any evaluation of their plan, ahem score will do.

By maneuvering the fate of deciding what “qualifies” as a score under Budget Act into the hands of Mike Enzi, chair of Senate Budget Committee, Senate leaders have pulled off a particularly convenient sleight of procedural hands since Enzi’s the guy who originated this bill.

Not to mention that Senate Republicans are “considering” an alternative scoring method, using the Department of Health and Human Services to “score it. What they neglected to mention about their “idea,” it’s that the HHS is controlled by the GOP, and their “numbers” will be cooked, partisan and fraudulent unlike the independent CBO.

Of course that has nothing to do with the fact that Senate leaders are trying to rush this bill through with as little debate as humanly possible, knowing full well that the HHS score can be done in just a few days, and on the cheap, while the CBO’s score will take several weeks.

And as tragic as it would be for Senate Republicans to have to listen to their constituents about healthcare, or wait to hold a more informed vote, it should be clear that barring massive resistance from a few holdouts, there will be a vote on BCRA before the CBO score comes out, and it will likely happen next week.

Killing the ACA is one of the lynchpins of the Republican fraudulent scheme, one that is based on a commitment to relocating wealth upwards and rendering government agencies impotent. In the case of health care, the “savings” from cutting programs like Medicaid will be effectively transferred to the ultra wealthy in the form of massive and unnecessary tax cuts.

What better way to assure that government agencies remain ineffective than to populate them with people who are ideologically opposed to their very existence, and then pretend that nothing like this is happening? And this is just the beginning, after they’ve killed health care, they will move like a swarm of lemmings headed for the cliff, passing another fatally flawed Federal budget.

Actions which are intended to starve the beast and drown it in bathtub as it were. Unfortunately, they’ve grown so dependent kicking the fiscal can down the road in past budgets that even this budgetary sleight of hand is no longer what it used to be.

When they finally turn to privatizing highways, bridges and federal lands, it won’t take it long for it to become an unaccountable financial morass as far as the eye can see. Or to surpass the infamous “collation of the billing,” a cartel of contractors who freely looted government coffers under Bush’s provisional government in Iraq.

And in a related display of arrogance and chutzpah, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and his cronies reinserted a provision back into this “amended” bill  after it was exposed as being too atrocious.  How heinous was it you ask? Congress and congressional employees would be exempted from Trumpcare.

Perhaps the New York Times was being too kind in outlining the cruelty and fraudulence of this bill, but they definitely got the part about the Republican’s extra helping of stealth right.

So if you don’t want to see this bill pass and watch the all progress made under ACA, and Medicaid be relegated to the trash pile, make it your business to contact your State Senator, along with these Republican holdouts:

Senator Rob Portman                          (202) 224-3353
Senator Susan Collins                          (202) 224-2523
Senator Dean Heller                             (202) 224-6244
Senator Shelly Moore Capito          (202) 224-6472

Senator John McCain                           (202) 224-2235

Senator Lisa Murkowski                      (202 224-6665

This list promises to become even smaller the further we get into next week. Whether Senator McCain will go out in his last term as a maverick remains to be seen, as well how many Senators will hold out for some pork to sway their vote, and possibly their conscience.

Jon Taylor