Separate & Unequal Beliefs

Several responses to an April 3rd letter to the editor in the Central Virginian only served to reinforce those observations about ideologues being blissfully unaware of their own hypocrisy and intolerance.

Protect us

The phrase “God, guns and gays”, defined in Wikipedia as an intense focus on social issues encapsulates many of those attitudes. Even with the first amendment guaranteeing us the freedom to publicly express our beliefs, we should remember that a defining characteristic of many religions is a strong belief in “persecution” and being “silenced by vicious attacks.

Contrary their strident claims no one in this country is being persecuted for their beliefs. Something else is happening.

freedom of speech

The Supreme Courts recent City of Greece v. Galloway decision now allows government bodies to sanction one set of beliefs over another. Assuming that if they did not eliminate the constitutional ban on state sponsored religion outright there would be no harm. In Roanoke County, one supervisor wants to take that misinterpretation even further.

Citing the need for “accountability to the public,” he wants supervisors to select people to open their board meetings with prayer. Claiming “The freedom of religion doesn’t mean that every religion has to be heard. If we allow everything … where do you draw the line?

Promoting his brand of Christianity over others, he refuses to honor the prayers of the India Heritage Society,  prefering his own kind of separate and unequal. Nor is he alone, the Chesterfield County Board of Supervisors will not allow services by members of “pre-Christian deities” and further stipulates that they can only be performed by “ordained ministers .”

fox informs us

So excuse my cynicism when I see folks like Mr. Verjinski and  Reynolds end their letters the Central Virginian with “God bless the USA, or Fox News”. Or watch all of our Board of Supervisor’s meeting start off with a public prayer.

Terry Detrick recently wrote a polite letter about the National Day of Prayer, where she talked about multiple organized events,  inviting us to join him in a community service on the Courthouse lawn. In contrast, Ms. Disosway’s two back to back letters (4/24 and 5/1) claiming government denial of religious protections makes you wonder if they were talking about the same event.

Over the years, Mr. Reynolds has become renowned for summoning up the 3 G’s to buttress his delusional claims. Claiming that our government co-opts our news media, and they hate the freedoms of the second amendment while simultaneously invoking Godwin’s law. Defined by Wikipedia; where any discussion regardless of topic, sooner or later ends up being compared to Hitler or Nazism.

Claiming our government wants to remove Christianity from our schools, along with confiscating guns, just like Hitler, so Christians must protect themselves with the second amendment, with consequences as predictable as the cartoon below.

guns everywhere

He also asked us to pray for the Supreme Court to uphold the Defense of Marriage Act, asking people to be segregationists in the name of faith. So it should be interesting to see his and other reaction when U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit, in Richmond, follows the US Supreme Court in striking down this unconstitutional law later this summer.

Our local extremists are quite skilled at stirring up fear, and asking others to unite behind them in their quixotic quests. To paraphrase Oliver Wendell Holmes, “the mind of a zealot is like the pupil of the eye; the more light you shine on it, the more it will contract.”

And how tolerant should we continue to be when confronted with such naked prejudices?

Jon Taylor

Benghazi Hurts

Commentary on Virginia 5th Congressional District, Congressman Robert Hurt’s recent statements on Benghazi.

Benghazi

Dear Congressman Hurt,

At the highest level, Republicans believe there are three elements to the Benghazi scandal:

That the White House and then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton lied about the true reason for the attack in order to guarantee his re-election and protect her 2016 campaign.

That President Obama and Clinton are personally responsible for the deaths of the four Americans in Benghazi because they were either (a) asleep at the switch or (b) unwilling to take any action that they feared would destabilize the U.S. relationship with the Libyan government.
That subsequent to the attacks the White House and Clinton ordered a massive coverup to conceal their actions related to the first and second elements of the conspiracy.

There are some facts (including ones embarrassing to the White House) that are consistent with the GOP view of Benghazi, but as with all conspiracy theories, Republicans have used those facts to convince themselves of something that just isn’t true. Here’s why they are wrong.

1. Obama didn’t steal the 2012 election by lying about Benghazi (and neither did Hillary steal the 2016 race)

The starting point for the conspiracy theory is the fact that the White House initially blamed the attack on the spread of protests in Cairo that had been sparked by an anti-Muslim video uploaded to YouTube by an American. That turned out not to be the case, something that the White House now acknowledges. The White House also used this belief to deflect GOP criticism of its Middle East foreign policy. But neither of those facts are sufficient to support the conclusion that the White House covered up the true reason for the attack in order to steal the election from Mitt Romney’s grasp.

Part of the reason why we know this is true is that what the White House said about Benghazi and the protests at embassies throughout the Middle East was consistent with what the CIA had told them. Yes, it ultimately was wrong to link the Benghazi attack directly to the Cairo protests, but it is what they believed.

In my opinion, however, there’s a bigger reason why the GOP’s belief is absurd: It would have been literally insane for the White House to think it could steal the 2012 election by lying about Benghazi being a result of a protest inspired by a video. First of all, Benghazi wasn’t going to be an election-turning event no matter what. I’m not taking away from the horror of what happened, but there just isn’t any scenario under a significant number of Americans would have made it a deciding factor in their vote.

Moreover, Mitt Romney, by appearing too eager to exploit the issue for political gain, hurt himself badly in the immediate aftermath of the attack. Nonetheless, in the second debate, he tried to exploit the issue again, only to be smacked in the face by reality in Obama’s famous “Please proceed, governor” moment. At this point, what we remember is mainly that Romney interrupted President Obama, who wisely decided to let Romney step right into a trap of his own making.

But let’s remember what the substance of their exchange was: Romney accused President Obama of minimizing the attack in Benghazi by refusing to call it an act of terrorism, which is essentially the heart of the GOP’s conspiracy theory. President Obama’s response—backed up by Candy Crowley—was that he had in fact called it an act of terrorism. Even if you’re a conservative who thinks Romney got robbed by Crowley, you have to concede that President Obama’s position in that debate was that he believed the Benghazi attack was a terrorist action. He didn’t say anything about a video or a protest.

What I’m trying to say here is that if the White House had a plot to steal the election by writing off Benghazi as the consequence of a YouTube video and protests in Cairo, they forgot to tell the president. Because in that debate, broadcast live on every major television channel, the president’s clear and unambiguous position was that it was an act of terrorism. And there’s a reason Mitt Romney didn’t bring the issue up again: It’s because he knew he had nothing to gain by continuing to harp on it. Ironically, the only way Romney could have capitalized on the issue is if President Obama had continued pushing the flawed talking points. The fact that he didn’t is prima facie evidence of the absurdity of the GOP claim.

2. Neither President Obama nor Hillary Clinton ordered the military to stand down from any rescue mission of any sort.

The White House, the State Department and other observers have all concluded that the security in Benghazi was insufficient. In fact, that’s more or less obvious based on what happened: If security measures were sufficient, four deaths would have been avoided. As President Obama, Hillary Clinton, and their staffs have repeatedly said, they share responsibility for the security posture there. But it’s also true that Republicans, who blocked funding requests for security at diplomatic posts, should also take responsibility.

Regardless of whether Republicans concede they were part of the security equation, it’s an enormous leap to go from the idea that security was inadequate at Benghazi to the belief that the president or Clinton willfully left Americans in harm’s way at the height of the attack because they were either asleep at the switch or more interested in helping Libyans save face than in saving American lives. In the words of House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon, who is a Republican and is harshly critical of the Benghazi security posture before the attack:

The Armed Services Committee has interviewed more than a dozen witnesses in the operational chain of command that night, yielding thousands of pages of transcripts, e-mails, and other documents.  We have no evidence that Department of State officials delayed the decision to deploy what few resources DoD had available to respond.

It’s horrible what happened in Benghazi, and it’s crushing to contemplate the fact that on the night of the attack, there was no obvious course of action that could have changed the outcome, but those are the facts. To believe that Obama or Clinton were personally complicit in the deaths that occurred in Benghazi is to believe in an alternate reality.

3. There is no coverup of a coverup, because there was no coverup.

We all know the phrase “It’s not the crime, it’s the coverup,” but Republicans have forgotten that for there to be a coverup, there needs to be something to cover up. And the simple fact is that neither President Obama nor Hillary Clinton committed a crime of any sort. The only criminals are the terrorists who attacked us in Benghazi.

That’s not to say the president or Clinton don’t share responsibility for the fact that the consulate didn’t have better security. They do—as they’ve both acknowledged. If Republicans want to make that a partisan issue, they’re welcome to try, but aside from the fact that they also share in the blame due to their funding cuts, I rather suspect that foreign policy misadventures is not a subject that they want to address in a reality-based way given what they forced on the nation with Iraq and Afghanistan.

But the notion that there the Commander in Chief or Secretary of State committed a crime when Benghazi was attacked, and subsequently engaged in a coverup of that crime is, to put it bluntly, insane.

Ben gazzi

Reference…   http://www.dailykos.com/story/2014/05/05/1296421/-Here-s-why-the-GOP-is-fired-up-about-Benghazi-and-why-they-re-wrong?detail=email

Mark Chapman

What’s the Connection?

Now we already have the FRIENDS AND FAMILY CONNECTION for jobs in Louisa County, so it has been expanded to include the VCU Pipeline.  You can pretty much be guaranteed that you will be hired by Louisa County if you do a Louisa Human Service internship coming from Virginia Commonwealth University’s Social Work program.

Just review the most recent hires there and see what you find.  Is the County Administrator an alumnae of VCU or does he have his own friends/former colleagues running that program to bring its graduates here to work.  Don’t we have enough unemployed, more than qualified candidates in Louisa County?

Who in Louisa County knows what the County hiring process is?  Who knows how candidates are reviewed and evaluated and who will be doing their evaluations?  Are these evaluators competent to evaluate candidates for various jobs, not in their fields of expertise?  Why isn’t the salary range for positions consistently posted in the Job Announcements?

Once again Louisa’s questionable and unpublished hiring system needs to be re-examined and restructured by the Board of Supervisors so that we do not have a direct placement system a specific college’s graduates.  Our current system does not give any priority to current Louisa citizens, unless you happen to be friends and/or family of certain individuals in the County/Town (which is one hiring preference).

Few people in Louisa really have any idea what the hiring process really is or the salary for positions posted in Louisa.  Call your Board of Supervisors representative about making the process much more transparent and in changing the secret and unfair hiring process that allows the County to recruit specific people living outside the County for employment when there are more than enough qualified County residents. Remember it is your tax dollars going out of your County.

Gloria Pope

Income Fairness vs. Socialism

A May 4, 2014 letter to the editor from Dave Cambell in the Charlottesville Daily Progress blamed liberals for promoting socialism and for wanting income equality along with taking our freedoms away. It is Republican propaganda and misconceptions taken straight from the Koch brother’s playbook. Promoting the lowest possible worker wages to maximize profits, a government controlled by the wealthy oligarchy, and a  mainstream media that fuels the belief that Americans are “self-made” and ALL government is bad.  Actually, the Republicans have fought against almost every worker benefit and consumer protection that Americans currently enjoy while promoting the welfare of corporate campaign sponsors.

American’s wealthy 1% elite own 40% of our nation’s wealth and they own 50% of stocks.  The average CEO makes 380 times their average worker salary.   The American middle class is disappearing and the bottom 40% of Americans have no wealth. As a nation, it’s not Socialism to promote fair and decent minimum wage adjustments for struggling Americans….the same strategy used to bring America out of the Great Depression.

Let’s look at policies that were fought for by liberals and about which our “self-made conservatives” have forgotten … minimum clean water standards, medications that are safe and work as advertised, employer paid health insurance, paid holidays and vacations, retirement, laws to stop industries from polluting our air, public transportation systems, unemployment  compensation for job injury, federally insured bank deposits to protect against unscrupulous bankers, car safety standards, electric cooperatives for rural citizens, ….

These government benefits were paid for by the wealthy elite because they paid much higher taxes than today and yet the same whining of Socialism by the elite were argued then too.

Today Republicans vote to give almost double the money to subsidize Corporate Welfare than to support traditional social welfare programs.   The recently passed Farm Bill took $9 billion from poor and hungry Americans to promote corporate welfare for big agribusinesses.   The Republican lead Congress recently passed a $284 billion highway bill with 4,128 political earmarks for corporate welfare projects.   Beside oil industry subsidies, one finds corporate welfare for companies like WalMart that netted $37 million from the taxpayer in the transportation bill.  In 2013, Walmart made $10.3 billion profits and yet 80% of their employees received federally funded food stamps.   http://www.progress.org/tpr/corporate-welfare-scandal-hits-wal-mart/

We must not be deceived by the lies of the wealthy elite that control the representation of our Republican lead Congress.   Income equality in America is NOT socialism … regardless of regurgitated Koch brother’s propaganda.

Mark Chapman

The Hidden Costs of Low Wages

When our economy first crashed during the Great Recession of 2007-2009, we were told if we lower wages more people will be able to work.  Since then job growth has slowly improved, but has not replaced those lost jobs. Middle-wage occupations accounted for 60 percent of jobs lost between 2007 and 2009 yet represents only 20 percent of post-recession job growth.

Low-wage jobs are the recovery. A study by the National Employment Law Project shows low wage positions are concentrated primarily in the health care, retail and fast food industries accounting for three out of five “newly created” jobs, and representing 9 out of the 10 fastest “growing” job categories.

Our regional job providers include nursing homes and assisted living facilities, big box retailers like Wal-Mart, Target and Staples, and fast food chains like McDonalds, Pizza Hut and Subway. The low wages these businesses pay their workers impose hidden costs on all of us. These jobs pay so little that families have to rely on public programs to survive.

Cost of Low Wages

The rest of us subsidize those low wages with higher taxes which pay for programs like food stamps and housing because these jobs pay below-subsistence wages. A new study shows that health care workers comprise 20 % of all those who receive public assistance. Nearly 80% of Wal-Mart’s employees use food stamps and less than half have any health care coverage. Over 50% of fast food workers receive some form of public assistance, and nearly 90 % have no health care coverage.

Coupled with six years of high unemployment, the growth of low-wage jobs without benefits has stretched our nation’s safety nets to the breaking point. Yet the hidden public cost of low-wage work rarely factors into debates about state and national policy.

There are other hidden costs. Low wage earners cannot afford healthier foods or preventive health care, and when they truly do get sick we pick up those costs. The high price of poverty is most noticeable in our inner cities, where disintegrating neighborhoods and high crime rates go hand in hand, along with the additional costs of incarceration.

With the pervasive anxiety that working families experience every day, the paralyzing effect of  eroding self confidence is the greatest social cost of low wages. Making do with less is unrealistic. Those who can no longer afford a phone, a car, or a place to live will sink below the radar with scarcely a ripple. It is a major reason why low-wage workers remain unengaged in civic organizations and considerably less likely to vote, even to protect their own interests.

When all of these social costs are tallied up, it’s clear we are subsidizing the profits of corporations who pay low wages. The benefits of having companies paying living wage are clear; lower taxes and smaller public programs, healthier workers, and less incarceration.

We can either support those at the bottom with more government benefits via higher taxes, or we can support them by paying them a living wage, enabling them to be self-sufficient. At the end of the day, having companies pay a living wage is about fiscal and moral responsibility.

Jon Taylor