Mass Deceptions

If you weren’t carefully looking in the April 16th edition of our local paper, the Central Virginian, you might have missed an official call for nominating Republican candidates for local office. While such calls used to be routine affairs for both parties, there are indications that this is changing.

Except for school board candidates who are constitutionally prohibited from having any party affiliations, both parties can nominate their own candidates for every other local office. And thus far some candidates are not wasting any time getting a head start; Rusty McGuire, and now Mike Silberman who is running against Ashland Fortune for Sheriff.

Silberman announced his candidacy in a press release in last weeks Charlottesville Daily Progress, and is apparently trying to give the impression that  he’s converted into a Republican, convinced that this newfound affiliation will allow him to chip away at Fortune’s strong base within the Democratic African American community, while gaining the support of local conservatives who would not otherwise give him the time of the day.

Several local officials who are running for re-election as independents have characterized this development of party support as a “significant departure” from local tradition, calling it a potential “end run” around having to develop local support, or even doing the necessary legwork of getting 125 signatures to get on the ballot.

They also commented on the fact that the cost of financing local elections has significantly increased over these last two elections, in some cases well over ten thousand dollars. If this trend continues anyone running for public office in this county, along with nearby Hanover, Goochland, Orange and Madison Counties who doesn’t have party sponsorship or is independently wealthy will be effectively barred from office.

An even greater danger of such monetized and politicized support has always been how it easily this process lends itself to group thinking.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Groupthink

Defined by Wikipedia as:  a psychological phenomenon where the desire for harmony or conformity in the group results in irrational or dysfunctional decision-making. Group members try to minimize conflict and reach a consensus without critical evaluation of alternative viewpoints, actively suppressing dissenting viewpoints, and isolating themselves from outside influences.

The best example of which comes from the chair of the Louisa Republican Committee, who even after the Party’s candidate deadline has passed, refuses to acknowledge who has applied, or even if they plan on nominating someone for the now open Board of Supervisors seat in the Jackson District at their April 30th Mass Call, claiming that he is not “at liberty to discuss” these matters.

Because the actions of local officials have a far greater impact on our lives than those of our General Assembly or even Congress, it’s long been held that “all politics is local,” and the injection of partisan politics and money into local elections threatens to change this dynamic by assuring a perpetually stacked deck of like minded candidates.

Setting the stage for a government of elected officials whose unswerving loyalty renders them virtually incapable of understanding what the problems are, let alone any solutions.  Such a loss of individual creativity and independent thinking creates a dysfunctional “illusion of invulnerability,” where members of the “in-group” significantly overrate their decision making abilities, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dunning%E2%80%93Kruger_effect and whose actions will hamper the Counties growth for as long as we continue to elect them.

The lack of alternative candidates for virtually every local office means that most of this year’s elections are already decided; however it doesn’t mean that this will continue to be the future of local elections. What you chose to do over the course of these next few elections will determine that.

Suzanne Johnson

Sheriff’s Many Unfulfilled Promises

Note: This information comes from a 1999 ad in the Central Virginian called “Top Priorities, when I take Office” by Ashland Fortune.

1 – Reorganization of Sheriff’s Department

RESULT – Dept. never run by “citizen elected leader,” but by unelected Deputy Sheriff

4 – Utilize education/training/experience of all employee

RESULT – Promotions and employment not related to previous education/training, but personal relationships

5 – More training in specialized & general law enforcement

RESULT – Department remains unaccredited, never been inspected or audited and does not meet latest requirements

6 – Be supportive to employees who further their education

RESULT – No demonstrated commitment to employees to further their education or to promote as a result of furthering their education

7 – NEVER EMPLOY FAMILY MEMBERS OR RELATIVES (NEPOTISM)

RESULT – Currently Six Family Members/Relatives employed and have been Promoted with Questionable Qualifications

8 – Establish supervisors based on qualifications rather than     personal preference

RESULT – Several officers have been promoted with Questionable Qualifications and are related to superiors

14 –Less waste of tax dollars

RESULT

  1. With a population increase of only 33%, since 1999 there has been an enormous increase in the Public Safety Budget, currently it is  $12,493,485
  1. New vehicle purchases every year plus new Harley- Motorcycles (grant-funded), so that there is more than one vehicle per officer in the field
  1. Paying the expense of allowing officers living outside of Louisa to drive and transport their vehicles home daily (gas + maintenance)
  1. Annual budget increases in spite of the utilization of numerous     Grants to the Sheriff’s Dept.
  1. A single Detective getting paid a full salary and benefits but only   making ONE arrest during an entire year

Can every hardworking Louisa citizen afford to purchase a new vehicle EVERY YEAR? So why are we buying new vehicles and brand new Harley Davidson motorcycles for the Sheriff’s Dept., as they want to spend $12.5 million for the upcoming public safety budget???

It seems that the only requirement to get a good job (not doing much of anything if you are connected and related detective) on our taxpayer tab is to be a friend or relative of Donnie Lowe.   Add to that a single African American employee showcased in the CV, as if that is a substantive action towards any real change in the status quo.

Enabling them to avoid any checks or balances or real oversight, they remain “unaccredited,” ignoring the latest training and education for your officers. And finally, if you are getting many government grants, why are we taxpayers paying so much more every year to support “Public Safety”?

It is past time that Louisa Citizens carefully examine how our tax dollars are being spent on “Public Safety,” and stop the waste and abuse of our money by creating a citizen oversight committee and by Electing a new leader to “RUN THE SHERIFF’S DEPARTMENT.”

Enough is enough.

Ms. Gloria Pope

Theft by Distraction

Based on their actions over the past few years, it should be clear that most our legislators, particularly conservative ones are far more concerned with protecting their benefactor’s economic welfare than their constituent’s.

It’s also clear that this country is bitterly divided along many ideological and political fault lines reaching levels of toxicity that have not been seen in this country since just before the Civil War.

The trick these days is separating the legitimate issues from the smokescreens.

Having captive legislative bodies promoting their masters interests is nothing new; at the turn of last century Upton Sinclair noted “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.” A lack of understanding which goes hand in hand with the fact that the wealthy industrialists and robber barons were the ones calling the shots.

Some new wrinkles to his observation; first, concentrated wealth and income disparity are at their absolute highest levels in American history…. including the eve of the Great Depression.

Secondly, the economic royalists of that era were more concerned with maintaining the productive capacity of their industrial monopolies, and had relatively little interest in less productive forms of increasing their wealth like the rentier capitalism practiced by their modern day 1% counterparts.

Rentier capitalism profits not by providing goods or services, but by denying others access to tangible physical, financial, and intellectual assets, effectively limiting any profits from those assets to a select few, a process similar to how a monopoly denies competition.

Unlike the industrial barons of old, these rentier capitalists risk little if any of their own assets, produce nothing of lasting value, while realizing significant economic gains at the expense of others.

These extractive practices have been removing wealth from the economy for over three decades and are one of the primary reasons why both income disparity and concentrated wealth have increased so dramatically in the past decade.

Wealth enough to buy our nations political system, to the point where several recent studies conclude that this country is no longer a representative Democracy but has in fact become a Plutocracy, where only the rich are represented. https://www.princeton.edu/~mgilens/Gilens%20homepage%20materials/Gilens%20and%20Page/Gilens%20and%20Page%202014-Testing%20Theories%203-7-14.pdf, http://livingeconomiesforum.org/Plutocracy.

Our current Pluto-Oligarchic government is an economic system where money doesn’t circulate as much as it tends to stay in the same hands. Much like the end stages of a Monopoly game where the remaining players get all the money.

Since much of the middle classes wealth has already been relocated from St. Charles Place to Park Place, one has to ask what other extractions I mean revenues were they expecting to draw from this well?

While this is how plutocrats maintain their economic stranglehold, it’s not their only means of maintaining power. Their bought and paid for political allies cheerfully play the role of magician’s assistants, using endless variations of social wedge issues like, “Gods, Guns and Gays” with a little punishment of the poor thrown for good measure, distracting the public from the sleights at hand.

While the corporate media, particularly FOX repeats these messages over and over.

Repetitions which keep their faithful agitated and in line, and have browbeaten Democrats and progressives into believing that Republicans stand for nothing but rabid ideology. While not exactly incorrect, it’s not entirely accurate either.

Of course ideology drives their decisions, but contrary to popular belief it’s never been about the cultural issues they break out every election year, those are the distractions. Today’s Republican Party is following an ideology, one that you might not be familiar with an ideology called “movement conservatism.”

In a nutshell, movement conservatism rejects the idea that our government should play any role in the American economy. It started with William F Buckley Jr’s first publication of the “National Review” in 1951. Buckley, the fresh out of college son of a wealthy oil man who insisted that the government must never interfere with either Christianity or “freedom,” claiming freedom no longer meant personal liberty; it meant the right of the wealthy to accumulate as much money as possible.

Pillorying regulations and taxes as “collectivism” that redistributed wealth, warning that welfare destroyed individualism. He bemoaned the extraordinary popularity of America’s activist government claiming it was leading to full-blown communism, calling upon right-minded Americans to restore America’s fundamental principle, their economic freedom.

Just a little more than a decade after the end of the Great Depression very few Americans believed in wholly unfettered capitalism and his ideas made little headway.

Jon Taylor

 

Next: http://bluelouisaorg.fatcow.com/2015/04/14/movement-conservatism/

Movement Conservatism

One way to look at movement conservatism’s economic principles is that they are another form of moral justification for personal selfishness. Nor are they particularly original, with the roots of their morally principled arguments against the government having any responsibility for the “general welfare” dating to the colonial era.

Buckley’s reactionary ideas first began to gain traction in 1954, when court-ordered school desegregation opened the way for Republicans and movement conservatives to start to chip away at the New Deal consensus by appealing to white racists.

While many white Americans liked the idea of an active government regulating business and keeping old people from starving, one thing they couldn’t abide was the idea of a government which protected their black neighbors.

As an ideological and political force, Movement Conservatism picked up more momentum after 1957, when President Eisenhower sent troops to integrate Little Rock Central High School.

Since this was the first intrusion of federal troops into the South since Reconstruction, they wasted little time revisiting the racist arguments of the late nineteenth century, claiming with a straight face that integration was simply a redistribution of wealth because tax dollars, paid by hardworking white men, were funding the troops defending those grasping African-Americans.

In 1960, conservatives who followed Buckley’s philosophy saw their principles widely circulated with the publication of “The Conscience of a Conservative,” a book which used Senator Barry Goldwater’s name, but was written by Buckley’s brother-in-law L. Brent Bozell.

For such a slim volume, it’s a doozy, starting with the laws of God and nature being as fixed and unchanging as the Ten Commandments, laws that dictated America’s fundamental principle: freedom. Claiming that founding fathers had deliberately kept the government from “the tyranny of the masses” guaranteeing that American freedom would not be compromised by popular demands for government activism.

No matter how popular government programs were, the government could do nothing the Founding Fathers had not expressly enumerated in the Constitution, or it would somehow destroy American freedom.

Freedoms one might add which were heavily dependent on the principles of states’ rights; with no civil rights legislation, no oversight of education, no unions, no taxation for domestic spending whatsoever. Any government intervention was a collectivism which destroyed freedom.

An extremist mantra which culminated with Goldwater’s famous line, “My aim is not to pass laws…but to repeal them. Not to inaugurate new programs, but to cancel old ones that do violence to the Constitution or that impose on the people an unwarranted financial burden.

In their eyes, the only programs which don’t do violence to the Constitution or impose unwarranted financial burdens were the ones attacking foreign totalitarian governments. Presumably because state sanctioned violence in one part of the world confers freedom here in the United States.

Clearly the movement conservatives sought to eliminate the New Deal style of government wherever possible, and just as clearly 1964 wasn’t a good year to be a Republican.

Even after Nixon took back the presidency in 1968, Republicans were far too busy dealing with inflation and licking their wounds to do much. Which brings us to singular event near the end of Nixon’s first term in office in 1971 when Lewis Powell, then a corporate attorney for the tobacco industry (later appointed Supreme Court Justice by Nixon) who believed the tobacco industries tactics of shaping perceptions should be taken to a wider stage, sent a memo to the National Chamber of Commerce known as the “Powell Memorandum” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lewis_F._Powell,_ Jr.#Powell Memorandum

Jon Taylor

 

Next: http://bluelouisaorg.fatcow.com/2015/04/14/powell-memo-spreads/

Powell Memo Spreads

The Powell memorandum spread from their chambers like a virus throughout corporate America inspiring not only corporations and the Chamber to become more involved in national politics, but also wealthy radicals; like Joseph Wyreich, Joseph Coors, Richard Mellon-Scaife, along with the Koch Brothers to become far more aggressive in their efforts to mold American politics and law in their favor.

Leading to the creation and funding of think tanks like the Cato Institute, the  Heritage Foundation , along with legislative advocacy organizations like  ALEC, each playing a part in shifting the nations laws and conversation about politics and economics.

It should be noted that some of the earliest members of ALEC (started and supported by the Koch Brothers) were state politician’s like Tommy Thompson, and Scott Walker of Wisconsin, Mitch Daniels of Indiana, and John Boehner and John Kasich of Ohio, and Eric Cantor of Virginia who later served in Congress, the Senate and as state Governors.

Funding think tanks and advocacy groups gave movement conservatives increased access to media coverage allowing them to integrate their ideological messaging with Nixon’s divide and conquer Southern Strategy politics. While Ronald Regan lost the 1976 presidential nomination, once he took office in 1980, they got busy repealing the “Fairness Doctrine,”  ensuring that conservative’s messages were being heard on the public airwaves.

A decade later, the passage of the Telecommunications Reform Act, further enhanced their ability to spread their messages.

Shortly after this law passed there was a massive consolidation of TV and radio ownership. During this time we also saw the emergence of the FOX network as the official purveyor of conservative narratives. Fox was started by Rupert Murdoch, and continues to be lead by Rodger Ailes, who was previously a media consultant to the Nixon, Reagan and Bush administrations.

During their early years, FOX lost billions while slowly capturing the television market. Today their “fair and balanced” brand of news and political perspectives is copied by virtually every other major news outlet.

With each passing year, their distractions grow and the lies increase in magnitude. When repeated enough even the most radical ideas start to gain acceptance, to the point where long discredited ideas like “nullification” and “states rights” are back on the table.

This is how a handful of ultra-wealthy and corporations use their wealth to control the messages in the media and manipulate the nations divisions, shifting the nation’s laws and political balance in their favor.

After securing control of the messaging, there was not much left for the plutocracy to do besides take control of traditional party activities like organizing and fundraising. Something that the Koch brother recognized in 2004 when they founded Americans For Prosperity, an organization who’s foundation (aka fundraising arm), Americans for Prosperity Foundation also happens to be David Koch’s primary political advocacy group.

AFP was instrumental in the rise of the Tea Party as an astroturfed I mean grass roots political organization, aiding them in restoring a Republican majority in the United States House of Representatives in 2010.

While not nearly as successful in the 2012 presidential elections, AFP along with other Koch-to-pus tentacles of intertwined fundraising, logistical training, policy education, donor and voters lists helped the Republicans to maintain control of the House, along with reducing the Democrats lead in the Senate.

Setting the stage for retaking the Senate in 2014.

Jon Taylor

Next: http://bluelouisaorg.fatcow.com/2015/04/14/kochs-consolidate/

 

Koch’s Consolidate

Meanwhile, the Koch’s increasing control over a wide ranging consortium of fundraising entities, such as; super PAC’s, 501 C 3’s and C 4’s and other forms of dark money helped them become the 3rd largest political donor in the country by the end of the 2012 election.

Another reason for their success was their funding of Themis (now i360) a database company in 2011 backed by the Koch Brothers’ Freedom Partners and serving as repository for the Kochs’ political data.

In 2014, they brought out GOP Data Trust, the company owning the Republican’s database and merged it with Themis giving the Republican Party full access to the voter data collected by the Koch’s Freedom Partners entities and clients — embedding   the Koch-to-pus even deeper within the GOP.

Because political parties are not allowed to accept corporate contributions, it would have been illegal for the Koch’s to simply give their massive databases to the Republican National Committee directly.

So to avoid any appearances of illegality, the Koch’s did what any self respecting plutocrat would do, they brought them out. The Koch’s operational control of the Republican Party’s national database, along with donations of at least $400 million during this last 2014 mid term election helped the Republicans regain control of the Senate, and they have made it clear they don’t intend to stop there.

In fact they are upping their game considerably. During the 2016 presidential campaign the Koch’s plan on spending at least $900 million making them by far the biggest political donor in the country, considerably larger than either of the two major political party’s.

The fact that these two individuals have used their wealth to become the nation’s largest political party in less than a decade is one that will remain carefully hidden behind a host of distractions all the way through the 2016 elections.

Like the many repressive laws we’ve seen recently pass in state after state. With Indiana’s “right to be a bigot” law coming to the forefront.  Nor was this law unique in this country, during the past decade; twenty other states including Virginia have enacted similar laws.

While none of them go quite as far in being explicitly discriminatory that’s mostly because these states have preexisting laws which provide some additional measures of protection.

Whereas Indiana offers no such protections, dominated by a legislature convinced it’s their moral right to pass gay Jim Crow. Passing this law caused such a nationwide backlash that Indiana recently hired a PR firm to help rebuild the states image.

A move which will cost Indiana’s taxpayers $2 million plus the cost of advertising. One of the many ways that movement conservatives successfully pass the costs of their bad decisions to the public.

And it is a mindset which has already caused other “unintended consequences,” like last year when they passed a law eliminating needle exchange programs, and after suffering a severe AIDS epidemic this year in rural communities, Governor Pence had little choice but to temporarily reverse course.

Or despite the fact Texas has the third highest rate of HIV infection in the country, the Texas House recently passed a bill taking millions away from HIV and STD screening and giving it to abstinence only education programs. With Texas State Rep. Stuart Spitzer saying “My goal is for everybody to be abstinent until they’re married.”

If that level of willful ignorance wasn’t enough, they went on to ban Planned Parenthood and other “abortion affiliates” from providing sex education materials in schools.

And the state of South Carolina recently filed an amicus brief with the Supreme Court, suing for the right to discriminate, disingenuously claiming that the 14th Amendment—which guarantees “equal protection of the laws” to every “person”— permits discrimination against married women, so it must also allow discrimination against gays who wish to wed.

The intertwined concept of “religious freedom” and “states rights” used to nullify the constitutional rights of certain classes of people is no longer a provincial brand of cultural and religious bigotry or even the exclusive providence of the Deep South.

What has changed during our lifetimes is how widespread this twisted notion of denying others their rights to preserve “individual freedoms” has become a national issue I mean distraction, one which will play a major role in the actions of state legislators around the country.

Keep in mind that since the time of Nixon, movement conservatives have been hard at work exploiting the emotions and prejudices of the American people, allowing the plutocrats to continue privatizing their economic gains while socializing society’s losses.

If you have any doubts about how ideologically committed they are to their brand of “freedom” take a look at the economic chaos they have caused in states like Wisconsin, Michigan, and Kansas.

And while all of this is happening, you can count on conservatives and their Koch Daddies breaking out more distractions all the way up to and through the 2016 election.

Jon Taylor

Local Media Captured

Now that “Sunshine Week” a week highlighting public access to information about their government and what it means to local communities is firmly in the rear view mirror, it’s time to talk about other ways which the public is being deprived of access to information which affects them.

Here in Louisa County, not only has it grown more difficult to obtain public information from local officials under the Freedom of Information Act from our local government, our local paper The Central Virginian is apparently following suite, and refuses to report on issues which directly affect their readers or print any letters to the editor discussing those issues.

If you get this paper you may have noticed a full page ad by Dominion Power on the last page of their three most recent issues. While one can’t fault the CV for not turning their noses up at the money a full page ad brings in, it should be noted that their editorial staff has had over a month to research claims made in letters to the editor that Dominions ads are misleading and inaccurate.

This ad is just one part of Dominions statewide PR campaign blitz claiming now that SB1349 has gone into effect they will be able to offer their customers the lowest possible electric rates for the next five years.

To better understand Dominions claims, some background is needed.  After the EPA introduced their proposed coal burning plant emission standards last year, Dominion wasted little time petitioning the General Assembly, claiming that due to the uncertainty about the potential costs involved in complying with these new EPA regulations they would need to be exempted from any reviews of their base rates which they charge their customers by the State Corporation Committee for the next five years.

Base rates are Dominions costs (mostly for coal and gas) of producing electricity. Base rates are usually the largest part of their customer’s bills, but they are not always the most significant ones. A reality we see every month with our cell phone bills, which include a host of other surcharges that can significantly raise your costs.

During this past special legislative session these bills; SB1334, HB1475, HB2237 and HB1161 became laws, and go into effect July 1st 2015. These laws allow Dominion to legally pass their “costs” of building new pipelines, and solar facilities to their customers.  Laws that were written to protect Dominions profits at their customer’s expense.

Dominions claims of needing relief from regulatory oversight of their base rates to keep their customers rates low is disingenuous on several levels, first; the EPA’s proposed rules on greenhouse gas emissions have not gone into effect yet, and given the “business at any cost” attitude of Congress along with Virginia’s General Assembly it’s more likely that we will be seeing these proposals significantly watered down, taking effect years down the road, or even eliminated outright.

Secondly, the price of coal and natural gas used to power their electrical plants has been falling for several years. Until this dynamic starts to appreciably change Dominions cost for producing their electricity (base rate) is likely to continue dropping for the foreseeable future.

Meanwhile, Dominion has been quietly acquiring natural gas pipelines some terminating in the soon to be completed Cove Point MD liquefied natural gas export facility where they are a major financial stakeholder. Despite the state subsidizing millions of dollars worth of Dominions costs for burning Virginia coal, the actual cost of coal from places like Idaho, Montana and Illinois is a third to half of what Dominion pays for Virginia coal.

Given these falling prices, it’s quite likely that the State Corporation Commission would have ruled that Dominion had been overcharging their customers for their base rates and ordered them to rebate their customers those overcharges this year. The SCC has ruled several times in the past decade that Dominion was overcharging their customers and ordered them to issue hundreds of millions of dollars in “credits” back to their customers. http://www.richmond.com/ opinion/our-opinion/article_219251ec-445e-5efe-b0a6-71ae8c8fd04e.html

Now that this fundamental piece of consumer regulatory oversight by the SCC has been legally prohibited from taking place for another five years, including this year it should be clear that Dominion’s goal was to ensure their profits no matter what happens.

Heads they win, tails you lose. On one hand profiting from  increases in their “base rates”, when the prices of natural gas go up as export facilities like Cove Point come on line, and on the other hand from a host of surcharges they charge their customers for expanding their business

The most charitable explanation for these actions is that Dominion is acting in best interest of the general public, and that they want to see that the public interest is secured. Another explanation comes from George Stigler, a Nobel laureate, who first described “regulatory capture,” which occurs when regulators of an industry such as our General Assembly put those interests ahead of the public’s.

Like granting Dominion the legal right to exploit their customers with surcharges as often as possible. http://www.roanoke.com/opinion/editorials/our-view-some-electrifying-possibilities/ article_ddc8e840-fea2-5549-bd18-f3544a436223.html . If that wasn’t enough, the General Assembly carefully hid language within SB1349 that in exchange for relief from any regulatory oversight for the next 5 years should Dominion close any of their coal-fired power plants their shareholders will absorb those costs.

The catch is that if Dominion decides to close any of their coal burning power plants after their last year of regulatory relief in 2020; it is their customers who will be paying for them.  http://www.richmond.com/ business/local/article _b356b0cb-473d-5cb0-ad1c-6c5a076d45c1.html

Jon Taylor