Jackson District Candidates Speak

Earlier this month the people of Louisa County got a rare opportunity to hear many of the candidates running for local and state office speak for a few minutes at the Louisa County Agricultural Fair Candidates Forum.  Where an audience of roughly forty people heard two candidates for the vacant Jackson District supervisor seat, R.T. Williams, and James Smith.

So with out further ado, here is a brief video of R.T. Williams.

 

And here is a clip of James Smith:

 

As you can see from watching these two videos, there are clear differences in their “style” of communication, and what they believe the priorities of the Board of Supervisors should be.

The only things missing from this event were any questions from the audience, and any coverage of this event by our local paper the Central Virginian.

Nor does it look like the people of Louisa have much opportunity to ask any questions of the candidates during this election. Since most of the upcoming Fall social events like the Farm Bureau or the NAACP dinners also have similar formats as the Agricultural Fair.

Which brings us to some unspoken truths about local elections; most will continue to be uncontested year after year, and little pressure exists to change that. When candidates do speak in public, the controlled circumstances of these events allow them to skate by with a few time tested platitudes, while taking no questions.

And if our local papers perfunctory coverage (8/27) of the “Candidates Waterfront” event hosted by the Lake Anna Business Partnership, where these two candidates spoke  is any indication of future reporting, it’s unclear how the people of Louisa will learn anything  that isn’t scripted.

Still, the CV hasn’t been entirely remiss in their coverage of local races, having printed a (8/13) story about the Sheriff’s race that neglected to follow up on information and leads, or even ask relevant questions of either candidate.

With the CV’s editor citing “declining community interest” as why they are no longer sponsoring or co-sponsoring any debates between the candidates, how people are supposed to learn anything is not clear.

Editors Note: In an effort to counter this lack of civic engagement by our local officials and media, Blue Louisa will be contacting the candidates directly with relevant questions, and plans on posting their responses (or lack of) on the Blue Louisa blog in September and October for the general public to examine.

If other media or organizations are interested in publishing these profiles, please contact us for permission.

Jon Taylor

Behind the scenes in the Sheriff’s Race

The irony of our local paper, The Central Virginian http://bit.ly/1N8Ejmw publishing an article called “Targeting the Issues in the race for County Sheriff,” without a single word from Sheriff Ashland Fortune, while extensively quoting his second in command, Major Donnie Lowe will likely escape many of their readers.

A form of Journalistic malpractice that completely avoids asking the question; who is really running the Sheriff’s office, Fortune or Lowe?

Cartoon for Sheriff

Low effort reporting that gives Major Lowe free reign to distract the public from any concerns about how they are managing taxpayer’s money with carefully choreographed … I mean stenographed tales .

While the larger story of how much overtime  LCSO employees have been racking up over the past few years was pointedly ignored, and is information they should have noticed when examining their own FOI documents.

Information that shows 23 LCSO full time staff  making  160 thousand dollars in overtime last fiscal year.  More than half of the 300 thousand plus in OT racked up by the Sheriff’s department.

With the FY 2015 figures coming out soon, it should be interesting to see what they  say.

Nor did they do their readers any favors by giving Donnie the kid glove treatment in transcribing his claims of how wisely the LCSO’s has been using, maintaining and operating their fleet of vehicles and conserving the taxpayer’s money.

Concerns that incidentally,  were not addressed.

Claiming in the case of police vehicles, that it is less expensive to have officers take them home as opposed to parking them at a county lot after shifts and having officers “hot swap” them from one shift to another, without offering a shred of evidence.

Essentially telling the taxpaying public that ensuring public safety and maintaining emergency response times are not subject to any cost considerations.

While there are certainly circumstances where high levels of overtime and vehicular expense are the cost of maintaining public safety, it’s never been clear what efforts the LCSO has made to contain them.

And in the absence of any verifiable information about how they are tracking, let alone controlling those expenses, all the citizen’s of Louisa have to go on is Donnie’s word, dutifully copied by the CV.

Speaking of the value of ones word,  since this article was printed  Donnie has been using the CV’s FB page to attack Silberman, along with posting private and confidential communications between himself and Silberman for all to see.  https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Central-Virginian/254722314545932

Actions which reflect his brand of mud slinging and character assassination, with a healthy dose of “how dare you question my authority”  thrown in.

Presumably it was that same lack of judgment lead him post this confidential information a second time on the CV’s FB post about a drug bust coincidentally lead by his son.

It should be noted that the original posting  about this bust had some  40+ comments, with many coming from Donnie and his supporters, and was later deleted by the CV.

These unguarded public comments are indicative of authoritarian attitudes that are dug in deeper than a tick, a collection of institutionalized  behaviors which for better or worse represent the LCSO’s views about any need for any public accountability.

Like how after abandoning their 2007 pledge to comply with the State Law Enforcement Accreditation process, Major Lowe casually brushes it off, claiming  “We’ve gone as far as we can in the accreditation process,” and then proceeds to change the conversation by kvetching about architectural barriers and private spaces.

Without offering even the slightest explanation of what, if anything they have done to address relatively manageable problems.

With such a “we don’t answer to nobody” attitude,  it shouldn’t come as any surprise to learn that after Sheriff Fortune’s initial request for a “raise” was turned down by the Board of Supervisors last year that Sheriff Fortune gave himself a $10 thousand dollar bonus shortly afterwards.

When asked about this, County Administrator, Christian Goodwin completely avoided the fact that the Board of Supervisors neither discussed or authorized it, claiming that those actions were entirely consistent within the LCSO’s budgetary prerogatives.

Given the Board;s historical unwillingness to provide any oversight over their expenditures, and the LCSO’s habit of operating on “supplemental” funding, it’s too much to expect that they  might remember this when the Sheriff comes to them later in the year asking for more money.

Whatever concerns there may be about dysfunction, waste, and fiscal accountability within the LCSO, they pale in comparison to the  “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it ” mindset which guides our Board of Supervisors actions.

Who are apparently convinced that the the wisest course of action is to  “get along to go along” and to never ask any questions, particularly embarrassing ones.

And here’s where the rub to that practice comes in.

According to the States Compensation Board, the base salaries of constitutional officers like the Sheriff are established by law and defined by  the size of the County’s population, level of responsibility, and accreditation status.   http://www.scb.virginia.gov/salary1.cfm#sheriffs

While the County Board of Supervisors can certainly choose to pay Sheriff Fortune more than the base $ 85,000 salary, there is no record of this ever happening in the past … or at least that anyone will publicly admit to.

Even as the CV publicly confirmed that Sheriff Fortune is making $ 95,000, they were apparently unaware that it also exceeds what is permitted under Virginia law.

These same law’s also prohibit any deputy of a constitutionally elected officer, in this case, Major Lowe from making more than 90% of the Sheriff’s salary.  And since he’s making $90,000, it’s not too hard to do the math.

And thus far, it’s been an inconvenient detail which doesn’t seem to make a bit of difference to the new county Attorney, the county Administrator, or even the Board of Supervisors.

For someone who is supposedly running on a platform of honesty, and integrity, Sheriff Ashland Fortune by allowing Donnie Lowe to run the LCSO as his personal kingdom for more than a decade appears to have succeeded in straying about as far away from those values as humanly possible.

Jon Taylor

Candidates Speak

Earlier this month the people of Louisa County got a rare opportunity to hear many of the candidates running for local and state office speak for a few minutes at the Louisa County Agricultural Fair Candidates Forum. An audience of roughly forty people that was well represented by supporters for incumbent Sheriff Ashland Fortune and his latest challenger, Mike Silberman.

So with out further ado, here is a brief clip of Sheriff Fortune in his own words:

 

 

And here is a clip of Mike Silberman:

 

As you can see from comparing these two videos, there are clear differences in their “style” of communication, and what they believe the Sheriffs office’s priorities should be.

Noticeably missing were any questions from the audience about their ideas and policies.

Nor is it very likely that the people of Louisa will have much chance to ask any questions of the candidates during this election. Since most of the upcoming Fall social events like the Farm Bureau or the NAACP dinners also have similar formats.

And with our local paper, The Central Virginian no longer having any interest in co-hosting any debates between candidates, it remains to be seen if the people of Louisa will learn anything about any of the candidates that isn’t unscripted.

While it is not clear why the CV no longer supports local debates, it is clear that they are not following up on information and leads, and have failed to ask relevant questions of either candidate.

Which brings us to some unspoken truths about local elections; most will continue to be uncontested year after year, and there is little public pressure to change that. Even when candidates do speak in public, the nature of their controlled circumstances allow them to skate by with a few time tested platitudes, while answering no questions.

Editors Note: In an effort to counter this lack of civic engagement by our local official and media, Blue Louisa will be contacting the candidates directly with relevant questions, and plan on posting their responses (or lack of) on the Blue Louisa blog in September and October for the general public to examine.

If other media or organizations are interested in publishing these profiles, please contact us for permission.

Jon Taylor

 

News you can use

For many rural counties, local newspapers are a vital source of information about what is going on in their community. While our local paper The Central Virginian does inform their readers about many things, they also have been pushing the use of  filler content while pointedly ignoring certain local news stories.

And if your a regular reader you might have noticed that over the past 2 years there has been a marked increase in their use of syndicated writers on their op-ed pages. In fact, you may not even be seeing most of of their syndicated content since they are posting 5 pages of national “news,” in their on line edition.

Something that their editor, Deanna Meredith,  says their parent company, Lakeway Publishers has directed them to do.

That its information their readers could easily get from other papers or websites is beside the point, because apparently only their parent company knows best.

And when it comes reprinting these syndicated op-ed pieces, the CV has long vacillated between saying nothing about the author’s background and affiliations and going into great detail.

Take their two most recent printings (8-6 & 8-27) of Glenn Mollette’s pieces, where much like Jeb ! of no last name, the CV apparently expects their readers to forget about any of Mr. Mollette’s past associations.

Unlike their earlier printing (6-18) of one of his pieces, where they not only identified his affiliations, they even printed this disclaimer “This column does not necessarily reflect the view of any organization, institution, or this paper or media source.”

Were those two examples the extent of their lack of candor, it would be easy to dismiss this as nothing more than a local papers zeal in following their parent companies orders to push syndicated content.

Sadly that doesn’t appear to be the case.

Take several recent issues of the CV which featuring a 4 part op-ed, I mean series by one of Lakeway Publishers “reporters” from their flagship paper, the Citizen Tribune.

While some may have found it “informative,” it was mostly about why the Affordable Care Act is a bad idea and how it will be repealed … I mean replaced.

Objective, or even “fair and balanced” are not words any knowledgeable reader would choose to describe any part of this “series,” when biased content masquerading as factual information is  closer to the mark.

While wholly owned local media subsidiaries like the CV are hardly alone in knowingly substituting  “Info-mercials,” for informative  content, ultimately this is a problem which migrates downward and becomes ingrained into their primary mission, reporting local news.

With the exception of a few articles about the lack of high speed internet access in the county, the CV has not materially addressed any of the important local issues. Nothing but the sketchiest details about; funding for the Central Virginia Regional Jail, the James River pipeline project, and even how the Board of Supervisors recent approval of a 4 cents per hundred raise in personal property taxes might address any of these concerns.

Nor are they likely to make much of an effort to inform their readers about any of the local candidates running for office, beyond reprinting their press releases, and outlining what events they spoke at.

Pointedly ignoring the reality that “all politics is local,” and the actions of these officials will affect their reader’s day to day lives far more than any act of Congress or even the General Assembly.

Already having missed the boat on what these candidates said at the Agricultural Fair, and now the Lake Anna Business Partnership “Candidates Waterfront” event, it remains to be seen what else falls through the cracks.

Since this  is the time of year when letters supporting various political candidates will start to fill up their editorial pages, we can look forward to seeing a mass migration like the butterflies of San Capistrano as local conservatives make their way to the CV.

Even as some contrasting opinions from yours truly, and other progressive writers appear in the CV, in order to be effective, they need to reach a much larger audience to over come  social inertia, and all the background noise that is sure to follow.

With a  local media that is doing as little as possible to cover local elections and is now apparently openly promoting conservative viewpoints, it falls on local writers to keep those issues alive in other forums like; Blue Louisa, where we will be covering some of the local candidates and issues, starting with their public comments at the Agricultural Fair.

So stay tuned for more … “news you can use.”

Jon Taylor

 

Coming debates are Kabuki Theater

This past weekend, I tuned in for a once in a blue moon viewing of Sunday morning talk shows. During a Meet the Press discussion about Trump’s rise to the top of the polls and what it might mean for this coming Thursday’s debate, I was struck by a comment by the Republican National Committee Chair, Reince Preibus “…No one speaks for the Republican Party.”

Much like Jeb ! of no last name, he apparently expects the American people to suspend their recollections, and ignore the obvious fact that Trump’s messages are connecting with people.

What he should be particularly concerned with is the fact that it’s not just their base of perpetually angry old white men who are flocking to Trump’s banner; it’s also women, moderates and independents.

While few will admit it, Trump’s “refreshing honesty” and lack of “political corruption” are surface-level truths which point to a deeper set of lies. Messages which attempt to legitimize the Party’s most irrational and base impulses, making views which are fundamentally at odds with a participatory Democracy somehow seem OK.

He makes white discomfort with progressive discourse and policy feel like a legitimate anxiety.  An angst which is nothing more than appeals to their shared ignorance, prejudices and fears.

Given all of that substance free rhetoric, it’s hardly surprising to see so many confusing his colorful language with authenticity, or even gravitas. Since there never was much difference between his flamboyant words and the Party’s carefully coded language, don’t be surprised to see his most of his supporters effortlessly switch to whoever wins the nomination.

Followers who are apparently determined to reprise Marlon Brando’s character in the movie “The Wild Ones,” who when asked what they are rebelling against, will reply en mass “Whata you got?” And collectively,  massive resistance is what the Party stands for.

A rebellion based on a southern plantation mentality where everybody knows their place and nobody dares question the status quo. Where rampant xenophobia, bigotry, and economic and social inequality are considered an acceptable cost of “doing business.”

What all Americans should remember is that this Republican primary process is a colorful distraction for the masses, an elaborately staged Kabuki Theater.  Carefully concealing the reality that the Party’s nomination was always supposed to have been between Jeb ! and whoever the Koch’s decide to back.

And they will fail in 2016, just like they did in 2012 and 2008. Because few outside of the party faithful hear their dog whistles, no matter how often FOX news, the pundits, or even mega donors like the Koch’s might blow.

This Thursday evening, I encourage everyone to gather around the TV and watch the show.  Considering the number of outrageous statements that are likely to be repeated at this “debate,” you should think about bringing plenty of popcorn, or a bottle of your favorite liquor if you’re into drinking games.

Enjoy simple indulgences like these while you can, because after the third or fourth debate, no matter what you do  while watching them, in the end all you will be left with is a massive headache.

Jon Taylor

 

What is ANTHROPOGENIC GLOBAL WARMING?

Is it important, and is it serious?

We spent the last almost 300 years providing for our energy needs mostly by using carbon based fossil fuels. In the process of doing that, we increased our planetary CO2 from about 275 ppm (parts per million) at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution in he 1860’s to 400 ppm and still climbing as of early 2015.

There are several greenhouse gases — gases which keep heat in, much like how a like a glass window keeps heat from escaping — which is why we call them “greenhouse gases”. https://www.skepticalscience.com/print.php?r=198

Of these greenhouse gases, CO2 is currently the most important in volume and it’s contributions to Global Warming: the more parts per million of CO2 there are in the atmosphere, the more it acts like a blanket keeping heat in around our planet.

Why is this important? Just this simple statement:

WE PASSED OUR FIRST MAJOR GLOBAL WARMING TIPPING POINT A FEW DECADES AGO.

It was when our planet warmed up enough that the Arctic sea ice was 20% melted by the end of September. It didn’t seem like such a big deal at the time. Since then the Arctic sea has warmed more, and close to 60% of the sea ice was melted by the end of last year’s Arctic summer.  When we were younger, a ship now, and a ship then might have made it through the Northwest Passage. Today, small ships and yachts regularly nivigate the Northwest Passage.
http://www.skepticalscience.com/northwest-passage-has-been-navigated-in-the-past-intermediate.htm

While the sea ice was melting, we did nothing but talk and chatter. Meanwhile, the consequences of sea ice melt are getting more severe. Largely because we as a nation and as species don’t realize that we’ve already passed that point of no return until the consequences can no longer be ignored — finally realizing that: “oh, we’ve passed that tipping point”.
So what’s a tipping point? It’s when something shifts, and can’t be reversed much like large boulder breaking loose from a mountain top and inexorably rolling all the way down to the valley, too massive to be stopped. Careening down the mountain in a destructive path until it runs out of momentum.  While sea ice melt along with Global Warming may follow a similar path, in terms of the amount of energy involved, they will be “rolling” down a far lager mountain and will take considerably longer to come to a stop.

Jim Adams

Consequences of Anthropogenic Global Warming Part 1

Here are ten consequences — the “trickle down” effect if you would from passing that “Point of No Return” as the Arctic Sea Ice continues to melt.

A) The Arctic — especially Siberia, Alaska and Western Canada –has warmed about 4 degrees C (7 degrees Fahrenheit) — more than any other place on our planet.  This warming is caused by the increasing CO2 in the atmosphere is in turn driving the Arctic sea ice melt — leaving large areas of open sea water, instead of ice and snow covering the ocean that might of reflected that heat energy back into space.  With the dark sea water and uncovered land absorbing more far more of the suns heat energy and accelerating the Arctic warming process. A trend which is abetted by soot from increasing northern forest fires
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/wildfire-map-climate-central_55ba60c2e4b0b8499b18a1e3?utm_hp_ref=science&ir=Science&section=science
And the rest of the world’s climate is also affected.
http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2013/12/09/3038631/arctic-warming-extreme-weather/

B) Those warm western winters have other “indirect” consequences.
http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2015/04/pine-beetles/rosner-text?rptregcta=reg_free_np&rptregcampaign=2015012_invitation_ro_all
Global warming patterns have disturbed the balance between the Pine Bark Beetle and the pines it feeds on. Because there are no longer cold enough winters to freeze and kill the Western Pine Bark Beetle larvae, about 60 million acres in the northwest US and southwest Canada are now occupied by dead and dying pine trees.

Dead forests are one of the causes of the many huge forest wildfires which we’ve been seeing in Canada and the Pacific Northwest, who are spending millions cutting and
doing controlled burns of these forests to prevent even larger out-of-control wildfires.
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/wildfire-map-climate-central_55ba60c2e4b0b8499b18a1e3?utm_hp_ref=science&ir=Science&section=science

This dead pine zone is spreading rapidly, along with an increased number of forest fires that send ultra fine soot particles around the world where it settles on snow and ice.In addition to leaving us with forests which can no longer hold the soil in place, or provide shade that helps to regulate the melting of what little snowfall they receive.Forests that are the base of food webs and ecosystems from mosses and insects to deer and grizzlies

C) Warming of the far North – is melting the permafrost of the Northern lands and coupled with Arctic sea temperatures increasing and dissolving seafloor methane deposits, are releasing huge amounts of methane, a far more serious greenhouse gas than CO2 in terms of potency.  Google: Methane monster, and look through some of these sites. There’s a tremendous amount of methane held in the permafrost – a figure that includes what’s held in suspension (methane hydrates) on the sea floor.  The best estimates of how much frozen methane there is in the Arctic are 1000 to 5000 gigatons. (1 gigaton = 1 billion tons)
http://worldoceanreview.com/en/wor-1/ocean-chemistry/climate-change-and-methane-hydrates/
http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2010/03/100304-methane-global-warming-permafrost-oceans/

Jim Adams

Consequences of Anthropogenic Global Warming Part 2

D) Run-away glacial melt. Several decades ago, glaciers flowed about the length of a football field every year. Today, Jakobshavn glacier (the fastest) on Greenland is moving at a speed of about 10 miles a year. It is just one many indications that we are already well beyond the early stages of run-away glacial melt.  Two things are happening here. First, the warmer seas and air in both the Antarctic and Arctic, plus a foot of sea level rise have caused the sea ice to separate from the land at the foot of many of the glaciers. This sea ice used to act as a plug which slowed the glaciers descent to the sea. Without it, the glaciers are moving faster in their descent to the sea.

Second, in a 2010 article National Geographic, talked about the “Melt Zone,” where melting on the top of the Greenland Ice Cap is happening more rapidly because an increase in forest fires in the northern forests is sending more soot (black) into the air and when it settles on the surface of the glaciers, and the darkened ice absorbs even more
heat.

The article talks about an 85 million gallon lake that drained thru a moulin (a vertical drain to the bottom of the ice cap) that drained water from the glacier even faster than Niagara Falls. Considering that the northern Greenland Ice Cap is the size of the Louisiana Purchase, there area lot of melt lakes forming — and draining.

The old wisdom was that the two ice caps are stationary mountains of ice. Melting on the surface would accumulate and drain away along the surface — which would take centuries. When we started doing time-lapse photography of glaciers, however, we saw that ice did not move smoothly. Instead — glaciers twist and squirm — and crack – all over the place

The water which drains to the bottom of the ice cap acts as a lubricant to the ice above it, speeding glaciers even faster on their way to the sea. As a consequence, we are already beyond the early stages of run-away glacial melt.  And glacial melt water is the primary driver of raising sea levels.

E) Ocean acidification is often called “the evil twin of Global Warming”.  With billions people depending on the oceans for sustenance their health is a critical concern. One of the reasons that AGW effects on the oceans have been
happening so slowly is that it takes time to absorb all the CO2 that is settling into from the atmosphere.  Our oceans absorb somewhere between a quarter to a third of the CO2 we put into the atmosphere and this increased saturation is acidifying our ocean. In northern waters where acidification is stronger, oysters are having significant problems, because they can’t develop shells in acid water. More importantly, ocean acidification is affecting many of the carbonate shelled plankton which make up the bulk of most of the oceans food webs. When they can’t create shells, the larger fish will starve.

F) Then there’s acidification related coral bleaching which threatens the survival of up to 9 million species that depend on coral reefs for food and breeding grounds. Coral has algae inside it which it depends on for energy and nutrition.

Jim Adams

Consequences of Anthropogenic Global Warming Part 3

G) Sea level rise will likely happen faster than IPCC predicts because of run-away glacial melt, along with enough soot to turn the ice caps dark gray to almost black, coupled with increasing methane releases.

Taking those factors into consideration, it is likely we will see 10 feet or more of sea level rise or more by 2050. These are changes that will threaten coastal cities,
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/james-hansen-sea-level-rise_55aecb02e4b0a9b94852e7f5? commerce and industry and low-lying agriculture, particularly Florida, and more than 20,000,000 US citizens will be affected in the next 30 years. http://ocean.nationalgeographic.com/ocean/critical-issues-sea-level-rise/

H) Higher temperatures threaten our physical infrastructure, most of which was built in the 1960s to 1980s and was designed with a maximum temperature of 110 or so in mind. Something we should keep in mind, as we’ve already seen temperatures of 156 degrees F in parts of Iran this year.

At those kinds of high temperatures: rails kink, metal bridges and structures warp http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/sun-kinks-in-railways-join-the-list-of-climate-change-s-toll/ and concrete ruptures explodes, or melts:
http://www.pothole.info/2011/07/heat-wave-2011-explodes-and-buckles-pavement/
http://www.king5.com/story/news/local/2015/06/23/highway-2-melts-stevens-pass/29192475/

Electrical transmission efficiency goes way down in extreme temperatures, and the consequences of a major urban area being without electricity for prolonged periods of time would be catastrophic. Such high temperatures would cause a significant loss of crops and livestock. And sustained temperatures of over 104 F would cause plants to stop photosynthesizing and pumping O2 in the atmosphere.

I) Forest fire season used to last 3 or 4 months. Now in most parts of the country it lasts all year. With most fire fighting budgets burnt out well before the beginning of the next fiscal year, not mention the tens of millions of acres that continue to burning in Alaska, Russia, Canada, and the Pacific Northwest.
J) The 6th Extinction by Elizabeth Kolbert says our collective actions of burning fossil fuels, along with plundering its resources are extincting species so rapidly that we will soon pass the effects of the Chicxulub meteor which wiped out the dinosaurs, or the Soviet Deccan Traps eruptions thought to be responsible for the Permian Extinction which took out 90% of all species,

Jim Adams