When will voters take responsibility for their representatives?

“We need to be honest with each other, and with ourselves: while Democrats in Washington bear much responsibility for the problems facing America today, they do not bear it alone. There is more than enough blame to go around.” 

“We as Republicans need to own that truth. We need to recognize our contributions to the erosion of the public trust in America’s leadership. We need to accept that we’ve played a role in how and why our government is broken.”  – Gov. Nikki Haley, Republican response to State of the Union Address

These were brave words that resulted in negative and condescending attacks from Haley’s own party.  This illustrates that speaking the truth to those in power has unpleasant consequences.

Taking a middle of the road position in politics today, giving a mature, balanced and adult review of our present situation is not well accepted in certain quarters.  But Gov. Haley raised an important issue:  at what point does a politician take responsibility for his or her party’s conduct or candidates?

Conservatives are quick to suggest that the poor, minorities, the elderly or teenagers are fully responsible for their plight.  If these unfortunates took responsibility and pulled themselves up by their bootstraps, they might overcome the obstacles society puts in their way.

But teenagers aren’t the only ones who may not be taking responsibility.  This Congress is one of the most unproductive in our Republic’s history and it has a current disapproval rating of 82 percent.  Both houses of this Congress are controlled by the Republican party.

Makes you wonder what people are talking about when they are critical of “the government.”  The House voted 50-plus times to repeal the Affordable Care Act.  When it finally got the Senate to follow suit, the President vetoed the bill, just as everyone knew he would.  This great waste of time, effort and money resulted in exactly what?

Speaking of responsibility, it was Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell who famously declared his number one goal was to make President Obama a “one-term president.”  Why then does Senator McConnell not take public responsibility for all the accumulated efforts made to hobble the government?

Why, when the Ebola epidemic was spreading in Africa and reaching the United States, was there no Surgeon General?  Why, in our war with ISIS, do we not have a Secretary of the Army?  Over the last seven years, ambassadorial appointments for career Foreign Service Officers were and are still being held up for months, as are judicial nominations.

Who will accept responsibility for headless embassies and judgeless courtrooms?  This makes America great?

Closer to home, we have our own Congressman David Brat.  His response to Gov. Haley included this amazing statement: “President Obama should not cite the Bible because conservatives own the tradition of Christian love.”  Brat was angry that the President cited Christian teachings when he criticized Republicans for their attempts to block the resettlement of Syrian refugees.

How has Congressman Brat fulfilled his responsibilities since he took his seat in November 2014? As a member of the House Freedom Caucus, he is a quite vocal critic of the more moderate members of his own party, the Democrats, the President and the Administration.

Brat voted against the bi-partisan budget bill sent to the President.  He voted against dreamers being allowed to join the military. He’s voted against health care for poor Americans.  He’s voted against sensible gun legislation like expanded background checks, and banning assault weapons.  He voted against the new Speaker of the House.  He’s voted against practically everything.  He’s sponsored only 11 bills in his time in the House.  Only one has become law:  renaming an arboretum in Richmond.

Where are Mr. Brat’s bills to create jobs, provide adequate funding for education and veterans, cut wasteful military spending, increase spending for repair and maintenance of our crumbling infrastructure, support measures that would actually improve our health care system and overhaul our tax code?

Aren’t these areas part of his responsibilities?  Don’t just take it from me, check out Mr. Brat’s record at his website brat.house.gov/legislation or opencongress.org .  Brat is great at offering very partisan commentary on national TV but his actual work demonstrates a meager understanding of his responsibilities to his district and the country.

Perhaps this is the most important question:  When will voters start taking responsibility for their elected representatives?

Michael McClary

NOTE: reprinted with authors permission and the original version can be found here .

Primary Madness

Generally speaking, I don’t like linking to sites like Red State, but given what has developed over the past few days with the last Republican debate of this month, it should be clear that this “controversy” is about as authentic as a World Wrestling Federation match.

From Trump’s perspective, it’s all about one-upmanship or as he calls it “The Art of the Deal.” Where blustering and bullying is an acceptable negotiating tactic, it usually works best when one party holds most if not all of the cards.

And while his ego is certainly big enough for him to believe that he will always be left holding the high cards no matter what the opposition, even if it’s FOX. His ability to monopolize the airwaves is precisely why CNN agreed to air his “rally” opposite Thursday’s night’s Republican debate.

And it’s why Bill O’Reilly “defied” his CEO, Rodger Ailes and had Trump on his show last night. The truth is that FOX needs Trump’s brand of bombast to keep stirring up their poisonous ideological brew far more than Trump needs them to promote his own brand of self aggrandizement.

And there is nothing about this toxic relationship that will change so long as Trump can continue to manipulate the media and control the narrative.

By not attending this “debate,” Trump accomplishes two things; first, he gives his supporters an “out” or plausible excuse for his poor performance in the Iowa primary the following week.

Secondly, he will be “seen” by his supporters as standing up against those who don’t want to see him get the nomination. Last year it was the RNC, and last month it was MSNBC, today it’s FOX, and tomorrow who knows.

Given his sustained popularity, there are certainly enough rubes out there who will continue to believe that those “bullies” deserve what’s coming, and Trumps going to be the one to stick it to them.

And with his latest “official video jam “” he’s bound to get, them “one way or another.” Note: due to “possible” copyright violations this video is only available on FOX.

As tactics go, it’s certainly got enough of an outsider “hook” to attract Republicans desperately seeking someone who doesn’t reek of “establishment” that it could get him through the New Hampshire primary next week and the South Carolina and Nevada primaries the week after that.

Even though his hard ball tactics have proven highly effective, conventional wisdom says that his campaigns lack of any ground game in these states should eventually catch up with him, if not during these early primaries, then by the March 15th primaries.

And it should be noted that most of the articles and reader comments on Red State have made much ado about Trump being “afraid” of other candidates, or having to face Megan Kelly. Considering the size of his ego, those comments may have a grain of truth to them, yet they completely fail to realize that he isn’t their Party’s only Frankenstein monster.

When the truth is that all of their candidates come from the same vat of reanimated tissue, and are nothing more than a collection of hastily sewn together body parts … I mean eldritch ideas.

And while such revelations should be a concern for any political party, they are not for Republicans. Who in the aftermath of the 2012 elections, were rumored to believe that last corpse standing was  their presidential slogan.

Four years later, such details do not appear to concern a Party predicated on authoritarianism, and backed by all the fear and loathing that FOX can generate.

And with Faux Noise focusing on core values like; guns, gays, creeping socialism, and dirty immigrants, its little surprise that their viewers will support whoever they are told.

And with introspection being in short supply amongst their audience, it remains to be seen how many can connect the dots between how the last presidential election played out and how this one is unfolding.

Or if the Party’s necrotic sense of conformity will be enough to convince them to blindly follow whoever the Party’s selects?

Or will their ham fisted attempts to quell their own astroturfed insurrection finally unleash their creation from the laboratory?

No matter who their nominee is, like Frankenstein’s monster they’re going to keep coming back until there is nothing left to destroy.

If that isn’t enough to convince people that they should do everything possible to see that a Democrat becomes their next president, I don’t know what will.

Jon Taylor

 

 

 

What’s next for Broadband?

This past Tuesday, the Board of Supervisors voted 5-2 to appropriate $1.1 million for the first phase of a project that would bring high speed internet into Louisa County.

The five supervisors who voted to approve funding for this project were; Barnes (Patrick Henry), Koren (Mineral), Gentry (Cuckoo), Havasy (Green Springs) and Barlow (Mountain Road). The two dissenting votes came from Troy Wade of the Louisa district and R.T. Williams, the newly elected supervisor for the Jackson district

Now that the initial funding has been approved, Melvin Burruss, the Louisa County Broadband Authority chairman, says that the authority’s first task will be to evaluate the 10 tower sites and to determine their final locations, and while these towers are being built, to negotiate leases with broadband service providers to put their equipment on these towers.

The authority’s technical consultant, Design Nine proposes splitting the construction of these towers into two phases.
If some of the towers can be build on land owned by the county or Louisa County Public Schools, then the planning and approval process for those towers could be shortened.

While the Louisa County School Board would have to approve any proposals for towers on school property, the Broadband Authority is waiting for word about the school’s request for federal funding to extend their existing fiber optic network. If approved, this grant would provide faster Internet service to all of their elementary and secondary schools, while giving the Authority the option of tying into their network in the future.

The first of these towers is scheduled go up between May and July, and the second overlapping phase of construction would start between June and September. These towers serve as the backbone of a high speed network of two connected “rings,” one on the western side of the county and the other on the eastern.

Broadband Rings

This backbone acts much like an interstate highway with the ability to handle very high volumes of traffic. With private providers completing the wireless connections from those towers out to smaller wooden “pole” towers which act much like secondary roads with lower traffic capacity.

Initially, these new towers would provide high speed broadband internet access to half the county’s residents, and cover roughly 20 percent of the county, with the local service providers later installing the smaller wooden towers that would reach the remaining half of the county.

One of the biggest obstacles for local internet providers has been their high cost of using any of the County’s existing 9 cell phone towers. And when asked by Supervisor Wade, why many of these existing towers still have space on them, space that could be used for local internet providers, Garth Wermter, the Authorities representative from Green Springs said that ”the rents are too high.”

Along with “most of those towers were built for cell phone providers, not Internet,” and “They can reach more subscribers on a tower than an Internet provider can. If they’re supporting a larger number of subscribers, they can charge a higher rent.”

Even so, one local provider, CVALiNK is currently using some of these towers and has plans to use other remaining towers in the future. With their owner, Brian Gilbreth publicly stating at this meeting that he intends to locate his company on the new towers.

Since one of the Authority’s primary goals was to help the County to determine the best way to provide reliable, and affordable high speed internet to the people of Louisa County. Local ISP’s ability to contain their operational costs is one of the keys to ensuring that those “extra” costs don’t get passed to their customers.

Which brings us to another point that Supervisor Barnes touched on earlier, the County’s goal should “not be to compete with the internet service providers,” but to build the necessary infrastructure so that these ISP’s can complete the job of providing the residents of this county with affordable high speed internet.

It’s clear that the major telecommunication companies have completely failed to provide the people of this County with anything resembling accessible and affordable high speed internet service. And apparently with a collective motto of “not in our lifetime,” they will continue to do so … something changes that dynamic.

Speaking of which, be sure to thank the five supervisors who had the vision and courage to make this change a reality.

Jon Taylor

When Republican voters are treated like Democrats

Last September, the Virginia Republican Party voted to require March Republican primary voters to affirm in writing that they are Republicans. This oath is similar to that signed by Donald Trump, alone, that he is running as a Republican and that he would support the Republican presidential candidate, no matter who it turns out to be.

In recent weeks, the Trump campaign launched a five-tweet criticism of the Virginia GOP move as trying to discourage independent, unaffiliated and new voters, including right-leaning Democrats. To the Trump campaign, it was clear that the targets of the new procedures are potential Trump voters.

Indeed there is a lawsuit underway that challenges the pledge. One conservative blogger called this “the GOPe” (Republican Party establishment) versus all those further to the right “the vulgarians.”

The phony “fear of voter fraud” has been the primary rationalization for Republican efforts to restrict the vote in Virginia. The Board of Elections in Virginia, however, has been an awesome guardian of this Constitutional right, because there has been virtually no voter fraud in Virginia for many, many years.

One would think that all political parties and candidates should be more interested in encouraging people to vote rather than fear that an election will be stolen.

But if you do want to steal an election, you can do what Senator Reeves and the Republican dominated state houses did:  you gerrymander your district to bring in more of your voters and exclude from your district as many of the other party’s voters as possible.

Other than the new and onerous voter ID law, Virginia has been lucky that the Republicans have not piled on other restrictions to restrict the vote, nor have they been as restrictive as other states, like Texas.

The Trump tweets, according to many reports, exposed differences between establishment Republicans and those that are more conservative, including the Tea Party.

In the past, it was Virginia’s Republican establishment that was uncomfortable with a voter pledge. More conservative party activists tended to be for it. In fact, the conservatives briefly won control of the state party’s governing board a few years ago and supported the pledge, but it has not been enacted since 2000.

It has been noted that if the state Republicans wanted to ensure only Republicans can pick the party nominee, the governing body should have chosen a convention mechanism, a day-long gathering that tends to attract only the most committed activists.

But by a narrow vote, the governing board chose a primary for 2016. Trump’s tweets have drawn attention to the presumption that the party establishment doesn’t trust grass roots Republican voters to come up with the GOPe’s preferred option, that is, candidates like Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush.

This is not just an issue for political nerds; the splits in the Republican Party are real and significant for its long term health. Recent CNN/ORC polling has shown Trump, the billionaire, is the GOP’s working-class hero.

Among Republicans without college degrees, Trump has 46 percent to 12 percent for Cruz, 11 percent for Carson and 8 percent for Rubio. But Republicans with college degrees split differently: Cruz 22 percent, Carson and Rubio tied at 19 percent, and Trump at 18 percent.

This is a 28 percent gap between the two classes of Republican voters. If the Republican Party is the party of Wall Street and business and a fair chunk of its voters are economically marginalized, then additional tensions may arise.

The bottom line is that the disingenuous Republican primary pledge is an effort to manipulate the vote through confusing some and discouraging others. The Trump campaign is aware that voter ID requirements, old voting equipment, short voting hours and the other paraphernalia used to keep down the Democratic Party vote will also impact low wage earners that polls tag as Trump voters.

Who knows what chaos may erupt at the polls when those wanting to vote in the Republican primary balk at signing this pledge. Will poll workers turn them away?

The GOPe is treating Trump voters just like Democratic voters:  Throw every obstacle in their way. Keep them discouraged. Keep the turn-out low. Elect those that the party elite chooses.

Mike McClary

Note: reprinted with author’s permission and appearing in the Culpeper Star Exponent here.

 

Loyalty pledges and elections

Those who were unable to attend the Louisa Democratic Committee’s January 12th meeting missed an informative presentation about the upcoming elections along with the possibility that there could be as many as five elections taking place in Louisa County.

Currently, Virginia’s voting regulations give both parties the “option” of requiring voters in their primaries to sign pledges that they will support that party’s candidates before they are allowed to vote. To the best of my knowledge, the Democratic Party of Virginia does not require “loyalty pledges” since they discourage many from voting.

And it’s why “keep it small, keep it all ” has long been Virginia’s old Republican guard’s mantra, and while they have been toying with partisan loyalty oaths for sometime, this year’s version has one purpose, to favor presidential candidates not named Trump.

Apparently their thinking is that if this “victory” comes at the expense of their Party’s chances in the general election, so be it. Yet, they have no problem with trying to compel people to sign an unenforceable document before they are allowed to vote.

Because voters in the Commonwealth don’t register by Party, all primaries are “open,” so there is nothing to prevent people from crossing over, as likely happened with Dave Brat’s historic upset of Eric Cantor in 2014.

While it’s debatable if the State Party is in fact using the letter of the Commonwealth’s electoral regulations to keep something like this from happening again.

pledge

It’s clear that their efforts to stack electoral deck are widely perceived on both sides of the aisle as abusing the spirit of open elections. And it’s an abuse which allows the party to pre-select who gets to vote for their candidates, rather than the other way around.

With U.S. District Court Judge M. Hannah Lauck’s ruling this past Thursday that she would not stop this pledge from appearing on the absentee ballots in the March Presidential Primaries, and with the court case about the legality of this pledge yet to be heard.

It’s unlikely there will be enough time to prevent this pledge from unduly influencing voters at the polls during this primary. Nor is it clear if any legal action will keep the Congressional primaries in June from being similarly affected.

While the personal information like phone numbers and email addresses in those pledges is supposed to be sealed after the elections. That’s never been a concern in rural counties like Louisa, since it’s not too difficult to accurately match public records of how many voters participated in the primaries with how they actually voted.

In that regard, the State Republican Party has found another way to exploit the electoral process, moving beyond trying to rig the primaries, to data mining on the taxpayer’s dime.

Meanwhile, the growing institutionalization of these anti-democratic practices should be a concern for everyone who lives in the Commonwealth.

Jon Taylor

We are all Wisconsin

Editors note: reprinted from 3-17-11 letter to the Central Virginian.

Confused by events in the Midwest? Don’t be—behind Conservatives smokescreen of self congratulatory rhetoric lies unconstitutional power grabs and no-bid corporate giveaways.

gop power grab

Their actions never were about balancing budgets.

Our economic crisis was precipitated by irresponsible Wall Street financiers; intentionally inept regulators & legislators, 2 unfunded wars, and primarily tax cuts for the rich. Republicans “shock doctrine” economic policies ensure that only a few select corporations and individuals will benefit.

They are fixated on controlling state legislatures and Congress, not creating jobs, or even balancing budgets. They are attempting to turn the country staunchly conservative on every issue, legally and permanently.

Meanwhile, state and local municipalities face: sharp drop in revenues, increased demand for services, loss of recovery funds and face unprecedented deficits. During the final three months of last year, state & local government cuts reduced growth by .5 %.

Economists predict states will cut an additional 2.5 % this year, and estimate they will exert a bigger economic drag than last year’s cuts, with 900,000 jobs lost. December’s “unemployment compromise” extending tax cuts for the rich will cost states more than $11 billion in tax revenue over the next two years.

Congressional Conservatives increased the deficit during the Bush era while decreasing revenue with irresponsible tax cuts. When those chickens finally came home to roost, they pleaded for more cuts. Even Eric Cantor acknowledges that 700,000 jobs would be lost if these Congressional proposals are enacted. Speaker John Boehner’s response was, “So be it.”

Wasn’t the plan to create jobs, and promote an economic recovery?

Midwestern Conservatives have demonstrated their intent to take this country ­back to the Gilded age, and are part of a well funded RICO like effort to make these changes permanent.

Multiple Republican controlled states have proposed or passed legislation abridging citizen’s rights across the spectrum: voter access, collective bargaining, woman’s reproduction, and legal status of immigrants & gays.

And on the national level, similar legislation is being introduced in Congress.

In Michigan, they voted to allow the Governor to appoint individuals with the power to invalidate local elections, denying municipalities control of their own destinies. If this clandestine corporate takeover of local governments is allowed to flourish in other states, American life will become unrecognizable in a remarkably short time.

Since the Citizens v. United decision opened the flood gates for unrestricted corporate contributions, Republicans and Democrats alike have become enthralled to the interests of the financiers, and the wealthy, and less responsive to their constituents.

Nor is it any coincidence that both parties, particularly in Congress are proposing remarkably similar legislative solutions.

When it comes to deficits, we haven’t been spending too much. For decades, most Americans have been getting a steadily smaller share of the nation’s total income. While corporations and the rich have been contributing a steadily-declining share of their incomes in taxes.

In a fair society, these free riders would be giving back more to the nation, and to the states and communities they function in.

How you reduce the deficit is as important as reducing it. A budget isn’t just a legal document, it’s a moral one.  And it’s not subversive to challenge politicians when they attack the poor, and elderly-it’s a moral responsibility.

Readers of the CV should be asking themselves—when will they start acting like the people of Wisconsin, and demand that their representatives protect their rights, fix the states and countries problems and stop playing partisan favor the rich politics?

Jon Taylor

 

Submitting to fear: games people play

Tom Clancy starts out one of his novels, The Teeth of the Tiger, with cells of Islamic fundamentalists infiltrating our southern border and attacking  several malls, including one in Charlottesville. Realism in story-telling always sells more novels.

The papers have carried several articles about home-grown mall shootings that have taken place just this week (in addition to the 27 gun homicides on Christmas Day). This is so common an American theme that it hardly draws any attention anymore.

This week the Washington Post also noted a Maryland study that said most guns used in crimes in that state can be traced to out-of-state sources, mostly Virginia, where regulations are hardly as stringent. Despite the everyday gun violence which kills more than 30,000 Americans annually, Americans exhibit no fear unless the attacks seem foreign-motivated.

Fear is cultivated in American society when spokesmen for fear talk about “multiple murderous events [which] have been perpetrated by mostly young males of one specific area in the world and of one specific theological-political ideology,” (Tom Neviaser, “The deny, blame and distract game,” CSE, 12/23/15).

We all share Mr. Neviaser’s anger and frustration with events in the Middle East, but that doesn’t mean we have to buy into his and ISIS’ like-minded propaganda of fear. Regardless of its ambitions and claims of franchise success, ISIS, as a government, is confined to the Sunni tribal areas of Iraq and Syria.

We should remain calm and think clearly. ISIS may be frightening, but one must realize that it is not responsible for the Oklahoma bombing, the Colorado theater shooter, the Sandy Hook massacre, the TV crew murdered in Virginia, the church killings in South Carolina or many other mass acts of violence in the United States. America doesn’t fear its own guns and mass murder.

Our Second Amendment rights are far too important. We deny our responsibilities for our destructive society, blame others far from our shores, so as to distract us for from taking real steps to curb our own domestic violence, to use Mr. Neviaser’s paradigm.

We are passing through a familiar phase of condescending or fearful attitudes and discrimination that we have seen many times throughout American history as waves of immigrants from different countries landed on our shores. The vocabulary and attitudes that met European Catholic immigrants are echoed today.

Just as they were reviled as under the control of a foreign Pope, refugees fleeing for their lives from the Middle East today are characterized as people who have social, judicial, political, and geopolitical aspirations to conquer and take over territory and eventually the world.   Just as black churches were burned or bombed during Jim Crow (they still are today), now mosques are set ablaze.

I am particularly unimpressed with the claim that ISIS adherents in the sparsely settled Sunni areas of Syria and Iraq are going to destroy America and take over the world. History has proved that this is not a fairly easy project. American and Allied bravery and industrial might conquered the well-equipped German and Japanese militaries.

Napoleon, the premier military general of his time, tried and failed. The Romans annexed most of the known world but eventually succumbed to the so-called barbarians. Alexander the Great made an excellent attempt in his day. But all, in fact, failed to get the job done.

Apparently, today’s “nattering nabobs of negativism” and fear proclaim that in the modern world, a mass killing or two, as long as it’s inspired by Islam, will bring America and the rest of human kind to its knees. What used to make America great was good jobs, a growing middle class with the anticipation that the next generation would do better, that American research and development was well funded, and that it was America that would go to the moon and beyond. There are those who don’t even count such things as part of America’s profile these days, or they may even deny they happened in the first place.

What is curious is their apparent assumption that American society is so weak, so without tradition, and so without pride that ISIS and its ilk will paralyze our society. The fear monger is not saying “they” are powerful; he is saying “we” are weak. Thus, some candidates for president these days stress the importance of carpet bombing other countries no matter how many civilian deaths and injuries are caused, or at least putting American troops back in harm’s way (“boots on the ground” is a phrase that should be banned from public discourse) to prove American virility, despite the facts that it has never worked.

Fear is the path to the dark side.

Mike McClary

Note: reprinted with authors permission and appearing in the Culpeper Star Exponent here.