“The Women are in my Grill” -Dave Brat at a Tea Party Fundraiser

Editors Note: this has been cross posted from the national blog, the DailyKOS with the author’s permission and originally appeared here.

Saturday afternoon in the suburbs — basketball games in elementary school gyms, chicken in the crockpot, and Democratic constituents being tossed out of their Republican congressman’s cozy Tea Party meet-up at Hanover Tavern. A group of concerned citizens showed up, when word about this event got out just hours before it started, because Brat has refused to answer their calls for a town hall meeting. At least one member of the group was able to get inside and video tape Brat’s speech where he laughs at women’s repeated requests for a town hall meeting.

Brat complained in his speech about women asking him for a town hall meeting, saying, “…since Obamacare and these issues have come up, the women are in my grill [big laughs from crowd] no matter where I go. And they’re saying…they come up — when’s your next town hall —  and believe me, it’s not to give positive input.” [more crowd laughter]

One constituent got so frustrated that her repeated requests for a meeting received the runaround, she started a Facebook page for the sole purpose of getting an answer — 7th District Town Hall Meeting.  This is taken directly from that page; it seems like a simple and reasonable question from a group of constituents:

When is the next Town Hall meeting?” is not an accusation, it’s a question. Congressman Dave Brat, your constituents would like to hear from you. You ran on a platform that you would be more accessible and we could hold you accountable, right? We would love to hear more about things you talked about in this video. #AskBrat

Brat has a history of evading debate. One source, who has been covering local politics since 2014, said that in some instances it appears Brat sends notices to only a chosen few, announces to the local paper just before the meetings, and either puts up the wrong information or completely omits it from his Facebook page and website. Read DAVE BRAT’S FAKE TOWN HALLS.

The woman who shot the video footage of the meeting, and who wishes to remain anonymous, told me that she, “…was only hoping to talk to him in a social setting about ACA and its impacts to me. That didn’t happen….I also didn’t appreciate his bringing up churches — there is [supposed to be] a separation of church and state, and he was so wrong.” Early in the video, Brat asks for the attendees to:

“…help us organize those lists of churches – the good guys who are supportive —  and help us message, and help us write newspaper articles. We’re getting hammered…right? The Richmond Times Dispatch, does anybody read [that] anymore? [crowd murmurs] It’s unbelievable….the other day they said they were going to pray for everybody. They are praying for Trump, and who was it…and Hillary. So there is a juxtaposition there, right? We’re going to pray for Trump and Hillary. And then we’re going to pray for Tim Kaine…and it should have been — me. And, instead, they prayed for Barbara Comstock up in Northern Virginia. [laughter] Right, and they do this intentionally. I’m not paranoid. It’s unbelievable, the things they put in that paper…”

Around the 12:30 minute mark Brat once again calls for mass support from church congregations. An anonymous source from inside the tavern said, “[Brat] wants us to get our churches to send lots of emails saying he is doing a great job. I was uncomfortable that my representative seemed to have a private viewpoint and a public viewpoint.

At one point near the 14:00 minute mark on the video, Brat states, “I was in Israel…and, oh my word, just so you know — Israel is all pro-Trump….It’s a hundred percent.” He goes on to quote from the speech he gave while in Israel: “The problem in my country is two-thirds of the Jewish community in the U.S. is not necessarily pro-Israel. And I said, Harvard is anti-Israel 95%, and Yale, and Princeton, etcetera. And those three universities produced all the last presidents and they’re stacking the State Department.”

Heather Schwartz Nees had this to say about Brat’s comments, “ As the president of a Jewish congregation I am outraged…over his antisemitic remarks that Jews in America do not care about Israel.”

​Brat continues by referring to Trump as a loyalty guy who is “ most loyal to…the evangelicals. He knows he got 40 or 50 million votes.”

A man who audiotaped Brat’s talk, was greatly concerned over his comments on healthcare, saying, “…[Brat] wants to abolish [our existing healthcare system] immediately including provisions covering pre-existing conditions, as well as children staying on their parents’ [policy] until twenty-six. I was horrified that he considers removing health care from 18 million people as a cost savings to the system.” Attendees were given a three-page handout focused on efforts to repeal Obamacare in its entirety, with a directive to contact the Heritage Action Mid-Atlantic Regional Coordinator for more information.

Another attendee said, “[Brat] sounded intimidated and afraid for his future in politics. He was telling his supporters how these women are organizing and pleading with his supporters to watch out for us.”

Chrystal Hall Doyle and another woman went inside to use the restroom and were stopped coming out of the restroom by a woman who asked, “Are you with the group outside? I need to get your name and number.” She then proceeded to follow them down a hallway, past tables with political fliers featuring AR-15 rifles. Doyle had to tell a man at one of the tables, “I feel like I’m being harassed,” before the woman stopped demanding her name.

Traci Franssen was with her sister when they heard Brat was about to hold a town hall meeting at Hanover Tavern. Not realizing it was a ticketed event, they went inside, “…the first table had DVDs with the story of how planned parenthood is supposedly trying to reduce the African American population. We browsed through some other pamphlets and then made our way into the theater to watch the speeches. We heard a speaker talk about the horrors of sitting next to an atheist liberal on a plane. Then a woman came in the door behind us and asked to see our tickets. I said I didn’t realize we needed them, and asked how much are they while reaching for my wallet. She replied that they had to be purchased in advance and guided us all the way to the door.

Heather Schwartz Nees shot a video of the group of about a dozen protesters outside, waving to cars passing by, while the Patrick Henry Tea Party meeting occurred. She can be heard on the video saying, “Congressman Dave Brat is inside holding a private meeting with Tea Partiers and we are all constituents and we were all kicked out. We’ve been asking Congressman Brat to please have an open, public, town hall meeting — and he will not. He won’t answer us. He won’t answer our emails. He doesn’t answer our questions. All we want to do is talk to our congressman. He works for all of us.”

Kim Drew Wright

The early days of President Trump’s administration

Well, he’s the president, like it or not. But, what to make of it so far—that’s the question. What is he saying and what is he doing? And what are his minions doing, whether confirmed, awaiting confirmation or appointed? By the time you read this, Trump will have been in office for only 10 days.

This past Wednesday morning, the Dow opened above 20,000 points for the first time in its 120-year history. You can be sure that the tweeter-in-chief will be taking all the credit. The major gains were in the energy and financial services sectors, reflecting likely rollbacks of Obama administration banking and environmental protection laws. Despite the fact that the economy has been steadily improving since 2009, and that unemployment is at 4.9 percent, many people below the richest 1 percent are still pessimistic about their chances for a better life.

The White House has been busy this past week. It has imposed a “gag order” on several federal agencies. The Senate is churning through the “advise and consent” process to put Trump’s cabinet in place. I expect that most, if not all, Trump’s nominees will be confirmed, as were Obama’s. I don’t like most of his nominees, but everyone is entitled to his or her opinion. The nation remains divided about the impact of presidential memoranda and executive orders so far, but you can keep up with how Trump’s administration views how it’s doing right here: www.whitehouse.gov.

Trump is still whining about losing the popular election by 3 million votes. This is a fact. His bogus claims that up to 5 million illegals voted illegally are totally without substantiation or documentation. This is what we call a lie. He may believe this, as his press spokesman says, but his belief does not make it true, as the Washington Post fact checker said on January 25.

This lie has been widely debunked by Republicans, Democrats and nonpartisan groups that follow elections, alike. Senator Lindsay Graham says Trump just needs to knock it off and get on with trying to govern the country. The Russians and the Chinese are no doubt gloating at the president’s charges, using it in their propaganda to poke holes in the electoral process of what we like to call the greatest democracy in the world, in order to legitimize mistreatment of their own citizens.

Trump is also whining about crowd estimates of his inauguration compared to Obama’s and to the women’s march in Washington, D.C. that took place the following day.

Anybody with half a brain can look at the pictures and judge the truth for themselves.

Without flogging a dead horse, it’s simply a fact that more than two to three million women all over the United States and around the world, took to the streets to reject this man as a legitimate leader of the Free World. Sean Spicer and Kellyanne Conway continue to channel Trump’s lies and try to justify these lies with euphemistic terms like “alternative facts.” But… facts are facts. Get over it, Donald, and get on with trying to run the nation. Whether we like it or not, you are (presumably) the president for the next four years.

Are you voters feeling comfortable with all this? I suggest you watch your elected representatives very closely, along with every bill they introduce or co-sponsor, every vote they take and everything they do and say, at the town, county, state and national levels, and don’t hesitate to contact them with your concerns. Do you know how to do this? It’s not that hard to figure out: www.congress.gov and http://virginiageneralassembly.gov will get you started.

Then there’s “the media.” Trump calls them the most dishonest people on the face of the earth. Really? I suggest the “mainstream media,” CNN, the network channels, NPR—whether you like them or not—are pretty balanced.

One might not like or agree with what they say or what they report, but that does not necessarily make their reports false.

Do you know how to fact check? It’s not that hard. Some of you may find it difficult to believe, but I fact-check everything I write in this column. Heck, I fact-check what my friends write or post. I encourage my interlocutors in this newspaper to fact check their own letters and columns, though they rarely seem to do so. You can fact check, too. A good place to start is at www.factcheck.org.

As Dan Rather recently said, “These are not normal times. These are extraordinary times. And extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures…What can we do? We can all step up and say simply and without equivocation, ‘A lie, is a lie, is a lie!’ And if someone won’t say it, those of us who know that there is such a thing as the truth must do whatever is in our power to diminish the liar’s malignant reach into our society…Facts and the truth are not partisan. They are the bedrock of our democracy. And you are either with them, with us, with our Constitution, our history, and the future of our nation, or you are against it.

Everyone must answer that question.”

Mike McClary

Editor’s Note: this article is reprinted with the author’s permission and originally appeared on-line here.


What needs to be included in health coverage

As Republicans get ready to repeal and adjust the Affordable Care Act I wonder if they shouldn’t start from scratch. Instead of starting with the needs of the doctors, hospitals or insurances companies, let’s start with the need of the people, the patients.

We are all patients so it is a matter for all of us. Insuring your health is very different than any other kind of insurance. It is your life, not your property.

First, we need full coverage for everyone.

Choosing who will live and who will die is wrong. The idea that a person should be cared with less than full coverage is wrong. What conditions would you not insure to save money? Add cancer but skip my heart? If you get cheap, high deductible medical insurance you will probably not be able to afford to use it. Or you will have to use it, but stiff the hospital for the deductible. This adds to total healthcare costs but the insurance company does well. Everything not covered, but treated and unpaid in the emergency room, adds to increasing overall medical costs.

Second, we need to insure all parts of our body including our teeth and eyes. Just because these medical disciplines matured from different sources doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be joined now. Dental health is an important factor in overall general health. Why should a routine eye check and dental check be any different than an annual physical. It shouldn’t.

Third, Medicare and Medicaid fraud is not committed by patients. Insurance companies, hospitals and doctors commit the fraud in an effort to make more money. Very few people are out there looking for that extra colonoscopy.

Some facts about Medicare: It adds nothing to the federal deficit. It is a self- paying system. The cost of operating the entire system is paid for by its members and we are all over 65 yet the system is the least expensive out there. How can that be? This is because government operated medical insurance is very efficient with overhead about 2 percent. Private insurance has a 30 to 40 percent overhead.

We need Medicare for all. All Americans should be covered from birth to the grave. A single payer system would be in keeping with the Preamble to the Constitution: “promote the general Welfare.” These words by the Founders are not empty political rhetoric. They are founding statements. Mission statements.

Government run, full coverage medical care program for all that is paid for by tax deduction and not for profit. All who can pay, pay the same. The poor get a sliding scale from zero the base. Insurance companies who wish to compete are welcome.

George DeSerres

Editors Note: Re-posted with author’s permission, and originally appearing here.

Solar Power Continues to Grow in Virginia

Dominion Power just announced a major expansion of solar generation in Virginia. This announcement comes on the heels of several other significant developments in the field. Partnering with the University of Virginia and the Darden School of Business, Dominion will construct a 21-megawatt project (dubbed the Hollyfield Solar Project) in King William County; the University will purchase all of the power generated. In mid-November, Dominion announced plans to acquire four 20-megawatt projects from Virginia Solar LLC, and one 100-megawatt project from Community Energy Solar; they will develop these facilities in Buckingham, New Kent, Powhatan, Southampton, and Sussex Counties. These acquisitions were prompted largely by the demands of Amazon Web Services that the company be able to purchase more electricity from renewable resources. Dominion’s alliance with Amazon will include the two largest solar farms in the mid-Atlantic.

Solar in Our Community

Locally, Albemarle County Schools recently dedicated a solar project built by Secure Futures, LLC, that will generate 1.1 megawatts per year from panels installed at six schools, about 22 percent of the schools’ energy requirements. Dominion announced a partnership with  the University of Virginia through the company’s Solar Partnership Program, an initiative modeled on a bill of mine that passed several sessions ago (HB 1686) to install arrays owned by the utility on the roofs of Ruffner Hall and the University Bookstore. Dominion will lease the rooftops from UVA. It is estimated that the total kilowatts generated would produce energy at peak output to power 91 homes.

Demand for Solar Brightens

Although Virginia lags behind many other states in renewable energy development, these new projects indicate that the market for renewables continues to expand as more consumers demand clean energy for their homes, and companies and new businesses locating here help push solar. More players have entered the market, including several member-owned electric co-ops, who see benefits in solar. When municipalities, large institutions like UVA, and large companies (such as Microsoft, Amazon, Walmart, and Ikea) demand more renewable energy, the market responds. And, as the market responds, the costs of building solar and wind rapidly decline.  Independent of Trump’s election, the economic prospects for coal as an energy source grow dimmer by the day as the disruptive technology of renewables takes the market by storm.

As of January 2014, there were approximately 18 megawatts of installed solar energy generation in the entire Commonwealth; as of mid-October 2015, there were nearly 800 megawatts of projects under development in Virginia.

While these announcements show that the industry gets stronger with each day, we have a long way to go. Virginia still lags behind the majority of states, and we must change statewide policies to encourage solar development, especially larger installations.

For more information about the development of solar in Virginia and across the country, please review my recent post entitled “Give Me the Warm Power of the Sun.”

Legislation Needed to Power Solar Development

In the upcoming General Assembly session, expect to see numerous proposals designed to spur more solar in Virginia. Despite the rhetoric of restoring coal as an energy source, the sheer economics are increasingly problematic. Dominion will not likely build any new coal-fired plants and the costs of solar will continue to drop.

The question for Virginia, then, is how far are we willing to go?  Outside of residential use, solar expansion will likely focus on building larger facilities that simply generate “green” electrons and send them directly to the grid (some call this “utility scale solar”). Those electrons are mixed with electrons generated from gas and coal-fired plants and are then delivered, in an undifferentiated form, to consumers. In this model, consumers have no way of knowing whether their electrons come from a “green” source. But there are other alternatives to consider, including what some call “distributed power.” In this model, the solar energy is first consumed by the generating facility itself “behind the meter,” with the balance then sold off to the utility and placed onto the grid. This model may not be as profitable to the utilities, but it definitely is more economical and empowering for the generator, whether that is the local Walmart or a group of farmers with solar panels on their property. This approach recognizes the principle that each energy consumer should be able to control its choice of electrons and how they are generated to power their homes and institutions. In the long term, giving consumers more choice and control by removing the regulatory barriers that discourage them from generating and consuming their own power will allow the private market to work better while encouraging more solar in Virginia. At present, there are caps imposed on the use of “net metering,” the process by which a customer-generator, such as a homeowner, is paid for electricity generated over and above what the customer uses. There are also restrictions on the use of Power Purchase Agreements, arrangements by which a consumer could contract with a solar developer (not a utility) to build a solar array and then consume and/or sell energy to utilities.

For solar to truly take hold in Virginia, the legislature will need to remove the impediments that presently constrain the market. We will see how far policymakers are willing to move when we return to Richmond this January.

David Toscano

Editor’s Note: this article is reprinted with the author’s permission and originally appeared on-line here.


Nothing Is Real: When Reality TV Programming Masquerades as Politics

There are two ways by which the spirit of a culture may be shriveled. In the first—the Orwellian—culture becomes a prison. In the second—the Huxleyan—culture becomes a burlesque. No one needs to be reminded that our world is now marred by many prison-cultures…. it makes little difference if our wardens are inspired by right- or left-wing ideologies. The gates of the prison are equally impenetrable, surveillance equally rigorous, icon-worship pervasive…. Big Brother does not watch us, by his choice. We watch him, by ours…. When a population becomes distracted by trivia, when cultural life is redefined as a perpetual round of entertainments, when serious public conversation becomes a form of baby-talk, when, in short, a people become an audience, and their public business a vaudeville act, then a nation finds itself at risk; culture-death is a clear possibility.”— Professor Neil Postman

Donald Trump no longer needs to launch Trump TV.

He’s already the star of his own political reality show.

Americans have a voracious appetite for TV entertainment, and the Trump reality show—guest starring outraged Democrats with a newly awakened conscience for immigrants and the poor, power-hungry Republicans eager to take advantage of their return to power, and a hodgepodge of other special interest groups with dubious motives—feeds that appetite for titillating, soap opera drama.

After all, who needs the insults, narcissism and power plays that are hallmarks of reality shows such as Celebrity Apprentice or Keeping Up with the Kardashians when you can have all that and more delivered up by the likes of Donald Trump and his cohorts?

Yet as John Lennon reminds us, “nothing is real,” especially not in the world of politics.

Much like the fabricated universe in Peter Weir’s 1998 film The Truman Show, in which a man’s life is the basis for an elaborately staged television show aimed at selling products and procuring ratings, the political scene in the United States has devolved over the years into a carefully calibrated exercise in how to manipulate, polarize, propagandize and control a population.

Indeed, Donald Trump may be the smartest move yet by the powers-that-be to keep the citizenry divided and at each other’s throats, because as long as we’re busy fighting each other, we’ll never manage to present a unified front against tyranny in any form.

This is the magic of the reality TV programming that passes for politics today.

It allows us to be distracted, entertained, occasionally a little bit outraged but overall largely uninvolved, content to remain in the viewer’s seat.

The more that is beamed at us, the more inclined we are to settle back in our comfy recliners and become passive viewers rather than active participants as unsettling, frightening events unfold.

Reality and fiction merge as everything around us becomes entertainment fodder.

We don’t even have to change the channel when the subject matter becomes too monotonous. That’s taken care of for us by the programmers (the corporate media).

For instance, before we could get too worked up over government surveillance, the programmers changed the channels on us and switched us over to breaking news about militarized police. Before our outrage could be transformed into action over police misconduct, they changed the channel once again to reports of ISIS beheadings and terrorist shootings. Before we had a chance to challenge what was staged or real, the programming switched to the 2016 presidential election.

Living is easy with eyes closed,” says Lennon, and that’s exactly what reality TV that masquerades as American politics programs the citizenry to do: navigate the world with their eyes shut.

As long as we’re viewers, we’ll never be doers.

Studies suggest that the more reality TV people watch—and I would posit that it’s all reality TV—the more difficult it becomes to distinguish between what is real and what is carefully crafted farce.

“We the people” are watching a lot of TV.

On average, Americans spend five hours a day watching television. By the time we reach age 65, we’re watching more than 50 hours of television a week, and that number increases as we get older. And reality TV programming consistently captures the largest percentage of TV watchers every season by an almost 2-1 ratio.

This doesn’t bode well for a citizenry able to sift through masterfully-produced propaganda in order to think critically about the issues of the day, whether it’s fake news peddled by government agencies or foreign entities.

Those who watch reality shows tend to view what they see as the “norm.” Thus, those who watch shows characterized by lying, aggression and meanness not only come to see such behavior as acceptable and entertaining but also mimic the medium.

This holds true whether the reality programming is about the antics of celebrities in the White House, in the board room, or in the bedroom.

It’s a phenomenon called “humilitainment.”

A term coined by media scholars Brad Waite and Sara Booker, “humilitainment” refers to the tendency for viewers to take pleasure in someone else’s humiliation, suffering and pain.

Humilitainment” largely explains not only why American TV watchers are so fixated on reality TV programming but how American citizens, largely insulated from what is really happening in the world around them by layers of technology, entertainment, and other distractions, are being programmed to accept the brutality, surveillance and dehumanizing treatment of the American police state as things happening to other people.

The ramifications for the future of civic engagement, political discourse and self-government are incredibly depressing and demoralizing.

This not only explains how a candidate like Donald Trump with a reputation for being rude, egotistical and narcissistic could get elected, but it also says a lot about how a politician like Barack Obama—whose tenure in the White House was characterized by drone killings, a weakening of the Constitution at the expense of Americans’ civil liberties, and an expansion of the police state—could be hailed as “one of the greatest presidents of all times.”

This is what happens when an entire nation—bombarded by reality TV programming, government propaganda and entertainment news—becomes systematically desensitized and acclimated to the trappings of a government that operates by fiat and speaks in a language of force.

Ultimately, as I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, the reality shows, the entertainment news, the surveillance society, the militarized police, and the political spectacles have one common objective: to keep us divided, distracted, imprisoned, and incapable of taking an active role in the business of self-government.

If “we the people” feel powerless and apathetic, it is only because we have allowed ourselves to be convinced that the duties of citizenship begin and end at the ballot box.

Marching and protests have certainly been used with great success by past movements to foment real change, but if those marches and protests are merely outpourings of discontent because a particular politician won or lost with no solid plan of action or follow-through, then what’s the point?

Martin Luther King Jr. understood that politics could never be the answer to what ailed the country. That’s why he spearheaded a movement of mass-action strategy that employed boycotts, sit-ins and marches. Yet King didn’t march against a particular politician or merely to express discontent. He marched against injustice, government corruption, war, and inequality, and he leveraged discontent with the status quo into an activist movement that transformed the face of America.

When all is said and done, it won’t matter who you voted for in the presidential election. What will matter is where you stand in the face of the injustices that continue to ravage our nation: the endless wars, the police shootings, the overcriminalization, the corruption, the graft, the roadside strip searches, the private prisons, the surveillance state, etc.

Will you tune out the reality TV show and join with your fellow citizens to push back against the real menace of the police state, or will you merely sit back and lose yourself in the political programming aimed at keeping you imprisoned in the police state?

John W. Whitehead

Editor’s Note: this article is reprinted with the author’s permission.

What’s next with Donald Trump?

This past week was a very busy one. On Wednesday morning, Donald Trump held his first press conference in almost six months following a flurry of overnight tweets. The evening before, President Barack Obama bade farewell to the nation in the moving final speech of his presidency. The differences between the two could not be more stark.

“[Obama] leaves the White House a lot more popular than Donald Trump is as he crosses the threshold and saddles up for the most important job in the world,” said Tim Malloy, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University poll, on Wednesday. “President-elect Trump gets points for strength and intelligence, but voters’ feelings about his personality traits, empathy, leadership and levelheadedness, are headed south.”

In just five days, Trump becomes the 45th president of the United States. Is he up to the challenge? We can only hope that he is. The country will undoubtedly survive—it always has—but that does not mean that things will be pleasant.

Meanwhile, in the Senate, Mitch McConnell is orchestrating as many concurrent confirmation hearings as he can, as fast as he can, to bypass the filing of ethics documents that have been required of cabinet nominees from both parties for decades and to dilute the abilities of senators to effectively perform their constitutional duties of “advise and consent.”

All the while, McConnell expresses outrage at the effrontery of Democrats, and Senator Chuck Schumer, in particular, for threatening to do exactly what McConnell and his Republican colleagues did in blocking Merritt Garland’s Supreme Court nomination.

McConnell, you may recall, made no bones about doing everything in his power to block the Obama agenda and make him a one-term president. A recent political cartoon showed a rather large businessman standing before a Congressional committee testifying, “Well, senator, I would argue that this is the most diverse cabinet of white billionaire/millionaire male banker-industrialists over 65 that this nation has ever produced.”

Did you watch Trump’s news conference? Such hubris. “I’m going to be the greatest job producer that God ever created.” Really? God creates job-producers? I suppose He created trickle-down economics, as well.

Garry Kasparov, the Russian former chess champion and an outspoken critic of Vladimir Putin tweeted that the event “reminded me of a Soviet press conference. More speakers than questions, more flags than answers.”

The Hill newspaper characterized Trump as then exploding over his frustration with the press and the intelligence community. Trump, who led the birther movement and embraced fake news has now become its Godfather. He used many of his favorite words: terrific, fake, phony, disgrace, greatest, sick, tremendous, garbage.

As Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Eugene Robinson says, “Fake News has become any news Trump disagrees with.” How long must we wait for Trump to become a patient, deliberate, well informed and mature leader, rather than merely a reactionary “tweeter-in-chief?”

How’s this for a conspiracy theory, one that even our friend Tom Neviaser might embrace? Putin and his KGB thugs engineered the take-down of Hillary Clinton, beginning with the primary fights with Bernie Sanders, that has left the Democratic Party deeply divided and demoralized. The mainstream remnants of the party start to imitate the Republican Party’s total resistance to the Obama presidency, further polarizing the country. WikiLeaks, a pawn shop that knows it is trafficking in stolen goods, has become a complete tool of the Kremlin. The release, it is not clear by whom, of new derogatory information—the Russians call it “kompromat”—about Trump on the day of the president’s speech, results in a firestorm of tweets by the president-elect which upstages Obama in the morning news cycle. Trump hotly denies everything and asks, “Are we living in Nazi Germany?” Really?

Then, taking the conspiracy theory further, Trump takes the oath of office at the end of this week, and Putin, waiting until the time is ripe—weeks, months—then drops the other shoe, revealing that these despicable allegations might have some truth to them, even if they aren’t true at all. Think Photoshop.

Russia has been in the disinformation and “kompromat” business since the time of the other Vladimir, that is, Lenin, for a hundred years. Our country goes into a complete uproar with all kinds of people—perhaps from both parties—calling for impeachment. The 24-hour cable media news cycle goes completely nuts, while making boatloads of money. The political machines go at each other’s throats with all the backing they can muster from the Koch Brothers, George Soros and the rest of the corporate big money lobbyists and lawyers. The stock market tanks because of the uncertainty and your 401(k) begins to evaporate. The Senate’s confirmation hearings are thrown into disarray, the House of Representatives descends into total chaos, and Obama’s farewell plea for national unity falls on deaf ears.

The Russians rub their hands with glee and begin to implement their detailed plan to viciously power their way into the vacuum on the international stage that has been created by America’s sudden emasculation and withdrawal into inaction, confusion and disarray. What more could Putin and his cronies wish for? Plausible? Let us hope it is not possible.

It is not yet clear whether Trump will come around to Director of National Intelligence James Clapper’s appeal to renew his confidence in the U.S. intelligence community. Doing so would help unravel this conspiracy theory. Renouncing it, on the other hand, will undermine our allies’ confidence in our ability to influence world events. If they can’t depend on us, who can they depend on? As Keith Olbermann recently opined, “there’s something wrong with this man.

The president-elect’s apparent need to feed his narcissistic personality disorder could destroy America’s position in the world.

Mike McClary

Editor’s Note: this article is reprinted with the author’s permission and originally appeared on-line here.

Brat wants to hide ethics problems

Congressman Dave Brat of Freedom Caucus fame touted the ethical superiority of vastly restricting the powers of the Office of Congressional Ethics in a recent Fox News interview (Star-Exponent, Jan 6). Although Trump tweeted against this move, Brat claimed the media is responsible for why this appeared to be a bad move. The move was smart, he believed, but the timing was just not yet right.

Let’s make the bottom line clear. Congressman Brat, who claims to be an ethically grounded public official, opposes effective scrutiny of shady dealings in our democracy.

His attack on the media is part of an effort to smother freedom of speech. Republicans are saying their conduct isn’t morally wrong, but talking about it is.

Whether your concern is a neighborhood gang or a Republican-dominated national government, you may want to be able to speak “Truth to Power.” If you aren’t familiar with this phrase, you can look it up here: http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=speak%20truth%20to%20power.

However, Brat knows if you want to speak Truth to Power, then Truth needs protection from reprisal from the gang or the government. The Republican move in the House to hamstring the Ethics Office called for every accuser to step forward and hence be identified for reprisal. Such a change protects the rule breaker, not the whistle blower.

The new administration has already indicated reprisals are in the wings. The Energy Department transition team wants a list of all officials who attended international meetings on climate change. The State Department transition team wants a list of all officials who went to meetings on women’s rights. The president-elect has also reportedly told every political, that is non-career, ambassador not only to submit his resignation (as has been the custom for decades at the start of a new administration), but immediately depart his embassy. That means 135 American embassies in the world will be missing their ambassadors until the senate gets around to confirming a new set.

Even in Brat’s House of Representatives, the Republican leadership has already started to suppress the right to speak Truth to Power under the guise of maintaining decorum. They do not want any repeats of the Democrats’ “misbehavior” of last summer.

Brat’s position is no-protection-for those-who-speak-Truth to Power. Such a standard will chill or eliminate whistle blowers government-wide and may embolden your boss to put a sharper edge on his comment that you’re not being a team player.

Certainly, officials who know of bad contracts, shady dealings, or abuse of power will just have to keep their mouths shut. Punishing truth is hardly ethical and definitely not a democratic ideal. Brat is wrong, there is nothing in the Judeo-Christian ethic that forbids speaking Truth to Power. That’s Herod, not Jesus.

David Reuther

Editor’s Note: this article is reprinted with the author’s permission and originally appeared on-line here.

Vote for Washington

Vote for a man with strength and smarts on Jan. 10. Ryant Washington has been elected four times as sheriff by the people of Fluvanna County. His support came from Democrats and Republicans, and his values and his issues reflect those of his constituents.

Education and the economy are at the top of that list. According to Ryant, “Education drives our economy: no company is going to move to our area if we don’t have a strong workforce.”

Washington has served on the Fluvanna Chamber of Commerce and worked directly with small business owners, so he understands the needs of economic development. Like Governor McAuliffe, Washington is committed to making Virginia a competitive place for our current businesses to stay and make sure we attract new ones. A good economy helps all citizens and businesses.

Public safety is also one of Ryant Washington’s major concerns. He has served in law enforcement since 1990, including service as a state trooper. His four terms as sheriff of Fluvanna give him a breadth and depth of understanding about the security needs of communities. He has worked with limited budgets to improve community security, including enhancements to the 911 system.

While all of Goochland and Fluvanna counties are in the 22nd District, only five precincts in Louisa County will vote in the special election on Jan. 10. If your state senator was Tom Garrett in 2015, you are eligible to vote in the special election at the following Louisa County precincts: Bumpass at Lake Anna Rescue Squad, Locust Creek at Locust Creek Volunteer Fire Department, Shelton’s Mill at Holly Grove Volunteer Fire Department, and the split precincts of Elk Creek at Elk Creek Baptist Church and South Anna at Central Virginia Assembly of God Church.

I urge you to vote for Ryant Washington for Senator of Virginia’s 22nd District in the special election on Tuesday, Jan. 10.

Absentee voting is also open weekdays through Friday from 8:30 a.m. until 4:30 p.m., and Saturday, Jan. 7 from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. at the Louisa County registrar’s office and at all Virginia registrar’s offices.

If you will be out of town on election day or unable to come to the polls, you can vote early. Check with your registrar about reasons and whether you are in the 22nd District. Louisa’s registrar may be reached at (540) 967-3427.

Ryant Washington is the real deal. He will work well in Richmond, with both sides of the aisle, to improve our economy, to support education, to provide security to our citizens and strengthen our Commonwealth.

JoAnna Hickman

Editor’s Note: this letter appeared in the 1-5-17 edition of the Central Virginian and is only available on-line to paid subscribers.



Corrupt is as Corruption does

When it comes to the Drumpf’s campaign slogan of “drain the swamp,” most Americans would reasonably perceive it as a call for ethics in the Federal Government — to reduce lobbyist influence, cut wasteful spending and contractor abuse, to reduce unethical behavior, etc.  That doesn’t appear to be how either he or his fellow Replicants define it.

While it’s widely believed that the inspiration for this slogan came from Ronald Reagan who called to “drain the swamp” of bureaucracy,  and created the Grace Commission, which identified $424 billion of wasteful government spending that could be cut.

Perhaps a better definition comes from Russian philosopher Alexander Dugin, better known as “Putin’s Brain. Among the many gems in this recent 100+ page “report” called The Trump Factor is the notion that “The Swamp is an ideology—Liberalism”  one that he exhorts his readers to “close this page of history” So we’re no longer talking about corruption or ethics, but ”getting rid of “globalists” and their networks.”

And who’s better suited for the task than our favorite useful idiot? Speaking of which, how about his latest self-enrichment scam at his Mar-A-Lago Resort’s New Year’s Eve party, which featured a who’s who list of Palm Beach upper-crusters paying at least $525 each to attend.

With Drumpf’s spokesman, Sean Spicer, confirming the event sold out all 800 tickets, bringing at least $420,000 to the Twitler’s coffers. When asked about guests attending his party paying to gain access to him, another spokesperson, Hope Hicks, said that: “The transition is not concerned about the appearance of a conflict. This is a celebratory event at a private club, like others since the election. Additionally, the president cannot and does not have a conflict.”

So apparently spending the evening with convicted mob associate Joey ‘No Socks’ Cinque is not a concern.

Cinque who runs a sham organization called the American Academy of Hospitality which according to the Chicago Tribune bestowed its “Five Star Diamond Award” on three of Trump’s hotel. And according to Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist David Cay Johnston, who has previously covered Trump for the Philadelphia Inquirer, and the New York Times, the reality TV host-turned-President has a shady past with mob figures. Saying that he’s “done business with the Russian mob, he’s done business with con artists.”

Nor is the Drumpf alone in such flexible ethics,  he is joined by the Republican controlled House of Representatives who are apparently determined to be as self serving as humanly possible. While their efforts to hamstring the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) failed, their first day in office was otherwise a resounding success.

Passing new rules designed to prevent Democratic representatives from holding another sit-in protest, using them to conceal the bad optics of resistance to their strong arm tactics. But such procedural details pale in comparison to the fact that the House Republicans are doing everything they can to give away federal lands, along with giving their staff the power to haul private citizens and government officials to Capitol Hill to be questioned under oath a uniquely Republican form of trickle-down depredation.

Leading Representative Louise Slaughter of New York to say; “After spending six years demonstrating their eagerness to spend taxpayer money on wasteful, politically motivated witch hunts, Republicans are giving themselves additional tools to do more of the same.


And when it comes to such power grabs, one can only hope that the old Wall Street maxim of; “Pigs get fat, and hogs get slaughtered,” still holds true along with John Kenneth Galbraith’s observation that” If all else fails, immortality can always be assured by spectacular error.

Suzanne Johnson

Are we there yet?

Welcome to what we all hope will be a happy new year. To answer the question of whether we’re there yet, we should try to figure out where we’re headed.

Is it “1984,” George Orwell’s 1949 book that highlighted a world of perpetual war, omnipresent government surveillance and public manipulation, dictated by a political system that persecuted individualism and independent thinking as “thought crime”?—a society ruled by an overarching Party that seeks power entirely for its own sake and is not interested in the good of others. Does this sound familiar to some of us?

Or, is it “Brave New World,” Aldous Huxley’s 1932 book, describing a different type of dystopia where people are manipulated by the State into thinking of nothing but their own pleasure. It could also be “Animal Farm,” Orwell’s previous 1945 work where the Pigs take over society and the government.

Think about that one. In this new American world of fake news and Russian hacking, we may be closer to the world described in any of these than we think.

I don’t know about you, but I spent much of high school and college trying to fake my way through having to read these books as part of English literature, because they were very difficult. “Cliff Notes” were a big help. Nowadays, they ought to be required reading if we want to understand the kinds of futures to which we and our fellow travelers on this planet may be headed.

Orwell’s idea of historical revisionism seems more relevant than ever. After decades of conflict and competition with the Soviet Union, and now, Russia, we have a president-elect who totally reverses course, not only in his admiration for ex-KGB villain Vladimir Putin, but also in his nomination of Cabinet-level officers like Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson for secretary of state, who has spent 40 years making big oil money with the Russians. Russian hacking? No problem, says Big Brother.

Rewriting history is all around us. Republicans now claim they were responsible for passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Not true—the fault lines at the time were northern legislators versus the southern ones, not by party. Because of this bill, the regional fault lines shifted and the southern Democrats of old are now the “new” Republicans of the south. Moderate Republicans of yore would have no place in the current Republican party.

Republicans justify blocking virtually everything President Obama proposed, by saying they were just copying Democrats during the Bush administration. This is true neither in word nor deed. President Obama’s appointments to office faced months of waiting before the Senate would consider doing its duty. Even now, he is leaving office with more than 100 judicial vacancies for which Republican senators have refused hearings, including a well-qualified nominee for the Supreme Court.

Under Bush, Democrats joined the vote to invade Iraq, cooperated with trillions in borrowing to pay for the war, consented to Bush’s nominees and otherwise kept the government running. Democratic legislators never once tried to shut down the government.

The distinction between fact and fiction is dissolved in the “societies” of “1984,” “Brave New World,” and “Animal Farm.” Today, the media is belittled and besmirched. Fake news on Facebook, other social media and on hate-filled blogs may be the equivalent of Orwell’s character Winston Smith’s rewriting of previous news articles to comply with the Party line, but berating the media, blacklisting reporters, or limiting media access will accomplish the same in our future.

One of Orwell’s main themes was that “Big Brother Is Watching You.” We should be concerned that Trump’s Department of Energy transition team wants a list of all civil service personnel “to identify which employees and contractors have worked on forging an international climate pact as well as domestic efforts to cut the nation’s carbon output” during the past five years.

Former Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli spent considerable taxpayer money hounding a professor who worked on climate-related research. Trump’s transition team asked the State Department for details on programs aimed at benefiting women around the world, including identifying staff members who worked to reduce gender-based violence and promote women in the workplace. Several Obama administration officials called that query chilling and the request was withdrawn after it was widely criticized. This will not be a world in which whistleblowers can speak truth to power.

We may not be there yet, but the critical thinkers and writers of the last generation have given us tools with which to protect ourselves by helping us recognize the dystopias they described—their insights should give us pause. We have an opportunity, and an obligation, to test ourselves against our own standards of government, civility and generosity.

Be vigilant, stay informed, do your fact-checking, and vote in your own self -interest, for only you can prevent these stories of a dark future from coming true. Dare we have hope for 2017? “All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men [and women] to do nothing.”

Mike McClary

Note: Reprinted with author’s permission and originally appearing here.