Free speech and journalistic responsibility

Jim McConnell’s article on the 5/9/17 Brat Town Hall, “Teeming with anger: Town hall signals leftward shift” was disappointing. In our country, we have the luxury of Freedom of the Press. Because of that freedom, the press has the duty to investigate and inform. McConnell took the easy way out that day and chose to entertain, by writing about the crowd reaction instead of digging deeper to understand why they were reacting in that manner. Did he miss the fact that Brat consistently holds Town Halls on private property, this time a Christian church, when there were two Chesterfield County public schools across the road and dozens more public schools in Brat’s district?

Why didn’t McConnell grasp that because the event was on private property, the property owners could and did prohibit signs, posters, banners or flyers even though the VA ACLU had reminded Brat on two occasions that prohibiting them was a violation of the attendees’ Free Speech? Did McConnell miss the fact that the event was only open to ticket holders?

That those on the wait list were denied entry even though there were dozens of empty seats inside? That the attendees were not permitted to speak to Brat directly but had to submit their questions on note cards which were then pre-selected and read to Brat? That Brat’s co-host stood up and angrily scolded the audience, “You all be quiet now. This is MY Town Hall.”

The audience was not booing at God when Brat said, “Our rights are God-given.” They booed because they knew that our right to Free Speech does not come from God, It comes from our Constitution. The audience’s anger should be unsurprising because they fully realized their First Amendment rights were being violated, even if McConnell didn’t. The First Amendment, specifically Freedom of the Press was already in the headlines that day.

A West Virginia reporter was arrested simply for asking HHS Secretary Tom Price a question, so apparently McConnell is missing the big picture. In a May 16, 2017, RTD article, “Trumpcare could lead to cuts in services for elderly, people with disabilities in Virginia” detailed the disastrous impact it will have on Virginians. The RTD reported, “When asked to comment for the story, U.S. Rep. Dave Brat, R-7th, refused to do so unless he was guaranteed three unedited paragraph in the Richmond Times-Dispatch.”  Brat voted in favor of the “bill,” and has now taken his First Amendment assault to a new level with his attempt to stifle the Free Press.

What will it take for McDonnell and the Chesterfield Observer to see that politicians like Brat are engaged in guerrilla warfare on the First Amendment? Their threats are rarely as overt as Price’s, or Brat’s demands on the RTD. More often they are insidious like Brat’s violations of his constituents’ rights to Freedom of Assembly, Freedom of Religion and Free Speech in his Town Halls on the pretext of crowd control.

James Madison enshrined Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Assembly, and Freedom of Religion as the very first Amendment to the Constitution because he believed these to be the most important freedoms we have, the freedoms on which all others are based.

Whether you agree with an individual’s political beliefs or not, the individual’s right to have them and express them must be protected. Our First Amendment rights are guaranteed but can’t be taken for granted. They must be re-won by every generation. This is what democracy looks like.

When will McConnell and the Chesterfield Observer uphold their duty to investigate, inform and hold the politicians accountable?

Maggie Dolan

Editor’s Note: This post was submitted to the Chesterfield Observer three weeks ago, and was finally published here. The author has granted permission to re-post her letter on Blue Louisa. It is also worth noting that they also printed this just below her letter.

Brat pack doesn’t play fair

Recent news coverage of Rep. Dave Brat’s town hall [Teeming with Anger, May 17th] focused on the display of anger rather than the cause, questioning if the left was becoming divisive – nothing could be further from the truth. While opinions differ as to the best tactic, we all agree the tea party Republican’s are a detriment to our community and must go.

One reason is that they don’t fight fair.

An example of this occurred during the recent Bon Air parade, when against explicit rules of “no campaigning,” they marched with “vote for” signs of eight Republican candidates, from Congressman to Board of Supervisors, plastered on two trucks, billboards in the beds, and stickers on their chests. Brat even stuck “Brat” stickers on babies, his photographer snapping photos with parade-goers, some of which refused to shake his hand.

Liberal Women of Chesterfield County (LWCC) carried signs honoring our suffragette history. Katie Sponsler Democratic nominee for the House 66th, dressed in Victorian costume and handed out candy, instead of asking for votes. She is running against a delegate who hasn’t had a challenger since 1995. Jenefer Hughes marched with nothing indicating her run for Commissioner of Revenue. Ben Person-Nelson’s request to march was denied due to the no-campaigning rule.

All of the Democratic candidates honored the rules. All three would have greatly benefited from name recognition if they had disregarded the rules like the Republicans chose to do. Yet the Republican’s bad manners won’t make the news.

They might have not screamed F-you at a town hall, but that’s exactly what their actions spoke.

Despite this blatant rule breaking, they had the audacity to complain to an even volunteer that LWCC was allowed to march, implying we may cause trouble. Often, liberals get painted as disruptive. This week alone, LWCC donated 180 reams of paper to area schools, and paid off student lunch debts. That won’t make the news either.

For those of you who will say, I’m just a liberal making a big deal out of nothing- the Bon Air Historical Society which hosts the parade, emailed me immediately afterwards and said the Republican’s actions were unacceptable, and because of them all future politician’s were banned from future parades.

They called LWCC a “great addition,” and thanked us for adhering to the rules, inviting us back next year. We did receive a warm welcome from the crowd, with cheer and people exclaiming how grateful they were to see us in Bon Air.

While some might dispute that these tea party Republicans are hypocrites in preaching generosity, the creating stingy destructive policies, it’s certainly clear they are hypocrites in complaining about loud town halls and women honoring Victorian suffragettes in a parade when they can’t even be bothered to follow the clear rules of the parade.

These are men and women that we’ve entrusted to create laws for all Virginians; shouldn’t we be able to trust them to abide by the simple rules of a hometown parade.

Kim Drew Wright

Editor’s Note: This post originally appeared here, in the May 31st edition of the Chesterfield Observer, and is re-posted with the author’s permission.

It should also be noted that many of Ms. Wrights points in her letter were reinforced by the fact that the Observer chose to print these two letters the previous week, presumably as the “conservative” response to their slanted May 17th article.

Biased coverage of Town Halls

I’m writing in response to Jim McConnell’s article Teeming with Anger: Town hall Signals Leftward Shift. I attended this town hall and am well aware of the many elements involved to make the audience appear “unruly.”

The backstory: Dave Brat and Amanda Chase chose to hold their town hall in Chase’s church–private property–instead of at one of the two public schools directly across the street, or one of the many public schools in Chesterfield County. The choice to use a private venue effectively-legally-ensured several things: it made a ban on signs allowable, it made protesting on the grounds a legal offense, it made the pastor feel it was within his right to lead the town hall with a Christian prayer, and it made Amanda Chase feel it was ok to admonish tax paying constituents for their “unruly behavior” in HER town hall.

Further, instead of allowing and encouraging a serious back and forth Q&A, our elected officials forced their constituents to write questions on note cards to be submitted beforehand for their perusal and then didn’t allow the questioner a microphone to talk. Brat, especially, frustrated attendees with a series of non-answers to serious questions, especially questions concerning the recently and narrowly House passed AHCA. He did NOT answer the many clear and succinct questions he was asked about it. Chase’s answer that “church charity will take care of our country’s health care needs” was breathlessly out of touch with the reality of health care complexity and needs in our nation.

The “unruly” behavior that took place happened as a direct result of the strict and demeaning rules placed on the town hall participants. These deliberate decisions on the part of our elected representatives were not meant to encourage free speech. They were meant to squash it into submission.

THESE are the reasons why the town hall was “rowdy,” NOT, as McConnell implies, because we Democrats are defensive, belligerent, and antagonistic by nature. “Liberal” and “left” are not synonymous with ignorance, immorality, or disrespectful any more than “conservative” and “right” are synonymous with racist, narrow-minded, or patriotic.

Much of the country is teeming with anger right now. Town halls across the country look exactly like this one did because of similar free speech constrictions placed on them by our elected officials. Mr. McConnell’s choice of words makes his article—and him—appear uninformed and biased, not what we expect and need from news journalists.

Kate Flinn

Editor’s Note: This post was submitted to the Chesterfield Observer several weeks ago, but was never published. The author has granted permission to re-post her letter on Blue Louisa.

Meeting the Candidates, or another Dog and Pony Show?

For those of you who couldn’t attend the “Meet the Candidates” forum hosted by the Louisa Chamber of Commerce at the Mineral VFW last week, other than the opportunity to hear the two Democratic candidates speak, I can’t you missed much.

It was a tightly controlled affair with all of the candidates limited to just a handful of questions. Nor was it any coincidence that those questions were framed in such a way as to force the direction of the candidates responses.

And of the roughly fifty people who attended this “event,” the crowd was split fairly evenly between assorted campaign staff, local Republican faithful, a handful of VFW members, along with ten or so progressives. Six Republican candidates attended this event with Graven Craig sending in a “representative” from his law practice, Torry Williams to stand in for him.

And in such a crowded field, it didn’t take long for two of the  candidates; Matt Pinsker and Jay Prendergast to demonstrate that they had no business running for public office.  And  neither John McGuire nor Dr. Dhakar did much to separate themselves from the pack.

More relevantly for the people of Louisa, neither of our two local Republicans candidates (or stand- ins) were particularly impressive. Their remarks were at best non-responsive, and often times little removed from a random collection of talking points.

While operating within the constraints of the forum, both of the Democrats responses to the questions were detailed and nuanced, and clearly emphasized their different areas of expertise; from Melissa’s knowledge of the Health Care system,


to Lizzie’s grasp of educational issues.

And of the three questions taken from the audience, two came from Republican supporters, with the last question of the day coming from RW talk radio host, John Fredericks, who frequently has Dave Brat as a guest on his show.

(5-24-17 Meet the Candidates event at Mineral VFW)

Which brings us to the topic of; which of these Republicans is most likely to get their Party’s nomination? If the number of fliers you have been receiving in your mailbox these past few weeks is any indication, both Dr Dhakar, and George Goodwin are prepared to spend as much money as necessary to influence that outcome.

And while Dhakar is not well known outside of his county, Goodwin is well known in Party circles and was able to use this familiarity to ensconce himself into the General Assemblies … I mean the Republican Party’s legislative process.

For the past few months, Goodwin has been claiming that he was instrumental in helping getting several bills get through sub committees and committees in both chambers. Perhaps, but since he’s unwilling to acknowledge let alone take “credit” for legislative debacles like Uncle Tom Garrett’s SB 1130Switchblade and Nunchuckbill  one has to ask just how much “influence” over party extremists like Garrett and Reeves or legislative affairs did he really have?

Speaking of extremists, it’s long been said that you can judge someone by the company they keep, and like Uncle Tom, Craven … err Graven Craig considers himself a “Cuccinelli conservative” and from all appearances is doing everything possible to further ingrate himself with the Tea Party’s and the Freedom Caucuses and their radical agendas.

(5­-25-17 Fundraiser for Rep. Louie Gohmert, with “special guests” Dave Brat and Graven Craig)

Now one can reasonably “argue” that the Chamber of Commerce’s primary job is to promote business, their questions would reflect that focus.  Perhaps, but since none of the Republican candidates were asked any question on more sensitive topics, such as; Women’s rights and Public Safety vs. 2nd Amendment rights etc., it remains to be seen how well they will fare with a larger audience at Goochland High School next Saturday.

That being said, keep in mind that Goochland County is a Tea Party stronghold, and in the past few years they have taken over most of the counties levers of power. And since they have been actively promoting this Meet the Candidates event since late April while we’re just learning about this event, it shouldn’t come as any surprise to learn that they see this event as a prime opportunity for them to create the “just-in-time candidate exposure and information we need” … I mean perception of support for their candidates.

And since this is the second year in a row they and the Goochland Republicans, in conjunction with the Goochland Democrats have sponsored an event like this, and it remains to be seen is whether that’s a recipe for confusion over who’s running this event.  Or even if it assures that the questions will be as tightly controlled as they were at the Chamber of Commerce’s event in Mineral.

And if you can’t make it to this event, there will be a Meet and Greet  for Melissa Dart at a private home on the first of June in Louisa County, along with a phone banking for Lizzie Drucker at Floozies on the 6th.  So unless any other public events come up between then and the June 13th primary, the last opportunity you will likely have to speak with either of the Democratic candidates running for the 56th House of Delegates before the primary will be the very first Louisa Street Festival on the 10th of June.

Jon Taylor


Why Dave Brat is under attack

I just received an e-mail from Dave Brat requesting a campaign donation because he is “under attack” for supporting the Republican Healthcare Act. Instead of being under attack, Brat needs to be voted out of office because of that support.

Under the Republican Healthcare Act, insurance companies will be allowed to charge older people up to three times more than younger people. Approximately 24 million people will lose their health insurance. Medicaid will be substantially cut and help for those making less than $30,000 will be eliminated. Funding for Planned Parenthood will be eliminated, as well as coverage for childbirth, which currently costs around $30,000.

The list of “preexisting conditions” will cover an enormous range of health issues. Cancer, heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, acne, Alzheimer’s, anemia, asthma, cerebral palsy, hepatitis, Parkinson’s Disease and renal failure are just a few of the other conditions that insurance companies may determine to be preexisting and choose not to cover. What good is insurance it if doesn’t cover the majority of health problems?

Brat also supports building a wall between the United States and Mexico at an estimated cost of $21 billion. This wall is not necessary and will do more harm than good. It will cause loss of revenue for S. border towns. We need to build our economy, not reduce it.

Twenty-one billion dollars would be better spent by hiring hundreds more border patrol personnel to physically cover the border, thereby eliminating border access by illegal aliens and getting rid of unemployment.

Sorry, Dave, you won’t be getting a penny of my money.

Deanna Nicosia

Editor’s Note: This first appeared in the May 25th edition of the Central Virginian, and is re-posted with the author’s permission, and is only available via hard copy or online to paying subscribers.


Why this year’s election is important

Over the past few weeks, people have been receiving multiple fliers in their mailboxes, and it’s virtually impossible to drive anywhere in the county without seeing any election signs. Nor is it any coincidence that they are all for Republican candidates.

And it is another indication of the huge disparity in financial and logistical support between the two parties at the state level.  And why this year’s election will be one of the most important elections in your lifetime

Republicans are currently one seat short of a veto proof super majority in the House, and 5-6 seats short in the Senate. Should they get a super majority in the House, or even retake the Governor’s mansion this year; this will be the kind of legislation Virginia’s General Assembly passes in the years to come.

And with 87 House of Delegate seats being contested this year, versus the usual 15 to 20, it remains to be seen if the Koch Brothers sponsored American’s For Prosperity disinformation campaign has enough money or resources to ensure their continued dominance of the General Assembly.

You may have also noticed several letters in the CV supporting various candidates; personal “endorsements” which offer little reason to support any of the candidates. And if you look closely at the candidates Facebook pages, you will see that only two candidates bothered to lay out their policy positions.

Unsurprisingly, other than claiming they will somehow “protect” the 2nd amendment, the innocent, and eliminate regulations and taxes, they have almost nothing to say.

This is not an oversight; they are emulating Eric Cantor’s … I mean Dave Brat’s approach to public relations. Convinced that by attending only “events” filled with the like minded, they will be able to use their talking point to raise money … I mean protect themselves from any “inappropriate” feedback, while avoiding talking about any real issues.

Actions which allow them to hide in plain sight the fact that their Party hasn’t had any relevant ideas in over forty years, and that since the 80’s their “solution” has always been to double down on those failed policies.

Up until this year, Republicans in the 56th District have been able to get away with ignoring their constituency knowing full well that in the absence of any meaningful “opposition,” the only thing they  had to do to get elected was to have their name on the ballot.

And for nearly two decades, it allowed one rubber stamp Republican after another to be elected, starting with Bill Janis who was never seen or heard from, except at election time. To his replacement, the slick Peter Farrell, who was literally “appointed” to his first term in office by a Republican gang of four.

And whose notion of being responsive to his constituents concerns consisted of “legislative updates” that pretended to inform them, but were in fact, designed to put a positive “spin” on his Party’s  punitive actions and hypocritical agendas.  

And so far, only one Republican candidate has demonstrated the courage to appear at a well publicized event (Louisa Community Extravaganza) that wasn’t one of their usual echo chambers.

Meanwhile both Democratic candidates, Melissa Dart and Lizzie Drucker have attended several well publicized meetings in Louisa, including the Community Extravaganza, and plan on attending larger events like the upcoming Louisa’s June 10th Street Fair.

So if you really want to learn more about the candidates, take a closer look at their positions, and watch how they interact with the public between now and the June 13th primary.

Jon Taylor


Response to Brat’s claims he’s being “attacked” at his Town Halls


This letter is in response to your email I received today which stated in its subject line:

These relentless attacks caused hundreds of angry people to show up at my town hall meeting last week.”

Sorry to say, you are a lame duck. What brought you into Congress was a lie in search of a rubber stamp. Sorry, because those who selected you and propped you up have done so in the name of preserving a methodology that takes power by deceit, supports the power through illicit gains, and propagates a self-serving legacy of domination by the international and globalized elite (not you, the billionaires, the 1% of the 1%).

As an Independent (and CCW for 42 years), I will help vote you out. You say you are a Christian and a smart guy. Well, you need to shake the wrinkles out of that long unused fabric and make an effort to regain some trust, if only for yourself and your family. The GOP of which you are a part, and for which I voted for in 4 Presidential elections, is deflating under, of all things, collusion with Russia, money laundering, and Treason. A man or woman with an ounce of integrity would rise above this ongoing corruption and lies, and take a stand in the name of all that is good in the world: past, present, and future. Americans come in all colors, from many countries, have varying intellects, and at times, make a real mess of things. But Americans always fight back against oppression and tyranny; for the constitution, and the rule of law. That is our history.

Your choices as a congressman illuminate a philosophy of “go along to get along”. You knew at some time, that you were compromising yourself. You knew it. Down deep, you know you have let yourself down. Your constituents, whom you swore to represent during your term in office, have been superfluous to your thoughts, prayers, and actions evident by the way you have lead and conducted yourself. Pandering to a base that depends on you for leadership and actual facts that you, in turn, withhold, only complicates real progress and solutions.

In your email, you express rage at those who are upset at the job you are doing. Aren’t they just trying to hold you accountable, something for which I believe you signed up? Do you think that public scrutiny in an elected office is wholly unjustified, unfair, and displays extreme partisan politics? (possibly a conspiracy theory by evil left wingers running rampant against the GOP white hats?) I believe that when people, justifiably or not, raise their voices, it is usually in response to a pattern of not being heard, being ignored, and being condescended to on the part of the speaker re: issues which they feel they have no control over. Communication 101. You have avoided communication because it is hard when people either don’t understand, or do understand but are not impressed with your feeble attempts in an amateurish obfuscation of facts (not alt). Your choice in the timing and locations of your Town Halls is also telling. BS is still BS.

Dave, this is very simple. You are on the wrong side. I’m not talking about politics, I’m talking about what you profess to believe in when you say you are a Christian, etc. That Democrats have plenty of problems is not the issue. What has been going on for years now has segued into the biggest scandal and criminal conspiracy revelations that the world has ever seen. Even a general awareness should have given you severe pause many times along the way. Even if you decry the MSM as fake news and derive your news from other sources, you are smart enough (you say you are) to know what is really going on, and how badly this might upset your applecart.

Clearly, you have and do support Donald Trump, a businessman who has been mobbed up since he was helping his father in his real estate business back in the 1980s. Public records in every iteration depict a pattern of deceit and making money on the backs of others. 3,500+ lawsuits against him? I won’t bore you with Trump’s lack of principals, character flaws, or mental stability, but I’m fairly certain that Jesus would not have been a Trump fan, and would not have been quiet in pointing this out and remedying.

There will be charges of High Treason and espionage resulting from counterintelligence investigations that will bring about convictions leading to the death penalty. That is a serious reality. Multi-faceted money laundering schemes involving the U.S and Russian mob, illegal data laundering, illegal contributions to GOP superPACs from foreign and sanctioned countries that flowed right back into the Trump campaign,  voter machine tabulation hacking, and voter mail fraud operations. Add obstruction of justice, RICO charges for Trump et al and for the GOP, and criminal pursuit of prominent billionaires.

How bad does it need to get? When this is over, I would not be surprised if the amount of prosecutions exceeded 100+, including some from the GOP, the White House, and Congress. The facts (not alt) now unfolding will continue to paint Trump and the GOP with a wide swath of conspiratorial criminality. The saddest thing is, every action, every crime, was a decision in which they alone own. The incompetence was prolific. The arrogance moved with impunity. Money. Power. Greed.

Your email is a cry for help. Help me, these crazy people are just plain not nice and are not going along blindly into the abattoir while we steal them blind and take all that is precious to them and theirs. I say this to you in all seriousness. If redemption is important to you, you should consider muting seditious talk of circling the wagons around Trump and defending what you think you won fair and square with a twang to the 2nd Amendment aka: defend your rights with guns. That would result in American bloodshed, and you would additionally add to your guilt, and all that for which you will be held responsible. Everything that you claim your party won, was, in fact (not alt), stolen.

I encourage you to make a plan to do what is right. I’m challenging you to find your integrity and to look to who you will be when the dust settles. The excuses you and others have made involving the end justifying the means will result in unhappy endings on a sliding scale. That is an absolute inevitability. Make the decision to put our country and the rule of law above whatever you think your party is demanding of you. That doesn’t make you a Democrat or a party traitor. It is the right thing to do, and will make a difference: to you, your family, and to all of those constituents you swore to represent under the constitution when you took your oath. That will make you an American of equal worth under the law.

You are a lame duck. So why not be an honorable lame duck.

Rennie Coleman

Editor’s Note: this blog has been reposted with the author’s permission, and originally appeared here.

Trump and Brat – two peas in a pod

Dave Brat has nailed himself to the Trump cross. Or, perhaps he’s just tied himself on, like a lesser thief. Despite his identification with the ultra-right Freedom Caucus, Brat has cozied up to Trump more and more in recent weeks.

During his May 9 town hall, he was asked if he would support a congressional investigation of Trump’s Russian ties. His response left everyone puzzled. He said he saw no need for an investigation, but if people in the audience brought him evidence of Trump’s collusion with the Russians, he would pass it on. Such a response struck everyone as odd because Congress has carried out long and expensive investigations of the Benghazi incident, Hillary’s emails, Iran Contra and the Clinton impeachment, among many others.

These partisan-motivated hearings dragged on and on without coming to any negative conclusion. After seven Benghazi investigations, the idea that that the House only responded to public pressure, and was disinterested in an investigation of Trump’s Russian ties seriously undercuts Brat’s assertion that this is an administration of laws, not men.

Brat’s assertion, however, coincides with the views of the administration that the FBI’s investigation of its ties to Russia is “probably one of the smallest things that they’ve got going on their plate.” Really, Dave, you expect the public to do your work for you?

Handing over Israeli intelligence to Russian visitors in the White House, an event barred to the American press, doesn’t provide much support for Brat’s assertion that this administration is one of laws. Despite White House protests, the American president cannot just declassify intelligence from another county on a whim. Not only is that a violation of the originator’s sovereignty, but it undermines other governments’ confidence in American leadership.

Most recently, Trump fired the head of the FBI which was investigating the Trump transition team’s connection with the Russians. This connection has already cost General Michael Flynn his appointment in the new administration, so there is obviously something there. Brat gave an interview, carried in this paper on May 12, in which he said that the Comey firing demonstrated that America was governed by the rule of law.

Except…Trump destroyed his own credibility by his later interview with Lester Holt stating he decided to fire FBI Director James Comey before the deputy attorney general’s recommendation landed on his desk.

Trump claimed in another interview that he fired Comey because he was “grandstanding” and “showboating.” Yet Brat is quoted as saying Trump was defending the rule of law. Trump claimed that low morale at the FBI also encouraged him to fire Comey.

The acting director of the FBI testified before Congress that morale at the FBI was just fine, thank you very much. None of this supports Brat’s assertion that Trump is faithfully following the rule of law.

Before Trump dismissed Comey, claiming that he had been obliged to act because of the way Comey handled an investigation into Hillary Clinton, he had previously fired Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates and Preet Bharara, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York. Yates and Bharara were conducting investigations of the administration’s ties to Russia. Brat continues to insist that Trump is a reasonable fellow.

During the last election, with the polls running against Brat, then-candidate Mike Pence was photographed bringing pizza to Brat’s staff. For all his Tea Party Freedom Caucus rhetoric and Calvinist theology, Brat probably understands that he is not now very securely popular. Perhaps that realization, and the Trump’s threat to run an opposition candidate in the primaries against those that cross him, has caused Brat to join his cause with Trump’s.

Brat must calculate carefully. Midterm elections are coming and Trump’s approval ratings continue to fall. Speculation has begun that the GOP’s current House majority may be in jeopardy. At the 100-day mark, Trump’s approval rating is lower than any past president since polling began. Even this White House knows that most presidents who have governed in the modern era have seen their approval ratings slide between the 100-day mark and the subsequent midterm elections. So there is more slippage to come—you can count on it.

Trump’s legislative agenda is also in peril as House Republicans have done little to demonstrate that they are ready and able to be a successful governing party. At his Midlothian town hall, Brat kept asserting that the Republican “repeal and replace” so-called health care bill protected preexisting conditions. But he and the audience knew the bill allows the states to get a waiver from such a circumstance, thus putting millions in jeopardy. It’s a dishonest bill that will throw millions off their insurance. Brat ought to be ashamed of himself for supporting it.

Brat’s close association with the Trump may be costlier than he thinks. If the Republicans stop protecting the current occupant of the White House over his close ties with Russia, his exposure of Israeli intelligence and his continuing mindless ranting, and Trump subsequently goes down, he may carry Brat and other hardliners down with him. Then, maybe, this country can start pulling itself back together. We must work hard to do that, merely hoping it will happen will not do the job. Resist, insist, persist, enlist.

Mike McClary

Editor’s Note: This article is reprinted with author’s permission and originally appeared here.



Louisa County needs to update to new living models

In reading the article “Couple homeless on the land they own” in the May 11 edition of The Central Virginian, I was struck with the absurdity of Mr. Gobie and Ms. Archer’s predicament.

My first concern was how were they going to comply with the county’s regulation when his means of income are limited because he can’t work in his garage because of the permit necessary stating he had to have a “proper” home to live in.

It would appear to me that his camper should be considered as his “proper” home until such a time he can resume his occupation and have income to proceed with improvements. It just seems mean-spirited to harass this couple that is doing their best to survive on their own land. To pay for staying at Small Country Campground is $158 per week without any hookups. How can they afford this?

My insurance company made me take out a separate policy on our camper, treating it like a second home. I could no longer just add it to our bundled policy covering home and auto as I had done in previous years. So, the definition of a camper has been changed. I also pay the county personal property taxes on my camper.

My second concern is that since the nation is turning toward the “Tiny Homes” movement, which incorporates these as permanent homes on wheels that can be moved as wanted, what will Louisa County consider in this situation? I saw a “tiny house” listed in the newspaper for $30,000 last week in Culpeper. It is on wheels. Come on Louisa. You need to change the law. We have to be flexible for the upcoming movement.

Lewalta Haney

Editor’s note: this first appeared in the May 18th edition of the Central Virginian, and is re-posted with the author’s permission, and is only available via hard copy or online to paying subscribers

Dave Brat’s Horrible, Terrible No Good Problem with the First Amendment

Question: When is a Congressman’s “Town Hall” not really a Town Hall?

Answer: When it is held in a house of worship on private property.

Freedom Caucus Member Rep. Dave Brat (R-VA-7) hosted his second Town Hall of 2017 on May 9, 2017 at the Clover Hill Assembly of God in Chesterfield County, Virginia, the home church of his co-host for the event, state Senator Amanda Chase. Well known to the national and international media for his January 2017 remarks, “the WOMEN are in my grill…to hold a Town Hall”, Brat’s only previous Town Hall in 2017 was held in a tiny restaurant in Blackstone, VA, a remote rural area of his district at which signs and posters were forbidden and questions had to be submitted on note cards, provided at the event, to a moderator who then selected which ones Brat would be asked.

Brat followed up with two “pop up” town hall meetings: one at a small tire shop and the other at another small restaurant- “pop up” because he only gave 24 hours’ notice of the events and held them on weekdays in the middle of the week at times when most of his constituents would be at work.

Following the Blackstone event, the Virginia ACLU notified Brat in writing that forbidding signs and posters at his Town Hall events was a violation of his constituents’ Constitutional rights to free speech.

Immediately following the House of Representatives’ narrow passage of the AHCA bill on May 4, 2017, Brat announced by email that a Town Hall for his district which would be held during the ten-day House recess. The email laid out the rules:

1.) admission would be by ticket only. A limited number of free tickets would be available online. No person without a ticket would be permitted inside the Town Hall. The Town Hall would start at 7 PM with ticket holders admitted beginning at 6:30 PM. A wait list was available for those unable to confirm a ticket. Wait list individuals would be admitted at 6:55 PM if space was available.

2.) “In order to facilitate a meeting where everyone can have an unobstructed view, and where we do not leave litter behind in the facility; no signs, placards, banners, or flyers will be permitted in the meeting.”

No information was given as to the total number of tickets available, the number allocated in advance to Brat supporters, or the number allocated to Sen. Chase and her supporters.

Tickets were seized quickly once announced. Those trying to obtain one after 30 minutes, were told the event was sold out and they could sign up for the wait list. On the afternoon of the event, however, a second Brat email went out which said,” All tickets available for the event are accounted for at this time. We do not anticipate granting entrance to anyone who is not holding a ticket that is in their name (we will be checking photo ID at the door). And because it is private property and on-site parking is limited, no one will be admitted to the parking lot without a ticket.” The Virginia ACLU was notified and promptly sent another letter to Brat sternly reminding him that prohibiting signs, posters and banners at his public Town Hall event would be considered a First Amendment violation.

With two public schools available across the street and dozens more in his district, the decision to hold the event in a private property church was a strategic one on Brat’s part.

It allowed him to skirt the Virginia ACLU’s earlier warnings about free speech infringement. As private property owners, the church leadership would be free to set the rules regarding admission, denying admission and presence of signs, banners, flyers and posters on their property. Additionally, the church owners could, and did, have armed Chesterfield County police posted at the driveway entrance checking for tickets, at the church doors, and inside the church turning aside anyone with a sign, poster or banner, forcing them to go to a sidewalk across the country road.

Ticket holders lined up at the church doors beginning at 5:45 PM and were individually checked to make sure their photo ID exactly matched the name on the ticket. No wait-listed individuals were admitted at 6:55PM. Instead these individuals were denied entrance and ordered to exit church grounds. The church doors were then closed and guarded by armed Chesterfield County police. Inside the church, estimates of the crowd were 400-500 people, but live streaming video showed rows and rows of empty seats even 20 minutes after the meeting had begun.

Hearing of the empty seats from their friends inside, some people from across the road approached the church doors asking to be admitted since seating was available. Police officers politely but firmly said no and escorted them back across the road.

Reporters from most local, national and international media covered the event. These journalists, whose first mission is to investigate and inform the public, duly noted the crowd size and tone. Click bait adjectives “rowdy”, “raucous”, “unruly”, “booing”, “jeering”, “interrupting” were widely used, Although the press is currently under attack by this administration and a journalist in West Virginia was arrested that same afternoon for asking a question of HHS Tom Price, the First Amendment, did not seem to be on any of the reporter’s radar.

No one from the media commented on the implications of holding a meeting as a civic voice for constituents in a house of worship, Christian worship at that, given that other venues were readily available.

The crowd of people across the street, numbering over 100 individuals, staged a Die In. One outraged would-be-participant made a video of the group of people gathered there, expressing their frustrations and clearly stating the First Amendment violations that were being perpetuated by Brat and Chase and being ignored by the media.

Citizens Blocked from Rep. Brat's Town Hall

On May 9, 2017 Rep. Dave Brat strategically hosted a "public" town hall on private property and enlisted Chesterfield Police Department in blocking constituents from filling empty seats at the event. Brought to you by VA 7th District Concerned Citizens.

Posted by VA 7th District Concerned Citizens on Wednesday, May 10, 2017

When the Town Hall began with a Christian prayer offered by the church pastor, members of the audience held up red pieces of paper to show their disapproval of this. Throughout the 90- minute meeting, which dealt primarily with attendees’ objections to the recently passed healthcare bill, Sen. Chase repeatedly scolded the crowd for their boisterousness, at one point standing up and shouting, “This is MY Town Hall now…so sit down.” and threatened to remove noisy people from the building. She ordered the armed police officers to the center aisle to implement this. The police didn’t remove anyone.

Brat reminded the crowd, as he does multiple times in every meeting, that he is an economist and that he went to seminary. (Brat’s economic theory is based on his Calvinist beliefs.) He returned to his favorite themes of  the Judeo-Christian foundations of our country and health care as a predictable free market commodity. When a questioner said that health care is a human right, Brat countered the question with, “.”I don’t think y’all want the separation of church and state (…) In the west rights come from God”.

In a press interview immediately following the event, Brat was asked how excited he was about the bill, he replied, “I’m a Calvinist,” he said. “I’m the frozen chosen. I’m an economist. So, it’s like—excitement? Whatever.” He also added, “I don’t think people get that excited on policy in general,”

Chase added that it is the responsibility of the church, not the government to protect the poor, needy and vulnerable. “If a person needs help they should join a church.”

Rep. Dave Brat and Virginia State Senator Amanda Chase

Historically, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison (both of whom Brat quotes frequently when it suits his purpose) disagreed on several issues in their writings, but on one thing they were both clear: separation of church from government is essential and must be preserved. Madison wrote:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

They were so committed to this belief that they enshrined it as the First Amendment to the newly-written Constitution of the fledgling nation. All other rights which they listed in the following nine Amendments known as the Bill of Rights, come secondary to these First Amendment rights.

Choosing a church as venue for the Town Hall was a calculated move by Dave Brat to infringe upon the First Amendment rights of those who wished to attend.

It was the critical first decision from which all other decisions for the event could legally follow, like toppling dominos. Because of that first choice by Brat, the subsequent decisions by the church leaders could not be disputed. Hence, as private property owners, the church leaders were within their rights to restrict attendance and deny wait-listed individuals from entry to a public Town Hall event. They were also within their rights to prohibit signs, banners, flyers and posters on their property and require that the audience submit questions on note cards instead of verbally to Brat.

Why would a Congressman host a Town Hall meeting in a church when multiple other public venues were available? Was his intention really to listen to his constituents’ concerns as their elected representative and to respond to them? What happened that night, and in the emails from Brat’s office leading up to it, was a clear and intentional assault upon the principle of separation of church and state on which our country is founded and the accompanying First Amendment rights to Free Speech and Free Assembly.

Dave Brat imposed his personal Christian beliefs on his constituents and allowed that belief system to control and exclude them, hoping no one would notice or call him on it.

In the current administration, we have become increasingly dependent on a free press to provide accurate information and analysis of a rapidly changing and fearfully-confusing time for our nation. It’s not uncommon for politicians to give talks to church congregations. In some Congressional districts, Town Halls are held in churches because the church is the largest space for public gathering, but that’s not the case in Brat’s district and certainly not in Chesterfield County. The fact then that no one in the media recognized this as a violation and sounded an alarm is especially worrisome. Perhaps if the co-host had been a non-Christian and had held the event in a non-Christian house of worship and had begun it with a non-Christian prayer, the flagrant violation would have been more apparent and noted.

Brat has greased a slippery slope. His deliberate decision to use a house of worship instead of a nondenominational venue for a civic event is not an inconsequential occurrence but rather a skillful ploy to “manage” his constituents into a situation that is less threatening to himself, but very threatening to their constitutional rights. It is an act of insidious guerrilla warfare on our most important constitutional rights. Failure to respond to his actions with strenuous public and media objections will “normalize” this abnormal, unacceptable and unconstitutional action and set precedent for further encroachment. If we don’t seize this opportunity to make our voices heard loudly, clearly and to multiple audiences, this experience will not be the last time Dave Brat or other elected officials employ this method to control and exclude their constituents

Maggie Dolan

Editors Note: this article has been reprinted with the author’s permission and originally appeared online here and here.