All posts by amynomous

Winter of discontent is coming

Last week’s CV featured a lengthy piece about corporate funding of the General Assembly’s members, and how it affects their votes. In a reversal of their usual pattern of editorial pages filled with misleading syndicated content followed by short local letters, this op-ed was accompanied by two local letters filled with half truths.

Like Mr. Darden’s, Fix the tax code claiming Republicans controlling the House and Senate couldn’t pass any meaningful legislature because of the president. Does he seriously expect anyone to forget the reason they were so spectacularly ineffective, and shut down the government was their obstructionism? Or will buy his free market framing that “tax reform” will somehow make things fairer for small businesses?

When implementing policies that create more and better paying jobs will do far more to simulate the economy and help small businesses than any tax reform could, simply because people have more money to spend.

Then again, you could keep putting up pictures of Obama, with graphics screaming:

Mr. Arnold’s Executive orders out of hand almost got it right with his claims that Presidential executive orders are a “threat to our democracy as a whole.” Along with why the Republican dominated Congress “vacated their responsibility … in the sharing of governmental power…”  Only failing to note that Republicans never intended to share power under any circumstances, or that such usage of executive orders is a red flag of a dysfunctional government.

Or connecting Republicans acting “unpatriotically,” making it their “mission to see the Obama administration failed,” and the consequences of those actions. As circular logic goes, it’s hard to beat a solution which causes the very problem it’s supposed to fix

 

Now that we have a Twittler in the White House, McConnell and his Senatorial allies think they can repeal the ACA with minimal debate. A job made easier by a corporate media, who barely reports on what is happening, allowing Republicans to get away with hypocritical claims that “you won’t be loosing coverage; you’ll be gaining freedom of choice.” Expecting you to believe this is just like Baskins-Robbins when they run out of your favorite flavor; you have other choices, when in fact there are none.

The Republican Party has adopted intentional misinformation—propaganda—to sell policies which directly damage the public, trying every fantasy they can think of, like Kris Kobach’s Election Integrity Commission which asked every state for all of their voter information, including your social security number. The fact that 45 Secretaries of States, including many Republican’s told him to go “jump in a lake” says much.

With hypocrisy being a conservative virtue, it remains to be seen how many these red states have already purged enough Democrats to ensure victory in future elections. And Kobach’s long and sordid history of voter suppression with his Interstate Crosscheck program is well documented.

But ridiculing Trump’s commission and blithely dismissing Kobach’s latest attempt at raising the voter fraud flag misses the longer-term Republican Party strategy. Because Kobach is such a rich target, the overseer of an interstate voter data-matching consortium whose analytics are so sloppily executed they routinely creates lists of hundreds of thousands of false positives—people purportedly voting twice because they share the same name. That allows highly partisan secretaries of state, such as Georgia Republican Brian Kemp, to claim that a crisis exists, when it doesn’t, and then seek to purge tens of thousands of Democrats from the voter rolls.

What’s really happening needs to be watched beyond the buffoonish politics of the moment and the presidential panel’s clumsy opening steps. Kobach and a handful of other Republican statewide election managers and lawyers—the same crew that were running federal election oversight under George W. Bush—have found weaknesses or ambiguities in federal election laws, such as the National Voter Registration Actor the NVRA, , or “motor voter” — which outlines registration requirements and procedures, in an attempt to further restrict who can vote.

Their motive is simple. They know their aging white base is a shrinking in a diversifying nation. Philosophically, they believe fewer but better qualified voters are perfectly acceptable. Make no mistake, Republicans can and will eliminate unfavorable voters everywhere they can, and such actions will be a taste of things to come.

Jon Taylor

Editor’s note: this is a modified version of a letter submitted to Louisa’s paper of record, the Central Virginian.

 

Monkey puzzles and lawmakers: make ‘em take the pledge!

It’s a little mystery that Louisa-area voters have almost figured out, but not quite. Why are the realtors, the health industry, the beer wholesalers and bankers, coal operators and electric utilities shoving all that cash into the Virginia legislature?

Puzzles plus money produce the view that the money explains the puzzles,” legal scholar Lawrence Lessig has written. “In a line: We don’t trust our government.”

If he’s talking about you, you have lots of company. Three-quarters of American voters — nearly equal numbers in both parties — are convinced that Congress is for sale. Given its record, the Virginia legislature can’t make a credible claim to higher public confidence, either.

William Black, a former bank regulator, summarizes the ordinary citizen’s street-level, tragic view when he writes that “a campaign contribution always generates the best return on investment.” But your government’s yours, not Dominion Energy’s. It’s not for the benefit of the roster of corporate high-rollers that have given large amounts to this area’s lawmakers — although we keep electing them.

So the missing puzzle piece is this: if they’re making monkeys of us and we know it, what can we do about it? And you can find the answer in Roanoke.

Start here: forty-five House of Delegates candidates so far, mostly Democrats, have signed a pledge that they’ll refuse to accept campaign cash from Appalachian Power and Dominion Energy, the two state-regulated electric power monopolies. Among them is Melissa Dart, a candidate for delegate in this area’s District 56. Arlington’s Rip Sullivan (D-48) has also refused to take Dominion money.

But Roanoke’s Sam Rasoul, a 35-year-old management consultant who has served in the House of Delegates since 2014, has gone even further. He has announced that he’ll refuse campaign donations not only from Dominion and Appalachian, but any “gifts” above $5,000 from anyone. In fact, he will take no more campaign cash at all from special interest PACS and corporations.

Rasoul’s a Democrat, but “…it is conservatives who should be leading the fight for campaign-finance reform,” Richard Painter of the University of Minnesota Law School has written. “Why should conservative voters care? First, big money in politics encourages big government. . . . When politicians are dependent on campaign money from contractors and lobbyists, they’re incapable of holding spending programs to account.”

So whether you’re conservative, green, libertarian or liberal, here’s the question: can your legislator explain why it’s okay to accept “donations” from the two power companies and still cast votes on legislation that affects not only their profits, but also our electric bills and, crucially, our environment? For that matter, why is it legitimate to take money from any corporate interests who also have legislative needs that should not pre-empt the public interest?

The non-profit, non-partisan Virginia Public Access Project provides local data. Louisa County State Senator Bryce Reeves (R-17) has received $14,000 from Dominion and Sen. Mark Peake (R-22), $500. They have, of course, also taken donations from other corporate interests.

Meanwhile, those same public servants who take Dominion’s money have voted on countless Dominion-related bills, listened to the pitches of the sturdy corps of Dominion lobbyists. Overall, the legislature has handed the company a lengthening series of legislative home runs worth hundreds of millions of dollars — perhaps a billion or two by some estimates. And they routinely vote on legislation affecting the bankers, realtors, beer wholesalers, the health industry and their other benefactors.

Don’t accept their easy answer: “I need the money to get elected.” Realistically: they don’t need Dominion Energy money. And they should fight to transition our politics away from the other corporate payouts. Vermont, Connecticut and conservative Arizona have figured that out, with voluntary donation limits and public financing for candidates. Is your state senator or delegate pushing, noisily, for that? Why not? Never too late to start.

This isn’t a partisan issue. In fact, Dominion has given more than $7.5 million to legislators of both parties since 2006 — $826,000 in 2016-17 alone. It is Virginia’s top corporate donor. Its biggest recipient is a Democrat, though the Republicans have taken in more Dominion donations, over all.

So ask each of your legislators and candidates: Will you pledge to reject that kind of campaign cash from now on, or fight to make public financing a major issue? Can you at least decline donations from the state-regulated utilities, Dominion Energy and Appalachian Power? If you think it’s okay to accept their money, then will you pledge to abstain from voting on legislation involving those interests?

And get ‘em on the record. We’d all like to know.

Stephen Nash

Editors Note: this article has been re-posted with the author’s permission and is only available online to paid subscribers of the Central Virginian.

 

From the embassy: Doing America’s job abroad

As a career Foreign Service Officer, I took great pride for 27 years representing our country at our diplomatic posts overseas.

The job of the embassy is multi-fold. We measured political stability. We measured internal ethnic frictions. We might make a note of which ethnicity controlled which part of the government or economy. We measured economic performance. We watched social trends and human hopes as visa applicants flowed through the doors.

Because of our language training, we could gather information from all sectors of the host country, not just their English-speaking elite. We tried to understand, and report back to Washington, how events in our host country affected the United States and what, if anything, we might do, to influence them in a favorable way.

Not being part of the host society, we — the dispassionate outside observers — could, as it were, observe from arm’s length. We tried to report facts that could be supported and from these facts, offer commentary as to what, in our professional judgment, their impact might be on the host country, its neighbors, and ourselves.

I often wonder what embassies in Washington now make of our America. They would notice the sharp decline in the use of the State Department professionals. The 30 percent budget cut says it all. In effect, there has already been a massive cut as hundreds of high level positions remain unfilled. Between Secretary Rex Tillerson and the most senior remaining Foreign Service professional is a yawning chasm.

Washington’s embassies would feel this gap because their usual contacts are missing. Washington embassies would also report back media reports suggesting the Secretary wants to fill these positions with talented people, as opposed to White House nominees.

Washington embassies may report that it appears that the State Department is not the gatekeeper it once was. Modern diplomacy is made of many parts, one of which is expert record keeping so that our side knows what our senior officials said and promised so that the working level can act in concert with the leadership. In the case of the current administration where high-level audiences are often in the White House or Mar-a-Largo, often without the attendance of the Secretary of State, the absence of any consistent standard note taking procedures offers myriad opportunities for later misunderstanding.

Washington embassies will note that at the end of the president’s first trip the White House announced arms sales to Saudi Arabia and joined in Saudi criticism of Qatar. Only later do we find Tillerson expressing some criticism of the rhetorical attacks on Qatar and other Saudi policies. Then they learned that we were selling Qatar sophisticated aircraft. What are they to make of this lack of consistency, which used to be an American hallmark.

In congressional testimony last week, Tillerson said he was looking to cut back on special envoy and special representative positions to empower regional bureaus to take control of their issue areas. The State Department is planning to eliminate the position of Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, for example.

Yet, the president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, will travel to Israel and join Jason Greenblatt, President Trump’s chief negotiator in the conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians. Washington embassies will note the mixture of business and diplomacy in this case or in the case of Kushner going to China and touting investor visas.

A retired CIA analyst recently wrote that the president’s tweets are an excellent source of his thinking. If you want to manipulate someone, you need to know how they think. President Trump is quite vain. The Saudi Government noted that and went all out with its hospitality. The Pope apparently was not as generous with his praise.

Washington embassies, as neutral observers, are reporting all this to their capitals. Certainly, they are reporting on, and evaluating the consequences of, the president’s denunciation of the American media and his attacks on American intelligence agencies on whom they also depend.

Foreign countries are beginning to respond to an America that has abdicated its role as thoughtful uncle; encouraging and guiding others to find non-confrontational ways to resolve problems. In the pending German election campaign Prime Minister Angela Merkel’s opposition is trying to gain traction by accusing her of being “soft” on Trump.

The former president of Mexico has sharply responded to Trump’s characterization of his country. Canadian officials have started a program of closer cooperation with America at the state-level, because they have little confidence in American federal authorities. A worldwide Pew survey finds America’s reputation falling.

Americans are nervous contemplating North Korea with one bomb and one missile. The Europeans must be beside themselves contemplating American weakened support against the second largest nuclear power, their backyard neighbor, Russia.

Washington embassies are as excellent reporters of us as we were of them. They are as good as their American counterparts while reporting about America, warts and all. One can only imagine the tone and tenor of their reporting cables now.

Dave Reuther

Editor’s note: this article is re-posted with the author’s permission, and originally appeared here.

Additional editorial comment: Mr. Reuther’s piece doesn’t begin to capture the devastation which Tillerson has wreaked on the State Department, or that his actions are part of this administrations effort to “deconstruct” the Government. And the consequences will be as predictable as they are tragic

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Louisa loses big under Senate health care bill

Last week, the GOP Senate released its version of the new health care bill that will replace the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). If you think you and your family won’t be affected by it, think again.

There are major areas that could affect most residents in our county – cuts to the school system and cuts that will affect people who are in nursing homes. This is in addition to the working people who will lose their healthcare because the ACA subsidies will be cut and insurance will become unaffordable.

The Louisa County school system will lose $206,990 in federal Medicaid funding for services for students under this health bill. Many of these services are for students who need special education services or have disabilities. Because these services are mandated by law, they cannot be just taken out of the budget. They will have to be provided and paid for by Louisa County in its budget. Where does Louisa County get most of its money? It collects taxes from us. A tax increase might be necessary to fund these deficits and that affects all of us.

The second area that may touch the lives of those who think they will be unaffected is the funding provided by Medicaid for those in nursing homes. Medicaid pays for most of the 1.4 million people in nursing homes across the nation. A lot of those patients paid for years of care privately in assisted living but, when their savings ran out, they had to rely on Medicaid to pay for skilled care in nursing homes. Maybe you have a family member in a nursing home in the area and this will affect you. Are you ready to take them into your home to care for them? Many of us will need these skilled nursing home services later in life. You just don’t know what the future holds in store for you.

Very few of us are safe from the drastic measures in this new health care bill that Congress is proposing. Whether you will lose your health care directly from the cuts or you have children receiving services in school or you have family in nursing homes or you have a pre-existing condition, this Senate bill will affect your life and not for the better. The Affordable Care Act gave us coverage and protections that just don’t exist in the new bill. Don’t let Congress wipe out the progress and protections we have gained in health care. Contact your senators and congressional representatives today and let them know that you support the Affordable Care Act and you want it fixed but NOT repealed.

JoAnna Hickman

Editors Note: this article has been re-posted with the author’s permission and is only available online to paid subscribers of the Central Virginian.

Health care requires insurance

In America, proper health care is tied to access to health insurance. Furthermore, a lack of health insurance generally means a lack of preventive care until conditions advance to the point where they are financial and health disasters.

The demand at free health clinics in Virginia continues to rise, especially in the economically depressed parts of the commonwealth. Yet the Republican-dominated legislature refused to take the federal money in the Affordable Care Act, which would cover 400,000 citizens, and instead sent the money to other states. California thanks you.

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts tackled the health care problem with state-wide health care insurance reform in the early 2000s when Republican Gov. Mitch Romney was in office. The Massachusetts example became the template for the Affordable Care Act that passed Congress in March 2010.

At that time, the Democratic-led Congress held numerous hearings on the Affordable Care Act. Dozens of Republican amendments were added to the bill during that process. Despite the legislative compromises with Republicans, doctors, insurance companies, and the pharmaceutical industry, no Republicans voted for the ACA and have voiced opposition ever since. Misrepresentations became the coin of the realm, such as the false charges that ACA instituted death panels and funded abortions.

Now that the Republicans control Congress and the presidency, they are bound and determined to end the movement for a more equitable health care insurance system. Again, misrepresentation is the name of the game: male congressmen saying they should not have to pay for insurance that covers women, while that same insurance covers ED pills, prostate treatment and vasectomies.

The issue is health insurance, people, not politics. The conservative mantra would be like saying there should be one insurance policy for houses that burn down and one for houses that don’t. The idea of insurance is to aggregate the population, not separate it into expensive, small groups. Covering everybody lowers the costs for all.

Lowering—or at least stabilizing—health care insurance costs should be the target of all proposals. Of course, health insurance in the U.S. is a for-profit industry, so your policy dollars go to the inflated salaries, stock market dividends and other corporate expenses before your health professional’s costs get paid.

Conservatives argue that market competition will lower health care costs. When you look at what the EpiPen people did, you realize that there is little, if any, market competition in the individual products and services that make up health care. The May AARP Bulletin extensively reported on the excessive cost of medicines in America. Competition doesn’t start with the patient, it starts with the pharmaceutical industry, which may be littered with less than free market monopolies.

The current Republican legislative package was pulled when it was obvious that the Tea Party-based Freedom Caucus wouldn’t back it because they judged it didn’t go far enough to kill the ACA.

But the legislation found new life through an amendment permitting states to request waivers that would allow insurers to charge higher premiums to people with pre-existing conditions. This was a point of considerable contention during Congressman Dave Brat’s Midlothian town hall where he insisted the bill protected people with pre-existing conditions and the audience knew that states could and would receive, under the current administration, waivers.

It is not clear whether Brat is kidding himself or just trying to again pull the wool over the public’s eyes over pre-existing conditions.

According to AARP, 25 million people ages 50-64 have a pre-existing condition and would face much higher premiums under the Republican proposal—thousands of dollars a year—that in many cases would be unaffordable.

Supporters of the bill, such as Brat, maintained that people with pre-existing conditions could be cared for through high-risk pools. High-risk pools would not spread costs over a broad population, but confine them to a narrow population.

An analysis by AARP’s Public Policy Institute found that premiums in such pools could reach unaffordable levels—as much as $25,700 a year in 2019. In the past, high-risk pools have put such an onerous financial burden on states that insurance benefits were scaled back and enrollment in them was capped.

The CBO looked at the latest bill and calculated the legislation would lead to a loss of coverage for 23 million Americans over the next decade. It also agreed the bill would also worsen the fiscal outlook for Medicare by reducing the program’s revenue.

These dire predictions demonstrate why the Congress will not allow public hearings and open discussion of the Republican bill that affects one-sixth of our economy, that would raise health care costs for millions of Americans and that would deny coverage to millions more. Nevertheless, if the current Republican bill passes, they own the consequences that are understandably dire for the very people that voted Republican. Buyer beware.

Dave Reuther

Editors Note: this article has been re-posted with the author’s permission and originally appeared here.

 

 

Brat doesn’t know his Constituents

In a recent email from Dave Brat requesting donations for his re-election next year, he said he was dismayed by reactions at town hall meetings from people who did not understand why he voted for the Republicans’ American Health Care Act.

Undoubtedly, Dave doesn’t know much about his constituents.

The majority of the people in the 7th District are not part of the upper 1 percent. The only rich people in this district are some who have transplanted themselves to the country for a quieter life.

Under the Republican health care act, spending for Medicaid will be reduced by almost $900 billion. Older people can be charged more than others. The number of illnesses considered to be pre-existing will increase as states seek waivers in federal provisions.

The offset is that the upper 1 percent of taxpayers will see a $1 trillion reduction of taxes.

In other words, to Brat and his Republican teammates, it is more important to give millionaires and billionaires more tax breaks than it is to provide basic, life-saving health care to the less fortunate. Sound good to you? Not to me.

The health care act is just the beginning of Donald Trump’s war on 99 percent of Americans. His budget calls for cuts to social programs (fuel assistance, Meals on Wheels, Medicaid, food stamps, and nursing homes for elderly who can’t otherwise afford it). In his usual fashion, Brat will vote for the party, not his constituents.

When did we become a country that cares more about the upper 1 percent than we do about the rest of us?

Trump’s budget proposal will be even worse for the lower and middle classes, but you can bet Brat will vote for his party, not for his constituents.

Deanna Nicosia

Editors Note: this article has been re-posted with the author’s permission and originally appeared here.

 

 

This country always helped the poor

In his letter, “Democrats need to grow up,” William Hollins writes: “For the past eight years Democrats were in control of this country and we have gone downhill.” I don’t know what country Hollins has been living in, but based upon his comments, it surely wasn’t the U.S. And as for how the Republican Congress treated President Obama, it is the opposite of what he remembers. Almost seven of the eight years Obama was in office, Republicans controlled Congress. They were very vocal about their desire to ensure that Obama failed. When he was re-elected for a second term I don’t think there were a half-dozen times that the Republican Congress supported him.

Hollins’ belief that if members of Congress will not support the president, they need to be replaced, has merit. Unfortunately, most of the Republican congressional members were not replaced and remain in office.

The only hope the U.S. has to return to what the nation was founded upon is that Republicans do not support Trump. We began as a country of immigrants. When neighbors were in need, they were given help. When they needed medical attention, doctors took care of them whether they could pay or not. Now Trump wants to gut programs that help the poor with plans to cut food stamps and Medicaid.

I would highly recommend that Hollins do some thorough research about the past seven years in Washington and what our country was like when it was founded.

Deanna Nicosia

Editors Note: this article has been re-posted with the author’s permission and originally appeared here.

Your 56th District Candidates

Having followed the two Democratic candidates running for the open 56th district House of Delegates seat for the past few months, I’ve had a chance to listen to them speak at several Indivisible Louisa and Louisa Democratic Committee meetings. Watched them demonstrate their poise, passion and willingness to be forceful advocates for social and economic justice in public forums.

So here’s an examination of their positions just before the primaries.

Most of you reading this already know they participated in two “Meet the Candidates” forums with the six Republicans candidates running for this seat. The first of these meetings was held at the Mineral VFW last month, and covered by our local paper the Central Virginian. And while their take of what happened that night may have gotten many of the details, it was noticeably light on the nuances, something which caught the attention of the Democrats attending that evening.

Two weeks later, they printed all of the candidate’s responses to five questions about how they would represent the people of Louisa County in the House of Delegates. Given the space restraints on any detailed responses, its worth noting that Melissa Dart’s and Lizzie Drucker-Basch’s answers were well formed and nuanced. So without further ado, here’s the first question;

Why do you want to represent Louisa County as a delegate?

 Melissa Dart

In traveling around the 56th district, I’ve heard many concerns about educational funding, access to affordable health care and environmental quality. And many people I’ve spoken with have been affected by the General Assembly’s refusal to expand Medicaid. I will do everything within in my power for all families [in the 56th] to have access to the healthcare, education and resources that they need to support themselves and their families

And at the second candidate forum held at Goochland High School last week, she added “With everything happening in our world and our community, I’m compelled to speak for everyone, but most of all, for those who are not in a position to speak for themselves.”

Lizzie Drucker-Basch

People are more important than party, and I will bring common sense solutions that will improve people’s quality of life. As a small business owner and a background in social work, I firmly believe that you can serve the community while running a successful business and the two are not mutually exclusive!

For years, the 56th District has been largely ignored, and it’s time to start to legislate quality of life issues such as adequate funding for accessible health care, education, clean drinking water and air, broadband for everyone, particularly in the rural areas.

Also at the second candidate forum, Lizzie followed up on those remarks with the observation “We can’t do this in sound bites, we have different ideas…. But what we need to focus on most are the values that we have in common.”

And now the second question; Which regulations would you change to strengthen the state’s job and business climate?

 Melissa Dart

We need to lower barriers for small businesses, and level the playing field between them and large corporation, especially when it comes to taxes.  Remarks she expanded on at the second candidate forum, where she talked about removing corporate loopholes, ensuring that everyone pays their fair share.  And continuing with her interview with the CV she elaborated on the need to devote resources to retraining workers in new and emerging technologies and jobs if we are to be successful now and in the future.

And at the second candidate forum, she talked about the myth of environmental regulations keeping businesses from prospering, saying “I don’t accept that,” and without sensible regulations to protect the air we breathe, our water, and the food we eat, what would be the true cost ?

Lizzie Drucker-Basch

When talking with the CV, she said we should examine regulations on an individual basis, asking are they effective and achieving their purpose? And recognize that small businesses have more financial and practical difficulties with implementing regulations than large corporations, and that we need to consider the consequences of those regulations. She also added that she I believes in continuing the Governor’s work in expanding Virginia as a pro business state.

(Editor’s Note: since the Great Recession in 2009 Virginia has slipped from first place to thirteenth)

The third question; What will you do to improve the quality and access to health care in Louisa and the surrounding area?

Melissa Dart

It’s time for increased transparency so patients can make the best choices about where they receive care, most insurance plans encourage doctors and hospitals to treat illness rather than maintain health. It’s time for the state to encourage [insurance] contracts which keep Virginians healthier and keep more of their money in their pockets.

Lizzie Drucker-Basch

Consumer protections from insurance companies, there should be no discrimination because of pre-existing conditions and putting people in high risk pools. And by keeping people insured and maintain their health, and not have to rely on emergency rooms and clinics to manage their health care needs.

Followed by question number four; What changes do you seek to school programs for children in grades K-12?

Melissa Dart

At the Goochland forum, she talked about her concerns for education in the Commonwealth [and the nation] with Betsy DeVos in charge of the Department of Education, and Congressional Republicans ready to support her in diverting Federal monies to charter schools. And since public education is already under funded at the state level, the House of Delegates should be careful not to divert addition monies from Virginia’s public schools.

It needs to be said that her response came on the heels of one of the strangest sequences of questions from the audience for the candidates, a chain of events which started with Dr. Dhakar who was asked about his faith, followed by Melissa about her religion.  Questions that were so out in left field, that Lizzie remarked later at another meeting “I was floored when I heard them.”

To their credit, both candidates handled those questions well, with the Dr. Dhakar saying he believed in karma, while Melissa talked about the need for a true separation of church and state, irony’s which from all appearances were lost on the audience. 

In her interview with the CV, she talked about a need for schools not to just prepare students for college, but also offer skills training, and vocational programs, particularly those with apprenticeships. She also talked less emphasis on teaching to the test [coincidentally mandated by the General Assembly, via the dreaded SOL’s] and returning the freedom and flexibility that teachers need to teach our children.

Lizzie Drucker-Basch

 We are still funding the state education system at 2009 rates, and despite having a constitutional duty to fund K-12 education. The General Assembly has been playing shell game with lottery, literary, and general funds to coble together enough money to paying for educating the children of Virginia, deeds which have reduced funding by approximately $628 per student.

What I am charging hard for, is to make sure we exceed those [pre 2009] levels, since we are now funding our schools at pre-recession levels

It’s worth noting that in the second candidate forum at Goochland High School earlier this month, when talking about how our public schools deserve proper funding just  how hard she was grilled by several Republican poltroons armed with disingenuous questions along the lines of “since throwing money at the problem isn’t working, why should we spend more?” And when she responded by pointing out those questions were based on a false premise, that the state is already spending less on public education, and fully funding Virginia’s public school system is a constitutional requirement. When the real question should be, why aren’t we fully funding our public schools?

Afterwards she added state funding doesn’t include any funding for administrative staff, forcing localities to make up the difference. Given the resulting silence, it wasn’t clear if the flacks were suffering from cognitive dissonance, or didn’t get the response they were hoping for.

Apparently short circuited by the argument that investing in our children through a high quality public education system is worthwhile, and for decades it has proven to be one the best ways to secure our future.

And perhaps better left unsaid given the audience, was the obvious reality that Republicans in the House of Delegates have been systematically under funding our public school system for over nine years, and that these actions are a strongest indication of the lengths they are willing to go to serve their free market ideology, oblivious to anything, except keeping their wealthy benefactors afloat while robbing from future generations.

And finally, What infrastructure projects would you prioritize?

Editor’s Note: This question more than any other highlights the stark contrast between these two ladies and the depth of the Republican candidate’s ignorance and hypocrisy, where they all spouted variations of the free market will take care of everything. With some like Graven Craig being so ideologically “pure” that he’s even against private/public projects like Louisa’s broadband initiative. Meanwhile Melissa and Lizzie clearly recognize the importance of communications infrastructure for education and a prosperous economy.

 Melissa Dart

We need to bring access to that last mile of connectivity to all parts of the state, especially rural areas like Louisa County. The lack of broadband is an issue which affects our ability to earn a living, our children’s education and even public safety.  Plain and simple, rural communities need access to these technological resources to compete in today’s economy.

We need broadband now, whether through Public/Private partnerships or some other means it has to happen.

 Lizzie Drucker-Basch

We need reliable, affordable broadband, and LTE, an abbreviation for (long term evolution) of high speed data service, a topic which cell phone users accessing the internet are painfully familiar with.  Access to broadband is a business and economic imperative, and an investment in our children’s education. The General Assembly needs to come up with initiatives and tax incentives for localities to promote broadband growth in rural areas like Louisa County, and that Louisa’s own broadband BB initiative should be supported by their delegate.

And finally, given what’s at stake, it’s appropriate to paraphrase from a blog run by one of Lizzie’s staff ­—the Republican party is on a dangerous trajectory, I am afraid to think of what will happen if they get their way with public education. What is important for us now, is that we act. Get your friends out to vote, and most importantly, don’t forget to vote on June 13th.

Jon Taylor

Another Meet the Candidates event

This past Saturday, I attended a Meet the Candidates event at Goochland High School for all eight of the candidates running for the open 56th House of Delegates seat. And in contrast to a previous “Meet the Candidates event in Mineral last month, there were many more questions from the audience. For their hard work, the Goochland County Tea Party, Goochland Republican Committee, and Goochland Democratic Party all deserve a hand for a well managed and informative event.

After the opening remarks, the candidates were randomly selected for which order they would speak, giving their opening remarks, and then taking as many questions from the audience as time allowed. And it should be noted that slightly more than half way through this forum, Congressman Dave Brat showed up, taking a seat in the back of the auditorium.

According to the organizers, he was not “invited” to this event and chose to crash the gate so to speak. And from all reports, this in-your-face “pay attention to me” action was very similar to what he and the entire Republican contingent pulled when they crashed a historical society parade in Bon Air several weeks ago.

And the response to his presence was mixed; from holding court with Keith Flannagan the chair of the Goochland Tea Party, and Graven Craig, an attorney and candidate from Louisa while the candidates spoke. His presence was so “disruptive” that Flannagan had to publicly acknowledge his presence between speakers.  And apparently the remaining Republican candidates must have thought this was their cue to audition for his approval/endorsement, because almost immediately they started spouting “Bratisms.”

With John McGuire  suddenly peppering his responses with “market forces“, “supply and demand,” And the next guy Jay Prendergast, started talking about “market based solutions“, increasing health care access through “free market,’ and finally, Graven Craig who went so far as to cite some of Brat’s BS economic statistics.

Prompting one person in the audience to say afterwards; “OK, every candidate since Dave Brat showed up, was spouting the Brat Bingo Lingo- maybe they had microphones in their ears, and were psychically channeling him, or sucking up to him.” After the candidates finished speaking, the mediator declared a brief bathroom break before their final summary. And yet another opportunity for Graven Craig to bolt up the aisle to confer with Brat.

During this brief intermission and immediately after Tina Spinella Winkler spoke to him about being unable to get a meeting along with asking him some pointed questions, he slipped out the back, avoiding any other members of the audience. And from his and presumably the other Republican candidate’s perspective, it was “Mission Accomplished,” since they now had working outline of how to play their greatest distractions … I mean present their astro-turfed positions.

In the not so distant past, Republican’s spoke in carefully calculated “code,” words designed to activate strong emotional responses from their supporters. Now in the case of John McGuire; they just go straight to self promoting videos, and in Matt Pinsker’s case espousing a barely concealed appeal to racism and hatred of others; particularly liberal democrats, minorities, and especially anyone who isn’t like them.

With one person commenting later that the “…others are probably harboring similar ideas; Pinsker’s just the first to say it so overtly.” And to a man, all of the Republicans demonstrated their lack of knowledge of the issues,  giving misleading and evasive answers, particularly the two candidates from Louisa County, George Goodwin and Graven Craig.

And a particular shout out has to go to Mr. Craig who demonstrated his cluelessness about how important  access to the internet is in rural areas, when responding to a question about broadband in rural areas, and how the model being used in Louisa might be applied in other areas, saying “I’m against private/public partnerships,” without the slightest explanation. Contemptuously dismissing the reality of the impact that having access to reliable and affordable internet has on education and economic development.

Yet another reminder of the extent to which he is imitating AFP’s and Brat’s brand of Prosperity gospel.

Not to be outdone, Dr. Dhakar and Matt Pinsker demonstrated their cluelessness and callousness; starting with the good Doctors  diatribe about making sure that welfare moms only have one kid in order to keep health care cost affordable, to Pinsker’s claims that “We have to cut health care,”  without a single word of explanation. Free market sound bytes which encapsulate the Republican’s problem free philosophy on virtually every issue.

As previously mentioned; Graven Craig has been ingratiating himself with Dave Brat’s Freedom Caucus and the Tea Party, and from all appearances is willing to say anything to prove that he’s a “disciple” of their faith, like these fliers his supporters were handing out at this event.

Keep in mind that all of these endorsements (on the left) for him are from various members of the Goochland Tea Party who have seized control of most of the levers of power in that county. Nor was it any coincidence that the last time he showed up at a public event in Louisa, it was with Brat at last year’s Celebrating Democracy Day at Louisa High school, along with a Goochland Tea Party member.

According to the event’s organizer, the Goochland supervisor “was not invited as a candidate,” and “came with party members,” whether that’s an indication that the local conservative bench in Louisa county is so thin that the only way to keep up appearances was to bring in outside help remains unclear.

And even before the “Great Disruptor” graced us with his presence, several of the question directed to certain candidates came from Republican flacks in the audience, and were clearly framed in such a way to point out that  they weren’t members of their tribe. Like the questions asked of Dr. Dhakar and Melissa Dart about their “faith,” questions which weren’t asked of any other candidates.

Another attempt to define certain candidates as being somehow “different” came from Republican operative, Mark Hile who’s long winded question was a clumsy attempt to get one of the Democratic candidates to “agree” that there were circumstances where privatizing our public school system might be justified.

And like the previous candidate forum in Mineral, Lizzie Drucker-Basch pointed out on several occasions that some of the questions she was being asked were so “loaded” as to be virtually meaningless let alone answerable. This was not a coincidence, since those questions originated from the same authoritarian mindset that has wholeheartedly embraced the Republican mantra… I mean creed.

Testaments of faith which work because they are designed to short circuit any rational thought, feeding directly into long standing social and economic resentments, and carefully packaged to maximize their supporter’s anger and sense of outrage.

And unlike the above meme, this is not a temporary state of mind for many conservatives; it’s a deeply ingrained part of their culture, one which has proven highly resistant to any change.  And of particular concern in this open 56th Delegate seat are the subtle racist and phobic slings which are constantly being “normalized” by conservatives.

And it is one of societies greatest social fictions,  a convenient distraction which keeps  people from realizing the true magnitude of their fear and hatred of “others,” one that gives them a them a space so safe that even a snowflake couldn’t melt in which to project those same unspoken attitudes onto other, particularly liberals.

An assortment of prosecution complex’s which helps their supporters maintain the illusion that only they are members of the chosen tribe, making them even more willing to defend their tribe against any attack, or inconvenient facts. Like how all of the Republican candidates are preaching a modern day adaptation of Dominionist prosperity gospel.  A world view which as far as I can tell permeates the entire Party, aided and abetted by an incurious local media who have somehow failed to notice that these quasi-religious attitudes are being co-opted by front groups like American’s for Prosperity.

Or that they are backing other radical Republican state delegate candidates; like Nick Freitas, and Dave LaRock along with Congressman Brat. Doing everything they can to project the appearance of AstroTurfed … I mean widespread support for their ideas. And it’s quite likely they will be supporting which ever Republican survives this primary.

At least ones who are only interested in giving lip service to having any values, or at least ones which don’t conflict with AFP’s … I mean their corporate master’s agenda’s.

And it remains to be seen whether the people of Louisa will take advantage of this weekends Louisa Street Festival, or the Get out the Vote rally at the Louisa Arts Center to ask these candidates some hard questions before they cast their votes next Tuesday.

Jon Taylor

Editors Note: There will be two articles highlighting both of the Democratic candidates later this week.

When our worst nightmare is our president

Donald Trump is rapidly becoming the world’s worst nightmare. His latest outrage, unilaterally pulling the United States out of the Paris climate agreement, against the advice of most of his advisors and against the will of most Americans, continues his reckless pattern of irrational decision-making, fawning over strongmen and dictators, and ignoring the best interests of our country and the international community.

The United States would join Syria, which is somewhat busy with a civil war and ISIS, and Nicaragua, which didn’t think the Paris agreement went far enough, as the only countries in the entire world which are not part of the accord (there is considerable debate in the U.S. about whether the accord is a treaty requiring Senate approval, or an executive agreement, as Obama considered it—nonetheless, its guidelines are voluntary). This kind of myopic, xenophobic, irresponsibility is simply unacceptable. Like climate change, globalization is a fact of life, and mouthing stupid phrases like “make America great again,” is not going to improve the lives of any Americans.

The governors of New York, California and Washington, representing one-fourth of the American economy, are forming the United States Climate Alliance, a coalition of states devoted to upholding the Paris agreement and taking aggressive action on climate change. Along with many other cities and states, Governor McAuliffe has announced that Virginia will join this coalition. Our very own Congressman Dave Brat, on the other hand, remains Virginia’s chief Trump cheerleader.

We don’t want other leaders and other countries laughing at us anymore,” thundered Trump the other day, “and they won’t be.” Wrong, Donald. The entire planet has been laughing, and crying, ever since you were elected, and it is going to get worse, much worse. We have become the world’s laughingstock.

“Just returned from Europe. Trip was a great success for America. Hard work but big results!” Trump tweeted last week. Here’s what Germany’s top diplomat had to say about Trump’s first venture abroad:

Anyone who accelerates climate change by weakening environmental protection, who sells more weapons in conflict zones and who does not want to politically resolve religious conflicts is putting peace in Europe at risk. The short-sighted policies of the American government stand against the interests of the European Union. The West has become smaller, at least it has become weaker….”

Post-World War II academics and world leaders place the war’s start when Western Europe had neither the will nor the arms and equipment to resist Hitler’s demand to annex the Sudetenland—the German-speaking part of Czechoslovakia.

Heeding history’s lessons, including the American-led international response to Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait, the Obama administration led the effort to impose international sanctions for Russia’s unilateral violation of Ukraine’s borders when it invaded and illegally annexed Crimea and sent Russian soldiers into other Russian-speaking regions of Ukraine. How ironic, that more than 75 years after the Second World War ended, the German Chancellor has announced that Europe may have to go it alone, because Trump wants to appease Putin’s ruthless aggression. Republican Party leaders not only wanted to follow a different policy on Crimea, but humble their domestic opponents who had been highly critical of Russia for its aggression and its covert operations in Ukraine, which included shooting down Malaysian Airlines flight 17, killing all 283 passengers and 15 crew. The opportunity the Russians saw to relieve themselves of world condemnation required a Republican electoral victory. Russian intelligence had long targeted American military, industrial and intelligence communities, but American democratic politics was as undecipherable to them as some American pundits have observed. The Russians had tools, but needed guidance. They needed someone to tell them where to do their dirty work.

The Russians obviously saw an opening and started early in developing a relationship between Russian intelligence operatives and the Trump campaign team. Every day we are learning more about who and what was involved. The Russians were desperate to have crippling international sanctions lifted. The Republican candidate expressed sympathy. Late last week, The Hill newspaper reported that Trump administration officials pressed State Department staffers to develop plans for removing sanctions against Russia almost immediately after Trump took office in January.

Michael Flynn, national security advisor to the Trump campaign, was at the head table sitting next to Vladimir Putin in a December 2015 anniversary dinner for a Russian TV channel. At the same table was Green Party Leader Jill Stein. It is alleged that Flynn and Stein received money from the Russians before, during, and after this event. It is noteworthy that subsequently, Stein’s vote totals in the crucial states of Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan were all greater than Clinton’s margin of defeat, and arguably denied Clinton an Electoral College victory, despite her winning the popular election by more than three million votes.

Which brings us to the Trump family Russian scandals and Donald’s love affair with Vladimir Putin, the ruthless dictator who wants to bring down not only the United States, but also the entire European Community. The Russian story won’t go away while the Trump family hides its financial dealings, including Trump’s refusal to release his tax returns, contrary to all his post-WWII predecessors. Allegations of Russian money-laundering through German banks muddy the water even further. Every day, the revelations of the collusion of Trump’s closest advisors with the Russians to subvert our election just get worse and worse. Where will it end?

“Don’t Tread on Me” is no longer the exclusive slogan of the Tea Party. “Don’t Tread on Me” is a motto that all Americans can, and should, embrace. Resist, insist, persist, enlist. Donald Trump is America’s worst nightmare.

Mike McClary

Editors Note: this article has been re-posted with the author’s permission and originally appeared here.