Permit me to introduce you to Merle Rutledge, the Republican candidate for governor that no one is talking about. To be sure, his chances of winning the nomination are just about zero, but that’s no reason to pretend he doesn’t exist. Personally, I find his candidacy intriguing — not because I share his views, which I find extreme, but because of the light he sheds on an important political dynamic that isn’t getting nearly enough attention.
According to Essence magazine, 18% of black men voted for Donald Trump for president. That’s astonishing. Those voters didn’t attend elite universities like the people purporting to speak for the black race you see on CNN or MSNBC. They tend to be working class and middle class, they tend to be culturally conservative, and they, like their white counterparts, are worried about America’s fraying culture and the bankruptcy of Democratic Party prescriptions for society. Continue reading →
Amanda Chase. Credit: Scott Elmquist, Style Weekly
By Peter Galuszka
If ever one photo best describes what 2020 was like in Virginia, this shot, by the brilliant veteran photographer Scott Elmquist atStyle Weekly, shows it.
The photo is of state Sen. Amanda Chase, R-Chesterfield, at a July 4 rally at the capitol. Her defiant expression, the assault-style rifle and the over-the-top elephant skirt tell you what has become of the Virginia Republican Party, which hasn’t won a statewide public office in about a decade.
Chase is a pistol-packing, foul-mouthed, tough-talking show girl who is running for governor and backs the dangerous authoritarian tendencies of outgoing President Donald Trump. Chase is so extreme that her county GOP kicked her out.
Republicans were still so frightened of her that they decided to hold conventions and not a primary to decide between her and Kirk Cox, a more moderate politician and perhaps anyone else who runs. Now Chase has announced she will run as a Republican. Doing so gives her a leg up. Continue reading →
Mark Herring is so proud of himself that he took to Twitter yesterday to do a little preening.
Virginia’s attorney general even put those silly flashing light icons at the top of his post so you’d know this was really big news.
Yep, Herring’s chuffed because he successfully stopped Virginians from buying firearms this weekend. A big victory for Richmond’s anti-gun crowd.
This had nothing to do with COVID-19. The pandemic was just a convenient excuse.
Herring essentially shut down a popular three-day Northern Virginia gun show that had already put into place rules for reduced capacity, masks and social distancing, as they had for two earlier shows this year. Continue reading →
November’s election is coming during one of the most dangerous and deeply divisive periods in American history. There are some clear warning signs that a contested election could lead to significant unrest and violence and perhaps worse.
Race-related demonstrations, the COVID-19 pandemic and the constantly polarizing rhetoric from Donald Trump have all contributed to a spike in domestic terrorism, white supremacy groups and direct threats against public officials.
This week, some 13 hard-right terrorists were charged in connection with the planned kidnapping of Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat. According to the accusations filed by the FBI and state law enforcement, the group intended to take the captured governor to another state, hold a “trial” and perhaps execute her.
(Update: recent news reports say that six were charged in connection with Gov. Whitmer’s planned kidnapping and seven people were charged for planning violent acts, perhaps instigating a civil war).
In Virginia, meanwhile, gun sales have hit new records in the run up to the Nov. 3 election. Data from the Virginia Firearms Transaction Center, which has tracked mandatory background checks on buyers since 1990, shows estimated firearm sales have spiked in 2020, a year rocked by the global pandemic and protests across the country, WRIC-TV reported.
I’ve never owned a gun. The last time I shot a rifle, using a 22 for target practice, was about 55 years ago when I was a kid. Guns always made me nervous. I don’t hunt — I don’t like killing animals. Besides, I felt I was far more likely to accidentally shoot my foot off than ever need a weapon for self defense. Now I’m reconsidering.
Apparently, a lot of other Virginians are, too. Virginia gun sales set a record in June, reports the Richmond Times-Dispatch. Estimated firearms sales, based on mandatory criminal background checks, reached 81,204. That’s a 157% increase over the number of transactions in June last year.
Much of the traffic is driven by gun owners stocking up on more weaponry. But Joshua Jennings, owner of Guns, Gear & Ammo in the Danville-Martinsville area estimates that one in ten are first-time buyers. “We’ve had some unusual buys, and what I mean by that is buyers who ordinarily would not statistically be likely to enter a gun store.”
“Civil unrest, rioting, looting and calls to defund the police are unquestionably motivating factors of why this trend is increasing,” Mark Oliva, director of public affairs for the National Shooting Sports Foundation, told the Associated Press. “Americans are right to be concerned about their personal safety.” Continue reading →
A loosely organized group of men and women with handguns and rifles are patrolling the Lee Statue on Richmond’s Monument Avenue “intent on keeping visitors safe,” reports the Richmond Times-Dispatch. Asked why she needed to carry a gun and participate in a volunteer security force, 19-year-old Jasmine Kelley replied, “I don’t want to die.”
That sounds paranoid to me, but as long as Ms. Kelley and her gun-toting friends are obeying the law, I don’t have a problem. The residents of the immediate neighborhood might feel nervous, and I wouldn’t blame them, but Virginia is a right-to-carry state.
I wonder what the tut-tutters who disapproved of the show of arms by peaceful protesters at the gun-rights rally in the state capitol last January might have to say.
White protestors have smeared a statue of Arthur Ashe, the African-American tennis star who faced systemic racism when he was growing up in Richmond.
True, the Ashe memorial had earlier been defaced by “Black Lives Matter” messages spray painted on its base. On Wednesday, a small band of protestors painted over the “BLM” statements with “White Lives Matter” pronouncements.
One of the protestors, a white man who called himself “Everybody,” claimed he had grown up in Richmond and drove off in a sedan with South Carolina plates, according to the Richmond-Times-Dispatch.
What is disturbing is the prospect of violent conflict, perhaps involving fast-firing, assault-style rifles, between opposing camps.
Much has been made of the so-called threat posed by ANTIFA, said to be a radical left group that is prepared to use violence at protests, which have been largely peaceful in Virginia and across the country. Continue reading →
Persons charged with various offenses in Shenandoah County
By Dick Hall-Sizemore
For anyone who doubts that black people are harassed in everyday actions by other citizens and law enforcement, there is the recent incident in Shenandoah County to consider.
A black pastor was on the property of some apartments he owns when he saw a man and a woman, not his tenants, dragging a refrigerator toward the dumpster he maintains for the apartments. He stopped them and asked them to leave.
Shortly thereafter, three or four other men showed up. They began harassing him and using racial slurs. They told him that black lives don’t matter in Shenandoah County. They threatened to kill him.
The black man did what any good American would—he pulled out the gun for which he has a permit and then called 911.
The sheriff’s deputies showed up and did what was obviously needed to be done—they arrested the black man and charged him for brandishing a firearm. The gang at the black man’s property laughed and jeered as the deputies hauled the black man away to jail.
The story has a better ending this time. The sheriff has publicly apologized and asked that the criminal charge against the black man be dropped. The thugs who were threatening the man have been arrested and charged with abduction and other offenses, including hate crimes, and are being held in jail without bond. But the black people of Shenandoah County now have a graphic illustration of what some of their neighbors and law enforcement think of them.
State Sen. Amanda Chase, R-Chesterfield County, has always played the clown.
The conservative politician grabbed attention a year or so back when she addressed a meeting at the General Assembly wearing a revolver in a holster on her hip. She’s also feuded with the county Republican Party and was defrocked.
Now Chase is striking again by spreading fears of ANTIFA attacks on mostly white and middle class suburban areas. She says the loosely organized far left group is targeting strip malls at Meadowdale and Hancock Village in Chesterfield County and in Hanover County at Mechanicsville.
She said that members of the Virginia Citizens Defense League, a pro-gun lobby, would be patrolling some of these areas.
A few problems here:
Chase said her source for source for the ANTIFA tip was Chesterfield Police Chief Jeffrey Katz. Contacted by the Chesterfield Observer, Katz said he was not her source. “At no time did I share any active criminal intelligence with her,” Katz told the Observer.Continue reading →
In 2014, the Sheriff’s Department of York County and Poquoson got their very own tank-like vehicle, called a “Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP).”
Fully armored and tan in color with steep sides, it looks like something out television footage of the war in Iraq where U.S. troops needed to get through mine-infested streets and terrain safely.
But why do such generally sleepy communities such as these need a high-powered armored car? Sheriff J.D. “Danny” Digs told The Virginian-Pilot and Daily Press that it isn’t meant to “intimidate people” but can be useful during adverse weather when trees are down. Really? Wouldn’t a pickup truck work?
The newspaper story is important since it combs through what Virginia law enforcement got after the “1033”Defense Department program started to sell surplus military gear to local law enforcement in 1997.
It notes that military surplus sales in Virginia went from $216,000 in 1999 to $853,824 in 2019, according to Defense Logistics Agency statistics. The latter number included the cost of another MRAP so Virginia Beach could get its very own armored truck. Over time, the City of Portsmouth got 87 M-16 assault rifles. Other goodies include night vision glasses. Continue reading →
On June 24, 2015, Nikki Haley, a Republican who was South Carolina’s first non-white governor, called for the removal of a Confederate flag that had been flying over the state’s capitol grounds for years.
“This flag, while an integral part of our past, does not represent the future of our great state,” she said. Her action came a few days after an avowed white supremacist walked into an African-American church and opened fire, killing church members attending a service.
I was watching the news on TV when she made her gutsy move. I was deeply impressed.
And now, Ralph Northam, a Democrat who is governor of Virginia, has taken a similarly gutsy move. He has ordered that the state-owned statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee be removed from its stand on Monument Avenue in Richmond. It has been there for about 130 years, erected by white supremacists with deep sentiment for their romantic myths of Southern history.
“I believe in a Virginia that learns lessons from our past and we all know that our country needs that example right now,” Northam said. Continue reading →
Get ready. The names of all kinds of leftist organizations are going to be kicked around as the masterminds behind violent, cop-beating looters, especially the so-called ANTIFA movement in Virginia and across the country..
But what is reality? I don’t have clear answers but I have some ideas to share since I have been dealing with activist groups since I was in high school in the late 1960s. I hope they help this blog’s discussion.
First, there’s plenty of research available about ANTIFA and there are already plenty of reports about it. It is not a single group but a very loose collection of autonomous activist groups, most of which do not advocate violence. For reference, see yesterday’s Daily Beast piece with the blunt headline, “Trump’s ‘ANTIFA Threat Is Total Bullshit – And Totally Dangerous.”
That article and plenty of others note that ANTIFA, or whatever it is, has no clear chain of command and uses ultra-fast social media to alert other activists about rallies and protests but has no control over them. If you are thinking about the tightly-controlled and secretive Communist cells of the past century, you are not getting it. Continue reading →
Here’s is the twice-monthly podcast produced by WTJU, the official radio station of the University of Virginia. With me on this podcast are Nathan Moore, the station general manager, and Sarah Vogelsong, who covers, labor, energy and environmental issues across the state for the Virginia Mercury, a fairly new and highly regarded non-profit news outlet. Our topic is how Virginia is handling the economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic.
This is a bit like throwing chum at a school of sharks, but here is my latest in Style Weekly.
I wrote an assessment of Gov. Ralph Northam that is overall, quite positive. My take goes against much of the sentiment of other contributors on this blog.
They are entitled to their views but, to be honest, I find some of the essays shrill and not really fact based. If Northam wants to delay elective surgeries at hospitals for a week or so, some want to empanel a grand jury.
An acute care health facility in Henrico County becomes one of the most notorious hot spots for coronavirus deaths and it is immediately Northam’s fault even though the care center has had serious problems that long predated the governor’s term in office.
He’s a trained physician who served as an Army doctor in combat during the Iraq War yet he is vilified as being incompetent and incapable of understanding the COVID-19 pandemic.
It’s like the constant repetition of the “Sins of Hillary” on Breitbart and Fox News about emails and Benghazi.
Like him or not, Northam is bound to be one of the most consequential governors in Virginia history given the gigantic problem of the pandemic. He’s not a showboat salesman like Terry McAuliffe nor a smarmy, small-time crook like Robert F. McDonnell.
Statue of Gov. Harry F. Byrd on the state capitol grounds.
By Peter Galuszka
Right-wingers in Virginia have been apoplectic for months that Democrats finally captured the General Assembly after years of Republican control.
They also were enraged that the legislature this winter passed a number of reforms that would draw Virginia into the 21st Century such raising the minimum wage, boosting collective bargaining, tightening rules on carbon pollution and raising taxes for cigarettes, a deadly product.
Now such conservatives are using the COVID-19 pandemic as an excuse to throttle or delay such needed reforms. They have banded into groups such as the Coalition fort a Strong Virginia Economy. They have used the Virginia Municipal League’s complaints against the reforms, claiming they cost too much, as a way to derail new measures.
According to the left-leaning blog site Blue Virginia, one of the more extreme advocates for scrambling changes is Dave LaRock, a far-right Republican delegate from Loudoun County. A pronounced gay-basher, LaRock wants to squelch all of the reforms made by the more progressive General Assembly. Continue reading →
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