Category Archives: Individual rights

Illinois to Legalize Recreational Pot: Implications for Virginia

Legal tokin’ in the Land of Lincoln. Illinois governor J.B. Pritzker is expected to sign Illinois’ recreational marijuana legalization bill tomorrow. Illinois, America’s sixth most populous state, will become the 11th state to legalize the recreational use of marijuana. The District of Columbia has also legalized the possession of ganja. This has implications for Virginia.

First, Illinois is the first state to legalize the possession and sale of marijuana via the state legislature. Vermont’s legislature legalized the possession but not the sale of marijuana. All other states came to legalization via citizen led ballot initiatives. Since the Virginia Constitution has no provision for citizen-led ballot initiatives, the General Assembly would have to follow in the footsteps of the Illinois legislature to legalize marijuana in the Old Dominion. Illinois has proven this is possible. The second implication is the looming encirclement of Virginia by states with legalized recreational marijuana. The closer legal pot dispensaries get to Virginia the harder it will be for Virginia to stop cross border marijuana flows. Continue reading

Mass Shootings a Multi-Faceted Phenomenon

Victims of the Virginia Beach shooting

Tragedy struck Virginia yesterday in the form of a mass shooting at the Virginia Beach municipal complex. The investigation into the shooter’s motive — undoubtedly tied to workplace violence — remains incomplete, but that probably won’t stop pundits and talking heads from indulging their usual tropes for and against guns.

I find both sides of the gun-rights debate to be tiresome. Gun control zealots act as if the availability of guns were the one and only issue: Limit access to guns and the country will be a safer place. Gun rights zealots act as if the ubiquity and easy availability of guns has nothing to do with the lone-shooter carnage that erupts periodically across the country.

To my mind, mass shootings are a complex social phenomenon for which there are no easy remedies. Permit me to advance a few propositions that, hopefully most reasonable people can agree upon.

Yes, the ubiquity and easily availability of guns is part of the problem. The fact that the overwhelming majority of mass killings are mass shootings is all the evidence we need to make this point. True, you can kill people by exploding bombs, running them down with trucks, and even stabbing them with knives (a growing phenomenon in countries with low rates of gun ownership). But alternative means of committing mass mayhem are either more difficult to execute, easier for law enforcement authorities to intercept, or less likely to be deadly. Continue reading

Courts Authorizing “Reverse Location” Warrants in Virginia

FBI “reverse location” warrant in Henrico County…. Photo credit: Forbes

Big brother Google is watching you. Back in October, 2018,  Forbes reported that a Virginia court had authorized the FBI to use a “reverse location” warrant to try to solve a series of crimes in Henrico County, Va. This warrant, also known as a geofence warrant, allows police to compel Google to provide all cellphone activity for all people in a general area over a specified period of time. The resulting handover of data includes locations and other information on potentially hundreds, if not thousands, of people. While Google has complied with the warrants in the past, it is unclear whether the company complied in the Henrico case. Continue reading

The Marijuana Legalization Debate in Virginia: Lessons from Colorado

It’s a long way from Colorado to Virginia!

Elevated thinking.  I recently had the opportunity to do some skiing in Colorado. I hadn’t been to Colorado since the state legalized recreational marijuana use in 2014. I expected to see a Cheech and Chong movie played out on a vast scale high in the Rocky Mountains. That expectation went unmet.  Instead, I saw an American town where legal marijuana use has been incorporated into everyday life in a barely noticeable manner. Colorado has more pot shops than Starbucks outlets but you wouldn’t know that from a cursory visit. All of which got me thinking – what has been the marijuana legalization experience in Colorado and what lessons are there for Virginia?

Nil sine numine. “Nothing without providence.”  Residents of The Centennial State believe Colorado is guided by a “divine will.” After five years of “divine will” has legal pot turned into Rastafarian revelry or Puritanical perfidy? My unscientific poll of Coloradans riding various chairlifts and gondolas with me established a consensus of … “more good than bad”. Continue reading

Virginians Have a Right to Free Speech, Not a Right to a Job

Can an employer in Virginia fire an employee for his loathsome political views?

Such a thing is happening in Patrick County, where emergency management technician Alex McNabb is being fired for making derogatory comments and using racial slurs on a neo-Nazi podcast. There is no evidence that McNabb has discriminated against anyone while providing emergency care, but his online persona often tells stories about being an EMT interacting with African-Americans.

The board of directors of the JEB Stuart Rescue Squad voted unanimously Sunday to terminate McNabb’s employment, reports the Martinsville Bulletin.

Legally, the case should be cut-and-dried. Virginia is an employment-at-will state, and employers have the right to fire anyone for any reason (save on the basis of race, ethnicity, religion, or sexual orientation). McNabb has a constitutional right to freedom of speech. In other words, government cannot use its powers of coercion to silence him. But he doesn’t have a constitutional right to be protected from the consequences of his speech. Employers have a right to disassociate themselves from people whose views they find abhorrent.  Suck it up, dude.

Now, let’s make sure we apply the employment-at-will principal consistently, not just when the offender is a neo-Nazi.

Being a Self-Righteous Pain is Not a Crime

Michelle Renay Sutherland, a New Yorker who traveled to Richmond to demonstrate in support of Virginia’s passage of the Equal Rights Amendment, is an annoying individual. Frankly, I find her sanctimonious posturing to be a pain in the ass. Maybe she violated the law for baring her breast when posing as the goddess Virtue in a reenactment of the Virginia state seal, maybe not. But her actions are hardly grounds for holding her in jail without bail for a month.

A magistrate set a bail of $700 for Sutherland, a Brooklyn artist with no criminal record. But General District Court Judge Lawrence B. Cann III ordered her held without bond until her trial, scheduled for March 21.

An article in the Richmond Times-Dispatch does not quote Cann as providing any justification for refusing to release Sutherland. Continue reading

Hate Crime Hysteria

Source: Virginia State Police “Crime in Virginia” reports.

“Hate is turning deadly with frightening frequency in America,” wrote Virginia Attorney General Mark R. Herring in an anguished Washington Post op-ed last month. In building his case, he cited the 11 Jews slain recently in Pittsburgh; the killing of two African-Americans in Louisville, and Dylann Roof’s murderous rampage at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C. No litany of hate crimes would be complete without mentioning the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville last year that resulted in the death of counter-protester Heather Heyer.

“It is well past time for us to acknowledge the real, growing and deadly threat posed by hate and white supremacist violence,” Herring wrote. “In Virginia and around the country, we have seen far too many alarming reminders that we cannot dismiss this growing wave of hate as a harmless fringe element. … The threat is real, and the consequences can be deadly.” Continue reading

Altria rumored to be in talks to buy Canadian cannabis company Cronos Group

High in Henrico.  Henrico County based Altria, makers of Marlboro cigarettes among other products, is rumored to be interested in buying Canadian cannabis company Cronos Group.  Altria is refusing comment while Cronos said it “confirmed that it is engaged in discussions concerning a potential investment by Altria Group … in Cronos Group.”  Cronos went on to say that no agreement had been reached and there is no assurance that the discussions will lead to a deal.

Is that really a maple leaf on the flag?  Canada legalized possession of marijuana nationally effective October 17, 2018.  Under the national law provinces have some latitude regarding specific cannabis regulation.   In Quebec and Alberta, the legal age is 18; it’s 19 in the remainder of the country for example.  However, unlike the United States, there is no dichotomy between national and provincial (state) law.  There can be no doubt that this legal clarity is encouraging companies like Altria to consider entering the Canadian marijuana market while sitting on the sidelines of American states which have legalized grass.

Implications for Virginia.  Pot legislation and the business of selling pot is moving quickly in North America.  In November Michigan became the tenth US state to legalize possession of marijuana.  There is legislation pending for the 2019 General Assembly session to decriminalize marijuana in the Old Dominion.  Now an iconic and politically connected Virginia-based company apparently sees no moral or ethical issue with participating in Canada’s legal marijuana market.  Given that Altria’s board includes Virginia luminaries such as Thomas F Farrell, CEO of Dominion and John T Casteen, former President of UVA one wonders if Altria’s plans might lend respectability to marijuana reform in Virginia.

I smell refund.  In 2018 a bill to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana (SB 111) was defeated along party lines in the Courts of Justice.  Nine Republican state senators voted against the bill.  Over the years all nine have received campaign contributions from Altria.  Given that these nine politicians see marijuana possession as a serious crime one would hope they will return these campaign contributions given that Altria is trying to engage in marijuana production, distribution and sale.  After all, is it moral to keep money contributed by a company engaging in practices you think should be illegal?  Here are the amounts (per VPAP):

Obenshain – $44,250
Norment – $128,433
McDougle – $58,000
Stuart – $8,500
Stanley – $9,500
Reeves – $28,265
Chafin – $1,500
Sturtevant – $8,000
Peake – $500

— Don Rippert

Incivility… and a Remedy

Demonstrators decry climate change at a Richmond Forum speaker event…. that had nothing to do with climate change, the Atlantic Coast Pipeline or Dominion Energy. Source: Virginia Student Environmental Coalition Facebook page.

The Richmond Forum brings high-profile speakers — from George W. Bush to Barack Obama in recent seasons — to Richmond. I’ve been attending the events for 20 years, and the audience is invariably respectful and welcoming to guests of all political stripes. That changed last weekend. As Executive Director Bill Chapman described the event, which featured astronaut Scott Kelly, in a missive to ticket subscribers:

After intermission, our program was briefly interrupted by two young women who staged a demonstration in the theater. Both are students who obtained tickets for the evening’s program, but are not Forum subscribers.

While free speech is a bedrock value of this series, we also cannot allow the disruption of our programs. Twice, the students were asked to take their seats, and when they did not, they were escorted from the theater. Looking at video recorded by the demonstrators themselves, exactly sixty seconds passed from the beginning of the demonstration until security began moving them from the theater. To many of you, and to me, it seemed longer. …

Also of great concern to me is the manner in which a few of our subscribers responded to the demonstration, including one man who shouted profanity from the rear balcony. (I did not actually hear this from stage, but it is widely reported in the program survey comments.) Incivility will not be tolerated at The Richmond Forum and poor behavior such as this will also be grounds for removal from the theater and revocation of a season subscription.

Chapman gave exactly the response he should have, and I expect that the overwhelming majority of Forum patrons will support him. As coincidence would have it, during the same event he announced an initiative that should combat the incivility he decried.

Richmonders have long understood that the ability to civilly articulate and debate ideas and points of view is critical to a functioning democracy. In that local tradition, we believe our region’s students should have access to strong speech and debate programs in our public schools. These programs teach research, critical thinking, construction of logical arguments, assessment of audience, self esteem, and engagement in world events–skills which build better students, better college candidates, better employees, and better citizens.

The Richmond Forum has provided a grant to Chesterfield County Public Schools to enable all eleven high schools to be able to offer speech and debate programs this school year. The grant will fund training for coaches, and entry fees and travel costs for tournaments.

And that’s just the start. Bravo! The counter-revolution against public rudeness, belligerence and incivility begins! Donors can contribute here.

The Closing of the American Mind: Mary Baldwin Edition

I have lost all respect for Mary Baldwin University. The Staunton-based liberal arts institution is training its students to be emotionally fragile, intellectually incurious and totally unprepared for dealing with the world outside of their little higher-ed bubble.

Three years ago, the university scheduled a project in its Hunt gallery entitled, “Relevant/Scrap.” The art exhibit, which opened Nov. 7, included silhouetted depictions of Richmond’s Confederate statues. The artists’ intention, as explained in a Richmond Times-Dispatch editorial today, was to “use art-making processes to create an aesthetic experience of the problematic challenge of re-imagining the spaces where the monuments to the Confederacy currently reside in Richmond.”

An Instagram account titled “Y’all racist at Mary Baldwin” was launched to call attention to the exhibit, and students took their concerns to a weekly meeting of the Student Senate on November 6, reports WHSV. The following day, the exhibit had been removed. Although the artists said they had been misinterpreted, they acceded to the removal.

In a statement explaining the decision, the university said:

“In accordance with our values as an inclusive, student-centered campus community, we take seriously the concerns about an art exhibition by two Richmond-based artists installed earlier this week… As a result of student concerns and discussions with the artists, the installation has been removed as of last night.

Not only did the university remove the exhibit, it committed to holding a series of “listening sessions” giving students “an opportunity to share their feelings in response to the exhibit and their hopes for inclusive community.”

In its editorial today, the Times-Dispatch wrote, “We’d argue that they should instead hold ‘learning sessions’ and use the moment to teach students that free speech isn’t always pretty or comfortable, but it is one of the main pillars of our society and it’s the thing — singular — that makes the United States the most open, accepting nation in the history of the world. … Suppressing speech is the prelude to ignorance, and ignorance, willful or not, is the prelude to the decline of our great society.”

I agree whole-heartedly with that sentiment, but I would say more. First, the cancellation of the exhibit was an act of craven cowardice. University administrators are so terrified of anyone branding them “racist” that they’re willing to abandon all other values. Just pathetic.

What is racist about showing silhouetted images of the Confederate statues in an exhibit about the debate about… Confederate statues? Exposure to a mere image has become an emotionally triggering event, regardless of the context in which that image is shown?

If the images in the aborted exhibit are racist, then the term “racist” has absolutely no meaning and is simply used as a cudgel to bludgeon the weak-minded into submission. At some point the term will be so overused, misused and discredited that it will cease to have any effect.

But more importantly is the effect of the Mary Baldwin capitulation has on the students themselves. The action reinforces their emotional fragility. But emotional fragility is not a trait that will be rewarded in the real world. The action reinforces intolerance of other views. But intolerance of other views is not a recipe for success in the workplace (except in partisan party politics, and perhaps at Google).

I seek out different views. I make it a practice, for example, to tune into “Morning Joe” on MSNBC every morning even thought I find many of the views expressed there to be not only wrong-headed but highly offensive. I do so for a multiple reasons. First, I want to know what liberals and progressives are thinking and saying. Second, want to hear facts and arguments that are neglected by conservative media outlets — I want to avoid having blind spots. Third, every once in blue moon, I hear something that gives me pause and makes me think, wow, they might have a point there.

How ironic it is that an academic institution, presumably dedicated to expanding intellectual horizons and teaching young minds to think critically and analytically, would shut out objectionable symbols and viewpoints while elevating “feelings” over intellect. Sheltering students from the real world — what an educational value proposition!

I can’t imagine why any parents would want that kind of education for their child. But apparently, there’s a market for that kind of education. Mary Baldwin’s freshman enrollment of 400 this year set a record for the institution. I wonder if parents have a clue what’s happening.

Virginia’s 2018 Marijuana Decriminalization Bill: What Happened and What’s Next?

Up in smoke.  During the 2018 General Assembly session a bill to decriminalize marijuana was killed in committee.  The Senate Courts of Justice Committee voted along party lines on that bill, SB 111. All nine Republican Senators on the Committee voted to keep marijuana possession (in any amount) a criminal act in Virginia while all six Democratic Senators voted to decriminalize pot.  To be clear – the vote was to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana, it was not a bill that proposed legalizing marijuana.

Here today, here tomorrow.  Decriminalization foes won the SB111 battle in 2018 but the war goes on.  The lines are drawn for the next skirmish.  As Sen Mark Obenshain (R-Rockingham), who voted against decriminalization, said … “It’s an issue that isn’t going away.  We’re going to be talking about it for a long time.”  That’s an interesting comment from a prohibitionist.  One can only hope that Sen Obenshain knows that time and further dialog are both working against him and his fellow pot prosecutors.  If he doesn’t understand that I’d really like to ask him what he’s been smoking.

Abby Hoffman vs Barney Fife.  The main support for decriminalization comes from the ACLU with a supporting cast of politicians including U.S. Senator Tim Kaine (federal decriminalization), Governor Ralph Northam (a medical doctor) and Adam Ebbin  (D-Alexandria).  Opposition is led by the Virginia Association of Commonwealth’s Attorneys with political support from the aforementioned Sen. Mark Obenshain (R-Rockingham).

Arrested development.  Subsequent to the committee vote on decriminalization, statistics were released that revealed arrests for marijuana possession in Virginia shot up in 2017, increasing by 20% over 2016.  Apparently, prosecuting Virginians for possession of a plant is a large and fast growing business in the Commonwealth.  One can only guess how much criminalizing marijuana costs Virginia or how many Commonwealth’s Attorneys have jobs based on pot possession being a crime.

Oh wow … what’s a voter … man?  A poll on the question of decriminalizing possession of small amounts of marijuana in Virginia was published in the midst of the 2018 General Assembly session.  Conducted by the Watson Center for Public Policy and Christopher Newport University, the poll found that 76% of Virginians favored decriminalization.  And the Republican politicians in Virginia keep wondering why they are continually losing their power and influence in Virginia.  Perhaps they would be well advised to just roll that number around in their heads for a while … seventy-six percent.

Heroes.  Senators voting for decriminalization of small amounts of marijuana: Creigh Deeds, D-Bath; John Edwards, D-Roanoke; Janet Howell, D-Fairfax; Louise Lucas, D-Portsmouth; Chap Petersen, D-Fairfax City; and Dick Saslaw, D-Fairfax.

Zeroes.  Senators voting against decriminalization: Ben Chafin, R-Russell; Ryan McDougle, R-Hanover; Tommy Norment, R-Mars; Mark Obenshain, R-Rockingham; Mark Peake, R-Lynchburg; Bryce Reeves, R-Spotsylvania; Bill Stanley, R-Franklin County; Richard Stuart, R-Stafford; and Glen Sturtevant, R-Richmond.

2019.  2019 is an election year for Virginia’s state legislature.  Democrats will push another marijuana decriminalization bill in the 2019 General Assembly session.  Then they will beat the Republicans who opposed the bill over the head with those votes in November.

— Don Rippert.

Snowflake Nation

by Bob Shannon

I enjoyed your recent post about identity politics in Richmond’s LGBTQ community. The hysterical and unhinged behavior we’re witnessing, I would argue, is a symptom of a much larger social malady, namely Americans’ inability to deal with everyday stress.

We are bombarded with self-promoting messages from the mental health industry, the pharmaceutical industry, and public safety officials who say we need “help” in dealing with stress that by any historical measure would be considered laughably slight. Modern life has made us soft. How many of today’s Americans could have survived when daily struggles of finding food, water and housing consumed peoples’ existence? Today’s sheltered youth are not learning to cope with disappointment and failure.

In 1994, a classmate of my oldest son committed suicide after his girlfriend had broken up with him. This high school kid was popular, good looking, the starting QB on the football team, and a standout baseball and basketball player. At first I wondered what kind of pressure could have driven the young man to such an act. Then I thought about students in my era who had surmounted equally challenging circumstances. During high school a half dozen girls broke my heart… but I simply moved onto the next one. It never entered my head to take my life.

What has changed over the intervening years? Why did a young man with such promise take such drastic action over a setback that young people have had contended with since the beginning of time?

A week or so after the young man’s death, I visited the high school on another matter. As I drove through the parking lot, I was struck by the number of new cars — many of them sports cars more expensive than the vehicles I drove myself — the students were driving. I wondered: Had we raised a generation for whom things came too easily?

An increasing number of high school and college kids have their own credit cards. Their parents give them cars. Some never hold jobs in high school. We have made their lives too easy. No wonder many of these “snowflakes” melt under the slightest challenge. No wonder that the minor grievances you cited in your article morph into the exaggerated behavior.

I laugh when I think of an e-mail I once received that had a picture of an 18-year old-from 1944 and an 18-year-old from 2016.  The 1944 photo showed a G.I. with camo paint on his sweaty, dirty face and a rifle slung across his back. The 2016 photo showed a punk with green/pink/purple hair, 30 ear rings and metal strewn across his face. Quite a contrast.

Have we bred the last two generations to be whiners? I believe so. But the problem is not confined to young people alone. The sense of entitlement has spread across American society at large.

Saul Alinsky said that the “white middle class must be co-opted ” in order to collapse the system. Evidence of such co-opting can be found in white, middle-class seniors who insist Medicare is something they earned. I have given seniors the cold, hard facts: No one, even counting employer contributions, has paid enough into the system to offset the very large outlays that are likely to incur in the final two years of life. Few are open to such a message.

All Americans have a sense of entitlement these days. It’s going to be an uphill battle to get citizens — or in the case of minority transgenders carping about their treatment by others in the LGBTQ community — to toughen up and take responsibility for their behavior.

Thank you for having the wisdom, courage and insight to bring these unpleasant truths to the public attention.

Bob Shannon lives in King William County.

Will Virginia Legalize Recreational Marijuana Use?

High times today.  The marijuana legalization wave is beginning to wash over North America. Nine states (WA, OR, CA, NV, CO, MA, VT, ME and AK) along with the District of Columbia have legalized the recreational use of marijuana.  Well over 20% of Americans now live in states which have legalized recreational marijuana use. On Oct 17 of this year recreational marijuana use will be legalized across Canada. While the various provinces will regulate the sale and use of marijuana in their own unique ways, it will be legal across Canada.

Higher times to come. Several more states are slated to decide the question of legalized recreational marijuana use this November (or sooner)…

Michigan – Voter initiated measure to permit those over 21 to grow and possess personal use quantities of cannabis and related concentrates.  Statewide polling data from this spring shows 61% of voters intend to vote “yes” on the measure. While you may not be able to drink the water in Flint it looks like you’ll be legally able to use it in a bong come this November.

New Jersey – The New Jersey legislature is debating bills that would legalize recreational marijuana in the Garden State. Interestingly, some of these bills would also expunge the criminal records of anybody convicted in the past of marijuana-related crimes. Was I ever arrested for weed?  Fuhghetaboutit!

North Dakota – A voter – initiated referendum will appear on North Dakota ballots this November. Uniquely, the North Dakota initiative would set no limits on the amount of marijuana people can possess or cultivate. Perhaps a large stockpile is required to get through those long, dark winters.

New York – A recent state commissioned study on recreational marijuana legalization came out strongly in favor of making ganja legal. Gov Andrew Cuomo quickly sprang to action setting up a working group to write a marijuana legalization bill. Put New York in the “when, not if” column.  This should give new meaning to Billy Joel’s song “New York State of Mind” (which has the opening line, “Take a holiday from the neighborhood”).

Oklahoma – This June Oklahoma voters approved a broad medical marijuana usage law. Activists have collected a lot of signatures to get the question of legalized recreational marijuana on the Nov 6 ballot. Whether there are enough signatures or enough time to get the ballot question approved this year remains to be seen. Sadly, Merle Haggard died in 2016 before being able to revise the first line of his famous song Okie from Muskogee … “We don’t smoke marijuana in Muskogee”.  It seems that sooner, rather than later, people will be openly smoking marijuana in Muskogee.

Delaware – In June, a majority of House lawmakers voted in favor of legislation to legalize marijuana use and retail sales. However, because the legislation imposed new taxes and fees, state rules required it to receive super-majority support. Lawmakers are anticipated to take up similar legislation again next year. I’ll predict that by 2020 people will be legally getting small in the Small Wonder.

A spot of hemp, Mr. Jefferson? Five of the first six presidents of the U.S. were Virginians and there is evidence that all five of them smoked a little hootch from time to time. You can read the evidence from an unimpeachable source … High Times …  here.

Will River City go up in smoke? But what of modern Virginians and Virginia politicians? In a 2017 Quinnipiac poll Virginia voters supported allowing adults to legally posses and use small amounts of marijuana by 59 – 35 percent. So, the voters would like to see marijuana legalized in Virginia. But since when did the voters matter to Virginia’s political elite? They don’t listen to voters, they listen to dollars. The Virginia Public Access Project tallies up the following donation totals for “all years”:

Beverages – Alcohol Distributors / Brokers – $20,885,384
Retail Sales – General $10,113,070
Restaurants – $6,533,357
Beverages – Alcohol Manufacturers – $3,993,418

As point of reference, Dominion Energy donated $11,354,842 during the same period.  Meanwhile, PepsiCo, owner of Frito-Lay – the maker of Cheetos – only donated $82,385.

— Don Rippert

Goodbye and Good Riddance to Goodlatte

Carpetbagger. Bob Goodlatte is the 13-term congressman from Virginia’s 6th Congressional District who has blessedly chosen to retire this year. In my opinion he represents just about everything that is wrong with the GOP. Born in Holyoke, Massachusetts and educated at Bates College in Maine, Goodlatte somehow avoids the “carpetbagger” moniker so quickly put on Terry McAuliffe by Virginia’s Republicans. He won his congressional seat at age 39 and has spent the last 26 years in Congress. Yet he goes uncriticized as a “politician for life” by the conservative Newt Gingrich types who claim to eschew such long running elected officials. He is a polluter’s best friend with apparently no concern for the property rights of those negatively affected by the pollution he justifies and defends. However, he’ll be gone soon and you’d think we’re past the damage done by this phony conservative. Oh no.  Even in his final days in office Goodlatte is actively denying people protection of their property rights despite “property rights” supposedly being a core tenet of conservative Republican dogma. What a farce.

Blowing up the blueprint. The Chesapeake Bay represents not only a national treasure but a working laboratory for the protection of property rights. Certainly right thinking conservatives must believe that allowing a small minority of people and corporations to pollute a public waterway unfairly takes away the property rights of non-polluters. In the case of a waterway that borders multiple states, one would think that sensible and honest conservatives would insist that the federal government protect the property rights of all the states.  Isn’t this both a core tenet of conservatism and a reasonable construct of property rights?  Not according to Bob Goodlatte.

The Chesapeake Bay watershed states have claimed to be working together to clean up the Bay for the past forty years. For 31 of those years the effort failed as various states simply ignored their clean up commitments. Then, in 2009, the EPA was authorized to provide scientific leadership and oversight for a new clean-up plan — the Chesapeake Bay Clean Water Blueprint. Progress has been substantial since that time. Despite Virginia being a major beneficiary of the blueprint, one of our own Congressmen has put forth an amendment to curtail the EPA’s role in this effort.  You guessed it, ole Bob Goodlatte sponsored an amendment to H.R. 6147 forbidding the EPA from spending money to provide firm, science-based accountability over the blueprint. As a press release from the Chesapeake Bay Foundation puts it, “Congressman Goodlatte’s amendment would keep EPA from using any funds to provide this “firm accountability” if a state fails to meet its pollution-reduction goals set under the Blueprint.” So much for preservation of property rights from this so-called conservative.

Hall of shame. Bob Goodlatte’s amendment for the protection of raw sewage in public waters passed the House of Representatives by a vote of 213 to 202.  Seven of Virginia’s Representatives (Wittman, Taylor, Scott, McEachin, Beyer, Comstock and Connolly) repudiated Sideshow Bob and his amendment by voting against it. However, four of our so-called representatives (Garrett, Goodlatte, Brat and Griffith) couldn’t find the mental acuity to understand how a clean Chesapeake Bay might help the Commonwealth of Virginia. While it’s no excuse for their buffoonery Garrett, Goodlatte and Griffith have districts far from the Bay. Brat, by comparison, has a district bordering the city of Richmond. What are the voters in the 7th district thinking? Will “Kepone Dave” get re-elected? Here’s a good article about the cleanliness of the James River in Richmond (warning: true but disgusting content)

Going forward. The congressional seat being vacated by Bob Goodlatte’s retirement will be contested by Ben Cline (R) and Jennifer Lewis (D). Cline is a member of the General Assembly and long time Goodlatte toady. Lewis is a bleeding heart liberal with minimal political experience. So far, Lewis has raised $72,000 to Cline’s $787,000. The Cook Partisan Voter Index for the district is R+13. Sadly, Cline will almost certainly win and continue the anti-conservative, anti-Virginia activities of his predecessor.

— Don Rippert 

Can’t Get Enough of Them Bacon Bits…

Wages of the teaching scandal. Every 5th-grade student at Richmond’s George W. Carver Elementary School passed the Standards of Learning (SOL) reading test in 2016. Next year, when they took the reading proficiency test at Albert Hill Elementary School, only 37% passed. Math scored plunged nearly as badly.

A state investigation has found that a five-teacher cheating ring at Carver had inflated SOL scores by giving pupils “inappropriate” assistance during the tests. The school and its principal had garnered recognition for the high achievements of its poor, inner-city pupil population.

Public education in Virginia is massively failing lower-income kids, especially in inner-city African-American communities. Meanwhile, the usual suspects continue to peddle the “racism” narrative for the abysmal educational achievement.

The rich (regions) get richer, the poor get poorer. One of the largest employers in Bristol, Bristol Compressors, is closing — and eliminating 470 jobs along with it. The Herald-Courier has the grim story here. Meanwhile, packaged food giant Nestle is relocating its American headquarters from California to Arlington, bringing 750 jobs. Read that story in Arlington Now. Both developments will have multiplier effects, negative for Bristol and positive for Arlington.

In a truly free market economy, workers in Southwest Virginia would move to Northern Virginia to take advantage of job opportunities there. Although laid-off Bristol Compressor employees don’t have the jobs skills required by Nestle, plenty of blue-collar jobs are going being in NoVa. Trouble is, blue-collar workers can’t afford the real estate. Zoning codes and comprehensive plans in NoVa are rigged in favor of incumbent homeowners and against anyone wanting to move into the region, be they inner-city blacks or Appalachian whites.

Immigrants seem not to have a problem finding places to live. My pet theory: They tolerate overcrowded living conditions — sometimes in violation of local codes — that native-born Americans would not.

Christmas banned from Metro buses. The Catholic Archdiocese of Washington wanted to run an ad on Metro buses depicting with three shepherds, sheep and a bright star, reports the Washington Times. The words “Find the Perfect Gift” were displayed on the ad, along with a website address and social media hashtag. The website promoted the Catholic Church with a link to “Parish Resources,” prayer cards and daily reflections.

The Metro refused to run the ad on the grounds that it was religious. The Archdiocese retorted that Metro runs ads for yoga, which has links to Buddhism and Hinduism. Metro didn’t buy the argument. And neither did the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. Wrote Judge Judith W. Rogers: “City buses … enjoy no historical tradition like parks and sidewalks because transit was a private enterprise in most American cities until the second half of the twentieth century.”

And people wonder why cultural conservatives say there is a war against Christmas. I find the Metro policy incomprehensible. As far as I’m concerned, any faith — Judaism, Buddhism, Islam, Wicca, the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, or, gasp, any of the dozens of offshoots of Christianity — should be allowed to advertise. Question: Does atheism (my personal belief) count as a religion?