Category Archives: Individual rights

Wanted: Government Informants

by Kerry Daugherty

Nosy neighbors and tattletales.

They’ve been with us always. And they’ve always been despicable.

When I was a kid a reclusive neighbor – we’ll call her Mrs. Murphy – spent all of her time peering out of her windows. If a kid so much as planted a bare toe on the Murphy lawn her front door swung open and she threatened to call your mother.

Once, when a stray cat had been run over by a car, we kids decided to stage a funeral and bury it in an overgrown vacant lot next to her house.

Old Lady Murphy saw us and called the cops.

Er, cop. We had only one officer in our small town.

Barney Fife arrived in minutes and demanded to know what we were doing.

Once we explained he seemed inclined to let us proceed until Mrs. Murphy roared out, red-faced, with rollers in her hair, hollering that she could smell the dead animal and it was a health hazard. Continue reading

Ralph Northam’s Power Play: Part Two

by Kerry Dougherty

This is getting to be a bad habit.

For the second Monday in a row Governor Ralph Northam kicked off the week with a heavy-handed executive order. This one was a body blow to the Virginia Beach economy.

Last week the governor prematurely closed all schools – public and private –  for the remainder of the academic year.

This Monday Northam issued a stay-at-home order for the entire commonwealth and closed Virginia’s spectacular beaches to swimmers and sunbathers until June 10.

(Note: At 10 Wednesday morning, the city issued a correction, that said swimming was not prohibited.)

An absurd 10 weeks from now.

Northam decided to keep his order in place past Memorial Day – a potentially catastrophic move for the Virginia Beach tourism industry – without even warning Virginia Beach officials of the timeline. Continue reading

The Solution Nobody Will Mention: DNR

By Steve Haner

This is how we solve the coming hospital bed crisis. This is how we stretch our ventilators supply. No politician is going to say this, neither Donald Trump nor Andrew Cuomo, and doctors won’t start this conversation. Lester Holt won’t bring it up on Nightly News.

It is called a “do not resuscitate” order. DNR. It can stand on its own or be part of package of advance medical directives and powers of attorney. If you don’t have one, sign one. If you are 40 and think yourself healthy, consider one anyway. Today.

It may not solve the problem but it surely will help.

Most people who are dying are not dying of COVID-19, they are dying with COVID-19. Yes, there are outliers, but most people who cannot survive this virus already had an underlying problem.  It might be a 65-year-old with COPD from smoking, two by-passes, or half a lung removed for cancer, or it might be a 30-year-old who vapes or who has already eaten themselves into diabetes and hypertension.    Continue reading

Racism and COVID-19 in Virginia

By Peter Galuszka

“The Chinese Virus?” “Kung Flu?” Wuflu?”

These are some pejorative and racist names being bandied about for what is technically known as the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2. The disease associated with the virus is COVID-19.

These distinctions are part of a column written by the Virginia Asian Advisory Board in today’s Virginia Mercury. They write: “In an already anti-immigrant environment, Asians, particularly Chinese, are reportedly facing increasing acts of racism.”

They report that businesses with Asian-sounding names are being shunned, Uber and Lyft drivers are not giving rides of people based on their names and the social media is filled with stories critical of Asians, which is nuts because Asia is even more diverse than Europe.

Donald Trump, our Incompetent in Chief, is leading the charge for demeaning Asians by insisting on calling the virus the “Chinese Flu.”

During the 2016 campaign, he constantly put down Mexicans and other Latinos. That summer I was taken aback when I was at my neighborhood swimming pool. A group of what looked like eighth-grade boys was splashing around shouting “Mexico sucks!” I stopped them and asked them why they were saying that. They said, “That’s what Donald Trump says.” Continue reading

A Look at Richmond and COVID-19

By Peter Galuszka

Here is a roundup story I wrote for Style Weekly that was published today that explains the effects of COVID-19 on the Richmond area. Hopefully, BR readers will find it of interest.

It was a tough piece to report. The impacts of the deadly virus are very complicated and multi-faceted. An especially hard part was trying to keep with the fast-changing news, notably the number of new cases and deaths. We were updating right up until the story closed Monday afternoon. It was hard to talk to people with social-distancing and closings.

The experience shows the delicate balancing act between taking tough measures to stem the contagion and keeping the economy going. My view is that tough measures are needed because without them, it will all be much worse, particularly more illness and death as the experience in Italy has shown.

Incredibly, our utterly incompetent president, Donald Trump, now wants to focus on the economy more than taking necessary containment steps. It’s far too soon for that. Regrettably, a number of Bacon’s Rebellion commenters are sounding the same irresponsible tune in keeping with their big business and anti-regulation laud of free market capitalism. Continue reading

Bacon Bits: The Madness Continues…

Yes, Virginia, our long statewide nightmare is almost over. Lawmakers in the General Assembly are scheduled to go home next week. In the meantime, life goes on, and we get news like this…

Silver Line looking tarnished. Phase 2 of the Silver Line, which extends the Washington Metro commuter rail to Washington Dulles International Airport, is already two years behind schedule. Now it could face more delays due to new problems revealed in a Metro Inspector General report.  The latest review, reports the Washington Post, found recurring problems with surge arresters that protect the Metro’s electrical systems; problems with the insulated rail joints at the rail yard; and a software validation issue relating to the system that allows operators to reduce train speeds. The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA) has been responsible for oversight of the two-phase, $5.8 billion Silver Line construction. The first phase opened in 2014.

The Blue Coats are Coming! The Blue Coats are coming! As the Democratic-controlled General Assembly puts the finishing touches on its gun control legislation, gun-rights activists in Amherst County and Nelson County are issuing calls to muster for the purpose of forming militias. In an interview with the News & Advance. Nelson County organizer Don Heres was vague about the proposed militia’s purpose. “He sees the future militia as a “resource for the county.” But “everything is all preliminary. We’re not really started yet. It’s a citizen’s group and the citizens will decide what we do, what we’re called, all those things.” Organizers in both counties are hoping for turnouts of 100 or more. The musters are not sanctioned by the county governments.

One Ring to rule them all. Shades of 1984 (or Sauron, take your pick)… The Albemarle County Police Department is partnering with Ring, the doorbell camera company, to get video from county residents deploying the surveillance cameras. The police department first started thinking about a partnership when a burglary victim brought a photo from his Ring app to police. Roughly 1,000 other departments are partnering with Ring, according to the Daily Progress. Said Police Chief Ron Lantz:“I think this is a way for us to partner with the community to help make this a safer place to live.”

The Beauty of Workers Cooperatives: They’re Voluntary

Equal Exchange workers cooperative in Bridgewater, Mass.

by James A. Bacon

The Virginia Public Access Project has published a nifty list of bills that were killed in committee when Republicans controlled the General Assembly but have broken out to the House or Senate floor now that Democrats run the show. Most are dreadful, some are tolerable, and a few are even beneficial. One bill, HB 55, introduced by the General Assembly’s self-declared socialist Lee Carter, D-Manassas, is downright intriguing.

The bill would establish “worker cooperatives” as a category of cooperative associations. A worker cooperative is a stock corporation that conducts business for the mutual benefit of its employees. At least two-thirds of employees would be required to own membership shares, and members are entitled to one vote only. Profit would be allocated in proportion to the amount of work each member performed.

The House of Delegates passed the bill in a 62 to 36 vote. Yeah, it’s kind of socialist. No, it’s not my cup of tea. But if people voluntarily enter into such an association, what’s wrong with it?

That’s the beauty of a free society. People shouldn’t be forced to participate in the corporate, capitalist economy. I’m perfectly comfortable participating in such a society, but I can understand why other people wouldn’t be. And I think it’s great if we can create mechanisms —  be they hippie communes in the woods or worker cooperatives — that allow people to organize themselves to practice of business as they choose. Continue reading

John, Alternatives to the VEA Do Exist!

by Steve Haner

Dear “John Randolph of Roanoke,” you very much have a choice if you are tired of paying dues to the Virginia Education Association. I saw your lament in the comment string on Jim Bacon’s report today about pending legislation to force non-union employees to pay union dues.

“Can’t drop out though. These guys are the only ones that will go to bat for me if I am falsely accused of something at school. We are so wide open and vulnerable these days. I guess I have the wolf by the ears.”

Here is information on three alternatives you might consider, with up to $2 million of professional liability coverage offered for far less cost than VEA dues.   You can choose from:

Continue reading

Gun Issues Return to Capitol Monday, Tuesday

by Steve Haner

Proposed firearms regulations will pack a General Assembly meeting room Monday and Tuesday, and for that portion of the population not already locked into an ideological position either way, it could be useful to pay attention.

The Republican majorities have taken some political bashing for failing to act on the flood of proposals, many previously seen and rejected, that showed up when Governor Ralph Northam sought to railroad them through a hasty special session after the Virginia Beach shooting.  But the ideas are going to get a better hearing at the Crime Commission next week than they would have when introduced.  Continue reading

Thousands of Virginians Getting their Licenses Reinstated

Angela Battle: one of thousands of Virginians to have their license restored. Photo credit: Richmond Times-Dispatch.

Some 37,700 Virginians who couldn’t drive yesterday can drive today, thanks to a budget amendment to Virginia’s Fiscal 2020 budget, reports the Richmond Times-Dispatch. More than 600,000 drivers have suspended licenses because a failure to pay court fines and costs, creating a Catch 22 situation for thousands: People can’t repay their fines if they can’t drive to work, and they can’t drive to work if they can’t repay their fines. The Department of Motor Vehicles will contact other Virginians with suspended licenses to inform them how to get their licenses back.

Randy Rollins, president of the Drive-to-Work nonprofit that helps people get their drivers licenses reinstated, has tried unsuccessfully for the past 10 years to get the law changed, but Governor Ralph Northam was able to enact the new policy, for a year at least, by means of a budget amendment. Continue reading

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.