The Staunton 4th in Photos

IMG_2984Yesterday, the residents of Staunton, Virginia held their annual 4th of July parade in Gypsy Hill Park.

As is typically the case, politicians, candidates, and political parties representing Staunton and Augusta County marched to show their support.  And, like last year, Senator Emmett Hanger (R-Augusta) was separate from the rest of the Republicans.  In addition, Angela Lynn, the Democratic challenger in the 25th House of Delegates, was similarly apart from her party.  The other Republican elected officials pounding the pavement included: Delegate Dickie Bell (R-Staunton), Delegate Ben Cline (R-Rockbridge), Representative Bob Goodlatte (R-Roanoke), Delegate Steve Landes (R-Augusta), and Supervisor Marshall Pattie (R-Augusta).  Ellen Arthur, who seeks to replace Delegate Cline, walked with the Democrats.  The Libertarians were there for Will Hammer who is running against Delegate Bell.  In addition, the one Republican and three Independent candidates for Augusta County Sheriff also each had a float in the parade.  And, lest we forget, the Augusta County Alliance had an entry opposing the proposed Dominion Power pipeline.

 

When It’s Not Okay to Be Takei

Image from George Takei's Facebook page

Image from George Takei’s Facebook page

In recent times, George Takei has been an inspiration to many.  Perhaps best known for his role as Sulu on the original Star Trek series, he has taken Facebook by storm, garnering 8.7 million followers.  In 2011, when the Tennessee legislature was considering a bill preventing their teachers from discussing homosexuality (or “don’t say gay”), George Takei suggested using his name instead of the word “gay” and thus declared that it was “okay to be Takei”.

Recently, however, Mr. Takei was rather upset by Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas’ position stance against gay marriage in the Obergefell v. Hodges case.  As a result, George Takei declared Thomas, the lone black member of the court to be a “clown in black-face”.

Now, I could understand why Mr. Takei would be upset with Mr. Thomas.  After all, they are on opposite sides of the political spectrum on this issue.  And, when one is upset, one will sometimes say things in the heat of the moment that one normally would not, such as using a racial slur like “clown in black-face”.

Given what I thought I knew of George Takei, I thought he would realize his mistake and issue an apology almost immediately.  Instead, Mr. Takei defended his remarks saying:

“Blackface” is a lesser known theatrical term for a white actor who blackens his face to play a black buffoon. In traditional theater lingo, and in my view and intent, that is not racist. It is instead part of a racist history in this country.

I feel Justice Thomas has abdicated and abandoned his African American heritage by claiming slavery did not strip dignity from human beings. He made a similar remark about the Japanese American internment, of which I am a survivor. A sitting Justice of the Supreme Court ought to know better.

Although I highly doubted he would read it, I went to his Facebook page to share my disappointment in his words writing, “I’m disappointed in your comments about Clarence Thomas. I thought you were better than that. 😟”  I was aware that doing so, of course, would open me up to comments from his fan-base.  Perhaps not surprisingly some were quick to defend him and condemn me.  For example we have, “Then unfriend him and go away” and “You are insignificant then. If you can’t respect what he’s been through and his opinions, you must be a redneck if you think he should respect yours.” and “Well, you can always go f*** yourself. There’s always that option.”  

Yes, I certainly empathize with the horrible treatment and internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II.  It is a stain upon our country’s honor and must be taught so that it will never be forgotten or repeated upon any group of people regardless of their ethnicity, religion, or other common bond.  Given that President Franklin Roosevelt created this unjustified act through his executive order, perhaps it is prudent to rethink his legacy and finally remove his image from a place of honor on our dime.  Nevertheless, whatever traumatic and unjust acts were done to Mr. Takei and his family by the hands of the federal government, it doesn’t give him or anyone else carte blanche to speak and act however they wish without repercussion.

Unfortunately, in our increasingly polarized society led by talking heads on the right and the left, we are taught that civil discourse is an evil to be avoided at all cost and that tolerance should be reserved only for those who agree with us.  As these Facebook fans have demonstrated, if someone has an opposing opinion, then that must mean that they are ignorant, or, in this case, a “redneck” or simply ought to f*** themselves.

When I began writing this piece, as you can guess from the title, I was worried that it would end with this sour note of intolerance and hatred, but about an hour ago Mr. Takei released the following statement on his Facebook page:

On the eve of this Independence Day, I have a renewed sense of what this country stands for, and how I personally could help achieve it. The promise of equality and freedom is one that all of us have to work for, at all times. I know this as a survivor of the Japanese American internment, which each day drives me only to strive harder to help fulfill that promise for future generations.

I recently was asked by a reporter about Justice Clarence Thomas’s dissent in the marriage equality cases, in which he wrote words that really got under my skin, by suggesting that the government cannot take away human dignity through slavery, or though internment. In my mind that suggested that this meant he felt the government therefore shouldn’t be held accountable, or should do nothing in the face of gross violations of dignity. When asked by a reporter about the opinion, I was still seething, and I referred to him as a “clown in blackface” to suggest that he had abdicated and abandoned his heritage. This was not intended to be racist, but rather to evoke a history of racism in the theatrical arts. While I continue to vehemently disagree with Justice Thomas, the words I chose, said in the heat of anger, were not carefully considered.

I am reminded, especially on this July 4th holiday, that though we have the freedom to speak our minds, we must use that freedom judiciously. Each of us, as humans, have hot-button topics that can set-us off, and Justice Thomas had hit mine, that is clear. But my choice of words was regrettable, not because I do not believe Justice Thomas is deeply wrong, but because they were ad hominem and uncivil, and for that I am sorry.

I often ask fans to keep the level of discourse on this page and in comments high, and to remember that we all love this country and for what it stands for, even if we often disagree passionately about how to achieve those goals. I did not live up to my own high standards in this instance.

I hope all of you have a wonderful, safe and joyously free July 4t, the first where all married couples in the U.S. can enjoy the full liberties of matrimony equally. It is truly a blessing to be an American today.

I’m glad that Mr. Takei chose to offer his apology and, even more importantly, I hope that his legions of fans will heed and follow his words.  Celebrities are people too and with it comes all of the greatness and flaws that define the rest of humanity.  None of us are infallible, none of us should be treated as such.

Rights Come From the Majority?

A photo of Senator Rapert from his Twitter account

A photo of Senator Rapert from his Twitter account

Although the Declaration of Independence famously declares, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness…” apparently such a belief is in error, at least according to one Arkansas State Senator by the name of Jason Rapert.

On June 28th, Mr. Rapert posted lengthy commentary on Facebook regarding the Supreme Court decision on the issue of marriage.  You can find that statement here.

However, the purpose of this piece isn’t to hash out whether one agrees or disagrees with Senator Rapert’s statement, but rather highlight the exchange which happened later in that post as comments both in support and opposition flooded in.

At one point, Hannah Ulrich Jones writes:

Jones 1Astoundingly, about fifteen minutes later, the senator replies by saying:

Rapert What?  Did I read that last statement correctly?  Rights, according to the state senator, do not come naturally from our creator, like the Declaration of Independence states, but instead are favors generously bequeathed by generosity of the majority?

Perhaps not surprisingly, a multitude of Facebook users felt compelled to respond to Senator Rapert’s comments.  Here are the first in a long string:

ResponsesI don’t know about you, but I’d like to think minorities have rights too and that our government isn’t simply a tyranny of the majority.

This incident apparently isn’t the first time Jason Rapert has made some disturbing remarks.  For example, as one headline in the Arkansas Times from February of this year reads, “If Jason Rapert Didn’t Exist, We’d Have to Invent Him.”  This article was written after the senator supposedly offered the following thought regarding the conflict in the Middle East, “A strategically placed nuclear weapon would save the lives of our soldiers and quickly turn things around.”

Now, to be fair, I don’t know where Senator Rapert stands on a whole host of issues, but his statement about the origin of rights should raise some rather serious red flags for any American, regardless of political affiliation.  As a result, some of his detractors have taken to his Wikipedia page and added statements such as “Rapert is the founder and president of Holy Ghost Ministries, and he makes missionary visits to Ghana on a yearly basis and often spends his workdays giving minorities rights by choice.”

Just remember, ladies and gentlemen, unlike Senator Rapert’s way of thinking, rights are not gifts from the majority, for, if they are, they can be taken away just as easily.  No, we are born with certain rights and these rights don’t come from government, although we do entrust the government to protect them.  Rights come from God.

 

Thanks to Joe Enroughty for sharing this story.

Congressman Goodlatte Should Provide Leadership on Passing LEADS Act

Representative Bob Goodlatte

Representative Bob Goodlatte

A guest article by Dean Chambers

 

Privacy is a key right for all who use the internet as well as those who communicate and exchange key data needed in business. Privacy is under attack from a power grab undertaken by the Obama Justice Department under Attorney General Eric Holder, who asserted the power to take data from a server in Ireland owned a subsidiary doing business with Microsoft. Had that data been printed documents in that office in Ireland, the Justice Department would have approached the government of Ireland, under the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT) between the two countries seeking a warrant to obtain that information. Data on computer servers should be subject to the same exact protections of law as data on printed document enjoys.

The answer to this judiciary power grab is the LEADS Act proposed by Sen. Orrin Hatch, that would protect the privacy of data against such encroachment. The ability of individuals to use the internet to communicate as well as that of businesses to communicate, invent and innovate using such “cloud servers” on the internet would be protect by enacting the LEADS Act. This legislation would restore balance under the Fourth Amendment, protecting privacy and allowing law enforcement to obtain data when authorized by a warrant from a judge or abiding by MLAT in the instance of data on a foreign server.

The privacy protections of computer data under the Electronic Communication Privacy Act (ECPA) would be extended to protect the privacy of data on overseas servers. Many businesses have operations and subsidiaries around the globe involved in creating new products and services using servers around the world. The data and processes involved would be protected, giving a competitive advantage to American businesses operating around the world.

Congressman Bob Goodlatte has done some good work in the areas of copyright issues and internet piracy as well as introducing the Innovation Act to reduce frivolous patent infringement lawsuits by patent trolls. It would be very consistent with those efforts, and follow in the same direction, if Rep. Goodlatte would take the lead in helping to pass the LEADS Act in the House.

Writing recently for The Hill, Karen S. Evans writes, “LEADS will improve data privacy protections for U.S. citizens and residents while strengthening law enforcement cooperation with other nations. The bill also preserves the essential balance between security and privacy. At the same time, it will signal to our foreign partners that we are serious about improving law enforcement cooperation with them. In these times, such improvements are vital to ensuring effective functioning of our law enforcement agencies while maintaining the privacy rights of our citizens.”

The key issue involved here, for individuals and businesses using the internet and servers to store and exchange data, is such data has the same protections as any data stored and exchanged in other forms. The use of such “cloud servers” allows a level of communication in innovation not previously possible.

“It is legislation like LEADS that will help the U.S. achieve broader, much-needed ECPA reform. The goal is clear – the laws should ensure that data stored in the cloud receives the same legal protections as data stored in our homes and at work,” Evans wrote in The Hill.

The LEADS Act is extremely important legislation that really needs to be enacted into law, and I strongly urge Rep. Goodlatte to take up the lead in getting this bill passed in the House. Mr. Goodlatte has done great work in the past to ensure the protection of privacy and other rights on the internet, and this is a great opportunity to do so again by helping pass the LEADS Act. The result will be a much stronger and prosperous America if this legislation is passed.

 

Dean Chambers is an independent journalist and blogger who has written news and commentary articles on a wide variety of subjects. His articles have been published on Examiner.com, The Inquisitr, Conservative Firing Line and have been featured on The Drudge Report, The Rush Limbaugh Program, The Blaze and The Gateway Pundit as well as parodied by Stephen Colbert, Chris Matthews and Rachel Maddow.

Divorce The Government And Marriage!

Image from http://www.deviantart.com/art/just-married-294243687

Image from http://www.deviantart.com/art/just-married-294243687

As everyone presumably knows, last week the Supreme Court ruled that state laws forbidding homosexual marriage are unconstitutional.  What you may not remember, is that almost exactly two years ago, in late June of 2013, the Supreme Court declared that the Federal Defense of Marriage Act was also unconstitutional.

At that time, I wrote a piece on this website offering my thoughts on the matter.  In the ensuing conversation on Facebook, I added, “If two people wish to live together and create all manner of contracts, be they insurance-related, will-related, or what have you, that is their business. However, I would argue that marriage is something special, something different that ought to be respected.”

Yes, back in 2006, I happily voted for an amendment to the Virginia Constitution that would not accept any definition of marriage in this state beyond one man and one woman.  That was my belief and, as such, I wanted the government to defend it.  However, the unforeseen question I didn’t think to ask then was whether it was appropriate to allow the government to define what is or what is not marriage.

Although I haven’t found any definitive evidence yet (and if any reader would care to provide it I would be grateful),  I’ve been informed that government marriage licenses are a rather new phenomenon in this country, crafted as a way to prevent blacks and whites from intermarrying.

In late 2013, the woman who I had once loved with every ounce of my being asked me what I thought of marriage licenses.  Although I thought it a rather peculiar question for her to ask at that time, given that our relationship was all but destroyed, it did get me thinking.  Licenses are a form of government control over who can and who cannot become married.  In certain cultures and times they have been used to prevent marriages by class, by race, by socioeconomic or political status, and yes, by gender too.  In addition, sometimes the power of the state was used to force two people to get married.  What if, as a result of the colour of my skin, or my religion, or my income, or my political affiliation, or something as simple as my family, the government tried to prevent me from marrying the woman I loved or compelled me to marry someone I didn’t?  I’m sure you would be absolutely furious as I would be!

Now, obviously such an event would be quite unlikely in modern America.  After all, I am white, Christian, and one day seeking to marry someone of the opposite sex, so presumably our society wouldn’t have much of a problem with it.  However, we’ve heard recent stories in some African and Asian countries of Christian and Muslim couples put to death for daring to be with someone of a different religion.

If we believe that the purpose of government is to protect the lives, liberties, and property of her citizens, where does marriage fall in that spectrum?  From where does the government derive the right to determine who is or who is not married?  By that same token, if you or your business decide not to take part in a marriage ceremony that you find morally objectionable, isn’t that your right as well?  Does the government have the right to force a private individual or business to be a party to a behaviour they consider immoral?

To offer a quote from Thomas Jefferson on another moral matter, “but our rulers can have authority over such natural rights only as we have submitted to them.  The rights of conscience we never submitted, we could not submit.  We are answerable for them to our God.  The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only as are injurious to others.  But it does me no injury for my neighbour to say there are twenty gods, or no god.  It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.”  Along those same lines, you may rejoice or be sullen about your neighbors’ marriage, but, either way, that doesn’t give you the right to use the government to force your worldview upon them.  In addition, whether you support or oppose gay marriage, please show me in the Constitution where the government has the expressed authority to weigh in on that issue.

Both conservatives and liberals must remember that when they attempt to use the government to enforce their social agendas, they have surrendered the argument and the power to the whims of government and that one day that very same power can be used in the exact opposite way than they had originally intended!

What I find most troubling about the two Supreme Court decisions from last week is that the courts are continuing to assume authority well beyond their proscribed limits.  Whether you are happy or upset about this issue of marriage, do we really want to hand more authority (especially legislative) to an unelected and unaccountable body whose members serve for life?  I don’t!  The last I checked, neither men and women in black robes nor legislators and bureaucrats are either our pastors or our priests…and we should never let them assume that role.

Yes, I look forward to finding and marrying a woman with whom I hope to spend the rest of my life, but is that decision, which is supposed to be made between the two of us, any business of the government?  The take-home lesson from these last several years is that we need to divorce the government from a lot of issues in which has usurped authority…including marriage.

Will Conservatives and Libertarians Get Fooled Again?

This year, Virginians will be electing 140 members of the General Assembly to represent them in Richmond; 100 to the House of Delegates and 40 to the Virginia Senate.

Photo from SenatorNorment.com

Photo from SenatorNorment.com

The last time that we elected senators statewide was in the November 2011 elections.  As you may remember, before that election the Democratic Party was in charge in the Virginia Senate with 22 seats. The Republican Party was pressing hard to gain control of that chamber.  Although a member of the GOP at that time, I must admit that I was wary of the Republicans gaining the majority.  After all, the Senator Minority Leader for the Republicans was Senator Tommy Norment (R-James City County), one of the least conservative Republicans in the Virginia Senate.  Why did I not want him?  Well, he supported many tax increases, including the massive hike under then Governor Mark Warner, and was a man who was arguably less concerned with reducing the size of government and keeping taxes low than some of the Democrats.

Prior to that election, I spoke about these concerns with a fellow activist who would later go on to lead the Young Republican Federation of Virginia.  I asked why should we promote the Republican slate as a whole and win the Virginia Senate if our legislators would simply turn around and give enormous power to a man whose principles stood in stark contrast to the grassroots Republican base.  However, I was assured that if the Republicans did win the Senate that November, they would not choose Norment, instead rewarding a strong, conservative leader.  As such, like many other conservatives and libertarians, I promoted the Republicans.

What do you think happened next?  Well, the Republicans did win in November and proceeded to elect Senator Norment as the majority leader.  And, under his leadership, the Republican-led Senate then passed a massive transportation tax hike dubbed “Plan ’13 From Outer Space”.  Should we be surprised?  After all, as fellow blogger D.J. McGuire pointed out on the Virginia Virtucon, “every Republican-controlled State Senate in the 21st Century has enacted a tax increase.”  Unfortunately, once again, conservatives had been betrayed.  So much for the “New” GOP Senate.

So, here we are, a little over four months from deciding whether the Republicans will maintain power in the Virginia Senate.  I’m sure that you have been told, as I have, once again we need to make sure that the Republicans continue to be in charge so that they can promote our conservative principles in Richmond.  However, assuming that they win, I see no reason to believe that they won’t continue with Senator Norment (or someone equally bad) as majority leader.  Therefore, I encourage you to ask your Republican incumbent or challenger that, if elected, will he or she pledge to vote for a new, principled majority leader.  If the answer is no, or you aren’t given a response, just remember that there is a Libertarian, Carl Loser, available in one district.  Or…you might just be better off casting your vote for the Democratic candidate.  Otherwise, meet the new boss; same as the old boss.

Therefore, to my fellow conservatives and libertarians who think that electing Republicans to the Virginia Senate regardless of their individual positions will somehow make certain that our values are advanced, let me offer a quote from former President George W. Bush:

So, will the Republican or Democratic Party control the Virginia Senate as a result of the 2015 elections?  For those who clamor for a Republican victory, just remember that with Norment back in charge I hope you like higher taxes.  You will have no one else to blame when you are fooled again.

Virginia Republicans Need A Primary!

The renewed talk of convention versus a primary here in Virginia for the 2016 Republican Presidential contest seems to be the hot topic at the moment, taking up space on a variety of Virginia blogs.  Therefore, I thought it would be prudent to offer my thoughts.

As the title of this piece indicates, why not hold a primary next year?  After all, as others have already pointed out, the Republican Party of Virginia doesn’t have the sufficient funds to pay for a convention right now.  Rather than taking the fiscally responsible path of having a political party pay for its own nomination contest, isn’t it far better to soak the Virginia taxpayers, many if not most of whom have absolutely no interest in determining who the Republican Party nominates?

Now, now, I know what some of you will say, “the Republican Party is the party of limited government and keeping taxes and spending low”.  However, given that the Republican leadership in the General Assembly supported the two largest tax increases in Virginia history (Governor Mark Warner’s tax hike followed by Governor Bob McDonnell’s transportation tax plan), will anyone really notice if the GOP sticks the citizens with the bill once again?

Here in the Shenandoah Valley, elected Republican officials often shun conventions and instead select primaries.  Representative Bob Goodlatte chose a primary in 2012 because there was a worry that he might lose in a convention if the party faithful could hold him accountable.  In 2015 and 2007, Virginia Senator Emmett Hanger did the exact same thing.  Friends, if the GOP picks a convention, there is a good chance that those already in office won’t win and, as the people exist to serve their legislators, it would be utterly disastrous for us to lose our 20+ year incumbents.  Can you imagine the hassle of having to remember the names and political positions of our new leaders every two or four years?  Why, most of us don’t pay near enough attention to politics to handle that kind of responsibility!  It is far better to stay the course.  When we elect a candidate once, assuming he or she gets the stamp of approval from the leadership in Richmond and/or Washington, we should elect him or her for life!

Now, that’s not to say that primaries always produce the best outcome.  After all, last year Dave Brat defeated former Majority Leader Eric Cantor.  Republican candidates actually running on the Republican creed!  Who could fathom such a thing?  Why didn’t voters choose the name and face they knew rather than someone (shudder) that actually promotes conservative values?  Nevertheless, just because of this one unfortunate situation, one shouldn’t discount primaries entirely.  After all, they usually produce candidates that don’t give two cents about the values of the grassroots and are more interested in working with the Republican power bosses.  Who could forget such inspiring leaders selected by primaries?  We need more leaders like John McCain and Mitt Romney! Nevertheless, it is hard to understand why voters in the general election reject the sort of establishment, moderate Republicans that primaries produce.

Friends, the arguments are simple.  It is ridiculous to think that Republicans should have to pay for their own nominating contests.  In addition, primaries usually allow well-funded incumbents to stay in office, forget about their principles, and continue to ignore the wishes of the men and women who helped to get them elected in the first place.  Aren’t they the type of leaders we need?  With those thoughts in mind, why should the Republican Party of Virginia consider any other nomination method?

Virginia Republicans need a primary in 2016!

The Most Important Aspects of the McKinney Pool Party Incident, Why isn’t Anyone Talking About it?

Image from http://cdn.uinterview.com

Image from http://cdn.uinterview.com

A guest post by Robert W. T. Short, Sr.

By now everyone reading this has seen the video released last week of Cpl. Eric Casebolt throwing a teenage girl to the ground, sitting on her, and pulling out his gun on some teenage boys. But I’d like you to watch it again, see if you notice the breath taking aspect of it that the media has ignored. When Cpl. Casebolt pulls his gun out, the other officers, who are not fearing for their lives, do not stop him. Cpl. Casebolt is obviously emotionally disturbed, but the other officers ignore that. Why?

Well it might be that those cops were hoping he would open fire on the teens, I highly doubt it though. So what would cause two seemingly rational people to ignore a threat? Could it be that cops have found out that trying to keep other cops honest is detrimental to their careers? In case after case the police officers who defend the public against bad cops are punished. In Virginia a police officer who asked that some out of state cops obey the speed limit was told, “there is no room for people like you in law enforcement.” And that is not the only case it happened in Florida, New York, New Jersey, Georgia, and many, many, more.

As we have been told by economists since Adam Smith, incentives matter. If you incentivize something you get more of it. If you incentivize cops not to report, or stop other cops from breaking the law, then you get fewer cops who will report or stop other cops. But that then incentivizes cops to break the law, since you eliminate most consequences of doing so. In fact if we wanted corrupt police, then we have set up a system that is optimal for providing that. This is why whistleblower protections are so important. As long as we, as a society, insist that good cops live in fear for their lives and careers we cannot expect the system to improve.

I mentioned earlier that Cpl. Casebolt was emotionally disturbed, I think from a neutral viewing of the video that this is obvious, however, I am not a psychologist, I was not there, so where do I get off saying that? Well Cpl. Casebolt himself said as much. He released a statement in which he apologized to those her hurt and explained how much of a toll going from one suicide to the next, including one where a man shot himself in fron of Cpl. Casebolt, took on him. When I first read that I was shocked, how could an officer leave a scene where a man kills himself in front of his very eyes and then be expected to immediately respond to a disturbance call? Not to excuse his actions, but what kind of supervisor would allow that to happen? If someone commits suicide in front of you, ten minutes later you are not emotionally ready to work a checkout at Walmart, much less to have a gun and attempt to enforce order. So more than just an investigation into Cpl. Casebolt’s actions at the pool, there needs to be an investigation into why he was there in the first place.

Finally, I must commend Cpl. Casebolt, while he made a very bad mistake, at least he was man enough to admit to it and apologize. In this he is an example to everyone of what we should expect from those in Law Enforcement.

R.W.T. Short, Sr. is a US Army veteran of both Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation New Dawn. He is a civil libertarian and Veteran’s Rights activist, as well as a political consultant. He lives in Lynchburg, Va. with his wife of eight years, their three children, their dogs Bellum, Maria and a colony of former stray cats his daughter adopted. He can be reached via email at Robert.W.T.Short.Sr@GMail.com and on Twitter at @RobertShortSr.

Goodlatte v. Massie on the TPA & TPP

When it comes to the issue of Trade Promotion Authority and the Transpacific Partnership, there are at least two lines of thinking among Republican legislators in Congress.  Many, like Representative Bob Goodlatte (VA-6), have come out in support of TPA & TPP, while others, like Representative Thomas Massie (KY-4), oppose them.  Although billed “Obamatrade” by its detractors as it is favored by President Obama, it is rather curious that it has more support among Republicans than Democrats.  On June 12th, the TPA narrowly passed the House of Representatives by a vote of 219-210.  Broken down by party, Republicans generally favored it (191-54) while Democrats generally opposed it (28-156).

Rather than outline their positions myself, let me present the two representatives in their own words.

First, on April 30, 2015, Representative Goodlatte sent out the following letter:

THE TRANS-PACIFIC PARTNERSHIP IS NOT AN IMMIGRATION GIVE-AWAY
Dear Colleague:
No one believes more strongly than do I that our immigration laws should be written by Congress and not negotiated in trade agreements. In 2003, I and other Members sent a letter to Ambassador Robert Zoellick, head of the United States Trade Representative (USTR), stating that:
The Constitution grants the legislative branch of the federal government plenary power over immigration law. As the Supreme Court ruled in Galvan v. Press, 347 U.S. 522, 531 (1954), “that the formulation of [immigration] policies is entrusted exclusively to Congress has become about as firmly imbedded in the legislative and judicial tissues of our body politic as any aspect of our government.” The United States Trade Representative’s practice of proposing new immigration law in the context of bilateral or multilateral trade negotiations cannot be reconciled with Congress’s constitutional prerogative. Even worse, when combined with the grant of “fast track” or “trade promotion authority” eliminating the legislature’s ability to amend such  proposals, USTR’ s practice has effectively stolen this plenary power away from Congress. We cannot allow this to continue and must thus insist that you never again agree to include immigration provisions in trade agreements. . . .
Based on the current draft text of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and assurances from USTR, I am confident that we can vote for the TPP and trade promotion authority without violating the enduring principles set forth in the 2003 letter. To its great credit, USTR has stood up to immense pressure and has refused to agree to “temporary entry” provisions in the TPP that would allow foreign workers to come to America outside of the terms of current congressionally-passed immigration law. Whatever other countries participating in the TPP negotiations agree to regarding temporary entry, the U.S. will not be a signatory. In addition, no one has been more vocal than me in their criticism of the Obama Administration’s attempt to unconstitutionally rewrite our immigration laws through the grant of administrative legalization to millions of unlawful aliens. There is nothing in the current draft of the TPP that will in any way advance or facilitate this or any other unconstitutional action by the Administration.
In the TPP negotiations, USTR has acted in good faith and has respected Congress’ constitutionally-granted power to write our nation’s immigration laws. In turn, we should support the TPP and trade promotion authority as a boon to the American economy.

Sincerely,
Bob Goodlatte
Chairman House Judiciary Committee
In addition, on June 11th, Representative Goodlatte shared a link on his Facebook page outlining the “Top Nine Myths About Trade Promotion Authority And The Trans-Pacific Partnership“.
However, another group of Republicans disagree.  On June 12th, Representative Massie offered the following thoughts on Facebook:

I support free trade, but I cannot vote for the ‪#‎TPA‬ bill that will expedite approval of the ‪#‎TPP‬ trade agreement.

(1) I’ve read the confidential TPP. What struck me most was the enormity of it. Two bound volumes that reference other bound volumes of trade agreements. My staff aren’t allowed to read the document, I’m not allowed to take notes from the room, and I can’t access an Internet browser in the room. How could I possibly understand the unintended consequences of this agreement over the next few decades?

(2) The implications of ceding our sovereignty to the World Trade Organization (‪#‎WTO‬) via trade agreements became painfully obvious to me this week. Congress literally rewrote our food labeling laws to please the WTO. The WTO said we can’t require the country of origin to be on the labels for beef and pork. I voted against removing the labels but the WTO-directed legislation passed anyway.

(3) Phone calls from my constituents are running 30 to 1, opposing versus supporting, the TPA. Some are concerned that this agreement gives this President too much additional authority. Some are concerned about the lack of transparency. These are both valid concerns.

And here is what he said on the House floor:

So, given that Goodlatte and Massie seem to be diametrically opposed on this issue, one does have to ask, what is the Republican position on this matter?  Generally, Republicans favor free trade, but is the TPA & TPP a bad deal for Americans?

Like the recent feud over the Patriot Act and the USA Freedom Act, is this another issue which will help tear the establishment and liberty wings of the Republican Party apart?  And could these rather substantive disagreements predicate the GOP’s future destruction?  After all, last week RNC Chairman Reince Priebus stated that “we (the Republican Party) don’t exist as a national party if we don’t win in 2016.”  I guess we will see.

Inviting D’Souza?

A group called the Virginia Vision PAC recently created a political event in August in Virginia Beach.  Their featured speaker?  Dinesh D’Souza.  Although Mr. D’Souza is a long-time conservative commentator, I find the decision to focus a gathering around him particularly troubling.

UntitledI’ve met Mr. D’Souza only once, at a gathering of the William & Mary College Republicans in Williamsburg many years ago.  While there, I picked up a copy of his book, The End of Racism, which he signed for me.

As you may know, since that time Dinesh D’Souza has made quite a name for himself, both for good and ill.  He has written many books about politics and crafted a film called 2016: Obama’s America, which I’m told was highly critical of the current president, earning quite a bit of praise in Republican circles.

When I was invited to this Virginia Vision PAC event, I immediately questioned the wisdom of hosting D’Souza.  I posted my thoughts to the Facebook event pointing out that he is a recently convicted felon and that cheated on his wife a few years ago.  The first response to my comment explained that former President Bill Clinton was also a disreputable character.  Although I agreed that that might be true, I questioned the relevance of bringing him up in relationship to D’Souza.  After all, Clinton’s behavior wouldn’t excuse D’Souza’s.  Before anyone else could offer his or her opinion, the creator of the Facebook event deleted my post.

Taking some time to research Virginia Vision, it seems like I would agree with many of their positions.  According to the Virginia Vision PAC website, “The Virginia Vision PACs (State and Federal) were formed with the express purpose of objectively reviewing the voting record of our elected officials and holding them accountable to Conservative Principles.”  Sounds pretty good, no?  And that’s not to say Mr. D’Souza doesn’t deserve another chance either.  After all, whether big or small, we all screw up from time to time.  Those points notwithstanding, I do believe hosting D’Souza shortly after his release for felony election fraud is a very poor decision.

If you may recall, during the Clinton presidency conservatives railed against the president for cheating on his wife and then lying about it.  And yet, here we are with some of them standing behind a man, D’Souza, who boasted similar misdeeds.  Why is it these days that we will condemn someone for their immoral behavior if we happen to disagree with them while at the same time turning a blind eye to those with whom we happen to agree.  Isn’t doing so the pinnacle of hypocrisy?  For conservatives does breaking both election laws and marriage vows matter?  Or should we overlook those details and instead simply “protect our own”?

Untitled copy 2In The End of Racism, D’Souza dedicates the work “for my darling wife Dixie who makes life complete.”  I do have to ask, once she made his life complete did he decide to trade her in for a newer model?

My hope is that the Virginia Vision PAC will realize their error and find someone more appropriate to headline their event.  Otherwise, I believe it would be wise for conservatives to decline attending such a gathering.