Saying No to Pork

Image from
Image from

For all the talk of the GOP’s supposed aversion to pork-barrel spending, Republicans sure do love pork products.  For example, a few moments ago I was invited to the Warren County GOP’s pig roast.  Now, the invitation is a two-fold problem.  First, I don’t really care for the idea of donating to a political party that may or may not be guided by the same principles that motivate me.  Although some Republican Parties actually stand for a certain set of values, others have completely jettisoned them and will support any person who happens to bear the party label.  Second, and the main point of this article, is that I don’t eat meat that comes from a pig.

Although many of my Christian brothers and sisters may find this idea odd, about five years ago I gave up pork.  Yes, there is the concern of trichinosis, but more importantly I decided to abstain from the meat as one way of showing my devotion to God.  At first, it wasn’t easy.  I never cared much for pork chops, but ham was rather tasty and bacon was absolutely amazing.  Yes, saying no to bacon was certainly one of the harder aspects.

Of course there are others who don’t eat the meat of pigs either.  For example, you have Jewish, Muslims, Seventh Day Adventists, and, of course, Vegetarians, and Vegans.  In addition, I have a second cousin who used to be the chairman of the Rockingham County Republican Party who also refrains.  Over these last five years I cannot tell you how many Republican events I’ve gone to where the option for lunch is either to eat pork or to go hungry.  For example, about a month ago I ran into this situation at a gathering of the Waynesboro Republican Party.  Back in 2012, Representative Bob Goodlatte graciously provided lunch for the 6th District Virginia Republican Convention.  The only thing available was pork barbeque, therefore I could only munch on a hamburger bun and some potato chips as I did not want to break my fast.  The woman who has since become the head of the Harrisonburg Tea Party found herself in a similar situation.  As you can guess, there is absolutely no way I would agree to attend a Republican gathering if held during mealtime if I knew that there was nothing for me to eat.

When the Republican Party offers attendees pork and nothing else, whether intentional or not, they are subtly saying to Muslims, Jews, and a host of others, we don’t really care about your dietary concerns and you aren’t welcome in our political party…or at least that is how it feels to me.  Compared to the food offered at Democratic and Libertarian gatherings, Republicans are woefully close-minded.

One would figure that given the statewide failures of the Republican Party in Virginia since 2009, the party would do a better job of offering alternatives to pork both in the political sense and as a food option at their gatherings.  But, then again, as I’ve been personally dismayed to discover, perhaps reaching out to a wider variety of like-minded voters really isn’t their bailiwick.

The Failure of Puerto Rico

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With news of Greece’s financial woes dominating the international scene, not as many people realize that a similar financial crises looms in our own backyard, Puerto Rico. Unfortunately, over the years Puerto Rico has fallen on hard times due to mismanagement, corruption, and intense government involvement in the economy.

Given that the island is a territory and not a state, it falls into a different set of Constitutional circumstances than say the city of Detroit.  Thus, legally, they can’t simply declare bankruptcy like some municipalities.  However, there is a bill pending before Congress, HR 870, that would treat Puerto Rico as a state for these purposes.  But is that idea really the right answer?

Bailouts and bankruptcies seem to be all the rage these days.  Governments meddle excessively in economies through crony capitalism and, when that scheme invariably fails. they then further reward their allies by placing the U.S. taxpayer on the hook for the bill.  We’ve already seen it with the Wall Street crisis and the auto industry bailout.  Now, they are looking to soak the average citizens again for the mistakes of D.C. and San Juan.  To borrow a quote from Pete Sepp of the National Taxpayers Union, “taxpayer-funded bailouts or bankruptcy proceedings that shortchange bondholders and citizen investors alike cannot be regarded as ‘easy outs’ for Puerto Rico. If Congress takes the significant step of extending Chapter 9 to Puerto Rico’s public entities, but ignores the need for reforms…it will be sending the wrong kind of message: that governments can spend recklessly and abuse the public trust without risk.”

Although one cannot help but feel for the people of Puerto Rico and certainly most, if not all of us would like to see them prosper, simply trying to ignore the debt or shifting the burden to those who did not create the problem isn’t the solution.

Let me conclude by saying that given that Puerto Rico is and has been in constitutionally murky water since the United States acquired the territory from Spain in 1898, perhaps it is time to finally answer the Puerto Rico question by making them a full-fledged state or allowing them to become their own country.  Obviously, this is a decision that the citizens of Puerto Rico ought to make for themselves (followed by the citizens of the United States if they seek statehood).  Either way, this move would allow the Puerto Ricans to better chart their own destiny and not simply continue to be a U.S. colony with second-class citizen status.

Virginia Free in Harrisonburg

IMG_3012On Thursday morning, the political group Virginia Free hosted an event on the campus of James Madison University.  It was a panel presentation featuring JMU professor (and former Delegate) Pete Giesen, Delegate Steve Landes, and Levar Stoney from Governor McAuliffe’s administration. For about an hour, the three individuals, along with Virginia Free Executive Director (and former Delegate) Chris Saxman spoke on a variety of issues, including a sizable segment about the Virginia government.

Afterward, they fielded questions from the audience; during this time, both Angela Lynn, the Democratic challenger of Steve Landes, and April Moore, the Democratic candidate in the 26th Senate district, spoke briefly.  Delegate Tony Wilt was also present, but as an observer.

Angela Lynn and April Moore
Angela Lynn and April Moore

At one point, one member of the audience declared that he was offended that the speakers sometimes used the phrase “Democrat Party” as opposed to “Democratic Party” declaring the first term to be pejorative although he did not really explain why he thought so.  Later, when one of the panel members said Democrat Party again, the observer interrupted with his same objection.  In addition, quite a few people in the audience spoke about Medicaid expansion in the state and were upset with Delegate Landes’ opposition to doing so.

In addition, Virginia Free offered attendees a scorecard ranking the General Assembly members according to their pro-business stance.  I found it rather curious that they declared Senator Water Stosch to be the best member of the Virginia Senate alongside Senators Frank Wagner, John Watkins, Frank Ruff, and Tommy Norment while declaring that Senators Reeves, Black, and Garrett were among the worst and that Senator Chap Petersen was the absolute poorest member of that body.  On the House of Delegates side, they gave high marks to Speaker Bill Howell and Delegate Ed Scott while also ranking Delegates Mark Berg, Charniele Herring, and Bob Marshall unfavorably.  Wanting to learn more, I asked Mr. Saxman about the ratings, especially the 2013 ranking and he explained that everyone who voted in favor of Governor McDonnell’s transportation tax increase was given a score of 100%, while those who opposed it were rated as 0%.  Their stance on that one issue and how they chose to rank the various legislators likely tells you everything you need to know about where Virginia Free and where they stand on the issues of taxes, government spending, and the proper role of government.

Although I certainly appreciated the presentation, based upon what I learned, I am concerned that Virginia Free and I might have a fundamentally different opinion on what the term “pro-business” means and who the best and worst members of the General Assembly are.

The Schmookler & Huffman Show (Episode XXV)

IMG_0243This morning, I returned to the radio on 550 AM WSVA and was glad to have Andy Schmookler join me in studio once again.

The main focus of the day was the 2016 Presidential race.  We spoke about the various politicians currently vying for both the Republican and Democratic nominations.  On the Democratic side, the main candidates were Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton with a small sampling of Jim Webb.  Switching over to the Republicans, Donald Trump took center stage and there was some discussion of Jeb Bush, Scott Walker, and even a little Rand Paul, Marco Rubio, and Jim Gilmore thrown into the mix.  Although I would have liked to mention Gary Johnson and the Libertarians, we are still waiting for his official announcement.

In addition, we also discussed the problematic issue of gerrymandering in Virginia.

If you missed our twenty-fifth installment, you can find it here.

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.