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On Socialism: Grandpa to Grandkids

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An Meine Enkelinnen (To My granddaughters)

I am compelled by the tenor of our times. I am compelled by the fact that you are flesh of my flesh, bone of my bone. I am compelled because time is precious. I am compelled because I love you.

I must share with you or forever regret that I failed to do so.

First, I must remind you of my bona fides, that is, the documentary evidence of my legitimacy, my credentials. Your professors call this Curriculum Vitae. It’s how they explain the alphabet soup they place following their names.

Most professors offer you the vegetables of their personal garden plots. Doctoral dissertations. Masters theses. Few, if any, of these academics can match my bona fides.

My sources are what I have seen and experienced, in situ, that is, in and within its original place. My sources are street-level, nitty-gritty, real people who lived with and during socialism, communism, and national socialism. I spoke, and still speak, face-to-face with these people. I dined with them. I lodged with them. I went to their weddings and their funerals. I wept with them and laughed with them. I went with them into their churches, their schools. I worked and sweat with them. Picked mushrooms in the forests with them. I shopped with them. Played cards and chess with them. I learned their language, their history, their culture.

So, damn it, when I tell you what I know about socialism, communism, and national socialism, listen to me!

Your professors can lecture you on Engels, Marx, Hegel, Trotsky, and Lenin. That’s their turf. I, on the other hand, offer you a reality check. Consider this: if I throw an apple to break a window, does that rob all apples of nutrients? Ought we campaign to remove all apples from the grocer’s shelves? Alas, this is the flaw in the writings of Engels, Marx, and the rest. I won’t argue whether these scholars observed abuse at the hands of some they called capitalists. But we don’t behead a sick hen in the attempt to cure her! At least not if we wish to continue having eggs. This is likewise the very illogic indulged in by many who today call themselves progressives or liberals and seek to cure our ills with socialism. They speak of utopian dreams. I reduce those dreams to hard facts.

Let’s start with hard fact number one. Let’s say I apply to an apple a sticky-label reading “banana.” Does the apple become a banana? Of course not. And the same is true with the label “socialist” and, for that matter, “communist.” If I label an autocracy as socialist, it remains an autocracy. Likewise true for a communist state labeled “Democratic Republic.”

Have I ever seen a communist country bearing the label “Democratic Republic”? Well, yes, as a matter of fact, I have! I have even traveled to and within such a place. The German Democratic Republic. That happens to be the place your grandmother Josefine was born.

Problem is, only one word of that label was true. It was German. But it most assuredly was not democratic. Nor was it a republic.

The point here is that just as we cannot judge a book by its cover, neither can we judge a country by its label. We have to examine how it behaves and what it does. Only then can we decide what it is.

Speaking of labels and terminology, stop for a moment and reflect on these questions:

What is the difference between an oligarchy and an autocracy?

Who has greater prestige – the proletariat or the bourgeoisie?

How does socialism differ from communism?

Is one better off being an Apparatchik or being a Politburo member?

Is the United States a democracy? Or, is our country a republic?

What is the meaning of the suffix “cracy”?

If you can answer these questions with ease, thank your high school teacher or your college professor. If, on the other hand, you struggle with any of these, your professors may not be worth their paychecks.

Now, let’s get back to labels. And some facts.

Russia was not a communist country. But it was an oligarchy hiding behind the label of communism. Had it been communist, it would have been a classless society. But it wasn’t, and still isn’t. Those at the helm of leadership and most of their apparatchiks had privileges not available to the rest of society. They had special stores where they could buy Western products. They had private country villas (dacha — a country house or cottage). They drove quality cars – the Volga rather than the Lada. The working-class rode — and still ride — street cars, buses, and subways.

Definitely not classless. The oligarchs lived a lifestyle several notches above that of the commoners. “But they have elections,” you might say. True, but their elections are like crystal selling for the price of diamond. Later we’ll examine detailed facts about elections in Russia, Cuba and Iran. But for now, ponder, please, on this:

2018 – Vladimir Putin, President (Prime Minister is Dmitry Medvedev)

2012-2018 Vladimir Putin, President (Prime Minister is Dmitry Medvedev)

2008-2012 Vladimir Putin, Prime Minister (President is Dmitry Medvedev)

2000-2008 Vladimir Putin, President

This exercise of musical chairs is oligarchy at its most brazen. And what your professors likely do not tell you is this: Executive power in each of these political dances always remained with Putin. When Medvedev was president, the office was ceremonial head of state, while the office of prime minister under Putin wielded executive power.

What I most hope you will discern is how people who seek power will abuse labels – sort of the wolf in sheep’s clothing – to gain control over others. Hopefully, once adequately informed, you can avoid buying into the deceit offered by those who choose to ignore, or hide, reality.

So let’s take a closer look at elections. What I am about to reveal to you is true for Russia, China, and Cuba to mention only three. But it also is true for Iran. Iran? Yes, but the labels are different. A hammer remains a hammer even when it has a religious label!

I don’t wish for this essay to grow to the 560 pages of Marx’s Capital, so I’ll be concise. I’ll focus on common denominators to put it arithmetical terms. Let’s start with a few quotes from sources you might recognize. These folks are telling you what I – as noted earlier – already know because I have seen and witnessed these events over a period of years.

First this from Cuba’s most recent election:

“If the Cuban Communist Party — the only party allowed to participate in elections under the one-party regime….”

“The 86-year-old Castro will remain head of the Communist Party, which is designated by the constitution as ‘the superior guiding force of society and the state.’ As a result, he will still be the most powerful person in Cuba for the time being.”

“As in Cuba’s legislative elections, all of the leaders selected Wednesday were picked by a government-appointed commission. Ballots offer only the option of approval or disapproval and candidates generally receive more than 95 percent of the votes in their favor.”

And now this from Iran’s most recent election:

“The Supreme Leader — currently an ultra-conservative cleric named Ayatollah Ali Khamenei — helps appoint the Guardian Council, an unelected panel of conservatives that decides who gets to run for president (and who doesn’t). Many popular reformist candidates have been disqualified from running in recent elections.”

“But not everyone is allowed to take part. The guardian council, a powerful body of six clergymen and six jurists, vets each candidacy. Political competence and loyalty to the fundamental principles of the Islamic republic and its religion are among the main issues considered by the council. This year, out of more than 1,600 who applied to run, only six candidates were accepted.”

Not too difficult to spot common denominators, eh? Single party, government appointed commission, only “vetted” candidates permitted. And, yes, the labels vary, but this process is the same for Russia and China.

Do you really need arithmetic now to grasp why candidates in these –and other such – countries receive 95% of votes cast. (Okay, sometimes for appearance sake we’ll see only 75% or so. That usually means that only 75% voted, not that 25% voted for another candidate. After all, there was no other candidate.)

Now let’s shift our attention to economics.

You may notice I’ll be making little distinction here between communism and socialism when it comes to economics. That’s because it’s sort of a Fifty Shades of Grey thing. What one calls state ownership of the means of production, the other calls social ownership and workers’ self-management of the means of production. With Cuba, it’s blatantly black-and-white. Not much grey. Here is how the New York Times puts it:

“The Cuban military, through its conglomerate Gaesa, owns the vast majority of firms that operate engaged [sic] in trade, from hotels to foreign exchange houses to ports, which gives it control of up to 60 percent of incoming hard currency. Any economic reformer knows that breaking a monopoly is difficult, even more so if the monopolist also holds power over arms and intelligence. Cuba’s military is committed to not just one-party rule, but also, it seems, to one-firm economics. And because Cuba’s economy is so closed, the private sector is small and weak.”

Just for emphasis if not for clarification, I would add this: Cuba’s military and Cuba’s communist party is a symbiotic relationship so tightly bound it could pass for a Möbius strip.

But let’s get to the point here. When we speak of socialism/communism, we must clearly discern its effect on a nation’s economy. Otherwise, we are simply fooling ourselves. Or, we are allowing ourselves to be fooled. Take your pick.

Here the Chicago Tribune puts it well:

“He (Castro) has failed to fix the generally unproductive and highly subsidized state-run businesses that, along with a Soviet-model bureaucracy, employ three of every four Cubans. State salaries average $30 a month, leaving workers struggling to feed their families, and often dependent on corruption or remittances from relatives overseas.”

Don’t allow the arithmetic to slip past you here. A whopping 75% of Cubans earn an average of $30 a month. Keep that in mind as adherents of socialism in our country block your view with labels!

Speaking of $30 a month, allow me to share with you how and where I learned about the “benefits” of socialism. In this case “democratic socialism.” That’s a blended system. Seen in such places as Sweden, Norway, and Denmark.

So, what do I know about Socialism in Denmark? Well, I lived and worked side by side with two Danes for a full year. In a place called Thule. Owing to periods of 24-hour darkness and others of 24-hour daylight, there’s plenty of time for chatting. Their names were Michael Lindblad and Lars Norgard and what they had to say astounded me, then and still does today.

Unlike the Americans who spent a year at Thule (a U.S. Air Force Base not far from geographic North Pole, which itself was not far from North Magnetic Pole) many Danes remained living and working at Thule for 10, 15, or 20 years before heading back to Denmark.

One day I asked Michael and Lars why they stayed so long at Thule. They explained it was because of taxes. As long as they worked at Thule, their income was 100% tax-free. And that made a lot more sense when they added the rest of the story. Danes back home paid taxes of 60% on their income. Sixty-percent! Reverse that and you’ll see that Danes receive only 40% of their income. For every 10 hours of work they’d receive 4 hours of pay.

Do I need to tell you more about Socialism? I will, because there’s much more to tell. But keep this image in mind. It’ll be useful as we progress.

Progress. That’s an interesting word. It can be a noun. It can also be a verb. Notice the shift in sound. What we need to notice is that progress, in the sense of productivity, is what suffers first and most when socialism (or unions) change the emphasis of a company from creating and producing widgets to creating and fostering a social agenda for the workers.

Here’s what happens. A company is founded by one or more investors. These folks invest cash to launch the company. They do so in a quest for profit. That’s not evil, by the way. Especially when investors use profit to build more companies. More workers have jobs.

Okay, so that’s a brief primer on free enterprise, also known as capitalism. (Investors put up the capital. They also shoulder the risk of failure.) Investors fund research and development. When it’s time to produce widgets (my term for any product), the company hires people. Then the buzz begins. Investors purchase raw materials. Transportation enters the picture. Company work staff assembles and finishes the widgets. Transportation reenters the picture. Move the widgets from the factory to the marketplace.

And so it goes. Until? Well, until we look at the impact of socialism – by whatever label. Now, don’t get me wrong here. I am not saying that labor and management in free enterprise should not identify and address issues to improve the workplace and the workforce. That’s an obvious win-win for all concerned. The issue is a matter of responsible balance. In most successful businesses, this practice is already well-established.

The impact of socialism has already been partially addressed. Earlier I mentioned what suffers first and most when socialism (or unions) change the emphasis of a company. There is a shift from creating and producing widgets to creating and fostering a social agenda for the workers. In my Air Force career, we spoke of “time over target,” and in my teaching career we spoke of “time on task.” Both of these referred to the amount of time devoted to a particular task. (Though the Air Force term could also refer to time-of-arrival over target.) So, let’s focus on widgets and the time necessary to produce them.

Here, the number 86,400 comes to mind. That’s the total number of seconds in a day. Now let’s reduce that to a standard 8-hour shift at work in the factory. Now we’re down to 28,800. That’s the number of seconds workers in any factory have to produce widgets. That looks like a hefty number of time until we reduce it to minutes. We have but 480 minutes in that 8-hour shift to produce widgets.

This makes it easier to see the impact of socialism in the factory environment. The first thing we lose is time-on-task. That translates to fewer widgets. And that, in turn, translates to fewer sales. You see where this is going, right?

Socialism (and our own labor unions) bring about a second reduction in both productivity and profit owing to the issue of work incentives. But before departing too far from that word profit, let us keep in mind that it is profit in free enterprise business that allows owner-investors to fund growth in the company. Often, this is overlooked by critics of capitalism.

Now, returning to work and work incentives, allow me to remind you that my source materials for the following are both my own personal experience (labor union) together with the experience of family, friends, and co-workers I mentioned above.

Labor unions reduce productivity in this way: Labor and management negotiate to establish a quota. Let’s say 15 widgets produced per hour per employee. An employee – eager to achieve – produces 20 widgets per hour. This employee will be severely ostracized, cold-shouldered, shunned by fellow employees and especially by the union. Why? First, because the overachiever makes fellow employees appear to be laggards. But more important – to the union – is that owner-management would be encouraged to raise the quota having seen the achievement. But union leaders do not want a quota raised. Why? They want owner-management to hire additional employees. Why? Each union employee pays monthly dues to the union.

We’ll return to the effects of Socialism upon a nation’s economy following this brief segue into labor union realities. Looking solely at the AFL-CIO (a federation of some 56 unions), here are some revealing facts which illustrate the above “why” questions. This federation of unions:

Has 12,475,220 members.

Collects member monthly dues of $112,276,800.

That’s an annual sum of $1,743,321,600.

Pays its top 10 employees an annual sum of $2,413,604.00.

Contributes $1,562,358,840.00 in election donations.

Of these election donations 93.5% goes to Democrat Party.

(I did not “invent” these facts. They come directly from this web page

And, please, don’t overlook this rather salient detail: That annual sum of employee dues paid is $1.7 billion that would have gone into employee paychecks and into the economy had it not gone to the union! And that’s just AFL-CIO money. If you have a bit more curiosity than a lizard has fur, you might ferret out an aggregate figure for all union dues. I’d be impressed!

Now let’s review those “why” questions:

But union leaders do not want a quota raised. Why? They want owner-management to hire additional employees. Why? Each union employee pays monthly dues to the union.

With this as a means of comparison, not to dollar figures, but to the effects of socialism upon a nation’s economy, let’s dig deeper.

While I know from personal observation and family discussions what follows, I’ll be quoting from a clearly written article. I’ll source the article for you at the end of this section. You might want to read “the rest of the story” to quote Paul Harvey. But let’s begin with these nuggets:

Socialism creates a strong incentive to shirk.

Socialism penalizes industrious behavior.

Socialism rewards sloth and indolence.

Socialism promises prosperity and freedom. But the incentives created by socialism place it in a dilemma. If the workers are allowed to remain “free,” they will not produce. To stimulate production, they must be denied their freedom. Thus, socialism cannot achieve both prosperity and freedom. Usually it results in neither.

This anecdote reveals the conundrum:

Assume that an individual, Clem, is a member of a socialist commune. Assume that there are 1,000 members of the commune and that the output is divided equally among the members. (For the sake of simplicity, we will ignore matters such as capital investment.) Let’s say that the production of the commune totals 100,000 bushels of wheat a year, or an average of 100 bushels per member. At a price of, say, $5.00 per bushel total receipts for the commune are $500,000, or $500 per member. The question is: How is Clem likely to behave? Will he work hard? Will he shirk?

Let’s assume that Clem is both naturally industrious and socially conscientious. He is concerned about the overall good of the commune. As a result, Clem works very hard and increases his production from 100 to 150 bushels of wheat a year. This increases the annual output of the commune from 100,000 to 100,050 bushels. At $5.00 per bushel the income of the commune increases from $500,000 to $500,250. Since total income is divided equally among the members, the income of each member rises from $500 to $500.25 a year. Thus, because of his extra work Clem’s production increased 50 per cent. But his income increased by a mere 25¢ or by 0.05 per cent. Moreover, the income of the other 999 members also increased by 25¢ even though they did not work any harder and their productivity did not increase.

Clearly, Clem’s activities benefited everyone in the commune except himself. Everyone else had his income increase without increasing his work. But Clem’s income increased only 25¢ despite increasing his work load by 50 per cent. While the benefits of the extra production were diffused throughout the commune, the costs were concentrated on Clem.

Poor Clem! He’s no better off than the American union laborer who gets ostracized for exceeding his quota. Hmmm.

But thanks to Clem, we are now in a better position to understand today’s Cuba and this quote:

He (Castro) has failed to fix the generally unproductive and highly subsidized state-run businesses that, along with a Soviet-model bureaucracy, employ three of every four Cubans. State salaries average $30 a month, leaving workers struggling to feed their families, and often dependent on corruption or remittances from relatives overseas.

So, returning to where we began. Your professors can lecture you on Engels, Marx, Hegel, Trotsky, and Lenin. That’s their turf. I, on the other hand, offer you a reality check.

That is what I am compelled to do. Because I love you enough to give a damn!

-30-

Compassion!

It is written:

Feed a man a fish for he has hunger.

Teach a man to fish, he’ll feed himself.

The first sates his hunger.

The second grants him dignity.

The first without the second creates dependency.

The second without the first invites failure.

So, which is compassionate?

Clearly both.

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Long-time Meza ‘fan’ perspective on council appointment

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There are those who have no problem expressing their opinion. I happen to be one of those people. So I thought I would now express my opinion on the appointment of Jake Meza to Town Council.

Since this was a pre-planned appointment, Mr. Meza did not have to spend a penny on a campaign for the November election.

Now, my opinion: EGO, ARROGANCE, POWER HUNGRY, VOTING POWER, BEHIND CLOSED DOORS DIRTY POLITICS, MANIPULATED TOWN ATTORNEY, PUPPETEER AND PUPPETS, RULE BREAKING REPUBLICAN PARTY/COMMITTEE.

Paul Gabbert
Front Royal, Virginia

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The Town Council appointment game analyzed

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Wait a minute! What’s that you say? Controversy in the Town Council? That’s hard to believe. Cronyism? Charging the Town Council with cronyism is like charging the Indy 500 with speeding. Who could it be? Mr. warmth and personality himself Jacob Meza. Foregoing the opinions of lawyers, why would they select Mr. Meza in a closed-door meeting (aren’t they all)?

His charisma – umm nope; style (GQ magazine has called and wants their “unshaven terrorist look” back); I know, maybe it’s his diligence in supporting Valley Health’s financial and policy interests. What’s that you say – Valley Health is his employer. No problem, he will just recuse himself from votes regarding his employer until that vote is needed. Oh, I see, well, I guess if you are having a baby and have to drive to Kalamazoo to have it, you could thank him.

Councilman and appointment under continued citizen scrutiny

Ahh Jacob Meza, Town Councilman for life. Here’s how the scam works; you don’t run for re-election, but you are appointed anyway. Then another Council member who has PO’ed town voters doesn’t want to bother with all that noisy campaigning – no problem, appoint him too. Well, at least we know Matthew Tederick will always have a job waiting.

Council members are NOT “under the jurisdiction of the council” states their own long-time town lawyer. Wow, I guess he is the same lawyer that gave half my boat to my ex-wife (I gave her the underwater half). So, I wonder who the council, or the town attorney for that matter, comes under the jurisdiction of?

What to do? Well, the lawyers could take it to court thus ensuring more legal fees for everyone. OR (and I say this with tongue in cheek), Mr. Meza could just honorably step down saving the Council from further stress or embarrassment.

Oh man, I crack myself up sometimes.

F. Schwartz
Warren County, Virginia


PS: since I wrote this letter prior to Monday’s first meeting with their appointed member, sure enough, this is headed to court.

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Commentary: Another perspective on election fraud claims and the Capitol riot

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For the past week, the nation has been absorbed by the January 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol housing one of the three branches of the federal government. The debate over what it meant and may continue to mean, has been joined.

What has led to this commentary is the rise of theories that what we saw on myriad news video footage isn’t really what we saw. That despite the “Stop the Steal” rally earlier that day addressed by President Trump, among others promoting the notion that Joe Biden’s 7-million popular vote and decisive 306-232 Electoral College, 74-vote margin of victory is a hoax perpetrated on the American public – that somehow the violence and anarchy displayed by the crowd urged to the Capitol by President Trump, wasn’t the work of Trump supporters and more radical elements of the “Stop the Steal” crowd.

Assertions have been made that the huge pro-Trump crowd was not one prone to violence and social media “rumors” and other Internet “theories” have been forwarded to shift blame to the political right’s boogeyman – ANTIFA (acronym for Anti-Fascist) infiltrators – as responsible for the violence and subversive invasion of the U.S. Capitol building leading to five deaths, including one Capitol Policeman reportedly beaten to death with a fire extinguisher.

Above lower right, mob attacks blockaded door where woman was killed by officer as she climbed onto door; below, a Capitol Police officer in distress as he is pinned between another doorway and barrier crowd was pushing against door. Still Photos from TV video new sources as identified – Roger Bianchini

Before I continue, let me say that from the extensive amount of video news footage I have watched over the past days, I believe there were good people in the crowd who descended on Capitol Hill on January 6. Associated Press (AP) footage of one of its cameramen being assaulted by a portion of the mob near the Capitol building showed one man outside the Capitol building porchway wall protecting the newsman from that mob after they had tossed him over the concrete wall. Others outside the Capitol building stairway also appeared to help move the AP photographer away from the rioters that had been roughing him up and initially began climbing over the wall to continue their assault. And let me add that I am not a fan of America’s two-party system. I believe it is too prone to corruption from either side, without the check of multiple viable parties to challenge for Congressional seats to keep clear majorities harder to come by.

Uh oh, graffiti on door inside Capitol says, ‘Murder the Media’.

That said, as with the repeated court rulings dismissing Trump state vote count challenges around the country as not supported by ANY factual evidence, including without dissent by the Trump multi-member-appointed and conservative-dominated U.S. Supreme Court, the idea that leftist radicals were somehow responsible for the violence and rioting at the U.S. Capitol appears to have NO basis in factual evidence. As noted above, the source of this idea is social media “rumors” or “articles on the Internet” making claims without fact-checking or editorial oversight.

But we have not heard specifics on the Internet sources of those rumors and articles. For if we had, one might wonder if they would have been from the same right-wing blogs that have been reported rallying neo-fascist, Q-Anon, and racist elements of the extreme American right-wing toward D.C. for the pro-Trump rally and move against the January 6th certification of the Electoral College count by Congress for weeks.

Above, a Dec. 19 Tweet before the president’s post-riot lifetime Twitter ban trumpets one of his enablers’ report, apparently without the factual basis to be used in court, and invites followers to D.C. Jan. 6, promising a ‘wild’ time. Below, well a little wild but – what, a new vice president to preside over the absent Senate?

And while the initial video seemed to show a disorderly mob entering the Capitol, some chasing an isolated Capitol Policeman upstairs, others occupying podiums, carrying them away, and relaxing in Nancy Pelosi’s office, feet on the desk, the overall mood while somewhat riotous, didn’t seem horribly malevolent.

However, that changed with the release of additional video, including security footage, several days later indicating a more aggressive and violent mob assault on the Legislative Branch of the U.S. government, perhaps explaining the immediate moving of Vice President Mike Pence, now labeled a traitor by some Trump supporters, Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi and numerous other Congressional members to undisclosed safe locations at the Capitol for their safety. The threat was taken so seriously that Capitol security shot and killed a woman as she attempted to breach a barricaded secure location with a window-smashing mob inside the Capitol.

Above, this shirt with an anti-Semitic coded, neo-Nazi message was reported being worn by some inside the Capitol Wednesday. 6MWE purportedly stands for ‘Six Million Weren’t Enough’, a reference to the 6 million Jews killed during Nazi control of Germany. Below, a fellow traveler with a ‘Camp Auschwitz’ shirt celebrating one of the Nazi concentration camps where Jews were held and executed.

Videos I have seen over the weekend have shown people with anti-Semitic and Nazi slogans emblazoned T-shirts and at least one with a string of plastic hand restraints used by police for large crowd control arrests roaming the halls of Congress. Security and news video, as well as self-posted social media images, have been used to identify people around the nation known to be right-wing supporters of President Trump, including a West Virginia Republican state assemblyman who resigned after being charged with criminal conduct at the Capitol. As of Sunday evening, 70 people had been reported arrested on charges related to their videotaped actions inside the U.S. Capitol.

None, to my knowledge, have been identified as ANTIFA or any other leftist group members.

But the Trump base continues to believe what it wants, regardless of the questionable nature of sources or any factual evidence to the contrary. Many in that base suggest an ongoing “establishment” and “media” conspiracy to unseat Donald Trump. The formation of committees to study the notion of election fraud already rejected as absent of ANY supporting factual evidence in, I believe the last count was 60 courts around the nation, are demanded by some. How much of their own and fellow citizens’ federal tax revenue do they want spent to overturn a “conspiracy” two of the three branches of the federal government, Legislative and Judicial, have determined exists only in an “alternate fact” universe of the Executive Branch’s creation?

Above, a guillotine noted for its use in executing the French nobility during the French Revolution, erected on the Capitol grounds. I have not heard whether it was functional or not. Below, House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi was not popular with the crowd.

Alternate explanation

Let me suggest an alternative election scenario which even conservative court after conservative state legislature has ruled is based in real-world facts, as opposed to one simply repeated over and over by a desperate, deposed would-be “president for life” and echoed back by his either horribly naïve or complicity corrupt, bigoted, anti-democratic cult-of-personality base:

Donald Trump was honestly and decisively defeated in the 2020 election because outside of his 35% hardcore base, it has been apparent to the majority of the American public that his has been a failed, inept and destructive to the American brand presidency. In the wake of the insurrectionist siege of the Capitol and apparent physical threat to the legislators inside, even former California Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has felt compelled to go online from his own website to call Trump “without competition” the worst president in American history, one who should be relegated to its dustbin as soon as possible.

Really, the Trump base may ask, “Arnie’s turned on us?!?”

Former California Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has placed the blame for the Jan. 6 attack on the Legislative Branch of government squarely on President Trump’s shoulders.

Yes, despite his success in several science-fiction epochal films, it seems Schwarzenegger has publicly thrown in with a decisive American majority who do believe in facts and scientific inquiry and do NOT believe in “alternate facts”. This is likely a non-evangelical majority that also believes in maintaining the separation of church and state, not permitting any religious group, even the nation’s dominant one, of dictating all Americans’ moral, sexual, or lifestyle choices. And I would suggest, it is a majority that doesn’t arbitrarily dismiss the history of a Trump presidency marked by a daily accumulation of documentable “false or misleading claims” now chronicled by “Fact Checker” on the Washington Post website at over 20,000, what some less kind might term, “lies” told by the president in office.

Above, one news source’s appraisal of rioters in possession of a large number of plastic hand restraints used by police in mass arrest situations, as well as rope. The man jumping the barrier is carrying a large number of them in his left hand. Below, plain clothed security personnel with guns drawn as mob tries to break into a secured area barricaded with furniture.

And the anti-Trump voters’ number may be buoyed by others who just believe the president has failed miserably to act proactively to deal with the most dangerous worldwide health crisis in decades, if not a century, directly leading to the death of over 350,000 Americans in one year – over 20% of the world’s Coronavirus pandemic deaths with 4% of the world’s population despite the resources available to the most advanced nation on the planet.

Not everyone in America believes COVID-19 is an international Q-Anon style hoax perpetrated to discredit Donald Trump. – Trust me, for those whose eyes aren’t “wide shut”, he doesn’t need the help.

Not everyone in America believes everything that comes out of Donald Trump’s mouth.

Not everyone in America believes even Republican state officials in Georgia, Pennsylvania, Michigan and elsewhere Joe Biden won the popular vote, are traitorous liars because their recounts maintained what their initial counts had shown – Donald Trump lost their state, not by fraud, but rather by a majority of those states’ voters’ awareness of the relentless failures of the Trump presidency. Internationally perhaps most tellingly, America’s distancing itself from the post-World War II Western alliance that has kept post-Soviet Russian expansionism into Europe in check.
I might suggest an alternate Commission or two be formed to those some suggest to chase the election fraud phantom: One to ascertain the psychological makeup of Americans who continue to believe something simply because Donald Trump says it’s true, despite overwhelming evidence reviewed by both Democrat and Republican legislators and judges, that it is not.

And a second to ascertain why the Capitol Police were not more prepared for the right-wing onslaught radical social media sites had been promoting for weeks; and why the necessary federal authority emanating from the Oval Office didn’t deploy D.C. National Guard immediately after the Capitol was breached by a mob disrupting the function of the Legislative Branch of the American government.

(The is the opinion of the writer.)

Above, the president and vice president at a March 2020 COVID conference before the falling out over certification of the election result. First image below, rioters on Wednesday attempted to replace an American flag flying on the Capitol with a Trump flag. Something tells me ANTIFA wouldn’t have risked their lives doing that. And finally, perhaps a hint as to why adequate security for Congress wasn’t in place or dispatched by the president. It was Vice-President Pence who eventually authorized D.C. National Guard’s deployment, which normally rests with the president since D.C. is not a state under gubernatorial authority.

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Attorney request Council’s consideration of memorandum regarding appointment of Jacob Meza

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MEMORANDUM OF LAW IN SUPPORT OF THE TOWN CHARTER

Issue:
Was the appointment of a former councilman, defined by the Town Charter as a municipal officer, four days after he held that same office, unlawful where the same charter prohibits the appointment or election of a member of council to an office under the jurisdiction of the council within one year?

Rule:
“No member of the council of the Town of Front Royal shall be appointed or elected to any office under the jurisdiction of the council while he is a member of the council, or for one year thereafter, except that the council may appoint one of the members of the council as town treasurer with all or any part of the duties, powers, obligations and responsibilities of the town treasurer provided by this act. ” Front Royal Town Charter § 47

Analysis:
Virginia statutory interpretation is governed by the following well-established principle:

If [a statute’s] language is clear and unambiguous, there is no need for construction by the court; the plain meaning and intent of the enactment will be given it. When an enactment is clear and unequivocal, general rules for construction of statutes of doubtful meaning do not apply. Therefore, when the language of an enactment is free from ambiguity, resort to legislative history and extrinsic facts is not permitted because we take the words as written to determine their meaning. And, when an enactment is unambiguous, extrinsic legislative history may not be used to create an ambiguity, and then remove it, where none otherwise exists. Brown v. Lukhard, 229 Va. 316, 321, 330 S.E.2d 84, 87 (1985)(citations omitted).

The phrase, “under the jurisdiction of the council”, in this context clearly and unambiguously refers to and modifies “any office” that the Town Council may appoint or elect.

Town Charter § 6(D) specifically grants the Town Council the jurisdiction to appoint councilman: “The council may fill any vacancy that occurs in the membership of the council for the unexpired term”, provided the appointment is not for one year thereafter holding his office.

In fact, § 9 of Town Charter specifically grants the jurisdiction to the Town Council to fill the vacancy created when a member of council is chosen to serve as mayor. “Should a member of the council be chosen to serve as mayor until the next municipal election such councilman shall be deemed to have surrendered his office as councilman forthwith upon his qualification as mayor and his office of councilman shall thereupon be vacant. The vacancy thereby created in the council shall be filled by the council as provided in § 6 hereof.” (emphasis added).

Section 11 of the Town Charter also makes it clear that the office of councilman is under the jurisdiction of the Town Council where it states, “If any member of the said council shall be voluntarily absent from three regular meetings of the council consecutively, his seat may be deemed vacant by resolution of the council and thereupon his unexpired term shall be filled according to the provisions of this act.” (emphasis added)

Furthermore, the Town Charter grants the Town Council jurisdiction over itself!

‘[E]xcept as prohibited by the Constitution of Virginia or restricted by this charter, the Town of Front Royal shall have and may exercise all municipal powers, functions, rights, privileges and immunities which are now, or may be hereafter, conferred upon or delegated to incorporated towns under the  constitution and laws of Virginia, as fully and completely as if herein enumerated in detail, and no enumeration of particular powers in this charter shall be held exclusive.”  Front Royal Town Charter § 1

The Town Charter specifically creates the Town and enables the Town Council the authority to create its own unique rules and laws that are granted to towns as a whole in Virginia.

Perhaps the most self-evident argument is that IF the appointment of the office of town councilman was NOT under the jurisdiction of the Town Council, we would not be having this discussion because the appointment by the Town Council of a councilman on January 4, 2021, would be null and void because the appointment would be ultra virus, or outside of the jurisdiction, for the Town Council to make such an appointment regardless of the one-year rule.

The only remaining question is whether the position of “town council” is an “office” in the context of Section 47 of the Town Charter. Not only does Section 9 of the Town Charter specifically refer to the “office” as councilman, the Charter defines the councilmen as “officers”:

“The municipal officers of said town shall, beginning with the effective date of this act and thereafter, consist of a mayor, four councilmen, a town manager, a town treasurer, and a town clerk, who shall also serve as the clerk of town council, and such other officers as may be designated by ordinance duly enacted from time to time. The town treasurer may additionally, by ordinance duly enacted, serve as the town’s finance director. Beginning July 1, 1994, and thereafter, the number of councilmen shall be six.” Front Royal Town Charter § 4

The press release of the Town Attorney claiming that Front Royal Town Charter § 47 does not apply to the appointment of councilman because it is found under the caption “Chapter 6 Town Officers” is misplaced. “Captions are intended as mere catchwords to indicate the contents of the subtitles”, Virginia Code § 1-244, Jones v. DCSE, 19 Va. App. 184, 450 S.E.2d 172 (1994). In Foster v. Commonwealth, the Virginia Court of Appeals rejected defendant’s argument that Virginia Code § 18.2-96 did not define “petit larceny” even though the caption to the Virginia Code section specifically stated, “Petit larceny defined ”. 44 Va.App. 574, 606 S.E.2d 518 (2004), affirmed 271 Va 235, 623 S.E.2d 902 (2006).

There is no ambiguity in the phrase, “or for one year thereafter” in the Town Charter. This is a period of time that councilmen are prohibited from appointment or election by the town council to an office under their jurisdiction. Four days is less than one year. The legislative intent, while unnecessary to interpret this section, is furthered by prohibiting a councilman’s appointment within one year of holding the office as councilman by minimizing nepotism and appearances of impropriety. The argument that the statute was only to avoid “double dipping” or a “conflict of interest” is misplaced since there would be no “double dipping” if the councilman is a former councilman. The “conflict of interest” remains applicable due to the recent appointment by his colleagues.

The Town Attorney’s reliance on Virginia Code § 15.2-1535 to assert that there is no time restriction on appointments is misplaced. Virginia Code § 15.2-1535(A) enables appointment to Town Council of a previous Town Council member. This is a correct, but incomplete, statement of law. The Virginia General Assembly permits “a member of a governing body may be named a member of such other boards, commissions, and bodies as may be permitted by general law”. Where the Town Charter precludes appointment for one year after serving as councilman, the Virginia Code does NOT permit appointment by general law. Consequently, the Town’s assertion the Code allows appointment “without any time restrictions” is contradicted by the statute which the Town relies upon.

Conclusion:

Where the appointment of council members is under the jurisdiction of the Front Royal Town Council and the Town Charter specifically precludes appointment or election of a council member to an office under the jurisdiction of the Town Council for one year, except for the office of Town Treasurer, any appointment by the Town Council of a councilman having held the office of  councilman within one year of his appointment would be an ultra virus act, specifically prohibited under the Town Charter, unlawful and null and void. The remedy would be to so find and vacate the appointment by proclamation of the Town Council unless Mr. Meza should decline the appointment. This clear meaning of Section 47 was also followed by former Town Attorneys when former Mayor James Eastham was found ineligible for appointment to the EDA (2009), when Councilman Bret Hrbek was found ineligible for appointment for committee appointment (2011), and when the current Town Attorney distinguished the interim Town Mayor as not a member of Town Council to enable him to serve in the office of interim town manager (2019) within one year after their respective terms of office.

David A. Downes, Esquire
Front Royal, Virginia

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Opinion

America on the Brink

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More than a dozen Warren County citizens and I attended the ‘Stop the Steal’ protest in D.C. on January 6 along with hundreds of thousands of citizens from across the country. There were families with babies and toddlers, senior citizens, and representatives from all age groups and races. They were not ‘kooks’, ‘Trump cultists’, or ‘Deplorables. They were a melting pot of citizens that fervently believe there were election irregularities that diminished their votes and affected the election results. They represented a mere fraction of citizens that have lost their trust that a fair election occurred. They believe their concerns have not received a thorough judicial review but that most legal cases were dismissed due to political bias, procedural issues, or technicalities.

I did not interpret President Trump’s address to the crowd as an incitement to violence. What I heard was an urging to go to the Capitol, where Congress was addressing the Certification of Electoral votes, and let our Representatives see that much of the country believes the election was unfair and that efforts are necessary to investigate what happened and initiate action to correct any problems found. The Capitol march was a pre-planned goal not a last-minute idea of the President. The Capitol riot actually only involved a small percentage of protestors.

Articles on the internet indicated that ANTIFA wouldn’t mount a directed counter-protest but there were rumors that they planned to infiltrate the crowd with imposters and initiate trouble with the explicit goal of discrediting the peaceful protest. With the help of a small contingent of frustrated, misguided criminal protestors they clearly were successful.

After walking to the Capitol I witnessed several solid black flags that concerned me and were in contrast to the sea of Trump and American flags. I saw and heard several men yell that VP Pence was at that moment supporting the certification and urged the crowd to move forward and let their opposition be known. Police flash-bang devices could be heard and clouds of pepper spray were visible. I believe now that those were ANTIFA provocateurs and that their cohorts were leading the violence against law enforcement. Being concerned that the situation was changing into something more than a peaceful demonstration, plus the fact that my feet were frozen, I began my return home at around 2:45 PM.

The Establishment and the biased media are using the Capitol incident to further criticize and unfairly blame the President to divert attention from the election controversy and for political purposes. The intense response from the political Establishment is a reflection of their realization that they could actually be directly challenged by the American public

This Summer America witnessed ANTIFA and BLM, (Black Lives Matter, another socialist group), involved with the mayhem and destructive riots. Democrats refused to strongly condemn that criminal behavior and even supported it by falsely labeling it peaceful protest. Some Democrat leaders actually directed law enforcement to stand-down and permitted the criminality, and they even raised money to bail out arrested rioters. Some democrat governments refused to prosecute lawbreakers. The rule of law, one of the basic concepts of our democracy was abandoned.

America’s eyes and ears witnessed this reality regardless that social media and the mainstream media refused to report the truth to the American people and even censored First Amendment rights to free speech.

The bottom line is that our country is divided and in serious trouble. On one side are liberals who have attained total control of the government. They have openly advertised their intent to expand government, promote socialist policies, and globalism that would diminish individual liberty. Democrats have openly announced plans to ignore the conservative minority. So much for bi-partisanship and representation of all of our citizens! On the other side is the half of America who is in disagreement with that plan, and I am doubtful they will simply give up liberty and submit.

The peaceful protest and Capitol rioters should have affirmed that.

President-elect Biden has called for coming together and unity regardless that Democrats only focused on opposing President Trump the last 4 years. The only way for President-elect Biden and Democrats to walk the ‘UNITY’ talk is to support an independent bipartisan commission to study the 2020 election and report to the American people what really happened. Limiting the participants on such a commission to non-politicians would be a wise consideration. If the Democrats are certain that Biden and Harris were fairly chosen and are sincere in wanting a peaceful country in the future, why would they not support such an effort?

As the Capitol was being breached, grassroots anti-government demonstrations were happening in other cities across the country. Should the concerns of half of America not be addressed there is an increasing possibility that future protestors will leave their flags at home and instead carry weapons. In actuality, a second revolution would not mirror the organized red and blue army lines of 1776 but would be an insurgency of lone wolves. Over 240 years ago Americans resisted government tyranny at Concord and Lexington and secured the liberties we have enjoyed since. Let’s hope all are wise enough to avoid a repeat of that history.

An alternative to that bleak possibility would be to pursue a Convention of the States as referenced in Article V of the Constitution. That avenue would enable a peaceful solution to the inappropriate expansion of the Federal government that many believe has occurred, and the potential transformation towards socialism, which conflicts with the original intent of the Framers. At that event, Amendments could be considered such as:

  • term limits for Congress, Federal and Supreme Court judges;
  • freezing the size of the Supreme Court to limit its politicization;
  • ensuring the permanency of the Senate filibuster to protect the minority;
  • campaign finance reform;
  • eliminating the ability of private social media companies or oligarchs to restrict first amendment rights;
  • establish a requirement for a balanced Federal budget;
  • establish fair and incorruptible election procedures;
  • and return full power to the States.

Those ideas could have substantial support from the populace. This effort is necessary because we could never expect that elected Representatives would support change that would keep their power in check.

The time for apathy, dialogue, and half measures has passed. All Warren County residents and U.S. citizens need to act or peace and the most successful and just country on the planet could descend into unimaginable chaos.

I urge all Warren County and American citizens to contact their Federal and State Representatives and seek an Election Study Commission and support for a Constitutional Convention. I know that there are those who would argue that the prospect of a second American revolution is absurd, but who would have entertained the thought that our Capitol could be breached by a handful of flag-bearing, unorganized protestors? Is it asking too much that we safeguard the security and liberty of our children and grandchildren?

Gary Kushner
Bentonville, Virginia

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Opinion

2020: A Year of Years

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historically speaking

2020 has certainty been a year of years. I do not need to recount the events of this year; we all know them too well. It is just strange to think that it was less than a year ago since we impeached the president, yet it seems more like a decade. As we think back over the events of the past 12 months, it may be helpful to know that 2020 is not unique. We have had other years in which we did not know if we would survive, especially years in the middle of wars. Yet we always did. One year in particular has come to my mind. As crazy as 2020 was, 1919 gave it a run for its money, and, like always, we endured and overcame.

The biggest problem in both years was the same, a nationwide pandemic. Though the outfits we wore looked completely different, one style was the same: facemasks. 1919 was not the worst year for the Spanish Flu but it did see a deadly third wave that caused businesses to close and social activities to end. If anything, technology has made 2020 easier than 2019. Going online was not an option then.

As with 2020, the biggest consequence of the pandemic was the death toll, but it also was a massive hit to the economy. Families had the same concerns of watching businesses collapse. Yet in 1919 they had the added burden of the effects of the de-escalation of WWI. As crazy as this sounds, WWI was good for our economy. During the war, we fed the world while most of the men were fighting. When the soldiers all returned to their own nations, American farmers took a hit.

At the same time, the economy was suffering from major labor issues. With the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution, all labor strikes now looked like communist revolutions, throwing the nation into a “Red Scare.” Dozens of major strikes and riots occurred in cities, ending in the November Centralia Massacre that left six dead. In April and May, bombs mailed to important business leaders and politicians, killing two. The government’s answer was the J. Mitchell Palmer raids, where more than 300 suspects were either arrested or deported. All the labor unrest hurt the stock market. In many ways 1919 was harder on the economy than 2020 has been.

This past year has seen what seems like an unprecedented number of natural disasters, yet 1919 had its own share. In July a coal mine collapsed in West Virginia, trapping 221 men and capturing the nation’s attention. None were expected to make it out alive but, in the end, only six perished. Two months later in Corpus Christi, Texas, one of the largest hurricanes to hit the area came ashore and killed 700 people. 2020 may have had more disasters, but in terms of loss of life it did not beat 1919.

It’s hard to top an impeachment and the contested election of 2020, but 1919 did have issues. President Wilson was in the biggest fight of his life with Congress, which refused to ratify the Treaty of Versailles and join the League of Nations. Instead of working with Congress, Wilson stubbornly insisted it step in line and began a whistle stop tour of the nation to convince the American people to support his cause. In the end, he did not get the support he wanted and instead suffered a debilitating stroke, leaving him unable to function as the president and leaving the U.S. leaderless.

For many, dealing with these issues and quarantine would have been easier with sports. It seemed bad enough when 2020 started with the Houston Astros’ cheating scandal, but then in March, right before an Oklahoma City Thunder game, sports was canceled. Sports may not have shut down in 1919, but it had an even worse sports scandal. In October eight players on the Chicago White Sox were found to have accepted money to lose the World Series. Americans were crushed. With the sanctity of baseball now questioned, what, if anything, was sacred? Then that same year the Red Sox traded pitcher Babe Ruth to the Yankees, beginning the curse of the Bambino which lasted for 86 years. Sports has come back for us in 2020, but the Black Socks scandal took some time to get over.

Finally, to really understand how hard 1919 was, in October of that year Congress passed the Volstead Act outlawing alcohol. I myself am not a drinker, but from close friends it sounds like alcohol may have been 2020’s only saving grace. Whereas 1919 outlawed drinking, in 2020 we deemed it an essential business and even created home delivery. I guess for some at least, 2020 may have been better than 1919. I am just glad I will not be around for 2121.


Dr. James Finck is an Associate Professor of History at the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma in Chickasha. He is Chair of the Oklahoma Civil War Symposium. Follow Historically Speaking at www.Historicallyspeaking.blog.

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