Connect with us

Opinion

On Socialism: Grandpa to Grandkids

Published

on

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.

Share the News:

Opinion

Another ‘Thank You’ to local law enforcement for its community policing

Published

on

A couple of weeks ago, a friend told my wife this true story, based on self-experience.

“The lady had just brought her dog home after major surgery. The dog went downstairs and opened its stitches. She found the dog downstairs bleeding to death. It died in her arms. She did not want her daughter coming home to the scene, but also did not know how to move an 80-pound dog.

She called the Front Royal Police and soon admitted an officer. He was very happy to help and told her so. The officer gently placed the dog’s body in his car, asked her where she would prefer it be taken. With her following, he then took the dog’s body to where she asked. He was respectful, solicitous, and considerate the entire time. He told her that the entire force was there to serve the community.

After hearing this story from my wife, I had to ensure that the Front Royal Police Department be thanked. The Police get a lot of bad press, mostly because of a small number of bad apples. I wanted to make sure they were thanked for their service, and got some positive press, for a change.

Lalit Piplani
Front Royal, VA

Share the News:
Continue Reading

Opinion

A missing child search and a heartfelt ‘Thank You’ to local law enforcement

Published

on

Last night, July 2, around 11 p.m., on a very starry night, the sound of a chopper circling and circling over the High Knob Community broke the stillness.

A check of Facebook group pages revealed a 3-year-old child had gone missing. The mother informed us her baby had presumably followed the dad who had taken the family pup outside for a late evening relief. When the parents discovered the child was missing and couldn’t be found, they called for help and our local deputies responded in a hurry.

In addition to sweeping the area and calling in a search and rescue helicopter, nearby concerned neighbors turned on their yard lights and looked for the missing child. While the outside work was underway, a thorough search of the home was undertaken. And there that 3-year-old was, hidden under a pile of blankets playing hide-and-seek.

What a relief!

So we have a happy ending. The deputies were able to go home, neighbors headed back to bed, and we were all secure in the knowledge that a cherished child was safe.

A big thank you from a neighbor to all the deputies who jumped to help find a missing child, and to the officers who were flying the search and rescue helicopter. That’s a job with some big risks over mountainous terrain. I happen to know the local police department and sheriff’s department spend a lot of their resources in looking after our vulnerable children and teens. If we can get better mental health services throughout the Commonwealth, the schools to jails pipeline could be broken, and lives mended.

Please if you see a police officer or sheriff’s deputy, thank him or her for being ready to serve, protect, and rescue the most vulnerable in our community. Right now they need to know we appreciate their service very much. And yes, indeed, there are some things that need fixing. Nonetheless, if we all work together, every mother’s child will be safe.

Rea Howarth
High Knob, Warren County

Share the News:
Continue Reading

Opinion

What are American values?

Published

on

Today, we have many debates over the values of Americans. We disagree on some, but some ring true to most:

Human dignity: Every human being is entitled to what our founders called life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

The rule of law and equal justice: The powerful person will not be allowed to escape the law. The accused person must have the right to face accusers, state his case, and be judged by fellow citizens. No one person or group of persons should be exempt from facing justice or winning justice. The mob does not determine guilt, innocence, or punishment, but only by due process of law can a person be found guilty or innocent.

Respect for women: The empowerment of women is visible everywhere, from business to academia. In every walk of life, women should have the same rights as men.

Private property: This fundamental belief reaches into every aspect of our lives. We can start a business by hanging out the shingle. Our home is our own. Our property is sacred. And tucked into this notion of private property is ultimately the idea of ownership of your ideas and work.

Free speech: Free speech is one of the most radical ideas in history. The common man can criticize the government; the powerful man can do the same. Each should be able to do so equally and without restrictions.

Religious tolerance: For centuries, the king’s religion was yours. Period. But free people today recognize freedom of conscience and religion, to believe or not as they will.

Share the News:
Continue Reading

Opinion

Continental Congress calls upon the Black Regiment

Published

on

The debating was over, and the Declaration of Independence had been approved by the Continental Congress meeting in Philadelphia on a hot July day. Questions abounded still and anxiety as to the future was on the minds of men who had now affixed their signatures to a piece of paper destined to be the greatest and most historic document in the history of the world.

At the bottom of the original Declaration of Independence, the Continental Congress had ordered that when printed and ready for distribution on July 4th the documents would be sent to parish clergy and ministers. The importance of this is that the instructions did not direct this circulation to town clerks or newspapers, but to preachers of the Gospel, men known as the “Black Regiment” thus named for the black robes they wore.

The pulpit had already played and would play a more important role in American freedom. The black-robed ministers would encourage activism and many would personally join in the fighting and serve as soldiers and chaplains. As many as one hundred would leave the pulpit of the church for the “pulpit of the camp and battlefield.”

The Declaration when it arrived in the hands of the clergy was “required to read the same to their respective congregation, as soon as divine service ended, in the afternoon, on the first Lord’s Day after they have received it.”

Church members would find it hard to have services without their ministers now gone to war and with attendance dropping off for lack of clergy personnel on the home front. However, the war and home front would be the same… every place where the British chose to camp and sought to destroy George Washington’s “rag tag” army in the north and Nathanael Greene’s in the South.

Tempers flared in all corners of the land and debates were held between Loyalists and patriot members of congregations. In Loudoun County, Virginia, at Ketoctin Baptist Church, a debate between Tory John Osborn and Preacher John Marks was arranged. Heated tempers caused the debate to be called off and John Marks joined General Washington’s Army as a Chaplain. John Osborn would not give up his support of the King’s cause and in defiance would name a new son Tarleton after one of General Cornwallis’ most cruel officers, Colonel Banastre Tarleton. Tarleton is portrayed in Mel Gibson’s movie The Patriot as merciless and inhumane.

The Rev. Jonathan Boucher, Anglican Priest, would carry not just his sermon into the pulpit but also a loaded pistol. His congregation was split and the danger of personal attacks was ever present.

The Rev. Peter Muhlenberg of Woodstock, Virginia, preached regularly for the cause of freedom for the American colonists. He had a surprise for his congregation on the day of his final service in his Woodstock church to drive home his point that the American Revolution must succeed. Following the final hymn, he threw off his black robe as he recited Ecclesiastes 3:1 to reveal his uniform of a militia colonel. He then recruited men of his congregation to join the fight for independence and they became known as the “German Regiment.” He had been licensed as an Anglican priest and ministered to the German settlers of the Shenandoah Valley. He served with honor as a Revolutionary War officer and rose to the rank of major general. There is a statue of this black robed priest in the yard of the old courthouse in Woodstock honoring the Rev. Major General John Peter Gabriel Muhlenberg, Priest, Patriot, Soldier and Hero.

The majority of Baptists, Presbyterians, Congregationalists, Puritans, Methodists, and most of the denominations in the Colonies excepting the Quakers would join in preaching the insurrection. Anglican priests were split because of their vows of allegiance to the King but still many would heed the call of Independence. The torch of Independence was lit early with Anglican George Whitefield’s arrival in the Colonies in 1740. He was known as the greatest preacher in the Colonies. He preached salvation through Jesus Christ and gave warning to the people about the oppression of the King in his revivals and launched the “Great Awakening.” He traveled from New England to Georgia setting attendance records and started “field preaching” which Anglican John Wesley also used. The difference in the political points of view of Whitefield and Wesley were commonly known. Wesley taught “obedience” to the Crown and Whitefield spoke of “man’s right of freedom” from oppression, including the slaves.

We cannot avoid, ignore, or abandon our responsibilities in striving to preserve the heritage secured by our Founders. Laity and the clergy must be vigilant and ever ready to fight for our Republic to ensure it is not weakened by interlopers and left for scavengers who come to suckle from the breast of Liberty bought with the blood of patriots. We must speak out against the mocking of our form of government and the eschewing of our Constitution to satisfy alien purposes while abandoning individual freedoms we treasurer. Our Founders knew and voiced the reality that moral values of Christianity are the “bedrock” foundation of our Republic and it will crumble without them.

I invite all true Americans from the mountains to the plains, from sea to shining sea, from Alaska to the Keys, and from Virginia to Hawaii to light the fires of that “old time religion” and preserve the freedoms won on the frozen tundra of Valley Forge, in the icy Delaware River, on the dusty field at Guilford Courthouse, in the snake filled swamps of South Carolina, and finally, on the sandy beaches at Yorktown.

Arise if you heart is filled with concern for the future of our Country.

Larry Wilson Johnson
Front Royal, Virginia

Share the News:
Continue Reading

Opinion

Is there something to hide regarding past County actions at FR Golf Club?

Published

on

My name is Brandon Tolson. I have been a member and\or worked at the Front Royal Golf Club for the last 2 decades, under the member-run tenure and the current county-run administration. With that being said I’ve been part of, and witnessed firsthand many different good and bad situations. That is why I’m trying to get as much information out that many county citizens know little about.

First, being how the County inherited such a prime piece of commercial real estate. It was decided by 1 vote in the end, and there are still people to this day that voted nay to County occupation who believe it was a payed-for land grab. Many still want the members to take back control of this facility. But let’s move past that and talk about what the County has done at Front Royal Golf Club.

Well after the initial handshaking and back patting died down and we got past all the “what the county was going to do for you” talk, the wheels quickly appeared to start spinning on how to sell some of the property – and it was moved as Dominion Power became interested in the area. Some would say for the good others for the bad, I let you be the judge of that.

So then most folks would say there should have been some profit here since you sold/leased off prime long-term equity for short-term gains, right? There must have been. With that being a one-time deal you would think if you were in it for the love of historic recreation and a frugal money manager (which you should be when you handle all our tax dollars) you would know that you would have to set that aside for minor restoration and upkeep at the very least.

Even at this point a large investment and major restoration could offer even larger rewards. But instead, it was put in the county government fiscal year churn and spit out God knows where, with both the County and the EDA involved in the property’s advisory group.

Then they did their patent move: raise the price on everything to the club membership and guests.

At this point I can only speculate whether it was to start to sink the ship for a land movement, or was it just because they thought they could. But basically what you’ve done for your loyal followers thus far was to sell or lease one-third of our land; did nothing new for the golf course or boat ramp; and put a walk trail thru it which everyone with proper mental compacity was against, citing hitting little white rockets at children and chihuahuas as potentially cruel and inhumane. But they did it anyway to diversify the recreational uses and because they’re trying to connect that corner of the world with walk trails.

And some lucky fella down river has been getting fencing material ever since. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good walking trail, and my son and soulmate and I have even enjoyed the Shenandoah National Park at the top many times, as I’ve witnessed many families do. But I wouldn’t have built a walking trail thru a dead man’s memorial golf course built for his unfortunate son, pre-WW II and left basically to the people – too much opportunity for a BAD golf ball/hiker accident. I wish I could have met them both so I could shake their hand and say thank you for all the recreation and employment it has given me; not to mention just the life lessons learned while being out watching other earthlings operate.

But looking past headache lane, the course was handicapped further when all stormwater and trash from the Walmart and Lowes-anchored shopping center was allowed to run off on top of the course and what we couldn’t clean up, was in to your beloved Shenandoah River for years now. All the trash that doesn’t make it in the dumpsters, and even some that does, goes on our course and then in the river. It seems the course is used as a filter. Does the course get paid to be a trash and litter filter?

Wait there’s more: then we started the whole indentured servant program picking up prisoners from RSW to work for free on the course. Then forcing your workers to take responsibility of inmates without any training or pay increase. And making them pick up different sex inmates which anybody would know you are putting your workers in a bad situation, as well as the inmate. Not to mention the county-wide expenditures put on the golf course cost code.

Year after year; bad decision after bad decision.

But to be honest with you, how could we not at least give these new guys that got some love for the game a shot at running it just for the very least to get to the bottom of a financial enigma using them as a cheap 3rd party audit, and maybe a long-term good thing for us, the people Mr. Carson Sr. intended the course’s use for into the future.

So what if they are competing with other businesses? If the course loses there will be a Home Depot or it’s like competing there, providing pollution and no recreation. Did I mention by then we might just find out what was really going on out there at the Front Royal Golf Club?

The only way they can’t take the new deal being offered that brings money to the county is if they’re scared of uncovering a financial trail to explain some of what I have described above; or they are just incompetent. One thing I know thru all my experience – and for anyone that doesn’t know me, it’s vast and I know multiple successful golf business owners here and abroad – that place can operate at a tenth of the cost of what they’re telling you at the worst. The place didn’t stay in business for 80 years losing money. I don’t think we have a Golf Course Problem as much as we’ve had a county management problem. Properly managed it is just fine with the beautiful river beside it. And even during the recent turmoil it has remained a place for many to get out and find themselves, as I think Mr. Carson intended beyond his and his son’s lives. Damn near any county would be grateful to have it as a municipal recreational option for its citizens.

Say yes to the new course management contract offer and no to incompetence and abandonment.

Brandon Tolson
Warren County, Virginia

Share the News:
Continue Reading

Opinion

Domestic Military Action

Published

on

historically speaking

If you read this column, then you know my goal is not to persuade a particular belief but to merely inform with historical knowledge. Such is the case with many online comments I have read over the past few weeks. With protest marches widespread, President Trump has threatened to use military action to stop the violence. I read recently that if the President uses military action against American citizens, then this country as we know it is over. I am not saying that we should use the army, and I am hoping it is not necessary. However, historically speaking, it has been done before, and actually our Constitution was created because of it.

As always first things first, something we don’t always use as much as we should. The Preamble to the Constitution lays out the five main roles of the federal government. The government is to establish justice, provide defense from our enemies, promote the welfare of its people, secure our liberty, and of course ensure domestic tranquility. In other words, one of the principal functions of the government is to protect us from internal threats.

In the first century of our nation, those functions meant very different things. This was the century where the federal government had little role in people’s lives. One area the government took seriously was domestic tranquility, especially when it came to strikes. As labor unions grew and began to strike, the American government always took sides with management. If the companies and their people could not break strikes themselves, then state militias and even the federal government was always willing to step in. Arguably the most famous of these strikes was the Pullman strike.

In 1894 the American Railway Union went on strike. It started at the Pullman company town outside Chicago. Among the many complaints was that the Pullman Company reduced wages but not rent on the home’s employees were forced to live in. When railway workers across the nation struck, President Cleveland called out the Army to put it down.

As I said in the beginning, the idea of using federal forces helped lead to the Constitution. When men like Alexander Hamilton called for a stronger federal government at the Annapolis Convention in 1786, they did not receive much support. However, shortly after they adjourned, Massachusetts experienced Shays’ Rebellion. As always, my space is limited, so suffice to say a group led by Daniel Shays, upset with treatment from the Massachusetts government, marched in Boston. Governor Bowdoin called out the militia, but Shays’ men were veterans and many were part of the militia. Bowdoin was forced to collect private funds to raise a private militia. Under the current government then, there was no federal support. Shays’ Rebellion scared the other states who were having similar incidents and worried about what might happen with rebellions in their own areas. Shays’ Rebellion was one of the incidents that motivated leaders to meet at the Constitutional Convention to secure federal protection against domestic insurrection.

It did not take long for the new government and Washington to use the army. In 1794 when western Pennsylvania farmers protested a new tax on whiskey, Washington sent out the U.S. Army to squash the protesters and show the nation that there was a new sheriff in town or at least a new government. He even led the army part of the way, the only time a president marched at the head of the U.S. Army.

Washington was not alone. In fact, three of the four presidents respected enough to make Mount Rushmore used the army domestically. Most people know Lincoln used the army to maintain martial law in the south, but he also used it to influence domestic affairs in officially union states, like Missouri and Kentucky. The army even arrested the Democratic candidate in the 1863 Kentucky governors’ election. Teddy Roosevelt did not end up using the army, but in 1902 during the Anthracite Coal strike, when management refused to negotiate with the union, he threatened to use the army to take over the mines.

Throughout the rest of the 20th century, presidents continued to use the army in domestic affairs. When WWI vets marched on Washington to collect their promised bonus in 1932, President Hoover called out the army to disperse them. Then of course there are all the events during the Civil Rights Era. In 1957 when Governor Faubus of Arkansas blocked the Little Rock Nine from entering Central High, President Eisenhower called out the 101 Airborne Division. There were several riots in 1967 and 1968, especially after the death of Dr. King, and while National Guard units handled most of the violence, in some episodes the army was called out.

I am hoping the army is not needed in the protests and that the message is given without violence. You can also share your opinions on whether the President should or should not use the army on civilians. Make your arguments for both sides, but make them correctly.


Dr. James Finck is an Associate Professor of History at the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma and Chair of the Oklahoma Civil War Symposium. Follow Historically Speaking at www.Historicallyspeaking.blog or Facebook at @jamesWfinck.

Share the News:
Continue Reading

King Cartoons

Front Royal
69°
Clear
5:54am8:41pm EDT
Feels like: 69°F
Wind: 3mph SSW
Humidity: 88%
Pressure: 29.97"Hg
UV index: 0
MonTueWed
90/69°F
89/69°F
91/68°F