Archives 2018

Want Peace On Earth? Stop Tailgaiting!

I am not writing a cliché retrospective on the year that was 2018.

I am not going to remind you how Virginia House Speaker Kirk Cox lost control of the GOP caucus and gave us the biggest government expansion in state history with Medicaid.

Nor am I going to call attention to how the Virginia State Senate, led by Majority Leader Tommy Norment, passed commonsense health care reforms, only to be vetoed by Gov. Ralph Northam.

No, I’m not going into a conversation how Del. Nick Freitas, R-30th District, dodged a political bullet by not being nominated for the U.S. Senate and how Prince William Supervisor Corey Stewart ended up getting exactly what he wanted – bringing finality to his political career and, honestly, taking one for the team in a non-winnable year for Republicans.

There’s no sense reflecting on how conservatives were able to celebrate new federal tax reforms and the appointment of a new conservative U.S. Supreme Court Justice while the national debt screams past $21 trillion, the judiciary draws new state house lines, and high lies and fabrications seem to be ready to be prosecuted by the next Congress against the Trump administration.

And I’ve already written about the heroism of John McCain, the example set by George H.W. Bush, and how Virginia Beach Mayor Bobby Dyer is a living example of “The Reagan Way.”

I will leave the act of looking back for lessons learned to keener and more learned observers.

No, I have a different motivation for this column.

This might seem a bit non-sequitur – literary hairpin corner coming – but I really think a lot of problems can be solved with our commutes.

I think if you ask most people, they absolutely dread the prospect of turning the ignition key and proceeding down the pavement towards their place in the labor market.

Some people really just want to get from point a to point b. They understand that velocity = time x distance. They also understand that time = velocity divided by distance.

That last variation of the equation is extremely important because time really does not change by a significant amount when a person chooses to go five, 10 or more miles per hour above the speed limit for the brief second they desire to ride two feet or less from your rear bumper. (Most of the time, I’d invite said drivers into the rear passenger seats, where they’d probably be more comfortable and less stressed.)

It’s this aggressiveness in our society that we really need to address.

So often during this time of year we say “Peace on Earth, Good Will Toward Men” and then eagerly step on the gas to let the person in front of us know that we’re there and we’d like to advance past them. How does this really help? Does it help? In a word: No.

The only thing that tailgating does is to prove that the driver in question is an ass. It will not get them anywhere faster, save for a couple of seconds. If anything, it is going to cause an accident that is going to grind Hampton Roads to a standstill on the main thoroughfare and spill over to all alternates.

All these great conversations about light rail, new tunnels, increased law enforcement, education spending (yes, I can make this argument), EZ Pass, and many more can all be solved if we just relax.

I know very well that I am whistling in the wind, but I know how aggravated people in this area get when it takes forever to go a relatively short distance. And, honestly, if people were a little less aggravated, how much more awesome would life be?

I know that the great readers of this column always drive with a cool, calm and conservative approach, so I know you don’t need this advice, but, if you do know someone with a bit of a hot head and a lead foot, tell them a few things from me: “Merry Christmas,” “Happy New Year” and “Slow down & Chill Out – Physics always wins!”

Let’s make 2019 better than 2018. Let’s relax and enjoy our commutes. We’ll get where we are going just about as fast – and I bet our public policy and politics improve because people we’ll be safer and less stressed!

OK…I can at least dream, right?


This column appears in The Princess Anne Independent News

Craig DiSesa – Looking Back at 2018 in Virginia Politics and Previewing 2019

Craig DiSesa, president and co-founder of The Middle Resolution, joins J.R. on his last podcast of 2018. On the show, we talk about how Craig became involved with Middle Resolution, what were their key takeaways from this last year in politics, and what is their upcoming agenda for 2019.

Issues addressed in this show include:

– The federal budget and national debt (see who we owe debt to – it’s mainly ourselves, but not only)
– Medicaid expansion and health care
– Education choice, health care reform at the state level
– State Senate races, in particular, incumbents Glenn Sturtevant, Frank Wagner, and Dick Black
– Redistricting

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Bush 41 Marked the End of a GOP Era

George Herbert Walker Bush was the beginning of the end of the Republican Party as it was once known.

Some might point to Ronald Reagan, whom Bush lost to in a bruising primary in 1980, as the beginning of the end. Perhaps you can go as far back as Barry Goldwater in 1964, where fierce libertarianism manifested itself in the conservative wing of our two-party system. But, really, how can you not say it was under Bush where the GOP finally succumbed to a populist wave that has been fully realized now by President Donald Trump?

Bush, who we rightfully remembered with a National Day of Mourning on Wednesday, Dec. 5, is a man so steeped in public service that his picture ought to be the example for the definition. As will be well documented and often repeated, he was a World War II Naval Aviator at the age of 18, mere months after Pearl Harbor. He was shot down and rescued in the Pacific and flew 58 combat missions altogether (he returned to his unit after his rescue at sea). His resume includes a stint in Congress, U.N. Ambassador, director of the Central Intelligence Agency, vice president of the United States under Reagan and as our 41st president.

Bush was also wealthy and from a family of privilege. Son of a U.S. senator. Attended Yale. Made a mint in oil. And was excoriated in the 1992 campaign for having difficulty knowing the price of a gallon of milk.

Bush was a blue blood, but he still tried his hand at being patrician with a “kinder and gentler” brand of politics. His son, our 43rd president, took it to the next level with “compassionate conservatism,” but it was that 1992 campaign, where the war hero and commander-in-chief who presided over an unprecedented coalition military victory in Kuwait (it took all but four days to evict the Iraqis) and the collapse of the Soviet Union, along with the fall of the Berlin Wall, seemed to lose touch with the American people.

How could this be? How could a man who put service-above-self become characterized as a “wimp,” distant, and aloof?

I would like to think it’s because he didn’t eat his broccoli, but if you live to 94, that’s clearly not the reason. No, it was a narrative.

Consider this nugget from The New York Times written as campaign post mortem in 1992: “By now, some analyses of the coverage of 1992’s election are already flying off the copying machines. While these analyses differ both in their methodologies and in their purposes, at least two studies that span the political divide seem to agree on one central point: that Mr. Bush did get more negative coverage than his rivals.”

Reflecting on the phenomenon was former Bush strategist, Mary Matalin, recently in The Washington Examiner, “1992 was replete with more egregious examples relative to Bush bashing – and fabricating – but the big difference was the double standard for Bill Clinton. I don’t mean in the slobbering adoration devotion they paid to Obama. Obviously, there was ample attention to Jennifer Flowers, pot smoking, etc. It was more the inattention to his policy prescriptions, record in Arkansas, and persistent lying about our campaign.”

The media shared a self-assessment of their coverage for The Los Angeles Times: “A majority of U.S. journalists who followed the 1992 presidential campaign believe President Bush’s candidacy was damaged by press coverage of his record and of the economy, according to a survey released Saturday.”

They went on to say they believe they covered the campaign fairly, but that Bush was done in by their accurate reporting on his performance in office and the nation’s economy. Of course, making a promise, such as “no new taxes” and failing to deliver could have had something to do with it, too.

That said, when the press also doesn’t cover the policy failings of your opponent, as Matalin points out, the narrative is bound to be unbalanced.

Thus, the Republican counter-narrative of bias in the media was born, further inflamed over the years by the boom of conservative talk radio.

By then bringing in the disaffected groups born from the Perot movement of 1992 that morphed into the Reform Party and then the Tea Party, the ground had more than adequately been tilled for the era of Tweets and Fake News.

As I reflect on a true public servant’s passing, I will undoubtedly think a thousand “what ifs” to go along with his thousand points of light.


This column appears in The Princess Anne Independent News

Rev. Jonathan Meraz – What the End of Days and Baby Jesus Have in Common

“End Times” popular media preys on human fears, but there is no fear when you have Jesus. In this show, Pastor Jonathan Meraz connects the end of the church year with new beginnings. And we look at how we should be “spending” our Advent.

From the Gospel of Mark: “Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.” This Gospel is pointed to by skeptics as how something stated in the Bible didn’t actually happen. That’s not true and Pastor Meraz explains why.

We also look at consumer sentiment, the spending numbers over Black Friday and Cyber Monday, and how we can get ready for the Advent season.

Trinity is located at 6001 Granby St. in Norfolk. Bible Study is at 9 am and Worship is at 10 am on Sunday. Wednesday, Dec. 5, 12, and 19, we will host midweek Advent services at 7 pm. Come see us!

Links of Note:

Institute for Policy and Opinion Research – Roanoke College

Consumer Spending 2018

Lutheran Hour Ministries – Daily Devotions

Joseph: Carpenter of Steel

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Toward Zero Deaths Virginia

Perhaps this is what Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles was looking for – inbound links to their new website promoting highway safety – but I am still going to call it out as a communications fail.

“Toward Zero Deaths” is a national strategy to “ultimately reduce the number of traffic-related serious injuries or deaths to zero.”

“While Virginia recorded 843 traffic deaths last year, the good news is that 23 cities and counties experienced zero roadway fatalities,” said Governor Northam. “Still, there are too many preventable roadway tragedies—that’s why I’m encouraging Virginians take advantage of the tools available at TZDVA.org to equip themselves with the resources and data they need to make responsible decisions while driving. Together, we can improve highway safety across the Commonwealth and drive the number of roadway deaths to zero.”

Personally, I find it remarkable that 23 Virginia communities went fatality-free over the course of last year. But dependent on the population/scope of your measurement, I find this objective, while laudable, wholly unattainable at the state level. Not without significant costs.

In order to actually get to a perfect solution, regardless of what you’re trying to achieve, the marginal costs exponentially go up the closer to perfection you get. I could go into details, but whether this is increased law enforcement presence, slower traffic speeds, or countless of other suggestions to get to “zero” fatalities, which likely includes “not driving” as a possible action too, there’s always going to be an opportunity cost.

“The goal is to change driver behavior to create safer actions and habits by people behind the wheel,” said Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security Brian Moran. “If it were your loved one who had died in today’s crash, that would be unacceptable—so when you think of it that way, even one death is too many. We all must move the safe-driving message forward to bring the number of annual deaths to zero.”

Sure. But do we need the state to tell us how to be safe?

This PR campaign involves the expertise of no less than five state agencies and the best they could dream up was “TZDVA”? What, was “XYZVA” or “PDQVA” taken? They couldn’t have used “DriveSafeVA” or “SafeHighwaysVA” or anything that, you know, someone would remember? Leave it to government bureaucrats to think that an obscure acronym is the best name for a website.

Your tax dollars at work: cut driver’s education at the local level and build a state-level website as the remedy.

Thomas Jefferson Institute Proposes Tax Reform

The Thomas Jefferson Institute is a friend of the show and a necessary and important policy think tank in Virginia. This year, they are proposing a tax reform initiative that seems to be gaining momentum as we head into the General Assembly Session.

TJI notes that over the next two years, without any GA action, taxes on Virginians will increase by $1.2 billion and $4.5 billion in the next five. That’s nonsensical when we are trying to grow the state’s economy.

They suggest to double the standard deduction for the state’s income tax filing, which they state will benefit almost 70 percent of filers. Of course, this primarily helps those who don’t itemize, who mostly live outside the Northern Virginia/urban areas (also heavily represented in the legislature). They also propose cutting the corporate tax rate.

Endorsing the proposal are the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB), Americans for Prosperity (AFP), Americans for Tax Reform (ATR), the Family Foundation, and Middle Resolution.

“Tax relief is needed and should be the top priority for the incoming General Assembly,” wrote Michael Thompson, president of the Jefferson Institute, when announcing the plan and its endorsements
.
Of course, the organization faces obstacles in getting the proposal passed. Since expanding enrollment eligibility for Medicaid this year, projections are that the state underestimated its obligations by about $500 million. There are also calls to increase spending in higher education and for public schools.

Plenty of Reasons to Be Thankful

Taking a day to express gratitude is part of the American national fabric.

Regardless of whether you think that the voyagers under the leadership of Captain John Woodlief arriving at Berkeley Plantation just up the James River after a long journey from England in 1619 is the first Thanksgiving or the much more publicized gathering in Plymouth with Miles Standish and company, Americans have been dedicating a day to give thanks for nearly 400 years.

“We ordaine that this day of our ships arrival, at the place assigned for plantacon, in the land of Virginia, shall be yearly and perpetually kept holy as a day of Thanksgiving to Almighty God,” Woodlief recounted.

It’s not a day for selfish indulgences, although the day is worthy of celebration. It is a day of reflection, joy and gratitude to God for the gift of life and love, compassion, happiness and value we can bring to one another.

And, for me, I have many reasons to be thankful.

Many families have a tradition of making lists at Thanksgiving of the things they are thankful for. Most will include things like family, home, job, etc. – all definite and worthy things of which to be on the list. However, I wanted to take a slightly different tack for this column and share the things that I am grateful for as a Virginia writer.

The First Amendment: Whether it’s a blog, a Facebook post, CNN, a women’s march complete with headgear, our ability to communicate with one another, often confounding as much as it is enlightening, is not infringed. Our natural right to let each other know what we think about things and communicate is, within reason, sacred.

Being able to give thanks: Because being able to communicate is sacred, being able to worship freely is also incredibly important. The two go hand-in-hand because it is through communication that we are able to gather, share and worship God’s word and thank Him for our blessings.

Our Differences: In the Abrahamic religions, mankind is created in “our” image. Always a tricky phrase in scripture and worthy of a broader discussion. But it means that in the sameness of being human beings, we are also very unique. We are parts that make up a whole. And it is from those differences that our excesses and exuberances are checked. Liberal is checked by conservative and vice versa. The free-spirited creative is checked by the rational, fact-minded planner. And so forth. But each personality pushes and pulls, challenges and motivates. In this spirit of competition, we tend to better ourselves and find more productive solutions.

Researchers, Innovators, Entrepreneurs, Investors, Developers, Job producers: These are the people who are not satisfied with the status quo. Those who are willing to push boundaries, challenge assertions, question convention, seek new understandings and make money. These risk takers can be just as present in a new start-up as in government service. Looking for where risks are present and seeing opportunity. It has given us advances in health care, energy production, environmental stewardship, transportation, food production and countless others. If the government is needed, and that’s a big “if,” it serves the purpose to enable people the freedom to maximize the benefits from their ideas while protecting the vulnerable.

You: “Readers are leaders,” so that makes you one. Our community is only as successful as people who are willing to be inquisitive and learn; engage and be open-minded; argue with passion and principle. Being able to write for an audience that I know possesses those values and actively seeks “the Virginia Way” is a great joy and makes me exceptionally grateful.

Happy Thanksgiving, and it is my hope that you are richly blessed this coming year and beyond.


This column appears in The Princess Anne Independent News

Nick Tomboulides, U.S. Term Limits

The U.S. just had its biannual election for Congress and many would call it a “Blue Wave”, but not my guest from U.S. Term Limits.

Nick Tomboulides is the Executive Director of U.S. Term Limits and he argues that there is very little turnover in Congress, merely that the power of leadership is shifted to other incumbents and that the only way to actually “get things done” is through term limits.

On the show, we discuss:

– The “No Uncertain Terms” Podcast
– The appeal of term limits on a bipartisan level
– Why he transitioned from working in partisan political activism to the term limits cause
– Term limits: 82% support by the American people
– Why politicians like Democrats Ed Rendell and Bill Daley (brother of Richard Daley) support term limits, when it was also a Republican idea in the “Gingrich Revolution” with the “Contract for America”
– Why Americans are fed up with the 95% reelection rate in the House of Representatives
– Did the election this year in Virginia, with three incumbents losing, hurt the term limits argument?
– What is the future of the term limits issue and how is U.S. Term Limits involved?
– How term limits played a role in the Rick Scott v. Bill Nelson U.S. Senate race in Florida.
– The U.S. Term Limits Major goal: Term limits on Congress either through a Constitutional Amendment passed by Congress or through a Convention of States. They are actively recruiting support through state legislatures and members of Congress.
– Why term limits are necessary: Competition, better and innovative government, and curbing corruption
– Do politicians keep their word or follow-through on their term limits promises? What does the current pledge ask elected officials to do?
– Why are three terms sufficient for a citizen legislator?
– What about committee chairs/assignments?
– His key takeaways from this election and his hopes for the future

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Virginia Election 2018 with Dr. Quentin Kidd and Norman Leahy

Was it because Dave Brat spent too much time in DC? Was Abigail Spangberger everyone’s “every mom”? Was Elaine Luria a great candidate or did Scott Taylor not establish his base? Did Barbara Comstock not “embrace” President Donald Trump?

Republicans lost Virginia big-time (see the map). From six more years of U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine to losing three congressional seats, there’s no sugarcoating that this election represented a shellacking of the current Virginia GOP mindset.

But is Virginia actually turning blue? Is there an opportunity for Republicans to regain a foothold?

Well, you’ll just have to listen!

Dr. Quentin Kidd is Dean, College of Social Sciences and Director of the Judy Ford Wason Center for Public Policy at Christopher Newport University. Follow him on Twitter and check out his website.

Follow Norm on Twitter and read his columns at The Washington Post.

Links of interest:

Trump scorns GOP midterm losers who did not ’embrace’ him (CNBC)
Virginia Dems Are On A Decade-Long Statewide Win Streak, But Tim Kaine Won’t Call The State Blue Just Yet (Jordan Pascale)
2018 U.S. Senate Wave: Shift in partisan performance by precinct compared to 2016 presidential election (VPAP)
Wake-Up Republicans – It’s “Morning in America”, but You Wouldn’t Know It (Hoeft)
Lessons from Virginia’s 7th Congressional District (Leahy)

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Wake-Up Republicans – It’s “Morning in America”, but You Wouldn’t Know It

Consider this an opportunity and a wakeup call. If President Trump’s post-election press conference is any indication, in his mind, it will be neither.

Despite an outstanding economy, strong foreign policy and two appointments to the Supreme Court, Trump and his surrogates are leaving a scorched-earth path as they progressively turn the country blue. The conservative victories of stabilizing the court for several years could easily be overturned by sending progressive leftists into the halls of power in subsequent elections.

Consider what Virginia elected this year.

All of the Democratic incumbents, including U.S. Senator Tim Kaine, and new congressional representatives, including U.S. Rep.-elect Elaine Luria, support abortion rights, higher taxes, expanding nationalized healthcare and weaker immigration laws. They will advocate for restrictions to the Second Amendment.

The Wall Street Journal reports that 64 percent of young people under the age of 24 supported Democrats and their left-wing agenda. Not exactly a surprise, but the number is still high.

What’s more telling is how Virginia’s electorate is shifting. According to the Virginia Public Access Project, an analysis of trends of voting from 2016 to 2018 reveals major chunks around northern Virginia, Richmond and Hampton Roads overwhelmingly are moving to the left. But even more so are the very limited shifts to the right, including in rural areas. Republicans are not gaining ground.

This is not a recipe for success. It’s a disaster waiting to happen.

\While Republicans did hold the U.S. Senate, with pickups in Indiana, Missouri, Florida and North Dakota, those are all states where Republicans traditionally can and should win. And, in each case, you can point to fairly flawed Democratic candidates and tangible reasons why a Republican with a pulse should win. I would also argue that those Republicans who won did so in spite of Trump.

We are a long way away from “Morning in America,” the 1984 campaign mantra of President Ronald Reagan. Reagan defeated Walter Mondale that election in a landslide, with Mondale only picking up his home state of Minnesota and D.C. In that campaign, Reagan – who similarly to Trump presided over an expanding economy, stood up to authoritarianism and nominated supreme court justices – did not demean his opponents. And he certainly did not alienate his allies. Reagan’s 11th Commandment of “Thou shalt not speak ill of any fellow Republican” is now a quaint afterthought in today’s GOP.

Just ask now former Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

But in Virginia Beach there might be hope.

Mayor-elect Bobby Dyer is a conservative consensus builder. He wins elections not through threats or intimidation but through hard work and optimism.

“Good government should never fear an engaged and educated public, the government should always embrace that opportunity,” says Dyer.

Dyer ran his campaign on simple truths – or his “radical ideas” – things like working on practical, prioritized transportation solutions, asking those who use public transit for their input on improving it, holding open and transparent budget hearings, making it easier to open new businesses, tackling the flooding problem by involving experts, requiring a super-majority to raise taxes, and much more.

Hardly right-leaning lurches on hot-button topics. They’re practical ideas with an eye toward inclusivity, with full knowledge that most people are just looking for good government and opportunity.

Dyer is also a tireless worker. During the campaign, I once called him to ask a question. I figured I would be catching him travailing to an event or a campaign stop. What I didn’t expect is that he was on the way to see patients. He is a true public servant.

Though Virginia Beach local elections are not partisan contests, Dyer represents the kind of person needed in today’s GOP: mission focused and service oriented, without bombast and antagonism. In other words, he’s kind of like Reagan. More people like Dyer = More wins for the GOP.

Pretty simple equation.