Archives February 2019

Monopoly – A Life Lesson

So, my daughter is away at college. This means my wife and I were home alone this past Friday night. It was as if we were transported to a time that we could barely remember. When we were teenagers full of enthusiasm and assertive ideas.

This time to ourselves provided newfound freedom. We decided to take full advantage of it. To change up our routine.

Risky, I know. We played Monopoly.

The last time I broke out that board game must have been as a junior in high school. That was over 30 years ago.

In need of a refresher of the rules, we read the instructions from beginning to end. The rules are challenging. But you should read them and put them into practice in life. You will likely achieve a level of success you never anticipated.

First, and most important, even before the game officially begins, you have money. $1,500 to be precise.

What a lesson learned. Do we do that with our kids? “Hey, junior, here’s one-point-five-grand.”

Sort of.

Many of us invest thousands of our hard-earned dollars into this vacuous entity called “college.”

But does college actually give our kids the kick-start they need? Some – rightfully so – argue that higher education has become too expensive and too commercial, where the concerns are less upon providing value to future employers and economic progress and more to the bottom line of the institution.

No, that might not be the right investment. Especially if you, the parent, are making that choice for your progeny. Maybe just give them the $1,500 at 18 and say, “You’re now an adult. I love you. Make it happen.”

I’m not saying don’t save for your child’s future. I am saying invest wisely. Maybe the lesson learned from the Monopoly rules is to take care of your kids and give them, as best you can, something to start from.

Ownership. What a phenomenal and underutilized notion. Every time you buy a property in Monopoly, you get financial benefits when someone lands on it in the form of a rent payment. Property is the ultimate form of passive income. It will either increase in equity or you can charge people to occupy it for you.

Far too many of us choose to be owned v. own. Renting serves its purpose, but it is ownership that provides long term wealth.

Some Monopoly rules, frankly, suck. “Go to Jail,” “Pass Go” and “Pay Luxury Tax.” Only a socialist could have come up with these rules for the game.
Roll the dice and land somewhere you shouldn’t be? You’re sidelined into a penitentiary. Roll the dice and actually make it around the board? “Congratulations, and here’s free money.” Roll the dice and land on another punitive square? You’re paying the government $75 for the privilege.

Why on earth should a roll of the dice determine our outcome?

Monopoly, sometimes, is a conundrum wrapped up in an enigma.

Sure, the roll of the dice determines where you land. But the flip side is whether you have the moxie to invest and own. Do you have the resources to succeed? Do you have the guts to buy and build?

America was built on doing things with risk and passion, not on passivity and regression.

Monopoly is a game well worth revisiting if you haven’t played in awhile.

At least you’re spending some time away from the screens with your love on a Friday night. But maybe try not to overthink it.

This column also appears in The Princess Anne Independent News

Should Fairfax go? Depends on who you ask.

It’s another installment of “Shoutin’ Along the James” with Norm Leahy! This episode we look at the recently released Roanoke College poll that asks the question of Virginians, “Should [Ralph Northam, Justin Fairfax, or Mark Herring] resign?” The results are fascinating. We also dive into some finer points on the politics associated with the Fairfax ‘impeachment hearings’ progress, and conclude with our review on the 2019 regular session of the General Assembly.

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

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Virginia is for Lovers of Free Speech, not Lawbreakers

As a proud former Michigander who loves his heritage from Scandinavia, Germany, and Poland, I am no stranger to immigration.

Mobility, when within the confines of the law, is fantastic. It brings new ideas, innovations, and perspective; enthusiasm, energy, and drive.

But am I writing about immigration in this post?

Absolutely not.

I became a Virginian in the mid-90’s and haven’t looked back, save for the fact that I still love my Detroit sports.

No – I am writing about people coming to Virginia and acting like asses.

Did you happen to notice that what makes headlines for our political unrest and vandalism in the past few years have all been started by out-of-staters?

The white nationalist rally in Charlottesville? James Fields, the idiot behind the wheel, was from Ohio.

“Mr Fields, from Ohio, had driven his car into the crowd”

Protesting Gov. Northam’s administration with a can of red dye in a historic fountain? A Californian.

Patrick E. Talmantes, 23, of Sacramento, Calif., was charged with misdemeanor vandalism and misdemeanor littering “after being observed pulling a container of red dye from a lime green shopping bag he was carrying and tossing it into the fountain at the southeast corner of Capitol Square,” according to police.

Dressing up as Virtus to protest the ERA in near-nudity? A New Yorker.

“A New York activist supporting Virginia’s ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment exposed her breast to lawmakers outside the Capitol on Monday while she and another activist mimicked the great seal of the commonwealth in a performance art bit.”

Forgive me for pointing out the obvious, but the Commonwealth made protesting the government way in vogue centuries ago. Patrick Henry showed us the way.

“Give me Liberty or give me death,” he said.

Not to mention we have the father of our country, George Washington, the author of our Declaration, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison, who drafted our Constitution, as favorite sons.

I think Virginia understands civil discourse and how to do it right.

So, if you’re going to come here and take part in our internal arguments, fine. But please don’t break our laws. We don’t.

Rep. Rob Wittman Returns – National Emergency 2019

Joining J.R. this week is Rep. Rob Wittman – representing Virginia’s First Congressional District and serving as the ranking member of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Seapower and Force Projection.

On this podcast, Congressman Wittman appropriately addresses the concerns conservatives have with declaring a national emergency to build the border wall, as well as not passing appropriations bills on-time. That said, Rep. Wittman believes while the president will be challenged on the legality of his declaration, President Trump’s action certainly makes sense given the nature of the threat to our national security and the inaction of Congress to address the issue. Regardless, another shutdown has been averted. Rep. Wittman was clear that hardworking civil servants deserve better than to be dangled as collateral for every political disagreement, and that Congress needs to govern regarding the “power of the purse” – and not go to brinksmanship.

We also discuss shipbuilding. Huntington Ingalls Industries made record profits in the last quarter of 2017, yet there was a multitude of issues with the last, yet first in class, building project, CVN-79, the USS GERALD FORD. Although there are concerns, Wittman was clear that the recent two carrier block-buy for CVN-80 and 81 would yield a net cost-savings – $4 billion – and will serve to stabilize the shipbuilding industry in the long term, as well as advance seapower supremacy against our peer competitors.

Finally, we address Virginia’s turmoil with Gov. Ralph Northam, Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, and Atty. Gen. Mark Herring. Wittman, who is regularly mentioned in political circles for statewide office, is clear that due process is the best way to address the current scandal. That said, Wittman also made clear his thoughts on the role of an elected official regarding race relations.

(header photo by Mark Winterstein. See more of his photos at his Instagram page.)

Virginia’s Democratic Leadership – Nothing But a Jenga Tower

For the past few weeks, beginning with Gov. Ralph Northam’s controversial comments about proposed legislation that would keep a newly born baby comfortable as its fate is decided by doctor and mother, Virginia has been the center of attention. And it hasn’t been good.

Shortly after those remarks, a picture on Northam’s medical school yearbook page was revealed to show someone in blackface standing next to someone dressed as a member of the Ku Klux Klan. One or the other might be Northam. Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax has been accused – twice – of sexual assault. And Attorney General Mark Herring disclosed that he also appeared in blackface in college.

The immediate reaction – from Democrats – was entirely appropriate.

Almost every Democrat in one way or another – including presidential aspirants – condemned the action. Many loudly proclaimed that there should be resignations. And, if not resignations, then impeachment procedures should begin.

Even Herring called on Northam to resign. Until Herring decided to reveal he had done the same thing, that is. But some wielding pitchforks of purity have since acquiesced to the whimpers of three deeply flawed, exposed politicians and a desperate political party trying to save itself before a big election.

Appearing this weekend on CBS News’ “Face the Nation,” both U.S. Rep. Don Beyer, D-Va. 8th District, and U.S. Rep. Jennifer Wexton, D-Va. 10th District, again called for Northam and Fairfax to step down. However, both stopped short of calling for Herring to go.

“The attorney general came forward proactively, is very regretful and contrite,” Wexton said. “He reached out to all the African-American leaders and other leaders, very heartfelt anguish about what he had done.”

Beyer added a rare moment of truth we find so refreshing from our elected leaders, but it is regrettably odious at the same time: “We would move from a progressive, very strong attorney general to someone who’s not just a Republican but someone who’s on the arch-conservative end of it.”

Therein lies the rub. Should all three Democrats resign, the line of succession falls to the state Speaker of the House, Del. Kirk Cox, R-66th District. Democrats could care less about principle. This is about political power. Who can say we’re surprised with the course of action by state Del. Patrick Hope, D-47th District, who had been so eager to bring articles of impeachment on Fairfax. That squealing you hear is Hope slamming on the breaks.

“Yesterday, I sent draft language to my colleagues on the first step of an impeachment action regarding the Lt. Governor,” he tweeted Monday, Feb. 11. “There has been an enormous amount of sincere and thoughtful feedback which has led to additional conversations that need to take place before anything is filed.” He reconsidered impeachment after a “conference call” with House Democrats.

Instead of pursuing the truth with testimony, we will continue to get ridiculously contrived maneuvers. Instead of focusing on the complex legacy of race – lynching, Jim Crow, Confederate statues, white nationalist rallies – or the ramifications to equality of enabling a man accused of rape and sexual assault to remain in office, Democrats have chosen political crassness by enabling what Greg Corombos of Radio America called the “Jenga Tower” of state leadership to teeter on.

Remove one, the whole tower comes crashing down – and Democrats know it.

Amid a historic embarrassment for Virginia, Democrats seem hellbent on maintaining power now, even if that means propping up three men who have lost their standing to serve.

This column appears in The Princess Anne Independent News

SATJ: Virginia in Crisis — and Tax…Cuts?

It’s been quite the two weeks since Norm Leahy and J.R. Hoeft got together for their last podcast. Scandal has rocked the Commonwealth, as well as a rare outbreak of bipartisan governance.

In this podcast, we discuss:

  • The hypocrisy of the left/Virginia embroiled in scandal
  • Race relations in Virginia/”400 Years of Slavery”
  • Tax conformity/budget plan

Links of Note:
Leahy: The inertia behind Virginia’s many scandals
Hoeft: Virginia’s Democratic Leadership – Nothing But a Jenga Tower
House and Senate Overwhelmingly Approve $1 Billion Tax Relief Package (Virginia House GOP Caucus)
“Northam referenced the state’s 400 years of slavery in his interview with Gayle King on CBS’ ‘Face the Nation,’ and referred to enslaved Africans as “indentured servants from Africa.”

“‘Also known as slavery,’ King interjected.” (CNN)
Bipartisan group calls on Virginians to focus on history of slavery and civil rights in ‘Year of Reconciliation and Civility’ resolution (Richmond Times-Dispatch)
Suffolk DA ‘Ready’ to Investigate Fairfax Sexual Assault Allegations (National Review)

Justin Fairfax faces another accusation

In what has been a whirlwind week for Virginia politics, yet another accuser of sexual assault has emerged against Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax.

Meredith Watson, who was a student with Fairfax at Duke University, claims through her attorney that Fairfax raped her in 2000 while they were students.

Earlier this week, Fairfax was accused by Dr. Vanessa Tyson of an assault at the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston where she was forced to perform oral sex in a hotel room. Fairfax denies the allegation and says the encounter was consensual.

The National Organization for Women has already called upon Fairfax to resign.

Fairfax should have listened to them.

Each incident involving Gov. Ralph Northam, Fairfax, and Atty. Gen. Herring must be viewed separately – and with consistency. We have called upon others to resign for less.

In the case of Fairfax, he is facing increasing evidence that he is not fit for office.

“We serve as counsel for Meredith Watson, who was raped by Justin Fairfax in 2000, while they were both students at Duke University. Mr. Fairfax’s attach was premeditated and aggressive. The two were friends but never dated or had any romantic relationship.

“Ms. Watson shared her account of the rape with friends in a series of emails and Facebook messages that are now in our possession. Additionally, we have statements from former classmates corroborating that Ms. Watson immediately told friends that Mr. Fairfax had raped her.

“Ms. Watson was upset to learn that Mr. Fairfax raped at least one other woman after he attacked her. The details of Ms. Watson’s attack are similar to those described by Dr. Vanessa Tyson.

“At this time, Ms. Watson is reluctantly coming forward out of a strong sense of civic duty and her believe that those seeking or serving public office should be of the highest character. She has no interest in becoming a media personality or reliving the trauma that has great affected her life. Similarly, she is not seeking any financial damages.

“On behalf of our client, we have notified Justin Fairfax through his attorneys that Ms. Watson hopes he will resign from public office.

Nancy Erika Smith, Attorney for Meredith Watson

Update (6:40 pm):

Senate Majority Leader Thomas K. Norment, Jr. (R-James City), Senate Republican Caucus Chairman Ryan T. McDougle (R-Hanover), Senate Republican Caucus Co-Chairman Mark D. Obenshain (R-Rockingham), and Senate Majority Whip William M. Stanley, Jr. (R-Franklin) tonight issued the following statement concerning Lieutenant Governor Justin E. Fairfax (D)

“For the second time this week, Lieutenant Governor Fairfax has been accused of actions that, if true, constitute major felonies in the Commonwealth of Virginia. We are shocked and dismayed by these credible and serious allegations. These accusations necessitate comprehensive, thorough, and immediate investigations by law enforcement authorities in Massachusetts and North Carolina.”

Raheel Raza – The Clarion Project

Raheel Raza, senior advisor of the Clarion Project and its “Preventing Violent Extremism” campaign comes on the podcast to discuss the existing dangers of terrorist recruiting in the west. “Preventing Violent Extremism” is a campaign to prevent the spread of radical Islamic ideology and violence among American children and youth.

Raza is president of The Council for Muslims Facing Tomorrow, a founding member of The Muslim Reform Movement, author of the book Their Jihad – Not My Jihad, award winning journalist, public speaker, and advocate for human rights.

Raza has spoken on Human Rights in the parliaments of Sweden, UK, Israel and on Capitol Hill in Washington DC. She is also accredited with the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva through The Centre for Inquiry (CFI).

in this podcast, we discuss:

  • What is the Clarion Project?
  • Where are we in combatting terrorism and what is the root of violent extremism?
  • Why is there an active recruiting effort for jihad in the west?
  • Why are people attracted to nihilism/extremism?
  • How do people recognize the signs of extremism?
  • Extremism exists in all 50 states and Virginia is particularly susceptible. Why should everyone be concerned?
  • Americans have had pockets of both international and domestic terrorism since 9/11. Why should Americans have a sense of urgency?
  • The dangers of stereotyping and the importance of looking for the true signs of extremism.
  • The dilemma of labels.
  • What will be learned by participating in the Clarion Project?

Background info:

The FBI is investigating radical Islamic terror plots in all 50 states, but many Americans are ignorant to this fact and wrongly believe “it won’t happen to me.” The U.S. has no national program to prevent and counter violent extremism—and most local programs intervene too late.

Raheel Raza contends that America’s youth are being radicalized, and that this crisis requires immediate action to prevent violent attacks in the United States and Western world.

“According to CIA estimates about 2000 Westerners have travelled to Iraq and Syria (many via Turkey) to join ISIS. It’s estimated that from these more than 100 came from the USA,” says Raza.

The Clarion Project’s “Preventing Violent Extremism” (PVE) campaign is a training program offered to the public, educators, law enforcement and government sectors that provides a three-stage strategy as follows:

1) How radicalization works and the process of recruitment

2) How to identify the tendencies in a child that would potentially lead him or her to extremism

3) How to meet the emotional and psychological needs of these children

For choice in education

Education is an important and necessary priority.

Some people think it’s such a priority that they have decided not to leave the practice in the hands of trained professionals but attempt to go it alone with homeschooling.

This is a choice.

I applaud the homeschooling movement provided basic standards are met. But, with education, most are left without a choice.

A family will live in a community, largely dictated on affordability and job proximity. And, many families, provided they have the means, will choose a location with the above two in mind that also has, “good schools.”

So, what makes a good school?

That’s subjective, but I would presume the children are safe – including from each other – and they are actually learning things that will help them in life, such as writing, reading, math, science and civics. Also, their performance will eventually result in people who are productive members of the community.

While the General Assembly debates teacher salaries and infrastructure improvements, and it’s important that we do reward an incredibly important government service, we must couple such taxpayer benevolence with a little nod to personal freedom and competition.

A very important concession should be requested by our legislators – school choice –while we’re talking about increasing teacher pay and rehabilitating broken schools.

The “deal” that should be made should include:

► A makeover of SOLs. This has hamstrung educators and innovators. We need to unshackle our brightest teachers and allow them to do things that are unconventional.
► Increased pay for teachers, along with a revised spending calculus for schools funded by public dollars. Perhaps 10 percent on administration, 20 percent on infrastructure, and 70 percent on classroom spending – which includes career counseling and skills development? We can debate the numbers, but shouldn’t a majority of our tax dollars be dedicated to actually improving the learning of our kids and getting them jobs here in the commonwealth?
► School choice and charter schools. Open it up. If there is a corporate entity willing to spend their money to train their future employees, let it happen. Why are we fighting this? This is private investment in our community to make communities better. This should be encouraged, with, of course, oversight.
► Homeschooling integration. Provided there are reasonable baselines met, if not exceeded, I think any freedom-loving capitalist should applaud a family that is willing to invest and bet on themselves. If those baselines are not met, the child must go into public education, which should be the best available anywhere.

Perhaps I am being naïve in my ideas, but we have decided to go to opposite corners on education when we should really be looking at it in the terms of what’s best for a free market, capitalistic society.

My hope is that our General Assembly doesn’t just capitulate and acquiesce in transferring millions of dollars extracted from Virginia taxpayers to the ubiquitous “education system” with “newfound” revenue because Virginia’s tax laws no longer match federal laws and a lot more is being collected by the state.

My equal hope is that the General Assembly realizes that there is a strong argument for improving teacher pay and school infrastructure. The 5 percent pay raise suggested by House Republicans is a great start, but should not be without a concession from the Democrats to advance educational freedom.

Ultimately, what am I requesting?


This column appears in The Princess Anne Indpendent News