Rushed Judgements

About 99% of those reading this have long since formed their opinion of Rush Limbaugh.  His death this morning, and reading some early reactions, convince me that I might be one of only a handful of people with a nuanced, mixed opinion of the man and his legacy. 

So I come neither to canonize Rush nor bury him.  But I am NOT exaggerating when I say he was the most influential person in the last fifty years in an industry that I have devoted most of my professional career to.

Rush Limbaugh was Trump before Trump.  A big-talking, bombastic figure who exaggerated, bloviated and irritated.  But people listened.  Those who loved him listened.  Those who hated him listened.  He was all of these things, good and bad, but one thing he NEVER was—was boring.

When he was gaining a big audience in the late 80’s, I was graduating college and began working full-time at a station in Danville-Virginia.  It was a conservative area—but steeped with southern politeness.  Rush’s parodies and harsh language was deemed too shocking for the local audience, based on the reaction of the sales people at our station who were marketing the show.  Our station was the first in the market to carry Rush.  That initial reaction quickly melted away and 12-3pm quickly became our most lucrative time of the day to sell.

This is sort of “inside baseball” for those of us in radio, but Rush Limbaugh changed the way AM Radio was marketed and sold.  AM was dead before his show.  Major markets had all but abandoned it.  But Rush and his team put together a unique network of very small stations in very small markets.  Then his talent took over.  Quickly those stations got a little bigger.  Those markets got a little bigger.  And within a decade, he had more radio listeners than any other person on the planet.  He quickly eclipsed Larry King.

When I heard about Rush Limbaugh I envisioned a conservative commentator who had a radio show.  When I actually HEARD Limbaugh, I instantly realized he was a radio guy who happened to be a conservative commenter.  Again—more inside baseball—but Rush’s diction, pacing, delivery and other voice attributes were near-perfect.  You cannot live in the radio business and not envy the pipes.  He had them.

Before the emergence of Rush’s radio show, you had a hard time finding conservative mores represented in mainstream culture.  The driving moral force behind most television, movie and other art was what left-wing values were more treasured. This was rarely overt, but popular culture clearly reflected a left-of-center perspective.  Rush immediately filled a void, speaking to people who sometimes felt that society at large didn’t regard them fondly.  Go ahead.  Call them dumb ‘ol rednecks if you like.  But they tuned in.  And the number quickly suggested that other demographics were tuning in.

Rush’s format was completely different.  It was not listener/caller-dominated.  Most of the content came from HIM.  HE was the selling point—not the callers.  Now it takes a hell of a personality to carry something like that but he did.  For more than thirty years.  Trust me when I tell you that carrying a three-hour live broadcast largely on extemporaneous speaking is a chore!

The empire he was able to build in such a short time was remarkable.  Limbaugh gave conservatives a national stage with his radio show.   I said it at the time and I will say it again—Rush Limbaugh was primarily responsible for the unprecedented Republican takeover of Congress in 1994.  He essentially ushered in a new age of politics.  Again, you can disagree with the politics, but you cannot deny the impact.

A few years later, Roger Ailes witnessed Rush’s popularity and saw a chance to market to that audience on the television side.  The results speak for themselves. Fox News (like them or not) has become a cultural force.

One of the mainstream media’s biggest issues with Rush was the same issues they have with Fox News, right-wing bloggers, etc.  They are proof that the old guard no longer has a monopoly on the flow of information.  This is the information age.  Information is power.  In democratizing political information, Rush will forever be reviled by those who once controlled it.

I most certainly did not always agree with Rush and I most certainly was not a fan of his style.  To be honest, he was a loudmouthed jerk most of the time.  I realize, though, that I was not his target audience.  Controversy sells.  Volume sells.  Drama sells.  Rush’s bombastic style and finger-pointing penchant was way too over the top for my tastes.  But beneath the bluster, the man knew his stuff.  Yes, you had to sit through some eye-roll moments, but there was substance there.  He correctly pointed out that the vanguard of left-guided movements like Feminism and Environmentalism were primarily the movement’s most partisan elements.  They were indignant about that.  Partly because he made it personal.  But mostly because he was 100% correct.

And to a lot of conservatives in the early 90’s, it was a welcome break from the norm.  Politically, the “norm” at the time was to have Ted Kennedy say something awful about you on the Senate floor—and that would be the only clip the newscast showed.  No rebuttal.  With Rush giving a voice of dissent, it amplified others that were being ignored.  Most notably, a young firebrand Congressman from Georgia named Newt Gingrich.

I am not going to bother checking Twitter today.  I’ve seen what some of the more unhinged leftists said about Rush when he was alive.  I can only imagine what they’re saying today so I will make sure that I keep it at that.  There are a few entities that seem to draw out the inner demon on the left—to make them say things that would make Charlie Manson wince.  Brett Kavanaugh was one of them.  But Rush Limbaugh was the Godfather.  The idea of equating “disagreement” with “hatred” wasn’t born with Rush, but it applied right up until his death.  And sadly, well beyond it.

I’m sure a lot of people will say Rush was the precursor to a coarsening of our political and social debates.  There is some merit to that.  Certainly things have only gotten more pronounced in those areas over the past thirty years.  And you could say that they reached their apex with the election of Donald Trump.  Rush was the first of the modern-day conservatives to fire back at people like James Carville—whose political rhetoric and attacks too often went unchallenged.  Maybe the pendulum has swung too far, but what is worse?  A society where one side is able to say most anything about the other—-or one where that other side has a chance to say something back?

Rush Limbaugh was a giant in the field of radio and in American broadcasting.  He pointed out thirty years ago that the American left was dominating discussion and he decided to do something about it.  He did.  Whether you think that is a good thing or a bad thing depends mostly on where you reside on the political spectrum.

As someone who was an indirect beneficiary of his essentially saving AM radio in the nineties, I will tip my cap.  As someone who has misgivings about monopolies on speech and opinions, I will nod my head.  But as someone who values basic manners, I will give a thumbs-down.

We now return you to your regular social media, where the opinions will be much less cerebral and nuanced.  🙂

Requiem for my hero

Nearly 47 years ago I was in a room at Danville Regional hospital after having my tonsils taken out. I was only seven years old…but I needed to recover QUICKLY!! Why? It was April 8, 1974—and I was worried I would miss Hank Aaron going for the all-time home run record.

Hank hit home run #714 on Saturday in Cincinnati off of Jack Billingham. That tied Babe Ruth. They sat him on Sunday, wanting him to have a chance to break the record when the Braves returned home to Fulton County Stadium. Their Monday night game against the Dodgers was going to be broadcast nationally—a rarity back then.

I had my tonsils taken out that morning and nurses shoved ice cream down my throat while I drifted in and out of consciousness. I REALLY wanted to be awake for the game that evening.

My dad was a welder. He was working on building an addition to The hospital. He was working on the roof that abutted the existing floor where I was being treated. He would crawl in through the window and eat lunch with me.

After finishing up work dad crawled in through the window with McDonald’s and hung around until the game started. I was still groggy but determined to watch. Thankfully, Hammerin’ Hank went deep his first time up, allowing me to go to sleep without worrying about missing anything. I slept until Noon the next day.

The next year, as I began my storied Little League baseball career, I did so with a Hank Aaron model Wilson A-2000 glove. Being eight years old, I was convinced that Hank himself had autographed the glove!

Suffice to say, I had no greater sports hero growing up than Hank Aaron. And being young it never occurred to me that my forebears would have considered it taboo for a little white boy from Southside Virginia to idolize a black man. Well, I didn’t see a black male. I saw an elegant athlete with the quickest wrists at the plate I have ever seen (to this day) who could wait forever on even the best pitch and hit it hard. I saw a man who always appeared to be smiling…who was gracious and humble.

I never thought at the time how significant it was to have a father who was raised in SUCH a different time who not only said nothing about my hero-worship, but actively encouraged it. That’s what made it so hard to learn later, while still a kid, that Aaron’s magical chase of Babe Ruth’s home run record had brought out some of the worst letters the US Postal Service have ever delivered. It was staggering the amount of abuse this man was subject to, based solely on the color of his skin. It most certainly was NOT about the content of his character, which was impeccable.

Just by being Hank Aaron, he was able to show an entire generation of little white boys that it was just fine worshiping the athletic skills of a black athlete. Today, we think nothing about such things. Yes there are still major race issues our society must address. But we are MUCH further along than we would have otherwise been because of super human beings like Hank Aaron.

There is an old picture of me I would give almost ANYTHING to recover. Mom took a shot of one of my games at Glenwood Elementary School, where I batted a robust .737 my senior year. Unconsciously, I modeled my swing after Hank’s. Mom took a picture of me during a sweet follow-through on a double. It looked almost EXACTLY like the famous shot of Aaron’s follow-through on his 715th homer. Both arms still over the plate—but the wrists (which generated super-human powers) were already fully bent, having sent another baseball on a light flight. It was my dream to get Hank to autograph that picture of me. Alas, it has been lost to the ages. And now we’ve lost Hank to the ages.

RIP, my hero. I’ll see you one day.

Out with the old; in with the old

Pomp and circumstance do little for more.  I admire precision drill teams for about 90 seconds before I start losing interest. Same with funerals of people I didn’t know.  And when the pomp is done in the context of government…an entity of which I am already distrustful, then my interest level drops to near zero.

So, no.  I did not watch today’s inauguration of Joe Biden as our nation’s 46th President.  Neither did I watch the one from four years ago.  Or eight years ago.  Or 12.  I was busy charging a car battery this afternoon.  Previous excuses have included stacking bouillon cubes, bleeding the water heater, rotating tires on my car, raking brush in the backyard, swabbing my belly button for lint.  You know, the important stuff.  At least more important than Bread and Circuses for half of the population who are giddy that as of today, THEIR side owns the tanks and the guns.

As I’ve explained in previous posts, I have no animus towards Biden.  As politicians go, he seems to be one of the few I could actually talk to in a jovial manner.  In fact, I believe it was his record as a centrist that allowed Democrats to move his way in the primaries when they realized they didn’t need to fight a fiery demagogue (Trump) with one of their own.  And I hope I am correct when I say that the progressives who have counting down the hours until Biden’s nomination are going to be VERY disappointed when Biden begins to govern.

But will he?  Will the moderate Democrat that we’ve known for four decades suddenly become a Woke Senior Citizen, giving free policy rein to the loudest and furthest left sector of his party?  Will we see Beto become a gun czar?  AOC made Secretary of Health and Human Services, Rashida Tlaib appointed Ambassador to Israel?  Meh—unlikely on all counts.  But still, Biden will have to do SOMETHING to appease the Twitter Mob wing of the Democratic party.  We’ll have to keep our eyes open.

If you are like me and measure Government’s success by how much they are *forbidden* from doing instead of how much they’ve done, there is one artifact of the Trump debacle that will pay dividends for years.  Despite all of his other faults, Trump deferred to some VERY sharp people in filling three Supreme Court vacancies and 228 federal judicial seats.  He had a penchant for following the Heritage Foundation’s advice and appointing strict originalists to these seats.  This is not to say these judges will favor right wing policy over left…but they favor the CONSTITUTION above all.

In a period of history when Democrats have control of two of the three branches of government; coupled with the visceral urge to enact revenge on people who have opposed them the past four years, the US Judicial system will be in the best position to temper their zeal.  It will be up to men and women in black robes to step in when Democrats try to shed Constitutional restraints in their 2021 Vengeance Tour.

Many of these judges have already abundantly demonstrate that they follow the Constitution—not temporal political whims.  Do you doubt that?  Ask Former President Trump, who was bitch-slapped several times be judges HE appointed. So because of this formidable check in place, and given the decades of lawmaking evidence we have seen, it’s hard to think President Joe Biden is going to go scorched Earth like so many feared.  Yes, there will be significant changes in the makeup and tenor of the Federal Government…but nothing *too* far beyond the usual ones seen whenever a new party moves into that lovely mansion on Pennsylvania Avenue.

Now I’ll quickly change my tune if a smirking Beto O’Rourke shows up at my door and demands I turn over my guns. Actually, I’ll switch my iPad to a live stream.  It would be interesting viewing.

Trump’s to blame, but he’s not alone

            Well here is where I resume pissing off some of the people who have likely given me positive comments for the first time.  You knew this wouldn’t last, didn’t you?

            The worst thing that could happen after this week’s violence in Washington is to forget the actions from all corners that led up to it.  Yes, I said ALL corners.  This isn’t a “whatabout” or “both sides” commentary…unless it is.

            Trump’s appeals to the mob are mere words—unless there is SOME foundation for the mob to be angry. Trump did not create this.  It predated him by many years. Yes, he exacerbated it, fed it, and profited off of it. But it did not form out of whole cloth the instant he announced his candidacy.

Like it or not, there are a LOT of people who feel that government and the media are teaming up against them.  They feel that both entities have regarded them with contempt for a number of years.  Sadly, they found a Champion for their grief in Trump.  We saw the fruits this week.

            The anger Trump manipulated was formed through a steady series of cultural institutions who constantly drove home the message that these people were responsible for all of the bad things in the world. That their forebears were evil people and that they, by proxy, were also irredeemably evil. That their religion was evil. That the things they respected were evil.  It was made worse by a mainstream media who seemed all-too-eager to amplify these points.  This may seem silly to you.  That’s fine.  But it exists.  I assure you.  You ignore it at your peril.  Actually, the peril applies to ALL of us.

Everyone has a breaking point. Trump was a master manipulator who became the avatar for these peoples’ frustrations. He led them to the breaking point, and they let him. They are both to blame.

But if you don’t think the constant scorn that a large segment of our population has endured for more than a generation is not a factor, then you are opening up the door for more unrest. If you cavalierly say “Oh you poor white guys have suffered SOOOO much! Let me get you a tissue” then you are practically begging for more.

            The problem comes in specifically identifying these things that contributed to the mob. For most every one of them, you will be able to say something along the lines of, “Well we NEED to do that in order to (accomplish some good deed stemming from racism and Jim Crow laws.)”  You will be able to defend a good number of these in such a manner.  And you will often be correct.  But you will also be tempted to view any questioning of such policies as “racist”. And that’s where the problems begin.

            Most white people have been able to NOT go batshit crazy at four decades of being branded a “racist” whenever certain policies or politicians were questioned.  But it wears on you.  After a while you begin thinking it’s not worth questioning the policies and people, just so you can avoid the inevitable name-calling that will be lobbed your way.  Hell, even in writing this post I wondered if it was worth it, since so many people will immediately see it as “racist” and automatically ignore it.

            People were made to feel that mere questioning of such things made them a bad person.  Once that was established, the threshold became “full-throated support.”  This wears on you.

            During this time there have been several government policies that specifically targeted a certain demographic for legal discrimination. Affirmative Action is, by it’s very definition, “race-based preference.”  Again, you can argue that the intent is noble—and it most certainly is.  But the end effect is that there IS a group of people that can be legally discriminated against by the federal government.  Now, will this make the members of that group feel better about their government—or worse?   And being constantly called racist (or worse) when you question these policies?  It wears on you.

            And this is to say nothing of the contemporary policies which demand people apologize for their skin color and for the actions of people who have been dead for centuries. This obnoxious view has been de rigeur for some time on college campuses.  It is now creeping into modern HR Departments.  These are not expectations that come from a place of good will.  They come from a place of exacting punishment.  It wears on you.

            Let me re-state my views so there is no ambiguity.  The PRIMARY blame for this week’s violence lies with President Trump and the people who carried it out—along with those party leaders who encouraged it.  Every one of them should be chagrined and punished where appropriate. But to think that this is totally a product of one man and his minions is short-sided and dangerous.  We will be doing this all over again soon if we fail to properly identify the genesis for this combustible marriage.

This is the advantage of regarding most people with automatic suspicion. I see Trump and his fanbois for what they are. But I also know how they were created. And there are people evidently willing to do it all over again. If you do we’ll be having the same discussion every 10-to-12 years.

Obama makes Hispanics mainstream

Barack Obama appeared on a podcast yesterday and had some thoughts about the much higher percentage of Hispanic voters who backed Trump in the 2020 election. There is so much assumption, inaccuracy and demagoguery in this single statement that it could only have come from our former President.  Let’s break it down.

First off, Obama’s sudden concern for the “cages” is touching, since it was HIS administration that built them in the first place.  Yes, Trump slightly expanded Obama’s policy on who would be placed there.  But Obama was the original “Detainer-In-Chief.”  Of course, the mainstream press has dutifully pushed along the narrative that successfully has tied Trump in with the word “cages.”  They were so successful that Obama knows he can pass the buck right now and NO ONE will call him out with the obvious questions.

Obama saying Hispanic opposition to Gay Marriage fueled their support for Donald Trump is simply a lie.  Period.  Unlike Obama, Trump never ran opposed to gay marriage. If this WAS a big issue for Hispanics, it should have tempered their support for Trump—not enhanced it.  But of course, Barry is doing a fair amount of projecting here.  You see, he opposed gay marriage until he “evolved” on the issue—after he was re-elected and didn’t have to worry about running again.  Profiles in courage.

All this highlights one of the central problems with identity politics.  In the real world, identity is really complicated, not cut-and-dried.  Believe it or not, Hispanic Americans have nuanced views on politics.  They are humans and not automatons. They have the ability to weigh the good and the bad of a decision and make their decision accordingly.  Shocker, I know.

Obama’s comments about Hispanics are basically the same thing he said about white people a decade ago, bitterly clinging to their guns and religion. That means Hispanics have made such large strides in America that politicians now feel they can speak derisively about them just like they do white people…with no backlash.

Congrats, Hispanics!  Welcome to the party!  All you needed to do to get universal scorn from Democrats was to vote Republican.  Keep thinking freely and you’ll never go wrong

No more Facebook debates. Probably.

One of the great things about Facebook has been the ability to share thoughts with people on a wide variety of subjects. In political debate groups, I have managed to make some good online friends—even with people who disagree with me 99.95% of the time. We respect each other, and that’s enough. If you are left of center and are reading this, you are likely one of those people. And I thank you.

But I am making a concerted effort to leave debate groups, and I am mostly to blame. You see, I always thought that as I got older I would develop more patience for people. I remembered the older people in my life when I grew up. Even when encountered with nuclear-grade stupidity, they would offer up a “Well shucks, bless their hearts…they don’t know any better. They MEAN well.” I figured when my grey hairs and liver spots began sprouting, so would that endless grace that older people seemed to possess. I fear the opposite has happened. I am crankier and more impatient than ever. That makes debate groups a poor fit.

There are few things I love more than a good, honest invigorating debate. To me, it’s like mental calisthenics. The process has expanded my understanding for how others think and helped me appreciate their positions FAR more than I did before. Unfortunately for every good debate, there are two dozen people who only want to instigate. Most of the time I block or ignore them. But a particular genre has emerged recently which has given me pause.

I am a Constitutional Libertarian. “Mind you own business and keep your hands to yourself” is probably the best one-sentence summary I could give to encapsulate it. Seems simple. Seems more or less like the Golden Rule. But in a pandemic, libertarians are NOT popular.

By their nature, pandemics require collective actions to make a significant difference. Libertarians are not “group people.” We don’t usually belong to clubs nor constantly seek others’ approval. We don’t get invited to many parties and that is just fine by us. We are perfectly comfortable in our own company. We are reflexively guarded against doing something when others are doing it. Now that doesn’t mean we’re idiots. We realize that some common sense precautions are prudent during a pandemic. But what we have seen from many leaders goes beyond prudence. They raise serious Constitutional and ethical questions. And that is where the conflict begins.

Depressingly, this pandemic has revealed that a lot of people are VERY comfortable with being told what they can and cannot do. This likely was the case before the pandemic, but COVID has lent an altruistic bent to their proclivities—while giving them permission to demand that everyone else join them. To libertarians, that idea goes over like a loud fart in Sunday School.

What has sent me over the edge in recent weeks is the large amount of people who actually get angry when I ask if a government restriction is fitting and proper. Seriously, they do. The thought of mere QUESTIONING of government restrictions during a pandemic is seen as blasphemous. I am not exaggerating. Whenever government suspends or severely restricts an activity, I think it is MORE than fair to insist they demonstrate that said activity is causing a spike in cases. That seems the LEAST they could do. But to this subset of Covid Cowards, even asking the question makes you a monster. These are the people who have pushed me to the edge.

It is fine to be concerned about the virus and be willing to follow government recommendations. But when you crap all over yourself when someone merely QUESTIONS them; then you have become a subject and not a citizen. And quite frankly, someone as cowardly as this infuriates me. I don’t know why. You would like think mass murderers would bother me more—but they don’t. To me, the WORST thing you can be is someone who is afraid of their own shadow, who demands Government make them feel safe, even if that means making everyone a virtual servant.

The very existence of people like this is sickening and I am done acting like they deserve sympathy. I finally snapped on a few of them this week. You have every right to be concerned about this pandemic and willing to take preventative measures. But when you are actively hostile to ANY questioning of government restrictions, that’s where you lose me. That’s where you become unworthy of my time and concern.

This bodes poorly for the immediate future. Why? Even after the pandemic, people will still be able to plausibly argue that since you COULD transmit a deadly disease, you should always wear a mask—and be punished if you do not. You can NEVER be too safe, right? And since they have established that an acceptable role of government is to restrict people in order to reduce the chance of carrying a communicable disease, the only defense we will have is transmission rates. That’s all.

So, I am slowly drifting away from debate groups and will post more and more stuff here on my page where only smart people can respond. I’ve played the field and discovered that there are more stupid people than I suspected. The best thing about free speech is that is helps us identify idiots more easily. The downside is that is often exposes a LOT of idiocy. I will simply no longer engage. Being a Virginia Tech football fan already makes life frustrating enough.

Sorry, Governor(s), We’re Not Listening Any More

Two weeks ago the media and Democratic leaders (yeah, yeah, redundant I know) were touting the street dances featuring tens of thousands of people celebrating Joe Biden’s win.  Much like with the BLM/Antifa protests over the summer, we were told these public gatherings during a pandemic were ACKSUHALLY OK.  For that, we are ignoring you.

Some people defended them by pointing out that most were masked.  Really, they did.  By that standard they should have no problem with 75,000 people in a football stadium so long as they are wearing their magic masks.  They seem less enthusiastic to support that.  For that, we are ignoring them.

We are being told to “believe science.”  But many of these same scientists signed a statement after the first round of protests that said since the cause was so important, the virus was a secondary concern.  That is not science.  That is politics. You are to be ignored.

We begrudgingly and collectively agreed to short-term shutdowns in April to “flatten the curve.”   We were told it would be a matter of weeks.  40 million jobs disappeared, but we soldiered on, wanting to flatten that oh-so-terrible curve.  We did. Then the goal line moved.  And it kept moving—moved by the same public officials who simultaneously praised and defended the protests. That’s why we are ignoring them.

Here is the problem.  If your message isn’t consistent, you’re going to lose credibility.  You are not going to be able to reach the people you need to reach. You can lecture, scream, put Fauci’s face on the Sun itself and people won’t listen.  They will not accept two different sets of rules. Nor should they.  People accustomed to living in a free nation do not like that. They ignore you.

Once people recognize hypocrisy, you have lost them.  And it is YOUR fault.  Even if what you now recommend is the right thing, it doesn’t matter. Your hypocrisy has destroyed the one thing you need most to guide hundreds of millions of people through a pandemic—public trust. And we are ignoring you.

And now the same people who actively supported large scale protests and Biden victory dances are telling us to (more or less) cancel Thanksgiving.  Fauci this morning mentioned Christmas “is not going to happen.” Mixed messaging is the best way to get people to actively defy you.  Or at best, ignore you.

You cannot hide from a virus.  You cannot use public policy to make it disappear or keep it at bay.  You also cannot change human nature. Public officials tried—and had limited success as people flattened the curve. But once they ignored their own rules in order to forgive certain violators, their authority was gone.  We are ignoring them.

As Peter Cook says about the ‘death’ of expertise. “Expertise wasn’t killed. It committed suicide.”

Fred Shanks for Danville City Council

With early voting now a big thing in Virginia, it increasingly seems daft to wait until this late to bother with political endorsements.  More than forty percent of Danville’s voters have already cast ballots before the first poll opens. It’s a bit like campaigning for the barn door to be locked after the horse has escaped.

But I will forge ahead with an endorsement in a Special Danville City Council election.  This is for the remaining two years of former Councilman Adam Tomer’s term.  He moved from the area this summer.

There are three candidates for the seat.  Former Councilman Fred Shanks and political newcomers Bryant Hood and Petrina Carter.

***CAVEAT*** My media company, CVip Media Solutions, has done extensive work for the Shanks campaign.  Use that to produced whatever-sized grain of salt you like.

I can say with 100% certainty that my endorsement would not change even if this were NOT the case.  As a reporter and a more-than-interested observer, I have been following Danville City Council closely since the late 1980s.  I cannot think of a period where Council is more in need of an internal watchdog.

For years, the venerable Stokes Daniels served that purpose.  He meant quite a few 8-1 votes.  But even in losing some votes he was always successful in getting his point across.  He reminded Council constantly that they were not spending THEIR money.  It was THE PEOPLE’S money.  This seems like an elementary thing, but it is not.  I’ve seen it happen to MANY fiscal conservatives who get elected to Council.  Making the numbers add up is a constant struggle.  And if you keep your nose in the books long enough, it is tempting to begin attaching a personal connection to the numbers, forgetting that it’s not yours.  Daniel was a constant reminder of that.  As a result, Danville developed a reputation for writing and passing mostly lean budgets.

When Daniels retired, we were blessed to get another watchdog to fill his role.  Fred Shanks brought the wisdom and experience gained from running a small business, but he also brought Daniels’ budgetary ferocity. 

Yes, most of Danville was pleased when we were able to spend money on significant projects, like a new Fire Headquarters.  But it was Shanks who constantly insisted that we could get the job done without building (in his words) a “Taj Mahal.”  There is no doubt that the new fire headquarters looks VERY nice.  Because people see that, they denigrate the person who did NOT support it.  Shanks’ opposition was over the finances, not the idea.  Shanks knew this stance would make him unpopular.  He didn’t care.  After all, it is the PEOPLE’S money.

Shanks brought one of the more unique perspectives that Council had seen in some time.  In addition to his business experience, the *nature* of his business gave him keen insight into zoning laws and regulations.  It was a natural for someone who had also spent a dozen years on the Planning Commission.  It was VERY nice to have that expertise on Council.

Shanks knew that making hard budget calls and having to say “no” on more than one occasion could cost him support…both at the polls and in Council Chambers.  Some members bristled at his constant barrage of questions, and his unwillingness to instantly accept that their proposal was the greatest idea a human being had ever developed.  He didn’t care.  After all, it is the PEOPLE’s Council.

Since Shanks lost his re-election bid in May, we have gotten a sneak peek at how Council operates without sufficient internal controls.  It is not pretty.  Shanks had been off of Council for less than a day when they began.  After the Mayor assured the public that there would be an open and transparent process for selecting an interim Council member, Council suddenly announced in open session that they had found their guy.  No public hearings—no nominations—not even a WORD of input was allowed from the people.  They immediately began secret meetings and settled on a choice.  That was a slap in the face to the people of Danville.  That is a government body behaving in a contemptuous way towards those they serve.

We saw further evidence last month when Council approved an agreement to build a new police headquarters at the former Dan River Executive Building campus on West Main.  Despite this being a crucial decision about a significant use of public dollars and resources, there was no formal public input taken.  Just a couple of hastily-made speeches before Council took the final vote.  Again, they are supposed to serve US.  Their recent actions suggest they see the relationship in a completey opposite manner.

This is one of the potential pratfalls of a government entity that forgets it’s purpose.  That is when the members themselves need to step up and self-police, to make sure the body does not continue acting in a cavalier manner.  Right now, there is only one member I have any confidence of doing such a thing.  But Madison Whittle is just one person.  The rest of the Council is populated by people who see municipal government as a great tool with which to do things.  That doesn’t make them bad people, but people like that who operate without sufficient internal checks are almost always going to behave the way Council has the past few months.  They are going to do big things and make big decisions withOUT going through the laborsome process of listening to too many people.

I have met Bryant Hood and respect him.  I have not met Petrina Carter, but people I respect say VERY good things about her.  I have no doubt either could serve well on Danville City Council.  But right now, I think we need something else. Something more.

We need a Councilman who is going to remind this panel (again) who they work for and why.  A Councilman who is going to demand open sessions and public input at every opportunity.  A Councilman who is, on occasion, going to say “no.” A Councilman who has an unrivaled love of this city and its people.  A Councilman who brings one of the most impressive municipal resumes you will ever see.  A Councilman who has met a payroll, laid out a zoning plot, negotiated utility rates, recruited industry and made hard budget choices without worrying about popularity.

We need Fred Shanks on Danville City Council.  And we need him NOW.

CCS Endorsement: Matt Bell, Chatham Town Council

Chuck’s Common Sense usually doesn’t invest much energy in making endorsements in Town Council races.  Because of the small scope of such bodies, the kind of bribes I insist upon for my coveted support are shamefully small.  I mean really…you want me to base endorsements on actual things like issues and politics!??  HARUMPH

At any rate, I will do just that in this year’s Chatham Town Council race.  Matt Bell is running a write-in campaign for one of the seats.  It was announced late in the season, after an incumbent decided not to return.  That would have meant one fewer candidate on the ballot than open seats.

I first met Matt about 12 years ago while working news at WBTM/WAKG.  At the time he was an enterprising college student who had done some VERY interesting and exhaustive research into Dan River Mills.  One quickly saw the intelligence, fused with passion.  THAT is a winning combination.

I also took pity on a college student who loved the Atlanta Braves by “loaning” him my MLB Subscription password.  Don’t worry, Matt.  The statute of limitations is up on that.

After graduation, Matt continued to follow his passion.  When he became interested in photography, he quickly became one of the best in the area.  (See picture for proof) His sports work was particularly noteworthy.  His pictures graced the pages of the Danville Register and Bee. Matt won awards for his NEWS photography.

But Matt’s interests were broader.  He eventually became a full-fledged reporter, covering his new hometown of Chatham.  Like with photography, he quickly became a pro—one of the best in the area at what he did. Like I said earlier, when you combine talent and passion, you get success.

In terms of policies, Matt is as practical as you would expect from someone who has impressed me.  He realizes municipal infrastructure is crucial to creating the springboard from which REAL improvements can occur.  If you are constantly addressing issues with your backbone, the rest of your body will suffer.

Matt is a hopeless sports fan.  That should be enough to vote for him right there.  But through that he realizes that there is a very real economic impact from having a vibrant and thriving High School and children’s sports system.  It brings people to town.  It brings *excitement* to town.

Matt wants to re-kindle Chatham’s bucolic town center.  He says the opportunities are bountiful. And he says they must involve things beyond county government in order to be truly effective.

Matt realizes that while Town Council’s authority stops at the Town Limits sign, their interests do not.  He is VERY keen on forming partnerships with the County, and with private entities nearby to make sure the people of Chatham benefit.  Helping people comes in more forms than just jobs.  Often it is a series of smaller things that leads to a better quality of life.

Matt’s fusing of his formidable talent and passion have already produced outstanding results.  Now that his talent and passion is focusing on municipal government, the winners will be the town of Chatham.

It is with unbridled enthusiasm that CCS endorses Matt Bell’s write-in campaign for Chatham Town Council.

Now about those Detroit Tigers jokes….

Send a message. Write in Denver

Well the latest in my semi-annual series of endorsements from Chuck’s Common Sense is likely gong to piss off a lot of people who otherwise hold a good opinion of me.  I’ll teach ya! (grin)

Things were anything but normal this election cycle in Virginia’s 5th Congressional district.  Two years ago, voters approved a political newcomer, Republican Denver Riggleman, to replace former Congressman Tom Garrett.

Those who know me know that I take a dim view of politicians in general.  That’s why I was so surprised when I found myself subconsciously cheering as Riggleman went about his work.  He teased us in 2018 that he had a “libertarian streak.”  Turns out that was an entire swath!  Every position he took seemed to take the position that the smaller government was, the better for the rest of us.  He was a tireless supporter of small business and a tireless opponent of those who wanted to use the unchecked power of the federal government to dictate policy that impacted the day-to-day lives of most people.

In short—he was the first bonafide, honest-to-God Free Market libertarian we had seen in some time from this area.  He quickly endeared himself to me and other like-minded folks.

The problem with us libertarians is this.  We are free thinkers.  We do things to maximize individual liberty, and we don’t give a damn what others think. If you like the idea of using the power of government to sanction people who disagree, you will not like us for long.

In 2019, Riggleman officiated a wedding ceremony where two of his campaign officials got married.  They were two guys.  Of course the legality of gay marriage has long since been settled.  But the stubborn Bible-thumping, fire-and-brimstone, hate-fueled subset of the Republican Party could not abide such an affront.  They began pushing back against Riggleman and suggesting a primary challenge.

Like I said, free thinkers have a maddening tendency to tell people to self-fornicate when they suggest they are upsetting the status quo.  So it was with Riggleman.  His naysayers quickly glommed on to the fact that he did NOT kiss President Trump’s pinky ring with *quite* enough gusto. Yes.  Riggleman committed the unforgivable sin of pointing out that some of the things Trump did and said were pretty damned stupid.  He also praised the President when he did actual *conservative* things; like trim regulations and appoint originalist judges.  But no.  To the tribalist GOP leaders anything about from 100% acquiescence to the Glory of Trump was viewed as apostasy. 

The tribalists were able to cover their opposition with accusations of “not listening to his base.”  No.  The only reason there was a primary challenge for Riggleman was because he officiated a gay marriage.  That is IT. It was not his style, his politics or anything else.  It was because he did not share the hatred that far too many Republicans still hold for gay people.  To Riggleman’s everlasting credit, he did not try to distance himself from this.  He basically said, “Yea…I did it.  Your move.”

Acting like you would expect small-minded people to act, the Republicans nominated an empty suit named Bob Good to take up their banner.  His Liberty U creds ensured the GOP faithful that they would NEVER have to worry about him doing anything crazy like recognizing the humanity of people with whom he disagreed.  No.  He checked all of the boxes. Jerry Falwell Jr. would look away from his poolboy long enough to nod his head.

Unfortunately, the Republican nomination process confirmed for the umpteenth time why I do NOT identify as a Republican.  There are evidently enough hate-filled people left in the party to carry a nomination battle.  Good won. With room to spare.  So be it.

Good is going up against Democratic nominee Dr. Cameron Webb.  He seems like a swell guy.  Seriously.  He seems like someone I would like to talk to.  Unfortunately he holds most of the main orthodox Democratic views on crucial issues like Gun Rights.  He also seems to fall under the predictable Democratic trope that the answer to any and all problems is more government.  That makes him 100% unacceptable.  Sorry.

Without a candidate to support I will do the only thing I know to do.  I will write in Denver Riggleman in this year’s Fifth District Congressional race.  He will not win.  I know that.  I have voted MANY times for candidates I knew had no shot at victory.

My only hope is to send a message.  To the Republicans in the fifth district who railroaded someone (unlike your boy) who actually wants to DECREASE the size of the Federal Government and lessen it’s influence in your day-to-day lives.  Hopefully this will send a message loud and clear.  We are NOT going to vote for any vapid collection of atoms with “R” next to their name.  I didn’t do it with Ken Cuccinelli.  I didn’t do it with Corey Stewart.  And I won’t do it with Bob Good. 

It takes quite a bit of effort to turn a reliably red Congressional district blue.  But the Republican gentry in the 5th district has parlayed raw hatred and cavalier stances into a formidable witch’s brew this year.  At some point you WILL learn the lesson.  If not this time, perhaps next time.

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