Tag Archives: Virginia

Jim Crow legislature protected Confederate States

General_Assembly_1902We have an opinion from Virginia’s Attorney General that a statute passed by the Jim Crow General Assembly in 1902-04, and in its various iterations since, protects the offending Confederate soldier statues around the Commonwealth including the confederate soldier statue in Leesburg, erected in 1908, hefting his rifle, pointed toward all persons approaching the County courthouse.

The Attorney General states that “[t]he historical antecedent” was passed by the General Assembly in February 1904, providing that such a monument could not be “disturbed” and had to be “protected.”

The Attorney General in an advisory opinion states that we should make “a careful investigation of the history and facts concerning a particular monument in a given locality.”

Rather, we should investigate “the history and the facts” of the racially intolerant legislators who passed this law in 1902-04, as part of a constitutionally impermissible schema, calculated to offend and suppress blacks in Virginia.

In 1902, our elected representatives with too few dissenters to matter sought “to purify” the ballot box, to chill and bar blacks from exercising the franchise, and to discourage the belief that it was a self-evident truth that all men and women were created equal.

Virginia created a distasteful constitution in 1902 with the express objective of restoring white supremacy.

Presiding over Virginia’s constitutional convention in 1902, John Goode said that the 15th amendment, providing for African American suffrage, was “a stupendous blunder” and “a crime against civilization and Christianity.” Continue reading

Justice in Virginia – worse than imperfect!

loudouncourtThere is this wrong-headed notion in Virginia that, if we could just get better paid criminal defense lawyers with more administrative and investigative resources, that we would have criminal justice in Virginia.

That’s just not the case.

Assuring the Accused of a decent defense in Virginia is but a small part of the failure of our so-called criminal justice system.

We are convicting innocent people in Virginia because of false eye-witness testimony, false confessions, over-eager snitches, faulty forensics, true, some bad defense lawyers, but also, and this is the worst of all, because of prosecutorial misconduct and police misconduct.

In this last category, what we often mean by misconduct is that the government is concealing or destroying evidence that is exclusively within its possession that demonstrates, or tends to demonstrate, that the Accused is innocent, or his accusers are not reliable, or the sentence excessive. Continue reading

Teaching Johnny to think

Virginia has its own standards of learning so it’s really hard to compare how we match up with everyone else in the United States and around the world.

But even by Virginia’s standards of learning (the SOLs), reading scores are down.  Every fourth child reportedly failed to pass the grade-level reading test, and the statistical results were worse among elementary and middle school students.  About 3 out of 10 students didn’t pass the state math exam either.  If you lack reading skills, and are challenged by math, how are you able to think very well?

Some may say it’s an improvement that we have state-wide standards.  But it’s not acceptable that we have a balkanized set of conflicting and variable nationwide standards.

We compete in an ever shrinking world.  Our internet preeminence is up against stiff competition from Chinese tech companies Alibaba, Tencent and Baidu, and Alibaba’s US IPO was described recently as “a wake-up call for U.S. tech.”  It should also be a “wake-up call” for educators, parents and students.

Our standard of living depends on our ability to export goods and services, and really to out-think our competitors.

We need a standard by which we can agree what Johnny knows about “the three Rs,” to be able to compare him with everyone else, and to devise an educational strategy to redress whatever lack of proficiency Johnny may suffer in Reading or Math.  Continue reading

Yes, Virginia, Marriage is a Fundamental Right

wedding-ringsSpecial op-ed by David Weintraub published in the Purcellville Gazette, August 2 2014.

On November 7, 2006, Virginia voters were presented with the choice to add an amendment to our state constitution. This amendment would not only prohibit civil marriage between two people of the same sex – which had already been banned legislatively several times over – but would also ban any other “union, partnership, or other legal status to which is assigned the rights, benefits, obligations, qualities, or effects of marriage,” or which “intends to approximate the design, qualities, significance, or effects of marriage.” This expansive language gave Virginia the dubious honor of having adopted the most extreme so-called “marriage amendment” in the nation.

In a decision announced Monday, The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals found that prohibition unconstitutional, joining an unbroken series of rulings affirming marriage as a fundamental right that cannot be denied because of gender.

At the time of the amendment’s passage (it was approved by 57 percent of voters), I was told jubilantly by a local supporter that it would “protect” his model of marriage in Virginia “for at least a decade.” This prediction has turned out to be remarkably accurate. In the past decade, we have witnessed a shift in opinion like no other toward support of the right for loving gay and lesbian couples to marry. At the same time, courts have come to the long overdue conclusion that the U.S. Constitution really does mean what it says about the rights guaranteed to ALL Americans.

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The story behind “children do best with a mom and a dad”

bostic-raineyThose wailing over one of the consequences of the recent election, the change in Virginia’s position on the Marshall-Newman amendment, would have us believe that there would be no one else defending it in court. But of course that wasn’t true. District court Judge Arenda Wright Allen’s order for the oral arguments in Bostic v. Rainey that took place Tuesday shows that the time allotted to defenders of the amendment was double the time allotted to the plaintiffs seeking to overturn it. In addition, attorneys for proponents of the amendment were provided by the Alliance Defending Freedom (formerly Alliance Defense Fund), a well-funded legal “ministry” that claims to win nearly 80% of its court cases. The problem faced by amendment proponents was not a lack of competent legal counsel. The problem was the lack of a constitutionally permissible justification for walling off a class of people from the fundamental right of marriage, based only on their orientation.

An argument from religion, or tradition, or one based on moral disapproval of gay people, or a wish to discourage gay people from existing, simply won’t survive scrutiny; those days are over. What the proponents of such bans have to show is that there is an important state interest that justifies treating people who want to marry a partner of the same sex differently from people who want to marry a partner of a different sex. And the argument they’ve settled on is the idea that “children do better with a mom and a dad.” You can see the talking point prominently displayed on the signs of protesters outside the courthouse; it was also expected to do the heavy lifting inside. As VFF’s Victoria Cobb put it, the proponent’s attorneys argued that “the government’s interest in marriage is in the upbringing of children by a mother and a father.”

The obvious problem with this argument is that the social science research and the professional medical and child welfare associations say that it’s not true: Children raised by two parents of the same sex actually do as well, or better in some cases, than children raised by two opposite sex parents.

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The Best Legislature Money Can Buy

giftMoneyWhy should our state legislators in the General Assembly get any gifts at all?

Don’t we pay them enough already?

If we don’t pay them enough, then we should raise their salaries, if we think they deserve more, but, otherwise, they shouldn’t get any gifts from high-paid lobbyists and independent operators seeking legislative or executive branch “favors.”

Former Governor Bob McDonnell plainly couldn’t afford to serve as Governor, given his “unconscionable” credit card debt, and certainly not without private gifts to cover his expenses.

Legislators and executives who can’t afford to serve without betraying the public’s trust may not “serve” at all. Continue reading

Here Come the Social Issues

Question: Does Victoria Cobb have dementia, or does she just believe that other Virginians do?

In an email she sent us this week, with the actual subject line “Here Come the Social Issues,” the Virginia Family (not yours) Foundation president tells us that, because there is now a Democratic majority* in the state senate, “Senator Democrats [sic] will elevate their abortion and sex agenda** to their top priority,” and “there is little doubt that ‘social issues’ will dominate their agenda in the coming days.”

I will pause here so that anyone who has been living in Virginia for the last decade or two can finish laughing.

There certainly has been quite a bit of forgetfulness lately on the part of individuals who have made an “abortion and sex agenda” their top priority, hasn’t there? And Victoria’s forgetfulness about her own organization’s mission has just shot to the top of the hit parade, as further down in the very same email she mentions the 2011 TRAP*** law that she and her allies in the General Assembly engineered by adding anti-abortion provisions to an unrelated law. And you might think that Victoria would want to present the means by which this law was passed as a legitimate process driven by evidence and debate. You would be wrong.

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Trick or Treat – another election

Halloween_Trick_or_TreatWe Irish know in our genetic sinews, no scholarship need be considered, that Halloween, or all Hallows’ Eve, springs from the medieval Gaelic Samhain, marking the end of harvest and the beginning of the darker half of the year.

It is little wonder then that we have most of our elections as the natural light dims and darkness grows.

In one tradition of All Hallows’ Eve, souls wander the earth until this evening for their one last chance to gain vengeance.

This election season we have the feeling our candidates are making the holy day’s danse macabre their inspiring motivator, calculating a revenge comprised of how they may get theirs — at our expense.

The right to vote that we “enjoy” is a forced choice made before the primary or caucus is held, the product of back room paper and power shuffling that pre-selected whom we may consider.

The districts themselves are drawn not rationally but by the force of numbers in the line-drawing state legislature with one clear purpose – to pre-determine each election’s outcome.

Our voting discretion is “informed” by tall yarns, name calling and distracting issues that make the blood boil.

One clamoring voice outshouts another with high cost hard copy and electronic propaganda that muddle or drown out any contrary fact or opinion.

The election “trick” is the threat of how bad it will be if you don’t choose the imperious “me.”

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