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Archive for February, 2010

Earlier today, a story began circulating concerning Delegate Bob Marshall.  I first read about it in the News Leader, a publication based in the Shenandoah Valley, under the provocative headline, “Disabled Kids are God’s Punishment”.  On Thursday of last week, while advocating defunding Planned Parenthood, Delegate Marshall stated, “The number of children who are born subsequent to a first abortion with handicaps has increased dramatically. Why? Because when you abort the first born of any, nature takes its vengeance on the subsequent children.  In the Old Testament, the first born of every being, animal and man, was dedicated to the Lord. There’s a special punishment Christians would suggest.”  As a result of this article, a number of bloggers and activists have been questioning his words and motives such as Bearing Drift and The Right-Wing Liberal.  In addition, some folks (661 as of this post) have signed a petition asking Delegate Marshall to both apologize and resign.

So here are my thoughts on the matter.  First, after reading a bit more, I think the headline should have read, “Disabled Kids are sometimes God’s Punishment”.  The quote doesn’t say that all disabled kids are punishment from God, but the disability maybe as a result of sin.  Semantics I know, but I feel for the sake of accuracy the point should be made.  Nevertheless, a comment like the one Delegate Marshall still raises a boatload of questions and is still grotesquely offensive at worst and poorly worded at best.  Now I don’t know if the chance of birth defects increases as a result of a previous abortion, but even if so, the comment seems callous and vindictive.  More troubling still in my mind is the attempt to pronounce God’s will.  Even though we in the pro-life community believe abortion to be a sin, I would never call a birth defect as a “punishment from God”.  For a more personal example, when my grandmother (a God-fearing woman) was struck with Alzheimer’s was it as a result of genetics or was it God’s wrath?

In response to this story, Delegate Marshall offered the following statement:

A story by Capital News Service regarding my remarks at a recent press conference opposing taxpayer funding for Planned Parenthood conveyed the impression that I believe disabled children are a punishment for prior abortions. No one who knows me or my record would imagine that I believe or intended to communicate such an offensive notion. I have devoted a generation of work to defending disabled and unwanted children, and have always maintained that they are special blessings to their parents. Nevertheless, I regret any misimpression my poorly chosen words may have created as to my deep commitment to fighting for these vulnerable children and their families.

Sincerely,

Delegate Bob Marshall
State Delegate, 13th District
Prince William County, Loudoun County

I don’t think that one should rule out the possibly that Delegate Marshall’s comments were taken out of context.  After all, as Bob Holsworth points out (courtesy of Jason Kenney at Bearing Drift) no one fights harder for children with autism than Bob Marshall.  If he viewed such a condition as “punishment from God”, I doubt he would care too much about the topic.  In addition, if these comments were made on Thursday, why, with all of our instant communication, did it take several days for this comment to be made public?  As you well know, I greatly appreciate many of Delegate Marshall’s efforts in the General Assembly on key issues like abortion, states rights, and health care freedom and therefore so badly want to believe the best in this situation.  Nevertheless, assuming he was misunderstood, I fear that his comments have given great encouragement to those who oppose him and his politics.  Either way, it makes my heart heavy.  Delegate Marshall, you know I admire your principles and your courage.  This can’t be the real you.  And if this comment is just a misunderstanding, don’t let it destroy your good works.

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On Wednesday, I had the opportunity to attend a forum entitled “Is There a Place for Gay People in Conservatism and Conservative Politics?” offered by the Cato Institute.  I hope that this event will spawn several posts, but let me first tackle the issue of gay people and conservatism.  Briefly going through the forum itself, the panel consisted of Nick Herbert (a member of the Conservative Party and the UK parliament) Andrew Sullivan (a well known author and blogger), and Maggie Gallagher (President of the National Organization for Marriage).  Each of the three answered the above question a bit differently.  Mr. Herbert, as a successful member of the Conservative Party, supported the fusion of gay and conservative politics and outlined ways in which the two are successfully merging in Great Britain.  By contrast, Mr. Sullivan thought that the current trends within the Republican Party create a very hostile environment for gays and thus the situation in the United States is not favorable for a union.  From what I could gather from Mrs. Gallagher, she seemed to approve of gays in the conservative movement so long as they did not push for gay marriage.  As a result of her stance, throughout the forum, both Mr. Sullivan and Mrs. Gallagher had several rather tense moments as each seemed to irritate the other.  Overall, I would say the forum was quite interesting.  In retrospect, I wish that I were a bit more lucid during the proceedings and discussion afterward.  One of the attendees asked me what my thoughts were on gay marriage and rather than giving a clear and concise answer, I tried to sidestep the issue as a result of my foggy head.  He understood my meaning, but for an involved activist like myself, it was embarrassing.  Therefore, let me share my thoughts on whether there is a place for gay people in conservatism.

When it comes to fiscal conservatism, there is no reason why a gay person and a non-gay person could not hold very similar positions.  Lower taxes, a balanced budget, reduced government spending, these are issues where attitudes toward homosexuality hold little bearing.  Presumably being gay or not being gay should not hold any sway on fiscal matters.  The real crux of the matter comes in social conservatism.  For starters, the simple fact of the matter is that many social conservatives view homosexual activity as immoral, and, as a result, many do not wish to associate with people who engage in such behavior.  They do not look for common ground.  Although not all social conservatives shun the gay community, there certainly is a tension that exists for many.  But certainly gay people can hold socially conservative views.  For example, gay and non-gays alike can be against abortion or euthanasia.  Prayer in schools and open religious displays might be a little cloudy.  Although I didn’t really think about it much beforehand, as a result of this forum, I believe that the real driving wedge is the issue of marriage.

Marriage from the gay perspective (as I understand it)

I would assume that the majority of gays view marriage as a civil issue.  If other folks in society are allowed to marry, why can’t they?  To deny them this ability relegates them to second-class citizens where they do not enjoy all of the rights and privileges of straight men and women.  It is a matter of freedom, tolerance, and acceptance.

Marriage from the social conservative perspective (as I understand it)

To many social conservatives, marriage is not merely a civil activity; it is the legal bonding of two people, a religious action.  God has ordained it since the beginning of time.  It existed before the birth of our nation and will continue long after we are a faint memory.  Therefore, governments have no right to interfere with an institution created by a higher power; they can merely serve as a guardian.  Marriage is, and can only be, between one man and one woman.  The issue is a matter of honoring God and his laws.

And there in lies the problem.  How can one side reconcile with the other over the marriage question?  Unfortunately, I don’t believe that they can.  This issue bears a striking similarity to the abortion issue.  Pro-choicers see the subject as promoting a woman’s control over her body and not bringing an unwanted child into the world.  Pro-lifers see the matter as the murder of an innocent life.  There is not and cannot be any reconciliation between the two groups as long as they both maintain their viewpoints.

So is there a place for gay people in conservative politics?  I believe that there is considerable shared ground between conservatives and many in the gay community and that both could profit from mutual cooperation.  For example, in the critical fight against abortion, one would be foolhardy to disregard any potential allies.  That having been said, many social conservatives will harbor the constant fear that cooperation will serve to legitimize homosexual activity and offend their religious beliefs.  In addition, the division over the marriage issue will make any arrangement unstable at best.  Will it work?  Will social conservatives and gay folks want to make it work?  I don’t know.  So to answer the question, without the aid of a magic 8 ball, all I can say is definitely maybe.  Sorry.

For another far more detailed take on this forum, I encourage you to read Rick Sincere’s article.

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A little while ago, I received the follow email from Senator Mark Obenshain:

Earlier today, Democrats on the Senate Courts of Justice Committee voted along party lines to defeat SB 7, my legislation to close the triggerman loophole. The bill would have reinstated accomplice liability for principals in the second degree and accomplices before the fact. Closing this loophole has been a priority of the law enforcement community for years, and passed both chambers with bipartisan support three consecutive years before meeting with then-Governor Tim Kaine’s veto pen.

Senator Creigh Deeds (D-Bath), the Democratic nominee for governor in 2009, voted against the bill after consistently and vocally supporting it in previous years. I think it’s fair to ask whether Senator Deeds was sincere in his prior votes for closing the triggerman loophole or in today’s vote against it. Back when he was running for Governor, Deeds touted his support for this bill as one of his credentials, but with the election behind him, he’s singing a different tune.

Deeds, who voted for the legislation and in favor of overriding then-Gov. Kaine’s vetoes each previous time the bill was introduced, was joined by Senators Marsh, Saslaw, Howell, Lucas, Edwards, Puller, Deeds, McEachin, and Petersen in rejecting the bill.

Democrats stacked the Courts committee this year, and it shows. In a narrowly divided 22-18 Senate, Democrats enjoy a 9-6 majority on the powerful Senate Courts of Justice Committee, and today they used their margin to kill a good bill – one that enjoyed bipartisan support from seven Senate Democrats and nineteen House Democrats last year.

My bill enjoyed broad support among legislators, prosecutors, and law enforcement, all of whom see this legislation as necessary for the effective prosecution of those who willfully, deliberately, and intentionally participate in the commission of a capital murder, but happen not to be the individual pulling the trigger. It has been endorsed by the Virginia Crime Commission, the Virginia Association of Commonwealth’s Attorneys, the Virginia Sheriffs’ Association, and other law enforcement organizations, and enjoyed the support of all four major-party candidates for governor – including all three Democratic contenders – last year.

Closing the triggerman loophole will increase public safety by restoring an important tool to prosecutors. The existing triggerman loophole allows criminal defendants who willfully and deliberately participated in a premeditated murder that is otherwise covered as a capital offense to escape prosecution for capital murder if they did not actually pull the trigger. It is a distinction unheard of in common law and unknown to Virginia law until 1979. The loophole was created at a time when the courts had called the constitutionality of the death penalty into question, and we are long overdue to close it.

Need an example? Under current Virginia law, even someone like Charles Manson could not be prosecuted for capital murder, despite the fact that he orchestrated the Tate-LaBianca murders in the 1960s.

The majority of states with the death penalty make co-conspirators in capital murder cases eligible for the death penalty. Supporters of this change cite a number of especially aggravated murders where the existing triggerman rule has thwart prosecutors. In a particularly heinous crime in 1999, it was only possible to obtain a death sentence against one of three men who abducted, raped, and brutally murdered a woman.

A similar bill (HB 502) patroned by my friend Del. Todd Gilbert (R-Woodstock) passed the House with broad bipartisan support, 74-24. It remains to be seen how the Senate Courts of Justice Committee will receive Todd’s bill, but I hope that Senator Deeds and his colleagues will revisit their newfound objections.

Because it’s not just Deeds, though he’s the most recent to flip. Although they have voted against the bill more recently, Senators John Edwards (D-Roanoke) and Majority Leader Dick Saslaw (D-Springfield) both supported an identical bill in 2007, when the Senate passed my bill 28-11. (Kaine vetoed it.)

When it comes to law enforcement, Virginians are looking for consistent leadership, not votes of convenience, and it’s regrettable that this formerly bipartisan measure died at the hands of an increasingly partisan Democratic Senate majority.


Mark Obenshain
Virginia State Senator

It’s a shame that the Senator’s bill didn’t survive the committee and is yet another telling example of how some politicians will vote for a bill when he or she knows it will be vetoed, but will vote against it when it is likely to pass.  Unfortunately, for far too many legislators, politics trumps principles.  If conservative Republicans reclaim the Senate in the 2011 elections, perhaps we will finally be able to offer so many murderers the justice they deserve.

Thank you Senator Obenshain.

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I, like so many others that I know, enjoy watching Super Bowl commercials.  Although most are forgettable, there are always one or two that stick in my mind.  This year, Audi’s “Green Police” was the most memorable and controversial of the day.  It has captured the attention of many conservatives like Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, Senator Obenshain, and fellow bloggers such as SWAC Girl, and Virginia Virtucon.  I suppose if you didn’t watch the game (or was using the bathroom during the commercial), you should see it for yourself.  For the record, for those who don’t know, the theme for the commercial is a rewording of the song “Dream Police” by Cheap Trick.

In a recent email, the Attorney General calls the spot, “eco-funny…or not-so-funny”.  As Senator Obenshain puts it, the ad “would be funny if had been a little more farfetched”.  In recent years environmentalists have been getting more and more vocal and they are now relying on the government to enact their agenda.  From cap and trade, to the upcoming banning of incandescent light bulbs, to the regulation of thermostats in new homes in California, the green movement continues to flex their political muscles.  No longer simply content to “live in harmony with mother nature and her creatures”, some have become increasing radical, forcing their neighbors to adopt their lifestyles choices as well.  Such tactics mirror the fascist movements of the 1930s, and, like it’s historical predecessor, I fear that a police force designated to enforce this code of ethics can’t be too far behind.  Going through a person’s trash and spying on their activities in their own homes and yards without a warrant is not only an invasion of privacy, it is a clear indication of a police state, not a free society.  Although my critics will declare me to be an alarmist, without any safeguards, we will one day have a green police.  It will happen, and it will happen within our lifetimes.

Although Audi might think differently, after watching this ad, all I can say is “green has never felt so wrong”.

Update: For those who thought the green police commercial was “all in good fun”, two bills concerning plastic bag use have recently come up in the House of Delegates in Richmond.  The first, by Delegate Adam Ebbin, sought to fine plastic bag users a nickel for each bag used.  The second, by Delegate Joe Morrissey, intended to outright ban the bags.  Although both bills were defeated earlier this week, each of the delegates vowed to try again in the next session.

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In Monday’s copy of The Daily News Record, my local paper, I stumbled across an article concerning the plan to raise the speed limit on the interstates in rural Virginia.  I don’t know about you, but I’m in favor of the idea.  Did you know that every neighboring state, with the exception of Maryland, allows a motorist to travel at 70 mph?  From my experiences in Tennessee and North Carolina, traffic flows smoother at this higher speed, and, when traveling long distances, it shaves considerable time off of your trip.  According to the article, all of the Delegates and Senators in this part of the state support this proposal.

However, also embedded within this article, lawmakers considered the issue of mandatory seat beat laws.  Currently in Virginia one can be charged with not wearing a seat belt only if stopped for some other reason.  It is a secondary offense.  Personally, I believe that the state should not regulate seat belt usage.  Should everyone wear a seat belt?  Absolutely, but it is not the role of the state to mandate your safety in your car so long as it does not directly affect other motorists or your passengers.  If you choose not to wear a seat belt, you should be willing to suffer any ill consequences as a result.  It is a matter of personal responsibility.  Along this line, all nearby legislators voted against making a seat belt violation a primary offense…all except newly elected Dickie Bell of Staunton.  Troubling…most troubling.  Unfortunately, as I was working in Newport News during the election, I didn’t spend much time reading about the candidates back home, so I really don’t know too much about Delegate Bell yet.  Browsing his website you find the following quote:  “Voters in the 20th District want representatives who listen to them and act on their behalf.  They want individual freedom to conduct their own lives and make personal choices.  They want to raise their families without excessive government interference…” I would argue that such a sentiment reflects the voters of not just the 20th District, but the majority of Virginians as a whole.

So what’s the deal with Delegate Bell’s vote on the seat belt debate?  I hope that this particular issue is just an aberration and he, like his campaign website leads us to think, believes in limited government and personal responsibility as opposed to the nanny state.  I’d like nothing more for him to be a champion for conservatives like myself in Richmond.  I suppose it is too early to tell for certain.  Either way, one should keep a close eye on Delegate Bell’s votes in this session to discover the truth.

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I don’t really understand why charity is such a seasonal thing.  During Christmas time just about every shopping center sports a little red booth, a matching kettle, and a bell ringer.  You see one, and either ignore it or toss whatever loose change you have available and go on your way, not thinking much more about it.  But what about the other 11 months of the year?  Are there no poor folks during those times as well?  Do they magically disappear?  Are there no hungry, no homeless, and no ill the rest of the year?

Consider, if you will, the situation in Haiti.  Prior to the earthquake, who took time out of their day to consider the plight of the poorest nation in the western hemisphere?  Until the Hollywood actors and Washington politicians filled the airwaves with the tragedy were we roused to action.  I’m afraid to tell you kind hearted folks that given the high unemployment, lack of education, rampant corruption, and extreme violence commonplace in the island nation, US dollars will not be a suitable fix to solve the nation’s woes.

A friend of mine recently wrote on his Facebook page,  “America: the only country where we have homeless without shelter including disabled veterans, children going to bed without eating, elderly going without needed meds, and mentally ill without treatment – yet we have a benefit for the people of Haiti on 12 TV stations.”  He makes a good point.  When properly motivated, Americans are some of, if not the most, generous people on the face of the Earth.  But I assure you, need is not a foreign concept.  Right here in Virginia, we have children struggling to learn to read, out-of-work mothers and fathers unable to feed their families, homeless shivering in the cold, night wind, and free clinics in need of medicine.

So what are you doing to help?  Do you donate your time or money to the local soup kitchen, the homeless shelter, or neighborhood charities?

Now before some of you think I’ve gotten all bleeding heart liberal on you, I assure you that charity is neither strictly a conservative nor liberal concept.  The true question becomes whether it is freely given through goodwill or mandated by the government.  When you think about it, it might seem strange that God grants humans free will.  After all, we could all be little carbon copy saints, compelled to perform good deeds 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  By contrast, we have been given the ability to be as generous or as selfish as we choose.  But, then again, isn’t the motivation for an act often as important as the deed itself?

When the government mandates either a welfare state or foreign aid, in many ways it usurps the role of God.  It is as if they declare, “we in the government know what is best and shall compel our subjects in act in accordance with our wishes.  Give us your wallets and do as we say.”  God is not a grim tyrant so why should we allow our government to act in such a fashion?  Forced giving like that causes numerous problems.  First, as the government drains money from us, we feel less inclined to give of our own free will.  Why should I donate more?  The government already takes care of the poor.  Second, as anyone knows from even the most limited understanding of the government, it is rife with inefficiency and graft.  Most charities send a far higher percentage of your donated dollar to those in need and have far less bureaucracy.  Third, government welfare and entitlements grossly overstep both the Constitution and traditional boundaries of churches and other related religious organizations.  Then again, maybe our government is nothing more than a supplier of bread and circuses?

The Salvation Army is right, need knows no season, but it also knows no border.  Open your heart, your checkbook, and your schedule to those in dire straits not just in December, but also right now.  Remember the gaunt faces on the television, but don’t neglect your neighbor in need next door.  So what’s it going to be?  Charity is (and should be) your choice, not coercion.  I’ll leave you with this familiar quote.  “…Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.  For I was hungry, and you fed me.  I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink.  I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home.  I was naked, and you gave me clothing.  I was sick, and you cared for me.  I was in prison, and you visited me.”  Matthew 25:34-36 (NLT)

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Individual states ought to have more power and control over both the lives of the citizens residing and visiting within it, as well as territory under their control, than the federal government.  The purpose of our national government is to accomplish tasks that state government is either unable to provide, offer large-scale benefits to all states, or restrain the states in certain aspects.  For example, it only makes sense for the national government to have the sole power to declare war, defend the states from invasion, and create and maintain a national currency.  Despite what some might say, the powers and limitations of the federal government are pretty clearly defined in the Constitution and its amendments.  I assure you that the 10th Amendment is in there for a reason!

By contrast, states have far more latitude.  Unlike the national government, assuming their constitutions allow it, they can create a statewide health care system, legalize all sorts of drugs, or modify the drinking age (assuming the federal government didn’t mettle by withholding highway funding).  Now I’m not saying that I advocate these plans, but, as “laboratories of democracy”, it is far better for a state to tinker with such modifications than Washington D.C.  Once a plan is proven successful in a state or, better yet, several states, and assuming it is constitutional, only then should it be considered on a national scale.  This largely forgotten theory was one of founding principles of our nation.  You want state run health care?  Then move to Boston.  You want to smoke marijuana?  Then migrate to Los Angeles.  Otherwise lobby your state and not the federal government.   Let’s agree to keep such plans out of the hands of D.C. bureaucrats.  If you want Virginia health care, or the freedom to use recreational drugs in Danville, then I recommend talking to the folks in Richmond.  Just know that I have the right to argue for the other side.

You say that the constitution is outdated and states rights are a thing of the past.  Assuming you are right (I sure hope you aren’t by the way), consider this fact.  If I want to contact my State Senator or one of his representatives in person, I need only to drive a couple minutes to downtown.  Conversely, if I’d like to meet someone from my U.S. Senator’s office, I’d have to travel about 2 hours to go to either Richmond or Roanoke.  Furthermore, State Senators have approximately 1/40th of the constituents that our national Senators have.  Who do you think is more responsive to a citizen’s concerns?  I often get letters, emails, and cards in response to my inquiries with Senator Obenshain.  Guess what I have gotten from Senators Webb and Warner…that’s right, nothing!  One of them knows me; the other has a territory too large for any sort of personal relationship.  Now tell me, which one represents me better?  Which is better suited to make policy decisions regarding your city, town or county?  Is it the one who lives in your community or the one who, like a distant relative, visits once or twice a year?  If for no other reason than proximity, increased devolution just makes sense.  Unfortunately, if we leave it up to the politicians in the D.C., we will continue the slow march toward a unitary state.

For additional information on this topic, I encourage you to read a recent article written by Josh Eboch, State Chapter Coordinator for the Virginia Tenth Amendment Center regarding the tension between libertarians and constitutional conservatives over the 10th Amendment.  I hope you find it as worthwhile as I did.

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As an avid read of the blog would know, one of my major concerns has been to wrest control of the Republican Party away from the neo-conservatives who dominated policy during the presidency of George W. Bush.  I’m pleased to say that we are moving in the right direction.  With each passing day as a result of the legacy of Bush and the quagmire of Obama, more and more Americans reject the philosophy of the nanny state, government interference in the private sector, preemptive war, and the burden of military occupation while clamoring for more federalism and states rights.

Last night, the Southern Avenger posted a video that eloquently addresses the current ideological struggle and I encourage you to watch it.

What surprised me is that so many conservatives who despised the foreign policy of Woodrow Wilson were so quick to embrace his progressive agenda once the neo-conservatives offered a repackaging of basically the same philosophy.  I’ve been stating and restating that point on this blog almost since day one when I tied neo-conservatism to Wilsonianism back in June 30 of 2008.

Worry not fellow lovers of liberty.  With your help, we will once again have a major party that consistently and boldly advocates the policies of personal responsibility and limited, constitutional government.  Not only can we reclaim the Republican Party, we are winning!

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