No Justice In A Sleepy Little Town?

In less than 16 months the current Bath County Board of Supervisors have done everything in their power to show the citizens of Bath County they are incapable of governing without controversy. Every time it looks like they've put their latest imbroglio behind them the second Tuesday of a new month rolls around and some new drama grabs our attention. This new normal has damaged the the reputation of the county regionally. One of the unintended consequences of this board's actions is the damage they've done to the legitimacy of the Bath County Sheriff's Department, the Commonwealth Attorney's office, and the General District and Circuit Courts. Every level of the legal system has had to ignore or excuse the insults and violations of the law committed by elected officials. This has created a double standard inside the county that feeds the disenchantment many citizens feel towards their local government.  

The latest addition to the growing list of embarrassing behavior by Bath County politicians occurred on Tuesday, March 14th, when another Board of Supervisors meeting ended in what the Commonwealth of Virginia code § 18.2-415 classifies as disorderly conduct in public places. The statute reads:

A person is guilty of disorderly conduct if, with the intent to cause public inconvenience, annoyance or alarm, or recklessly creating a risk thereof, he: A. In any street, highway, public building, or while in or on a public conveyance, or public place engages in conduct having a direct tendency to cause acts of violence by the person or persons at whom, individually, such conduct is directed; 
(There are two other provisions that deal with intoxication, but they aren't relavant to the antagonistic and disrespectful atmosphere created by our elected officials and seemingly condoned by law enforcement.)

For 15 months the citizens of Bath County have witnessed the public execution of civility and decorum at the hands of their elected officials. In addition to the half dozen incidents of disorderly conduct committed in front of law enforcement, the current board has racked up questionable terminationsrecall campaigns, resignations, arrests, court dates, and a Noelle Prosequi that completely disregarded a Virginia State Police investigation and a Grand Jury's indictments. There are audio and video files of elected officials chastising citizens and issuing threats against them. Local law enforcement has chosen to view these incidents as disconnected from each other. Part of law enforcements inability to act is fear of political retribution. I had a law enforcement official say off the record, "I'm worried about my pension...This board has gutted whole departments. I have to think about my family." Most of the deputies know if they make an arrest or issue a criminal complaint the odds of getting a conviction against any elected official are slim to none. This impotence has only made public gatherings more contentious as certain people know there will be no consequences for their behavior. This makes the job of security that much harder.

An organized crime syndicate wouldn't be able to destabilize the Bath County criminal justice system as efficiently as the Board of Supervisors have. This is a shame because there are truly some admirable people in public life who are seeing their reputations flushed down the drain because of their affiliation with a governing body that hasn't shown the ability or willingness to govern. Bath County faces some very serious economic challenges over the next few years. I hope this board can get it together and govern, but I haven't seen sufficient evidence of that happening anytime soon.

Corporate Thug Dealers

As I was reading about the drug crisis in West Virginia there was a passage from the article that really stuck out to me:

A Charleston Gazette-Mail investigation last year found that...drug wholesalers shipped over 780 million doses of opiate painkillers hydrocodone and oxycodone to the state, or roughly '433 pain pills for every man, woman and child in West Virginia.

After reading the article I had a some questions: If wholesalers are shipping the drugs into West Virginia through legal channels, at what point in the distribution network do they go from controlled substances (contained in government regulated environments) to the streets? The wholesalers aren't shipping these drugs into West Virginia on a whim, so who's ordering them? If a reporter could collect all of this information, why can't federal and state prosecutors?

Breaking Bad was a huge success, but I don't know any street level guys who can turn opioids or synthetic opioid derivatives into oxycodone or hydrocodone, yet the victims of pharmaceutical malfeasance are the public face of this epidemic. The pharmaceutical companies that manufacture and distribute the drugs are never seen as complicit. If law enforcement doesn't get serious about locking up chief executives and doctors, poor whites throughout Appalachia will continue dying from the drugs that are flooding into their communities. If Isis was doing this to rural America their would be a concerted effort to end the carnage.

The reaction to this crisis by local law enforcement in many counties has been feeble at best. Opioids are easier to get than Marijuana. In the new war on drugs the courts double down on the punishment for black and brown people involved in the crisis, they provide treatment for whites who are the "victims", and law enforcement completely ignores the white collar criminals making the money. As long as there's no consequences for those at the top of the supply chain we won't see a change. 

During the Vietnam War, U.S. soldiers were the victims of a similar drug epidemic; they were getting hooked on heroin. The heroin they were using was coming from Afghanistan. It was some of the best dope in the world. How did heroin from the middle east find its way into a war zone in the far east? (For those interested, research the Golden Triangle and Air America.) Vietnam was a drug dealer's heaven: highly stressed young men with disposable income. This is similar to what we see in rural America, but with less money. There are pharmaceutical companies getting richer at the expense of the misery poor whites are experiencing. I've heard more ineffective politicians address this issue than I can recall. They talk tough, but none of them are delivering. I'll take this new version of the war on drugs serious when I see coordinated raids on distribution sites, pharmacies, and clinics. When I see people pulled off of golf courses and out of hospitals I'll know America is serious about opioid addiction. Until then, I'll watch what passes for justice in the absence of justice.

Here's the link to the article.

The Outrage Will Not Be Televised!

When six Muslims were killed in Canada Donald Trump gave us silence. Last week, when a legal immigrant from India was killed in Kansas we got the same. Our president and his administration seems to be more comfortable talking about the fictional terrorist attacks that occurred in Atlanta, Bowling Green, and Sweden than it is addressing the renaissance of white nationalism. I hope people of color and religious minorities are taking these slights seriously. This administration's silence about white supremacist attacks on racial and religious minorities, their houses of worship, and their burial sites says more about their concern for you than the lawyerly crafted statements about bigotry they've been guilted into reading days and sometimes weeks later. Don't get it twisted: you were not a key component of their electoral victory and your otherness isn't endearing to them or their conception of what it means to be an American. In other words: you are collateral damage in the fight to "Make America Great Again".

President #TwitterFingers never misses an opportunity to tweet about the media, or call for boycotts against companies he doesn't like, yet he struggles to get his tweets off when it comes to attacks perpetrated by the white supremacists who've aligned themselves with his brand of nationalist populism. His silence is compounded by the silence of his supporters. I’ve been impressed by the lengths some #Trumpstans are willing to go to disconnect the actions of white supremacists from the rhetoric espoused by the president.

Hate crimes committed against Muslims are up 67% in the last few years. Srinivas Kuchibhotla (a man of Indian descent) was killed because xenophobia, bigotry, and hatred have become a (re)normalized part of American life. Sikhs, Hindus and other racial minorities have been the victims of bigoted attacks by people too ignorant to understand who they were supposed to be hating. This could become the new normal. I have friends of Puerto Rican heritage who've been mocked with chants of build that wall. The Trump administration may not be directly responsible for the actions of their supporters, but they put the battery in their backs. At rallies, Trump plays to the fear and hatred of some of his supporters and when something bad happens he denies any culpability. This is a dangerous game. I would rather have a treacherous enemy than a weak-willed ally.

I've read social media posts from people who live in the Blue Ridge Mountains (isolated from racial and religious diversity) that echo the calls for a soft nationalism as advocated by the Alt-right/white supremacist wing of their party. These aren’t inherently bad people; some of them are angry and others are afraid, but all are being misled for the sake of ratings. Many of them don't know the difference between a Sunni Muslim and a Sikh, but they see them both as potential members of Isis. Fox news and conservative talk radio has disseminated so much blatant xenophobia for so long that many of their supporters have tacitly accepted the fact that all brown people want to kill them. When "real" Americans or people of European descent are the victims of terrorism the presses stop and there’s wall to wall coverage, but when black and brown people are the victims of American terrorism there's a noticeable difference in the level of outrage. Here I was thinking #AllLivesMatter. Sadly, there will be more blood spilled by those who equate “Making America Great Again” to making it less colorful. There are people who are questioning what place, if any, they have in America.