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Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Just a reminder to change your Blue Virginia links from http://bluevablog.blogspot.com (the "old," Blogger blog) to http://www.bluevirginia.us (the "new," SoapBlox blog). Thanks.

Threats of Violence Against Eric Cantor, Or Anyone Else, Are Not Acceptable

Monday, March 29, 2010


This should go without saying, but I strongly condemn threats of violence, let alone actual violence, against Eric Cantor, Tom Perriello, Tom Perriello's brother, or anyone else.  It simply has no legitimate place in American politics and should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. Period.In this case, it appears the guy threatening Eric Cantor and his family is a madman who also has threatened many other political figures, including Nancy Pelosi and Barack Obama. In other cases, like with Tom Perriello and his brother, the threats were made by right-wing activists and bloggers (ostensibly) angered by the passage of health care reform legislation.  And, I'd note, the threats against Tom and his family came after 1 1/2 years of vicious invective, dehumanization, and demagoguery by leading Republicans - including the GOP's 2008 presidential and vice presidential nominees, Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck, etc. - against Democrats, against Barack Obama, etc. Do Republicans and right-wingers really believe that using the kind of language and imagery they've been using will have no impact at all?  If not, they clearly haven't studied the history of the 20th century.
Speaking of the type of language that should never be used in our Democracy, I was very troubled to read this. I've known Bearing Drift's Jim Hoeft for several years now, and although  he's a staunch conservative and we disagree on most issues, I've never thought of him as advocating or condoning political violence in the least bit. Which is why I was surprised to see him using phrases like "before we start taking any sort of violent action against anyone else" and "let's let the judicial process play itself out before we do anything violent." Excuse me? "Before?"  How about "never?"
I emailed Jim Hoeft to ask him if he wanted to clarify his remarks, as I found them highly troubling. We went back and forth a few times, but in the end Hoeft agreed that violence or threats thereof are "unacceptable," although Hoeft added the phrase "in our current political climate." I'm not sure if we differ here nor not, but just to be clear, the correct answer is: in our Democracy, violence or threats of violence are neveracceptable, in the current political climate or any other climate. Sure, if some day our Democracy is overthrown by a tyranny, that could be a different story. But that's totally hypothetical, pretty much science fiction, so why even talk about it?  Not only do I see no need to do so, I also see the potential danger to more...uh, "excitable" individuals in discussing such things as even within the realm of possibility.
By the way, I strongly approve of the comments by conservative activist and blogger Brian W. Schoeneman, who writes"The angry rhetoric needs to stop, as does the idea or belief that a violent overthrow of our government is even a possible course of action in response to these issues."  Schoeneman adds, "it would be helpful if Republican elected officials would stop letting our activists get away with that kind of talk."  I couldn't agree more, but I'm not holding my breath on this one.
UPDATEJim Hoeft comments further at Bearing Drift.
So - do I advocate violence if health care is upheld as the law of the land by the judiciary?No. No. Hell, no.
My point is that violence is never appropriate in our current Republic to make political points.
[...]
The public has no appetite for violence. It is unacceptable and worthy of condemnation. It shouldn't even be considered as a course of action given our political climate.

Loudoun County Republicans Play Dress Up

Friday, March 26, 2010


Yesterday, Not Larry Sabato wrote about a "Loudoun-based hate group" named Public Advocate, an organization chaired by the extremist, homophobic Loudoun County board member, Eugene Delgaudio (far-right "R").  Another active member of this group is Mark Sell, the man with the goatee in the photos below, and the guy who was just elected chairman of the Loudoun County Republican Committee.  As NLS writes, "Sell is featured on the Public Advocate website here, leading a DC protest.  He is the guy dressed up in a dark blue windbreaker with "Thought Control Police" across the front, with the balding head, glasses, and goatee."Anyway, I thought it was worth giving the photos of Sell and Delgaudio some more exposure. Sadly, this appears to be what the Loudoun County Republican Committee has come to these days.
P.S. As I wrote here, guess who strongly endorsed Eugene Delgaudio? That's right, the "moderate" (hahahaha) Republican Frank Wolf, who said "No one works harder than Eugene. He is not afraid to make the tough decisions and speak out for what he thinks is right. He deserves re-election this fall. I urge Sterling residents to vote for Eugene on November 4." Does Wolf agree with Delgaudio's views and language with regard to gay and transgendered individuals? How about Delgaudio's belief in "thought police" and other craziness?
lowkell :: Loudoun County Republicans Play Dress Up

Bob McDonnell's "Rampant" Illogic on Anti-Discrimination Laws


So, Bob McDonnell believes that "Virginia does not need to write protections for gays and lesbians into state statute because he has not seen evidence of discrimination in the state workforce." McDonnell adds that "If you're going to have a law, it needs to actually address a real problem."To illustrate the rampant illogic here, let's apply Bob McDonnell's standard to other areas where the problem isn't "rampant" either.
*Anti-black racism in state government is probably not "rampant," but does that mean we shouldn't have anti-discrimination laws for African Americans?
*Anti-female discrimination in state government is probably not "rampant" either, but again, does that mean we shouldn't outlaw it?
*Arson isn't "rampant," in fact it's very rare, so do we not need laws against it? How about murder? Poaching of bald eagles? Dumping of radioactive materials in the water?
Obviously, all of this is absurd, since nobody would ever seriously argue that we shouldn't have laws against racist discrimination or murder or eagle poaching or whatever. But, it does illustrate the laughable illogic of McDonnell's "rampant" standard.
As to McDonnell's "address a real problem" standard, how is it not a "real problem" if even a few dozen people - or one person, for that matter - are discriminated against in state hiring every year?  It's certainly a "real problem" for the people who were discriminated against, and it's also a "real problem" for Virginia's attractiveness as a place for people to live and work, as well as for businesses to locate.
Sorry, but the only things "rampant" here are Bob McDonnell's lack of sensitivity and his lack of willingness to move beyond the rigid he was taught by Pat Robertson's professors back in the "thesis" days.

George Washington vs. Ken Cuccinelli

Wednesday, March 24, 2010


Ken Cuccinelli is arguing that a "mandate" by government for citizens to purchase health insurance is unconstitutional. Is it? Let's ask George Washington.
The truth, however, is that the Second Militia Act of 1792, required a significant percentage of the U.S. civilian population to purchase a long list of military equipment:
[E]very citizen, so enrolled and notified, shall, within six months thereafter, provide himself with a good musket or firelock, a sufficient bayonet and belt, two spare flints, and a knapsack, a pouch, with a box therein, to contain not less than twenty four cartridges, suited to the bore of his musket or firelock, each cartridge to contain a proper quantity of powder and ball; or with a good rifle, knapsack, shot-pouch, and powder-horn, twenty balls suited to the bore of his rifle, and a quarter of a pound of powder; and shall appear so armed, accoutred and provided...
This Act became law only a few years after the Constitution was ratified, in President George Washington's first term. Many of the Members of Congress who voted for the Act also were members of the Philadelphia Convention that wrote the Constitution. In other words, they probably knew a little bit more about the Constitution than Ken Cuccinelli.
Yes, they certainly did know more than our (not-so) esteemed Attorney General. But then again, so does anyone, their uncle, their pet hamster, their goldfish, etc. Ken Cuccinelli: lowering the collective IQ of Virginia government since 2002!UPDATE: According to Washington and Lee University law professor Timothy Stoltzfus "Health bill lawsuits are going nowhere". Total demolition of Cooch; case dismissed!

GMU Students, Faculty, Friends Protest Cuccinelli's Homophobia

Tuesday, March 23, 2010


I just got back from George Mason University Law School, where students, alumni, faculty, staff, friends and allies are currently protesting Ken Cuccinelli's appearance at the school. More broadly, they are protesting Ken Cuccinelli's anti-gay attitudes, which Cooch is attempting to force on Virginia as a whole. This is unacceptable, as the protestors and speakers are eloquently and powerfully explaining right now.  No wonder why  Cooch snuck in the side door of GMU Law School, is not allowing reporters into the event, and apparently is refusing to speak to reporters afterwards. I mean, I can understand why he wouldn't want any sunlight on him, but still that's pathetic.Also, I should have video shortly of the first speaker, who was absolutely superb. For now, here are some photos, including one (see after the "flip") of Del. Bob Brink listening to the speaker. Also, Miles Grant is there, so he may have more reports and photos.

UPDATE: Follow Miles' twitter feed for more.  Other speakers included  Arlington Co. Board Chair Jay Fisette & Del. Brink. Also there are Del. Adam Ebbin, Arlington School Board Members Sally Baird, Libby Garvey and Abby Raphael.
lowkell :: GMU Students, Faculty, Friends Protest Cuccinelli's Homophobia

Summary, Highlights of GMU Health Care Reform Rally

Friday, March 19, 2010


Mary Lee Cerillo writes the following about the health care reform rally with President Obama this morning at George Mason University.Have just returned from the Health Care Reform event at George Mason University.  It was unbelievable to see the thousands upon thousands of like-minded Americans of all ages and walks of life supporting our President and Health Care reform.  The Patriot Center was packed with very few open seats and the crowd stood for the President during his entire speech.
The supporters for Health Care Reform far outnumbered the one hundred or so people who were outside the Patriot Center protesting.  Many of their signs were the usual misconceptions and lies about Health Care and what America needs to do for its citizens.  It was business as usual with protestors sure that Health Care Reform will kill granny, will be given to illegal immigrants and will involve a government take over.  What the signs didn't say was that Health Care Reform and the bill to be voted on this weekend involves a commonsense bill that takes into account both the ideas from Democrats AND from Republicans.  Rather than insurance companies or the government controlling our health care, control will be given back to the American people.
President Obama laid out three goals of Health Care Reform.  They include:
1. Ending the worst practices of insurance companies.  This will be a "Patient Bill of Rights on Steroids."  Thousands will have the right to buy health are.  Denying coverage to kids with preexisting conditions will be no more.  Insurance companies dropping coverage when a patient gets ill, will cease.  Young students will have the right to stay under their parent's health care until the age of 26 which will provide them with some security.
2.  Small business owners will get the same choices as members of Congress do, in choosing health care.  They will receive tax credits.  This will be paid for by the elimination of fraud.  It will be paid for up front unlike the past administration who passed a prescription bill that was never paid for ad resulted in a huge addition to the federal deficit.  President Obama promised young people that a credit card wouldn't be taken out in their name to pay for Health Care Reform.
3.  The cost of health care will go down.  Individuals cost will decrease from 14-20%.  Employees costs would go down $3,000 per employee.  Who knows?  Maybe that might result in a raise which would be a totally new concept for so many employees who have forgotten what it's like to get a raise in their paycheck.  Health Care Reform will also reduce the federal deficit whereas the so called fiscal conservatives raised the deficit by 1 trillion dollars.  Now their mantra is we can't afford this.  This was said about both Social Security
AND Medicare.
President Obama has the courage of his convictions to not care what the polls say.  They don't matter.  We need do this for Americans because it's the right thing to do!!!!!!!
The Time for Change and Reform is NOW.
Thanks to all of you who came out today and showed your support for our President!!!!  The crowd and support are still very much for President Obama.. God Bless America and let's hope this weekend our legislators do what's right for our citizens.

Video: "The Tea Party and the Circus" on Health Care Reform



A few key points on this video. First, note that anti-healthcare-reform "tea partier" after "tea partier," when asked, can NOT name specifics in the bill (or anywhere else) to back up their heated rhetoric/talking points. Second, note that when asked where they got their information, it's from totally biased (which they admit when asked) sources like "Fox News" and not from actually reading and understanding the legislation. Third, note how time and again, tea partiers in this video simply deny facts they find inconvenient, like the FACT that there are 30 million people without health insurance in this country. Fourth, note that lack of compassion, for instance that people without health insurance should just "go to the hospital." Fifth, note the cult-like worship of Glenn Beck and his "principles."  Finally, note the excellent job the interviewer does in trying to pin these people down and letting them attempt to respond. It may not be a "circus," exactly, but it sure is funny at times. If you find "dark" and "disturbing" to be funny, that is.P.S. Check out this graph, courtesy of Nate Silver at 538.com, which demonstrates that conservatives are moving in a completely different direction on health care reform as liberals and moderates in this country. Gee, I wonder if 24/7 echo chamber brainwashing by Faux News, Rush, Glenn, etc. might just be causing that. Hmmmm.

UPDATE #2: See Paul Krugman's "Why We Reform" for an intelligent, well-informed argument (the exact opposite of what we see in the above video) why we need health care reform now.  

Rachel Maddow: McDonnell, Cooch Turning Virginia Into "Jesse Helms-istan"

Thursday, March 18, 2010


Rachel Maddow calls out Bob McDonell and Ken Kookinelli for their homophobic bigotry, "birtherism" (in Cooch's case) and overall insanity. According to Maddow, McDonnell and Cooch are turning Virginia into "Jesse Helms-istan."  Maddow also slams the national media for reporting McDonnell's and Cooch's bizarre explanations and behaviors without any critical analysis or journalistic skepticism.  The more this continues, I'd argue we're looking as much like "Idiocracy" as "Jesse Helms-istan." But then again, I guess those are really flip sides of the same coin anyway.  

Kaine: "I scratch my head in amazement" at Cooch the Birther

Wednesday, March 17, 2010


On this matter, I believe Tim Kaine speaks for all of us:
"I scratch my head in amazement that somebody in a position of that altitude would express and opinion like that," Kaine said of Republican state Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli's comments. "I read the transcript and what he said is that he posited that perhaps the president was born in Kenya, I think it was, and I think he said that is a reasonable hypothesis or something like that. It's ridiculous."Speaking outside the White House, Kaine continued: "The president is an American citizen, duly elected by the voters. But some people just can't accept that. And they're still having trouble accepting that and I think that's what the attorney general is, maybe in that camp."
Personally,  I "scratch my head in amazement" not only that Cooch is a birther, but that he's also a climate change denier, a raging (and raving) homophobe, a "states rights" extremist, a tinfoil hat wacko who believes the government is tracking his kids via Social Security numbers, and a guy who talks to his toy elephant named "Ron". Given all this, what I really "scratch my head in amazement" over is that the people of Virginia elected Ken Cuccinelli as Attorney General last year over the sane and super-qualified Steve Shannon. What. The. Hell?!?

Why I Like And Admire Mark Warner, And Why He Frustrates Me At Times



This video is a classic example of why I like and admire Mark Warner, but also why he frustrates me at times.On the "like and admire" part, obviously Warner is an extremely smart guy, a hard worker, and a leader among leaders. That's all great. I also admire the fact that Warner is working so hard on such an important issue as reforming Wall Street, which as a wealthy businessman, he certainly understands.
So, what's the problem here?  No, it's not the mere fact that he's working with a Republican; I'm totally fine with that.  Instead, what I'm troubled by is that Sen. Warner seems to be saying that having a more "centrist" and "bipartisan" solution represents an end in and of itself. I simply don't see it that way. In my way of thinking, the goal is to come up with the best - most effective, helps the most people, makes as much progress as possible. etc. - possible legislation, not to have it be "centrist" (even if it's labeled "radical centrist," whatever that is) or "bipartisan" per se.
For instance, let's say that experts - scientists, economists, whatever - determine that the optimal solution to Problem Y is Solution Z, but Solution Z is not considered to be "centrist" ideologically, and also does not have "bipartisan" support. Does that mean we should scrap it? I'd say the answer to that question is "clearly no," but I'm honestly not sure what Sen. Warner's answer would be.
Thus, on health care reform, clearly the public option is a "win-win-win" that helps "bend the cost curve down," reduces the federal budget deficit, and provides people with more choice in health insurance. For the life of me, I can't figure out why anyone would oppose this, yet Mark Warner appears to do just that, in large part because he seems to feel it's not "centrist" or "bipartisan." I really don't understand that line of reasoning; how is the public option - giving people more choice while reducing costs - inherently "left" or "right?" And how is it inherently not "bipartisan," except insofar as Republicans have determined to be monolithically against anything Democrats offer in this area?  Got me.
In this case, the issues mainly relate to how tightly regulated Wall Street will be; what those regulations specifically will be, for instance, how free banks will be to own/invest in hedge funds and private-equity funds; how much power shareholders will have over the companies in which they own stock; how strongly the federal government will regulate the financial system; and how much protection consumers will have.
All of these are important issues, and in my way of thinking I care a lot more about whether they're handled right than whether they are politically "right" or "left."  All else being equal, certainly bipartisanship would be nice. But, in the end, I simply do not consider bipartisanship to be an end in and of itself. If it is, then remind me again why we have two political parties, one that's supposed to be broadly "conservative" (but in reality has lurched to the far right) and the other that's supposed to be broadly "progressive" (but in reality is more corporatist/centrist)?  In sum, I'm all for bipartisanship, and I have nothing against "centrist" solutions, as long as the starting point has each party fighting strongly for the ideas it believes in, and willing to go to the mat because it honestly believes those ideas would bring the most benefit to the most Americans. Is that too much to ask?

Blue Virginia Now On SoapBlox

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

This address is now being used as the Blue Virginia archive. To read the active Blue Virginia site, please click here. Thanks.

DPVA Calls On McDonnell To Rein In "Extreme" Cuccinelli

Monday, March 15, 2010

Democratic Party of Virginia Executive Director David Mills writes about Ken Cuccinelli's "apparent comments in support of Virginia pursuing legal challenges to federal laws based on questioning President Obama's birth certificate."
Unlike Republican leaders, Virginians are more concerned with their jobs and their children's schools than with pursuing conspiracy theories and a narrow social agenda. But in the last month, under the leadership of Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli and Governor Bob McDonnell, Virginia is rapidly becoming a national laughingstock.

Attorney General Cuccinelli owes Virginians an explanation for his out-of-whack priorities. While our Commonwealth struggles with a $4.2 billion dollar deficit, the Attorney General has shown that he's willing to use the resources of his taxpayer-funded office to push his own radical agenda. Virginians shouldn't be asked to foot the bill for Ken Cuccinelli's irresponsible behavior and missplaced priorities.

The Attorney General should pledge today not to spend a dime of our tax dollars pursuing ridiculous conspiracy theories about President Obama. We hope Governor McDonnell is making plans to rein in his 2009 ticketmate and protect Virginians' money from being spent on Ken Cuccinelli's extreme political agenda.

UPDATE: Politico reports that Cooch has issued a statement.
I absolutely believe that President Obama was born in the United States. I don't buy into the claims that he wasn't. On the recording, I was asked a hypothetical legal question, and I gave a hypothetical legal answer in response. As I said previously, this issue was not a part of my campaign, and it is not part of what I am doing now as attorney general.
What a bunch of bull, "hypothetical legal answer" my a**.

Emergency! Scott Robinson Needs A Waaaaambulance!

As I wrote on Saturday, Krystal Ball swept 1st CD caucuses this weekend in Stafford County and Fredericksburg, demolishing Scott Robinson and making his candidacy for the Democratic nomination a longshot at best. Now, Scott Robinson is reacting with class, restraint, and poise. Whoops, wrong Scott Robinson! Ha. Actually, this is how the real 1st CD candidate Scott Robinson is reacting.
This email is being sent with the intent of informing you of troubling events that have developed over the last few weeks involving a fellow Democratic Committee (Stafford County) and what actions the Robinson campaign intends to use to remedy the situation.

It is the opinion of the Robinson campaign that the caucus process in Stafford County was "hijacked" by a small group of Krystal Ball supporters and the democratic process was circumvented with the intention of ensuring that the Krystal Ball campaign not only won a majority of delegates but left the caucus with a "slate" of supporters for Krystal Ball.

As I write this I am quite certain that while you read this you will feel this email is bourne of frustration and written with my campaigns best interests in mind. No doubt that is true.

However, there are facts that are too egregious to ignore that point in the direction of an organized attempt by members of the Stafford County Democratic Committee (SCDC) to make the proverbial "smoky backroom deal" scenario seem all too real.

[...]

The Robinson campaign feels at the very least that the rules of the Caucus have been violated and election law could have been as well. Because of these facts and actions of individuals who are associated with BOTH the Krystal Ball for Congress campaign and the SCDC; the Robinson campaign intends to file a formal complaint with the Chair of the Virginia 1st Congressional District Committee.

My intention is to follow this email up with all of the county chairs of the 1st Congressional District individually. I appreciate your patience as we work our way through this process.

Best,


Gregory Richardson
Scott Robinson for Congress
804.xxx.xxxx
Those are some serious charges right there, up to and including possible illegality. The only problem, as 1st CD Democratic Party Chair Suzette Matthews points out, is that none of this is accurate. In fact, as Matthews points out, "Contrary to the second bullet of this message, local committees do not have to pay for expensive newspaper postings of caucuses." In addition, Matthews writes, "Please note the last sentence of the following provision of the DPVA Party Plan, which permits posting of the caucus notice on web sites and press release to newspapers (we understand [1st CD City and County chairs] have no control whether the newspaper prints the notice or not)."

In short, Robinson's complaints are completely and wholly without merit, not to mention hysterical and pathetic. The only question is how badly his super-sore loser routine will hurt him in upcoming caucuses, starting with Gloucester tonight, followed by James City this Thursday, Newport News on March 25, etc.

Meanwhile, can somebody please call a waaaaaaaaaaambulance for Scott Robinson? It looks like he badly needs one.

Cooch: Climate Change Denier, Gay Basher...Birther!


Once again, Ken Cuccinelli demonstrates why: a) many of us think he's batshit crazy; b) why Democratic activists worked so hard to prevent him from becoming Attorney General of Virginia; c) why he's a complete and utter embarrassment to our Commonwealth; and d) politically speaking, why he's the "gift that keeps on giving" for Democrats. This time, thanks to a great scoop by NLS, Cooch reveals himself as someone who seriously questions whether Barack Obama was born in the United States.
Q: Because we are talking about the possibility that he was not born in America.

Cooch: Right. But at the same time under Rule 11, Federal Rule 11, we gotta have proof of it.

Q: How can we get proof?

Cooch: Well… that’s a good question. Not one I’ve thought a lot about because it hasn’t been part of my campaign. Someone is going to have to come forward with nailed down testimony that he was born in place B, wherever that is. You know, the speculation is Kenya. And that doesn’t seem beyond the realm of possibility.
Sad to say, it's not even the least bit shocking that a guy who denies climate change, tries to make it easier for people to discriminate against gay people, claims that Virginia can disobey federal laws it disagrees with, believes the government is tracking his kids via Social Security numbers, and talks to a toy elephant named "Ron" would also buy into Orly Taitz-level crazy conspiracy theories like "birtherism." What next, is Cooch going to reveal himself as a 9/11 "truther" as well, like Debra Medina? Whoops, better not give him any ideas; he's got more than enough of those already. My god, four years of this lunatic as AG? We're so screwed.

Quote of the Day: "You didn't have pestilence and fire."

The quote of the day goes to Senate Majority Leader Dick Saslaw (D-Fairfax). Check this out.
"We've had four snowstorms and $4 billion in budget cuts," McDonnell told a small group of legislators who had been dispatched to his ceremonial quarters on the third floor of the state Capitol to inform him that the assembly was ready to adjourn. Senate Majority Leader Richard L. Saslaw, D-Fairfax, replied, "You didn't have pestilence and fire."
Maybe not, but with this horrible budget, we may feel like we've been through "pestilence and fire" here in Virginia before long. Ugh.

Charlottesville, VA Coffee Party Interview with Eric Byler


Eric Byler is interviewed by a Charlottesville TV station on Saturday, March 13, in Charlottesville on Coffee Party National Kick-off Day. According to the Coffee Party USA website, there were more than 350 coffee party meetings in 44 states on Saturday. In addition, there are now 159,000 fans on the Coffee Party Facebook page, compared to 111,991 fans for the largest Tea Party Facebook page. Not bad for a 100% grassroots movement that's just a few weeks old!

UPDATE: See the FiveThirtyEight interview with Annabel. Among other things, she talks about how Organizing for America doesn't "inspire" her. I agree, maybe it has something to do with the fact that OFA is 100% establishment, part of the - yaaaaaaawwwwwn - DNC?

Whipple Clip Dozen: Monday Morning

Thanks to Tom Whipple for the Monday "Clips."

1. MCDONNELL SHOWS SOME SUCCESSES IN FIRST LEGISLATIVE SESSIONS
2. LAWMAKERS APPROVE TWO-YEAR, $70 BILLION BUDGET
3. ASSEMBLY APPROVES TWO-YEAR, $70 BILLION VA BUDGET
4. STATE KEEPS CCCA OPEN
5. HOUSE, SENATE PASS VIRGINIA'S TWO-YEAR SPENDING PLAN
9. STATE WILL DIP INTO PENSION FUND, REPAY WITH 7.5% INTEREST
11. LEGISLATORS LEAVE TOWN, MCDONNELL BIDS THEM ADIEU
13. GOVERNOR'S STEPS TOWARD OFFSHORE ROYALTIES
14. THE AG PENS AN OP-ED ON SEX BIAS PROTECTION
16. POWER BILLS HEATING UP 9TH DISTRICT ELECTION CAMPAIGN
18. NOT SPECIAL
20. ASSEMBLY ETHICS BILL NEEDS STRENGTHENING

Time For Some Changes At Blue Virginia

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Well, it's been over a year since I started Blue Virginia, and I'm still blogging. Overall, I've enjoyed it, except for one thing: I'm really tired of the Blogger platform. Problems with Blogger include: people tell me it's difficult to leave comments; there's no "more" button, which means the front-page posts take up too much space; there are no community features at all; the default coding is not compatible for cross-posting at blogs like Daily Kos, and it's really annoying; etc. On the other hand, it's free!. Despite that important fact, I've decided to make a change, which you will see in the next few days. I hope you like it, and just as importantly, I hope I like it! :) Anyway, stay tuned for Blue Virginia 2.0.

Gibbs: Health Care Reform Will Be "Law of the Land" Next Week


It is about time. Even though progressive sacrificed a tremendous amount in this health care reform legislation, and even though it most closely resembles the 1993 Republican alternative to "Hillarycare," on balance I still believe this represents progress for America. I also believe this will give Democrats a boost heading into November. Up until now, Democrats have gotten all the "negatives" of debating health care reform, including a constant stream of Big Lies by the Republicans, while simultaneously looking weak for not seeing this become law. Once this thing actually is signed by President Obama, the entire dynamic should change, and hopefully "the base" will start getting excited again and close the "enthusiasm gap" with Republicans for this fall. At least, that's the theory! :)

Thank You David Englin! [UPDATE: And Scott Surovell Too!]

What a concept, a Democrat from the "Democratic wing of the Democratic Party!" Thank you David Englin, for speaking the truth about this piece-o'-crap budget.
Budgets are moral documents that express our values as a Commonwealth and determine whom we lift up and whom we leave out. While the final version of the budget is less bad than the initial House version, I still cannot justify supporting a budget that balances the books on the backs of children and the poor and that includes a fiscally irresponsible shell game with the state pension trust fund.

Thanks to strong, unified, vocal opposition from House Democrats, the final budget is less bad than the budget House Republicans passed Feb. 25. For example, the final budget rejected the Republican plan to take money away from poor students and give it to students who are not poor, and it rejected the Republican plan to redirect federal Medicaid enhancement money from health care for the neediest Virginians to non-health care programs.

However, these concessions do not make up for the fact that the final budget cuts billions of dollars from public education, health care for the poor, public safety, and aid to localities, with no serious attempt to mitigate these cuts with revenue and no serious attempt to give localities the power to mitigate these cuts in their own. Even worse, the final budget still includes a risky, $800-million scheme to divert state contributions from the state pension trust fund, which will put Virginia's triple-A bond rating at risk and threaten our ability to meet our pension obligations to teachers, fire fighters, law enforcement officers, and state and local employees.
And how about bringing back the estate tax, repeal of which Tim Kaine foolishly signed into law? Why should we slash services for the neediest Virginians while the top few hundred families (out of millions of residents) get a huge tax break? It's wrong on every level - economic, political, moral - for Democrats to go along with this, so why are they going along with it? I call bull****.

UPDATE: And thank you Scott Surovell!
My grandfather always taught me that you either pay less for things now or you pay more for them later. I do not believe these budget "cuts" are cuts. They are simply reductions in funding on going responsibilities that are now being pushed onto the poor, the uneducated, to middle class families and local government who now have to make the tough decisions.

Educating our children, caring for the poor, and keeping our public safe are a core responsibilities of state government. This Budget does not do that. It balances our budgets on the backs of the poor, the sick, the disabled, college students and their families, and the criminal justice system.

And we haven't done a single thing to resolve this state's transportation crisis.

Exactly!

UPDATE #2: See the Washington Post and WTVR for more on the state budget passage. The vote in the Senate was 34-6, and in the House 73-23. According to Anita Kumar and Rosalind Helderman, "The breakthrough on the budget came when Senate negotiators agreed to eliminate 60 percent of fees that they had proposed to preserve some programs." The result of which, of course, was to harm more vulnerable Virginians. Heckuva job.

Diane Ravitch on Why Charter Schools Are A Really Bad Idea

This past Thursday, former Assistant Secretary of Education, Diane Ravitch, laid into "charter schools" and "No Child Left Behind" on the Diane Rehm Show. This is a timely and topical subject here in Virginia, as Bob McDonnell's education agenda relies heavily on the "charter school" concept. In contrast to McDonnell and his ideological approach to education (and everything else, for that matter), Ravitch is essentially nonpartisan - a Ph.D. historian of education and research professor at New York University's Steinhardt School of Education who served under both President George HW Bush and President Bill Clinton.

Earlier this month, Ravitch came out with a new book, The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education, which is being described in glowing terms by reviewers. For instance, Valerie Strauss of the Washington Post writes, "Her credibility with conservatives is exactly why it would be particularly instructive for everyone--whether you have kids in school or not--to read [Ravitch's book]." I'm looking forward to reading the book, but in the meantime, I listened to Ravitch on the Diane Rehm Show. I also read this article by Ravitch, "The Big Idea -- it's bad education policy." A few key points regarding charter schools and why they're a really bad idea.

*"Charter schools are no panacea. The nation now has about 5,000 of them, and they vary in quality. Some are excellent, some terrible; most are in between. Most studies have found that charters, on average, are no better than public schools."

*"On the federal tests, known as the National Assessment of Educational Progress, from 2003 to 2009, charters have never outperformed public schools. Nor have black and Latino students in charter schools performed better than their counterparts in public schools."

*"[C]harter schools have many advantages over public schools...Studies of charters in Boston, New York City and Washington have found that charters, as compared to public schools, have smaller percentages of the students who are generally hardest to educate -- those with disabilities and English-language learners. Because the public schools must educate everyone, they end up with disproportionate numbers of the students the charters don't want."

*"So we're left with the knowledge that a dramatic expansion in the number of privately managed schools is not likely to raise student achievement. Meanwhile, public schools will become schools of last resort for the unmotivated, the hardest to teach and those who didn't win a seat in a charter school. If our goal is to destroy public education in America, this is precisely the right path."

*"We don't want schools to compete and try to put the other schools out of business...that's wrong."

*"What is, I think, going to be the undoing of the charter sector is the outrageous salaries that some of the charter operators are paying themselves...the rainmakers, the people who make the deals with the politicians...some of them are paying themselves $400,000 a year, $500,000 a year out of public funds...we had one charter school in New York City, where the woman who was running it got a golden parachute of a gift of $700,000... I mean, this is something that in the public sector people would find shocking."

*"We're in the process of not only privatizing our schools but deprofessionalizing what should be an honored and esteemed profession."

*"What's sad about this...the charter schools started in 1988 with the idea that they would become R&D laboratories to help public schools. Instead, they have been taken over by private entrepreneurs with the idea that this is a great money stream, you can go to the bank with this commitment of the government funds, and then in many places they're trying to put public schools out of business."

In sum, reading and listening to Diane Ravitch, it's obvious why Republicans like Bob McDonnell would be gung-ho on charter schools. The question is, why would anyone else?

UPDATE: Arlington County School Board member Libby Garvey weighs in.
I heard part of the Diane Rehm show and will definitely get the book. Having been a school board member for the past 14 years while NCLB has gone into effect, this is a breath of fresh air. Yes, she may be late, but I think that gives her more credibility to the many people who simply think professional educators don't know education and aren't qualified to criticize the privatization movement. It's been terribly frustrating that the people who are on the front lines of this battle are assumed to be unqualified to comment or assumed to not want the best for our children. And the stakes could not be higher. Our nation's future depends on the quality of its public education.

Senate and House Democrats Sum Up Session

I received emails yesterday from both the House and Senate Democratic caucuses, summarizing what they believe to be their successes during the (about-to-conclude) General Assembly session. Here are the highlights, with my comments in italics.

Senate
*"Senate negotiators are fighting for their version of the budget which protects jobs and services in K-12 education, higher education, public safety, and the healthcare safety net."
That's great, but from what I've seen so far this morning, there's not a heckuva lot to celebrate on this front. Unless, of course, you believe that "unprecedented cuts to state spending and core services once thought sacrosanct" and "governmental austerity born of the hardest times since the Great Depression" to be a good thing. I don't. Nor do I consider the General Assembly's unwillingness to raise revenues from the wealthiest Virginians, first and foremost by reinstating the Estate Tax, while slashing funding for programs to the most vulnerable Virginians, to be a badge of honor.

*"The Senate Democrats introduced many bills that passed both chambers of the legislature and await Governor McDonnell’s signature, though many worthy bills were defeated by an uncooperative House of Delegates"
If you're a "glass half full" kind of person, you focus on the first clause in this sentence. If you're a "glass half empty" type, you focus on the last clause. Personally, I'm somewhere in the middle, but probably leaning towards the "many worthy bills were defeated" view of things. On the other hand, the Senate killed many bad bills from the House, such as the infamous "Mark of the Beast" bill and a repeal of Virginia's one-gun-a-month law. So, overall, it could have been better but it certainly could have been worse.

*"The Senate defeated numerous bad bills from the House of Delegates including efforts to repeal Virginia’s crime-reducing 'one hand gun per month' law, a frivolous bill to prevent forced implantation of microchips, a bill that would have allowed unregulated 'super guns', and one that authorized deadly force, instead of proportional force, against any person who sets foot on your property."
On all these fronts, thank goodness that Democrats control the State Senate to offer a "check and balance" against the right-wing Republican controlled House and governor's mansion.

*"The Senate Democrats also fought for the best interest of Virginians in several debates. At the beginning of the session, the Senate Democrats told Governor McDonnell they would not approve his Secretary of Commerce and Trade appointee because he served as a paid board member of private corporations, presenting a conflict of interest. Senate Democrats also convinced Governor McDonnell to present his budget recommendations as all other Governors do. The Governor decided that $4.2 billion in budget cuts had to be made and after weeks of pressure he eventually presented his plan to make those cuts. Finally, Senate Democrats raised serious concerns over Governor McDonnell’s proposed charter school arrangement which would have taken power from local school boards and put it in the hands of a group of political appointees. This arrangement would have violated the Virginia Constitution and Senate Democrats worked constructively with the McDonnell administration and education stakeholders to negotiate a constitutional arrangement that satisfied all parties."
Good work, particularly on the Secretary of Commerce and Trade, although Robert Sledd still ended up with a powerful position advising Bob McDonnell on commerce and trade issues. And on the charter schools, I'm not sure if all the "serious concerns" I heard raised were really addressed. Still, at least they raised them I guess...

House of Delegates
*"Democrats successfully fought for and passed measures dealing with ethics reform (HB 655, Armstrong, D-Henry; HB 330, Plum, D-Fairfax; HB 814 and HB 816, Abbott, D-Newport News), employment opportunities for individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (HB 1099, Sickles, D-Fairfax), expansion of eligibility for certain health care plans (HB 315 and HB 317, McClellan, D-Richmond), education (HB 1172, Phillips, D-Dickenson), and health care coverage for members of the Virginia National Guard (HB 1233, P. Miller, D-Norfolk)."
What amazes me more than anything is that Democrats were able to accomplish anything at all, given the fact that they are badly outnumbered in the Republican-controlled House of Delegates.

*"Democrats in the House of Delegates successfully defeated measures that would have restricted citizens' right to vote, including HB 498 (Lingamfelter, R-Prince William) and SB 302 (Martin, R-Chesterfield). These bills would have placed strict limitations on the types of information needed in order to register and vote. Democrats' convincing floor speeches led to the defeat of these regressive bills."
Ditto.

*"Additionally, House Democrats' united opposition brought attention to and weakened the Crown, Cork and Seal bill, which would have exempted a single company from liability for asbestos-related diseases. While the measure passed with a slim margin in the House of Delegates, it was killed in the Senate. This bill, carried by Delegate Terry Kilgore (R-Scott), was an initiative of the Speaker of the House, Delegate Bill Howell (R-Stafford). Speaker Howell pushed this initiative due to his involvement in the conservative group, the American Legislative Exchange Council, for which the Speaker served as chair last year. ALEC is interested in this legislation because Crown Cork is also a member of the organization and a significant contributor to its members' political action committees."
This bill was a disgrace, and Bill Howell should pay the political price if there's any justice in the world. Thank you to House Democrats for fighting this, and thanks to Senate Democrats for driving a stake through its rotten heart.

*"Several measures were introduced by members of the House Democratic Caucus to create a Bipartisan or Nonpartisan Redistricting Commission including: HB 179 (Morrissey - D, Henrico), HB 323 (Plum - D, Fairfax), HB 638 (Armstrong D - Henry), HB 835 (Carr - D, Richmond), and HJ 113 (Barlow - D, Isle of Wight). These measures were defeated in a pre-dawn subcommittee with a vote split along party lines."
Voters should remember this one next November, that's all I have to say right now.

*"Additionally, Democrats in the House of Delegates fought to protect Virginians from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation through several procedures including introduction of bills and amendments, and motions on the floor. Every attempt to protect Virginia's citizens was defeated by Republican members of the House of Delegates."
This pretty much sums it up: Democrats fighting against discrimination, Republicans fighting to keep it going. How can anyone be FOR discrimination? Ask House Republicans.

Summary
All in all, this was a rough session, but Democrats can point to a few victories, mostly small. Still, the bottom line is that it's tough when you're outnumbered 61-39 in the House of Delegates, when you don't control the governor's mansion, when your tiny edge in the State Senate is made even more difficult by the presence of several conservative Democrats, and when the economy's a mess. Better luck next year? Or, more likely, after the 2011 elections if and when Democrats (hopefully) make major gains in the House of Delegates? As for 2010, as the saying goes, it was real and it was fun, but it wasn't real fun.

Whipple Clip Dozen: Sunday Morning

Thanks to Tom Whipple for the Sunday "Clips."

1. BIAS DISPUTE KNOCKS MCDONNELL OFF STRIDE
2. HOUSE, SENATE REACH BUDGET DEAL AFTER MIDNIGHT
4. VIRGINIA LAWMAKERS REACH AGREEMENT ON BUDGET
8. GENERAL ASSEMBLY WRAP-UP: WHAT PASSED, WHAT FAILED
17. VIRGINIA HOUSE AGREES TO FORFEIT OVERTIME PAY; SENATE TO ACCEPT PAY
18. A ONE-MAN WINDOW INTO LAWMAKING
19. MCCLELLAN’S PREGNANCY BELIEVED TO BE A FIRST FOR HOUSE
20. BOUCHER WON’T SUPPORT HEALTH REFORM WITH MEDICARE CUTS
23. NUCLEAR STANDOFF
34. SOME VICTORIES, MUCH PAIN IN VA. GENERAL ASSEMBLY SESSION
36. FOR METRO'S STRAPPED BUDGET, A WEALTH OF IDEAS BUT NOT CASH
42. COUNTIES BRACE FOR BRUTAL CUTS TO SCHOOLS, POLICE, PARKS

Krystal Ball Sweeps Fredericksburg, Stafford Caucuses: Is This Race Over?

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Krystal Ball tweets:



Now that's impressive: Every. Single. Delegate. So, with that -- Krystal picking up 1/3 of the committed delegates she needs to win, with Robinson picking up zero - is the race for the 1st CD Democratic nomination between Krystal Ball and Scott Robinson already over? After today's rout of Robinson, it certainly could be. Here's Marc Broklawski's take.
While there are plenty of contests left before the 1st Congressional District Convention in May, the math for Scott just got a whole lot harder to secure the nomination – if not impossible. The fact is that Krystal’s base of support is strong throughout the district, especially in the southern part of it. I’m also confident that Krystal understands that she cannot take anything for granted and will continue working hard throughout the entire district.

Scott’s field operation seemed non-existent today, if he even has one. Back in February, Scott believed that because of his background, the fact that he was raised within the district and the fact that he was a waterman as a kid that would translate into victory. His overly simplistic and na├»ve view of things, was clearly on display today; and should provide a moment of pause for democrats who were thinking of supporting him. His formula for victory is a losing one and his message, or lack thereof, is not resonating with the electorate. This election is too important and the stakes too high. Krystal is clearly our best chance of winning this year.

The wheels are clearly coming off of his campaign and his lack of a clear message and strategy is evident. It may be time for him to reassess the viability of his campaign and whether or not he drag out what appears to be an inevitable outcome.
I strongly agree with Marc's analysis and look forward to Krystal Ball taking on Rob Wittman (R) and/or Catherine "Bullet Box" Crabill (T as in "Tea Party") in the general election.

McDonnell/Cooch, Good Cop/Bad Cop?

Do Bob McDonnell and Ken Cuccinelli differ in any substantive way on the issues? Or, are they actually two peas in a pod, playing a "good cop/bad cop" game, in which McDonnell pretends to be the "reasonable" one while Cooch plays himself as "the right-wing crazy?" That's certainly what Lee Hockstader of the Washington Post think, and I'm inclined to agree.
What McDonnell needed during the election last fall, and continues to need, is to establish that he is not a rigid right-winger whose ideological fervor trumps pragmatism. And that’s where Cuccinelli comes in so handy. In contrast to Cuccinelli, practically anyone looks like a moderate.

So when Cuccinelli staked out the hard-right turf by telling public colleges that they have no business banning discrimination against gays, it was like manna from heaven for McDonnell...

Look for McDonnell and Cuccinelli to maintain this good-cop-bad-cop routine for the foreseeable future, as McDonnell tries to cement the moderate cred that will make him a vice presidential contender in 2012 or 2016, and as Cuccinelli continues to sing sweet music to his base of gay-hating conservatives.
In sum, Bob McDonnell is probably ecstatic that Ken Cuccinelli is in the AG's office, pandering to "the base," and freeing up "Pat Robertson's Manchurian Governor" to appear "moderate" in public while actually being a Closet Cooch Clone. A Clever Closet Cooch Clone at that!

P.S. For an illustration of what Cooch's rigid homophobia and intolerance can lead to, read this superb diary by "The Nephew". I'd recommend the diary to McDonnell and Cooch as well, but they probably believe their private parts will spontaneously combust if they so much as click on such a thing (either that, or they're doing like "Sideshow Bob" Marshall and voraciously reading the "homosexual literature" - heh).

Whipple Clips Dozen: Saturday Morning

Thanks to Tom Whipple for the Saturday "Clips."

1. MCDONNELL SAYS HE’S DONE ENOUGH TO PROTECT GAYS
2. REPUBLICAN GOVERNOR AS GAY RIGHTS DEFENDER: A SIGN OF THE TIMES?
3. MCDONNELL VISITS LEGISLATORS ON THEIR TURF, ENCOURAGES BUDGET DEAL
4. MCDONNELL ANNOUNCES NEW CLEMENCY POLICY
5. BOLLING: SUBCOMMITTEES CAN’T TAKE FINAL ACTION
7. CUCCINELLI NOT GIVING IN ON COLLEGES' GAY BIAS POLICIES
8. FORMER GOV. BALILES CHALLENGES CUCCINELLI ON COLLEGE GAY POLICIES
10. BUDGET BREAKTHROUGHS SEEN, BUT OVERTIME LIKELY
16. VIRGINIA GENERAL ASSEMBLY GOES SLOW ON TOUGH ETHICS REFORM
18. VA. LAWMAKERS PASS CAR TITLE LENDING REFORM
20. APPALACHIAN EFFORT DEFEATED
31. IN VIRGINIA, A WATERED-DOWN BILL ON CHARTER SCHOOLS

President Obama: "Education for a More Competitive America & Better Future"


The full transcript is here.

Catherine Crabill on Muslim Prayer to House of Delegates: "Just say NO to this blasphemy!"

Friday, March 12, 2010

I may just make this a regular feature of Blue Virginia: "It's not just crazy, it's 1st CD (Republican? Tea Party?) candidate (well, maybe) Catherine Crabill Crazy!!!" Here's the latest from her Facebook page, in reaction to this article in today's Washington Post ("Boycott urged for Muslim imam's prayer in Virginia House"). Take it away - far, far away! - Catherine "Bullet Box" Crabill!
Again, this is a Christian Nation that extends grace to people of other faith's that are not reciprocated to Christians. Just say NO to this blasphemy! Islam is the enemy of liberty, period.

I reject Muslim's offering prayers sanctified by any branch or office of our government. The Koran is the antithesis of liberty. And because of the Christianity of our nation you Muslims have been offered a refuge here that we would NEVER be offered in your world. Please respect OUR faith and OUR heritage just as you would NEVER allow a Christian or Jew to pray in your mosque or place of government which does not offend me.

GOP: Racked by Scandal

Baliles: Cooch's Legal Reasoning Flawed [UPDATE: Two Lies from Cooch]

Former Gov. (and former Attorney General) Gerald Baliles refutes Ken Cuccinelli's legal reasoning on whether Virginia colleges and universities can protect gay students, professors, etc. from discrimination.
The Attorney General’s opinion, in my judgment, erroneously attempts to place colleges and universities into the same category as “local governments,” and therefore, subject to the Dillon Rule’s requirement of operating only within specific enumerated grants of power from the General Assembly.

For years – decades, even –public colleges and universities have operated pursuant to their “own charters.” In the Educational Institutions title of the Virginia Code, the specific statutes creating the Commonwealth’s public colleges and universities, and amended over the years, including recent restructuring legislation, grant very broad powers to presidents and boards of visitors to “make all needful rules and regulations” concerning their operations and to “generally direct the affairs of their institutions.” Thus, unless the General Assembly affirmatively revokes such powers, Virginia’s public colleges and universities may continue to engage in adopting rules and regulations necessary to their operations, including standards of conduct.
In short, we have an Attorney General who, aside from being a raging homophobe, is also ignorant of Virginia law. Great combination, huh?

h/t: Rosalind Helderman at the Virginia Politics Blog

UPDATE #1: The Alexandria City Council weighs in.

UPDATE #2: Cuccinelli makes a couple of claims that are almost certainly not true. First, Cooch that nobody disagrees with his legal reasoning. On this point, see Baliles' opinion above. Second, Cooch repeatedly claims that his office was just answering a question, and that there's no political motivation or anything else in this. The problem is, at least as far as I know, Cooch's office hasn't provided any evidence that it received a request on this subject. If so, I'd love to hear who made that "request," but barring any evidence, my assumption is that Cooch undertook all this on his own initiative.

It's Long Past Time For Federal Student Loan Reform

It's a shocker, I know, but once again it looks like the U.S. Senate - aka, "the place where good legislation goes to die" - is holding up a common-sense reform that already passed the House of Representatives by a wide margin. Courtesy of Matthew Yglesias, here's the current state of play on efforts to reform student loans.
SAFRA, the Democrats’ long-standing and excellent plan to stop giving private student loan agencies a pointless subsidy and plow the savings into expanding the pool of tuition aid, sailed through the House months ago but has been stalled out in the Senate. The problem is that when you combine the 100 percent GOP lockstep opposition to everything with the fact that any effort to curb unjust subsidies hurts a local industry in someone’s state, it’s basically impossible to ever get 60 votes for public interest reform of this sort. The solution is reconciliation, and now it looks like SAFRA will be rolled into the health care reconciliation sidecar.

This is excellent news
...
I agree, that is excellent news, and I would certainly hope to see the Senate pass this soon. Unfortunately, as the New York Times reports, even a "no brainer" (President Obama's words) like taking "billions of dollars from the profits of private lenders and giv[ing] it directly to students" can get hung up in Congress. Why? Follow the money.
Sallie Mae, a publicly traded company that is the nation’s biggest student lender with $22 billion in loans originated last year, led the field in spending $3.48 million in federal lobbying in 2009, an increase from $3.2 million in 2008, and other lenders spent millions of dollars more, according to an analysis prepared for The New York Times by the Center for Responsive Politics.

[...]

“We anticipated this,” Arne Duncan, the education secretary, said of the lending industry’s lobbying efforts. “They’ve had a sweet deal. They’ve had this phenomenal deal that taxpayers have subsidized, and that’s a hard thing to give up.”

Private lenders get a cut of the federally backed loans that they originate and service, with little risk of their own. At Sallie Mae, lobbyists for the firm are focusing on senators regarded as fiscal conservatives, as well as those in states that are home to lending centers with jobs at stake, including Florida, Illinois, Nebraska, New York and Pennsylvania, said John F. Remondi, chief financial officer for the company.
One state not mentioned in the New York Times article is Virginia, headquarters of Sallie Mae (in Reston). Over the years, Sallie Mae has been very generous with its donations, including to Virginia politicians. An interesting sidenote: Karl Rove "calls out" former Rep. Tom Davis "for trying to get Jeanemarie Devolites (now Jeannemarie Devolites Davis) appointed to the board of student loan giant Sallie Mae."). Now, presumably, Sallie Mae wants a quid pro quo - help in stopping legislation that would end the sweetheart deal they've been getting for years.

What piqued my interest in all this, other than the fact that this legislation could be coming up for a vote soon, is this Daily Kos article, which calls out Jim Webb and Mark Warner as "assholes" (his word, NOT mine!) for supposedly being 2 of the 6 Senate Democrats who are "stand[ing] in the way of progressive legislation that would save the federal government $87 billion over a decade and improve life for college students - most particularly, lower-income students." Now, being a Virginia Democrats who strongly supported the election of both Jim Webb and Mark Warner, this made me want to find out more. Last night, I contacted Webb's and Warner's office. As of this morning, I had heard back from Webb's office, but not (yet?) from Warner's. Here's what Webb's office had to say:
The letter simply suggests that reform be considered in a thoughtful manner—mindful of protecting local jobs. The Senators’ letter also acknowledges the need for federal student loan reform to protect tax dollars and enhance higher educational programs. From our standpoint, to suggest anything more is to overstate the intent of the letter.
I'm also told that "[Senator] Webb is 100% committed to education reform." That's good to know, and I hope to see him pushing for this in the near future. I also remain highly interested in hearing what Sen. Warner's office has to say on this subject. I'll let you know if and when I do, but obviously I hope Sen. Warner agrees that it's (long past) time for federal student loan reform.

UPDATE: Here's Mark Warner's statement.
Senator Warner wants to see reasonable and comprehensive reform, maximizing the resources actually available for student loans by streamlining the way we are paying lenders to originate and service these loans. Obviously, he also wants to make sure that we protect as many Virginia jobs as possible in the process. So, to put it simply, Senator Warner joined his colleagues on this letter to clearly state
his commitment to work to make sure that funding, and quality of service, are maintained for those students who rely upon the federal student loan program.

Appalachia Activists Ask Webb to Help End Mountaintop Removal

Cross-posted from The Green Miles

Dozens of activists with the Alliance for Appalachia visited Sen. Jim Webb's office this week, asking him to join their efforts to end mountaintop removal coal mining. The Virginians pictured here were part of a much larger group from across America that was lobbying for change this week on Capitol Hill (more details in the great video at the bottom of this post).

As investigative journalist Jeff Biggers writes at Huffington Post:
Webb's state of Virginia stands on the frontlines of the clean energy and climate debate--and Webb, born fighting for progressive causes in Appalachia and America, now must decide whether he will come to the forefront of the battle for clean energy and an end to deadly coal mining and burning, or quietly watch the fate of his state decided by outside interests.

Every Virginian--and American--needs to call Sen. Webb today to not only support desperately needed clean energy and climate legislation, but to sign on as a co-sponsor with Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander of the Appalachian Restoration Act to end mountaintop removal at Virginia's climate ground zero.
Biggers then quotes from Webb's book, Born Fighting: How the Scots-Irish Shaped America:
The ever hungry industrialists had discovered that West Virginia, eastern Kentucky and southwest Virginia sat atop one huge vein of coal. And so the rape began. The people from the outside showed up with complicated contracts that the small-scale cattle raisers and tobacco farmers could not fully understand, asking for "rights" to mineral deposits they could not see, and soon they were treated to a sundering of their own earth as the mining companies ripped apart their way of life, so that after a time the only option was to go down into the hole and bring the Man his coal, or starve. The Man got his coal, and the profits it brought when he shipped it out. They got their wages, black lung, and the desecration of their land.
You can reach Sen. Webb's DC office at (202)-224-4024.

Northern Virginia Democratic Business Council Fundraiser For Tom Perriello


This looks like a good event, check it out and help reelect Tom Perriello to Congress!

Whipple Clip Dozen: Friday Morning

Thanks to Tom Whipple for the Friday "Clips."

1. FOR MCDONNELL, RIGHTS DIRECTIVE IS 'BALANCING ACT'
2. MCDONNELL: VA. ENERGY GOAL REALISTIC
3. MCDONNELL'S NONDISCRIMINATION DIRECTIVE CARRIES FORCE OF OFFICE, NOT LAW
5. ON-TIME STATE BUDGET LOOKS LESS AND LESS LIKELY
8. DEMOCRATIC LAWMAKERS PRESS MCDONNELL TO PROTECT GAY RIGHTS
9. TRADITIONAL ALLIES AT ODDS OVER CHARTER SCHOOLS
10. MARSH STOOD IN WAY OF PRO-GUN LEGISLATION
12. SENATE STRIPS ANTI-BIAS LANGUAGE FROM BILL
13. PROTESTORS OPPOSE NORTHERN VIRGINIA IMAM SET TO DELIVER HOUSE'S OPENING PRAYER
18. GENERAL ASSEMBLY LAWMAKERS PASS CAR TITLE LENDING REFORM
39. 'WITHERING' REPORT SAYS METRO NEEDS 3 YEARS TO BE TURNED AROUND
41. FAIRFAX, FALLS CHURCH PROPOSE REAL ESTATE TAX RATE HIKES

This Looks Like Fun


Fun, if you're a duck perhaps. By the way, flooding and warmer-than-normal temperatures is evidence neither for nor against global warming. Just thought I'd mention that for all the "skeptics" out there. Heh.

Farris Blasts McDonnell On The "Sin" of Homosexuality

Thursday, March 11, 2010

It looks like Bob McDonnell's "base" isn't happy about his "executive directive" on anti-gay discrimination in state employment.
"I think this action is incredibly disappointing, to the point of being shocking," said Michael P. Farris, the chancellor of Patrick Henry College, a private Christian college in Loudoun County. "The deeper message it sends is that people who think homosexuality is a sin are wrong. They are irrational."

Farris, a lawyer and constitutional scholar who ran for lieutenant governor in 1993, said he thinks McDonnell's policy statement will be used in courts to help challenge Virginia's constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, which McDonnell supported. "I don't think the people advising him were doing anything other than reading polls," Farris said.
In addition to Farris, we've also got "Sideshow" Bob Marshall calling McDonnell's directive no more than "a press release with fluff around it" and Virginia Cobb of the Family Foundation declaring that "adding additional classes of persons to the Commonwealth’s non-discrimination policy is unnecessary."

The bottom line is that McDonnell may have defused this issue with most people, but he doesn't appear to have mollified his "base" in the least. Unfortunately for McDonnell, defusing social issues while not completely pissing off his base is going to represent a continuing, and difficult, challenge on "social issues" like this one, all while he attempts to be the "Bob's for Jobs" governor in the middle of a deep recession. If he can pull all that off, I'll definitely take my hat off to his political skills. If he can't, well, he didn't really want to be president anyway. :)

UPDATE: VA Social Conservative writes, "I also have to side with Dr. Farris in expressing my disappointment in Governor McDonnell. If you can't stand up for traditional values when the law is on your side and the General Assembly is with you, when can you?"

Rep. Perriello on Bill to Create Rural Energy Savings Program


Tom Perriello understands that "the cheapest electricity is the electricity you don't have to buy in the first place, because you are conserving." He also understands that energy "efficiency improvements pay for themselves over time," but that many people can't afford the upfront investment. Hence, Perriello's rural energy savings program to provide low-cost financing. Save money, cut carbon emissions, and create jobs: that's a "win, win, win" right there. Great stuff by one of our country's best young congressmen.

Rachel Maddow on "Executive Directive" vs. "Executive Order"


Sounds awesome, right? Sounds like a man who might want to run as a compassionate conservative at the national level some day. The thing is, the details matter here. In Virginia, an executive directive doesn't have the weight of law behind it like, say, an executive order, which is what he used to rescind gay rights. An executive directive is like a...a request. So Governor McDonnell is basically saying to state agencies, c'mon guys, do me a favor, no gay discrimination ok? It's very convincing coming from him, right?

By the way, according to Howard Fineman of Newsweek, the McDonnell people think they "deftly threaded the needle here." But, as Fineman points out, they may only have "deftly threaded the needle within the confines of the people who vote in Republican primaries in places like Virginia." The real motivation here, according to Fineman, is political - specifically, Bob McDonnell's "national aspirations" and desire to portray himself as a "moderate, compassionate conservative." How McDonnell's going to reconcile that with Ken Cuccinelli and the other "social conservatives" is beyond me, but it should be an interesting next four years.

CBO: Senate Health Reform Bill REDUCES Deficit $118 Billion

From the Congressional Budget Office a bit earlier today:
[Congressional Budget Office] and [Joint Committee on Taxation] now estimate that, on balance, the direct (mandatory) spending and revenue effects of enacting H.R. 3590 as passed by the Senate would yield a net reduction in federal deficits of $118 billion over the 2010–2019 period. (Direct spending—as distinguished from discretionary spending—is spending that stems from legislation other than appropriation acts.) In our earlier estimate, the budgetary impact was a net reduction in deficits of $132 billion.
So much for the Republican "argument" that the Senate health reform legislation will increase the deficit. So, what other arguments against this do they have? Other than insane (and, of course, completely false) charges like "death panels" and "government takeover of health care," that is. [cue sound of crickets chirping]

P.S. Let's not forget that a robust public option, which we should certainly have, "provides the largest deficit reduction over 10 years." Remind me again why that isn't in the Senate bill?!? Because Republicans and a few conservadems are against giving people an option, also known as a choice, of a public health care plan along with all the private ones? Oh, horrors! Socialism! Communism! Lions and tigers and bears! Heh.

Stephen Colbert Demonstrates Eric Massa's Non-Sexual "Groping"


Also, check out Tom Toles' cartoon on this topic. As usual, Toles nails it!