A Checklist for Progressives in "Blue" Districts

Monday, February 28, 2011

Recently, two Democratic State Senators from the "bluest" part of Virginia - Arlington and Alexandria, mostly, as well as Falls Church and parts of eastern Fairfax County - announced their retirements after many years of service. Those two Democratic icons are Mary Margaret Whipple (D-31st) and Patricia "Patsy" Ticer (D-30th), and their retirements, after nearly 16 years in office, open up the potential floodgates for anyone and everyone to throw their hats in the ring to succeed them. Basically, if you live in Arlington, Alexandria, or Falls Church and you've ever though about being in the Virginia State Senate, now's your chance!Already, several candidates have announced or are expected to announce shortly for the two seats. In the 30th Senate District, the three candidates are Arlington County School Board member Libby Garvey, Alexandria City Council member Rob Krupicka, and Del. Adam Ebbin (D-49th). In the 31st State Senate District, possibilities include Arlington County Board members Jay Fisette and Barbara Favola, former Lieutenant Governor candidate Mike Signer, Del. Bob Brink (D-48th), Del. Patrick Hope (D-47th), blogger Ben Tribbett, and god knows who else.
Then there's the domino effect, as delegates running for State Senate lead to races for their seats. So far, likely candidates for Adam Ebbin's seat appear to beAlfonso Lopez, Assistant Administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration; Jaime Areizaga-Soto, Senior Attorney Advisor to the Office of the General Counsel at the United States Agency for International Development; and Stephanie Dix Clifford of the Podesta Group. There also are numerous potential candidates to replace either Del. Patrick Hope or Del. Bob Brink, if they choose to run for Sen. Mary Margaret Whipple's seat. In other words, things could be rather hectic in the deep "blue" parts of NOVA in coming months.
With all these possible races coming up, I thought that a checklist of general criteria for progressives, in considering who they might support, would be helpful. Here's what I came up with.
lowkell :: A Checklist for Progressives in "Blue" Districts
1. Just as Republicans expect strong conservatives to be elected from solid "red" districts, Democrats should settle for nothing less than strong progressives from these solid "blue" districts. That's a no-brainer, frankly, given that Democrats are 99% certain to hold these seats.2. Criterion #1 means not only that the candidate(s) are rock-solid on everything progressives care about (note: past voting records, as well as other indications of where they stand on issues, are totally relevant), but they are passionate advocates for everything from environmental protection to clean energy to gay rights to women's reproductive freedom to civil liberties to progressive taxation to workers' rights to civil rights (e.g., restoring ex-felons' rights to vote) name it.  Frankly, there's no reason to compromise on any of these things in deep-blue districts like Arlington and Alexandria, so why should we. Again, though, we don't just want candidates who agree with these positions, we want candidates who intend to fight hard for these positions. No "bumps on a log" or wallflowers or people using this as a stepping stone or career capstone. No thanks.
3. Needless to say, we should demand people who have the utmost integrity. We should also demand people who are running for the "right" reasons - a belief in progressive values, a desire to make a difference, the passion and energy and commitment to do so.
4. We should support candidates who are in touch with, are responsive to, and understand the "grassroots" - online, offline, and hybrid "netroots" Democratic activists. In 2005, for instance, one of the things that caused me to endorse David Englin for House of Delegates was his strong, impressive, grassroots/netroots campaign. I'm looking for the same thing in all of these races, and I believe the rest of us should as well.
4a. Looking at it the other way around - and this one may fall into the "all else being equal category - we should tend to be less supportive of candidates who have mainly been part of an insular clique or "club," who have mainly been "top down" insider types, etc. Personally, I'm looking at who a candidate have endorsed in the past (e.g., Webb or Miller in 2006?), whether I've ever seen them actively volunteering for progressive causes and/or on the blogs, what their attitude is towards progressive activists (warmth? hostility? frostiness?) in determining my level of support (or opposition) to that candidates.
5. Finally, I believe we should be looking for people who want to shake things up a bit (or more than a bit) in Richmond, who might have a bit of a rebellious streak in them, and who won't just meekly go along with whatever "leadership" - or powerful interest groups, lobbyists, corporations, etc. - tells them to do.
UPDATE: 6. Progressives should support the best candidate, regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, religion, etc. In the end, I believe that diversity's important in its own right, but I'm also a Martin Luther King person in the sense that I strongly believe people should be judged on the "content of their character," not on their color/religion/orientation/gender/etc.
Anyway, that's my short checklist for criteria I think we should be looking at in considering candidates for "bluer-than-blue" districts like those being vacated by Senators Ticer and Whipple. What would you add? Subtract? Change? Thanks.

Virginia Legislators Announce Formation of Progressive Caucus

Friday, February 25, 2011

The following press release is from Del. Patrick Hope's office. Honestly, I'm not sure what to make of this exactly. First of all, I'm not sure I understand why certain members are on this list and why many others aren't (e.g., where's Chap Petersen, who's been one of the most progressive members of the Senate over the past few years?). I presume there will be additions in the future, but how about subtractions, let's say if a particular member does something particularly anti-progressive (e.g., votes for Bob Marshall's "Health Care Freedom Act," appears at a Tea Party convention on an Americans for Prosperity-sponsored panel, etc.)? Is there any discipline to this caucus, any criteria, or are members just anyone who says "sign me up?" If so, then I'm dubious. I guess my question is, what exactly is the intended objective of this caucus, what does it hope to accomplish exactly? We'll see how it unfolds, and overall I believe that Patrick Hope deserves credit for organizing it. But...color me skeptical, especially in light of the numerous legislative debacles we saw unfold this past General Assembly session.
Legislators Announce Formation of Progressive CaucusRichmond - This morning, a group of legislators gathered to announce the formation of a Progressive Caucus in the Virginia General Assembly. At the announcement, Delegate Patrick Hope (D-Arlington) said, "Progressive values are Virginia values. Families across the Commonwealth want their legislature to focus on issues that matter to them." Delegate Hope continued, "The Progressive Caucus serves to fight for the interests of the average citizen and to educate the public on Progressive issues. "
His colleague, Delegate Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria) added, "While Virginia can be slow to change, we have to keep pace with the times when it comes to issues like stem cell research, global warming and society's attitudes towards gays and lesbians. As progressives, it is important that we stand together as we work to move Virginia forward."
Delegate David Englin (D-Alexandria) stated, "It's time for progressive legislators to organize and work together to advance the progressive values that we share, so we can keep our Commonwealth moving toward that day when every person - including the poor, the elderly, the week, the dispossessed - has a fair shake and an equal shot at the American dream."
Senator McEachin (D-Henrico) concluded the press conference. "We standing here today believe that Virginians are fair and open-minded and want a Commonwealth that reflects those values. We will work together to improve the environment, support a strong, vibrant, quality, twenty-first century, public education system for all our children, devise and implement a long-term transportation program including a critical component of mass transit and of updated  infrastructure, create good-paying jobs and provide all Virginians equal opportunity, justice and fairness."

Sen. Mary Margaret Whipple Announces Her Retirement

I've been hearing this rumor for months (actually years) now, but today it's official: State Senator Mary Margaret Whipple (D-Arlington) is retiring. Here's Del. Patrick Hope's (D-Arlington) statement.
Today, we honor the service of one of Arlington's most dedicated and admired public servants.  I know I join Arlingtonians in thanking Senator Mary Margaret Whipple for over three decades of hard work, dedication, and service.  She will surely be missed but her legacy will be long-lasting, not only to her constituents but to our entire great Commonwealth.My wife, Kristen, and I wish her and her husband, Tom, the very best in their future endeavors as they travel and enjoy time with their daughters and grandchildren.
According to Project Vote Smart, Whipple had a 100% pro-choice rating, a 100% Equality Virginia rating, a 100% AFL-CIO rating, and an "F" from the NRA. Sadly, Whipple exits following a harsh blow to reproductive freedom in Virginia, sustained yesterday in the State Senate as Republicans pulled off a last-minute sneak play. Not the greatest note to say goodbye, but I wish Mary Margaret Whipple a happy retirement, and thank her for her service. Now, I expect a multi-candidate race for her seat, the only question being how many.P.S. Names I've heard mentioned as possible candidates for this seat include Bob Brink, Patrick Hope, Barbara Favola, Mike Signer, Alan Howze, and a cast of thousands! :)
P.P.S. My attitude towards open seats in "blue" districts is simple: get the strongest, most progressive candidate elected. Period. Why wouldn't we? That's what conservatives do in "red" districts; we should settle for no less.
UPDATENicholas Benton points out that Mary Margaret Whipple was the "lst woman to hold a leadership position in State Legislature."

Progressive Blogs Sell Out To Big Oil

Thursday, February 24, 2011

by The Green Miles

If you're not familiar with dirty Canadian tar sands, let me give you a quick rundown of the process & where things stand right now:
  1. Canadian tar sands company TransCanada bulldozes the pristine forest to dig up tar sands, oil mixed with dirt. Leftover sludge is dumped into "tailings ponds" where it kills thousands of birds.
  2. The mining & refining process releases three times the global warming pollution compared to conventional oil
  3. TransCanada is currently pressuring the Obama administration to let it build a new Keystone XL tar sands pipeline to deliver its dirty fuel to the Gulf Coast, where it would be refined & shipped with no guarantee the oil would be sold to American consumers. What would be guaranteed? Massive profits for Koch Industries.
  4. Homeowners along the proposed pipeline route have already gotten a menacing letter from TransCanada warning eminent domain could be used to seize their homes if they don't sell out now (where's the Tea Party eminent domain anger on this?)
  5. Here's the kicker: The tar sands pipeline would actually increase gas prices in the Midwest
So how are national progressive blogs reacting to the story? By cashing in.
TheGreenMiles :: Progressive Blogs Sell Out To Big Oil
DailyKos sold its top-of-page banner and its wallpaper to TransCanada today:

Talking Points Memo sold a banner, the wallpaper AND an inset ad above its top story:

FireDogLake sold TransCanada its banner to go along with not one but three BP inset ads on its front page:

Even the Center for American Progress - a progressive nonprofit - has a BP inset ad on

Worth mentioning that Huffington Post right now doesn't have any ads from TransCanada or BP. If you see any other TransCanada ads on progressive blogs I've missed, email me.
As a friend told me today, "When you're spending $11 billion on a house, loose change can buy a lot of wallpaper." What I don't understand is why progressive blogs think it's OK to cash checks from people who make their money by destroying our air, water & wildlife.
Before your blood stops boiling, be sure to ask the Obama administration to say no to tar sands.

Major Cuccinelli Contributor Robbed Virginians of $2 Million

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The following press release is from DPVA Communications Director Brian Coy. For more on the stench of corruption coming from Ken Cuccinelli's office, click here.
Richmond, VA - The Office of Consumer Affairs within the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Forestry announced this week the results of an investigation into the activities of a fake charity that defrauded Virginians. The report states that Virginia residents donated more than $2 million to U.S. Navy Vets, an organization that is under investigation in at least six states for defrauding donors.The organization's director, a man using the name Bobby Thompson, donated $55,000 to the campaign of Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli. Thompson has since disappeared after an Ohio grand jury indicted him on charges of corruption and theft. After the news of Thompson's illegal activity surfaced, Cuccinelli refused for months to donate the campaign cash before finally succumbing to public pressure.
"The Office of Consumer Affairs deserves credit for pinning down the amount of money that Bobby Thompson and U.S. Navy Vets stole from Virginians who thought they were supporting service men and women," said DPVA Communications Director Brian Coy. "We should all remember Ken Cuccinelli's attempt to move the Office of Consumer Affairs from the Department of Agriculture and Forestry into his own office. Had he been successful, he would have been solely responsible for investigating the fraud and illegal activity of his second largest campaign donor.
"No proof has surfaced that Cuccinelli wanted to move the office in order to shield Bobby Thompson and U.S. Navy Vets, but it is troubling that he called Thompson and asked him for donations, received $50,000 and then held a press conference three weeks later in support of a proposal that would have given him direct control over Thompson's investigation in Virginia.
"Given the questions surrounding his relationship to this organization, the best way to preserve the public trust would be for Ken Cuccinelli to appoint an independent prosecutor to pursue this criminal and bring him to justice. He should also welcome an independent audit of his office in order to give Virginia taxpayers full confidence that their Attorney General did not engage in inappropriate behavior in this matter."
I couldn't agree more. Ken Cuccinelli is the LAST person on earth who should be handling this matter, as he himself is implicated in it.

Time To Expand Virginia General Assembly's Session?

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Virginia's Capitolby The Green Miles

As another General Assembly session flies by with members often seemingly unclear on what they're voting on, the Washington Post's Robert McCartney says it's time to permanently extend the GA session length:
[L]awmakers acknowledge they feel rushed. The House of Delegates has limited the number of bills that an individual member can submit in years with brief sessions. (The maximum length of a session is 60 days in odd years and 90 in even ones.)

"The pressure is tremendous. It's a really difficult task to deal with the volume of legislation that we have, particularly in these short sessions," [Sen. R. Edward] Houck said in an interview.

Moreover, the limits on public hearings and debate make it easier for special interests to wield influence. It often happens that the key decisions on legislation have been made before the hearings take place, in conversations between legislators and lobbyists.
Lowell has also written on the need to extend session. And while we're at it, why don't we also:
  • Allow governors to serve two consecutive terms (Virginia is the only state in the country with a one-term limit) 
  • Raise General Assembly members' annual salary above the absurdly-low $17,640 (you shouldn't get rich of public service, but it shouldn't be a financial burden, either)
  • Ban the embarrassing practice of accepting unlimited gifts from lobbyists (and yes, I'd rather they just take a check than make it look like they can be bought off with Redskins tickets)
If you could change anything about the way Richmond works, what would you do?

In Arlington, Worker Bee Pleads Guilty, Republican Campaign Manager Goes Scot-Free?

Monday, February 21, 2011

Remember the complete and utter fiasco known as the Arlington "change of government" petition, sponsored by something called the "Committee for a Better Arlington?" Well, now one of the petition collectors has pled guilty to voter fraud:
William Cockerham pleaded guilty in Arlington Circuit Court yesterday, the Washington Post first reported. He was accused of making false statements on a required form, a form of voter fraud.As an ex-con, Cockerham was ineligible to sign as a witness on petition forms. Nonetheless, prosecutors say he signed off on forms that he circulated and on forms that other people circulated, which is also prohibited.
At the time, Cockerham was working for a Colorado-based firm called Signature Masters, which had been hired by Arlington's police and firefighter associations to thousands of gather signatures in order to get a proposal to change Arlington's form of government on the ballot. So far, the company's managers have not been accused of criminal wrongdoing.
So here are my two main problems with this: 1) I don't believe that someone's status as an EX-convict (did their time, paid their debt to society, now free) should continue to be held against them, whether it's the right to vote or the right to collect petition signatures; and 2) I find it utterly unfair, offensive, and even outrageous that the worker bee(s) who were directed (and paid a pittance) to collect these petition signatures are in trouble, while "the company's managers have not been accused of criminal wrongdoing.  Sorry, but that is not the way it's supposed to work in America, let alone in (generally) progressive Arlington County.Oh, by the way, the campaign manager for this absurd petition drive was an individual named Dena Kozanas, who "did double-duty as a notary for more than half the submitted petition sheets, in violation of the conflict-of-interest provision in the code of conduct for notaries in the state of Virginia." Clearly - and at the bare minimum - Kozanas must have been well aware of the fraud that was being perpetrated by the worker bees reporting to her. Yet, she's off scot-free?  Not only that, but Kozanas was elected (in April 2010, at the same time that the change-of-government petition effort was gearing up) to the  "Leadership Team for the 2010-2012 cycle" for the Fairfax County Republican Committee. In her Republican leadership role, Kozanas serves as "FCRC Membership Services Committee." I wonder if that includes collecting petition signatures. (snark) I also wonder if that includes going to bat for her former employees, now in serious trouble for efforts conducted under her supervision. (more snark)
P.S. Great reporting by ArlNow, which by far and away provides the best coverage of Arlington. Basically, if you want to know what's happening in Arlington, read ArlNow!

If You Think Coal is Ugly, How About Coal and Poverty?

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Yesterday on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives, Morgan Griffith (R-09), did exactly what you'd expect a puppet of Big Coal to do. In a laughably lame speech, filled with distortions and ignorance of all sorts (e.g., scientific, economic, environmental), Griffith argued for weakening laws and regulations protecting water quality against arsenic, lead, mercury, and other nasty stuff that results from "mountaintop removal mining." and that poisons the streams and rivers - and people - of his region. As JW Randolph of Appalachian Voices points out, Griffith's Amendment #109 "would defund EPA’s authority to implement its recent guidance regarding mountaintop removal, which protects American citizens and Appalachian headwater streams from toxic mountaintop removal mining waste." J.W. Randolph continues:
But why is it so important that we stand up and oppose rolling back citizen protections that could streamline and deregulate mountaintop removal? Here is an example of the water running through Congressman Morgan Griffith’s district in beautiful southwestern Virginia. As a result of mountaintop removal mining, more than 2000 miles of headwater streams in Appalachia have been buried. As you can see, this horrible water containing arsenic, lead, mercury, selenium, and a host of other heavy metals and chemicals not only affects the incredible Appalachian ecosystems, but it also directly impacts tap water.
Look at that water, mixed with toxic substances. Imagine an America where water everywhere looked like that. Now imagine if the coal companies and their lapdogs - people like Morgan Griffith - get their way. That's right, water quality just like that could be coming to a stream, river, or tap near you. Don't let them do it. Now, with regard to Griffith's bizarre claim that if we keep water clean for people to drink, it will mean unemployment in coal country, I refer you to a couple of studies. First, see here for a ranking of Virginia's congressional districts by health and well being of the population. Note that Morgan Griffith's district, which he claims will be plunged into poverty if mountaintop removal coal mining operations are not allowed to poison water in the region, is ranked #410 (out of 435 congressional districts) in the country overall, including #434 in physical health, #432 in emotional health, and #373 in "life evaluation." Yeah, coal's really brought health and prosperity to Appalachia, huh? Not. Now, see this study by two professors at West Virginia University, entitled, "Mortality in Appalachian Coal Mining Regions: The Value of Statistical Life Lost." The bottom line: the health impacts and cost of lives lost due to coal operations in Appalachia total around $42 billion every single year, in that region alone. Furthermore, the heaviest coal-mining regions of Appalachia are worse off in every way compared to the below-median coal-mining regions, and even more so compared to the rest of the country. That's right, the areas with the most mountaintop removal coal mining are worse off in just about every way - health, education, poverty, environmental conditions, unemployment, mortality - than other areas of Appalachia with less mountaintop removal coal mining. In statistics, that's what is known as "a strong correlation." In the vernacular, it's what is known as "really bad," "truly nasty," and "a powerful rebuttal to anyone who claims that coal can be 'clean!'" Finally, check out this recent Harvard study, which finds that the "Full Cost Accounting For the Life Cycle Of Coal" adds up to a huge, whopping $500 billion - in public health costs, "the cost of toxic waste spills and cleanup," and many other "hidden costs." Costs such as poisoning the water with arsenic, lead, mercury, and other nasty stuff that's toxic to people, wildlife, and pretty much everything else. Except, of course, to the coal companies and their lackeys in Congress, who love being able to do what they will on public lands, to trash ecosystems with absolute impunity, and to destroy the economy of "coal country" while racking up huge profits for themselves. As Jim Webb wrote on "Born Fighting", this is how it worked back then, and how it still works today:
The people from the outside showed up [in Appalachian coal country] with complicated contracts...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...Coal made this part of Appalachia a poverty-stricken basket case while the rest of the mountain region remained mired in isolation.
In sum, to paraphrase Morgan Griffith's fallacious words on the floor of the House of Representatives yesterday, "if you think coal is ugly, how about coal and poverty?"

Mark Warner: Time for a "Grand Bargain" on the Budget Deficit

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

I mostly agree with Mark Warner on this. The fact is, there is absolutely no way we can tackle the deficit by focusing only, or mostly, on "non-defense discretionary spending." Nor would we want to cut things like Head Start, Pell Grants, veterans and women's health programs, funding for cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay, funding for Metro and other public transit systems, investment in clean energy and high-speed rail, etc, etc. It's pretty much completely counterproductive to do that, and that's not where the big money is anyway. Which is why I agree with Mark Warner that we need to tackle entitlements, defense spending, and other major items in the federal budget pie.Having said all that, I would continue to point out that extension of the Bush tax cuts for a decade cost $4 trillion.  That's a major chunk, right there, of the projected budget deficits over that period. To me, as a progressive, it's absolutely unconscionable - even immoral - to be slashing programs for veterans, children, the environment, clean energy, etc., while we're continuing the foolish Bush tax cuts.  Now, I understand the "art of the possible" politically, and that there's basically no chance that Republican'ts will agree to cut the Bush tax cuts. But that's where the "grand bargain" comes in: you want spending cuts, you've also got to roll back the Bush tax cuts.  Then, we can talk about Medicare, Medicaid, and even Social Security (although that program's really not a part of the problem) - plus military spending, of course. If the Bush tax cuts aren't part of the "grand bargain?" Then it's not much of a "bargain," certainly not "grand," and almost certainly not worth doing.  

Blue Virginia Hits 1 Million Visits!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Not bad, 1 million visits to our little blog in just 2 years. Add that to the 3 million visits RK got, and that's 4 million visits to RK/BV blogs in 5 years. Not too shabby for a state-based progressive blog. Also, thanks to everyone who's been a reader or contributor. We're always looking for talented new progressives from all over the Commonwealth to join us. If you're interested, drop me a line at Thanks again.P.S. Wouldn't it be great if everyone revealed their actual traffic stats in an "apples-to-apples" way, via Sitemeter or Google Analytics, instead of citing completely unreliable proxies (stuff like incoming links, etc., since they don't have access to actual traffic stats) like Alexa or Compete or whatever? Many Virginia blogs - NLSThe Green MilesNOVA CommonSenseMoonhowlingsBearing Drift, and some I won't link to - do have public Sitemeters, but many others don't (or have Sitemeter but don't reveal it publicly). To each their own, I guess, but I've always thought this was an interesting thing to look at, and to let everyone else look at. How about you?

Thanks, Jim Webb

Thursday, February 10, 2011

by Elaine in Roanoke

While we all are speculating about who will be the Democratic nominee for senator in 2012, I decided to pause a bit and recall my most vivid memories from the 2006 Webb campaign, a campaign that started out as a long shot, not one not at all sure of victory, but one filled with grassroots and netroots energy and optimism.  The first time I met Jim Webb was early in the campaign at a Roanoke Valley picnic. There were about 100 of us Democrats there. Jim Webb arrived in his vehicle with its camouflage paint job. As Webb stood by waiting to be introduced, I was struck by how he seemed ill at ease and concluded then and there that he was an introvert for whom such events could not be easy. However, when he took the microphone and began to talk, he readily warmed to his task, especially when he told us, with great pride in his voice, why he was wearing combat boots in honor of his son serving in Iraq.
At that same picnic I first met and chatted with Mac McGarvey, Webb's radio operator in Vietnam who left his small business in Tennessee and came to Virginia to volunteer as Webb's driver. Mac lost his right arm above the elbow in combat, and Webb introduced Mac to the crowd and told us about a tattoo Mac had put on that arm. It was a dotted line that had the words, "Cut along dotted line," above it. Mac and Jim Webb had that bond that is only shared by those who have served together in combat. (Mac became Sen. Webb's liaison for veteran's affairs.)
Jim Webb was at his best at all the events I attended as the campaign progressed when he told us his common-sense, genuinely populist program, the reasons he wanted to be a senator. That was a textbook example of what far too few politicians do: tell voters why they should vote for him/her.
So, what are your favorite memories?

Federal Taxes at Lowest Level in 61 Years

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

So much for "taxed enough already."
Taxes too high?Actually, as a share of the nation's economy, Uncle Sam's take this year will be the lowest since 1950, when the Korean War was just getting under way.
And for the third straight year, American families and businesses will pay less in federal taxes than they did under former President George W. Bush, thanks to a weak economy and a growing number of tax breaks for the wealthy and poor alike.
Income tax payments this year will be nearly 13 percent lower than they were in 2008, the last full year of the Bush presidency. Corporate taxes will be lower by a third, according to projections by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.
Again, let's emphasize this point, because by the sound of most political rhetoric these days, you'd think it was the exact opposite: federal taxes are now the LOWEST in 61 years, since before the vast majority of Americans were born. And yet, somehow, Teapublicans claim our budget deficits are all because we "spend too much?" So much for that crazy thing called "reality." Also, can Democrats and whatever sane Republicans are left kingly stop reinforcing the absurd "frame" that we are "burdened" with taxes and need "relief," when in fact the exact opposite is true by U.S. historic standards?  Thank you.

Webb Out. Now What?

Oh, wonderful.
It has been a great and continuing privilege to serve in the United States Senate. I am very proud of my talented and dedicated staff, which has worked tirelessly to resolve the issues on which I based my candidacy, and to protect the interests of all Virginians in this national forum. Among other contributions we have given our Post- 9/11 veterans the best GI Bill since World War Two; we have taken the lead in reforming our criminal justice system; we have led the way toward stronger relations in East and Southeast Asia; and we have been a strong voice in calling on China to act more responsibly in the world community. We will continue to work on these and other issues throughout the rest of my term.However, after much thought and consideration I have decided to return to the private sector, where I have spent most of my professional life, and will not seek re-election in 2012.
Notwithstanding this decision, I have every intention of remaining involved in the issues that affect the well-being and the future of our country.
First, thanks to Jim Webb for his service to our country over the course of his life, including the past 4 years in the U.S. Senate. Second, despite my differences with Webb on energy and environmental issues, I'm overall bummed - and surprised, as I really thought he'd end up running - to hear this news. Third, now we need to find a strong candidate to run in 2012; draft Tom Perriello (or will Tim Kaine end up running)? Fourth, I've really got to digest this...what do you all think?P.S. There are also rumors floating around, hopefully untrue, that this is why Kaine and Warner backed Brian Moran for DPVA chair. Supposedly, under at least one version of this theory - and I've heard numerous ones - Moran agreed that he'd go for a primary rather than a caucus, so that Tim Kaine had a better chance of beating Tom Perriello. I dunno, sounds incredibly Machiavellian to me, but you never know in politics I guess...
UPDATE: One more thought for now -- THANK YOU to everyone in Jim Webb's "ragtag army," you guys totally rock and should hold your heads extremely high for what you did in 2006. Now, it's time to take that "army" and put it to work electing the best possible Democrat to the U.S. Senate from Virginia in 2012.
UPDATE #2Chris Cillizza writes, "It is [Tim] Kaine who may hold the key to Democrats' hopes of holding the state." Cillizza adds, "If Kaine sticks to his 'no', then Democrats will likely turn to former Rep. Tom Perriello...a favorite of the White House thanks to his willingness to vote for things like health care and the economic stimulus package despite the swing nature of his district." If not Kaine or Perriello, then who? Cillizza mentions Rick Boucher and Gerry Connolly. Stay tuned...
UPDATE #3CNN reports, "Two former House members, though, appear very serious about the seat, according to conversations with various Virginia Democrats: former Reps. Tom Perriello and Glenn Nye." Uh, let's just put a stop to the latter rumor right now - absolutely NO to Glenn Nye. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No.

Virginia General Assembly vs. Humane Society

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Thanks to NLS for alerting me to a bad situation in the Virginia General Assembly. A bad situation, that is, if you agree with the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) that laws against animal abuse and cruelty should be strengthened not weakened. Thus, the HSUS has urged Virginia lawmakers to OPPOSE HB 2482 ("seeks to prevent humane officers from seizing animals being neglected and instead mandates that these animals be left in the care of those who neglected them") and to OPPOSE S.B. 1026/H.B. 1541 ("has been introduced with the support of agriculture special interest groups with the intent of removing farm animals from the cruelty code. It could negatively impact countless farm animals, including horses."). Here's the current status of the bills in question:*SB 1026 passed the Agriculture, Conservation and Natural Resources Committee by a 13-2 vote, with only Donald McEachin and Chap Petersen voting "nay."
*HB 1541 actually passed the House of Delegates by a 98-0 vote, apparently on an "uncontested" bloc. WTF?
*HB 2482, which the HSUS urged be OPPOSED, was indeed "laid on the table" (aka, killed), in the House Subcommittee on agriculture.
That's good news, apparently, on HB 2482, which as Waldo Jaquith points out on Richmond Sunlight, "On the Richmond SPCA's blog, they argue that {HB 2482} would undo twenty years of progress for abused animals."
As for S.B. 1026/H.B. 1541, this seems to be yet another case of our part-time, citizen-legislators not having a clue what they're even voting on in a session that is extremely short (by the standards of most states in this country, let alone one the size of Virginia) and crammed with hundreds of bills to consider on every subject under the sun. As I discussed the other day, this is an issue that keeps coming up in my conversations with Virginia General Assembly members. In short, the concern is that legislators have no time to really know what's going on or to understand the bills members are voting on, but that people who do understand are the lobbyists, who spend all their time, year 'round, on their specific issue(s). Which is exactly why, in a case like this, legislators should - at the minimum - pay attention to what respected groups like the HSUS are saying about their relevant issue(s). Of course, if the legislation's labeled as "uncontested," it will most likely just slip through without scrutiny, usually on unanimous votes. In the case of S.B. 1026/H.B. 1541, that appears to be exactly what's happened. Not good at all, certainly not for the animals but also not for what it says about our legislature here in Virginia.

Forget "Red" or "Blue" Virginia, How About "Brown" Virginia?

Friday, February 4, 2011

A few years ago, Richard Rodriguez wrote a book entitled, "Brown: The Last Discovery of America." In an interview on the PBS NewsHour, Rodriguez explained, "when I speak of the brown in America, of America, I mean the mixing of all of us." Rodriguez added that this used to be "a black-and-white country," but that "Hispanics were suddenly announced by the Richard Nixon a new minority," along with Asians, and "We were suddenly... there was suddenly these new colors -- not simply white, black, but also red, yellow, brown."Last night and this morning, as I looked at the new Census numbers for Virginia, I thought of Richard Rodriguez and his book, "Brown." Along these lines,NLS has been looking at the numbers, and what he's found is fascinating. For instance, that "[a]t the current rate, Virginia will be a majority-minority state by the 2030 census. Much quicker than was expected." Also, that "Over 60% of Virginians under the age of 18 are non-white according to the 2010 census." And finally, that "When I say majority-minority in total growth I mean growth in all groups besides whites and [H]ispanics. That's AfrAmer, Asians and Multirace."
In other words, Virginia is turning "Brown" before our eyes, and at an extremely rapid pace. That's fascinating in and of itself, as is watching the desperate, futile reaction by (mostly) Republicans to try and hold back the tidal wave (e.g., see Stewart, Corey and his infamous, Orwellian "Rule of Law" resolution in Prince William County). Of course, this is a progressive political blog, so of course we care about the political implications of Virginia's changing demographics. I've got a few thoughts on that after the "flip."
lowkell :: Forget "Red" or "Blue" Virginia, How About "Brown" Virginia?
The question is, as Virginia moves from "white" and "black" to Richard Rodriguez's "brown," what does that indicate for whether Virginia goes "red," "purple," or "blue" politically? Obviously, if current voting patterns hold, it's not good news for Republicans, as "brown" people tend to vote Democratic, usually by large if not enormous majorities. Thus, according to Pew, "Hispanics voted for Democrats Barack Obama and Joe Biden over Republicans John McCain and Sarah Palin by a margin of more than two-to-one in the 2008 presidential election, 67% versus 31%." Also in 2008, 96% of African Americans voted Democratic. Finally, Asian Americans went 62%-35% Democratic in 2008. In fact, whites were the only major racial or ethnic group to vote Republican in 2008, by a 55%-43% margin, but that wasn't nearly enough to overcome the enormous edge Obama racked up over McCain among "brown" America.But wait, you ask, what about 2009 and 2010, when Republicans won big, why did that happen if "brown" is going "blue?" Simple: because political participation among non-whites is lagging the (rapid) growth in their population, in states ranging from California to Texas to Virginia. Add to that the "enthusiasm gap" of 2009-2010, as well as a natural snapback from huge Democratic gains of 2005-2008, and that largely explains what happened in 2009 and 2010. In short, the key to Republican victories here in Virginia in 2009 and 2010 was that it was a completely different electorate than in 2008 - whiter, older (because young people - many if not most of whom are "brown" - also are trending strongly Democratic), less urban, and therefore more conservative and more Republican. If 2009 and 2010 had had the same electorate as 2008, the results would have been wildly different.
Eventually, of course, voter participation rates between "white" and "brown" are likely to converge, not just in "presidential" election years but also in "midterm" or even "off-off years" (e.g., 2011 and 2013 in Virginia). At that point, Virginia will be highly unlikely to be a "red" state (except, of course, in the unlikely event that Republicans drastically change their approach to issues of concern to African Americans, Hispanics, and Asians) and probably not even "purple," but more likely a "blue" or "purplish-blue" Virginia that is simultaneously "brown." I, for one, believe that day can't come soon enough.

The For-Profit Education Cesspool

by Dan Sullivan

Harris Miller's handy-work is churning away under the surface. Thousands and thousands of Americans who will never benefit from their matriculation at for-profit colleges are receiving their Form 1098-Ts unaware of the long-term damage to their futures. They've been sold a pig-in-a-poke; financially shackled for the remainders of their lives.It is disheartening that so many can be led to the slaughter so unawares. The purveyors of illusion didn't learn their grift attending classes at the "colleges" they are selling and those "colleges" won't provide the skills necessary to recognize the fraud being perpetrated on them. On the other hand, the victims never learned to be critical thinkers in their more traditional K through X experiences either.
Recently I crossed paths with a police Captain whose subordinate in the force had been teaching criminal justice courses in a Virginia Beach "for-profit" institution. On occasion, the moonlighting officer asked him to guest lecture. When he wasn't invited for a period, he sought out the officer to find out why. Turned out that the officer had realized an ethical quandary concerning the additional income. The majority of the students in the classes were felons or otherwise disqualified for police service; many would never ever be allowed past the front desk of a station except for booking. The officer could not go on playing a role in this tragedy.  
Dan Sullivan :: The For-Profit Education Cesspool
Two days ago I met a fellow who was having his taxes prepared. You might not know this, but with no income at all, you can get $1,000 from good old Uncle Sam simply by filing a tax return. You just have to be "furthering your education" and paying for the classes. "Paying" for the classes. This fellow had a little income (very little) and he was having his taxes prepared. He'd brought his 1098-T; didn't know what it was, but it looked important. The preparer asked some questions. The form is difficult enough to interpret and schools do not consistently report information. But what was clear was that the individual had borrowed money to pay for the portion not covered by grants and "scholarships." He never understood the paperwork "admissions" prepared for him and he'd signed. He'd executed a federally guaranteed student loan for the balance of the tuition not covered by those scholarships and grants (probably using up any Pell money he'd ever receive) without even realizing it. Of course, until he completes the "education" and he receives the first monthly bill, it won't be clear. But at least he was going to get a "free" $1,000 out of the deal from Uncle. Well, the portion of it not taken for tax preparation fees.Then there is the grandmother raising two grandchildren on her own. Her daughter is a good girl who just fell in with the wrong crowd. She was striving at this late point in life to "better" herself. Responding to a slick mailer from a school that offered hope for a new career, she began a "nursing" program. She doesn't understand that the term "nurse" covered any of a number of employment positions that would never pay enough to return her investment in time or money. She may not even live long enough to pay off the student loans even if she makes the payments for the rest of her life.
Sure, there are many who have other avenues to pay for their adventures in the free market education sector. They can squander their post 9/11 GI Bill benefits on dreams that take you from ZERO TO BACHELOR'S IN 2.5. A most sought after sheepskin, you hear about job applicants embellishing their resumes with fraudulent claims of an ECPI degree all the time. Oh, I guess not. Anyway, like Pell grants, once the GI benefits are used, they are forever gone. In this case, into the coffers and pockets of the for-profit "college" grifters.
Harris Miller is a prince of the industry, but there is plenty of "credit" to go around. There is a growing underclass of Americans. Our history is littered with tales of labor abuse of the defenseless members of this class. Financial abuse of the underprivileged is a modern concept enabled by faulty public policy and even faultier representation. Anyone involved in this industry is tainted by the scum in this cesspool. Their victims are drowning in it.
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