President Obama on Debt Ceiling Negotiations; My Reaction/Rant

Friday, July 29, 2011

So, here's what frustrates me about all this. President Obama, since the beginning of his presidency, has bent over backwards - DOUBLE backwards, actually - to reach out to Republicans, to listen to their ideas, to compromise progressive principles in order to try and get some - ANY! - Republican support for whatever he was trying to accomplish. And the result, time and again? The Republicans have slapped his hand away, spat in his face, kicked him in the crotch, and whatever other metaphor you care to use to describe "worked to make sure they defeated him." What did that strategy get us? For starters, it got us a stimulus that was far too small and not structured properly to do the job, as Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman has explained over and over again. Then, it got us endless delays, for no good reason, in passing a health care reform package. Then, even when we DID finally manage to pass a health care reform package, it was watered down from what it should have been (single payer - no; public option - no), and it took up half of Obama's presidency, AND the Teapublican'ts hated it even though it was basically the Republican alternative to "Hillarycare" in 1993/1994 (including the REPUBLICAN idea of an "individual mandate"). On cap-and-trade, which was also originally a Republican idea, what did Obama get for adopting it, as opposed to the far simpler idea of a revenue-neutral carbon tax? Zip (actually, they demonized their own idea by absurdly calling it "cap and tax") On and on we go. Comprehensive immigration reform? Nada. A simple increase in the debt ceiling, as has been done hundreds of times before? Nope. Political success, at least? I refer you to the results of the November 2010 elections, and to President Obama's current Gallup poll numbers. In sum, the repeated attempt to compromise with unreasonable, extreme Teapublican'ts has gotten us two things: 1) bad policy; and 2) bad political results. I mean, how much do they pay President Obama's political "experts" to give him this "advice?" I don't know, but I'll tell you what their advice is worth: ZERO.

Warner's Webb of Drilling Mania

Monday, July 25, 2011

by Progressive86

Nothing says I care about environmental health more than another big oil and gas rig planted serenely in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. What beauty, you might be thinking! What elegance! Look as the infrastructure corrodes and this giant's legs rust and grow barnacles with each passing week. What visual splendor!
Of course, think of the view those marine animals must have. Aren't you jealous? I'd imagine the feeling is akin to having an individual Eiffel Tower being placed over my home. Wouldn't you be thrilled? Think of the economic benefits, after all!
The first two paragraphs were satirical. But what many of us turn a blind eye to everyday is no laughing matter. Senators Webb and Warner have not assured Virginians that safety issues aboard oil and gas rigs have been appropriately addressed (when that unimportant little incident in the Gulf of Mexico is even mentioned these days), and yet the gallant efforts for more oil and gas in the Atlantic continues.
I won't purport to be an expert on rig safety just as I won't allow myself to be played for a political foul. Safety measures cost time and money, in some cases, a lot of time and money. And we all know how the game of capitalism has worked in the U.S.: make profits and then make some more, even if it means cutting necessary safety corners.
Maybe Virginians like to drill holes in the ground, period. Not only do Virginia's political "leaders" want to drill holes in the Atlantic, they want to drill holes in southern Virginia. And I'm not even mentioning the preexisting holes that have been drilled in Virginia's soil.
So what, you might gab back? In the case of the Atlantic Ocean in particular, drilling holes stands to create a complex host of effects for marine animals living in the area, effects that are still unknown to many scientists and policy "experts." What's the value of disrupting and possible eliminating any number of marine species? Of course, this outcome may or may not happen, but are we really willing to chance it for questionable amounts of oil and gas resources?
Between Senator Webb's history writing adventures and Senator Warner's grand visions of becoming president, Virginia seems to have lost its progressive leadership. Maybe it was never truly there to begin with. Or maybe our politicians have themselves been worn down by the political process. Any way you spin the bottle, the results may be the same: a grim future for Virginia's environmental integrity and ecosystem sustainability.  

Barbara Favola Gets $2.5k Donation, Votes 5 Days Later to Give Towing Industry $250k More per Year

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

I could have sworn that Arlington County Board member Barbara Favola, now a candidate for the 31st Senate District Democratic nomination, has been telling people that she doesn't take money from interests with business before the Arlington County Board. As we know, of course, Favola's campaign is being heavily funded by Arlington real estate interests, on whose projects Favola has voted multiple times in the past, and very well could vote again in the future.But be that as it may; we've been over that real estate example again and again, and we're probably all getting tired of it by now.
So, let's move on to a different example: this one in which Barbara Favola received a significant sum ($2,500) of money from an industry (towing) and specifically from a company - Advanced Towing Company, which apparently is not fined for violations in Arlington County) - just 5 days before a crucial vote on an important change in fees and other rules governing that industry and to that company.
Please click to "embiggen" both images. First is a screen shot of the $2,500 donation from Advanced Towing owner John O'Neill to Barbara Favola on April 21, 2011.

Next is a screenshot of Barbara Favola's "aye" vote - actually, she seconded the motion - 5 days after the donation, on April 26, 2011, for the changes in towing fees and rules.
lowkell :: Barbara Favola Gets $2.5k Donation, Votes 5 Days Later to Give Towing Industry $250k More per Year

More information on this vote is listed here. Details on the new towing fees and other regulations that were adopted, 3-2, by the Arlington County Board on April 26, 2011, are available here.
Finally, see here for a detailed story on the vote, including the fascinating detail that "the local towing industry will pocket about a quarter-million dollars in additional revenue each year." The article also has a quote from Walter Tejada, who voted no, calling this "'a very significant hit' for those on fixed incomes."
So, bottom line: Barbara Favola received $2,500 from a towing company, then 5 days later voted for changes in Arlington County fees that netted that company a significant chunk of "about a quarter-million dollars in additional revenue each year."  Can we say, "the appearance of impropriety?" Can we say, "this is EXACTLY why Arlington County board members aren't supposed to take donations like this?" Argh.
UPDATE: Just to get an idea of what people in Arlington think of Advanced Towing, check out Yelp. Typical comment: "Let me join hands with the other wronged souls who pledge alligiance to an eternal vow of justified hatred of the evil enterprise otherwise known as Advanced Towing."

Arlingtonians, Including Rep. Jim Moran, Celebrate Cherrydale Library's 50th Birthday

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Yesterday, the Cherrydale Library in Arlington was packed with more than 100 people (standing room only), celebrating its 50th birthday. I was there mainly because my jazz singer wife, Kelly Brown, was part of the program, singing songs which were popular around 1961. However, I ended up enjoying the entire program, which really was a celebration of books, knowledge, learning and public libraries. As Rep. Jim Moran (D-8th) - who, by the way, is superb when it comes to attending community events like this, staying a long time, and really "getting" what it's all about - articulately explained, many unstable/third world countries around the world don't even have public libraries, "because they see libraries as a source of instability and threat to the control of the people, because where the people are able to read and think and decide on their own, government then has to be responsive." Moran added and important point, that "you can't speak for yourself unless you have a voice that you gained through [the knowledge that comes from reading books]." In addition to Rep. Moran, speakers included Greg Embree of Citizens for Cherrydale Library, which successfully fought to save the library from the budget axe; the library's architect, Judson M. Gardner, who was there with his family to celebrate his accomplishment; Elenor Hodges of Arlingtonians for a Clean Environment, who recognized the library for its energy efficiency; historian Kathyrn Holt Springston, who talked about the building of the library, and what Arlington was like 50 years ago; and Cherrydale Acting Manager Carolyn Barton. The program was put together by GMU Adjunct Professor Lisa Sockett, Michael Gessel and Suzanne Embree, and - last but not least - the birthday cake was donated by the superb Heidelberg Pastry Shoppe, which I highly recommend for great breads, cakes, etc. P.S. Please see the "flip" for more video (including Boy Scout Troop 149 presenting colors and leading the Pledge of Allegiance) and photos from the event! P.P.S. I almost forgot to mention that Del. Bob Brink attended this event.

30th, 31st Senate District Candidates Debate at Arlington County Democratic Committee

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

I just got back from the 30th and 31st State Senate District debates at the Arlington County Democratic Committee (ACDC) meeting in Ballston. I've got a ton of video, which will take a while to process. I've also got some thoughts on the debates. In the meantime, here are Miles Grant's tweets from the debate, which I largely agree with:*"Content of opening statement from @JAreizagaSoto is carbon copy of his announcement speech, but not as well delivered."
*"Opener from @BarbaraFavola was fine but also boilerplate. Save the bay, etc."
*"Opener + 2 questions go by + @JAreizagaSoto still hasn't said 1 difference with @BarbaraFavola."
*"Question on redistricting - neither @JAreizagaSoto nor @BarbaraFavola criticizes atrocious process. Weak."
*"You know it's an exciting @ArlingtonDems debate when I'm RTing a dog in the middle of it."
*"'This can't just be about moving more cars. It has to be about moving more people.' - @JAreizagaSoto. Also calls for gas tax hike."
*"@BarbaraFavola calls for 1 cent gas tax hike. That'll fix everything."
*"Favola vs. Areizaga-Soto not really a debate, more a forum. Probably a draw. Missed chance for Jaime to draw distinctions."
*"Best opening statement of either debate was @RobKrupicka. @LibbyGarvey also really good"
*"@LibbyGarvey on offshore oil drilling: "How short-sighted can we get?"
*"@AdamEbbin calls for ending mountaintop removal coal mining."
*"@AdamEbbin only 1 in either debate to say words "Dick Saslaw". Everyone says they're bold, he's only one to actually BE bold so far"
*"@RobKrupicka criticizes estate tax repeal but doesn't say it was @TimKaine who signed it"
*"ZOMG someone pointed out a difference! Libby jabs Rob on BRAC, though not by name."
*"All 3 candidates in [30th] were more impressive than either candidate in [31st]."
*"RT @dannybarefoot: @RobKrupicka called out @AdamEbbin for voting to repeal the estate tax"
For now, I'd just add that I thought that the format of the debate, and also the questions asked (mostly bland, not pointed, nothing about the hot-buttons that are flying around the campaigns' mailers and in the press), were not especially conducive to fostering a give-and-take between the candidates.
More on the "flip"
lowkell :: 30th, 31st Senate District Candidates Debate at Arlington County Democratic Committee
Still, I felt like candidates, particularly in the 31st, were very much holding back from going after each other. In fact, about the only hard shot I observed was by Libby Garvey against Rob Krupicka in the closing statements, with Garvey strongly criticizing the Alexandria City Council, of which Krupicka is a member. Other than that, I'd say it was a pretty tame 1 1/2 hours overall. Maybe they were all exhausted from knocking doors in the oppressively hot, humid Virginia-in-July weather? If so, I wouldn't blame them one bit!UPDATERebecca Jaramillo writes on Facebook:
The LA of the Caucus Chair confirmed to me, to my face that she Is now telling everyone that Jaime, Georgetown grad, Stanford Law, corporate international lawyer, White House Fellow in the Treasury Department, Director of Latinos for Deeds, Lt. Col JAG Officer and USAID Counsel Obama appointee, was a "volunteer intern." And Barbara Favola told me she had no problem repeating it far and wide...He was the Caucus Chair's policy adviser. He was not paid, but as you can see from his credentials, he was not an "intern." They are saying that now to diminish his role in her office.
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