So, what's your suggested caption for this photo? How about: "Virginia Republicans, Fighting to Take Back Virginia...to 1860!"P.S. Photo and story by Richmond's Style Weekly.
Thursday, September 29, 2011
|Is this energy summit, being held on October 4 in Alexandria as part of Bob McDonnell's newly-announced "Energy Month" in Virginia, supposed to be satire, a bad joke, or is McDonnell actually serious? Just a few problems here. First, check out the people on the panels, listed below. Can we get any more biased, against clean energy and the environment, than this?!?Oil and Gas Development: The Onshore and Offshore Challenge|
8:45am Keynote: Honorable Mark Warner, U.S. Senate, Virginia
8:55am Remarks: Mr. Terry McCallister, Chairman and CEO, Washington Gas
9:00am Remarks: Mr. Mike Ward, Executive Director, Virginia Petroleum Council
9:05am Discussion: Beginning with Governor Robert Bentley of Alabama (more on climate science "skeptic" Bentley here)
Nuclear Energy: Renaissance or Requiem
9:30am Keynote: Honorable Lindsey Graham, U.S. Senate, South Carolina
9:40am Remarks: Mr. Stephen Kuczynski, Chairman, President & CEO, Southern
Nuclear Operating Company
9:50am Discussion Beginning with Governor Haley Barbour of Mississippi
EPA Regulations and Impact on Energy and the Economy
10:15am Keynote: Honorable Joe Manchin III, U.S. Senate, West Virginia
10:25am Remarks: Mr. Kevin Crutchfield, CEO, Alpha Natural Resources, Inc.
10:35am Discussion Beginning with Governor Bob McDonnell of Virginia
A few comments. First, where are the advocates for clean energy? Where are the voices for energy development that's safe for the environment? Where are the non-corporate voices? Where are the regular Virginians who would be harmed by oil spills, global warming, mountaintop removal coal mining, etc?
Wednesday, September 28, 2011
Well, that didn't take long. Just a day after Democratic House of Delegates nominee Eric Clingan (67th district) called out Tea Partier Jim LeMunyon (at an Arab-American dinner, which LeMunyon skipped, but at which 10th CD Republican Chair Howie Lind appeared) for his extremist views and ties, including to the far-far-right-wing "Middle Resolution PAC" (see here for a lot more on this subject), guess what happened? That's right, Tea Partier LeMunyon returned $50,000 he'd received from the "Middle Resolution PAC." What's that all about? Coincidence or cause-and-effect? I encourage reporters to ask LeMunyon and see what he has to say. While they're at it, they also might want to ask why LeMunyon's tied up with a group that's closely linked to the hard-right-wing ALEC (see ALEC Exposed: A Nationwide Blueprint for the Rightwing Takeover), and why he's pushing one of their top priorities, the dangerous "REPEAL" amendment. It should be fascinating to hear his answers...
Monday, September 26, 2011
|As usual, George Allen is not just wrong, but wildly, crazily, pants-on-fire wrong on an extremely important topic. I guess we shouldn't be surprised, as Allen was wrong when he voted 96% of the time with George W. Bush. And he was wrong when he said that Northern Virginia, and the people who live there, are not "real" Virginians. And he was wrong when he said this:|
If everything were on the free market system, what would win? Coal, oil and natural gas. There's not much subsidies at all for coal, it's highly regulated. The depreciation allowances for oil are about the same that you would want to do for any sort of investments. If there weren't the enormous mandates and subsidies that have really gotten out of control in the ethanol area, wind power, solar, there's no way they could compete in the marketplace. We almost have a Don Quixote type energy policy in our country, where we're using the medieval technology of wind power, tilting at windmills...If you had a pure, free marketplace approach, what would win are those that are the most reliable, the most efficient, and the other thing is they're American as well...In fact, according to a new study by DBL investors, George Allen has things totally, 180-degrees wrong and bass-ackwards. Of course, given that he's paid a lot of money to lie for the dirty energy industry, that's not a big surprise, but still...those are some serious Big Lies by our pal "Felix Macacawitz" right there.It turns out, according to a careful analysis of the history of energy subsidies in this country, that "[f]ar from there being a perfect 'free market' in energy throughout America's history, actually "[e]nergy innovation has driven America's growth since before the 13 colonies came together to form the United States, and government support has driven that innovation for nearly as long." Let's repeat that: since the days of the U.S. colonies, the government has had its finger on the scale, big time, in the ways we produce, transport, and consume energy in this country. Anything else is nothing more than a fanciful, farciful myth/Big Lie spun by industry hacks like George Allen.
Where has that government support gone? Check out the pie chart above (click to "embiggen"). What it shows is clear: cumulative federal subsides for oil and gas, at $447 billion, utterly dwarf those for non-ethanol renewables (solar, wind, geothermal, etc.), which received just $5.9 billion in federal largesse. That's a 75:1 ratio in favor of oil and gas. And that's not even counting state subsidies to fossil fuels, which have been enormous as well. It's also not even counting indirect subsidies, such as military operations in support of oil flows from the Persian Gulf, etc. -- another enormous number. Finally, it's certainly not counting the environmental "externalities" of fossil fuels. But even if we don't get into either indirect subsidies or externalities, the findings here remain crystal clear: federal support for fossii fuels has been enormous in U.S. history, continues to this day, and utterly dwarfs support for renewable energy.
In sum, there hasn't been a "free market" in energy in U.S. history, going back to a protective coal tariff in 1789, and there most certainly isn't one today. So George Allen's wrong if he thinks there ever has been a free market in energy in this country. But he's even more wrong, pants-on-fire wrong, when he claims that fossil fuels haven't received much in terms of government welfare, and he's also pants-on-fire wrong when he says that subsidies to renewable energy have been larger than for dirty energy. In fact, the numbers clearly show that it's the exact opposite, with government support for dirty energy (plus nuclear and hideous corn-based ethanol as well) dwarfing support for wind and solar. As usual, in George Allen/Tea Party land, up is down, black is white, bad is good, war is peace, etc.
Posted by Lowell at 12:30 PM
Saturday, September 24, 2011
This is the last in my series of videos on the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence event Wednesday night. Lori Haas, who speaks in this video, got involved in the gun issue after her daughter, Emily, was wounded in the Virginia Tech shootings. As Haas describes in this video, she received a phone call on April 16, 2007, that no parent ever wants to get, as she heard her daughter tell her, "mommy, I've been shot." Fortunately, Emily Haas survived -- as her mother says, she was "very lucky that morning," as 11 students and a professor in that classroom were murdered. Absolutely horrible. In the aftermath of that terrible day, Lori Haas dedicated herself to remedying the "abysmal state of the gun laws in Virginia and in our country that make it far too easy for prohibited buyers like Cho [and] Loughner to get guns and wreak indescribable pain on far too many American families." Here in Virginia, Haas and her allies have fought attempts to weaken the Commonwealth's already weak gun laws. For instance, the gun lobby has been pushing for "universal concealed carry;" "repeal of one handgun a month;" expansion of the "shoot-first doctrine" ("would allow any person to use deadly force with a firearm to any perceived threat without any repercussions"); "restoration of firearm rights to the legally incompetent and mentally ill;" abolition of the Virginia Firearms Transaction Bureau ("the preeminent state background check system in the country, they say there's no need for it"); and elevation of Second Amendment rights "above personal and private property rights." In sum, according to Haas, the gun lobby's goal can be boiled down to "any gun, anywhere, anytime." Fortunately, Haas, her colleagues, and supporters are fighting this, and as Haas says, "we are not going away." If you support the work that Lori Haas and the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence are doing here in Virginia, you can get involved, sign up to receive emails, and of course donate. Having met Lori Haas and others in the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, I am confident that this is a worthy source of your assistance. Thanks. P.S. Also in the audience for this event was Colin Goddard, another Virginia Tech shooting survivor who now works for reasonable, commonsense gun safety laws in this country.
Posted by Lowell at 12:27 PM
Friday, September 23, 2011
On Wednesday evening, I attended an event in Washington, DC, sponsored by the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, entitled "Transforming the Gun Debate." The panel discussion was fascinating, including a talk by Rep. Gerry Connolly of Virginia's 11th Congressional District. Here's Rep. Connolly talking about how he narrowly won reelection in 2010 (by fewer than 1,000 votes over Republican challenger Keith Fimian), largely on the issue of "gun control." A few highlights from Connolly's remarks include the ones below. I found Connolly's comments particularly interesting, because they run diametrically counter to the common meme in the media that gun control is always a losing issue (despite polling that clearly indicates strong support among Americans for statements like, "gun control laws in this country should be more strict than they are now"). *"You are looking at a member of Congress who, I believe arguably can attribute his reelection last November to the fact that there were a plurality of people in his district who favor reasonable gun control laws." *The NRA, which is headquartered in Connolly's district, considers reasonable, commonsense gun laws to be "radical." *Fairfax County was hit hard by the Virginia Tech shootings, with 8 young people from Fairfax County dead. What was shocking to Rep. Connolly was how quickly the "PR machine of the more radical elements of gun advocates got to work right away...if they'd only been packing heat...they could have gotten the gunman faster." *Fairfax County favors reasonable gun control measures. When Connolly's opponent was quoted saying "if only those kids had been packing heat at Virginia Tech, they might have lived," it dominated media coverage in the days leading up to the election, and Connolly believes, helped reverse his opponent's momentum and save the election - which was probably about to "drop" against Connolly - for him. *In addition, Mayor Michael Bloomberg put money into the race, in large part because of Connolly's support for reasonable gun control measures, specifically legislation to close the gun show loophole. *According to Connolly, the only groups which really helped him in the closing days of his election were the gun control advocates (they "came to the rescue"), not the environmentalists or labor groups or anyone else. *Connolly adds that the gun control issue resonated particularly strongly among "independent moderate women." *Bottom line: According to Rep. Connolly, the conventional wisdom that the gun issue is toxic politically is wrong. To the contrary, according to Connolly, "I actually won reelection because of the gun issue", and that was a "very significant achievement." Here's the conclusion, which I think is worth quoting in full:
We can prevail. We can resonate with our message with the public. But we've got to have the stick-to-it-iveness to do it, and we've got to put resources behind it. It's not good enough to say thank you so much for your vote and here's a check for $250, good luck I hope you get reelected. We've got be more serious about it, we really do. The other side is. But if we are, I'm telling you, we can have a lot more results like mine.Some encouraging words on the politics of gun control from a politician who speaks from his own personal experience. This post is written as part of the Media Matters Gun Facts fellowship. The purpose of the fellowship is to further Media Matters' mission to comprehensively monitor, analyze, and correct conservative misinformation in the U.S. media. Some of the worst misinformation occurs around the issue of guns, gun violence, and extremism, the fellowship program is designed to fight this misinformation with facts.
|Polls show Americans favor closing the deficit via tax hikes on the wealthy and eliminating subsidies for the oil & gas industry. While "cutting spending" polls well as an abstract concept, as soon as you poll cutting actual programs like Social Security, Medicaid & Medicare, and education, those cuts become wildly unpopular.But reading the guest list from Sen. Mark Warner's party this week, you have to wonder if Sen. Warner's listening to a representative sample of Americans:|
On Wednesday night under a tent at his mansion in northern Virginia, Mr. Warner brought together for a buffet dinner about 60 people, including roughly equal numbers of Democrats and Republicans from the Senate and House, corporate executives and economic and financial leaders including Alan Greenspan, the former Federal Reserve chairman, and David Stockman, the first budget director to President Ronald Reagan. [...]Among the participants were the chief executives of PepsiCo, Aetna and BlackRock; two members of the joint deficit committee, Senator Rob Portman, Republican of Ohio, and Representative Chris Van Hollen, Democrat of Maryland, and five of the six members of the Gang of Six, including Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, the conservative Republican whose wavering delayed the group's agreement on a $4 trillion deficit-reduction package of spending cuts and revenue increases.Obviously we don't know the whole guest list. But things like Sen. Warner's preference for cutting programs for disabled seniors while preserving subsidies for Big Oil make more sense when you see who gets invited into his tent.
Thursday, September 22, 2011
Yesterday evening, I attended an event in Washington, DC, sponsored by the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, entitled "Transforming the Gun Debate." The panel discussion was fascinating, including a talk by Rep. Gerry Connolly of Virginia's 11th Congressional District. I've got more video, but for now, I wanted to focus on one point Rep. Connolly made that's crucial to winning (or losing) the debate on guns, or really on any issue. According to Rep. Connolly, the key is that, no matter what percentage of people say they are on your side, "intensity matters." Connolly tells a fascinating story that illustrates this point extremely well. Here's a transcript of his remarks, with bolding added by me for emphasis of key points.
The other calculation is intensity, what mobilizes people? Let me take my district. Poll after poll in my district says we favor reasonable gun control. But is anybody in my district sufficiently intense about that issue that this is dispositive for them, and they're going to show up and so forth? I once sponsored a hearing in Fairfax, and it was simply to amend our ordinance so that it would be illegal to drive around in the county with a loaded shotgun on the back of your car. That's all. We advertised the hearing, it was televised. I show up...and we have 500 seats in the auditorium at the government center, every single seat was filled, and there was a waiting line to get in, every single person seated was wearing camouflage and had their NRA notice. Not a single citizen on our side of the issue, not one, in a county with 1 million people, showed up, not one good guy even strayed into the room. Now, what was the lesson? We had a majority on the board to vote for this ordinance change until that happened. And they looked and saw it, and they thought, I may do the right thing, and people might in theory agree with it, but they're never going to vote on this issue. THEY are, but our people aren't. And we had to withdraw the amendment, and that's the last we ever talked about it. Intensity matters, what moves people to vote. I know, on the other side, many of them it's a single issue and it's going to move them to vote, and I'd rather not rile them up. And I know I'm not going to rile you people up...We have to change the calculus and the dynamic; if we do, you're going to see a significant shift in public opinion and in legislative action in America.So, there you have it: even if 80% of people agree with you on an issue, it doesn't matter if they don't DO anything. If the people on "our" side don't speak up, don't get involved and organized, while people on the "other" side do all those things, guess who's going to win that fight? That's right, the 20% (or 10% or whatever) passionate minority. That's what Rep. Connolly's saying here, and it's a lesson we all should pay close attention to.
Posted by Lowell at 12:29 PM
Tuesday, September 20, 2011
If you're an American the best thing you can do is to make it politically unacceptable for people to engage in [climate science] denial. I mean, it makes us...we look like a joke, right; you can't win the nomination of one of the major parties in our country if you admit that the scientists are right, that disqualifies you from doing it...Bill Clinton's absolutely right, of course, climate science deniers (or "skeptics," whatever they're calling themselves these days) like Ken Kookinelli, Rick Perry, Eric Can'tor, Morgan Griffith, Robert Hurt, and the majority of Teapublicans, ARE making America look like a "joke." They're also seriously harming our future, not just in terms of dealing with serious problems like global warming, but in their utter disrespect for science, knowledge, and learning. The latter characteristic, more than any specific anti-science position they might hold at any given moment, is what really makes America look like a "joke." The question, as always, is who the he** are the people VOTING for these ignoramuses?!?
Posted by Lowell at 12:26 PM
Saturday, September 17, 2011
|When I was a kid, growing up in Connecticut in the 1970s, I thought of the Republican Party as basically a "Teddy Roosevelt Progressive" party. That's why I joined on as a "Teenage Republican," even handing out literature for Gerald Ford (I still have a Ford/Dole sign in my house). Yes, even in the 1970s the Republican Party was starting to move rightwards - a trend that would accelerated sharply in the 1980s, with the rise of the "Moral Majority" and of hardline Cold Warriors." In addition, an increasing number of former "Dixiecrats" (mostly southern segregationists who hated the "Party of Lincoln" and thus were "Democrats," but were certainly not liberals or progressives), like Strom Thurmond and Jesse Helms who were moving over from the Democratic to the Republican Party.On the other hand, at the time I joined the Connecticut "TAR"s (Teenage Republicans), there were also a boatload of moderate or even liberal, pro-environment Republicans who I admired. People like (this is a short list):|
Sen. Charles Mathias; Lowell Weicker; Jacob Javits; Jim Jeffords; John Chafee; Nelson Rockefeller; Gerald Ford; Howard Baker;Bob Dole; Arlen Specter; Thomas Kean; Thomas Meskill; William Milliken; John Danforth; Nancy Kassebaum; Charles Percy;Edward Brooke; heck, even George Romney (Mitt's father)
The reason I mention these people today is that I just heard about the death of yet another liberal and/or moderate Republican -- Charles Percy of Illinois. As the Post article says, "In today's polarized political climate, Sen. Percy would be described as a rare breed - an unabashed liberal and skeptic about military spending and war." In other words, in today's political climate, Charles Percy could not possibly be a Republican, as people who think like him have all been drummed out of the former "Party of Lincoln" (along with former presidents like Teddy Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower, Gerald Ford, even Richard Nixon and George HW Bush in some ways).
Percy's death comes just a few weeks after another liberal Republican, MarkHatfield of Oregon, passed away. Among other things, Hatfield "opposed the death penalty, the war in Vietnam and the balance[d] budget amendment. He fought for environmental protections and wilderness areas."Can you imagine a member of today's Teapublican Party holding those positions and not being challenged by a mouth breather from their (far, far) right? Nope.
Anyway, I just wanted to take a moment to mourn the death of these two great men, as well as the death of my former (first) political party. What happened? I'm not totally sure, but I've got a few theories, including: 1) the Idiot Box and specifically cable TV, which has had a pervasive "dumbing down" effect on America; 2) a decline in our educational system, probably related to point #1; 3) the increasing power of money and narrowly-focused special interest groups in politics, particularly on the right; 4) the rise as a political force of the "religious right;" 5) the creation of a vast, right-wing "noise machine" to spew propaganda 24/7/365, not really counterbalanced by anything on the "left" or even the "center," while the "mainstream media" has become mostly mindless infotainment and "on the one hand/on the other hand" pablum. I'm sure there are other factors as well, like the increased power of corporations vis-a-vis workers; globalization; etc. But the bottom line is that today, the right wingnuts have completely taken over the once-great Republican Party, with the liberal and moderate wings dying out, both figuratively and - in the cases of of Percy and Hatfield - literally. Sad.
Friday, September 16, 2011
|When is an endorsement not really an endorsement? Here's a case study.1. First, check out the video from the Braddock District debate earlier this week, in which Teapublican incumbent John Cook claims to have been endorsed by something called the "Conservation League of Northern Virginia." Ever heard of it? Try Googling. Try anything. You won't find it. Because it doesn't exist.|
2. In actuality, Cook was actually "endorsed" by another (very small) group, one that calls itself the "Fairfax League of Conservation Voters." Except, there are a few big problems with this group...
3. One problem is that, as Virginia League of Conservation Voters (LCV) President Lisa Guthrie informed me, this group is actually an "independent PAC...not a chapter or affiliate of Virginia LCV." In addition, Virginia LCV has "no legal leverage over them and cannot prevent them from using 'League of Conservation Voters' in their name."
4. This "Fairfax League" group has no website. It has no Facebook page. It has no Twitter account. It raised no money in 2010 or 2011 (also none in 2008, just $100 in 2009). Its self-proclaimed president's Facebook page has absolutely no mention of the organization or of environmental issues on it, even though she updates her page several times a day.
5. In sum, the so-called "Fairfax League of Conservation Voters" "endorsement" of John Cook is NOT - repeat, NOT - an endorsement by a recognized, authorized, or otherwise serious environmental organization. Amazingly, it turns out, if you, me, a friend of ours, or even the Koch brothers wanted to start a string of LCVs all over the country, there's nothing stopping them. Crazy, I know, but that's the deal.
6. Also, along these lines, it's worth noting that the Virginia LCV - as well as the Sierra Club - strongly endorsed Janet Oleszek for State Senate in her race against Ken Kookinelli in 2007. To my knowledge, Janet hasn't gotten worse on environmental issues since then. :)
Thursday, September 15, 2011
|A bit of sanity in the Virginia "rightosphere?" It's a rare commodity, but yesterday we got a bit, courtesy of the crew at Too Conservative, with regard tobats*** crazy Dick Black, now running for State Senate in the 13th district (Loudoun, Prince William). Here's what Lloyd at Too Conservative has to say about Plastic Fetus Dude.|
... Several commenters on this blog and elsewhere, formerly skeptical of Mr. Black's odd antics and carpetbaggery, have now become born-again members of the Black Brigade. Seems he's managed to convince them that he's a changed man, no longer espousing the plastic fetus-mailing views he held as a . . . . cough. . . young man all those ten years ago. Nope. Now, he's all about the economy, transportation, jobs. None of that anti-gay, anti-everything stuff he used to say. To everyone.Got news for you, boys. You're been had. Black is playing the oldest game in the politician handbook: tell people what they want to hear. And you are willingly suspending disbelief just because he's the Republican nominee giving you some attention. Wake up, people!Fortunately, voters in the 13th district have an infinitely better choice: Shawn Mitchell, a moderate Democrat who recently was endorsed by the Prince William Realtors and (overwhelmingly) by Virginia FREE. This has got to be one of the easiest choices this election cycle - competent, sane, smart Shawn Mitchell vs. bats*** crazy, sex-obsessed Dick Black -- a "no brainer" if I've ever seen one.
|This is what Republicans do, move us backwards to the dark ages, to back-alley abortions, coat hangers, all of that. Don't let them get away with it, and absolutely DO NOT let them take control of the State Senate this November. If you think it's bad now...'nuff said.|
After hours of emotional debate, the Virginia Board of Health overwhelmingly approved far-reaching regulations for abortion clinics Thursday that some operators say could shut down many of the state's 22 facilities.The very specific regulations, some of the toughest in the nation, include mandates on the size of exam rooms, the width of hallways and the number of parking spaces, as well as requirements for inspections, medical procedures and record-keeping.Also, remember who's lurking in the background of all this. As Del. Charniele Herring pointed out, this is largely the handiwork of
P.P.S. See the excellent Huffington Post article for more background.
Tuesday, September 13, 2011
|Crossposted at ProgressVA |
Photo via the Washington Post
In the classic baseball poem Casey at the Bat, the main character blows the game in the bottom of the ninth inning for his hometown due to his overconfidence in his own abilities. Virginia's Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli is also striking out for his home team - the people of Virginia. Casey's arrogance allows the first two strikes to fly by, and is followed by a whiff on the final pitch, causing a strike out and him losing the game. But Cuccinelli is striking out with self-indulgent partisan legal pursuits, and in an inverse fashion from Casey - with two whiffs followed by a final passed ball third strike.Cuccinelli's first strike came in the form of a frivolous demand for documents from the University of Virginia regarding a former professor's work on climate change. Despite regular indicators that he should drop the purely ideological inquiry, such as last week's judicial halt, the Attorney General continues to press on with an issue that couldn't be lower on a priority list for the people of Virginia.
His second strike was quite similar - another philosophical crusade, and this one on another favorite partisan topic: attacking health care reform. The 4thCircuit Court of Appeals called this second strike just last Thursday, throwing out his lawsuit ruling that Virginia lacks the standing to sue. Not only has Cuccinelli been wasting his office's resources and time to go after meaningful health care reform, he's been doing it solo and independent of the similar legal challenge from 13 states who are working together, basically replicating each other's work.
|ProgressVA :: Cuccinelli at the Bat|
|But despite unfavorable rulings on both climate change and anti-health care reform fronts the Attorney General fights on. Neither of these purely political pursuits are helping protect or serve Virginians, as is his duty. His constituents need him to investigate matters that have a direct bearing on their lives and the governance of the commonwealth. The opportunity to do so presented itself last week, but instead of hitting the ball out of the park, the Attorney General chose to leave the bat on his shoulder and take that final passed ball third strike.|
After the Washington Post uncovered that panels working on reforming Virginia's government have been meeting in private in possible violation of open-meeting laws, Cuccinelli refused to investigate - even despite a request to investigate from Del. David Englin. The Attorney General is using his office to go after issues that will grab national news and right wing headlines, and not the problems that have a direct impact of how Virginia is being governed. This has been his story since he took office, and even now he signals his willingness to continue his climate change and health care pursuits.
The courts are delivering continuous setbacks and Virginians are trying to voice their desire for an Attorney General who concerns themself with the issues that impact their daily lives. But there is no joy in Mudville - mighty Cuccinelli has struck Virginia out.
Posted by Lowell at 12:22 PM
|I couldn't agree more with Andrew Sullivan on last night's Tea Party debate, and specifically with the the tea partiers in attendance cheering to let an uninsured patient die, rather than society having to pay for saving the unfortunate individual's life. That's not the America I grew up in, and frankly it's not an America I'd want to live in. Which raises three questions: 1) who ARE these crazy, warped, vicious people; 2) what the h*** is wrong with them; and 3) how can any American vote for candidates who agree with, or pander to, the likes of this crowd? It's truly disturbing, especially in the context of all their other craziness and idiocy (e.g., the moment in this debate when the crowd cheered a line about not spending money on programs we supposedly don't want; the only problem is, almost everyone in that audience probably "wants" Social Security, Medicare, and defense, which combined make up a HUGE chunk of the federal budget).|
...even if such libertarian purity does make sense, that cannot excuse the emotional response to the issue in the crowd last night. Maybe a tragedy like the death of a feckless twentysomething is inevitable if we are to restrain healthcare costs. But it is still a tragedy. It is not something a decent person cheers.Similarly the execution of hundreds, while perhaps defensible politically and even morally (although I differ), is nonetheless a brutal, awful business. You don't delight in it. And the same is true of torture. Even if you want to defend its use in limited circumstances, it remains an absolute evil, no humane person would want to do it, and no civilized person would brag of it or dismiss any moral issue with it at all. And yet that is what Dick Cheney and Liz Cheney have repeatedly done. They are positively proud of their torture record.The fish rotted from the head down. Last night, we got a whiff of the smell.
Posted by Lowell at 12:21 PM
Outside the United Steelworkers Local 8888 in Newport News today, Virginia's largest labor unions together announced their support for Virginia offshore wind development. Standing in solidarity with the Newport News shipyards in the background were representatives with the United Steelworkers (USW), International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), Laborers' International Union of North America (LiUNA), Iron Workers, the Building and Construction Trades Council, and others.
"This is an opportunity to develop thousands of good paying union jobs in Virginia, which would enable our children and our children's children to raise a family and share in the American dream," said Bill Harriday, international staff representative for United Steelworkers.
"Our workers stand uniquely-equipped and trained to tackle green energy projects like offshore wind power. We believe our workforce to be one-of-a-kind when it comes to constructing advanced-tech wind turbines," said Josh Collins, Virginia political and policy director for the Laborers' International Union of North America (LiUNA). "We welcome this opportunity to join forces with our allies in VA 4 Wind Coalition to push for long-term sustainable energy solutions that will be a boon to thousands of unemployed workers."
"Steel working, shipbuilding, construction, forging, manufacturing, you name it. For decades, most of those jobs critical to the wind industry have been union jobs", said Eileen Levandoski, Virginia Conservation Program Manager with the Sierra Club. "Thus Virginia's unionized labor force, regardless of its 'right to work" policies, can and will be large and powerful advocates for offshore wind."
(Pictured here at the podium: Bill Harridy, International Staff Rep, United Steelworkers)
|According to the Virginia Coastal Energy Research Consortium (VCERC), a 3,000-megawatt Virginia coastal wind energy project built out over 20 years would create 10,000 jobs for Virginians. Specifically, it could create more than 6,000 construction jobs and 5,000 ongoing operation and maintenance jobs.Leaders from Virginia's union, industry, and environmental communities agree that Dominion and Governor McDonnell should coordinate efforts to develop offshore wind energy. Because Dominion is the commonwealth's largest power provider, owns much of its transmission capacity, and has a great deal of political clout, Virginia's offshore wind industry could flourish with the company on board. Governor McDonnell should take a leadership role in this process by making Virginia "the Clean Energy Capital of the East Coast."|
"This is all about new manufacturing, fabrication, and construction jobs right here in Virginia. If the McDonnell Administration fails to act and Dominion does not move forward with offshore wind development, the commonwealth could lose thousands of jobs to other states in the region," said Randy Flood, executive director of Green Jobs Alliance.
In addition to thousands of new jobs, offshore wind energy offers countless benefits for Virginians, cleaner air and water, stable electricity prices, increased energy security, and reduced global warming emissions.
Beth Kemler, Virginia state director for the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, said: "Especially in the wake of a global warming-fueled hurricane and massive flooding, it's more important than ever than we take aggressive steps toward the development of clean energy sources like offshore wind."
VA4Wind is a coalition of Virginia organizations working together to spur offshore wind energy development off of Virginia's coast. Members include the Sierra Club Virginia Chapter, Chesapeake Climate Action Network, Green Jobs Alliance and Virginia Interfaith Power & Light. Learn more at www.va4wind.com.
Posted by Lowell at 12:20 PM
Monday, September 12, 2011
|This post is written as part of the Media Matters Gun Facts fellowship. The purpose of the fellowship is to further Media Matters' mission to comprehensively monitor, analyze, and correct conservative misinformation in the U.S. media. Some of the worst misinformation occurs around the issue of guns, gun violence, and extremism, the fellowship program is designed to fight this misinformation with facts.As we're probably all aware, poll after poll clearly demonstrates that the American people support reasonable, commonsense restrictions on guns in this country. For instance, by a 62%-35% margin, Americans believe "the federal government [should] be allowed to ban the sale of semi-automatic assault weapons, except for use by the military or police." By a 51%-7% margin, Americans believe "gun control laws in this country should be more strict than they are now" (39% say they're "about right" as they currently are).|
Here in Virginia, Hart Research has found that Virginians overwhelmingly support gun safety measures like requiring the reporting of lost or stolen guns (95% favor); requiring all gun buyers to pass a background check (89% favor); and requiring sellers at gun shows to run a background check (88% favor). To a slightly lesser extent - but still strong majorities - Virginians support requiring gun owners to register guns (67% favor) and also support banning the sale of high-capacity ammo magazines (66% favor). Also, around the country, large majorities (69%-80%) oppose allowing guns in bars, in government buildings, or on college campuses.
Keep those poll numbers in mind as you read the 2011 candidate surveys from the Virginia NRA and the Virginia Citizens Defense League, both of which are currently circulating to our state legislators and candidates. What on these questionnaires tells us a great deal, both about how out of the mainstream these groups' agendas are, and also specifically where they'd like like gun laws to go in Virginia and nationwide. For instance, from the NRA:
|lowkell :: NRA, VCDL Questionnaires Demonstrate How Out of the Mainstream These Groups Are|
|*"Would you support legislation amending Virginia concealed handgun statutes to permit a non-resident to carry a concealed firearm in Virginia if he or she has a valid license issued from his or her state of residence and carries such license on his or her person while in Virginia?" (their preferred answer is clearly "YES")*"Anti-gun groups are promoting legislation that would mandate firearm manufacturers incorporate unproven technology that would theoretically "micro-stamp" identifying information about the firearms on a cartridge case upon firing...such a mandate would require de facto registration of guns...Would you support legislation mandating 'micro-stamping' in Virginia?" (their preferred answer is clearly "NO")|
*"Since the passage of the 'one-gun-a-month' law in 1993, there has been no credible evidence that this gun-rationing statute has reduced violent crime in Virginia or any other state...Would you support legislation to repeal the Virginia gun-rationing law outright?" (their preferred answer is clearly "YES")
*"Would you support legislation to restrict the sale, purchase, possession and transfer of semi-automatic firearms?" (their preferred answer is clearly "NO")
*"...several states have recently considered legislation to require that locking devices be placed on firearms kept in the house...severely limit[ing] the ability to use a firearm for self-defense purposes and potentially increas[ing] the risk of a firearm accident. Would you support legislation requiring locking devices (safes, trigger locks, cable locks...) or other locking procedures for firearms stored in the home?" (their preferred answer is clearly "NO")
*"The American Academy of Pediatrics encourages its members to ask many intrusive questions of their patients under the ruse of preventing 'gun violence.'...Do you believe firearm ownership is your personal matter and doctors should stop questioning patients about firearm ownership?" (their preferred answer is clearly "YES")
Now, here are a few questions from the VCDL, which is even further to the "right" than the already outside-the-mainstream NRA.
*"Will you vote FOR legislation recognizing all other states' concealed carry permits?" (their preferred answer is clearly "YES")
*"Will you vote FOR legislation to more closely conform school gun policy with federal standards by allowing concealed handgun permit holders to have a gun on their person while on school grounds?" (their preferred answer is clearly "YES")
*"Will you vote FOR legislation that would prevent public colleges and universities from penalizing students, faculty, and staff with concealed handgun permits who carry on campus?" (their preferred answer is clearly "YES")
*"Will you vote FOR legislation to repeal this double standard on carrying of concealed handguns in restaurants licensed to sell alcoholic beveragesfor on premises consumption?" (their preferred answer is clearly "YES")
*"Will you vote FOR 'Constitutional Carry' legislation that would allow law-abiding citizens to carry firearms openly or concealed (at the individual's discretion) for any reason except the commission of a crime?" (their preferred answer is clearly "YES")
*"Will you vote AGAINST any bill that would allow localities to restrict the carrying or possession of firearms by law-abiding citizens in recreation centers, libraries, or other government facilities?" (their preferred answer is clearly "YES")
*"Will you vote AGAINST government mandated use of trigger locks or other such hazardous 'safety' devices which have the effect of making it difficult, if not impossible, to have a gun available to defend your home and family?" (their preferred answer is clearly "YES")
*"Will you vote AGAINST any legislation designed to ban or restrict non-dealer private gun transfers (whether at gun shows or outside of gun shows)?" (their preferred answer is clearly "YES")
Now, compare these questions to the polling on these topics. The contrast couldn't be more glaring, whether on the "gunshow loophole;" gun safety measures' guns in bars, schools, and government buildings; making guns and ammunition traceable; requiring background checks; etc., etc.
The bottom line is that these gun groups are not innocent "rifle clubs" or whatever they like to call themselves. They also are not in the least bit "mainstream," if "mainstream" is defined as "what the vast majority of people want or don't want." Instead, these are special interest groups, pushing a very clear political agenda, focused on one issue (and one issue alone), and aiming to gut any and all laws restricting the ownership or use of firearms of any type.
Also, as the person who forwarded these questionnaires to me (and who works intensively on this issue in Virginia) points out, many of the questions in these surveys misstate the facts, are disingenuous in a variety of ways, and are cleverly designed to trap and trick the candidates answering them. Probably the smartest thing 2011 candidates in Virginia can do is not respond to these questionnaires at all, because they really can't win if they do so. Even more troubling, think about what Virginia - and America - would look like if these groups get their way on many or most of their demands? Extremely powerful and deadly concealed weapons anywhere and everywhere, held by people who have received minimal if any scrutiny or training. Basically, it's Virginia (and America) as the Wild West. Does that give you a warm and fuzzy feeling, or does it perhaps send a chill down your spine? Personally, I'd vote for the latter.
Posted by Lowell at 12:18 PM
Saturday, September 10, 2011
|I taught English in high school for thirty-one years and loved every minute I was on the job. I still have dreams of being in the classroom, teaching. I was blessed with a chance to see kids achieve far more than anyone would have expected them to. Sadly, I also saw others throw away the best chance they would ever have to be prepared for the future. Many times I shared their happiness and sometimes I shared their sadness. Twice, we even shared communal sorrow and horror as tragedy unfolded on television before our eyes.On September 11, 2001, I was seated at my desk a few minutes before my first class started. A student came in and said, "Something has happened in New York. May I turn on the television?" I gave him the O.K. The first tower of the World Trade Center had been hit by a plane. Not long after that, as the rest of the class filed in and took seats, we watched together as the another plane smashed into the second tower.|
The rest of that day we spent seeing the unfolding drama of the most devastating single act of mass murder in the history of this nation. From the first, I refused to call al qaeda's evil act an act of war. No, it was a senseless, murderous crime against humanity by psychopaths. As we saw first one and then the other tower fall, horror compounded on horror. This heinous act murdered 2977 innocents in the towers and on the planes turned into weapons, while 411 first responders gave their lives in the line of duty that day desperately trying to save their fellow men and women.
Most of us remember exactly what we were doing and where we were when we heard news that changed the direction of our nation: the assassinations of President Kennedy, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Bobby Kennedy, and September 11. For me, the young people I shared September 11 with will always be an integral part of my memory of that event. And that's not the only such terrible time I shared with the kids I taught. There was another time...That other time was January 28, 1986.
Posted by Lowell at 12:19 PM
Friday, September 9, 2011
|I moved to Virginia in June 2002. Just since then, some of the records set in Washington, DC and at National Airport in Arlington:|
Thursday, September 8, 2011
|Heavy - perhaps historic - rains and flooding are inundating parts of Northern Virginia tonight. Some Huntington residents are being urged to evacuate due to flooding. As of 7:35pm, the Beltway was closed in both directions in Alexandria. WTOP reports Cameron Run threatens to overtop the Beltway. Check the Washington Post's @PostLocal Twitter feed for the latest updates.According to the Post's Capital Weather Gang, "Some rainfall totals in southern Fairfax County in just the [6-7pm] hour have been 3-4"!" The photo at left was taken tonight above the Reston north commuter parking lot for the Fairfax Connector.|
And it's not expected to improve much in the next few hours. CWG says, "Areas currently experiencing heavy rain may not see signficant improvement until after midnight. Rain is not moving quickly. This may have some incredibly bad consequences."
I just drove from Richmond to my home in Falls Church. It was sunny when we left Richmond, but the drive from Fredericksburg north featured some of the heaviest rain I've ever driven through - and I drove through Hurricane Floyd in 1999. I couldn't see tail lights further than 50 yards in front of my car. Fortunately, everyone slowed down to about 35mph & we didn't see any accidents.
How was your drive home? What are you seeing in your community? Let us know in comments.
UPDATE 8:46pm: @BreakingNews cites AP as reporting floods have killed two people in Northern Virginia. The Washington Post reports one of the victims was the child earlier reported washed away by Piney Branch Creek in Vienna. Reports of I66 west closed near Route 50 & VRE trains being forced to turn back on the Manassas line due to flash flooding.
UPDATE 9:40pm: CWG reports Fairfax County Schools will be closed on Friday.
Photo via Laura Cochran
Wednesday, September 7, 2011
Last night, I attended the Arlington County Civic Federation Candidates forum at the Washington-Lee High School Auditorium. Last night's candidates included Democrats and Republicans running in the 30th, 31st and 32nd State Senate districts, as well as the 45th, 47th, 48th, and 49th House of Delegates districts. Most of these are totally safe Democratic, and nothing last night indicated otherwise (e.g., the Republican running against Adam Ebbin is a total right wingnut, whose "only one promise" is to "uphold the constitutions of the United States and of Virginia" -- whatever). However, the 31st State Senate district is definitely of interest, as Republican Caren Merrick is extremely wealthy, and also has been portraying an image of being a "moderate." Also, Barbara Favola just finished up a rough, tough, even brutal primary campaign against Jaime Areizaga-Soto, giving Merrick a potential opening in this (still) strongly Democratic-leaning district. However, if Merrick's performance last night is any indication, Favola might not have anything to worry about after all. I found the first question to be particularly revealing, as Merrick has been studiously avoiding any mention of social issues on her website, or in the 8-page glossy color mailer she sent out the other day. Instead, all we've been getting from Merrick is "soccer mom," "entrepreneur," and "jobs." Other than that, we've known basically nothing about her positions on the issues that people in the 31st district (Arlington, McLean, Great Falls, eastern Loudoun) care about. Well, as of last night, and particularly the first question (on abortion and gay rights), we're starting to find out. Barbara Favola clearly believes the Marshall-Newman amendment should be repealed, is a strong supporter of LGBT equality, and is 100% pro-choice. In stark contrast, Caren Merrick identifies herself as "pro-life" (aka, anti-women's choice). As for LGBT rights, Merrick completely dodged the question, talking about how she's never hired anyone based on their sexual orientation, but not at all getting at the core of the question, which is how she'd vote as a State Senator for things like LGBT adoption, gay marriage, etc. I think we can take that as a "no" from Caren Merrick on whether she fully supports LGBT rights. If she did, she would have said so -- clearly. But she didn't. On question #2, on creating jobs, Merrick gave the usual Republican response -- the problem is "too many regulations, too many taxes." In Virginia? Is she serious? This is one of the lowest-taxed states in the country (e.g., we have the lowest gas tax in the region), one of the most "business-friendly," winner of multiple "best place to do business" awards, etc. Yet Merrick still thinks the way to create jobs in Virginia isn't to invest in our infrastructure and our people, but to cut taxes and regulations on businesses even further? Sorry, but that's just utter nonsense, utterly detached from reality, and right-wing ideological blather. Is Caren Merrick getting her talking points straight from Bob McDonnell, Ken Cuccinelli and Eric Can'tor or what? It sure seemed like it last night. Finally, when asked if she'd support an increase in the gas tax, or any other dedicated stream of revenues, to improve transportation, Merrick punted yet again (Or, one could say, engaged in "magical thinking," a world where things somehow pay for themselves and revenues materialize out of thin air, pixies and fairy dust. Oh, and purple polka dotted pony-unicorns. Lots of those.). According to her, a gas tax is not "sustainable." Instead, the answer is drill baby drill -- mythical (see here for Chap's explanation as to why that's the case) revenues from offshore oil drilling. As Chap explains, "state transportation proposals which rely on 'royalties' from off-shore oil drilling are laughable -- you'd have better luck relying on royalties from the next Jonas Brother album." Apparently, Caren Merrick is a big Jonas Brothers fan! :)
Posted by Lowell at 12:16 PM
Monday, September 5, 2011
|I've gotta agree with Virginia State Senate Democratic Majority Leader Dick Saslaw on this point.|
Democrats, behind in recruiting and fundraising, think the conservative crop of Republican candidates selected last month to run in November gives them the edge they need to hold on to their thin majority in the Senate."A lot of them are nut jobs,'' Senate Majority Leader Richard L. Saslaw (D-Fairfax) said. "They've nominated a group that makes the governor of Texas look sane."A few examples cited in the article demonstrate why Dick Saslaw is 100% correct in his comments.1. "Adam Light, a Republican running for state Senate in southwest Virginia, has advocated ending Social Security and Medicare." (What percentage of Americans agree with Light that we should ditch Social Security and Medicare? Let's just say, this guy's on the fringes...)
2. "Former Del. Jeffrey M. Frederick, a GOP candidate in Northern Virginia, said Darwin's theory of evolution 'was used by atheists to explain away the belief in God.'" (Don't believe in evolution; yeah, you're a nut job.)
3. "Dick Black, running in Loudoun and Prince William counties, was criticized by leaders of his own party in 2003, when as a delegate he sent fellow lawmakers pink plastic models of fetuses as they prepared to vote on an abortion bill." ('Nuff said on that one - Black's completely bonkers in just about every way, obsessed with sex in general and homosexuality in particular, he should be in a shrink's office getting therapy, not running for public office).
|lowkell :: Dick Saslaw on Virginia Teapublican Senate Candidates: "A lot of them are nut jobs"|
|4. "Tom Garrett... has proposed mandatory drug testing for all welfare recipients and has advocated abolishing the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, which is charged with keeping air and water clean." (Yes, brilliant, let's totally trash Virginia's air, water, forests, etc. Nut job.)|
5. "Ben Loyola, a businessman and veteran who is running against freshman Democrat Ralph Northam in Norfolk, has said he wants to abolish the U.S. Department of Education and eliminate corporate taxes and the income tax." (And without any corporate or income taxes, I guess we can just shut down the military, the roads, the schools, the police, the fire departments, the prisons, etc. Brilliant, huh? Or maybe just bonkers?)
6. "Del. Bill Carrico of Grayson, who is running against Democrat John Lamie in the race to replace retiring William Wampler in southwest Virginia, introduced a bill permitting prayer on public property, including schools." (Yeah, let's tear down the church-state separation wall, start turning America into a theocracy. Brilliant.)Also, let's not forget the certifiable Del. "Sideshow Bob" Marshall and many other Republican candidates this year whose platforms focus on dismantling government, bashing minorities (Muslims, gays and lesbians, immigrants, etc.) showering largesse on corporations (aka, "crony capitalism"), making assault weapons easier to acquire, trashing Virginia' environment, escalating the war against working people, privatizing anything and everything, making abortion illegal, pushing for the 21st century version of nullification (an issue most of us were taught was settled in the Civil War), etc.
That, my friends, is the Republican Party of Virginia these days, with no moderate Republicans like the John Chicesters and Russ Potts'es of the world to be found. It's not pretty, and it's not even close to moderate or mainstream. Instead, it's Tea Party extremist all the way. In stark contrast, Virginia Democrats are about as centrist - or even, in the cases of people like Phil Puckett, conservative - a bunch of politicians as you can get. As a progressive, that doesn't thrill me, but if the choice is between "mainstream" and "nut jobs," I'll take "mainstream" any day.
UPDATE: Also see Goodbye to All That: Reflections of a GOP Operative Who Left the Cult, in which Mike Lofgren, who "served 16 years as a professional staff member on the Republican side of both the House and Senate Budget Committees," argues that the Republicans Party is "full of lunatics," that "the crackpot outliers of two decades ago have become the vital center today," that "the Republican Party is becoming less and less like a traditional political party in a representative democracy and becoming more like an apocalyptic cult, or one of the intensely ideological authoritarian parties of 20th century Europe." All true, certainly in the cases of the Virginia Teahadists mentioned above!
Posted by Lowell at 12:15 PM