"Go to hell Barack" Ad Acceptable in Washington Metro System?!?

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

A friend of mine sent me this photo from the Clarendon Metro station this morning. Here's her commentary:
I don't recall ever seeing an actual ad saying "go to hell Bush," even when he was selected, & even when he lied (yellowcake, etc.)... Certainly not on the metro - which is obviously desperate for funds so as not to impose any basic standards. I'm surprised they didn't use the f word...Btw, someone wrote - in PEN on the "screen" of the light-up board: "That's President Obama, to you!" Wish my camera had enough resolution to get that!
Again, the ad is heinous enough, but Metro accepted it? I mean, I know they're desperate for money, but WTF?!?!?P.S. Just to be clear, an ad saying "Go to hell Cantor" or "Go to hell Boehner" would NOT be acceptable to me, and it shouldn't be in the Metro system, at least based on my reading of Metro's advertising guidelines (not to mention Metro's desire to keep its system family friendly), as far as I can determine.
UPDATE: No, Kaplan Post and WTOP, you may NOT steal this photo you @#$@#$ers. Take it down immediately, give proper credit, or I'm calling a lawyer!

GOP Response to Virginia Women's Wishes: Call Out SWAT Team; Pass Ultrasound Bill Anyway

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

As if Del. Dave "No Sex Tonight" Albo's little "comedy" routine" the other day wan't revealing enough about Virginia Republican attitudes towards women's health, well being, reproductive freedom, etc., how about the following two items?First, as I noted in this morning's news headlines, The Richmonder reports  on Bob McDonnell's over-the-top reaction to last night's "'TAKE BACK THE RIGHT: Candlelight Vigil & Speak Out for Women' at Virginia's Capitol Square near the Governor's Mansion." That's right, McDonnell called out "a fully armed and armored SWAT team member," who JC Wilmore photographed "concealed in the bushes, perhaps 30 feet from the peaceful protestors." As JC puts it, this was "a massive over-reaction by Capitol Police and a really disturbing attempt by the McDonnell administration to use the State Police SWAT team to intimidate peaceful protesters through the display of overwhelming force."
Then, a bit earlier today, Virginia Republican legislators demonstrated equal contempt for Virginia women, passing "HB 462, which would mandate women seeking an abortion to submit to a medically unnecessary ultrasound and waiting period, inappropriately inserting partisan political agendas into the doctor-patient relationship." See the Progress Virginia statement on the "flip" for more on that one.
In sum, Virginia Republicans' attitude towards women in this state is this: we know best for you, so go home and keep your mouths shut. Fortunately, Virginia women won't listen to them. Also fortunately, Virginia women VOTE, and presumably will make their displeasure known starting this November, and continuing through November 2013 (when we take back the governor's mansion) and beyond. Nice job, Republicans!
lowkell :: GOP Response to Virginia Women's Wishes: Call Out SWAT Team; Pass Ultrasound Bill Anyway
ProgressVA Statement on Senate Passage of HB 462This afternoon, the Senate of Virginia voted to approve HB 462, which would mandate women seeking an abortion to submit to a medically unnecessary ultrasound and waiting period, inappropriately inserting partisan political agendas into the doctor-patient relationship.
"We're frankly aghast that conservatives in the State Senate have chosen to ignore the tens thousands of Virginians who stood up and spoke up to voice their opposition to these bills that substitute politicians judgment for that of a doctor," said Anna Scholl, Executive Director of ProgressVA. "Over 33,000 Virginians told Governor McDonnell and the legislature that politicians should not play doctor and seek to shame women with medically unnecessary procedures and waiting periods.
It's time for Governor McDonnell to put the desires and best interests of Virginians ahead of his national political aspirations and veto this bill."

In Column on the "Ghastly Outdated Party," Maureen Dowd Cites "barking-mad Republicans of Virginia"

Sunday, February 26, 2012

When Maureen Dowd is on her game, she's one of the best writers on American politics around. Today is one of those days, with her Sunday New York Times column, Ghastly Outdated Party. I strongly recommend you read Dowd's column, either before or after you read The Lost Party ("The strangest primary season in memory reveals a GOP that's tearing itself apart.") by John Heilemann in New York magazine. But since this is, after all, a Virginia-centric political blog, here are the last few paragraphs from Dowd's column, in which she turns her withering gaze to the Old Dominion and the "Ghastly Outdated Party" currently (but hopefully not for much longer!) in charge here:
The barking-mad Republicans of Virginia are helping to make the party look foolish and creepy. A video went viral on Friday in which Delegate Dave Albo comically regaled his fellow lawmakers on the floor of the Statehouse with his own Old Dominion version of "Lysistrata": he suggested that he was denied sex with his wife because of a Republican-sponsored bill that would have made ultrasounds, often with a vaginal probe, mandatory for women seeking abortions.With music, red wine and a big-screen TV, he made a move on his wife, Rita, while she was watching a news report about the bill. "And she looks at me and goes, 'I've got to go to bed,' " Albo said as his colleagues guffawed.
The Republicans, with their crazed Reagan fixation, are a last-gasp party, living posthumously, fighting battles on sex, race, immigration and public education long ago won by the other side.
They're trying to roll back the clock, but time is passing them by.
The question is, what on earth happened to a Virginia long known for "business-friendly" moderation? Part of it, I'm sure, is what John Heilemann points out, that the Republican Party "has grown whiter, less well schooled, more blue-collar, and more hair-curlingly populist."That latter phrase, of course, refers to the rise of the teahadists, a classic, right-wing reactionary movement, that (as it so often is) fears modernity, finds itself increasingly panic-stricken at the decline in their relative economic and political power at the hands of (pick any number of the following): 1) increased acceptance of homosexuality and other "alternative lifestyles" (as they would call them); 2) the growing absolute and relative power of women in our society; 3) the burgeoning population of African Americans, Latinos, and Asian-Americans, as America moves inexorably towards "majority minority" status; 4) the fact that the Obama coalition foolishly turned out in lower proportions than the right-wing crazies in 2009, 2010, and 2011; 5) the brain-dead Supreme Court ruling that made unlimited financing from Exxon Mobil, not to mention John Birchers like the the cartoon-character-evil Koch brothers, legal; 6) the insidious effects of 24/7 foaming-at-the-mouth, far-right-wing cable TV and talk radio; and 7) a black (actually mixed-race) president in the White House.
Today, with the " no vice; no virtue" teahadists fired up to a frothy fever pitch, and with the old Dwight Eisenhower/Gerald Ford/George HW Bush Republican Party sane, moderate, pro-business (even "compassionate" at times) Republican Party deader than an attempted Willard Romney "joke," Republican candidates today must cater to the nuttiest of the nuts, the kookiest of the Kookinellis.
As Maureen Dowd puts it:

The contenders in the Hester Prynne primaries are tripping over one another trying to be the most radical, unreasonable and insane candidate they can be. They pounce on any traces of sanity in the other candidates - be it humanity toward women, compassion toward immigrants or the willingness to make the rich pay a nickel more in taxes - and try to destroy them with it.President Obama has deranged conservatives just as W. deranged liberals. The right's image of Obama, though, is more a figment of its imagination than the left's image of W. was.
Thus, here in Virginia, we seriously just had a debate (actually, it's not over yet) on whether the government should force women and their doctors, even against their will, to undergo a medically unnecessary, highly invasive, costly procedure performed, simply because the "barking-mad Republicans of Virginia" have morphed into a nightmarish, "Handmaid's Tail" hybrid of Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, "Sideshow Bob" Marshall, and Kooky Ken Kookinelli. Sure, Bob McDonnell was able to fool a majority of Virginia voters in 2009 - the voters who showed up, anyway - that he was really, honestly, truly a "moderate." The fact is,  of course, that only a shamelessly dishonest, "say anything to get elected" Republican like McDonnell, running against a historically inept Democratic opponent, in a "wave" year of teahadist extremism and Obama Derangement Syndrome, could ever have convinced anyone of THAT howler!Sure, McDonnell has now (partly) backed off his support for trans-vaginal ultrasounds (albeit not a less-invasive version of the test), he did so only because he's a smart enough politician to understand what a political disaster passage of that bill would have been (and may still be) for his national ambitions.
Dave Albo, for his part, doesn't seem to think that regaling the world with tales of his (lack of a) sex life - supposedly due to his wife's disgust with his extremist social views - will hurt him politically in his district. Let's hope he's wrong on that score (a strong female candidate against him in 2013 might be just the trick to finally end Albo's reign of smarminess). Nor does Albo seem to understand why many Virginians fail to view this all as a big joke (as, apparently, do most members of the House of Delegates, including some Democrats, who laughed along with Albo's pitiful "joke").
Outside the General Assembly bubble and back in the world of normal people, of course, Albo quickly became a national laughingstock, while also furthering the growing image of Virginia as anything BUT a moderate, "business-friendly," hospitable place to live and work. Which raises the big question at this point: how much longer will Virginia voters allow the "barking-made Republicans of Virginia" to tarnish our good image, harm our economic prospects for many years to come, and send us lurching backwards to the 1950s 1850s - a time when wealthy, white, heterosexual men ruled the roost, when women and minorities knew their "place," and when swaggering, pompous cads like Dave Albo could have regaled the good ol' boys at the country club with tales of his "exploits" with the "Little Lady" (or whatever derogatory, misogynistic terms they used to use back then), without someone videotaping, popping it up on YouTube, and disseminating his "foolish and creepy" ramblings far and wide. Ah, the good old days back in ol' Virginny...

Albo Says Wife Spurned Sex After Hearing GOP's Transvaginal Ultrasound Plan

Friday, February 24, 2012

by The Green Miles Ben Tribbett flags this clip from the Virginia General Assembly floor of Del. Dave Albo (R-Fairfax). Del. Albo took to the House floor to describe how his wife spurned his advances after seeing a story about the Virginia GOP's efforts to mandate transvaginal ultrasounds. So Virginia Republicans banned gay marriage because they think two men kissing is icky, but we have to listen to Dave Albo and his middle-aged paunch talk about putting on the moves like he's a 15-year-old boy trying to get to second base?

Why We Rejected a $150 Blog Ad

It is, has been, and will continue to be the policy of this blog to accept advertisements. However, that doesn't mean we will accept any ol' ad. Sure, we could use the money - to pay hosting feeds, perhaps to buy some better camera equipment occasionally, etc. - but we're not going to completely compromise our values in doing so. Having said that, we seriously considered accepting this ad from the oil and gas industry for the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, even though we think it's a huge mistake. In the end, though, we didn't. Here's our thinking in a nutshell.1. We considered taking the oil and gas industry's money, then using the ad as an opportunity to blast the h*** out of the Keystone Canadian tar sands export pipeline project, as the dirty, destructive (of the environment and probably of jobs as well) boondoggle for the big oil companies that it is.
2. We also considered donating the money to charity - Green Miles suggested this one, for instance.
3. So, under those conditions, I was leaning towards accepting the ad. Why didn't I, then? The clincher for me was very simple, and in my view compelling: the ad contains blatantly false information - that the pipeline supposedly will create 20,000 jobs.
4. Not only is that jobs figure completely untrue, this is information that's been repeatedly exposed as false by neutral organizations, even by TransCanada itself. For instance, a study by Cornell University researchers found that "[t]he project will create no more than 2,500-4,650 temporary direct construction jobs for two years, according to TransCanada's own data supplied to the State Department." So, the 20,000 jobs figure isn't even close to being factual, and the people behind this ad have known that for months now (if not longer). In short, they're lying through their teeth, and they have no shame in doing so.
5. One last point. In rejecting this ad, Blue Virginia is going way beyond the supposed "standards" of most media outlets, which would almost certainly take (in fact, they do so all the time!) the oil money and run the ad, even though it's demonstrably, unequivocally false. That's not what legitimate media organizations are supposed to be doing, but they're desperate for money and/or greedy, plus they apparently have few if any scruples or ethics, so they do so. Well, sorry, but that is NOT what we got into progressive political blogging for, to be like the dying (for good reason), corrupt, corporate-owned-and-occupied, conservative media. Sure, we could use the $150 (although it's not going to change our lives in any way, that's for sure), but in the end, it simply doesn't fit with our view of ethics, morality, and being a progressive. Take that and shove it up your pipeline, oil industry! Ha.
5a. On a related note, I'd point out that we have far higher standards at Blue Virginia than they do at the Kaplan Post, for instance, for commenting. Check out any article's comments at the Kaplan Post, and you'll see what I mean - ad hominem attacks, bigotry, viciousness, totally nuts. Looking at those comments, I'd say that on average, 25% or more would be deleted here at Blue Virginia, the commenters banned. At the Kaplan Post, desperate as it is for "eyeballs" (and, again, $$$$), they basically let anything go. They also, I'd note, frequently (usually?) fail to give proper credit/attribution to other media sites, certainly to Virginia blogs (both conservative and progressive, they're just really unethical about this stuff). Finally, we don't present the false "both sides" nonsense the Post uses to pretend to be "objective."  The fact is, they are NOT objective, they're just sloppy, lazy, and cowardly. But go ahead guys, keep telling yourselves you're real journalists with "standards," if

"Personhood" Dies in the Senate. Good Riddance.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Good riddance. Now, on to the many other crazy bills Republican'ts are pushing this session. It never ends...UPDATE: Here are a few comments from our elected officials, off their Twitter feeds.
Del. Mark Keam: "Very controversial GOP HB 1 "personhood" bill stopped in Senate on 24-16 bipartisan vote. #WinForWomen! Thanks to the public who spoke out!"
Del. David Englin: "Wow. Looks like Va. Senate just killed "personhood" bill! Motion to "re-refer and carry over for the year" passed 24-14."
Del. Scott Surovell: "VA Senate just killed "personhood' amendment for the year - glad they listened to The People."
Del. Charniele Herring: "So, #personhood bill was re-referred to committee and carried over for the year. Thanks everyone & grassroots nation!"
Del. Alfonso Lopez: "HB 1 - the Personhood Bill was just re-referred in the Senate. Effectively killing it this session. Thank you Senate!!"
Also, the RTD reports, "In a stunning turn of events, the Virginia Senate has voted 24-14 to scuttle a bill that would have given fertilized eggs the same legal rights as people."
UPDATE #2: Kaine campaign spokeswoman Brandi Hoffine tweets, "Personhood may be dead in VA Gen Assembly, but don't forget @georgeallenva is campaigning for reelection on 'nat'l personhood' policy"

1,000+ People "Speak Loudly With Silence" for Virginia Women

Monday, February 20, 2012

Great job by SPEAK LOUDLY WITH SILENCE for Virginia women (a silent protest), who are in Richmond today "to tell our elected representatives: Support women's rights to control their bodies! Don't enact oppressive Anti-choice (what pro-life really means) laws!" According to Jenny Lawson of the Virginia Civic Engagment Table, there are 1,000 women at the General Assembly Building "to tell Bob Marshall that we aren't 'sideshows'."P.S. Photo (click on image to "embiggen") courtesy of Cheers for Choice, which reports that "The crowd is inspiring."
P.P.S. See the "flip" for a photo by Del. Scott Surovell, who captions it, "Women's rights groups encircling the Capitol today as we debate and vote on medically unnecessary ultrasounds again."
UPDATE: The Virginia House Democrats report, "Delegate Kaye Kory speaking now against the horrendous assault on women; hopes @bobmcdonnell will veto #VAGOP bills HB462 & SB484."
UPDATE #2Del. David Englin tweets, "Wow. Great to see so many citizens in Capitol Square protesting Va. GOP vaginal penetration ultrasound mandate & attacks on contraception!"
UPDATE #3Del. Charniele Herring tweets,  "Thank you Del. Kory for calling out the assault on women by extreme bills mandating a transvaginal probe for no medical purpose.#overreach"
UPDATE #4: Also see, Is McDonnell Now Backing Away From a State-Sanctioned Rape Bill?, and keep the pressure on the VP wannabe, the guy who wants to avoid the return of the nickname "Taliban Bob" at all costs.
UPDATE #5: Right wingnut/theocrat Del. "Sideshow Bob" Marshall (R-Mars) has this to say about the protestors:
I've got to deal with all these side shows with these people, who just never want to get to the plain fact that there's a very simple thing I want to do, to recognize the unborn as being a human being before the law. That's all...[The legislation] doesn't criminalize abortion, it doesn't affect birth control, and they can't point to one case where it's ever been done that way.
That's right, the guy we know and love as "Sideshow Bob" calls women protesting his misogynistic bill a "side show." Of course, I'm sure he doesn't understand irony, but still...pretty ironic.

Case Study: How Brian Moran Destroys Virginia Democrats' Moral Authority

Friday, February 17, 2012

I've made the point a million times that Brian Moran can NOT simultaneously head up DPVA and also be a major figure in the for-profit "education" scam lobby. People don't seem to "get it," but it's very simple; in fact, in the last hour, I've received two emails that help explain it perfectly.1. First, a friend of mine alerted me to the following article: For-Profit College Chiefs Unwind At Lavish Tahoe Resort.
After two years of intense scrutiny and new federal regulations that have cut into booming enrollments at for-profit colleges, the industry's executives apparently felt the need for a restful break.They found it this week at the palatial Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe resort, a wonderland of gondolas, heated pools and upscale dining that is a city unto itself...
"You get a treatment yet?" asked Brian Moran, who just stepped down as interim chairman of the trade group and heads Virginia's Democratic Party.
"Just got done with it," said Robert Herzog, the CFO of Harrison College in Indiana and a member of the trade group's board.
"Sweet," replied Moran.
Yeah, really "sweet," even as Virginia Democrats are coming off of three-straight disastrous elections, and in the process of watching all the gains we've made during 8 years under Warner/Kaine go down the tubes. Brian Moran? He's out enjoying the "wonderland of gondolas, heated pools and upscale dining" - paid for by taxpayer money, no less. Grrrr.2. Next, I received an email from the Virginia Senate Democratic Caucus (see on the "flip") ripping Republicans for voting "to use taxpayer dollars to fund private schools." Uh, guys? That's EXACTLY what Brian Moran is doing. Exactly! As for Sen. Marsh's charge that this is a "direct attack on public education, make no mistake about it?" Well, make no mistake about it, Brian Moran's organization is also directly attacking public education. The only difference? It's on a much bigger scale at the federal level, thus far more egregious.
Bottom line: Brian Moran can't continue to serve two masters, especially when they are utterly at odds with one another, certainly in a moral sense. So fine; if Brian can live with himself doing the super-lucrative, scam "education" job, then he needs to step down as DPVA chair and find other ways to support the party. Or, if he really wants to be DPVA chair, he certainly shouldn't be defending the bad practices of this predatory industry, let alone suing the Democratic administration. Is any of this difficult to understand? Seriously?!?

Senate Republicans Vote to Use Taxpayer Dollars to Fund Private SchoolsSenate Bill 131 "is a direct attack on public education, make no mistake about it," said Senator Henry Marsh
Today, Republican senators voted to pass Senate Bill 131, which takes Virginia backwards by setting aside up to $25 million taxpayer dollars to provide tax credits for businesses that donate money to private schools at a time when public schools are crying out for additional state support.
Senator David Marsden (D-Burke) said, "Money is not going to be saved by taking a few children out of the public schools and sending them to private schools. The cost of public schools - the administrators, the teachers and the overhead - are all still there. We would be taking $25 million from the general fund, which we use for education. This is an unfocused, ill-advised way to go, and I urge you to vote against the bill."
"I think that if we are interesting in the improvement of education of impoverished children, then we should put the money into the public schools that serve the majority of these children. At a time when schools are struggling, we be increasing their funding - not sending taxpayer dollars to private schools," said Senator Maime Locke (D-Hampton).
Senator John S. Edwards (D-Roanoke City) said, "This is not about scholarships. Senate Bill 131 is a tax credit, which is a giveaway that sends taxpayers money where taxpayers do not want their money to go. Every school district is screaming for funding from this commonwealth. This bill takes money that could go to public schools and gives it to private schools."
Senator Henry Marsh (D-Richmond) said, "This is a war against K-12 education, and if this bill passes it will usher in a rapid decline in public education. This is direct attack on public education, make no mistake about it."

Nothing Moderate This Year

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

by Elaine in Roanoke

Bob McDonnell, in keeping with his national ambitions and his desire to portray himself as no longer a right-wing ideologue, asked the General Assembly now under Republican control not to "overreach." Well, either they didn't heed his message, or the whole thing was a sham all along. After all, if he really is serious about "overreach," McDonnell simply has to veto any extremist stuff his party passes when it reaches his desk.The most egregious so far is the requirement that any woman seeking an abortion undergo an unnecessary and often invasive ultrasound the day before the procedure and be offered a chance to view the results. Not far behind is the end of the reasonable one-gun-per-month limit on firearms sales. (Sadly, a couple of Democrats - including my own state senator John Edwards - went along with that.) Awaiting a Senate vote is "Crazy Bob" Marshall's bill that states a person exists from the moment of conception.
Meanwhile, one of the most pressing problems facing the Commonwealth, a broken transportation funding system, has gone unsolved for yet another year. On that one, McDonnell showed he is hardly moderate but, instead, a typical Republican proposing cuts to social programs and education to avoid any gas tax increase. Thankfully, his raid of the General Fund for his "Asphalt Fund" have been rejected so far. Still, transportation is a problem the Republicans have proven over and over they are incapable of solving.
The General Assembly also has ignored the biggest "elephant in the room" in Virginia. If the Washington does indeed continue to cut the size of  government and the military, Virginia's economy will be impacted severely. Northern Virginia runs on federal employment, while Hampton Roads is dependent on military spending. Instead of working to solve the state' serious problems, the GOP in Richmond has spent its time and effort advancing a radical social agenda. It's time for Virginians to wake up and elect representatives who aren't beholden to ALEC and their own extremism in 2013.
Elaine in Roanoke :: Nothing Moderate This Year
Remember, for every one dollar Virginia sends in taxes to Washington, it gets $1.51 back in federal spending in the state. Virginia also is the top recipient of federal defense spending. The looming loss of a portion of the jobs created by federal spending is far more important than Bob Marshall's worship of zygotes or the GOP bowing down to gun worshippers.We have already borrowed against future federal transportation funds to spend on our failing transportation infrastructure. The only action taken so far this year regarding transportation is tying the gas tax to the rate of inflation. That's no solution. Growing gridlock in NoVa and Hampton Roads and a secondary road system that's falling to pieces are a direct result of the Republicans in charge in Richmond, including Bob McDonnell, not having the political courage to find sources of revenue to meet the state's need.
Then, again, when McDonnell is spending most of his time and energy on becoming a vice presidential candidate instead of governing the state, what else can we expect? It's past time for voters to wake up and finally elect moderates to run the Commonwealth, representatives who don't believe in extremism.

Washington Post Virginia Reporter in "shock" Over Sad Decline of Once-Great Newspaper

Monday, February 13, 2012

The sad decline of the Washington Kaplan Post continues. Evidence? First, the Washington City Paper reports about further cutbacks at "the money-losing newspaper division of the Kaplan test prep and for-profit education empire." The City Paper quotes Jim Romenesko, who notes that "Metro" coverage is one of the areas on the chopping block. Last I checked, "Metro" included the subject of this blog, and the place most of us call home - Virginia.I was wondering what the Post's small, and apparently dwindling, Virginia political reporters thought of all this. Frederick Kunkle, who covers Virginia politics, Fairfax County, etc., has some choice words worth quoting:
We're in shock...this would seem to be a fairly big cut. It's also disconcerting in light of the phenomenal papers we've produced this cannot continue to cut your way to profitability alone, or offer readers less - and not just in quantity of the report, but its quality and sophistication in all sections - and expect the public to pay more. Yet we seem to be heading toward a model like Huffpo or Patch that relies on interns, freelancers, free content from citizen bloggers, and aggregation at the expense of original journalism created by experienced journalists. And that's a sad path for a place that has long enjoyed a reputation for excellence.
As much as I bash the Post for its phony false equivalencies, its sloppy/shoddy/shallow reporting an increasing amount of the time, its corporate and conservative biases, I agree: less coverage of the shenanigans by radical Republicans in Richmond, of corruption at the local and state levels in Virginia, of the latest lunacy by McDonnell/Kookinelli/etc., can't possibly be a good thing for the citizens of the Commonwealth. To the contrary, if you believe - as I strongly do - that a well-informed citizenry is absolutely essential to the healthy functioning of a democracy, then it's hard to see how cutting back on information to said citizenry could possibly help matters.P.S. I see that the Post Magazine's slated for cuts. Honestly, given how lame that thing is in comparison to a serious newspaper like the New York Times, why not just ax it completely? Of course, then we'd have to live without Date Lab, which would be a major bummer (not!), but somehow I think we'd all survive it. ;)

NY Times: "The greater the dependence, the greater the support for Republican candidates."

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Today's New York Times has a fascinating article entitled, "Even Critics of Safety Net Increasingly Depend On It." The data and anecdotal evidence paint a fascinating, utterly schizophrenic, and I'd argue deeply dysfunctional, picture of American politics: 1) on the one hand, a population that is heavily and increasingly dependent on government transfer payments of various kinds (e.g., "entitlements" like Medicare, Medicaid and Security, which account for the vast majority of the U.S. budget); and 2) a tendency towards being "redder" politically where dependence is high, "bluer" politically where dependence is low.For instance, solid-red Kentucky has among the highest rates of government "welfare" dependency in the country. Same thing with most of the solid-red deep South, Appalachia, Missouri, etc. Same thing with the Plains and Rocky Mountain states, which rely heavily on enormous government subsidies for mining, ranching, water, corn growing, you name it (important note: the New York Times analysis does not take into account these enormous subsidies, "only" government payments to individuals, mostly Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, plus food stamps, disability payments, the earned income tax credit, veterans benefits, and unemployment insurance).
The bluest parts of the country, in contrast, tend to have the lowest dependency on government "welfare." They also tend to be the states that are the net "donors" (e.g., give out more money than they take in), while the red states overwhelmingly are net "recipients" of federal largesse.
Look at the any red/blue map of America and you'll see this pattern repeated - with one major caveat, that's perhaps even more disturbing. You'll certainly see it yourself, simply by looking at these maps for a few minutes:  that's right, there's a strong racial factor at work here as well, often cross-cutting and even completely negating the strong link between "redness" politically and high dependency on government transfer payments. You can see it clearly in Virginia's map:
The disparity between the reddest parts of Virginia (mostly net recipient areas) and the bluest parts (mostly net donors) is striking. Thus, in Fairfax County, government transfer payments account for just 4.98% of county income. In Arlington, it's just 4.51%. In Loudoun County, it's 4.89%; in Prince William County, it's 7.39%. Note that all of those counties tend strongly "blue" in presidential (all went strongly for Obama-Biden over McCain-Palin in 2008) and federal elections (all went for Jim Webb over George Allen in 2006).
In contrast, look at solid "red" Wise County, with 32.08% of county income accounted for by government transfer payments, or Patrick County, at 33.79%. In 2008, those two counties went by huge margins for McCain-Palin over Obama-Biden (63%-35% and 64%-34%, respectively). In 2006, both those counties went for George Allen over Jim Webb. The pattern here is glaringly obvious.
Except, as I mentioned above, for one other variable: race. In 2008, for instance, Greensville County, which is 32.45% dependent on government transfer payments, went 64%-35% for Obama-Biden over McCain-Palin. The demographics of Greensville County60% African American, 38% non-Hispanic White. This pattern is repeated over and over again, throughout Virginia and across America: places where dependency on government is high are also the "reddest" politically, as long as they are also the "whitest" demographically. If dependence is high and the localities are heavily minority, the pattern breaks down almost completely. (note, for instance, that Prince William County is now "majority minority," and that its voting trends are wildly different in "federal"/"presidential" years and odd/state election years).

What's the answer to this seeming conundrum? Why would white people resent receiving government benefits, while non-whites apparently don't resent it (or don't resent it enough to outweigh other factors in their voting decisions)? As this diary points out, the answer is obvious: it's a result of "thirty-plus years' carpet-bombing by the right-wing noise machine, of poisonous AM talk radio all day and Fox News all night, of finger-pointing, race-baiting  political ads, of welfare queen straw men and endless scapegoats of varying shades of brown."  Don't believe that? Well, then, I strongly recommend that you watch Boogieman: The Lee Atwater Story, which clearly lays out how Republicans have done it since the late 1960s. Here's Atwater himself, explaining:
You start out in 1954 by saying, "Nigger, nigger, nigger." By 1968 you can't say "nigger" - that hurts you. Backfires. So you say stuff like forced busing, states' rights and all that stuff. You're getting so abstract now [that] you're talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you're talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is [that] blacks get hurt worse than whites. And subconsciously maybe that is part of it. I'm not saying that. But I'm saying that if it is getting that abstract, and that coded, that we are doing away with the racial problem one way or the other. You follow me - because obviously sitting around saying, "We want to cut this," is much more abstract than even the busing thing, and a hell of a lot more abstract than "Nigger, nigger."
In the year 2012, of course, it's even less acceptable to use blatant racism than it was 30 or 40 years ago. So, today, it's usually done in a lot more subtle, dog-whistle style. However, it's important to point out that this election cycle, we've actually seen Republican candidates for president this cycle actually make us feel like we've gone right back to the bad ol' days (e.g., Newt Gingrich talking about how Barack Obama is the "food stamp president"; Rick Santorum ranting that he doesn't want to "make black people's lives better by giving them somebody else's money").The bottom line, though, whether it's subtle or obvious, the Republican Party's strategy to destroy the old Democratic coalition of northern liberals and southern "Dixiecrat" whites was exactly what Lee Atwater did: use racial and cultural "wedge issues" to keep poor, working-class, and even middle-class whites receiving large amounts of government transfer payments from voting the same way as minorities receiving government transfer payments. In addition, Republicans have relentlessly demonized government, even as they grab as much government money as possible, whether in the forms of subsidies to corn growers, extremely cheap mining and grazing rights on public lands, individual transfer payments, etc., etc.
You see it clearly here in Virginia, where Bob McDonnell constantly bashes and belittles government, even as Virginia is among the states most dependent on federal largesse for its prosperity. Take away the federal government, including both civilian, military, and "private" contractor, plus all the spinoff business that comes along with all those people living in Virginia, and the Commonwealth begins to look a lot more like poverty-stricken Alabama or Mississippi or West Virginia than what the relative prosperity many of us are used to in Virginia nowadays.
Yet, according to Bob McDonnell, who either is wildly ignorant, totally delusional, ruthlessly ambitious, or simply lying through his teeth (my bet is on a combination of the four), the "Virginia story" is all about private companies wanting to set up shop here because of our "friendly business climate." Well, sure, except for the overwhelming federal role in Virginia's economy, plus the fact that corporate relocations to Virginia often involve heavy doses of taxpayer-funded corporate welfare payments to those companies to get them to come here. If that's free market conservatism, then I'm Grover Norquist. Heh.
Seriously, though, the upshot of all this is depressingly clear: there is a sharp, dysfunctional, utterly bizarre disconnect between peoples' political behavior - such as their laughably ignorant slogan that "government should keep its hands off our Medicare," or voting for (Republican) politicians who want to slash the government benefits on which they rely -  and their receipt of heavy doses of government assistance. One could call it a "bit the hand that feeds you" mentality, or "displaced anger/hostility," or any number of things (see your nearest shrink for further details). There's also a disturbing racial element here, which Republicans like Lee Atwater have been masters at exploiting for nearly 50 years now. So, next time you hear a Republican politician bashing government, just remember: this is all part of a long-term, deliberate strategy - to transfer wealth and power to the (already) most wealthy and powerful, while stoking "wedge issues" and the "politics of resentment" to persuade tens of millions of Americans to vote for them. Don't fall for it.

Why An Outer Beltway Is A Bad Idea, Visualized

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

by The Green Miles

Paths through Washington, DCEric Fischer created this map of Washington, DC using Twitter data from August 2011:
Routing 30,000 randomly-chosen trips through the paths suggested by 10,000 randomly-chosen geotags. These are perhaps the most interesting routes between the endpoints of the trips, even if not necessarily the most likely.
Note that the routes go in & out of the city center, not around it. Makes you wonder who Gov. Bob McDonnell is really working for when he pushes terrible, incredibly expensive ideas like the Outer Beltway.

Bacon's Rebellion Jumps Shark Into Climate Science Denialism

Monday, February 6, 2012

It's sad, because I've generally liked and respected the wonky, Virginia-focused Bacon's Rebellion blog over the years. True, I've mostly read the superb Peter Galuszka, and largely just skimmed Jim Bacon's increasingly boilerplate conservative talking points (e.g., about how the Baby Boom and entitlements mean that we're doomed, DOOMED - to Armageddon, no less - I say! lol). Still, I've always thought that Jim was a relatively sane, mainstream Republican of the type that used to exist in this country, but is basically extinct at this point. Sadly, Bacon himself now appears to have jumped the proverbial shark, joining the rest of his party on its lurch far, FAR away from reality, empirical evidence, and specifically science (in this case about the climate), with his post, From Rising Temperatures to Big Government In Six Easy Steps. Oy vey.Look, I'm not even going to waste anyone's time quoting from the original article, because it's just an ungodly mishmash/mess of untruths, red herrings, and dark conspiracy theories (while discounting the Koch brothers and others spending millions of dollars a year in their assault AGAINST climate science). Instead, I'm simply going to quote from our own Kindler, a real, honest-to-goodness expert (I know, what a concept!) on environmental issues, who responded calmly, rationally, knowledgeably, and effectively over at Bacon's Rebellion. Kindler's responses follow. Enjoy...and learn!
Do you also talk about the "Gravity Establishment"? How about the "Evolution Priesthood"?No? Why not? Perhap because enormous corporations like Koch Industries and Exxon do not find those scientific issues threatening enough to spend millions creating an infrastucture of websites, NGOs, etc., all united by a very savvy communications strategy designed to discredit climate science in order to protect their share prices. A big part of that strategy is convincing people who repeat their talking points that they are brave, free-thinking"skeptics" taking on some evil Establishment as opposed to just the latest yahoos to fall for the latest Internet scam.
lowkell :: Bacon's Rebellion Jumps Shark Into Climate Science Denialism
For example, you fell for the so-called "Climategate" so-called scandal without mentioning that something like 7 different investigations across 2 continents found no wrong doing in the stolen emails whatsoever. But facts just don't matter in the age of the Internet and Fox News, do they?Science is not determined by some priesthood meeting behind closed doors. It's based on experiments and findings being replicated by many different people in many different places. Climate change was not dreamed up by some enviromentalist, but first hypothesized 100 years ago by Nobel Prize winner Svante Arrhenius and increasingly demonstrated through findings that range from ice core drilling to sea level examination to research on impacts on a vast range of species.
You can throw all that research in the garbage can if you want, but don't fashion yourself some sort of intellectual in the process. And please don't accuse others of groupthink when you're falling for such a well-financed manipulative corporate scam.
Kindler then followed up in response to Jim Bacon's absurd response (in which he put the word "facts" in quotes, and penned the knee-slapper phrase, "Scare up all the Exxon and Koch Brothers bogey men you want, but the fact is, there is debate - in some instances within the AGW movement itself - on each of the six points I raised." Uh huh. Anyway, here's Kindler's demolition:

James, I find it amusing that, after repeatedly raising the bogeymen of a shadowy "Global Warming Establishment" and "Big Government", you accuse me of doing that with Koch. The money and personnel that Koch has invested in climate denial (and at the same time in the Tea Party to find the dupes who'll believe this stuff) is an undeniable, documented fact. See the report for example.If all of the red herrings you cited are points of debate in the scientific community (as opposed to political and conspiracy theory communities), could you please cite published, peer reviewed research that discusses them?
If you'd like responses to all of these issues and more denialist arguments, the website has the best - and it cites actual scientific research.
And please don't just cherrypick data to make a point - i.e., showing charts that begin around 1998, which was an incredibly hot year, in order to make tbe years after look cooler. 9 of the 10 hottest years ever recorded in fact have been in the 2000s. The climb in warming has paused several times, but the long term trend has not stopped.
I know it's a fun game where the Koch Machine spews out new factoids every week and everyone is supposed to drop all they're doing to respond point by point, so that we're all so busy we never get the chance to actually take any action that could harm the fossil fuel industries. But it gets tiresome after a while. If you want to know about the actual scientific debate, then read actual scientific journals, not Rupert Murdoch publications.

Photos, Video from Riverbend Park (Great Falls, VA); Open Thread

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Here are a few photos and video (on the "flip") from a short hike by my wife, Kelly, and me late this afternoon in Riverbend Park. It was relaxing and invigorating, but now that my head is clear, I have to decide who I root for in the Super Bowl: 1) New York, which is where I was born; or 2) New England, which is where I grew up (although Connecticut's split between Giants and Patriots fans). Hmmmm...maybe I'll just root for a good game! :) P.S. Feel free to use this as an open thread to discuss the Super Bowl, Virginia's natural beauty, or whatever else you want.

Albo Says Wife Spurned Sex After Hearing GOP's Transvaginal Ultrasound Plan

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Ben Tribbett flags this clip from the Virginia General Assembly floor of Del. Dave Albo (R-Fairfax). Del. Albo took to the House floor to describe how his wife spurned his advances after seeing a story about the Virginia GOP's efforts to mandate transvaginal ultrasounds.So Virginia Republicans banned gay marriage because they think two men kissing is icky, but we have to listen to Dave Albo and his middle-aged paunch talk about putting on the moves like he's a 15-year-old boy trying to get to second base?

Voters in SWVA Strongly Oppose Loosening Virginia Gun Laws

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

A poll of attitudes towards gun laws, conducted by the respected Lake Research Partners of Virginia Senate Districts 21 and 38 (southwestern Virginia; John Edwards' and Phil Puckett's districts), is being released this morning. I received an advance copy of the polling memo, which you can view in its entirety here. A few highlights.1. "[S]trong majorities of voters oppose ending the state's one handgun a month law,allowing guns on campuses, and allowing any person to carry a concealed and loaded gun without a permit or background check."
2. "Voters in both districts want to make gun laws stronger, not less restrictive."
3. "Voters strongly endorse requiring background checks for people purchasing guns and permits for people who want to carry a concealed loaded weapon."
4. "Nine in ten voters in both districts oppose a suggested change that would allow any person to carry a concealed and loaded gun in public places without a permit or background check."
5. "More than seven in ten voters in both districts oppose allowing students, faculty, and staff at Virginia's state colleges and universities to carry concealed and loaded guns on campus."
6. "More than six in ten voters oppose changing Virginia's law that currently restricts handgun purchases to one a month."
Perhaps most impressive - even stunning - is that gun owners in generally conservative, southwestern Virginia (note that there are also significant urban areas in Sen. Edwards' district along with rural and suburban areas) hold very similar attitudes to non-gun owners. For instance, only about 37% of gun owners, and about 26% of non-gun owners, in the 21st and 38th Senate districts support changing Virginia law to allow people to purchase more than one handgun a month. With regard to allowing guns on college campuses, just 24% of non-gun owners support that, and also just 30% of gun owners. Finally, 94% of gun owners, and 95% of non-gun owners, in the 21st and 38th Senate districts believe that "anyone who buys a gun should be required to have a background check done."
Bottom line: even in two districts of generally-seen-as-"pro-gun" southwestern Virginia, and even among gun owners living in those districts, there is little support for weakening Virginia's gun laws, and far more support for keeping them the same or strengthening them. Which raises the question: why are members of the Virginia General Assembly voting against the wishes of a strong, even overwhelming, majority of their constituents? Think about that one for a minute.