Debunking the Myth that VA Always Votes Opposite for Governor from the Party in the White House

Monday, December 31, 2012

Many people, including UVA Professor Larry Sabato, have noted the "three decades-long Virginia trend to elect a governor opposite to the party of the president." Thus, as Sabato explains, "for eight consecutive elections [since 1977], Virginia has elected a Republican governor every time a Democrat was in the White House or a Democratic governor every time a Republican occupied the Oval Office." Why has this been the case? In Sabato's view, it's "a natural early-midterm reaction, a kind of snapback, which reflects the natural American tendency to want to check and balance power." To his credit, Sabato emphasizes that "this voting pattern is a tendency, not an iron rule of politics," and that "[the] string...will be broken at some point."I agree with Professor Sabato that the 8-elections-in-a-row string is "not iron rule of politics," and that it's bound to "be broken at some point." But I wanted to take it a step further than that, so I went back and looked at those gubernatorial elections since 1977. What I found should pretty much debunk the myth of Virginia always voting opposite of the party in the White House.
For starters, check out this graphic of the president's net approval rating right before Virginia's gubernatorial election in each year since 1977. Notice something? Like, for instance, that Virginia voted opposite the party in the White House even when presidents had high net approval ratings? That, of course, would make zero sense - logically, psychologically, or any other way. Follow me past the "fold" for more.

Virginia Politics 2013: A Dozen Things to Keep an Eye On

Sunday, December 30, 2012

I finally decided that discretion is the better part of valor, and that I would not press my luck after my2012 political forecasting success. Instead, for 2013, I'm going to list a dozen things to keep an eye on next year in Virginia politics. Please feel free to add your own items in the comments section. Thanks.1. The marquee political race of 2013 will be, by far and away, the Virginia gubernatorial race between Terry McAuliffe and Ken Cuccinelli. The things to watch here are whether Bill Bolling throws his hat in the ring as an independent, whether Cuccinelli even bothers to try and reposition himself towards the "center" (good luck with THAT one!), and how strong a campaign McAuliffe runs, given that he's mostly been a behind-the-scenes guy and a businessman, not a politician, for his entire adult life. The other thing to watch out for is whether either "side" seems particularly energized as 2013 proceeds; e.g., will there be a "wave" for either the "blue" or "red" teams in 2013? Right now, I simply have no idea.
2. The Republican battles for LG and AG should be fascinating, as a bunch of mostly right wingnuts battles it out for the support of a tiny percentage of Virginia Republicans at a convention that skews hard right. The question is not whether this will get crazy and (right-wing) extreme, but more HOW crazy and (right-wing) extreme it will get. Personally, I'm rooting for these people making themselves completely unelectable in the general, a la Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock. Let's hope...
3. On the Democratic side, it looks like the only interesting primary - and yes, it's a primary, not a convention - will be for LG, between Sen. Ralph Northam and former Kaine and Obama technology guru Aneesh Chopra. How will this race play out? Will it be focused on: a) ideological differences of any kind; b) electability arguments; c) appeals to different geographical regions of the state; or d) other? How much will endorsements matter in this race (Northam seems to have an early edge on this front)?  What about money (Chopra seems to have a big, early edge there)? Will this race stay civil, or will it get rough as often happens in intra-party contests? Stay tuned.
4. Will Bolling reconcile in any way with Cuccinelli, or will their mutual antipathy only deepen in 2013? If the latter occurs, which I tend to believe is more likely, will Bolling go so far as to endorse McAuliffe or to run himself? How much clout does Bolling have, anyway, given that most Virginians don't even know who he is? I guess we'll find out in coming months.
lowkell :: Virginia Politics 2013: A Dozen Things to Keep an Eye On

5. Will the the 2013 Virginia General Assembly session accomplish anything, such as serious movement on the transportation funding front, or will it devolve into another ALEC-style push for hard-right-wing legislation on women's reproductive rights, "guns, god, and gays" (to paraphrase Howard Dean), immigration, letting corporations run amok (even worse than they already can in Virginia), etc? Will Bill Howell keep his caucus focused, or will he let it spin out of control, with the Sideshow Bobs of the world dominating news coverage (and hurting Ken Kookinelli in the process)? This should be fascinating.6. Will Virginia Democrats run strong candidates in at LEAST all the "Obama districts" currently held by Republicans? My understanding is that there are 18 of those. In theory, that means if we won all of them (highly unlikely, of course) we'd go from 32 seats in the House of Delegates to a 50/50 tie. But first and foremost, this depends on recruiting strong candidates, funding them generously, and making sure we turn out the "Obama voters" from 2012.
7. How will DPVA function under new leadership? Other than the new DPVA Chair Charniele Herring, who will that new leadership be exactly? So far, I haven't heard any movement on finding a new Executive Director, for instance. How long will this process drag on into 2013 (hopefully not long), and will DPVA be stronger in the end?
8. How involved will Democratic heavy hitters Mark Warner, Tim Kaine, and Jim Webb be in the 2013 campaign? Will Warner and Kaine be mostly focused on national issues, or will they campaign hard for Terry McAuliffe and the rest of the Democratic ticket? Will Webb focus on writing books, traveling, making movies, fun stuff like that, or will he stay active in Virginia politics on behalf of Democratic candidates? Got me.
9. Will there be regional referenda on raising gas taxes to pay for transportation improvements in Virginia? If so will they fare any better than the ones that went down in flames in 2002?
10. To what extent will national economic and political events impact Virginia's 2013 elections?  For many years now, Virginia has voted opposite for governor from the party controlling the White House, but will this hold in 2013 if the economy's doing well, Obama's popular, and there's no right-wing movement like the Tea Party of 2009-2010?
11. Given the unpopularity of the Republican Party nationally, will Ken Cuccinelli be able to bring in anyone from outside Virginia to help him, or will all of them - Santorum, Boehner, McConnell, whoever - be net negatives for him?
12. On the Democratic side, will Barack Obama be a major participant in helping Terry McAuliffe, and if so how much will it help rev up the Obama coalition to come out and vote for T-Mac? Oh, and let's not forget former President Bill Clinton; will he merely camp out in Virginia, or will he formally relocate so that he can campaign 24/7 for his friend T-Mac? ;) Just kidding on the relocating, but I do wonder how much of the super-popular Bill Clinton we'll be seeing in 2013, and how much that will boost McAuliffe and the rest of the Democratic ticket.

Reviewing My Predictions for 2012: How Did I Do?

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Given that the vast majority of forecasts made about future events are invariably wrong, the obvious question arises: why try to predict the future at all? A few reasons. First, it's a natural human tendency (they used to read cat entrails and other crazy stuff liike that; now they plug numbers into computers and think that garbage in won't lead to garbage out - good luck with that!) to want to know what's going to happen, and by knowing, perhaps to gain a measure of control over the uncertain, therefor anxiety-producing, future. Second, it helps think through the possibilities and try to understand the forces at work. Third, it's kinda fun.With all that in mind, a year ago I actually put out a list of "13 Fearless (Foolhardy?) Predictions for 2012". How did I do? Let's review (the correct ones are in green, the partly right/partly wrong ones in orange, and the totally wrong ones in red).
1. "The U.S. economy continues to recover, in part as Europe avoids meltdown. The unemployment rate drops below 8% by election day 2012."
BINGO, all that undergraduate and graduate level economics I studied wasn't a complete waste of time (and my parents' money - heh) after all! :) That's right, in 2011 the economy kept on its slow recovery, with the national unemployment rate falling from 8.5% in December 2011 (when I made this prediction) to 7.7% in November 2012.

2. "Willard 'Mitt' Romney easily wins the Republican nomination for president, as the anti-'Mitts fail to coalesce around one legitimate candidate (and no, Ron Paul isn't a legitimate Republican candidate)."
BINGO once again - that is exactly what happened. If the anti-Mitts had coalesced around one candidate, which they belatedly tried (but failed) to do, I think it's possible one of them would have stopped the Mittster. But they didn't, and we know the rest of the story.
lowkell :: Reviewing My Predictions for 2012: How Did I Do?
3. "Either Ron Paul (although he's damaged goods due to all the past racist, anti-Semitic, etc. writings) or egomaniac loony-tunes Donald Trump -- or another right-wing Tea Party type -- runs as a third-party candidate, in addition to Libertarian Gary Johnson, winning votes from conservatives and others on the right unhappy with flippin'-but-formerly-to-the-left-of-Ted-Kennedy, Willard "Mitt" Romney."
In the end, both Paul and Trump kept their names very much in the news, but neither one actually ran for president as a third-party candidate. Gary Johnson, on the other hand, DID run as a third-party candidate, but he got very few votes and had no impact whatsoever on the election. So, I'd say this prediction was mostly wrong. Oh well, can't get 'em all right. :)
4. "In large part because of #1-#3, Barack Obama is reelected president of the United States by a comfortable margin (3-5 percentage points), although not as big a landslide as in 2008."
BINGO, that's almost exactly what happened, with Obama beating Romney by about 4 percentage points, right in the middle of my predicted 3-5 percentage point range.

5. "Obama wins Virginia again, albeit by a more narrow margin than last time around, thanks to a huge margin in Northern Virginia, heavy turnout by African Americans and Latinos, and OFA's organizing ability - but NO thanks to DPVA."
Again, that's exactly what happened: Obama won Virginia, but by only 4 points this time around, down from 6 points in 2008. Obama's victory was driven by heavy turnout among African Americans and Latinos, a huge margin in NOVA, and OFA's organizing ability. Correct on all counts.

6. "Mitt Romney selects Bob McDonnell as his running mate, but loses Virginia to Obama-Biden anyway."
WRONG. Of course, I didn't foresee McDonnell completely melting down over "transvaginal ultrasounds." I also didn't foresee Romney making a stupid pick like Paul Ryan, not that I think McDonnell would have helped Romney carry Virginia regardless.

7. " A sunny, upbeat, likable, forward-looking, reality-based Tim Kaine defeats snarling, nasty, divisive, backwards-looking, science-denying George "Felix Macacawitz" Allen, 53%-47%. Allen goes back to lobbying full time (and for a ton of cash!) for the people destroying our planet and keeping us addicted to fossil fuels."
BINGO! Kaine beat Allen 53%-47%, exactly as I predicted in late December 2011. The campaign also played out almost exactly as I predicted, with Kaine staying reality-based, forward-looking, and mostly upbeat/likable, while Allen was...well, the usual.

8. "Democrats and Republicans end up tied for control of the U.S. Senate. Vice President Biden breaks the ties, but the Senate remains largely paralyzed as it has been for several years now (thanks to Republican abuse of the filibuster, mainly)."
I mostly this one, as Democrats did FAR better in the Senate than I thought they'd do, even winning seats in red states like North Dakota and Missouri that I thought for sure were goners. Still, the other part of the prediction is correct, as the Senate remains largely paralyzed thanks to Republican abuse of the filibuster, even as Democrats remain nominally in control.

9. "Democrats come very close, but fall just short of taking back the U.S. House of Representatives. Watch your back, John Boehner, as Eric Can'tor mounts a coup attempt for Speaker!"
Partly correct, as Democrats DID gain seats in the House, but they remain further from taking it back then I thought they would. On the other hand, Boehner does remain in serious danger of a coup attempt for Speaker, although I'm not sure that Eric Can'tor will be the one mounting it...

10. The Supreme Court does NOT rule the individual mandate as unconstitutional, although with some sort of wishy washy language that falls far short of a definitive ruling and leaves it as a live political issue. Whatever the exact decision, the Supreme Court case reminds people, in the middle of a presidential election year, that the mandate was originally a conservative, Republican idea (supported by Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, etc.), an alternative to "Hillarycare"'s employer mandate. Ken Kookinelli throws a temper tantrum, ranting and raving about King George, "First Principles," blah blah blah." 
Basically nailed it, as the Supreme Court didn't rule the individual mandate as unconstitutional, but only with some creative constitutional analysis by Chief Justice Roberts. And yes, Kookinelli threw a temper tantrum, before getting a grip on himself and somehow declaring victory of sorts. Who the heck knows with that guy, though, he's completely bonkers after all.

11. In part due to the DPVA's utter dysfunction, there will be no serious Democratic candidates opposing Morgan Griffith, Robert Hurt, or Eric Can'tor."
Mostly wrong, although I guess it comes down to how one defines "serious." In the end, all three of those Teapublican't Congresscritters were opposed, but they all won easily, as their Democratic opponents were mostly unknown and underfunded. Was that the fault of DPVA? In the long run, one could argue that DPVA needs to be building a strong Democratic operation in Virginia, and that doesn't seem to be happening. On the other hand, the opponents for Griffith, Hurt, and Can'tor all ran energetic campaigns in solidly red districts, so I'm not sure how much DPVA could have done there.

12. "Newt Gingrich is NOT on the Republican ballot in the Virginia primary, but he nonetheless manages to (mis)use a few more absurd historical analogies (in addition to "Pearl Harbor") to express how this is the WORST thing in the history of the world!!! LOL"
Yeah, pretty much - Newt is nuts.

13. "Budget and tax battles continue all year, at the end of which, a reelected President Obama's leverage - due to the imminent expiration of the Bush tax cuts, as well as budget cuts slated to kick in automatically - leads to a grand bargain of sorts (this may be the final straw for Boehner, or Can'tor's "Nixon goes to China" move, which Boehner lacked the credibility with Tea Party to pull off)."
Well, this one's interesting, as it's still up in the air, even as the sand in 2012's hourglass runs out. But yes, budget and tax battles continued until the end of 2012, with the possibility of a "grand bargain" certainly out there, and with Boehner hanging on for dear life, possibly losing his Speaker's job over this entire cluster@#$@ situation.

So, how did I do? Out of 13 predictions, I count 8  "greens," 3 "oranges," and 2 "reds." Not too bad, overall, maybe even enough to encourage me to make some fearless (foolhardy?) predictions for 2013. :)

Ken Kookinelli's Krazy Year in Review

Thursday, December 27, 2012

As always, it was a wild and wacky year for Virginia's fine, if utterly insane, Attorney General Ken Kookinelli. With 2012 rapidly winding down, and before 2013 undoubtedly has us slamming our heads against our computers/desks/etc. at Cuckoo's campaign craziness, I thought it would be fun to review his 2012 extremism and all-around bizarre behavior. Enjoy!January
*Cuccinelli started off 2012 just as he behaved in 2010 and 2011 - politicizing the AG's office, inserting himself into an intra-Republican-party dispute (over access to the Republican presidential primary ballot here in the Commonwealth), one that he certainly had a right to have an opinion on as a private citizen, but also that he would have been wise - if wisdom were one of his virtues, which it clearly is not - to keep a low profile on, at least in his role as AG. In the end, as usual, Cuccinelli was forced to reverse course, even admit he was wrong, and abandon his attempts to change the Virginia's ballot qualification rules in midstream.
*More insanity and corporate hackdom, this time with Cuckoo-bird disavowing the health benefits of restricting mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants. Of course, Cuccinelli has always served the wealthy, the powerful, and the polluters over the people, so what else is new?
*That's right, Cuckoo compared immigrants to rats. Seriously. And again, this bigoted freakazoid is Virginia's Attorney General. Wow.
*Corruption, anyone? Cuccinelli Announces Settlement with Fraudulent "US Navy Vets," Totally Omits Own Involvement!
*Cuccinelli at Cocktail Party Tonight to Honor Anti-"Obamacare" Fanatic
*Rats! Cuccinelli Continues to Waste Taxpayers' Time and Money on Utter Nonsense - Bad enough that Cuckoo compared immigrants to rats, but he also wasted Virginia taxpayers' time and money on this nonsensical non-"issue." So much for being a fiscal "conservative."
*Of all the horrible things Kookinelli's done since he became Virginia AG, his assault on climate science, on former UVA Professor Michael Mann, and on academic freedom is the worst, in my view. Fortunately, not everyone's a know-nothing Grand Inquisitor type like Cooch.  Virginia Supreme Court Ruling Against Cuccinelli "a victory for science in Virginia" ("The Virginia Supreme Court today sided with the University of Virginia in its fight against the state attorney general's investigation of former U.Va. climate scientist Michael Mann.")
lowkell :: Ken Kookinelli's Krazy Year in Review
*37 Attorneys General Sign Google Privacy Policy Letter -- But Where's Cuccinelli? ("when it comes to using the considerable powers of his office to actually help Virginia consumers?  Then Cuccinelli is harder to find than an ivory-billed woodpecker.  You can almost randomly choose an issue of real concern to everyday Virginians and you're guaranteed to find our Ayatollah General missing in action.")*I do what I want! Cuccinelli on Supreme Court health care ruling ("Perhaps he was feeling left out because his lower court challenge to the health care law did not make it to the big dance this March, so he's back to fighting the health care law any way he can-even if it means breaking the law. Last week, Attorney General Cuccinelli stated that unless there are criminal penalties, he would be comfortable breaking the law by not implementing the Affordable Care Act.")
*Why U-VA Should Be Compensated for Cuccinelli's Follies ("Virginia Senate Democrats recently submitted their demands for the state budget, and in a stroke of inspiration, included compensating the University of Virginia $576,000 for its legal costs in fighting Attorney General Cuccinelli's appalling legal assault on it.")
*Cuccinelli's Latest Enemy: Energy Conservation ("...who could be against this great idea?  You guessed it.  When Dominion spoke before the State Corporation Commission last week in favor of its energy conservation plan, Cuccinelli's office sent a paid consultant to testify against it")
*Cuccinelli Flip Flops on Obeying the Health Care Law - That's right, Virginia's chief law enforcement officer can't figure out when or whether he needs to follow the law of the land. Earth to Cuckoo - the answer is ALWAYS! What part of the word "illegal" don't you understand, you teahadist jerk?
*VIDEO: Cuccinelli on how it's not his job to fight corruption; report is a Soros plot ("Yes, you heard that correctly. When asked about the widely reported State Integrity Investigation that shows Virginia is at high-risk for corruption, Attorney General Cuccinelli shrugged it off as so-much nonsense. After rudely dismissing a constituent's concerns about government integrity, he went on to say it's not his job to fight corruption.")
*Cuccinelli on Electric Rates: Follow the Money ("As I predicted not long ago, our Attorney General is now launching what will surely be a major theme of his just-announced gubernatorial campaign: demagoguing electric power rate increases, blaming them on big gov'mint and environmentalists -- while leaving energy companies blameless.  Yes, power rates are all the fault of that evil EPA...")
*What Ken Kookinelli Was Up To Today (Photos, Video) ("...speaking to a few hundred anti-"Obamacare" Tea Partiers at the "Road to Repeal" rally at Upper Senate Park. Needless to say, he wasn't speaking at the much larger Reason Rally")
*Ken Cuccinelli Has the Solution to All Your Problems: Ken Cuccinelli ("Ken Cuccinelli has quite the televangelist-style pyramid scheme going. He's always so close to stopping those evil moderates ... if only you'll give him a little more money, and ask your friends to do the same.")
*The Real Cuccinelli ("Let's not let Virginians forget that Ken Ciccinelli has done things that raise serious questions about his fitness to fill any office in the Commonwealth. I shudder when I think of his sitting in the governor's chair.")
*Convention Buys Cuccinelli More Time To Rethink Potentially Fatal Decision
*Ken Cuccinelli: Loser ("Not since the Chicago Cubs has anyone assembled as impressive a losing streak as Ken Cuccinelli.  With his reverse Midas Touch, every major case that Virginia's chief legal officer champions just ends up swirling down the judicial toilet.  The latest flush came today, as the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit rejected his baseless challenge of the US EPA's scientific finding that greenhouse gases represent a threat to human health.")
*Supreme Court Upholds "Obamacare": America Wins, Ken Cuccinelli Big-Time LOSER! ("Our fanatic, wildly misguided Attorney General calls the Supreme Court ruling 'a dark day for the American people, the Constitution, and the rule of law...a dark day for American liberty.' As usual, with Ken Kookinelli, take the EXACT OPPOSITE of what he says and it's very close to the truth.")
*Starting Today, VA Republicans Mandate (aka, "Force") Women to Have Ultrasounds Prior to Abortion ("... you'd think that Teapublicans like Ken Cuccinelli would be screaming bloody murder today." But no!)
*Cuccinelli's Lame Attempt to Interfere in Senate Race ("Cuccinelli is dredging up documents and issues nearly as old.  In a NUTshell, they're trying to blame Kaine for trying to send a German murderer convicted in 1990, Jens Soering, to complete his prison term in Germany rather than Virginia")
*Surrogate Fail: Cuccinelli's Obama Attack Backfires, Damages Romney ("While we already know Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli is a terrible lawyer, today we also learned he's a terrible campaign surrogate")
*Herring Blasts Cuccinelli On Board Of Health Regulations ("Ken Cuccinelli shouldn't be holding women's healthcare hostage.  This is politics, not sound legal analysis, and he's wrong.   It's fine if Cuccinelli wants to run for the Republican gubernatorial nomination, but he shouldn't drag women's access to healthcare through the mud along the way.")
*Cuccinelli Invades Maryland (" the latest -- Cuccinelli intervening in a Maryland gun control case with no implications whatsoever for Virginia.  As if terrorizing our state weren't enough, he has to interfere with our neighbors too.")
*Bewildering: Romney Kicks Cuccinelli To the Curb; Endorses Rival Bolling - Hahahahahaha.
*Herring Urges Board Of Health To Reject Cuccinelli's Intimidation Tactics ("Attorney General Cuccinelli has moved outside the scope of his legal authority in his attempt to substitute his extreme political ideology for the will of the Board, threatening women's access to reproductive healthcare in the process.")
*Did Cuccinelli Just Concede the 2013 Gov. Race? VA Board of Health Coup Will Backfire. ("No reason to call this anything other than it is: a cruel and unnecessary vindictive action by the government which serves no necessary state interest.")
*ProgressVA Condemns Va Board of Health Decision to Bow to Cuccinelli and McDonnell's Bullying ("ProgressVA today strongly condemned the decision by the Virginia Board of Health to prioritize politics over evidence-based medicine and bow to bullying from Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli by removing the 'grandfather clause' from proposed clinic regulations.")
*Wanna Go Shootin' with Ken Cuccinelli, "various assault weapons...with silencers?" ("When he's not busy bullying the Board of Health into making health decisions for women, Ken Cuccinelli is helping raising cash with his allies by firing submachine guns with anyone who is willing to pay $2,500. This is what our Attorney General is focused on and this is why we need a change in the office.")
*Will Votergate Come Back to Haunt Cuccinelli?
*Climate Scientist Fights Back, Sues Right Wing Reality Deniers ("Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli clumsy attempt at "investigating" Dr. Mann's work was laughed out of court. Mann has been contemplating a lawsuit for months and is now moving forward, so he must feel he has a much stronger legal case than science's hapless enemies.")
*Cuccinelli Ally Muses on When Obama "goes to Hell"
*Photo: Cuccinelli-Allen Joint #FAIL (Jamie Radtke: "So I get an invitation to attend a Cuccinelli fundraiser in my community, and look at the reply envelope they included for RSVP!! Seriously?!")
*Rand "Aqua Buddha" Paul Endorses Ken Kookinelli for Governor
*Congratulations to Ken Kookinelli, Winner of the 2012 ProgressVA "Turkey of the Year" Award
*Ken Cuccinelli, Jeffersonian? ("Why is right wing crackpot Ken Cuccinelli running for Virginia governor?  Well of course because he is the spiritual descendant of Thomas Jefferson")
*Audio: Virginia AG Ken Cuccinelli Questions Legitimacy of President Obama's Reelection
*Audio: Bill Bolling on Takeover of RPV by Tea Party "Confederation"; Possible Run as an Independent (Run Bill RUN!!!)
*DPVA: Cuccinelli would be a Governor for Santorum, not for Virginia
Great year, huh? Can Cuckoo top it in 2013? My bet is that he most definitely can, as he's now running for governor, believe it or not, and is certain to say all kinds of extreme, insane things before the year is out. Pop up some popcorn and enjoy! :)
P.S. Needless to say, all joking aside, this guy's a menace and must be defeated - preferably by a wide margin, along with his fellow right wingnut running mates - in 2013.

A Few Thoughts on Jim Webb's 6 Years in the U.S. Senate

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Hard as it is to believe, the "Draft James Webb" movement began almost exactly 7 years ago, after three of us crazy, completely unrealistic (heh) progressive activist troublemaker (heh) types - Josh Chernila, Lee Diamond, and myself - first sat down with Jim Webb in Rosslyn and decided he needed a bit of encouragement to run for Senate.Now, Senator Webb is about to leave office, after an eventful 6 years. In addition to his farewell interview to Bill Bartel of the Virginian Pilot, Webb's office has also published "a 134-page report on his tenure that included details of legislation, diplomatic efforts, timelines, photos and supportive news stories and editorials, as well as Webb's opinion columns."
I thought it would be an interesting exercise, if nothing else, to go through this report and provide my own assessment of how I think Webb did. In particular, I'm going to focus on Webb's three main themes: 1) Re-orienting America's Foreign and National Security Policies; 2) Promoting Economic Fairness and Social Justice; and 3) Government Accountability and Balance of Powers. I'll also have a few thoughts on how Webb did from a purely political point of view, and regarding other important issues for Virginia and the nation.
1. Re-orienting America's Foreign and National Security Policies
Of course, one Senator can only do so much, but Jim Webb clearly played a significant role in attempting to influence U.S. foreign policy the past 6 years. With regard to Iraq, Webb "strongly supported the removal of our military forces from Iraq at the end of 2011." Webb, of course, had opposed the Iraq War, not because he's a pacifist, which he most certainly is not (e.g., to this day he supports the Vietnam War), but because he thought it was a strategic mistake. Among other things, Webb believed that the invasion and occupation of Iraq would get us bogged down as an "occupying force in the middle of sectarian violence," while "[empowering] Iran in the process," and distracting us from our focus and energies on the war against Al Qaeda. On all these fronts, Webb turned out to be correct, and in the end his views largely prevailed, although not in time to save us from many of the dangers Webb had warned against. Still, on this count, Webb has to be seen making a significant contribution with his highly credible and well-reasoned critiques, and we all owe him thanks for that.
lowkell :: A Few Thoughts on Jim Webb's 6 Years in the U.S. Senate
As for Afghanistan, Senator Webb did exactly the right thing: "consistently asked administration officials to clarify the ultimate objective of our military engagement and costly nation building programs there and to set clear parameters that would allow American withdrawal from combat in that country." Webb also "warned against committing the United States to long-term security agreements with Afghanistan...without the full participation of Congress." More broadly, Webb argued that the "military's approach to Afghanistan and Iraq was not a workable model for combating international terrorism in the future, stating that the best way to address international terrorism is through 'mobility and maneuverability.'" On all these counts, I'd say that Webb was right on, and again I thank him for his efforts. How successful those efforts were, just as in Iraq, are another story, but again, I'd argue that there's only so much one U.S. Senator can do.One of Webb's most important contributions, but probably least heralded, has to do with the U.S. shift in focus towards East and Southeast Asia. Webb's tremendous knowledge of/experience with this part of the world was a major asset, and he used it "to strengthen relations and demonstrate America's commitments to the region...[as] the essential balancing force." Webb's overarching strategic vision for this region centered on his long-held view that China poses a military threat as part of that country's "larger strategic agenda" and desire to "expand its territory." Personally, I've always felt that Webb's views on China were somewhat exaggerated and even a bit obsessive, but there's no question that Webb made a contribution towards strengthening the strategic  balance of power in the Asia/Pacific region, including with his groundbreaking efforts to bring Burma/Myanmar "back into the world community."
Webb also points with obvious pride to his efforts on realigning U.S. military basing in East Asia, aiming to "ensure a strong U.S. presence in the region while reducing costs and impacts on local communities." Certainly, Webb brought a unique mix of knowledge, experience, and credibility to this effort, and it clearly paid off.
One area of Webb's work I actually wasn't aware of relates to his efforts at protecting the Mekong River Basin from "potentially catastrophic consequences" - environmental and otherwise - of dam building on the river, by China and others. I'm not sure why this wasn't better publicized, but great work by Jim Webb on that front nonetheless!
Related to national security and foreign policy, but also to the goals of social justice and economic fairness, were Webb's efforts on behalf of U.S. military personnel. I'd argue that it was in this area that Webb had his most important impact, whether pushing for safe body armor for our troops, fighting to protect TRICARE, addressing the issue of military "Dwell Time" and other important "quality of life" issues for "servicemembers and their families." Last but certainly not least was almost certainly Webb's #1 accomplishment in the Senate, the Post-9/11 GI Bill -- providing for "the most comprehensive educational benefits since World War II" for "those who have served since 9/11." If Senator Webb had accomplished nothing else, that alone would justify his 6 years in the Senate.
One more foreign policy area I feel is worth noting is Webb's opposition to President Obama's military operation in Libya. We can disagree on the merits of whether the U.S. should have participated in NATO's intervention in Libya - and I strongly supported that intervention - but I just fundamentally disagree with the articulated reasons for Webb's opposition. The fact is, the U.S. has intervened in dozens (hundreds?) of cases throughout history, including during the Reagan Administration (Lebanon, Grenada, Libya, etc.), of which Webb was an important member of the national security team., the multilateral effort against Qaddafi did not, as Webb claimed, "defy historical precedent," nor was it contrary to our "true strategic interests" (in my view) to participate in this effort with our allies, to prevent a bloodbath, and to rid that nation of a longstanding antagonist of the United States, with American blood clearly on his hands (the Lockerbie bombing, the Berlin disco bombing, etc.).
Stepping back and looking at the broader picture, I'd say there's no question that Jim Webb had an impact on U.S. foreign policy and national security policy the past 6 years. To an extent, it's been "reoriented," but overall I think most foreign policy experts would argue that there's plenty of continuity from the Bush (and Clinton, and Bush 41) foreign policies, and that there hasn't really been a fundamental reorientation, all things considered. Again, though, there's only so much one Senator can do, and Webb certainly tried, which is a lot more than anyone can say for his predecessor, the worthless/abysmal excuse for a Senator, George Allen.
Promoting Social Justice and Economic Fairness
On this front, I'd say that it's a much more mixed bag (at best) for Senator Webb. Of course, this is a lot tougher area to deal with than foreign policy in many ways, as the issues - globalization, increased income inequality, tax policy, entrenched views on criminal justice, you name it - tend not to be particularly amenable to bipartisan compromise, or even within the control of policymakers at all. And again, there's only so much one Senator can do.
Still, Webb did work hard on an important area - criminal justice reform - that badly needs to be addressed, and he deserves a lot of credit for doing so. No doubt, it has got to be Webb's #1 frustration as he leaves the Senate that, in spite of building support from across the political spectrum for his criminal justice reform legislation, the dysfunctional Senate prevented action. It's utterly absurd, maddening, you name it, that a few Senators can stop action on something that: a) is desperately needed; b) has broad bipartisan support; and c) would almost certainly win a majority of U.S. Senators. The fact that a few Republicans filibustered this legislation is truly, as conservative columnist Reihan Salam called it in the National Review, an "absolute scandal.' We should all be angry about this mindless obstructionism, because it hurt our country in this case, and it continues to hurt our country in many other cases as well. So, again, great work by Webb, but a major failure by Senate Republicans and the Senate as an institution. Filibuster reform, anyone?!?
On trade policy, Webb points to his efforts advocating for "fair trade." It's interesting, thinking back to the 2006 primary with Harris Miller, how trade policy was such a huge issue, one that the Washington Post specifically cited in its endorsement of Harris Miller. In the end, though, I feel like this issue has mostly fizzled out the past few years, as a broad consensus in Congress seems to support trade agreements, fair or not. As for Webb's "Currency Exchange Rate Oversight Reform Act," I'm highly skeptical that this will have any meaningful impact at all. Other than that, it's hard to point to an area in which U.S. trade policy moved in a "fair" direction, whether we're talking worker rights, environmental standards, or whatever else.
Finally, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention a major area of disagreement - and disappointment - I had with Senator Webb. In 2006, our first conversation focused heavily on Webb's views on "Jacksonian Democracy," that the "health of a society is measured at its base, not at its apex." In the end, as I've discussed previously, what we've seen is  Webb inexplicably arguing that "the proposed $250,000 cut off level is too low, and he is advocating that it be raised."  I'm sorry, but in no way/shape/form is $250,000 per year working class or middle class. In addition, we also had Webb's opposition - along with conservadems like Ben Nelson, Joe Manchin, and Joe Lieberman - to the "millionaire's surtax." Meanwhile, to paraphrase Webb, the rich keep getting richer, the poor keep getting poorer, and the middle class keeps getting squeezed. I'd love to hear what Andrew Jackson would say to Jim Webb on this topic if he had the chance.
Government Accountability and Balance of Powers
Jim Webb certainly deserves credit for working to reform wartime contracting, which as far as I can tell is seriously wasteful, flawed, politicized, and even corrupt. Webb also has done good work on Defense Department oversight, on addressing "star creep" in the military, and on ending wasteful government subsidies for corn ethanol (one of the biggest corporate welfare boondoggles around, also drives up food prices and is environmentally damaging).
On the issue of defining presidential war powers, whether or not you agree with Webb, the reality is that the trend for decades now has been towards more, not less presidential power when it comes to military action. Technology, combined with an increased focus on nonstate/substate actors, has only exacerbated this trend, with drone strikes, cyberwarfare, and in many ways the entire "war on terrorism" residing in a sort of netherworld in terms of whether they constitute "acts of war," what authorization is required to carry out various U.S. military and intelligence actions. Meanwhile, Congress remains almost completely dysfunctional, making it about the LAST place to look for leadership or clear direction in terms of U.S. national security policy, let alone the fast-moving and complex/nebulous situations that face our military commanders and our Commander in Chief every day. So, bottom line: I have no problem in theory with Congress trying to assert itself as a coequal branch of government when it comes to foreign policy, but I see basically ZERO sign that they are capable of doing so.
Finally, my biggest areas of disagreement with Senator Webb have revolved around his wildly misguided ideas around energy and the environment. The concept that the EPA has "overreached" is so misguided and absurd, it's hard to even know where to start. To the extreme contrary, the EPA has not moved nearly fast enough, despite clear authorization from BOTH Congress AND the Supreme Court to do so, on dealing with the dire situation of man-made (and yes, it's almost 100% caused by humans) global warming. And I'm sorry, but Congress has absolutely ZERO standing to complain about the EPA, when it has utterly, miserably, inexcusably failed to pass comprehensive clean energy and climate legislation. Given Congress' utter abdication on this crucial issue, the EPA is about all we've got, so stop holding it back, bashing it, etc. As Jim Webb himself might say, my argument here is that when it comes to energy and the environment, it's long past time for Congress to either lead, follow, or get the @#$#@$ out of the way. To date, I've seen them do none of those things. #FAIL
On another energy/environmental issue, Senator Webb was also wildly off base in his efforts at slowing/preventing new boiler MACT ("Maximum Achievable Control Technology") legislation, his bizarre embrace of the same coal industry he had ripped to shreds in Born Fighting, and his wrongheaded support for offshore oil drilling, not to mention the utter absurdity of subsidizing nuclear power, which offers about the least "bang for the buck" (e.g., it's hugely expensive per unit of power produced) of any energy source out there. Now, some would say I shouldn't have been surprised that Webb would be as poor on energy and environmental issues as he's turned out to be, but honestly I'm surprised, given what he had written about coal companies turning Appalachia into a "poverty-stricken basket case." Ugh.
Lastly, just a brief note about Webb as a politician. No, that wasn't a punch line, although it could have been. Let's just put it this way: there are reasons why Webb, despite a voting record very similar to Mark Warner's, is far less popular than Warner. As the saying goes, 90% of life is just showing up, and the fact is that while Warner shows up all over Virginia, Webb is simply not interested in getting out and about, in schmoozing or back slapping or any of that stuff. There's nothing necessarily wrong with that, but I'd argue that it hurt Webb's ability to establish a strong bond with Virginians during his 6 years in the Senate. Instead, Webb never really seemed to increase his popularity from where it was when he narrowly defeated George Allen in November 2006. It's too bad, as I'd argue that Webb's actually accomplished a great deal in the Senate, almost certainly more than Mark Warner has. But Webb's an introvert, Warner's an extrovert, and this culture most definitely favors the latter over the former, fairly or not. Such is life, I guess...

Mark Warner and the Lump of Coal He Wants to Put in Our Stockings

Monday, December 24, 2012

by KathyinBlacksburg

When I was at the mall a couple times this week, I marveled at the small crowds. What's up? Well, it turns out that, in the waning days of Christmas shopping, shoppers are wary. The fiscal cliff mongers of doom have probably set off some unintended consequences. Worse, they promise a lump of coal too.US Senator Mark Warner is once again braying about the perils of a so-called "fiscal cliff" he helped engineer. If Democrats would just be good little do-bees (i.e., they do everything they are told like good little boys and girls), then everything would be A-OK. He also pretends that Democrats are equally guilty of refusing to negotiate the so-called fiscal cliff particulars, when, given the four-year-long Republican tantrum, and all the concessions the President has made, that false equivalence is downright laughable.
During negotiations, President Obama already threw seniors under the bus, as well as the Middle Class. Yet Republicans have been willing to give up nothing. They walked, remember? Instead of calling upon Republicans to stop the extortion of everyday Americans' futures, Warner does what he does best - attack his own side as equally responsible. He knows damn well it is not.  Besides, as I pointed out above, this is a manufactured crisis.
What's worse, just before Christmas, Warner once again prances (better than Prancer, the Reindeer) his so-called "radical centrism," which is another word for self-serving Republicanism-for-the-rich. Warner's preaching policies which will worsen the economy and hurt the Middle Class. Remember, this is the guy who has been on the speaking tour with Republican Senator Saxby Chambliss (R-GA: the guy who tried to equate war hero Max Cleland with OBL) for an offshoot group of Americans for Prosperity (i.e., one of the main Peter Peterson/Koch Brothers funded groups  which funded the Tea Party). Warner's Gang of Six (and then Eight) essentially tweaked and repackaged the Wall-Street-friendly "package" of massive budget cuts and revenue enhancements of Simpson-Bowles.
But hey, most Virginians are clueless about all of this. Indeed, as one airhead said earlier this week on a different subject (never mind Democrats have given ALL the ground thus far), "Things are different now. The partisanship of the last few years must end." Get that? Implicitly, because of the CT shootings, Democrats have to continue to allow themselves to be bullied by the Club-for-Growthers and Peter Peterson clones. Give the manipulators everything they demand, or else, well, we are just not nice.
If that logic escapes you, you are not alone. What is definitely not nice is to run roughshod over the 98% because of a false crisis. And Senator Warner knows it. It's just that he loves the sound of his own "radical centrist" monotone.
If everyone stopped the scare-mongering, and everyone stayed calm, absolutely nothing would happen with respect to the faux fiscal cliff. If stock holders stayed calm, nothing would happen. And if politicians such as Warner would stifle themselves, nothing would happen. Breathe. Serenity now.

Our taxes for 2013 won't be due until April 15, 2014. You can bet that the Bush tax rates will be put back in place at least for the 98%. And it will happen in January of 2013. Once the Bush tax cuts expire, it is no longer about raising anyone's taxes anymore, but rather cutting them and you know how pols want to cut taxes.  Who wouldn't vote for that?
But Warner doesn't want you to know something else, a huge something else: If you do what he wants, the economy will be harmed. We still do not have a full economic recovery. A full recovery would go a long way to bring revenue back up without any manipulations. To bring the revenue side more into balance, bring the troops home. Re-route the peace dividend to clean, green and energy-saving technologies and programs which help real people rather than kill them. Raise taxes on those making more than $250,000 a year.
BTW, it is lunacy for President Obama to admit Social Security has nothing to do with the deficit, and before the election to say it is off the table (until later talks about its long-term future) and then hand it over to the GOP for cuts during the "fiscal cliff" talks. What is going on here?  More lumps of coal? More on that after the holidays.
Listen to Warner, and we will be harmed, both collectively and individually. Don't believe me?  Check out William Black.
Here's the short version of why austerity is a self-destructive response to the Great Recession. A recession occurs when demand to purchase goods and services falls and the economy contracts, causing increased unemployment. This simultaneously causes tax revenues to fall and government expenditures for programs like unemployment compensation to increase. The fall in revenues and increase in expenses causes the federal budget deficit to grow rapidly.
Austerity is a policy of raising taxes and/or cutting governmental spending for the purported purpose of cutting the deficit. If one raises overall taxes in response to the Great Recession the result is a reduction in private sector demand. If one cuts governmental spending the result is a reduction in public sector demand. The result of reducing private and public sector demand in the recovery phase from the Great Recession, where overall demand is already grossly inadequate, is to throw the nation back into recession or even a depression. That causes the budget deficit to grow. A policy of austerity undertaken under the claim that it will reduce the deficit causes a gratuitous recession that leads to a massive loss of wealth, far higher unemployment, and in increased deficit. That is why austerity is a policy that is the self-destructive economic analogy to the medical insanity of bleeding patients.

So, no Scrooge for Christmas, OK? No lumps of coal over a faux crisis for you, dear reader.  And no more false equivalence. Steady as she goes. The new year beckons soon. And there is always hope (though not much) for Scrooges like Mark Warner to change their ways in 2013.

Top 12 Most Popular Blue Virginia Posts of 2012

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Courtesy of Google Analytics, here are the top 12 Blue Virginia blog posts, in terms of visits, for 2012. The major themes: the "war on women," the UVA fiasco (great work Helen Dragas!), the NRA, Republican voter fraud, Republican extremism and racism. Enjoy!1. Albo Says Wife Spurned Sex After Hearing GOP's Transvaginal Ultrasound Plan: 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.
2. Photos: Symbolic Lynching of "Nobama" at Bull Run Park This Weekend: As you can see, what the photos depict is a chair - apparently a reference to the bizarre, rambling Clint Eastwood "dialogue" with "President Obama" in an empty chair at the Republican Convention a few weeks ago - strung up in a tree by a rope. The chair features, ever-so-creatively, a sign that says "Nobama." Get it? No Obama="Nobama.' Hahaha.
3. LG Bill Bolling: Dems Should Apologize for Speaking Up for Women's Rights, Against Excessive Force: Just remember this story if Bolling tries to run for governor as a "moderate," "independent," or whatever in 2013.
4. Image: Republicans then. Republicans now.: This one's actually just a comment, an image of Republicans "then" (Abe Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, Ike) and "now" (crazy Michele Bachmann, John BONEr, and teahadist nut Sarah Palin). 'Nuff said.
5. Can UVA Rector Helen Dragas Survive? Could the UVA Mess Help Allen and Cuccinelli?: Paul Goldman writes, "In the long term, the firing of University of Virignia President Teresa Sullivan will be seen as a seminal event in the growing debate over the future of education in the Commonwealth. Helen Dragas, the rector of UVA, and Ms. Sullivan, the ousted UVA President, apparently represent opposing schools of thought on the future of higher education and how to fund it."
6. Why Was UVA President Teresa Sullivan Fired? The For-Profit "Education" Theory: An interesting hypothesis by UVA Alum Anne-Marie Angelo.
7. Sen. McEachin Calls for Virginia Investigation into Voter Registration Forms Trashing Case: Republicans really love to "project," psychologically speaking, as they themselves do the things they accuse Democrats of wanting to do. Paging Dr. Freud! Paging Dr. Freud!
8. Hilarious: VA Right-Wingnut Sen. Ryan McDougle Gets a Taste of His Own (Transvaginal) Medicine!: Ryan McDougle (R-Mechanicsville) gets a well-deserved earful over his support for trans-vaginal ultrasound legislation.
9. Virginia Women's "Strike Force" Condemns Speaker Howell for "Demeaning Rhetoric" Towards Women: Virginia Speaker Bill Howell (R, of course) proves that there's no limit to his - and his party's - condescension, arrogance, and misogyny.
10. Virginia Election Results 2012: Live Blog: Good riddance to Willard "Mitt" Romney and of course to our old friend George "Felix Macacawitz" Allen. The only bummer of Election Day 2012 was that Republican gerrymandering in the House of Representatives managed to keep John BONEr as Speaker, for the time being anyway, despite being outvoted by 1.2 million nationwide. Ah, Democracy...Republican style.
11. Serious problems in one really cool map: Serious problems for Republicans, that is.
12. Who Funds the NRA?: Elaine in Roanoke explains that "The NRA is nothing more than a front for corporate money spent to enlarge markets and  profits, no different than the bogus Smokers Rights Groups that were created secretly by major tobacco companies Philip Morris and R.J. Reynolds."

Something We Can All Agree On This Holiday Season?

Saturday, December 22, 2012

When the right-wing, Rupert Murdoch-owned New York Post, the Romney-endorsing New York Daily News, the conservative commentator Joe Scarborough,former RNC Chair Michael Steele, the vast majority of Democrats, and probably a ton of independents as well, all agree that the NRA, and its CEO Wayne LaPierre, are nuts, it seems like they might just be onto something. Of course, by that same reasoning, then Bob McDonnell is nuts as well, given that he doesn't appear to disagree with LaPierre on anything. Same with Ken Kookinelli, of course. Where do Republicans FIND these people, anyway?!?

Kaplan/Washington Post #2 on the 2012 Media "Hack List"

I'm glad to see that the increasingly abysmal Washington Post, aka the "Kaplan Post," is getting the honor it so richly deserves; namely, being named #2 on the 2012 Salon "Hack List". As the Post's Chris Cillizza likes to say, "congrats...or something!" LOL
The Post can’t decide if it’s local or national, with editors and publishers offering a series of conflicting and contradictory statements of intent over the last decade. The paper closed its major national bureaus a few years ago, but it also fails to extensively cover local news. What it seems to think it should be is a newspaper dedicated to covering politics and the federal government. D.C. already has three or four of those, which would seem to suffice, but politics is the paper’s brand, and what brings national traffic to the website.The Washington Post has the worst opinion section of any major newspaper in the country. It’s actually baffling to me how bad it is. It doesn’t seem that difficult to simply not publish a bunch of liars, hacks and incredibly boring old men, but the Post can’t seem to figure it out.
Receiving specific mention for being "liars" and "hacks" are:1) Climate change denier and all-around liar George Will, who "predicted Romney would win 321 electoral votes." Bottom line: nobody who denies science, whether it's about the climate or evolution or gravity or whatever, should be writing regularly on the opinion pages of what purports to be (but increasingly is anything but) a major newspaper. #FAIL
lowkell :: Kaplan/Washington Post #2 on the 2012 Media "Hack List"
2) Charles Krauthammer, who "spent the election (and the preceding four years) nattering about Obama's imaginary "apology tour" and pretending the return of the borrowed Churchill bust was a "snub" to Great Britain and claiming that Romney handily and clearly won all three debates and pretending Obama is a far-left radical who is putting America on the road to 'European-style social democracy...exactly the same bullshit as Rush and Dinesh D'Souza." It's sad, because years and years ago I used to like Krauthammer, but he's sunk into a vicious, nasty, increasingly unhinged old age. It's sad, really, but the bottom line is he shouldn't be writing for a serious newspaper of any kind. Get him outta there!3) Finally, of course we can't forget the most abysmal, unprofessional, despicable, lying, hackish "writer" (using the word VERY loosely) at the Kaplan Post: Jennifer Rubin. As Salon's Alex Pareen puts it: Rubin "effectively admitted to shilling for Romney, and writing things she knew to be inaccurate, in her role as ostensibly an independent conservative commentator. It should've been hugely embarrassing for the Post, and Fred Hiatt, the man who hired her. No one seems to care."
Unfortunately, as I've pointed out previously and as Pareen concludes here, the Post isn't ditching these "writers" despite their demonstrable (and demonstrated, time and again) incessant lying, unprofessionalism, willful ignorance, and overall hackitude. Why not? Because, as Pareen puts it, "there are simply never any professional consequences for being constantly wrong or dishonest" in today's "American punditocracy." Ugh.
P.S. Pareen doesn't even mention the incessant, relentless attempts at setting conventional wisdom "narrative" by the Post, and the fact that in 2012 at least, they were wrong about nearly everything. No, the Romney-Obama race wasn't a "dead heat." No, Romney didn't have "momentum" (except perhaps for a week or two after the first debate). No, the Republican Party isn't a normal, conservative party anymore - it's a bunch of John Birch Society  loons and extremists. No, the Post's preferred pollsters weren't any better - in fact they were worse! - than many robopolls and even internet polling. No, inside-the-Beltway "conventional wisdom" doesn't bear any connection to what most people really think, let alone to the policy choices we need to be making. Etc, etc.
P.P.S. I'm off to read about the winner of 2012's "hack list" competition - Politico. A well-deserved, albeit dubious, honor no doubt.

Jim Moran: NRA Press Conference "appalling," "galling," an "overreach" that "may well backfire"

Friday, December 21, 2012

Rep. Jim Moran (D-8th, VA) responds to the NRA press conference a little while ago, calling it "appalling," "galling," and an "overreach" that "may well backfire on them as the public reviews Mr. LaPierre's statements." Let's hope.
"The NRA's press conference was appalling. Even more firearms are not the solution to reducing gun violence."Preventing gun-related massacres, like what occurred at Virginia Tech and in Newtown, Connecticut, requires a comprehensive approach that includes tackling mental health issues, looking at ways to better secure our schools, and changing our culture of violence. But perhaps more importantly, it means tackling the gun epidemic in this country with sensible gun safety reforms. The NRA attempted to completely shirk their responsibility to that key piece of this puzzle. It was galling, and an overreach, and it may well backfire on them as the public reviews Mr. LaPierre's statements."
few more thoughts: "Any doubts that the NRA has been overtaken by paranoid, conspiracy theorists who live in a cartoon world of good guys and bad guys had to be put to rest by the appalling press conference just held by the organization's executive vice president Wayne LaPierre...It would be very difficult to overstate the appalling insensitivity LaPierre showed; the paranoia, the victimhood, the passing of blame onto every other possible entity-Congress, the people who fight the NRA, the video game manufacturers, Hollywood, the medical community."

Preposterous Proposals Proliferate

by: Dan Sullivan

Fri Dec 21, 2012 at 13:36:19 PM EST

We're living a cartoon. One character puts up his dukes and the adversary pulls out brass knuckles, then escalation each in turn through a knife, pistol, rifle, machinegun, cannon, tank... It goes where arming and armoring schools goes: no constructive advantage. Cost without benefit other than political cover.Governor McDonnell legitimizing the concept of arming more personnel inside schools demonstrates his narrow experience and linear, attritionist approach to the issues raised by the violence at Sandy Hook and Virginia Tech. This is understandable. As an army intelligence officer raised and trained in the era of a set piece battlespace, he is comfortable with templates and minor tactics against local threats. His cohort, Delegate Bob Marshall (R-13th), lacks even that experience with conceptual threats. Marshall's hobbies, weight lifting, gardening, and photography, might give him time to contemplate but do nothing to qualify him to defend our children or us. But both of these fellows do demonstrate the ability to push hot buttons even if they are unconcerned about the consequences they initiate.
Nattering nabobs such as them attract attention. Some of that from Democrats who either think they must say something or are afraid of saying nothing even if they have nothing to add. At least the Republicans are expressing a core value, no matter how wrongheaded it is. The Democrats on board with this idea sound as hollow as their self-serving position. Disappointing.
Reducing the security of children to talking points about arming teachers and adding resource officers limits the debate, ignores the broader issues, and potentially places children in substantially greater danger. Look, I have the greatest respect for teachers but they are not public safety employees and many are unsuited for this responsibility. Adding a resource officer to the soup definitely secures the few square feet occupied at any given moment, but has McDonnell, Marshall, or any of them actually been inside a school lately? Those resource officers are there for and deal with a lot of student issues not related to invasion; issues that do not occur in elementary schools. Unless we go back to one room schoolhouses, these ideas are just lipstick on a pig.  
Dan Sullivan :: Preposterous Proposals Proliferate
Suggesting the discussion about school security begin with a conclusion already framed is either intellectual deficiency or blatant dishonesty. The discussion should begin with a threat analysis. Guns constitute only one aspect of that discussion. One thing that we have learned about hardening targets is that perpetrators are not so linear that they will cooperate by attacking whatever strength we put in place. So, while security is important, we can't secure against every inevitability.Beyond being able to defend against a threat, we must identify and disable it. As shameful as it is, we have to admit that our greatest threat is not some organized and politically motivated adversary. You remember shame: it's that thing that many conservatives say our society lacks. So they should be happy to embrace the concept of introspection. It is our own citizens who have perpetrated the domestic violence that is our immediate concern. So how do we counter that without violating the values we hold so dear?
Well, to begin, we must recognize there are limits on the freedoms guaranteed in the Constitution.  For another, we understand that those freedoms carry obligations; even those guaranteed by the Second Amendment. Though defenders of gun rights want to believe Charlton Heston brought this one down from the mountain, there is a historical context for it they conveniently misread. There are practical aspects of the defense against a tyrannical government they simply ignore. And indeed, arming only those whose duty is to specifically protect against that tyranny provides even greater security.
See, the problem is that the time preceding the sainted framers drawing up the Constitution, there were insurgents who had armed themselves in rebellion. Ever wonder why an arms clause wasn't originally present? There being no federal army or standing state militias or willingness to pay for them, private militias were raised by those whose interest was to protect their own property. Private armies and vigilante bands are not so different. Indeed one private army seized a state armory without authority. So which is legitimate? One man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter, or so we have been told. And in this regard, the use of the term "militia" in the amendment informs at a minimum that the framers were not enthusiastic about a free for all and were concerned with legitimacy.
When one freedom begins to infringe upon the freedoms of others, and the current application of the Second Amendment does, it is time for reasonable restrictions. And one of those is a restriction against gun ownership by the irresponsible and the incompetent.
Guaranteeing the availability and proliferation of arms is not the same as guaranteeing freedom. Arming everyone does nothing to disarm those who threaten a civil society.
And right now the march that should have fueled reform is threatened by those practiced at obfuscation and distraction.  

Days After Newtown Massacre, Rep. Bob BADlatte Vows to Block Any New Gun Legislation

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

What a worthless tool.
"We're going to take a look at what happened there and what can be done to help avoid it in the future, but gun control is not going to be something that I would support."Rep. Goodlatte is the incoming House Judiciary Committee Chairman, and it is highly likely that any new gun control bill would go through his committee.
WSLS has contacted Congressman Goodlatte's office for a response, and we are waiting to hear back.
In other words, Goodlatte BADlatte is vowing to have the NRA's back no matter what the (deadly) consequences. I realize this f'tard is in a solid "red" district, but in the country at large, I strongly doubt that BADlatte's obstructionist, my-way-or-the-highway attitude is going to win him many fans.

On the Newtown tragedy: this is a time for action

Monday, December 17, 2012

(Good stuff, it's long past time for action on this national epidemic of gun-related violence. In addition to Sen. Herring's statement, also click here for Sen. McEachin's thoughts on this situation. Thanks to both Senators for stepping up and leading! - promoted by lowkell)

The senseless violence that occurred at Sandy Hook Elementary School on Friday is difficult to understand.  That such a horrific act could take place in an elementary school, robbing innocent children of their lives, is every parent's worst nightmare realized.These tragedies, however, have become all too common in our society in recent years.  We in Virginia were instantly reminded on Friday of the agony and sorrow we felt on April 16, 2007, the tragedy at Virginia Tech.
President Obama, in his speech to the nation last night, focused our attention on the difficult questions we now confront as a country: can we honestly say we are doing enough to keep our children safe from harm?
As we gather together with family and our loved ones during the holidays, and in the days and weeks that follow, we will no doubt reflect on this and other questions.  We will debate policy as it relates to firearms and to mental health, and we will take a hard look at our society and our culture.
There will be disagreements about the path forward, but there can be no doubt: this is a time for action. Surely we can all agree that these tragedies must end and we can't tolerate this anymore.

"Thoughts and Prayers" are Fine, but Legislators Ultimately Must Enact Public Policy

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Over the past few days, we've read and heard numerous politicians issuing, essentially, boilerplate statements about how their "thoughts and prayers" are with the families of Newtown, Connecticut. That's fine; I'm not personally religious, but I see nothing wrong with "thoughts and prayers" offered in a true spirit of compassion.What's not fine is when our elected representatives offer their constituents no more than "thoughts and prayers." In short, what we expect from our legislators in a secular, non-theocratic Republic is that they propose and enact legislation, not that they attempt to assume the role of ministers, priests, rabbis, imams - something they are almost completely unsuited and unqualified to do, by the way (certainly, they're no MORE qualified to do a minister's, priest's, or rabbi's job than any of us are).
Unfortunately, what we've seen since news of the Newtown horror began to unfold has been plenty of "thoughts and prayers" but almost no specific - or even general, for that matter - proposals to enact legislation aimed at protecting the citizens of our country from harm at the hands of their heavily-armed fellow citizens. Take, for instance, the "personal reflection" from Rep. Randy Forbes (R-4th, VA), which I've posted on the "flip." It was forwarded to me by a Virginia Democrat and astute political observer who commented that they found it "a bit odd."
In response to this person's email, I noted that we do NOT select individuals for public office for the purpose of being our national clerics, nor is this a theocracy last I checked. To the contrary, that we elect these fine folks to do is topass laws, including ones to make events like Newtown less likely and/or extremely improbable. In the case of Forbes' "a bit odd" letter, and also in the case of many other politicians, it seems to me that what they're really doing is covering up their lack of action, if not cowardice, in the face of the NRA, with their profuse, even over-the-top/purple prose (in the case of Forbes) expressions of personal dismay, "thoughts and prayers" - but nothing beyond that.
Again, let me be clear: I have ZERO problem with our elected officials, or anyone else, expressing their personal sympathies, including "thoughts and prayers," with victims of tragedies, whether "natural" or man-made. What I DO have a problem with is when our elected officials shirk their primary duty, the one we elected them to do, which is to draft, propose, and work to pass legislation aimed at forming a more perfect union, promoting the general welfare, and securing the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity.
In the end, "thoughts and prayers" are fine, possibly even sincere in the case of politicians (although call me cynical, but the boilerplate, cookie-cutter, utterly predictable, cut-and-paste, and essentially identical statements by these folks make me wonder how sincere they really are). Ultimately, though, that's not what we send legislators to Washington, DC, or to Richmond, VA, to do. Last I checked, that's what we had mosques, synagogues, churches, and other houses of worship for. As for the politicians? Time for them to come down from their pulpits, roll up their sleeves, get to work, and do their freakin' jobs!
lowkell :: "Thoughts and Prayers" are Fine, but Legislators Ultimately Must Enact Public Policy
A personal reflection on Sandy Hook
By Congressman Randy Forbes
December 14, 2012There are times that news shocks us. And, then, there are times that news sends adrenaline snapping in our veins and bile churning in our gut.  News that makes thoughts charge at our own brain and our hearts stiffen against the walls of our chest.
Saturday's winter sun rose over an elementary school that just hours before had held twenty-six lifeless bodies.  America is reeling.  Twenty coffins will be cut and fashioned to fit the tiny bodies of precious children. Children yesterday pressed off to the bus stop, milk-laden cereal abandoned in sunny kitchens, beds unmade, lunches packed but never eaten.  Now ashes. Their little dreams frozen, their tiny handwritten school work crudely fashioned on straight lines savagely halted, their fingers never to drum softly on mother's arms again or tighten around papa's neck.  "I want to be a ballerina, and a doctor, and a singing star, Mama."  Gone.
We hunt for words that might mirror the tumult raging in the corridors of our minds.  Tragic. Senseless. Unimaginable. But each word, once rendered on our tongue, is inept at carrying the confusion and horror and pain inside. For those that can, we pull our children close holding their little frames until they pull away and gaze up at us pleasant, but confused.  "Daddy, why are you staring at me?"
Why?  Because our minds are at work painting the faces of our own children, their sweet clear eyes, on the students of Sandy Hook. Because the hollow sounds of gunshots echo in our souls, just as they blasted through the intercom down a hallway in Newtown, CT yesterday morning.  Because we feel the deep chasm between what was once a warm school filled with the high-pitched, off-key singing of gradeschoolers.... now, whose icy stillness is interrupted only by the sobs of grown men and women who have stared directly into the eyes of evil.
The shoulders of our nation are bent under the weight of such heaviness.  Our raw, blistering grief is center stage for the world.  There will be a day for the what-ifs, and the should-haves, and the if-onlys and the we-musts.   Yes, there will be.
But today we are left seeking a balm to cover our wounds. Each of us will search differently as we are free to do.  Perhaps some hands will cease feverishly wrapping gifts and tacking up Christmas lights and might instead rest in laps, heavy with the realization that we have little power to wipe away these hot and sticky tears.  Such deep horrible groans of grief we cannot silence.  Such evil we cannot undo. "Help us," we might whisper. "Please."
As we teeter on the edge of such sadness, though, there is a tug in many of our hearts.  A pull that reminds us that there is good, and that this good is far surpassing in portion to the evil we now confront.  Our minds are forced back to a God often forgotten in the times of prosperity.  A God swept aside even in our times of great challenge as we have stiffened our backs and trusted our hands to do work of fixing what must be fixed.  But now, here, in our pain, we see our own fragility in fresh light.  Here we sit, shaking and inadequate.  We cry not to some moth-eaten relic, but to an all-knowing, all-loving, all-powerful, all-healing God whose handprint can be traced across the pages of our national triumphs and tragedies.  We'll trust you.  We must.  "Help us," we whisper.  "Please."

Video, Photo: An Afternoon of Democratic Events in Fairfax

This afternoon, I had the pleasure of several hours of politics and football in Fairfax County. First, I attended an event for Herndon City Councilmember Sheila Olem, at which State Senator Ralph Northam was billed as the "special guest" (along with master of ceremonies, Fairfax County Supervisor John Foust). After that, I headed over with fellow Arlington Democrat Carole Lieber (thanks for the ride!) to the Fairfax County Democratic Committee's holiday party at the home of Jeff and Katherine Barnett in McLean.On the flip, check out the video of Ralph Northam speaking at the Olem event. Also, see the above photo (by State Senator Adam Ebbin) of the two Democratic candidates for Lieutenant Governor of Virginia, both of whom I had a chance to speak with. Great food and drink, good company, and an o.d of Democratic politics; what more could a Virginia political junkie ask for? :)
P.S. Oh, and the 'Skins won (even without RGIII), which had everyone in a particularly good mood.
lowkell :: Video, Photo: An Afternoon of Democratic Events in Fairfax

Now Is the Time for That Discussion About Guns

Saturday, December 15, 2012

by: Dan Sullivan

Sat Dec 15, 2012 at 08:53:42 AM EST

Let's begin that discussion about guns: the current application of our Second Amendment protects the proliferation of weapons. At the time it was written, it was damn difficult to kill with them, though Aaron Burr managed not long thereafter. That amendment was never meant to aid and abet carnage.I don't remember not owning a firearm. My first was given as a Christmas present when I was young; a Savage over and under .22/.410. My father instilled the greatest respect for firearms in me. He locked them away and I did not have access unless there was a purpose. Later I learned that upon his return to college from the Pacific theater and engagements on Tarawa and Saipan, he'd kept a handgun at his bedside. One night late, a spring roller blind in the bedroom snapped open and by the time he awoke he had locked, loaded, and drawn down on my mother who'd jerked up next to him in bed. He'd nearly killed her. Weapons in their home remained secured after that.
As a college student, I carried a weapon wherever I travelled. I did not have one with me the morning in Richmond when three fellows with sawed off shotguns came into the convenience store near Carytown where I worked. Thinking back, I don't think it would have helped the situation much, even if I'd open carried. After all, they were only exercising their own open carry rights.
You'll find no one more rationally and sentimentally supportive of the second amendment than I. But all this silliness, false bravado, and acting out about what gun rights mean misses the problem it has created: we have guaranteed access and availability of firearms to every individual regardless of their capacity, intent, or history. And our own Governor McDonnell is on record as supporting "the more the merrier" approach to provision. This outcome and attitude is sinfully irresponsible and far from the intent of the framers.  
Dan Sullivan :: Now Is the Time for That Discussion About Guns
This society is not the society extant at the turn of the 19th century. The weapons and ammunition available today weren't even science fiction when the Constitution was written. There was no rifling and people had to stand a few paces from their target if they hoped to do more than scare their adversary with a pistol. The reload gave time to reconsider. Early Americans knew, cared for, and used their weapons purposefully, most often to stock the table. They weren't toys or extensions of their "selves." And they usually didn't own an armory's worth. If they did, they kept them in an armory.Imagine my surprise when I checked into Quantico for Officers Candidates School and my weapon was confiscated (along with an unopened fifth of Johnny Walker). You see, the military understands a weapon's purpose and does not allow the casual brandishing or unsecured possession of personal arms aboard forts and bases. Years later, when I was assigned to temporary duty there and an officer candidate in another platoon, screened and selected for a commission, threatened another with a bayonet in a deserted squad bay, I understood the wisdom of that policy as two others on staff and I responded. Wise, even though the only one "armed" at the moment happened to be the perpetrator.
When my father and I went to hunting camps, restrictions were stringently enforced. Upon the return from the hunt, we always cleaned and maintained our weapons then placed them in a secured space usually locked by the cook who left for the night with the key. No one was allowed to uncork a bottle of booze while any weapon was unsecure. It is absolutely true that guns and alcohol do not mix. These were rules that were respected. The camp policed itself.
So when I have to think about whether it is open carry or concealed carry that is allowed at a bar in Virginia, I still get confused. And if I am confused, what the heck with the thousands of Virginians who get concealed carry permits without ever handling a weapon. When I attend political gatherings where there are people with holsters strapped around their generous bellies, I am alarmed. I wonder if one of these fat f^%$ has a heart attack and I try to give CPR, I might get drawn on.
During my assignment to recruit training there was an incident where a recruit, while being closely supervised at the pistol range (as in one coach per two recruits), managed to shoot himself in the head during familiarization firing. Even under controlled conditions, guns are dangerous. Guns have become symbols rather than practical tools of self-defense. They have proliferated for reasons beyond individual rights. There is a certain status they convey for any of a number of reasons; most not good. These have nothing to do with defending against a tyrannical government. Many gun owners have no inkling that that is the defense that allows us to play with them without any coaches (or many rules) at all.

"Not even kindergarteners learning their A, B, Cs are safe. We heard after Columbine that it was too soon to talk about gun laws. We heard it after Virginia Tech. After Tucson and Aurora and Oak Creek. And now we are hearing it again." - New York City Mayor Bloomberg
The fact is, guns do kill people, no matter how snappy that worn out mantra is. I do not believe for a moment that it would have been my father who killed my mother if he had pulled the trigger that night in Columbia, Missouri. No more than the law believes that John Hinckley was "responsible" for shooting Ronald Reagan, Thomas Delahanty, Timothy McCarthy, and James Brady. That's right, there were four of them shot that day, not the two always remembered. Two of them armed at close range, against one assailant.
When I was living in Damascus a Syrian woman told me she would never come to America. It is too dangerous. What she saw on TV led her to believe that getting mugged at an ATM was a common occurrence and that nights were unsafe here. Of late I have wondered if her mind had changed relative to her own country. But yesterday it wasn't at an ATM or at night. And it was no less tragic than what must be her own story today.
The contemporary interpretation and application of the Second Amendment is absurd. What we have managed to do is to guarantee that all criminals have guns in quantities only armies would require. Yet somehow the discussion always seems to get stymied at "assault" weapons as a place where we find some common ground. You will hear such wisdom as that if the teachers had been armed yesterday, the tragedy could have been prevented. No. Professionals, a DC policeman and a Secret Service Agent could not keep a President (or themselves) safe. And in neither of these cases was an assault weapon used. (Update: the Connecticut shooter was reportedly armed with a semi-automatic rifle but that does not remain consistent.)
Our camp needs to refine its mores. While social norms remain deficient, we require stricter, enforceable laws. And now and even afterwards, we need a cook to hold the keys.