Audio: Sen. Herring Says Ken Cuccinelli's Lawsuit Against Michael Mann Was "Downright UnAmerican"

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

State Senator/AG candidate Mark Herring (starting at around 15:55 of this audio):
Something else that is important to have is an Attorney General who helps foster a more forward looking image [for Virginia]. If you look at one of the very high-profile actions our Attorney General did was to sue a UVA researcher. He did it because he disagreed with the researcher's ideas and conclusions, and that is downright unAmerican. It was very costly to taxpayers, and it was costly to our state's reputation, because it sent a signal to people around the country that Virginia was anti-science or not welcoming to researchers and technology. If we want to attract top researchers to Virginia, if we want to attract technology companies to Virginia, we can't have an Attorney General who's suing researchers at our universities because he disagrees with their ideas and their conclusions... ...We've seen a number of actions where our current Attorney General's actions have really been outside the mainstream. I've talked a little bit about his action against the researcher who studied climate change. He's also really, I think, misused the powers of the office to intimidate the board of health in adopting regulations that were onerous and restrictive on women's health centers, that will make it more expensive for women to get health care, will make it less accessible for women. I think the things that I have worked for in the Senate show that I am much more in the mainstream.
Great stuff, all 100% true. By the way, John Fredericks tried to hype this segment by claiming that Sen. Herring somehow " breaks ranks with his fellow Democrats on keeping taxes low and reducing red tape in order to advance business development in the Commonwealth." I listened carefully to the interview and heard nothing of the sort. All Sen. Herring said, in fact, was that he didn’t want to draw any lines in the sand when it comes to transportation. Wow, shocker huh? LOL Anyway, great job by Sen. Herring in this interview, especially since it was with two Republicans/right wingers who have no love for the "Democrat" Party (as they like to call it, 7th-grade-adolescent-boy style), and who love to pretend that extremists and science deniers like Ken Cuccinelli are somehow "in the mainstream" (they are not!) or analogous to people in the Democratic Party (nope again!), when nothing could be further from the truth. No matter how you look at it, Ken Cuccinelli's an extreme outlier, on the far fringes of John Bircher/tinfoil hat Loony Land. And no, there are most definitely no equivalents on the Democratic side of the aisle in Virginia, certainly not anyone running for statewide office in 2013 (or 2009, or 2005, or 2001...).

Ken Kookinelli Claims Medicare, Social Security "make people dependent on government"

We've been saying for years that Ken Cuccinelli's far out of the mainstream, but now he's putting it all down in a book (note: it's readable in part on Amazon, available in full on February 12), so that there's no doubt whatsoever. He's also doing his best Mitt Romney "47% dependent on government/moochers" looniness.
- "Sometimes bad politicians set out to grow government in order to increase their own power and influence. This phenomenon doesn't just happen in Washington; it happens at all levels of government.The amazing this is that they often grow government without protest from citizens, and sometimes they even get buy-in from citizens - at least from the ones getting the goodies."One of their favorite ways to increase their power is by creating programs that dispense subsidized government benefits, such as Medicare, Social Security, and outright welfare (Medicaid, food stamps, subsidized housing, and the like). These programs make people dependent on government. And once people are dependent, they feel they can't afford to have the programs taken away, no matter how inefficient, poorly run, or costly to the rest of society."
The Democratic Party of Virginia has put out a press release, which says "Ken Cuccinelli's extremism has reached a new low with his statement that Americans who have paid into Medicare and Social Security are 'dependent on government', 'getting the goodies' and completely ignorant about their own best interest." It concludes, "Cuccinelli's opposition to Medicare and Social Security reflects his extreme worldview and should alarm all Virginia families." You can say that again. Wow.P.S. In his book, Cuckoo also calls the Environmental Protection Agency "this agency of mass destruction." And, of course, he mocks the science of anthropogenic global warming, which is basically the equivalent at this point of mocking gravity or evolution, the science is that strong. In a sane world, that ALONE should disqualify Cuccinelli, or anyone else, from holding public office in this country. We'll see if it does in Virginia later this year...

EXCLUSIVE: Ohio Dem Party Women's Caucus Director Hired as New DPVA Executive Director

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Meet your new Democratic Party of Virginia Executive Director, who will be starting her new job within days.
Lauren Harmon, Women's Caucus Director
Lauren Harmon joined the Ohio Democratic Party as Women's Caucus Director in June of 2011. She brings with her years of fundraising and campaign experience from Arizona and the Southwest. After getting her start as a field organizer and running field programs in Republican districts, Lauren went on to manage and lobby on behalf of a statewide Building Trades political action committee. She later served as Senior Deputy Finance Director for the Arizona Democratic Party. Lauren has managed campaigns from city council to Attorney General, including her most recent position running the campaign of an EMILY's List candidate for Las Vegas City Council.
Harmon certainly has an impressive LinkedIn profile, with basically all the main attributes you'd want in an executive director of a major state party: finance/fundraising experience, campaign management experience, field experience, knowledge of PACs, etc. I wish Lauren Harmon the best of luck in her new job, and sincerely look forward to her work in rebuilding this party - along with top-notch people like DPVA Political Director Clark Mercer, who is doing a great job, by the way - and kicking serious Republican tail in 2013 and beyond! :)P.S. In the video, Harmon speaks at the beginning briefly, and then at the end at more length. She seems very impressive.

Powerful New Video Explains What Republicans Are REALLY Up To with "Voter ID" Laws

Monday, January 28, 2013

This video, by Annabel Park's and Eric Byler's Story of America project, explains extremely well what Republicans are up to with their "voter ID" and other laws to combat the mythical unicorn of "voter fraud." Listen as Rev. Dr. William Barber, President of the North Carolina NAACP, explains the history of efforts to prevent African Americans from voting and from achieving any form of political power in the South. One thing enemies of expanded voting are terrified of is "fusion politics" - an alliance of African Americans with Latinos, Asian Americans, and progressive (racially and otherwise) whites. In 1898, for example, the "Wilmington Riots" resulted in white supremacists ousting a duly elected, biracial city government. What happened next? Dr. Barber explains:
The first thing they attacked - there were always five things they attacked - they attacked educational laws, they attacked labor laws, they attacked fair criminal justice laws, they attacked taxes - they wanted to cut taxes so the government wouldn't have any money to fulfill the promises that had been made to the former slaves - and they attacked voting rights. If your grandfather was a slave, you couldn't vote; or poll taxes...white supremacy is rewritten into the laws of the state, and by 1910, black voting power is virtually nothing, zero.
Sound familiar? If not, it should, because in many ways it's the same thing today. That takes us to 2008 and 2012, when Barack Obama put together a campaign "rooted in the idea of fusion politics." And "guess what, he wins in places like North Carolina, in the south...[with an electorate that's] broad and it's deep and it's young and it's old and it's LGBT and it's black and it's Hispanic and it's Asian and it's people who want to push America beyond the vestiges of racism...But that new electorate scares the whatever out of those who have a homogeneous view of life, it does not fit their world view, so what do you see, an all-out assault once again, this attack on voting rights starts immediately after President Obama is elected." But wait, you say, aren't there numerous cases of people voting fraudulently? Well, no, actually. But listen as Dr. Barber explains how laughably convoluted, implausible, and just completely "ludicrous" mass voter fraud would be. Beyond that, of course, the 15th Amendment is very clear, that "[t]he right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude." What exactly about the 15th amendment don't these anti-"voter fraud" Republicans understand? In reality, what they're doing is in blatant violation of the 15th Amendment, as stringent voter ID laws overwhelmingly affect minority and poorer voters, who might not happen to have a driver's license or other photo ID. So why should Republicans make it harder for these people to vote, given that there's no "voter fraud," certainly not of any significance? It's obvious: they know that blacks, Latinos, and other minorities vote overwhelmingly Democratic, and they want to prevent that from happening. End of story. Any other "reasoning" they give you? It's just a bunch of bull****. Same thing for any corporate media reporting that presents "both sides" of this "issue." Utter bull****. So, when these bills come before the Virginia General Assembly in coming days, just remember what this is all about, and let your Delegate or Senator know exactly what you think about this crap (by the despicable Del. Mark Cole) or this crap (by the utterly heinous Sen. Dick Black). Thanks. P.S. If you're going to be in North Carolina on February 9, you should check this out.

Virginia House GOP Holds Huge Financial Edge Over House Dems Heading into 2013 Elections

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Have you seen a horror movie recently? Any interest in checking one out? Well, no need to spend $10 on a ticket, plus whatever ungodly sum they charge for artery-clogging popcorn and diabetic coma-inducing candy and soda. Nope: if you're a Virginia Democrat, or simply a Virginia citizen who doesn't want to see our state plunged into the Dark Ages by the Teahadists, all you need to do for a serious scare is check outcash-on-hand numbers over at VPAP. From a progressive and/or Democratic point of view, they're terrifying.So, which party has all the money as we head into an election cycle during which every single House of Delegates seat will be up for grabs (and in which Dems currently hold only 32 seats out of 100)? Hint: it's not the one with the donkey as a logo. To the contrary, as of December 31, 2012, Virginia's Republicans held an elephant-sized cash-on-hand advantage over Dems of something around $4.5 million. That's right, it's approximately $6 million "red team" to about $1.5 million "blue team" (note: I say "approximately" and "about" because it depends exactly what you count; also, there's at least one strange-looking number in there, for Adrianne Bennett, who either has $211,000 or minus $42 cash on hand, depending on which page you look at). [NOTE: See the "flip" for a list of the top Democratic cash on hand totals]
By the way, note that one of the top Dems in terms of cash on hand is Johnny Joannou, with $144,621, yet he's given only $11,500 to the House Democratic Caucus since 1997 (no, that's not a typo, and yes it averages out to less than $1,000 a year!). Clearly, we've got some "issues" here.
It's not just Cash on Hand, either; it's also the amount of money raised leading up to 2013. Out of the top 10 highest totals from 7/1/2012 to 12/31/2012, as of the end of last year, 9 of those are Republicans: Howell ($244k), Kilgore ($219k), Cox ($201k), Hugo ($198k), Ramadan ($169k), Comstock ($165k), Watson ($143k), Jones ($140k), Farrell ($128k). The only exception: House Minority Leader David Toscano, who raised $282,000 during the second half of 2012. Meanwhile, several Democrats in solid "blue" districts in some of the wealthiest areas of the state raised very little money (e.g., in the $20,000-$30,000 range).
Clearly, part of this advantage for the Republicans is that they're in the majority, and it's a lot easier to raise money when you've got the power. Another advantage is that they get reams of money from the usual suspects - corporations, fossil fuel interests, etc. Still, the fact that the gap is so large is disturbing. The question is, what are we going to do about it?  

Virginia Offshore Wind Development: Hurry Up and Wait

by Eileen Levandoski

2012 was a big year for Atlantic offshore wind, and 2013 promises to be an even bigger year for its development off the coast of Virginia. But as to what year we actually see any of its electrons powering our homes in Virginia, that's anybody's guess.
In 2012, our Virginia WEA (wind energy area) - a 112,799 acre area 23 miles off the coast of Virginia Beach - was identified and cleared for development by the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) after consultation with all interest groups, including the military, shipping and fishing industries. It's an area capable of providing 2400 megawatts of power-enough to power over 500,000 homes and create thousands of jobs in manufacturing and supply chain businesses.
Very exciting stuff! And kudos to the Obama administration for fast-tracking Atlantic offshore wind development. In addition to the lease sales announced for Virginia and Rhode Island, BOEM has put out a call for interest from developers for areas off North Carolina's coast, is considering lease proposals in Maine and New York, and is conducting preliminary environmental assessments for areas off South Carolina and Massachusetts.
Three proposals off New Jersey's coast have progressed to a point where BOEM is now looking at a proposal to link up the three areas to each other via an offshore transmission backbone.  Maryland's excitement for developing its wind energy area has led to legislation that would support purchase agreements for the renewable energy. Finally, in Delaware, BOEM issued a lease to Bluewater Wind, which is off and running with all its preliminary site assessments.
Virginia is well placed in the Atlantic offshore wind race. In February 2012, BOEM issued a Call for Interest for Virginia, and eight developers responded. Later in 2012, BOEM asked for public comment about the potential auction format, then acquiesced when the Commonwealth (apparently acting under the influence of Dominion Power) urged that our entire WEA be leased to one bidder who would be allowed a prolonged phase-in period. The opening bid for the anticipated Spring 2013 auction starts at $5 per acre, for a total of $563,995, plus $ millions in surety bonds. The winner will have to spend millions more dollars to conduct the necessary studies before submitting a construction and operations plan. Deep pockets required!

It is very likely that the company 1) winning $76 million from the Commonwealth as reward for purchasing cheap, out-of-state renewable energy credits from pre-WWII facilities, 2) including zero offshore wind in its integrated resource plan mapping electricity generation for the next 15 years, and 3) now putting all its eggs in the fracked natural gas basket with proposals for three fracked-gas plants in Virginia, will emerge the winner of BOEM's auction.  Once sold to this company, Virginia offshore wind prospects might just come to a screeching halt.  That company is Dominion Virginia Power, one of the nation's largest utilities and Virginia's biggest polluter.Judging by the fervor of activity up and down the Atlantic, BOEM appears anxious to satisfy the President's agenda and provide him with a big American "win" on the renewable energy front.  The energy resource and the job-creating potential are just too huge to tolerate any slipping from that aggressive agenda.
And it's an agenda that involves the entire Atlantic coast, where we can succeed only if every state does its part. The estimated $200 billion in economic activity comes when every Atlantic coast state is lined up with wind farms off each state. That investment in turn supports 300,000 new jobs including the American manufacturing of the 8,000 parts that go into each wind turbine thus lowering the cost for generating that electricity. There can't be any holes in that line-up. The crisis of climate change demands that states look beyond the short-term energy agenda pushed by Big Oil and Big Coal. That's why Virginians need to press BOEM to approve only proposals, contracts and plans that move us aggressively yet responsibly to seeing steel in the ground as quickly as possible and to reject attempts to stall or prolong its development.
Virginians have an opportunity to do so now with public comment on the proposed lease sale notice.  Click here to send BOEM a message insisting that Virginia's upcoming lease sale be conditioned such that the winning bidder be required to develop our WEA in its entirety and as soon as possible.
Our comments at this stage will have only limited impact, however.  The lease itself won't hinder any Dominion plan to stall and otherwise prolong Virginia's WEA development.  The Construction and Operating Plan (COP), due in five years, will contain Dominion's multi-phased plan stretching development of Virginia's WEA to however long it choses, say 30, 40, 45 years.
At that point, BOEM could reject Dominion's COP on the grounds that it is too prolonged.  But Dominion could respond with a COP to develop only a small portion of Virginia's WEA and forfeit the remaining lease areas back to BOEM.  So five years after the monopoly monopolizes our WEA, we'd be back to the drawing board.
Slowing the process further is an extensive Federal permitting process following approval of the COP, to include permits from the Army Corps of Engineers, Coast Guard, EPA, just to name a few.  While BOEM has been laser-focused on quickly moving along the WEA identification and leasing process, it will soon turn its attention to speeding up the permitting process with coordinated concurrent efforts.
So ours is a drumbeat that must live for five years and more.  But as long as we keep the vision of that clean energy future in sight, we can win out over the fossil fuel forces.  We need all hands on deck to keep the pressure on all players from BOEM to Dominion to the Obama administration to our state regulators at the State Corporation Commission.    

The Chesapeake Bay's Toxic Present Could Be Our Country's Toxic Future

Saturday, January 26, 2013

by Progressive86
Every nation has and needs a natural symbol or symbols to represent its vibrancy, its past, its present, and its future, and its ties to the land upon which it has built its civilization. On the Atlantic Coast of the United States, the Chesapeake Bay is undoubtedly one of those symbols. Once a point of social and communal life for a number of Native American tribes, the Chesapeake Bay became a point of arrival and commerce for the newly arriving and established colonists. In other words, the Chesapeake Bay is a natural land mark that tells a story of our country's past. But it also tells a story of our country's future.
And if the health of the Chesapeake Bay is any indication of where the United States is headed, our future won't be a very clean one and, consequently, one worth striving for. A new technical report by the Environmental Protection Agency goes beyond the TMDL discussions and research and explores the toxic contaminants that are present in the Bay, and the results aren't savory.
Some of the contaminants that are "widespread in the Chesapeake Bay" include the following: polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs); polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs); mercury; and pesticides. Other toxics that were found in some areas and not others include the following: dioxins; petroleum hydrocarbons; chlorinated insecticides; aluminum; and lead.
Progressive86 :: The Chesapeake Bay's Toxic Present Could Be Our Country's Toxic Future
Not all areas of the Bay are equal, therefore, in their level of contaminant pollution. But the overall conclusion is not much less disconcerting.I hope it is clear to many what these chemicals mean to wildlife and human health. But the inundation of the Chesapeake Bay with sediment, lead, mercury, PCBs and so forth also exposes one of the U.S.'s most powerful symbols of the past and present and cultural health to a fatal conclusion: the U.S. is fundamentally harming itself at the same time that it is prospering and the ambitions that we share as a country and as a people may be coming at an unjustifiable cost.
The U.S. once prided itself on the idea of a landscape so vast and a Manifest Destiny so powerful that the laws of nature were almost seen as bending to America's will. But the sordid condition of the Chesapeake Bay is a constant and sober reminder that future generations of Americans will reap what previous generations have sown. That is not right. That is not just. That is not in line with the American dream.
We have the opportunity to turn the health of the Chesapeake Bay around. If we 'lose' the Chesapeake Bay, we not only lose an important source of revenue, an important job creator, but an important part of who we are as Americans. That is something that money cannot buy.

Live From the Alternate Universe of the Koch Brothers/Americans for Prosperity...

Friday, January 25, 2013

Yes, these people (the Koch brothers-funded Americans for Prosperity; see press release below) are living in a conservative fever dream, right-wing lala land of some sort. It's certainly not "reality," or anything close to it. Thus, in the Koch/AFP world - believe it or not - Virginia's State Senate districts have been "meticulously crafted to ensure liberal control of the Virginia Senate for the next decade and beyond," and where the Virginia Senate Republicans' Inauguration Day coup was actually a "fair redistricting plan" that will help "ensure that there are more areas [of Virginia] where free-market principles can be upheld."
Of course, this is all wildly wrong on every level. First, while there's no question that Saslaw et al. gerrymandered the State Senate districts in 2011, at best one could argue that might have helped eke out a narrow Democratic - not at all the same thing as "liberal," as there are many conservative and moderate Democrats in the State Senate - majority (it didn't even succeed in that, sadly), but "liberal control...for the next decade and beyond?" WTF?
Second, in what conceivable way is the Republican counter-gerrymandering "fair?" The process by which they've gone about doing so certainly wasn't, and the end result would be to lock in Republican control of the State Senate for many years to come, even though Virginia at the state level is NOT a "red" state, having gone for Barack Obama twice in a row, not to mention having elected two Democratic U.S. Senators. So how is the Republican gerrymander "fair?" In Koch/AFP lala land, apparently up is down, hot is cold, etc.
Finally, since when are Virginia Republicans - or AFP, or the Koch brothers - defenders of the "free market?" Last I checked, these guys were all about massive corporate welfare and many other distortions to the theoretical/nonexistent "free market." Thus, Bob McDonnell touts his subsidization of corporations to move to Virginia, Hollywood movie producers to shoot their films in the Commonwealth, you name it. If that's the "free" market, I'd hate to see what "command and control" might look like! Ee gads.  Anyway, check out this delusional, hyperventilating press release if you need a good laugh. On second though, given how much damage the Koch brothers and their ideological minions are doing to our country, there's nothing really funny about it.

Dear ,
He will have control if you don’t act right now.

On Monday, the Senate of Virginia voted to correct its outrageously gerrymandered districts, which were engineered in 2011 by Senators Don McEachin and Dick Saslaw. Those districts were meticulously crafted to ensure liberal control of the Virginia Senate for the next decade and beyond.

Please help us stop this plan from succeeding by taking action today.

In defense of limited government and economic freedom, many other senators stood up to Senators McEachin and Saslaw this week when they passed a fair redistricting plan that undoes the hyper-partisan gerrymandering that passed in 2011. Naturally, the media is attacking these defenders of freedom for doing the right thing and standing up, all the while characterizing Senators McEachin and Saslaw as innocent victims. 

Now, House Bill 259, a piece of legislation that would ensure that there are more areas where free-market principles can be upheld, is before the House of Delegates. Conservative delegates – those free-market defenders – now have the power to decide whether or not the Senate of Virginia will be controlled by Senators McEachin and Saslaw or by the people of Virginia. 

This bill is already before the House of Delegates, so a decision on it is likely to be made in hours, not days. Over the last several years, Virginia has been consistently rated best for business and has sustained itself during this economic downturn. For our future, it is imperative that Virginia continues to remain one of the leading states in economic freedom, so please contact your representative now so that we all can enjoy continued years of prosperity.

Give your Delegate the encouragement that they need. Remind them that it’s not the media that they’re representing. Rather, it’s the thousands of citizens in their home district. They must hear from you – they need to know that you support fair Senate Districts.

Remember, you must act very quickly. The decision on this critical bill could be made as soon as noon TODAY, so your quick action will make a difference. Let us continue with the free-market way of life that we’re used to in Virginia!
Audrey Jackson
Virginia State Director
Americans for Prosperity

BREAKING: Virginia Republicans' Attempt to Rig Electoral College Dead?

(UPDATEBob McDonnell says NO! - promoted by lowkell)

Is the attempt by Virginia Republicans to rig the electoral college in their favor, by apportioning Virginia electoral votes based on gerrymandered-by-Republicans congressional districts (as opposed to the current, winner take all), dead? It's sure starting to look like it.
If a bill to reapportion Virginia's presidential electoral votes by congressional district is a Republican plot, someone forgot to tell state Sen. Ralph Smith, R-Bedford County.Smith said this morning that he opposes the legislation, calling it "a bad idea." Smith sits on the Senate Privileges and Elections Committee, which will hear the bill next week. Without Smith's support, it's unlikely the bill could get to the Senate floor. The Privileges and Elections Committee has eight Republicans and seven Democrats.
"What if all states got to skewering it to their advantage?" Smith said in an interview this morning.
Great question by Senator Smith (a Republican with integrity?!?), one that should be directed at the head of the Republican National Committee, the wildly irresponsible Reince Preibus, who has endorsed Republican attempts to rig the Electoral College to their advantage. You know, as opposed to actually trying to convince voters that Republicans have better ideas, policy proposals, etc.Anyway, phew! Now, on to stopping the Republican attempt to re-redistrict Virginia to their advantage, and whatever other nefarious and insane crap they come up with this session.
P.S. Nice scoop by Roanoke Times reporter Michael Sluss, consistently one of the best Virginia political reporters out there...

Commonwealth Institute: McDonnell's Transportation Plan "Mostly Fumes"

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Anyone who looks Bob McDonnell's transportation plan for more than about 2 seconds - or, if you REALLY want to study it, you could spend the time most Virginians sit stuck in traffic every day - quickly concludes that it's inadequate, that the numbers don't even come close to adding up, and that it's bad public policy on a number of levels (e.g., why would we want to CUT fossil fuel taxes when the #1 problem facing humanity is global warming?!?). In short, McDonnell's latest transportation "plan" is smoke and mirrors, just like McDonnell's previous transportation "plans" - privatizing liquor stores, offshore oil drilling, tollbooths at the North Carolina border, pixie dust and unicorns, whatever. As we say on Twitter, it's a big-time #FAIL!But don't take my word for it, or the word of many transportation experts in Virginia, or most Virginia Democrats. Now, we've got a study by the Commonwealth Institute - the goal of which is to "[provide] credible, independent and accessible information and analyses of fiscal and economic issues facing Virginia with particular attention to the impacts on low- and moderate-income persons" - which should put the nail in the coffin of McDonnell's monstrosity. Here's the bottom line:
The governor's proposal to address Virginia's transportation crisis has two major flaws under its hood. It derives more than two-thirds of its revenue from sources that are tentative, at best. And, even assuming the plan is approved as the governor envisions, it falls far short of what Virginia needs to repair and maintain existing roads, bridges and other infrastructure that businesses rely on to get their goods to market and that commuters need to get to work, school and other places.
  • More than 60 percent of the funding comes from two sources that face extremely uncertain political futures
  • Even if the proposal were to pass, the estimated revenue falls over $800 million short of VDOT's two-year need. Take out the uncertain revenue, and the proposal would cover just 21 percent of the funding VDOT estimates it needs over the next two years.
Over 60 percent of the $3.2 billion in new resources fueling the governor's proposal would come from two sources: the diversion of existing sales tax revenue and the diversion of new  revenue generated from proposed federal legislation, known as the Marketplace Equity Act, that would allow Virginia to tax online sales. Both face extremely uncertain political futures. If they fail to pan out, the plan stalls, leaving the governor's proposed solution out of gas.
In other words, as the Commonwealth Institute points out, McDonnell's "plan" (using the word very loosely) is running on "mostly fumes." Not to mention that it completely lacks any vision for transportation in Virginia, beyond more of the same ol' same ol' - sprawl, gridlock, and pollution as far as the eye can see. Also not to mention that it removes a key linkage between the usage of our state's transportation infrastructure, and those who pay for that transportation infrastructure. Last I checked, that's about as un-conservative as you can get (see the super-"conservative" Wall Street Journal editorial on how "the gas-tax-for-sales-tax swap violates the user pays principle of sound tax policy"). As I said earlier, it's a #FAIL for Bob McDonnell no matter how you look at it.

Abortion is like what?!? Sen. Dick Black is at it again

by NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia Hey Virginia, remember Sen. Dick Black? You know, our favorite state Senator who as former Delegate became infamous for handing out plastic fetuses on the floor, dismissing the concept of marital rape and referring to contraception as "baby pesticides"? Well, he's back. And after his most recent comments, I doubt you'll forget him again. This Tuesday, as hundreds of pro-choice Virginians rallied at the Capitol to celebrate the 40th Anniversary of Roe v. Wade, Sen. Dick Black took to the floor and actually compared Virginia's abortion clinics to "Auschwitz". Let me repeat that. Forty years after abortion became legal in the United States, Sen. Black likened what is a constitutional, safe, and common medical procedure to NAZI GERMANY. Watch the video. This is nothing short of appalling. Not only are Senator Black's comments extremely offensive to my family and the families of the millions of people (yes - living, breathing, thinking, loving people) who were senselessly killed in the tragedy of the Holocaust, this sort of attack is part of a troubling and ever-expanding strategy to demonize the women of Virginia and the doctors who serve them. In honor of 40 years of Roe v. Wade, please donate $40 to NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia in Sen. Black's name. We will send him a personal letter from you demanding an apology, and of course, thank him for the generous contribution made on his behalf. Sen. Dick Black is not an outlier - not some sort of "bad apple" who happened to put his foot in his mouth. As is obvious after watching the Virginia General Assembly launch attack after attack on women's health, plenty of others in the Statehouse hold a similar disdain for a woman's right to choose when and whether to have children. In fact, there are undoubtedly those in Virginia's government who wouldn't hesitate to join the Senator in comparing reproductive health to mass genocide and trained physicians to murderers. We can't forget: forty years ago, women in Virginia and across the country were ingesting lye, hitting themselves with baseball bats, and throwing themselves down the stairs in order to end a pregnancy. Now, forty years after Roe v. Wade codified safe, legal abortion care, lawmakers like Sen. Black will stop at nothing to bring us back. NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia will not go back. We will not allow women to die without access to reproductive healthcare, and we will not allow lawmakers like Sen. Black to impose their dangerous ideals onto the women and families of the Commonwealth. Please join us in continuing this fight. Donate $40 to NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia in honor of forty years of Roe v. Wade, and we will send Senator Black a personal letter from you demanding an immediate apology. Thank you for everything you do. Alena Yarmosky Advocacy & Communications Manager, NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia

Audio: Bolling Says Re-Redistricting Sets "Dangerous Precedent"; 50/50 Chance He'll Run for Gov

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

In other news, beyond the re-redistricting issue setting a "dangerous precedent" and hurting the chances of bipartisan cooperation in the Senate, Bill Bolling turns his attention to transportation. According to Bolling, we will definitely need "new revenue sources" and not just "existing revenue sources" for transportation, and also that "House Republicans are going to have to give on this issue of new revenue." More broadly, Bolling says that compromise is necessary to governance in a democracy, that "compromise" is NOT a "four letter word." Finally, with regard to a potential run for governor in 2013 as an independent candidate, Bolling says the polling he's seen has been "pretty encouraging," that there's a "general uncomfortableness" with Ken Cuccinelli and Terry McAuliffe, and "because of that a real opening in this race for a viable and credible, independent choice." Bolling says he has two remaining questions, having already answered the viability question: 1) "can I run a winning large part [that's] going to depend on my ability to raise money" (will evaluate after session); and 2) "whether or not this is something that I really want to do...personally...also politically." Bolling describes himself as a "troubled Republican" right now, but he's also been "a loyal Republican for a long time." Bottom line: according to Bolling, the chances he'll run for governor in 2013 as an independent candidate are exactly 50/50 right now.

Video: Cuccinelli Likens His Struggle Against Contraception to MLK's Fight Against Segregation

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Every time I think Ken Kookinelli can't get any crazier, he goes and does so. Now he's likening his struggle against women having access to a legal product they need for their health and well being, aka "contraception," to Martin Luther King Jr's struggle against racial segregation and oppression. Oh, and you've got to love how Cuckoo hides his anti-woman, anti-freedom agenda behind the smokescreen of defending "religious liberty," which he falsely claims is under attack in this country. In reality, if you're not smoking whatever Cuccinelli's smoking, you'd know that of course there's no assault on religious liberty in America, that in fact religion here is probably more free than in any other country, or any other time, in human history. What next, the mythical "war against Christmas?" Ugh. h/t: TPM - great catch!

BREAKING: While Dems Distracted by Inauguration, Virginia Senate GOP Stages a Coup

Monday, January 21, 2013

You don't get more slimy, sneaky, underhanded, etc. than this (great work by Ben Tribbett alerting us to what was going on in the following series of Facebook updates):"Wow- Republicans in the Virginia Senate are now trying to redraw the maps and draw at least one Democratic Senator out of the Senate. Happening right now on the floor."
"COUP GOING ON IN VIRGINIA SENATE: Republicans have just brought all new Senate districts to the floor with Henry Marsh gone in DC, now 30 minutes of debate before they send them to the House of Delegates."
"The Republican redistricting bill creates a 6th majority-minority seat."
After Ben's first Facebook notice, I went to the live feed of the Virginia State Senate and watched as Sen. Saslaw, Sen. McEachin ("This is sneaky, this is underhanded, and it's beneath the dignity of the Senate"), Sen. Marsden and Sen. Barker went ape**** on the Republicans for what they said was a totally underhanded, unconstitutional move that will utterly poison relations in the Virginia State Senate. The fact that Republicans pulled this underhanded maneuver while most people were focused on the inauguration and Democratic State Senator Marsh was out of town (for the inauguration) really says it all. Wow.
P.S. Bizarrely, right after the coup, Sen. Deeds inexplicably started rambling on about a Confederate general (Stonewell Jackson) and how he loved "peaches," "lemons," and "women." WTF?
P.P.S. I'm hoping to get video of this as soon as possible, as you've got to see it to believe it. Also, this should be a big, national story. Wow.
UPDATE: Sen. Ebbin tweets, "VA Senate GOP trying to redistrict w/ substitute bill with no notice in violation of our state Constitution" and "VA Senate GOP votes to redistrict in violation of state Constitution."
UPDATE #2: One of the sharpest Virginia political analysts I know, KentonNgo, tweets: "If VA Republicans were smart enough not to touch the already cleared VRA districts, the plan will likely stand. Dems are toast." Ugh.
UPDATE #3Here are the votes as Senate Republicans rammed this one through on 20-19, party-line votes with longtime civil rights champion, Democratic State Senator Henry Marsh, at the inauguration in Washington, DC.
UPDATE #4 (5:10 pm): It will be interesting to see how long it takes the corporate media to get on top of this story. So far, I see the Richmond Times Dispatch has a story (posted at 4:37 pm), but that's about it. We were up with this story at 4:19 pm, after Ben Tribbett posted about it on Facebook and alerted us to it a few minutes before that. Actually, I just saw thatBob Lewis and Larry O'Dell of the AP are out with a story as of 4:57 pm. ThinkProgress is also on it as of 5:10 pm.
UPDATE #5Not Larry Sabato has "some initial info on the new districts." ("Creigh Deeds, the current 25th Senator is put into the 24th Senate district with Emmett Hanger, a district that now includes all of Augusta,and Bath counties along with Charlottesville and other pieces.")
UPDATE #6NLS has the new districts.
UPDATE #7Chelyen Davis tweets, "@lgbillbolling spokeswoman says Bolling wouldn't have voted for redistricting, "has grave concerns... it's not something he supported." Verrry interesting, he can't be pleased about this (makes it more likely he'll run as an indy?).
UPDATE #8Jeff Schapiro tweets, "Even @BobMcDonnell is steamed over surprise re-redist maneuver by fellow R's in #Va Senate; worried it threatens his agenda." Nice.

Thoughts on the Arlington Streetcar vs. BRT Debate

Sunday, January 20, 2013

For over a decade now, Arlington has been discussing the possibility of building a streetcar line in the county. Back in July 2012, the County Board voted 4-0, with one abstention, "to approve the streetcar as the preferred transit option for Columbia Pike." On December 11, 2012, the board approved, by a 4-1 vote, a PPTA (Virginia Public-Private Transportation Act of 1995) "allowing the county to enter into public-private partnerships for transportation projects like the planned Crystal City streetcar." And in early January 2013, there was a report that a referendum might be required on the streetcar project, "if the government opts to sell 'revenue bonds' to fund part of the streetcar plan." Meanwhile, "Arlington and Fairfax County officials currently are waiting on word from the federal government to see if they will receive up to $75 million in federal funds to support the streetcar project."Anyway, that's mostly where we're at right now: possibly in the home stretch of what has been a lengthy process, with the possibility of a streetcar system being built in Arlington...or not. It is in this context that I received notice the other day that a new group, Arlingtonians for Sensible Transit, had formed, with the goal of "offer[ing] as a viable alternative a modern regional bus rapid transit (BRT) system; request[ing] the County Board to undertake a cost-benefit analysis comparing BRT to a streetcar." Given the group's list of supporters, several of whom I know and respect, I was curious to learn more.
So, over the past few days, I've been speaking with supporters of the streetcar project, as well as proponents of BRT. My perspective on this issue comes overwhelmingly from my perspective a strong supporter of smart growth, high-density development, and public transit. In addition, of course, I'm a progressive, which means I believe in transparency and integrity in government, as well as the opportunity for citizens to have a voice in decisions affecting their lives. With regard to public transit, I'm open to all possibilities - light rail, heavy rail, buses of various types, pedestrian and cycling paths/trails/sidewalks/etc., you name it. I don't believe there's one solution that works everywhere, nor should there be a one-size-fits-all approach. For instance, I'm a big supporter of Metrorail, but I wasn't fully convinced that extending Metro to Dulles Airport was the optimal use of scarce resources, and wondered whether other options - possibly including bus rapid transit - might not have been more cost effective.
Getting back to the issue at hand, let me lay out the main arguments I'm hearing from the two "sides" (in quotes because I don't see either "side" as monolithic or absolutist) in this.
lowkell :: Thoughts on the Arlington Streetcar vs. BRT Debate
Pro-Streetcar/Anti-BRT Arguments
*The streetcar is by far the best option to move people in the Columbia Pike corridor. Right now, we're pretty much at maximum capacity with regard to buses, can't really add anymore. Also, given projected increases in the number of people needing public transit along the corridor - 30,000/day or more within the next 20 years - buses, even articulated buses, will simply be inadequate to meet that demand.
*The Pike Transit Initiative website makes the case that a streetcar system "[p]rovides an affordable and high-quality transit option;" "[i]ncreases transit ridership;" "[p]rovides the greatest transit capacity and the greatest capacity for future expansion;" "[s]ustains the economic vitality of the corridor and promotes community development;" "[i]mproves walkability and livability;" "[i]mproves access to regional transit, employment, and business centers;" "[d]ecreases vehicle miles traveled and emissions;" "[s]upports additional  housing as indicated in Arlington County's Columbia Pike Neighborhoods Area Plan;" etc.
*Constraints in the corridor mean that any option - BRT or streetcar - will NOT have a dedicated Right of Way, but instead will run in regular lanes, along with regular traffic. This means that the "Rapid" part of BRT will not be the case, but that it will simply be "bus transit," which we already have right now.
*When the streetcar is built, there will still be buses, making this an effective, robust, multi-layered system.
*Spending money on BRT would not make sense, given that it wouldn't be rapid - because there's no realistic way to get a dedicated "right of way" in that corridor - and also given the limits on bus capacity already seen in the corridor. Right now, buses are practically "bumping into each other" as it is. You have to deal with the needs of the corridor as it actually exists.
*Arlington has made plans to keep affordable housing in the corridor, in fact has gone above and beyond what almost any other jurisdiction has done in this regard, thus significantly reducing concerns about "gentrification."
*Meanwhile, the streetcar would increase property values along the corridor, as well as result in a building boom, resulting in economic activity and tax revenues that would far MORE than pay for the streetcar.
*People who actually live in the corridor are supportive of the streetcar, with many annoyed at the opposition coming largely from people who live in other parts of Arlington.
*Funding would predominantly be through an extra-commercial add-on tax, which means that individuals won't see their taxes go up. Also, businesses are not concerned about this add-on tax, and are very supportive of the streetcar.
*4 out of 5 County Board members think this is a good long-term vision for Arlington, will provide a strong return on investment, will improve the quality of life along the corridor, and will open up possibilities for further expansion of a streetcar network in the county and in the region, more broadly.
*There has been a recent streetcar success story in Virginia - The Tide light rail system in NorfolkVirginia's first such system, which opened for service on August 19, 2011, and which saw daily ridership exceeding projections to such an extent that it "reach[ed] its goal of 1 million rides 150 days earlier than had been projected." Then, in November 2012, a referendum overwhelmingly approved a ballot question asking, "Should the Virginia Beach City Council adopt an ordinance approving the use of all reasonable efforts to support the financing and development of The Tide light rail into Virginia Beach?"
*There were people against the Orange Line coming into Arlington as well, back in the day. There are always people who oppose change and progress.
*If the ONLY thing you look at is the initial expenditure, perhaps you'll opt to go with the cheaper project, but that's often penny wise/pound foolish.
*A streetcar would be far more comfortable and appealing to potential riders than a bus.
*There would be only one power line running down the street, it would not be unsightly, and it provides much better power - faster/smoother acceleration, etc. - than a bus powered by natural gas or diesel.Pro-BRT/Anti-Streetcar Arguments
*See Peter Rousselot's report, "A Modern Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) System is Far Superior to Streetcars in the Columbia Pike Corridor," which lays out many of the pro-BRT arguments.
*One core argument made by the aforementioned study is that "Arlington could save between $100 million to $200 million by choosing the BRT option, and that no persuasive explanation has been offered to support paying this enormous premium for the streetcar option."
*Peter Rousselot's report also argues, "A modern BRT system could much more quickly be expanded to serve many more origins and destinations than those served by the currently-proposed, 5-mile streetcar system. Such an expanded BRT system would not require as many time-consuming transfers between transit modes. It would boost ridership and create a more economically efficient system." Also, "a modern BRT system is the hands down winner in the thorough cost-benefit comparison that the Arlington County Board has not yet performed, but must perform before it makes a final decision on which of these two options actually should be funded."
*"Even though the Columbia Pike streetcar proposal has been considered in one form or another for many years, the County Board has never had before it a proper cost-benefit comparison between the current streetcar proposal and a modern BRT system. Because such a proper cost-benefit comparison has never been performed, our many Arlington citizens groups and individual citizen activists have never had the opportunity to weigh in regarding such a comparison. The "Arlington Way" has not been followed with respect to the streetcar issue. The appropriate critical studies have not been done. Neither Arlington citizens nor Arlington businesses-which must pay for the streetcar-have been informed of the options available for the transit system they will fund."
*BRT "can provide the same service frequency and span (time of day, days of week) service as the streetcar;" "would be more tailored to the market; e.g., it would provide a new express route which would be significantly faster than today's bus service because it would have fewer stops, signal priority, and no-step, no gap boarding/alighting;" "would utilize high capacity, natural gas or hybrid diesel electric vehicles with low noise and emissions of all kinds; unlike the streetcar, no unsightly overhead wires would be required;" "would provide faster and more reliable speeds than streetcarsbecause of the ability to go around stopped and/or turning cars and trucks;" "could much more quickly be expanded to serve many more origins and destinations than those served by the currently-proposed, 5-mile streetcar system."
*At a time of budget constraints, as well as the need to fund a projected increase in student enrollment, Arlington needs to look at a less expensive option than the streetcar, especially one like the BRT which is superior for the reasons listed above.
*There should be a truly impartial study performed, perhaps by a university in the region, doing a side-by-side comparison of BRT vs. a streetcar in Arlington. Once that's done, Arlingtonians can make a much more informed choice about which choice - BRT or a streetcar - would make the most sense.
My bottom line on all this? I am leaning heavily in favor of a streetcar, for all the reasons listed. I don't see how Bus Rapid Transit is an appropriate option in lieu of a dedicated Right of Way that actually allows it to be rapid. I also believe that the economic benefits of building a streetcar system in Arlington would be far superior to a Bus (non)-Rapid Transit system. Having said all that, I'd be fully supportive and encouraging of having a truly independent study by transportation experts, perhaps at a local area university, analyzing the two options side by side. I don't believe that either "side" should be involved in preparing such a study, or in influencing its outcomes. However, I DO believe that such a study should look broadly at the question, including economic benefits, costs, applicability to the corridor(s) in question, etc. Finally, I believe that if such a study is to be done, it needs to be soon, as this debate shouldn't drag on for years. Having worked for 17 years at an independent, non-partisan, federal statistical and analytical agency (EIA), I can definitely attest to the benefits of having this type of analysis available to policymakers. If that's possible in this case, I'm all for it. If not, though, it seems to me that for a wide variety of reasons, we should move ahead with the streetcar option as soon as funding is procured.  

Interview with Virginia Democratic LG Candidate Aneesh Chopra

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Yesterday afternoon, I sat down for an on-the-record interview with Virginia Democratic Lieutenant Governor candidate Aneesh Chopra at his offices near Ballston Metro in Arlington. We spent about an hour talking, and were able to cover a significant amount of ground. Of course, given that the Virginia LG presides over the Senate, which deals with basically every issue facing our state, there's no way we could cover it all - or even close - in an hour, or even 2 or 3 hours. Still, I thought it was productive, informative, and enjoyable. Here are my questions and Aneesh's answers, summarized for brevity.Question #1. What are the main issues you'll be focusing on in your campaign? Will your focus mainly be on technology issues, which you're known for, or will you broaden out to the wider range of issues that Virginians care about, and that the LG deals with (which is pretty much every issue)?
Aneesh Chopra's answer (condensed): Aneesh believes we're at a crossroads in Virginia. We've been the best managed state, the best state for business, the best state to raise a family, etc. But, in Aneesh's view, over the last couple years, the General Assembly and the governor have taken us down a very wrong path...their agenda is not the right agenda for Virginia. What that's done is taken our eye off the ball on the key challenges we face as a commonwealth. Aneesh believes that over the next 4-5 years, we're going to make a decision on whether we're going to be successful as a commonwealth for the next 40 years.
Aneesh sees three things that are top priorities for Virginia and top themes for his campaign: 1) the foundation of the economy is the education of the workforce - we've got to boost the number of graduates in Virginia over the next 5 years; 2) over 10% of the economy in Virginia is tied to federal spending, but we're entering a period in which the likelihood of growth is less - we have to compensate for this by growing our own economy - small businesses in particular - here in Virginia (right now, we're not in the top 20 states for entrepreneurship); 3) we've got to stop in its tracks the divisive agenda that has taken us off the ball.
On these three issues, Aneesh believes the lieutenant governor can play a significant role across the board. The 21st vote is critical. The LG also needs to use all the parliamentary tactics of being the presiding officer of the Senate in order to avoid the type of radical agenda we've seen the past few years. A proactive agenda of addressing education and diversifying the economy can be addressed/advanced by the lieutenant governor in a convening role (the LG serves on the Council on Virginia's Future).
Question #2: I asked Aneesh about whether he thinks Democrats have gotten off to a slower start this cycle than Republicans. I also asked him when he expected to have a full website up and running.  
lowkell :: Interview with Virginia Democratic LG Candidate Aneesh Chopra
Aneesh Chopra's answer (condensed): On the website issue, Aneesh said his focus in 2012 was exclusively on helping Tim Kaine and Barack Obama win their elections. Now, he has a full campaign team and expects to be fully up and running shortly.On the issue of whether Democrats are off to a slower start than Republican, Aneesh said that it's fairly common for Virginia statewide elections not to gear up until after the presidential elections. Aneesh did acknowledge that Republicans have been out there early, and he pointed out that this, combined with opting for a nominating convention, has helped push their field to the right (e.g., on the "personhood" amendment). In addition, Aneesh pointed out that all of the Republican candidates have signed off on the "radical Republican agenda." "When CEO friends of mine who are not that political reach out to me and say, my own employees are asking me if they're going to be legally entitled to contraception in Virginia...that's when you've crossed over; these divisive issues, it is outrageous." In Aneesh's view, "Governor Kaine said it best: we are successful in the commonwealth because we are a talent economy." Aneesh says he fully embraces that spirit; "you don't compete in a global economy with three quarters of your capacity tied behind your back, if you alienate women...minorities...the LGBT community, this is not a winning formula to move the commonwealth forward...we're competing in a global economy."
Question #3: I asked Aneesh about the strategy of Virginia using tax dollars to bid against other states to lure companies to Virginia.
Aneesh Chopra's answer (condensed): His focus is on growing more new (e.g., less than 5 years old) companies in Virginia and increasing their success. By being better at helping entrepreneurs, Aneesh believes "we can generate 100,000 net new jobs from small businesses and new businesses...that is a clear opportunity for Virginia and I look forward to leading in that effort." He says he'd focus his personal time and attention in growing new businesses in Virginia. Three particularly promising sectors, in Aneesh's view, are health care (e.g., Evolent), energy (e.g., OPower), and education.
Question #4: Why should Democrats vote for you over your opponent, Sen. Ralph Northam? Do you have any major policy differences, is there an electability argument, or what?
Aneesh Chopra's answer (condensed): He has "a very clear message to Virginia about the choices we face and the crossroads we're at, the opportunities I see the lieutenant governor taking." "It's up to my opponent to share what his vision is. We'll both present our visions, it will be up to the primary voters to decide...We have a very strong message to share, an important one that is crucial to the future of the commonwealth, and that I believe Virginians will respond to."
Question #5: I asked Aneesh about the importance of diversity - geographic, gender, ethnic, racial, etc. - on the Democratic ticket.
Aneesh Chopra's answer (condensed): "Diversity is important for the country." Aneesh noted that he was named by Governor Kaine as the first Indian-American member of the cabinet, and that he also recruited Vivek Kundra as Virginia's Assistant Secretary of Commerce and Technology. According to Aneesh, Governor Kaine thanked him for opening up new channels for candidates to come forward that [Kaine] might not otherwise have known about. In Aneesh's opinion, Kundra was phenomenal, went on to be the nation's first Chief Information Officer. This is an example of why diversity matters, and why opening up opportunity for all the talent in the commonwealth is critical. Generally speaking, Aneesh noted that he'd "love more women, minorities, candidates from every corner of the commonwealth, to run for office in Virginia, but we are we are"...[with] the candidates who have stepped up.
According to Aneesh, to be able to win this election, "the formula is clear" - we need to turn out the coalition that came out for President Obama and Tim Kaine in 2012. In 2013, we need to turn out younger voters, minorities, less political people (entrepreneurs, business community). Aneesh believes he has a very strong connection to those communities. Also, there's clearly a novelty to being the first Asian American on a statewide ticket in Virginia. People need to see a candidate who reflects their values, and Aneesh says, "I reflect the values of the 2012 coalition that reelected President Obama." You also need to have the resources to communicate with people. It's also about smarter campaigning, as we did in 2012. The most important factor: do Virginians see in a candidate someone who shares their values? "I strongly believe the values and priorities I've shared are critical to Virginia's future."
Also of interest, Aneesh said he fully agreed with my analysis that the supposed "rule" that Virginia always votes opposite for governor of the party in the White House is meaningless.
Question #6: I asked about the hostility towards government by Ken Cuccinelli and other Republicans, and also more broadly about his philosophy - ideology, pragmatism, or what?
Aneesh Chopra's answer (condensed): "My view is that Democratic values must be advanced, and if we can't expand budgets and if we can't pass progressive legislation, we're going to have to open up a new front to advance our values, and that front I believe is innovation. Innovation says we can build a more equitable education system that closes the achievement gap, we can build a more affordable and accessible health care system, we can transition to a renewable energy system, that's in our capacity to do."
Aneesh considers himself a Mark Warner/Tim Kaine Democrat, noting that "this pragmatic ideology is not something I've just been thinking about and talking about, this is what I've done in the 6 years I've been in public life...You experiment, you try, you learn, you try again" Aneesh says that he might adjust Bill Clinton's statement that the era of big government is over. In Aneesh's view, it's not an argument about size, about big or small, it's about a smarter government that actually works..."you've got a problem, you can fix it. Government in many ways is the ultimate in convening power; we together can make better choices that advance these core values" (this is summed up in the Strategy for American Innovation).
Question #7: I asked Aneesh specifically about Ken Cuccinelli and his extremist ideology, where that virulent anti-government belief system comes from.
Aneesh Chopra's answer (condensed): "It's always struck me as odd; if you're hostile to government, why do you want to serve in it? It also conveys a message to everybody that works for you that you just don't care...President Obama in his first month or two issued a memorandum on scientific integrity, putting into practice a commonsense principle that we treat science with respect, and to watch what Cuccinelli did against UVA...objectively speaking, to have an elected Attorney General go after the state's arguably flagship institution, amongst the country's crown jewels for research and insight and knowledge on a charge of fraud, it was disheartening to say the least, and absolutely the wrong thing for Virginia. I hope Virginians will reject such action when they make their choice for governor this year...[Cuccinelli's attack on UVA and science] is absolutely abhorrent, that does not reflect my personal values or Virginia's values. But it's more than that, it's also the nature of how he used his office: he highly politicized an office that is supposed to work protecting consumers, it's supposed to go after basic matters of law, and that's not what he chose to do."
Question #8: I asked Aneesh about 20 or so important pieces of legislation before this year's Virginia General Assembly, and asked him to tell me how he would vote, "yea" or "nay," on each. What I found most impressive here was that Aneesh - who isn't a member of the General Assembly - was familiar with every bill I mentioned, didn't even need me to read a full description before he answered immediately "yea" or "nay."
1. Bob McDonnell's transportation legislation. NO
2. Deeds bill: "Requires a background check for any firearm purchase." YES
3. Janet Howell bill: "Elections; absentee voting. Provides that qualified voters may vote absentee in person without providing an excuse or reason."OVERWHELMINGLY YES
4. Mark Herring (SB 1084): "Health insurance; authorizes SCC to establish state plan management partnership exchange." YES!
5. Mark Herring: "Classification as hospitals of certain facilities in which abortions are performed. Eliminates language classifying facilities in which five or more first trimester abortions per month are performed as hospitals for the purpose of compliance with regulations of the Board of Health..." YES!
6. Donald McEachin: "Constitutional amendment (first resolution); restoration of voting rights. Provides for the automatic restoration of voting rights to persons convicted of nonviolent felonies..." YES!
7. Chap Petersen: "Renewable energy facilities; eligibility for incentives. Establishes a requirement that electricity generated from renewable sources be generated from a facility located in the Commonwealth..." YES!
8. Donald McEachin: "Nondiscrimination in state employment. Prohibits discrimination in state employment based on race, color, religion, national origin, sex, pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions, age, marital status, disability, sexual orientation, or status as a special disabled veteran..." YES!
9. Ralph Northam: "Study; mandatory renewable energy portfolio standard program; YES..."
10. Ralph Northam: " Ultrasound prior to abortion. Removes the requirement that a woman undergo a transabdominal ultrasound prior to an abortion." YES!
11. Mamie Locke: "Payday lending. Repeals provisions authorizing payday lending in the Commonwealth." YES!
12. John Miller: "Virginia Redistricting Commission created. Establishes a five-member commission to prepare redistricting plans for the House of Delegates, state Senate, and congressional districts. Appointments to the Commission shall be made one each by the four majority and minority party leaders of the House and Senate." YES!
13. Thomas Garrett: "Nonpublic school students; participation in interscholastic programs. Prohibits public schools from joining an organization governing interscholastic programs that does not deem eligible for participation a student who (i) is receiving home instruction or is attending a private school that does not offer the interscholastic program in which the student wishes to participate" (Tebow bill) NO
14. Charles Carrico: " Constitutional amendment (first resolution); freedom of speech. Expands the freedom of speech provisions of the Constitution of Virginia to permit prayer and the recognition of religious beliefs, heritage, and traditions on public property, including public school property." NO
15. Charles Carrico: "Substance abuse screening and assessment of public assistance applicants and recipients. Requires local departments of social services to screen each Virginia Initiative for Employment Not Welfare (VIEW) program participant to determine whether probable cause exists to believe the participant is engaged in the use of illegal substances." NO
16. Chap Petersen: "Constitutional amendment (first resolution); tax credits. Provides that no tax credit shall remain in effect longer than five years unless it is reenacted by the General Assembly." YES
17. Barbara Comstock: "Right to vote by secret ballot on labor organization representation. Declares that, in any procedure providing for the designation, selection, or authorization of a labor organization to represent employees, the right of an individual employee to vote by secret ballot is a fundamental right that shall be guaranteed from infringement." NO
18. Mark Cole: "Elections; polling place procedures; voter identification requirements. Removes several items from the list of acceptable identification documents that a voter must present when voting at the polls on election day: a copy of a current utility bill, bank statement, government check, or paycheck that shows the name and address of the voter." NO
Aneesh added three more bills he strongly supports: HB 1872 (jump starting the crowd funding industry in Virginia); HB 1873 (codifying that patients are entitled to electronic copies of their own health care data); HB 1935 (authorizing Virginia to establish a self-employment assistance program).
Question #9: I asked Aneesh if he was basically a nonpartisan figure, got a very strong answer which I tried to quote exactly.
Aneesh Chopra's answer (condensed): "I am a Democrat. President Lyndon Johnson allowed people of my skin color to immigrate to the United States. I will for the rest of my life be a Democrat. It is in my blood. I would not exist if President Johnson had not taken the courageous choices that he did. My core Democratic values are rock [solid] on the notion that we lift the next generation up, my kids should live a better life than me, period end of story. I strongly believe a stronger, more effective government will make that happen. This is not a lack of ideology, this is opening up a new front for Democrats who have held these beliefs for so long to see them realized." [We then got into a discussion about Aneeh's work, including with Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, on pushing for equality in pay for women in part by increasing access to data and information.]
Question #10: I asked Aneesh about his $1,000 contribution to Bobby Jindal in 2004.
Aneesh Chopra's answer (condensed): Jindal "moved to the DC area as an assistant secretary for health, we shared a professional interest and we became social friends, he wasn't a candidate at the time, we were just friends. When he chose to run for office, he asked for my help, I provided him some support...he is a friend who asked, but obviously I don't support the agenda he's carried through in Louisiana, and I haven't given him any money since."
Finally, we chatted a bit more about Ken Cuccinelli. I mentioned to Aneesh that Cuccinelli was coming out with a book, and Aneesh said so was he (on how to achieve a smarter government). I noted that Cuccinelli's book was on how government was evil, liberals are evil, etc, and Aneesh said that will be "a wonderful contrast." Aneesh noted that not all Republicans are extreme, such as former Kaine administration Secretary of Natural Resources Preston Bryant, a Republican who led the effort to preserver 400,000 acres of land in Virginia.
Aneesh concluded by saying he had a great deal of confidence in the 2013 Democratic ticket, and also that the 2012 Obama coalition will react very favorably to our agenda and we'll see a very different electoral map from 2009.
P.S. If you're interested, check out Chopra's Facebook page and Twitter feed, as well as his Tumblr blog.  

The Dirty Energy Industry Invests in Cuccinelli

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

By Kindler

The fundraising reports for the governor's race are out, and one pattern is crystal clear -- Big Oil, Gas and Coal are betting a LOT of money on Cuccinelli. They clearly like his approach of launching legal assaults on climate scientists and relentlessly attacking EPA and just want to say "thank you" in the way that only big corporate contributions can.His early supporters include:
- The Koch brothers, via their subsidiary, Intrust Wealth Management: $50,000
Alpha Natural Resources, America's third largest coal producer, which also includes the notorious former coal company Massey Energy, which collapsed after the Upper Big Branch Mine disaster revealed the many ways in which it had been blatantly violating environmental, safety and health laws: $10,000
- Dominion PAC, the rightful owner of the Virginia government that they have bought and paid for so many times over: $10,000
Consol Energy, another massive coal company and major player in the natural gas fracking indusry: $25,000
All that plus $50,000 from The Presidential Coalition, part of Citizens United, the group that has done so much to ensure that big corporations like these are unlimited in their power to continue to buy the politicians, agencies and legislation that strike their fancy.  
All the more reason for you and I to support the one barrier standing in the way of Governor Cuccinelli turning Virginia into one big coal/oil/gas/uranium field: that would be presumptive Democratic nominee Terry McAuliffe.

Cuccinelli Takes $2,000 From Group that Denies Marital Rape, Opposes Birth Control, Supported Akin

In looking through Ken Cuccinelli's financial statement to the Virginia State Board of Elections, all kinds of interesting things are jumping out at us. This morning, for instance, we posted about the Koch brothers, and the dirty energy industry's in general, big investment in Cuccinelli. Money well spent on their part, I'm sure, as this guy is almost certain to do their bidding in trashing our planet.The next donation I wanted to highlight moves back to "social issues," in this case rabid misogyny, Stone Age thinking, theocratic insanity, etc. I'm talking, of course, about Phyllis Schlafly's far-far-far-right-wing Eagle Forum, which donated $2,000 on 11/9/12 to Cuckoo. Among many other insane, outrageous, and offensive things Schlafly and company have said over the years include the following quotes.
*"You can't get into negotiations with the feminists because you will lose. They will slit your throat. They have no sense of fair play or compromise." -National Affairs Briefing, 8/92
*"Nothing about contraception should be taught in schools. There is no question that it will encourage sexual activity."- New York Times, 10/17/92
* "I think that when you get married you have consented to sex. That's what marriage is all about, I don't know if maybe these girls missed sex ed. That doesn't mean the husband can beat you up, we have plenty of laws against assault and battery. If there is any violence or mistreatment that can be dealt with by criminal prosecution, by divorce or in various ways. When it gets down to calling it rape though, it isn't rape, it's a he said-she said where it's just too easy to lie about it." - Student Life, 5/05/08
*"Feminists, if they get tired of a husband or if they want to fight over child custody, they can make an accusation of marital rape and they want that to be there, available to them." - Student Life, 5/05/08
*Schlafly criticized Republicans for "making a big thing" about Akin's "legitimate rape" remark. -Washington Post, 8/20/12
*"We oppose the feminist goal of federally financed and regulated daycare." - Eagle Forum website
Feel like you need to take a hot shower? Yeah, me too. Anyway, these are the types of people contributing to Ken Cuccinelli's campaign for governor. What to make of this? Let's quote another right wingnut on this one, our old friend George Allen, who likes to say that "you can tell a lot about someone by those they keep company with." For once, we agree 100% with Allen on something.

My First Endorsement for 2013: Mark Herring, An Attorney General We Can Be Proud Of

Monday, January 14, 2013

The 2012 election season is over, with Virginia once again showing its "blue" tendencies for President and U.S. Senate, if not for the insanely gerrymandered U.S. House of Representatives (that's a topic for another time). Now, we head into one of those (in)famous odd-numbered-year elections, in which turnout tends to fall off sharply, but more so for "Obama coalition" voters (young, federally oriented, Latinos, etc.) than for the teahadists (old, angry, white...but they always vote!).Clearly, the key to Democrats' winning in 2013 is getting out those "Obama voters," or more broadly "presidential/federal voters." If we do that, we win. If we don't, we lose. It's not complicated in theory; now we just have to get the job done.
So, how do we get those voters out? For starters, we have to explain very clearly to potential voters why an election for Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General, and the House of Delegates of Virginia matters to them. Part of it, no doubt, will be letting people know how extreme the Republican ticket, headed by Ken Cuccinelli, (but also including an Attorney General candidate who believes that Cuccinelli is a role model) will be. The other part, at least as important, is putting up high-quality candidates who not only can win elections, but also would perform well in the jobs they seek.
One such high-quality candidate is State Senator Mark Herring (D-Loudoun/Fairfax), now running for Attorney General. I've had the chance to speak off-the-record with Senator Herring, and also tointerview him on the record. I've also reviewed his record as a State Senator (in this session alone, Sen. Herring has been a leader in opposing uranium mining in Virginia, fighting back against the Republicans' war on women's rights), have talked to his campaign team, and on all counts I've been highly impressed.
Bottom line: Mark Herring is a candidate who is running for all the right reasons, with superb qualifications for the job, with a sharp mind and with a clear vision for what the Virginia Attorney General's Office should, and should NOT, be doing. As if all that's not enough, Senator Herring also has proven his ability to win elections in a "purple" part of Virginia, one which happens to be arguably the most important "swing" area of the state. Add all that up, and what we've got here is what is known in technical terms as a "no brainer." :) In all seriousness, though, there is no doubt in my mind that Mark Herring should be Virginia's next Attorney General, and that WHEN he's elected, he will do a superb job.
A few points from my interview with our next Attorney General, Mark Herring are on the "flip."
lowkell :: My First Endorsement for 2013: Mark Herring, An Attorney General We Can Be Proud Of
First, in stark contrast to Ken Cuccinelli's view of the office, Mark Herring believes that the Virginia Attorney General's office needs to always provide professional legal advice based on the merits of the law, not in service of a political ideology (or personal ambition), let alone an extreme ideology (and extreme personal ambition) like Ken Cuccinelli has demonstrated.Second, and again in stark contrast to the nasty, divisive tone and substance of Ken Cuccinelli, the Attorney General's office under Mark Herring will be dedicated to serving ALL Virginians (e.g., the public interest, not the interests of narrow-but-well-connected special interests), to standing up for mainstream values, to protecting people from persecution, and to making Virginia a welcoming place for individuals, businesses, and families to call home. Right now, with Ken Cuccinelli busy waging war against women's rights, LGBT people, immigrants, scientists, academic freedom, and the rule of law, that's increasingly - and disturbingly - not the case.
Third, as Attorney General, Mark Herring will stop squandering the resources of the office, instead focusing it on what actually matters: things like protecting seniors from financial fraud and abuse; ensuring that veterans get the benefits they need and have earned; "mak[ing] sure we have a fair marketplace for both businesses and consumers;" making sure that people have clean air to breathe and clean water to drink; defending people's right to vote; fighting against domestic violence; and other areas important to ALL Virginians.
Finally, Mark Herring is superbly qualified for this job, certainly in terms of his educational credentials (law degree with honors from the University of Richmond; bachelor's and master's degrees from the University of Virginia) and legal experience (he has a successful law practice in Loudoun), but also in terms of his experience at the local and state levels on a wide variety of issues. As a member of the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors, Mark Herring was a "a strong advocate for economic development and road improvements that create jobs and transportation solutions for citizens." In the State Senate, Herring has "strongly opposed efforts to take away a woman's right to choose, roll back voting rights, and institutionalize discrimination in our laws." Sen. Herring has also "championed legislation to target those who would commit financial scams against our seniors and as a member of the Governor McDonnell's Domestic Violence and Response Advisory Board...sponsored and passed legislation to strengthen penalties for acts of domestic violence."
In the end, Mark Herring will be, and should be, the Democrats' nominee for Attorney General in 2013, as well as Virginia's next Attorney General. Given the importance of this office, and the amount of good - or bad - that it can do in all of our lives, this is one we've got to get right next year. Let's all work hard to elect Mark Herring in November (click here to sign up for Sen. Herring's Twitter and Facebook feeds). In doing so, let's restore honor and integrity to the Virginia Attorney General's office, after four long years in which Ken Cuccineill has brought nothing but ridicule and shame upon our great state.
P.S. I almost forgot to mention Sen. Herring's statement on the Newtown tragedy, in which he called for action regarding firearms and mental health to help prevent this from happening again. In this context, I'd point out that Sen. Herring opposed repeal of one-handgun-per-month. Sen. Herring also sponsored a bill last year providing making "the application of physical force against a family or household member" a Class 1 misdemeanor. A person convicted of this would lose their right to carry a firearm. The legislation was supported by the Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance, but disgracefully was killed by the Republican/NRA-controlled House Militia Committee.
Update: Note that I began paid consulting to the Herring campaign on social media earlier this month. I had actually written most of this endorsement back in December, but decided to post it now, when more people are paying attention.