In Easter Message, Pope Francis Condemns Greed, "iniquitous exploitation of natural resources"

Sunday, March 31, 2013

From Pope Francis' Urbi et Orbi Message, Easter 2013.
Peace in the whole world, still divided by greed looking for easy gain, wounded by the selfishness which threatens human life and the family, selfishness that continues in human trafficking, the most extensive form of slavery in this twenty-first century. Peace to the whole world, torn apart by violence linked to drug trafficking and by the iniquitous exploitation of natural resources! Peace to this our Earth! Made the risen Jesus bring comfort to the victims of natural disasters and make us responsible guardians of creation.
Great stuff. Of course, Paul Ryan, Ken Cuccinelli, and their fellow Ayn Rand fans in the Republican Party can't be happy with Pope Francis' condemnation of greed and selfishness, his call to end the "iniquitous exploitation of natural resources" (can we say tar sands? mountaintop removal coal mining? spewing of carbon dioxide and other pollutants into the atmosphere?), and his plea that we be "responsible guardians of creation." Don't worry, though, I'm sure Paul Ryan, Ken Cuccinelli et al. will just ignore this part of Pope Francis' message. But the rest of us certainly shouldn't!

Audio: Bolling Won't Endorse Cuccinelli; Rips Him as "too extreme...confrontational and combative"

Saturday, March 30, 2013

After stating (at 3:45 into the audio) that he will NOT be endorsing Ken Cuccinelli in this year's gubernatorial campaign, Virginia Lieutenant Governor Bill Bolling (R) talks (starting at around 4:45) about his relationship with Virginia Republicans and conservatives since he started considering a run for governor. Pop up some popcorn, because this is good! :)
As far as [RPV] Chairman Pat Mullins is concerned, I haven't heard from him, I haven't heard from the Attorney General, frankly I haven't heard from any of these folks, which doesn't particularly surprise me. But look, the only heat that I took during this entire process, to be perfectly honest, came from the more, I'll just call them passionate elements in our party, who do represent more of the more extreme views within our party. But as far as mainstream Republicans, people that I've known and worked with for years, I think almost every one of them that I talked to was totally understanding of the position we were in...many of them frankly were supportive. I will tell you, I'm not alone in the concerns that I have about the current direction of the Republican Party. There are a lot of other Republican elected officials and party leaders out there who share these exact same concerns, they're just not in a position to voice them...At this particular point in time...I think I've been put in a speak out on the need for a more mainstream approach to governing in Virginia...and the other is to speak out candidly to my fellow Republicans and talk about the need to get our party back to a more mainstream approach.
Great stuff. In other news, Bolling says that Terry McAuliffe has not offered him any position in his administration if he's elected governor. Bolling also says that most moderate and independent Virginia voters see Ken Cuccinelli as "too extreme...too ideologically driven...too confrontational and combative...too focused on the incredibly controversial and divisive issues of the day." The question is, Bollins says, can Cuccinelli redefine himself, and does he even "want to do that, or is [Cuccinelli] gonna double down on the conservative ideology of the farthest right wings of the Republican Party?" Finally, Bolling agrees with the RNC assessment that the GOP is now viewed as "scary, out of touch and simply too extreme," and "I think that is an accurate assessment." For instance, on the issue of abortion, the GOP is "by and large" a "pro-life party," but that doesn't mean the GOP should focus on "controversial and divisive issues like fetal ultrasound." Instead, "why aren't we the party that's championing efforts to reduce teen pregnancy in for crisis pregnancy centers...adoption as an option to abortion?" In Bolling (100% correct) view, "these are positive pro-life alternatives that would be supported not just by pro-life Virginians but by most pro-choice Virginians, and at the end of the day they'd probably do more to reduce the number of abortions being performed in our state than the fetal ultrasound will ever do." As Bolling puts it, that's all part of the Republican Party not being the "stupid party," as Bobby Jindal put it. I couldn't agree more with every word Bill Bolling said here!

Koch-Funded Mercatus Center Embarrasses GMU Yet Again with Laughable Report on "Freedom"

Friday, March 29, 2013

In many ways, George Mason University (GMU) is a fine school, an institution of higher learning that Virginians should be proud of. But in at least one way, it is a cringe-inducing embarrassment. That, of course, is the tremendous amount of money from the Koch brothers that goes to fund climate science denialism, to rail against environmental regulation more broadly, at GMU's far-right-wingnut Mercatus Center, described in The New Yorker as essentially a scam to "take corporate money and give it to a neutral-sounding think tank." Mercatus is very useful to the Koch brothers, of course, because they can count on the corporate/clueless media to cite it as some sort of unbiased, neutral "think tank," when in reality it is wildly biased, and certainly not a "think tank" the way most people would ever "think" of that concept.Given all this, it's not surprising that Koch-funded fellows at Mercatus have now produced a laughable, far-right-wingnut report that purports to measure "Freedom in the 50 States." Of course, it does no such thing, unless by "freedom" you mean "freedom for corporations, polluters, and the super rich to completely run amok, while the state tells you what you can and can't do with your body, who you can or can't marry, whether or not you can organize with other workers to demand better pay and benefits, etc."  In short, this report is a Koch-brothers-meet-John-Galt wet dream of what America should look like. And that, my friends, is not a pleasant thought, in any way, shape or form.
Let's look at a few of the metrics they use. Most importantly is having a low "tax burden" (note the loaded words they use?) -- that metric makes up 29% of the entire score in and of itself, and of course the lower the better, even if your state's schools, roads, bridges, health care systems, etc. are falling apart. The super-rich Koch brothers certainly don't care - let the little people suffer, they're doing fine, bwahahahahaha!
lowkell :: Koch-Funded Mercatus Center Embarrasses GMU Yet Again with Laughable Report on "Freedom"
 The next highest weighting in this "study" (using the word as loosely as is humanly possible) goes to that pressing issue, one that I know all of us sit up nights worrying about, namely "Freedom from Tort Abuse." What on earth is THAT, you ask? According to Mercatus, "This is what the US Chamber of Commerce calls a state's 'lawsuit climate.' It captures risks and costs that businesses must pass on to consumers as higher prices." Yep, the virulently anti-government, pro-corporate-welfare US Chamber of Commerce came up with with the metric that makes up another 12% of the Mercatus Center's scoring. 'Nuff said.
So, combine those two items - low taxes and "freedom from tort abuse" - and you're up to over 40% of the score right there. Throw in a few more on the "libertarian" wish list - "gun control freedom" (6.6%), "health insurance freedom" (5.4%), tobacco and alcohol "freedom" (6.9% combined), "labor market freedom" (3.8%) - and you've got the bulk of it. Note, by the way, that "marriage freedom" is weighted at just 2.1%, lower than "alcohol freedom" (2.8%), "tobacco freedom" (4.1%), and many others.
So yes, the whole thing would be completely laughable if it weren't so insidious. Alex Pareene of Salon skewers it here, noting that the Koch-funded Mercatus Institute's "definition of 'freedom' largely adheres to the standard American libertarian conception of 'liberty,' which is to say it is oriented almost entirely around private property ownership and low taxation." Thus, North Dakota comes out in the rankings as the most "free" state, even though it just "passed the most restrictive antiabortion laws in the country...[i]ncluding a law specifically aimed at shutting down the state's lone abortion provider." In other words, you're free in North Dakota to have very low taxes and very low services, but if you're a woman you are NOT free to make important medical decisions, with your doctor, about your body. Is this the combo "Atlas Shrugged"/"The Handmaid's Tale" version of "freedom" or what?
By the way, just in case you're at all interested, Virginia is considered by the Koch brothers, aka Mercatus, as "one of the freest states in the country, ranking eighth overall," in part due to " Virginia's status as a right-to-work state." Lovely, huh? Meanwhile, just to our north, our unfortunate brethren in Communist Maryland suffer at #44, despite the fact that you can marry who you want there, while Virginia enshrines discrimination into its state constitution. Got that? I'd also note that, as a general rule, the "blue" states - the ones that are huge net donors to the "red" states - are considered less "free," while the "red" states - huge net recipients of federal largesse, with the lowest education and health rankings in the country - are considered the most "free." To put it another way, if you were dreaming up a dystopian vision of America, and ranking the most dystopian states the highest and the least dystopian the lowest, you'd basically have...the Mercatus Center study. What an embarrassment.

Photos: Mark Warner Gets an Earful on Keystone Pipeline

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Great job by the Chesapeake Climate Action Network (CCAN), confronting Sen. Warner on his badly mistaken vote regarding the Keystone dirty Canadian tar sands pipeline (note: click on image to "embiggen")! Here's how they described it:
Today in Harrisonburg, over 70 Virginians confronted Senator Mark Warner on his decision to support the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. Not only did the Senator receive our message as he walked into a private luncheon, a group of pipeline protesters were also invited to sit down for an hour-long meeting with his Chief of Staff, where we demanded a public response by next week.
I'd also note that Sen. Warner's just plain wrong that we need an "all of the above" strategy. To the stark contrary, there have been multiple studies demonstrating that we could feasibly power the country, and the planet, on 100% (or close to it) clean energy, if we just put our minds to it (I strongly recommend that Sen. Warner read this NY Times article, "Life After Oil and Gas"). But if we keep repeating the false mantra that we will "need" coal, oil, etc. for decades to come, that will only make it harder to do what we have to do: get off this planet-destroying stuff ASAP. What about that does Sen. Warner not "get?"  

Video: Last Night's Howard Dean/DFA Fundraiser for Jennifer Boysko, John Bell

Last night's Howard Dean/DFA fundraiser on Capitol Hill for Democratic House of Delegates candidates Jennifer Boysko and John Bell was a big success. The room was packed for the DFA "Purple to Blue" kickoff, the energy level was high, and the candidates were fired up. Check out the videos, and please help our great Democratic candidates this year! First, here's John Bell (introduced by DFA Communications Director Neil Sroka) running in the Obama/Kaine 87th district against the utterly egregious David Ramadan. This is one we must win this November. More video on the "flip," starting with Fairfax Supervisor John Foust introducing Jennifer Boysko, who's running against Tom Rust (R) in the 86th district. Also, make sure you check out 5:35 into the video for a special treat! :) Also, check out this photo of former Dean for President super-volunteer Jennifer Boysko with Howard Dean. Next, Howard Dean speaks about DFA's "Purple to Blue" program and rips into "crackpot" "Crazy Ken" Cuccinelli ("he's nuts...anti immigrant, anti women, anti working's just no no no no no...climate change, science...Ken Cuccinelli is not a serious person; he's a smart guy, but he's crazy"). Also, check out 2:28 into the video as Howard Dean riffs hilariously on perhaps his most well-known moment in the spotlight. Great stuff; gotta love a politician who can laugh at himself... Here's a bit more from Howard Dean, this time about how the right wing "hates others," and how this country is not about "hate," and most importantly about how change "comes from the bottom" not from the top. Regarding that last point, Dean said that Boysko and Bell won't win unless we have 400-500 people knocking on doors. Dean concluded with this fiery riff:
The extremism that you hear from the Republican Party, whether it's in Virginia or North Dakota, is not where Americans are, and the only way we can remind them of that is to win elections. They're scared running around because Obama beat the pants off of them, as he should have, and we're not going to let them up off the mat, because this is our country...this is a country that cares about community, not about tearing down community, and we are going to change America, and it's going to start with Jennifer and John.
Finally, Jennifer Boysko, John Bell and Howard Dean answer a few questions from the crowd.

The 2003 Draft Wesley Clark Movement Loses Two of Its Grassroots Superstars

It's kind of ironic that I've been spending so much time talking about Howard Dean this week. Why ironic? First, because I was a big supporter of General Wesley Clark - not Governor Dean - for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2003. Second, because two of the biggest stars of the Draft Wesley Clark movement - both of whom get major shoutouts in my book, Netroots Rising ("How a Citizen Army of Bloggers and Online Activists is Changing American Politics") - passed away recently, and they've been on my mind a lot.Let's start with the most recent: Stan Davis (to Clark's right in the photo, the one with all the Clark buttons), who passed away on Saturday. Stan ran the main Draft Wesley Clark Yahoo group, and said of the Draft movement that it was made up of "ordinary people doing extraordinary things."  As I wrote in Netroots Rising, Stan was a "56-year-old Colorado man who had nearly died of a stroke in 2002, and was retired for medical reasons." Like me, Stan saw Clark's June 15, 2003 Meet the Press interview, and "Clark's persona and message excited" Stan, spurring him to attend the first Denver Draft Clark Meetup on July 7, 2003. Stan soon became the moderator of the largest Clark Yahoo group (Clark 2004), as well as one of General Clark's most passionate - and effective - netroots supporters. He also became someone I considered a good friend, comrade in arms, also a friendly debating partner (as much or more about philosophy and other subjects than politics). Stan was also one of the nicest, classiest, most diplomatic people I've ever met, and he needed to be, moderating a group with thousands of members and tens of thousands of messages.
There's a lot to say about Stan, but it's hard to top his own life described in his own words. A few points that jump out at me as I reread this: 1) Stan started out as a big Goldwater fan, before his "flaming liberal fiancĂ©e opened my eyes;" 2) in 1999, he was given 6 months to live following a stroke, exacerbated by hemochromatosis (a genetic blood disorder in which "the body doesn't metabolize iron") and diabetes; 3) after languishing for three years or so, Stan was rejuvenated by the Draft Clark movement, to which he committed "my support...and my life;" 4) as Stan puts it, the Clark movement - along with "crossword puzzles" and his divorce - "combined my life." Politics saving someone's life? How can that be possible, the cynical might ask? Very simple: believing in something bigger than yourself; connecting with a community and a movement that inspires you; finding a purpose to your existence; those things can make all the difference in having the will to live - or not. And in Stan's case, it worked - until this past Saturday.
Finally, before I move on to the other Draft Wesley Clark leader who passed away recently, here's General Wesley Clark himself on Stan Davis, and what Stan meant to him. Very moving.
lowkell :: The 2003 Draft Wesley Clark Movement Loses Two of Its Grassroots Superstars
I will really miss Stan Davis. He was a Navy veteran and a fine man. But for me he had a special role as one of a handful of people who really provided me the will to run for President. He helped organize the draft, and encouraged me at every step. Not because he had great money, or huge political influence but because he had a strong faith in America, and believed that someone had to stand up for our country and our principles. Again and again, Stan was there for me. I could look into the audience in California, or Denver, or New Hampshire, and Stan was there.I knew Stan would rally the troops, and that he cared about the big issues, like I did.
I knew he was ill, and in failing health. Still, it's a shock, and a loss. Stan, we miss you!
Yes, we do. Rest in peace, my friend (or as Stan would say, "mon ami").The other Draft Clark superstar who passed away recently is Ellen Dana Nagler, who Stan Davis identified as of his key mentors. On February 2, I got an email - followed by a long phone call - from our mutual friend (and Clarkie) Kelly Flinn, informing me that Ellen had passed away the day before. There's a lot to say about Ellen, but to give you a flavor of her role in the Clark movement, here's an excerpt from Netroots Rising:
On October 5, Ellen Nagler, the leader of Santa Barbara for Clark, and one of the brightest political people in the Clark movement -- her campaign experience went back to Bobby Kennedy in 1968 -- wrote to Lowell in an instant message chat that "the Clark Movement is being systematically excluded."  Nagler complained that Digital Clark (a repository for radio and TV interviews with Clark) "is gone" and that "for days, if you clicked on the [popular] Clark Tribune newsletter on the main site you got redirected to the main campaign press page."    Nagler expressed her belief that the campaign professionals viewed the draft people as "mavericks" or even "unruly children" who needed to be "brought under control or sent away from the table if we 'misbehave'."
In short, Ellen was a fierce defender of - and believer in - the power of the progressive grassroots/netroots activism to change American politics for the better. And she certainly practiced that in her life. Of course, that shouldn't be surprising for someone who called herself an "unreconstructed liberal," and who never lost her Brooklyn/NY City attitude ("chutzpah"), nor her sense of outrage at injustice and right-wing lunacy. Ellen also was highly involved in her local and state Democratic Parties.As for the Clark campaign, Ellen and I both grew increasingly frustrated - and alienated - during the fall of 2003, after we had both been as excited and energized as can be for General Clark during the summer. In numerous, early-morning (for me - VERY late night for her in California!) chats, Ellen and I discussed our growing frustration over the systematic exclusion of the draft elements from the Clark campaign. Among other things, this contributed to the decision of Clark's first campaign manager, Donnie Fowler Jr., to resign on October 7, 2003. As Fowler told me later, the "professional" political folks brought in to run the Clark campaign had made the mistake of trying to "dam up the river" of netroots talent and enthusiasm, instead of working to harness it intelligently, as the Obama campaign did in 2008 and 2012. In my view, and I'm confident that Ellen would agree, the decision to make the Clark campaign "top down," instead of "bottom up" (or even better, a hybrid of "top down" and "bottom up," as we ended up with in the Webb campaign of 2006), played a major role in General Clark losing the primary.
The last I heard from Ellen was actually in September 2009, when she emailed to tell me that Virginia is "such a critical state" politically, and how glad she was that I was still blogging, at Blue Virginia, after the demise of RK/Raising Kaine. My hope is that if there's an afterlife, that Ellen and Stan are sharing a cool drink, debating politics and philosophy, in English and/or in French, which they both loved. And, of course, leading a "draft" progressive political movement wherever they are! :)
P.S. I miss you both!

Howard Dean, DFA Launch Purple to Blue Project, Target 5 Districts in Virginia for 2013

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

I just got off a conference call with former DNC Chair Howard Dean; Democracy For America's (DFA's) Purple to Blue Project Director Nick Passanante; 86th House of Delegates district candidate Jennifer Boysko; 87th House of Delegates district candidate John Bell; and Virginia House Democratic Caucus Executive Director Jody Murphy. The purpose of the call was to discuss the launch of DFA's Purple to Blue project ("a new effort to win state legislative house and senate chambers"), and also to introduce DFA's first two Purple to Blue candidates in Virginia - Boysko and Bell. This marks the beginning of "a national, multi-year  effort to win state House and Senate chambers," this year "focused on elections in five key 'purple' districts currently represented by Republicans in  Virginia's House of Delegates." Here are my notes, cleaned up a bit, from the rest of the call. Also, don't forget the event tonight with Howard Dean for Jennifer Boysko and John Bell!Nick Passanante
Right now, there's a radical, right-wing agenda going unchecked at state level. Elections for state legislatures are critically important. We need to win back state house and senate districts across the country. In 2013, the focus will be on Virginia's House of Delegates (Lowell's note: currently, Democrats hold just 32 out of 100 seats).  DFA is targeting five key purple districts currently represented by Republicans.  This will be a robust, layered campaign, highly data driven, microtargeted, $750,000 in just these 5 districts on targeted mail, media, etc.  This will send a powerful message to Republicans, that if you continue to wage war on women, voting rights, etc., we will defeat you at the ballot box.
This effort is just the beginning; we are looking forward to 2014 races in PA, MI, IA, as well as 2015 State Senate races in Virginia. We will announce the other three targeted Virginia districts over the 2-3 weeks; making those decisions now. People who live outside these districts can help by chipping in a few bucks, volunteering on phones/doors, using the Call Out the Vote program.
The plan is to stretch every dollar to go as far as possibly can. We've run our field program multiple times in the past, including in the WI recall effort. We've gotten so good at it that we see a higher than 50% contact rate with door knocking. Those are unheard-of numbers in terms of contacts, in large part due to microtargeting. Mail/media: working with Pivot Mail - Joel Rivlin, Dean Levitan, etc. - which runs highly targeted and data driven mail programs.  We won't just send out blanket mail pieces, but ones that are really tailored to each individual in the district. Also, targeted media - cable, etc.
Howard Dean
This really is of national importance, not just in Virginia. The radical tone set by extreme right winger Ken Cuccinelli is spreading elsewhere. The recent anti-abortion bill in ND, for instance, started in Virginia with Ken Cuccinelli. Cuccinelli has a record of defunding Planned Parenthood, promoting discrimination against LGBT Virginians; in general, he's way outside the mainstream of Virginia, "antediluvian" views, I actually wondered if he was sane....we call him "Crazy Ken."

We've got a real opportunity to change the legislature in Virginia, although we can't just hope to do it in a single campaign - will take time. As I like to say, the longest journey begins with a single step; there's lots of work to do, seats to pick up in the Virginia legislature. If we had a legislature that made some sense, and didn't pass all this extreme legislation, we wouldn't have the threat of a Gov. Cuccinelli and a rubber stamp legislature.  This will be a tough governor's race. What DFA can do, as well as grassroots organizations everywhere should do, is to focus on state legislatures. Part of the problem is gerrymandering by Republicans - cheating in elections, essentially - plus voter ID laws to suppress Democratic votes.  Virginia happens to have some terrific candidates running this year. We need to stop the right-wing extremism. This isn't about left vs. right, but about sane, normal Americans taking on the extreme right wingers with their bizarre ideas.
Virginia is not a right-wing state any more, it's a thoughtful, middle of the road state. We'll be doing this all over the country, will expand to the entire country.  In 2005, Tim Kaine started a wave that took back the country for the Democrats in 2006 and 2008, so it really all does start in Virginia.  This is about what's standing up for what's right for America, for the real America...
A little money goes a long way in these state legislative races.  Anything that anybody gives would be really helpful. This is how you win national races, make our country stronger and better, by focusing on the grassroots, on taking back state legislatures, Virginia and other states back, then building towards 2016.
Jody Murphy:  Thanks to Governor Dean and to DFA for their involvement; their help will be crucial, can't thank them enough. This effort is so important in Virginia, because our caucus is in a super minority, which hampers our ability to stop this crazy legislation - on women's reproductive health, restricting people's right to vote, etc.
We have several good candidates running across the Commonwealth. These seats are seats we can win running on progressive values and progressive issues, these are not right-wing seats.  Specifically, we have several seats in NOVA we can make a real play in. Several seats in Hampton Roads. In rural areas, we've done a good job of getting candidates who really represent their areas/districts. Today, we're talking about John Bell, Jennifer Boysko - phenomenal candidates.  These two seats are real opportunities for us to make pickups. Their opponents are just rubber stamps for current governor and right-wing legislature. Tim Kaine won 19 seats that we currently don't have in the House of Delegates.
Republicans have been so far out of the mainstream, with outrageous right-wing legislation - especially attacks on women's health - and the grassroots is responding to that.
Jennifer Boysko (86th district vs. Tom Rust)
I am thrilled to be on this call to have you supporting me in my race. I was Gov. Dean's state director in 2003, created his grassroots strategy throughout the state.  My district is an interesting one, the most Democratic-voting district in the state that still has a Republican incumbent. Tom Rust has only been challenged twice with a significant race.  The first time was someone with very little money who still won 47% of the vote. The second candidate had no deep community roots. I'll bring both money and deep community roots to the race. With proper funding, community grassroots support, we can win this race. I have a strong campaign team.  Knowing DFA and Howard Dean have my back, I know we can do it.  I look forward to being the 20th woman in the GA.
My opponent voted for the TRAP bill (to shut down women's health/reproductive clinics in Virginia).   On transportation, I would have voted for transportation bill, given that it was up or down vote. However, I have a disagreement with the alternative fuel vehicle tax - our air quality is poor. Would have preferred gas tax to simply be indexed as opposed to moving a component of it to sales tax, or taking funds from education/human services. Tom Rust turned into a different person this year. In the past, he voted against immigrants rights, education, cut childcare subsidies, voted against emergency contraception.
John Bell (87th District vs. David Ramadan)
Thanks to DFA, to Governor Dean for this wonderful program and terrific support. I'm a retired Air Force officer, almost 26 years in the service working with people from different backgrounds, including on finance/budget issues.  I've also been a volunteer in the community, coaching boys' tennis. Community involvement is very important to. Having the right priorities - everyday issues that affect families in their everyday lives. Standing up for the rights of others. Standing up for reproductive rights, marriage equality, all citizens being treated fairly. Transportation gridlock is very important as not just a business issue, but also one that hurts families (time they're stuck in traffic).  This campaign is going to talk about moderation, common sense approaches. David Ramadan is extreme, out of touch.  This is an Obama/Kaine district.
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BREAKING: Cuccinelli Says Transportation Bill, Medicaid Expansion Unconstitutional

Friday, March 22, 2013

According to our fine Attorney General (and his office), the two main accomplishments of the 2013 Virginia General Assembly are not constitutional.1. Transportation
It is my opinion that, although the imposition of different taxes on transactions in different localities does not violate Article X, § 1, HB 2313's imposition of taxes in the specific localities constitutes a local law related to taxation prohibited by Article IV, § 14(5) of the Virginia Constitution. It further is my opinion that, because the taxes were imposed directly by the General Assembly, the taxes cannot be saved by the provisions of Article VII, § 2, even if they had obtained the affirmative vote of two-thirds of the members elected to each house.
Interesting, I actually thought Article X was a stronger argument against this bill. Go figure.2. Medicaid expansion
It is my opinion that the provisions of the 2013 budget act that purport to authorize Medicaid expansion only "[i]f the Medicaid Innovation and Reform Commission determines that" certain conditions set by the General Assembly have been met constitutes a delegation of the General Assembly's legislative authority. It is further my opinion that the General Assembly may not delegate final legislative authority regarding budgetary or other matters to a committee composed of a subset of the members of the General Assembly.
Of course, these are just opinions - correct or incorrect, you decide - by Virginia's AG, not a ruling by the Virginia Supreme Court. Still, it will be fascinating to see how this plays out now, especially given Bob McDonnell's obvious hesitation to make a decision on whether or not to sign the transportation bill. Also, it seems to me that the AG's ruling could have an impact on future Supreme Court deliberations. Hmmmm.P.S. Big winner here? "Sideshow Bob" Marshall, who requested these opinions, of all people. Wonderful.
P.P.S. Did the politics of 2013 just get scrambled? All I can say is, it's going to be very interesting to see how this plays out...

New Report Card on Virginia Infrastructure: D+

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) is out with its 2013 report card on America's infrastructure, and it's not a pretty picture (note: click on image to "embiggen") - either for the country as a whole, or for Virginia specifically. Virginia gets a D+ grade, with problems like:*1,250 structurally deficient bridges
*47% of roads either in poor or mediocre shape
*184 high-hazard dams
*Billions of dollars needed for wastewater and drinking water upgrades.
*Over 46% of schools over 40 years old.
*Pressing needs for improvements in Virginia's power grid and alternative energy sources, or else "electrical power rates must increase between 50 and 70 percent over the next 10 years"
Since Gov. McDonnell is currently considering what to do with the recently-passed transportation bill, it's worth highlighting that the ASCE full report on Virginia gives our roads a D- grade, for the following reasons:
Increasing traffic congestion on Virginia roads is choking major urban areas and is having a negative impact on businesses, commuters, and tourists. VTrans 2025 identifies a funding shortfall for road investment of $74 billion. In the last three fiscal year budgets (2008-2010) transportation funding has decreased 38% or by $3.2 billion. If current trends continue by 2014, state highway funds will be insufficient to match federal funds, resulting in Virginia losing its share of federal funding.
As for rail and transit, the report finds that a "sustainable source of funding for new or expanded rail and transit services is critical to Virginia's future economic success." Last but not least, "more than 50 percent of the state's bridges are approaching the end of their anticipated service design lives, making Virginia's bridges among the oldest in the nation."

Clearly, based on this report, Virginia needs to invest heavily in upgrading its transportation, and other, infrastructure. With regard to the transportation bill sitting on Gov. McDonnell's desk, the amount of new revenues generated would be $880 million when the package is fully phased in, around 2018. Clearly, that's better than nothing, but based on the ASCE report, it's not even close to sufficient to make up the $74 billion funding shortfall for road investment mentioned in this report. And that's not even counting rail and transit, ports and navigable waterways, and bridges. All of which means that one way or the other, we'll be revisiting this transportation issue very soon. And no, Del. Dave Albo is NOT correct when he says he has "solved he problem" of transportation in Virginia. To the contrary, that's just another laughable assertion from one of Virginia's least serious, most ridiculous public officials.

Exclusive Interview: DPVA Chair Charniele Herring

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

I had the opportunity yesterday to sit down with Democratic Party of Virginia Chair, Del. Charniele Herring, for an hour-plus discussion/interview in Alexandria on turning Virginia blue, on winning in 2013, on building the state party and Virginia Democrats' "farm system," etc. Thanks to Del. Herring for her time; I greatly appreciate it. Here are some highlights from our discussion.1. According to Del. Herring, the 2009 elections in Virginia were a case of conservatives mobilizing, in the aftermath of their defeat in 2008, "to their benefit," while Democrats basically went to sleep. For instance, Herring won her January 2009 special election, in the solid blue 46th district (Alexandria), by just 16 votes, as Democrats "were tired" and didn't go vote. Later that same year, as we all know, Democrats were wiped out for governor, LG, AG, and the House of Delegates. The lesson: "every vote matters," and also we can't ever go to sleep or take anything for granted. Certainly, we'd better not do either of those things in 2013, unless we like the thought of saying "Governor Cuccinelli" for 4 years. Nope, didn't think so.
2. Del. Herring said we've been recruiting candidates for 2013, are doing pretty well, but frankly "candidate recruitment is a long-term thing; we've got to build a bench." Of course, Herring pointed out, it's the House Democratic caucus that is primarily responsible for candidate recruitment for the House of Delegates, while "the party does supplement and provides support" (e.g, voter file, media training, messaging, research, helping to identify donors). According to Del. Herring, "through time we're going to figure out a better way for candidate recruitment," but it's certainly "not easy," as a lot of people don't want to go through what it takes to run for office. The bottom line, in Del. Herring's view, is that it's going to take time to get back to where we need to be in the House of Delegates: "I think what we need to do is be in a place that in 2020, that we have some control of's slow building,I can't sit here and say that we're going to pick up 10 seats in 2013...we have to just realize the reality of our's going to have to be slow, methodical, and deliberate."
lowkell :: Exclusive Interview: DPVA Chair Charniele Herring
3. According to Del. Herring, in the 2013 campaign, "We're not going to be duplicating things, which has happened in the past, where the coordinated campaign runs outside the party; everything's going to be run through the party, so that's going to help our House of Delegates candidates, the top of the ticket and on down...a unified front." In other words, this time around, things have to be done differently if we expect different results from the past (if not, it's the classic "definition of insanity" - doing the same thing and expecting different results), and Del. Herring seems determined to make sure that happens.4. What are the major issues for 2013? Del. Herring believes that part of it will definitely be pointing out how extreme ("outside the norm of what we've known conservatives to be") the Republican ticket will be on issue after issue. As much as Cuccinelli tries to "normalize himself," Democrats will need to keep reminding people of how extreme Cuccinelli's record is and "what he truly is and what he will do if he were to be elected." We're also going to hear about transportation, jobs and the economy, women's reproductive health care, climate change, the assault on science, LGBT equality, the Republican assault on voting rights, etc.
5. In Del. Herring's view, we can't just be against Cuccinelli, "we have to promote ourselves, we are...a party of ideas that are fact based, evidence based, reality based...we're a big tent party...that brings Virginians to a better quality  of life overall no matter their party affiliation," and we have to talk about all that. In addition, of course we need to remind people of all the extreme things Cuccinelli has said and done. At the same time, the case for Terry McAuliffe will center on job creation, pursuing opportunities like clean energy, keeping Virginia an attractive place for businesses and individuals to live in, being a welcoming place for all people. In Del. Herring's view, businesses are highly - and legitimately - concerned "about the extremism" of Ken Cuccinelli; "if you're going to have laws that discriminate," you're going to drive talented people away.
6. I asked Del. Herring about the large financial advantage held by the Republican House caucus over the Democratic House caucus and what we can do about that. Part of it, in Del. Herring's view, is "pooling resources together." Part of it is tapping into national donors, new donors, potential opportunities with members of the business community who are not comfortable with Ken Cuccinelli. Part of it is that Democrats in deep blue areas need to "step up our games" in terms of raising money for Democrats in competitive/"purple" districts around the state.
7. On the transportation bill, Del. Herring is doubtful that Gov. McDonnell will veto it, but she does think he'll make changes, possibly with the hybrid fee. We should know the answer to that question within about a week. Del. Herring said her vote for the transportation bill was one of the most difficult she'd ever taken, but she's concerned about "simple public safety" (e.g, bridges falling apart), and this is the "first time in a generation that we actually were able to get something done," albeit "not perfect." Also, if we don't take care of transportation, Del. Herring believes (and I agree) that Virginia's business ranking will continue to fall. If Ken Cuccinelli's elected, this will only get worse; we could fall 9-10 slots in the business rankings, join "some of the more regressive states...that's what I'm concerned's ridiculous."
8. On the role of the state party, Del. Herring believes we need to be constantly working on the ground to develop talent, keeping in touch with voters, working to "maintain our relevance," "building the bench," developing "long-term sustainability," and definitely not just parachuting in at the last minute (e.g., right before an election). This will take a "long-term vision," looking at our successes and also what we can improve on. Del. Herring sees this as a long-term commitment and definitely plans to be there "for another four years" after her run for reelection this June. The plan is geared towards 2020, towards keeping a continual effort going between elections, "not just sitting in Richmond." Del. Herring specifically mentioned keeping people in place and being in the community, a la Howard Dean's 50-state strategy. She also noted Dean's recommendation to "go out and door knock when you're not asking for a vote," the importance of asking people what their concerns are. Bottom line: "We do have a strong case [to make], we're in a good position, people are energized...and it's our job to keep [people] energized and focused."
9. I asked Del. Herring how she viewed bloggers - as enemies, frenemies, friends, or what. She immediately and enthusiastically responded, "friends!" She also said that bloggers' role is "crucial" in that newspapers read the blogs, that social media "makes a difference and mobilizes people." "I don't want it to be makes a difference...politicians have to be amenable to're connecting with more voters [if you use social media effectively]." Del. Herring definitely sees herself as "grassroots" ("I am such not the insider...I'm an outsider...I am not part of any machine."). Her background comes out of being homeless as a teenager, living in a shelter when she was 16, and getting into college with the help of the STEP program ("that's why I believe in government programs...Republicans want to slash it...they're slashing my future and the future of America"). Without those programs, "my options would have been so limited." This is about providing citizens with opportunities to move up, giving people chances for social mobility ("I do not want a governor whose willing to be successful and leave other Virginians behind, and that's what Cuccinelli is about").
10. Finally, Del. Herring talked about the process for selecting a new Executive Director for DPVA. She said she did a national search, was looking for someone with a diverse experience - fundraising ("that fundraising component that she brings with her and her contacts with national donors is important to me...she has that fundraising experience that will be helpful for us to grow as a party"), political organizing, field, etc., and she feels like she found it in Lauren Harmon.
Again, it was great catching up with Charniele Herring as she settles into her new job as DPVA chair. I hope to do more of these in the future.

Photos, Video from Rep. Connolly's St. Patrick's Day Fete

Sunday, March 17, 2013

(I've added a bunch of videos in the comments section...enjoy! - promoted by lowkell)

I just got back from Rep. Gerry Connolly's annual St. Patrick's Day fete and Democratic straw poll in Fairfax (photo above by Rep. Connolly's staff). Congratulations to Aneesh Chopra and Mark Herring (see press releases for both Chopra and Herring in the comments section) on their wins in the straw poll, with over 850 people voting. Also, great job by the organizers of the event, which attracted upwards of 1,400 Democrats. Hopefully, this is a sign of the enthusiasm Virginia Dems feel this year heading into crucial elections for the future of our state.P.S. There are more photos (by yours truly, Rep. Connolly's office, Aneesh Chopra's campaign, etc.) on the "flip." I'm also processing video, which should be available tomorrow.
lowkell :: Photos, Video from Rep. Connolly's St. Patrick's Day Fete

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Chopra's campaign out with a press release (0.00 / 0[delete comment]
Chopra wins Connolly straw poll for Lieutenant Governor
Former Virginia Secretary of Technology's decisive victory shows grassroots strengthFairfax, VA - Aneesh Chopra, candidate for Virginia Lieutenant Governor, decisively won the straw poll hosted Sunday night by Congressman Gerry Connolly. The straw poll took place at the Kena Temple in Fairfax during Congressman Connolly's annual St. Patrick's Day celebration. More than 850 people voted in the straw poll, with Chopra winning 70% of the vote.
Chopra credited his win to the grassroots energy powering his campaign. "This victory was possible because of the power of our grassroots network. Hundreds of folks from across the area turned out tonight because they are energized for this campaign and for Democratic victories in 2013. I am humbled by the support I have received, and am honored to continue the fight for smarter, fairer government."
The Connolly straw poll victory was Chopra's second straw poll win, having previously won the Mount Vernon Democratic Committee's straw poll last month.

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Video: Terry McAuliffe shaking hands at St. Patrick's Day fete (0.00 / 0[delete comment]

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Mark Herring statement on straw poll victory (0.00 / 0[delete comment]

From the Mark Herring for AG campaign:
HERRING WINS CONNOLLY STRAW POLLLeesburg - Democratic candidate for Attorney General State Senator Mark Herring won tonight's straw poll for Attorney General conducted at Congressman Gerry Connolly's annual St. Patrick's Day Fete in Fairfax, VA. This was Herring's second consecutive straw poll win after capturing the Mt. Vernon District straw poll in February. It was announced that over 850 people voted.
In his speech at the event, Herring laid out the contrast between him and his opponents, saying:
"Next year after we win this race, Virginia will have an Attorney General who will defend a women's right to choose. An Attorney General who actually cares about their health care; who fights for equality for all Virginians; who will protect voting rights. And, Virginia will have an Attorney General who believes in, and will support marriage equality. You know that's the Attorney General I'll be, because that's the leader I've been."
Following the victory, Herring said, "I'm honored to receive the support of so many Northern Virginia Democrats. We've been gathering support all across this state because Virginians are ready for fundamental change in the office of Attorney General. Democrats are supporting my campaign because they know we need a candidate that has fought for the values we share and who knows how to win tough races. We are going to keep working as hard as we can over the next several months and bring change to the office of Attorney General."

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Video: Packed house of Virginia Dems at St. Patrick's Day fete (0.00 / 0[delete comment]

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Video: Terry McAuliffe speaks to 1,400 Virginia Dems on St. Patrick's Day (0.00 / 0[delete comment]

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Video: Sen. Mark Herring speaks to 1,400 Virginia Dems on St. Patrick's Day (0.00 / 0[delete comment]

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The straw poll was close but the speeches were not (0.00 / 0[delete comment]
Unfortunately the voting was closed before the speeches took place. Justin Fairfax knocked it out of the part, again and his opponent had serious problems and it was painful. Justin was dynamic, on message and had the crowd cheering. His opponents speech was pretty much the opposite of that. These two speeches illustrate the difference between getting young and minority voters out this year and not.

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I gotta tell you like senator herring, but his speech last night (0.00 / 0[delete comment]
Needs a retool...  It was 99% about the republicans who are running and not about what senator herring is running on.   Advise to campaign.   Please rework the presentation...  And yes  it really is silly to close straw poll before the speeches.

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Video: Rep. Gerry Connolly speaks to St. Patrick's Day Fete (0.00 / 0[delete comment]

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Video: Aneesh Chopra speaks to St. Patrick's Day fete (0.00 / 0[delete comment]

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Video: Sen. Ralph Northam's speech (0.00 / 0[delete comment]

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I thougt Northam's presentation really improved over the (0.00 / 0[delete comment]
MV stump speech.

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Video: Fairfax County Board Chair Sharon Bulova Introduces Dem Candidates, Electeds (0.00 / 0[delete comment]

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Video: Fairfax County Board Chair Sharon Bulova Introduces Dem Candidates, Electeds (0.00 / 0[delete comment]

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Latino Basher and Virginia GOP LG Candidate Corey Stewart: "I detest the word 'minority outreach'"

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Courtesy of Corey Stewart's Twitter feed, as well as from the Corey Stewart for LG website, we hear from Prince William County's #1 elected Latino basher about "inclusion in the Republican Party." In short, Stewart hates the very thought of reaching out to minorities (who, by the way, are already a majority in Prince William County):
Corey Stewart, conservative candidate for Lieutenant Governor of Virginia, current Republican Chair of the Prince Williams County Board of Supervisors, spoke about the term "minority outreach" as distasteful and inappropriate. As he said, you don't "outreach" to a friend or your grandmother, you develop genuine relationships. That's what we need to do in connecting with all voters, of all backgrounds. His past electoral victories reveal that he practices what he preaches: he won elections in a majority minority district at times when other Republicans lost.
How is what Corey Stewart's saying here any different than fellow Republican GOP LG candidate Susan Stimpson asserting"[African Americans] wouldn't be a set constituency that I would try to inspire?" More to the point, why do Republicans keep "digging" when they're in a deep, deep hole regarding their electoral appeal to non-white voters? Can they simply not help themselves, or what?Look, I believe that Martin Luther King, Jr. was right, that the goal should be for all of us to judge each other on the "content of our characters," not on the color of our skin. Sadly, we're still not there yet, which is why we need to keep working at inclusiveness, at leveling the playing field, and at eliminating the vestiges of racism and bigotry from our society, once and for all. No, I'm not a fan of"identity politics" ("Political attitudes or positions that focus on the concerns of social groups identified mainly on the basis of gender, race, ethnicity, or sexual orientation"), but that's not what we're talking about here. Instead, what we're dealing with right now in this country is a Republican Party that's gone out of its way, over several decades, to alienate just about every group in this country other than whites. With its Lee Atwater/Karl Rove "Southern Strategy"(a not-so-subtle appeal, "dog whistle" or louder, to white racists, many of whom were formerly "Dixiecrats" - segregationist Democrats back in the days of Jim Crow and "Massive Resistance"), its attacks on "welfare queens" (but never on corporate welfare, which is far larger and far more harmful to our country), and with its bashing of "illegals" (that's what they charmingly call undocumented immigrants, as if human beings themselves, as opposed to people's specific actions, can possibly be "illegal"), today's Republican Party has richly earned the miniscule percentage of the vote they receive in elections from African Americans, Hispanic Americans, and Asian Americans.
As for Corey Stewart, let's not forget this disgraceful episode ("Racial tension and threats of violence erupt when Prince William County, Virginia adopts a law requiring the police to question people who appear to be undocumented immigrants."), exemplified by ugliness as depicted in this video (see Corey's snarling, hate-filled face at 2:58 in). Given his nasty, divisive past, including outright bashing of Latinos, we shouldn't be surprised that Corey Stewart declares to a conference full of white racists that "I detest the word 'minority outreach'." And no, Mr. Stewart, your way is NOT the way the Republican Party is ever going to expand, but as a diehard Democrat, I kind of hope that you guys keep doing what you're doing, and keep on losing elections.

Video: Nope, No Racism at CPAC...Move Right Along!

Friday, March 15, 2013

As you watch this video and read about what happened, just keep in mind that CPAC (and the GOP more broadly) is overwhelmingly white. Why is that? Perhaps because their policies are horrible, and also because the party is filled with the type of people who used to infest the old Dixiecrats (Strom Thurmond, George Wallace, Jesse Helms, etc.), but thank god left the Democratic Party. Of course, they're now in the Republican Party, thanks in part to many years of Lee Atwater's (and Richard Nixon's, Ronald Reagan's, Karl Rove's, etc.) "Southern Strategy," and from the looks of it, they really really REALLY do not like being called out for their utter lack of racial inclusiveness. Finally, I'd just note that this John Birch Society freak show, aka the CPAC conference, is considered not just totally mainstream in today's GOP, but highly desirable. Note that raging homophobe/science denier/fanatic Ken Cuccinelli just spoke there yesterday. Also note that leading 2016 GOP presidential possibilities - like Bob McDonnell, Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, etc. - have been clamoring to speak there (or have been seriously bummed that they were snubbed, as in the case of T-Bob). This really says it all about today's Republican Party. P.S. Great snarky comment at Daily Kos: "Ladies and gentlement, don't panic, but...there is a black man in the building. Repeat: A black man in the building!" P.P.S. Serious question: is there ANY equivalent of CPAC on the progressive and/or Democratic side? I've asked several people, and nobody can think of anything even close. Yet the corporate/idiot media keeps insisting on some sort of equivalency. Amazing.

Cuccinelli: Appealing to Women Politically Means Focusing on the "mentally ill"

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Just when you thought Ken Kookinelli couldn't get any creepier or more bizarre, he says s*** like this.
How about [appealing] to women?I'm a person who appeals to women with a variety of issues that they just happen to care more about that I also happen to care about. I've worked to improve mental health and worked to help the mentally ill for over a decade and a half, including when I was in the legislature. Women's issues aren't just abortion. Women's issues are everything women care about. And I have an awful lot of issues that I appeal to women on, just as a natural course.
So, let's get this straight: the first thing Cuckoo's mind goes to when he's asked about how Republicans, including himself, might better appeal politically to women is "mental health" and "help[ing] the mentally ill." Not jobs, the economy, health care, education, or a million other things, but focusing on the "mentally ill." I've run this quote by a bunch of people, without telling them whose quote it was, and they all reacted with varying degrees of "WTF" and "that's creepy" and "I didn't know mental health was specifically a women's issue." But for Crazy Cuccinelli? Who knows how that guy's mind works; I actually don't want to know...P.S. Of course, this is the same guy who doesn't "believe" in science, thinks the government is using Social Security numbers to "track" him, has flirted with "birtherism," etc, etc. So what else would we expect?

Kaine and Warner Can't Have It Both Ways on Keystone XL and Climate Action

by The Green Miles

Self-styled "centrist" Democratic senators like Tim Kaine and Mark Warner say they recognize climate reality and support action to cut carbon pollution. But ... then they see polls that show the public is split on the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline ... and feel pressure from Very Serious People in Washington who won't say no to anything the oil, gas and coal industries want ... and think, maybe we can have both? Get credit for support this current & specific polluting pipeline AND burnish climate bona fides by hand-waving towards some future & not yet existent climate effort?No. Climate action isn't just about the easy & popular things, like clean energy and energy efficiency. It's also about the hard things, like saying no to oil and coal barons who may spend lots of money to try to defeat you in your next re-election campaign. You can't claim to support climate action, but wilt like corn caught in a global warming-fueled drought every time big polluters come asking for a favor.
Either folks like Tim Kaine and Mark Warner support climate action. Or they support Keystone XL and don't really care about things like confronting superstorms like Sandy or protecting our natural resources for future generations. They can't have it both ways.

A New Pope Emerges

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

by Kathy in Blacksburg

Today in Rome's Saint Peter's Square, over one hundred thousand people gathered to cheer a new pope.  Argentine Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, a cardinal committed to social justice for the poor, became Pope Francis, most likely named after Saint Francis of Assisi, champion of the poor. Many Catholics rejoice in an American Pope, from Latin America. The first Latin American, first non-European, and first Jesuit is now the leader of the world's largest faith.President Obama greeted the news with a statement which said (in part):

On behalf of the American people, Michelle and I offer our warm wishes to His Holiness Pope Francis as he ascends to the Chair of Saint Peter and begins his papacy.  As a champion of the poor and the most vulnerable among us, he carries forth the message of love and compassion that has inspired the world for more than two thousand years-that in each other we see the face of God.  As the first pope from the Americas, his selection also speaks to the strength and vitality of a region that is increasingly shaping our world, and alongside millions of Hispanic Americans, those of us in the United States share the joy of this historic day 
And the Vice-President added:  
KathyinBlacksburg :: A New Pope Emerges

"North American Energy Independence": Imaginary, Awful, Socialist

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

by The Green Miles

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) is once again touting the Republican fantasy called "North American energy independence." Here's a quick reminder of why that concept is phony, horrifying & anti-capitalist:
  • Coal companies want to build coal export terminals in the Pacific Northwest to send America's coal to Asia. Oil companies want to build the Keystone XL tar sands export pipeline to the Gulf Coast to send North America's oil to Asia - and the Republican plan would force its completion! Unless Republicans plan to nationalize the fossil fuel supplies of both the U.S. and Canada and ban exports rendering Keystone pointless, the GOP plan is imaginary
  • If we have any chance of keeping global warming to a livable limit, we need to be on a path to using much less of carbon intensive-fuels right now and keeping a great deal of our known fossil fuel supplies buried in the ground forever. The Republican plan would essentially do the opposite - dig them up and burn them much faster than we're currently doing, cooking the planet even faster than we're currently doing. We're talking a 10 degree rise in temperature and 3+ foot rise in sea level in the lifetime of a child born today. Just imagine superstorm Sandy with an extra 10 degrees of fuel and an extra 3 feet of storm surge. The GOP plan is awful.
  • The Republican plan would continue massive government help and direct subsidies for the worst polluting fuels with no limit on carbon pollution. The GOP plan is socialism for big polluters.
As Steve Benen details, the Ryan budget is also imaginary in that it pretends the 2012 election never happened.