Del. Surovell Reports: Even in Costa Rica, They're Rooting for Virginia to Expand Medicaid!

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Virginia Delegate (and new Blue Virginia Costa Rica correspondent? LOL) Scott Surovell reports, "Found this on the beach in Playa Guiones, Costa Rica." Surovell adds, "Playa Guiones is a hotbed of healthcare policy." ;)
In all seriousness, though, here's some information on Costa Rica's health care system. You'll notice it's a gazillion times better than ours. Fortunately for Costa Rica, they apparently don't have ALEC or ALEC tools like Virginia House Speaker Bill "ALEC" Howell in their country.
Costa Rica provides universal health care to its citizens and permanent residents. Costa Rica offers some of the best health care in Latin America. Both the private and public health care systems are always being upgraded. New hospitals, new clinics, new machines, and improvement in staff and training......Statistics from the World Health Organization frequently place Costa Rica in the top country rankings in the world for long life expectancy... 
...Costs tend to be much less than doctor, hospital, and prescription costs in the U.S...
...Costa Rica is a popular destination for medical tourism because of the beautiful surroundings, low costs, and medical reputation.
Anyway, maybe if Delegate Surovell can't persuade his obstinate Republican colleagues to expand Medicaid in Virginia, he could persuade them to all move to Costa Rica? On second thought, I wouldn't wish those guys on my worst enemy, let alone a beautiful, peaceful place like Costa Rica! LOL

Video: Gov. McAuliffe on "The Politics Hour" Says House of Delegates Has Failed to Do Its Job

Here are a few highlights from Gov. McAuliffe's interview on The Politics Hour yesterday (I'm focusing on the Medicaid expansion discussion, because to me this is priority #1 for Virginia right now). *According to Gov. McAuliffe, House Speaker Howell did admit the other day on the radio that "yes indeed, this Marketplace Virginia IS germane to the budget, so their whole argument that they've been using the for the last several months the Speaker admitted is a wrong argument." *"It is the House Republican leadership that has dug in on this issue, and I don't know whether they don't like the president...doesn't really matter to me, my job as governor is to protect the citizens of the Commonwealth of Virginia." *"It is the General Assembly's job to pass a budget; they have failed to do their job." *House Republicans "have put up one roadblock after another." The argument that healthcare expansion will cost Virginia is false. *This is sheer politics, anti-ACA; "what else is there?" According to Gov. McAuliffe, "no matter where you may be on the healthcare bill, it's now the law of the land...[House Republicans] are off in their corner; it's time they started doing their job, representing the folks who sent them to Richmond." *What is the "exit strategy" with Medicaid expansion? According to McAuliffe, the House has "no arguments left." "We are going to get this done." "The House Republicans are offering nothing." Did anyone hear anything about an "exit strategy" or "Plan B" in Gov. McAuliffe's answer there? I most definitely didn't (unless he's got something up his sleeve - like unilateral executive action of some sort? - but, to mix metaphors, is playing it close to the vest?). Nor am I hearing that from others I talk to about this. Which means...what? Government shutdown? Gov. McAuliffe "caves" because he doesn't want a government shutdown? Because, frankly, I don't see House Republicans caving, certainly not before the 2014 elections, and probably not before the 2015 elections either. So...then what becomes of the McAuliffe governorship at that point? Got me. *On restoring ex-felons' right to vote, McAuliffe said "people who have paid their debt to society...I want them back working, I want them part of society; part of that is being able to vote...Let's treat people with dignity and respect."

Shad Plank Plunked

Thursday, April 17, 2014

by Dan Sullivan

 photo P4180899.jpgThis year's version of the annual event just outside of Wakefield accomplished little. Though there was a hint of the lunacy usually present at Shad Planking; what there wasn't was much of a crowd nor interest. The biggest symbol of the times was the state-maintained road to the event.There really wasn't much in the way of genuine politics going on. It was more of an alumni meeting than a political rally; more of a gathering of cronies practicing the Virginia Way interrupted a couple of times by a couple of hecklers. It seems that the last few seasons of rowdies have driven away the attendees who used to come show some civil revelry on behalf of their candidates. And now, with no one in any race to rally around, the most demonstrative types stayed home; and that would leave a big hole in what had become this Ruritan charity event attendance.
Additionally the candidates themselves, apparently led by the Republicans, declared a tacit truce on the sign war; they realized surrender was the better part of valor in that battle. There were a few signs along the road, but not the plastering to which we've become accustomed; maybe a dozen on 460 coming in from Richmond.
And then there was that road. We've discussed here the slow strangling that the McDonnell administration orchestrated during his four years in office in the name of balancing the budget. Well, now it is manifest here. What has been a well-maintained macadam rural route has deteriorated. In fact, the last half mile or more to the event parking area entrance and everything beyond is now feathered with gravel to cover the potholes. It really is symbolic of the treatment of Virginia's infrastructure, from schools and social programs to health care and public safety; not to mention the fraud perpetrated on the Virginia Retirement System when McDonnell announced that the unfunded obligations had been resolved.
There is more to discuss about what was less and that will come in a subsequent post. But if this level of enthusiasm is any indication of the turnout for this fall's election, the margin will come down to the grassroots get-out-the-vote effort. Problem is, for both sides, yesterday showed the grassroots really haven't been fertilized.

Michael Mann Hails VA Supreme Court Ruling as "victory for science...academic freedom"

Great news from former UVA professor and leading climate scientist Michael Mann. "ATI" stands for the "American Tradition Institute," a group about which DeSmogBlog reports:
According to a 2010 filing with the IRS (PDF), ATI received $40,000 from its sister group ATP, which in turn is supported by oil, gas and coal interests.It received another $5,000 from the Atlas Economic Research Foundation, a Virginia-based think tank that, according to ExxonSecrets, received over $1 million in funding from Exxon Mobil since 1998. Atlas also received $122,300 from the Koch foundations and $735,000 from the Pope foundation[8]
An online petition hosted by the American Tradition Institute opposing cap and trade makes the following assertions about climate change: [2]
"... the claims of carbon-driven anthropogenic global warming (AGW) are unproven and are, in fact, contested by over 31,000 scientists..."
"... global temperatures have not risen since 2000 and data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration demonstrates that the earth has actually been cooling for the last 4 years..."
One of the leaders of ATI is one David Schnare, "a Virginia attorney" who was "involved in the ATI legal action seeking to let him and Horner review thousands of climatologist Michael Mann's University of Virginia emails, including emails deemed exempt from FOIA." (another one who was involved was none other than our friend, the bat****-crazy "Sideshow Bob" Marshall).Among other things, Schnare has stated that environmental activists are "very sick people" who "quietly rejoice over the potential of millions (billions?) of starving people;" and that "the Scandinavian moose emits 2,100 kg of methane a year, equivalent to the green house gases emitted by an automobile trip of 13,000 km," so "Thank goodness hunters shoot 35,000 of them each year." Yeah, that's the calibre of "argument" we're dealing with here.
It might not be so insidious if ATI were just an isolated bunch of extremists. Instead, unfortunately, they are part of a massive, well-funded, not to mention evil effort to harass climate scientists, waste their time and prevent them from doing their urgently important work, and deny/minimize climate science in service of their fossil fuel industry masters. Not surprisingly, another big-time fossil fool, Ken Cuccinelli, also was a big player in all this, as were numerous right-wing publications and organizations, a few of which Mann is suing for defamation (if he wins, which is quite likely, I sincerely hope he sues a bunch more of them).
Bottom line: we should all celebrate, along with Michael Mann, this "victory for science, public university faculty, and academic freedom." Hopefully, as Mann writes, this ruling "can serve as a precedent in other states confronting this same assault on public universities and their faculty." I'd add the hope that this ruling, along with Mann's likely victory in his defamation case, make these anti-science, anti-environment, fossil fuel tools think twice before they try anything like this again. More importantly, if we can clear out all the trolls in our path, we need to make rapid progress in combating climate change, first and foremost via a rapid transition off of fossil fuels and into a clean energy economy.  

Video: Don Beyer "Blue Cup Song," Live Version; Howard Dean, Don Beyer Speeches

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Here's an excellent live version of the Don Beyer "blue cup song," from earlier this evening in Arlington. Around 200 people attended the event with Howard Dean; more video to come - including speeches by Beyer and Dean - when it uploads to YouTube. Meanwhile, enjoy the song!

Video: Howard Dean speaks in support of Don Beyer, rips right wing, "wizened souls" on Supreme Court (0.00 / 0[delete comment]
Dean explains why he's supporting Beyer:1. "He was our campaign treasurer, so there's some loyalty there; I believe you help the people who helped you."
2. "Don and Megan are two extraordinary human beings...first of all, they're great parents, which matters a lot."
3. "The most important thing of all is their values. Now we can just lay out his positions on the issues, which I think are great and are incredibly progressive and that's what we need. I actually don't judge people solely on their positions.  What this country needs is people who will stop dealing in hate and anger, and start working with others who we may disagree with, and Don Beyer has the capacity to do that, which he's had for a very long time."
Other comments:
*Income inequality is a threat to the entire American idea that you can work hard, play by the rules and make something of yourself and give your kids a better life. "If 80% of the people haven't had a raise for 20 years because of the machinations of Congress and politicians and failed institutions like Wall Street. If 80% of the people believe - and they're starting to believe - that you could play by the rules and the deck is fixed against you, then America dies, because the core of the American dream is the possibility - not that being rich is bad, we don't believe that - but the core of the American dream is that some day we can be like that if we work hard enough and if we listen to what our parents have to say and if our values are right. So what is being destroyed by the Koch brothers and others is not simply campaign finance and skullduggery in politics, what's being destroyed is the core of who we are as Americans. And that core means that it is the individual vote that matters, not how much money you have. That was what the Supreme Court destroyed in McCutcheon..."
*"People want to respect politicians, and they can't respect politicians unless they stand for something. Don Beyer is not afraid to say what he stands for. He just did, and you can take to the bank that that's how he's going to vote when he gets into Congress."
*"We are plagued by a whole group of people in Congress that have put their party above the interests of their country. When you are willing to shut down the government to prove a political point and harm the credit rating of the United States of America. When you believe that the way to win is to have less [sic] people vote, then you would be more comfortable with Ukrainian politics than with American politics. Seriously, if you are part of an effort to restrict people's rights to vote in the United States of America, then democracy is not a value that you espouse...We need to support our democracy, which means we need people like Don Beyer and not people like - it's such a long list - Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, the House of Delegates in this state, which made it harder for ordinary people to vote. These folks ought not to be in politics, because they have not valued the core of's not ok to win by taking away people's right to vote...and have the Supreme Court of the United States of America - Earl Warren must be turning over in his grave - and these are small people on this court; they may be smart, but they are small, tiny human beings with wizened souls, and we are going to replace them when we get the third Democratic president in a row."
*"This is a great nation, what the hell happened to Congress?"

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Video: Don Beyer's speech at Event with Howard Dean last night (0.00 / 0[delete comment]
A few points:*The most important issues in this campaign are: 1) "We have to build a new American economy;" 2) "We have to do something about climate change, it is the great challenge facing our children;" 3) "We have to take care of our federal workers."
*"Last year there were 11,078 gun homicides in America...Someone has to finally stand up to the National Rifle Association."
*"I'm not used to quoting but Jeb Bush, but last week he did say, we need to look at so many American immigrants who have come as an act of love...We need to create a real path to citizenship for these hard-working Americans."
*"I'm so proud of our Attorney General and of hard-working Virginia political leaders like Adam Ebbin, who for years have worked on marriage equality..."
*Beyer's "role model" is Howard Dean for a long list of reasons (see video), including the "power of long-term thinking."

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Video: Vote for Don Beyer song (0.00 / 0[delete comment]

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Video: Megan Beyer speaks at Howard Dean/Don Beyer event (0.00 / 0[delete comment]

Tea Party Candidate Rips Barbara Comstock for Skipping Debates, Voting Obama: "Barbara, You Lie!"

Monday, April 14, 2014

Virginia 10th CD Republican candidate Rob Wasinger rips Barbara Comstock. Definitely time for more popcorn - hot buttered, at that! :)
It's no surprise, at least not to my fellow candidates up here, that there's someone missing today. Barbara Comstock has skipped virtually all Tea Party and conservative events, and she hasn't been telling you the truth about who she is. Last week, as Howie mentioned, it was revealed that she voted for President Barack Obama during the 2008 primary. At the time, she explained it away, saying it was part of Rush Limbaugh's "Operation Chaos." The only problem with that explanation is, it's not true. In reality, Rush Limbaugh's plan was to vote for Hillary and he launched it after Virginia's primary. Comstock got both the intent and the date wrong in her coverup to explain why she'd support one of the most liberal presidents in history. In the immortal words of Congressman Joe Wilson, Barbara, you lie!
P.S. In other Comstock-related news, earlier today, she announced that she'd raised $761,354 in the first quarter of 2014. Sounds pretty good, except for a couple things. First, she spent a good chunk of that money, ending up with just $520,000 cash on hand. Second, it's even more underwhelming when you consider that Comstock is backed by the likes of Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, Karl Rove, Tom Delay, John Bolton, and a whole host of old, rich GOP men (plus hate radio hosts like Mark Levin and extremist organizations like "Americans for Propserity" - yes, that's how Comstock's campaign misspelled it on her website - with apparently nothing better to do than raise money for her. This is going to be a fun campaign. :)

Video: Patrick Hope Speaks at IRS for "People's Budget," Carbon Tax

Del. Patrick Hope, who is running for Congress in Virginia's 8th District, spoke in front of the IRS Building earlier this afternoon to express his support for the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) "People's Budget," which would among other things create a Millionaire's Tax requiring millionaires and giant corporations to pay their fair share in taxes. According to Del. Hope, federal programs are under attack by people who say we need to cut those programs to balance the budget. Hope says, "I reject that premise entirely," and notes that the CPC budget brings in more revenue by restoring Clinton-era tax rates for those earning $250,000-$1 million per year, and establishing new rates for those earning more than $1 million per year. The CPC budget also closes the loophole that allowed Mitt Romney to pay less than a 15% tax rate. According to Hope, we need to fight to keep our social safety net fully intact, and we can do that in part by closing tax loopholes that disproportionately benefit the wealthiest Americans. Hope also announces that he's releasing his tax returns, and calls on every candidate for Congress from the 8th CD to do the same thing. And, in response to a question by yours truly, he says he "absolutely" supports a carbon tax as the "linchpin of any proposal on climate change." P.S. Editorial note: now that I've narrowed my possible picks in this race down to 4 candidates, I'm going to start posting about them more on the Blue Virginia "front page." It's time to really start focusing the mind here...

Our Corrupt Supreme Court

by Andy Schmookler

The Supreme Court in our times is troubled with more that an "appearance of corruption." With its recent decisions gutting the regulation of campaign finance, the majority on the Roberts Court has shown itself a partisan combatant on the side of a most dangerously corrupt form of injustice.  

Justice should be understood as the antidote to the rule of power.
 When there is no justice, then we fall into the kind of world described by the ancient Athenians as they sought to compel a weaker people to do their bidding--  or else:

"[Y]ou know as well as we do that right, as the world goes, is only in question between equals in power, while the strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must" 
Our founders' great contribution to human history was to devise a government to solve that problem. Saying that "all men are created equal," they established a system to equalize power among the citizens. With each citizen given an equal voice in deciding the nation's destiny through the election process- that equality would eliminate the dichotomy between the strong and the weak.
That's the justice of our democracy.
But here comes John Roberts and his majority - Republican appointees every one of them - telling us with a straight face that there is no problem of corruption (or even its appearance) unless there's outright bribery. That kind of quid pro quo of selling favors is, of course, already against the law. But anyone with half a brain can see that government can be bought without such blatant transactions. And these justices are not stupid.
Can anyone honestly say, when we see presidential hopefuls trooping to Las Vegas to kiss the ring of a billionaire, that there is no appearance of corruption?

Virginia House Republicans Vote Unanimously for Anti-Woman, Anti-Working-Class Ryan Budget

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Before we get into why the vote earlier today for the ruinous Ryan budget was so godawful, let's first list the Virginia Hall of Shame - the Virginia Republicans who voted for this monstrosity.Eric Cantor, Randy Forbes, Bob Goodlatte, Robert Hurt, Scott Rigell, Rob Wittman, Frank Wolf
Now, why was this vote so horrendous?
*According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, "some 69 percent of the cuts in House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan's new budget would come from programs that serve people of limited means." For instance, "Under the Ryan plan, at least 40 million low- and moderate-income people - that's 1 in 8 Americans - would become uninsured by 2024."
*As if that's not bad enough, the "Ryan budget cuts SNAP (formerly food stamps) by $137 billion over the next decade."
*The Ryan/Republican budget also "cuts Pell Grants for low- and moderate-income students by up to $125 billion" and "cuts an additional $385 billion - beyond its SNAP cuts - from the budget category containing many mandatory programs for low - and moderate-income Americans, such as Supplemental Security Income for the elderly and disabled, the school lunch and child nutrition programs, and the Earned Income and Child Tax Credits for lower-income working families."
*In addition, the Ryan/Republican budget would "cut Medicare spending by $356 billion over the 2013 - 2023 period compared to CBPP's current-policy baseline" and "replace Medicare's guarantee of health coverage with a flat premium-support payment, or voucher."
*Finally, can we say "war on women?" According to the National Women's Law Center, this budget would: "Put families at risk for losing coverage;" "Prevent low-income women from receiving the services they need;" "Put coverage for the most vulnerable women at risk;" "Roll back coverage for women currently insured by Medicaid;" "Threaten older women's economic well-being;" "Allow insurance companies to discriminate against women;" "Cause millions of women to lose [health care] coverage;" etc.
Next time you hear a Republican try to claim that the "war on women" is a figment of Democrats' imaginations, just point them to the National Women's Law Center - and laugh at them. As for Republicans being anything other than the party of the rich and privileged, the near-unanimous GOP adoption of this Ayn Randian fever dream of a budget settles that argument. Oh, and note how even supposed "moderate" Republicans like Frank Wolf voted for this war on working people and women? Hmmmm...perhaps the Washington Post and others who claimed for years that Wolf really was a "moderate" were not quite right about that?  

Winners and Losers: Arlington County Board Special Election 2014 Edition

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

I was debating whether or not to do a "Winners and Losers" list for the Arlington County Board election yesterday, but ultimately decided what the heck, I'll throw my picks out there to get a conversation going, if nothing else. I'm going to do it a little bit differently this time around, as you'll see below. Also, check out Ben Tribbet's "What Happened In Arlington" post at Not Larry Sabato. Finally, as always, note that this is not - repeat, NOT! - a comprehensive list, just a few things that jumped out for me. Please feel free to add your thoughts in the comments section. Thanks.Losers
1. Chris Zimmerman: A major undercurrent of this election was Arlingtonians' attitudes regarding the legacy, vision, and personality of long-time Board member Chris Zimmerman, whose resignation earlier this year prompted the special election in the first place. Clearly, many voters wanted to send a message that they weren't pleased with Zimmerman, even though (as I pointed out to a liberal Democratic neighbor who told me she was voting for Vihstadt to "send a message" to the Board) isn't even on the Board anymore. Clearly, Zimmerman was a powerful force on the Board, and I'd argue that was mostly a good thing. But, as we saw yesterday, a decent number of Arlingtonians - a majority of the small percentage who actually voted, anyway - weren't pleased with Zimmerman's vision for the Columbia Pike streetcar project, nor did they necessarily like his governing style (the words "arrogant," "insular" and "non-communicative" came up over and over again) or personality (again, I hear the word "arrogant" frequently when Zimmerman's name comes up in conversation). The question is whether this election was a short-term or long-term setback for Zimmerman's vision for Arlington - on the streetcar and possibly in other areas as well. Another question: was this election a "one-off," in that voters wanted to "make a statement"/"send a message" once, but now that they've gotten it "out of their system," they'll come back to the Democratic fold? We'll find out in November, I guess.
2. Jay Fisette, Walter Tejada, Mary Hynes. In addition to anger directed specifically at Zimmerman, almost 13,000 Arlingtonians yesterday voted to put a Republican on the County Board, whether because these voters are Republicans, or because they're independents and Democrats who believe Arlington needs someone on the Board to check and/or oppose Fisette/Tejada/Hynes. Again, the words "insular," "arrogant" and "non-communicative" come up frequently with regard to these three Democratic County Board members. I'd add "lack of transparency" as well, on such things as the ArlNow story about absurdly high assessment increases on Clarendon businesses, to which there's STILL been no substantive response as far as I'm aware, other than that there would be a review. Alrighty then, feeling better now?!? Ha. Anyway, the big question for these Board members is whether the message voters intended to send got through, and whether it will result in any changes - in policy, attitude, responsiveness, whatever. Almost 24 hours since the polls closed yesterday, I haven't really heard anything from the Board regarding what they thought the voters were saying yesterday, whether they HEARD what voters were saying yesterday, and also whether they believe any changes - substantive, stylistic, whatever - should be made in response to yesterday's election.
3. The "Arlington Way". I'd argue that this has mostly been an empty slogan for a long time now. As one Arlington Democratic friend said to me, the reality is that county "staff holds all the cards and citizens, even on our vaunted commissions, are given no authority, no real place at the table, other than to nod and smile." Then we have examples like this hypocrisy (quid pro quo?), or this (major real estate developers with tremendous influence over Arlington County government). In general, if the "Arlington Way" is to mean anything, it comes down to several requirements: a) responsiveness to constituents (aka, "taxpayers," "customers"); b) two-way, respectful, open communications (that includes use of social media, which most County Board members seem averse to using); c) empowerment of more people than a select few (e.g., a system in which decisions are driven by the community, which does not seem to be the case today);" d) transparency; e) honesty; f) accountability; etc. Right now, a significant number of Arlingtonians aren't feelin' it.
4. "Million-Dollar Bus Stops": I personally think this whole issue was wildly overblown, but it apparently symbolizes for many Arlingtonians a lot of what drives them crazy about the Board, and about Arlington County government in general. I mean, ok, people make mistakes, even big ones, but as an Arlington Democratic friend of mine wrote on Facebook, "people lost faith in the Board after staff's ridiculous response to the amount that was spent on one superstop, etc....Nobody was fired, however, so there is a lack of accountability as well...[and] the Board never communicated with the public as to what type of funds (state? federal? general fund?) are used for what projects." Ugh.
5. Streetcar Advocates: I've been saying this for a couple years now, but advocates of the streetcar project have needed to step up their game big time. Instead, it seemed like these folks were largely absent from the discussion the past couple years, with articles and comments on local forums (e.g., ArlNow) overwhelmingly against the project. As far as I've observed, supporters generally were not out there fighting back (at least not effectively) against all the disinformation, and making their strong case for the project. Why not? Did they just assume the project would go forward, and that the arguments against it were so ridiculous (which many of them, like the Tea Party's insane "Agenda 21" conspiracy theorizing, certainly were), so they didn't think it was necessary to fight for it? It's baffling to me.
lowkell :: Winners and Losers: Arlington County Board Special Election 2014 Edition
1. Libby Garvey: Her endorsed candidate wil now be a Board member, which means that Garvey won in the short run. The long run, of course, may be a very different story. If, for instance, Garvey isn't given the Democratic nomination when she's up for reelection in 2016, she'll be on the ballot against a Democratic candidate during a Presidential election, when Democratic turnout is at its highest. That could be a tough obstacle for her to overcome.2. Columbia Pike Streetcar: Opponents definitely came out on top yesterday, but does it matter? For starters, there's still a 3-2 Board majority in favor of the project, unless somebody "flips" from "yea" to "nay" (and there's no sign of that happening). Also, I'm not sure there are any more votes needed to keep the streetcar project moving forward at this point. Finally, although I certainly don't think we can or should assume streetcar supporter Alan Howze will win in November (in general, assuming a win goes beyond stupidity and into extreme political malpractice territory), he certainly has a decent shot at doing so. If that happens, it will be back to a 4-1 pro-streetcar majority on the Board.
3. Alan Howze: Yes, he lost yesterday, but I haven't heard almost anybody blame him for that. Also, Howze DOES have a decent shot at winning the general election this November, when Mark Warner and the Democratic nominee for House will be on the ballot with him. But he obviously can't ASSUME he'll win, which I'm sure he know. The question is, do other Arlington Democrats "get" that, or are they thinking November's a done deal? I sure hope the latter is not the case. Also, I would definitely recommend that Howze criticize the Arlington County Board and government where it's deserved, such as on the assessment fiasco. And, I'd advise him to call out Vihstadt's lies and deceptions more forcefully in the general election.
4. Aquatic Center: Hopefully, this election will not kill the aquatic center, as there's clearly high demand for the services it will provide. For now, though, it's taken a number of hits, and its future looks uncertain. Perhaps something good can come out of this if the aquatic center plans are revamped so that the cost comes down significantly, but the center still ends up being a high-quality facility. We'll see.
1. Arlington Republican Party: Obviously, a win's a win, and they can savor this one...the first time they've had a Republican on the County Board since 1999 (and hopefully the last until 2099 or so). The question is how long-lived this victory will be, and whether there will be others in the future (I'm highly dubious). Still, for now, Arlington Republicans get to celebrate. Enjoy it while you can, guys! ;)
2. John Vihstadt: This one's obvious. He ran a strong, winning campaign, even if it was dishonest to its core (e.g., the claim that this lifelong Republican is really an "independent;" that Bus Rapid Transit is possible on the Pike, which it's absolutely not; that the study showing a massive Return on Investment to the streetcar was somehow invalid; on and on). Hopefully, Vihstadt's stay on the Board will be short, but for now at least, he's a winner.
3. Nobody: It's possible that nobody really emerged a "winner" from this election. The bottom line is that, in spite of its problems, Arlington has been - and continues to be, at least for now - one of the best places to live, not just in the region or the state, but in the country. That prosperity has been built on proximity to the federal government, of course, but also on a great school system; smart, even visionary long-range planning (e.g., the Orange Line corridor); one of the lowest tax rates around (Vihstadt, of course, ignored that and focused on what he called the tax "burden," which is the low rate multiplied by the assessed value of high-value Arlington homes); great public amenities, including parks, recreation, and much more. Today, Arlington faces challenges, given federal/state government austerity (e.g., the idiotic "sequester") and new competition from places like D.C. and Tysons, and we need to be on our "A game" if we're going to remain as one of the best places to live in the country. I'm not sure that electing a Republican, one whose campaign centered on attacking much of what makes Arlington great, is the answer. We'll see, I guess...

Does Barbara Comstock Agree with Sean Hannity That....

Given Barbara Comstock's support from Sean Hannity, I was just wondering if Comstock agreed withHannity that:*"Anyone listening to this show that believes homosexuality is a normal lifestyle has been brainwashed. It's very dangerous if we start accepting lower and lower forms of behavior as the normal."
*"It doesn't say anywhere in the Constitution this idea of the separation of church and state."
*"If I was in Congress, I would not vote to raise the debt ceiling."
*Barack Obama is a secret Muslim (according to Hannity, Obama "did study the Quran, that one of the most beautiful moments in life was prayer at sunset. So, I mean, he does have that background.")
*"Hannity has repeatedly denied or cast doubt on the existence of climate change."
*On contraception, Hannity said, "why don't women like yourself, then, maybe then have an 'adopt-a-woman' birth control program? In other words, why should the government be doing it?"
*More on contraception from Hannity: "I won't have sex, but I'll be paying for the birth control. Not fair."
*On torture, Hannity says, "We waterboarded three people...and you know what, I would have done it myself."
*On House Speaker John Boehner, Hannity says, "I don't think John Boehner is equipped for the job." Hannity also says it might be "time for a third party" and complains that Republicans are "alienating the Tea Party with the lies of John McCain and Bob Corker fighting them."
By the way, I also wonder if Sean Hannity agrees with Barbara Comstock participating in the February 2008 Virginia Democratic Presidential primary to cast a vote for Barack Obama. Would Hannity and Comstock support Democrats voting in the upcoming 10th CD Republican no

Video: ACDC Chair Kip Malinosky; Alan Howze Speak to Supporters After Election Loss

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Video taken a bit earlier this evening at Whitlow's on Wilson in Arlington.

Arlington County Board Special Election Results

Arlington County polls closed at 7 pm, results should be coming in shortly (unlike in DC, where they take hours for no apparent reason - heh). Here's a bit of background to provide context.*The last Arlington County Board special election was held in March 2012. Democrat Libby Garvey won that race with 7,025 votes (49.17%) over Republican Mark Kelly (6,211 votes, or 43.47%) and Green Party candidate Audrey Clement (1,007 votes, or 7.04%). That's a total of 14,243 votes, and a margin of victory for the Democratic candidate of just 814 votes.
*You can see the precinct-level results here for that 2012 special election. As you'll quickly notice, even in deep-"blue" Arlington, special elections can be very close, in part because "federal voters" tend to turn out in much lower numbers, which overwhelmingly hurts Democrats. Also note that in special elections, there are several Arlington precincts (e.g., Aurora Hills, Crystal City, Madison) that have a Republican lean to them. Strong Democratic precincts include Abingdon, Glebe, and Virginia Square. We'll definitely keep an eye on those as results come in...
*By most accounts, turnout today was fairly low, but we'll see soon enough. At the precinct I volunteered at (Virginia Square) for a couple hours, turnout seemed to be running very close to what it was in the 2012 special election. All else being equal, I'd expect higher turnout to help the Democratic candidate (in this case Howze), while lower turnout should help the Republican candidate (in this case Vihstadt, who has claimed to be an "independent" or even "fusion candidate" - yeah, whatever).
UPDATE 9:18 pm: I just got back from the party at Whitlow's for Alan Howze. Video coming later...or maybe tomorrow morning. Meanwhile, the final results are: Vihstadt 12,656 (57%)-Howze 9,107 (41%). Also, Janet Murphy of the Independent Green Party got 250 votes (1.1%, and Independent Stephen Holbrook got 161 votes (0.7%).
UPDATE 7:58 pm: My instant analysis of this is what I've been telling people for months, pretty much. First, the "energy" has been far more on the anti-streetcar, anti-aquatic-center, anti-County Board side. Second, this is in large part the result of a serious failure over the past few years by the board (and other leaders in Arlington) to communicate clearly and to not come across as (the oft-heard-combo) "insular, arrogant, and uncommunicative." Third, Vihstadt et al. ran a strong campaign; even if it was fundamentally dishonest, it tapped into real anger and frustration out there effectively, and in politics, that's ultimately what matters. Fourth, I'd say that Alan Howze is a smart, level-headed guy who would make an excellent board member, but he was in an extremely tough position given the aforementioned. The main thing I wish he'd done differently would have been to call out Vihstadt's dishonesty more directly, and also to tell voters that he "got it" regarding their anger at the Board on a variety of issues (e.g., I think Howze could have really spoken up about the outrageous assessments in Clarendon, what the deal was with that and why the Board had provided no transparency on that, weeks after the story broke on ArlNow). Anyway, enough for now...other than to report that with 47/53 precincts reporting, it's currently County Board member-elect Vihstadt 11,451-Howze 8,393. Oh, and can we NOT assume that Howze will win in November? Thank you. :)
UPDATE 7:53 pm: With 44/53 precincts reporting, it's now Vihstadt 9,648-Howze 7,052. By the way, so much for Frank O'Leary's turnout model (it had predicted 30k-33k turnout; it looks like we're actually getting maybe 20k).
UPDATE 7:43 pm: With 39/53 precincts reporting, it's now Vihstadt 8,850-Howze 6,518. I'd say this one's done, stick a fork in it. (One good thing: at least the bad results came in quickly and didn't drag on for hours, as in DC the other day! LOL)
UPDATE 7:34 pm: With 24/53 precincts reporting, it's now Vihstadt 5,382-Howze 4,161. Really really not looking good now for the "blue team." :(
UPDATE 7:27 pm: With 9/53 precincts reporting, it's now Vihstadt 1,228-Howze 1,005. Not good.
UPDATE 7:21 pm: The first two precincts reporting in are a bit concerning, as Howze won Monroe by a smaller margin than Garvey won it in 2012, and Vihstadt won Crystal City by a wider margin than Mark Kelly won it in 2012. Current total: Vihstadt 207-Howze 167.

Video: After All These Years Frank Wolf Still Doesn't Understand the Constitution...or "Amurica"

Monday, April 7, 2014

According to Rep. Frank Wolf, speaking earlier today on the House floor, "regardless of your views on marriage, any American who values the 1st Amendment should be deeply troubled that [former Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich] was essentially driven from his job because of his personal beliefs...about traditional marriage." In Wolf's view, "the chilling effect it will have on the broader issues of free speech cannot be overstated." Wolf adds that "Amurica" (as he weirdly pronounces it) has "never been defined by mob rule," and supposedly "what happened last week  was not debate, it was stifling of debate...the silencing of dissent...the compromising of two of our nation's most cherished principles - freedom of speech and freedom of religion." And, Wolf concludes, "the implications are vast and deeply troubling."Except that this is mostly wild hyperbole and hysterics, two things which Frank Wolf has specialized in over the years, and factually questionable at best. In reality, the resignation of (now former) Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich does NOT have "vast" implications for "Amurica," nor does it have anything whatsoever to do with the 1st Amendment. For starters, the 1st Amendment deals with the government, not the private sector, stating that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech."
Let's repeat: the 1st Amendment has to do with Congress. What the 1st Amendment does NOT have anything to do with is such things as specifying that a private company must employ someone it doesn't want to employ. You'd think a Republican, if anyone, would appreciate that. Guess not. Of course, there are laws - and rightfully so! - against companies firing people because of their religion, race, ethnicity, etc. But that's not what the 1st Amendment talks about. Personally, I don't believe that Mozilla should have fired Eich based on his religious beliefs. Fortunately, that isn't what happened. Instead, as the New Yorker explains, what unfolded was an "uprising within the Mozilla community: a public petition was circulated demanding that he step down, the dating site OkCupid recommended that its customers stop using Firefox, and some Mozilla employees (though far from all of them) called for his resignation." The problem, in the end, wasn't "that he took a political stance," but that " Eich's stance was unacceptable in Silicon Valley, a region of the business world where social liberalism is close to a universal ideology." But it's even more than that; it's about the potential future of Mozilla.
Mozilla is not like most companies. It's a wholly-owned subsidiary of the nonprofit Mozilla Foundation, and is just one part of the broader Mozilla community, which includes thousands of open-source software developers and other volunteers around the world. These people still do much of the work behind Mozilla's products-contributing code, technical support, design improvements, and so on. This means that Mozilla depends on the goodwill of its supporters more than most corporations do; it relies on their willingness to donate their services in pursuit of the broader Mozilla project, which is all about keeping the Web transparent and accessible. If it alienates them, Mozilla's entire mission will be at risk.
So, there you have it: Mozilla made a business decision (to the extent it pressured Eich out, which is actually hard to determine exactly), one presumably that was based on its (or its community's) perception of its/their own self interest. Whatever the case may be, the decisions had absolutely NOTHING to do with the government, except insofar as its former CEO had supported efforts to have the government discriminating against one group of Americans and depriving them of their rights to equal protection under the...yes, Constitution! Ironic, ain't it? Also amazing that Frank Wolf, after all these years in public life, still doesn't get it. He can't retire soon enough.

How Punditry is Destroying U.S. Journalism and Democracy -- And How to Fix It

Friday, April 4, 2014

by Kindler

Despite all the bad influences on the U.S. media, there remain a large vestige of serious journalists doing excellent work. But their efforts are drowned out by the cacophony of often shamelessly demagogic punditry that now drives the media wagon.
While true journalism has genuine, time-honored standards (getting the facts right, digging for the hidden truth, cultivating and respecting sources), punditry has absolutely none. Pundits have zero obligation to tell the truth, to make accurate predictions, to engage in any journalism of their own.
This has been proven as newspapers and TV stations have shown not the slightest interest in subjecting climate change-denying pundits like George Will and Charles Krauthammer to any discipline or pressure to get their facts straight. No, because all they're doing is "expressing opinions." And they clearly have been granted lifetime appointments, like Supreme Court Justices.
It's complete amateur hour, yet it is now driving our media and political narratives. As star journalists are drawn to spend more time bloviating on cable TV than chasing down leads or writing stories, their work suffers, and the public debate is cheapened and made more frustrating and often worthless.
Meanwhile, the point-counterpoint model creates the impression that no problem is ever resolvable, since there are always two equal sides, and -- of course -- both are equally right and equally wrong. It's no surprise that in such a situation so many Americans are left confused and disillusioned about their democracy.
kindler :: How Punditry is Destroying U.S. Journalism and Democracy -- And How to Fix It
As genuine journalism is shoved into the corners, and the professional shouters steal the spotlight, the media loses its role as the arbiter of truth, since today's punditry has nothing to do with truth. Even worse, paid corporate interests take advantage of this situation and insert their stooges into the pundit's chair, so that the media (wittingly or unwittingly) becomes simply the mouthpiece for corporate propaganda. A sector of public opinion becomes publiccorpinion, simply the ideas put in people's heads to benefit particular industries' profit margins.  The example of this broken system that disturbs me most is what the media has done to the issue of climate change. Yes, there are fine journalists reporting on the truth of what's happening with our climate, like Juliet Eilperin at the Washington Post and Coral Davenport at the New York Times. And yet their work seems to disappear into a black hole amidst the endless phony debates pitting climate change deniers against those who follow the actual, demonstrated science.
We're all entitled to our own opinions on the climate, it seems. Except that we're not, any more than we're entitled to our own opinions on whether the earth revolves around the sun, whether E=mc2, or whether we can survive naked for long periods of time in 20 degree below zero temperatures. Facts are facts, regardless of what we want to believe. And the media's obligation to report facts must trump its desire to broadcast every opinion under the sun.
Because frankly, not every viewpoint is valid.  Some are just ignorant or self-serving BS.
The Society of Professional Journalists has an admirable Code of Ethics based on four core principles:
- Seek truth and report it
- Minimize harm
- Act independently
- Be accountable
Are pundits held to any standards that remotely resemble such a code? The answer, quite clearly, is no. Well, it's time to push our media outlets and associations to establish and follow such a code before irresponsible punditry wreaks any more havoc on the integrity of our public debate.
Here are a few suggestions on where to start:
- Require fact checking for all opinion pieces. Where these pieces diverge from the facts, either refuse to release them, or at a minimum, add editors' notes stating where the pundit is diverging from demonstrated facts (e.g., saying that the basic facts of climate change are in dispute when the work of 97% of the scientists in the field confirm these facts based on decades of replicated, peer-reviewed research.)
- Submit pundits to annual reviews based on the quality and accuracy of their work.
- Where pundits have made predictions, go back to review them and then publish success rates. (Dave Weigel of is one of the few pundits who actually does an annual column evaluating what he got right or wrong over the past year.)
- Choose pundits based on their actual expertise and skill sets, and when they stray into areas about which they have no knowledge, demand (and fund) actual reporting or research.
I recognize that media companies choose and pay pundits to be loud and outrageous in order to drive ratings. But as with every industry, from banking to meat processing, when their laxity drives the public to demand some standards, they should feel pressure and an obligation to respond.
Great commentators can drive our democracy forward, showing where we need to fix wrongs and improve our system. In order to return to a time when that will again be possible, we need to dial down the noise and turn up the quality of American punditry.  

Gallup: Americans Overwhelmingly Favor Clean Energy, Efficiency Over Fossil Fuels

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Cross posted from Scaling Green
The fossil fuel industry can (and does) spend millions of dollars trying to persuade people that their product's great, that renewable energy isn't, and that climate change isn't real. Unfortunately for the fossil fuel folks, it looks like the American people are a lot smarter than ExxonMobil, the Koch brothers, etc. think they are.
Evidence? How about this newly-released polling by Gallup, which finds the following.
  • "57% of Americans say the U.S. should emphasize conservation in its approach to solve the nation's energy problems, up from 51% in 2013 and 48% in 2011."
  • In contrast, only "one-third in the U.S. now favor greater emphasis on energy production as the solution."
  • "64% of Americans prefer an emphasis on the development of alternative energy production, such as wind and solar power, to an emphasis on production of traditional fossil fuels. That is up from 59% in 2013."
  • Among younger people (ages 18-34), the preference for clean over dirty energy is overwhelming, with 80% preferring clean energy vs. 20% opting for the dirty stuff. That's the future, and it's not looking good for the fossil fuel folks.
  • By a nearly 2:1 margin, Americans support "setting higher emissions and pollution standards for business and industry" and "more strongly enforcing federal environmental regulation."
  • By a 63%-35% margin, Americans favor "imposing mandatory controls on carbon dioxide emissions/other greenhouse gases."
  • By a 58%-37% margin, Americans favor "setting stricter standards on the use of techniques to extract natural gas from the earth, including 'fracking'."
In sum, it appears that the fossil fuel industry is losing its battle for American public opinion. That's the good news. The bad news, at least so far, is that the strong preference of the American people for clean energy over dirty energy has not resulted in corresponding policy action by 

Video: Rep. Scott Rigell Says He "Fully" Supports Ruinous Ryan Budget

To find out how horrendous the Ryan budget is, see Mr. Ryan’s Faith-Based Budget, GOP budget would amount to pay cut for federal employees, Harry Reid: Paul Ryan budget creates 'Koch-topia', Paul Ryan’s Budget Would Eliminate Programs That Serve His Own Constituents, Eleven Ways Paul Ryan’s Newest Budget Ignores The Changing Fiscal Outlook, etc. That's what Scott Rigell "fully" supports. Hey, 2nd CD voters - get this guy outta here!

Audio: Cuccinelli Rants About "vast left-wing conspiracy," "Humanist Manifesto" on Hobby Lobby Case

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

The thought that Ken Cuccinelli could have been elected Governor of Virginia last year is a horrifying one, for a whole host of reasons. For one, he's a conspiracy theorist (e.g., he dabbled in "birtherism," also claimed the government used Social Security numbers to "track" us, also believes that thousands of climate scientists are all in some dark conspiracy to impose some U.N. agenda or something, etc, etc.). For another, he's an unabashed theocrat and vehement opponent of women's access to contraception. Evidence for those charges? Listen to Cuckoo on Red State's "Coffee and Markets" radio show. A few, lowlights, by Krazy Ken Kookinelli.*On the Hobby Lobby case (see here for how that case is "About Labor Rights And Religious Extremism, Not Birth Control"), Cooch says the left is actually "against consciences, if they could outlaw them they would, I mean let's face it; it's actually fairly critical to their whole worldview." Hmmm.
*Cooch recommends that listeners "Google 'Humanist Manifesto' and read is the game plan for the vast left-wing conspiracy, and if only the right-wing conspiracy were so vast, we'd be a lot better's part of that playbook."
*If Hobby Lobby wins its case, Cooch claims "it is clearly one of the more poignant stakes in the gut for the left." Why? Because, Cooch claims, the left "cannot tolerate god, they cannot tolerate the acquiescence of government to faith; it clearly has to go the other way in their worldview, and that's a major problem."
*Cooch claims that nobody has a "retort" to his claim that the U.S. is a "natural law country," that we just sit there "dumb and mute" when he spouts his brilliance. Duhhhhhhh.....
*More Crazy Cooch: "The left of course demonizes corporations to begin the notion that a corporation could reflect a moral compass, particularly one grounded in faith, I mean it makes their head explode, which is one of the charms of this case."
*Cooch is "so proud" of Hobby Lobby's owners for its willingness to "risk everything they've built to vanquish [sic] the principle of religious liberty,which maybe more than is under assault in this country today...we should all be so grateful to them...I'm just so impressed." (note to Cooch: "vanquish" is exactly the opposite of the word you presumably intended to use there, but whatever...please continue! LOL)
*More Cooch paranoid, unhinged lunacy (and psychological projection): "People in this country don't realize how tyrannical the left is. It is phenomenally intolerant of any views other than its own. And it must label them as bad, evil, malodorous in some way. It's all they have; they can't really argue against them so they don't...Every liberal position is built on a fallacy. If you give me enough questions honestly answered, I can get you to the hollow core of any liberal position. Of course, normally...they won't answer your questions, because they instinctively know that themselves...truth is our friend."
*Oh, and Cooch says people are going to have to "start going to jail" because they won't "bake a cake" for a gay couple or whatever.
*On the 2013 Virginia gubernatorial campaign, Cooch says he would have won except for "two silver bullets" against him: 1) Bob McDonnell's scandals; 2) the government shutdown.
*I skipped over a bunch of this blithering idiocy and insanity, but at the end Cooch talks about 2016, and how Rand Paul and Ted Cruz are two of the best candidates for the Republicans. Cooch also claims that Barack Obama has "helped destroy this country," and that we don't have someone in the White House who "loves this country." Also, the only reason Obama became president was because of Republicans failing for 6 years and the GOP abandoning "every principle we ever said that we ascribed to."
After listening to this raving lunacy and wild-eyed extremism, I'd venture to thank any deity you believe in, or simply the wisdom of the majority of Virginia voters, that Ken Cuccinelli was not elected governor of our state. Boy, did we ever dodge a bullet (silver or otherwise) on that one. Phew!