Special Election Date for Virginia 48th, 90th HoD Vacancies Set for 8/19; Caucuses This Weekend

Monday, June 30, 2014

I'm sorry, but this is no way to run a democracy.
Voters, including some in Hampton Roads, will choose replacements for legislators leaving the Virginia House of Delegates on Aug. 19, Speaker of the House William Howell announced Monday.[...]
The candidate filing deadline in these races is July 7 at 5 p.m., according to the speaker's office.
That's right, this decision by Speaker Bill "ALEC" Howell - the same guy who recently ordered that security break into Gov. McAuliffe's offices, and who also recently wouldn't allow the House to vote at all on crucial vetoes by Gov. McAuliffe - means that Democrats will be forced to choose their nominees for the 48th (Bob Brink's former seat) and 90th (Algie Howell's former seat) House of Delegates districts by next Monday - 7 days from today! That means, most likely, we're talking about caucuses and/or "firehouse primaries" this coming weekend, leaving basically no time for voters to get to know the candidates, to hold forums/debates, etc. Also, this will be fourth of July weekend, making it even more absurd. Is this Bill "ALEC" Howell's way of giving Democrats his middle finger? Sure seems like it. Just utterly pathetic. (UPDATE: Pissed off about Howell screwing with our democracy? Sign the petition hereand demand: "Speaker Howell, stop the games. Give the people of Virginia time to make educated, democratic decisions about the people who represent them").P.S. So far, in the 48th district, Rip Sullivan has announced and is up with a website; Paul Holland has said he's running, but I'm not aware of a formal announcement or website yet;  David Boling has a Facebook page; others are rumored, including Andrew Schneider, Peter Fallon, Atima Amara, Steve Baker...

Del. Mark Sickles Stepping Down as VA House Dem Caucus Chair

I don't have a lot more details right now, but I just heard from multiple sources that Del. Mark Sickles is stepping down as Virginia House Democratic Caucus Chair. I also hear that Del. Eileen Filler-Corn is running to replace him. More details when I get them...

Just a few general thoughts on this. What we need in the Caucus Chair position is someone who can come up with a serious plan to start winning back the 17 or 18 Obama/Kaine House districts currently held by Republicans. Yes, I'm well aware that districts are gerrymandered, that Republicans have had a financial advantage, that it's really hard, blah blah blah. But sorry, no excuses: we either suck it up and figure out a way to do this, or resign ourselves to being in the minority for a long time to come. No thanks. We also need someone who doesn't just come up with a plan, but who works 24/7 - hard AND smart - to execute it. To do that, we need someone who can effectively employ all the tools of modern campaigns (social media obviously being one of those, among others), develop a true "farm system" of candidates, work with our candidates to make them as strong as they can be, connect with and motivate the grassroots "ground troops," etc. Not that any of those things will guarantee victory, but NOT doing those things is an almost certain assurance of defeat.
UPDATEDel. Scott Surovell also tells me he's running for the job.

What the Puckett Resignation Scandal May Boil Down To

Saturday, June 28, 2014

(UPDATEJeff Schapiro asks about Senate Republican floor leader Tommy Norment and House Speaker Bill Howell, "What did Norment and Howell know, and when did they know it?" I also got an email from someone who basically said that Terry Kilgore isn't bright enough to have figured all this out, certainly not on his own. - promoted by lowkell)

With the FBI investigating the scandal surrounding Sen. Phil Puckett's resignation from the Virginia State Senate (in exchange, apparently, for a job for himself on the Tobacco Indemnification and Community Revitalization Commission, as well as a judgeship for his daughter), there's increasing chatter about whether there might end up being a criminal prosecution of Puckett and potentially others (e.g., Del. Terry Kilgore) in this case. For instance, Sen. Chap Petersen - a very sharp attorney - has a fascinating Facebook thread going on this subject. Here's an excerpt:
This is not good stuff. Having said that (and assuming the worst to be true),I don't see any crime, or attempted crime, involved. If leaving an elected position to take a public job is a crime, then that's an exponential expansion of our corruption laws beyond any former precedent. Every administration will see 5-6 lawmakers (minimum) who will leave their seat in order to take a position with the state government.Yes, the Puckett case is different: first, because it involves an evenly divided Senate so the resignation immediately led to a power switch and, second, it occurred while we were still in session and had a major vote pending on the budget and Medicaid.
The Puckett situation was lousy and I'll go on bashing it at every chance. But the political context of an act cannot itself establish criminality. If leaving the Senate for a state job is okay when one party has a major advantage, then it doesn't become illegal just because the parties are 50/50. If you leave, you leave.
The only potential "crime" would be if the job offer were tied to a particular vote (or failure to vote). And we're not there yet.

Meanwhile, Sen. Creigh Deeds - another sharp attorney - weighs in on Chap Petersen's Facebook thread, writing that:

And Karen Duncan - not an attorney, but also super smart - argues at Anonymous is a Woman (with her first post there in almost 5 years - welcome back!):
I will repeat that I don't know that any of this rises to the level of breaking the law....Even if you don't believe what Phil Puckett and Terry Kilgore did was illegal, by the true measure of ethical behavior, all but the most partisan would agree that these were not honorable men nor dedicated public servants putting their constituents before their own selfish gain and power grabs.
So: three smart people, including two astute, experienced attorneys, all agree that what happened with the Puckett resignation was "lousy," "unethical," "not honorable," etc. But was it actually illegal? Nobody seems to know the answer to that question. And that certainly includes me. However, in looking into this, I think that there are two major issues that the courts will be focused on, if it comes to that.1. Whether there was, as per the Hobbs Act, a situation here in which a "public official commits extortion under the color of right when he obtains a payment to which he is not entitled knowing that it was made in exchange for official acts." Based on the emails obtained by the Washington Postunder the Virginia Freedom of Information Act, that seems like this part - the "quid pro quo," essentially - can most definitely be proven. As the Post writes, "[Sen. Phil Puckett's] exit, which handed Republicans control of the evenly divided Senate in the middle of a standoff over the state budget and Medicaid expansion, was connected to job prospects for Puckett and his daughter." Sure sounds like a "quid pro quo" to me.
2. If a quid pro quo is ultimately proved in court, then it probably comes down to a much tougher question: does resigning from a public office, even in exchange for something of tangible/material benefit, constitute an "official action?" In the case of Sen. Puckett, I presume that the prosecution's argument would be, in part, that Puckett's resignation was timed to directly impact public policy - in this case, the Virginia budget and Medicaid expansion (or not) - thus it was almost by definition "official."
The defense, I'd think, would push back that there have been a gazillion elected officials over the years who have left their positions for other jobs, including in gubernatorial or presidential administrations (e.g., Karen Duncan notes that Bob Brink just resigned his seat in the House of Delegates in order to take a job with the McAuliffe administration, but argues that it's a completely different situation from Puckett's). Of course, I'm sure that many (most?) of those were perfectly legit, nothing ethically or legally questionable about them. But I'd also be shocked (shocked!) if there haven't been all kinds of shenanigans over the years regarding appointments to state and federal boards, commissions, etc. The defense would also make the case that Puckett's resignation, despite the appearance/timing/etc, was not designed with a specific policy end (e.g., killing Medicaid expansion in Virginia, at least for now) in mind. Good luck with that last one, IMHO, but we'll see...
Have any similar situations been prosecuted under the Hobbs Act? I did some searching and didn't find a case that looked like this one, but that doesn't mean there hasn't been such a case (anyone else know of one?). I also searched for a clear definition of what constitutes an "official act" under the Hobbs Act, and didn't really find anything good on that either. I certainly didn't find anything clear about whether failing to act, in this case by resigning, constituted an "action" (lyrics by the rock band Rush, from their song "Freewill," come to mind here: "If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice"). In other words, in the end, is NOT voting an official act just as much as voting? Something tells me we're going to find out in coming months.

Mark "Criminalize Miscarriages" Obenshain Fights to Keep People From Voting

Friday, June 27, 2014

We already knew that Virginia State Senator Mark "Criminalize Miscarriages" Obenshain, last year's Republican nominee for Attorney General, is willing to trample the law just like his hero Ken Cuccinelli. Previously, it was his efforts to make miscarriages by Virginia women a crime that needed to be reported to the police. Now, Obenshain has apparently taken up a new cause: making it as hard as possible for people to vote. Check this out.So what does the Virginia State Board of Elections have to say about this?  In this June 12 article in the right-wing, it reports that "SBE Secretary Don Palmer said the action - which eliminates the current 30-day limit on expired IDs - should not be considered controversial." Note that Palmer is no flaming liberal; in fact, he was appointed by Governor Bob McDonnell in 2011, served in President George W. Bush's Justice Department, and worked for Congressman Tom Feeney, who "earned a reputation as a brass-knuckles campaigner and when he was House Speaker advocated having the Legislature designate electors for George W. Bush during the 2000 recount." Anyway, here's what Palmer had to say.
*"SBE Secretary Don Palmer said the action - which eliminates the current 30-day limit on expired IDs - should not be considered controversial."
*"We thought the law provided more flexibility. Thirty days was arbitrary."
*"Palmer added that a second layer of identification still requires voters to provide their full name and address to poll workers."
*"The law separately requires the voter to orally state their name and current residence to the officer of election, who then repeats the information to observers. This separate process confirms the individual is voting at the correct precinct polling place."
*"The use of the photo ID is the gold standard in confirming the identity of the voter and is not to be used to confirm the address of the individual."
Yet all that's not enough for Mark Obenshain in his quest to combat the non-existent-yet-ever-present-in-the-mind-of-right-wingnuts threat of "voter fraud." Of course, we all know that all the Obenshains of the world want to do is make it harder for minorities, poor people, and others who tend to vote Democratic more than Republican, to exercise their fundamental American right to vote. And this guy seriously wanted to be Attorney General of Virginia? Seriously?!? No wonder why he said that Ken Cuccinelli would serve as his role model. Ee gads.

Del. Bob Brink Resigning, Will Join McAuliffe Administration

Democratic Del. Bob Brink, who represents the 48th District (mostly North Arlington, with some of Fairfax County as well; I'm told it's probably 75% Arlington/25% Fairfax in a Democratic primary), was first elected to the Virginia House of Delegates in June 1997 and has been reelected by wide margins since then. See his press release below announcing his resignation (I've also heard from multiple sources that he's headed to the McAuliffe Administration). Thank you to Del. Brink for his service to Arlington and to Virginia! Now, the main thing for 48th district Democrats is to elect a super-strong progressive and pro-environmental champion to go to Richmond and fight for our values. Given that this is an essentially "safe" Democratic seat, there's no reason to settle for anything less than that. I've heard a few names bandied about, including former Democratic candidate Rip SullivanYorktown Civic Association President Andrew Schneider, and environmental/energy expert and Chair of the Arlington Parks and Recreation CommissionPaul Holland (also note: Holland's the son of former/long-time State Senator Ed Holland). So...who do you think would be a good successor to Bob Brink in this seat? UPDATE: I also heard former Dranesville District Chair Ron Bleeker's name mentioned, and David Boling has announced.
Delegate Brink to Retire from General AssemblyDelegate Bob Brink (D-Arlington/McLean), who has represented the 48th District in the Virginia House of Delegates for the past 17 years, announced Friday that he will retire from the House effective June 30.
"I've been honored beyond words to serve my fellow citizens as a member of the House," Delegate Brink said. "But, 'To every thing there is a season.' It's time for a new person to have this privilege, and it's time for me to move on to new challenges."
First elected in 1997, Delegate Brink is 13th in seniority in the 100-member House. He is the Dean of Arlington's General Assembly delegation.
The 48th District includes north Arlington, Crystal City, and part of McLean in Fairfax County.
A member of the House Appropriations Committee and its Health Subcommittee, Delegate Brink cited as some of his proudest achievements in office his work on the FAMIS program which provides health coverage to children of the working poor, as well as efforts to maintain the health care safety net of services to vulnerable Virginians. The ranking Democrat on the House Privileges and Elections Committee, he has advocated for reform of the redistricting process and expansion of access to the vote for all eligible citizens. He also serves on the Education and Transportation Committees as well as on numerous legislative study commissions.
Delegate Brink has received recognition from a variety of groups for his service in the General Assembly. In 2013 the National Federation of the Blind of Virginia presented its Commonwealth Award to him for his efforts on behalf of blind and vision-impaired students. The Virginia League of Conservation Voters has consistently commended him for his legislative record on environmental issues. He headed the Virginia YMCA's Model General Assembly Program board for a number of years and received the YMCA's Service to Youth Award in 2001. He is a board member and former chair of the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities and also serves on the board of the Federation of State Humanities Councils.
Delegate Brink concluded, "On a personal note: A few weeks before I was sworn into office in 1998, I was in Richmond for freshman orientation. One night I took a walk around the Capitol and I stopped outside the House chamber. The curtains were open and the lights were on, and for the first time I saw the vote board with my name on it.
"I've looked up at that board thousands of times since that night. Some days it seemed like the only vote where I was in the majority was the quorum call. But every day, the knowledge that I'm one of a handful of Virginians whose numbers include Jefferson, Madison, and Patrick Henry made me think that I must be the luckiest guy on earth."

Spending Our Political Contributions Wisely

by Dan Sullivan

Lt Gov Northam presiding photo 140626VirginiaSenate_zpsd365b995.jpgMany of you have been bombarded with pleas for money to help Democrats regain the Virginia Senate majority; a noble cause. Well, you should ask three questions before you contribute a dime: Is there a strategy for success? Where is your money going to end up? Will you suffer remorse?On this or another of Lowell's blogs, I asked at the end of one particularly disappointing campaign where I go to get a refund of my contributions. After that campaign I decided that I wouldn't contribute to any campaign whose candidate doesn't share my core values and doesn't have a chance in hell of being victorious. In the special election for Phil Puckett's abandoned seat, the Democratic candidate fails quite possibly both criteria. I say quite possibly because we may never know what the insiders now know from polling in the district. Frankly, if I were to venture a guess, I'd bet he is at the general starting point for the generic Democratic candidate in the region: 37%. And, we already know he is joined at the hip with coal. That's a pragmatic position; I understand that. But he is unabashedly supportive; his position is not nuanced in any way. I can tell you I won't regret not contributing on both counts.
I have also learned not to contribute to any committee that claims to support my candidate(s). There are simply too many ways my contribution won't end up in my candidates' coffers. The Virginia Senate Democratic Caucus funneled $410,168 to Phil Puckett in 2011; the 3rd highest individual beneficiary. That would mean that of each dollar from that group that went to an actual candidate, 13.9% went to Puckett. Oh, and in any case only about 49% of all Caucus expenditures went directly to Virginia Senate candidates even when including a big chunk, $224,500, which went to an independent candidate in the 19th. But it's a broader issue. Your direct contributions to other candidates also ended up in Russell County: $15,000 from Chap Peterson; $5,000 from Dick Saslaw; $2,500 from Janet Howell; $1,000 from Don McEachin. I have contributed to at least one of them; I never will again. I don't need them deciding my money should go somewhere I didn't send it. Note that it is not only the Senate Caucus and not just at the state level where this is a common betrayal.
However, it is the strategy for regaining control of the Senate that concerns me most. The focus right now looks extremely tactical: fight the good fight in the 38th. But I believe Sun Tzu would advise differently. You don't reinforce failure; that is complete folly. I have met some great Democrats in the 38th, but even with the power of incumbency, Phil Puckett won that district with 53% of the vote after spending $1,365,143. He outspent his opponent by about a quarter million dollars. We Democrats are in no position to raise the amount of money that it will take to pretend we might win the 38th. And when that cash we don't have is gone, where does that position us for the races in 2015?
On election night 2015, we shouldn't be wondering if the money we wasted in 2014 could have turned a red tide in the Virginia Senate. In 2015 if we choose wisely we might even gain a seat or two for the high price of none in 2014.

VA House Speaker Has Capitol Police Break Into Governor's Secure Office Suite?!?

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

We already knew that Virginia House Speaker was an ALEC tool who likes to bully/demean women and deny health care coverage to hundreds of thousands of Virginians (while sending $5 million a day of our taxpayer money out of state). So yeah, the guy's pretty much heinous any way you look at him.  But even given al lthat, I didn't really expect him to do something like this!
At the urging of House Speaker William J. Howell, the clerk's office of the House of Delegates enlisted the help of the Capitol Police to enter Gov. Terry McAuliffe's unoccupied, secure suite of offices on a Sunday afternoon to deliver the state budget.The highly unusual entry on June 15 took place without the permission of administration officials or the knowledge of the Virginia State Police, which is in charge of protecting the governor. McAuliffe was not in the building.
Right, WTF? Does this sound like something out of Richard Nixon/Watergate break-ins or what?!? Amazing.In response, McAuliffe Chief of Staff Paul Reagan wrote:
What occurred here Sunday is unacceptable...Two employees of the speaker of the House of Delegates were given access to an area of the governor's office where sensitive files and materials are kept...For good reason, it is an area that is surrounded by three security perimeters. Even on a normal business day, very few people - including members of the governor's Cabinet - can gain access to this suite of offices. We certainly do not expect to have agents and employees of the General Assembly roaming through these offices on weekends.
So now what? Criminal investigation into the actions of Speaker Howell and others who instigated this? If not, why not?

Video: "Still kind of traumatized from having filmed this last Thursday" in Lawrenceville, Virginia

The Story of America's Eric Byler says he is "still kind of traumatized from having filmed this last Thursday." After watching it, I can see why. Truly disturbing. Here's what Byler has to say about what he witnessed the other day in Lawrenceville, Virginia.
This was one of the most disturbing nights of filming I have experienced in America since Oct. 16, 2007. The next day I was interviewed on MSNBC to report on what I had witnessed. Prior to that, I wrote this in an email to Annabel Park and Police Chief Charlie Deane (ret.) of Prince William County, VA: I filmed the entire town hall event last night. I met the Sheriff and gave him two copies of the film. I also gave a copy of the film to the Mayor-elect and a county supervisor. The story in Lawrenceville is a lot more complex than "look how racist people can be" and also more complex than "country folk just hate the federal government" although I saw a lot of that too. It seems that the administrator of the now-defunct college down there signed an agreement with the federal government to house these unaccompanied minors on the campus, without informing the local elected officials or the people. They have a right to be upset about the lack of transparency. I only counted 2 people who stood up to defend the idea of helping these young people in 3 and 1/2 hours (but I did step out for a while with 1 camera rolling). There are programs like this all over the country with no incidents of immigrant minors escaping and going on crime sprees. Other concerns included the notion that they might not actually be minors but instead could be 26-year-old gang members. Also, the volunteer fire chief said that the college's buildings were not up to fire standards, and that people from South and Central America are likely to carry diseases, and he was concerned that his fire fighters could either die fighting a fire in a building that is not up to code, or catch and spread diseases in the process (!?). Many things were said that made me cringe. Put them in the closed-down jail instead of the closed-down college campus for instance. And in general comments were expressed with a show-boating style of hatred that was cheered on by hundreds in the audience. I think under these circumstances, people could be found to come out and behave like this in most parts of the country. I told the Sheriff and the County Supervisor that the danger here was that someone or some organization would swoop in with a policy or a campaign that would exploit the fears and the emotions that this controversy has stirred up.

Just Remember, Virginia Republicans Nominated This Lunatic for Lt. Governor

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Yep, the guy who Virginia Republicans nominated for Lieutenant Governor last year, E.W. Jackson, is once again showing his true colors. This time, he's teaming up with Pastor Charles Flowers from San Antonio for another heapin' helpin' o' crazy (and Obama bashing, of course). So who is Pastor Charles Flowers you ask? I'll let ABC News take it from here.
The camp is run by Charles Eugene Flowers, a San Antonio-based pastor known for tough-love tactics to rein in troubled teens.But Siobahn said that Flowers was anything but caring. "Pastor Flowers was mean," the girl said. "Forceful, mean and strict."
According to the girl, after she fell behind on a run one morning, Flowers yelled at her and had an assistant hold her down. He then tied one end of a rope to her waist, Siobahn said, and the other to his van.
Every time she fell, Siobahn says, she was dragged along a gravel road. "I was, like, so scared," she said. The incident left the girl's knees and legs scraped and bruised.
Bobbi Greer, who worked at the ranch where the incident occurred, said the camp showed less than loving care toward the teen a day earlier. "The torture to this girl went on all afternoon," she said.
Flowers and the 20-year-old assistant, meanwhile, were arrested and charged with aggravated assault - Flowers will fight the charge.
Unbelievable, right? Yet why is it not surprising that this is E.W., Jackson's new BFF, a guy who - not joking here - "tied one end of a rope to [a girl's] waist...and the other to his van," then "every time she fell...she was dragged along a gravel road." Crazy, demented s***, not to mention completely against anything Jesus ever taught. But wait, you say, that was back in 2007, maybe the guy's gotten better since then? Uhhh...not so much.

Pastor Charles Flowers says he plans to fight for his right to discriminate.That is, against "the homosexuals, the transsexuals," and any other permutation of human sexuality that doesn't fit the man+woman=child patch he and other supporters wore on their lapels in the City Council chambers Tuesday afternoon.
After two years of pushing from the LGBT rights crowd, City leaders are finally considering expanding anti-discrimination policies to protect gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, and transgender San Antonians. The plan, carried by downtown Council member Diego Bernal, would add "sexual orientation" and "gender identity" (along with the non-contentious "veteran status") as protected classes to portions of city code that cover the hiring and firing of city employees, public accommodations, fair housing, the awarding of city contracts and the appointment of city board and commission members.
As it stands, LGBT citizens aren't protected anywhere in the city's non-discrimination language.
As Mayor Juli├ín Castro said during Council's Governance Committee hearing Tuesday, the move would put San Antonio in line with nearly every other major U.S. metro, including all other major Texas cities - like Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston, Austin, El Paso. "San Antonio's not breaking any new ground," Castro said.
Adding those four words to the city's non-discrimination laws - "sexual orientation" and "gender identity" -forces the devout to accept something they cannot on religious grounds, Flowers, a pastor at Faith Outreach Center International, told me outside City Hall.
"When it comes to gender identity and when it comes to breaking these barriers down, let's say it allows a pedophile ... A pedophile can use this gender identity language to get close to children."
I tried earnestly to get Flowers to elaborate. He kept falling back on some iteration of, "I'm just saying it's a slippery slope. ...How do you say to someone who's same-gender attracted that their issue is ok, but pedophilia is not ok? Where do you stop?" Easy, I told him. You stop at pedophilia, or any other crime that victimizes children or others.
Anyway, this is the (crazy, extreme, violent, bigoted) person who E.W. Jackson was on a conference call with earlier today, talking about how mean San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro supposedly infringed upon the poor beleaguered anti-gay bigots' First Amendment rights to be anti-gay bigots. Quick, somebody call a waaaaaaaaaaaambulance for Pastor Flowers and his pal E.W. Jackson! LOL

New Report: Global Warming Poses Serious Threats to Virginia

Of course, no scientific evidence or new report will convince all the climate skeptics, deniers, and minimizers out there. Nor will evidence or reports convince those who have a vested financial stake in keeping the fossil fuel gravy train going for themselves, even as it destroys the planet's environment around them. These people simply don't care. But for the rest of us, aka the vast majority of the American people, who DO care? For us, reports like this new one by the Rhodium Group, "an economic research firm that specializes in analyzing disruptive global trends," should have us reaching for our phones to call our representatives and demand action NOW. Need some motivation? Here are a few "highlights" about what's likely to happen right here in Virginia if we don't do something serious about this problem now.*By the end of this century, average summer temperatures in Virginia could reach nearly 86 degrees, up from around 75 degrees in the 2020-2039 time frame. Days over 95 degrees could hit 84 (!), up from as few as 10 or so in 2020-2039. Beyond unpleasant, this will be a dangerous situation in many ways.
*How dangerous? For instance, crop yields and labor productivity could fall by 51% and 2.4%, respectively. At the same time, mortality rates could increase by 20.85 deaths per 100,000, while average annual coastal storm damage in Virginia alone could hit a whopping $1.0 billion to $1.3 billion (an 118.5% to 178.5% change from today).
*"On our current path, by mid-century, mean sea level at Norfolk, Virginia-home to the nation's largest naval base-will likely rise between 1.1 feet and 1.7 feet, and will rise 2.5 feet to 4.4 feet by the end of century. However, there is a 1-in-100 chance that Norfolk could see sea level rise of up to 6.5 feet by the end of the century."
By the way, I feel like this shouldn't even have to be stated, but for whatever ridiculous (not to mention dangerous) reason, when it comes to climate change, the science has gotten absurdly politicized (e.g., many Republicans actually reject the science, even though not long ago their party was very strong on the environment, and even though science is not inherently political). So, in that context, let me just emphasize that members of "Risky Business" include Republicans like former Bush Administration Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson; former Secretary of State, Treasury and Labor George P. Shultz (R); and Senator Olympia Snowe (R-ME). With that, I encourage everyone to read the report, and more importantly to make your feelings known about the need for action. The state, county, city, or home you save might very well be your own!  

If You Thought THAT Was Stupid...Now Comes the Virginia House of Delegates!

Monday, June 23, 2014

So, if you thought this day couldn't get any "more stupider," following the - not joking here - ***skins Pride Caucus announcement, we now have the potential for getting REALLY stupid, as the Teapublican-controlled Virginia House of Delegates kicks into special session to deal with/dispose of Gov. McAuliffe's vetoes. Should, fun? Well, maybe not. If you can stomach actually watching it, click here. If not, I'll try to live blog it, although I'm not sure even my stomach's strong enough for this level of stew-pid.UPDATE 8:40 pm: ‏@RTDSchapiro tweets, "Surprise -- not! In #Va Senate, Restored GOP majority to ram reshuffled cmte assignments. Could be for naught if D's win 8/19 special elex."
UPDATE 6:10 pm: Speaker Howell says that Gov. McAuliffe has applied the line-item veto on the MIRC and Stanley amendments in a manner outside of his veto authority. For the reasons he's laid out, Howell's determined that item 301ttt paragraph 9 does not constitute an item subject to his veto authority, ergo it's out of order. In other words, as  ‏@RTDSchapiro tweets, "BREAKING @SpeakerHowell throws out @GovernorVA McAuliffe vetoes clearing Republican obstacles to Medicaid-financed health care fix." Howell also rules that Gov. McAuliffe's judicial veto out of order.
UPDATE 6:08 pm: @NARALVirginia tweets, "House votes to override @GovernorVA's veto of ethics commission. More votes to come."
UPDATE 5:55 pm: Del. Vivian Watts (D-Fairfax) says she's not going to get into rhetoric, but where we are on the budget is absolutely within the processes that have been part of our constitution since its beginning. "The governor has the right to veto, period."
UPDATE 5:47 pm: Excellent speeches by Delegates Surovell, Sickles and Toscano, explaining very clearly why Gov. McAuliffe's vetoes ARE constitutional, and also urging that House Republicans don't pull a parliamentary maneuver to avoid putting Gov. McAuliffe's vetoes to a vote. Del. @Lopez4VA tweets, "Strong comments on the floor today from @MarkSicklesVA, @ssurovell, and @deltoscano.  Making @vademocrats proud!!" @NARALVirginia tweets, "Del. Toscano: 'We deserve the right to vote [on Gov's vetoes] not use a parliamentary procedure to deny that right'"  Del. Tim Hugo (R) calls what Gov. McAuliffe did a "dangerous precedent," and that "we need to protect the prerogatives of this body." Del. Hugo rips Gov. McAuliffe for his harsh language against Republicans on Friday. Hugo says several members of the Republican caucus served in the military, and it was wrong. for Gov. McAuliffe to call them "cowards." Hugo asks, does Terry McAuliffe want to be the head of a political party or governor of Virginia like Thomas Jefferson.
UPDATE 5:15 pm: LOL, Del. Kirkland Cox (R) is trying to argue that Republicans are the "party of ideas," not the "party of no." What. Ever. Cox also claims that House Republicans are "compassionate people" who really care about the people of Virginia. Apparently that was said in all seriousness.
UPDATE 5:13 pm: Great job by Del. Joe Morrissey in calling out House Speaker Bill Howell's struggles with fact, let's just put it that way, and his logical inconsistency. So typical that Howell dismissed Morrissey's argument with a condescending, "I'll explain it to you later" comment. Pathetic.  Also, @VANewMajority tweets, "Thank you Del @RobKrupicka for recognizing hard work of everyone fighting to #closethegap. It's time!"
UPDATE 5:06 pm:  ‏@NARALVirginia tweets, "We have a huge crowd in the House gallery ready to urge legislators to #CloseTheGap!" Also, the House is now in session. ‏@MarkKeam tweets, "It's Medicaid Monday in Richmond. House convened. Expecting heated debate on whether certain vetoes are appropriate." @ProgressVA  tweets, "The @VaHouse is in session to consider @GovernorVA's vetoes. We're in the gallery w/ 30 folks to tell @SpeakerHowell to #ClosetheGap"

SNARK: A Few More "Pride Caucuses" Virginia Needs in Addition to "***skins Pride"

OK, since several Virginia legislators have put aside other pressing matters - like, er, expanding Medicaid for hundreds of thousands of Virginians -, this is not an Onion parody...form a "Pride Caucus" for the Washington NFL team with the racist name (which plays in Maryland, by the way), here are a few other ideas for "Pride Caucuses" our fine legislators might consider forming next. All are for businesses located in Virginia.*Altria (nee, Phillip Morris) Pride Caucus: HQ'ed in  Henrico, this fine company has brought cancer, lung disease, etc. to millions for decades. Definitely something to (not) take pride in!
*Dominion Virginia Power Pride Caucus! Who wouldn't take "pride" in a company which has pretty much bought and paid for the Virginia General Assembly to be its wholly-owned subsidiary? Especially given its unofficial motto, "Global Warming Starts Here!" PRIDE!
*Alpha Natural Resources Pride Caucus: Blowing up Virginia mountains and poisoning our air and water for generations, what's not to be "proud" of?
*Smithfield Foods Pride Caucus: Abusing its workers and animals, busting unions, polluting the environment (can we say hog sewage lagoons?) for generations. Again, it seems to me that at least a few Virginia legislators, many of whom have taken $$$ from Smithfield Foods, would take "pride" in that!
So, who's going to jump on the bandwagon and form a few more "pride" caucuses here in Virginia? I mean, it's not like there's other work to do or anything, plus these poor, beleaguered (actually wealthy and powerful) corporations need SOMEBODY to stick up for them, right? (end extreme snark)
P.S. How about the Persecuted White Straight Christian Males Pride Caucus next?

Audio: Talking Virginia Politics on the Kudzu Vine Radio Show

Sunday, June 22, 2014

From a bit earlier this evening, we covered Eric Cantor's defeat, the Medicaid standoff, Phil Puckett's resignation, the 8th CD Democratic primary, the Warner-Gillespie race, and also some non-Virginia topics.
Discover Politics Progressive Internet Radio with Southern Politics on BlogTalkRadio

BREAKING: Virginia Gov. McAuliffe to Expand Health Care Coverage in Face of GOP Demagoguery

Friday, June 20, 2014

I can't embed the feed for whatever reason, so just click on the following image to watch Gov. McAuliffe's press conference on Virginia's budget at 11:30 am. I'll blog the highlights as well. Based on multiple sources, I'm expecting good news, but we'll see soon enough. :) UPDATE 12:24 pm: Rep. Jim Moran tweets, "@TerryMcAuliffe took a stand for all Virginians, not just the ideological few, and stood up for the healthcare security of 400k Virginians." UPDATE 12:19 pm: The Republicans start to weigh in with the expected bitching, whining, etc. Here's Bob Goodlatte on Twitter: "I am extremely disappointed in @GovernorVA's decision to circumvent the General Assembly and move to unilaterally enact Medicaid expansion." Waaaaaaaaa!!! Oh, and one of the nuttiest of the right wingnuts in the Virginia General Assembly, Greg Habeeb, tweets this cri de coeur (spelling "emperor" wrong and of course engaging in wild hyperbole, as is his wont): "@GovernorVA has made it clear he believes he was elected Emporer and is unchecked by the Rule of Law. You can't overstate what he's done." UPDATE 11:57 am: Del. Alfonso Lopez writes, "BRAVO - Proud of Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe today!!...He is sick of the 'demagoguery, lies, fear, and cowardice...'" Also, see Del. Scott Surovell's analysis, "Vetoes Drop and Virginia Moves Forward". Del. Surovell writes: "In summary, he has vetoed legal prohibitions to expanding Medicaid and he is moving forward on Medicaid expansion due to political obstruction." UPDATE 11:53 am: DPVA tweets, "Thank you @GovernorVA for standing up for 400k uninsured Virginians!" Ben Tribbett tweets, "This is a bold move bc it means Gen Assembly is unlikely to approve much @GovernorVA does in next 3 years. TMac is making this his stand." I agree, and would just add that the GA wouldn't have approved much anyway, and this is the morally, economically, etc. stand to take! Ryan Nobles tweets, "Among many other things.. this is @GovernorVA challenging where the power lies in Richmond." Good! I also hear that the Virginia State Senate will sustain Gov. McAuliffe's vetoes. :) Now, can't wait to hear the Republicans' wail, whine, moan, scream, etc. UPDATE 11:51 am: Bottom line, according to Gov. McAuliffe, is that "we are moving forward," while the House of Delegates has turned their back "time and time again." Our health care is in horrible shape, we have the right to help people and do the right thing. "I go to bed every night with a pit in my stomach" because of sick Virginians he's met who are counting on us to do the right thing and get this done. UPDATE 11:45 am: Del. Mark Keam tweets, "@GovernorVA announced he will use power of line item veto to strike MIRC in budget to seek Medicaid expansion! Thank you Gov. McAuliffe!" Del. Marcus Simon tweets, "Virginia Politics has been making a lot of us sick lately. Today Virginia just got a lot healthier. I applaud.." Gov. McAuliffe says public-private partnerships are an option among several other options, but we WILL provide care for our citizens. Gov. McAuliffe thanks Attorney General's office, says he's working closely with AG's office on this. The bottom line is that 27 states have expanded Medicaid expansion, time for Virginia to do that too. DPVA Comms Director Ashley Bauman tweets, "So proud to work for @TerryMcAuliffe, a fierce advocate for ALL Virginians." Progress Virginia tweets, "Thank you @GovernorVA for standing up for health care for Virginia families!" Former McAuliffe campaign comms director Brennan Bilberry tweets, "Gov. McAuliffe's decision on Medicaid morally right, supported by majority of Virginians. Tea Party minority wrong on politics, policy" So true! Jeff Schapiro tweets, "If legislative R's don't think @GovernorVA McAuliffe is ticked about health care, he's also blocking construction of their new office bldg." UPDATE 11:38 am: This is the context which Gov. McAuliffe had to evaluate this overdue budget which contained larger-than-necessary budget cuts thanks to Republican refusal to take Medicaid funds. Tempting to veto the entire budget, but no confidence in General Assembly to get a budget. Will sign legislation, but will make line-item vetoes: 1) MIRC (Medicaid Innovation Review Commission) in its entirety, as it's "merely a sham to pretend that the legislature is actually doing something," which it isn't -- not wasting any more time on this sham, not going to attend or assist the MERC in any future activities; 2) the Stanley floor amendment, since it restricts something that doesn't exist. With respect to healthcare, let me be clear, "I am moving forward." Sec. Hazel will have a plan on my desk no later than 9/1 of this year to put in place a Medicaid-financed health care fix. :) UPDATE 11:32 am: Gov. McAuliffe starting the press conference now. Says it's "unconscionable" that we're not expanding Medicaid for hundreds of thousands of Virginians. Yet, "every single time" Republicans have "said no." He ran and won on the platform of expanding Medicaid. Republicans not only wouldn't compromise, they wouldn't even sit down and talk about the issue. Marketplace Virginia wasn't perfect, but was the best chance to get something through the House of Delegates. The GOP leadership in the House "rejected compromise." Gov. McAuliffe then offered yet ANOTHER compromise, yet once again Republican House leadership "said no...chose instead to subject our citizens to a protracted budget stalemate." Then, last week, the House Republicans again said now, refused "any and all compromise," turned its back on Virginians who need health care coverage. They've also elected to forfeit more than $5 million per day -- $852 million to date!

Gov. McAuliffe Needs to Resist Pressure From Usual Suspects and Reject Bi-County Parkway

According to Leesburg Today, Gov. McAuliffe appears to be leaning towards support for the "Bi-County Parkway" project.
"We have to open up Dulles airport," McAuliffe said. "We will have a resolution relatively quickly."[...]
McAuliffe pointed to stalled growth in Dulles Airport's passenger counts as a key concern. While efforts are being made to add new flights-such as Air China's direct connections to Beijing that began last week-increased cargo operations will be important to keep the airport growing, he said.
Bi-County Parkway advocates say the new road is needed to facilitate cargo transports. Critics say the project would be a misuse of road construction funds needed to free up other travel choke points in the region.
This is misguided, and also kind of strange to be blunt, on a number of levels. With regard to the "strange" part, recall that last October, the McAuliffe campaign was bashing Ken Cuccinelli for "pop[ping] a U-Turn" on the project, while McAuliffe "waivered" on the question, with  Derek McGinty of WUSA asking McAuliffe at a debate in August, "Don't you owe it to the voters to take an actual position on the Bi-County Parkway?" McAuliffe's response at that time was that "I do not make decisions nor will I make decisions until I have all the facts in front of me." And now?Well, now Terry McAuliffe has been Governor of Virginia for 6 months, and he appears to be leaning towards support for the Bi-County Parkway. It true, that would be a big mistake, for all the reasons the Coalition for Smarter Growth lists.

At a meeting of the Loudoun County Chamber of Commerce, Governor McAuliffe expressed his opinion that the Bi-County Parkway would receive a high rating under new selection criteria to be developed over the next year for transportation projects.  He expressed this view in the context of concern about declining passenger and cargo traffic at Dulles Airport.We support the Governor's focus on effective transportation solutions and economic development.
However, in the case of Dulles Airport, the claimed potential for cargo expansion is speculative, as shown in the study by the GMU Center for Regional Analysis, and the cost even to try to gain market share against well-established cargo hubs would be prohibitive, because it would require the construction of multiple new highways and highway expansions being sought by promoters of Dulles Airport. Bacon's Rebellion has written extensively on the issue.
Instead, we should continue on the current course of connecting Metrorail to Dulles, so it can have great transit accessibility like National Airport does today. We are, after all, a knowledge-based economy in Northern Virginia and our focus should be passenger travel.  In our view, making it easier for passengers to get to Dulles, and in particular it's east side passenger entrance, is the key to addressing the airport's underutilization.
We commend the Governor for his willingness to reexamine large projects promoted by the previous administration, including Route 460 and the Charlottesville Bypass, and the BiCounty Parkway should receive the same level of critical scrutiny. The evidence shows that the BiCounty Parkway and associated Dulles Cargo Highway would increase congestion in the areas south and west of the airport, and interfere with commuter travel by residents of Loudoun and western Prince William counties.  We have recommended a range of alternative projects, which would better serve the needs of residents and commuters.
The thing is, Gov. McAuliffe has generally been strong on smart growth so far, deserving major kudos for - as the Coalition for Smarter Growth statement notes - putting the brakes on the 460 boondoggle/scandal, as well as for his actions to stop the destructive, wasteful Charlottesville Bypass (Route 29) project. On the latter project, Gov. McAuliffe appointed a Route 29 task force which adopted many of the alternatives the smart growth community and the local community has long promoted (note: I'm told that "Places 29" was fully vetted and approved years ago, with local residents just insisting on implementation of longstanding and viable options), and these alternatives were voted into the 6-year plan on Wednesday. For more on this, see the Places29 plan.Given all this, why would Gov. McAuliffe lean towards support for the Bi-County sprawl road, particularly given: a) strong local opposition in Prince William County; b) Virginia's budget problems (just what we need, another road to spend large amounts of money on both to build AND to maintain for decades); and c) not to mention the urgent need for environmental reasons (global warming, anyone?) to move AWAY from fossil fuels ASAP, not lock in more fossil-fuel-reliant/intensive infrastructure for decades to come? My understanding is that Gov. McAuliffe's being pressured by the usual suspects -- MWAA, the Loudoun Chamber of Commerce, sprawl developers (as opposed to responsible developers who are committed to smart growth and transit-oriented development), etc. - who have emphasized unsubstantiated claims that Dulles Airport could claim a big share of East Coast air cargo, if only we do things like build this wasteful sprawl road. Don't think so. Gov. McAuliffe: please protect our tax dollars and the environment by rejecting this road to nowhere. Thanks.
P.S. Also, it's clear after his slam-down of Virginia Republicans today that Gov. McAuliffe has big-time cojones; he can certainly handle these sprawl developers.

Dominion Touts Investments in Solar Power in California While Blocking Solar Power in Virginia?

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Well, well, well, ain't this just lovely?
Dominion announced an agreement to acquire a 20-megawatt solar project from EDF Renewable Energy, one of North America's largest independent power producers and renewable energy project developers. The acquisition is expected to close later this year prior to the project commencing operations.The solar facility, called the CID solar project, is located in King's County, Californianear the City of Corcoran. The project has secured a 20-year Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) as well as the interconnection agreement and the engineering, procurement, construction (EPC) contract.
In April, Dominion announced the purchase of six other solar projects in California, totaling 139 megawatts. Those projects are currently under construction and are expected to be operational by late 2014.
The acquisition will bring Dominion's total solar generating portfolio to 232 megawatts. Along with the 159 megawatts for the California projects, the company recently obtained two Tennessee projects that will generate 32 megawatts and has 41 megawatts of solar energy facilities operating at sites in Georgia, Connecticut and Indiana.  The company also has various projects under development in Virginia as part of its Solar Partnership Program.
Great, so let's get this straight: Dominion Power is vehemently opposed to a mandatory renewable portfolio standard (RPS) for Virginia, and has been working to block one for years (e.g., by buying up our elected officials and flooding Richmond with their lobbyists), but they're investing like gangbusters in solar power in states like California which have....yep, aggressive, mandatory RPSs?!? Hypocrisy, thy name is Dominion Power!P.S. The newly-proposed EPA carbon pollution rules make it even more urgent that Dominion stop blocking progress in Virginia on energy efficiency, wind and solar power. But will they? Will anyone stand up to this powerful monopoly?
Discuss :: (0 Comments)

James Madison University's and Virginia's Shame

140619 JMUTonight was WHSV's third installment in a series indicting the James Madison University Administration for failing to take sexual assault seriously. Apparently the McAuliffe Administration fails to recognize the malfeasance that is evident or suffers the same hope that this will simply be forgotten. Suspend and investigate the administrators now!There is actually much more to be concerned about. Apparently Alger and his crew are completely unfamiliar with the characteristics and behaviors of sexual predators. Generally predators are serial violators. And when allowed to escape appropriate punishment are emboldened to continue, armed with more knowledge of the processes that might result in their apprehension. Predators are stalkers and sociopaths. If the JMU administrators believe that this was just a misunderstanding among friends who had too much to drink, then they are unqualified to protect the students in their charge. In fact, the behavior of those three men typifies that of a stalker who lays in wait for such an opportunity to present itself. It is very unlikely that this was their first or last such behavior. Every indication is that these men should be registered sex-offenders for the good of any community in which they reside. But JMU decided it is fine that they remain on campus despite the threat they present.

...with this verdict, myself, along with all the other females in the student body are torn down enormously. As a senior about to graduate in a few short weeks, I feel as though my last year has been tainted. I do not want to share a diploma with these three boys. I do not want to tell people I graduated from a school that thinks sexual assault and sexual harassment are acceptable. - excerpt from a letter to President Alger from a party to the school's investigation
Below the fold is the full letter to JMU President Alger from a friend of the victim that expresses frustration that the sexual assault of a student was taken so casually and dealt with so lightly. Like JMU advertises, "It's all about relationships."
There is an online petition demanding justice for the victim at
Dan Sullivan :: James Madison University's and Virginia's Shame
Dear President AlgerMy name is Allison Miller and I am writing to inform you how very disappointed I am to hear the ruling that the Judicial Office came to in a recent hearing about sexual assault and sexual harassment. I felt compelled to write to you because I am experiencing great frustration, as sexual assault and sexual harassment are two accusations that are not to be taken lightly. The hearing I am speaking of involved the accusing student Sarah Butters, who was charging Jay Dertzbaugh, Nick Scallion, and Mike Lunney with the aforementioned charges. As you may not know I am a close friend of Sarah's and was even a character witness in one of the three hearings she partook in. Sarah does not have any knowledge that I am writing to you. Sarah was sexually assaulted by the three boys mentioned last spring break (2013) in Panama City Beach, Florida. She was taken advantage of while under the influence of alcohol. The boys then video-taped the assault and sent it around throughout greek life and the JMU student body. Sarah was not aware of the video for a great deal after spring break. Upon finding out about the video, she met with judicial to learn what could be done. She was told as long as all of the parties involved were still currently students she could press charges through judicial. Sarah was encouraged to see all of her options and even seeked counseling through services here at JMU. She decided she wanted to go forward with the judicial proceedings over Christmas break of this year when the boy's suspension from their fraternity (Sigma Chi) was not enforced, when she realized she did not feel safe around them and did not receive the closure she felt necessary.
The countless hours I have spent with Sarah throughout this ordeal and the proceedings of the three judicial hearings has been enormously tough to put it simply. After the first hearing with judicial, all three boys were found responsible of sexual assault and harassment. The punishment given was expulsion after graduation. Sarah was told she could appeal if she was not satisfied with the ruling so she did. The second hearing found the three boys responsible again and this time ruled that all three would be expelled immediately. The three boys then appealed this ruling. The last judicial hearing ruled they were all responsible again, yet the sanctioning was sadly the same as the first hearing, expulsion after graduation. I am writing to you because this is not a sanctioning that fits the gravity of what these boys have done.
I grew up living an average, somewhat sheltered life, with my family in the suburbs of New Jersey. Growing up, having a father who was an attorney, I had never felt justice was out of my reach. I have held the strong believe that those in the wrong received punishment and those wronged received justice. Today, I felt a grave injustice. There was no justice served with the sanction that was awarded those three boys. I say awarded because they were given a gift. Who will sit with Sarah while she cries and questions what the point was of enduring all the pain that this process brought on? Who will make Sarah, myself and the rest of the female student body of JMU feel safe at this university?
I am an active member of my sorority; I was on the executive board the 2013 year, held a job on campus 2012-2013 at Madison Connection and I partake in many on campus activities. As a former Madison Connection caller, I was in contact with an extensive amount of alumni daily and established great rapport with many. I am sure the alumnae I spoke with would be appalled to hear what was going on at this university currently. I speak for not only myself but numerous other members of the student body when I say I do not and will not feel safe with these boys at James Madison University. They have been not only found guilty of sexual assault and harassment three times but were once even told their punishment was expulsion immediately. These are not good people, and I would hope this is not the "Madison Way". As someone who truly, loves this school immensely with my entire heart, James Madison has wronged me, every other woman, and every other student on this campus today. My heart is broken by what my school is telling me and the message that is sent to young women. I have always been encouraged to be an independent, strong, female; my strengths have been fostered here at this institution these past four years but with this verdict, myself, along with all the other females in the student body are torn down enormously. As a senior about to graduate in a few short weeks, I feel as though my last year has been tainted. I do not want to share a diploma with these three boys. I do not want to tell people I graduated from a school that thinks sexual assault and sexual harassment are acceptable. I have heard of universities sweeping matters "under the rug", but not once did I think it would be my university. I held JMU to a higher standard, I was under the impression JMU wanted to create students who would go on to become enlightened citizens. How can we be these enlightened citizens you speak of if we are crushed when we stand up for ourselves?
Throughout this entire judicial process I can tell you what I have learned. Today I have learned, if you are sexually assaulted and a woman, it is better to not stand up for yourself. I learned if you are sexually assaulted, even if there is a video of the incident, there still will not be enough proof. I learned if you are sexually assaulted by three males who come from a privileged background, then it is too bad for you, they get the punishment easiest for them. My heart aches for my school and for my friend. James Madison University I have been truly knocked down and stomped on. How will you explain this outcome to a female close to you? I am sure you are aware of the statistics, individuals who have been sexually assaulted have higher rates of depression, suicide, drug and alcohol abuse, and the list goes on. Recently, with Obama's task force to help prevent sexual assaults on campuses across America I would hope James Madison University steps up and realizes they have made an enormous mistake. The system needs to be stripped and changed before anyone can feel safe on this campus.
Thank you,
Allison Miller
Communication Sciences and Disorders 2014
Sigma Kappa Sorority
VP Philanthropic Services 2013
Madison Connection Phonathon Caller 2012-2013
While we wait for some word from the Governor, the Education Department is leaning forward. Three universities in Virginia are currently under investigation.

Video: John "GET OFF MY LAWN" McCain Calls Tim Kaine a Liar on Iraq

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

So sayeth the (not) great and (un)wise Sen. John "GET OFF MY LAWN!!!" McCain.
...I don't think [President Obama] has to have...[Congress'] permission [to use military force in Iraq]. We woke up one morning some years ago you might remember, Judy, and found out that Ronald Reagan had decided to invade a small island nation called Grenada. But look, I want to get back to what Sen. Kaine said. I don't what he heard anybody give in a speech, and I don't know how many times he's been to Iraq if ever. I've been there more times than I can count. Lindsey Graham and I in direct conversation with Maliki, after direct conversation with Barzani, after direct conversation with Allawi, they were all ready to deal. And it is a fact...that the number of troops that we were proposing cascaded down to 3,000 when it had been recommended to be 20,000, and by that time the leader, especially Maliki, decided it wasn't worth the problem. So, what Sen. Kaine is saying is just totally false. In fact it's a lie, because Lindsey Graham and I were there and we know what happened, because we were there face to face, and the administration would never give a troop strength number...
Bottom line, John McCain is completely off the deep end. It's sad, because he used to be a voice of moderation and reason back in the 1990s, but that John McCain is loooong gone. Just thank whatever deity you worship, if any, that McCain never became President, let alone his evil village idiot running mate Sarah Palin becoming VP. Oh, and speaking of evil village idiots, can the corporate news media PLEASE stop giving this foaming-at-the-mouth maniac a platform to, well, foam at the mouth? P.S. While we're on the subject, why on earth is Dick Cheney, a man so evil and crazy that he makes John McCain look like Abraham Lincoln, not writing his op-eds about Iraq in the Wall Street Journal from a prison cell (yes, right wingnuts, torture is a war crime and a violation of everything America stands for)?

James Madison University Administration #Fail

by Dan Sullivan

JMU Code of Conduct photo 140618JMUSexualAssault_zpsdc24a39a.jpgLess than two weeks ago Senator Mark Warner was asked a question about how to address sexual violence against women on campus. He pointed to the Administrations as the place where a culture that enforces appropriate behavior begins. A WHSV report does not reflect well on JMU's.In the first of a three part series that began airing last night and continues tonight and tomorrow, a former JMU student tells her story of assault at the hands of three other JMU students while on Spring break in Florida. These were men that she considered her friends and whose video of the assault filtered through the internet before she was fully aware of what happened.

"I'm clearly like not really able to defend myself or fight them off," said Butters, "We were in an enclosed bathroom. It was three of them surrounding me and none of them thought they were doing anything wrong."
But the Administration was slow to act. The event occurred in March 2013 and was reported but the case did not seem to gain any attention until last fall. By the time the three members of the JMU Sigma Chi fraternity were admonished, they had earned their degrees and were allowed to graduate.
Their punishment: expelled upon graduation; not allowed to walk at graduation or allowed back on campus ... but graduated nonetheless.
This ball is not in Senator Warner's court now. This hot potato is Governor McAuliffe's. It is time for him to expel some of the administrators at JMU.  

Video: Sen. Donald McEachin Gives Superb Speech on His Fight with Cancer and for Medicaid Expansion

This past Thursday, Virginia Republicans continued to wage their bizarre, relentless, and unfortunately effective (at least so far) war aimed at denying health care coverage for hundreds of thousands of Virginians while sending millions of dollars a day of our hard-earned tax dollars to other states. Other than Obama Derangement Syndrome and a deathly fear of being primaries by someone even MORE extreme than they are, this obviously makes no sense. But clearly, Virginia Republicans - as opposed to Republicans in many other states, who have moved to expand Medicaid where they live - are not open to reason, or even to heart-rending, passionate, emotional arguments by one of their most respected Democratic colleagues, Sen. Donald McEachin, who here recounts his battle with rectal cancer, and how that demonstrates the absolutely critical, life-or-death importance for people to have access to high-quality, affordable health care. What's perhaps most maddening is the breathtaking hypocrisy of Republicans with state-funded healthcare coverage for themselves and their families voting to deny coverage to hundreds of thousands of their fellow Virginians, including many in their own districts. Apparently, these people care a LOT more about their political futures than about their fellow Virginians, let alone morality, compassion, what Jesus preached, etc. Anyway, thank you to Donald McEachin for speaking out for those without voices in the corridors of power, and for courageously sharing his own personal, painful story. Shame on Republicans for not listening to him and instead for hardening their hearts, closing their minds, and voting their own narrow political interests.

A few thoughts on VA-07 and Cantor's primary defeat

Monday, June 16, 2014

by Rachel Levy

(So true: "The national media seems to be conducting themselves a lot like, well, the Cantor campaign. They don't do any research or talk to people who actually write about or live or vote in the places their covering." - promoted by lowkell)

Hey Blue Virginians!
As a VA-07 resident, here I have been blogging and commenting about Eric Cantor, not to mention bugging Lowell every time there has been the slightest challenge to the Congressman, and I spaced on posting this here when I wrote it a few days ago. Well, better late than never.
Here were my immediate thoughts on the VA-07 and Eric Cantor's primary defeat the morning after it happened as originally posted on my blog All Things Education: 
Yesterday, David Brat defeated Eric Cantor in the Republican primary election for the congressional seat in Virginia's 7th district. I live in the 7th district. I happen to also be married to a Randolph-Macon college professor--that is where Dave Brat is a college professor and also where Jack Trammell--the Democratic candidate. Because I have statistics homework to finish, I don't have time to put my thoughts together in any sort of cohesive manner. So here they are in all of their in-cohesive glory:
  • First of all, a bit of an I told you so. Many of our national pundits keep saying that "No one saw this coming." While this is certainly unexpected, I wouldn't say "no one say it coming." Instead I would say that the national media, like Eric Cantor's campaign, did not see it coming. Many locals did see it coming. Even I wrote a post two years ago that summarized Cantor's vulnerability (though I published the post several months later.) And a month ago  local bloggers were still emphasizing Cantor's unpopularity. And so was I:
I have long said that Cantor is not popular in his district, just a Republican. Pass the popcorn, indeed. #VA07 #EricCantor — Rachel Levy (@RachelAnneLevy) May 11, 2014
  • Second, while certainly Brat's victory is somewhat about immigration (and let's face it, bigotry)--a component of Brat's campaign platform is anti-immigrant, that was not the beginning or the end of why Brat won.

  • As I said here, Eric Cantor is notoriously unpopular in his district. He's not accessible to his constituents and he doesn't much care about them. He takes them for granted, treating them like a rich uncle you have to have dinner with occasionally if you want to keep receiving the checks, only in this case it's votes. He's a Republican in a very conservative district which up until now had no challengers. That's all.
  • Say what you will about his political and economic views, and I think we all know that I don't agree with the vast majority of them, but Dave Brat is accessible and he hit the pavement during this campaign. He is happy to sit and explain his views to you, no matter who you are, in great detail. He will talk to anyone who will listen--whether at Estes, the Randolph Macon dining hall, at lunch time or on a campaign stop. He met with any group that asked and entertained any question that was asked. And remember, he is a teacher; it's his job to explain.
  • Furthermore, driving around the area of the 7th district where I live in recent months, I have seen clusters of Brat supporters waving signs and chanting--I've seen them in Hanover where I live, in the city of Richmond, and in Chesterfield. All of the kids on my sons' soccer team know who David Brat is because they have driven past these clusters and asked their parents, "Who is Dave Brat and why does he want to fire Cantor?" I know I have had this conversation several times with my own children. At this point, they probably know more about this primary than the national media did.
  • While Dave Brat actually talked to the constituents he was courting, Eric Cantor's campaign was sending out glossy mailers and putting up posters and lawn signs. That's it: mailers and lawn signs. Otherwise, he kept his distance from the little people. When you actually talk to and listen the people you are hoping to represent, it makes a difference. As political science professor and Associate Dean Lauren Bell said, "to borrow from Roll Call's assessment of Oklahoma Democrat Mike Synar's 1994 loss in the primary, Eric Cantor's loss tonight demonstrates that 'there's a limit to the number of times you can tell your constituents to go screw themselves' "
  • Quoting Roll Call 1994: Cantor's loss proves "there's a limit to the number of times you can tell your constituents to go screw themselves." — Lauren C. Bell (@rmcpsci) June 11, 2014
  • The national media seems to be conducting themselves a lot like, well, the Cantor campaign. They don't do any research or talk to people who actually write about or live or vote in the places their covering. This is a problem that applies not just to this topic but to so many others (ahem, education reform).
  • Eric Cantor vastly outspent David Brat. Organizations such as like the Bold Progressives are right to see this as a sign that Big Money is not necessarily destined to win. Leftist and populist progressive Democrats did very well in recent primaries.
  • #Cantor loss shows big money can be defeated! Now defeat House Repubs in Nov #VA07 — (@BoldProgressive) June 11, 2014 
  • While David Brat is more accessible, and is anti-elitist, anti-NSA, and anti-Wall Street corruption, he is also anti-government. In other words, he is no Elizabeth Warren. At the root, he is a true believer in the magic of the free market. He was especially against Cantor because Cantor is a crony capitalist and crony capitalism impedes a truly free market.
  • Progressives, rather than getting stuck on complaining about how awful the Tea Party is and how depressing it is a candidate to the right of Cantor won, support and give money to the progressive candidate in this election, Jack Trammel.
  • How great is it that the race in the VA-07 is between two liberal arts college professors, teachers, who read and write books. Think about that for a minute.
  • ONE MORE THOUGHT (added later): I don't have numbers on this but Virginia has open primaries and I know a few Democrats and Independents who voted for Brat simply in protest of Cantor. As I said, no one in the 7th likes Cantor.

What Happened in Patrick Hope's HoD District Between the 5/1 BV Poll and the Primary?

Having looked at Alexandria and specifically at Adam Ebbin's State Senate district the other day, I wanted to finish revisiting our May 1 Blue Virginia poll results, focusing this time on Patrick Hope's 47th House of Delegates district. As you can see, the Blue Virginia poll had Hope leading by a 2:1 margin over Don Beyer in Hope's 47th House of Delegates district. Around 28% of voters in the district remained undecided as of May 1, with about 8% of the vote scattered among Adam Ebbin (3.2%), Lavern Chatman (1.8%), two candidates (Bruce Shuttleworth and Charniele Herring) who ended up dropping out (2.2% combined), and Mark Levine at 0.9%. What happened between May 1 and the election on June 10?See the graph below for the final 8th CD primary election results in the 47th House of Delegates district. What ended up happening was that Del. Hope basically kept his share in his own district, going from 44% in the May 1 BV poll to 45% in the final results (definitely within any conceivable "margin of error" on that one!). Meanwhile, Don Beyer picked up 14 percentage points, going from 21% on May to 35% in the actual election. To me, that's fascinating and a bit surprising, as I would have expected the undecided voters to break more towards a "new" candidate, perhaps Mark Levine (or Bruce Shuttleworth when he was in the race). Instead, it may have turned out that voters decided to go back to the candidate they perhaps saw as the "safe" choice, or who they remembered from when he was Lt. Governor, or from the Dean campaign or Obama administration or whatever.
Also, I talked to Hope campaign manager Ben Tribbett, and he pointed to the Washington Post's May 24 endorsement of Beyer as accounting for most, if not all, of Beyer's gain in Hope's district. Basically, in Tribbett's view, a lot of voters in Hope's district liked both Hope AND Beyer, were trying to decide between those two candidates, and the Post endorsement was the tie-breaker in favor of Beyer (if it had been the other way around, Hope probably would have won his district by a significantly wider margin than he did, in Tribbett's view). Seems like a reasonable explanation to me, albeit kind of a pathetic one, given my almost complete lack of respect for the Post's editorial board or its Virginia endorsement "process" (in quotes because it's a complete joke; it's also really just one guy, Lee Hockstader, who never even comes to Virginia to cover any events).
What about the other candidates, besides Hope and Beyer? They went from a combined 8% of the vote in the 47th House of Delegates district on May 1 to 20% of the vote in the actual election, an increase of 12 points combined. Most of those votes went to Ebbin (9%) and Levine (6%), who received a combined 15% of the vote in Hope's House district. Ebbin gained about 6 points from the May 1 Blue Virginia poll, while Levine increase by about 5 points. Of course, the 28% undecided made up their minds who to vote for, or decided not to vote. It appears that Beyer picked up almost all his extra 14 points out of those 28 points. The remaining 13.5 percentage points of the undecideds, plus the 2.2% for the two candidates who ended up dropping out, were mostly distributed to Ebbin and Levine.
P.S. Ben Tribbett also pointed out that Hope performed the worst in precincts where he had never really run a competitive race, following 2011 redistricting. For instance, Beyer won the Park Lane district by a 106-58 margin over Hope.

Can We Even Reason With People Like This?!?

This tweet, by 2013 Republican Lt. Governor candidate (and former Chairman of the Stafford County Board of Supervisors) Susan Stimpson, is a perfect example of why it's almost impossible to reason with Republicans these days. For starters, to paraphrase Daniel Patrick Moynihan, they simply operate off their own set of "facts," better known as "demonstrable, verifiable falsehoods." For instance, Stimpson in this tweet is clearly arguing that Virginia Democrats never "compromise" (not sure why she puts the word in air quotes) with Virginia Republicans, yet again, it's a demonstrable FACT that Virginia Democrats have compromised with Virginia Republicans on pretty much everything for...well, forever, pretty much.The reason? Simple: Republicans have controlled the Virginia House of Delegates since 2000 (by huge margins during most of that period), which has meant that compromise was absolutely required to get anything done. In addition, of course, Republicans controlled all levers of Virginia government for much of the period from January 2010 through the end of 2013.
So, obviously, Virginia Democrats have had to compromise over the years - or even completely give in - on issues ranging from transportation to taxes/spending to redistricting to energy/environment to women's reproductive health to LGBT equality to Medicaid expansion to...basically everything. Yet in Susan Stimpson's world, and in the world of many people who think like Susan Stimpson, Democrats have never "compromised" (again, not sure why she feels compelled to use the air quotes, other than the very concept of compromise disgusts her). Which, of course, couldn't be further from the truth. Which brings us back to the headline of this post: can we even reason with people like this?  

Virginia Republicans Seem Determined to Foil the Future

Saturday, June 14, 2014

by Dan Sullivan It isn’t just Medicaid expansion that has been obstructed by “conservatives.” As Staunton School Board member Joel Grogan points out, the new state budget sets funding for schools at pre-2009 levels. The economic impact of this epic legislative failure washes over the future of Virginia. This is McDonnell’s leadership legacy. Whether GOP legislators want to believe it or not, Virginia education is already in crisis. Grogan discussed the departure of Waynesboro High School Teacher of the Year Josh Waldron. After six years of teaching, this accomplished young man is taking home only $100 a month more than when he started.
”The job, though, is about much more. And I have very real concerns about the sustainability of public education in Waynesboro (and as a whole).” – Josh Waldron in his personal blog
Grogan wishes that the organization that represents school board issues hadn’t shied away from the Medicaid expansion issue. He was told that they had to stay away from it because the organization is nonpartisan. But this, he says, is not a political issue; it’s a moral issue and an economic issue. He argues it is a myth that this is a political issue, pointing out that there are about a dozen states with Republican Governors and legislatures that have either found a way to expand Medicaid or are on the way to it. Even in Virginia, a traditionally conservative organization, the State Chamber of Commerce, favors expansion, proving it isn’t a left and right issue. This expansion will create 33,000 jobs. At least Staunton’s Republican state Senator, Emmett Hanger, has broken ranks to plow a path toward a special session that can consider expansion. That means that the battle is not over. Grogan calls for remaining positive and holding our delegates’ feet to the fire on this issue.