RPV Treasurer Bob FitzSimmonds Keeps On Digging...

Thursday, July 31, 2014

(UPDATE: He's reportedly offering his resignation. On second he's not! ("I have no plans to resign now or in the future") - promoted by lowkell)

When it comes to RPV Treasurer Bob FitzSimmonds, apparently, he doesn't believe in following the eternally helpful advice that if you're in a hole, the first thing to do is stop digging. As we pointed out yesterday in breaking the story of FitzSimmonds' bigotry towards Muslims, Sikhs, Animists, Jainists, etc., this is the same guy who made the infamous "sexist tw**" comment, as well as many other crazy comments in this interview. Yet the guy doesn't seem to learn that when he opens his mouth, insertion of his foot is almost certain to follow, as night follows day and summer follows spring. Now, he's chiming in yet again on his Facebook page (see screen shot), this time defending his bigoted remarks by claiming that "Muslims were not around in the 1700s" to help "build the very fabric of our nation," as President Obama said. Of course, President Obama didn't specify the 1700s, and of course it's beyond moronic to claim that the fabric of our nation was only built in the 1700s. So, my Jewish immigrant ancestors, who arrive here in the early 1900s, didn't help build the fabric of our nation?  And all the Irish immigrants who arrived here in the late 1800s? And all the immigrants from all over the world, of all different races and religions, who've arrived here for hundreds of years? Gotcha, Bob. Ugh.As for his specific point about there not being any Muslims in American in the 1700s, in fact "an estimated 10% of the slaves brought to colonial America from Africa arrived as Muslims," although "Islam was stringently suppressed on plantations." So yeah, Muslims (and also many animists, which a lot of Africans were at that time) helped build the very fabric of our nation, through their blood, sweat and tears, even if Republicans like Bob FitzSimmonds won't acknowledge their contribution.
Meanwhile, why has the Republican Party of Virginia booted this guy out yet? Because: a) they agree with him; b) they're afraid of offending the bigots who DO agree with him; c) they're utterly incompetent; or d)) all of the above?

UVA Moves to Limit Criticism, Dissent by "Visitors?"

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Late last night, The Daily Progress reported on a draft "'statement of expectations' scheduled for discussion Wednesday would limit public dissent by members of the Board of Visitors at the University of Virginia." The Daily Progress article further notes:
The draft comes after about six months of discussion on a range of issues still hanging over the board in the wake of the 2012 firing and rehiring of President Teresa A. Sullivan. Board members have been looking for a way to ease some of the divisions that may have led a faction of powerful members - led by Helen E. Dragas, who was rector at that time - to oust the popular president...Several board members have expressed frustration with visitors who publicly criticize board decisions at every turn...
To read the draft "Statement of Expectations," click here. Key points include:*"Visitors shall not, without the prior consent of the Rector or President, initiate communication with elected or appointed public officials at the local, state, or federal level, on matters related to the University of Virginia."
*"Visitors should not contact staff independently."
*"When a Visitor substantially disagrees with management's proposal or plans to recommend a notably different course of action, the Visitor should provide as much advance notice as possible to the Rector, the relevant committee chair, the President, or senior officer as appropriate."
*"When asked by the press, media, public officials, or citizens at-large to speak on behalf of the Board or the University or to publicly assess Board decisions, whether past, present, or imminent, Visitors should always demur unless specifically authorized by the Rector to be a spokesperson."
*"Once decisions are reached... Visitors shall publicly support, or at the very least not openly oppose, the Board's action."
I contacted the UVA press office for comment, and was told that the "committee today met and discussed this draft," that "[n]o
vote was taken," and that the "committee will gather more revisions and then the revised draft will be presented to the full Board of Visitors for consideration later this year." The UVA spokesperson, Charles McGregor McCance, further notes that recently-passed Virginia legislation "actually requires all public universities in Virginia to develop and approve a code of ethics or code of conduct for Boards of Visitors."
Finally, in response to a source of mine who asserted that "this lands squarely in George Martin's lap, and is all about efforts to raise tuition beyond the reach of lower and middle-class income kids," Mr. McCance responded:
I can tell you that none of this is tied to tuition increases, tuition prices or any specific policy. It relates to improved governance at U.Va. and other public colleges, and is why this is emerging from the Special Committee on Governance here. The comments provided to you regarding George Martin and tuition are simply off target and incorrect assumptions or claims.
So, bottom line, I'm not sure what's really going on here, but it's certainly an interesting turn of events. What are you hearing?

On Issue After Issue, Americans Support the Democratic/Progressive Position

I feel like a broken record on this, but I keep hearing offhand comments about how this is really a "center-right country," or how most Americans are not progressives, or how today's Democratic Party (centrist or even center-right by historical standards, let alone by the standards of other developed countries) is "super liberal," "socialist," blah blah blah.In reality, of course, America today has a centrist party (the Democrats), a hard-right party (the Republicans), and an right-wing extremist rump "party" (the "Tea Party"). In stark contrast, European countries generally have a wide political spectrum from far left (Communist) to left (Socialist) to center-left (Social Democrats) to center-right (Christian Democrats) to right-wing extremist (the National Front, UKIP). Of course, even the center-right parties in Europe generally favor clean energy, unions, universal health care, strict gun control, etc. - totally different than here in the U.S. With that, let's take a look at the most recent polling, courtesy of, to demonstrate beyond a shadow of a doubt that the American people support a long line of progressive policies, and pretty much no conservative policies to speak of.
It's also worth noting that those of us who write at this blog - including "Teddy Roosevelt Progressives" like me, who grew up basically a progressive Republican in the Jacob Javits/Lowell Weicker/John Chaffee mode - are in the (strong) majority on basically everything. No, it doesn't fit the stereotype of right wingers out there, or the corporate media which loves its "both sides" false equivalencies. But it nonetheless remains a factual statement.
*Global Warming: By a 58%-30% margin, Americans believe that "the federal government should limit the release of greenhouse gases from existing power plants."
*EPA Carbon Rules: By a 67%-29% margin, Americans support the EPA setting "strict carbon dioxide emission limits on existing coal-fired power plants with a goal to reduce emissions significantly by the year 2030."
*Clean Energy/Dirty Energy: By a 59%-31% margin, Americans support "alternative energy" over "oil, gas and coal." By a 41%-31% margin, Americans believe we should put LESS emphasis on coal, compared to 76%-10% who believe we should put MORE emphasis on solar and 71%-12% who say we should put MORE emphasis on wind.
*Gun Laws: By a 92%-7% margin, Americans support "requiring background checks for all gun buyers." By a 54%-9% margin, Americans believe that "laws covering the sale of guns should be made more strict" as opposed to "less strict."  By a 63%-34% margin, Americans OPPOSE more "teachers and school officials having guns in schools." By a 54%-42% margin, Americans support a "ban on assault-style weapons." Etc, etc.
*Obamacare: 40% favor it and 17% oppose it because it's not liberal enough, for a combined 57% who support Obamacare or want it to go (much) further. Only 38% oppose it because it's "too liberal."
*Same-Sex Marriage: By a 56%-38% margin, Americans support "allowing gays and lesbians to marry legally."
*Abortion: 40% say abortion should be legal "always" or "in most circumstances," with another 38% saying it should be legal in "a few circumstances." Just 20% say it should be "always illegal."
*Contraception: Americans overwhelmingly support contraception access, including a 53%-41% margin saying that "employers who object to birth control and other contraceptives on religious grounds...should not be exempt from the requirement that their health plans cover prescription birth control."
*Immigration: Only 22% of Americans favor deportation of "immigrants who are currently living in the U.S. illegally." In contrast, 58% of Americans support "allow[ing] them a way to become citizens provided they meet certain requirements." By a 65%-31% margin, Americans support the bipartisan, comprehensive immigration bill passed by the Senate and being held up by the Republican-controlled House of Representatives that "llowed foreigners staying illegally in the United States the opportunity to eventually become legal American citizens if they pay a fine, any back taxes, pass a security background check, and take other required steps."
*Minimum Wage: By a 71%-28% margin, Americans overwhelmingly support raising the minimum wage.
*Social Security: By a 73%-21% margin, Americans "think the benefits from Social Security are worth the cost of the program for taxpayers." And by a 51%-37% margin, Americans OPPOSE "hanging the way Social Security benefits are calculated so that benefits increase at a slower rate than they do now."
*Labor Unions: By a 54%-39% margin, Americans approve of labor unions.
*Campaign Financing: By huge margins, Americans support " limiting the amount of money individuals can contribute to political campaigns" (71%-25%), and limiting spending by "groups not affiliated with a candidate" (76%-22%).
Also see GOP's 30-year spin job is over: Why we are not a center-right nation for a few more interesting poll results.
*"69 percent of Americans oppose any cuts to Social Security or Medicare, even in order to cut the deficit, while only 23 percent support such cuts.
*"Between 60 percent and 80 percent of Americans support increasing taxes on the wealthy."
*"58 percent of Americans support legalizing marijuana, while only 39 percent support continued criminalization."
*"62 percent of Americans support the Paycheck Fairness Act - which seeks to close the gender-based wage gap - while only 29 percent of Americans oppose the act."
*" 66 percent of Americans support stronger EPA air regulations, 72 percent support stronger carbon-emission."
Bottom line: on issue after issue after issue, progressives aren't just in the majority, but the LARGE majority in most cases. Conservatives, on issue after issue after issue, are not just in the minority, but in the small minority in most cases. Which raises the question yet again, how do conservatives ever win elections? For that, see books like "What's the Matter with Kansas?" and movies like Boogie Man: The Lee Atwater Story. In short, it's about the Republicans relentlessly (and skillfully, and with huge amounts of money) preying on resentment, fear, anger, ignorance, and intolerance. Also note that the corporate media has, for years, completely failed to do its job of reporting the truth. Instead, they have been bullied by loud and belligerent right wingers into "reporting" false equivalency nonsense on issue after issue (e.g., there are NOT "two sides" to climate science). Other than that, it seems to me, we would have had all the policies listed above, supported by strong majorities of the American people, a long time ago.

Rest in Peace to Our Friend, Fellow Blogger and Progressive Warrior Teddy Goodson

Monday, July 28, 2014

I just wanted to pass along the news I received a little while ago from Del. David Bulova (D-Fairfax) that our friend Teddy Goodson passed away yesterday after a long illness (she hadmoved to Texas in September 2013, I believe for health reasons and to be closer to her family). According to Del. Bulova, there will be a service in late August. Here's some video of Teddy from March 6, 2011, as she accepts the Fred Silverthorne Community Service Award at the 11th Congressional District Awards Luncheon at Vespucci's in Fairfax City, Virginia. A well-deserved honor. As Teddy wrote at the time:
I didn't become a Democrat because I like stuffing envelopes or phone banking. In 2004 I left the Republicans and became a Democrat because of ideas and values---- I despised what the Republican Party was becoming, and felt the Democrats generally had better ideas and values.As it happens, though, I also have found that elected Democrats do not always honor those ideas and values once they are in office and engaging in the give-and-take of politics, nor do they always listen to the ideas from their "base," (which tends to cling to those Democratic values and ideas). We, the so-called base, or grassroots, is too often taken for granted by our Establishment leaders...Time for that to change, folks.
For those of us who knew Teddy Goodson well (I first met her in 2005, during the Kaine-Kilgore race, when I was told - by Sam Penney, if I recall correctly - that someone named "Teddy Goodson" - a woman, not a  man, I'd soon find out - would be a great addition to the blog!), that's vintage Teddy Goodson right there. If you're interested in reading a lot more of what Teddy had to say, here's a link to her Blue Virginia diaries, and here's one to her comments. Also,click here for Teddy's posts on Raising Kaine/RK. The first time she posted it was On Limousine Liberals, Cadillac Conservatives, and Four-Letter Words, which began: "Oh joy.  As a former, long-time Republican, I have received yet another campaign letter from Jerry Kilgore, begging for my financial support in the race for Governor of Virginia. Of course, since I am no longer a Republican (by the way, the party left me, I didn't leave the party!), I'm not interested. But even if I were still a Republican, this letter would be a turnoff.  What a nonsensical mishmash!" Again, that's Teddy to a "T," who morphed from a Republican, hopefully of the progressive variety (yes, there used to be such a thing as a "Progressive Republican," including my hero - and Teddy's - President Teddy Roosevelt) to a progressive warrior. And no, you didn't want to get on the wrong side of that warrior, but you most certainly DID want to be on her side of any battle!Another classic Teddy Goodson post was Ex-Republican at Democratic Boot Camp, about which she wrote: "I knew instantly I was NOT in a staid Republican gathering, as I did not see even one coiffed and manicured, mascara-tipped lady; even one self-important stuffed shirt of any kind, sucking up to more important stuffed shirts. In contrast, I saw a magnificent cross section of today's America -- all colors, all ages, all kinds of dress (except no buttoned-down shirts)."
Anyway, there's a lot more to say about Teddy Goodson, and I'm sure that many of us will say it, but for now, I mostly just wanted to pass on the sad, albeit not unexpected, news.

Statements on Ruling in Bostic v. Rainey Case Striking Down Virginia Gay Marriage Ban

I'm posting here because the Soapblox network of progressive state blogs has been down most of the day, but great news for human equality today in Virginia! Del. "Sideshow Bob" Marshall,  author of the anti-gay-marriage amendment befouling our constitution, must be crying right now; such a shame, huh?  :)

With that, here's Gov. McAuliffe's statement on the Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals’ ruling in Bostic v. Rainey striking down Virginia’s ban on gay marriage: 
“I am overjoyed by the news that, as a result of today’s ruling, Virginia will become a state where two people who love each other can get married regardless of their sexual orientation. This is a historic ruling for our Commonwealth, and its effect will affirm once again that Virginia is a state that is open and welcoming to all.  
“I want to thank Attorney General Mark Herring for his leadership in this case, and all of the men and women who fought for years to make this day a reality. Progress does not always come as quickly as we hope it will, but today is yet another example of how justice, equality and the people who fight for those values will always persevere in the end.”
Next, here's Sen. Mark Warner's statement:
 “I am so happy that yet another federal court agrees that Virginia’s ban on gay marriage is unconstitutional,” Sen. Warner said. “Allowing people to marry who they love is the right thing to do, and it also strengthens our families and our communities. Virginia should be a welcoming place for all, and I am very pleased at the rapid progress toward marriage equality that we’re seeing in Virginia and around the country.”

I Was Puzzled Why We Can't Have Dedicated Transit Lanes on Columbia Pike, So I Looked Into It...

Sunday, July 27, 2014

In the debate over the proposed Columbia Pike streetcar system, one of the only things that both sides (pro-streetcar and anti-streetcar) appear to have agreed upon to date is that we can't have "dedicated lanes" on Columbia Pike. For pro-"Bus Rapid Transit" (BRT) people, that's a fatal problem of course (even if they won't admit it for whatever strange reason), since true (let alone high-quality) BRT by definitionrequires a dedicated/exclusive, BRT-only lane. Ergo: no dedicated lane on Columbia Pike (or wherever)=no possibility of BRT on Columbia Pike (or wherever). Just wanted to get that red herring out of the way at the outset...Meanwhile, for streetcar proponents, the lack of a dedicated lane is perhaps not optimal, all else being equal - although Matthew Yglesias appears to overstate the case by a wide margin, I do agree that we shouldn't kowtow to cars at the expense of either streetcar or BRT or any other form of transit. And yes, I've always assumed that if we could have dedicated lanes on Columbia Pike, it would be superior to putting the streetcar in mixed-use traffic lanes with buses, cars, etc. A no brainer, right? Well, now that I've looked into it, including emails with current and former Arlington County Board members, I'm in fact leaning towards the conclusion that it doesn't really matter much, one way or the other. I'll explain my reasoning, and lay out my research, below.
Again, per Matt Yglesias' article, my main question was why can't we have a dedicated lane on Columbia Pike anyway? Is there some technical issue here? Legal? What? I asked around, and got some answers, and got some contradictory information. Here's what I initially was told by an excellent source who has been closely involved with planning for Columbia Pike over many years.
1. "Short answer: Commonwealth of Virginia won't permit [a dedicated lane on Columbia Pike]. {That was] part of the conditions when Arlington took control of the road."
2. "Incidentally, modeling done during the transit planning analysis indicated little benefit from addition of lanes for transit, mostly because east-west flow is really pretty good on the Pike."
OK, well that sounds innocuous enough. It's also fascinating that an analysis showed little benefit to running the streetcar in dedicated lanes over mixed-use lanes.
Suitably curious, I then proceeded to look up the Memorandum of Agreement between Arlington County and the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT), signed and approved in late September 2010. The key language appears to be as follows (also see screen shot above right):

*The County "shall continue to provide, except during temporary lane closures related to construction, repair and maintenance, no less than two through travel lanes in each direction along Columbia Pike from South Joyce Street to South Jefferson Street, unless the County has received prior approval from the Department authorizing a reduction in the number of through travel lanes...'through travel lanes' shall mean lanes which: 1) are available for all modes of transportation, including without limitation, cars, trucks, buses, streetcars and bicycles..."*VDOT shall "[w]ithhold maintenance payments for the entire section of Columbia Pike if the number of through travel reduced to less than the number required by this Agreement, except during temporary lane closures related to construction, repair and maintenance."
Now that part confused me, as Arlington County states that it already "will be responsible for additional maintenance and operating expenses estimated to cost $660,000 annually." So what would Arlington lose if it reneged on the deal regarding no dedicated lanes?
More importantly, what I didn't understand was why Arlington County couldn't simply request "prior approval from [VDOT] authorizing a reduction in the number of through travel lanes," as per the Memorandum of Agreement. Perhaps that wouldn't have been a wise option back in 2010, when Arlington-unfriendly and transit-unfriendly Republican Gov. McDonnell was in charge, but what about now that the Virginia Governor's Mansion is controlled by the Democrats? Has Arlington inquired about this to Gov. McAuliffe's team? If so, what was the answer? If not, why not?
So, again, I asked around, and I got answers. First, here's a fairly lengthy response from the same, extremely-well-informed source I mentioned earlier (bolding added by me for emphasis):
...the Board wanted control over the Pike because it was taking years and adding unnecessary expense to do anything to improve the street:  Like the pedestrian crosswalk on the east end, which we were installing and paying for, that took close to 4 years to work through the VDOT bureaucracy for routine approvals.  The County Manager and staff came to the conclusion that making the Pike into a pedestrian-oriented Main Street (one of the principal goals of the Columbia Pike initiative, which as far as I know has near-universal support) would be impossible without local control. Streetcar or no streetcar, we needed local control. And so the Manager recommended (almost a decade ago) that Arlington seek control from the state.  (Note that the state was eager to do so; nonetheless, it took several years to negotiate with the barely-functional state bureaucracy.)As for maintenance funds, in recent years (decades, at this point), Northern Virginia localities have been spending their own money on state-controlled roads, because cash-strapped VDOT, which has generally worked to more rural standards, would never provide what our more urban, intense operating environments call for.  So, we've been spending our own money anyway, even as state funds dwindled. (With the extra cost to projects, to say nothing of the loss to the tax base caused by delays, I have long believed the county would be better off taking charge of all the local roads in Arlington.)  The truth is that for very little cost we gained important control, which ultimately will be a net fiscal benefit to Arlington.
While it was unfortunate that the state insisted on mandating the 4 lanes, the County had no intention to reduce them anyway. (Again, the modeling did not support doing so.)
The bit about the VDOT facility at the east end is just silly; that's not something that was on the table. It's the state's property, and they need it to service Shirley Highway and the other parts of the Interstate in the vicinity (which is in our interest, too).
The reason it's not going to the Pentagon is that DoD has not been interested in accommodating any additional transit facilities. (You may recall that they made great effort to push the bus access away from the building. We negotiated hard, and got help from then-Sen. John Warner, to ensure we still had a good regional transfer center. And this was before 9/11.)  We can always extend track on to the Pentagon compound, should the attitude of top brass change.  But it's not a matter of Arlington not wanting to go there.
And, of course, it's not an "Arlington only" project:  it's a joint Arlington-Fairfax project.
The bottom line, according to my source, is this: "Of course the County can request that the state rescind its condition for 4 vehicular lanes," but in short, it's not worth it, as "modeling showed a) there is relatively little time benefit to be gained from a transit-only lane in that portion of the alignment; and b) reducing to one through-lane would negatively impact the vehicular through-put (even with the addition of left-turn facilities)."I then asked Arlington County Board Chair Jay Fisette for comment, and here's what he had to say (again, bolding added by me for emphasis):
I have always said that getting a dedicated lane is the optimal situation for either a bus or streetcar. That said, both buses and streetcars often run in mixed traffic, and are designed to do so.On Columbia Pike, VDOT requires that Arlington maintain two travel lanes in each direction. This was part of our agreement when we took ownership from the State several years ago. VDOT feels very strongly about this.  Our professional staff agree that drivers do need access to both lanes, thus there is no point in asking VDOT for permission to dedicate a lane to transit.
A 2003 traffic study showed that dedicating a lane on the Pike to transit would significantly lengthen travel times for driversand would reduce the number of vehicles this route could serve to unacceptable levels. This report helped shape the recommendations of the Street Space Planning Task Force that issued their report recommendations in 2004. Widening the road to add transit only lanes would require expensive, uncertain and lengthy property acquisition, and would hurt small businesses and historic properties.
I hope that helps.
Yes, it does help actually - a great deal (thanks!). By the way, if you want to read the Columbia Pike Street Space Planning Task Force Report from February 2004, click here. The report confirms what I was told by my sources, that "exclusive transit lanes in the western part of Columbia Pike would provide no significant improvement in either transit or auto travel times compared to transit running in mixed traffic." In addition, "[t]he analysis also concluded that auto travel time would increase dramatically if confined to only one travel lane in each direction."Bottom line: Although it's theoretically possible to convert two mixed-use lanes on Columbia Pike to dedicated lanes for transit, by numerous accounts - including a full-fledged study of this issue, as noted above - it makes absolutely ZERO sense to do so, given the width or the road and other conditions of Columbia Pike. Of course, it should go without saying that this completely kills any idea of "BRT" on Columbia Pike, if that was ever taken seriously by anyone (not sure why it would have been, but a few folks keep bring it up). As for a streetcar, the report found that "the average speed on Columbia Pike ranged between 28 and 35 mph with the 85th percentile speed between 37 to 43 mph." This compares to the average speed of modern streetcars, which is "25 to 35 mph in mixed traffic on city streets, stopping at designated station platforms." Which is right in line with the observed traffic speeds on Columbia Pike, and if anything faster than what's considered desirable from a safety perspective in a heavy pedestrian environment. need for a dedicated streetcar lane if you don't need to go faster than 25-35 mph, regardless of everything else I found in my research. Case closed: no dedicated lane, no BRT, build the darn streetcar already, and reap the enormous Return on Investment!

Video: In Woodbridge, "Walking Mayor" Adam O'Neal (R-NC) Speaks Out on Need for Medicaid Expansion

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Mayor Adam O'Neal of Bellhaven, NC, a Republican who has been walking to Washington, DC in support of Medicaid expansion and health care for rural residents, arrives at an event on health care and Medicaid expansion at the Greater Prince William Community Health Center in Woodbridge, Virginia on Saturday, July 26, 2014. Attendees at the event included State Senator George Barker, Delegate Michael Futrell, Virginia New Majority, civil rights legend Bob Zellner, filmmakers Eric Byler and Annabel Park, and numerous others. I'll post more video tomorrow, as well as more discussion about this event, but for now, here's the moment when Mayor O'Neal and Bob Zellner arrived at the Health Center in Woodbridge. P.S. I checked Sunday morning and there was not a single article on this important event in Woodbridge yesterday, other than right here at Blue Virginia. That's right: for coverage of this, it's all "citizen journalists" like Eric Byler, Annabel Park, and yours truly - so much for the folks who are PAID to do this as their full-time "day jobs." I know, what else is new, but #FAIL

Video: Mayor Adam O'Neal (R-NC) Speaks Out on Health Care and Medicaid Expansion (0.00 / 0[delete comment]
A few highlights from O'Neal's remarks.*Introduces civil rights legend Bob Zellner, who worked with MLK, Jr. and Rosa Parks, was a leader of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, etc.
*Says they're walking because the state of North Carolina hasn't accepted Medicaid expansion, even though North Carolina taxpayers have already paid the money. That means $2 billion isn't coming into North Carolina, that reimbursements to hospitals for indigent care are falling, that rural hospitals - including "critical access hospitals" - are struggling to break even every year and big healthcare conglomerates are buying up these hospitals and closing them.
*In Bellhaven, the hospital was losing money, so a big health care conglomerate - Vidant Health - took over the hospital in September 2011. Vidant promised to strengthen and maintain the hospital, but instead they closed it down. Vidant made $109 million in 2013 and has over $500 million in reserves, even though it's a non profit, and they want to close a critical-access hospital??!? "That's wrong, that's why you have laws." "We've had our health care stolent."
*Provides an example of a 48-year-old woman with 3 kids and a husband in a neighboring county without a hospital or a doctor. She had a heart attack and normally would have gone to Bellhaven hospital, but since Bellhaven had been shut down, they called for a helicopter. That took an hour, and during that time, the woman died in an ambulance in a parking lot. She didn't have to die. "It's a big deal, people die, this lady has a husband who's crying...When you're making hundreds of millions of dollars a year, you shouldn't be shutting down hospitals - when you're a non-profit..."
*Not a person in power has sent a letter to Vidant telling them to get their act together. The governor of North Carolina "won't meet with us." O'Neal can't understand why the governor won't get involved in this. This is NOT the private sector; Medicare and Medicaid are already the major players in health care. We need to stop playing politics with this.
*"The Republicans in my state, many of them kind of support me in a way. They don't fight with me at all. I think one of the major reasons is there's no real argument against accepting Medicaid expansion. And I'm afraid that my Republican colleagues in NC are going to get killed this fall because of Medicaid expansion. There's 500,000 people in NC that could have insurance coverage the next 2 years and not cost the state a dime, and the state's not accepting that. Now, if you're representing the citizens, how can you not do that?...I don't see how you can represent the citizens of NC and not accept that...So I think we got an issue where folks have dug their heels in on an issue that they need to rethink...and I don't want to rub anybody's face in anything because it's an issue where all of us have to work together. It's not a Republican or Democrat[ic] issue when this lady starts dying. Now, f you're doing something that's causing this lady to start doing, you gotta rethink what you're doing..."
*It's "immoral" for a company to take health care away from people and keep your non-profit designation. We're also walking to see a bill introduced that HHS has to sign off in order to close a critical-access hospital. Also want at least  year for communities to try to save their hospital.
*We have a hospital that could have survived, but we have a big conglomerate that wanted to consolidate, force our people to go to another one of their hospitals. "I'm all for private enterprise...what Vidant is doing is eliminating competition..."
*"We're walking for all of rural America," including Lee County right here in Virginia, which lost its hospital.

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As usual, Eric Byler's and Annabel Park's video is superb. (0.00 / 0[delete comment]
These two are a national treasure, by all rights should be famous for all the great work they've done. But, given our culture of celebrity and shallowness, of course they're not. Anyway, here at Blue Virginia, we understand the great work they do and will highlight it every chance we get. :)

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Video: Civil Rights Legend Bob Zellner speaks about health care walk in Woodbridge, VA (0.00 / 0[delete comment]
Zellner notes that he was raised on "L.A. - Lower Alabama." His father and grandfather were both in the KKK, and it was very unlikely he'd ever be part of the civil rights movement, let alone walking 273 miles with a white Republican NC mayor. When he was in college, he met Martin Luther King, Jr and Rosa Parks, and he joined the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee as the first white southerner to be a field secretary for that organization. What Mayor O'Neal is doing is in the mainstream of the human rights and civil rights movements. "I recognize greatness when I see it...this man is the most determined individual that I've ever met." What's happened in NC is that we have the "Moral Mondays" movement under the leadership of Rev. Barber and the NAACP. The mayor was doing what he was doing already, and he knows that what Vidant has done is a racist situation in his own town, because at least 60% of the people in the town are African Americans. He's brave to say that. We're going to Washington to fight for rural health care. Mayor O'Neal personifies reaching across the aisle, he's captured the imagination of the American people.

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Video: Del. Michael Futrell speaks at "walking mayor" event in Woodbridge, Virginia (0.00 / 0[delete comment]
Futrell explains how he helped put this program together after Virginia New Majority contacted him about the Republican mayor fighting his own party, standing up for what's right for his people, and walking through Virginia en route to Washington, DC.Futrell emphasizes that this shouldn't just be about great speeches, but about ACTION. What's going to move this needle is people organizing, getting involved, putting pressure on politicians to get this done. This should not be a partisan issue. Futrell points out that the health clinic where we're having this program sits between the Prince William Republican and Democratic committees. Symbolism: health care for people is caught in the middle of politics.
There's a financial cost and a humane cost here. Nobody wants to see people die because of partisan politics. This is more important than winning or losing an election, this is about people's lives. The goal should be to make an impact, a difference. "We have to get things done." Asks everyone to volunteer, knock doors, make phone calls, get this done. "Elections have consequences...people are supposed to fight for us...this man has taken on a journey...when the majority of his party says 'no, we're not going to,' that's courageous..." "It's going to come down to you...My role right here is for a call to action."

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Video: Sen. George Barker on the types of "arguments" Republicans use against Medicaid expansion (0.00 / 0[delete comment]
Bottom line: none of them make any sense, no validity or substance to them whatsoever.

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More background (0.00 / 0[delete comment]
From a fact sheet put out by Mayor O'Neal's team:
Background:  Mayor Adam O'Neal is a 45-year-old conservative Republican, former football player with a hard nose attitude.  He became Mayor 10 years ago by reaching out to the 2/3 African American majority in his town of 1,700. He has represented them well and been reelected by large margins. Many news outlets misreport O'Neal's alliance with Rev. Dr. William Barber, leader of the Moral Monday movement as a sudden or remarkable turn. The truth is that O'Neal has been working with African Americans from the start, and, when this crisis required him to unite his community, he was uniquely suited to do so.  Rally at US Capitol on Monday at 11:30 AM with Mayor O'Neal and Rev. Dr. William Barber On July 14, Rev. Barber said a prayer to bless Mayor O'neal's 273 mile walk to Washington DC.  On July 28, he will be there to greet him, where the two will lead a rally for rural healthcare and Medicaid expansion at the US Capitol.
Endangered Rural Hospital:  Vidant Health, Inc. purchased Pungo District Hospital in O'Neal's town of Belhaven, NC in 2012, promising to be the savior for a "Critical Access" hospital that had been a fixture in his community for 60 years. It was the first hospital to open under the Hill/Burton Act of 1946, designed to bring hospitals and emergency care into rural America.
Although the terms of the contract stated that the hospital would remain open, and that Vidant Health would invest $2.4 million in improving services, Vidant Health decided not to invest that money and instead stripped out valuable equipment and profitable serivces. Theyclose the hospital 18 months after taking it over.  They said it was losing too much money, and indeed the yearly losses had increased to over $1 million due to mismanagement and creative accounting (for instance, the six figure executive who ran the hospital also ran 2 other hospitals and visited briefly only once a week, yet his entire salary was included in the Pungo hospital balance sheet).
Mayor O'Neal was outraged that the town had not been warned nor consulted, and, many agreed with him that the contract Vidant Health had signed (then then were known as University Health Systems) had been breached.  Many suspect that Vidant intended to close the hospital when it purchased it, given that it purchased a neighboring hospital 30 miles away during the same period.
It seems clear that Vidant Health does not want to have an emergency room in this region because EMTALA requires them to treat people who have no insurance and cannot afford to pay
This is a trend in rural areas across America, particularly in states that refused to expand Medicaid. 46 million Americans live in rural areas like eastern NC, where there is only one medical facility serving one or more counties and tens of thousands of people.  More such hospitals have closed in the last year than in the 15 previous years.
Health care crisis: 30 miles may not seem like a lot, but the Pungo District Hospital also served the people of Hyde County to the east.  Hyde County is one of the poorest and one of the largest counties in the state.  It has no hospital of its own.  And it has no physicians.  Many were already traveling 50 to 60 miles to reach Belhaven.  Now they are traveling 80 to 90 miles for preventative and emergency care.  The hospital closed on July 1.  On July 5, a 48-year-old mother of 3 died for lack of emergency care.
60 percent of funding that keeps rural and Critical Access hospitals afloat comes from Medicare (the remainder comes from Medicaid or from general health insurance).  While North Carolina's failure to expand Medicaid has hurt this hospital, it was not a fatal blow as Vidant sometimes claims.  There is another provision in the ACA that makes Medicare more efficient by incentivizing health care providers to work with communities to lower costs.
This VIDEO summarizes how ACO's work, and how Vidant found a way to break that settlement using a quasi-subsidiary called Pantego Creek, LLC to block the hospital transfer.
And this video is one of several that go into more depth on ACO's, a provision in Obamacare that could save rural America from medical desserts and make The Affordable Care Act a success
Belhaven's new community hospital board has formed an Accountable Care Organization as part of the ACA, they were almost ready to take over the hospital when Vidant Health backed out of the DoJ-mediated settlement and shut the hospital's doors.  The hospital board believes that this is because ACOs have had great success in other rural regions and Vidant decided they'd rather take on DoJ than have a competitor offering superior health care in the middle of their territory.
Vidant Health: Vidant Health is a non-profit company, which means it pays no taxes on income nor on the many properties it owns. But it's operating margin (profit margin) is exceedingly high at 11%. They took in $109 million last year and $127 in 2012. They are the largest employer in the region, they have a near monopoly in the region, and they have a team of lawyers and a PR staff hammering the Mayor in the press, and exerting heavy influence on what local TV affiliates report, and on how local county commissioners vote.  They have corporate police officers that often kick Story of America off their property.
Civil Rights Act, Title 6 Complaint: Rev. Barber and the North Carolina NAACP filed a Title 6 Complaint arguing that the closure of the hospital would disproportionately impact minorities and poor people.  The DoJ agreed enough to offer mediation.  A settlement was reached on March 26 under which the hospital would be transferred back to the community.  Vidant found a way to break that settlement when a quasi-subsidiary to block the deal, the NAACP re-opened their Title 6 Complaint.  Health and Human Services is now investigating, many suspect, for a possible conspiracy.

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Three more videos from yesterday (0.00 / 0[delete comment]

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Video: GOP Mayor O'Neal says Virginia Republicans didn't invite him to talk with them on Medicaid, health care (0.00 / 0[delete comment]
O'Neal addds that he's "depressed" that Republicans are "giving me...the runaround," because this issue should be an issue that's beyond politics. O'Neal says there "isn't an excuse," and that he's trying to "wake our state party up - you'd better get on board with this because it's coming sooner or later, and why do you want to be seen as blocking health care for people when it's coming anyway, what sense does that make?"I followed up and asked, "Do you really feel like there are going to be political consequences this November for Republicans." Mayor O'Neal's response:
I think there will be, if people understand the issue...I've had Democratic candidates like Senator Hagan...ask them to help them do commercials. I'm not going to do that, I'm going to vote for a Republican candidate. I don't want to help them beat a Republican; I don't agree with them on that issue, but the other issues I do agree with them...I am a Republican, this is not a joke, I'm a conservative guy, but this is an issue I'm not going to dig my heels in with no logic. It doesn't make sense. And when people start dying I sure ain't gonna dig my heels in. (applause)

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I never saw any publicity about this event except on Blue Virginia. (0.00 / 0[delete comment]

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Eric Byler and Annabel Park have been promoting it (0.00 / 0[delete comment]
on the Story of America FB page, but yeah, not much publicity overall for such an important event.

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Video: Mayor O'Neal (R) finishes his walk, is greeted by a Democratic Congressman (0.00 / 0[delete comment]
Hmmmm...don't see any Republican Congresscritters welcoming their fellow Republican Mayor Adam O'Neal, who just walked 300 miles for health care coverage for the people of his town. Gee, I wonder why that is?!?

Rep. Connolly Communications Director Calls Out Comstock Hypocrisy on Silver Line

The photo here shows several of our faves - Fairfax County Supervisor Pat "Hypocrisy" Herrity, Del. David Ramadan (Extreme "R"), and of course GOP "attack dog" Del. Barbara Comstock - preening and posing at the opening ceremonies for the Silver Line in Tysons. It's wildly hypocritical of them to do this, of course, as Rep. Gerry Connolly's Communications Director (and 11th CD Democratic Committee Chair) George Burke pointed out in a series of tweets a little while ago.*George Burke: In response to Del. David Ramadan, notes that it's "ironic that @BarbaraComstock, who opposed transportation bill, & @PatHerrity, who sued to stop #SilverLine, were there."
*Del. Ramadan (BFF of Comstock's, apparently follows her everywhere and takes to social media to defend every indefensible thing she does - and there are a LOT of those!) responds defensively to Burke: "TaxIncreaseBill' aka 'TransportationBill' had nothing to do w MetroSilverLine. Using it to attack @BarbaraComstock is cheap shot!" (translation: ouch, that hurt! quick somebody call a waaaaambulance!)
*Del. Ramadan then gets even whinier if that's humanly possible, tweeting - and I'm not joking here - "why don't you concentrate your efforts on Congressional issues and leave VA  state taxes to VA legislators."
*Burke responds to Ramadan: "Great spin but you & @BarbaraComstock actually voted against much-needed road, bridge & transit improvements in #Virginia." True dat. Also "I've lived 3 decades in NoVA & like most, I want state to fix crumbling roads & bridges. You & @BarbaraComstock voted NO." Also factually true, look it up if you don't believe Burke.
*And one last, desperate, failed attempt at a defense by Ramadan: "not spin; FACT: @BarbaraComstock & I are against increasing taxes on NOVA residents vs your false statements in earlier tweets!!"
Now, just for the record, here's the final vote on HB 2313, the 2013 transportation bill co-patroned by Republican House Speaker Bill Howell, Republican Del. Tim Hugo, Republican Del. Kirkland Cox, Republican Del. Tag Greason, Republican Del. Terry Kilgore, and a bunch more Republican delegates (but not Comstock or Ramadan, of course) that provided $300 million for rail to Dulles. In short, Comstock has been a consistent enemy of funding for the Silver Line, unlike Rep. Frank Wolf (whatever else you want to say about that guy, he was strong on this issue; Comstock would combine the lunacy of Wolf without the pragmatism he demonstrated on local issues), and strongly against the interests of the 10th Congressional District and Northern Virginia more broadly. Yet she still shows up to pose for the cameras at the opening of the Silver Line. Chutzpah - yes. Integrity - nope. Good for Gerry Connolly's office for calling her out on this!

Video: Atif Qarni Announces for State Senate in Strong Democratic District 29

Friday, July 25, 2014

Last night at the Prince William County Democratic Committee meeting, Atif Qarni announced his candidacy for the Virginia State Senate from District 29 (currently held by conservative Democrat Chuck Colgan, 87 years old, who plans to retire at the end of his current term). Since Colgan first won this seat in 1975, the district has changed enormously, becoming far more diverse. I don't have the exact demographic breakdown on the 29th per se, but Prince William County overall is now a "majority minority" county that went for Terry McAuliffe in 2013 (by a 52%-44% margin), and for Obama/Biden in 2012 (by a 57%-41% margin). As you can see from the VPAP infographic below, the 29th State Senate district actually performed even better than the overall county for both McAuliffe and Obama, and for good reason: if you look at the map of the district, you'll see that it takes in some of the most diverse parts of the county, including Woodbridge (19% African American, 17% Latino, 10% Asian) and Manassas (31% Latino, 14% African American, 5% Asian). The bottom line is that this is a district that Democrats absolutely should hold in November 2015, unless we completely #FAIL in getting our voters out to the polls. Barring that, we should be able to concentrate on nominating the best candidate for the seat. And last night, a super-strong candidate (whip-smart, young, charismatic, U.S. Marine Corps/Iraq war veteran, teacher) named Atif Qarni. As you can tell, I'm very excited about his candidacy and look forward to strongly supporting him. I had a chance to chat with Atif earlier this week, at which time we discussed his upcoming run for State Senate. I didn't break the story then, because I wanted to wait until he announced at the Prince William County Democratic Committee meeting last night (see video above - note that there's bad audio in that one, although you can certainly hear it if you crank up the volume; so, Atif re-recorded his speech later, after the event, just so people could hear it easily; see that one in the comments section). Now that he's done that (also see speech highlights in the comments section), here are the key themes Atif plans to focus on his campaign, as well as a few other key points. *First, he wants to make workforce development, including for exiting veterans, a top priority. On this one, he intends to pick up where Sen. Colgan left off, focusing on both K-12 and the community colleges, where young people can be trained in the jobs that are actually out there (e.g., computer coding). Atif also wants to provide small businesses with incentives for training and hiring his fellow veterans, and notes that this is something Democrats and Republicans agree on. *Second, he wants to focus on reducing traffic congestion by working to set up and expand satellite locations for telecommuting (e.g., GSA has an underutilized office in the county that could be adapted for this purpose). Atif points out that this will help get cars off the roads, help local businesses, and allow people to spend more time with their families. *Third, he wants to work on expanding health care coverage to people who need it, including the 58,000 uninsured in Prince William County, and the 10% of veterans who don't have health insurance. *He points out that in terms of electability, he received 48% of the vote last year against Del. Bob Marshall, after starting late but finishing strong, outspending Marshall by a 3:1 margin. This time around, Atif is starting much earlier and also running for a far more Democratic-leaning district (the State Senate district, as discussed above, went 57%-39% for McAuliffe; in contrast, the 13th House of Delegates district was won by McAuliffe by a tiny, 48%-47% margin over Ken Cuccinelli). Also note that Terry McAuliffe received 7,932 votes in the 13th House of Delegates district last year, while Atif Qarni received 8,448 votes. That's right; Atif out-performed Terry McAuliffe in the 13th House of Delegates district by 500+ votes last year! My overall impression of Atif is that he's a super-smart, highly analytical (he's a math teacher, so no surprise there), level-headed guy who's running for all the right reasons. Having run last year and with his broad (and deep) connections to the community through his teaching and other activities, he's already got a big jumpstart on name ID. And he's proven he can raise significant amounts of money. Finally, he's excellent on the issues, as you can read here (e.g., he strongly supports a woman's right to choose; improving and expanding health care coverage; strengthening education; and "passing common sense legislation" to reduce gun violence). Put this all together, and the bottom line is that Atif Qarni would make a superb Democratic nominee, and even more importantly a superb member of the Virginia State Senate. I am happy and confident in strongly endorsing his candidacy!

Video: Arlington Young Dems Forum on "How to Elect More Women"

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Interesting forum tonight at Cafe Asia in Arlington on "How to Elect More Women," organized by the Arlington Young Democrats Women's Caucus. Participants included Jennifer Boysko, who ran in 2013 and lost to Del. Tom Rust (R-86th) by just 32 votes out of 21,000 cast; Kathleen Murphy, who ran in 2013 and lost to Del. Barbara Comstock (R-34th) by just 422 votes out of 29,544 cast; State Senator Barbara Favola (D-31st); Yasmine Taeb, who was recently a candidate for the Democratic nomination in the 48th district; and State Senator Jennifer Wexton, who won a special election to fill the seat of Mark Herring, who had been elected as Attorney General of Virginia in 2013. Here's some video from the event. Note that the acoustics in the room were not the greatest, nor was the microphone used by the speakers, and that (unfortunately) reflected in the quality of the recording.My bottom line takeaways were: 1) many of the lessons for electing women are applicable to electing ANYONE, male or female; 2) there are both advantages (e.g., more women vote; women are perceived as more likely to be running for the "right reasons" and not just power hungry, etc.) and disadvantages (e.g., weak recruitment and developmemnt of female candidates) for women running for elective office; 3) while the number of women holding elective office in this country is increasing, it's still far lower than women's share of the population, let alone the electorate; and 4) the Democratic Party most definitely needs to up its game when it comes to recruiting, training, and helping elect strong, qualified female candidates.
lowkell :: Video: Arlington Young Dems Forum on "How to Elect More Women"

Make-Believe-"Moderate" Republican Dave Foster Donated to George Allen AFTER the "Macaca" Incident

Monday, July 21, 2014

Mon Jul 21, 2014 at 09:00:00 AM EDT

Since 48th House of Delegates district Republicans chose Dave Foster as their candidate for the August 19th special election to fill the seat of Del. Bob Brink (D), we've been looking into this guy who claims to be a moderate Republican. From what we've found to date - his stated positions on the issues, his pandering to an extremist gun group, etc. - he's most certainly not. Here's a quick review of what we've posted so far on this faux-"moderate."*Video: Dave Foster tells extreme gun group, "your concerns...[are] my concerns" 
*More video: Foster pushes for "rooting out voter fraud wherever it may occur"
*ideo: "Rip" Sullivan Rips Dave Foster's Extreme Gun Record 
*Video: Dave Foster Agrees that Police Chiefs are "Gun Grabbers," Shouldn't Be Listened To?!?
*"Conservative Republican" Dave Foster Bragged He Opposed Bilingual Education, "Racial Preferences"
*Sen. Barbara Favola nails Dave Foster in ArlNow piece (e.g., '"Dave has called Ken Cuccinelli a 'great legislator,'" and "Dave has said he opposes abortion and that Roe v. Wade was a case of 'judges imposing their will.'")
*Make-Believe-"Moderate" Republican Dave Foster Donated to Cooch, Obenshain
As if all that's not bad enough, how about Foster's $250 donation to our old pal George Allen, on September 29, 2006? In particular, note the date - that's 1 1/2 months AFTER Allen's infamous "macaca" incident, and well after every sentient voter in Virginia should have heard about it. It's also well after many other revelations about George Allen's racist, violent past had come out, including:
*Allen "shoving a severed deer head into [an African-American man's] mailbox during an early-'70s hunting trip."
*Allegations by several people who knew Allen that he "habitually used the n-word to describe blacks while he was a student at U.Va. decades ago."
*George Allen's photo-op with the Council of Conservative Citizens, the successor organization to the segregationist White Citizens Council and among the largest white supremacist groups.
*Allen's sister writing about how George had dragged her upstairs by the hair, and in another incident held her, terrified, over Niagara Falls.
*Allen welcoming one of his sisters' boyfriends to the house by "slamming a pool cue against his head."
*Allen's love of the Confederate flag, even though the only "South" he grew up in was Southern California. Heh.
*Allen freaking out when asked in a debate about his family's Jewish heritage, angrily accusing Peggy Fox of "making aspersions about people because of their religious beliefs."
We could go on and on, but we'll spare you. The main point is, beyond Allen's deplorable voting record in the U.S. Senate (97% with George W. Bush), all of the stuff listed above should have been more than enough to convince any but the most hard-core right wingnuts to ditch George Allen and support Jim Webb. Yet, not only did Dave Foster NOT ditch George Allen, he actually donated money to him after all this stuff had come out! At that point, all pretense ofFoster being a "moderate" Republican should have been out the window, down the toilet bowl, whatever cliche you prefer. Yet this guy has the chutzpah to continue going around masquerading as one. Does he think voters are utterly clueless or what? Does he not know of such things as "Google" and "VPAP" and "YouTube" the "Internet Archive," and also many peoples' memories of his comments and actions over the years? Apparently, he's hoping that we'll forget about all that. Well, sorry to break it to you Mr. Foster, but that's not going to happen. Nice try, though. ;)
P.S. Make sure you vote for DemocratRip Sullivan on August 19th -- a special election in the middle of 

Two Entertaining Twitter Conversations Involving Barbara Comstock BFF Del. David Ramadan

Sunday, July 20, 2014

To end your weekend, here are two, uh, interesting? entertaining? conversations involving Barbara Comstock's BFF and right wingnut extraordinaire Del. David Ramadan (R-Loudoun/Prince William).First, we have Del. Ramadan retweeting the infamous Grover "Drown Government in a Bathtub" Norquist, celebrating the world "getting better every day" - not because there's less pain and suffering, more happiness and puppy dogs, but because...that's right, the number of Americans with concealed carry gun permits has skyrocketed since 2007. Kinda makes you feel all warm and fuzzy, ya know? As Fairfax County Democratic Committee communications guru Frank Anderson tweets back sarcastically, by Ramadan's and Norquist's reasoning, the world will be a "perfect place when all 240+ million adult Americans are packing heat." The scary thing is, people like Norquist, Ramadan, and Comstock almost certainly believe that to be the case.

Now, for the second, er, interesting? entertaining? conversation - also involving who else but Ramadan and Comstock - please see the "flip." For some background on "Tinder," click here (in short, it's a "dating-hookup hybrid that made things simpler, sexier, and particularly lady-friendly").

Video: Elizabeth Warren Lays out 11 Core Progressive Values We Are Willing to Fight For

Friday, July 18, 2014

Is Elizabeth Warren awesome or what? Here she is, speaking at Netroots Nation, and laying out what progressives believe (starting at around 27 minutes). What boggles my mind is that there are actually Americans who disagree with any of this. In stark contrast, progressives believe in the "pretty simple idea: we all do better when we work together and invest in building a future." With that, here are Warren's 11 core progressive - and quintessentially American - values. So...why exactly is Elizabeth Warren not running for president? :) 1. "We believe that Wall Street needs stronger rules and tougher enforcement. And we're willing to fight for it." 2. "We believe in science, and that means that we have a responsibility to protect this Earth. And we will fight for it." 3. "We believe that the internet shouldn't be rigged to benefit big corporations, and that means real net neutrality. And we will fight for it." 4. "We believe that no one should work full-time and still live in poverty; that means raising the minimum wage. And we will fight for it." 5. "We believe that fast-food workers deserve a livable wage, and that means when they take to the picket line, we are proud to fight alongside them." 6. "We believe that students are entitled to get an education without being crushed by debt. And we are willing to fight for it." 7. "We believe that after a lifetime of work, people are entitled to retire with dignity, and that means protecting Social Security, Medicare, and pensions. And we will fight for them." 8. "We believe - only I can't believe I have to say this in 2014 — we believe in equal pay for equal work. And we're willing to fight for it." 9. "We believe that equal means equal, and that's true in marriage, it's true in the workplace, it's true in all of America. And we're willing to fight for it." 10. "We believe that immigration has made this country strong and vibrant, and that means reform. And we are willing to fight for it." 11. "And we believe that corporations are not people, that women have a right to their bodies. We will overturn Hobby Lobby and we will fight for it!" P.S. Warren correctly defines conservativism as "I got mine, the rest of you are on your own." Except that the way I first heard it used a slightly, uh, earthier expression after "I got mine." Heh.

Video: Chafin Campaign Allies Out with Utterly Deplorable Ad, but Will It Be Effective Anyway?

This new ad by allies (the right-wing loons at "Middle Resolution PAC") of 38th State Senate district Republican nominee Ben Chafin, is really about as slimy, misleading, and demagogic as you can get. Let's analyze it one slime-suckingly bad part at a slime-suckingly bad time.1. Start off with the Big Lie, grabbing peoples' attention with an image of a coal miner and the phrase "the war on energy is a war on our economy." Of course, that's completely false and utterly ridiculous. First off, it's not even theoetically possible to HAVE a "war on energy," given that "energy" covers everything from fossil fuels (coal, oil, natural gas) to renewables like wind and solar and geothermal, given that "energy" is all around us, etc. It's just utterly nonsensical. What they were TRYING to say was "war on coal," which is also absurd, unless you believe that the natural gas fracking industry, which has been overwhelmingly responsible the past few years for the decline in coal consumption by U.S. power plants, is waging said "war." Of course, given that Republicans love fracking, I doubt that that's what they're trying to say either.
Finally, I'd just point out that after a century of coal mining in Southwest Virginia, what they have to show for it is one of the poorest parts of Virginia and America. Which means it would be far more accurate to argue that coal mining itself has severely harmed the economy of Appalachian areas like Southwestern Virginia. And not that folks like Ben Chafin care about academic research, but what that shows is clear"the heaviest coal-mining regions of Appalachia are worse off in just about every way compared to neighboring regions...mountaintop removal mining's economic cost to Appalachian communities totaled roughly $42 billion per year in lost health and lives."
In sum, it would be far more accurate to argue that coal itself has been waging war on Southwest Virginia's economy than natural gas fracking (which certainly has contributed in recent years to the decades-long decline in coal) or environmental regulations (which are far, far too lax). But as usual with Republicans, don't let facts and logic get in the way of a good piece of demagoguery.
lowkell :: Video: Chafin Campaign Allies Out with Utterly Deplorable Ad, but Will It Be Effective Anyway?
2. Show a photo of the "scary black guy" (in quotes because you can just hear the Republican white guys who crafted this ad thinking through how best to scare the targeted electorate, and because sadly this is how a lot of Teahadists clearly think) in the White House, altered to make it look even more ominous/scary. Then have said "scary black guy" say some out-of-context words using "coal" and "bankrupt them" in the same sentence. Of course, ignore the fact that what President Obama was saying was accurate, that if the full cost of coal - health, environmental, etc. - were "internalized," and if coal were forced to compete on its own merits with cleaner energy sources, it would be uneconomical to build a new coal-fired power plant in this country. And guess what, that's exactly what's been happening for many years now...but ignore all that, just focus on the "scary black guy." Charming.3. Go for the stock, but completely false, Republican line about "liberals destroying our jobs and economy." Hey, just because the exact opposite is the case - the U.S. economy does better under liberals like Clinton and Obama than Bush and Cheney; Obama and "liberals" helped pull the U.S. economy out of the Great Recession inherited from Bush/Cheney - isn't going to stop these Republican demagogues. And no, they have no shame, so forget about that as a check on these people.
4. Save the most absurd part for last - accusing a freakin' coal company EXECUTIVE (Democrat Mike Hymes) of being anti-coal! In reality, of course, Hymes is wildly pro-coal and anti-environment, which is why environmentalists aren't...let's just say, particularly enthused about his candidacy. Sure, overall he'd be better than Republican Ben Chafin, as they'd both be godawful on energy and environmental issues, but at least Hymes would be likely to vote for Medicaid expansion and other important economic priorities for Virginia and his district. In contrast, Chafin would be the worst of all worlds - as bad as Hymes on energy and the environment, but also horrendous on everything else, and of course the vote that determines whether Lt. Governor Ralph Northam gets to a) just sit there and be bored out of his mind; or b) cast tie-breaking votes in favor of the "blue team." The problem is, I'm seriously concerned that as disgusting as this Chafin ad is, that it will be effective in a district that voted overwhelmingly for Cuccinelli/Jackson/Obenshain in 2013. I hope I'm wrong, but I suspect I'm right...