Saslaw: Power to the Power Company!

Saturday, January 31, 2015

by Kindler

Virginia Democrats' Saslaw problem reared its ugly head again, as the alleged leader of Senate Democrats voted toexempt Dominion Virginia Power from financial audits through 2023.Listen to Dominion's poodle ever-so-gently pretend to bite the hand that feeds him:

Senate Minority Leader Richard L. Saslaw (D-Fairfax) said doing nothing was not an option.
"I will vote to move it along, but I would just say this has a long way to go. I'm somewhat concerned about not having this biennial review," he said. And turning to Dominion officials in the hearing room, he said: "You might want to answer everything you heard here today from people who have a different perspective, on a point-by-point basis."
Yeah, take that -- happy to exempt the books of a monopoly chartered as a public utility from public scrutiny -- but you "might want to" actually respond to what other people say about you!  I'll bet that hurt!  (But keep those donations coming, please...)
Kudos to Attorney General Mark Herring, one of the few Democrats in the Commonwealth with the cojones to challenge Dominion's power play.  Governor Terry McAuliffe, who has not taken a stand on the issue, needs to step up and follow Herring's lead if he wants to be considered leader of the state.
And it's time for Democrats to stop allowing Saslaw to embarrass us, and finally replace him with a Senate leader who proudly upholds progressive values, and puts the people before the power companies.  

"A Victory for Gun Rights." Really? Let's Look at Some of Those "Rights."

Friday, January 30, 2015

by AndyG

Many recent news reports have trumpeted the dismissal of a raft of gun violence prevention legislation as a "Victory for Gun Rights."  Despite the fact that gun's don't actually have any rights, I would like to enumerate, for those not present at the General Assembly, a representative sample of exactly which "rights" were victorious as a result of these actions. Taking just the 12 bills that were dismissed last night, in House Militia, Police and Public Safety, as an example,The following "rights" remain intact - with the demise of the bill attempting to repeal those "rights" listed, along with the Patron's name:
HB2085 (Murphy) - Addressed the "right" of convicted violent abusers to maintain access to the very firearms that they may have been using to terrorize or dominate their family members.  This bill would have temporarily removed that right and subsequently allowed the abuser to restore their rights - even to remove the current lifetime prohibition imposed by Federal Law!  (Another case of, Fire, Ready, Aim, by the gun lobby working against their own interests - however, that is their "right".)  In a surprise move, the subcommittee failed to accept a proposed substitute bill from the patron, due to the lack of a second. This was the first time I had seen that delicate maneuver in 8 years of watching sausage made!
HB2232 (Surovell) - Attempted to restrict the "right" for people who are prohibited from purchasing firearms, due to serious mental illness (think Cho), to be able to purchase, transport and possess ammunition. Presumably for the firearms that they are prevented from purchasing, transporting or possessing. ("Bullets don't kill people, empty firearms kill people")

Major Climate and Coastal Adaptation Bill Falls One Vote Shy of Passing Virginia Senate Committee

Thursday, January 29, 2015

This is a huge mistake and an enormous missed opportunity for Virginia. As always, thanks a lot Republicans!
Eight state and national environmental groups expressed their disappointment with the vote late this afternoon by the Virginia Senate Agriculture Committee to reject Senator Donald McEachin's Virginia Coastal Protection Act. Here's their statement:"By rejecting the Virginia Coastal Protection Act (VCPA), the Committee failed to move our economy forward and begin the necessary work to work with Virginia's coastal communities to prepare for rising sea levels linked to climate change.
Senator McEachin, and those who voted for his bill, know that governing is about solutions, which is why Senator McEachin had developed this cost effective plan for addressing coastal flooding, lowering electric bills and meeting the goals of the Clean Power Plan. But the majority rejected this bi-partisan approach.
The House is still considering a companion version of the bill, which is being carried by Delegate Villanueva. Both versions would allow Virginia to compete with our mid-Atlantic neighbors who have created 290,000 renewable and energy efficiency jobs.
In the future, these Senators will again have to decide if they will continue to be deniers who rely on the oldest and dirtiest sources of power or if they want to look forward to the jobs created by investments in wind, solar and energy efficiency.
Virginia is already 80% of the way toward meeting its Clean Power Plan goal with steps the utilities were planning on taking anyway. The VCPA would have easily and efficiently helped us get the rest of the way there. It is a shame that they didn't do the right thing."
-Chesapeake Climate Action Network
-Virginia Conservation Network
-Virginia Sierra Club
-Southern Environmental Law Center
-Appalachian Voices
-Environment Virginia
-Virginia League of Conservation Voters
-NextGen Climate America

Save our planet. Save our democracy.

by Morris Meyer

As an environmentalist concerned with climate change, I have changed my lightbulbs, bought smart thermostats for myself and parents, and have even bought an electric car.  After flying to Cancun on vacation, I should be purchasing offsets for the carbon burned on the flight, but this is the sort of detail that even I overlook.   Individual actions are almost quaint efforts to fight climate change, but large scale signals must be brought into our energy system to motivate purchasing decisions towards a cleaner system.Today's article by Chris Mooney in the Washington Post, titled "The climate debate is brutal and dysfunctional, but there's still a way out" talks about just such a signal;  one that both conservatives and liberals can embrace.  He points to a "carbon tax that returns all the revenue from the tax to citizens, rather than using any of it for new government programs".
There are precedents for just such an arrangement in use already with the Alaska Energy Fund, which distributes oil revenues to Alaskans and what British Columbia has done with a carbon tax that hasreduced its citizens' overall taxes.
A price on carbon - irrespective of the transferred money puts carbon decisions all across the economy on the bottom lines of businesses, incentivizing them to avoid this cost through replacement (solar / wind for electric companies) and energy efficiency in other smaller firms.
Want less of something - tax it.  The straight through rebate makes it a wash for end consumers of energy but putting it on balance sheets brings business intelligence and creativity to bear to avoid it.
On the consumer angle slightly higher energy prices will incentivize consumers to make more efficient choices, invest in tightening their homes, cutting out superfluous trips, carpool, switch light bulbs which they will be able to afford with their dividend from the energy fund.
Given that we have already seen an example of a carbon tax enacted and repealed in Australia, it behooves us to look at the disbursement mechanism as a way to give the recipients ownership in the politics of a carbon energy fund.

Video: Del. David Toscano Demolishes "War on Coal" Nonsense; $1/2 BILLION in Coal Subsidies

Check out Del. David Toscano's excellent speech yesterday on Virginia's utterly wasteful coal tax credits (aka, taxpayer-funded corporate welfare on a massive scale) and the brain-dead rhetoric about a supposed "war on coal." Next time you hear Republicans and fossil fuel industry flacks blabbering on about the "free market," "Obama's war on coal," and other nonsense, just tell them to watch this speech.
Ladies and Gentlemen of the House:I listened carefully yesterday as the gentleman from Salem detailed the shuttering of the corporate offices of Norfolk Southern in Roanoke. This is an important issue to him and everyone in his community. Any jobs lost in a community have a great impact.  Let me be perfectly clear. No one can be pleased with this decision. But let us not make more of this than it is. This is not a decision about coal and does not involve the so called "war on coal."  It is more about economics and the private decision of a private corporation.
Just two days ago, CNBC reported that Norfolk Southern was bullish about the United States economy. According to this report, Norfolk Southern believes their profits will be boosted in 2015 because the U.S. economy is improving. As its CEO said, "we feel good about the state of the economy."  There was nothing about coal in this announcement. And the letter from Norfolk Southern announcing their corporate restructuring said it was designed to "foster department synergies"   and "streamline management."  There was nothing in this letter about coal.
It is interesting, then, that as soon as the announcement of the Norfolk Southern decision hit, Congressional Republicans Morgan Griffith and Robert Goodlatte immediately began referring to this as a by-product of the so called "war on coal."  The talking heads were out with a vengeance.  But is there really a war on coal?

Dominion's Most Brazen Power Grab Yet

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

If there's anybody government needs to keep an eye on, it's a MONOPOLY.  But through one of the big loopholes in our system of government, the monopolies that we call utilities get to shovel the money they make from their non-competitive positions into the offices of politicians who are supposed to be regulating them.The predictable result is these politicians giving the utilities pretty much anything they ask for.  But every once in a while, they get too greedy and go too far - and will find the public coming after them with pitchforks.
Case in point:

A bill filed by Sen. Frank W. Wagner (R-Virginia Beach) would [...] free Dominion from regular financial audits conducted by the State Corporation Commission, which oversees utility rates in Virginia.
We're talking here about legislation to block the state of Virginia from financial oversight of its8th largest company.  Legislation that Sen. Wagner actually admitted was drafted by...Dominion.
The fox guarding the henhouse? No, more like the fox taking over the whole freaking Department of Henhouses.
If you're sick and tired of the political tools down in Richmond acting like lobbyists for Dominion rather than doing their job to regulate it, let them know ASAP. Contact your Delegate (find them here) and your Senator (find them here).
And contact Dominion too, especially if you're a customer, to let them know that you won't stand for this powerful monopoly trying to shield itself from public scrutiny. You can send them a tweet at @DomVaPower or post to their Facebook page.
We are the citizens of a democracy, not corporate vassals. Businesses certainly have a role in our society, but is the role of an actor, not that of our ruler. When companies like Dominion go too far, they need to hear from the public, loud and clear. Otherwise, they will keep going until their power over us is absolute. Don't stand for it - fight them while we still have the power to fight.  

How the Democrats Let America Down in the Shameful 2014 Elections

by Andy Schmookler

The Democrats' 2014 election debacle left no room for doubt: Something is seriously wrong with this Democratic Party. Consider this:* In the 2013-4 Congress, Republicans violated fundamental norms of American democracy, deliberately choosing to keep government from addressing the nation's pressing problems, showing an utter lack of concern for serving the public good.
* After this travesty took place in plain sight for nearly two years, the American electorate rewarded the Republicans by handing them even more power.
*Democrats coasted into electoral disaster without even trying to focus attention on the Republicans' unprecedented abuse of the system our Founders gave us.
Sure, there's plenty of shame to go around- every major component of the American body politic is implicated here.
The Republicans' conduct has been awful, of course, but there's no point dwelling on what this party has become. It has been well over a decade since that Party abandoned the integrity and decency of Dwight Eisenhower, Barry Goldwater, and Ronald Reagan.
The Republicans disabled our government right out in the open: making this past Congress the least productive in history; passing bills that they knew had zero chance of being enacted; focusing on provocative but useless gestures such as voting more than 50 times to repeal the health care law; refusing to bring to the House floor an immigration bill that had passed the Senate by more than 2 to 1; never proposing serious solutions of their own.
But apparently voters needed help to see how seriously the conduct of the Republicans had violated this nation's basic democratic values.  Where could they get that help?

VA State Senate Moves in Wildly Wrong Direction on Campaign Finance

Just a day after the Washington Post reported the Koch brothers' plan for billionaires to buy our democracy, this vote today in Virginia's State Senate - killing our state's utterly pathetic, measly incentives for small donations to political campaigns without replacing it with anything - is so opposite of the direction we need to be going, it's breathtaking. Now, clearly, the current tax credit for political donations is completely pathetic, inadequate, etc. But that doesn't mean we should KILL it, for god's sake; it means we should massively STRENGTHEN it.  As this study on Matching Political Contributions explains, for instance:
The way forward requires an overhaul of public financing that spurs greater participation by the public at large.Specifically, the answer lies in a system that gives a multiple match to donor contributions. Rather than continuing to give each candidate a flat grant of $100,000, for example, public financing systems should give six-to-one multiple matching funds on the first $200 of a contribution. This would make a $200 contribution worth $1400 to a candidate.
Multiple matching funds reflect a philosophical shift about the role of money in politics. Money is not an "evil," but should be embraced as a tool to make government accountable to more people. Public financing should not "level the playing field" among candidates, but should reward candidates who mobilize more supporters. Reformers need to spend less energy on "getting big money out of campaigns" and more on "getting the people back in" to those very same campaigns.

Arlington County Board Member Walter Tejada Announces He Will NOT Run for Reelection

I just got this - wow! I had fully expected Walter Tejada to run for reelection, with Arlington County Board member Mary Hynes the big questions. Now, with Tejada's announcement that he will not seek reelection, all eyes turn to Hynes, as well as to the plethora of potential candidates that are chomping at the bit to throw their hats in the ring. Let the 2015 race for Arlington County Board begin!
Kip Malinosky, Chair
Arlington County Democratic CommitteeDear Kip,
It has been and continues to be an enormous privilege to serve in elected office and I'm very proud that during my tenure, Arlington has been recognized time and again as one of the best run governments and one of the best communities in the country.  After proudly serving the Arlington community for twelve years on the County Board, I have decided not to seek the Democratic nomination for another term.
Serving on the County Board has allowed me the opportunity to tackle a broad range of issues that have strengthened our community.  It has also been a real privilege and honor to seek ways to empower low income, minority and immigrant residents in Arlington, the region, the state, and across the country, and to encourage their participation in our society.  I remain committed to all of Arlington, in particular ensuring that the least privileged are heard, protecting our safety net, fighting for affordable housing, and providing a voice for many who frequently go voiceless.  I have enjoyed upholding these core values, and will continue to do so in the future.
A more comprehensive statement will be forthcoming, but for now I wanted to let you know of my intentions.  Unfortunately I will not be able to attend the February ACDC monthly meeting, but look forward to addressing the committee in the future, perhaps at the March meeting.
At the moment I do not anticipate a need for a special election for my seat as I'm planning on fully serving my current term through December 2015.
I am, and always will be, grateful to the Arlington County Democratic Committee and to the Arlington community for their support.  While on the County Board I've tried to serve as an unapologetic progressive, and will look forward in another capacity to always continuing to support those Democratic values.  Please feel free to share this message as appropriate.
J. Walter Tejada

Yet ANOTHER Republican-led State Signs on to Medicaid Expansion. And Virginia?

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Yep, so we can now add yet another Republican governor to the long list of Republican governorssaying "yes" to Medicaid expansion. These Republicans can call their expansions whatever they want (e.g., "Healthy Indiana"); say they're really not "expanding" Medicaid buy "reforming it" (whatever); claim (falsely) that Medicaid expansion has no connection go the evilevilevil "Obamacare" (also known as the "Affordable Care Act," whose provisions are highly popular with the American public), blah blah blah.
But the bottom line is, more and more Republican governors are taking this shwwwwweeeeeeet deal for their states' budgets and their citizens, and not letting the hard-right Teahadists, etc. stop them.And then there's Virginia, a "purple" state led by a Democratic governor and Democratic Party who badly want to expand Medicaid, where Republican House Speaker Bill "ALEC" Howell, hard-right-wing Republican Senate Majority Leader Tommy Norment, along with their Teapublican troops, are putting on a modern display of what used to be known in these parts as "massive resistance." In this case, it's about health care coverage for poor people, many of whom are these Teapublican lawmakers' own constituents. But whatever; Virginia Republicans are having none of the common sense and sanity we're seeing in an increasing number of Republican-led states around the country. Essentially, Virginia Republicans have no substantive argument, other than to essentially admit, "we're extremists, we're proud of it, we're not changing, and that's that." Oh, and "screw Virginia's budget, people who desperately need good healthcare coverage, hospitals which want/need this expansion, etc, etc.
The question is, why would anyone in Virginia vote for these cretins?

Coastal Citizens Call on Legislators to Pass Del. Villanueva's "Virginia Coastal Protection Act"

Monday, January 26, 2015

The event today was sponsored and organized by the Virginia Conservation Network, with almost 200 people turning out in support of combatting climate change and protecting Virginia's coasts from rising seas. By the way, Del. Villanueva is a Republican, demonstrating that the Virginia GOP doesn't HAVE to be the reflexively anti-environmental, anti-science party.
Coastal Citizens Call on Virginia Legislators to Act on Rising Seas by Passing Bipartisan Flooding Solutions BillThe 'Virginia Coastal Protection Act' would raise up to $200 million annually through a proven regional system for cutting carbon pollution
RICHMOND-Scores of coastal Virginia residents converged on Richmond today to join the largest environmental lobby day of the year, and bring this message to state lawmakers: Pass the Virginia Coastal Protection Act. This bipartisan legislation would generate urgently needed funds to help Tidewater citizens and localities adapt to rising sea levels, while also reducing emissions of the heat-trapping pollution driving climate change impacts across the commonwealth.
"The water is here now, and it's only getting higher," said Bob Baxter, a resident of Norfolk's historic Riverview neighborhood and volunteer with the Chesapeake Climate Action Network (CCAN) who came to Richmond today. "Twice in two years, I've had to help my neighbor clean out a flooded home. The water even brought waste from the nearby zoo into her home. If the water rises seven more feet, as scientists say could happen in coming decades, then my house will be in danger as well. Something has to be done."
The Virginia Coastal Protection Act (SB 1428/HB 2205), introduced by Republican Delegate Ron Villanueva of Virginia Beach and Democratic Senator Donald McEachin of Richmond, is supported by the city of Norfolk through its lead representative in Richmond and by all of Virginia's major environmental groups. The bill is the priority focus of today's 2015 Conservation Lobby Day, sponsored by the Virginia Conservation Network (VCN). Over 60 residents trekked to Richmond from the Hampton Roads region, joining over 100 more citizens from across Virginia.

Dominion "Spin" Out of Control

(It's not even really "spin," it's just flat-out lies and propaganda at this point. - promoted by lowkell)

Free Nelson Organizers photo FreeNelson_zpsd079c814_1.jpgPlease help Free Nelson and Friends of Nelson Get Support to Repeal the Survey Law!Today in the Roanoke Times, Dominion's Chief Environmental Officer, Pamela Faggert attempts to justify Dominion's bullying, abusive tactics to use lawsuits to force unwilling landowners to submit to the survey of their private property. She refers specifically to an article written by Michael Martz of the Richmond Times Dispatch, which ran in many papers across the state. The article outlined the historical and cultural treasures in southeastern Nelson County, referring specifically to the Monocan tribe villages located along the James River that would be in the path of the proposed ACP, as well as an African-American community known as Union Hill.
Union Hill was established after emancipation when previous slaveholders gave the ancestors of current Union Hill residents land on which to live and farm. Many in this community have worked tirelessly to keep their legacy intact, but Dominion believes it simply has the right to desecrate these properties by running its 42" behemoth through the center of this community. Union Hill also includes the first African-American Church in Nelson County, St. Hebron Baptist Church. This church was at one time a white-only church, but was deeded to African-Americans in the 1840's. The deed includes a statement allowing both whites and blacks to preach and worship within its walls. We imagine this was there to protect the African-American worshippers since slaves were not legally allowed to own property before emancipation.
Ms. Faggert justifies the lawsuits saying "over 3,000 miles of potential routes have been considered." From the reports filed with FERC, it is obvious lines on maps may have been drawn for other possible routes, but Dominion gave them no serious consideration. They simply tallied the miles of forestland, wetlands, pasture and state and national properties the other "proposed routes" would traverse and summarily dismissed. They did no environmental, cultural or historical studies of those proposed routes; none at all.

It's High Time for Gov. McAuliffe to Move from "Orange" to "Green" on Climate, Energy

Over at the Center for American Progress (CAP), they do a lot of great work, including on energy and the environment. For instance, this morning they came out with their "2015 Climate Guide To Governors," which ranks the 50 governors into three categories:
Green governors not only accept climate change science but are proactively implementing policies to fight climate change and prepare their states for the impacts of extreme weather. Orange governors either accept climate science or have not openly denied it but also either have mixed climate and energy records or have not yet taken serious action to help their state prepare for its impacts. If a governor has made no public statement on climate science, has not taken action, or has openly objected to federal safeguards that help blunt the impacts of climate change, they are placed in the red category. Governors who deny the reality of mainstream climate science are added to the red "Climate Deniers" category, further marked by striped lines.
Obviously, I was most curious about how Virginia's governor, Terry McAuliffe, stacked up. The answer, according to CAP (which, by the way, has close ties to McAuliffe's good friends the Clintons)? Kinda "meh," frankly. Most glaringly, McAuliffe isn't considered to be "green," but "orange," ranking behind the governors of California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington State when it comes to promoting climate action and clean energy.Why does McAuliffe rank below all those governors on energy and the environment? CAP lists three major problems:
In response to the economic struggles the coal industry has deal with in the Commonwealth, McAuliffe said carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) technology was the answer, calling jobs in CCS-equipped coal plants the "jobs of the future." He is the only Democrat to join a coalition of governors supporting efforts to open the outer continental shelf to oil and gas exploration, and has had to defend his support for a propose natural gas pipeline.
Now, clearly, Gov. McAuliffe is not a kooky climate science denier or anything awful like that. Nor is he in any way hostile to clean energy, from what I have seen. The problem is that there's simply no way to reconcile support for things like offshore drilling and continued reliance on coal with taking effective measures to head of man-made global warming disaster. And, frankly, even if there were no such thing as global warming, it should be utterly unacceptable to blow up mountains and destroy entire ecosystems (while making the people who live there both sicker and poorer) for coal. Just as it should be utterly unacceptable to risk devastating oil spills off Virginia's beautiful, and economically crucial, coast (and Cheseapeake Bay).Finally, of course, the fact is that clean energy is rapidly becoming a better deal, purely on economic/cost grounds (e.g., see Three Graphics from Lazard Study Show How Competitive Clean Energy's Gotten, than fossil fuels, not even taking into account the massive, taxpayer-funded corporate welfare the fossil fuel companies receive, nor the failure to "price in" the enormous environmental and health-related "externalities" that fossil fuels entail. We know that energy efficiency is by far the cheapest form of energy - "negawatts," the energy you never have to produce. We also know that onshore wind is cheaper than coal and natural gas (in terms of its "Unsubsidized Levelized Cost of Energy") right now, with the cost of both solar and wind falling fast. In sum, given the economics alone, it makes essentially no sense whatsoever to invest any further in 19th and 20th century fossil fuel technologies. When you factor in the environmental and health "externalities" of fossil fuels, it makes even less than "no sense."
Unless, of course, you are a fossil fuel company or fossil-fuel-heavy utility that wants to hold on to their profitable entrenched, "incumbent" status as long as possible. But just because they want to milk a few more years of profit out of despoiling the environment doesn't mean we have to enable their greed-above-all, screw-the-planet behavior. And there's certainly no reason why Virginia's governor shouldn't send them that message, loud and clear -- while moving up the rankings from "orange" to "green" in the process.

VA "Democratic" Leader Dick Saslaw Strikes Again, This Time Wants to Make Execution Drugs Secret

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Yep, the same Dick Saslaw who doesn't believe Virginia needs any stinkin' ethics laws, who is well known to despise progressives and environmentalists (aka, his "base"; can you imagine Tommy Norment constantly dissing his right-wing base like this?!?), who recently called the Sierra Club "crazy," who has presided over Democrats losing control of the Virginia State Senate (and the pissing away of much of the money he raised), is at it again. This time?That's right, Saslaw's latest cause is to ensure that "information relating to the identity of...compounding drugs for use in executions and all documents related to the execution process are confidential, exempt from the Freedom of Information Act, and not subject to discovery or introduction as evidence in a civil proceeding except for good cause shown."
Now why might Saslaw be doing something like this? Well, for starters, he's a supporter of the death penalty. Virginia also has a "problem," if you think not being able to execute people is a "problem," in that it has some lethal injection drugs, lacks anesthetic ("the department does not have in stock either thiopental sodium or pentobarbital - anesthetics used as the first in the three-drug lethal injection protocol developed by the Department of Corrections."). Meanwhile, the U.S. Supreme Court is preparing to rule on the constitutionality of an execution "drug cocktail," with death row opponents contending "that the drugs being used are untested, experimental drug combinations that can cause great suffering, in violation of the Eighth Amendment ban on cruel and unusual punishment."
Now, if the public doesn't know what is IN Virginia's execution "drug cocktail," it will be kind of hard to challenge it in court. Of course, the public should have a right to know this information, as the state is arguing for the right to put people to death using our tax dollars. In short, Dick Saslaw is wrong both on the merits of the issue here as well as on the right of the public to know what's going on. So when is someone going to primary this faux "Democrat?"

RPV's Farewell to Chair Features "Spousal Rape" Guy, "Anti-Semitic Joke" Dude, Convicted Felon

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Ah, the Republican Party of Virginia (RPV), that force for moderation and sanity, gotta love it. Today, they've having their farewell lunch for RPV Chair Pat Mullins, to be replaced by John Whitbeck, at an event cohosted by Sen. Dick Black and at which speakers included Ollie North. Just a few quick points about what this says about Virginia Republicans.1. They clearly have no problem with the far-far-far-right-wing nutjob (State Sen. Dick Black) who sent plastic fetuses to members of the General Assembly, and who likes to muse about"spousal rape," "nighties, supposed gay rapes in the showers, and how contraceptives are just"baby pesticides.
2. They also clearly have no problem with the convicted felon (Ollie North) and extremist who almost singlehandedly brought down the presidency of their greatest hero, Ronald Reagan. Also note that Nancy Reagan ripped North, "asserting that the former aide to President Ronald Reagan 'lied to my husband and lied about my husband'" and that he "has a great deal of trouble separating fact from fantasy."
3. Finally, as for the incoming RPV Chair John Whitbeck, here are a few articles you might want to check out about him: Virginia Candidate John Whitbeck Has Anti-Semitic 'Macaca' Moment; Mark Herring: Statements Made at Cuccinelli Rally "a disgrace to Loudoun County & the Commonwealth", and Anti-Semitic "Joke" Candidate's HOA Was Sued for Anti-Arab/Muslim Discrimination.
Any further questions about the Republican Party of Virginia?
P.S. Also note that none of these folks has condemned State Senator Steve Martin for hisrecent comments about how Muslim Americans shouldn't be protected by the U.S. constitution (Martin continued his tirade against Muslims: "They celebrate death. We celebrate life. They celebrate denial of liberty. We celebrate liberty restrained by virtue.")

Atlantic Coast Pipeline Opponents Rally on Capitol Square

Friday, January 23, 2015

by Pontoon

No Pipelines photo 150123RichmondNoPipeline_s_zps69e10fda-1.jpgAnti-pipeline grassroots groups Free Nelson and Friends of Nelson, and the Sierra Club held a rally Friday at the Bell Tower protesting the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline. They were also there to seek support for a bill Senators Emmett Hanger (R-Mt. Solon) and Creigh Deeds (D-Milboro) are cosponsoring which would repeal what has been dubbed the Wagner Bill. The Wagner bill purportedly gives natural gas companies the right to trespass on private property without landowner permission to survey and do other testing needed as they choose the best possible route for a pipeline.About 60 landowners and residents of Nelson County made the trek to Richmond to share their frustration with the bullying and abusive tactics used by Dominion in its attempts to pressure landowners into allowing it to survey. Approximately 70% of landowners in Nelson have steadfastly refused to allow surveyors onto their properties.  Dominion retaliated with letters threatening lawsuits, and in December began filing those suits, making its actions public on Christmas Eve. Since December, they continue to file suits in dribs and drabs, with the latest 6 suits being filed January 21, one of which is against John Ed and Ruth Purvis, seventh generation farmers. (See earlier post.)
The protesters recognized Hanger and Deeds for their efforts to protect their property rights, as well as Richard "Dickie" Bell for legislation he introduced requiring public service corporations to meet the Freedom of Information statute should they use eminent domain while completing a project. Sharon Ponton, a Free Nelson organizer, spoke about her frustration with elected officials within the Democratic Party, making specific reference to Governor Terry McAuliffe's first energy policy action as being to "stand at a podium beside Dominion and call a 42" fracked gas pipeline a game changer" after running as a green renewable energy candidate. She continued by asking if the Governor thought an African American community known as Union Hill whose ancestors had received their land from their previous slaveholders after emancipation would think it was a game changer when the pipeline destroyed their community". The crowd bellowed, "No'" in response. She gave other examples of private property being desecrated and each time the crowd answered empathetically no.

Sen. Warner Votes Against Amendment on Urgency of Climate Change, Switching to Clean Energy

Who on earth would oppose an amendment (see below) that simply reiterates the science of climate change -- namely, that it's real and caused mostly by humans -- while urging that we move towards non-carbon-based energy?  As you can see from the roll call vote on the Bernie Sanders amendment to the Keystone XL bill, every single Democrat but three - Heidi Heitkamp, Claire McCaskill and....Virginia's own crazy "radical centrist," Mark Warner - voted against "tabling" (aka, "killing") this amendment.  Yeah, I know, WTF Mark Warner?!?  I mean, heck, even Sen. Joe "Coal" Manchin voted the right way on this one.
What's totally f'ed up about this vote is that fossil fuels make up only a tiny percentage of Virginia's economy, so there's not even that lame excuse. In addition, Hampton Roads is one of the most vulnerable areas in the entire country to the impacts of climate change. Plus, Virginia stands to benefit enormously from the business opportunities surrounding the multi-trillion-dollar clean energy market in coming days -- unless, of course, we foolishly, idiotically choose not to take advantage of that profit opportunity.
Finally, what really boggles my mind is that when "Green Miles" Grant, Josh Tulkin (at the time with the Chesapeake Climate Action Network) and I met with Mark Warner in January 2008, we all felt that he totally "got it" with regards to climate change and clean energy. So what happened since then? I mean, in the real world, the urgency of dealing with climate change has actually GROWN significantly since then, while the cost of clean energy has plummeted.  If anything, in other words, Warner should have become far MORE enthused about clean energy as a business opportunity, and also far MORE concerned about global warming. The question is, why hasn't he?
SA 24. Mr. SANDERS (for himself, Mr. BENNET, Mr. CARDIN, and Mr. MENENDEZ) submitted an amendment intended to be proposed by him to the bill S. 1, to approve the Keystone XL Pipeline; which was ordered to lie on the table; as follows:
     After section 2, insert the following:

Solar Power Grows by Leaps and Bounds in USA...But NOT in Virginia

The other day, I ran into yet another article - on the superb website Greentech Media - regarding the rapid rise of clean energy in America. The numbers this article ("America Installed 22 Times More Solar in 2014 Than in 2008") presents are truly eye popping.
In 2008, the U.S. installed 263 megawatts (AC) of solar PV and CSP. In 2014, based on GTM Research's conservative estimates, the U.S. installed at least 5.7 gigawatts (AC). The PV figures were discounted into AC from DC in order to make an accurate comparison and include concentrating solar.More than 80,000 new jobs have been created in the industry since then. Today, one company, SolarCity, is booking almost as much solar capacity in one quarter as the entire industry put on-line in all of 2008.
So, yeah, solar power installation in this country is growing by leaps and bounds as the cost of solar plummets. And no, the fastest-growing states are not just in the desert southwest, but also in places like Colorado, Delaware, Massachussetts, New Jersey, North Carolina, Vermont, Maryland, Connecticut, Oregon and Pennsylvania. Notice a state missing here? That's right, Virginia, also known as the "Old Dominion, with the emphasis on the word "Dominion" - as in Dominion Virginia Power, a largely fossil-fuel (and nuclear) utility which essentially owns the Virginia General Assembly, as well as the powerful State Corporation Commission, which ostensibly is supposed to regulate Dominion.So, what have the results been in Virginia, with Dominion and its fossil-fuel-funded friends in the state legislature blocking and tackling for dirty, carbon-based fuels, while doing their utmost to stymie the explosion of clean energy (wind, solar, energy efficiency, etc.) we're seeing in the rest of the country and world?
In two words: not good. Here's the sad story, courtesy of the Solar Energy Industries Asssociation (SEIA):
In 2013, Virginia installed 6 MW of solar electric capacity, ranking it 27th nationally...The 9 MW of solar energy currently installed in Virginia ranks the state 30th in the country in installed solar capacity.  There is enough solar energy installed in the state to power 1,000 homes.
Wow, 1,000 homes out of millions. Yes, that number really is as pitiful as it looks. The frustrating thing is that the situation is pitiful not because Virginia is lacking in sunshine, wind, or potential for energy efficiency gains, but simply because of bad policies.On the upside, policy is something we can change, at least in theory. Of course, the "powers that be" could decide not to change policy, but that won't help their pals at Dominion Power in the long run. For more on that, see David Roberts' superb article, Rooftop solar is just the beginning; utilities must innovate or go extinct. So, Dominion (and Virginia more broadly) has a stark choice: 1) continue to fight inevitable change, saddle Virginians with dirty energy for years to come, yet eventually see the entire business model collapse anyway (what Roberts calls the "death spiral"); or 2) adapt to a changing world, one in which even oil-rich Middle Eastern countries are moving heavily into solar power for purely economic reasons -- because its price is low and heading lower. It seems like an easy call to make, but as we saw just this morning, with the defeat of a Virginia renewable energy tax credit bill (by Del. Rip Sullivan) in a House of Delegates committee, there are a lot of politicians who still don't "get it."  

Your 2015 Legislative Session Cheat Sheet, Part 2: Fossil Fuels

By ivymain

My last post covered clean energy bills introduced into the 2015 legislative session, which began last week and ends at the end of February. Time to hustle on to the oil, gas, and coal bills.Coal subsidies
Coal companies claim to be victims of a "war on coal," but for nearly two decades they've been conducting a war on Virginia taxpayers. Virginia's tax code offers so many preferences that a 2012 study concluded the coal industry costs Virginia more than it gives back. Among other preferences, two different subsidies in the Code have allowed coal companies to siphon off tens of millions of dollars annually from the General Fund since 1996.
The subsidies come with nominal sunset dates, currently January 1, 2017. Over nearly twenty years, no matter how fat or lean the state's financial condition, the legislature has repeatedly passed extensions, and they are being asked to do so again this year. HB 1879 (Kilgore) and SB 741 (Carrico) would extend the giveaway out to 2022.
(According to, Delegate Kilgore, chairman of the Commerce and Labor Committee, gets a check for $10,000 every year from coal giant Alpha Natural Resources. Alpha also gives ten grand a year to Senator Carrico, who just happens to sit on Senate Finance, which will hear the bill. I mention these facts only in passing. It would be cynical to suggest a connection.)
Supporters of the subsidies seem to believe coal companies need the inducement to blow up our mountains and dump waste into stream valleys. And they maintain this is a good thing for the people of Southwest Virginia, who can enjoy gainful employment by participating in the destruction of their communities.
The coal companies certainly do benefit from this arrangement, but coal jobs have declined to less than 5,000 total in Virginia today, and it's clear to everyone that Southwest Virginia needs to diversify its economy or face a future of poverty and high unemployment. The coal subsidies suck up money that could be spent on new jobs and a better-educated workforce.

Sen. Saslaw Continues to Oppose Strengthened Ethics Laws; Says "Everyone Knows" Sierra Club "Crazy"

Thursday, January 22, 2015

For more on Saslaw's obnoxious, bizarre comments see the Checks and Balances Project(C&BP). A few highlights:

  • C&BP Executive Director Scott Peterson "pointed out that last year, Dominion was the largest donor to state-level politicians with over $1.3 million in campaign contributions.* 'No wonder Dominion Virginia gets its way when it comes to energy in Virginia.'"
    *Peterson writes: "I had Senator Saslaw's attention now. In fact, he appeared to be glaring at me."
  • Saslaw doubled down on what he said in March 2014 ("Video: In Crude Language, Sen. Dick Saslaw Argues that Ethics Laws are Irrelevant, Unnecessary"), regarding how you "can't legislate ethics," because "either you're dishonest or you're not." Ugh.
  • Saslaw refused to let Peterson respond, then "before I could sit down...bounded up the aisle toward me...walked up and leaned in within inches of my face...told me that he had been interviewed by the FBI who told him that the way he handled campaign contributions was not corrupt."
  • As for the following exchange, it needs to be quoted in full to believe:
He seemed not to understand, so I repeated the word "apologist." He then explained how he had gotten Virginia Dominion President Robert Blue and a solar chieftain together to try and work out their differences. I countered with the fact that the Sierra Club's climate and energy scorecard had given Senator Saslaw an overall grade of D, while three Republican delegates received B's."Well," Senator Saslaw huffed. "Everyone knows they're crazy!" He invited me to visit him in Richmond, then walked off.
Of course, when Saslaw talks about how "everyone knows," he's talking about the people corporate interests he hangs out with (lobbyists from Dominion, the Virginia Bankers Association, Verizon, the Beer Wholesalers, the Auto Dealers, the Trial Lawyers, the Wine Wholesalers, the Realtors, the coal companies, etc, etc.).Bottom line: Dick Saslaw continues to represent the antithesis of where Virginia should be going on ethics legislation. He also should be an embarrassment to any Virginia Democrat with a moral compass. Sad to say - at least as far as I can determine - he remains as Majority Leader in large part due to his ability to raise s***-tons of money from Dominion Power and many other wealthy, powerful corporations. The problem, other than the massive ethics #FAIL of doing the bidding of companies who contribute huge sums of money to you, is that Saslaw's utterly incompetent in what he DOES with the money, such as blowing hundreds of thousands of dollars on an unwinnable special election for Phil Puckett's Senate seat in a 2:1 Cuccinelli district, or losing control of the State Senate in district lines drawn/approved by him. And that's not even counting the fact that Saslaw completely missed the embezzlement of $600,000 of his own money by trusted advisors. But, again, as Saslaw himself says, you can't legislate that kind of thing. So,  by that fascinating "reasoning," I guess Saslaw won't be pressing charges against the people who stole his money? Talk about "crazy." 

VA House Republicans Block Attempt to Prohibit Fundraising During Lengthy Special Sessions

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Currently, as you probably are aware, members of the Virginia General Assembly are prohibited from raising money during session. There's a logic to this; namely, that fundraising during session creates at least the appearance of impropriety (e.g., members taking  money from the very corporations and others who stand to gain - or lose - from legislation before those very same General Assembly members).Of course, this prohibition is utterly inadequate - basically a bad joke - as it's still possible for corporations and others to donate unlimited amounts of money to members in all the time leading up to and following sessions. For instance, while our pals at Dominion Power aren't allowed to donate to Speaker Bill "ALEC" Howell DURING a session, it's perfectly legal from them to donate as much as they want to Howell (or anyone else) the moment a session ends, all the way up to the moment a new session begins. How on earth that prevents the appearance of impropriety, let alone actual impropriety (e.g., the "capture" of our government by powerful interests of all types) is beyond me.
Add to this pathetically weak, intrinsically corrupt situation the fact that Republicans last year held extended "special sessions," the apparent purpose of which being to prevent Gov. McAuliffe from appointing judges, while effectively allowing the Republican-dominated legislature to stack the Virginia judiciary. During those "special sessions," commonsense would suggest that the same logic about not being able to fundraise during regular sessions would apply. I mean, either you're in session or you're not, whether it's called "special" or "regular" or whatever.
Right? Except for one problem: we're not talking about normal human logic here, but instead that strange, oxymoronic concept known as "Republican logic." As Gov. McAuliffe tweeted earlier today: "Disappointed to see a party line vote defeat proposal to ban fundraising in special session. A session is a session & should have same rules." Yeah, you'd think they should. But not, apparently, in a General Assembly controlled by the likes of Bill "ALEC" Howell, Tommy Norment, etc.
Anyway, that so-called "Republican logic" was on full display earlier today in a House of Delegates subcommittee, where Republicans killed, on a party-line vote (shocker!), legislation that would have prohibited fundraising during special sessions, just as it's prohibited during regular sessions. I had a short conversation with Democratic House Leader Del. David Toscano about this a little while ago. The bottom line, in Toscano's view, is that prohibiting fundraising during special sessions would have made Virginia's pathetically weak campaign finance ethics system at least a wee bit stronger than it is now. But Republicans clearly prefer to have their cake (being able to call extended special sessions to block Gov. McAuliffe from appointing people to the judiciary) and eat it too (treat the special session differently than the regular session when it comes to raising money). It's not good government, it's not a sign of seriousness on ethics reform (even after everything we've seen the past couple years, including the conviction of former Gov. McDonnell), and it's not internally consistent logic.'s what Republicans want, and sadly they're in the majority right now and can get their way. Which is just one reason, out of many other important ones, why Democrats need to take back the State Senate this November and pick up a bunch of seats in the House of Delegates as well.  

Living in Dominion's Sacrifice Zones

by Pontoon

 photo NelsonProperty_zps60ea7b58.jpgAt the end of a country lane in Nelson County, Virgiinia, you will find one of Dominion's sacrifice zones.   Approaching the home , built in 1904, there are acre upon acre of fertile rolling pasture; in the background, you see only steep mountain slopes. The views are commonplace in this area, but are breathtaking still.  The 400-acre property is owned by John Ed Purvis and his wife, Ruth.  John Ed has lived in Nelson his entire life on this farm with the exception of the four years he spent in the Air Force.  His wife Ruth grew up in Nelson the Tyro and Roseland areas of Nelson County. He and Ruth married in 1954 and will celebrate their 61st anniversary in February.  They have four children, and they both worked outside the home, while farming the land, and raising their family.John Ed is the seventh generation of his family to own and farm this land.  He has traced his ancestry back to 1739 when 3 Purvis brothers arrived in America from England.  One of those brothers, George Purvis, settled in Nelson County in 1768, the  beginning of the line which begat John Ed Purvis.  The Purvis' have had a good life here.  John Ed and Ruth are good neighbors and friends.  John Ed has been known to show up on one of his big tractors at a neighbor's home after a big snowfall, plow the drive, and leave quietly acknowledging his neighbor's thank you with a smile and a slight wave of his hand. He served on the Nelson County School Board for 18 years.  Ruth spent 20 years as a secretary in various positions including a stint in a Veterans Affairs office while John Ed was serving our country, and later in the Nelson County Circuit Court Clerk's office.
John Ed and Ruth, just as their ancestors were, have been good stewards of the land, raising cattle, growing hay and harvesting timber.  One day last May, John Ed and Ruth received a certified letter from Dominion Resources telling them a pipeline was coming through.  Dominion needed to survey the Purvis farm because it wanted to construct its 42" natural gas pipeline on their family farm.  John Ed and Ruth were surprised like other Nelsonians and were even more surprised when they learned about a law the Virginia General Assembly passed.  "This law they passed in Richmond in 2004 alllowing survey without permission isn't right.  It has gotten everybody riled up," he stated.   He continued, "Eminent domain is for building schools and roads--things that benefit the community." The couple is keenly aware they and other landowners, nor the community will receive any benefit from Dominion's attempted land grab to build its pipeline.  
pontoon :: Living in Dominion's Sacrifice Zones
 photo JohnEdandRuthPurvis_zps3a24e18c.jpgThey decided they would refuse to allow Dominion access to their property to survey,  and jokingly remarked, "We've got access to a lot of legal advice," referring to one of his sons who is a lawyer, and a daughter-in-law who is a judge.  They have had Dominion up at the house twice.  John Ed doesn't believe what Dominion tells them because he gets different answers to the same question from different Dominion representatives.  He says, "Dominion hasn't sued us yet." But the couple fully expects a law suit to come any day now. John Ed states quite clearly, "I don't plan to allow surveying of my property, nor do I plan to have the pipeline cross my property.  I have no plans to negotiate with Dominion."His daughter, Elizabeth Purvis Shepard, said recently in a letter to the editor she wrote to the Nelson County Times,  "It breaks my heart that his (her father's) final years must be spent fighting a multimillion dollar corporation for his own land rights, or worse yet, that he may actually have to watch the destruction of his property when, heaven forbid, the pipeline is laid.". The family is pretty dismayed both John Ed and Ruth and his ancestors owned the land, worked the land, paid taxes on the land for about 200 years, and out of the blue, a for-profit corporation can just mail them a letter and say, we want your land for our pipeline. They estimate if Dominion prevails, the pipeline will cross about two-and-a-half miles of their 400 acres and then he shares, "We'll still have to pay taxes on it.  The cows will still be able to graze, if it is done.  But the timber, the timber will be gone forever."
The Purvis' will be required to live in Dominion's sacrifice zone, a 1,100 foot area which is known as a high hazard zone should the pipeline, if ever built, explode.   As we bid him goodbye, he stood on the front porch, pointed toward a grove of trees in the distance and said, "The family cemetery is down there, between those two big cedar trees.  It has chain link fence around it. Not sure what will happen to that either if this pipeline comes through."

Your 2015 legislative session cheat sheet: Clean energy bills

by Ivy Main

I'm starting my review of 2015 energy legislation with a look at bills dealing with renewable energy and energy efficiency. Most of these bills will be heard in the committees on Commerce and Labor, though bills that cost money (tax credits and grants) usually go to Finance.Bills referred to Senate Commerce and Labor are heard by the full committee, which meets on Monday afternoons. It consists of 14 members: 11 Republicans and 3 Democrats. They form a tough lineup; none of these senators received better than a "C" on the Sierra Club's Climate and Energy Scorecard.
The House bills are typically assigned to the 13-member Special Subcommittee on Energy (10 Republicans and 3 Democrats, no fixed schedule, but we've heard February 3d is the likely date). Bills that do not meet the approval of Dominion Power can expect a quick death here on an unrecorded voice vote, never to be heard from again. But on the plus side, the meetings are often quite lively, like old-fashioned hangings.
Net metering bills
Net metering is the policy that allows owners of solar (or other renewable) energy systems to be credited for the excess power they feed back into the grid when the systems produce a surplus; the owners use the credits when their systems aren't supplying power and they need to draw electricity from the grid. Virginia law restricts who can use net metering, and how much. Expanding net metering is a major goal of renewable energy advocates, who argue it offers a free market approach to growth-give customers the freedom to build solar projects, get the utility out of the way, and solar will thrive.
This year's initiatives include:

Do These Stories Give You the "Warm and Fuzzies" Over Ethics in Virginia Government?

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Two stories on the Washington Post website, two prime examples of the "Virginia Way" in action. I'm not, of course, talking about the "Virginia Way" that meant Virginia was somehow above the petty (or more than petty) corruption we see in other states, countries, etc. Instead, I'm talking about the REAL "Virginia Way," as explained here by DJ Rippert -- "Endless recent scandals (Tobacco Indemnification Fund, Phil Hamilton, Star Scientific, etc, etc)." Below, you can see the two examples of how dirty money in politics has made a mockery of the "Virginia Way." I mean, seriously, after all that's happened -- including Republicans having the chutzpah to attack Mark Warner over the sleazy Phil Puckett jobs-in-exchange-for-Puckett's-resignation/control-of-the-State-Senate deal, the one that THEY came up with -- Republicans are about to vote to approve a judgeship for Phil Puckett's daughter? And these are the same people who the people of Virginia are trusting to enact ethics reform that's worth anything? Amazing.

Webb Jumps the Shark, Contradicts Everything He's Said Since 2006, in Bizarre "Middle Class" Tweet

(UPDATE: The comments on this are scathing. - promoted by lowkell)

For anyone who remembers Webb's 2006 campaign for U.S. Senate, you undoubtedly recall that he talked constantly about the poor getting poorer, the rich getting richer, and the "middle class getting squeezed." Yet now, for some bizarre reason, he's not a "fan" of the "'middle class' lingo" or apparently of "class" rhetoric?!?  Sorry, but Jim Webb has now officially jumped the shark. WTF?

Not a fan of the "middle class" lingo. Fighting for hard working Americans and small business isn’t about class.  

Video: AG Mark Herring Addresses Gun Violence Vigil and Advocacy Day

Monday, January 19, 2015

Have I mentioned recently how lucky we are to have Mark Herring as our Attorney General and not Mark "Criminalize Miscarriages" Obenshain? On, and if anyone tries to tell you that their vote doesn't matter, remind them that Herring beat Obenshain by just 165 votes out of 2.2 million cast. So yeah, every vote DOES matter - big time.As for the issue of gun safety, the lazy, cowardly corporate media can report it as "both sides" all it wants, but the fact is that Virginians overwhelmingly support commonsense gun safety measures (e.g., "By an overwhelming 92-7 percent, Virginia voters support background checks for people who buy guns at gun shows;" "58-39 percent support for a national ban on assault weapons;" "59-37 percent support for banning high capacity ammunition magazines;" "62-27 percent that allowing people to own assault weapons makes the country more dangerous;" "66-31 percent oppose allowing teachers to carry concealed weapons in the classroom"). The problem, as always, is that a passionate, vocal, well-funded minority can outweigh a large but relatively silent and passive majority. Obviously, that needs to change.

Virginia Republicans Praise MLK, Jr., Even Though They Oppose Much of What He Stood For

I'm not sure if Virginia Republicans simply have little knowledge of history or no sense of self awareness, but to see them praise Martin Luther King, Jr., despite opposing much (most?) of what he stood for, is truly striking. For instance, Rep. Barbara Comstock cites the King quote, "The time is always right to do what is right." Yet Comstock is a diehard right winger, anti-progressive, tool of the most powerful in our society at the expense of the most vulnerable, proponent of MORE economic inequality, supporter of minority voter suppression techniques (such as a stringent photo ID law she voted for in 2013), etc.  Not surprisingly, Martin Luther King, Jr. recognized that the Republican Party "geared its appeal and program to racism, reaction, and extremism," something they honed during the 1970s and 1980s with its infamous "Southern Strategy" of Lee Atwater, Karl Rove, etc. Today, has the Republican Party changed very much, when it uses the fabricated, fallacious excuse of "voter fraud" to push minority voter suppression laws across the country? How about when its Tea Party wing holds rallies at which you don't have to look very far to see the most vile, racist imagery about Barack Obama, Michele Obama, etc. on their signs? Even worse, in some ways, is the deafening silence, the lack of condemnation, of these signs and rhetoric by leading Republicans. Of course, one of the top Republican House leaders was recently found to have spoken at a white supremacist conference organized by David Duke, and he has NOT been booted out of leadership. Hmmmm.
As for MLK, Jr.'s views on economic fairness and social justice, how many of these quotes orthese or these (or many more) do you think Barbara Comstock - or other Virginia Republicans (e.g., Dave Brat, Ed Gillespie, Ken Cuccinelli) would be comfortable with?
*"Our only hope today lies in our ability to recapture the revolutionary spirit and go out into a sometimes hostile world declaring eternal hostility to poverty, racism, and militarism."
*"True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring."
*"So it is obvious that if man is to redeem his spiritual and moral 'lag', he must go all out to bridge the social and economic gulf between the 'haves' and the 'have nots' of the world. Poverty is one of the most urgent items on the agenda of modern life."
*"A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual doom."
*"The curse of poverty has no justification in our age. It is socially as cruel and blind as the practice of cannibalism at the dawn of civilization, when men ate each other because they had not yet learned to take food from the soil or to consume the abundant animal life around them. The time has come for us to civilize ourselves by the total, direct and immediate abolition of poverty."
*"We must create full employment, or we must create incomes. People must be made consumers by one method or the other. Once they are placed in this position, we need to be concerned that the potential of the individual is not wasted. New forms of work that enhance the social good will have to be devised for those for whom traditional jobs are not available... Work of this sort could be enormously increased, and we are likely to find thatthe problem of housing, education, instead of preceding the elimination of poverty, will themselves be affected if poverty is first abolished"
*"I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin-we must rapidly begin the shift from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism and militarism are incapable of being conquered."

New WaPo-ABC Poll Shows Toxic Impact of Media's "Both Sides" False Equivalency "Reporting"

Before we get to the subject noted in the headline, let's present the good news first from this morning's new Washington Post/ABC News poll: President Obama is now at an approval rating of 50%-44% among all U.S. adults, "the highest in a Post-ABC poll since the spring of 2013...nine points higher than in December and seven points higher than in October." Again, that's the good news, and it comes in spite of negative, biased reporting by our overwhelmingly corporate and right-wing media.Now the bad news, for which I overwhelmingly blame the corporate/right-wing media's incessant - and blatantly, demonstrably, empirically false - narrative that it's actually "both sides," not just the Republicans and Tea Partiers, who are equally responsible for gridlock in Congress, problems in our country, you name it. Again, keep in mind that this is not just false, but wildly so. Now, here are the results that have me so appalled:
*"Overall, who do you trust to do a better job coping with the main problems the nation faces over the next few years (Obama) or (the Republicans in Congress)?"
The contrast between where we found ourselves in 2009, when Republicans handed the baton to Democratic leadership, and now, five years later -- is stunning. And this massive improvement in our economy comes about in spite of Republican obstructionism, shutting down the government threatening to default on our country's national debt, declaring that their #1 priority was for President Obama to "fail," etc., etc.  Yet in spite of all that evidence, the Post/ABC poll finds the country almost even split on who they trust to do a better job facing country between President Obama (40%) and Republicans (36%), with 17% saying "neither." Again, I blame the corporate media, and its 24/7 barrage of false equivalence, "both sides" reporting for most of that. I also blame Democratic politicians, Mark Warner being a prime example, for adopting this brain-dead, utterly false "framing" and perpetuating it.
*"Who do you think is mainly responsible for [government dysfunction] - (Obama and the Democrats in Congress), (the Republicans in Congress), or both sides equally?"
Again, there's no question, factually speaking, who is at fault here: the Tea Party and the Republicans. They are the ones who have behaved in a wildly irresponsible, destructive manner since President Obama took office. They are the ones who shoved sequestration down our throats. They are the ones who shut down the government. They are the ones who threatened to default on our country's national debt. They are the ones who blocked investment in U.S. infrastructure, action on climate change and energy policy, action to help stem the scourge of gun violence, comprehensive immigration reform, action to address growing income inequality and wage stagnation, you name it. And despite all this, Democrats have made progress pulling us out of the Great Recession, which was handed over to President Obama by Bush, Cheney, etc. Yet somehow, Americans hold "both sides" equally responsible (61%) for making our government dysfunctional (note: an additional 18% bizarrely blame President Obama and Democrats in Congress, while 20% correctly blame Republicans in Congress).
*" Who do you think is taking a stronger leadership role in the government in Washington these days, (Obama) or (the Republicans in Congress)?"
Ditto to my previous comments.
Bottom line: the American public's belief that "both sides" are responsible for whatever problems our country faces, for government "dysfunction," etc., is completely false. As Thomas Mann of the American Enterprise Institute and Norm Ornstein of the Brookings Institute wrote in 2012 (and the situation hasn't changed signficantly since then):
We have been studying Washington politics and Congress for more than 40 years, and never have we seen them this dysfunctional. In our past writings, we have criticized both parties when we believed it was warranted. Today, however, we have no choice but to acknowledge that the core of the problem lies with the Republican Party.The GOP has become an insurgent outlier in American politics. It is ideologically extreme; scornful of compromise; unmoved by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition.
When one party moves this far from the mainstream, it makes it nearly impossible for the political system to deal constructively with the country's challenges.
Bingo. Yet the American public doesn't know this. Why not? Corporate media, j'accuse!

Oops, Dominion accidentally sues 14 Nelson County landowners

Saturday, January 17, 2015

by Pontoon

(One can only pray Dominion builds pipelines better than it conducts public relations - promoted by lowkell)

Pipeline Madness photo PipelineMadness_2_zps098ca578.jpgAfter we reported here on Blue Virginia this week Dominion had sued Sheriff David Brooks and his cancer stricken wife, Sherri, Charlottesville's Channel 19 interviewed the Brooks and the piece aired Thursday night. Oddly, on Friday Dominion sent out a statement to some media outlets saying they had given  their attorneys, McGuire Woods, incorrect maps. The firm used the incorrect maps as the basis to file lawsuits against Virginia landowners who have refused to allow Dominion onto their properties to survey for the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline. A total of 59 lawsuits were filed in Nelson County as of January 9th.Free Nelson, a grassroots anti-pipeline group in Nelson, had run two human interest posts on its Facebook page early last week, one on the Brooks being sued, and a second about another landowner, Pearl Miles, who had also been sued by Dominion.  Free Nelson learned during the Dominion Open House Wednesday night, landowner Pearl Miles had been told by Dominion her property was no longer in the proposed path of the pipeline.  They also told Mrs. Miles the suit against her was being withdrawn and she would be receiving a confirmation letter from Dominion outlining those facts. She was not told she was sued in error.
A statement released Friday by Jim Norvelle, Dominion's Communication Director announces:
"We have identified 14 landowners in Nelson County whose properties were on the original proposed route, but were removed by a reroute that occurred in October. However, the maps were not updated in a timely fashion. We are working to understand how that happened so it won't happen again. The reroute has removed the Brooks's property from consideration; their property is no longer on the proposed route. Obviously, we are also dropping the lawsuit against them.The incorrect maps were used in preparing the lawsuits. We are removing the 14 landowners, including the Brookses, from the list of lawsuits and apologizing to them for our mistake. While the lawsuits had been filed with the Nelson County Circuit Court clerk, they had not yet been served. Nevertheless, we are notifying them that their properties have been removed from the proposed route."
pontoon :: Oops, Dominion accidentally sues 14 Nelson County landowners
Surrender Our Property Rights? photo Truck_2_zpsae45e054.jpgMrs. Brooks stated, "They must have apologized silently to themselves because we have NOT heard from Dominion. We got this information from Rachel Ryan at Channel 19. We still oppose the pipeline and Dominion trying to take over our neighbor's property. We are still going to fight Dominion."Dominion's statement that "though the suits had been filed, they hadn't been served" illustrates its continued callousness toward the people who have the most at stake.  These lawsuits were filed and are a matter of public record.  In small, rural communities everyone knows when these suits are filed and against whom.
The community is in an uproar over this Dominion fiasco. Landowners are asking if Dominion should be required to hold another open house since its maps were obviously incorrect. Dominion's private process servers are showing up to serve its lawsuits at rural homes at 9 o'clock pm, in pitch black dark, frightening families when parents are getting their children ready for bed. Heidi Cochran, another landowner being sued posted: "Hard to believe they just now realized they had the wrong maps. Wonder how often mistakes are made that they don't realize until too late. They need to realize this pipeline is a mistake."
Nelsonian Matt Dwyer who is not on the proposed route (at least the routes Nelson has been shown, posted) says "Great example of the prospect/possibility of the pipeline being on ANYONE's home is presently miles away...but only for the stroke of a pen? I'm going to continue to react as if it were on my land...." Others in the community point to this error, the 3 pipeline accidents Dominion and/or its partnerships have been involved in since October 2, 2014, and the fines levied by West Virginia for Dominion's failure to prevent the pollution of 17 streams when it constructed a pipeline there, as clear and valid reasons to question Dominion's ability to safely, effectively take on construction of a 550-mile, 42" pipeline. Others still question how it could take over 2 months for someone at Dominion to sit at a computer and redraw a line, claiming Dominion is obviously incompetent or it is bowing to the bad press surrounding its suit of the Sheriff of Nelson County and his ill wife.
One would expect if Dominion can make such heroic efforts to serve landowners with the lawsuits, it could do as well for the families they sued in error. Only two of the 14 families now know they aren't being sued. The others are still talking to and hiring attorneys to defend themselves against Goliath! When might Goliath let the 12 Davids know they were sued in error? That's anybody's guess. Other than Dominion's.

Virginia Senate Dems at Serious "Cash on Hand" Disadvantage Heading Into 2015 Elections

I've been perusing the year-end financial reports on VPAP, with a particular eye towards cash on hand for State Senate members, given that control of the Virginia State Senate is the most important thing on the ballot this year. In addition, the shocking news that Democratic Senate leader Dick Saslaw had "roughly $600,000 allegedly embezzled from his campaign account" piqued my interest even further in the status of Senate Democrats' bank accounts heading into this crucial election year. What I found was not encouraging.
  • As you can see from the screen capture at the right, the top Senators in terms of "cash on hand" at the end of 2014 were overwhelmingly Republicans, with the first Democrats (Chap Petersen and Jennifer Wexton) appearing way down at #9 and #10, after a slew of Republican heavy hitters.
  • As for Dick Saslaw, who one would normally expect to be towards the top of this list, he's way down there at #14, with just $144,419 cash on hand. Obviously, that's not good news for Senate Democratic incumbents and candidates who normally look to Saslaw for large sums of money.
  • So what happened to all of Saslaw's money? We already mentioned the $600k that was embezzled into The Staylle Group, the Federal Leg. Association, and apparently someone named Lynn Miller. In addition, let's not forget the money thrown away attempting to hold the hopelessly un-holdable Phil Puckett seat (one that went approximately 2:1 for Ken Cuccinelli in 2013).
  • Saslaw also gave $50k to the Senate Democratic Caucus, which managed to end 2014 with thewhopping total of $5,779 cash on hand. That compares to the Virginia Senate Republican caucus, which ended 2014 not just with control of the State Senate, but with cash on hand of $684,324 -- nearly $680k more than the Senate Democratic Caucus. Ouch!
  • So, you're thinking perhaps Gov. McAuliffe might be able to bail Senate Democrats out? Perhaps, but he'll have to raise a lot of money in 2015 to do so, as he ended 2014 with just $152,472 in his "Common Good Virginia" PAC. By way of comparison, Bob McDonnell had $1,720,672 cash on hand at the end of his first year as governor -- more than ten times as much as Gov. McAuliffe has at the end of his first year.
  • Also note that House Speaker Bill Howell ended 2014 with $586,331 cash on hand in his PAC.Fortunately, he faces a primary challenge from Susan Stimpson, so let's hope Howell's forced to waste a lot of his money fighting off Stimpson and not focusing on beating Democrats in 2015.
  • Other relevant numbers: Lt. Governor Ralph Northam ended 2014 with $71,417 in his PAC, while AG Mark Herring had $31,238. For comparison purposes, Ken Cuccinelli had $263,558 cash on hand at the end of his first year as AG, while Bill Bolling had $328,265 at the end of his first year as Lt. Governor.
  • It's not much better in the House of Delegates either, with Republicans once again dominating the money contest.

Bottom line: Virginia Democrats appear to be heading into the crucial 2015 election year, with control of the State Senate hanging in the balance, at a serious financial disadvantage to Virginia Republicans. I keep thinking there MUST be a way to look at these numbers and come out with an optimistic conclusion, but damned if I've figured it out. Anyone else?