Paris Climate Talks Should Spur Dominion Virginia Power -- and Gov. McAuliffe - to Change Course ASAP

Monday, November 30, 2015

What should utilities like Dominion Virginia Power be taking away from the Paris climate talks? Utility Dive has some thoughts, all of which are highly applicable here in Virginia.

1. "Any deal could have far-reaching consequences on electric utilities – a sector for which the talks hold special significance... analysts say utilities should pay close attention to how world leaders shape deeper decarbonization goals out to midcentury, as those goals will influence their investements today." In other words, utilities like Dominion Power should not be locking in long-term investments that emit carbon pollution, but should be focusing almost exclusively on energy efficiency, solar, wind and other forms of clean, non-carbon-based energy.

2. According to Rachel Cleetus, lead economist at the Union of Concerned Scientists, although "power companies will likely be prepared in the short term for any emissions goals that come out of Paris," the longer-term outlook is far less clear. Thus, "A power plant that looks like a good investment today may not be such a lucrative asset in a few decades when analysts expect decarbonization goals to be more ambitious, and that warning applies particularly to American utilities." Again, the implication here for Dominion Power - and for Gov. Terry McAuliffe - is that their over-the-top enthusiasm for new natural gas infrastructure (e.g., Gov. McAuliffe has absurdly - and falsely - called the proposed Atlantic Coast [natural gas] Pipeline a "game changer") is wildly off base. Instead of locking us in to a fossil fuel future, even if it's one that emits less carbon pollution (but more methane, a powerful greenhouse gas!) than coal, it's utterly unwise, also potentially highly risky as constraints on carbon pollution necessarily get tougher and tougher in coming years.

2a. Amplifying point #2, Cleetus says: “Simply ramping up natural gas is not going to put us on that long term pathway we need to continue to ratchet up ambition in terms of emission reduction...Gas has an important role to play but it has to stay contained. It is a fossil fuel at the end of the day and it does come with carbon emissions and there are leakage issues as well.” Again, proposed new natural gas pipelines, like the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, are the (wildly) wrong way we should be going here in Virginia.

3. What SHOULD Dominion Power and Gov. McAuliffe be focused on? According to Cleetus (and many other energy experts): "Accelerating the shift from fossil fuels to renewables and energy efficiency will be key in the fight to meeting those goals...but so will energy storage, which holds the promise of one day replacing peaker plants. Nuclear generation could also have a role to play in the decarbonized economy, but only if it addresses its current issues with construction delays and cost overruns." Note that last point, with which I fully agree; namely, that nuclear power COULD be a viable option, but ONLY if it deals with its massive cost overruns and need for huge subsidies by taxpayers. If it does that, great. If not, then new nuclear power simply shouldn't be built, especially since energy efficiency is so much cheaper, as is onshore wind and utility-scale solar.

So what are Dominion's current plans, and how do they stack up to the criteria I've listed above? According to Dominion's plans for 2015 to 2020, the company remains wildly off course: $2.4 billion on the Atlantic Coast Pipeline boondoggle; $341 million on the new, natural-gas-fired Brunswick Power Station; $1.3 billion on the new, natural-gas-fired Greensville Power Station; $808 million on the proposed North Anna 3 nuclear unit; and a continuation of Dominion's top-down model, as evidenced by its continued hostility to rooftop solar power and other "distributed" forms of energy, while spending billions on its traditional transmission infrastructure. In other words, #FAIL all around, with the exception of the far-from-sufficient investments Dominion plans to make in utility-scale solar ($700 million) and offshore wind ($379 million). How about taking the billions for new natural gas infrastructure and putting it ALL into: a) energy efficiency; b) utility-scale solar; c) onshore and offshore wind; and d) more distributed power solutions? Oh, right, because Dominion has nobody pushing it to do any of that, and is sitting pretty right now as a state-protected monopoly, one that uses our utility payments to buy up our legislature. Sweet deal, huh?

Monday News: Paris Climate Talks Kick Off; Anti-Planned Parenthood Terrorism "the price of hateful rhetoric"

by owell

Here are a few national and Virginia news headlines, political and otherwise, for Monday, November 30. Also, check out the video of President Obama's remarks this morning to the Paris climate talks.

New Study: Marijuana Arrests, Racial Disparity in Those Arrests, Increase Sharply in Virginia

Sunday, November 29, 2015

by Lowell

I read this article by Tom Jackman in the Washington Post about the new study, Racial Disparities in Marijuana Arrests in Virginia (2003-2013), and was utterly appalled at the key findings.
While the trend in much of the United States is moving toward decriminalization or legalization of marijuana, Virginia is heading in the opposite direction: With sharply rising arrest totals for the possession of pot and a disproportionate number of black people arrested in the Commonwealth, according to a new study based on state data reported to the FBI.

Although marijuana arrests dropped 6.5 percent nationwide between 2003 and 2014, possession arrests in Virginia increased by 76 percent during that period, according to research by the Drug Policy Alliance in New York. And arrests of black people in Virginia for marijuana increased by 106 percent from 2003 to 2013, accounting for 47 percent of the state’s arrests even though Virginia’s population is only 20 percent black.
Looking at the study itself, the results only get more appalling, particularly in certain Virginia jurisdictions. A few key points that jumped out at me include:

Sunday News: "Anti-Abortion Terrorism Must Be Stopped"; "Right-wing Trump denialism"

by Lowell

Here are a few national and Virginia news headlines, political and otherwise, for Sunday, November 29.

Andy Parker Rips Rep. Bob Goodlatte as "OK with...defunding Planned Parenthood" but NOT Holding Hearings on Gun Legislation

Saturday, November 28, 2015

by Lowell

Andy Parker is the father of former WDBJ7 reporter and Martinsville, Virginia native Alison Parker, who was gunned down on live television in late August while conducting an interview. I couldn't agree more with him on the deplorable Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), utter tool of the NRA.

I also agree that it's utterly laughable to call a murderer "pro-life" in any way. In fact, many people who call themselves "pro-life" are not consistently so -- on the death penalty or war, for instance. More accurately, these people are anti-abortion, not "pro-life" (note: supporters of women having access to full family planning services, including safe and legal abortion if necessary, are accurately called "pro-choice"). Finally, Parker is correct that "too easy access to guns," including by far-right extremists and assorted "wingnuts," is a huge problem.

As for the Republican presidential candidates, can you imagine the volume of their outrage right now if the shooter in this case had been a Muslim (or liberal, for that matter) who attacked an evangelical church? It would be deafening. Instead, what we've overwhelmingly gotten in this case, a white man with a gun shooting up a Planned Parenthood clinic, has been silence from 2016 Republican presidential candidates. Fascinating, eh?

Saturday News: "Today and every day, we #StandWithPP"

by Lowell

Here are a few national and Virginia news headlines, political and otherwise, for Saturday, November 28.

Video: Hanover County Board Chair Compares Secular/Non-Religious Americans to Foreign "Enemy"

Friday, November 27, 2015

For more background on this craziness, see this RTD article, which argues:
I’m thankful that we live in a nation where people have freedom of religion, or freedom from religion. In that regard, the board’s resolution seems the antithesis of conservatism or libertarianism. What’s more nanny state than telling people when they should pray? What comes next? Does the board “urge and encourage” the citizens of Hanover to tithe in lieu of paying taxes? Will it advocate the establishment of an official religion for the county?

Perhaps what we need here is more practicing and less preaching. In Virginia, where the majority party refuses to extend Medicaid coverage to the poor and would deny entry to desperate refugees fleeing war-torn Syria, expressions of religious piety from elected officials ring hollow. Government everywhere should have more pressing business than telling us to hit our knees, not unlike a parent hovering over a child at bedtime.
Also see Patheos, which writes:
...After a short speech by Hazzard about the importance of giving thanks to God, the Supervisors passed a resolution to “urge and encourage the citizens of the Hanover County, Virginia to include prayer in their Thanksgiving celebration.” Because the people who want small government don’t mind when that government is telling you how to pray to the Christian God. ...Did you catch that last part? Hazzard referred to ISIS in the same condemning breath as the atheists in America who believe the government should remain neutral on religious matters. He fails to see the irony of denouncing the faith-based terrorists by adopting a resolution telling everyone to believe in his God.
The bottom line, IMHO, is that in this country we are entitled to both freedom OF religion and freedom FROM religion. It most certainly is NOT the place of the government to be promoting any religion (or religion at all -- or atheism for that matter; the government should be absolutely neutral in all of this), which is exactly what the Hanover County Board of Supervisors is doing here. And, of course, needless to say, this local governmental body should not be wasting its time passing resolutions comparing Americans who (correctly) believe in the founding constitutional principle of church/state separation to a foreign "enemy" (ISIL, presumably, since that's the enemy everyone's talking about these days).

By the way, note that Mr. Hazzard is a self-proclaimed "Christian conservative tea-party Republican," so it's crystal clear where he's coming from. Also note that, according to a recent Pew survey, "There are now approximately 56 million religiously unaffiliated adults in the U.S., and this group – sometimes called religious 'nones' – is more numerous than either Catholics or mainline Protestants, according to the new survey." According to that same survey, 29% of the country is either of a non-Christian faith, of no faith/none in particular. And that latter group is growing fast, particularly among younger Americans; note that about 43% of Millenials (born 1981-1996) are now in the "unaffiliated" or "other faiths" categories, compared to just 20% or so who describe themselves as "Evangelical." Hmmm.

Friday News: The GOP's Entire Strategy is "Fear Itself;" Marijuana Arrests in VA Rise, Are Racially Unbalanced

by Lowell

Here are a few national and Virginia news headlines, political and otherwise, for Friday, November 27. Also, check out that article of Faux "News'" coverage of the shooting of Black Lives Matter typical of that right-wing propaganda network.

Video: Howard Dean Says "Authoritarian" GOP in "Full Terror Mode that Donald Trump is Going to Get the Nomination"

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Howard Dean absolutely nailed it (see below for a partial transcript) in this interview with Chris Hayes yesterday. The fact is, these are crazy times we live in, the likes of which I'm not sure we've ever seen in this country's history (other than the Civil War). And no, that's not a good thing in any way, other than the likelihood that the Republican Party might finally implode, leading to a Democratic landslide in 2016. We'd all better hope that scenario comes to pass, because frankly, we can't go on like this much longer as a country, with a bunch of crazy, extremist bigots running around saying wildly irresponsible things, while making the country close to ungovernable and preventing us from investing in our future, tackling climate change effectively, reforming our tax code to (among other things) make it more progressive, etc, etc.
I make two things of this: 1) the Republicans are now in full-terror mode that Donald Trump is going to get the momination, and they think he can't win; and 2) this is very interesting watching all these people who are all authoritarians themselves call Donald Trump a fascist; the Republican Party is an authoritarian party... Any party which, as a party - and this one is a party that has done this - which restricts the right to vote is a party that places their own authority above the authority of the people and above the value of democracy...This is a party that has a strong authoritarian bent, it has for a very long time, and now they're complaining that Donald Trump is a fascist?!?... 
I have never seen anybody called a fascist, let alone the leading candidate of the party, by people in their own party...These guys are terrified, they are absolutely terrified, because there is a winning path for Donald Trump to win, and we're going to know what it is on the 15th of March, where Florida, the first winnter-take-all-state [votes]...This is do-or-die time. You're seeing this now because the Republicans are not stupid. They now realize that not only is Donald Trump the real thing, that he's now the odds-on favorite to win the nomination.

Four Bills I'd Be Thankful to See Passed by the Virginia General Assembly in 2016

The following are a few bills filed this week that jumped out at me as ones the Virginia General Assembly should most certainly pass in 2016. The first two, by Del. Kaye Kory (D), might actually have a chance, as it's hard to imagine even Republicans voting to let dogs die in overheated vehicles, or be taken away by predatory towing companies.

As for the following bill, by Del. Jeion Ward (D), that also should be a no-brainer, but I'm sure it won't pass, given Virginia Republicans' obsession with telling women what they can and can't do with their bodies, and also with getting in between a woman and her doctor.

Finally, the bill by Delegate-elect Paul Krizek regarding predatory lenders (see below), is excellent, except I'd make it 200 miles, not 20, and basically outlaw these bloodsuckers in Virginia. Still, passing Krizek's bill would be a great start towards heavily restricting them...if only Republicans (and a few "Democrats," like Dick Saslaw, who loooooove them some payday lenders) would go along.

Thanksgiving Day News: President Obama Urges Generosity, Including Towards "refugees fleeing the brutality of ISIL"

by Lowell

Here are a few national and Virginia news headlines, political and otherwise, for Thursday, Thanksgiving Day, November 26. Also, check out President Obama's Thanksgiving Day address, about the importance of generosity, including to "refugees fleeing the brutality of ISIL."

If KY Gov Beshear Can Restore Ex-Felons' Voting Rights En Masse, Why Can't Virginia?!?

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

by Lowell

Can someone explain to me why we can't do what Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear just did?
In a small handful of states, people convicted of a felony are automatically stripped of their voting rights, even after they’ve finished serving their sentences. Today, Kentucky took a major step to fix that problem.

Outgoing Gov. Steve Beshear (D) signed an executive order on Tuesday to restore voting rights for many of the 180,000 Kentuckians who have been served a felony sentence but remain disenfranchised.

The Brennan Center for Justice estimates that Beshear’s executive order will immediately allow 140,000 Kentuckians to restore their voting rights, and an additional 30,000 will be eligible down the road. The organization praised Beshear’s order as “an incredible breakthrough in the movement to end criminal disenfranchisement policies nationwide.”

The restoration of voting rights does not apply to ex-felons who were convicted of violent crimes, sex crimes, bribery or treason.
Great stuff, so why can't we do this in Virginia as well? For the life of me, I haven't been able to understand why Mark Warner didn't do it when he was governor, why Tim Kaine didn't do it when he was governor, why Bob McDonnell didn't do it when he was governor (ok, I can guess why a Republcian wouldn't do this), and why Gov. Terry McAuliffe doesn't do it now.  I wrote about this issue back in January 2006, wondering why outgoing Gov. Warner didn't go ahead and do what Gov. Beshear just did in Kentucky -- restore the voting rights of non-violent (and a few other categories) ex-felons. I also wrote about this in December 2009, about a person who called in to the "Ask the Governor" show and asked Gov. Kaine:
...with a stroke of a pen, you can sign an executive order and restore their voting rights and change the history of Virginia forever. Will you do it, and if not why not? 
Kaine's response, basically, was that based on his lawyers' reading of the state's constitution, "the ability to do just kind of a blanket restoration, restoring unnamed individuals, is very very murky." At the time, I checked with the Virgnia Organizing Project (VOP), which was working hard to persuade Gov. Kaine to do just that sort of "blanket restoration" Kaine claimed he probably couldn't do, and VOP said that "the Constitution imposes no reporting obligation for restoration of voting rights." In other words, as I wrote at the time, "Governor Kaine not only should issue a blanket restoration of voting rights for people who have 'done their time,' he can issue a blanket restoration."

Wednesday News: "A harvest of anti-Muslim hatred;" "Ted Cruz's Sophisticated Bigotry"

by Lowell

Here are a few national and Virginia news headlines, political and otherwise, for Wednesday, November 25. Also check out that ad by John Kasich against neo-fascist Donald Trump.

New Data Show Virginia’s Hospitals Continue to Face Financial Challenges

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

by Lowell

The following press release from the Virginia Hospital & Healthcare Association is well worth sharing, as it discusses an important, even life-or-death issue facing millions of Virginians (bolding added by me for emphasis). The bottom line is that it's long past time for the Virginia General Assembly to take action on this issue.
Virginia Health Information 2014 Figures Reveal Negative Operating Margins at Many Hospitals Across Virginia

RICHMOND, VA – Newly released figures from Virginia Health Information (VHI), the agency that gathers and reports health care data in the Commonwealth, underscore the fact that many local hospitals across the state continue to struggle financially. The numbers show that roughly 25 percent of Virginia’s acute care hospitals, and nearly 42 percent of rural hospitals, operated in the red during calendar year 2014. That continues a pattern consistently reflected in VHI annual data. While the number of hospitals with negative operating margins can fluctuate from year-to-year, the ongoing trend of numerous hospitals operating in the red has alarming implications for access to health care, and Virginia’s economy. Financial pressure can also impede a hospital’s ability to make facility and equipment upgrades so patients have access to state-of-the-art treatment. It is commonly accepted in the industry that achieving a 4 percent operating margin is the minimum threshold necessary for hospitals to maintain fiscal stability and provide for capital expenditures. Based on VHI’s 2014 data, 18 of 31 rural hospitals fell below that mark. Statewide, 40 of 89 hospitals were in that category, which includes some with negative margins and others with modestly positive margins.

Audio: Gov. McAuliffe on Syrian Refugees, Medicaid Expansion

Gov. McAuliffe was on WTOP's "Ask the Governor" show a few minutes ago, and had a lot to say about several topics: his just-concluded overseas trade mission (he said it was very successful, expect some big announcements); education (he talked about how crucial education is, how there are too many/too lengthy SOLs and too much "teaching to the test"); ending homelessness in Virginia for U.S. veterans; Syrian refugees and possible Medicaid expansion. Here's some audio of Gov. McAuliffe talking about Syrian refugees and Medicaid expansion possibilities.

On the refugees, McAuliffe said "there's nothing we can do, zero, it is the United States constitution...right now I don't need to be spending my time on political rhetoric to try and score political points, I'm trying to be a job creator and a problem solver." In response to a caller question on refugees, McAuliffe added that he has "no say in the matter...I can't change this...My job is to keep our communities safe." McAuliffe also said that he would veto a bill that "would make it more difficult" to allow Syrian refugees into Virginia, as "it's federal law" and the "constitution is crystal clear on tihs."

With regard to possible Medicaid expansion, Gov. McAuliffe said we should try to do it "in a way that protects the state, no cost to the state, and at the same time bring about $2.4 billion back a year." McAuliffe added that Medicaid costs are going up as more people enroll, so "we are now getting the costs of doing this without any of the benefits." McAuliffe urged that legislators "keep your mind open," that his "door is open to working in a commonsense, bipartisan way." McAuliffe said he's particularly worried about rural hospitals, especially given that federal "DISH" payments for indigent care are slowly phasing out. "Noone should come out with a kneejerk least have a conversation...compromise, come together for the good of the Commonwealth of Virginia...put the politics aside...and you can't just say no without even willing to sit and talk to me and all of our experts who have very creative ideas about how we move forward..."

Tuesday News: "Republicans are the ones hiding behind 'political correctness'"; "Trump Defends Tweeting...Racist Murder Statistics"

by Lowell

Here are a few national and Virginia news headlines, political and otherwise, for Tuesday, November 24. Also, click on the image and "say you're ready for big steps forward on climate change."

No Longer a Party of “Law and Order,” or “Limited Government”

Monday, November 23, 2015

by Andy Schmookler 

Remember when the Republican Party was the “law and order” party? Yet now, we have the spectacle of the two leading contenders for the Republican 2016 presidential nomination, on the very same day, speaking out in support of committing crimes.

That’s not how they put it, of course. But when Donald Trump says of the Black Lives Matter protester who was knocked to the ground and kicked and beaten at a Trump rally that "maybe he should have been roughed up” because his conduct was “disgusting,” that's what it means. Because, according to the law, we citizens do not have the right to assault our fellow citizens just because we are disgusted by their behavior. We can summon the law to remove someone who is disturbing the peace, but the conduct that Trump is defending constituted the crime of assault.

And then there’s the other Republican front-runner, Ben Carson. In an interview on ABC, when asked if he supports Donald Trump’s recommendation that the United States resume "waterboarding" (aka, torture), Carson “wouldn't rule out torturing terrorism suspects.” Carson regards  ruling out torture as nothing more than “political correctness.” But it is not political correctness, it is the law. The practices Carson speaks of as serious options to consider are, in fact, clear violations both of federal statute and of international treaty obligations agreed to by the United States.

Law and order is not what you get when the government deliberately violates the law, or when a partisan aspiring to power condones a criminal attack against a fellow citizen. Back before the middle of the twentieth century, the world got to see what resulted when bullies hostile to real democracy beat and intimidate their opponents, and when a regime pursues its goals without regard to its legal and international obligations. Law and order is a high value to true conservatives. But there’s nothing truly conservative about today’s Republican Party.

Video: Rep. Gerry Connolly on Anti-Muslim Rhetoric -- "My god, why not write copy ads for ISIS while we're at it?"

The following comments by Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA) are spot on, which is why it's so confusing why he voted for the anti-refugee, Orwellian-named, egregiously awful "SAFE" Act the other day. I really don't get it. Anyway, with that, here are some highlights from what Rep. Connolly said today in the House Foreign Affairs Committee "about the need for America to remain a welcoming nation, live up to our American values, and resist divisive, hateful rhetoric."
We need to resist simple answers, especially the simple answer of bigotry. It seems to me that if you want to help ISIS recruit, some of the statements that have been attributed to some candidates for national office are the perfect advertisements for that recruitment. Muslims, don't let any of them in. We've got to close all the mosques. This is a clash of culture. My god, why not write copy ads for ISIS while we're at it? What a recruiting assist those inflammatory and incendary words are, and in my opinion, they do not represent the values of America. 
You know, we had a sad and tragic episode in our history, and it was in response to...Pearl Harbor. And it is almost universally seen in retrospect as one of the most shameful episodes in American history, when our reaction to the sneak attack by the Japanese government on Pearl Harbor was to intern Japanese-Americans in camps because they could not be trusted...We didn't live up to our our own ideals as a country...the reaction was not something commensurate with the threat and certainly not consistent with our values. 
It's easy right now to play to fears. You want to have a pause on refugees, people fleeing the very violence we're trying to stop? Well why stop there? Let's have a pause on all immigration, because who knows who might be in their numbers...And while we're at it student visas, tourists, god only knows how many people could sneak in as touurists... 
We as elected officials have a responsibility, it seems to me, have a responsibility to calm fears...not to exploit those fears...not to demonize any group of human beings, however popular it might be at the moment to do so...It doesn't serve us well, and that's not our finest moment, and that's not as Lincoln said, appealing to the better angels of our nature.

Video: Budget Fireworks on the Arlington County Board!

by Lowell

This past Thursday, there was a heated debate at the Arlington County Board meeting over an "attempt to change the way that Arlington County deals with money left over after the fiscal year." It sounds esoteric, even a bit boring perhaps, but as you can see from the video, the actual debate was anything but boring, with Chairman Mary Hynes  - who is retiring as of January 2016 - as angry as I think I've ever seen her (the Washington Post article by Patricia Sullivan says that Hynes "turned red in the face as she objected to the proposal not to spend fiscal year 2015’s unused money on priorities such as economic development, land acquisition for schools, maintenance for existing infrastructure, housing grants and loans, and police staffing and fire training").

That proposal by two Arlington County Board members -- Republican John Vihstadt and his close ally, Democrat Libby Garvey -- was (rightfully) met with exasperation, incredulity, scorn and even anger (listen as Mary Hynes gets angrier and angrier as she speaks) by the other three Board members (Jay Fisette, Walter Tejada and Mary Hynes, the latter two of whom are leaving the Board in January 2016). Here are a few excerpts; enjoy! :)

Monday News: Donald Trump's Supporters Cheer as Their Hero Lies, Demagogues, Advocates Violence, Goes Full Racist

by Lowell

Here are a few national and Virginia news headlines, political and otherwise, for Monday, November 23. Again, note that the graphic Trump tweeted out is wildly false and racist. In fact, "According to the most recently released set of crime statistics from the FBI (which are from 2014), 82 percent of white homicides are committed by other white people, while black offenders account for just 14 percent of white homicides.” This guy Trump is beyond pathological, as are his supporters.

Did Virginia Dems Fail to Take Back the State Senate Due to Highly Questionable $$$ Allocation in Closing Days of Election 2015?

Sunday, November 22, 2015

by Lowell

Heading into the November 3, 2015 elections here in Virginia, the strategy for Democrats to take back the State Senate was as clear as it was a no brainer: 1) make sure not to lose any of the seats currently held by Democrats, specifically those of Sen. John Edwards and retiring Sen. Chuck Colgan, both of which were considered vulnerable; and 2) pick up the ONE open seat where we had a serious shot -- that of retiring State Sen. John Watkins (R) in Richmond/Chesterfield/Powhatan.

That's all there was to it, really, although certainly if - and ONLY if - the Senate Democratic caucus (headed by Leader Dick Saslaw,pictured above) had strong evidence all of that was locked down, then - and ONLY then -  they could have justified tossing some resources towards a race not in categories #1 or #2, let's say a Democrat taking on a Republican incumbent in a purplish/reddish district.

Just to emphasize, let's list the State Senate races that clearly should have received every last dime of Democratic Senate Caucus resources unless/until they were 100% locked down.
  1. District 21 (Roanoke area), where State Senator John Edwards (D) faced a tough challenge from Republican Nancy Dye and independent Don Caldwell.
  2. District 29 (Manassas, Woodbridge, Dale City, etc.), where State Senator Chuck Colgan (D) was retiring, meaning this was a competitive, open-seat race between Democrat Jeremy McPike and Republican Hal Parrish.
  3. District 10 (Richmond/Powhatan/Chesterfield), where State Senator John Watkins (R) was retiring in a "purple" district, making this the one Democrats needed to pick up, assuming we held all our incumbents, to get to 20-20 in the State Senate. The main candidates here were Democrat Dan Gecker and Republican Glen Sturtevant.
Again, one would expect that 100% of Senate Democratic Caucus and allied groups' resources in the closing couple weeks of the 2015 elections would have flowed to these three districts. What, in reality, actually happened? According to VPAP, the Senate Democratic Caucus/allies did indeed pour large sums of money into those three races. For instance:

Sunday News: Republican "Diaper Dave" Vitter Loses for LA-Gov, Add Another State (not Virginia) to the Medicaid Expansion Rolls

by Lowell

Here are a few national and Virginia news headlines, political and otherwise, for Sunday, November 22. Also, check out the video: "In the #REALROANOKE, we can hate terrorism and LOVE EACH OTHER at the same time!" Exactly. Also, great job by Del. Sam Rasoul (D) for being a big-time leader in fighting back against bigotry, xenophobia, etc.

Virginia, Maryland, Delaware Electric Cooperatives Actively Push Climate Science Denialism

Saturday, November 21, 2015

by Andy Schmookler

As customers of the Shenandoah Valley Electric Cooperative, we get the magazine Community Living (“published 10 times a year by the Virginia, Maryland & Delaware Association of Electric Cooperatives, and is distributed to over 490,000 homes”). The most recent issue contained a letter – the latest of many they’ve published questioning climate change – that so offended my wife (April Moore) that she prevailed upon me to write the magazine to protest. So I did, thus: 

In your Nov-Dec issue, you published a letter so chock full of the-earth-is-flat misconceptions that I am writing not to dispute the letter itself but to question why Cooperative Living would give space to such a misguided and misinformed letter on its pages.

I am referring to the letter that expresses outrage at the way the “false science” behind “climate-change myths” is being used as a “tyranny to control electric cooperatives.”

Now that
  • over 99 percent of scientists, all over the world, who know the most about the earth’s climate system are agreed about the scientific validity of the problem of man-made climate disruption (and never in history has there been a scientific “hoax” of anything like this magnitude);
  • 13 of the hottest 15 years on record have all been since the year 2000;
  • it is well-established that the impetus behind climate-change denial comes from a deliberate attempt to deceive the public and prevent action to meet this challenge – a campaign funded by the fossil fuel companies, including Exxon which has now been shown to have known the truth about the problem since the 1970s;

one would think that responsible citizens and organizations would want for us to get beyond the falsehoods contained in that letter, and move our discussion toward the question of how best to meet this major challenge.

Indeed, some major publications have adopted the policy of refusing to publish such demonstrable falsehoods. The Los Angeles Times, for example, decided on that course, declaring that “Saying ‘there’s no sign humans have caused climate change’ is not stating an opinion, it’s asserting a factual inaccuracy.”

But Cooperative Living has been publishing these science-denying messages regularly for years. Why? Do you publish every single letter you get, without exercising any editorial discretion?

One might reasonably suspect that the way you have consistently provided a forum for these messages is connected with your own strong connection with the fossil fuel world. Is that the reason?

It is understandable that a company would want to protect its short-term profits. But, when the overwhelming body of evidence suggests that the well-being of our children and grandchildren depends upon our acting responsibly now, one would hope that such a sense of responsibility will outweigh the power of corporate greed in a publication like Cooperative Living.

Video: Roanoke Mayor David Bowers Apologizes for His Remarks About WW2 Japanese-American Internment Camps, etc.

by Lowell

Courtesy of WDBJ7.  At first, I thought he was going to stick with the standard non-apology "apology" ("to all those offended by my remarks"), but he gets stronger as he goes along. Still, I can't comprehend how he ever could have said what he did in the first place...just mindbogglingly stupid. Also, I hope Bowers' idiocy hasn't hurt Roanoke, which certainly doesn't deserve to be hurt by one guy's bizarre comments, even those comments were made by their mayor...

Saturday News: Rubio Out-Trumps Trump; "Stop the bed-wetting over refugees"

by Lowell

Here are a few national and Virginia news headlines, political and otherwise, for Saturday, November 21. Also see the White House weekly address, this time by VP Joe Biden about how "in the face of terror, we stand as one." Biden also debunks dangerous myths about how Syrian refugees - mostly women, children, orphans, survivors of torture and persecution  - are screened (hint: it's slow and intensive) before they are allowed into our country. Biden: "To turn them away and say there's no way you can ever get here would play right into terrorists' hands...Earlier this year, the top ISIL leader...revealed the true goal of their attacks...'compel the Crusaders to actively destroy the gray zone themselves.'...They want to manufacture a clash between civilizations." Don't let them get away with it.

Virginia Senate Dems Elect Leadership Team, Including One That Really Surprised Me

Friday, November 20, 2015

by Lowell

I'm told that Virginia Senate Democrats today elected their leadership team. To me, the biggest surprise was that they elected Sen. Chap Petersen as Vice Chair. More on that in a second. Other than that, Democrats reelected "legally corrupt" conservadem Sen. Dick Saslaw (gack!) and as Senate Minority Leader and Sen. Donald McEachin (good!) as Senate Democratic Caucus Chair.  Finally, Senate Democrats Whips reelected Sen. Janet Howell as Senate Minority Whip, and elected Sen. Jennifer Wexton as Minority Whip as well. Both of those are strong choices, IMHO.

As for Chap Petersen, I'm surprised because he's written and said things, the past few months in particular, that had me wondering if he'd even stay in the Democratic Party, let alone be elected to leadership. That includes a recent rant, "College Students So Angry?", in which he wrote:
...the current round of college "protests" seem to presume that the USA is (and has always been) a racist, homophobic, hate-filled dystopia, rather than an enlightened democracy that provides more opportunities for persons of different racial and ethnic backgrounds than any society in the history of the world.

(Can you name another white-majority nation where a man named "Barack Obama" would be elected President -- twice?) What is most striking is that these protests occur at elite campuses, which show the most excessive deference towards "marginalized" populations, i.e. anybody except white men -- who are less than 30% of the population now and dropping fast.

Yet that deference does not solve any problems or appease anybody, it simply creates a sense of entitlement which fuels more demands. Caught in this vicious cycle, campus politics increasingly hinges on the expression of faux outrage at symbolic "incidents" -- usually verbal and nearly always anonymous -- which are subject to fetishizing and embellishment. People that don't "emphathize" with this outrage are targeted for professional destruction.

Sadly, this pseudo-movement for "social justice" bullies those very people that actually ask tough questions -- such as, did this alleged insult actually happen? Were you really offended? Or why do you get to censor your peers? It's already had an effect on campus journalism, which used to be a place you could freely express yourself. Now, not so much.

Frankly, this millenial McCarthyism has become a national embarrassment. And it's time for true liberals -- yes, we know who we are -- to call it out. In conclusion, my statements are those of a "privileged white male" (a status so critical to my identity that I passed it on to none of my children). But I'm only what the Lord created and it all turns to dust in the end. While I'm here, I'm going to speak the truth, even if you hate it. That's what it means to be a leader, not a follower.

So protest away young people! But let other speak also. Just remember, if you think that your life as a student is too awful to bear .... We can always bring back the draft.
Chap(!) also frequently rants against "political correctness," continually claimed a false equivalence between the two parties, defended the name of the Washington NFL team (which many, myself included, believe is offensive if not racist), battled with Atif Qarni (who Chap incorrectly called "Middle Eastern" for his Washington Post op-ed about how he was treated by Sen. Saslaw and others), etc. So hey, maybe putting Chap(!) in leadership will help keep him from bolting to the Republican Party? Just a thought.