Federal Judge Rules Virginia Can Remove Confederate Flag From License Plates

Friday, July 31, 2015

Good news from AG Mark Herring's office:

~ AG Herring  filed papers in June to allow the Commonwealth to remove the flag from Sons of Confederate Veterans license plates following the Supreme Court's ruling in Walker v. Texas ~

DANVILLE (July 31, 2015)--Today in federal district court in Danville, Judge Jackson Kiser ruled from the bench that he will dissolve his 2001 injunction that had allowed the Sons of Confederate Veterans to place the confederate battle flag on certain specialty license plates in Virginia. On June 26, Attorney General Mark R. Herring filed motions (see below) to dissolve the injunction and vacate the order that had required placement of the flag on SCV license plates. The Commonwealth will now be able to enforce its existing law regarding SCV plates which states "No logo or emblem of any description shall be displayed or incorporated into the design of license plates issued under this section."

"This ruling will allow Virginia to remove a symbol of oppression and injustice from public display on its license plates," said Attorney General Mark Herring. "Virginia state government does not have to and will not endorse such a divisive symbol. I appreciate Governor McAuliffe's leadership in calling for the removal of the flag and those on my team who moved quickly to get it done."

Judge Kiser's ruling will not be official until he enters his order, which will also address whether the decision will apply prospectively to new license plates, or retroactively to include existing ones. Deputy Attorneys General Rhodes B. Ritenour and Jeffrey M. Bourne and Senior Assistant Attorney General Janet Westbrook handled the case on behalf of the Commonwealth.  

Companies with $350b in Annual Revenues Urge Gov. McAuliffe to Strongly Support Clean Power Plan

For anyone who thinks that the Clean Power Plan (coming out Monday) specifically, and transitioning from dirty to clean energy generally, are "bad for business," they might first want to talk to the 365 (!) companies - with 340,000 U.S. employees and $350 BILLION in annual revenue, who signed letters "to more than two-dozen governors across the United States voicing support for the EPA Clean Power Plan for existing power plants and encouraging the states' 'timely finalization' of state implementation plans to meet the new standards."Those two-dozen governors include a letter to Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe by 24 companies and investors with " a significant presence in Virginia" - including Mars, Nestle, VF Corporation, Wespath Investment Management, Calvert Investments, etc. Highlights from the letter (see the "flip" for screen shots) include:
*The companies and investors "strongly support the implementation of the Environmental Protection Agency's Carbon Pollution Standards for existing power plants," as they are "critical for moving our country toward a clean energy economy," with a "flexible approach [that] provides an exciting opportunity for states to customize their own energy portfolio, expand clean energy solutions, attract new industries to the state, and create thousands of jobs."
*They emphasize that their support for clean energy is "firmly grounded in economic reality," which is why "60 percent of Fortune100 companies have set their own clean energy targets and have saved more than $1 billion a year in the process."
*They "are seeking long-term policies that provide businesses the certainty needed to transition to a clean energy economy."
*They correctly note that switching to energy efficiency and renewable energy "will allow you to mitigate the risks of climate change and the volatility of fossil fuel prices," while combatting global warming that, among other problems, puts "trillions of dollars of institutional investors' assets at risk."
*They also explain that "emissions reductions can be achieved without long-term economic harm or damage to the reliability of our electricity system," but that clearly measures should be put in place to "ensure a just transition for impacted workers and communities during this shift toward a low carbon economy" (e.g., coal workers here in Virginia).

The bottom line: these companies and investors "encourage your timely finalization of Virginia's implementation plan and offer the support of the business community in [Gov. McAuliffe's] pursuit of cost-effective clean energy solutions." Let's make it happen ASAP, as there's truly no time to waste.

P.S. Great job by Ceres pulling this together!

National and Virginia News Headlines: Friday Morning

Here are a few national and Virginia news headlines, political and otherwise, for Friday, July 30. And yes, as you can see from his tweets, 2013 Virginia GOP Lt. Gov. nominee E.W. Jackson is STILL off his meds. Sad.*Planned Parenthood strikes back (It's about time, given that Planned Parenthood is acting fully within the 1993 law passed overwhelmingly - including "aye" votes by people like Mitch McConnell and many other conservatives - by the Senate and House, making everything the group's been doing 100% legal. Don't believe it? See hereherehere and here.)
*Christmas comes early this year - the gift of a Trump-fueled GOP debate
*A GOP led by Donald Trump will fail, and deserve it
*Krugman: China's Naked Emperors ("The big news here isn't about the Chinese economy; it's about China's leaders. Forget everything you've heard about their brilliance and foresightedness. Judging by their current flailing, they have no clue what they're doing.")
*Activists Hanging From A Bridge Force Arctic Drilling Ship To Turn Around (Excellent, we need a lot more non-violent civil disobedience to protect our environment from destruction.)
*After the death of Samuel Dubose, an officer is indicted in Cincinnati (It's about freakin' time. Now what about the officers who helped cover up this cold-blooded murder? And what about all the other cases in this country?!?)
*Zimbabwe to U.S.: Extradite dentist over killing of Cecil the lion (Yep, and make an example of this guy to all the other psycho "trophy hunters" out there.)
*Why Cecil Was Such an Important Lion
*Debris "very likely" part of missing Flight 370
*Police Shootings Won't Stop Unless We Also Stop Shaking Down Black People (Absolutely.)
*More than one reason to sweat ("A hotter planet is almost certainly going to be an especial problem for coastal communities like Hampton Roads, since warmer temperatures mean melting ice, which means rising seas")
*Democrats found a brilliant way to troll the newest Republican presidential candidate (Nice!)
*Wingnuts are gearing up for another government shutdown - this time over Planned Parenthood (When is the corporate media ever going to cover this story accurately, which means no "both sides" false equivalency for starters?)
*McAuliffe avoids budget promises as he, Kaine and Warner push Medicaid expansion
*Rand Paul attributes Trump's rise to a 'loss of sanity' (As if Rand Paul's any saner?!? LOL)
*Poll finds seven shades of red and blue among Virginia voters
*Our view: Do [natural gas pipeline] opponents have an obligation to propose an alternative? (Yes! Energy efficiency, weatherization, rooftop solar, wind turbines, etc. Those will create FAR more permanent jobs than a natural gas pipeline or even two natural gas pipelines - not even close.)
*Chesterfield has most Confederate license plates in Virginia (Something most definitely NOT to be proud of.)
*Jonathan Papelbon picks up his first save as a National in 1-0 win
*McAuliffe helps launches broader weatherization program for the needy (Much better would be if Dominion made a serious effort towards improving energy efficiency, and if the General Assembly "decoupled" Dominion's profits from how much power it produces and instead incentivized energy SAVINGS.)
*D.C. area forecast: Sun and heat dominate as July turns to August

Alpha Natural Resources (Coal) Going Bankrupt; How Will Coal's Decline Impact Virginia GOP?

Thursday, July 30, 2015

I saw this article earlier today and immediately thought of Virginia Republicans. I'll explain in a minute, but first the news.
Alpha Natural Resources Inc. is planning to file for bankruptcy protection in Virginia as soon as Monday as the biggest miner of U.S. coal used in steelmaking struggles amid the worst commodities slump in more than a decade, according to three people with direct knowledge of the matter...

Bristol, Virginia-based Alpha Natural would follow rivals Walter Energy Inc., Patriot Coal Corp. and James River Coal Co. in filing for bankruptcy during the past 15 months as met coal prices dropped 72 percent since 2011.

Alpha Natural, despite reporting $1.8 billion in cash and available credit at end of March, hasn’t turned in a profit since 2010, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

The thing is, it's not just Alpha, but the entire coal industry that's getting pounded by a variety of forces: cheap natural gas, the rise of wind and solar power, and the recognition that coal is cooking the planet to death.

So how does the decline of the coal industry potentially impact Virginia politics? First, as VPAP reports, the energy/natural resources sector has donated around $52 million to Virginia politicians since 1996. Of that, around $14 million has come from "Coal Mining/Processing," with another $16 million from heavily coal-powered utilities. And where has that money gone in terms of partisan distribution? Here are a few examples just to give you a feel for how lopsided it's been in favor of Republicans.

Coal company Alpha Natural Resources: $3.0 million, of which $2.3 million has gone to Republicans.
Coal executive Richard Baxter Gilliam: $2.7 million, of which only $1,000 has gone to Democrats, while $1.6 MILLION has gone to Republicans and $1.1 million to "other" (I believe a lot of this went to right-wing SuperPACs, like American Crossroads, that might not be classified as "Republican" by VPAP, but are clearly pro-Republican).
Coal/natural gas producer Consol Energy: $1.2 million, of which the overwhelming majority - $940k - went to Republicans.
Virginia Coal Association: $1.1 million, of which $740k went to Republicans.
Coal executive Marvin W Gilliam, Jr.: $683k, all but $3k of which went to Republicans.
Coal company United Co.: $519k, of which $324k went to Republicans.
Massey Coal: $466k, of which all but $8.3k went to Republicans.
Coal miner Cumberland Resources: $453k, of which all but $30k went to Republicans.

We could go on, but I think you get the picture: the vast majority of Virginia coal industry $$$ has gone to Virginia Republicans over the years, with only a small share going to Democrats. Which could mean, at least in theory, that as the coal industry goes down the tubes financially, the impact will be disproportionately negative on Virginia Republicans. We'll see, but it's definitely something to keep an eye on...

"So You Googled Jim Gilmore?"

How about Republicans nominate Jim Gilmore for President in 2016 (not likely, but they can nominate someone just as crazy!) and replicate this electoral map - courtesy of DPVA's "So You Googled Jim Gilmore" microsite - nationally? Just a friendly suggestion from your Democratic pal(s). :)

P.S. The bigger question is why would anyone Google, let alone vote for, Jim Gilmore, who drove Virginia's fiscal truck into a ditch, or any of his fellow Republicans who think the same way he does?!?

Interesting Questions by Sen. Donald McEachin About Drones

From Sen. Donald McEachin's Facebook page, I think these are some interesting questions, in light of what Del. Scott Surovell points out ("Kentucky man shoots down drone hovering over his backyard"). Here are Sen. McEachin's questions. Also, see Del. Surovell's comments after Sen. McEachin's.
Opinions please! I think you should be able to protect your property if someone (not the state assuming it has a lawful order) has a drone hovering over your property. But what legnth of time constitutes a hover? Is it ok for a drone to pass over your back yard (or front yard) on the way to somewhere else? Are there any rules for if it is just passing over how low it may go? Can you imagine a drone buzzing through your back yard during a picnic? At eye level? If a drone is hovering over your property and you destroy it are you liable to your neighbor for any debri that might damage a neighbor's yard. Time to have a conversation with legislative services.
Del. Surovell: "I predicted this last week at the Drone & Space Law Conference in Wise, VA. I said if you fly one of these over private property outside of NOVA, it's likely to get shot down. People laughed but I was serious. We need to clarify this area of the law soon."

Beyer Calls for Action to Address National Security Threats from Climate Change

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

From Rep. Don Beyer's office; I really appreciate his leadership on the #1 issue facing humanity. 
July 29, 2015 (Washington, DC) – Congressman Don Beyer released the following statement in response to the Department of Defense (DoD) Report on the National Implications of Climate Change:

“Today’s report from the Defense Department is another emphatic statement that climate change is not only real, but is a national security threat," said Rep. Don Beyer. "Sea level rise, drought and severe weather, natural disasters, food insecurity, and competition for scarce resources jeopardize our security, here and abroad. Unless we commit now to addressing this problem, we risk catalyzing conflict and adding to instability around the globe. The DoD recognizes the severity of this crisis - it is time for Congress to do the same.”

The report finds that climate change is a security risk, Pentagon officials said, because it degrades living conditions, human security and the ability of governments to meet the basic needs of their populations.  The DoD found that “global climate change will have wide ranging implications for U.S. national security interests over the foreseeable future because it will aggravate existing problems.” Communities and states that already are fragile and have limited resources are significantly more vulnerable to disruption and far less likely to respond effectively and be resilient to new challenges, they added.

“The Department of Defense's primary responsibility is to protect national security interests around the world,” officials said in a news release announcing the report’s submission. “This involves considering all aspects of the global security environment and planning appropriately for potential contingencies and the possibility of unexpected developments both in the near and the longer terms.”

Find more information on the DoD’s report on the security implications of climate change here and here. 

Redistricting Compromise: What Are Howell and Norment Afraid Of?

From DPVA. I'd say we know what they're afraid of.
House Speaker Bill Howell and Majority Leader Tommy Norment rejected a meeting with Governor Terry McAuliffe yesterday to compromise on a deal to set the state’s congressional elections map. 

The congressional map needs significant changes to alleviate the Supreme Court's issues and to better comply with the principles of equal representation and geographic balance that are essential to democracy. Forging a map early, as Governor McAuliffe suggested, would save taxpayers money and increase transparency in the process.

But Howell and Norment decided to play politics instead of doing what's best for Virginians. 

"Hiding under the bed isn't going to fix Virginia's racially-gerrymandered congressional map -- but bipartisan leadership will. Good things happen when leaders get together to make public policy decisions in good faith and we can do that with congressional redistricting," said Morgan Finkelstein, Press Secretary at the Democratic Party of Virginia. "We can only assume that Howell and Norment are simply hoping to stall until the last minute in order to preserve as much of their gerrymandered map as possible."

Video: Janet Oleszek Says John Cook is "Passionate About UNDERFunding Education"

The headline refers to a great line by Janet Oleszek at a fundraiser last night in McLean (see video below), regarding just one of the reasons why current Fairfax County (Braddock District) Supervisor John Cook (R) needs to be shown the exit door this November. Janet added that John Cook is a seriously "flawed public official" who, "time and again...has benefited taking cases in which he has a clear conflict of interest...This is unacceptable for a public servant and I will introduce ethics legislation at once to ban this practice." Finally, Janet noted that John Cook had done a poll to find out if voters wanted their Supervisor to work with the School Board or "act as a check on it." Need any more reasons to vote John Cook out of office this November? Go Janet! :)

P.S. For video of Tim Kaine speaking last night, click here.
Also, at the beginning of the video, after listing some of Sen. Kaine's many accomplishments, she jokes that he is on "VP watch."

Cuccinelli Wrong Again, This Time on Iran; Top Comments on His FB Page Unsurprisingly Appalling

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Seriously, is Ken Cuccinelli ever right about anything? Apparently not. Even worse are the ugliness he attracts, and brings out, to his extremist demagoguery. For instance, the top comments on Cooch's Facebook page to this post are as follows.

*23 likes: "Why would a deal like this include money being given to Iran? Logically, a deal should say that they will not do so and so, period. Money being given to foreign nations, borrowed from China, is the true death of our nation."
 *13 likes: "Some well placed nukes will make for a short war. Sounds harsh but I would rather that than waste our men in the sand over there fighting these lunatics."

Just another day on Ken Cuccinelli's Facebook page, basically. Also, recall that a few weeks ago, we wrote about the top comment on his post on immigration stating, "illegal immigrant families deserve a ride to the border and if they come back they deserve a bullet." Again,why is it that Cooch attracts despicable people like this? And why is it that Cooch isn't atypical of many Republicans these days, from Mike Huckabee to Ted Cruz to E.W. Jackson to...we could go on all day? As Andy Schmookler writes in his new book, the "political right - and its political arm, the Republican Party - has become an extraordinarly destructive force in the American body politics," one that's "more consistently destructive and dishonest than anything seen before at center state of American politics (except perhaps for the decade leading up to the Civil War." No argument here; the question is what's the rest of America doing to stop this lunacy?

E.W. Jackson Not Pleased with President Obama Calling Himself "Kenyan-American"

I'm kinda curious, was E.W. Jackson angry at President Reagan when he spoke in Ireland in 1984 and said, "I'm certainly proud to be part of that great Irish American tradition...My roots in Ballyporeen, County Tipperary, are little different than millions of other Americans who find their roots in towns and counties all over the Isle of Erin?" Did Jackson think that Reagan was a "divider" not a "uniter?" Was he offended at Reagan's frequent references to being Irish-American? Somehow, I doubt it.

National and Virginia News Headlines: Tuesday Morning

Here are a few national and Virginia news headlines, political and otherwise, for Tuesday, July 28. Also check out Jon Stewart taking on Mike Huckabee for his latest offensive insanity.

*Editors’ Note: Clinton Email Coverage (Massive #FAIL by the New York Times...)
*The GOP is just this screwed: Donald Trump, immigration and the Republicans’ massive rebranding failure ("New polling shows how the GOP can't win on immigration: The base really wants deportations, but no one else does")
*Jewish groups react to Mike Huckabee’s ‘oven’ remarks
*Boy Scouts lift ban on openly gay adult leaders
*Ex-Wife: Donald Trump Made Me Feel ‘Violated’ During Sex (Yep, Trump is as horrible as we all thought he was...)
*McCarthy: House will not vote on Senate’s highway funding bill ("McCarthy’s declaration that the House will not be 'taking up the Senate bill' means a short-term extension is the only way to prevent a lapse in federal infrastructure funding at the end of the week.")
*Hillary Clinton Refuses to Take a Position on the Keystone Pipeline
*Mitch McConnell summons restive Republicans for ‘combative’ sitdown
*Push to Reduce Sentencing Laws Gains Momentum *Poll: Va. voters split on Confederate flag plates, give McAuliffe 50% approval rating
*Editorial: Virginia will prove a 2016 battleground (Ya think?) *Proposed changes to Virginia voter registration stirs fears among GOP (Because the more people vote, the more Democrats win!)
*Our view: The governor and the pipeline ("When Gov. Terry McAuliffe was in town recently, he tried to brush aside questions about one of the big topics in this part of the state — the proposed Mountain Valley Pipeline.")
*A Times-Mirror conversation with Sen. Mark Warner
*So Long, Bacons Rebellion (Super-environmentalist Peter Galuszka definitely didn't belong at a Dominion-sponsored blog.)
*Fairfax police refuse information to father of police shooting victim David Masters
*Elbowing Chesapeake neighbors
*D.C. area forecast: Heat, humidity continue with bigger storm chances late week

Video: Top VA GOP Donor Pat Robertson Not Sure Why God Didn't Kill SCOTUS Justices Over Roe v Wade

Monday, July 27, 2015

Just remember, Robertson has donated $725,000 to Virginia Republicans over the years, including $5,000 this year to corrupt State Sen. Frank Wagner (R-Dominion Power). Lovely, eh?

Schmookler's New Book Takes Aim at Liberals' "Extraordinary Weakness" in Face of Right-Wing Threat

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Blue Virginia readers are, presumably highly familiar with Andy Schmookler's fundamental thesis about America today: 1) that the "political right - and its political arm, the Republican Party - has become an extraordinarly destructive force in the American body politic"; and 2) that "the political left...and its political arm, the Democratic Party, has shown extraodinary weakness in the face of the threat posed to the nation by that destructive force." Andy has also written extensively on this subject at The Huffington Post, Daily Kos, and elsewhere. Now, Andy skillfully pulls it all together into highly readable paperback book form, in What We're Up Against: The Destructive Force at Work in Our World - And How We Can Defeat It. Andy sent me an advance, review copy, which I've just finished reading. Other than strongly recommending that people read it, here are a few thoughts and questions in no particular order.

*I'm not a huge fan of the word "evil," as I believe it's has far too much baggage - religious, etc. - and can be offputting (although Andy does a strong job or arguing why it's an important and necessary word to use, not in a religious but in a secular context). Personally, perhaps given my background in social psychology and the broader social sciences, I prefer Andy's discussion of the right in America as a force for "brokenness" - dishonesty, environmental destruction, inequality, conflict, hostility to knowledge and empiricism, an increasingly unrestrained corporate takeover of our (soon-to-be-former?) democracy, etc.
 *Andy's approach is highly intellectual (he contrasts it with the emotional approach embodied in the book, "Uncle Tom's Cabin," which can be argued stirred Northerners to increased anti-slavery activism and even helped trigger the Civil War), although well written and suffused with passionate intensity, yet I do wonder if this book will find an audience in liberal America (I hope it does; it certainly will NOT be read by those on the right). I went back and looked through Andy's postings at The Huffington Post and Daily Kos, in particular, and found very little discussion stimulated. Perhaps even worse, as Andy himself notes in his book, what discussion DID occur wasn't really on point, "almost always ignored the larger assertions within each piece and focused instead on the most immediate and concrete points," simply didn't light the "fire" Andy was aiming to ignite. The questions are: a) why was that; and b) is there any chance of this situation changing? I don't really have the answers to either of those questions.

Jim Webb: Sandra Bland's Death Shows Why Criminal Justice Reform "must be a top priority"

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Anyone reading this blog the past few years knows that I won't be supporting Jim Webb for President, for a variety of reasons, first and foremost his refusal to confront the existential threat of global climate chaos in a serious way. However, when it comes to desperately-needed reform of our criminal justice system, I'm very much on the same page as Webb. For instance, see his Facebook post this morning (bolding added by me), which I enthusiastically endorse. Thank you to Jim Webb for his continued leadership on this issue; now Congress needs to act!
I have great respect for the professionals in our law enforcement community who work tirelessly, day in and day out, to maintain order in our communities and to ensure our safety. This is often dangerous, thankless work. At the same time it is clear that prison administration is in dire need of greater training and skill methods to address the needs of those who are mentally ill. I don't like to categorize, but we can put the entire population into two groups: Those who think the criminal-justice system desperately needs to be fixed, and those who haven’t been paying attention. Hopefully, through highlighting the tragic loss of Ms. Sandra Bland, the first group will grow. We must face the fact our prison systems are becoming warehouses for the mentally ill, without providing adequate training for those who are required to administer the systems. Despite improvements in many systems nationwide, America's criminal justice system has deteriorated to the point that it is a national disgrace. Its irregularities and inequities cut against the notion that we are a nation of fundamental fairness. Ms. Bland's death while in custody is another example of why reform of our entire criminal justice system must be a top priority for the next administration. I am speaking of reform from the point of apprehension all the way through how we release people from prison.

Virginia Paper Prints Ad Attacking "black races;" Defends Printing It, Then FINALLY Apologizes

I'm glad to see that the Lexington News-Gazette has now apologized for running a viciously racist ad in its newspaper on July 15, but why was it published in the first place?
About the Confederate flag: Because of all the trouble the democrats [sic] and black races are causing, I place this ad...No black people or democrats are allowed on my property until further notice. Furthermore, I believe our government purposefully put our country in $18 trillion debt, knowing it could cause bankruptcy. It is a plot to take away our Social Security and cause taxes to skyrocket.
Also, the initial "apology" by the newspaper's editor was muddled and confused, claiming that he published that "ad" because "I felt that it was important for our readers to see that the views expressed in the ad are held by people in our community." The editor added: "We refrain from publishing things that are libellous, personal attacks or that incite violent or illegal acts. Did the ad meet any of those standards? In my judgement, I did not think so. I admit that others may have decided differently."


Anyway, in its current edition (not available online without a subscription as far as I can tell), the editor FINALLY gets around to stating the obvious, that Agnor's viciously racist ad was "repugnant" and a "message of hate" which "violates a basic standard that we’ve always tried to adhere to — that of maintaining a civil level of discourse within these pages."

Ya think? The question is, why was it so hard to figure that out in the first place? Amazing...

P.S. I love the top-rated comment on Raw Story, which pretty much sums it all up.

Dear Mr. Agnor,

We would like to correct you on several mistakes you made in your ad. It isn't the government who is trying to take away your Social Security and bankrupt the nation. It's the Republican Party and those of us who vote Republican who are trying to make your life hell. We believe the rich man should have all your Social Security money and we want to bankrupt the nation so we can take away any security net you might need. In other words pull the rug out from underneath you and watch you drown. We tried to bankrupt the nation under St Reagan and Buffoon Bush Jr. We truly feel that you are disposable.

Yours Truly,

Republicans and those who vote Republican.

US Chamber of Commerce Looks to Oust Anti-Business GOP Incumbents; Here are 3 Virginia Suggestions

Friday, July 24, 2015

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce - and many of its local affiliates - has for years been acting as little more than an arm of the Republican Party. Now, however, it looks like that might be changing.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is gearing up to challenge some House Republicans in primary elections, frustrated after much of its agenda has been stymied by a small pocket of conservative GOP lawmakers.The influential and well-heeled business group is already eyeing several races, but the plans are still in their infancy and the targets have not yet been decided upon, according to more than a half dozen Republican sources on K Street and Capitol Hill.
The theory is simple: The Chamber spent some $70 million in 2014, mostly to help Senate Republicans build their majority. But many of their legislative priorities - immigration reform, the renewal of the Export-Import Bank and a long-term highway bill - have been held up by a clutch of conservative lawmakers in the House.
Great news, as far as I'm concerned, and I've got three suggested targets right here in Virginia, if the Chamber of Commerce is truly interested in going after Republican incumbents who are obstructing their agenda.1. Bob Goodlatte: On immigration reform, one of the Chamber's top priorities, one can make a serious argument that Goodlatte has been more responsible than anyone for preventing the bipartisan Senate bill -- passed overwhelmingly (68-32) in June 2013 -- from becoming law. Since Senate passage, the Teapublican-controlled House has refused to even allow a vote on that legislation, even though (or because) it would almost certainly pass, with close to 100% Democratic support plus a few dozen Republicans. But that hasn't happened, and it's in large part due to the obstructionism of Goodlatte, the House Judiciary Chairman who "has contrasted the House approach to immigration reform from the Senate by requiring that the various issues be taken on a piece-by-piece basis with an emphasis on both border and interior enforcement measure." The result: no progress on this top priority of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Recommendation to the CofC: spend your money to oust this pathetic excuse for a Congressman.
2. Dave Brat: This incumbent should be a no-brainer for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to go afgter, as Brat has been bad on pretty much everything the CofC cares about: immigration reform, where Dave Brat's No 'Free Market Guy' on Immigration; the Export-Import Bank, which he strongly opposes (his reasoning is all screwed up, but click on that link if you want to watch him babble on about it); and the highway bill, where he says his "default vote is no." C'mon, Chamber dudes, do your thing!
3. Morgan Griffith: This guy is also awful, from a CofC perspective, when it comes to immigration (he says "I will not support that unfortunate Senate bill should it come before me for a vote"). Definitely worth considering for some Chamber money on a primary challenge.
This is by no means a comprehensive list, of course, as several other Virginia Republican incumbents are bad on immigration (e.g., Randy Forbes calls the bipartisan Senate bill "a step in the wrong direction toward reforming our broken immigration system") and other issues. Still, it would be a good start to replace these right-wing ideologues with more reasonable Republicans, or better yet by Democrats! :)

EW Jackson: People Should NOT Be Able to Object on Religious Grounds on "Bear Arms" Clause

Thursday, July 23, 2015

So let's get this straight: according to EW Jackson, people should NOT be able to, as the Christian Science Monitor explains, "object on religious or moral ground" to military service when taking the Oath of Allegiance, by omitting the words "bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the law." But the same EW Jackson goes nuts at any suggestion that people can't object on religious grounds to their businesses serving gay customers cakes or whatever. As one friend of mine put it, "EW doens't really much get consistency, does he?" And as another noted, "One person who might have objected to taking up arms? Jesus."P.S. It's interesting that this language was added in 1950, at the height of Cold War hysteria/McCarthyism, "several years after the Supreme Court decided that the promise to bear arms was not implied in the overall promise to 'support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic.'"

Virginia Republicans' Favorite for 2017 Governor: "there are NO positive benefits of min wage laws"

Another great - albeit completely insane - quote by "Crazy Cooch" from his Facebook page"And given the rabid spread of the notion of $15/hour minimum wage laws (coming to the D.C. ballot in 2016), Milton has some things to say (summary: there are NO positive benefits of min wage laws)." Of course, that's utter idiocy, no truth to it whatsoever, and really a throwback to the late 1800s, back in the good ol' days (for right wingers like Cooch et al) of sweatshops, no minimum wages, etc, etc. Oh, and for good measure, Cooch has some similarly brain dead advice for Pope Francis: "I think the Pope needs to watch a little Milton Friedman..."
Just remember, Crazy Cooch was nominated not once but twice by Virginia Republicans, first for Attorney General and then for Governor. Also remember, this guy is by far the favorite for their party's gubernatorial nomination in 2017 as well. It says a great deal about that party - nothing good, though.

VA Media Gives Blanket Coverage to Poll Showing Clinton Behind; None to Poll Showing Clinton Ahead

On July 16, Public Policy Polling (PPP) came out with a new poll showing Hillary Clinton solidly ahead for the general election against any Republican opponent. According to PPP, Clinton leads Jeb Bush by 8 points (46%-38%), Scott Walker by 5 points (47%-42%) and Donald Trump by 10 points (49%-39%).So...seems like pretty big news that you'd expect to have gotten some coverage by the corporate media, right? Well, think again. I did a Nexis search for "Virginia News Sources" using terms like "Public Policy Polling," "PPP" and "Clinton" and got...wait for it...that's right, ZERO results. None. Nada. I also looked on the main Virginia newspapers - the Roanoke Times, Washington Post, Republican Times-Disgrace, etc. - and found no coverage of the PPP poll showing Hillary Clinton ahead of all possible Republican 2016 presidential nominees in Virginia.  Same thing, by the way, with right-wing Virginia blogs - no coverage of the PPP poll showing Clinton ahead in Virginia. Hmmmm.

OK, so maybe you're thinking it's just so early, nobody's interested in covering polls. Except that yesterday, a Quinnipiac University Poll of Virginia was released, showing "Clinton In Trouble In Colorado, Iowa, Virginia" (e.g., Clinton trailing Bush by 42%-39%; Rubio by 43%-31%). Keep in mind that Quinnipiac doesn't have a signficantly better track record than PPP; according to's pollster rankings, PPP gets a "B-" (with a slight, 0.7-point Republican "lean") and Quinnipiac gets a "B+" (with a 0.9-point Republican "lean"). So...pretty similar, slight edge perhaps to Quinnipiac, but not by much.
So, how much coverage di the Quinnipiac poll, showing Clinton TRAILING in Virginia, get? Nexis is lagging, only showing 7 stories in Virginia News Sources so far, but I know it's a lot more than that because Nexis still hasn't picked up: 1) Virginia Poll: GOP contenders have slight edge over Clinton (Virginian-Pilot); 2) Clinton lags among voters in swing states against leading GOP hopefuls (Washington Post); 3) Clinton Losing Ground to Three GOP Rivals in Virginia (RTD); 4) Quinnipiac Poll: Hillary Clinton trails Republicans presidential contenders in Virginia (Augusta Free Press); 5) Clinton edge erodes in three swing states (Fredericksburg Free-Lance Star); 6) Poll: Hillary Clinton trails three Republicans in Virginia, Iowa, Colorado (Daily Progress); 7) Could Hillary Clinton Win Virginia? Poll Puts Her Behind Rubio, Walker, Bush(WAMU); 8) Quinnipiac Poll: Clinton Trailing Several GOP Candidates in VA. (NBC 29); etc. In other words, blanket coverage of the (probable outlier) poll showing Hillary Clinton trailing in Virginia, while giving NONE to the poll showing her ahead of all possible Republican nominees. Oh, and as an added bonus, some of the largest right-wing political blogs in Virginia covered the Quinnipiac Poll...but of course not the PPP poll. Fascinating, eh? (also note; we've now covered both)

So what does all this tell me? Very simple. The media is not about reporting the "news," per se, but is actively engaged - as many of us have long suspected - in printing stories that: a) bring "eyeballs" to their site; b) promote "controversy" or "horse race"; c) push the narrative THEY want to see pushed, in this case that Clinton is falling, that Republicans are leading in key swing states, blah blah blah. Kind of like when they claimed thar Romney was gaining on Obama in the closing days of the 2012 election, even though that was absolutely NOT the case. Yet the media persists in doing this s***, blatantly in this case, although of course the corporate media won't call out itself for what it's doing, so most people are unaware of what's going on. Clever, clever. In turn, that makes it easier for right wingers to push their absurd narrative that there's a "liberal media bias." In fact, if anything, there's a strong conservative bias in the media, but even more so there's a bias towards controversy, "if it bleeds it leads," false equivalency, and pushing a "horse race" or a narrative of the frontrunner falling or whatever. It's really insidious, and it's all very obvious, yet almost nobody will acknowledge it.

Peter Galuszka on the "Tale of Two Virginias" -- Dominion and Its Allies vs. The Rest of Us

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

For once, let me give Dominion "Global Warming Starts Here" Power a tiny bit of credit: despite essentially buying ("sponsoring") a Virginia political blog, for whatever reason they still haven't purged pro-clean-energy and environmentalist writer Peter Galuszka from the site. And until they do, it appears that Galuszka will continue to rain body blows on this horrible company. For instance, see Galuszka's latest, Renewable Energy: A Tale of Two Virginias. A few key points:

*There's one Virginia that includes the state's "traditional political and business elite, including Dominion Resources and large manufacturers, the State Corporation Commission and others," which "insist that the state must stick with big, base-loaded electricity generating plants like nuclear and natural gas - not so much solar and wind -to ensure that prices for business are kept low."
*Then there's the new, up-and-coming Virginia, with "the most successful and younger Web-based firms" looking instead to "use 100 per cent of their electricity from renewable sources," investing their own money to build said renewable energy generating capacity, and in the meantime "bypassing traditional utilities like Dominion which have been sluggish in moving to wind and solar."
*Thus, we have a case of a huge wind farm being built (by Amazon and Iberdrola) just a few miles outside of Virginia - in "red" North Carolina, which believe it or not has had much better policies when it comes to clean energy than "purple" Virginia does - and also a big solar farm (again, by Amazon - with no participation by Dominion, of course) in "Accomack County on the Eastern Shore."
Meanwhile, Dominion continues with its head buried in the sand, clinging to a dying, antiquated, top-down, state-protected-monopoly model, even as clean energy costs plummet and even as distributed energy, storage, microgrids, and other innovative technologies (not to mention financing methods) take off. As I've written previously, the consquences to Dominion of not adapting the rapidly changing world could be the dreaded utility "death spiral," but they don't seem to care, counting on their bought-and-paid-for buddies in the Virginia General Assembly to protect them for a few more years.

How badly is Dominion Power harming Virginia's economy, people and businesses?  It's hard to quantify, but just imagine if Virginia could offer the hottest companies clean, cheap power - as well as flexibility as to how they produce and/or source that power -  in perpetuity, instead of the failed/failing "same ol' same old?"  Keep in mind that Austin (Texas) Power recently was offered "solar power from developers at record low prices" (how does "less than $0.04 per kWh" sound?). Also see articles like Price of US Wind Power at 'All-Time Low' of 2.5 Cents per Kilowatt-Hour to see where we COULD be heading, if it weren't for Dominion Power and its bought-and-paid-for puppets in the state legislature. For comparison purposes, according to EIA, Virginia's average retail power price in 2013 was around 9 cents per kilowatt-hour, produced by Dominion's power mix of mostly filthy coal, problematic nuclear (also extremely expensive to build new units) and (mostly fracked) natural gas plants. Brilliant, huh? Nope. So why the he** do we put up with this nonsense?

Video: Arlington Board Member Walter Tejada Rips John Vihstadt for Creating "Culture of Distrust"

As Arlington County Board member and progressive champion Walter Tejada (D) winds ups his 12+ years of service on the Board, he's not going quietly, that's for sure. And thank goodness someone is speaking up, calling out the lies, disinformation, disingenuous and anti-government rabble rousing by Republican John Vihstadt and his allies over the past couple years. In this case, the discussion is whether Arlington County should have a new, independent auditor (see Patricia Sullivan's Washington Post story for more on this; also, thanks to her for the "heads up" on this) "to oversee county spending." Yesterday, the Board voted 4-1, with Walter Tejada strongly disapproving, to approve this $200,000-per-year position. Here are Tejada's key points, followed by Vihstadt's (faux?) indignant response (which basically proves Tejada's point, by the way), followed by Tejada...well, watch and see, it's highly informative AND entertaining. :)

*Tejada noted that Arlington has received a "triple, AAA bond rating" "every single year he's been in office," and that's not "because we're nice people," but for good reason (e.g., based on the bond rating agencies' independent analyses of Arlington's management, fiscal situation, etc.). *Tejada says: "I don't drink the Kool-Aid that has been put out in the community to allege a culture of distrust of government which - is well known by the Republican Party to question and to allege mismanagement." Tejada compares it to Republicans' ellegations of nonexistent "voter fraud," "without a shred of evidence," and points out, 100% correctly, that this "kind of CRAP happens all the time." *Tejada argues that the independent auditor will simply expand the bureaucracy for no good reason, as it's "redundant," "not needed," and simply being pushed forward to "foster a distrust of government." Even worse, Tejada charges that this is "part of the new era in Arlington - the timid and stagnant era of distrust." *Vihstadt responds with a bunch of (faux?) indignant nonsense, including repetition of his fallacious/wildly exaggerated/demagogic talking points from his campaign last year, about a "million-dollar bus stop," "cost our ill-fated aquatic center," "an Artisphere that went sideways," blah blah blah. Typical right-wing "crap," as Tejada puts it, in other words. Oh, and the best line, stated without a hint of irony or self awareness, is that it's actually Walter Tejada - not John Vihstadt himself, the master of politicization and political demagoguery - who's "trying to make a partisan issue out of this." That's some serious, Trump-level chutzpah right there, I'll grant Vihstadt that! *Tejada responds, with appropriate dripping sarcasm, "congratulat[ing]" Vihstadt for "reciting the talking points that you've been using time and again to create that alleged distrust of government." Tejada adds that this is "indeed part of [Vihstadt's] party's platform to create a distrust of government...whether you like it or not, that's exactly what it is." *Tejada concludes that "this is part of your timid and stagnant era you've brought [to Arlington]'s not unusual for Mrs. Garvey or yourself."

All I can say is that I wish we had a lot more Democrats like Walter Tejada, willing to call out Republicans for what they're doing, not pussyfoot around, afraid that there might be "conflict" with Republicans (which, of course, already exists). The problem with that latter strategy is it lets right-wing bullies and demagogues like Vihstadt seize control of the debate, win elections (even in "blue" Arlington), and create serious damage (in the case of Arlington, cancelling the street car project with no viable alternative, killing the Artisphere just when it was starting to find its footing, fostering ill will and a culture of distrust of government, etc.).

At the national and state levels, Democrats have spent far too much time NOT calling out Republicans for this "crap," and the result has been...what? Last I checked, it didn't work either in policy OR political terms, as Republicans now control most state legislatures, the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives, while instituting policies that do great harm to our country, our states, etc. The question for cities and counties like Arlington is whether they're going to allow that same pattern to repeat itself in their jurisdictions as well.

PPP: Virginia Looking a Nice Shade of Progressive "Blue" on Guns, Medicaid, Gay Marriage, etc.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Courtesy of Public Policy Polling (click on image below to "embiggen"), Virginia's looking pretty darned progressive these days -- strong majority support for background checks to purchase a gun (86%-8%), for Medicaid expansion (56%-30%), for gay marriage (only 27% say it's a negative thing) and for paid sick days (64%-19%); and even slight plurality support (44%-42%) for "Obamacare." :)
P.S. Also, "Just 35% of Virginians support the flying of the Confederate flag over government buildings, to 51% who are opposed." The only one I disagree with my fellow Virginians on is the R**skins name, where "Only 22% of Virginians support changing the name...66% are opposed," although "Democrats (39/41) closely divided."

Newsweek: Mountaintop Removal Coal Mining "may be increasing cancer risk," Appalachian Poverty

Cross posted from Scaling Green, as I believe this is highly relevant to Virginia.Back in 2011, we interviewed Professor Michael Hendryx, an expert on measuring the harmful impact of coal mining on public health, and now a professor of applied health science at Indiana University, Bloomington. The key takeaways from our discussion with Professor Hendryx amounted to a powerful indictment of mountaintop removal coal mining.  For instance:
Coal "mining is a loser economically, environmentally, and in terms of public health." Hendryx has found that the heaviest coal-mining regions of Appalachia are worse off in just about every way compared to neighboring regions...In making his calculations, Hendryx looked at a range of indicators, including health, education, poverty, environmental conditions, unemployment, and mortality rates. All told, Hendryx's found that mountaintop removal mining's economic cost to Appalachian communities totaled roughly $42 billion per year in lost health and lives.

Hendryx also was a co-author of a seminal Harvard study which found that "the life cycle effects of coal and the waste stream generated are costing the U.S. public a third to over one-half of a trillion dollars annually." According to the study, a significant chunk of that is health care costs , with "public health burdens from coal mining cost $74.6 billion each year" in "Appalachian communities alone."Now, Newsweek takes a closer look at the human toll of the "Cancer Epidemic in Central Appalachia," one that is largely caused by a lethal combination of factors largely related to mountaintop removal coal mining in the region. Here's an excerpt from the Newsweek story, with Professor Hendryx providing particularly powerful and well-informed commentary.

The long-standing concerns over the impact of the mines on the environment and human health have intensified in recent years with the advent of mountaintop mining. Begun in the 1970s, [mountaintop removal mining - MTM], also called surface mining, escalated in the 1990s as a cheaper way to access the energy-rich bituminous coal beds lying beneath the Appalachian mountain forests. After a forest is cleared, explosives are used to blast away mountain peaks to expose seams of coal within. Debris from the blasts is deposited in the nearby valleys. Seen from above, MTM looks like brown rash splotches on a green body.MTM is incredibly efficient. It also may be making people sick. A study of 403 counties in central Appalachia found that those with MTM have higher rates of cancers of the colon, liver, lung and cervix, as well as leukemia, compared with counties without mining. Cancer-related deaths were also more common in the MTM counties. 
Coal mine economics may be increasing cancer risk and exacerbating the region's poverty. Wages for employees are typically high but the jobs are few, accounting for about 1 percent of all employment in Kentucky. Surface mines require less manpower, leading to a reduction in jobs, and the destruction of the landscape may be keeping other businesses away. Federal and state subsidies to the industry amount to billions of dollars. In 2008, Kentuckians paid on average more than $100 per month in taxes to the coal industry. Recent reports indicate the industry costs more than it earns and is mining beyond current demand, driving prices down. "The area needs to diversify and get away from coal as rapidly as possible if it wants to create a stronger economy," says Hendryx.

But it won't be easy to kill off the mining industry. Americans use more than 900 million tons of coal per year; it accounts for about 37 percent of all electric power fuel in the country. The way we use electricity-every light switch, every phone charger-has turned central Appalachia into a "sacrifice zone," a term coined to describe Cold War nuclear fallout regions in the Soviet Union that has come to refer to areas where residents become victims of the pollution caused by an outside demand for their resources. "Mining communities are America's sacrifice zone," says Hendryx. Although recent reports indicate a decline in mountaintop mining, the damage already done has deeply scarred the land and its people.
In sum, mountaintop removal coal mining is harmful in just about every way: to the economy, the environment and people's health. The sooner we transition off this dirty, dangerous stuff to clean, cheap, renewable energy the better.

UVA Study: 11 Major Flaws in Coal Center's Energy Analysis Relied On by Gov. McAuliffe, Legislature

Monday, July 20, 2015

University of Virginia Study Finds 11 Major Flaws in Coal Center’s Energy Analysis Relied Upon by Gov. McAuliffe and LegislatureCross posted from the Checks and Balances Project In a study released last week, energy expert Dr. William Shobe of the University of Virginia dismantles the key, state-sanctioned analysis of how Virginia should meet the requirements of the federal Clean Power Plan to reduce carbon emissions. That analysis, produced last fall by a team led by Dr. Michael Karmis, director of the Center for Coal and Energy Research at Virginia Tech, is part of the Virginia Energy Plan and is relied upon by Gov. Terry McAuliffe and the legislature as they make decisions about the state’s energy future. “In short, the report is almost certainly worse than no study at all because it misstates likely costs, analyzes irrelevant options, and gives short shrift to the cases that really matter,” writes Shobe. A professor of public policy and director of the Center for Economic and Policy Studies, Dr. Shobe’s research focuses on climate change, greenhouse gas markets, and auction design. Shobe was part of the team that designed the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative for nine Northeast states, a cap-and-trade program to reduce carbon emissions that has generated $1.3 billion in economic benefits and 14,000 job-years over the past three years. “Old Boy” Selection Process
Is Karmis Too Conflicted to Analyze How Virginia Can Respond to Fed’s Clean Power Plan?

Michael Karmis, Ph.D

Last fall, we questioned why Dr. Karmis – who is an international consultant to the coal industry – had been chosen by the McAuliffe Administration’s Dept. of Mines, Minerals & Energy (DMME) to write a 199-page analysis of how Virginia should best meet the requirements of the federal Clean Power Plan. By repeatedly evading my basic questions about how and why he was chosen, Karmis and DMME only heightened suspicions about what appears to be an “old boy” selection process heavily influenced by the fossil fuel industry. But now it is clear that the process was more than unseemly: the sloppy, coal-friendly conclusions of Karmis’ report are contributing to Virginia status as an also-ran in clean energy development. Notable problems Shobe found with Karmis’ analysis include:
  • Double counts compliance costs by about $400 million annually because the authors added together two different estimates of compliance costs.
  • Made a calculation mistake that cut the estimated benefits of emission reductions by more than 40%.
  • Used inappropriate and incomplete economic analysis in estimating total economic costs and associated job losses, inflating cost and job losses.
  • Misinterpreted, on at least two occasions, analysis provided by the EPA in the EPA’s regulatory impact analysis of its proposed rule.
(For a full list of errors, click here.) In addition to reviewing Karmis’ analysis, Professor Shobe makes useful recommendations to ensure state agencies such as DMME, the Dept. of Environmental Quality, and the State Corporation Commission are able to properly assess studies presented to them.

An Impartial Coal Expert?

Virginia is having a critical conversation about Clean Power Plan compliance options and strategies. Citizens must ask themselves: should the Commonwealth’s policymakers continue to rely upon an energy analysis produced by coal expert Michael Karmis that we now know is utterly flawed? Last November, I concluded a post by asking whether Dr. Karmis was too conflicted to write a document the governor and legislature would depend upon as an unbiased, informed look at how the state can best respond to the Clean Power Plan. By submitting a report with flawed methodology, basic factual errors and biased conclusions in favor of the coal industry, it seems the answer regarding Dr. Karmis’s conflicts is a resounding yes. Scott Peterson is executive director of the Checks and Balances Project, a national watchdog blog that seeks to hold government officials, lobbyists, and corporate management accountable to the public. Funding for C&BP comes from pro-clean energy philanthropies and donors.

Any Further Questions About the GOP, aka the "Stupid Party?"

In short, Republican primary voters loooove them some serious immigrant bashing and other extremism, lunacy, bombastic idiocy, etc. Nope, Donald Trump is not an outlier, he epitomizes a party that also includes Ken Cuccinelli, EW Jackson, Ted Cruz, Ben Carson, Steve King, James "No Global Warming Cuz I Brought a Snowball Into the Capitol and Stuff" Inhofe, Louie "ISIS camp three miles south of El Paso" Gohmert, Ayn Rand-worshipping Dave Brat, Bobby "Stupid Party" Jindal, and too many other nutjobs to keep track of.
Meanwhile, on the Democratic side, the sane, sensible Hillary Clinton's got a huge lead for the nomination, and also a nice lead over Jeb Bush (which widens to a HUGE lead if Trump runs as an independent - pleasepleaseplease!) in the general election. Good times...if you're a Democrat, that is. Donald Trump, please don't go away anytime soon! :)

Jeff Schapiro: "Public bravado notwithstanding," Virginia Republicans "are scared - very scared"

Sunday, July 19, 2015

It is often the case that the most interesting read in the Sunday papers about Virginia politics comes from Jeff Schapiro of the Richmond Times-Dispatch. Today is no exception, with his column, House Republicans' nightmare scenario. Here are a few key points, with my thoughts, quibbles, etc.*"Republicans stand a strong chance in November of holding the Virginia Senate, if not expanding their majority."
Given the makeup of Virginia's off/odd-year, which strongly favors Republicans, I sadly must agree with this analysis. I believe the analysis I did last August largely still holds: Dems need to hold all their incumbent districts, including some potentially tough ones (John Edwards, who is facing a Republican and a Dem-turned-independent; Chuck Colgan - who is retiring; possibly Lynwood Lewis, who only won by 11 votes in his last election), while picking up at least one seat (the best shots are the seat of retiring Sen. John Watkins in the Richmond area, and also the seat of crazy Sen. Dick Black in Loudoun/Prince William Counties). Democrats will also need to overcome Republicans' initial money advantage. Again, it's doable, but it's not going to be easy.
*Schapiro argues that two issues -- a review of parole and the Planned Parenthood "fetal organ-harvesting video - secretly made by abortion foes" -- could "energize" the Republican vote this November.
I mostly don't see that happening. For one thing, the right-wing base is almost always riled up about something or other, and a review of parole doesn't seem to be of the magnitude to increase that significantly. As for the Planned Parenthood video, it's hard for me to imagine that will be a big deal come November, especially since it really has nothing to do with Virginia politicians per se, and also because most Virginians presumably support the vast majority of work Planned Parenthood does - pap smears, mammograms, breast scancer screenings, HPV tests, birth control, and even abortion in most cases.
*Schapiro argues that the potential for court-ordered House of Delegates redistricting, combined with elections in November 2016, are "Speaker Bill Howell's nightmare."
Agreed. That would be the "perfect storm" against Howell, given that the electorate in a presidential year is almost COMPLETELY different (and far "bluer" than in the usual odd-year elections for House of Delegates) and could really put a dent in his 68-32 majority.
*How much of a dent? Schapiro notes that there "are 27 Republican-held House districts that Obama won in 2012 or lost narrowly" and implies that most or all of these districts could be competitive in the scenario noted above.
I agree to a point. By my count, there are 19 (not 27) Virginia HoD districts that were won by Barack Obama and/or Tim Kaine, yet are currently held by Republicans. I'd say that in the scenario outlined above - redistricting plus a November 2016 election for House of Delegates - Democrats could pick up a "slew" of seats, as Jeff Schapiro argues, just not quite as large a "slew" as 27 seats. A more realistic prediction, IMHO, would be 10-15 (actually, that's probably too optimistic, although Schapiro also says "ten or a dozen seem possible," so who knows), assuming great recruiting by Democrats, funding of those candidates, and a strong (3-5 points or more?) Democratic victory for president here in Virginia. That would potentially get Dems from 32 seats to 42-47 seats in the House of Delegates, within striking distance of 50, and definitely a force that the Republicans couldn't just ignore or roll over at will, as they can now.
*Finally, Schapiro implies that Bill Howell himself could be vulnerable, given that "Obama got 49 percent in his district in 2012."
Let's hope that happens, and good riddance to the ALEC tool if it does.

Sorry, but the Virginia GOP Needs a Much Deeper Makeover than a Fresh Coat of White Paint

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Great to see far-right-wing Sen. Mark "Criminalize Miscarriages" Obenshain putting on a fresh coat of white paint (a whitewash? LOL) at Republican Party of Virginia headquarters, but the sad reality is that the Virginia GOP of crazies like Ken Cuccinelli, E.W. Jackson, Dick Black, Steve Martin, Bob Marshall, and so many others (e.g., keep in mind that they looove racist/xenophobe/Islamophobe/etc. Donald Trump) needs a much deeper makeover than that!

New Report Demolishes Virginia Coal-Industry-Funded, Anti-Clean-Power-Plan Propaganda

Starting in late September 2014, we've cross-posted four excellent, investigative journalism pieces related to Virginia by Scott Peterson, Executive Director at the watchdog group Checks and Balances Project (the goal: "Hold government officials and lobbyists accountable on energy, sustainability, and public policy."). The pieces are: 1) Why Did the McAuliffe Administration Hire Dr. Michael Karmis?; 2) Is Karmis Too Conflicted to Analyze How Virginia Can Respond to Fed's Clean Power Plan?; 3) Questions Multiply Around Virginia's Hiring of Coal Advocate to Write Key Energy Study; 4) Is Virginia Tech's Coal Center Director Evading Questions to Shield Donors?. To briefly sum up the problem, here are a few excerpts from the Checks and Balances investigative pieces:
...the Virginia legislature passed a bill that requires the McAuliffe Administration to evaluate the costs and benefits to the state of complying with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Clean Power Plan...The Administration tasked its Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy (DMME) to produce the analysis. DMME hired Michael E. Karmis, PhD...Professor Karmis is a curious choice. He is considered the state's leading academic expert in coal... He is an active consultant to the mining industry. Karmis is the go-to man if you want to know just about anything related to coal in the Commonwealth....Karmis is evading basic questions about whether clean energy experts were consulted in his critical cost-benefit analysis of how Virginia can meet its federal Clean Power Plan (CPP) goals.  This raises the possibility that Dr. Karmis, director of the Virginia Center for Coal and Energy Research, is shielding donors from legitimate public scrutiny...the cost-benefit analysis was mandated by the legislature, is relied upon by the Governor, and is included in the Virginia Energy Plan. As we've reported before, Karmis is a curious choice to author this foundational document...Karmis's Coal Center is heavily oriented to only one, highly-polluting energy source - coal. The Center's website lists a number ofsignificant players in the coal industry as Sponsors that provide "generous financial contributions."
Another question: "Why did Dr. Karmis choose Clean Air Markets LLC, J. E. Cichanowicz Inc., and Chmura Economics and Analytics and no firms with renewable energy write the critical cost-benefit analysis for Virginia's response to the federal Clean Power Plan?"
As Scott Peterson notes, that's a "good question," as it raises all kinds of appearances of (pro-coal-industry, ant-renewable-energy) bias, possibly even impropriety and undue influence. This matters a great deal, because as Peter Galuszka writes, "Karmis's report was a foundation document used by the State Corporation Commission staff when it gave a big thumbs down to the U.S. EPA's proposed rules to cut carbon dioxide.", this isn't just an academic exercise, but has real, possibly disastrous, public policy implications, including the Virginia State Corporation Commission's bizarre, rogue report attacking the EPA's Clean Power Plan (CPP) as supposedly harmful to Virginia's economy, which is the exact opposite of reality. With the CPP about to be finalized, and with Virginia needing to figure out how it will comply, these analyses matter, and if they're wildly flawed and/or biased in favor of the coal industry, that's a huge problem. Sadly, that appears to be the case here.

But wait, you might argue (if you are hell-bent on defending the indefensible), just because an organization gets coal-industry funding, has people who have spent their entire careers shilling for the fossil fuel industry, etc., doesn't necessarily mean their analyses are biased? I mean, it's theoretically POSSIBLE that they could have had a sudden burst of independence and integrity after years of having none, right? Well, sure, in theory.
But in reality, at least in this case...uh, no. Instead, check out this devastating demolition of Karmis' coal center's/Chmura Economics and Analytics' work, by William Shobe, Ph.D. of the Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service and Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy at the University of Virginia. The bottom line is that Chmura's "analysis" "is deeply flawed and could lead the public policy debate down an unproductive path."

How flawed? Basically, it's utter trash, propaganda, laughably bad.

The report contains a number of large errors including a double counting of costs that overstates compliance costs by half. The  study establishes an incorrect baseline for calculating the costs of changes needed for  compliance. The study fails to provide even;handed treatment of uncertainties,  emphasizing only those uncertainties that serve to overstate compliance costs. Finally, the study focuses its analysis only on unrealistic, high-cost options for compliance, while giving  only the most cursory and dismissive treatment of the options that most observers believe  will form the core of cost-effective compliance options. In short, the report is almost certainly worse than no study at all because it misstates likely costs, analyzes irrelevant options, and gives short shrift to the cases that really matter.
This can get highly technical, but the bottom line is that this "analysis" is not worth the paper it was written on. Among other problems, it bizarrely "double counts compliance costs" in a manner that would be analogous to you "going to two car repair shops for bids on fixing your brakes and then adding the different bids together to get the total cost of the repairs." Crazy, I know. But that's just one of many fatal flaws in the Chmura "analysis," any one of which should have had this "analysis" laughed out of the room.
*"Overstates expected fossil fuel generation by at least 5,800 gigawatt hours per  year by underestimating the likely use of renewable fuels and energy  conservation."
*"Made a calculation mistake that cut the estimated benefits of emission  reductions by more than 40%."
*"Overstated estimates of the negative economic effects of the regulations by  mischaracterizing Virginia coal markets."
*"Used inappropriate and incomplete economic analysis in estimating total  economic costs and associated job losses, inflating costs and job losses."
*"Assumes unrealistically low capacity factors for Virginia's new natural gas  power plants in Warren and Brunswick counties."
*"Fails to provide a full analysis of the option of building the third reactor at the  North Anna Nuclear Power Station."
*"Overestimated the rate of growth in electricity demand."
*"Does not analyze any cases of cooperation between states, even though such  cooperation is a known way to lower compliance costs."
*"Misinterpreted, on at least two occasions, analysis provided by the EPA in the  EPA's regulatory impact analysis of its proposed rule."
*"Incorrectly characterized the results of a U.S. GAO report on EPA's use of  "social cost of carbon" estimates."

The result of all these errors is to give a wildly warped view of the Clean Power Plan's impact on Virginia, one the brain-dead corporate media simply regurgitated, by the way, with no critical analysis whatsoever (let alone the type of investigative journalism done by the Checks and Balances Project). In fact, as Professor Shobe's review finds, "Once corrected for double counting, the analysis shows positive net benefits of reducing CO2 emissions."Hey, details details, right?

Oh, and if all that's not bad enough, "A disturbing  fact about this list of errors and  inappropriate  assumptions is that they all tend to overstate  the  likely cost of emission reductions and, in turn, the cost of compliance with the new rules limiting emissions of greenhouse gases."

That's right, all the errorts biased the coal-industry-funded report in the same, anti-clean-energy direction. You'd expect if the report had just been randomly shoddy, by people who were simply incompetent, that errors would have cut in both directions, but nooooo.  Instead, the errors are all systematically in one direction - the one that benefits the fossil fuel folks' interests. And that, my friends, is about as definitive proof of bias and essentially corrruption as you're ever going to find.

The question is, what are the General Assembly, Gov. McAuliffe et al going to DO about this situation? Are they going to clean house, for instance, at the State Corporation Commission? Are they going to sever all ties with the Virginia Center for Coal and Energy Research? Are they going to launch investigations of this stinks-to-high-heaven situation? Or are we, more likely, going get dead silence and business as usual from the powers that be? I'd say the overwhelming likelihood is that last option, but I hope to be proven wrong.