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RPV Executive Director, Getting Lambasted by Conservative Activists for His Idiotic "Loyalty Oath," Tries to Blame...Blue Virginia?!?

Thursday, December 31, 2015

by Lowell

The following, from RPV Executive Director John Findlay, is simultaneously hilarious and pathetic. In short, what's happening is that Findlay and his colleagues at the Virginia GOP - John "anti Semitic 'joke' dude" Whitbeck, etc. - have been getting their heads handed to them in recent days by conservatives, Tea Party activists, Donald Trump, Trump supporters, etc. for requiring a Republican "loyalty oath" for 2016 Virginia presidential Republican primary voters. And, instead of backing down, they apparently are doubling down on their losing argument.

As part of that "doubling down," they also are trying to deflect attention/blame for their problems to "the liberal, Democrat blog, 'Blue Virginia.'" Yes, that's us!  The only problem is that it's not true. As a bleeds-Democratric-blue guy, as well as the founder and editor of Blue Virginia, let me state this as clearly as possible: I would LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE it if Virginia Republicans keep their "loyalty oath," thereby royally pissing off conservative activists, Tea Partiers, Trump, Trump supporters, etc.; dividing their party; creating massive dissension and anger in their own ranks; etc. I mean, hey, that works for me, ya know? :) So please, Virginia GOP, keep doing what you're doing; as a Democrat, I'm happy to stock up on popcorn, sit back, relax and enjoy the fireworks the next few weeks. LOL

Senator-Elect Scott Surovell Introduces Legislation Limiting Predatory Lending

Nice work by Senator-elect Scott Surovell, this time on the immoral predatory lending industry. Let's hope these bills all pass, although of course Republicans will likely be a problem as usual...

Mount Vernon, VA - Today, Senator-Elect Scott Surovell (D-36), filed four bills to close loopholes and protect consumers from predatory lenders. The bills will protect financially vulnerable Virginians from predatory lending practices by capping interest rates on largely unregulated consumer finance loans, close a loophole that title lenders could use to make predatory loans, prohibit car title and consumer finance lenders from co-locating, and enhancing reporting requirements for consumer finance lenders that co-locate with car title lenders. The bills have the support of Attorney General Mark R. Herring, who has stood with Sen. Surovell to raise awareness of the dangers of predatory lending and has announced a reorganization of his office’s Consumer Protection Section to include a focus on combatting predatory lending. The 36th Senate District has nearly two dozen car title lenders mainly concentrated on the U.S. 1 Corridor between I-495, Fort Belvoir, and Marine Corps Base Quantico.

“What we have here is an industry that’s been booming since their legalization in 2011. Right now, there are 21 predatory lenders located along the U.S. 1 corridor and more will soon be opening unless we, as a legislature, are proactive and respond to this epidemic. The legislation that I’m introducing plans to address this by limiting these businesses and ensuring the economic safety of our state’s most vulnerable,” said Senator-Elect Surovell.

“Too many Virginians go to these lenders seeking a financial lifeline, and instead find themselves trapped in a debt cycle that can turn a few hundred dollars’ worth of loans into thousands of dollars and years of debt,” said Attorney General Herring. “As Attorney General, I am working to crack down on lenders who break our laws and exploit consumers, but it’s clear that enforcement of the current laws will only go so far. We need additional reforms like the ones Senator-elect Surovell and I are proposing to close loopholes and offer additional protections for financially vulnerable Virginians.”

Three Excellent Bills Introduced by Virginia Sen. John Edwards (D-Roanoke)

by Lowell

As always, elections have consequences. In this case, the reelection of State Senator John Edwards (D-Roanoke) means that we continue to get excellent bills like the following. First, SB 130 repeals "mandatory minimum" sentences, which lawyers, scholars and judges have called "oppressive," "racist" and "ineffective," among their other charming qualities. Ditch them!



Second, SB 129 raises Virginia's minimum wage from its current, disgraceful $7.25 an hour ($15,080 a year working full time) to the still-inadequate, but better, $10.10 an hour ($21,008 a year working full time) by 2018. If Republicans vote against this, it demonstrates that they are against working people trying to lift themselves out of poverty on their own, without "government handouts."



Third, SB 142 provides for a tax credit for solar thermal systems in Virginia. Of course, what we also need is credits for rooftop solar power and a robust net metering system in Virginia, but good luck getting that past the Dominion Power Owned-and-Operated General Assembly. Still, SB 142 would be a step in the right direction towards a clean energy economy, which probably means that Republicans will vote against it, because they apparently love wasting money, killing the environment, protecting their fossil fuel donors/pals, and making it more likely that Virginia misses out on the multi-trillion-dollar clean energy economic opportunities we're going to see in the 21st century.

  

New Year's Eve News: Climate Chaos From "the top of the world to the bottom;" RPV "Doubles Down" on "Loyalty Oath"

by Lowell

Here are a few national and Virginia news headlines, political and otherwise, for Thursday, December 31.  Happy New Year's to all of Blue Virginia's readers; let's all work for a happy, politically "blue" 2016! :) By the way, that photo of Jerry Seinfeld and President Obama is real ("Comedian Jerry Seinfeld knocks on the Oval Office window to begin a segment for his series, 'Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee'"). Also, thanks to President Obama for another year of economic recovery, major progress on dealing with global warming,  the recapture of Ramadi, a glimmer of hope for a peace process in Syria, the Iran nuclear agreement (already bearing fruit, as Iran has shipped most of its enriched uranium to Russia for safekeeping), etc, etc, etc. Definitely one of our best presidents ever, even if it drives the right wing into potentially lethal "Obama Derangement Syndrome."

Bill by Sen. Chap Petersen Would Move Virginia in the Exact Opposite Direction of Where We Should Be Going on Campaign Finance

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Virginia State Senator Chap Petersen (D-Fairfax City) has introduced a bill which would "[repeal] the personal income tax credit for contributions to political candidates." That is the exact wrong direction Virginia should be going in terms of campaign finance.

As a Democratic member of the General Assembly told me yesterday, the whole concept of allowing a tax credit for political contributions was "to encourage SMALL donors." Instead of eliminating it, we should be increasing it, potentially by a lot (e.g., a 5:1 or even 10:1 match by the state), to increase the incentives for candidates to seek out SMALL donations, while decreasing (at least relatively speaking) their incentives to spend all their time chasing after rich donors and big corporate money from Dominion, etc.

How this could work is well explained in this paper by elections law expert and GW Law Professor Spencer Overton, who among other things "served as counsel to the NAACP Legal Redress Committee," "served on the Democratic National Committee (DNC) Commission on Presidential Nomination Scheduling and Timing," and " served as on the Carter-Baker Commission on Federal Election Reform at the American University Center for Democracy and Election Management." In short, the guy knows what he's talking about when he writes:
Conventional reformers and press accounts suggest that “there is too much money in politics” -- but they are wrong. The real problem is that the money comes from too few people. While 64% of eligible Americans voted in the November 2008 election, only 10% typically give to political campaigns, and less than 0.5% are responsible for the bulk of the money that politicians collect from individual contributors...

...the answer lies in a system that gives a multiple match to donor contributions. Rather than continuing to give each candidate a flat grant of $100,000, for example, public financing systems should give six-to-one multiple matching funds on the first $200 of a contribution. This would make a $200 contribution worth $1400 to a candidate...Multiple matching funds reflect a philosophical shift about the role of money in politics. Money is not an “evil,” but should be embraced as a tool to make government accountable to more people. Public financing should not “level the playing field" among candidates, but should reward candidates who mobilize more supporters.
Exactly! Which is why I'd love to see someone put in a bill that would do what Professor Overton is talking about -- massively expanding Virginia's current, inadequate system for incentivizing small-dollar donations -- rather than what Sen. Petersen's bill would do, which would be to smother the tiny seed of that idea before it's allowed to germinate. Yes, it would cost the state money, but that would be well worth it (note: we  could pay for it by bringing back the estate tax, or increasing taxes a tiny bit on the richest corporations; what a concept, I know!), at least if you care about the ability of our democracy to not be uttelry bought and paid for by the rich and powerful, both individuals and corporations.

Here in Virginia, sad to say, the state legislature and even regulatory bodies like the State Corporation Commission are largely "captured" by big money interests, lobbyists, etc. Getting away from the deplorable situation will take a multifaceted approach, one in which campaign finance reform is only one component, albeit an important one. Having said that, the last thing we want to do is to move backwards, further away from the goal of returning power to the ordinary people, not just the rich and powerful.


As Night Follows Day...Theocratic Extremist E.W. Jackson Endorses Theocratic Extremist Ted Cruz for President

Least surprising endorsement of the 2016 presidential cycle?
BISHOP E.W. JACKSON, FORMER NOMINEE FOR LT. GOVERNOR OF VIRGINIA, ENDORSES TED CRUZ

Norfolk, VA. On Wednesday, December 9 at the National Press Club in Washington, DC, Bishop E.W. Jackson announced Project AWAKENING, a comprehensive private sector plan to help rescue America's inner cities from poverty and crime. His plan sets forth a framework for a partnership between churches, businesses and educational institutions, for cultural renewal, economic awakening and technical education.

In planning his announcement of Project AWAKENING, Bishop Jackson reached out to several presidential campaigns and only one responded. Senator Ted Cruz demonstrated his support for this private sector initiative by sending his National Director for Faith and Religious Liberty to the press conference to speak in his stead. "This is exactly the kind of initiative that is needed for this country to help resolve the problems in the inner city and throughout our country," he said, "I know that if Senator Cruz were to become President of this country... he'd work with Bishop Jackson and other ministers like [him] to help create an environment where these kind[s] of faith and business sector solutions can be implemented."

The Bishop stated, "Senator Cruz knows that 'central planning' by Washington elites will never match the ingenuity and effectiveness of free market capitalism working hand-in-hand with people of faith to restore cultural values and bring prosperity to the most needy people in our country."

"We need a President committed to ending the cycle of poverty, violence and despair in the inner city, by marshaling the goodwill and resources of the private sector - churches, businesses, nonprofits and private schools. We do not need more government programs which only perpetuate poverty and dependence. People need a ladder out of poverty instead of a government sinkhole that keeps them mired in it. Our inner cities need to be places where law abiding citizens can raise their children, provide them with a good education and not have to live in fear of being murdered in street violence. Ted Cruz will be a President who casts that kind of vision and leadership. He has my enthusiastic endorsement."

Senator Cruz's support for this type of comprehensive private sector solution became the final consideration in Bishop E.W. Jackson's decision to officially endorse Senator Cruz for President.

The Bishop says, "I want every Christian in America to know, especially in Iowa where they will caucus in little more than a month, that Ted Cruz is a man of God. Like George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and Ronald Reagan, his faith is authentic, not political expedience. Faith in Jesus Christ has been central to his life, long before he ever ran for office. I have no doubt that he will defend our religious liberty, our Second Amendment rights and our right to be free from unlawful government intrusion and control. I urge fellow evangelicals in Iowa to go to the caucuses and vote for Cruz.

"It is absolutely essential and urgent that we elect a Godly President who reveres our Constitution, honors our Judeo-Christian values and respects the freedom of the American people. After eight years of "fundamental transformation," we need a leader who will dedicate himself to restoring the fundamentals of America. I urge every American, but especially Christians, to elect Ted Cruz as the next President of the United States."

Wednesday News: Right Wingnuts Have "even turned on Paul Ryan;" Virginia GOP Slammed by Left, Right, and In Between

by Lowell

Here are a few national and Virginia news headlines, political and otherwise, for Wednesday, December 30. Also, see more about the endorsement by bigoted, theocratic extremist E.W. Jackson of bigoted, Theocratic extremist Ted Cruz here.

Appalling, Unacceptable, Ad Hominem Attacks on Virginia AG Mark Herring (D) and Del. David Ramadan (R)

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

We all are well aware that politics is a rough-and-tumble business.  That's fine to a point, but increasingly in this country "rough-and-tumble" has been crossing the line into vicious, personal attacks, in many cases bigoted. For instance, recently two Virginia politicians, from wildly opposite sides of the aisle, have been subject to utterly appalling, unacceptable ad hominem attacks.

Let's start with Del. David Ramadan (R), who I disagree with on the merits of his argument (about a Republican "loyalty oath" for the 2016 presidential primary -- see here for more on that subject) and on just about everything else, but who absolutely should not have to endure bigoted, Islamophobic, even threatening crap like the following (note: keep in mind that there are many, many more messages on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, etc. just like the following...a torrent of raw, anti-Muslim bigotry from Trump supporters and others against the highly conservative David Ramadan; also see Virginia Lawmaker Faces Wrath of Donald Trump Supporters in the NY Times).


As I said, utterly disgusting -- but not surprising, coming largely from supporters of a candidate (Trump) who has worked to stir up bigotry, animosity, anger and even violence among his supporters in recent months. Unfortunately for our country, it appears to be having an effect.

Now, on to Virginia AG Mark Herring (D), whose announcement the other day on concealed carry gun "recipcrocity" with other states has also ushered forth a deluge of disgusting, virulent hate against him. For instance, just a few "highlights" from Herring's Facebook page, YouTube, etc., include the following (just to give a flavor for the vitriol and level of commentary we're talking about):
  • "Merry Christmas douchebag...The exact same day Governor Mcawful gives prisoners more phone privileges. That's right hardened criminals with blood on their hands, have more rights than law abiding citizens. You are foolish, stupid..."
  • "You are a colossal idiot. In no state can these people you mention hold a concealed carry license, with the exception of dui which doesn't make some one a criminal. This is a violation of the 2nd by a liberal fascist. Plain and simple. It harms the people of your state that hold a license since they will stop recognizing our license. I am sure as a fascist you don't care about that."
  • "AG Mark Herring hates the military ("You're a douchenozzle...We're gonna tear you apart.")
Anyway, you get the idea. Point is, it's 100% fine to strongly disagree with Del. Ramadan on the 2016 GOP primary "statement of affilation"/"loyalty oath," or with AG Herring on concealed carry reciprocity, or both. But in neither case is there any excuse for the types of language like you can see all over the internet.

Which reminds me; for all the cyberutopians who claimed that the internet would lead to a flourishing of high-quality "citizen journalism" and constructive political engagement, yes there is some of that, but unfortunately the intertubes have also unleashed a culture of vitriol, ignorance, bigotry, idiocy, etc. upon our country. On balance, it's hard for me to see how much of this is a positive change from pre-internet days. Back then, if you wanted to launch the kinds of attacks we see against Ramadan and Herring, at least you had to go to the (time-consuming) effort of type up a letter, sticking it in an envelope, putting a stamp on it and mailing it. Sure, there was still insanity back then too, but a lot less of it than there is now...

The Virginia GOP Oath is a Barrier for All of Us

Vote photo Vote_zpsqrhxii2v.jpgby Dan Sullivan

There’s more to the Virginia Republican loyalty oath than the thinly disguised effort to suppress the vote. The GOP intends the process to provide a taxpayer funded voter contact list; the process places a barrier between voters and their ballots; it potentially confounds any recount process.

First, the suppression not only affects the Republican primary but also the Democratic primary. I have talked to registrars who have flatly stated that they will not have separate lines for the two sets of voters. Thus, Democrats will be delayed access to their ballots while enduring an increased wait caused while Republicans complete their oaths. That delay will potentially deny voters with limited time their privilege to vote. So Democrats have standing in this issue too. But for Republicans: the oath represents an artificial gate between them and their ballots that does not exist for Democrats; two classes of voters. Equal protection has never been a Republican forte.

Tuesday News: "Tamir Rice Decision Shows You Can Get Away With Murder"

by Lowell

Here are a few national and Virginia news headlines, political and otherwise, for Tuesday, December 29.

Audio: John Fredericks vs. David Ramadan Shouting Match Erupts Over "Loyalty Pledge" for 2016 Virginia GOP Presidential Primary

Monday, December 28, 2015

If you want to understand the increasingly vitriolic fight within the Republican Party over whether voters in the 2016 Virginia GOP primary will have to sign a "statement of affiliation" (aka, a "loyalty oath"), you absolutely have to listen to this audio from the John Fredericks Show from right before Christmas. What you'll hear is a heated shouting match between Virginia Del. David Ramadan (R), who is stepping down as the end of his current term in a few days, and right-wing talk radio host John Fredericks. Among the "highlights" are the following.

Former Democratic Party of Virginia Chair: Donald Trump Could Win Lawsuit Against GOP "Loyalty Oath"

By Paul Goldman (note: Goldman served as Chair of the Democratic Party of Virginia during the governorship of Doug Wilder)

Can the General Assembly of Virginia delegate to a political party the right to require the loyalty oath in question for a presidential primary election even it must be approved the VA Dept of Elections?

Given the specific loyalty oath at issue, there is a legitimate constitutional and state law issue. The fact a state election agency gave its okay doesn't end the legitimate legal inquiry given the important voter rights at issue which have to be balanced with state party rights.

Virginia, by law, has chosen not to require political party registration, holds open primaries/caucuses and has chosen to grant to political parties the right to hold a presidential primary paid for by the voters.

The law, Section 24.2-545, also discusses the right of the parties to impose requirements for participation in the primary process. According to a Supreme Court decision directly addressing the VA election scheme, the actions of the VA GOP relative to imposing any such requirements is covered by the first amendment to the federal constitution, VA's own first amendment protections to citizens, and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 as amended.

In my view, the oath chosen by the GOP for 2016 raises serious legal questions as to whether it is permissible to allow a political party to impose such a requirement, even though it has been approved by the VA Department of Elections as an administrative matter.

I think Mr. Trump would have a legitimate legal basis for challenging the matter in state or federal court.

I think he would have a legitimate chance of winning any suit.

It is a suit which would prove useful.

In 2013, after the debacle in the GOP presidential primary, I worked to get then Attorney General Cuccinelli to work on a bipartisan basis with myself and others to fix certain problems with the state's presidential primary laws. We worked hard and got several new laws passed.

They eliminated the 2012 problems and also addressed other glitches in state election law.

Trump has a legitimate beef here legally. As for the politics, well it seems a bonehead move politically for the GOP, but I have written that before when they last went this route, only later to agree with me and drop it.

Monday News: In Trump, Republicans are "getting the anger candidate their rhetoric created"

by Lowell

Here are a few national and Virginia news headlines, political and otherwise, for Monday, December 28.

Shhh … when it comes to #weather/#climate links, nothing to be seen here (@WashingtonPost edition)

Sunday, December 27, 2015

by Adam Siegel (cross posted from Get Energy Smart Now)

Shhh … there is nothing to be seen here. Even with perhaps the nation’s top political cartoonist on climate changeTom Toles, and the excellent climate/energy/science reporting of the likes of Chris Mooney, article after article in The Washington Post discussing ‘weird weather’ in the DC area and elsewhere goes with nary a mention of climate change.

See the 26 December front-page, above-the-fold article “White Hot Christmas: Some rejoice in D.C’s record-setting warmth, but others are unnerved."
Even as Washingtonians found themselves luxuriating in the steam bath that was Christmas 2015, even as decades of meteorological records were shattered, they could not help but feel out of sorts, as if they were indulging in something that was not quite right.
The article tells us that DC saw “the highest Christmas [temperature] reading in more than 30 years” amid “ever-toastier conditions” yet, amid dozens of column inches, we hear of “end times” and recipes for a warmer Christmas but the words “climate change” don’t appear.

Speaking of End Times, the online version’s headline is telling:
‘Jesus might be coming back .?.?. Or it’s something else. I don’t know.’
Within the article,
Lakisha Webster’s eyes narrowed as she struggled to make sense of the forces that may have conspired to turn what she once knew as winter into the strangest of summers. “Jesus might be coming back,” Webster, 44, said, while her young grandson test-drove a new $800 dirt bike. “Or it’s something else. I don’t know. But it’s scary — a little bit scary.”
The voice of confusion and conflict — enjoyment and/or discomfort.  A long, front-page article without any placement of context. (For an alternative approach, capturing the dissonance between enjoying warm December weather while understanding climate change impacts, see #Climate change has changed my (and your) backyard.)

The author, Paul Schwartzman, does know climate change exists. After all, he reported on the Pope at the UN and discussed how ‘mainstream’ Republicans see climate science denial costing votes in Virginia.

Donald Trump Rips Republican Party of Virginia

by Lowell

I agree that the Republican Party of Virginia has "lost statewide 7 times in a row" and that it's "working hard to disallow independent, unaffiliated and new voters." However, I wouldn't say that Democrats "love it," as many of us would LOVE to see Donald Trump as the 2016 Republican presidential nominee. Either Trump or Cruz, can't decide which one of these nutjobs would lose in a worse landslide next November. :)

 

Why I’m Grateful For (But Not TO) Donald Trump

by Andy Schmookler

I’m grateful for Donald Trump. Not “to” him, mind you, but “for” him. Because I believe that Donald Trump is accomplishing – far more than I’ve been able to do -- what I have been trying to accomplish for the past eleven years: helping Americans see the atrocious thing the Republican Party has become in our time.

Much has been said about the racism, bigotry, hatred, and fear-mongering that he is harnessing. Of course, all these are among the regrettable potentialities of human consciousness that have been systematically cultivated by the Republican Party, increasingly over the past generation, at least since the rise of Newt Gingrich and Rush Limbaugh. And as has also been much noted, what’s remarkable about Trump, within that Party, is only how blatant and unsubtle he is about displaying the ugliness.

This past week, Trump displayed yet another aspect of human brokenness emblematic of the force that has taken over the right: the tendency to do the very opposite of what it claims to be doing.

The Republicans of our era, for example, claim to be conservative, while trampling on American norms and traditions and pushing for radical change. They claim to be patriotic while willingly injuring the nation whenever it is to their advantage. And they claim to be defenders of Christian values, even as the spirit that animates their conduct is the very opposite of the Sermon on the Mount.

And it is in that context, I suggest, that we should perceive Trump’s already infamous comments about Hillary Clinton’s debate-evening trip to the bathroom: "I know where she went,” Trump said. “It's disgusting. I don't want to talk about it. No, it's too disgusting. Don't say it, it's disgusting.”

He claims he doesn’t want to talk about it, while makes the startling choice to talk about it. “I don’t want to go there,” he says, even while he makes himself the first presidential candidate in American history (I would wager) to “go there” and make all of us go there with him.

Sunday News: Christmas Heat Shatters Records, Republican Candidates STILL Don't Admit We're in a Climate Crisis

by Lowell

Here are a few national and Virginia news headlines, political and otherwise, for Sunday, December 27.

Why We’re Disowning Jim Webb

Saturday, December 26, 2015

by Kindler, Lowell and the rest of the Blue Virginia crew

We the bloggers and progressive activists who helped Jim Webb launch his political career, do hereby and henceforth definitively disown the dude.

Here’s the backstory.

Once upon a time, a blog named Raising Kaine – predecessor to this one – established to advance progressive politics and win elections across the Commonwealth, was searching for a viable candidate to knock off right-wing U.S. Senator George Allen. This was in 2005, when the Bush administration was plunging the country off a cliff with the disastrous war in Iraq and its tragically incompetent response to Hurricane Katrina.

And we found a fascinating prospect – a "Born Fighting," Scots-Irish war hero, a former Navy Secretary (in the Reagan Administration, no less) and an Emmy Award-winning author who combined a rural, working class past with a deep concern for growing income inequality in this country, libertarian(ish) views on social issues, and fierce opposition to the Iraq War. Jim Webb seemed the perfect man for the moment, custom-made for a purple state slowly evolving from a sleepy Southern past to a 21st-century future with dynamic urban centers.

Around Christmas 2005, Lowell and two other progressive activists (Lee Diamond and Josh Chernila) approached Webb about running, and found him seriously considering it. After Webb threw his hat in the ring, Raising Kaine and hundreds of Virginia netroots activists (who Webb came to call his "ragtag army") tirelessly supported him - with volunteer hours, financial support, etc. - first against hapless Democratic opponent Harris Miller, and then against Allen. Some of us even went to work for his campaign, helping to guide him through what many of us ultimately saw as a miraculous victory over Allen – and in the process, tipping the U.S. Senate to Democratic control.

Webb started his Senate career strong, giving a searing Democratic response to President Bush’s State of the Union address in January 2007, and leading opposition to the Iraq War. Webb sponsored a successful new GI Bill, decried economic inequality and spoke about the need for prison reform.

Unfortunately, a few years into his term, Webb’s ardor seemed to fizzle. He started to shrink from the scene, spoke out for the coal industry he had once condemned, and ultimately did little to back up his stirring rhetoric on economic injustice. He quit after one term, and temporarily vanished after that.

If Webb had simply retired at that point, or returned to his successful writing career, it would be hard to criticize him. But then, inexplicably, the man who couldn’t bear to be in the Senate for more than one term launched a quixotic, head-scratching campaign for president.

Saturday News: President Obama Thanks U.S. Troops in Hawaii; Bill McKibben's Paris Climate Conference Takeaways

by Lowell

Here are a few national and Virginia news headlines, political and otherwise, for Saturday, December 26. Also check out the great Bill McKibben's takeaways from the Paris climate conference; in short, it's a start, but it's "weaker than it should be...because the fossil fuel industry continues to hold the cards; we need to understand that these guys are not just filthy rich, they are filthy...it's basically purchased one of our political parties...if they carry out their stated business plan, then the planet tanks...We just have to keep building a movement that can somehow balance their money...Whether we're going to get there in time is an open question."

Ben Carson: a Whimpering Apology for Republican Racism

Friday, December 25, 2015

 photo Carson tent at 2015 Shad
Planking_zps0dczdxun.jpgby Dan Sullivan

The sorry souls whose autos sport bumper stickers and who man the tables for Ben Carson are confessing. They sense the terrible sin of the right these past seven years. Instead of debating issues on merit, their strategists encouraged dog whistle attacks against President Obama to leverage their base’s bigotry.

At the Ben Carson canopy during this year’s Shad Planking and the booth at the Virginia State Fair, fair-skinned apologists sat righteously demonstrating their support for an African American other than Obama. They are secretly ashamed of their complicity and Ben Carson is a useful astringent to cleanse that shame. “Supporters” fancy they enjoy a shield against charges of racism when they “blame Obama” through the safe, symbolic support of another fellow who never had a snowball’s chance in hell of garnering the Republican nomination. He might have been the racial version of the gender balance tokenism attempted by shoving Sara Palin onto a ticket. But trust me, the Republican Party will never stand for a Cuban and an African-American paired together, so the chances grow slimmer by the day. Imagine the rest of us sweating in prayer for four years, concerned about the Secret Service keeping Ted Cruz safe.

There is more than that that makes Carson palatable to these moral cowards. His uninformed and childlike world view fits like a cheap suit; simple mantras dismiss complex, perplexing problems.
“I’m not a Democrat, I’m not a Republican, I’m an independent. If there was a party called the logic party I would be a member of that.” – Ben Carson

Scaling Green’s 15 Top Cleantech Stories of 2015

Cross posted from Scaling Green
As the video illustrates, 2015 was an extremely eventful, largely positive year for clean energy. At Scaling Green and Tigercomm, we’re very much looking forward to what 2016 brings! Before we get to 2016, though, here are the 15 cleantech stories we considered to be the most important in 2015.

1. Pope Francis’ encyclical “on care for our common home.” As we wrote on June 25: “the Encyclical released last week by Pope Francis helps bring values and science into agreement, offering ‘moral guidance rooted in an ‘integral ecology’ based on fundamental Catholic teaching about care for all creation.’ As part of that care for creation, Pope Francis makes it clear that global warming and other serious environmental problems are ‘aggravated by a model of development based on the intensive use of fossil fuels, which is at the heart of the worldwide energy system.’ The answer, in Pope Francis’ eyes, is clearly “an urgent need to develop policies so that, in the next few years, the emission of carbon dioxide and other highly polluting gases can be drastically reduced, for example, substituting for fossil fuels and developing sources of renewable energy. ‘That’s what’s so encouraging about the Pope’s Encyclical – it’s a big step forward in the values conversation around the most important issue of our time,’ said Mike Casey, president of Tigercomm, a marketing communications firm that serves the cleantech space.”

2. The Paris Climate Summit: As The Guardian wrote on December 12, this agreement could signal the beginning of the end of the fossil fuel era, “with massive consequences for industry, global security, financial markets and public health.” Quoted in that story, Unilever’s chief executive, Paul Polman, said that the impact of the Paris climate agreement “will be felt in banks, stock exchanges, boardrooms and research centres as the world absorbs the fact that it is embarking on an unprecedented project to decarbonise the global economy.” Or, as President Obama put it, the world succeeded in reaching “an enduring agreement that reduces global carbon pollution and sets the world on a course to a low-carbon future.” Let’s hope he’s right.

3. The Clean Power Plan (CPP) moves ahead. As Tigercomm President Mike Casey wrote on August 3: “the CPP will make a big – a really big – contribution to moving the U.S. economy onto clean energy footing.” In doing so, it will create jobs, cut electricity bills, reduce pollution, and “[b]egin the process of kicking the fossil fuel sectors off the decades of preferential treatment that politicians have showered on them despite being mature, highly profitable businesses.” Also check out the interesting discussion on this issue by The Energy Gang, which argued that the CPP was “the biggest thing that happened for the U.S. on [energy] policy” in 2015.

Christmas Day News: Record Warm Weather, Where's Climate-Science-Denying Freak Sen. Jim "Snowball" Inhofe When You Need Him? Heh.

by Lowell

Here are a few national and Virginia news headlines, political and otherwise, for Friday, Christmas Day 2015. As for the Spock picture, yeah, I'm a total Star Trek/sci fi nerd In fact, last night I re-watched the original Star Trek episode where Spock goes back 5,000 years, reverting to a time when Vulcans were illogical barbarians, falls in love with a beautiful woman, tries to kill Dr. McCoy and even enjoys eating animal flesh. Also, Leonard Nimoy died in February 2015, which makes me really sad, even if that's totally "illogical." ;)

Top Virginia Political Stories of 2015

Thursday, December 24, 2015

The following list is not meant to be comprehensive (nor is it in any particular order), but these are some of the top political stories, IMHO, that took place in Virginia during 2015. Note that I "crowd-sourced" this list, so these are not all my ideas (although I agree with them all). Feel free to add your suggestions in the comments section. Thanks, and happy New Year!
  • Republicans hold the State Senate, despite a huge effort - and enormous cash infusion - by Democrats. On the plus side, Democrats held all their incumbents. On the negative side, so did Republicans. In short, there's almost zero competition in the vast majority of incumbent-drawn-for-their-protection districts, and it showed in 2015.
  • House of Delegates Democrats, despite having minimal resources, manage to pick up a seat (getting them to 34 out of 100). Obviously, there's still a long way to go to get to 50 or more, but there are plenty of Obama/Kaine districts held by Republicans that should, at least in theory, be competitive. Next shot: the gubernatorial election year of 2017.
  • Virginia Republicans continue their refusal to expand Medicaid. This, despite the fact that an increasing number of Republican-led states have moved to do just that. So far, though, "no go" here in Virginia. Perhaps the VHHA's major push to figure out a way to bring back our tax dollars to help hospitals and the uninsured in Virginia will pay off in 2016. Let's hope so, for all our sakes.
  • Battle over state Supreme Court nominee (currently Justice) Jane Roush. This one got super nasty, with utterly absurd charges of sexism and racism being thrown around. To the contrary, this was 100% about power, specifically a Republican power play to try and show Gov. McAuliffe who's boss in Virginia. We'll see how it goes in coming weeks, but right now it looks like Republicans plan to boot Roush off the court and install their own pick, whoever that might end up being. Ridiculous.
  • Rise of virulent Islamophobia in Virginia. Utterly appalling, with crap like this angry, bigoted mob in Spotsylvania County, the craziness over Roanoke Mayor Bowers relating Syrian immigrants and World War II internment camps for Japanese-Americans, "Liberty" University President Jerry Falwell talking about using a gun to "end those Muslims," etc. Some of the ugliest days in Virginia since "massive resistance." Ugh.

Thursday News: Trump (and Cruz, Carson, etc.) Supporters Most Certainly Are NOT "Better than This;" Candidates Line Up to Replace Rep. Robert Hurt

by Lowell

Here are a few national and Virginia news headlines, political and otherwise, for Thursday, December 24. Also, check out the year in Republican science denial.

Tea Party Treat: Augusta County Chaos

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

 photo First War Against
Terrorism_zpsejxvjvrf.jpgby Dan Sullivan

To be clear: there was no credible threat to Augusta County schools. A discredited Sheriff’s Department compounded hysteria over a simple, harmless art assignment by foisting a ludicrous rationale that something might occur. Meanwhile, an alleged beat down of a student by fellow classmates has gone uninvestigated by local officials.
"What concerns me the most is what we don't have knowledge of," Fisher said. "What people in chat rooms may be organizing that we haven't found yet." – as reported in The News Leader

Wednesday News: "Oh vey! Enough of Trump;" Robert Hurt Retiring, But Will Anyone Notice?

by Lowell

Here are a few national and Virginia news headlines, political and otherwise, for Wednesday, December 23. Also check out "You're a mean one, Mr. Trump!"

Paging Tom Perriello! Paging Tom Perriello!

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

UPDATE: I'm told there's a strong Democratic candidate, Jane Dittmar, who's already running in the 5th. Maybe there are/will be others as well. That's great to hear, as the 5th CD deserves strong representation, not an utter loser and Teabagger like Robert Hurt (biggest downgrade in Congressional history from Perriello to Hurt? quite possibly). UPDATE #2: Also, Ericke Cage is running.

Lyin' Ryan, Clearly Feeling Heat from his Right, Falsely Claims Lifting Crude Oil Export Ban Equivalent to "100 Keystone Pipelines"

In 2012, I took to calling Paul Ryan "Lyin' Ryan," because almost every time he opened his mouth, what came out was usually false or distorted in one way or the other. Today, Lyin' Ryan - clearly feeling heat from his right for the "Omnibus" bill - is back in a big way, with this desperate, pathetic, flailing claim.
Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) is touting the end of the oil export ban, comparing Congress’s vote to lift the restriction to building the Keystone XL pipeline 100 times. 
Speaking Tuesday evening with conservative talk show host Hugh Hewitt, he listed oil exports as one of the top victories during his short time leading the House so far, and compared exports’ impact on oil markets to the controversial pipeline that President Obama blocked last month. 
“We think we got good victories for the energy markets. Having the oil export ban lifted permanently, it’s like having 100 Keystone pipelines,” Ryan said.
How far off is Lyin' Ryan from the truth on this one?  First off, keep in mind that the Keystone pipeline would have had capacity of 830,000 barrels per day, so 100 of those would equate to 83 MILLION barrels per day (to put that in perspective, it's just a bit lower than total world oil production in 2015 of 95 million barrels per day).

Second, how much more U.S. oil production will the lifting of the crude oil export ban lead to? The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) modeled this, and in their "reference case," they found that in 2025, the difference in U.S. oil production with or without the crude oil export ban in place was...wait for it...yep, ZERO! In short, Lyin' Ryan was infinitely far off in his crazy "100 Keystone pipelines" comparison, unless you think that ZERO is greater than 83 MILLION barrels per day! LOL

Virginia GOP Chair, John "Anti-Semitic 'Joke' Dude" Whitbeck, Completely Wrong (As Usual) on AG Mark Herring's "Concealed Carry" Announcement

The statement by Republican Party of Virginia Chair John "Anti-Semitic 'Joke' Dude" Whitbeck (see image; click to "embiggen") to Virginia Attorney General's actions today on "concealed carry" "reciprocity" with other states is, not surprisingly, 100% absurd. It's hard to know where to even start, but let's just list two huge, gaping problems with Whitbeck's "argument" (so to speak).

1. The Second Amendment does not allow for anyone to carry any weapon, anywhere, under any circumstances -- even under the current, right-wing Supreme Court. As this summary of the Heller decision by Cornell University Law School explains:
Like most rights, the Second Amendment right is not unlimited. It is not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose: For example, concealed weapons prohibitions have been upheld under the Amendment or state analogues. The Court’s opinion should not be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms. Miller’s holding that the sorts of weapons protected are those “in common use at the time” finds support in the historical tradition of prohibiting the carrying of dangerous and unusual weapons. Pp. 54–56.
2. What Attorney General Herring announced to day was simply to ensure that other states' "standards for issuance of a concealed handgun permit or for recognition of such permits" meet Virginia's standards. For instance, Virginia disqualifies people from carrying concealed firearms if: they a) "been adjudicated legally incompetent, mentally incapacitated, or not guilty by reason of insanity;" b) are "subject to a restraining order, or to a protective order;" c) have "been convicted of stalking or has pending stalking charges;" d) have "been convicted of any assault, assault and battery, sexual battery, discharging of a firearm or brandishing of a firearm within the three-year period immediately preceding the application, or has pending charges for any of the above;" e) have "been convicted of a felony or has felony charges pending;" f) have "been convicted of two or more misdemeanors within the five-year period immediately preceding the application;" g) are "addicted to, or is an unlawful user or distributor of, marijuana, synthetic cannabinoids, or any controlled substance;" h) are an "alien other than an alien lawfully admitted for permanent residence"; i) are an "individual who is a fugitive from justice;" j) are an "individual who has been discharged from the armed forces of the United States under dishonorable conditions."

So, seriously, the Chair of the Virginia GOP really wants to override Virginia law and permit people who are mentally incompetent, subject to restraining orders, convicted of stalking, felons, drug addicts and dealers, people they refer to as "illegal aliens," etc. to carry a concealed firearm? Why? What constructive public policy purpose would that serve?

Unless, of course, Whitbeck et al don't care about serving constructive policy purposes, but instead are simply doing whatever the NRA and other gun absolutists tell them to do. Either way, the only ones waging any kind of "war" are Whitbeck and his allies, who are busy doing just that to the citizens of Virginia with regard to the ongoing scourge of gun violence in this country. It would be one thing if Whitbeck et al supported ANY reasonable, commonsense gun control measures, even ones supported by 80%, 90% of Virginians. But they don't, which basically tells you everything you need to know...