Donald Trump Says No Leader Should "question another man's religion," Yet He's Done So Many Times

Thursday, February 18, 2016

by Lowell

Donald Trump today: "No leader, especially a religious leader, should have the right to question another man’s religion or faith."

Donald Trump previously:

2/12/16: TRUMP: 'How can Ted Cruz be an evangelical Christian when he lies so much and is so dishonest?'
12/14/15: Donald Trump Questions Ted Cruz's Evangelical Faith
9/18/15: Donald Trump's history of suggesting Obama is a Muslim (many examples, going back years, such as suggesting in 2011 that Barack Obama's birth certificate might say he's a Muslim)
9/18/15: Donald Trump fails to correct man calling Obama a Muslim and 'not even American' – video
9/27/12: Donald Trump tweet -- "Does Madonna know something we all don't about Barack? At a concert she said 'we have a black Muslim in the White House.'"

P.S. It's worth noting that "JEB" Bush, who the corporate media likes to claim is some sort of moderate, the sane one in the wacko 2016 GOP presidential field, answered "no" to the question of whether Trump's a Christian a few weeks ago.

To the Republicans: We Won’t Stand for Your Stealing What We Won Fair and Square

by Andy Schmookler

Note: This piece will be running in newspapers in my conservative congressional district (VA-06).

In 2012, Americans engaged in the constitutional process for deciding who would get the powers of the presidency.

In that election - and the one in 2008 - millions of us Americans won an important right: to have our guy name the person to fill a vacancy on the Supreme Court if any were to open up. We won it fair and square.

We can talk about the president’s constitutional responsibilities and privileges, but ultimately this is about the rights of us American citizens who participate in the American electoral process.

For a great many people – on both left and right – the president’s role in naming judges is a major reason we care who gets elected to the Oval Office. Understanding the importance of the Supreme Court, we work hard within our constitutional system of elections to see that – for the following four years – it will be our candidate who gets to shape that Court if the opportunity arises.

We won in 2012, and now that opportunity has arisen.

You Republicans have had a stroke of bad luck. One of your guys on the Court has died at a time that one of our guys is president. Now, you're going to lose some power. Tough luck, but that’s how our constitution set up the rules of the game.

Thursday News: Trump Appealing to "Voters' Primal Fears"; MSNBC Disgraces Itself; 2016 Campaigns Set to Rev Up in Virginia

by Lowell

Here are a few national and Virginia news headlines, political and otherwise, for Thursday, February 18. Also check out the spot-on political cartoon by the always-superb Tom Toles and the word clouds by CNU's Wason Center from their just-released poll of Virginia voters.

Terry McAuliffe Signs "Governors Accord for a New Energy Future," But Does It Mean Anything?

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

by Lowell

I received the following statement by Environment Virginia earlier today, pertaining to yesterday's announcement of the "Governors Accord for a New Energy Future." Among others, you'll note that Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe is a signatory. The question in my mind, which I'll discuss after the Environment Virginia press release, is whether this announcement actually, you know, means anything.
Governors' Clean Energy Accord announced yesterday
Richmond, VA -- A bipartisan group of 17 governors announced a new initiative yesterday to commit states across the country to advancing clean energy, encouraging clean transportation, and modernizing energy infrastructure. The Governors Accord for a New Energy Future follows a Supreme Court ruling last week to temporarily block the Clean Power Plan, the centerpiece of the U.S. strategy to tackle global warming that encourages states to develop clean, renewable energy. The states signed onto the accord are California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Iowa, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, and Washington.

Sarah Bucci, Environment Virginia's State Director, issued this statement:

“The announcement of the Governors' Accord for a New Energy Future shows Virginia is on the path to become a clean energy leader. These states have leading the way on clean energy and clean cars, and this announcement shows Virginia's commitment. While the court may have temporarily blocked the Clean Power Plan, it can’t block progress toward wind and solar energy, affordable electric vehicles, and a more modern and efficient electric grid. Kudos to Governor McAuliffe for pledging to forge a path forward for climate progress and clean air.”
Sounds good, but what does this accord commit the governors to do, exactly? As far as I can tell, not much. From reading through the document, although it claims that the signatories "embrace a shared vision" of great things like expanding clean energy sources, there's also a bunch of less-than-great (or even bad) things in here, such as:

  • no words like "commit," "pledge," or "required to do this;"
  • talk about upgrading power grids and other features of a top-down, centralized energy system, but no mention whatsoever of distributed power (e.g., rooftop solar, microgrids, battery storage);
  • zero mention of a major driver behind the need for a clean energy transition -- namely, climate disruption;
  • inclusion of the seriously problematic fossil fuel, natural gas (much of it "fracked," which leads to a wide variety of environmental problems, including leakage of the potent greenhouse gas, methane), as a "clean transportation option;"
  • no specific mention of supporting the Clean Power Plan (CPP);
  • included on the list of governors are at least two - Rick Snyder of Michigan and Brian Sandoval of Nevada - who have been abysmal when it comes to clean energy (e.g, Nevada just basically killed rooftop solar power in that state; Snyder just suspended CPP compliance in Michigan)
I'd further point out that, here in Virginia, the General Assembly is dominated by anti-environment, bought-and-paid-for fossil fuel politicians. As for Gov. McAuliffe, while he has certainly been friendly towards clean energy, he also has continued to push in the 180-degrees wrong direction with regard to offshore oil drilling and new natural gas infrastructure, both of which are big mistakes. Given all that, I'm not exactly holding my breath for any positive serious action from our political "leaders" on kickstarting a clean energy economy here in Virginia.

To end this downer of a post on a bit more positive note: as a pro-clean-energy friend of mine put it, at least this accord - albeit vague and nonbinding - represents some sort of benchmark by which to judge the governors who signed on. Also, to the extent that this moves the conversation more towards a focus on the optimal ways to move towards a clean energy economy, not WHETHER to move towards a clean energy economy, that's a good thing. Anyway, we'll see.

New PPP Virginia Poll: Clinton 56%-Sanders 34%; Clinton Holds 58-Point Lead Among African Americans

by Lowell

Yesterday, a new CNU poll of Virginia had Hillary Clinton leading Bernie Sanders for the March 1 primary by 12 points (52%-40%). Today, a new poll by Public Policy Polling (PPP) shows Clinton with an even larger, 22-point lead (56%-34%). That includes a 58-point lead (74%-16%) for Clinton among African Americans in Virginia. The bottom line is that, with 13 days to go until Virginia's presidential primary, Clinton's southern "firewall" certainly appears to be holding, at least in this state.

How's the "firewall" looking in other, early March primary states? According to PPP: Clinton is "leading the way in 10 of 12, with double digit leads in 9 of them. Bernie Sanders has an overwhelming lead in his home state of Vermont and also leads in Massachusetts. The race is close in Oklahoma where Clinton is ahead by just 2 points, but she has double digit leads in the other 9 states that will have primaries that week." What's the reason for Clinton's huge lead? Very simple: "She leads by anywhere from 40-62 points among black voters in the nine of these states that have more black voters than the national average. Her support ranges from 63-74% with black voters in those states, while Sanders gets 12-23%."

Of course, Sanders is trying hard to catch up among African Americans, but the problem for him is that time is rapidly running out.  Starting on February 27, with the South Carolina Democratic primary, there will be a deluge of primaries, caucuses, and delegates up for grabs. As Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook pointed out a few days ago, "the 28 states that vote (or caucus) in March will award 56% of the delegates needed to win...In total, 1,875 delegates will be awarded in the first 15 days of March, including nearly 900 on Super Tuesday alone." So, basically, as impressive as Bernie Sanders' campaign has been, if he doesn't catch up in the next few weeks -- and particularly he needs to make major inroads among African Americans and Latinos -- the nomination could be all but over by the end of March. I'm certainly not saying he can't catch up, but no doubt he's got his work cut out for him. Stay tuned...

Wednesday News: Republicans "playing with fire" on SCOTUS; "Kaine's in vice presidential beauty pageant"

by Lowell

Here are a few national and Virginia news headlines, political and otherwise, for Wednesday, February 17. Also, check out President Obama's press conference yesterday in California following an ASEAN summit.

Three More Post-Scalia Thoughts

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

by Andy Schmookler
It is important to me to be fair, to give credit where credit is due. Denying someone’s virtues just because they hold beliefs different from mine is something I strive not to do. So it is in that context that I find myself wondering about my judgment of the late Antonin Scalia.
I have believed, and I have written, that Scalia was a hypocrite and a fraud. He claimed to be an “originalist” in his approach to the Constitution, but what I thought I saw was a man determined to advance a corporatist and conservative agenda—using an originalist approach when that served his agenda, and ignoring it when it didn’t.
How does a genuine originalist find in the Constitution the idea that corporations are persons—an idea on which the terrible Citizens United  decision was premised? And in Heller – the decision in which Scalia and his conservative allies found the Second Amendment to confer onto individuals a right to firearms altogether unrelated to any “regulated militia” (which our founders, for some reason, wasted words mentioning in the amendment). And so this supposed originalist came up with an interpretation beloved on the right but which had been deemed “a fraud” by the Republican-appointed former Chief Justice, Warren Berger.
Yet here we have Scalia’s colleagues paying tribute to the departed, including the liberal-leaning Justice Breyer describing Scalia as a man of “integrity,” and Ruth Bader Ginsburg saying that he was altogether shaped by “an unyielding commitment to the Constitution of the United States and to the highest ethical and moral standards.”
His colleagues knew him far better than I. They should know more deeply than I what a “commitment to the Constitution of the United States” would look like.
So what kind of man was Scalia? Have I been guilty of being unfair to a man of principle? Or are his colleagues exemplifying how people prettify the picture of the person who just died? Or what?

Video: VA Del. Mark Sickles Speaks Out Emotionally, Powerfully Against Anti-LGBT Bigotry Bill; Right-Wing Republican Defends It

by Lowell

The following is an emotional, powerful speech by openly gay Del. Mark Sickles (D-Fairfax) against far-right-wing Del. Todd Gilbert's appalling HB 773, the Orwellian-named "Government Nondiscrimination Act." In fact, as Del. Sickles correctly explains, this bill isn't about "nondiscrimation," but "it IS a discrimination bill...that is going to hurt our state."

Del. Sickles then proceeds to cite example after example of major corporations, law firms, etc, etc. who sponsor the Equality Virginia annual dinner, and more broadly who support full equality for all their employees.

What's amazing is that anyone could actually defend the bigoted garbage in Gilbert's bill, let alone after an extraordinary speech like Sickles', but that's exactly what Gilbert attempts to do, whining about how bullies like him are actually the ones "constantly under attack," that it's not about "equality" but about "people of faith [being] driven out of this discourse...made to be in fear of speaking their minds...of living up to their deeply-held religious beliefs."

Of course, that's utterly unAmerican crap; in this country, fortunately, we are NOT a theocracy, but a democracy with the rule of law, where ALL men (and women) are created equal, and where EVERY citizen must be treated equally under the law, as spelled out in our constitution. What about any of this is difficult for bigots like Todd Gilbert to understand? Got me, but thankfully public opinion has dramatically shifted against the Gilberts of the world, and it's not going back to the dark ages anytime soon.

P.S. In addition to Del. Sickles' superb speech, check out the stirring words by Delegates Vivian Watts and Alfonso Lopez. As for Del. "Sideshow Bob" Marshall (R), I'd strongly recommend you just ignore him; it's not worth 5 minutes of your life to listen to this guy.

GOP-Controlled Virginia House of Delegates Passes "Kim Davis" Bill, Another One to Defund Planned Parenthood

by Lowell

The GOP-controlled Virginia General Assembly's in session, which means that disgusting bill after disgusting bill is pouring out of there like one of those antiquated combined sewer/runoff systems during a heavy rainstorm. Bottom line: it ain't pretty, it smells really bad, and it harms everything it touches.

The latest examples? Let's start with nasty anti-LGBT discrimination, in the Orwellian guise of something called "Government Nondiscrimination." As the Virginia House Democratic Caucus writes:
Today, the House of Delegates enshrined in Virginia code the right to discriminate for people who hold certain religious beliefs about extramarital sex, same-sex marriage, and the transgender community. The bill passed on a 56-41 vote.

HB 773, patroned by Delegate Todd Gilbert, is a Kim Davis inspired bill that allows discrimination against same-sex couples, transgender people, or those engaging in extramarital sex within any government entity – from clerks of court to school sports coaches. The bill would prohibit government from taking action against employees who refuse to do their job because it goes against their personal religious beliefs, and would allow clerks and others to refuse to provide service if they have a religious objection to doing so.

“HB 773 creates a quasi-protected class of people who are given a license to discriminate based on religious beliefs,” said David J. Toscano, Democratic Leader. “Jefferson and the founders felt strongly about religious freedom, but this bill would permit religious beliefs to justify discriminatory acts, something firmly disfavored by our Constitution."

“Giving preference to one person’s religious beliefs over those of another is offensive and promotes inequality,” said Charniele Herring, Democratic Caucus Chair. “Ensuring that all Virginians are equal in the eyes of the law should be the goal of the General Assembly. Granting a free pass to discriminate is simply wrong.”
 Disgusting. But wait, there's more! See the "flip" for the Virginia House Dems' statement on passage of a far-right-wing bill to defund Planned Parenthood. Sad to say, this type of garbage - along with assaults on the environment, on the right to vote, on ethics, etc, etc. - on  will continue until Republicans no longer run the Virginia General Assembly.

"In 2016, the line between ‘blogger’ and ‘journalist’ is no longer meaningful"

by Lowell

I couldn't agree more with that quote by Waldo Jaquith in this new Style Weekly article by Peter Galuszka. Here's an excerpt, followed by a few thoughts by yours truly.
For years, a small group of political reporters operating through the association has kept bloggers, part-time correspondents and freelance journalists out of choice spots with access to legislators...

...The whole concept is outdated, says Charlottesville blogger Waldo Jaquith, who serves as director of U.S. Open Data and is adviser to the Sunlight Foundation....
“In 2016, the line between ‘blogger’ and ‘journalist’ is no longer meaningful,” Jaquith says. “The Capitol press corps has withered to almost nothing over the past decade. They’re a pale imitation of what they once.”...

...Jim Hoeft, editor in chief of the conservative blog Bearing Drift, says he worked to get bloggers credentialed for years. “We feel that we’re treated like second-class citizens by the press,” he says, “but we’re actually citizens who give a shit.”
...“Protecting their membership from new media might have made sense 10 years ago,” Jaquith says, “but at this point the Capitol press corps is a club so exclusive that there’s a plausible future in which it has no members.”...
...Lowell Feld, editor of the progressive Blue Virginia blog, says that many bloggers are political veterans with just as keen of an understanding of the issues as anyone else.
To elaborate just a bit on my comment, I'd say that since I started covering Virginia politics in 2005, if I've seen any difference in quality between "the bloggers" and the "corporate media," it's mostly just a matter of style, with "the bloggers" much more honest about their opinions, snarkier, etc. But as far as raw knowledge of the subject material, depth and breadth of coverage of Virginia politics, insights into what's really going on, etc., I'd actually give the edge to "the bloggers," both progressive and conservative, with a few exceptions in the corporate media like the incomparable Jeff Schapiro and top-notch reporters like Jenna Portnoy of the Washington Post (and former Virginian-Pilot reporter Julian Walker).

For instance, as I wrote back in June 2014, if journalists didn't want to be blindsided by Eric Cantor's loss to Dave Brat, they should have read political blogs like The Bull Elephant, JH Politics, Blue Virginia, etc. If they had, they would have seen that story growing over several months at Republican conventions, meetings, straw polls, etc, etc.. But the corporate media folks apparently didn't read the political blogs (or take them seriously if they did), which partly explains why they were so shocked by the Brat upset victory over Cantor.

Another example of how blogs actually provide far deeper, better coverage than the corporate media is this blog's coverage of the 8th CD Democratic primary in 2014. I personally attended numerous debates and forums at which there were no other reporters present. Even when they WERE present, their coverage didn't even come close to what Blue Virginia provided - video, analysis, transcripts, etc, etc. Same thing with the right-wing blogs' coverage of innumerable Virginia GOP conventions and other gatherings. I'd further argue that the best coverage of the 2013 Virginia GOP convention was not by the corporate media, but by folks like John Fredericks, Norm Leahy, Ben Tribbett, etc. And let's not even get into the 2006 Virginia race for U.S. Senate, first the "Draft James Webb" movement, which Raising Kaine was all over, then the Webb-Miller primary, which the Virginia blogs provided extremely detailed coverage of, then the Webb-Allen race, including the "macaca" incident (story broken by...yep, the Not Larry Sabato blog, with continued intensive coverage by the Virginia blogosphere - both right and left - in the weeks and months that followed).

Note that none of those bloggers I just mentioned are part of the Virginia Capitol Correspondents Association. Why not? Who the hell knows. Also note that the Virginia political blogs are NOT included in the morning news headlines provided by the Virginia Public Access Project (VPAP), for absolutely no good or defensible reason. And yes, I've gone back and forth with the VPAP folks on this. To date, I haven't gotten an answer that makes any sense whatsoever. I've also discussed the VPAP situation with my fellow Virginia bloggers, and so far the best explanation I've received (from one of them) is that VPAP is in thrall to its corporate sponsors -- the folks (Altria, Dominion, etc.) who keep VPAP in business. Those folks have, as one of my fellow bloggers points out, figured out how to "work" the corporate media, but are not at all confident that they can influence and/or control non-corporate political bloggers. And that scares them.

Clearly, "the blogs" have always scared the corporate media as well, who see them as both economic competition and also a threat to their status (since if any citizen can also be a journalist, even do a better job than the corporate media does, then what makes the corporate media anything special?). No wonder why many corporate media outlets won't even do the most basic thing and credit/link to blogs that break stories. It's Journalistic Ethics 101, of course; yet much of the corporate media flunks miserably (note: Virginia political bloggers, from what I've seen since 2005, overwhelmingly DO properly credit and link to original sources). Anyway, we'll see if this situation ever changes, but for my part, I'm not counting on it.

P.S. In many ways, this situation reminds me of other industries other siege, like the government-protected-monopoly electric utilities. Those guys have had a cozy thing going for decades and want to keep the gravy train rolling, even as many of them espouse their love for the "free market." It would be laughable if it didn't have such serious, negative implications...