16 Virginia Senate Republicans Apparently Are Fine with Bicyclists Being Injured, Possibly Killed by Car Doors

Saturday, February 6, 2016

by Lowell

Why on earth anyone would vote against this bill is beyond me. All it says is: "No operator shall open the door of a parked motor vehicle on the side adjacent to moving vehicular traffic unless it is reasonably safe to do so. A violation of this section shall constitute a traffic infraction punishable by a fine of not more than $50. No demerit points shall be awarded by the Commissioner for a violation of this section." How can that possibly be controversial in any way? Why wouldn't it pass unanimously? Are Republican State Senators Dick Black, Charles Carrico, Ben Chafin, Siobhan Dunnavant, Thomas Garrett, Emmett Hanger, Ryan McDougle, Stephen Newman, Tommy Norment, Mark Obenshain, Frank Ruff, William Stanley, Richard Stuart, Glen Sturtevant, Jill Vogel and Frank Wagner all charter members of the "screw bicyclists, let them get injured or die club?" Unbelievable...

General Assembly, Utterly Incompetent at Dealing with Virginia's Issues, Tries Its Hand Yet Again at Foreign Policy

by Lowell

You might recall that in 2014, the Virginia General Assembly - a body, I'd point out, that isn't even capable of doing the most basic stuff for VIRGINIA, like passing Medicaid expansion, protecting our coast from rising sea levels, telling switching to clean energy ASAP and Dominion Power to go f*** itself, properly funding education and transportation, you name it  - waded into a foreign policy dispute.

Specifically, the Virginia Gen. Ass., as I like to call it for short, decided that its "wisdom," so to speak, was required on the vexing issue of what to call the "Sea of Japan" and/or "East Sea," depending on which side of that particular argument you're on. When I worked for the U.S. Energy Information Administration, we frequently received emails from people (mostly Korean nationals) outraged that U.S. maps (State Department, CIA, etc.) labeled that body of water as the "Sea of Japan." We basically had a standard response, which was to take it up with the State Department, as it wasn't our "lane." Well, sorry Virginia Gen. Ass., but foreign policy isn't your "lane" either, particularly when you've shown zero competence right here in Virginia (but even if they had shown competence on Virginia-specific issues, foreign policy is still certainly NOT their "lane").

Then, in last year's session, the Virginia General Assembly waded into an even MORE contentious dispute - between Israel and the Arabs, with an extreme resolution by far-far-far-right Del. Brenda Pogge (R, of course). Among many other problems with Pogge's resolution, it violated longstanding U.N. Security Council resolutions, as well as U.S. (and Israeli) policy, by asserting that the occupied West Bank was an integral part of a "national home for the Jewish people." It further claimed, ridiculously, that "Israel has been granted its lands under and through the oldest recorded deed, the Old Testament."

As I wrote at the time, the bottom line is that the Virginia House of Delegates shouldn't be meddling in foreign policy generally, and certainly not in highly sensitive, complex issues like the Arab-Israeli conflict, about which it has essentially zero "standing" or expertise. And it really REALLY shouldn't be saying anything out of step with U.S. policy.

Well, now they're at it yet again, with HJ 177 Anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement; condemnation, a bill which passed the House of Delegates on Tuesday, by a 91-0 margin, with 9 abstentions and with five members (Krizek, Kory, Murphy, Sickles, Greason)  explaining that their votes were actually incorrect. Now, let me just be clear that I do not - repeat, NOT! - in any way/shape/form support the BDS movement. To the contrary, I see it as uniquely and unfairly singling out Israel for criticism, while many other countries (including Arab states) have huge human rights problems of their own (not to mention the numerous wars against Israel over the years, the violent "intifadas," etc.). I also do not see BDS as productive in any way, even as I personally believe that Israel is making a huge mistake holding on to the entire West Bank year after year (coming up on 50 years since the 1967 "Six Day War"), as it endangers: a) the Jewish character of their state; and b) their democracy.

But be that as it may, again my question is simply this: why is the Virginia General Assembly voting on foreign policy matters at all?  At best, it's a waste of time and energy. At worst, it needlessly angers people on whatever "side" of a particular foreign policy issue, and for what constructive purpose? Other than pure political pandering to groups in Virginia who care about these issues, I'm not seeing it.

Saturday News: "The utter nastiness of Ted Cruz;" Gun (Raw) Deal with NRA Advances in Virginia General Assembly

by Lowell

Here are a few national and Virginia news headlines, political and otherwise, for Saturday, February 6. Also check out President Obama's weekly address, on "climate change and how the most ambitious climate agreement in history is creating private sector partnerships that are advancing the latest technologies in clean power"

Video: Virginians Urge Gov. McAuliffe to Stand Up to Dominon and "Do the Right Thing" on Climate, Clean Power

Friday, February 5, 2016

by Lowell

I'm strongly with CCAN on this and urge everyone to sign the petition telling Governor Terry McAuliffe "to do the right thing—for Virginia and for our climate—and ensure real pollution cuts under the Clean Power Plan." As the people in this video - from all over Virginia - point out, "incredibly, Dominion Power wants to INCREASE global warming emissions in our state." And usually, as they point out, "when you find yourself in a hole, you stop digging -- but not Dominion."

As for fossil fuels, instead of phasing them out FAST, "now Dominion is rushing to construct huge gas-fired power plants using pipelines full of fracked gas," which scientists say is "nearly as bad as coal thanks to leaking, heat-trapping methane." Obviously, this should not be acceptable, but sadly it IS to Dominion "Global Warming Starts Here" Power and its bought-and-paid for political allies in Virginia. They must be stopped, for all our sakes, and it really comes down to Gov. McAuliffe. Will he do the right thing, or will he do Dominion's bidding? We'll find out soon enough.

P.S. Fortunately for Virginians and for the environment, Dominion Power's entire business model is inevitably going to collapse (the only question is when, exactly), as David Roberts yet again demonstrates over at Vox. Good riddance Dominion, hello super-cheap solar + storage! :)


I’d Like to See a Different Kind of Debate

by Andy Schmookler

Watching the debate between Hillary and Bernie, I like them both. But I don’t much like the debate.

With their questions, the moderators encouraged a combative process. But it was the candidates, too, it seemed, wanting to make the case for themselves by going after the other.

It doesn’t have to be that way. And I wish it weren’t.

Competition can take various forms.

It can be like two boxers, trying to hit each other. The blow struck by one is an injury to the other.

But it can also be like in golf, where each puts in his/her best performance. Or like a beauty pageant, where the contestants compete by each showing what they’ve got and letting the judges decide who’s most appealing.

I would like debates with Hillary and Bernie to be more like golfers and less like boxers.

My favorite moment of the debate was when the issue was raised concerning possible privatization of the Veterans Administration—an idea favored these days, the questioner said, by the Republicans. Both candidates went after not each other, but the Republicans and the Koch Brothers.

That’s the kind of thing this campaign process should be mostly about: making the case for why the people should support the Democrats. And the voters can decide who makes that case best.

I’d like to see debates that look less like two people fighting each other, and more like two teammates working toward victory—and understanding that the primary voters will be the ones who decide which member of the team should be voted MVP.

Friday News: The Hedgehog (Sanders) Debates the Fox (Clinton); Marco Rubio a "Tea Party loon" Suffering from "Obama Derangement Syndrome"

by Lowell

Here are a few national and Virginia news headlines, political and otherwise, for Friday, February 5. Also see the video of last night's Democratic debate, which I thought was generally excellent, although the moderators asked some silly questions and mostly ignored some really important ones, like the climate crisis.

Gov. McAuliffe Loses 13 of 19 Senate Dems on Concealed Carry Reciprocity Vote

Thursday, February 4, 2016

by Lowell

One of Gov. McAuliffe's main arguments for making his gun deal with the NRA is that if he hadn't, the Virginia General Assembly would have passed legislation overturning AG Mark Herring's action on concealed carry reciprocity with enough votes to override McAuliffe's veto. This afternoon, that was kinda sorta put to the test, and indeed, enough Democrats (6 -- Barker, Deeds, Edwards, Lewis, Petersen, Saslaw) voted for  Republican Sen. Bryce Reeves' SB 610 (" Provides that a holder of a concealed handgun permit issued by any state who is at least 21 years of age is authorized to carry a concealed handgun in Virginia"). Which seems to support Gov. McAuliffe's argument that he had to cut a deal.

Except for two major problems.

First, if you look at the list of Democrats who voted for SB 610, it's a bit odd, with 0% VCDL/21% NRA-rated Sen. Dick Saslaw voting for the bill, as did 7% NRA-rated Sen. George Barker. Strange, huh? Second, of course this wasn't a vote to override Gov. McAuliffe's veto, but simply a vote on whether or not to pass SB 610; a veto vote undoubtedly would have seen at least Saslaw and Barker voting to sustain McAuliffe's veto.

Again, though, it's hard to overstate what happened her: even with enormous pressure from the governor's office to support him on his gun deal, Gov. McAuliffe lost 13 of 19 Senate Democrats on today's vote on concealed-carry reciprocity. And at least 2 of the Democrats who voted "yes" are not normally pro-gun, so...conclude from that what you will.  Anyway, in the end Gov. McAuliffe, despite a full-court press, couldn't even hold 1/3 of the Democratic caucus in the State Senate on his supposedly great (not!) gun deal with the NRA.

Final point: although there's a wee bit of support here FOR Gov. McAuliffe's argument that he basically HAD to cut a deal with the NRA, because if not he couldn't have stopped the General Assembly from undoing it, there's a lot more AGAINST Gov. McAuliffe's argument, since almost certainly there weren't enough Democratic votes to override his veto, if it had come to that. Fascinating, eh?

Virginia Gun Violence Survivors, Moms Deliver 3,000+ Signatures Urging Gov. McAuliffe to Reconsider Dangerous Deal with Gun Lobby

From Moms Demand Action and Everytown Survivor Network:

RICHMOND, Va. – Today, Virginians Andy and Barbara Parker, whose daughter Alison was shot and killed on live television in August, other Virginia gun violence survivors and members of the Virginia chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America delivered to Governor Terry McAuliffe’s office the signatures of more than 3,000 Virginians opposed to his deal with the gun lobby announced last week – and urged the governor to reconsider it.  A fact sheet on how rolling back the Commonwealth’s concealed carry law would undermine Virginia’s safety is available here.  
Since last Friday, the Everytown Survivor Network and Virginia Moms Demand Action,  along with partners CREDO and CeaseFirePA, have collected the more than 3,000 signatures from Virginians that piggyback on an open letter 20 Virginia gun violence survivors sent to McAuliffe last Friday (available here) stating that “this deal is a dangerous rollback that puts public safety at risk” and asking him to “reconsider and continue to be a leader in Virginia on this important issue.”  
The Everytown Survivor Network and Moms Demand Action petition can be viewed hereand the CREDO petition is available hereIn addition, more than 1,000 people have called the governor’s office to ask him to reconsider the deal.
“Governor McAuliffe has been a true friend to me in my darkest hours, but his deal with the gun lobby is a giveaway,” said Andy Parker, father or murdered WDBJ-TV reporter Alison Parker and a member of the Everytown Survivor Network. “Unfortunately, survivors like myself and gun safety advocates had no chance to weigh in before this deal was struck. If this had been a real compromise, the Governor would have included folks like the ones here today in his negotiations. If this had been a true compromise, he might have come to understand that this bad deal could have implications well beyond the borders of this Commonwealth. This deal is bad for the Commonwealth and our country. I implore the governor, my friend, to reconsider.”

Local Grandparents, Moms, Dads, Kids Join Richmond “Mama Summit” to Support Clean Air, Climate Action

From the Virginia Sierra Club and Mom's Clean Air Force:
Angela Harris speaks at the Virginia Mama Summit press conference in Richmond.

Families called on lawmakers to protect millions of Virginians from air pollution and dangerous climate disruption
Richmond, Virginia – Virginia grandparents, moms, dads, and kids traveled to Richmond to show broad and united support for children’s health and climate action. They held a press conference on February 3, 2016 at 10:30 AM at the House Briefing Room on the first floor of the General Assembly Building to show support for America’s Clean Power Plan and clean air initiatives, including national climate action and energy efficiency and clean energy investments, to protect future generations of Virginians from dangerous air pollution, climate change, dirty coal and sea level rise.

Samantha Ahdoot, MD, FAAP, Chair of the Department of Pediatrics at Inova Alexandria Hospital, stated, “Every child deserves a safe, healthy environment in which to live, play, and grow up. As a pediatrician, I can treat individual children in my office. But I can help protect the health of every child when I advocate for legislation that reduces pollution that contaminates our air and disrupts our climate. I am proud to attend the VA Mama's Summit and to be a voice for children's health in Virginia.”

Together in a bipartisan, or MOMpartisan, setting parents demanded action to protect the air our children and grandchildren breathe–both indoor and outdoor–and call for action on climate disruption. Other Mama Summits are being held across the country through May, 2016. The events will take place at the State House General Assembly Buildings.

As quoted by Virginia Delegate Alfonso Lopez, "We need to take action now to mitigate the impacts of climate change on Virginia. With the largest naval base in the world--Naval Station Norfolk--in an area that is rated second only to New Orleans in the entire United States for its vulnerability to sea level rise, the future of Virginia's economy and security depend on us taking action. By investing in renewable energy, we can diversify Virginia's energy mix, reduce the effects of sea level rise, and actually strengthen our national security by creating a more sustainable energy future."

Terry McAuliffe Lurches Wildly Off Hillary Clinton's Tough Messaging on Guns

by Lowell

I've been fascinated with Gov. McAuliffe's gun "raw deal" with the NRA (negotiated by NRA "A"-rated Brian Moran,  NRA "A"-rated and endorsed Bryce Reeves, and the NRA itself, with ZERO input from gun safety groups). For anyone who actually thinks this is a good deal, see the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence (CSGV)'s point-by-point debunking/demolition here. According to CSGV - and contrary to what McAuliffe keeps falsely claiming - the deal does NOT close the gun show loophole; "establishes no mechanism for the removal of these firearms [owned by someone who is the subject of a protective order] by law enforcement," and actually "extend[s] concealed carry reciprocity to all 49 other states, which would EXCEED the # of states Virginia was granting reciprocity to before Attorney General Herring revoked reciprocity agreements with 25 states that did not meet Virginia's permitting standards." In short, this deal is exactly what you'd expect to be negotiated by the NRA itself, plus two guys who have been "A"-rated by that extremist organization.

By the way, just to show how defensive Gov. McAuliffe's getting these days, given the massive criticism he's been subject to (including an ad campaign by Everytown for Gun Safetycheck out his interview earlier this week with Bruce DePuyt, in which he lashes out against Virginia Tech mom Lori Haas and Andy Parker, whose daughter was murdered while broadcasting live on TV a few months ago, outrageously charging them with doing this for the money ("I know the Everytown folks...Lori Haas...Andy Parker, I mean they've been on their payroll"). Incredible.

But the main point I wanted to make here was how strikingly Terry McAuliffe has veered from the messaging of his good friend and political ally Hillary Clinton, who has positioned herself to the LEFT of Bernie Sanders on one issue more than any -- getting tough on the gun industry. Yet here McAuliffe is, cutting a (bad) deal with the NRA, which Hillary Clinton has blasted repeatedly, and essentially agreeing with the characterization of deal opponents as extremists. As I said to a Democratic political friend last night, if I were Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook, I would have been on the phone with my former boss (Mook ran McAuliffe's 2013 governor's race) reading him the riot act on this one.

The problem for Clinton is that she needs McAuliffe to help win Virginia, both in the Democratic primary on March 1 and in the general election in November. Yet McAuliffe is busy weakening himself politically by alienating the powerful and well-heeled (particularly with Michael Bloomberg's almost unlimited financial resources) gun safety community. In addition to weakening McAuliffe's own political standing among Democrats, this opens up a line of questioning, one which reporters will quite possibly ask Clinton and McAuliffe when they campaign together in Virginia in coming weeks, regarding their apparently glaring differences when it comes to dealing with the NRA and gun issues generally.

Finally, I'd note that McAuliffe's gun deal with the NRA is hurting Democrats' prospects for 2017 here in Virginia, for several reasons. For one, anger over this deal potentially deprives the Democratic ticket of millions of dollars in gun safety groups' money, plus their active support in other ways, assuming they continue to feel alienated, disrespected, etc. by McAuliffe and Company (note that Ralph Northam issued a statement praising the gun deal). In addition, this mess potentially weakens AG Mark Herring, who essentially had his legs cut out from under him in this backroom deal. And it potentially demoralizes the Democratic "base," whose enthusiasm the 2017 Democratic ticket will need to win in that relatively low-turnout election year.

Bottom line: McAuliffe made a huge mistake, both politically and in terms of good public policy, on this gun deal with the NRA. He needs to back off of it ASAP, for a wide variety of reasons. As for Democrats who have praised the deal, they're making a big mistake as well, and would be far better served to help McAuliffe climb out of the deep hole he's dug, rather than join the shoveling brigade.