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

Saturday, November 28, 2015

by Lowell

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

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

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

by Lowell

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

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

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

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

by Lowell

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

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

Friday, November 27, 2015

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

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

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

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

by Lowell

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

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

Thursday, November 26, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

by Lowell

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

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

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

by Lowell

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

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

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

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

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

by Lowell

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