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One Thing I Know about Ferguson

by: Andy Schmookler

Tue Nov 25, 2014 at 17:30:32 PM EST

I don't know enough about the facts of what happened that night in Ferguson to know with any certainty whether an indictment was called for or not. I've not explored the witness statements, and don't know who or what to believe about what happened between Darrell Wilson and Mike Brown.

But I do know that the authorities handled the legal process about it it quite wrongly.

Their priority should have been to conduct the process in such a way as to maximize the chance that everyone would have confidence in its integrity and fairness. They didn't even try.

That should have been their priority because taking care not to damage the larger society by exacerbating a major fault line is what has been most important all along.

Every effort should have been made to protect the society from further divisive wounding. The over-riding question for the county prosecutor, and for the Missouri governor, should have been: How can this be dealt with so that everyone feels assured that every good faith effort has been made to see that justice is done, whatever that may entail?

That would have meant bringing in a special prosecutor, of unquestioned integrity, in charge of the investigation and the grand jury process.

Even if the county prosecutor was indeed going to be fair, from the outset, he was not seen that way by the side most aggrieved. Leaving him in charge, pre-determined that, rightly or wrongly, a non-indictment would be seen as a failure of justice, and would unleash the pain and rage that we have seen.

Then this prosecutor -- with a personal history and set of allegiances that already seemed to stack the deck -- proceeded to conduct the grand jury process in a very unorthodox way, not seeking an indictment as prosecutors generally do, but leaving to the grand jury what prosecutors generally do. This alteration of the usual process clearly served the interest of the accused.

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Virginia News Headlines: Wednesday Morning

by: lowkell

Wed Nov 26, 2014 at 06:30:58 AM EST

Here are a few national and Virginia news headlines, political and otherwise, for Wednesday, November 26.

*'Better night' in Ferguson though dozens arrested
*Inconsistency only constant with case
*Officer Darren Wilson's story is unbelievable. Literally.
*Congress Poised To Eliminate Key Tax Breaks For Middle Class, Provide Permanent Tax Breaks For Corporations (Sounds like veto material to me.)
*Obama Threatens to Veto $440 Billion Tax Deal ("The president would veto the proposed deal because it would provide permanent tax breaks to help well-connected corporations while neglecting working families." Bingo. Also, so much for Republicans caring about the debt!)
*How sexual abusers hide in plain sight: What Rolling Stone's blockbuster UVA rape exposé really tells us ("...we clearly haven't learned enough to consider rape enough of a crime to, you know, matter, especially when the big business of media and higher education is at stake.")
*Jindal to keynote Va. GOP's Advance (How appropriate! LOL)
*Powhatan senator Watkins won't run again in 2015 ("His departure could create an opening in the 2015 legislative elections for Democrats, who in the past three statewide elections have carried his district, which includes parts of Chesterfield and Powhatan counties and the city of Richmond.")
*Fresh from narrow re-election win, Warner sets sights on U.S. debt
*Speculation builds ahead of McAuliffe's visit to N.H. ("The Virginia governor will address a state Democratic Party meeting and headline a fundraiser next month.")
*Attorney General Herring appoints counsel for UVa board on sexual assault policies
*Letter: College students support federal carbon reduction standard for Virginia
*Nov. 26 Letters: Sen. Kaine on Keystone XL Pipeline ("...we need to send the market signal that cleaner energy is the path forward. We need to be cleaner tomorrow than today.")
*U-Va.'s governing board votes for zero tolerance of sexual assault
*The UVA Gang Rape Allegations Are Awful, Horrifying, and Not Shocking at All
*Fairfax County facing budget shortfall, officials say
*Hampton Roads reacts to Ferguson unrest
*Editorial: Hanover Schools - Eeek ("Never let it be said that residents of Hanover are not vigilant. Some of them stand ready to clutch their pearls and swoon at the first sight of peril - real or imagined.")
*Poorly timed rain and snowfall complicates Thanksgiving travel

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Virginia State Senate Pickup Opportunity for Dems About to Open Up?

by: lowkell

Tue Nov 25, 2014 at 11:40:24 AM EST

According to Jim Nolan of the RTD, "Breaking: State Sen. John Watkins, R-Powhatan retiring at the end of his term in 2015. Senate power struggle likely to ensue." If true, that could open up a serious, major Democratic pickup opportunity for 2015. Keep in mind that Dems need to hold all their incumbent seats and to pick up a net of one seat to regain control of the Virginia State Senate, so this one could be crucial for Medicaid expansion and just about anything else you care about. As you can see from the graphic below (click to "embiggen"), Watkins holds a district that was won by Mark Herring in 2013, and is the "bluest" of all the Virginia State Senate districts currently held by Republicans. Democrats, start your! :)

P.S. It yet again demonstrates how far-far right the Virginia GOP has lurched, when someone as conservative as John Watkins feels like he would have lost a Republican primary, so better get out while the getting is good.

UPDATE: According to WTVR reporter Joe St. George, "Democratic sources told CBS 6 reporter Joe St. George $2 million could be spent on the 2015 election and that Jon Baliles,  a Richmond City Councilman, could be considering entering the race as well as Chesterfield County  Supervisor Dan Gecker."

Discuss :: (7 Comments)

Virginia News Headlines: Tuesday Morning

by: lowkell

Tue Nov 25, 2014 at 06:40:04 AM EST

Here are a few national and Virginia news headlines, political and otherwise, for Tuesday, November 25.

*No indictment in Ferguson ("Buildings burn as protests boil over")
*In Brown's home town, a pause to listen, then outrage (That prosecutor's statement was godawful in just about every way.)
*This Is The Dystopian World We Are Leaving For Today's Teenagers
*White House seeks a stronger hand in the next defense secretary ("Hagel worked behind the scenes but seemed too deferential to generals in strategy meetings, officials say.
*Ted Cruz's dad rails against 'pro-murder' progressives: Christians need to take America back! (On E.W. Jackson's weekly call, no less. LOL)
*Ferguson Cop Darren Wilson Is Just the Latest to Go Unprosecuted for a Fatal Shooting ("Since 2004, St. Louis County police officers have killed people in at least 14 cases. Few faced grand juries, and none was charged.")
*Media Lessons From The Benghazi Charade ("Benghazi conspiracies represent a vile chapter in American politics, built upon hypocrisy and cynical Fox News ethics.")
*Terry McAuliffe is unhappy - with Democrats ("Why come out and vote for the Democratic Party? There was no message to say: Here's what we've done. I wish the party or whoever had done a national media campaign and say, here's what you get when you elect Democrats.")
*Special election to fill Dance's House seat set for Jan. 6
*Legislators promise action on campus sexual assaults; UVa board meets today
*Almost 800 cast provisional ballots because of voter ID law
*Virginia budget hole puts tax break for cars "on the table" (I'd say there's zero chance the Teapublican-controlled House of Delegates would agree to that.)
*Senators propose gift ban for Va. officials (Sorry, but $100 is not a "ban." Why not make it ZERO?)
*McAuliffe: 'Huge headwinds' for Virginia economy ("Gov. Terry McAuliffe emerged from a long morning meeting with state industry leaders concerned about 'head winds' facing Virginia's economy, but mum on how his administration will react when it releases a new state budget draft next month.")
*U-Va. response to reports of sexual assault is too little, far too late (I agree with the Post, "pathetic" is the word.)
*U-Va. student leaders hoping to foster culture change ("After allegations of a gang rape at a fraternity, students advocate for major changes regarding sexual assault.")
*Our view: Political orinthology (Yes, they actually misspelled "ornithology" in their headline. Ever hear of copy editors?)
*Fairfax County hires former Mark McGwire lawyer in John Geer police shooting case
*Washington area seeks to break free from federal spending ("Mandated program cuts leaving gaping holes in revenue projections from Annapolis to Richmond.")
*Curtain rises on Virginia Beach arena
*Calm before Wednesday's winter storm: Rain, highs in the 50s ("The area's transition from rain to wet snow won't happen until Wednesday.")

Discuss :: (7 Comments)

9 Democrats Who'd Be Better than Chuck Hagel for Secretary of Defense

by: lowkell

Fri Dec 14, 2012 at 12:39:11 PM EST

(I never wanted Chuck Hagel to be Secretary of Defense in the first place. Here are the suggestions I made right before he was selected for alternatives... - promoted by lowkell)

Chuck Hagel for Secretary of Defense? Seriously? First of all, why this obsessive need of Democrats to nominate Republicans for Secretary of Defense? Is there some kind of self loathing going on here or what? Second, looking at Project Votes Smart's ratings of Hagel, the guy's abysmal on a wide range of issues - many of which relate to the military - such as ZERO ratings from NARAL and Planned Parenthood, ZERO from Environment America,  and 100% from the far-right-wingnut Family Research Council (labeled a "hate group" by the Southern Poverty Law Center). He's also on the board of Chevron and otherwise leaves a lot to be desired on energy issues. He also has a poor record on LGBT issues. Bottom line, though: why on earth are we talking about appointing a Republican, let alone a right-wing one, to one of the top positions in the Cabinet, when there are plenty of other qualified candidates? Here are 10 possibilities, off the top of my head, who would be better picks than Chuck Hagel.

1. Michele Flournoy: Seems to me like this brilliant ("degrees from Harvard and Oxford, a stint at the Kennedy School and the Army War College"), serious ("very serious person, incredibly buttoned down, very careful in all that she does, not at all headstrong."), and experienced (former third-ranking civilian at the Pentagon) would be a great choice. She would also be the first female Secretary of Defense, which would be a great "glass ceiling" barrier to smash through. What am I missing here?
2. Wesley Clark: Retired four-star general, brilliant, tremendous experience, etc. A former Republican turned Democrat. Another one who should certainly be on the short list.
3. Eric Shinseki: He's "a retired United States Army four-star general who is currently serving as the 7th United States Secretary of Veterans Affairs. His final U.S. Army post was as the 34th Chief of Staff of the Army (1999-2003). He is a veteran of combat in Vietnam, where he sustained a foot injury." He also "clashed with Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld during the planning of the war in Iraq over how many troops the U.S. would need to keep in Iraq for the postwar occupation of that country." Sounds like a winner to me! [Note: I'm told that Shinseki is not quite at the 10-year retirement requirement to be Defense Secretary.]

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Video: This Interview of UVA Associate Dean of Students Nicole Eramo is Deeply Disturbing

by: lowkell

Mon Nov 24, 2014 at 11:17:34 AM EST

There's something seriously wrong, even disturbing, about this interview, and more importantly what it says about the culture regarding sexual assault at UVA.
In an interview taped weeks before the sexual assault scandal that rocked the University of Virginia campus was exposed in Rolling Stone, a school official repeatedly defended a system in which students found guilty -- including students who have admitted guilt -- have been suspended rather than expelled.

Associate Dean of Students Nicole Eramo, who is also head of the university's Sexual Misconduct Board, told a reporter from student-run WUVA Online that she spoke to 38 sexual assault survivors last year. Of those, five filed informal complaints while four filed formal complaints.

Eramo said some accused students have admitted to sexual assault during the informal proceedings, but that those students were not expelled.

Eramo said that in most cases, suspensions run 1-2 years, with the longest being 2 years. She said that while expulsion is a a possible punishment, it has not been used in a sexual assault case during her time at the university.

I mean, frankly, I'm almost speechless here; this is wrong on so many levels I don't even know where to start. Instead, let me just quote a few of the many scathing, articulate comments on the WUVA Media Vimeo page, where you can also watch the full interview.

*"... why do we place Deans like this, who fail to take the path less traveled and fight for what's right, in positions of power and do nothing when their failures are presented to the student body and the world?"

*"The most shocking answer to me was the response that 'Lots of victims don't want their assailant to get in trouble' or 'Lots of victims don't want to lodge a complaint'. Anyone who has worked with domestic violence knows that this is exactly the pattern that many victims of abuse exhibit w.r.t their abusers. So to hear this coming from someone who has apparently worked with battered women is downright jaw-dropping."

*"I kept waiting for Eramo to say 'Rape is Wrong' or 'Rapists have no place in our community' or 'Rapists should be prosecuted.' There was no moral standard in her thinking - she has been programmed to run a tightly controlled and manipulated process that, above all, protects UVAs reputation.
This video is clear evidence that UVA - and probably all Universities - should not be managing their own rape and sexual assault cases. Perhaps it's just me - but even the term 'sexual misconduct' minimizes the whole issue. Perhaps they need a committee on "life ending circumstances" to handle murders?"

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Virginia News Headlines: Monday Morning

by: lowkell

Mon Nov 24, 2014 at 06:33:46 AM EST

Here are a few national and Virginia news headlines, political and otherwise, for Monday, November 24.

*Charles M. Blow: Bigger Than Immigration ("For conservatives, this debate is really about the fear of seeing traditional power slip away.")
*With immigration action, Obama calls his opponents' bluff
*High court tests free speech limits on Facebook
*Uncertainty Upends Lives as Ferguson Waits for Grand Jury
*Giuliani: 'White Police Officers Won't Be There' If Blacks 'Weren't Killing Each Other' (Uh huh.)
*Op-Ed: Good News on Energy
*Solar and Wind Energy Start to Win on Price vs. Conventional Fuels (Attention Dominion Power!)
*Iran Nuke Deal: A Matter of War or Peace
*4 Things You Should Know About The Democrat Who Has Just Kicked Off The 2016 Elections ("1. Webb is not a dove.")
*Our view: Democrats should listen to Webb (On economic fairness issues, absolutely.)
*Roper: Fracking will not make us free
*Hundreds protest at UVa; student says memorial to victims vandalized
*Mark Warner barely won his election, but he has a spring in his step
*Virginia's gas tax headed up over Internet impasse (" Virginia's gas tax will almost certainly increase Jan. 1, ratcheting up about 45 percent because of last year's landmark transportation funding deal and a congressional unwillingness to crack down on Internet sales tax collections.")
*UVa protest against sexual violence swells on Rugby Road
*Are there really two Arlingtons? And will only the richer one survive?
*East Coast storm likely ahead of Thanksgiving travel
*Near-record warmth for D.C. today, but snow could arrive Wednesday

Discuss :: (5 Comments)

Yep, the Warner Campaign's 8-10 Point Claim WAS Utter Bull****

by: lowkell

Sun Nov 23, 2014 at 19:37:08 PM EST

A week after Election Day 2014, GMU held its usual "After Virginia Votes" event, at which top representatives from the Republican and Democratic U.S. Senate campaigns analyze what happened. In this case, the Mark Warner campaign was represented by senior advisor David Hallock, while the Ed Gillespie campaign was represented by Paul Logan. In general, I found the event to be a snoozefest, almost totally uninformative and lacking in insight. There was, however, an audacious comment by Warner's rep David Hallock, that had us scratching our heads and wondering if it could possibly be true.
You look at the kind of Republican areas, the rural areas, Senator Warner ran 8-10 points ahead of a traditional Democrat -- ahead of Senator Kaine, ahead of Governor McAuliffe in those areas -- which is more than the margin of victory at the end of the day.
Of course, this comment is consistent with the Warner campaign's whole schtick, that he's a different, speeeecial kind of Democrat, the kind who does much better than a "traditional" kind of Democrat (whatever that means) in rural, "red" areas of Virginia. In the past, specifically 2008, that appears to have been true (although 2008 was a huge Democratic year and Warner was running against a pathetically weak Republican candidate, Jim Gilmore, so take that one with a grain of salt). The question is whether it was STILL true in 2014 for the "radical centrist."

The day of "After Virginia Votes," FreeDem addressed that very question here at Blue Virginia. In short, FreeDem found David Hallock's claim about Warner supposedly running "8-10 points ahead of a traditional Democrat -- ahead of Senator Kaine, ahead of Governor McAuliffe in those [rural] areas" to be false. As FreeDem wrote in his analysis, in Southwest Virginia, Warner was "at most running 4.5 percentage points ahead in one county; for the most part Warner was right around the same range as Kaine." As for Southside Virginia, "Warner didn't just fail to run eight to ten points ahead of Democrats in Southside Virginia, you can't even see a trend of him doing better at all than Barack Obama and Tim Kaine." Bottom line: "once the dust settles, the Warner campaign's claims of running significantly ahead of Democrats in rural Virginia will come under question and be found lacking in support."

Which is exactly what happened -- nice job by FreeDem! Now, almost two weeks later PolitiFact Virginia has decided to weigh in as well (what took you guys so long?). According to PolitiFact, Hallock - and the Warner camp more broadly - is "flat out wrong" in its 8-10 point claim. To the contrary:

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Sierra Club Rankings: Virginia House and Senate Dems, From "A" to "F"

by: lowkell

Sat Nov 22, 2014 at 13:39:06 PM EST

The Virginia Sierra Club's 2014 Generaly Assembly Climate & Energy Scorecard is out, and there's a lot of interesting information in there regarding who's great, who's good, and who's not so good when it comes to protecting Virginia's environment and promoting clean energy. There were some definite surprises in the rankings, but one thing was sadly NOT a surprise: Republicans were almost uniformly horrible (e.g., all "F"s "D"s and "C"s in the Senate; mostly bad grades in the House, with a few exceptions like Robert Bloxom's "A+;" Chris Stolle's "A;" Gordon Helsel's "B," Randy Minchew's "B," Bobby Orrock's "B," Riley Ingram's "B," Chris Jones' "B," Keith Hodges' "B," Michael Webert's "B," and Tony Wilt's "B"). What about the Democrats, all of whom you'd hope would get "A"s on the environment? Here's a ranking of Virginia Democratic legislators from best to worst.

"A+" grades: Delegates Rosalyn Dance, Alfonso Lopez, Monty Mason, Sam Rasoul and David Toscano.  Thank you to everyone who got a perfect, 100%, "A+" grade from the Sierra Club. You guys rock! :)

"A" grades: Senators Creigh Deeds, Adam Ebbin, Barbara Favola, Janet Howell, Mamie Locke, Louise Lucas, Dave Marsden, Donald McEachin, Chap Petersen, Phil Puckett (!!!) and Toddy Puller; Delegates David Bulova, Betsy Carr, Matthew James, Mark Keam, Kaye Kory, Rob Krupicka, Jennifer McClellan, Scott Surovell, Roslyn Tyler and Jeion Ward. Nice job by all these folks too, except for the vote in favor of  SB 459 - which the Sierra Club correctly calls "Dominion's Accounting Sleight of Hand." General rule of thumb: if Dominion's for it, vote against it unless there's some overriding reason not to. Finally, I'm pleasantly amazed that "coal country "Sen. Phil Puckett got an "A."

"B" grades: Senators John Edwards and John Miller; Delegates Mamye Bacote, Eileen Filler-Corn, Michael Futrell, Charniele Herring, Patrick Hope, Algie Howell, Delores McQuinn, Ken Plum, Mark Sickles, Marcus Simon and Luke Torian. Pretty good, but they did vote for SB 459 ("Dominion's Accounting Sleight of Hand"), plus in the cases of Edwards and Miller for SB 25 (establishes a "woefully inadequate to address impacts of [an offshore oil] spill or other accident").  

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Terry McAuliffe to Phil Puckett: "Rot in hell;" "I hope you sleep easy tonight, buddy"

by: lowkell

Sun Nov 23, 2014 at 08:55:33 AM EST

Superb job by Washington Post reporter Laura Vozzella in pulling together her story in today's paper, "Puckett's Senate exit undid McAuliffe's secret plan for Medicaid expansion." Basically, it's a blow-by-blow account, with fascinating quotes and details, of how then-Sen. Phil Puckett's resignation from the Virginia State Senate contributed (or did it?> to killing Gov. McAuliffe's attempt to expand Medicaid unilaterally. I definitely recommend you read the entire thing, but here are a few highlights that jumped out at me.

*Gov. McAuliffe's voice mail message to former Sen. Puckett after it became clear that Medicaid expansion was dead: "Hey Phil? Terry McAuliffe. I want you to know we just lost the vote, 20 to 19, in the Senate. Medicaid is done. I hope you sleep easy tonight, buddy."

*"McAuliffe desperately needed Puckett in the Senate to take the daring step of expanding Medicaid on his own, using budget language the Democratic governor hoped to sneak past Republicans."

*This incident, and the anger/bitterness it engendered, "are likely to make it more difficult for McAuliffe to work with a GOP-controlled legislature to get anything done during the remainder of his term."

*New information: "Even as McAuliffe's aides were spinning Puckett's resignation as a sign of nasty Republican deal­making, they were working desperately to strike a deal of their own to keep Puckett in the Senate - to protect a secret plan to pass Medicaid expansion without direct legislative approval."

*Gov. McAuliffe "has given a colorful account of their conversation in recent social settings, according to two people he separately regaled. The tale begins with McAuliffe begging the senator to stay and ends with him wishing aloud that Puckett 'rot in hell.'"

*Whether this whole scheme to expand Medicaid unilaterally would have worked is highly dubious, regardless, as the Republican-controlled House of Delegates still would have vehemently opposed it. Regardless, after "Bull Elephant blogger Steve Albertson, spott[ed] the language and warn[ed] that it was a loophole McAuliffe might try to exploit," the last nail was definitely hammered into the coffin.

In the end, of course, the substantive - and tragic - thing about all this is simple: 400,000 Virginians will NOT receive health care coverage due to Republicans' don't-bother-us-with-facts, ideological and political opposition. And billions of dollars of our own tax dollars will NOT flow to Virginia's economy thanks to the right wing. So, yes, Gov. McAuliffe has every right to be angry at "Benedict Puckett" and the Republicans, as do the rest of us. Not sure about "rotting in hell" for anyone, but how about we vote as many of these folks out of office next November? (actually, we can start by electing Kathleen Murphy in a few weeks to fill Barbara Comstock's vacated House of Delegates seat)

Discuss :: (3 Comments)

Virginia News Headlines: Sunday Morning

by: lowkell

Sun Nov 23, 2014 at 07:19:12 AM EST

Here are a few national and Virginia news headlines, political and otherwise, for Sunday, November 23. Also, the photo of an anti-rape protest at UVA yesterday is by Bob Mical.

*Thomas Frank: Phony spin even Fox News won't buy ("For decades, the idiot pundit class has pushed Democrats to the right after every loss. It's not working this time")
*Ferguson Prepares for Fallout From Michael Brown Grand Jury Decision
*Marion Barry dies at 78; 4-term D.C. mayor was the most powerful local politician of his generation ("Marion Barry Jr., who died early Sunday, was the most powerful local politician of his generation and a symbol of self-governance for urban blacks, even as his life was fraught with the drama of a drug arrest and a jail sentence.")
*Newspaper 'Erred' In Publishing Cartoon Of Immigrants Crashing Thanksgiving (Because racism and xenophobia are SOOOO funny! Ha. Ha. Ha.)
*When The GOP Commissioned A Special Investigation Into Benghazi, This Wasn't Supposed To Happen ("The latest report, released Friday, does little to back up Republicans' suspicion of negligence, and it finds no intelligence failure on the part of the CIA.")
*Most White Evangelicals Attribute Intense National Disasters To The Apocalypse, Not Climate Change
*Jeb Bush's Reverse Midas Touch ("Bush's Four Mysterious Companies Share The Same Address And Have Never Done Any Known Business")
*5th annual 'Turkeys of the Year' for foolishness, ineptitude in the D.C. area (In Virginia, of course Bob McDonnell makes the list, as does the pathetic "Washington NFL team.")
*Opinion/Column: Warner's moderate approach falling out of favor (It's not "moderate," it's just "both sides"/false equivalence idiocy.)
*Puckett's exit from Va. Senate undid McAuliffe's secret plan for Medicaid ("The governor needed him to stay in order to take the daring step of expanding Medicaid on his own.")
*Schapiro: Warner, Kaine love on the 'new' Democrats ("That smooching sound you hear is Mark Warner and Tim Kaine loving on new Virginians - Hispanics and Asians who are rapidly remaking the state.")
*Senators say time has come to roll back state car tax relief ("Watkins is one of the few legislators openly discussing the possibility of rolling back a portion of the car tax subsidy, which tops a list of almost 80 tax preferences and credits adopted since 1990 that take $2.5 billion out of the general fund budget.")
*U-Va. fraternities suspended in light of sexual-assault allegations ("The suspension came days after a Rolling Stone account of a 2012 gang rape and will last until Jan. 9.")
*Protest outside Phi Kappa Psi house leads to four arrests ("Protesters call for change to University sexual assault policies")
*The Virginia Way, Part 8: Disclosure rules are lax, and reports are hard to find

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Letting Money Buy Power Corrupts Our Money System, Too

by: Andy Schmookler

Sat Nov 22, 2014 at 12:18:44 PM EST

This piece appeared recently in the Richmond Times Dispatch.

In its opinion in Citizens United, the Republican-appointed Supreme Court majority pretended it wasn't true. But every sane person knows otherwise: allowing unlimited money to flow into our election process corrupts our democracy. "One person, one vote" gets replaced by "one dollar, one vote," which means that the increasing inequalities of wealth in America subvert the democratic idea of equality of political voice among all citizens.

But less obviously, allowing money to buy political power corrupts not only the political system, but the money system as well.

I used to call out the Koch Brothers, for their campaign to misinform the public about climate change, as being not only immoral but also a kind of crazy. What kind of insanity is it, I asked, for billionaires who already have more money than they and their children and their grandchildren could spend in a lifetime, to damage the future for generations to come, and for life on earth generally, just to get still more money for themselves?

I was thinking of money as something that entitles the owner to get economic goods. And for billionaires like the Koch Brothers, the limit to the goodies they might benefit from consuming or owning has long since been passed.

But in a political system like the one being fashioned by things like the Citizens United  decision, money isn't about acquiring economic goods in the pursuit of happiness. It is about buying the government in the pursuit of power.

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Grist's Ben Adler: Jim Webb "sucks on climate change"

by: A Siegel

Sat Nov 22, 2014 at 10:05:16 AM EST

Former Marine, Senator Jim Webb (D-VA)Former Secretary of the Navy, Former Virginia Senator Jim Webb is the first out of the box for the 2016 Democratic Party Presidential nomination hunt.  This announcement has garnered its attention and analysis. (For example, over at DailyKos, Markos has a biting (and to me, generally accurate) review of Webb's announcement video in the context of Democratic Party primary politics and TeacherKen put up a sympathetic reflection on Jim Webb.)  And, some attention is turning to Webb's positions on policy arenas.

While Webb is far from the stage of having formal policy issue statements, he does have a record of action and statements to examine.  Over at Grist, Ben Adler put up a searing review of Jim Webb and climate/environmental issues: the Senate, Webb was a "climate curmudgeon," [who worked to undermine Presidential authority to negotiate climate treaties, fought against the Environmental Protection Agency, etc.]...And on climate change, by far the most monumental environmental issue, Webb may be little better than the Republican Party to which he once belonged.
During his Senate term, Webb:
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by: lowkell

Fri Nov 21, 2014 at 19:52:28 PM EST

So, now that the Republican-controlled House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence has TOTALLY debunked all the right wingnuts' conspiracy theories on BENGHAZEEEEEE, what do they have left? First, a few quick points from the report on Benghazi by (again) Republican-controlled House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. (attention Frank Wolf and other crazy conspiracy theorists, you might want to read this, as it is meant to be the "definitive House statement on the Intelligence Community's activities before, during and after the tragic events that caused the deaths of four brave Americans")

*"There is no evidence of an intelligence failure...CIA provided sufficient security personnel, resources, and equipment to defend against the known terrorist threat and to enable CIA operations in evidence that the CIA turned down requests for additional security resources at the Annex."
*"...the Committee found no evidence that there was either a stand down order or a denial of available air support."
*"...the Committee found no evidence that any officer was intimidated, wrongly forced to sign a nondisclosure agreement or otherwise kept from speaking to Congress, or polygraphed because of their presence in Benghazi."
*"Appropriate personnel on the ground in Benghazi made the decision to send CIA officers to rescue the State Department officers at the officer at CIA was ever told to stand down."
*"The decision to send CIA officers from Tripoli to Benghazi to rescue the Ambassador and bolster security of the U.S. personnel in Benghazi was a tactical decision appropriately made by the senior officers on the ground."
*"The CIA received all military support that was available. One CIA security officer requested a Spectre gunship that he believed was available, but his commanding officer did not relay the request because he correctly knew the the gunship was not available."
*"...intelligence assessments continue to evolve to this day, and the investigations into the motivations of the individual attackers are still ongoing."
*"For her public comments, Ambassador Rice used talking points developed at the request of HPSCI."
*The "CIA, NCTC, FBI and other Executive Branch agencies fully cooperated with the Committee's investigation."

In sum, basically none of the charges leveled in the aftermath of Benghazi by Republicans have proven to be correct. Just as most of us outside the Fox/Rush/Glenn right-wing news bubble figured all along. I just wish the Republican-controlled House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence hadn't dumped this report late on a Friday before Thanksgiving, clearly hoping that it would get as little attention as possible. Of course, if the media were responsible, they would give this report as much (or more) attention as they gave to the hysterical, false accusations hurled around by the likes of Mitt Romney, John McCain, Lindsey Graham, Frank Wolf, etc. in the aftermath of this tragedy. Oh, and we're also "all ears" for apologies from Romney, McCain, Graham, Wolf et al. Nope, not holding our breaths...

Anyway, now that the BENGHAZEEEEE conspiracy theories have been definitively debunked, by Republicans no less, what will the next crazy conspiracy theory by the frothing-at-the-mouth right wing be?  Well, there's always one of the people Mitt Romney went out of his way to praise for helping develop "Romneycare," Jonathan Gruber, an MIT academic who apparently thinks everyone other than himself is an idiot (but why any of us should care what he thinks is beyond me). Then there's Ebola, of course, but that's so three weeks ago!  Then there's the latest OUTRAGE -- amnesty! tyranny! can we go back to birth cerficates or "death panels?" ;) I mean, Fox, Rush, Glenn, etc, have to have SOMETHING to rant about, right?

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Virginia News Headlines: Saturday Morning

by: lowkell

Sat Nov 22, 2014 at 07:28:10 AM EST

Here are a few national and Virginia news headlines, political and otherwise, for Saturday, November 22. Also see President Obama's weekly address, on immigration reform. Key point: if the House had allowed a vote on the bipartisan Senate immigration bill at any time over the past 1 1/2 years, it would have passed and been signed into law. Meanwhile, President Obama is taking action under his lawful executive authority to fix the broken system we have now.

*Republicans challenge Obama's executive actions, file lawsuit over Obamacare (What a joke.)
*Mr. Obama's Wise Immigration Plan ("The initiative is a good start, bringing reasons for encouragement, tempered with caution.")
*President Obama Acted Unilaterally on Immigration and the Right Is Predictably Outraged
*Lack of immigration plan flusters GOP ("Party dithers while Obama pounds message defending action.")
*Peggy Noonan's "wisdom": Build Keystone XL so American boys will become men ("America's worst pundit wants to build Keystone XL so we can impress the world and build character in wayward youths." Wow. She gets PAID to write this dreck?)
*Amid Attacks, Obama Urges Action on Immigration
*How much would Jim Webb's military background help in a White House run?
*Jim Webb sucks on climate change (Worst of all, he basically is silent about the #1 issue facing humanity)
*Virginia's Ken Cuccinelli on immigration lawsuit: 'Take it slow' (Laughable Cooch comment du jour: "This shouldn't be done as a political undertaking" - yeah right!)
*Our view: Tone deaf to "rape school" allegations ("So when the university does hire outside counsel, who does it hire? Someone connected to the same fraternity where it's alleged an initiation rite is to rape somebody! What did the university know about Filip's resume and when did it know it?")
*Controversy swells at UVa as Filip taken off the job and Sullivan heads back to the U.S.
*UVa independent counsel on sexual assaults dropped (This attorney, Mark Filip, should never have taken the job, given his enormous conflict of interest.)
*U-Va. campus addresses sexual-assault allegations in Rolling Stone article
*Hampton U: Discarded poll showed Warner with double-digit lead (Why are these Virginia college polls - Roanoke College, CNU, Hampton U - so awful, when other states have excellent polls done by colleges and universities? Weird.)
*Virginia Politics: Ethics issues likely to be General Assembly focus
*The Virginia Way, Part 7: Networking and career-building in the Capitol ("Sometimes, spending time in the lush green of Capitol Square - or even leaving it - isn't such a bad deal for Virginia's part-time legislators.")
*Gov. McAuliffe, Virginia first lady kick off child hunger effort in state
*Brat: 'Not one thin dime' for Obama's immigration plan (But will he vote to pass the bipartisan Senate immigration bill? Of course not. Just "no" "no" "no" "no"...)
*Hits and misses: Reasons to cheer the Elizabeth ("The contamination of the Elizabeth River through decades of industrial pollution was so terrible, so suffocating, 20 years ago that the waterway and its branches were all but given up for dead.")
*Double duty: Portsmouth politics sees influx of clergy members
*In Richmond area, immigrants view Obama plans with cautious optimism
*Warm-up begins, but don't put away heavy sweaters and coats just yet

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