Going to war is serious business. Senator Kaine (D-VA) believes that those in whom that power is vested should follow a deliberate process and that the executive should be bound by the decision. The Constitution is not vague about the responsibilities but the world presents circumstances that are.
In an attempt to clear up any misunderstanding about the authority to commit forces to war, Senator Kaine has joined with Senator McCain (R-AZ) to offer legislation that will establish a process to ensure the judicious application of military force. Yesterday's participation in the Richmond Times Dispatch Public Square series was part of Senator Kaine's effort to gather "comments, suggestions, criticisms..." in a strategy to shape and craft the bill.
Tacitly, President Bush followed the requirements of the War Powers Act, a law passed in 1973 following the frustration over the prosecution of the Viet Nam War. That was designed to rein in the initiative of any President using military force but written with both Johnson and Nixon in mind. Johnson had the support of a Congress that never imagined the scope of involvement that would precipitate. Then Nixon attacked two countries, Laos and Cambodia, without consulting Congress. To be honest, no President went as far as Bush to conform to the letter of the War Powers Act. The others managed to avoid anything more than consulting with Congressional leadership and always went on their merry way. However, the fact that George Bush appealed for authority may be more revealing about how thin he knew his justification was and that he needed cover rather than indicating sincere regard for the law. Plus the timing of the request appears suspiciously politically motivated.
Further, the authorization that Congress gave President Bush has no sunset or clearly defined achievable objective. As long as it remains in effect, Presidents can and will chase any remnant or offshoot of al Qaida's ghost, real or imagined while waving the authorization as justification for centuries to come. So, even if you argue that he and his successor have acted under the authority of the War Powers Act, you observe the same result that arose before the Act, different day: war(s) with a scope never imagined when authorized, being fought in second, third (fourth, fifth...) party countries. Senator Kaine's obsession with the subject is more than justified.
ALEXANDRIA - Former U.S. Senator Jim Webb today announced his endorsement of Senator Mark Warner for re-election.
In his endorsement, Webb cited Senator Warner's work on behalf of Virginia's military families and veterans and his commitment to reaching across the aisle to find solutions for Virginians.
"Mark Warner has been a friend and a colleague for many years," said former Senator Jim Webb. "I will always appreciate his efforts on behalf of my Senatorial campaign in 2006, and I believe it is in the best interests of all Virginians to return Mark to the Senate."
"I am honored to have the endorsement of Senator Webb," said Senator Warner. "Senator Webb was a leader in the Senate in his work to pass the new GI Bill and reform the criminal justice system. I'm proud of what we accomplished together, securing funding to expand Craney Island, introducing legislation to recognize Virginia's Indian Tribes and pushing for oil exploration off Virginia's coast."
As colleagues in the Senate, Webb and Warner were successful in securing $24.7 million in federal funding to expand Craney Island at the Port of Virginia, doubling terminal capacity and creating hundreds of jobs. Warner and Webbalso introduced legislation to speed up the timetable for offshore oil exploration off Virginia's coast and to ensure Virginia would receive it's fair share of revenues.
Senator Warner has worked tirelessly in the Senate on behalf of Virginia's military families and veterans. Warner convinced the U.S. Dept. of Veterans Affairs to certify the College of William and Mary's Puller Clinic as a national best practice program, using law students to help veterans expedite their disability claims on a pro bono basis. The clinic has now expanded from one to 15 and has been approved by the American Bar Association. Sen. Warner also has fought to block Pentagon plans to cut its network of commissaries, which young military families rely upon to help balance their family budgets.
(Add in other diseases too, like Ebola, which has almost certainly spread due to deforestation and other human depradations on the environment. When (if ever) will we learn? - promoted by lowkell)
A few days ago I received a shocking email from Mike Tidwell, Executive Director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network (CCAN). Subject line: "Mike diagnosed with Lyme Disease."
Oh no! As a CCAN board member, I knew that Mike had been dealing with miserable, flu-like symptoms, joint pain, and muscle stiffness for sometime. I felt terrible to learn this news. Lyme Disease is a frightening illness that is hard to cure and sometimes leaves lasting damage.
I felt sad to think of this prospect for Mike. In addition to being a great guy, Mike is an inspiration to climate activists in the mid-Atlantic region, where CCAN operates, and beyond. One of the most dedicated climate warriors I know, Mike is also an effective organizer, writer, speaker, and fundraiser. He is a mentor to a great many of us, and we need him to be healthy!
Mike noted in his email that he knows many people in the mid-Atlantic region who have had Lyme Disease. I have to admit that I can say the same. Just in the last year or so, the number of people I know with Lyme Disease has increased dramatically.
Yes, I know that a warming world means many diseases are on the move. For example, tropical diseases, never before seen in the United States, are expected to move northward from the tropics into the American south. When I first heard about Lyme Disease 25 years ago, it was in places north of us, places like New England and northern Minnesota.
If climate change is pushing diseases toward the poles, then it would seem that the explanation for the increased incidence in our region must lie elsewhere. So I wondered, what might the answer be? Clearly, something is going on that is making the mid-Atlantic region hospitable to the tick that transmits the disease.
I'm cross posting this here from Scaling Green, as it's directly relevant to Dominion Power, the Virginia State Corporation Commission (SCC), and all the ignorant, stupid s*** I've heard recently from the likes of Bill "ALEC" Howell about clean energy, the future of Dominion Power, etc, etc. Do these folks know anything at all about energy markets? Based on what they've been saying in recent days, it sure doesn't seem that way. Now, here's someone who actually DOES know what he's talking about...David Roberts of Grist, who frankly is smarter than the entire SCC, Dominion Power executives and Virginia House of Delegates "leadership" put together. And no, that wasn't meant as a backhanded compliment to David Roberts. :)
UPDATE 11:10 am Wednesday: It appears that even a hyper-conservative coal country legislator (State Sen. Bill Carrico) says he can live with the Clean Power Plan. No doubt because he knows, deep down, that it's a winner for Virginia jobs and the economy. Meanwhile, the Bill Howells of the world are hard at work actually (albeit unintentionally/cluelessly) hastening the demise of Dominion Power.
The headline of this post is quite possibly the energy-related quote of the day, maybe the week or even month. It's courtesy of David Roberts of Grist, back to providing us with consistently incisive analysis after a year-long sabbatical. Today, Roberts has a must-read post (in his case, maybe we should call it an "even-more-must-read-than-usual-for-David-Roberts" post) entitled, "Rooftop solar is just the beginning; utilities must innovate or go extinct." It's really worth your time to read the whole thing, and we strongly recommend you do that if you're interested in the future evolution of clean energy (which of course you are if you're reading this blog!). For now, here are the key points, including Roberts' awesome quote.
Distributed solar power poses a serious threat to power utilities, and "utilities are fighting back, attempting to impose additional fees and restrictions on solar customers."
The problem is, the way the utilities are fighting back - "cling[ing] to their familiar business model" while trying to recoup lost revenues through "rate-tweaking" - is not going to save them. Instead, they need to undertake "a wholesale rethinking of the utility business model" -- "sooner" rather than later if they're smart.
Two new analyses -- "Financial Impacts of Net-Metered PV on Utilities and Ratepayers" by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) and "Does Disruptive Competition Mean a Death Spiral for Electric Utilities?" by Elisabeth Graffy and Steven Kihm -- zero in on the core problem(s) facing utilities faced with the "disruptive threat" of rapidly growing distributed solar power. For instance, what happens "if solar PV penetration rose to between 2.5 and 10 percent of total retail sales by 2022?" The answer: utilities equity and earnings fall a lot, while rates go up only a little. Which leads us right to Roberts' superb quote: "Solar PV is mostly a threat to utility investors and shareholders, not ratepayers."
The problem for utilities is that their whole business model is based on building "more power plants and power lines," which as Roberts points out is both "insane" (in that it's not just diametrically opposed to "our social and environmental goals"), but also the polar opposite of where power markets are headed -- towards more distributed power and more consumer autonomy.
Does all this mean an inevitable "death spiral" for investor-owned utilities? Not necessarily, according to the Graffy and Kihm analysis, as long as utilities are willing and able to muster "the organizational foresight and habits needed to respond proactively to disruptive threats." The problem, in Roberts' view, is that after "a century of enjoying regulated-monopoly status, with returns guaranteed by law and expansion as far as the eye could see, utilities have virtually none of [that]."
Another, short-term option for utilities is to try to recover their costs by raising rates, fees, etc. to consumers. The problem with this approach, of course, is that it only leads to "a bunch of dissatisfied customers seeking non-grid alternatives," and "a growing market that will attract more and more entrepreneurial attention, thus accelerating customer defections." In short, "The longer utilities try to hold back the wave with legal or regulatory roadblocks, the harder it will hit them when it finally comes."
The bottom line is that utilities need to adapt to the distributed solar power revolution, and fast. If they try to resist this revolution, their demise - the "death spiral" - will only be more assured (and probably more sudden). The alternative: "Instead of viewing ratepayers as passive sources of cost recovery, utilities ought to view them as, y'know, customers. Offer them products and services that satisfy their evolving preferences." We'll see if they're smart enough to do that, but as Roberts points out, "regulated-monopoly" utilities are simply "not prepared for this sh*t." In other words, the next few years will be crucial - not to mention fascinating to observe as this process plays out.
Here are a few national and Virginia news headlines, political and otherwise, for Wednesday, October 22. Also see the video of Sen. Tim Kaine at the Richmond Times-Dispatch's "Public Square" on war powers.
Yet more evidence that right wingers are in their own far-out universe, in this case from a fascinating new study by Pew ("Political Polarization & Media Habits"). You know how the corporate media and others like to always claim that there are two equivalent "sides" in every debate, that there's a "left" and a "right" that are equally "extreme," blah blah blah? Well, of course that's complete bull**** in every way, with no factual evidence at all to back it up, yet still they persist. Take media viewing habits, for instance. I don't know how many times I've heard that Fox is just the right-wing version of MSNBC, or some such idiocy. Well, in fact, right wingers are WILDLY different than liberals in where they get their news: basically, right wingnuts only believe Fox, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck, and a few others. In stark contrast, liberals get their news from a wide variety of sources, and - perhaps to a fault - are more trusting of news sources (28 of 36 surveyed) compared to the "consistently conservative" crowd, who only trust Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Drudge, the Blaze - also a Glenn Beck project - Fox, the Wall Street Journal and freakin' Breitbart - hahahaha. Think about that: right wingers only trust extremist nutjobs like Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh. I mean, it's not surprising to most of us, I'm sure, but still...WTF?!?
By the way, I must say that I find it disheartening to see how many liberals watch trash networks like CNN, which basically traffics in triviality, superficiality, "if it bleeds it leads," extreme weather, shark attacks and other assorted garbage. I mean, seriously, if you get your news from CNN, you have no clue what's going on the world. Same thing, frankly, if you get your news from the major networks' evening newscasts - same basic crap as CNN (weather, fires, idiocy, triviality, etc.). My recommendations out of Pew's list for where anyone who's not a right wingnut should be getting their news? How about any/all of the following: NPR, PBS, the BBC, the Economist, the Guardian, Mother Jones and the New York Times? As for Politico, I'd just take that as "Tiger Beat on the Potomac" infotainment and faux-narrative creation for the most part.
Anyway, the bottom line is not that liberals are necessarily super-well-informed people. Again, if you get most of your news from CNN or comedy shows or whatever, you're not going to be. However, the right wing simply lives in a bizarre, freakish alternate universe that bears zero resemblance to that thing we call "reality." What it DOES do very well, however, is to stoke fear, anger, ignorance, outrage, and other manifestations of the "worse angels of our nature." For the folks stuck in that echo chamber, all I can say is: run, don't walk, as fast as you can away from it! The brain cells (not to mention sanity) you save may be your own. :)
P.S. It's funny and appropriate that nobody trusts BuzzFeed. Unless you like cute dog and cat "listicles" and other assorted cotton candy for the brain.
Good news from the Mark Warner for Senate campaign:
ALEXANDRIA - Virginia Beach Mayor Will Sessoms, a Republican, today announced his endorsement of Senator Mark Warner for re-election. Mayor Sessoms joins former U.S. Senator John Warner, former Suffolk Sen. Fred Quayle, former Virginia Beach Del. Bob Tata, and many other Virginia Republican elected officials and business leaders in endorsing Mark Warner's re-election. John Warner, Fred Quayle and Bob Tata have never endorsed a Democrat before.
In his endorsement, Mayor Sessoms cited Mark Warner's bipartisan approach to finding commonsense solutions for Virginians and focus on implementing policies that help Virginia Beach.
"Mark Warner knows the Virginia Way. And when he takes that to Washington, D.C. he will put it to good use and get people to work together for the betterment of this great country," said Mayor Sessoms. "In addition, he knows the needs of the military. He sees their sacrifice daily and he will stand up for them and fight for them and make sure they get what they need to be successful. That's why I'm supporting Mark Warner for re-election to the United States Senate."
"Will Sessoms is one of Virginia's great leaders and I am proud to have earned his support for my re-election," said Senator Warner. "I will continue to work with anyone, Democrat or Republican, to repeal sequestration, to support our military men and women and veterans, and to find creative solutions to strengthen the economy of Hampton Roads and Virginia."
There are only a handful of truly competitive, interesting races in Virginia this year, and the Arlington County Board rematch between Republican John Vihstadt (note: he falsely claims to be an "independent," even though he is a life-long/big-time Republican donor, activist, etc.) and Democrat Alan Howze is one of them. This past April, Howze lost a special election (to fill the seat Chris Zimmerman vacated with his resignation to take another job) to Vihstadt by a 57%-41% margin (12,667-9,109). The question is, with the much higher Democratic turnout we'll be seeing in Arlington on November 4 for Mark Warner, Don Beyer, etc., is Howze likely to beat Vihstadt this time around? Here are a few numbers to chew on.
*As you can see from the graph, the Democratic margin for Arlington County Board has ranged from a low of 7,340 in the lowest-turnout-election "odd" year of 2007 (when no statewide candidates were on the ballot), to a high of 47,836 in the presidential election year of 2008 (when there was no Republican candidate for Arlington County Board on the ballot; only a Green Party candidate, who got 21,451 votes).
*In "federal, non-presidential election years" like 2006 and 2010, where the top of the ticket was a U.S. Senate candidate (Jim Webb in 2006) or a U.S. House candidate (Jim Moran in 2010), the Democratic margin of victory for Arlington County Board was in the range of 12,324 (in 2010) and 23,928 (in 2006). I'd say this election is most comparable to 2006, a non-presidential "federal" election with a U.S. Senate candidate at the top of the ticket in Arlington. That would imply a Democratic margin for County Board of 23,928, but...let's continue crunching numbers before we start breaking out the champagne or anything like that. ;)
*The highest number of non-Democratic votes in an Arlington County Board election came in 2012, when the Republican (Matt Wavro) and Green Party (Audrey Clement) candidates combined for 38,001 votes. The winner of that election, Democrat Libby Garvey, received 59,619 votes -- a margin of 34,387 votes over Wavro, but also a Democratic "dropoff" for County Board from the top of the ticket (Tim Kaine for Senate, who received 82,689 votes) of 23,070 votes.
We already know that 10th CD Republican nominee Barbara "YOU LIE!" Comstock is not the most honest person in the world (to put it mildly). But this Comstock ad, aimed at the Korean-American community, really takes the cake. Notice who Comstock puts in her ad, with the clear intention to mislead voters? That's right, a number of strong supporters of Democratic nominee John Foust, such as State Senators Dave Marsden (D) Chap Petersen (D) and Janet Howell (D), Delegates Mark Keam (D), Vivian Watts (D) and David Bulova (D). That's right, all those people support John Foust (several of whom are also in an ad for Foust), yet all of them also find themselves in an ad for Barbara Comstock. Fascinating how that happens...
People like Bill O'Reilly call upon people to raise themselves up while helping keep a foot on their necks.
Conservatives like O'Reilly do have some kernels of truth on their side. They rightly think people should develop good character, including virtues such as discipline and responsibility for oneself. And they are rightly concerned to assure that social policies don't discourage people from developing such virtues.
But after those kernels of truth, their map of the world is dominated by a river of denial.
First, as Jon Stewart pointed out in his confrontation with O'Reilly, they deny how much their own ascent was boosted by the advantages their culture gave them. As Chris Hayes put it in his October 16 segment on the O'Reilly/Stewart confrontation, there are "two types of people--those who recognize they're standing on something built to help them, and those who believe they are natural giants."
(Hayes cited a poll conducted by researchers at Cornell University in 2008, asking people if they had ever used government social program. 57% said no, but the researchers established that 94% of those people were mistaken and had used at least one. On average, they'd benefited from four.)
In his effort to get Bill O'Reilly to acknowledge "white privilege," Jon Stewart focused on the advantages O'Reilly got from growing up in the new, post-war, middle-class community of Levittown. It was a community that supported O'Reilly's becoming the so-called "self-made man" that he is.
Those advantages amount to "white privilege," Stewart argued, because the town was closed to black families (until a federal housing law passed in the late 1960s forced those gates open).
The right-wingers are eager to scold blacks for not developing a culture of responsibility. But if you want people to develop the virtues of discipline and responsibility, it is folly - or perhaps hypocrisy - not to be equally concerned that the society provides those people the opportunities to reap the rewards to which those virtues are supposed to lead.
This is an update to - and a bit different from - my post of December 29, 2013, in which I ranked my nearly 11 years as a political blogger at the time. In this post, I'm going to rank Virginia's elections from 2005 (when I started blogging about Virginia, so these are the Virginia elections I know the best) through 2014, from the perspective of a Democrat and progressive, but also from that of a political junkie who likes to follow exciting, hotly-contested political races. Which Virginia elections from 2005 were the most exciting, inspiring, interesting, entertaining and successful (a combination of all those factors) for Democrats? Here they are, in descending order.
10. 2009: Just a godawful year in every way; do we even have to talk about it? In brief, we got wiped out in the Tea Party madness, resulting in the loss of great Democrats in the House of Delegates, not to mention the election of far-right-wing extremist Ken Cuccinelli as Attorney General, Jonnie Williams' BFF Bob McDonnell, etc., etc. Plus, the Democratic primary between Terry McAuliffe, Brian Moran and Creigh Deeds was one of the most unpleasant experiences most of us who were involved in it have ever experienced. Good riddance 2009, may you forever rot in hell.
9. 2010: Not quite as bad as 2009, but not good either. I mean, any year when a superb Representative like Tom Perriello is defeated by an utter loser and right wingnut like Robert Hurt can't be good. Throw in the loss of Rep. Rick Boucher (to the climate-science-denying wacko Morgan Griffith) and the defeat of Rep. Glenn Nye by Scott Rigell, and there's really nothing good to say about 2010. Miserable.
8. 2011: The first election after the 2010 census and redistricting was no fun at all. As if losing two Senate seats (and control of the Senate, despite pro-Democratic gerrymandering) wasn't bad enough, we also got our butts handed to us in the House of Delegates, falling from 39 to 32 Democrats. Oh, and as an added "bonus," we had an extremely nasty/godawful Democratic primary between Barbara Favola and Jaime Areizaga-Soto. Definitely not a fun year in any way.
Here are a few national and Virginia news headlines, political and otherwise, for Sunday, October 19. By the way, just click on that image if you want to tell the fossil fuel industry and corporate shills at the Virginia State Corporation Commission what you think about their wildly false, dishonest, disgraceful "report" on the impacts of EPA's Clean Power Plan on Virginia.
Can someone help me out with a Logic 101 problem? Yeah, I know, I shouldn't have been dozing off during that class, but too late now to fix that. ;) So, let's see if I can lay out the logical chain Virginia Republicans like Ed Gillespie are using to attack Mark Warner right now.
1. A slew of emails, among other evidence, indicates that Virginia Republicans like Del. Terry Kilgore (chairman of the slimy state tobacco commission) offered jobs to then-Sen. Phil Puckett (D) and his daughter in exchange for Puckett quitting the State Senate and throwing that body to the Republicans.
2. Republicans have argued variously for months that they a) did absolutely nothing wrong, or b) that even if what wend down was a bit slimy, it certainly wasn't illegal, or...whatever. The bottom line is they argue they did nothing wrong in offering what many of us would consider a "quid" (jobs for Phil Puckett and his daughter) in exchange for a "quo" (Puckett resigning and throwing the State Senate to the Republicans' control).
3. Meanwhile, god knows how many Democrats called the Pucketts to urge, encourage, or possibly also offer everything but the kitchen sink in order for Sen. Puckett to NOT resign from the State Senate and throw that body to Republican control. Cue up the false equivalency and IOKIYAR ("it's ok if you're a Republican") "logic" - see, "both sides" did it, ergo what Republicans did was no worse, if it was even wrong at all. Except that, according to Republicans, what they did was fine but what Democrats (e.g., McAuliffe Chief of Staff Paul Reagan, he of the infamous voice mail saying "we would basically do anything" to keep Puckett on board) did in trying to KEEP Sen. Puckett from resigning, was bad bad BAD! Again, even as what REPUBLICANS did, in trying to essentially bribe Puckett to resign and throw the State Senate to Republican control (a classic quid pro quo) was fine. Or something.
4. Now, Republicans are busy bashing Mark Warner, who admittedly spoke to Sen. Puckett's son Joe - exactly what was said is not known, but Warner says it was a "brainstorming" session with/about an old family friend - for a "breach of ethics," while simultaenously ignoring (and/or actively arguing) that Terry Kilgore et al. did nothing wrong in offering Phil Puckett and his daughter jobs if Puckett resigned and threw the Senate to Republican control.
5. Of course, Terry Kilgore would have literally had ZERO motivation other than to get control of the State Senate to help convince Phil Puckett to resign.
6. It's worth reiterating that what started this whole chain of events was Republicans attempting to, essentially, bribe (use the word "entice" or "convince" if "bribe" is too strong for your sensitive stomach) Phil Puckett to resign and throw the State Senate to their control. It's also worth reminding everyone that one of the main things at stake in all this was getting hundreds of thousands of Virginians covered under expanded Medicaid, as well as recouping billions of our own tax dollars that are currently not coming back to Virginia, as they should be. So, on top of their slimy (possibly illegal; FBI is investigating) quid pro quo offer to Phil Puckett to get him to resign from the State Senate, Republicans also were working hard to screw poor Virginians - and all Virginians - out of health care coverage and their own money. If that's not unethical, I'm not sure what is.
7. Finally, now we have slimeball "Enron Ed" Gillespie of all people, sanctimoniously shaking his head about how "Washington" supposedly "changed Mark Warner" and turned him into an unethical monster (for talking to Joe Puckett), while completely ignoring what his OWN PARTY did to kick this whole fiasco off in the first place. Barf inducing.
So...can anyone help me out with the glaring, internal flaw in the Republicans' internal "logic" (using the world loosely) here? Anyone who didn't doze off during Logic 101 class, perhaps? :)
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