I was astounded by what my local Republicans wrote on the subject of Labor Day. These days I guess I shouldn't be surprised (after all, they did invite us to join the Tea Party's "Boycott Labor Day" event in 2012), but this time their message was so full of contempt for working Americans, so disdainful of the tradition of the holiday, and so deliberately misleading -- that I felt compelled to respond.
First of all, today isn't a day of rest and relaxation for everyone. If you go to the grocery store or the gas station today, the folks working there are struggling like you and me. And they have to work nights, weekends and holidays if they want to earn a living. Having worked in various industries such as foodservice and retail, even digging ditches for minimum wage, I understand that sometimes you have to do whatever you can to get by. This is something the Republicans don't seem to understand.
In the Republicans' world, the President doesn't actually have "respect for the value of work" - despite the fact that he is fighting for an increase in the minimum wage, in other words, paying people for the value of their work, which Republicans oppose. They believe we want a society where "a growing underclass lives on the government dole" and that we would deny people the self-respect of knowing they're pulling their own weight.
Recent William & Mary grad Priscilla Lin, wrote this piece. Priscilla is concerned about climate change and in particular ocean issues. She volunteers with Oceana, which is a co-sponsor of the Sept. 4 Dominion-Dump-ALEC rally in Arlington County.
It's time for Virginians to call on Dominion Resources, Inc. to leave the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). Join me for a Dominion-Dump-ALEC rally at ALEC Headquarters in the Crystal City area of Arlington County on September 4 at noon.
As a native Virginian and 2014 college graduate interested in protecting the environment, it comes as no surprise to me that Dominion Virginia Power, Virginia's largest electric utility, is dirty. Dirty fossil fuel energy, which contributes to climate change and ocean acidification, is not the way towards a better, cleaner future. I learned recently that Dominion belongs to ALEC, an organization with a pro-polluter agenda. Dominion publicly touts its supposed environmental awareness, but it doesn't explain what it does behind closed doors with the shady anti-climate and anti-democracy group ALEC.
You won't find any mention on Dominion's website or in its public pronouncements of its work to undermine environmental protections through its participation in ALEC, which has been described as "a corporate bill mill." It brings together corporations and state legislators and comes up with "model legislation" for the legislators to introduce back home.
ALEC has consistently pushed anti-climate and anti-environment legislation. Dominion's association with the group directly conflicts with its claims to support clean energy. You can learn more about ALEC at alecexposed.org.
A recent report by the Toronto Star reveals ALEC's "plans to undo environmental legislation" with its own model bills, referring to leaked internal documents from ALEC's recent summer meeting in Dallas. Among the leaked internal ALEC documents were slides from a conference presentation denouncing the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and promoting ways to "rein in EPA" by impeding renewable energy development, opposing carbon pricing, "lifting obstacles to conventional energy," and more. You can access the slides, posted online by the nonprofit watchdog group Center for Media and Democracy (CMD). That ALEC presentation showcases 19 ALEC model bills that specifically target the group's goals. The presentation was given by Joseph Bast, president of the Heartland Institute-an extreme group notorious for its support of climate-science denial (even comparing those who "still believe" in climate science to mass murderers).
It is wisely said that one cannot please everybody. And so I have had it confirmed for me lately when a friend of more than 40 years standing wrote to me to express his distaste for my choice of an icon to serve as the graphic for my present campaign, "Press the Battle."
Of this image, my friend wrote that he disliked the symbol, found it a turn-off: "It strikes me as more male-chauvinist macho stuff."
It should be said of my friend that when I met him, in 1971, he was recently retired as a major from the United States Marines, where he had pursued a military career. And it should be noted that he has since been an increasingly dedicated opponent of American militarism, a major figure in the organization, Veterans for Peace.
Of course, at some level, my friend is right. This image -- derived from a piece of 18th century statuary found at a palace in Berlin-- is as much emblematic of the "problem of power" as was that previous warrior image (described in Part I) in the ancient rock painting from the Algerian Sahara.
But in another, I think more urgently important sense, I believe my friend's reaction is off the mark. More "urgent" because I believe my friend is missing the tragic, but essential truth of our predicament in America today.
I thoroughly enjoyed today's column in the Roanoke Times by that curmudgeon, columnist Dan Casey, whose writing is the best thing about the Times these days. Casey discussed something that should be reported by every media outlet in the state as part of the coverage of the gross embarrassment that is the Bob and Maureen McDonnell trial. Casey decided to tackle one simple question: Could another state office holder cause another corrupt mess like this one, while supposedly following the new 2014 Virginia ethics law? His answer, after reading the entire text of the new "ethics law," is a resounding, "Yes." As Casey stated, the new law has so many loopholes that a person could "drive trucks of Rolexes right through them."
Item by item, Casey shows how all the stuff that Bob and Maureen McDonnell got as the "quid" part of their quid pro quo would be perfectly legal under the empty law the General Assembly had the gall to pass in the last session. For example:
The $6,500 Rolex watch? While the new law forbids tangible gifts worth more than $250, the limitation applies only to lobbyists or businesspeople doing business with the state. Jonnie Williams was neither at the time. He just wanted McDonnell to use the influence Bob and Maureen were happy to peddle to promote his dubious product, a health supplement made from tobacco. There's another loophole in the law for unlimited gifts from "personal friends," so all Bob McDonnell would have had to do was to say that Williams was his buddy. (By the way, that was part of the defense at the trial. The catch there was the testimony of Williams that the whole relationship was strictly "business as usual.")
Here are a few nominees for worst (e.g., least effective, most cringe-inducingly lame, etc.) Virginia TV ads of 2014 so far. Please feel free to add your own suggestions in the comments section. Thanks.
1. This one is so mind-bogglingly stupid it defies belief. In short, Eric Cantor had an enormous advantage in terms of name ID, incumbency and money over the almost-completely-unknown Dave Brat. So what did Can'tor and his brilliant consultants do? That's right, spend a s***-ton of money to launch ridiculous, completely non-credible attacks on Brat, effectively spending their own money to raise Brat's name ID and make people look into his candidacy.
Here are a few national and Virginia news headlines, political and otherwise, for Monday, September 1 (Labor Day 2014). Also, check out that photo of how things used to be in this country, before progressives and unions changed it with much tougher regulations -- you know, those pesky things that Republicans always say we need to roll back because they're "job killing?" Yep, THOSE regulations, like ones prohibiting kids from work in dangerous, dirty sweatshops for 12 hours a day or whatever.
It is just over thirty years since my book, The Parable of the Tribes, was first published by the University of California Press. My editor there and I searched for months for the right cover art for the book, and ultimately it was he (Jack Miles, who would later make a very big splash with his own book, God: A Biography) who came up with the winning idea: a most ancient rock painting from the Sahara in Algeria.
Here's the cover of the book (image on the right).
The subtitle of the book, as you can see, is "The Problem of Power in Social Evolution." And the core idea of the book is that the inevitable lack of regulation of the interactions among human societies, after the breakthrough to civilization, led inevitably to the spread of "the ways of power" (i.e. whatever cultural forms give a society an advantage in the intersocietal struggle for power) throughout the human system.
Here, in that ancient rock painting, we see clearly illustrated that problem of the struggle for power, with the landscape divided between the bold and more numerous pursuers and the harried and fewer pursued. It serves as a good illustration of the point I make at a pivotal juncture in the presentation of this "problem of power": "Imagine a group of tribes," I wrote, "living within reach of one another. If all choose the way of peace, then all may live in peace. But what if all but one choose peace?"
The book designer then made the excellent decision to take one of the attacking group of warriors, rotate him slightly, and put him on the spine of the book as the book's emblematic figure.
This warrior, even by himself, stood as a fitting emblem of the problem I was writing about, the problem of power facing humankind over the millennia of the troubled evolution of civilization.
As the GOP (more on just what exactly, the "party stands for" in a moment) becomes ever more strident, doctrinaire, and enforcing of its orthodoxy not just on itself, but on the rest of us, it sees, somehow, that its power just might be slipping away.
Is it any wonder they're afraid?
A long time ago, someone explained to me that progressives and liberals are always open to doubt, which conservatives exploit, because they are certain they are right. Conservatives harbor no doubt, and deny that anyone else has a right to a different opinion.
All opinions that are not theirs are wrong. Diverging from this group think is treated not just as treason, but as a kind of religious apostasy. I'm surprised they don't physically crucify the transgressors, although anyone who's been at the wrong end of the lashing foul tongue of Rush Limbaugh might have preferred that.
When challenged, even from the inside, the tendency is to circle the wagons and shoot first, without asking any inconvenient questions. Their problem is that they're so busy pointing their "open carry" iron at one another, they're disgusting the mostly silent majority in this country.
We now see the full stinking bloom of their attitude, on the racist side in Ferguson MO but in many other places, mostly undocumented; on the misogynist side, pretty much everywhere; on the side of the poor absolutely everywhere; and are properly appalled.
Some progressives, of the live and let live variety, of which I truly wish to be a part, bear at least a small share of the blame, because we refused to return unfriendly fire with even more unfriendly fire, allowing things like "false equivalency" to bloom, as if some made up notions with no demonstrable basis in fact is equivalent to real facts, faced squarely.
Here are a few national and Virginia news headlines, political and otherwise, for Sunday, August 31. Also, I watched most of this great discussion yesterday with historian Doris Kearns Goodwin at the 2014 National Book Festival. This woman is truly a national treasure; a fascinating conversation on Teddy Roosevelt, Abraham Lincoln, FDR, LBJ, JFK and...Barack Obama.
I think Miles pretty much nails it with this tweet. Here are just a few examples, off the top of my head, who have done what Miles describes (and lost anyway) over the past few years in Virginia.
*Creigh Deeds 2005 (ran as a conservative Democrat against Bob McDonnell, only got a few more votes than Leslie Byrne, who ran as a proud, forceful progressive)
*Creigh Deeds 2009 (the whole theory by the so-called "experts" was that a more conservative Democrat from a rural area would have more appeal to independents, "moderates," blah blah blah. So much for THAT theory!)
*Jody Wagner 2009 (although she certainly did everything Miles talks about - she even agreed to meet with progressives, LGBT activists and environmentalists who were dismayed by her campaign - in fairness she had no chance given the wipeout at the top of the ticket)
*Glenn Nye 2010 (ran to the right, ran away from the Democratic Party, lost by 11 points to Scott Rigell, while Tom Perriello - who ran as a strong Democrat, proud of his values - only lost by 4 points in as tough or tougher a district)
*Rick Boucher 2010 (He gave coal companies everything they asked for. He lost anyway.)
*Ward Armstrong 2011 (As Miles wrote on November 9, 2011, "As for me, what I'll remember most about the 2011 election cycle is this ad from House Minority Leader Ward Armstrong trashing just about everything Democrats believe in. The leader of House Democrats - as chosen by his fellow House Democrats - distances himself from President Obama, a woman's right to choose, reasonable gun safety regulations, and limits on air pollution - all in one ad.")
*Paul Hirschbiel 2012 (classic conservadem campaign, classic results, as he lost by 8 points to Scott Rigell while Tim Kaine AND Barack Obama were winning that district)
(Honorable mention: Wayne Powell 2012 would have lost to Eric Can'tor anyway, but running to the right certainly didn't help him any.)
*Mike Hymes 2014 (Classic example; this one wasted something approaching a million bucks to get 9,264 votes - around $100 per Hymes voter, many of whom would have turned out with a simple notice that there was an election, so it's actually a lot worse than that - and lose by 28 percentage points, in addition to running away from Democratic values on issue after issue - woohoo!)
(Honorable mention: Lynwood Lewis 2014 - he came within 11 votes of losing a race he was supposed to win easily, after running to the right, dissing/ignoring the "base," etc.)
A few...uh, "interesting" observations from our old pal, theocratic bigot and all-around extremist nutjob E.W. Jackson from his trip to Ferguson, Missouri.
*"Don't let...Al Sharptons and Jesse Jacksons of the world come in and turn it into something that the people of that community kind of lose control of, and...the New Black Panther Party, the Nation of Islam they come in and stoke all of this violence and hatred..."
*"If this police officer is not indicted...and convicted, you're going to see more violence in Ferguson...could spark violence across the country."
*"I don't think anybody who...feels angry and that something unjust happened, I don't think they care what the facts are. I think they know two things. They know he (Michael brown) was shot six times and they know that he was unarmed. And they don't care about the rest, they don't care that it was a 6 foot 4 young man weighing 290 pounds coming up against about a 150-pound officer. They don't care that the police officer may have already been injured in a confrontation. They don't care that he might have been running at the police officer. In other words, it's not going to matter to these folks what facts come out; they know he was shot six times, they know he was unarmed, and as far as they are concerned, there is absolutely no justification for it and the police officer ought to go to jail. So you're not going to change those folks' minds by facts."
*"When you stand up and you create the cry that's been created...'hands up, don't shoot'...This is supposed to be a depiction of what happened between Michael Brown and Officer Wilson, that Michael Brown put his hands up and said 'don't shoot' and Officer Wilson just gunned him down in cold blood. So when you perpetrate that sort of picture of what took place, and then you say, as Al Sharpton said at the funeral, you know, 'America's got a problem'...'no justice no peace' [Jackson snickers/laughs], you know, we're not getting justice so there's not going to be peace. And you get the Nation of Islam in there - which we know has a reputation for being racially divisive, hateful, mean, horrible..."
*"The reality is Ferguson has no military equipment; I mean, that was one of the myths that got debunked. The only think Ferguson has is two non-working helicopters [laughs] that were donated several years ago. Everything else they have is standard police equipment that the police department itself went out and bought..."
*Al Sharpton "implied that millions were being spent to arm the police as if they were a Gestapo, and no money was being spent on education, which we know is also not true..."
In sum, Jackson perpetuates the far-from-proven/heavily-biased Fox News/Rush Limbaugh narrative of what happened in Ferguson all the way (e.g., that Michael Brown was dangerous because he was a big guy, that he might have injured the much-smaller officer, etc.). He denigrates the residents of Ferguson, suggesting that they're not going to listen to any facts and are just riled up (in part, supposedly, by outside agitators like the "Nation of Islam" - natch). He mocks the "hands up don't shoot" chant by protestors. He also strangely claims that all the military equipment we saw with our own eyes on numerous news reports was apparently a figment of everyone's imagination. Of course, no interview with a right-wingnut like Jackson would be complete without a reference to the Gestapo. Anyway, just another day in the life of E.W. Jackson, who a year ago today was coming down the home stretch of his run for Lt. Governor of Virginia as - and this can't be emphasized enough or too often - the Republican Party of Virginia's freakin' nominee! Amazing.
Given how "broken" Congress is, overwhelmingly because the extremist Tea Partiers and Tea Party Republicans have made it that way, the LAST thing we need is yet another Tea Party Republican who one of the top political analysts in America calls - and for VERY good reason, given her history of obsessive persecution of the Clintons, etc. - "uniquely polarizing." Just say "no" to Barbara Comstock and her friends Karl Rove, Scooter Libby, Tom DeLay, the Koch brothers, Sean Hannity (see photo below0< Willard "Mitt"/"Etch-a-Sketch" Romney (ditto), etc.
Here are a few national and Virginia news headlines, political and otherwise, for Friday, August 29. Also, gotta love Ken Cuccinelli, demonstrating yet again how extreme the Tea Party is, when even far-right-wing Rick Perry is considered "anti-conservative!"
"Let the seas rise. Let the wind blow." That's top Republican commentator Erick Erickson's position on climate change. I would say he's a "conservative" commentator, but there's absolutely nothing conservative about wanting to gas up your SUV cheaply now and while leaving the pollution bill for future generations to pay. It's pure selfishness - "I've got mine so screw you" presented as profound political philosophy.
Erickson may just be one blogger, but here he gets to the core motivations of today's Congressional Republican leadership - America isn't worth investing in. Energy? Just give me what's cheapest today - if we need alternatives tomorrow, someone else can spend the money on it. Education? If my family needs that, I can pay to send my children to private school, but I won't volunteer a dime in additional taxes to improve our community. The environment? I can buy home air filters and bottled water - if you can't, too bad for you & yours.
"We are all going to die," Erickson cynically concludes. "Just not today." And by then, it'll be up to our children and grandchildren to build massive hurricane barriers outside every East Coast city to keep out the rising seas and monster storms as the bill comes due for all that cheap coal, oil and fracked gas.
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