Many recent news reports have trumpeted the dismissal of a raft of gun violence prevention legislation as a "Victory for Gun Rights." Despite the fact that gun's don't actually have any rights, I would like to enumerate, for those not present at the General Assembly, a representative sample of exactly which "rights" were victorious as a result of these actions. Taking just the 12 bills that were dismissed last night, in House Militia, Police and Public Safety, as an example,
The following "rights" remain intact - with the demise of the bill attempting to repeal those "rights" listed, along with the Patron's name:
HB2085 (Murphy) - Addressed the "right" of convicted violent abusers to maintain access to the very firearms that they may have been using to terrorize or dominate their family members. This bill would have temporarily removed that right and subsequently allowed the abuser to restore their rights - even to remove the current lifetime prohibition imposed by Federal Law! (Another case of, Fire, Ready, Aim, by the gun lobby working against their own interests - however, that is their "right".) In a surprise move, the subcommittee failed to accept a proposed substitute bill from the patron, due to the lack of a second. This was the first time I had seen that delicate maneuver in 8 years of watching sausage made!
HB2232 (Surovell) - Attempted to restrict the "right" for people who are prohibited from purchasing firearms, due to serious mental illness (think Cho), to be able to purchase, transport and possess ammunition. Presumably for the firearms that they are prevented from purchasing, transporting or possessing. ("Bullets don't kill people, empty firearms kill people")
Serious question: is the "convention wisdom" by the inside-the-Beltway, "elite" media and political pundits EVER right? Check out this screen shot and see for yourself how "everyone" was expecting Romney to run, and how he's...yep, NOT running. Nice going, political "analysts!" Of course, these are some of the same people who also said Jim Webb could never beat George Allen, that Hillary Clinton was a lock for the nomination in 2008, that Barack Obama was toast in 2012 due to the unemployment rate or whatever, that Romney was actually leading that election in October 2012, you name it. The question is, why does anyone listen to these people?
As an environmentalist concerned with climate change, I have changed my lightbulbs, bought smart thermostats for myself and parents, and have even bought an electric car. After flying to Cancun on vacation, I should be purchasing offsets for the carbon burned on the flight, but this is the sort of detail that even I overlook. Individual actions are almost quaint efforts to fight climate change, but large scale signals must be brought into our energy system to motivate purchasing decisions towards a cleaner system.
Today's article by Chris Mooney in the Washington Post, titled "The climate debate is brutal and dysfunctional, but there's still a way out" talks about just such a signal; one that both conservatives and liberals can embrace. He points to a "carbon tax that returns all the revenue from the tax to citizens, rather than using any of it for new government programs".
There are precedents for just such an arrangement in use already with the Alaska Energy Fund, which distributes oil revenues to Alaskans and what British Columbia has done with a carbon tax that has reduced its citizens' overall taxes.
Given that we have already seen an example of a carbon tax enacted and repealed in Australia, it behooves us to look at the disbursement mechanism as a way to give the recipients ownership in the politics of a carbon energy fund.
Check out Del. David Toscano's excellent speech yesterday on Virginia's utterly wasteful coal tax credits (aka, taxpayer-funded corporate welfare on a massive scale) and the brain-dead rhetoric about a supposed "war on coal." Next time you hear Republicans and fossil fuel industry flacks blabbering on about the "free market," "Obama's war on coal," and other nonsense, just tell them to watch this speech.
Ladies and Gentlemen of the House:
I listened carefully yesterday as the gentleman from Salem detailed the shuttering of the corporate offices of Norfolk Southern in Roanoke. This is an important issue to him and everyone in his community. Any jobs lost in a community have a great impact. Let me be perfectly clear. No one can be pleased with this decision. But let us not make more of this than it is. This is not a decision about coal and does not involve the so called "war on coal." It is more about economics and the private decision of a private corporation.
Just two days ago, CNBC reported that Norfolk Southern was bullish about the United States economy. According to this report, Norfolk Southern believes their profits will be boosted in 2015 because the U.S. economy is improving. As its CEO said, "we feel good about the state of the economy." There was nothing about coal in this announcement. And the letter from Norfolk Southern announcing their corporate restructuring said it was designed to "foster department synergies" and "streamline management." There was nothing in this letter about coal.
It is interesting, then, that as soon as the announcement of the Norfolk Southern decision hit, Congressional Republicans Morgan Griffith and Robert Goodlatte immediately began referring to this as a by-product of the so called "war on coal." The talking heads were out with a vengeance. But is there really a war on coal?
If government has done nothing wrong, then it has nothing to fear from the exposure of its practices. The same applies to politicians.
The Virginia Senate must regret allowing debates to be recorded. Video recording, and especially making it possible to disseminate those recordings (hello, Facebook, who knew it would ever be useful for anything except ogling cats and bragging about your grandkids?) makes it harder to lie and get away with it
No wonder the General Assembly is afraid.
This particular bill (SB 1060), sponsored by Republican Mark Obenshain, is designed to restrict primary voting to the party faithful. Even the conservative Virginia blogosphere admits this, and in the case of The Virginia Conservative actively opposes it.
Republican "voting integrity" is always about restricting the vote to the party faithful, not be gaining more faithful, perhaps by promoting policies that benefit all citizens of the Commonwealth, but by disenfranchising everyone else.
State Senator Chap Peterson called him out on it. When caught, Obenshain tried to lie his way out of it, to the effect that he knew what the bill would do and a snide aside that this wasn't his "first time at the rodeo."
Indeed, it is not. But first, a little background.
If there's anybody government needs to keep an eye on, it's a MONOPOLY. But through one of the big loopholes in our system of government, the monopolies that we call utilities get to shovel the money they make from their non-competitive positions into the offices of politicians who are supposed to be regulating them.
The predictable result is these politicians giving the utilities pretty much anything they ask for. But every once in a while, they get too greedy and go too far - and will find the public coming after them with pitchforks.
A bill filed by Sen. Frank W. Wagner (R-Virginia Beach) would [...] free Dominion from regular financial audits conducted by the State Corporation Commission, which oversees utility rates in Virginia.
We're talking here about legislation to block the state of Virginia from financial oversight of its 8th largest company. Legislation that Sen. Wagner actually admitted was drafted by...Dominion.
The fox guarding the henhouse? No, more like the fox taking over the whole freaking Department of Henhouses.
If you're sick and tired of the political tools down in Richmond acting like lobbyists for Dominion rather than doing their job to regulate it, let them know ASAP. Contact your Delegate (find them here) and your Senator (find them here).
And contact Dominion too, especially if you're a customer, to let them know that you won't stand for this powerful monopoly trying to shield itself from public scrutiny. You can send them a tweet at @DomVaPower or post to their Facebook page.
We are the citizens of a democracy, not corporate vassals. Businesses certainly have a role in our society, but is the role of an actor, not that of our ruler. When companies like Dominion go too far, they need to hear from the public, loud and clear. Otherwise, they will keep going until their power over us is absolute. Don't stand for it - fight them while we still have the power to fight.
Here are a few national and Virginia news headlines, political and otherwise, for Thursday, January 29. As for the graphic, it's yet more evidence of the harm that Chuckie Todd and all the other corporate, right-wing "useful idiots" on Sunday morning's blatherfest do to America and the world.
The Democrats' 2014 election debacle left no room for doubt: Something is seriously wrong with this Democratic Party. Consider this:
* In the 2013-4 Congress, Republicans violated fundamental norms of American democracy, deliberately choosing to keep government from addressing the nation's pressing problems, showing an utter lack of concern for serving the public good.
* After this travesty took place in plain sight for nearly two years, the American electorate rewarded the Republicans by handing them even more power.
*Democrats coasted into electoral disaster without even trying to focus attention on the Republicans' unprecedented abuse of the system our Founders gave us.
Sure, there's plenty of shame to go around- every major component of the American body politic is implicated here.
The Republicans' conduct has been awful, of course, but there's no point dwelling on what this party has become. It has been well over a decade since that Party abandoned the integrity and decency of Dwight Eisenhower, Barry Goldwater, and Ronald Reagan.
The Republicans disabled our government right out in the open: making this past Congress the least productive in history; passing bills that they knew had zero chance of being enacted; focusing on provocative but useless gestures such as voting more than 50 times to repeal the health care law; refusing to bring to the House floor an immigration bill that had passed the Senate by more than 2 to 1; never proposing serious solutions of their own.
But apparently voters needed help to see how seriously the conduct of the Republicans had violated this nation's basic democratic values. Where could they get that help?
Just a day after the Washington Post reported the Koch brothers' plan for billionaires to buy our democracy, this vote today in Virginia's State Senate - killing our state's utterly pathetic, measly incentives for small donations to political campaigns without replacing it with anything - is so opposite of the direction we need to be going, it's breathtaking. Now, clearly, the current tax credit for political donations is completely pathetic, inadequate, etc. But that doesn't mean we should KILL it, for god's sake; it means we should massively STRENGTHEN it. As this study on Matching Political Contributions explains, for instance:
The way forward requires an overhaul of public financing that spurs greater participation by the public at large.
Specifically, the answer lies in a system that gives a multiple match to donor contributions. Rather than continuing to give each candidate a flat grant of $100,000, for example, public financing systems should give six-to-one multiple matching funds on the first $200 of a contribution. This would make a $200 contribution worth $1400 to a candidate.
Multiple matching funds reflect a philosophical shift about the role of money in politics. Money is not an "evil," but should be embraced as a tool to make government accountable to more people. Public financing should not "level the playing field" among candidates, but should reward candidates who mobilize more supporters. Reformers need to spend less energy on "getting big money out of campaigns" and more on "getting the people back in" to those very same campaigns.
I just got this - wow! I had fully expected Walter Tejada to run for reelection, with Arlington County Board member Mary Hynes the big questions. Now, with Tejada's announcement that he will not seek reelection, all eyes turn to Hynes, as well as to the plethora of potential candidates that are chomping at the bit to throw their hats in the ring. Let the 2015 race for Arlington County Board begin!
Kip Malinosky, Chair
Arlington County Democratic Committee
It has been and continues to be an enormous privilege to serve in elected office and I'm very proud that during my tenure, Arlington has been recognized time and again as one of the best run governments and one of the best communities in the country. After proudly serving the Arlington community for twelve years on the County Board, I have decided not to seek the Democratic nomination for another term.
Serving on the County Board has allowed me the opportunity to tackle a broad range of issues that have strengthened our community. It has also been a real privilege and honor to seek ways to empower low income, minority and immigrant residents in Arlington, the region, the state, and across the country, and to encourage their participation in our society. I remain committed to all of Arlington, in particular ensuring that the least privileged are heard, protecting our safety net, fighting for affordable housing, and providing a voice for many who frequently go voiceless. I have enjoyed upholding these core values, and will continue to do so in the future.
A more comprehensive statement will be forthcoming, but for now I wanted to let you know of my intentions. Unfortunately I will not be able to attend the February ACDC monthly meeting, but look forward to addressing the committee in the future, perhaps at the March meeting.
At the moment I do not anticipate a need for a special election for my seat as I'm planning on fully serving my current term through December 2015.
I am, and always will be, grateful to the Arlington County Democratic Committee and to the Arlington community for their support. While on the County Board I've tried to serve as an unapologetic progressive, and will look forward in another capacity to always continuing to support those Democratic values. Please feel free to share this message as appropriate.
Jeff Schapiro's article today in the Richmond Times Dispatch very clearly outlines the cozy relationships Dominion has with elected officials across Virginia. Those fighting the pipeline have known about Dominion's "contributions" to General Assembly members and other elected officials for many, many months. The opposition has attempted to make those facts known through posts here on Blue Virginia, and in other coverage of the fight to stop the proposed destruction and desecration of both public and private property by the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline project.
The determination of landowners and advocates is actually bolstered because of Domimion's money, lobbyists, and well-connected executives. All of that adds proof to the claims of injustices being heaped on landowners and communities. Dominion's attempts to thwart the grassroots only strengthens the resolve of the opposition, as illlustrated by Friends of Nelson President Joanna Salidis' statement last week: "Bring it on Dominion. The more you force your way, the more we will fight the injustice."
The grit and determination of the people in the continued fight for property rights, and to prevent the damage the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline would have on cultural, historical and environmental resources will not be diminshed by Dominion's money and power. On Monday, February 2, Free Nelson and Friends of Nelson will return to Richmond for a "Stop the Surveys" lobby day being co-sponsored by both groups and the Virginia Sierra Club. Senate Bill 1338, introduced by Sens. Hanger and Deeds, is to be brought before the Senate's Labor and Commerce Committee Monday afternoon. SB 1338 would repeal the statute which now purportedly allows the ACP's contractors to legally trespass on private property.
The groups are well aware Dominion's lobbyists are currently in Richmond pushing to kill Senate Bill 1338 in Committee. Landowners and activists, however, will show up to lobby Committee members on Monday morning, asking them to stand on the side of the people by voting Monday afternoon to allow Senate Bill 1338 to reach the floor of the Senate. Like-minded supporters are encouraged to join the groups in Richmond to participate in the Lobby Day!
Here are a few national and Virginia news headlines, political and otherwise, for Wednesday, January 28. By the way, that "climate test fail" applies to anyone else who supports drilling off our coast.
The following statement from Del. Sam Rasoul (D-Roanoke) blasts the decision by Norfolk Southern to close its Roanoke office building, with the jobs of several hundred people who work there being moved to Atlanta or Norfolk. And no, this has nothing to do with any so-called "war on coal," as broken records Rep. Morgan Griffith (R) and Rep. Bob BADlatte (R) hysterically claim (oh, and take one guess: yep, everything's Obama's fault!). Instead, what's happening is that China has decided to switch much more to clean energy, in large part because coal has had devastating environmental consequences for that country's citizens. In addition, the reality of climate change is leading many countries to move away from coal and towards renewables and natural gas, both of which are cost-competitve (or better) with coal. In this country, coal has lost out largely to cheap, "fracked" natural gas the past few years, and increasingly to inexpensive wind and solar power as well. So, it's basically market forces at work, although clearly if we incorporated the massive, negative "externalities" associated with coal into its price, it would have been dead long ago. Now THAT would be a real - and completely justified - "war on coal!"
RASOUL CRITICAL OF NORFOLK SOUTHERN RELOCATION DECISION
ROANOKE, VA - Delegate Sam Rasoul (D-Roanoke City) criticized today's announcement that Norfolk Southern will close its building in Roanoke and relocate, resulting in a loss a 400 jobs to the Roanoke region.
"I was shocked and deeply disappointed to hear about Norfolk Southern's plans," said Rasoul. "Aside from uprooting hundreds of families and dealing a severe economic blow to the Roanoke Valley, the decision shows a blatant and insulting disregard for Roanoke's role in helping to build the railroad in our region. Roanoke has long been a crossroads for the railroad. The railroad is central to our history to the point that it is the primary image on our city seal."
Yep, so we can now add yet another Republican governor to the long list of Republican governors saying "yes" to Medicaid expansion. These Republicans can call their expansions whatever they want (e.g., "Healthy Indiana"); say they're really not "expanding" Medicaid buy "reforming it" (whatever); claim (falsely) that Medicaid expansion has no connection go the evilevilevil "Obamacare" (also known as the "Affordable Care Act," whose provisions are highly popular with the American public), blah blah blah.
But the bottom line is, more and more Republican governors are taking this shwwwwweeeeeeet deal for their states' budgets and their citizens, and not letting the hard-right Teahadists, etc. stop them.
And then there's Virginia, a "purple" state led by a Democratic governor and Democratic Party who badly want to expand Medicaid, where Republican House Speaker Bill "ALEC" Howell, hard-right-wing Republican Senate Majority Leader Tommy Norment, along with their Teapublican troops, are putting on a modern display of what used to be known in these parts as "massive resistance." In this case, it's about health care coverage for poor people, many of whom are these Teapublican lawmakers' own constituents. But whatever; Virginia Republicans are having none of the common sense and sanity we're seeing in an increasing number of Republican-led states around the country. Essentially, Virginia Republicans have no substantive argument, other than to essentially admit, "we're extremists, we're proud of it, we're not changing, and that's that." Oh, and "screw Virginia's budget, people who desperately need good healthcare coverage, hospitals which want/need this expansion, etc, etc.
The question is, why would anyone in Virginia vote for these cretins?
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