The second in a series of posts to Blue Virginia sharing letters from Nelsonians which outline their concerns, frustrations and determination to stop the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. We hope from these letters, BV readers, our local, state and federal officials will begin to acknowledge and understand the validity of the arguments being made by residents of rural Nelson County. Our elected officials would allow a for-profit, privately held company, in this case Dominion Power, to encroach upon our lands and our way of life. Nelsonians may live in a rural area, but are not stupid. They are well-informed, knowledgeable and will not stop their efforts to shine a light on the issues that affect them. Governor McAuliffe can hide in a restaurant rather than speak to protesters, some officials can vote against the best interests of their constituents, but Nelsonians are united in their fight.
Sherri Moyer Brooks and her husband, Nelson County Sheriff David Brooks are native Nelsonians and life-long Democrats. Their property is in the path of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. Sherri and David received one of the dreaded letters from Dominion Power "asking" for permission to survey their property, which also outlined Dominion could do so without their permission. David recently asked the Warner campaign to remove his name from a letter Senator Warner sent out listing Sheriff Brooks as having endorsed him, when David had not. You may read that story here.
Spending just moments with Dr. Joseph Smiddy is a cascade of chilling water for those claiming faith in the American health care system. What a lot of people proclaim as the best medical system in the world isn't delivering for many with the greatest need right here in Virginia.
"It's not just that they can't afford any sort of insurance that might be available to them under the Affordable Care Act. It's that this is a horribly underserved region in terms of medical resources." - Henry Schuster, 60 Minutes producer (at 3:17)
Organizers of an expeditionary Remote Area Medical (RAM) clinic just outside of Jonesville, Virginia expect something on the order of 600 patients today and tomorrow. This is the first of this kind of event in Lee County, set up in and around the airport that sits further west than Columbus, Ohio and Detroit, Michigan, far removed from Richmond. Sadly, this constitutes primary care for many residents. When I arrived yesterday as a volunteer, 22 hours before the first patient would be seen, there were already three carloads of people lined up to ensure they could get one of the specialty services. They know the routine.
Somehow Delegate Terry Kilgore (R-Gate City) avoids discerning scrutiny from his constituency. Even with all that tobacco money he is bringing home, many of those living in Virginia's poorest county rely upon the generosity of others for any health care at all. The county's only hospital closed about a year ago.
On September 30, 2013, the Lee Regional Medical Center closed its doors after serving the community for 70 years. With the loss of jobs and decreased access to medical care, the residents of Lee County have been deeply impacted by the hospital's closure. - Lee County Hospital Authority
In an attempt to restrict access by the public to Dominion's pipeline "open house" in Augusta County, Dominion has moved the "public event" to a private venue, Augusta Expo, at Fishersville after Augusta County Administrator Pat Coffield canceled the event at the Verona Government Center. A request by Dominion to search the public before entering the open house because of "safety concerns" was denied by Coffield.
The Augusta Alliance, an anti-pipeline citizens group, had planned a rally to be held outside the Verona Government Center to coincide with Dominion's "Open House" scheduled for Monday, September 15. The "Open House" was to begin at 4 pm for elected officials. In an interview by Tri-Cities.com,
Coffield stressed that the government center is a working government building where public business takes place. "This overlaps with our operations,'' he said of the open house. He also said when a public meeting is held in a public building it is not proper to search bags or restrict access.
Today I begin a series of posts to Blue Virginia sharing letters from Nelsonians which outline their concerns, frustrations and determination to stop the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. We hope from these letters, BV readers, our local, state and federal officials will begin to acknowledge and understand the validity of the arguments being made by residents of rural Nelson County. Our elected officials would allow a for-profit, privately held company, in this case Dominion Power, to encroach upon our lands and our way of life. Nelsonians may live in a rural area, but are not stupid. They are well-informed, knowledgeable and will not stop their efforts to shine a light on the issues that affect them. Governor McAuliffe can hide in a restaurant rather than speak to protesters, some officials can vote against the best interests of their constituents, but Nelsonians are united in their fight.
The letter below is from Susan McSwain, who worked for Nelson County for many years as our recycling guru. Under her leadership our recycling program was built and operates today. She describes herself as "A dismayed, lifelong Democrat who owns 500 acres of forest and pasture, who leases land to a hunt club (Mr. Warner professes to enjoy hunting), who has worked all my life to save this planet for future generations. NO PIPELINE!!! NO FRACKING!!!" Susan's letter begins with an email she sent to me regarding my resignation as chair of the Nelson Democratic Committee and continues with a letter she sent to Max at Senator Warner's campaign office in Charlottesville.
With seven weeks to go until Election Day, John Foust is entering the home stretch of this campaign with all the momentum on his side, while Barbara Comstock’s campaign is already losing its luster. The supposed golden girl of Virginia politics has failed to deliver, and is continually on the defense as Northern Virginians learn about her past as a professional partisan operative who has consistently pushed a right-wing agenda out-of-touch with the residents of the district —particularly women.
National Republicans are also venting their frustration that Comstock, supposedly one of their top candidates, has failed to deliver. Politico reported this month that “there is growing consternation” over Comstock’s campaign. In fact, Comstock has fallen short of expectations on every metric: her fundraising has been lackluster, she has failed to connect with women, she has made gaffes at public events, she has failed to disclose clients in “an apparent breach of congressional ethics rules” and she has failed to put her past as a partisan crusader behind her.
To recap, over the summer Barbara Comstock had to answer for:
Activists highlighted the GOP congressional candidate’s record of opposition for women’s health and rights in light of her recent remarks
Leesburg, VA–This morning in Leesburg, dozens of Virginia activists led by NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia and the Planned Parenthood Action Fund National PAC rallied in response to recent comments by Republican Virginia 10th Congressional District candidate Barbara Comstock. The event came a little over a week after Comstock’s bizarre claim at a Fairfax Chamber of Commerce Town Hall that her desire to see Roe v. Wade overturned "would not come into play" were she to become a member of Congress.
In response, speakers from the organizations highlighted Delegate Comstock's record in the Virginia General Assembly, including votes for the controversial 2012 mandatory ultrasound law, medically-unnecessary targeted restrictions that threaten to shut down women's health centers, and an extreme “personhood” bill that could have been used to ban abortion and common forms of birth control.
“Barbara Comstock’s strange claim that her positions wouldn’t matter in Congress is nothing more than an attempt to distract from her unacceptable record and agenda,” said Tarina Keene, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia. “Comstock has demonstrated her lack of respect for the reproductive rights and choices of Virginia women and families throughout her career – from voting to ban abortion in all cases, to supporting invasive mandatory ultrasounds, to stating her outright opposition to the rights assured by Roe v. Wade.”
If you really want to understand the for-profit scam that is today's GOP, this story is a good place to start.
It seems the infamous coal boss Robert Murray has been forcing his subordinates to give to specific Republican candidates, including our very own Ed Gillespie. Murray is known for many things, none of them good, like the Crandall County Mine Disaster, which exposed his company's lax safety record, coal slurry spills into nearby creeks, and over-the-top, self-serving climate change denial statements as in his 2007 hissy fit to Congress:
"It is time that common sense be introduced into this hysterical, out of control climate change debate, which alleged phenomenon, to our Nation's best scientists, is based on faulty science."
And Murray puts millions of dollars of his money where his mouth is - and then forces his subordinates to do the same, as he was also caught doing in 2012 too.
You have to ask: Why is almost the entire Republican party in the climate change denial, do-nothing camp? Why does Ed Gillespie in particular continue to "dodge, duck, dip, dive, and dodge" the whole issue?
Because fossil fuel barons like Murray pay them to take the stands of most value to their corporate bottom line. It may not be as blatant as directly helping your donor after he gives you a Rolex and takes your wife on a Manhattan shopping spree. But it's no less appalling.
Yes, Dave Brat is all excited to be rallying with this guy.
In 1986, Reagan nominated Sessions to be a judge of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Alabama. Sessions's judicial nomination was recommended and actively backed by Republican Alabama Senator Jeremiah Denton. A substantial majority of the American Bar Association Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary, which rates nominees to the federal bench, rated Sessions "qualified," with a minority voting that Sessions was "not qualified."
At Sessions' confirmation hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee, four Department of Justice lawyers who had worked with Sessions testified that he had made several racist statements. One of those lawyers, J. Gerald Hebert, testified that Sessions had referred to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) as "un-American" and "Communist-inspired" because they "forced civil rights down the throats of people."
Thomas Figures, a black Assistant U.S. Attorney, testified that Sessions said he thought the Klan was "OK until I found out they smoked pot." Sessions later said that the comment was not serious, but apologized for it. Figures also testified that on one occasion, when the U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division sent the office instructions to investigate a case that Sessions had tried to close, Figures and Sessions "had a very spirited discussion regarding how the Hodge case should then be handled; in the course of that argument, Mr. Sessions threw the file on a table, and remarked, 'I wish I could decline on all of them,'" by which Figures said Sessions meant civil rights cases generally. After becoming Ranking Member of the Judiciary Committee, Sessions was asked in an interview about his civil rights record as a U.S Attorney. He denied that he had not sufficiently pursued civil rights cases, saying that "when I was [a U.S. Attorney], I signed 10 pleadings attacking segregation or the remnants of segregation, where we as part of the Department of Justice, we sought desegregation remedies."
Figures also said that Sessions had called him "boy." He also testified that "Mr. Sessions admonished me to 'be careful what you say to white folks.'"
Sessions responded to the testimony by denying the allegations, saying his remarks were taken out of context or meant in jest, and also stating that groups could be considered un-American when "they involve themselves in un-American positions" in foreign policy. Sessions said during testimony that he considered the Klan to be "a force for hatred and bigotry." In regards to the marijuana quote, Sessions said the comment was a joke but apologized.
In response to a question from Joe Biden on whether he had called the NAACP and other civil rights organizations "un-American", Sessions replied "I'm often loose with my tongue. I may have said something about the NAACP being un-American or Communist, but I meant no harm by it."
By the way, as if Sessions' racism isn't bad enough, how about his voting against the against the Matthew Shepard Act as well as against "congressional resolution calling on members of the Ugandan Parliament to reject the proposed 'Kill-the-Gays Bill?'" How about his opposition to embryonic stem cell research? How about his vote against a Senate amendment "that prohibited cruel, inhumane, or degrading treatment or punishment of individuals in the custody or under the physical control of the United States Government?" Can you see why a right-wing nutjob like Dave Brat would be so excited to rally with this guy? My god...
Here are a few national and Virginia news headlines, political and otherwise, for Friday, September 12. The image is from the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, which writes: "We're disappointed and angry over Gov. McAuliffe's support of Dominion's Atlantic Coast Pipeline--join us in telling him this pipeline is bad for Virginia and for the climate!" Agreed. This is a terrible decision.
Next Thursday, the Virginia General Assembly is scheduled to begin a much-anticipated special session to discuss Medicaid expansion. As the Washington Post reported in June, the session supposedly was "intended to show that Republicans are willing to discuss expanding Medicaid as long as the matter is divorced from the state budget." Except for one problem: as Del. Scott Surovell explained earlier this week, in reality this is just a Republican charade, a "dog-and-pony show for the press," not to mention a waste of "tens of thousands of dollars on a special session that is just 'for show.'"
Now, I'm hearing from informed sources that Surovell was absolutely correct. If anything, it's even worse than we thought, as Republicans apparently are planning to turn this special session into a discussion about the budget and judges, while avoiding discussion of Medicaid expansion.
All that would, of course, be dishonest on their part, but it would also be par for the course for those guys, given how they've behaved up to this point. That includes doing anything and everything in their power to make sure that a) hundreds of thousands of Virginians do NOT get access to affordable, quality health care; b) Virginia hospitals suffer financially; and c) billions of our tax dollars - money we've already paid! - does not come back to Virginia, but goes to other states instead. Brilliant, huh?
Another strange aspect of this charade is that two House of Delegates Republicans, Dave Albo and Tom Rust, both have some sort of health care proposals they've introduced (Note: neither of these bills have come through the committee process and are a long way from making it through to a floor vote. My understanding is that Del. Rust cant find any GOP support for his bill and they will likely kill it. Not sure about Del. Albo's bill, but I would assume it's the same story.. Yet if Republicans have no real intent of discussing Medicaid expansion in next week's special session, then what's the point? And, as Del. Surovell noted, is it worth the taxpayer expenditure to bring all these fine folks to Richmond to discuss the fact that Republicans neither have a plan to expand Medicaid nor will allow a real discussion on said topic?
By the way, it will be interesting to see if Virginia Republicans try to avoid a 45% hike in Virginia's gasoline tax, which is slated to take place due to a) the Virginia transportation bill passed overwhelmingly in 2013 and signed into law by Gov. Bob McDonnell; and b) the GOP-controlled U.S. House of Representatives' failure (and Bob Goodlatte's failure specifically) to pass the Marketplace Fairness Act, which was assumed in the transportation bill as a major source of revenues to fund roads, rail, etc. in Virginia. Of course, if Republicans move to ditch that component of the transportation law's revenue, it will seriously harm a law that "both sides" have touted as a great accomplishment. So keep an eye on that one for various shenanigans by Bill "ALEC" Howell, Tommy Norment et al. Should be fun...or not.
A crowd of protesters gathered at the Arlington headquarters of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) on September 4 to demand that Dominion Resources, the parent of public utility monopoly Dominion Virginia Power, drop its membership in the right wing "bill mill."
On the very same day, a jury convicted ex-Governor Bob McDonnell and his wife on federal corruption charges, setting off a new round of debate about Virginia's lax ethics laws.
The two news items sound like different topics, but in fact they are both about the corruption undermining our democratic system. The McDonnell trial, with its focus on swank vacations, golf clubs, designer clothes and other neat stuff, actually missed the bigger breach of public trust that goes on every day. This takes the form of unlimited corporate campaign contributions and gifts to members of both parties, and the influence over legislation purchased by this largesse.
Dominion Power has spent decades and many millions of dollars building its influence in Richmond this way, to the point where most legislators don't bother pursuing a bill if the utility signals its opposition. That's why Virginia has not followed so many other states in requiring its utilities to invest in energy efficiency, wind and solar. Economic arguments, jobs, electricity rates-all these are talked about in committee, and all are irrelevant to the fate of a bill. The only relevant question for legislators is, "What does Dominion think?"
Yes, this is appalling even by Ken Cuccinelli standards. First off, he links to a climate science "skeptic" website. Then, he channels Rand Paul's insane criticism of Hillary Clinton that she can't say that BOTH global warming AND terrorism are threats to the world (and that global warming poses by FAR the greatest threat to the future of mankind, 1000s of other species, the oceans, life on earth in other words). Then, he posts this disgusting, repulsive "cartoon" mocking Hillary Clinton for stating the obvious, also what 97% (or more) of climate scientists are saying: climate change is an urgent threat that we need to deal with. And just remember, this lunatic was elected Attorney General of Virginia in 2009, then spent four years waging war against climate science (and climate scientists like Michael Mann), then came within a few points of being elected GOVERNOR of Virginia! All of which raises an even more disturbing point: there are millions of Virginians (and Americans) willing to vote for people like this. That's even more disturbing in its own way than this cartoon, and the fact that Cuccinelli chose to tout it on his Facebook page. Shudddderrrrr....
Here are a few national and Virginia news headlines, political and otherwise, for Thursday, September 11. Yes, it was 13 years ago today that America experienced one of the worst days in our history, a day that none of us will ever forget. Last night, President Obama made the case for confronting another terrorist group, similar in ideology albeit not identical to the one that attacked us on 9/11. Sad to say, this isn't likely to end anytime soon.
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