Excellent news, looooong overdue! I mean, heck, we have diplomatic relations with Russia, China, and many other unsavory regimes, but not Cuba? Crazy.
Today, the United States is taking historic steps to chart a new course in our relations with Cuba and to further engage and empower the Cuban people. We are separated by 90 miles of water, but brought together through the relationships between the two million Cubans and Americans of Cuban descent that live in the United States, and the 11 million Cubans who share similar hopes for a more positive future for Cuba.
It is clear that decades of U.S. isolation of Cuba have failed to accomplish our enduring objective of promoting the emergence of a democratic, prosperous, and stable Cuba. At times, longstanding U.S. policy towards Cuba has isolated the United States from regional and international partners, constrained our ability to influence outcomes throughout the Western Hemisphere, and impaired the use of the full range of tools available to the United States to promote positive change in Cuba. Though this policy has been rooted in the best of intentions, it has had little effect – today, as in 1961, Cuba is governed by the Castros and the Communist party.
We cannot keep doing the same thing and expect a different result. It does not serve America’s interests, or the Cuban people, to try to push Cuba toward collapse. We know from hard-learned experience that it is better to encourage and support reform than to impose policies that will render a country a failed state. With our actions today, we are calling on Cuba to unleash the potential of 11 million Cubans by ending unnecessary restrictions on their political, social, and economic activities. In that spirit, we should not allow U.S. sanctions to add to the burden of Cuban citizens we seek to help.
From the Virginia General Assembly Special Session on November 10, you've just gotta love this one. What happened was this: "During Monday's one-day special session, [Del. Bob] Marshall warned House leaders of dire political consequences after Speaker William J. Howell, R-Stafford, blocked consideration of an amendment that Marshall proposed to prevent wholesale gasoline prices from rising Jan. 1 if Congress does not enact legislation to allow collection of sales taxes for Internet transactions, as provided in the transportation bill Howell sponsored last year." You can watch how the man we affectionately call "Sideshow Bob" for his craaaaazy antics responded to that! Seriously, though, you've got to love Bob Marshall basically being one of only two Republicans (the other being Del. Mark J. Berg) willing to fight to block a tax increase, while just about all the rest of them went along with it. So what's the deal, Virginia House Republicans, are you big-time "tax-and-spenders" or what? Heh.
Virginia House Speaker Bill Howell: "...since the floor amendment addresses a subject matter beyond the scope of House Bill 5010, I'm going to rule that the floor amendment is not germane."
Del. Bob Marshall: "Mr. Speaker, I respectfully will appeal the decision of the chair."
Howell: "The gentleman has that option."
Marshall: "And I'll take whatever consequences the Republican caucus wants to impose upon me."
Howell: "Oh no you wouldn't." (laughter)
Marshall: "Oh yes I will. Make my day and kick me out, because at this point I really don't care Mr. Speaker."
Howell: "OK" (uncomfortable laughter)
Here are a few national and Virginia news headlines, political and otherwise, for Wednesday, December 17. Also, check out the video of President Obama announcing his "action to protect one of America's greatest natural treasures by signing a Presidential Memorandum to protect Bristol Bay." Good news!
1. Jackson reiterates his frequently-expressed, yet still completely false, view that Barack Obama "is not a Christian."
2. Jackson also reiterates his frequently-expresses, yet still completely false, view that America is a "Christian nation."
3. Jackson claims that Barack Obama thinks he's "smarter than the Bible" and "smarter than god." (is this guy utterly obsessed with Barack Obama or what?)
4. He says if "any Christian who goes to a church where they say you ought to support the Democrat (sic) Party...you ought to get out of that church...[because churches like that] do not include the Bible and the word of god."
5. "I say to black people in the Democrat (sic) Party who are caught up in it, as I was once caught up in it...I say to them...touch not the unclean thing."
6. "It is clear that the Democrat (sic) Party has become the godless, anti-Christian, anti-faith, anti-bible, anti-family, anti-life party...Think about the progressive coalition that the party is part of...at some point as a Christian one has to ask, am I being on the lord's side in associating myself with these people...all Christians must come out of the Democrat (sic) Party."
7. "If I love god, and these people are demonstrating they hate god...because god is in the way of their amoral vision of what life ought to be...well then why in the world would any Christian or believing Jew want to be associated with them?"
8. He claims Barack Obama is an anti-Semite (because Obama won't do everything Bibi Netanyahu wants him to do and because he follows long-standing U.S. policy about a two-state solution, settlements, etc.). Yes, Jackson's completely bonkers, but remember, Republicans nominated him last year for Lt. Governor of Virginia.
9. Showing absolutely no self awareness of sense of irony, Jackson says he won't follow Louis Farrakhan because Farrakhan is "full of hatred and evil and lies." Speaking of "full of hatred" and "lies," Jackson really needs to look in the mirror once in a while.
10. He strongly recommends watching Fox News, claims it's really "fair and balanced." He also recommends Rush Limbaugh as a "tremendous source of information." Shocker.
Here are the (strong) rumors -- which I've now heard/had confirmed from multiple sources over the past couple weeks -- as of now. What you're hearing? Thanks.
*Steve Pazmino out as Virginia Democratic Senate Caucus Executive Director after many years. His last day will be Dec. 31, 2014.
*Brian Zuzenak heading over from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (where he's political director) to take over for Pazmino.
*Michael Halle, currently Coordinated Campaign Director for the Democratic Party of Virginia, heading to New York to (reportedly) join "Hillaryworld."
Any interesting rumors you're hearing today? :)
P.S. I love how people "play dumb," claim they have noooo idea, etc, even as the rumor ship is leaking like a sieve...
P.P.S. This all seems highly consistent with a Hillary Clinton for President announcement in the next few months.
UPDATE: I finally caught up with Steve Pazmino this morning. He said this was the "job of a lifetime" (that he's held since January 2003), that he's had a "fantastic run" and is very proud to have built a program here (from every little when he started) in Virginia which others think is worthy of emulating. He said that Gov. McAuliffe and his people have a right to bring in whatever folks they want to run the program. He noted that we've had our ups and downs, going from 16 Senate Dems to 22 to 20 to 19. Looking forward, Pazmino says we obviously we can't control the national political climate, but we need to have good candidates here in 2015, run strong campaigns, and motivate the base to turn out and vote. Finally, we talked about Virginia's evolution from more of a "Southern" state back in 2003 to more of a "mid-Atlantic" state today. Of course, it's not inevitable that it will continue in this direction, but the demographics make that path look more likely than not. Still, Democrats obviously can never take anything for granted, and will need to work to convince people to vote for them - and to turn out! Anyway, good luck to Steve Pazmino in whatever he does next, and good luck to the team that's coming in for 2015!
Here are a few national and Virginia news headlines, political and otherwise, for Tuesday, December 16. As for the news story on Gov. McAuliffe's gun proposals, I'm including it mostly because they interview Lori Haas, whose daughter Emily was shot and wounded at Virginia Tech on April 16, 2007.
The following political cartoon, sent to us by a talented artist, refers to this story on "Dominion's Strange Tobacco Money."
Dominion Resources, the powerful, Richmond-based utility with $13 billion in revenues, has strangely been getting $30 million public funds to bring a natural gas pipeline to a new generating plant in Brunswick County.
Odder still (or maybe not so) the public funds are coming from the GOP-controlled Virginia Tobacco Indemnification and Community Revitalization Commission which has figured in a wave of corruption since it was formed in 1999.
Keep in mind, as the AP story points out, that "Dominion is without peer in terms of political sway in Virginia and routinely gets friendly legislation passed with broad bipartisan support." Not coincidentally, Dominion "is the single biggest donor to state-level politicians, as well as one of the biggest gift givers - often treating lawmakers to Washington Redskins games or paying for them to attend events like the Masters golf tournament in Georgia."> Oh, and "CEO Thomas Farrell II and McDonnell are childhood friends."
Also worth noting is that Farrell - pictured in the political cartoon - received $10.9 million in compensation in 2013, while his company earned $545 million in the third quarter of 2014 alone. Does this sound like a company that needs any taxpayer-funded corporate welfare at all, let alone $30 million?!? In this case, the money came from the Virginia Tobacco Commission, headed up by that fine, upstanding public servant, Del Terry Kilgore - the same guy who offered Phil Puckett a job on his commission if he'd quit the State Senate and throw it to Republican control. Charming, eh?
Of course, this is the same company which has spent millions of dollars over the years to purchase our legislature, and with it the right to control Virginia's energy policy. Keep in mind that this is a regulated utility with massive amounts of business before the state. The fact that they're allowed to basically purchase the people charged with regulating them should be unacceptable to Virginians of all political persuasions. Also, just curious, but why is Bob McDonnell going to jail for 10 years regarding Star Scientific, when Dominion Power and its bought-and-paid-for legislators (e.g., Terry Kilgore) have been doing that sort of thing for much, much longer - and on a far, far larger scale?
P.S. As a reader points out, see this article about Tom Farrell essentially buying his son a seat in the state legislature, and also this article about how "Farrell and his father, Dominion CEO Thomas Farrell, made a movie last year about VMI cadets in the Civil War. The project got $800,000 in tax credits and, laughably, a $200,000 grant." More taxpayer-funded welfare for the wealthy. Perhaps the Tea Party should be protesting crap like THIS for a change?!?
There's actually been a Democrat campaigning for Delegate Joe Morrissey's seat in the 74th District since July. Meet Kevin Sullivan from James City County, a proud union man and former Political Coordinator for Teamsters Joint Council 83, Labor Liaison for Attorney-General Mark Herring, and President of the Charles City Ruritan.
This is Kevin at the annual Mathews Democratic Crab Steam last August, so that's the pounding in the background. He has been pounding the pavement because he wants to represent the interests of blue collar workers in Richmond.
There are not enough people in government who have punched a time clock or carried their lunch in a bag or lived paycheck to paycheck. That's what I want becoming a legislator. I want to represent regular people.
His platform emphasizes Medicaid expansion, education, worker protection, and legislative ethics. He has pledged not to accept the state health coverage provided to Delegates until the Medicaid coverage gap is closed. Educational innovation, technical training opportunities, the cost of higher education, and student loan debt concern him. As a worker's voice in the legislature, he wants to focus on Workman's Compensation and worker misclassification. Saying there is too much "big money" in politics, he is trying to fund his campaign with small donations. In the legislature he would work to limit contributions and gifts to state officials.
At the time we met, Sullivan wanted the opportunity to face Morrissey in a primary. We'll see if that comes to pass.
Key quotes from Walter Tejada's speech yesterday at the Arlington County Board meeting. I strongly endorse and agree with all of them.
*"What is the future of this county? When we say that long-term planning is the hallmark of Arlington County, I think there is a past tense now...it WAS the hallmark of Arlington County."
*"What does it mean to have a master plan? Does it mean anything?"
*"What has happened now is it's been shown that negative campaigning and being opposed and against, denigrating something, works. And I think...we can make all the pledges of the moment that we want, Mr. Vihstadt, and we can, Ms. Garvey, denigrate all you want and oppose, but the bottom line is a lot of people, a lot of time and work and effort and millions of dollars...has gone down the drain...lots of hard work from staff....over 15 years in the making."
*"We had people who expected that we would follow up to that which we had pledged that we were going to do. And we have failed, this government has failed.. Citizens who spent time in a multitude of meetings...all wasted because of negative campaigning and lots of misinformation out there in the community."
*"OK, let's move to the future, let's put it in the past...collect ourselves, let's go forward...fine fine, we can make all the statements we want about that. But it's not enough, it is simply not enough..." *"Are we heading in a different direction? It's a genuine question...It looks like in the minds of some people that is the case. Are we going to turn our back on transit plans? I think the answer is 'yes' based on what has happened so far. "
*"Our credibility is in really bad shape right now. Talking to our regional partners, right now, it's not good. People put their necks out on the line for us, and this county government has let them down." *"There are a lot of vacancies as a result of BRAC...reductions in federal policies...We have to reinvent ourselves...and one of the significant elements to have a modern transit system is out the window now...Are we turning our backs to diversity? I think the answer might be 'yes' as well.."
*"When this decision to abandon the streetcar was made, $90 million went (snaps fingers) up in the air...disappeared.."
*(Asks how we're going to get people to volunteer in planning the future, given that we just finished completely wasting their time, so Arlington's "credibility is in question") "We're going to roll up our sleeves, because we're not going to engage in the easy part, which is to denigrate, attack, be negative, oppose. Eh, we all can do that well at any time."
*(Notes that Arlington is one of the best places in the world) "The high quality of life we enjoy in this county...has come because of long-term planning and sticking to those plans that has made it happen."
*"I hope...we are actually serious about rolling up our sleeves and working hard to make transit options in the southern part of the county, just as the northern part of the county benefited from heavy rail and the investment we made in the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor." (APPLAUSE)
Great stuff; if Walter Tejada decides to run for reelection, let me just state right now that I will strongly support him!
P.S. I just finished reading the superb book Walkable City: How Downtown Can Save America, One Step at a Time, written by "Suburban Nation" co-author Jeff Speck, and I'm now even more convinced that Arlington made a huge mistake in ditching the streetcar. I tweeted at Speck and asked him what he thought. His response: "Quite disappointed of course. Short sighted politics." So true.
Wow, seriously? In addition to bashing Elizabeth Warren for supposedly being a demagogue (for not wanting to backtrack on reforms put in place after the Wall Street meltdown of 2008 and the Great Recession that followed), Rep. Moran absurdly/falsely claims that "Democrats are as much concerned about their left wing as Republicans are concerned about their right wing." That is just blatantly false. Evidence? Quick, name the last time a Democratic incumbent was challenged from their left in a primary, let alone defeated in one (UPDATE: as we're discussing in the comments, it HAS happened, but it's extremely rare on the Dem side; extremely common on the Republican side) Now, name the last time a Republican incumbent (hint: Eric Cantor) was challenged and defeated in a primary (hint: Dave Brat). In short, the former basically NEVER happens, while the latter happens all the freaking time. Just utter horse manure by Jim Moran on this one. Finally, check out this nonsense from Moran:
I hate to say this as a liberal myself, but I think you're going to see the same dynamics in the Democratic Party as in the Republican Party. You're going to see Ted Cruz going out to the right and trying to derail legislation, and I do think you're going to see some division within the Democratic Party between those that are on the left and those that are further on the left...
Riiiiight, so there's now an equivalency between the far right (Tea Party, Birchers, neo-Confederates, theocrats, Koch brothers, etc.) and the "left" (Moran seems to be pointing his finger at Elizabeth Warren, whose apparent "sin" is trying to rein in Wall Street)? Is this supposed to be a bad joke or what? Wow.
Here are a few national and Virginia news headlines, political and otherwise, for Sunday, December 14. Also check out Eric Byler's video of what he calls a "haunting, artful demonstration at #BlackLivesMatter event in Washington DC."
A strong statement from Virginia House Democrats, with Minority Leader Toscano stating that Morrisey's conviction "disqualifies him from serving in the House," and with the entire caucus demanding that Morrisey "should resign immediately." Now, we'll see if he does, or if he needs to be expelled.
Richmond, VA - In light of his conviction for Contributing to the Delinquency of a Minor, the House Democratic Caucus calls for the immediate resignation of Delegate Joe Morrissey. The House of Delegates is the oldest legislative body in the United States of America and should hold its members to the highest standards of ethical conduct. A conviction arising out of sexual misconduct involving a minor, accompanied by significant active jail time, and legislative service while serving in a jail work release program is not consistent with those standards.
"This is a very troubling case," said Minority Leader David Toscano, "and disqualifies him from serving in the House. Our citizens are looking very closely at their legislators and the integrity of the body and his trust with his constituents and his colleagues has been broken. For the good of the General Assembly and the Commonwealth, he should immediately resign, and we are actively exploring all available options, including removal, if he does not."
"The House Democratic Caucus believes that Delegate Morrissey should resign immediately so that that the People of the 74thDistrict can be served by a member who can focus on their needs without significant personal distractions," said Caucus Chairman Scott Surovell.
Also, Del. Krupicka tweets, "I encourage Mr. Morrissey to resign immediately. His acts related to his improper relationship with a minor discredit our legislature." Aneesh Chopra tweets, "I'm with Rob."
Yep, just another quiet day in ever-so-ethical Virginia (snark). By the way, let me be one of the first Virgnia Democrats to call on Del. Morrissey to resign immediately for his appalling behavior (even though, this being Virginia and all, he's allowed to work in the House by day, go back to the "big house" at night, to paraphrase Jeff Schapiro).
UPDATE 8:11 am Saturday: Sure hope we get a statement from the Virginia House Democratic Caucus today. So far...continued chirping crickets.
UPDATE 8:34 pm: Other than Atif Qarni, not a single one of the 15 or so Virginia Dems I contacted a few hours ago has responded. I'd say while I'm not surprised, I'm disappointed.
UPDATE 6:34 pm: Just checking Twitter, I see that another Democrat - Jeremy McPike, who's also running for State Senate in the 29th district - tweeted, "Morrissey enters plea. Time for change. #MorrisseyTimeToResign"
UPDATE 5:43 pm: I forgot, but actually Del. Mark Keam called for Morrissey to resign on July 1, 2014. At the time, Keam said, "Virginians deserve better from their public servants. For the sake of the Commonwealth and its residents, I call on Delegate Joe Morrissey to resign immediately and to deal with his legal problems as a private citizen."
UPDATE 5:32 pm: Democrat Atif Qarni, who almost defeated Del. "Sideshow" Bob Marshall last year for House of Delegates, and who is running this year for State Senate in Virginia's 29th district (currently held by Chuck Colgan), has called for Joe Morrissey to resign. According to Qarni, it's "disgusting" and "predatory behavior" for a 57-year-old man to engage in a sexual relationship with a child. Regardless of party affiliation, Qarni adds, Morrissey's behavior is "unethical" -- "what's wrong is wrong."
UPDATE 5:08 pm: Dead silence. The sound of crickets quietly chirping...
UPDATE 4:46 pm: I'm checking with Virginia Dems to see if any of them will call on Morrissey to resign. So far, seems pretty quiet... By the way, note that Morrissey's district is super "blue"/safe, so THAT is no excuse.
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