With special session only days away, Virginians are still waiting for Speaker Howell and the rest of House Republican leadership to show that they're even willing to consider a plan to expand Medicaid and close the coverage gap. Republican leaders have yet to put forward legislation to ensure that 400,000 Virginians have access to the healthcare they deserve – but they have wasted thousands of taxpayer dollars on political posturing.
Even as conservative Republican governors in Arizona, Pennsylvania, Indiana, and Wyoming have embraced expansion, Virginia House Republicans are willing to squander taxpayer dollars while hundreds of thousands of their constituents go without care. Bringing back lawmakers to Richmond without taking action is an expensive political charade, and Virginians just aren’t buying it.
And as House Republicans stay silent on a plan, editorial boards across the state are calling on them to change their tune.
There's always a story behind the story and sometimes one belies the other. Remote Area Medical (RAM) is a godsend; make no mistake about it. But like any private sector organization, the transparency or accountability we demand from government is not always evident. Today's "conservatives" would never acknowledge that.
Watching and taking part in the transformation of a rural air terminal into expeditionary specialty clinics, dental and vision, is not an immersion in military precision. It almost can't be when much of the labor is borrowed. The effort resulting when organization is flattened results in stove-piping. The raw volunteers care about pitching in and recognize the limits of their ability to contribute to technical assembly of the equipment. There are enough seasoned volunteers that as long as the boxes and bags are lined up at their assigned places, they can readily and efficiently assemble and order materials; in their areas. The lack of organization and efficiency among the unguided volunteers is more than compensated for by their numbers and camaraderie. From pitching tents (probably the most organized effort), to setting up tables and chairs, to moving crates and boxes, the unbridled activity ends in mission accomplishment.
This is at the tactical delivery end. Strategically there is always another view that is masked by the appearance if not the reality of good intentions. My father had no time for the American Red Cross. After raging battles on isolated Pacific islands during World War II, the Red Cross sold donuts to the Marines and sailors ashore; the Salvation Army was there handing out goods gratis. Guess which organization he favored. My wife cannot turn down a request for a donation from Saint Jude's in Memphis despite having no clue who Danny Thomas was; it's those children. On the other hand, when I see anyone collecting donations to benefit our military service members or veterans, I challenge their credentials on the spot. I wasn't as discerning with RAM until I saw the DC-47 (a WWII DC-3 configuration) touch down in Lee County. After all, RAM had been endorsed via association by both of Virginia's United States Senators, our current Governor, and General Assembly members from both sides of the aisle.
Here are a few national and Virginia news headlines, political and otherwise, for Monday, September 15. Also, I've finally gotten around to reading Thomas Piketty's "Capital in the 21st Century," am finding it fascinating (and highly relevant to political battles in this country over income inequality, fiscal policy, etc.), and thought I'd post this interview with the author a few months ago. Also note that the Roosevelts, who are the subject of a documentary by Ken Burns currently running on PBS, would almost certainly appreciate the data and conclusions of Piketty's book. Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush and Dick Cheney? Not so much!
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.
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