The Supreme Court in our times is troubled with more that an "appearance of corruption." With its recent decisions gutting the regulation of campaign finance, the majority on the Roberts Court has shown itself a partisan combatant on the side of a most dangerously corrupt form of injustice. Justice should be understood as the antidote to the rule of power. When there is no justice, then we fall into the kind of world described by the ancient Athenians as they sought to compel a weaker people to do their bidding-- or else:
"[Y]ou know as well as we do that right, as the world goes, is only in question between equals in power, while the strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must"
Our founders' great contribution to human history was to devise a government to solve that problem. Saying that "all men are created equal," they established a system to equalize power among the citizens. With each citizen given an equal voice in deciding the nation's destiny through the election process- that equality would eliminate the dichotomy between the strong and the weak.
That's the justice of our democracy.
But here comes John Roberts and his majority - Republican appointees every one of them - telling us with a straight face that there is no problem of corruption (or even its appearance) unless there's outright bribery. That kind of quid pro quo of selling favors is, of course, already against the law. But anyone with half a brain can see that government can be bought without such blatant transactions. And these justices are not stupid.
Can anyone honestly say, when we see presidential hopefuls trooping to Las Vegas to kiss the ring of a billionaire, that there is no appearance of corruption?
Here are a few national and Virginia news headlines, political and otherwise, for Monday, April 14. The photo is of Barack Obama and Drew Kleibrink, who passed away suddenly late last week. Drew was a great photographer, environmentalist, progressive, and Democrat. As Del. Mark Keam writes, "Drew (and his camera) was ubiquitous throughout both 2008 and 2012 campaigns, and he did everything you can ask a campaign volunteer to do. Drew worked hard, and his advice was always sound. He was principled in speaking his mind, and as an intellectual, he could engage in a deep conversation with anyone about any issue. Above all, he was a man with incredible empathy and love for fellow human beings." Drew will be greatly missed by everyone who know him, including me.
I have been thinking lately that we live in a highly unusual time. But because we have no direct experience of any other time in history than our own lifetimes, it is natural to look around us and assume that what we see is normal. And if it's normal, then it must be okay.
But what is happening around us on our planet these days is far from normal. And it's far from okay.
For example, amphibians, mammals, birds, and other animals are disappearing rapidly, at a rate far higher than normal. Scientists tell us that a major cause of these current extinctions is the changing climate. Habitat loss and habitat degradation are also playing a role.
Despite these alarming losses of fauna, I find that many people do not grasp the enormity of it. When I talk with others about the great number of species that have gone-or are going-extinct as a result of climate disruption, I am often met with a shrug, and "well, there have always been extinctions."
Even knowing that today's extinctions are abnormally numerous, I was shocked recently to learn that the current rate of extinctions is SO high that scientists are calling our time "the Sixth Extinction." In other words, current extinction rates are comparable to the five major waves of extinctions the planet has experienced in its entire 4.5 billion year history!
The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History, by science writer Elizabeth Kolbert, introduced me to the term 'background extinction rate.' This is the term biologists use to describe the rate of extinctions that would occur naturally, if human impact were not a factor.
The background extinction rate for amphibians, reports Kolbert, would be about one species lost every 1,000 years. Yet I know of at least three frog species that have gone extinct in just the last few years.
Here's video from yesterday's 8th CD Democratic debate (aka, "forum") at Mt. Vernon High School. FYI, I had to save the battery power on my video camera so I didn't get everything, but I did get a lot. Jim Southworth of Fairfax County Public Access TV was videotaping and should have the rest. Also, I'm not going to attempt to put these in strict chronological order. Anyway, here's the first video; I'll be uploading the rest in the comments section of this post. Thanks.
P.S. Also note that in the interest of saving video and battery power, I sometimes skipped the candidates who I believe have absolutely zero chance of winning (e.g., Derek Hyra). Jim Southworth's video should be of the complete debate.
1. Name the top three foreign policy issues facing our nation and the world today. *Levine - Energy security; aggression from foreign leaders like Putin, Iran; genocide in places like Syria, where he'd put a no-fly zone into place.
*Herring - She speaks barely above a whisper, with absolutely no confidence, struggles badly in trying to answer this straightforward question (which she should have been prepared for, but apparently wasn't). Bottom line: it's clear that Charniele Herring's's wayyyyy out of her league when it comes to foreign policy. This is very close to diqualifying in and of itself for someone running for Congress, which deals with crucial foreign policy questions all the time.
*Shuttleworth: Show restraint in foreign policy, be "much more non-interventionist...much more on the sideline."
*Bill Euille: Security, terrorism, energy.
*Don Beyer: We can't allow a nuclear Iran; we must avoid a 2nd Cold War with Russia; climate change is the greatest weapon of mass destruction.
*Satish Korpe: Rogue states, Russia, not sure what his third point was exactly, but he did say we need an "old-fashioned carrot-and-stick policy."
*Lavern Chatman: Says she met with the "Truman Group" on "just this issue" (I'm sure she meant the Truman National Security Project, which "recruits, trains, and positions progressives across America to lead on national security," not the Truman Group, which "provides high quality psychological care to North American and Western European expatriates living overseas"). Cybersecurity and...nothing else mentioned. She's clearly far out of her league on foreign policy.
*Patrick Hope: Climate change; Putin's invasion of Crimea ("we need to solve that problem"); do more nation building at home and less overseas.
*Adam Ebbin: He squeezed in more than 3 items -- Russia, nuclear Iran, Syrian regime and their atrocities; climate change; cybsersecurity; threats to democracy anywhere, but there are limits to American military intervention so focus on diplomacy before the fact and sanctions during or after the fact.
Here are a few national and Virginia news headlines, political and otherwise, for Sunday, April 13. Also check out the "lightning round" question on which committees the 8th CD Democratic candidates would want to serve on if they're elected to Congress. See here for a lot more video and my notes from yesterday's 8th CD Democratic "forum" at Mt. Vernon High School.
More great work by Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring - thank you! Also, check out the "flip" of this post for selected quotes from Virginia's brief in the Bostic case (oral arguments will begin on May 13). As Herring's office says, "Hopefully this will make it a little easier to identify the conclusions of the Commonwealth's arguments, as well as some of Attorney General Herring's more noteworthy points."
Here are a few national and Virginia news headlines, political and otherwise, for Saturday, April 12. Also see President Obama's weekly address, in which he "highlights the steps his Administration has taken to expand opportunity and narrow the pay gap that exists between men and women."
Just one slight problem here: as of 5 pm yesterday, which was the filing deadline, the individual referenced below by Mediaite as a supposed "Dem candidate" in Virginia's 7th CD, had not filed and therefore had not met the requirements to be on the ballot. On the 7th CD Virginia Democratic Committee website it says clearly, "Due to No Candidate filing, there will be no local caucuses or District Convention." Yet somehow neither right-wing media outlets Faux "News" or Mediaite could figure that out. Much better to claim that this individual, with an...uh, colorful past...is a "Democratic congressional hopeful attempting to unseat House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA)." Again, at least as of last night's filing deadline, there is no "Democratic congressional hopeful attempting to unseat House Majority Leader Eric Cantor." Of course, we wouldn't want little things like "facts" to get in the way of the right-wing media's false narrative, now would we? LOL
1. They absolutely, positively should NOT back off on the streetcar project. All the evidence indicates that this is a huge winner for Arlington, generating billions of dollars in development and enough tax revenue to more than pay for the streetcar. If that's not a "no brainer," I don't know what it is. Also, politically, backing off the streetcar at this point will just look politically craven, phony, etc, after all the strong arguments made by the Board and by Alan Howze in favor of the project. Flip-flopping now, after a low-turnout special election, would be a lose-lose any way you look at it.
2. They absolutely, positively SHOULD forcefully counter the disinformation, distortions, and outright lies about the streetcar project. For instance, the claim that the streetcar has taken away from "core services" is utterly absurd, since the county hasn't even spent any money (other than a small amount in studying it) on the streetcar yet -- so how could it have taken away funds from anything else? Also, in the future, the streetcar will NOT take money away from "core services," since it will a) have a dedicated funding source that isn't "fungible" with other things; and b) again, it will bring in enough new revenues to MORE than pay for itself. Finally: if anything, the streetcar will - ceteris parabis - results in lower tax rates for Arlingtonians, not higher ones. The list goes on and on...call out the lies!
3. The Board absolutely, positively SHOULD examine the way it does business. The perceptions of "arrogance," "insularity," "non-communicativeness" and "opacity" are most definitely NOT figments of people's imaginations. Heck, I've experienced them many times myself. So did Cord Thomas, who told the story about how hard it was to get a simple response from County officials, when he was offering to create jobs and economic activity in Arlington County. That's unacceptable. It's also unacceptable that the Clarendon businesses assessment fiasco reported by ArlNow back in February has STILL not been seriously addressed. Also, why on earth aren't those assessments available online, for all Arlingtonians to see, on a real-time basis? And why can't reporters get any answers from the Director of Real Estate Assessments in Arlington County? I tried weeks ago, for instance, and never heard back. Why not?
4. Alan Howze needs to give people reasons to vote FOR him. That includes calling out - angrily/passionately when justified - Arlington County government when it's seriously off course, as with the assessment fiasco. It also includes giving voters a vision for what he might bring to the board, for instance from his experience at IBM. As an Arlington Democratic friend of mine said yesterday: "How about making the county a wi-fi hot spot? turning crystal city into a tech incubator? working with his old boss Warner to bring tech businesses here. upgrading county computer systems so people have an easier time doing x, y, z. Gimme something. Honest to god that was what he came up with. GPSs on snowplows."
5. Any Democrat who says that we should chill out because we'll "win easily" in November, when Mark Warner is on the ballot and turnout is way up, needs to stop talking. Immediately. And everyone else needs to stop listening to them if they DO talk. Seriously, that's one of the stupidest and most arrogant/clueless things I've ever heard in my life. Whether in sports, business, politics, or any other field, the LAST thing you want to do is take your opponent lightly (especially when said opponent just kicked your a**), to assume you're going to win (which is exactly when you are most likely to lose!), and in general to take your pedal off the metal. Instead, assume we're a run or two down in the final innings of the baseball game, and play like your future career in the major leagues depends on how you perform in the final weeks/months of the season! I'd also argue that the argument's just fundamentally flawed, that just because turnout will be higher, that those voters will go overwhelmingly for the Democratic candidate for County Board. To the contrary, I'd argue that if voters could easily split their ballots, going for Mark Warner, the Democratic nominee for House of Representatives, and John Vihstadt for County Board (especially if he performs well from now through election day in November). Assuming anything else is simply political malpractice of the highest order.
RICHMOND -- As Senator Mark Warner travels the Commonwealth speaking to constituents about real issues facing Virginia, it has been 84 days since the launch of Ed Gillespie's campaign and he's yet to hold an event open to press. While he's found plenty of time to talk to right-wing reporters and pundits, we have found no evidence that Ed allowed Virginia reporters into a single campaign event in March.
“As a seasoned spokesman, Ed Gillespie has never been one to shy from the cameras. However, now that he's the candidate, he's in hiding," said DPVA Spokesperson Ashley Bauman. "It's time Ed Gillespie show his face and answer questions on some of the most pressing issues facing the Commonwealth today, including where he stands on closing the coverage gap, helping unemployed Virginians, protecting health care choices for Virginia women, and other important issues."
Eric Cantor, Randy Forbes, Bob Goodlatte, Robert Hurt, Scott Rigell, Rob Wittman, Frank Wolf
Now, why was this vote so horrendous?
*According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, "some 69 percent of the cuts in House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan's new budget would come from programs that serve people of limited means." For instance, "Under the Ryan plan, at least 40 million low- and moderate-income people - that's 1 in 8 Americans - would become uninsured by 2024."
*As if that's not bad enough, the "Ryan budget cuts SNAP (formerly food stamps) by $137 billion over the next decade."
*The Ryan/Republican budget also "cuts Pell Grants for low- and moderate-income students by up to $125 billion" and "cuts an additional $385 billion - beyond its SNAP cuts - from the budget category containing many mandatory programs for low - and moderate-income Americans, such as Supplemental Security Income for the elderly and disabled, the school lunch and child nutrition programs, and the Earned Income and Child Tax Credits for lower-income working families."
*In addition, the Ryan/Republican budget would "cut Medicare spending by $356 billion over the 2013 - 2023 period compared to CBPP's current-policy baseline" and "replace Medicare's guarantee of health coverage with a flat premium-support payment, or voucher."
*Finally, can we say "war on women?" According to the National Women's Law Center, this budget would: "Put families at risk for losing coverage;" "Prevent low-income women from receiving the services they need;" "Put coverage for the most vulnerable women at risk;" "Roll back coverage for women currently insured by Medicaid;" "Threaten older women's economic well-being;" "Allow insurance companies to discriminate against women;" "Cause millions of women to lose [health care] coverage;" etc.
Next time you hear a Republican try to claim that the "war on women" is a figment of Democrats' imaginations, just point them to the National Women's Law Center - and laugh at them. As for Republicans being anything other than the party of the rich and privileged, the near-unanimous GOP adoption of this Ayn Randian fever dream of a budget settles that argument. Oh, and note how even supposed "moderate" Republicans like Frank Wolf voted for this war on working people and women? Hmmmm...perhaps the Washington Post and others who claimed for years that Wolf really was a "moderate" were not quite right about that?
More great work by Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring. It's even greater when you compare it to the horrendous record of former AG Ken Cuccinelli, climate science denier and all around anti-environment extremist.
~ Brief defends Virginia's Bay restoration plan and ability to work cooperatively with other Bay states and federal partners ~
RICHMOND--Attorney General Mark R. Herring today announced that he has filed an amicus brief to protect Virginia's efforts to restore the Chesapeake Bay and to defend the right of Virginia and other Bay states to work together to protect and restore the Bay. The brief in American Farm Bureau v. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which was decided in favor of the Bay states at the district level and is currently on appeal before the Third Circuit, lays out the economic, environmental and historic reasons Virginia is compelled to weigh in on the case and the reasons that the long history of cooperation between Bay states should be honored. Virginia is the first Bay state to defend the Bay restoration plan in the case.
The brief also refutes the arguments in the recently filed amicus brief from 21 attorneys general, all but one of whom are from outside the Bay watershed, that opposed the ability of Bay states and the EPA to work cooperatively to address the health of the Bay, which is North America's largest estuary and a major economic force for the region, annually contributing an estimated $2 billion and 41,000 jobs from commercial fishing, $1.6 billion and 13,000 jobs in saltwater angling, $70 million in crabs, and $680 million in tourism.
"The Chesapeake Bay is unequaled in its economic impact, environmental significance, and its ability to bring together the states whose rivers and streams flow to its waters," said Attorney General Herring."When the most promising plan to protect and restore the Bay comes under attack, I am going to stand up for the health of Virginia's families, for Virginia's economic interests, for Virginia's efforts to restore the Chesapeake Bay. This case is simply about whether Virginia and the other Bay states have the authority to work cooperatively to manage and restore the Bay, as they have done for decades. Each Bay state, including Virginia, voluntarily entered into the current Bay restoration plan because of the economic, recreational, environmental, and intrinsic value of a healthy Chesapeake Bay. I hope the courts and my colleagues, none of whom serve a state which touches the Bay, recognize that fact and allow Virginia and its partners to continue their work."
Do the 2014 elections look promising for the Democrats? Not so far as I can tell.
Do the Democrats have a bold plan to inspire the American people to turn the House back over to them? Not so far as I've heard.
Is there a solution available? I think there is.
We've got a Supreme Court that just doubled down on its disgraceful 2010 decision in Citizens United, continuing in the new case (McCutcheon vs. FEC) to pretend to believe that opening the floodgates still wider for big money to flow into our elections does not corrupt our political system.
And we've got poll data that indicates that the overwhelming majority of the American people - across the political spectrum - believe there's too much money in our politics, and that the rich are getting too large a voice at the expense of average Americans. The people, it seems, understand that our "democracy" is being put up for auction. And they don't like it.
There's an opportunity there. It's an opportunity that not only could benefit the Democrats, but also would be right and noble to seize. It could help rescue this nation from its present descent into oligarchy, in betrayal of the democracy our founders had in mind.
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