The Virginia Sierra Club's 2014 Generaly Assembly Climate & Energy Scorecard is out, and there's a lot of interesting information in there regarding who's great, who's good, and who's not so good when it comes to protecting Virginia's environment and promoting clean energy. There were some definite surprises in the rankings, but one thing was sadly NOT a surprise: Republicans were almost uniformly horrible (e.g., all "F"s "D"s and "C"s in the Senate; mostly bad grades in the House, with a few exceptions like Robert Bloxom's "A+;" Chris Stolle's "A;" Gordon Helsel's "B," Randy Minchew's "B," Bobby Orrock's "B," Riley Ingram's "B," Chris Jones' "B," Keith Hodges' "B," Michael Webert's "B," and Tony Wilt's "B"). What about the Democrats, all of whom you'd hope would get "A"s on the environment? Here's a ranking of Virginia Democratic legislators from best to worst.
"A+" grades: Delegates Rosalyn Dance, Alfonso Lopez, Monty Mason, Sam Rasoul and David Toscano. Thank you to everyone who got a perfect, 100%, "A+" grade from the Sierra Club. You guys rock! :)
"A" grades: Senators Creigh Deeds, Adam Ebbin, Barbara Favola, Janet Howell, Mamie Locke, Louise Lucas, Dave Marsden, Donald McEachin, Chap Petersen, Phil Puckett (!!!) and Toddy Puller; Delegates David Bulova, Betsy Carr, Matthew James, Mark Keam, Kaye Kory, Rob Krupicka, Jennifer McClellan, Scott Surovell, Roslyn Tyler and Jeion Ward. Nice job by all these folks too, except for the vote in favor of SB 459 - which the Sierra Club correctly calls "Dominion's Accounting Sleight of Hand." General rule of thumb: if Dominion's for it, vote against it unless there's some overriding reason not to. Finally, I'm pleasantly amazed that "coal country "Sen. Phil Puckett got an "A."
"B" grades: Senators John Edwards and John Miller; Delegates Mamye Bacote, Eileen Filler-Corn, Michael Futrell, Charniele Herring, Patrick Hope, Algie Howell, Delores McQuinn, Ken Plum, Mark Sickles, Marcus Simon and Luke Torian. Pretty good, but they did vote for SB 459 ("Dominion's Accounting Sleight of Hand"), plus in the cases of Edwards and Miller for SB 25 (establishes a "woefully inadequate to address impacts of [an offshore oil] spill or other accident").
Superb job by Washington Post reporter Laura Vozzella in pulling together her story in today's paper, "Puckett's Senate exit undid McAuliffe's secret plan for Medicaid expansion." Basically, it's a blow-by-blow account, with fascinating quotes and details, of how then-Sen. Phil Puckett's resignation from the Virginia State Senate contributed (or did it?> to killing Gov. McAuliffe's attempt to expand Medicaid unilaterally. I definitely recommend you read the entire thing, but here are a few highlights that jumped out at me.
*Gov. McAuliffe's voice mail message to former Sen. Puckett after it became clear that Medicaid expansion was dead: "Hey Phil? Terry McAuliffe. I want you to know we just lost the vote, 20 to 19, in the Senate. Medicaid is done. I hope you sleep easy tonight, buddy."
*"McAuliffe desperately needed Puckett in the Senate to take the daring step of expanding Medicaid on his own, using budget language the Democratic governor hoped to sneak past Republicans."
*This incident, and the anger/bitterness it engendered, "are likely to make it more difficult for McAuliffe to work with a GOP-controlled legislature to get anything done during the remainder of his term."
*New information: "Even as McAuliffe's aides were spinning Puckett's resignation as a sign of nasty Republican dealmaking, they were working desperately to strike a deal of their own to keep Puckett in the Senate - to protect a secret plan to pass Medicaid expansion without direct legislative approval."
*Gov. McAuliffe "has given a colorful account of their conversation in recent social settings, according to two people he separately regaled. The tale begins with McAuliffe begging the senator to stay and ends with him wishing aloud that Puckett 'rot in hell.'"
*Whether this whole scheme to expand Medicaid unilaterally would have worked is highly dubious, regardless, as the Republican-controlled House of Delegates still would have vehemently opposed it. Regardless, after "Bull Elephant blogger Steve Albertson, spott[ed] the language and warn[ed] that it was a loophole McAuliffe might try to exploit," the last nail was definitely hammered into the coffin.
In the end, of course, the substantive - and tragic - thing about all this is simple: 400,000 Virginians will NOT receive health care coverage due to Republicans' don't-bother-us-with-facts, ideological and political opposition. And billions of dollars of our own tax dollars will NOT flow to Virginia's economy thanks to the right wing. So, yes, Gov. McAuliffe has every right to be angry at "Benedict Puckett" and the Republicans, as do the rest of us. Not sure about "rotting in hell" for anyone, but how about we vote as many of these folks out of office next November? (actually, we can start by electing Kathleen Murphy in a few weeks to fill Barbara Comstock's vacated House of Delegates seat)
This piece appeared recently in the Richmond Times Dispatch.
In its opinion in Citizens United, the Republican-appointed Supreme Court majority pretended it wasn't true. But every sane person knows otherwise: allowing unlimited money to flow into our election process corrupts our democracy. "One person, one vote" gets replaced by "one dollar, one vote," which means that the increasing inequalities of wealth in America subvert the democratic idea of equality of political voice among all citizens.
But less obviously, allowing money to buy political power corrupts not only the political system, but the money system as well.
I used to call out the Koch Brothers, for their campaign to misinform the public about climate change, as being not only immoral but also a kind of crazy. What kind of insanity is it, I asked, for billionaires who already have more money than they and their children and their grandchildren could spend in a lifetime, to damage the future for generations to come, and for life on earth generally, just to get still more money for themselves?
I was thinking of money as something that entitles the owner to get economic goods. And for billionaires like the Koch Brothers, the limit to the goodies they might benefit from consuming or owning has long since been passed.
But in a political system like the one being fashioned by things like the Citizens United decision, money isn't about acquiring economic goods in the pursuit of happiness. It is about buying the government in the pursuit of power.
...in the Senate, Webb was a "climate curmudgeon," [who worked to undermine Presidential authority to negotiate climate treaties, fought against the Environmental Protection Agency, etc.]...And on climate change, by far the most monumental environmental issue, Webb may be little better than the Republican Party to which he once belonged.
So, now that the Republican-controlledHouse Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence has TOTALLY debunked all the right wingnuts' conspiracy theories on BENGHAZEEEEEE, what do they have left? First, a few quick points from the report on Benghazi by (again) Republican-controlled House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. (attention Frank Wolf and other crazy conspiracy theorists, you might want to read this, as it is meant to be the "definitive House statement on the Intelligence Community's activities before, during and after the tragic events that caused the deaths of four brave Americans")
*"There is no evidence of an intelligence failure...CIA provided sufficient security personnel, resources, and equipment to defend against the known terrorist threat and to enable CIA operations in Benghazi...no evidence that the CIA turned down requests for additional security resources at the Annex."
*"...the Committee found no evidence that there was either a stand down order or a denial of available air support."
*"...the Committee found no evidence that any officer was intimidated, wrongly forced to sign a nondisclosure agreement or otherwise kept from speaking to Congress, or polygraphed because of their presence in Benghazi."
*"Appropriate personnel on the ground in Benghazi made the decision to send CIA officers to rescue the State Department officers at the TMF...no officer at CIA was ever told to stand down."
*"The decision to send CIA officers from Tripoli to Benghazi to rescue the Ambassador and bolster security of the U.S. personnel in Benghazi was a tactical decision appropriately made by the senior officers on the ground."
*"The CIA received all military support that was available. One CIA security officer requested a Spectre gunship that he believed was available, but his commanding officer did not relay the request because he correctly knew the the gunship was not available."
*"...intelligence assessments continue to evolve to this day, and the investigations into the motivations of the individual attackers are still ongoing."
*"For her public comments, Ambassador Rice used talking points developed at the request of HPSCI."
*The "CIA, NCTC, FBI and other Executive Branch agencies fully cooperated with the Committee's investigation."
In sum, basically none of the charges leveled in the aftermath of Benghazi by Republicans have proven to be correct. Just as most of us outside the Fox/Rush/Glenn right-wing news bubble figured all along. I just wish the Republican-controlled House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence hadn't dumped this report late on a Friday before Thanksgiving, clearly hoping that it would get as little attention as possible. Of course, if the media were responsible, they would give this report as much (or more) attention as they gave to the hysterical, false accusations hurled around by the likes of Mitt Romney, John McCain, Lindsey Graham, Frank Wolf, etc. in the aftermath of this tragedy. Oh, and we're also "all ears" for apologies from Romney, McCain, Graham, Wolf et al. Nope, not holding our breaths...
Anyway, now that the BENGHAZEEEEE conspiracy theories have been definitively debunked, by Republicans no less, what will the next crazy conspiracy theory by the frothing-at-the-mouth right wing be? Well, there's always one of the people Mitt Romney went out of his way to praise for helping develop "Romneycare," Jonathan Gruber, an MIT academic who apparently thinks everyone other than himself is an idiot (but why any of us should care what he thinks is beyond me). Then there's Ebola, of course, but that's so three weeks ago! Then there's the latest OUTRAGE -- amnesty! tyranny! can we go back to birth cerficates or "death panels?" ;) I mean, Fox, Rush, Glenn, etc, have to have SOMETHING to rant about, right?
Here are a few national and Virginia news headlines, political and otherwise, for Saturday, November 22. Also see President Obama's weekly address, on immigration reform. Key point: if the House had allowed a vote on the bipartisan Senate immigration bill at any time over the past 1 1/2 years, it would have passed and been signed into law. Meanwhile, President Obama is taking action under his lawful executive authority to fix the broken system we have now.
This audio of Democratic State Senate leader Dick Saslaw being interviewed on the John Fredericks Show was posted back in mid October, but I decided not to write about it at the time. Why not? Simple: because, after talking to Virginia Democratic politicos I respected, I decided it would only be damaging to Mark Warner's campaign against Ed Gillespie. Of course, I figured that whether I talked about it or not, the Gillespie folks would use it anyway (as did some of the top Dem politicos I spoke with), but still, I didn't want to "go there." Now, with the election over, we can all listen to Dick Saslaw as he talks and talks and talks about stuff he shouldn't have been talking about at that time, or really ever, regarding details of the Phil Puckett scandal. For instance.
*Saslaw states that "the governor called me on Friday at about 6:30, 7....and told me that he had just found out that Phil was going to resign...of course I was a little shocked." So, right there, he drags Gov. McAuliffe into the thick of things, which contradicts (never believable) stories that it was some sort of rogue operation by Chief of Staff Paul Reagan (Saslaw says it wasn't a good idea for Reagan to have left a voice mail).
*Saslaw adds: "I then immediately called and left a message with Mark Warner." Yep, he drags Mark Warner into it as well, in the final weeks of a campaign in which the Gillespie folks were hitting Warner hard on the Puckett scandal. Brilliant.
*Saslaw keeps on talking: "and then I called...spoke to Tim Kaine's Chief of Staff Mike Henry, and told him, said look, can you have Tim call and find out what's going on....I basically left the same message with Senator Warner." Going for the trifecta, apparently, Saslaw then drags Tim Kaine's office into it, while for good measure also noting that he asked Mark Warner to call Puckett.
*Reveals that "Mark [Warner] called me on Sunday and...said...he had talked to one of the family members...said it was too late, that Phil had already resigned." The question is, why did Saslaw feel the need to go on conservative radio and spew this stuff? Got me, other than he loves hearing himself talk, has zero message discipline and zero sense of political strategy.
Anywway, I'm still baffled as to why the Gillespie campaign didn't use this audio in an ad. At the time it came out in October, I asked one of the Virginia Democratic politicos I most respect if they would have used this in an ad if the shoe had been on the other foot, and the answer was "absolutely yes!" So yeah, seemed like a "no brainer" at the time, but for whatever reason, the Gillespie folks didn't run with it.
I just got done watching Arlington County Board member John Vihstadt (Republican; not sure why the media keeps calling him "independent," since that's just a big charade) on the Kojo Nnamdi Show. I was hoping they'd really tear apart this guy's bogus anti-streetcar, pro-BRT arguments, or at least expose him as a world class b.s.'er. Prior to the show, David Alpert of Greater Greater Washington had encouraged Kojo Nnamdi and Tom Sherwood to ask Vihstadt:
*"What is @voteforvihstadt going to do now to ensure that good transit does get built on Columbia Pike?"
*"And if he says 'BRT,' please remind him that the leading BRT organization defines BRT as requiring a bus lane...Which VDOT has said isn't allowed on Columbia Pike. So I'd like to hear his view of actually possible transit."
In the interview, which begins at around 33:40 of the video, Vihstadt basically just lies, misrepresents and dodges his way around the questions. The guy's certainly a good talker, no doubt about that. The problem is, his torrent of words basically just amounts to meaningless "blah blah blah blah," because none of it adds up or makes any sense the minute you look into it. For instance, Vihstadt claims that his campaign was all about putting an emphasis back on "core services." The problems that he doesn't mention, of course, are: a) the streetcar funding was "dedicated," much of it from the state, none of it from Arlington residents having to pay more taxes, and not in any way "fungible" with education or anything else; and b) by killing the streetcar project, Vihstadt and his merry band of naysayers just killed $3.2-$4.4 BILLION (that's right, "billion" with a "b") in funding that could have gone to...wait for it...that's right, "CORE SERVICES!" Brilliant, huh?
Vihstadt then goes on to simply outright lie, claiming that we can have "Bus Rapid Transit" (BRT) on Columbia Pike, and that this election supposedly wasn't a choice "between a streetcar and doing nothing." Except that Vihstadt's alternative to a streetcar, BRT, is not possible, for a variety of reasons. As Greater Greater Washington explained yesterday, the "Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) turned [Columbia Pike] over to Arlington, but with the condition that the number of lanes open to cars not drop below four-and it's a four-lane road." Ergo, no dedicated lane. The problem, of course, as GGW further points out (and that many of us have pointed out for years now), is that real BRT is not possible without a dedicated lane. Period. To the contrary, real BRT requires a dedicated lane, by definition. Details, details.
It's utterly pathetic (and infuriating) that Republicans in the House have refused to even allow a freakin' VOTE on the bipartisan Senate comprehensive immigration reform bill. If they HAD allowed a vote, it would have passed a long time ago. But noooo. Also keep in mind that most previous presidents, including the sainted Ronald Reagan, have issued executive orders on immigration, so there's a lot of precedent for this (but you didn't hear Republicans scream about Reagan, Bush, etc.). Finally, it's long past time for somebody to address this issue, and I strongly support President Obama doing so, obviously within the bounds of his executive authority.
(I thought this was relevant given Webb's formation of a presidential exploratory committee. - promoted by lowkell)
Hard as it is to believe, the "Draft James Webb" movement began almost exactly 7 years ago, after three of us crazy, completely unrealistic (heh) progressive activist troublemaker (heh) types - Josh Chernila, Lee Diamond, and myself - first sat down with Jim Webb in Rosslyn and decided he needed a bit of encouragement to run for Senate.
Now, Senator Webb is about to leave office, after an eventful 6 years. In addition to his farewell interview to Bill Bartel of the Virginian Pilot, Webb's office has also published "a 134-page report on his tenure that included details of legislation, diplomatic efforts, timelines, photos and supportive news stories and editorials, as well as Webb's opinion columns."
I thought it would be an interesting exercise, if nothing else, to go through this report and provide my own assessment of how I think Webb did. In particular, I'm going to focus on Webb's three main themes: 1) Re-orienting America's Foreign and National Security Policies; 2) Promoting Economic Fairness and Social Justice; and 3) Government Accountability and Balance of Powers. I'll also have a few thoughts on how Webb did from a purely political point of view, and regarding other important issues for Virginia and the nation.
1. Re-orienting America's Foreign and National Security Policies Of course, one Senator can only do so much, but Jim Webb clearly played a significant role in attempting to influence U.S. foreign policy the past 6 years. With regard to Iraq, Webb "strongly supported the removal of our military forces from Iraq at the end of 2011." Webb, of course, had opposed the Iraq War, not because he's a pacifist, which he most certainly is not (e.g., to this day he supports the Vietnam War), but because he thought it was a strategic mistake. Among other things, Webb believed that the invasion and occupation of Iraq would get us bogged down as an "occupying force in the middle of sectarian violence," while "[empowering] Iran in the process," and distracting us from our focus and energies on the war against Al Qaeda. On all these fronts, Webb turned out to be correct, and in the end his views largely prevailed, although not in time to save us from many of the dangers Webb had warned against. Still, on this count, Webb has to be seen making a significant contribution with his highly credible and well-reasoned critiques, and we all owe him thanks for that.
Cross posted from Scaling Green. For Blue Virginia readers, I'd just point out that yet again, progressives and environmentalists are strongly in the majority on the issues.
A new survey from George Mason University's Center for Climate Change Communication and Yale's Project on Climate Change Communication has some encouraging results about U.S. public opinion on climate change and clean energy. Here are three graphs we thought were well worth sharing The key points are: 1) 67% of Americans support what is, essentially, the EPA's proposed Clean Power Plan to limit carbon pollution from existing, coal-fired power plants; 2) Americans overwhelmingly support policies - like Renewable Portfolio Standards, R&D, tax rebates - to promote clean energy; and 3) only 16% of Americans actively refuse to believe the science on climate change. Now, we just need policymakers to translate the wishes of the American people into action.
I'll consider Webb if and ONLY if I hear him speak convincingly, knowledgeably and passionately about the planet's environmental challenges - global warming being the top one - and what to do about them. So far, I haven't heard anything from him on that, other than continued clinging to the dirtiest fossil fuel, coal.
I’d like to take a few minutes of your time to ask you to consider the most important question facing America today: Is it possible that our next President could actually lay out a vision for the country, and create an environment where leaders from both parties and from all philosophies would feel compelled to work together for the good of the country, despite all of the money and political pressure that now demands they disagree?
As one who spent four years in the Reagan Administration but who served in the Senate as a Democrat, I believe it is possible. It is also necessary. We desperately need to fix our country, and to reinforce the values that have sustained us, many of which have fallen by the wayside in the nasty debates of the last several years. I hope you will consider joining me in that effort.
Over the past few months thousands of concerned Americans from across the political spectrum have urged me to run for President. A constant theme runs through these requests. Americans want positive, visionary leadership that they can trust, at a time when our country is facing historic challenges. They’re worried about the state of our economy, the fairness of our complicated multicultural society, the manner in which we are addressing foreign policy and national security challenges, and the divisive, paralyzed nature of our government itself. They’re worried about the future. They want solutions, not rhetoric.
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