There are only a handful of truly competitive, interesting races in Virginia this year, and the Arlington County Board rematch between Republican John Vihstadt (note: he falsely claims to be an "independent," even though he is a life-long/big-time Republican donor, activist, etc.) and Democrat Alan Howze is one of them. This past April, Howze lost a special election (to fill the seat Chris Zimmerman vacated with his resignation to take another job) to Vihstadt by a 57%-41% margin (12,667-9,109). The question is, with the much higher Democratic turnout we'll be seeing in Arlington on November 4 for Mark Warner, Don Beyer, etc., is Howze likely to beat Vihstadt this time around? Here are a few numbers to chew on.
*As you can see from the graph, the Democratic margin for Arlington County Board has ranged from a low of 7,340 in the lowest-turnout-election "odd" year of 2007 (when no statewide candidates were on the ballot), to a high of 47,836 in the presidential election year of 2008 (when there was no Republican candidate for Arlington County Board on the ballot; only a Green Party candidate, who got 21,451 votes).
*In "federal, non-presidential election years" like 2006 and 2010, where the top of the ticket was a U.S. Senate candidate (Jim Webb in 2006) or a U.S. House candidate (Jim Moran in 2010), the Democratic margin of victory for Arlington County Board was in the range of 12,324 (in 2010) and 23,928 (in 2006). I'd say this election is most comparable to 2006, a non-presidential "federal" election with a U.S. Senate candidate at the top of the ticket in Arlington. That would imply a Democratic margin for County Board of 23,928, but...let's continue crunching numbers before we start breaking out the champagne or anything like that. ;)
*The highest number of non-Democratic votes in an Arlington County Board election came in 2012, when the Republican (Matt Wavro) and Green Party (Audrey Clement) candidates combined for 38,001 votes. The winner of that election, Democrat Libby Garvey, received 59,619 votes -- a margin of 34,387 votes over Wavro, but also a Democratic "dropoff" for County Board from the top of the ticket (Tim Kaine for Senate, who received 82,689 votes) of 23,070 votes.
We already know that 10th CD Republican nominee Barbara "YOU LIE!" Comstock is not the most honest person in the world (to put it mildly). But this Comstock ad, aimed at the Korean-American community, really takes the cake. Notice who Comstock puts in her ad, with the clear intention to mislead voters? That's right, a number of strong supporters of Democratic nominee John Foust, such as State Senators Dave Marsden (D) Chap Petersen (D) and Janet Howell (D), Delegates Mark Keam (D), Vivian Watts (D) and David Bulova (D). That's right, all those people support John Foust (several of whom are also in an ad for Foust), yet all of them also find themselves in an ad for Barbara Comstock. Fascinating how that happens...
People like Bill O'Reilly call upon people to raise themselves up while helping keep a foot on their necks.
Conservatives like O'Reilly do have some kernels of truth on their side. They rightly think people should develop good character, including virtues such as discipline and responsibility for oneself. And they are rightly concerned to assure that social policies don't discourage people from developing such virtues.
But after those kernels of truth, their map of the world is dominated by a river of denial.
First, as Jon Stewart pointed out in his confrontation with O'Reilly, they deny how much their own ascent was boosted by the advantages their culture gave them. As Chris Hayes put it in his October 16 segment on the O'Reilly/Stewart confrontation, there are "two types of people--those who recognize they're standing on something built to help them, and those who believe they are natural giants."
(Hayes cited a poll conducted by researchers at Cornell University in 2008, asking people if they had ever used government social program. 57% said no, but the researchers established that 94% of those people were mistaken and had used at least one. On average, they'd benefited from four.)
In his effort to get Bill O'Reilly to acknowledge "white privilege," Jon Stewart focused on the advantages O'Reilly got from growing up in the new, post-war, middle-class community of Levittown. It was a community that supported O'Reilly's becoming the so-called "self-made man" that he is.
Those advantages amount to "white privilege," Stewart argued, because the town was closed to black families (until a federal housing law passed in the late 1960s forced those gates open).
The right-wingers are eager to scold blacks for not developing a culture of responsibility. But if you want people to develop the virtues of discipline and responsibility, it is folly - or perhaps hypocrisy - not to be equally concerned that the society provides those people the opportunities to reap the rewards to which those virtues are supposed to lead.
This is an update to - and a bit different from - my post of December 29, 2013, in which I ranked my nearly 11 years as a political blogger at the time. In this post, I'm going to rank Virginia's elections from 2005 (when I started blogging about Virginia, so these are the Virginia elections I know the best) through 2014, from the perspective of a Democrat and progressive, but also from that of a political junkie who likes to follow exciting, hotly-contested political races. Which Virginia elections from 2005 were the most exciting, inspiring, interesting, entertaining and successful (a combination of all those factors) for Democrats? Here they are, in descending order.
10. 2009: Just a godawful year in every way; do we even have to talk about it? In brief, we got wiped out in the Tea Party madness, resulting in the loss of great Democrats in the House of Delegates, not to mention the election of far-right-wing extremist Ken Cuccinelli as Attorney General, Jonnie Williams' BFF Bob McDonnell, etc., etc. Plus, the Democratic primary between Terry McAuliffe, Brian Moran and Creigh Deeds was one of the most unpleasant experiences most of us who were involved in it have ever experienced. Good riddance 2009, may you forever rot in hell.
9. 2010: Not quite as bad as 2009, but not good either. I mean, any year when a superb Representative like Tom Perriello is defeated by an utter loser and right wingnut like Robert Hurt can't be good. Throw in the loss of Rep. Rick Boucher (to the climate-science-denying wacko Morgan Griffith) and the defeat of Rep. Glenn Nye by Scott Rigell, and there's really nothing good to say about 2010. Miserable.
8. 2011: The first election after the 2010 census and redistricting was no fun at all. As if losing two Senate seats (and control of the Senate, despite pro-Democratic gerrymandering) wasn't bad enough, we also got our butts handed to us in the House of Delegates, falling from 39 to 32 Democrats. Oh, and as an added "bonus," we had an extremely nasty/godawful Democratic primary between Barbara Favola and Jaime Areizaga-Soto. Definitely not a fun year in any way.
Here are a few national and Virginia news headlines, political and otherwise, for Sunday, October 19. By the way, just click on that image if you want to tell the fossil fuel industry and corporate shills at the Virginia State Corporation Commission what you think about their wildly false, dishonest, disgraceful "report" on the impacts of EPA's Clean Power Plan on Virginia.
Can someone help me out with a Logic 101 problem? Yeah, I know, I shouldn't have been dozing off during that class, but too late now to fix that. ;) So, let's see if I can lay out the logical chain Virginia Republicans like Ed Gillespie are using to attack Mark Warner right now.
1. A slew of emails, among other evidence, indicates that Virginia Republicans like Del. Terry Kilgore (chairman of the slimy state tobacco commission) offered jobs to then-Sen. Phil Puckett (D) and his daughter in exchange for Puckett quitting the State Senate and throwing that body to the Republicans.
2. Republicans have argued variously for months that they a) did absolutely nothing wrong, or b) that even if what wend down was a bit slimy, it certainly wasn't illegal, or...whatever. The bottom line is they argue they did nothing wrong in offering what many of us would consider a "quid" (jobs for Phil Puckett and his daughter) in exchange for a "quo" (Puckett resigning and throwing the State Senate to the Republicans' control).
3. Meanwhile, god knows how many Democrats called the Pucketts to urge, encourage, or possibly also offer everything but the kitchen sink in order for Sen. Puckett to NOT resign from the State Senate and throw that body to Republican control. Cue up the false equivalency and IOKIYAR ("it's ok if you're a Republican") "logic" - see, "both sides" did it, ergo what Republicans did was no worse, if it was even wrong at all. Except that, according to Republicans, what they did was fine but what Democrats (e.g., McAuliffe Chief of Staff Paul Reagan, he of the infamous voice mail saying "we would basically do anything" to keep Puckett on board) did in trying to KEEP Sen. Puckett from resigning, was bad bad BAD! Again, even as what REPUBLICANS did, in trying to essentially bribe Puckett to resign and throw the State Senate to Republican control (a classic quid pro quo) was fine. Or something.
4. Now, Republicans are busy bashing Mark Warner, who admittedly spoke to Sen. Puckett's son Joe - exactly what was said is not known, but Warner says it was a "brainstorming" session with/about an old family friend - for a "breach of ethics," while simultaenously ignoring (and/or actively arguing) that Terry Kilgore et al. did nothing wrong in offering Phil Puckett and his daughter jobs if Puckett resigned and threw the Senate to Republican control.
5. Of course, Terry Kilgore would have literally had ZERO motivation other than to get control of the State Senate to help convince Phil Puckett to resign.
6. It's worth reiterating that what started this whole chain of events was Republicans attempting to, essentially, bribe (use the word "entice" or "convince" if "bribe" is too strong for your sensitive stomach) Phil Puckett to resign and throw the State Senate to their control. It's also worth reminding everyone that one of the main things at stake in all this was getting hundreds of thousands of Virginians covered under expanded Medicaid, as well as recouping billions of our own tax dollars that are currently not coming back to Virginia, as they should be. So, on top of their slimy (possibly illegal; FBI is investigating) quid pro quo offer to Phil Puckett to get him to resign from the State Senate, Republicans also were working hard to screw poor Virginians - and all Virginians - out of health care coverage and their own money. If that's not unethical, I'm not sure what is.
7. Finally, now we have slimeball "Enron Ed" Gillespie of all people, sanctimoniously shaking his head about how "Washington" supposedly "changed Mark Warner" and turned him into an unethical monster (for talking to Joe Puckett), while completely ignoring what his OWN PARTY did to kick this whole fiasco off in the first place. Barf inducing.
So...can anyone help me out with the glaring, internal flaw in the Republicans' internal "logic" (using the world loosely) here? Anyone who didn't doze off during Logic 101 class, perhaps? :)
(That's a photo of SCC headquarters, by the way. I wonder if it's LEED certified. Heh. ;) - promoted by lowkell)
In recent years paleontologists have come to believe that the dinosaurs did not go extinct; they evolved into today's chickens and other birds. It turns out, however, that some of them did not evolve. Instead, they took jobs at Virginia's State Corporation Commission.
Now they've put their DNA on full display with comments they filed on the EPA's Clean Power Plan. The proposed EPA rules, under section 111(d) of the Clean Air Act, would require states to reduce the power plant CO2 emissions driving climate change. The staffers assert primly that they "take no position on the broad policy issues," but that they feel "compelled" to point out all the ways the plan is "arbitrary, capricious, unsupported, and unlawful." These mostly boil down to their claims that the plan will force coal plant closures, raise rates significantly and threaten service reliability-claims experts say are badly off-base.
Note that the commissioners themselves didn't sign onto these comments. They come from the career staff at the Energy Regulatory Division, led by Bill Stevens, the Director, and Bill Chambliss, the General Counsel. This is pretty peculiar. I can't think of a single other agency of government where the staff would file comments on a federal rulemaking without the oversight of their bosses.
Bill and Bill acknowledge in a footnote that the staff comments represent only their own views and not those of the commissioners. But that distinction has already been lost on at least one lawmaker. Today Speaker of the House William J. Howell released a statement declaring, "The independent, nonpartisan analysis of the State Corporation Commission confirms that President Obama's environmental policies could devastate Virginia's economy."
And really, "devastate"? But that's the kind of hysteria you hear from opponents of the Clean Power Plan. While the rest of us see healthier air, huge opportunities for job growth in the clean energy sector, and the chance to avoid the worst effects of climate disruption, the Friends of Coal see only devastation. And no wonder: according to the Virginia Public Access Project, Howell accepted $14,000 from the coal industry just this year alone.
Today Del. Barbara Comstock announced that the Independent Women's Voice (IWV) -- which is by no means independent or "mainstream," as they claim -- presented her with the 2014 Healthcare Leadership Award.
The Repeal Pledge's Advisory Board... will determine which legislative efforts are legitimate for the purpose of this pledge.
This candidate for Congress is vowing to take orders from an anonymous advisory board. After refusing to answer questions from the media or the general public, and shunning nonpartisan organizations like the AARP, this comes as no surprise.
This morning, one of the most powerful entities in Virginia (that almost nobody has ever heard of) said something so stupid, so seemingly crazy, so contrary to verifiable facts, that at first it almost seemed like an "Onion" parody. But no, apparently it was real, if you believe the news reports. The question is, why did the SCC do it? Are they really a bunch of climate science deniers, as the Virginia Sierra Club says? Or are they "playing politics with climate change science...bringing discredit on the commission," as Virginia Sierra Club Director Glen Besa believes?
Actually, I'd say this goes way beyond climate science denial or playing politics (although certainly both of those are possibilities, maybe even likelihoods) into another seriously problematic area: namely, that the Virginia State Corporation Commission (SCC) simply does the bidding of...yep, corporations, as its name might indicate. More to the point, the SCC does NOT serve the interest of the public, unless perhaps you believe that "corporations are people, my friend," as Willard "Mitt" Romney infamously claimed. Meanwhile, there's yet another huge problem with the SCC: as a Virginia Democratic elected official explained to me, the SCC is "totally unaccountable," with "zero oversight or sunshine," and that's absolutely "crazy."
Just to demonstrate what a bunch of control freaks these people are, see Battle for Transparency at State Corporation Commission Moves Online. As the article correctly points out, SCC deliberations "take place behind closed doors," and "when commissioners meet to consider guidelines for utility companies or payday lenders, the meetings are closed," but the SCC doesn't want anyone to know that. Believe it or not, the SCC isn't even subject to the Freedom of Information Act. This is, in short, the exact opposite of good, honest, open, transparent government, and we should all demand that it change.
But back to the subject at hand: the SCC's utterly laughable "analysis," which basically consists of a bizarre, outrageously false trashing of renewable energy and perversion of economics. The reality is that, outside of the secretive bunch of corporate tools that make up the SCC, basically every other serious analyst out there sees the exact opposite of what the SCC claims to be seeing here when it comes to energy efficiency, solar and wind power. Let's throw out a few facts, not that they will get in the way of the SCC's slavish shilling for its corporate masters, climate science denial, or whatever else they're up to.
1. In fact, the price of renewable energy, particularly solar power, is plummeting. See, for instance, this recent article at Greentech Media, which reports: "After a second round of bidding from developers seeking to build hundreds of megawatts' worth of solar plants in the state, Georgia Power reported that the average price of electricity came in at 6.5 cents per kilowatt-hour. That's 2 cents cheaper than last year's bids."
On Tuesday, I was in Richmond for Gov. McAuliffe's unveiling of the 2014 Virginia Energy Plan. I had an opportunity to pursue questions about why Dr. Michael Karmis, Director of Virginia Tech's Center for Coal Research, was chosen to write the critical cost-benefit analysis for Virginia's response to the federal Clean Power Plan (CPP).
A cost-benefit analysis would normally be an obscure, bureaucratic document. But this year the Virginia legislature mandated a cost benefit analysis be included in the third annual state energy plan. How Virginia responds to the federal CPP standards is a big deal. People ask me why a coal backer was tasked with writing this foundational document that the legislature will rely upon. I typically respond, "Good question!"
As I see it, here are some important questions that need to be answered:
Why was Dr. Karmis chosen?
Why did Dr. Karmis choose Clean Air Markets LLC, J. E. Cichanowicz Inc., and Chmura Economics and Analytics and no firms with renewable energy experience?
Did Dr. Karmis consult with any renewable energy experts during his execution of the cost benefit analysis?
Did anyone on Dr. Karmis's staff provide input on renewable energy in preparation of the analysis? If so who are they and what are their credentials?
Why did Dr. Karmis not ask his Virginia Tech colleague and renewable energy expert Dr. Saifur Rahman for his input on renewable energy?
Did any lobbyists recommend to Dept. of Mines, Minerals and Energy (DMME) that Dr. Karmis be hired?
Is Dr. Karmis too conflicted to write a document the Governor and legislature will depend upon as an unbiased, informed look at how Virginia can best respond to the CPP?
On pages 94 and 95 of his cost-benefit analysis, Dr. Karmis states:
Here are a few national and Virginia news headlines, political and otherwise, for Friday, October 17. The photo is from last night's 8th CD Democratic Kennedy-King Dinner, saluting Rep. Jim Moran for his many years of service.
(This is basically my reaction as well; some good stuff in this plan, but also some bad stuff, and generally not enough specifics about how to get any of the good stuff past our Dominion-bought-and-paid-for General Assembly. - promoted by lowkell)
On October 1, the Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy released the McAuliffe administration's rewrite of the Virginia Energy Plan. Tomorrow, on October 14, Governor McAuliffe is scheduled to speak about the plan at an "executive briefing" to be held at the Science Museum of Virginia in Richmond. Will he talk most about fossil fuels, or clean energy? Chances are, we'll hear a lot about both.
Like the versions written by previous governors, McAuliffe's plan boasts of an "all of the above" approach. But don't let that put you off. In spite of major lapses of the drill-baby-drill variety, this plan has more about solar energy, offshore wind, and energy efficiency, and less about coal, than we are used to seeing from a Virginia governor.
Keep in mind that although the Virginia Code requires an energy plan rewrite every four years, the plan does not have the force of law. It is intended to lay out principles, to be the governor's platform and a basis for action, not the action itself. This is why they tend to look like such a hodge-podge: it's just so easy to promise every constituency what it wants. The fights come in the General Assembly, when the various interests look for follow-through.
Here's a summary of some of the major recommendations:
Renewable energy. Advocates and energy libertarians will like the barrier-busting approach called for in the Energy Plan, including raising the cap on customer-owned solar and other renewables from the current 1% of a utility's peak load to 3%; allowing neighborhoods and office parks to develop and share renewable energy projects; allowing third-party power purchase agreements (PPAs) statewide and doubling both the size of projects allowed and the overall program limit; and increasing the size limits on both residential (to 40 kW) and commercial (to 1 MW) net metered projects, with standby charges allowed only for projects over 20 kW (up from the current 10 kW for residential, but seemingly now to be applied to all systems).
It also proposes a program that would allow utilities to build off-site solar facilities on behalf of subscribers and provide on-bill financing to pay for it. This sounds rather like a true green power program, but here the customers would pay to build and own the project instead of simply buying electricity from renewable energy projects.
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