Here are a few Virginia (and national) news headlines, political and otherwise, for Saturday, January 5. Also, check out President Obama's weekly address, in which he "talks about the bipartisan agreement that Congress reached this week which prevented a middle-class tax hike, congratulates the newly sworn-in members of Congress, and looks forward to working with the new Congress in the new year to continue to grow our economy and shrink our deficits in a balanced way."
(UPDATE: I'm hearing that the Southern Association of Colleges & Schools (SACS), which recently put UVA on "warning," is itself under investigation by the US Department of Education... - promoted by lowkell)
In this morning's news roundup, I linked to the Virginia Pilot article on University of Virginia Rector Helen Dragas, and specifically her "tough road to confirmation in the General Assembly after spearheading a controversial effort last June to oust U.Va. President Teresa Sullivan." I saw that Sen. Ralph Northam, who is running for the Democratic nomination for Virginia LG, was quoted in the story, sounding somewhat "sympathetic" (the article's adjective) to Dragas. I wanted to check with Northam's people, as well as with the other Democratic LG candidate, Aneesh Chopra, to find out more.
I first spoke with Aneesh Chopra's campaign. Their position is basically that, knowing what he knows now, he would not support Dragas' reappointment to the UVA Board of Visitors. Of course, they emphasized to me, that if Chopra was in a position to vote on this, he'd want to sit down with Dragas and hear her side of the story. He'd also want the entire process to be conducted with openness and transparency, both of which his campaign emphasized are very important to him.
As for Sen. Northam, his campaign told me that more than anything, he wants a fair, transparent process. They noted that a LACK of transparency was a big part of the reason the situation turned into the problem that it did. Thus, Sen. Northam believes there should be a full, fair public hearing on this issue before the Senate Privileges and Elections Committee. Northam also wants to speak with Dragas again (he's spoken with her previously but has additional questions/concerns), as well as to talk to UVA President Sullivan and to other members of the UVA Board of Visitors, so he can get the full story. Having said that, Sen. Northam clearly believes that Dragas made some "grave mistakes," and he has "a lot of reservations" about her reappointment. He's heard a tremendous amount from constituents on this issue, and people clearly feel VERY strongly about this subject. In the end, Sen. Northam will listen to his constituents, as well as to the facts, and then make a decision.
My position? I agree that Dragas should receive a fair, open hearing. I agree that all facts that should be heard. But having said all that, I find it difficult to imagine what facts could possibly emerge that would outweigh the damage - both actual and perceived - that's already been inflicted due in large measure to Dragas' ham-handed, arrogant, foolish, irresponsible behavior. Thus, barring some astounding revelations, I would strongly support Dragas' reappointment to the UVA Board of Visitors being REJECTED by the General Assembly.
Gotta love this sorry excuse for a congressman and extreme/extremist hypocrite (click on image to "embiggen" and you'll see that Bob Goodlatte was one of just a handful of congresscritters voting no earlier today on Hurricane Sandy relief).
This is the same guy, by the way, who after Tropical Storm Lee in 2011, signed a letter to President Obama "supporting Gov. Bob McDonnell's request for federal disaster aid for damage caused by Tropical Storm Lee Sept. 8 and 9 in Fairfax and Prince William counties." But when it comes to people in other states who are hurting from a natural disaster, BADlatte's attitude is for them to take a long walk off a short (or in this case, destroyed or damaged) pier. What a horrible - nasty, mean, hypocritical, you name it - human being.
P.S. Also see here for BADlatte complaining that FEMA denied Gov. McDonnell's request for federal disaster assistance resulting from tornadoes in 2011.
Predictions that a major El Niño warming event - and the coming solar maximum - would help make next year the warmest on record now seem wide of the mark. All eyes will probably be on the Arctic instead. Some say the record loss of sea ice in summer 2012 was a one-off, others that it was the start of a runaway collapse. If the latter, summer sea ice could virtually disappear as early as 2016. What is certain is that the ice reforming now will be the thinnest on record, priming it for destruction next summer. [...]
Now that the new Congress has been sworn in I thought I'd make a list of its worst members.
1. John Boehner. He cries so often one has to wonder if its alcohol "speaking." Read here too. Today he said he will not do any more negotiating with the President. Got news for him. Obama doesn't need to talk to Boehner. But if Boehner won't do his job, stop his pay.
2. Eric Can't-or. I don't have to tell you why. You know. A more cynical and pitiful excuse for a human being doesn't exist.
3. Michele Bachmann. In two words, lunatic liar. She just makes stuff up. It ought to be a crime to lie as often as she does.
4. Rep. Darrel Issa (R-CA). Investigate is his middle name. His invent-a-scandal office operates nonstop. His point is to try to bring the administration to a standstill. And he's a fine one to criticize anyone (snark). His efforts smack of abuse of power.
5. Joe Barton (R-TX). He apologized to BP for President Obama. Who will apologize for him?
6. Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI). He is nicknamed the dictator by other members of Congress. Enough said.
7. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI). He is so ignorant he still doesn't get that Ayn Rand has nothing to tell any one about economics. His so-called budget should be grounds for him to be ousted from office. He is so ruthless even Catholic bishops opposed his draconian policies which would hurt the poor. Paul Ryan's "budget" was a manifesto for discredited trickle down theory, which renders him worse than stupid. He's an incompetent relic. He has no mastery of national issues. Too awful for Congress. And that is saying a lot.
8. Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) is a buffoon. If he compares the President to Hitler one more time he should have to write the history of WW2 on the chalkboard 1,000 time. He should have been run out long ago. Read more here.
9. Sarah Palin buddy, extremist Tea Party hack Rep. Renee Elmers (R-NC). Representative is an oxymoron when used in her title. She refuses to meet with constituents, debate her opponent, have town halls, or give interviews. She is unresponsive to constituents. Instead she meets with business leaders and says that is her job. She should be run out of the House.
10. Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC). According to The Nation, he wanted to make weapons grade uranium easier to move around and thus endanger Americans... Small wonder. He's also one of the top 2% in Congress for donations from the nuclear industry. And he is the top recipient of pharmaceutical and health care products money.
Perhaps the worst Congress in history is now just that...history. The end was as bad as it gets. The Republican-run House of Representatives finally was pushed in the last hours to avoid the misnamed "fiscal cliff." However, in the process of having wasted a whole legislative year on foolish, meaningless votes, the House left town without passing laws that needed immediate action. Left to die were relief for the victims of the second-worst hurricane in our lifetime, Hurricane Sandy, and passage of an extension of the Violence Against Women Act.
Evidently, the extremists in the GOP House objected to protection from domestic violence being extended to 30 million LGBT, undocumented immigrant and Native American women, the very women most likely to experience such violence. Yet, the House found it quite easy to find the time to hold 33 meaningless votes to overturn what they deride as "Obamacare," the last vote after the Supreme Court had already found the individual mandate in the act constitutional.
Virginia's very own chief extremist, Eric Cantor, said the 33rd vote was so "we may all be on record in order to show that the House rejects 'Obamacare.'" (I actually think that point had already been made 32 times before that July vote.)
It is pretty easy for me to figure out why politicians pandering to fundamentalists and extremists would refuse to give the protection of the law to gay women, undocumented immigrants and native American women. There are certain elements in that bunch of far-right extremists who have taken over the once-proud conservative Republican Party who think these women simply are getting what they somehow deserve. They're the same bunch who believe women who are "legitimately raped" can somehow, by biological magic, keep conception from taking place, the same guys who in Virginia thought nothing of passing legislation to requires women to be subjected to "trans-vaginal ultrasounds" against their will (rape with an object) before receiving an abortion, the same ones who succeeded in making any facility that performs abortions meet the standards of a hospital. Women won't forget how the GOP has become a party that either ignores or attacks women.
As they went out the door, John Boehner and the GOP representatives he supposedly "leads" also took the time to anger politicians from both parties representing the states in the North East that were devastated by Hurricane Sandy.
Exactly, this Republican refusal to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act is outrageous, disgraceful, any other adjective you can come up with. And they say they're not waging a war on women? Yeah right!
HERRING: FAILURE TO REAUTHORIZE VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN ACT A 'DISGRACE'
Challenges Republican Opponents To Break With Cuccinelli And Demand Congress Reauthorize The Violence Against Women Act In 2013
Leesburg - Democratic candidate for Attorney General State Senator Mark Herring (Loudoun & Fairfax) released the following statement today following the failure of the US House of Representatives to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). The reauthorization, which passed the Senate on a strong bipartisan vote, would have extended domestic violence protections to 30 million more women not covered under the original law:
"It is a disgrace that Majority Leader Eric Cantor and the Republican majority in the House of Representatives adjourned the 112th Congress by failing to even hold a vote on protecting women who are victims of domestic violence."
David Wasserman's national House popular vote data now shows Democrats got significantly more votes than Republicans - a lead of 49.15% to 48.03% for a margin of 1.362 million votes. It was gerrymandering - not the will of the people - that gave Republicans a 33-seat majority. How did it look here in Virginia?
Popular votes cast in Virginia U.S. House races for ...
Democrats: 1,806,050 (49%)
Republicans: 1,876,699 (51%)
U.S. House seats won by ...
Democrats: 3 (27%)
Republicans: 8 (73%)
At ThinkProgress.org, Iam Millhiser estimates Democrats would have to win the national popular vote in the House by 7.25% to win a majority of House seats. With 2006 district lines, roughly that same national margin gave Democrats a 31-seat majority - but with 2014's gerrymandering, it would barely give Democrats control of the chamber. And with more safe Republican districts come more extreme Tea Party members - Republicans know they face just as big a threat in the primary as they do in the general election.
This is a problem that can only be solved on the national level. It does us no good if only some states go to nonpartisan redistricting - then power accumulates with the parties that control the gerrymandered states and you're just rewarding the bad actors.
What is this silly idea being pushed by the media and others calling Lt. Governor Bill Bolling the potential independent "moderate" for governor? Reality check: As a state senator, Bolling's voting record was more conservative than Ken Cuccinelli's. So much for that myth.
Anyway, according to Wild Bill, he hasn't yet made the commitment to saddle up for a gubernatorial bid; this will be done by March 1. But if he runs, he will need Democrats to get him on the ballot. He knows that, and so does the Republican Party.
Indeed, this is like Yogi Berra said: deja vu all over again. Think 1994. Why?
To make the general election ballot, Wild Bill will need to present petitions claiming to have the signatures of at least 10,000 qualified Virginia voters to the State Board of Elections. The final date for this document dump is 7 pm on the date of the Democratic primary for LG and AG (June 11, 2013). Getting the required 10,000 is no sure thing: just ask Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum, Michelle Bachmann, Rick Perry, to name a few from the 2012 GOP presidential primaries. They had money and organization, yet couldn't meet the 10,000 threshold.
But at the same time, the threshold is easily doable for Bolling for this reason: Democrats will gladly sign his petitions. They can even circulate them without his permission. In that regard, it is 1994 all over again on far more favorable turf for Democrats.
Congratulations to Tim Kaine, a U.S. Senator as of his swearing-in around noon today, and best of luck in this crazy Congress! Also, as I've written previously, I feel that Jim Webb accomplished a lot in 6 years, infinitely more than his predecessor did in his term in the Senate. I thank him for running and for once again serving his country. Of course, there were a lot of frustrations over the past 6 years, particularly the fact that Webb's excellent criminal justice system reform legislation didn't make it into law (despite overwhelming support from across the political spectrum). Still, as I said, he accomplished a good amount, more than most Senators. I hope Jim Webb enjoys his life out of the U.S. Senate, and continues to fight for a country in which "the health of our society is measured at its base, NOT at its apex."
P.S. Needless to say, we also need Tim Kaine to fight for working people, the middle class, investments in crucial human and physical capital to make our country strong and prosperous going forward, and of course action on clean energy and global warming. We'll be watching...
UPDATE 12:05 pm: I'm watching on CSPAN as new Senators are sworn in.
UPDATE 12:20 pm: Tim Kaine was sworn in a few minutes ago, with Jim Webb and Mark Warner standing behind him.
Democratic Lieutenant Governor candidate and State Senator Ralph Northam (D-Hampton Roads) blasts away at Gov. McDonnell's approval - when nobody was paying attention, without a public announcement, "on the Friday between the Christmas and New Year's holidays" - (can we say "McDonnell's a coward?") of harsh new restrictions on women's reproductive health providers in Virginia.
The approval of strict new regulations on medical facilities that provide vital health care to women in Virginia, shows that Bob McDonnell and Ken Cuccinelli are lock step with the partisan agenda that brought women's rights under attack this past year in the Virginia Legislature. I led the fight against those efforts in the Virginia Senate and plan to continue this fight when the legislature convenes next week.
Meanwhile, Virginia Health Commissioner Karen Remley, who resigned her position over this issue back in October, has endorsed Sen. Northam. See the "flip" for her statement. It will be interesting to see how much of the 2013 General Assembly session, and also the 2013 Virginia elections, will center on "social issues" like the Republican war on women. Of course, if Republicans keep trying to keep women from being able to make their own decisions regarding their health and their bodies, it's a high likelihood they will be a HUGE issue, and rightfully so!
For Virginia LG Bill Bolling's thoughts on his potential independent run for governor of Virginia, check out the last minute or so of this audio. Then, if you want to hear why Bill Bolling would likely have minimal appeal to independent voters, but would overwhelmingly draw from conservatives, check out the first 7-8 minutes, during which he sounds 100% like a Teapublican't, complaining about the fiscal cliff resolution on due to the fact that tax increases are EVILEVILEVIL!!! Oh, and Republicans all got "played" by President Obama (right, that's why a lot of progressives are unhappy, also why the $250,000 cutoff became $400,000, etc.). Oh, and according to Bolling the supposed "moderate," rich people are only the "so-called rich" (huh? they're not ACTUALLY rich? so are the poor not ACTUALLY poor?). Oh, and revenues for the EVILEVILEVIL government are...well, you get the idea.
The bottom line is that, when it comes down to it, Bill Bolling is about as much of a right wingnut as Ken Kookinelli on just about everything. So why does anyone think Bolling's more "moderate?" My theory is it's 99% tone, as Bolling comes across as anything but a rabble rousing true believer, and more of a gray, bland, blah, unexciting snoozer (zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz). But in terms of substance, I'm not sure I see the differences between Bolling and Kookinelli, even though Bolling seems to have implied that the latter is "extreme" in some way that he's not. Got me.
Even for House Republicans, who in the face of crisis are always ready to say no to solutions, this is low:
House Republicans abruptly pulled the plug Tuesday night on their promise to take up this week an emergency supplemental disaster aid bill for Northeast states damaged by Hurricane Sandy.
The decision is a stunning reversal since just hours before New Jersey lawmakers were preparing for floor debate Wednesday as outlined under a strategy promoted by no less than Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.). Indeed the Appropriations Committee had gone so far as to file a $27 billion bill Tuesday together with an amendment to be offered by Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-N.J.) seeking an additional $33 billion to match the Senate passed package of last week.
Absent a change of heart, the upshot now is that the Senate bill will die with this Congress on Thursday at noon. And the whole affair is sure to bring back memories of the famous Daily News headline in 1975-"Ford to City: Drop Dead."
To recap: Hurricane Sandy killed at least 105 people in the U.S., including two Virginians, and knocked out power to 8.5 million homes & businesses, including 180,000 here in Virginia. With at least 240 Virginia homes damaged, Gov. Bob McDonnell asked for federal disaster relief. It's not the first time Rep. Cantor has turned his back on disaster victims, including those in his own district. You may recall Rep. Cantor holding Virginia earthquake disaster aid hostage to Tea Party ideology. Cantor also blocked Japanese tsunami aid, claiming Americans are too poor to help suffering people.
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