This piece begins a discussion that is addressed especially to those who believe that there is no such thing -- and can be no such thing -- in the world as an "evil force."
Summary: Why does that the line from Yeats apply to America in our times? "The best lack all conviction, while the worst / Are filled with a passionate intensity."
One important reason is that the battle playing out in our politics is fundamentally a moral and spiritual battle, and while the right is connected to their moral and spiritual passions (even though that connection has been made on the basis of lies) Liberal America is not.
Much of that disconnection in Liberal America is due misguided beliefs, including: 1) that "value" is not really real, and 2) that there is nothing in the dynamics of the human world that warrants being called "evil," an "evil force," or "the battle between good and evil."
These beliefs, I will argue, are not only a source of weakness, but also mistaken.
The crucial battle in America today is being fought in the political arena, but the heart of it goes deeper than politics. It is at the moral and spiritual level. The issue in America today is this: will constructive or destructive, life-serving or life-degrading forces prevail in shaping this nation's future?
The battle to decide this question has not been going well. The lamentable core dynamic of this battle is all too well captured by the line from Yeats: "the best lack all conviction, while the worst / Are filled with a passionate intensity."
Today, the Democratic Party of Virginia held a press conference with Delegate Rosalyn Dance and Virginia senior Marjorie Clark to discuss Ed Gillespie's troubling support for privatizing Social Security. Gillespie was an advisor to the Bush-Cheney White House, where he championed the administration's widely discredited plan to wager seniors' retirement on the stock market. Even as recently as last year, Gillespie praised the plan to privatize Social Security.
Yet at Monday night's debate hosted by the AARP and League of Women Voters, Gillespie still could not explain his support for an initiative that would create instability for Virginia seniors and take away protections from their earned retirement savings. Instead, he hid behind his role as a "staffer" giving no explanation for his support of Social Security privatization.
"Ed Gillespie's support for Social Security privatization is extremely troubling for Virginia seniors. The plan would have posed a major threat to the economic security of generations of older Americans, especially during the 2008 recession. By supporting a plan that would have spelled disaster for seniors, it is again clear that we cannot trust D.C. lobbyist Ed Gillespie and his partisan ways to represent Virginians in the U.S. Senate," said Delegate Rosalyn Dance.
Said Virginia senior Marjorie Clark, "I rely on Social Security to help me pay the bills, buy groceries and medication. In 2008, during the economic recession, it was estimated that about $2 trillion of Americans' retirement savings accounts were wiped out. What if that had been me? Ed Gillespie owes Virginia seniors an explanation regarding his support for this disastrous policy."
Oh, and for Rand Paul's latest looniness, see Ron Paul and Rand Paul have crazy things to say about Ebola (e.g., Rand Paul is "an 'Ebola Truther' because he suggested that, contrary to established medical science, Ebola can be transmitted through the air"). Yep, this was the loony-tunes extremist who was rallying with "Enron Ed" Gillespie (and also the super-far-right Teahadist Dave Brat) yesterday. Any further questions, other than exactly when you're going to go vote for Mark Warner?
Yes, you guessed it: our state, Virginia, is the one missing out on the national solar power boom that's well underway (note: click on the map to "embiggen"). For more, check out the Solar Means Business Report, released this morning. Among other things, the report finds that the "average price of a completed commercial [solar] PV project in Q2 2014 has dropped by 14 percent year over year and by more than 45 percent since 2012." A few more factoids:
*"Since 2010, U.S. businesses have installed solar systems at their facilities more than 32,000 times."
*"For the second straight year, U.S. businesses, non-profits and government organizations added more than 1,000 MW of new PV solar installations. As of mid-2014, there were 4,531 MW of commercial solar PV installed on 41,803 business, non-profit and government locations throughout the U.S."
*"American businesses are turning to solar because it's good for their bottom line. For many companies, electricity costs represent a significant operating expense, and solar provides the means to reduce costs and hedge against electricity price increases."
*"While retailers have installed the most capacity, auto manufacturers, pharmaceuticals and food servicers, as well as companies in many other industries, have all looked to solar to lower operating costs."
*"The rest of the U.S. is catching up to the likes of California and New Jersey, the first and second largest state markets for commercial solar. Leaders in those states and others like them have put in place smart, effective policies that have enabled businesses to invest in solar." (note: thanks in large part to the strongly negative influence of Dominion "Global Warming Starts Here" Power, Virginia has NOT put in place "smart, effective policies that have enabled businesses to invest in solar")
*"In total, 129 million people in 33 states and Puerto Rico live within 20 miles of at least one of the 1,110 commercial solar installations that were analyzed in this report." (again, Virginia is missing out)
Oh, and if that's not enough to make you really angry that Virginia has not seized this opportunity, see an article which just came out a few minutes ago, Georgia Is the Latest State to Procure Dirt-Cheap Solar Power, which reported: "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."
How cheap is that? According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the Average Retail Price of Electricity to Virginia residential users as of July 2014 was 11.98 cents per kilowatt-hour, while the average cost to all Virginia power users was 9.79 cents per kilowatt-hour. Again, the new solar power bidding in Georgia came in at 6.5 cents per kilowatt-hour. Remind me again, why aren't we going solar big-time in Virginia (not to mention energy efficiency, which is even cheaper than 6.5 cents per kilowatt-hour in most cases)? Oh yeah, our pals at Dominion Power...
Last night, Rep. Gerry Connolly participated in the League of Women Voters 11th CD debate in Prince William County, and the utter demolition of his Republican opponent - on issue after issue, from the Affordable Care Act to Social Security to the Ryan budget to Metro to immigration to...you name it - was a sight to behold (embarrassing, frankly, if you're a supporter of the Republican candidate). Here are some snippets: 1) Connolly taking his Republican opponent apart on the Affordable Care Act (12:05-14:37); 2) on telecommuting (19:15-22:26); 3) on Social Security (37:10-41:12); 4) on Voting Rights (43:51-47:36); 5) on Planned Parenthood funding (49:23-50:47); 6) on Metro extension to Prince William County (54:50-58:13); 7) on the disastrous Ryan budget (1:03:11-1:06:05); and 8) on immigration reform (1:22:54-1:27:04). The bottom line is that the Republican candidate is far, far, far out of her league here - not even close to being ready for prime time.
From: Democratic National Committee & Democratic Party of Virginia
Date:October 15, 2014
Re: Gillespie & Paul Campaign Events
Ed Gillespie has trailed in every poll since getting into the race – so he may be happy Senator Rand Paul is coming to try to boost his campaign, but there’s a group of approximately 717,200 Virginians who will be less than thrilled.
717,200 Virginia workers would benefit from an increase in the minimum wage – an increase that both Gillespie and Paul have opposed in words and in their actions.
Paul has been no different. Paul calls the minimum wage a “temporary” thing and said the government shouldn’t even decide a minimum wage. This was all before he stood with the Senate Republicans to block an increase that would have given 28 million Americans a raise.
Here’s a reality check for Paul and Gillespie: the minimum wage isn’t just for kids with their first job – of those who would benefit from an increase, fewer than 12 percent are under the age of 20 – it’s what many Virginians and Americans survive on.
Opposing common sense proposals may work in the Senate GOP caucus for Paul or with Gillespie’s former DC lobbyist clients but it doesn’t work for 717,200 Virginians. And the bad news for Gillespie? They vote.
So let's get this straight: if you won't reveal who you voted for in a past presidential election, then you have "disqualified" yourself with voters, according to Meet the Press host Chuck Todd (about Kentucky Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes. Now, let's list a few things you CAN say, according to the idiot inside-the-Beltway political press, and still be qualified for election.
*You can repeatedly lie, as Barbara Comstock did, about your reasons for voting for Barack Obama in the 2008 Virginia Democratic presidential primary, and still be "qualified."
*You can, as uncounted Republican candidates have done, deny climate science (or claim that you're "not a scientist" and not answer the question) and still be "qualified." Denial of climate science (or gravity, or evolution, or the fact that the earth is round, etc.) of course, should be an automatic disqualifier for ANY public office, let alone high public office.
*You can, as Paul Waldman notes in this piece, flirt with the "'Agenda 21' conspiracy theory - in which the U.S. government and the United Nations are supposedly conspiring to force rural people in Iowa and elsewhere to leave their homes and be relocated to urban centers," and still be "qualified."
*You can suggest, as Republican Tom Cotton in Arkansas has done, that "ISIS is now working with Mexican drug cartels to infiltrate America over our southern border," and still be "qualified."
*You can suggest, as Virginia Republican Ed Gillespie recently did, that "the fact that we have a porous southern border today is not just an immigration concern, it is a...public health threat...with the growing concerns about Ebola," and still be "qualified."
*You can lie and claim the "Personhood" bill you sponsored, legislation that would ban all abortions, as well as numerous forms of contraception, embryonic stem cell research, etc., doesn't exist, yet somehow still be "qualified."
*You can constantly make offensive, extremist, bigoted, insane comments - like "perennial wingnut powerhouses...Iowa Rep. Steve King and Texas' resident wacko Rep. Louie Gohmert," yet still be "qualified."
*You can vote to shut down the U.S. government, after threatening the financial stability of the world economy over the debt ceiling, as Mitch McConnell and many other Republicans did, and still be "qualified."
*You can, as god-knows-how-many Republicans (including Barbara Comstock and Ed Gillespie) have done, take anti-government extremist Grover Norquist's crazy pledge, and still be "qualified."
Summary: In Liberal America these days, one encounters a good deal of hopelessness about the future of our country. Why the hopelessness? The difficult circumstances certainly play a part. But they are not answer enough. Hopelessness is also a sign of disconnection from the realm of the spirit. In that realm, there is no sense of "impossible." And this disconnection from the spirit is also at the root of Liberal America's weakness. This points to a cure for our hopelessness that also can strengthen us to fight and win this battle, however challenging it may be.
In response to my piece, "Liberal America, You Don't See What We're Up Against," where it appeared on Huffington Post, one reader posted a comment suggesting that perhaps a reason people don't see it is that seeing it only compounds feelings of despair and hopelessness. He quoted from a new book by Bob Herbert, reporting that in his travels across America he'd discerned "a sense of powerlessness and resignation among ordinary people that I hadn't been used to seeing."
I thought it an excellent comment, and I followed up by raising the question, why is it that people feel this hopelessness. That our situation is quite difficult is part of it, of course, but it is not a sufficient explanation. In those heroic times discussed in "Not Our Finest Hour," there were dark times in which those American heroes might have given into despair, but did not.
So the question arises: why on some occasions do those facing great adversity give in to despair, while in others they maintain their resilience and a sense of possibility?
The following, published in the newspapers of my conservative area in Virginia offers what I believe is an important piece of an another.
Like his discredited predecessor and kowtowing to the fossil fuel sector, Governor McAuliffe has embraced an "all of the above" energy plan that begrudgingly mentions renewable energy. Tomorrow he'll foist it at the Science Museum of Virginia. Some of the people he avoided in Charlottesville will be inside to greet him.
Climate change activists, including Richmond Resistance have organized an assembly that is drawing participants from across Virginia. While access to the event inside the museum is at capacity, some activists who oppose the Dominion natural gas pipeline did obtain entry and will be there. They do not intend to disrupt the event, but will wear shirts that show solidarity with those picketing outside.
The Sierra Club commended the McAuliffe plan for promoting renewables "to jump start our lagging clean energy business sector."
On the other hand, the club's Virginia director, Glen Besa, said in a statement that McAuliffe's support "for offshore drilling, and expanding gas pipelines and coal technology exports seriously undercuts his intentions to address climate change." --Associated Press via Seattlepi.com
Talk about faint praise.
And the Sierra Club understates the main objection. This plan egregiously ignores the impact of the "strategy" on climate change. Between the lines is a pragmatic acceptance of fracking and the resulting threat to aquifers and the atmosphere; just to mention a couple of things vital to the environment.
There appears no serious investment in wind and solar energy contained in the 461 page plan. The Governor's continued pragmatism on climate change and other issues may do more to suppress Virginia's Democratic vote in 2016 than any Republican scheme, much to the chagrin of a close and personal friend.
UPDATE 7:52 pm: Warner's closing statement emphasizes that he took a deficit and turned it into a surplus; Gillespie worked for an administration that did the exact opposite. Enron Ed basically repeats his b.s. talking points. I have no patience to listen to this liar anymore. Utterly insufferable.
UPDATE 7:44 pm: Question on sequestration. Gillespie says the House passed a replacement for sequestration, but of course doesn't mention the horrendous details of that bill (see The Hill, which says: "Democrats blasted the proposal as one that would spare defense programs but apply deeper cuts to needed social programs, and avoided ending tax breaks for oil companies. Democrats proposed a motion to take up their proposals, but the GOP House rejected them.") Warner says we didn't hear anything from Gillespie about making hard choices. Says he got the Navy's highest civilian award for fighting sequestration cuts. Says the way to get rid of sequestration is to stop "punting." Says you need BOTH tax reform and entitlement reform, "both sides of the balance sheet." Gillespie laughs, says just because Warner keeps saying he's signed a pledge by Grover Norquist doesn't make it true. Uh....here's the letter (June 4, 2014), in which Norquist says: "I will share with taxpayers in Virginia and the nation your statement and commitment to oppose and vote against any and all tax increases. You go further and commit to making the reduction of wasteful, inefficient, and duplicative federal government spending a priority once in office."
UPDATE 7:40 pm: Question about Ebola and should Virginians be concerned. Warner says he's concerned like all Americans are, says the administration should have acted quicker to increase screaning ("which they've finally started to do"), spot signs of Ebola, etc. May be time to consider in countries like Liberia to restrict flights. Warner says that cuts to public health and sequestration, not to mention "stupid pledges," hurt our ability to fight diseases like Ebola. Gillespie says it's time to impose a flight ban from Ebola-affected places in Africa. Of course he doesn't address the fact that his party has cut funding to NIH, CDC, etc. Warner says Gillespie's last charge "really takes the cake." Says sequestration is "stupidity on steroids," but the alternative was for the nation to default, so he assumes Gillespie supports our nation defaulting. Says he advocated the Simpson-Bowles plan, but "too many people had taken pledges."
UPDATE 7:38 pm: Warner says Gillespie has taken "extreme positions." Says Warner is "factually inaccurate" about Norquist pledge. Gillespie says he won't be a blank check for the president, which is laughable -- did anyone think that Ed Gillespie would be a blank check for Barack Obama?!? LOL
UPDATE 7:35 pm: Question on Medicare. Gillespie claims we need to save it, but that is NOT what his party would do. See for instance the Ryan plan, which would be an absolute disaster. Gillespie also keeps throwing out the Big Lie from the 2012 campaign about the supposed money taken out of Medicare. Warner correctly states that Gillespie's claim is "totally false." Don't believe him? See FactCheck.org, which states: "The GOP talking point is misleading for several reasons: The Affordable Care Act doesn't slash $700 billion from the current Medicare budget; instead, this is a cut in the future growth of spending over a decade. Furthermore, the reductions apply to payments made to hospitals and other non-physician providers, and it remains to be seen whether those would translate into reduced services. Finally - and most ironic - that same $700 billion in 'cuts' is part of the Ryan budget plan that McConnell voted to consider." Yep, "ironic" is one word for it.
UPDATE 7:30 pm: Question on energy policy. To summarize, I disagree with both Warner and Gillespie on this one, but I disagree a lot more with Gillespie. At least Warner is supportive of renewable energy and believes in the science of climate change. Gillespie? Who knows. Oh, now Gillespie's throwing out the wildly misleading comment about gasoline prices increasing since the depths of the Bush Great Recession. What a jerk. Warner says Gillespie lobbied against increasing fuel efficiency standards and was the largest lobbyist for Enron, where 20,000 folks lost their jobs and pensions. Gillespie says Enron was a client 13 years ago, was considered one of the best companies in America, and Warner was an investor. Gillespie and Warner really going at it on this, Gillespie says this is a "personal attack." Gillespie says he had no idea of the fraudulent practices of Enron, noone did.
Ethically and factually-challenged Republican 10th CD nominee Barbara Comstock is known for her struggles with the truth. She's so truth-challenge that one of her Republican opponents last spring point blank said, "Barbara, YOU LIE!" for her ever-changing story about why she voted for Barack Obama in the 2008 Virginia Democratic primary. To put it mildly, she's a real piece of work when it comes to facts, accuracy, honesty, and even the internal consistency of her lies.
Well, now Comstock's at it again, this time criticizing 10th CD Democratic nominee John Foust for being - are you sitting down? - a "tax raising Obama Democrat!" Yeah, the same Obama who Comstock voted for in 2008. But we'll leave that aside for now. The question is whether Comstock's in any way, shape or form telling the truth on this one. Hint: the answer has two letters, the first of which is an "n" and the second of which is an "o." Heh.
OK, so how about a few facts, those crazy things that Barbara Comstock doesn't seem to have any familiarity with?
1. According to CBS News' "What's Obama Doing to Your Taxes?" (April 2010), which reported on the fact that the 2009 Recovery Act (supported pretty much exclusively by Democrats, I'd point out) CUT TAXES for 98 percent of Americans. The CBS News report added that as of April 2010, "taxes are at their lowest levels in 60 years, according to William Gale, co-director of the Tax Policy Center and director of the Retirement Security Project at the Brookings Institution."
3. What about since 2009/2010? Well, you may have noticed that since 2010, Republicans have controlled the U.S. House of Representatives, so keep that in mind when you hear loose-with-the-truth people like Barbara Comstock criticize President Obama for raising taxes. Last I checked, Congress was the branch of government that voted on tax rates and the like. But whatever, details details.
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