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National and Virginia News Headlines: Tuesday Morning

by: lowkell

Tue Jul 21, 2015 at 06:21:54 AM EDT

Here are a few national and Virginia news headlines, political and otherwise, for Tuesday, July 21.

*The world's most famous climate scientist just outlined an alarming scenario for our planet's future (This should be the #1 headline in every newspaper and on every newscast in America. Why isn't it?)
*Death of woman found hanged in Texas cell to be treated like murder probe: prosecutor (As well it should be!)
*Attacking Donald Trump seems to only make him stronger (The Republican Party is apparently full of people who thrill to Trump's message of extremism, bigotry, intolerance, ignorance and idiocy. Who knew? Heh.)
*Trump surges to big lead in GOP presidential field
*Is Scott Walker ignorant by choice?
*The Republican poll nightmare that is Donald Trump, in four charts
*Poll: Majority of Americans Support Iran Deal Despite Skepticism
*U.S. and Cuba Reopen Long-Closed Embassies
*This GOP Presidential Candidate Actually Believes in Climate Change. But He Doesn't Want to Fix It. (I'm trying to decide which is more evil, not "believing" in climate change or believing in it and not wanting to "overreact," as John Kasich so idiotically says.)
*How the US Chamber of Commerce Is Helping Big Tobacco Poison the Rest of the World (Speaking of evil, I present to you...)
*Republicans fear their activist base. Democrats don't. (Excellent article.)
*The gerrymandering jig should be up ("Both Mr. McAuliffe and Mr. Hogan are on record as backing redistricting reform to minimize political shenanigans when their state legislatures redraw electoral lines after each decennial census.")
*Va. Republicans fight McAuliffe's effort to study reinstating parole (So typical.)
*McAuliffe's panel begins review of no-parole policy
*Bagby faces Lambert Tuesday in special election for Morrissey's former seat ("Democrat Lamont Bagby faces independent candidate David M. Lambert in Tuesday's special election in the turmoil-ridden 74th House of Delegates district, which covers parts of the city of Richmond and Henrico County and all of Charles City County.")
*New website offers 'one-stop shop' on coastal resilience in Hampton Roads
*Jump in child poverty a warning bell for Virginia, advocates say
*Mark Herring weighs in on Confederate flag in Danville ("State law currently does not allow the Confederate battle flag to be removed.")
*Editorial: Stadium debate - seize this chance for regional cooperation
*Arlington won't be getting a new gun shop after property owner backs out (No loss there, that's for sure.)
*Nationals beat Harvey, take first game of NL East showdown with Mets
*D.C. area forecast: Heat today, gone tomorrow with nicer rest of week ahead

Discuss :: (6 Comments)

Any Further Questions About the GOP, aka the "Stupid Party?"

by: lowkell

Mon Jul 20, 2015 at 19:36:57 PM EDT

In short, Republican primary voters loooove them some serious immigrant bashing and other extremism, lunacy, bombastic idiocy, etc. Nope, Donald Trump is not an outlier, he epitomizes a party that also includes Ken Cuccinelli, EW Jackson, Ted Cruz, Ben Carson, Steve King, James "No Global Warming Cuz I Brought a Snowball Into the Capitol and Stuff" Inhofe, Louie "ISIS camp three miles south of El Paso" Gohmert, Ayn Rand-worshipping Dave Brat, Bobby "Stupid Party" Jindal, and too many other nutjobs to keep track of.

Meanwhile, on the Democratic side, the sane, sensible Hillary Clinton's got a huge lead for the nomination, and also a nice lead over Jeb Bush (which widens to a HUGE lead if Trump runs as an independent - pleasepleaseplease!) in the general election. Good times...if you're a Democrat, that is. Donald Trump, please don't go away anytime soon! :)

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UVA Study: 11 Major Flaws in Coal Center's Energy Analysis Relied On by Gov. McAuliffe, Legislature

by: sthepeterson

Mon Jul 20, 2015 at 14:25:30 PM EDT

(I posted about this recently as well, but it deserves more attention! - promoted by lowkell)

University of Virginia Study Finds 11 Major Flaws in Coal Center's Energy Analysis Relied Upon by Gov. McAuliffe and LegislatureCross posted from the Checks and Balances Project

In a study released last week, energy expert Dr. William Shobe of the University of Virginia dismantles the key, state-sanctioned analysis of how Virginia should meet the requirements of the federal Clean Power Plan to reduce carbon emissions.

That analysis, produced last fall by a team led by Dr. Michael Karmis, director of the Center for Coal and Energy Research at Virginia Tech, is part of the Virginia Energy Plan and is relied upon by Gov. Terry McAuliffe and the legislature as they make decisions about the state's energy future.

"In short, the report is almost certainly worse than no study at all because it misstates likely costs, analyzes irrelevant options, and gives short shrift to the cases that really matter," writes Shobe.

A professor of public policy and director of the Center for Economic and Policy Studies, Dr. Shobe's research focuses on climate change, greenhouse gas markets, and auction design. Shobe was part of the team that designed the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative for nine Northeast states, a cap-and-trade program to reduce carbon emissions that has generated $1.3 billion in economic benefits and 14,000 job-years over the past three years.

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What is a Good Relationship Between Government and Business?

by: aprilmoore

Mon Jul 20, 2015 at 11:08:15 AM EDT

This piece ran a few days ago in the Northern Virginia Daily, one of the two main newspapers in the District in which I am running for Virginia state senate against the Republican incumbent, Mark Obenshain.

Recently I was invited to speak to a group whose purpose is to make the relationship between business and government in Virginia as good as it can be. I share that goal.

At the same time, as I told that group, in our times it would not be right for me to do what most politicians would do with such an opportunity: i.e. tell the audience just what they wanted to hear. I felt it important to say what most needs saying.

Being a strong believer in free markets, I said, I appreciate the role that business has played in making America great. So government policies should not unduly burden free markets.

But I went on to say that, "My concern for Virginia today, and indeed for America, has less to do with how government is interfering with free markets than with how the power of corporate money is interfering with the proper functioning of our democracy."

I then gave an example of what the optimal relationship between business and government would not include:

"It would not include having a giant corporation - a monopoly not held in check by market competition -- buying so much control over Virginia's government that, in the past two years, it has been able to get our General Assembly to pass laws that take literally hundreds of millions of dollars that rightly belong to average Virginians and to put into its corporate coffers."

I was talking, of course, about Dominion Power -- the largest corporate donor to our legislators -- buying what is obviously undue influence over members of both parties.

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National and Virginia News Headlines: Monday Morning

by: lowkell

Mon Jul 20, 2015 at 06:10:59 AM EDT

Here are a few national and Virginia news headlines, political and otherwise, for Monday, July 20.

*No alternative for Iran nuclear deal, Kerry says (Grammar/usage question: shouldn't that headline say "no alternative TO Iran nuclear deal?")
*US, Cuba Re-Establish Full Diplomatic Ties
*"Why Only Now?": Media Ask Why Trump Drew GOP Candidates' Ire For McCain Remarks, But Not Anti-Immigrant Rants (And why only when a Republican's war service is belittled, not when a Democrat's - John Kerry's or Max Cleland's, for instance - is denigrated by Republicans?)
*Krugman: Europe's Impossible Dream
*Donald Trump: No apology to McCain, vows to stay the course (BTW, when are Republicans going to apologize for denigrating/"swift boating" John Kerry's military service and heroism? Oh, that's right, it's ok if they do it to a Democrat...)
*The most terrifying thing about GOP abortion politics: Jeb Bush is considered a moderate (Jeb's only "moderate" relative to how far right the Republican 2016 presidential field is.)
*Editorial: Virginia sets bad example on film subsidies ("Given the cold, hard facts about the return on such investments, it would be interesting indeed to hear Virginia's Republican lawmakers explain why that makes any kind of sense.")
*Our view: Is religious liberty also discrimination? ("Republicans have announced that the "primary focus" for legislative action in the next session will be what they call the protection of religious liberty in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court's decision that found that same-sex marriage is a constitutionally protected right.")
*Region struggles with cancer, obesity ("Basic math shows expanding Medicaid would improve the state's budget and make hospitals financially healthier. Federal taxes Virginians already pay would cover almost all of that. It would also improve access to the kind of early and regular medical intervention necessary to combat colon cancer and diabetes, saving the lives of countless Virginians each and every year.")
*For decades, a Confederate flag flew at Norfolk Naval Shipyard
*Police in Prince William prepare to use body cameras
*Ruckelshaus: Progress too slow toward a cleaner bay ("Now comes the hard part: getting thousands of individuals to make changes in how they manage their farms, parking lots, septic tanks and lawns. Reducing that pollution will benefit all of the states' water quality, upstream and downstream.")
*Nine minutes of obfuscation ("For nine full minutes of a video released last week, Fairfax County Police Chief Edwin C. Roessler Jr. stared into a camera and delivered a bland recap of the in-custody death of Natasha McKenna, the 37-year-old woman who died Feb. 8 after sheriff's deputies at the county jail shot her four times with a Taser stun gun. And for nine full minutes, Mr. Roessler, who announced the police investigation is finished, managed to reveal absolutely nothing.")
*Confederate flag rally in Richmond draws supporters and protesters
*Greinke shuts down Nats
*A blistering start to the week before a bit of relief arrives Wednesday

Discuss :: (4 Comments)

Jeff Schapiro: "Public bravado notwithstanding," Virginia Republicans "are scared - very scared"

by: lowkell

Sun Jul 19, 2015 at 13:47:35 PM EDT

It is often the case that the most interesting read in the Sunday papers about Virginia politics comes from Jeff Schapiro of the Richmond Times-Dispatch. Today is no exception, with his column, House Republicans' nightmare scenario. Here are a few key points, with my thoughts, quibbles, etc.

*"Republicans stand a strong chance in November of holding the Virginia Senate, if not expanding their majority."
Given the makeup of Virginia's off/odd-year, which strongly favors Republicans, I sadly must agree with this analysis. I believe the analysis I did last August largely still holds: Dems need to hold all their incumbent districts, including some potentially tough ones (John Edwards, who is facing a Republican and a Dem-turned-independent; Chuck Colgan - who is retiring; possibly Lynwood Lewis, who only won by 11 votes in his last election), while picking up at least one seat (the best shots are the seat of retiring Sen. John Watkins in the Richmond area, and also the seat of crazy Sen. Dick Black in Loudoun/Prince William Counties). Democrats will also need to overcome Republicans' initial money advantage. Again, it's doable, but it's not going to be easy.

*Schapiro argues that two issues -- a review of parole and the Planned Parenthood "fetal organ-harvesting video - secretly made by abortion foes" -- could "energize" the Republican vote this November.
I mostly don't see that happening. For one thing, the right-wing base is almost always riled up about something or other, and a review of parole doesn't seem to be of the magnitude to increase that significantly. As for the Planned Parenthood video, it's hard for me to imagine that will be a big deal come November, especially since it really has nothing to do with Virginia politicians per se, and also because most Virginians presumably support the vast majority of work Planned Parenthood does - pap smears, mammograms, breast scancer screenings, HPV tests, birth control, and even abortion in most cases.

*Schapiro argues that the potential for court-ordered House of Delegates redistricting, combined with elections in November 2016, are "Speaker Bill Howell's nightmare."
Agreed. That would be the "perfect storm" against Howell, given that the electorate in a presidential year is almost COMPLETELY different (and far "bluer" than in the usual odd-year elections for House of Delegates) and could really put a dent in his 68-32 majority.

*How much of a dent? Schapiro notes that there "are 27 Republican-held House districts that Obama won in 2012 or lost narrowly" and implies that most or all of these districts could be competitive in the scenario noted above.
I agree to a point. By my count, there are 19 (not 27) Virginia HoD districts that were won by Barack Obama and/or Tim Kaine, yet are currently held by Republicans. I'd say that in the scenario outlined above - redistricting plus a November 2016 election for House of Delegates - Democrats could pick up a "slew" of seats, as Jeff Schapiro argues, just not quite as large a "slew" as 27 seats. A more realistic prediction, IMHO, would be 10-15 (actually, that's probably too optimistic, although Schapiro also says "ten or a dozen seem possible," so who knows), assuming great recruiting by Democrats, funding of those candidates, and a strong (3-5 points or more?) Democratic victory for president here in Virginia. That would potentially get Dems from 32 seats to 42-47 seats in the House of Delegates, within striking distance of 50, and definitely a force that the Republicans couldn't just ignore or roll over at will, as they can now.

*Finally, Schapiro implies that Bill Howell himself could be vulnerable, given that "Obama got 49 percent in his district in 2012."
Let's hope that happens, and good riddance to the ALEC tool if it does.

Discuss :: (5 Comments)

Remote Area Medical Expands Virginia Coverage

by: Dan Sullivan

Sat Jul 18, 2015 at 11:02:22 AM EDT

 photo 150617 RAM Wise parking lot at dawn_zpslne2q2rv.jpgThough the clinic in Wise is Virginia's anchor, it is only one of four this year; even more in the future if Dr. Vicky Weiss has her way. This weekend's iteration drew attention for a drone demonstration but the primary purpose remained providing care to persons with limited access to health care.

The need is underlined by the flood of participants at every event. Here you see the very last open space in the parking area of the Wise County Fair Grounds being filled just as the gates opened yesterday for this weekend's clinic. The first arrival had been at around 2pm Wednesday, two days before. By 9pm Thursday there were some 800 staged with tickets in hand; at 4:30am Friday over 1,250. By noon the equivalent of about half the population of Wise had passed through the gates for care.

Remote Area Medical (RAM) was initiated by its founder, Stan Brock, to provide service to the world's inaccessible areas. Upon the realization that barriers to access are not just geographical, he began delivery of care to rural and underserved populations in the United States; eventually into urban centers. Now more than 90% of RAM operations are within the United States.

RAM of Virginia was launched in April 2014 on the steps of the state's Capitol Building to alleviate the growing need of affordable health care for thousands of underserved Virginians. Headed by Dr. Victoria Molnar Weiss, the affiliate hopes to expand its operations to host many mobile clinics throughout the state yearly.  

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National and Virginia News Headlines: Sunday Morning

by: lowkell

Sun Jul 19, 2015 at 06:50:51 AM EDT

Here are a few national and Virginia news headlines, political and otherwise, for Sunday, July 19.

*How did this monster get created? The decades of GOP lies that brought us Donald Trump, Republican front-runner ("Donald Trump did not happen overnight. He's the product of a dangerous, cynical GOP strategy that dates back years")
*GOP rivals blast Trump over McCain comment (Popcorn!)
*The Trump Campaign's Turning Point
*O'Malley and Sanders interrupted by Black Lives Matter protesters in Phoenix ("Netroots Nation session derailed as crowd chants over speeches")
*Bernie Sanders Holds Biggest Rally of His Campaign ("more than 11,000 Phoenix")
*Bill Cosby in His Own Words: Sex, Drugs, Deceit
*Schapiro: House Republicans' nightmare scenario ("There are 27 Republican-held House districts that Obama won in 2012 or lost narrowly.")
*Redistricting could alter Virginia's political landscape ("A special session to redraw Virginia's congressional districts could give Gov. Terry McAuliffe the power to hold out for a new map that turns at least one additional seat to the Democrats.")
*20 years after parole ends, Virginia takes up the issue again
*Skeens: Here's what failure to expand Medicaid looks like
*Editorial: Richmond needs to be in Amtrak loop
*Va. crowd rallies for new memorial that honors slaves, Union soldiers
*Virginia Beach called weak on illegal immigration
*Regulators want another new path for pipeline in Nelson County ("Federal regulators want the Atlantic Coast Pipeline to consider another route for the proposed natural gas pipeline that will not affect either a pending historic district or a state wildlife management area in southern Nelson County.")
*Casey: On the Confederate battle flag and Roanoke's Christmas parade
*A day after being left in dark, Nats and Dodgers split a pair in the summer sun
*Steamy Sunday could go down as hottest day of the year so far

Discuss :: (9 Comments)

Sorry, but the Virginia GOP Needs a Much Deeper Makeover than a Fresh Coat of White Paint

by: lowkell

Sat Jul 18, 2015 at 13:36:32 PM EDT

Great to see far-right-wing Sen. Mark "Criminalize Miscarriages" Obenshain putting on a fresh coat of white paint (a whitewash? LOL) at Republican Party of Virginia headquarters, but the sad reality is that the Virginia GOP of crazies like Ken Cuccinelli, E.W. Jackson, Dick Black, Steve Martin, Bob Marshall, and so many others (e.g., keep in mind that they looove racist/xenophobe/Islamophobe/etc. Donald Trump) needs a much deeper makeover than that!

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New Report Demolishes Virginia Coal-Industry-Funded, Anti-Clean-Power-Plan Propaganda

by: lowkell

Sat Jul 18, 2015 at 08:51:11 AM EDT

Starting in late September 2014, we've cross-posted four excellent, investigative journalism pieces related to Virginia by Scott Peterson, Executive Director at the watchdog group Checks and Balances Project (the goal: "Hold government officials and lobbyists accountable on energy, sustainability, and public policy."). The pieces are: 1) Why Did the McAuliffe Administration Hire Dr. Michael Karmis?; 2) Is Karmis Too Conflicted to Analyze How Virginia Can Respond to Fed's Clean Power Plan?; 3) Questions Multiply Around Virginia's Hiring of Coal Advocate to Write Key Energy Study; 4) Is Virginia Tech's Coal Center Director Evading Questions to Shield Donors?. To briefly sum up the problem, here are a few excerpts from the Checks and Balances investigative pieces:
...the Virginia legislature passed a bill that requires the McAuliffe Administration to evaluate the costs and benefits to the state of complying with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Clean Power Plan...The Administration tasked its Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy (DMME) to produce the analysis. DMME hired Michael E. Karmis, PhD...Professor Karmis is a curious choice. He is considered the state's leading academic expert in coal... He is an active consultant to the mining industry. Karmis is the go-to man if you want to know just about anything related to coal in the Commonwealth....Karmis is evading basic questions about whether clean energy experts were consulted in his critical cost-benefit analysis of how Virginia can meet its federal Clean Power Plan (CPP) goals.  This raises the possibility that Dr. Karmis, director of the Virginia Center for Coal and Energy Research, is shielding donors from legitimate public scrutiny...the cost-benefit analysis was mandated by the legislature, is relied upon by the Governor, and is included in the Virginia Energy Plan. As we've reported before, Karmis is a curious choice to author this foundational document...Karmis's Coal Center is heavily oriented to only one, highly-polluting energy source - coal. The Center's website lists a number of significant players in the coal industry as Sponsors that provide "generous financial contributions."
Another question: "Why did Dr. Karmis choose Clean Air Markets LLC, J. E. Cichanowicz Inc., and Chmura Economics and Analytics and no firms with renewable energy write the critical cost-benefit analysis for Virginia's response to the federal Clean Power Plan?"

As Scott Peterson notes, that's a "good question," as it raises all kinds of appearances of (pro-coal-industry, ant-renewable-energy) bias, possibly even impropriety and undue influence. This matters a great deal, because as Peter Galuszka writes, "Karmis's report was a foundation document used by the State Corporation Commission staff when it gave a big thumbs down to the U.S. EPA's proposed rules to cut carbon dioxide.", this isn't just an academic exercise, but has real, possibly disastrous, public policy implications, including the Virginia State Corporation Commission's bizarre, rogue report attacking the EPA's Clean Power Plan (CPP) as supposedly harmful to Virginia's economy, which is the exact opposite of reality. With the CPP about to be finalized, and with Virginia needing to figure out how it will comply, these analyses matter, and if they're wildly flawed and/or biased in favor of the coal industry, that's a huge problem. Sadly, that appears to be the case here.

But wait, you might argue (if you are hell-bent on defending the indefensible), just because an organization gets coal-industry funding, has people who have spent their entire careers shilling for the fossil fuel industry, etc., doesn't necessarily mean their analyses are biased? I mean, it's theoretically POSSIBLE that they could have had a sudden burst of independence and integrity after years of having none, right? Well, sure, in theory.

But in reality, at least in this case...uh, no. Instead, check out this devastating demolition of Karmis' coal center's/Chmura Economics and Analytics' work, by William Shobe, Ph.D. of the Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service and Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy at the University of Virginia. The bottom line is that Chmura's "analysis" "is deeply flawed and could lead the public policy debate down an unproductive path."

How flawed? Basically, it's utter trash, propaganda, laughably bad.

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National and Virginia News Headlines: Saturday Morning

by: lowkell

Sat Jul 18, 2015 at 06:53:22 AM EDT

Here are a few national and Virginia news headlines, political and otherwise, for Saturday, July 18. Also see President Obama's weekly address, in which he takes on the "overheated and often dishonest arguments about" the Iran deal.

*Earth's warmest June keeps 2015 on record-breaking pace (So what are we doing about this situation?!?)
*The Case for Covering Trump ("The Donald can't win the nomination, but the media has a duty to cover his bigoted, doomed, PR stunt of a campaign anyway.")
*Krugman: Liberals and Wages ("...the case for 'skill-biased technological change' as the main driver of wage stagnation has largely fallen apart... many liberals have changed their views in response to new evidence. It's an interesting experience; conservatives should try it some time.")
*Rand Paul may hold up highway bill over Planned Parenthood (Uh, alrighty...)
*Ayatollah Khamenei, Backing Iran Negotiators, Doesn't Fault Nuclear Deal ("The supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, voiced support for the deal while also saying it would not end the hostility between Iran and the United States.")
*Elizabeth Warren lays down a marker for Hillary Clinton ("The Massachusetts senator isn't running, but she's making clear she intends to have her say in 2016.")
*Gawker's Ethical Misstep In Outing A Condé Nast Executive ("Gawker has a history pushing the boundaries of journalistic ethics. They're already in legal hot water for publishing a Hulk Hogan sex tape, for which the former wrestler is demanding $100 million in damages - enough to sink the media empire should a jury rule in his favor.")
*In Iowa, the first faceoff between Clinton, Sanders and other rivals
*Poll says Cuccinelli still GOP favorite for governor's race
*Dominion workers give big to sponsor of company-backed bill
*Pipeline opponents protest at McAuliffe appearance
*Rigell: Let military carry concealed firearms to, from installations
*Va. GOP presses McAuliffe, Herring on Planned Parenthood donations
*McAuliffe Rejects Calls for Planned Parenthood Investigation
*Appeals court tentatively schedules oral arguments for Maureen McDonnell
*Rolling Stone denies it defamed U-Va. administrator in campus rape story
*Jones: Regional stadium talks underway; site to be identified by end of year
*Drones deliver medical supplies to Southwest Virginia clinic
*McAuliffe boosts Edwards in Roanoke
*Brutal heat today, storms tonight. Then Sunday will be even hotter.

Discuss :: (15 Comments)

2017 Virginia Governor Poll: Cooch 37%-Cantor 16%-Bolling 8%-Gillespie 8%-Obenshain 7%

by: lowkell

Fri Jul 17, 2015 at 11:42:10 AM EDT

More evidence, coming on the heels of yesterday's Public Policy Polling (PPP) 2016 Virginia data, that Virginia Republicans looove their extremists!
Ken Cuccinelli's campaign for Governor of Virginia in 2013 was largely seen as a disaster...but Republican primary voters in the state want him to be their candidate again anyway. 37% say Cuccinelli would be their preferred nominee in 2017 to 16% who pick Eric Cantor, 8% each for Bill Bolling and Ed Gillespie, 7% for Mark Obenshain, and 1% for Pete Snyder.

Also interesting: Democrats are not at all tuned in to the 2017 governor's race, but to the extent they are, Mark Herring leads Ralph Northam 33%-9% for the Democratic nomination. As for the general election, it's basically neck-and-neck at this point, although Mark Herring does slightly better than Ralph Northam. Again, though, it's very early.
On the Democratic side both of the most likely contenders for 2017 are relatively unknown. Attorney General Mark Herring has 46% name recognition with Democratic primary voters and for Lieutenant Governor Ralph Northam it's 37%. Those numbers are a good reality check on how much attention voters pay to down ballot offices. Herring starts out with a substantial lead over Northam for the nomination, 33% to 9%. But at 58%, a strong majority of voters are undecided.

The hypothetical general election match ups we tested for 2017 all start out close. The match up between the preferred nominee on each side, Cuccinelli and Herring, starts out as an exact tie at 38% each. Herring also ties Obenshain at 34, leads Cantor 36/33, and trails Gillespie 38/34. Northam trails all the Republicans but by generally tight margins- 2 points to Cantor and Cuccinelli at 35/33 and 37/35 respectively, 4 to Obenshain at 36/32, and 7 to Gillespie at 37/30.

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Thoughts on Mike Signer's Superb Book, "Becoming Madison"

by: lowkell

Fri Jul 17, 2015 at 08:11:30 AM EDT

I just finished reading Becoming Madison: The Extraordinary Origins of the Least Likely Founding Father, by author/scholar/politician Mike Signer (former Democratic Lt. Governor candidate; recently elected to the Charlottesville City Council). I've got a few thoughts, but first here's what current U.S. Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA) and former U.S. Senator Chuck Robb (D-VA) have to say about the book.

Tim Kaine: "James Madison would be called a 'flip-flopper' in today's political climate. Thank God he changed his mind and concluded that adding a Bill of Rights to the Constitution was not just good politics but necessary policy. This is just one of the wonderful aspects of James Madison's life that Michael Signer captures so well in this important biography. Our nation owes huge debts to Madison, and today's civic leaders owe a huge debt to Signer for reminding us why."

Chuck Robb: "One of the great contributions of Michael Signer's Becoming Madison is the relevance of Madison's role in the epochal debates surrounding the birth of our nation to the issues we face today, especially Madison's commitment to attacking ideas rather than individuals. The way Signer captures the palpable tension, vitriol, and passion in Madison's war of words and ideas with Henry is masterful."

Let me just start by admitting that I knew VERY little about James Madison before reading this book, and now that I know a lot more about this truly great man, I'm embarrassed about that. Why? Because, as Mike Signer portrays Madison, this anxiety-ridden-but-briliant man was arguably the most important figure in ensuring that the United States of America as we know it ever came into being in the first place. As one reviewer puts it:

Signer's book is full of exciting revelations, and I think an alternate subtitle could have been: What They Never Taught You In High School History Class. I never knew, for instance, that, in those few short weeks of the Constitutional Convention, Madison changed the course of American history. Had he lost the debates against Henry, it is quite possible that the United States as we know it today would never have come into being, and that I may have been born in a country called Virginia. I never knew that Patrick Henry, that famous firebrand and author of the immortal words "Give me liberty or give me death!" could be petty, self-serving, manipulative, and dangerous for democracy. I never knew of the close friendships between Madison and people like George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and James Monroe. It was fun to get to know the founding fathers through their private correspondence and conversations they held while visiting one another in their homes. Thanks to Signer's book, the Founding Fathers became much more real to me.

I also came away from this book with a much deeper appreciation of just how messy and fragile and beautiful American democracy is. No matter whose side you are on in the Constitutional Convention debates Signer powerfully narrates, you sense that Madison and Henry and their respective supporters were fighting for big and important things. They were fighting for the fate of democracy itself, and they knew it in their bones. How different this is from the petty self-interests, private agendas, finger-pointing, and general vacuity of so much contemporary political debate. The way Signer tells the tale, Madison and the other founding fathers can inspire us in our own time to strive for a higher level of political discourse, and to become our best selves as Americans and as human beings. Therein lies the lasting legacy of James Madison, and of Signer's wonderful book.

I agree with all that, and would just add a few more points that jumped out at me.
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National and Virginia News Headlines: Friday Morning

by: lowkell

Fri Jul 17, 2015 at 06:03:12 AM EDT

Here are a few national and Virginia news headlines, political and otherwise, for Friday, July 17. As for that image, there are two points: 1) our national priorities are completely warped; 2) giving public money away for things like subsidies to wealthy sports teams (e.g., billionaire Dan Snyder's super-wealthy football franchise) is nuts.

*Tenn. shootings investigated for possible terrorism link
*James Holmes found guilty in Colo. massacre (Guns, guns, and more guns. Lovely.)
*Fox Runs With Bogus ISIS Link To Chattanooga Shooting (Of course they do, because they are NOT real news.)
*"It's talking about saving the money": EPA head Gina McCarthy sounds off on the benefits of climate action (Saving money AND the environment? Sounds like a plan to me!)
*The Iran deal isn't perfect - but what deal is?
*I looked at the leading Iran hawks' cases against the deal. They're utter nonsense.
*Planned Parenthood deserves to be supported, not attacked ("The group helps 2.7 million women get contraceptives, breast exams and, yes, abortions. Good for it.")
Barack Obama's Long Game
("A month of victories has transformed the President's second term.")
*The GOP's deranged foreign-policy dream: Build a wall around America-and then prepare for World War III
*The U.S. locks up way too many people. That could change.
*International report confirms: 2014 was Earth's warmest
year on record
(We need to stop making this worse - immediately!)
*Former Reddit CEO Ellen Pao: The trolls are winning the battle for the Internet
*Kaine bill pushes high school instruction on safe relationships
*Trump makes case for presidency on Virginia radio (Keep talking Donald; it just hurts Republicans and helps Democrats!)
*Virginia leaders studying Iran proposal, experts say it's a good deal (Wait, you mean people like "economist" Dave Brat are not experts on nuclear physics, nonproliferation, verification mechanisms, Iran, etc? LOL)
*Sen. Tim Kaine says Hillary Clinton is the underdog for 2016 (Not sure about that, but alrighty...)
*Money pours into key Senate races in Virginia
*Northam out front in 2017 gubernatorial fundraising
*Democrats have momentum in state Senate fundraising
*Va. Republicans call on McAuliffe to investigate Planned Parenthood ("Governor McAuliffe was disturbed by the content of the video in question, but does not believe it should be fodder for political attacks on women's access to health care.")
*Fairfax supervisor Foust faces tough challenge for reelection, reports show
*Fairfax County school's list of woes includes its Confederate rebel name
*Sen. John Edwards closes cash gap in Va. Senate race with Nancy Dye
Fundraising reports suggesting some tough (and not necessarily expected) state Senate battles

*New Mountain Valley Pipeline alternate route has implications for landowners
*Roanoke Democrats accept chairman's resignation
*D.C. area forecast: Modest warmth today, then sizzling this weekend and beyond

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PPP: Virginia Republicans Love Extremists Trump, Cruz, Carson, Walker; Bush, Christie Not So Much

by: lowkell

Thu Jul 16, 2015 at 14:05:03 PM EDT

(P.S. For all of you who believe it's "too early" for the polls to "mean anything," see The End of the 2016 Election Is Closer Than You Think ("The campaign might be lost even before the GOP picks a nominee.") - promoted by lowkell)

The following poll results, courtesy of Public Policy Polling, confirm exactly what many of us already thought about Virginia Republicans: they are extremists. Note who they like the most: Scott Walker (+40 points favorable); Marco Rubio (+38); Ben Carson (+36); Mike Huckabee (+30); Ted Cruz (+24); several of whom - Cruz, Carson, Huckabee, possibly Walker as well - are firmly in the "extremist nutjob" category. Meanwhile, who are they NOT as thrilled about? That's right, the perceived "moderates" (even though they're "severely conservative" themselves Jeb Bush (barely in positive territory at +4 points) and Chris Christie (under water at negative 19 points. Then there's former Gov. Jim Gilmore, who gets no love at all from Virginia Republicans, with a negative 15-point net unfavorable rating, and 39% not even sure about who the guy is apparently! Ouch. Anyway, if you ever hear someone in the corporate media or whatever try to claim that Virginia Republicans are not extreme (even after they nominated the "Extreme Team" of Cuccinelli/Jackson/Obenshain for the top three statewide offices in 2013), just point them to this poll.
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