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Virginia News Headlines: Wednesday Morning

by: lowkell

Wed Nov 19, 2014 at 06:38:45 AM EST

Here are a few national and Virginia news headlines, political and otherwise, for Wednesday, November 19.

*Senate narrowly rejects Keystone energy pipeline
*The moral issue of climate change ("Is this a moral issue? After reading Mitchell's stark novel, and imagining the world of 2043, I am beginning to think the answer is yes. If the future quality of life around the world is at stake, people who resist action are not just misguided, they're wrong." Worse than "wrong," actually.)
*Why Democrats need rich people, too (Dana Milbank goes from probably his stupidest column ever back to his usual high standards.)
*Obama order could protect 525,000 illegal immigrants in Maryland, Virginia, Pew report says
*The New Republican Plan To Rig The 2016 Presidential Election
*Virginia's Republican House speaker stands accused of insufficient conservatism ("... in pushing the GOP further to the right, ideological purists like Ms. Stimpson may do their party no favors")
*The Virginia Way, Part 4: Working for voters - and for clients
*Schapiro: Va's salesman-in-chief ("Flashing a toothy, knowing grin, McAuliffe appreciates the political perils for Republicans in attempting to foil him on the economy.")
*Kaine, Warner praise George Washington forest fracking decision ("Officials are pleased that most of the George Washington National Forest is off-limits.")
*Belleville: Trail guardians worried about pipelines
*Five steps to doom for Arlington streetcars (Those were actually not the "five steps," but whatever.)
*Arlington officials pull the plug on Columbia Pike, Crystal City streetcars (Huge mistake for the future of Arlington.)
*McAuliffe wants risks shared for future rocket launches at Wallops Island
*Sessoms takes heat, and praise, at crowded, lively council meeting
*In pursuit of progress, Beach harms its identity
*Less punishing winds today, but temperatures almost as cold

Discuss :: (1 Comments)

Apologies to Matt Stoller. You Were Right About Mark Warner; I Should Have Listened.

by: lowkell

Tue Nov 18, 2014 at 20:19:08 PM EST

Back in September 2007, after gearing up (and then quickly shutting down) a presidential campaign, former Virginia Gov. Mark Warner opted instead to run for U.S. Senate following Senator John Warner's retirement announcement. At the time, most Virginia Democrats (myself included) loved Mark Warner and were excited about his candidacy, in large part because we figured he was a shoo-in to win the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by John Warner.

In addition, Mark Warner had generally been a strong governor from a progressive perspective, for example vetoing repeal of Virginia's estate tax and signing an executive order (albeit when he was on the way out the door, in December 2005) protecting gays from discrimination in state hiring. So, when people like me saw national progressive blogger Matt Stoller attacking Mark Warner for his "disgusting Lieberman-esque [campaign announcement]" video," as well as for being a "centrist, not a partisan," we were offended. In response, I went after Stoller, writing what is in hindsight a cringe-inducingly rah-rah post defending Mark Warner's honor. Barf.

Well, now, seven years later, I'm read to come groveling to Matt Stoller with profuse apologies. Let me state it as bluntly as possible. Matt, you were right and I was an idiot: Mark Warner turned out to be everything you were worried he'd be, and worse. A few examples.

*Today's disgraceful vote for the Keystone XL Canadian tar sands export pipeline, which is utterly inexcusable any way you want to look at it.
*Warner's long history of pandering to coal, including his appalling speech to a coal "astroturf" rally on the Mall, at which he declared (among other idiocies), "we outta have this driven by the market not by government policy." My god, as if the government hasn't been subsidizing coal and letting that industry get away with murder for decades now?!?
*Warner's constant "dissing" of his progressive and environmentalist "base," something you'd never see a Republican do to his or her "base," yet which Warner appears to take glee in doing as a key part of his "schtick" as a "radical centrist" (whatever the heck THAT means).
*Warner's miserable Progressive Punch rating -- #47 out of 100 in the Senate, less progressive than all other Democrats other than conservadems Joe Manchin, Mary Landrieu (on her way out the door), Mark Pryor (ditto), Kay Hagan (ditto), Claire McCaskill, Joe Donnelly and Tom Carper.
*Warner's obsessive focus on the debt, rather than on job creation, infrastructure investment, and income inequality.
*Warner's incessant false equivalencies, "both sides" nonsense, Republican "framing," all of which are very damaging to the Democratic "brand."
*Warner's blind obedience to the NRA. As teacherken wrote in April 2013: "Mark Warner voted against the assault weapons ban. Mark Warner voted against limiting the size of magazines...It matters not to me whether Mark Warner believes the baloney of the gun lobby or merely lacks the guts to stand up for what is right.  What is right is to stop the slaughter. If you are unwilling to step up to that, I am unwilling to offer you my support, my money or my vote."

Now, in fairness, Warner DID vote for the Affordable Care Act. But, of course there's always a caveat with this guy. In this case, not only did Warner oppose a public option, but he did so for the wildly false reason that "it could prove a budget-buster." In fact, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, "Creating a public option that all Americans could choose would save $68 billion through 2020." That's right, SAVE $68 billion, yet the guy who is obsessed with the budget deficit opposed it anyway? It makes no sense whatsoever, just as Warner's support for Keystone XL - a project that would create the whopping total of fifty (50) permanent jobs, none of which would be in Virginia, while encouraging development of the environment-destroying Canadian tar sands. Brilliant.

Bottom line: If Tom Perriello, Bobby Scott, or any other serious, strong progressive chooses to primary Mark Warner in 6 years, I will support that person wholeheartedly. I also, of course, would never support Warner for President or Vice President. It's not as if Warner's "radical centrism" b.s. guarantees him reelection anymore anyway, as Ed Gillespie's near upset victory a few weeks ago demonstrated. So why put up with Warner's Republican Lite garbage anymore? I just wish I had realized this back in 2007, instead of attacking Matt Stoller for hitting the nail on the head. Live and learn, I guess.

Discuss :: (5 Comments)

Video: Sen. Kaine's Speech in Opposition to Mandating Approval of Keystone XL

by: lowkell

Tue Nov 18, 2014 at 18:05:15 PM EST

(UPDATE 6:20 pm: It looks like this boondoggle, polluting monstrosity/project from hell has gone down to defeat in the U.S. Senate. Great work by everyone who cares about our planet; shame on everyone who doesn't! - promoted by lowkell)

I'll post video when it's done uploading. It's great to see real leadership on this issue from Sen. Kaine. As for Virginia's other Senator...not so much, it would appear.
Mr. President, I rise in opposition to the bill mandating approval of the Keystone Pipeline. I oppose the project because accelerating the development of tar sands oil is contrary to our national interests, our economic interests, national security interests and environmental interests.

I believe there is no way to fully analyze this question without grappling with another question-is carbon pollution from human activity affecting the world's climate in a negative way? Because, if carbon pollution doesn't affect the climate, then tar sands would not be a significant issue for me. But, if we accept the general scientific consensus-and Virginians do-that carbon pollution does cause negative changes in climate, stopping or even slowing the development of tar sands oil is good for the United States and good for the world.

Some who have encouraged me to support this project, duck when I ask this question: Do you think manmade carbon pollution affects our climate? One Virginia CEO, whose company is filled with scientists, basically told me, "I don't know, I'm not a scientist," and a representative of the United States Chamber of Commerce testified similarly before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee earlier this year. But those of us who take an oath to serve here have a responsibility to consider the scientific evidence.

There's More... :: (5 Comments, 1006 words in story)

Video: Arlington County Board Chair Jay Fisette Pulls Plug on Streetcar Project

by: lowkell

Tue Nov 18, 2014 at 12:22:09 PM EST

As a strong supporter of smart growth and transit-oriented development, I find this announcement to be very disappointing. Beyond that, I hate to say "I told you so," but I've been warning for a LONG time now that the pro-streetcar folks needed to get their act together, that the opposition to the streetcar was a serious threat, and that there needed to be a seriously ramped-up effort to fight for the streetcar (a la "TysonsTunnel.org") and against the anti-streetcar arguments.

For whatever crazy reason, none of that happened. Instead, as Arlington County Board Chair Jay Fisette stated a few minutes ago, pro-streetcar Democrats (Fisette, Mary Hynes, Walter Tejada, Alan Howze, etc.) were caught "flat footed." To me, that's just mind boggling, as many of us in the community were NOT caught "flat footed" at all. So what about pro-streetcar members of the Board, who are in the community all the time? Is this about arrogance? insularity? incompetence? overconfidence? all of the above? I'm just beyond frustrated with these people. Now, the question is whether this is not just bad policy but also "too little too late" politically for Mary Hynes and/or Walter Tejada. We'll see in the next few months...

P.S. Miles Grant and I were just chatting, and were both looking forward to the anti-streetcar folks pushing for the "BRT" option they've been pushing, even though BRT is not feasible on Columbia Pike, as there's no chance for a dedicated lane. Details, details. Anyway, let's see how serious they were about what they kept referring to as BRT.

Discuss :: (36 Comments)

New George Washington National Forest Plan Released; Fracking Allowed?

by: lowkell

Tue Nov 18, 2014 at 07:30:00 AM EST

This doesn't look good to me, but let's hope the details are better than the "top line" appears. Bottom line: of course there should be no "fracking" in the GW National Forest, that's just crazy. Why do I say that? See the presentations by Earthworks and DC Water and I think you'll quickly get the picture.

New George Washington National Forest Plan Balances Multiple Uses

Provides for Recreation, Wildlife and Water Quality, Sets Oil and Gas Availability

ROANOKE, Va., November 18, 2014 - Today, the U.S. Forest Service's Southern Regional Forester released the Final Forest Plan that will direct management of the George Washington National Forest. The plan revises the 1993 plan, as required by the National Forest Management Act, and contains guidance for managing nearly 1.1 million acres of national forests in Virginia and West Virginia.

"This forest plan provides a balance of management direction that addresses both the long-term ecological sustainability of the George Washington National Forest, as well as the long-term social and economic needs of those that depend on or are impacted by the Forest," said Southern Regional Forester Ken Arney.

The plan works to fulfill the Forest Service's mission of managing national forests for multiple uses and reflects extensive input from many deeply committed individuals, organizations, and communities representing diverse interests and uses, who have worked closely together over six years. As a result of this collaborative input, implementation of this plan will:

There's More... :: (8 Comments, 383 words in story)

Virginia News Headlines: Tuesday Morning

by: lowkell

Tue Nov 18, 2014 at 06:47:16 AM EST

Here are a few national and Virginia news headlines, political and otherwise, for Tuesday, November 18. As for the video, gotta love the stark contrast between Ronald Reagan, who granted mass "amnesty" to "illegal immigrants," and today's "illegals"-bashing Republicans.

*Boehner's immigration inertia forces Obama to act ("The only reason President Obama has to act on immigration reform is that House Speaker John Boehner won't. I repeat: That's the only reason. The issue could have been settled a year ago. It could be settled in an afternoon. The problem is that Boehner refuses to do his job, preferring instead to spend his time huffing and puffing in simulated indignation")
*D.C.'s mayor rejected plea deal in federal probe (First Virginia, now DC, next...???)
*Japan recession, Europe stagnation cast pall over global economic outlook
*GOP seeks creative ways to avert a shutdown ("Republican leaders are trying to redirect their members' immigration rage." How about allow a vote in the House right now on the bipartisan Senate immigration bill?!?)
*The greening of Barack Obama ("He didn't set out to be an environmental president. He is now." There's no serious choice but to confront global warming.)
*Here's What's Happening With the Big Keystone Pipeline Vote
*Backstabbing in Hillaryland: Here We Go Again (It's time for "no drama Clinton" in 2016; we can't afford this kind of crap.)
*The worst two paragraphs about American politics you'll read today (Ron Fournier is a right-wing hack, nothing more.)
*Virginia's senators differ over Keystone pipeline
*The Virginia Way, Part 3: The big money in running - even unopposed ("'Campaign contributions certainly buy access,' said ODU's Richman. 'Sometimes they seem to buy more, though it is often very difficult to tell just how much more.'")
*Our view: Ethics are coming! (We'll see if they crack down on stuff like in the previous item.)
*State agriculture chief says Virginia farmers need wider market
*Kerr: National Republicans neglect Virginia at their own peril
*Va. woman accused of attempting to support Islamic State militants
*New U.S. Forest Service plan retreats from ban on fracking in national forest in Virginia (Crazy if that's the case.)
*Judge: Life in prison is too good for child porn maker (100% agree, this guy is evil.)
*Virginia day cares anxious over local zoning laws
*Prelude to winter? Biting winds. Bitter cold. Wind chill in the teens. ("Today will be 20 degrees colder than normal, with temperatures around freezing.")

Discuss :: (6 Comments)

Tim Kaine Nails It on the Keystone Dirty Tar Sands Boondoggle; Mark Warner Totally Out to Lunch

by: lowkell

Mon Nov 17, 2014 at 20:15:52 PM EST

At least one of Virginia's U.S. Senators gets it on the Keystone XL dirty Canadian tar sands export boondoggle.
Sen. Tim Kaine sent an e-mail to supporters Monday morning, telling them he opposes Keystone and urging them to show their opposition.

"As a nation, we need to take a stand to support clean energy, create green jobs, and reduce pollution. That's why I hope you'll join me in opposing the Keystone project.

The main issue isn't the pipeline itself. The problem is that the pipeline would transport tar sands oil, fuel that is 15-20% dirtier than conventional petroleum."

Exactly right, and very much in line with what Kaine talked about two years ago at Tigercomm:
*It's time for opponents of clean energy to stop acting like the reign of fossil fuels as our dominant energy source constitutes some sort of inviolable theology.

*Even for those who don't "believe" in climate science, or who think clean energy is a science project, it's still common sense to move ahead aggressively with energy efficiency and clean energy. Unless, of course, they want America assigned permanent international follower status on the technologies other counties want to lead.

*If we find out in 50 years that the climate science was wrong, we're still ahead by getting off the dirty stuff. If the 98% of practicing climate scientists were right and we let clean energy pass us by, we'll deeply regret it.

As for Virginia's other Senator, the one who loves to blame "both sides" for everything and pretend to be what he calls a "radical centrist" (reward to anyone who can get a clear answer out of Warner about what that means?), he's just completely wrong when it comes to Keystone XL, making the bizarre claim that somehow Keystone's spur to tar sands development is needed "to make sure we decouple Europe's dependence on Russian oil and gas so they can become more independent." WTF?  I mean, I worked on international oil markets for 17 years, and I really have no idea what he's blathering about on this. Regardless, any spur to development of the Canadian tar sands would be a huge mistake if we care about, ya know, the planet not burning up and stuff? Apparently, Warner's more concerned with more important things, like...uh....
Discuss :: (4 Comments)

My Two Cents: Nov 4 There Were No Winners; Everyone Lost (Part I)

by: KathyinBlacksburg

Mon Nov 17, 2014 at 22:44:11 PM EST


(Note: I began this last week but have a problem with my hand that makes typing difficult and painful. Apologies for posting this late.)

Election Day is two weeks behind us, but the conversation and finger pointing will go on for quite a while, if, that is, it is still acceptable to finger point in today's absurd world (snark--you know finger pointing is still OK, but they don't know that at FAUX or in  Minneapolis).

It's safe to say that if the national Democratic leadership, by which I mean the DNC, DSCC and DCCC, along with the major campaigns, don't understand what actually happened on Nov 4th, nothing will change. And the leadership has no clue. So we will have more of the the debacles we had last week. It is clear that they don't get it. And if they persist in their cluelessness, then rank-and-file Democrats need to figure out how to function around them.

It is safe to say that Nov 4th:

1. Everyone lost. But we the citizens lost big time. The 1% has gerrymandered and vote-suppressed us in numerous ways. If only they turned their creativity into solving real problems. But this is a post-Citizens United world and the GOP and their voters are too obtuse to know they lost too. More on this in a moment.

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Interview with Former Diaspora CEO Yosem Companys; Featured in "More Awesome than Money" (Part 2)

by: lowkell

Mon Nov 17, 2014 at 08:11:37 AM EST

I just finished reading the fascinating new book More Awesome Than Money: Four Boys and Their Heroic Quest to Save Your Privacy from Facebook by Pulitzer Prize winner and New York Times reporter Jim Dwyer. The Wall Street Journal describes the book as the efforts of "four idealists frustrated with Facebook's control over our personal data...to create an alternative," and why they didn't ultimately succeed. Other than being a fascinating story, with drama and even tragedy (specifically, the suicide of brilliant, charismatic co-founder Ilya Zhitomirskiy), the book covers important issues facing all of us in the age of social media, the "cloud," etc.: privacy, the digital "Panopticon," the profit motive vs. creating something socially beneficial, how promising technologies do or don't end up getting funding to move forward, implications for society, even human identity itself. I make absolutely no pretensions to being an expert on any of this, just someone interested in the subject. So, I asked my friend Yosem Companys -- who teaches high-technology entrepreneurship at Stanford University, runs social media for Stanford's Program on Liberation Technology, and previously worked as consiglieri and CEO of Diaspora (with a crucial role to play in "More Awesome than Money") - whether he would be willing to answer a few questions. He graciously agreed. Here's the interview, edited for conciseness and clarity. Note: I've decided, due to the interview's length (16 questions and answers), to break it up into four parts. The first four questions and answers are available here. Now, here are #5-#8.

Question #5: So how did Diaspora ever think they could get masses of Facebook users to switch over to Diaspora, despite the fact that all their friends, family, and other contacts were at Facebook, not on Diaspora?
Yosem Companys: To the guys' credit, they spent long hours trying to create their own network effect, spending time trying to build "killer apps." Some of these apps, like cubbi.es, were extremely popular among our user base and did significantly increase engagement. But the guys initially spent little time thinking about how to overcome Facebook's network effect. I did the opposite, by asking our users about what would make them stay on Diaspora. The market research suggested  a dual strategy that I persuaded the guys to pursue.

First, Diaspora would be like Hootsuite, allowing you to post and receive messages from "public" networks such as Twitter and Facebook, while still affording you the possibility of posting and receiving "private" messages through Diaspora.

Second, Diaspora would present itself as a network for discovering people you don't know, something that made sense because the network effect is rendered irrelevant if your user base consists of people who want to meet interesting alters rather than hanging out with their friends. The first allowed Diaspora users to remain connected with their friends so they felt comfortable enough to do the second, i.e., make new friends.

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Virginia News Headlines: Monday Morning

by: lowkell

Mon Nov 17, 2014 at 06:49:54 AM EST

Here are a few national and Virginia news headlines, political and otherwise, for Monday, November 17.

*Why the Democrats are stupid to allow a Senate vote on Keystone
*Obama pursues a can-do approach ("In truth, he is paying close attention to the feelings of a very important group of voters - the tens of millions who supported him two years ago but were so dispirited that they stayed away from the polls on Nov. 4. They are hoping Obama will show them that political engagement is worth the effort.")
*More climate evidence doesn't move the GOP (Republicans: Destroying the planet for profit and greed since...well, a long time now.)
*Peter Kassig's family call for restraint after beheading video
*Obama turns to McConnell to secure his legacy ("A lame-duck president looks to deal with the very man who vowed to make him a one-termer.")
*Still reeling, Democrats debate big-money strategy (Start by helping Virginia Democrats win a bunch of state legislative seats in 2015!)
*Thomas Frank on Ronald Reagan's secret tragedy: How '70s and '80s cynicism poisoned Democrats and America (I'm reading The Invisible Bridge: The Fall of Nixon and the Rise of Reagan right now, and I'm reminded how godawful Reagan really was.)
*U.Va. professors push McAuliffe on climate change action ("Six university professors sign onto state-wide letter calling for change")
*ABC remains state's cash cow as board considers markup of liquor prices
*Part-time career, full-time retirement ("In part two, the Daily Press continues its eight-part special investigation into a system awash in money, with lax oversight and rife with the potential for abuse.")
*State health plan a full time benefit for part time legislators
*Lawmaker, father benefit from film tax credit (More legalized corruption in Virginia, and utterly not surprisingly, Dominion is involved.)

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Video: Atif Qarni for State Senate Kickoff in Manassas

by: lowkell

Sun Nov 16, 2014 at 20:31:19 PM EST

This afternoon, I made a road trip out to Manassas for the Atif Qarni for State Senate campaign's kickoff. Last year, Qarni ran for House of Delegates again one of our "favorite" Republicans of all time, "Sideshow Bob" Marshall, and almost beat him, losing by just 498 votes out of 17,429 cast. This cycle, "Sideshow Bob" will be opposed by Democrat Don Shaw, who I had a chance to meet in person today at the Qarni event, while Qarni runs for the State Senate seat being vacated by Sen. Chuck Colgan -- Virginia's longest-serving senator.

Others in attendance at the Qarni event today included Democrat Rick Smith, who is planning to run against Prince William County Board Chair (and xenophobic-demagogue-in-chief) Corey Stewart; Del. Sam Rasoul (D-Roanoke); former Democratic candidate for Prince William County Board chair Babur Lateef; Alexandria Democratic Committee Chair Clarence Tong; Democratic Asian Americans of Virginia President Dewita Soeharjono; Democratic Asian Americans of Virginia Treasurer Rose Chu; etc.

In his speech, Atif Qarni talked about his service in the Marines, including his deployment to Iraq in 2003. Qarni said that he had a lot of time to reflect in Iraq, "especially in the evenings or at nighttime with only scorpions to keep me company in the desert." He decided he "wanted to do something meaningful with my life," which is why he left his job in DC to become a teacher in the Prince William County schools. As a math teacher, Qarni said he teaches his students to think critically and to solve problems, which contrasts sharply with what we see in Richmond with Republican politicians "creating a lot of problems."

Qarni said he's been doing a lot of listening, and he's been hearing from teachers and parents a great deal about overcrowded classrooms, about low teacher pay, about lack of support for public education. Qarni says if he's elected, he will make it his top priority to increase funding and support for public school education and teachers.

Other than education, Qarni pointed to traffic as a major problem that adversely impacts people's daily lives -- "we spend time in our cars and less time with our families; that's unacceptable." Qarni proposes making smart investments in infrastructure, as well as things like telework and other ways to get cars off the roads, which he notes is better for the environment as well.

Qarni also spoke about the struggles small business owners have in finding skilled workers. Qarni believes that "the state needs to compensate small businesses for training individuals and creating a larger skilled work force."

Qarni concluded with the Marine Corps motto, "Semper Fidelis" ("always faithful"). He noted that this is "what and who I am." He further pledged that he will be "always faithful to the people of Prince William County."

For more video, check out the "flip." Also note that this is likely to be a hotly-contested, three-way contest for the Democratic nomination, the other two likely candidates being Jeremy McPike and Del. Michael Futrell. Last but not least, I'd point out that this district, which stretches from Dale City and Woodbridge on the east to Manassas and west, went for Terry McAuliffe by 18 points over Ken Cuccinelli last year, and for Barack Obama by 29 points over Mitt Romney in 2012. So, the bottom line is that this is a district Democrats should win and must win if we're going to have any chance of taking back the State Senate. Let's do it.

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Video: Media (Correctly) Challenged for Not Doing Its Job: Reaction Highly Defensive

by: lowkell

Sun Nov 16, 2014 at 12:24:51 PM EST

The following video is from this past Friday's Diane Rehm Show's Domestic News Roundup. It really jumped out at me, as it reaffirms a lot of what I feel about the corporate media. Nothing against Washington Post national political correspondent Karen Tumulty, but I'm sorry, having a "fact checker" operation (which is often highly flawed in and of itself -- see what I call "PolitiFiction" Virginia for instance) doesn't absolve the media from doing its job. Which is:

a) to report what really is important, not a bunch of superficial, sensationalist garbage;

b) to report it accurately, not with false equivalency or mindless "both sides" nonsense;

c) to call out falsehoods and outright lies, not just in a "fact checker" column but in ALL their stories -- in a prominent way. Which means...NO, the networks' evening newscasts shouldn't be freaking weather reports, and "news you can use" fluff. Nor should other "news" networks be dominated by faux "controversies," people yelling at each other, etc.

The problem, and why doesn't the media just admit it (Karen Tumulty basically does) is that they're out for "eyeballs" and advertising dollars, and they'll apparently do whatever it takes - including heavily compromising their jobs as "journalists" - to achieve that. Having said that, of course Tumulty makes a fair point that American citizens need to take some responsibility too, for consuming the "Kardashians" and other crap. But I would have been a lot more receptive to that argument if Tumulty - and many others in the media, not picking on her per se - actually addressed the (valid) criticisms raised and didn't just blow them off in such a defensive, kneejerk way, as if it's just inconceivable that the corporate media could ever do anything wrong. That's clearly false, but it's not going to stand a chance of getting fixed if leading media figures like Tumulty refuse to address them honestly.

Discuss :: (3 Comments)

Arlington Board Votes 4-1 for Building Energy Efficiency; Republican John Vihstadt Weasels Out

by: lowkell

Sun Nov 16, 2014 at 08:40:39 AM EST

In case you missed it, yesterday afternoon, the Arlington County Board discussed, and then overwhelmingly (4-1) voted "to update its Green Building Incentive Program...emphasiz[ing] energy performance and reduced overall environmental impact for site plan developments that voluntarily seek incentives under the program." Note that there's been absolutely nothing controversial about any of this for nearly 15 years...until, that is, Republican and all-around demagogue John Vihstadt joined the Board (unfortunately).

Arlington launched its Green Building Incentive Program in 2000 and has updated it four times since then to ensure that the program incents developers to build exemplary projects that meet stringent environmental standards. Since 2000, 56 site plan projects have agreed to achieve LEED certification.  Nineteen of these buildings have been built, achieved their LEED commitments, and complied with the green building site plan conditions, and another 20 are under construction.
Who could be against that? Well, nobody on the Arlington County Board (or apparently on the Arlington County Planning Commission, which voted unanimously to recommend approval of this update) -- until now, that is. As was explained yesterday, this technical update to a popular, effective program was broadly supported, really hit the "sweet spot" in terms of getting everyone on board. Except, again, for the lone Republican on the Arlington County Board. Wait, you ask, a Republican is obstructing stuff for no good reason? That NEVER happens! But all snark aside, of course it does, all the time, at the federal, state, and now local level here in Arlington. Unfortunately, we're now stuck with this particular Republican for four more years. Let's just make sure we never make this mistake again.

P.S. As a commenter on Blue Virginia put it recently: "In opposing the 2015-2024 Capital Improvement Plan (ostensibly to protest the streetcar - which as an oped in today's Washington Post explains, yet again, would be a huge positive for Arlington) Vihstadt also voted against money for schools, public safety, parks, economic development, street paving and bridge renovation. And despite his claims to be for affordable housing, he declined to vote (recusing himself) on the only measure to come before the board that would help affordable housing." And again, now - for absolutely not good reason (listen to Arlington County Board Chair Jay Fisette's explanation as to why that's the case) - he's voted against building energy efficiency. hat's what we're now stuck with for four freakin' years. Great.  Of course, Vihstadt's whole shtick -- being a demagogue but not seeming like one (by sounding perfectly calm and reasonable while doing so) -- is full of...fill in the blank on that one.

P.P.S. I received the following comment from a Democratic member of the Virginia delegation in Richmond.

Now it begins... Today the Arlington County Board took the positive/sensible step to update its important Green Building Incentive Program. This energy efficiency plan reflects the County's Community Energy Plan goals and provides incentives to site office building site plan developments in order to lessen environmental impacts. The voluntary program is designed to encourage the construction of buildings that are more energy-efficient and environmentally sustainable than buildings built to code. Under the program developers are given the option of increased density if they achieve greater energy efficiency. This is a NO-BRAINER - but it wasn't unanimous. Who voted against it? The Republican John Vihstadt.
Discuss :: (4 Comments)

Virginia News Headlines: Sunday Morning

by: lowkell

Sun Nov 16, 2014 at 07:20:27 AM EST

Here are a few national and Virginia news headlines, political and otherwise, for Sunday, November 16.

*G20 commits to higher growth, fight climate change; Russia isolated over Ukraine
*Obama: We didn't mislead on health care ("The fact that an adviser who was never on our staff expressed an opinion that I completely disagree with in terms of the voters is not a reflection on the actual process that was run.")
*Bill Clinton Says He's Surprised by Midterm Losses
*McConnell's 'no shutdown' pledge faces first big test
*ISIS Claims to Have Beheaded American Aid Worker Peter Kassig in New Video
*Our view: Republican riptide ("...the most powerful part of the Republican wave (from a Democratic point of view) may have been the riptide in state governments across the country." It's LONG past time for Dems - including activists, big donors, etc. - to focus on the state/local levels.)
*The Fable of Rand Paul ("At this point Paul is as much a political fable as a political reality, and his supposed strengths...pale beside his weaknesses. They're many. And they're potentially ruinous.")
*Bill Cosby refuses to address sexual assault allegations on NPR interview, will no longer appear on David Letterman's show (Ugh.)
*Virginia results pose puzzle for parties
*Presidential jockeying already underway in Virginia
*Schapiro: Va. lawmakers work hard doing nothing ("This past Tuesday, they came, they schmoozed, they went home. It has been a recurring exercise since March, when the Republican-dominated General Assembly should have concluded its work for the year.")
*Gibson: Should Virginians get to vote on gerrymandering?
*LGBT Ally to Face Off for Comstock's Seat ("Kathleen Murphy seeks a second shot at McLean-area House of Delegates seat")
*Letter: Energy CEOs are blind to the economic gains EPA rules will generate
*McLean businessman Craig Parisot wins GOP primary for Comstock's Va. House seat (As one commenter points out, "There are two wings of the VA GOP: right and hard right. Let's see where he lands." Yep.)
*Riding light rail and streetcars into better communities ("Opposing streetcars and light rail today would be like opposing the building of freeways, the Beltway and Metrorail in the 20th century. Along with maintaining our roads and Metrorail, the most important transportation investment for our region in the early 21st century is streetcar and light rail.")
*Taxpayer backlash creates major doubts for Columbia Pike Streetcar and Purple Line ("I think supporters should keep pushing for the two projects. For the sake of the environment and our quality of life, we need more dense, urban-style neighborhoods where people are less dependent on cars.")
*Poquoson takes action to outpace rising sea levels
*Decent Sunday, damp and rainy Monday, then downright cold

Discuss :: (3 Comments)

Interview with Former Diaspora CEO Yosem Companys; Featured in "More Awesome than Money" (Part 1)

by: lowkell

Sat Nov 15, 2014 at 11:40:58 AM EST

I just finished reading the fascinating new book More Awesome Than Money: Four Boys and Their Heroic Quest to Save Your Privacy from Facebook by Pulitzer Prize winner and New York Times reporter Jim Dwyer. The Wall Street Journal describes the book as the efforts of "four idealists frustrated with Facebook's control over our personal data...to create an alternative," and why they didn't ultimately succeed. Other than being a fascinating story, with drama and even tragedy (specifically, the suicide of brilliant, charismatic co-founder Ilya Zhitomirskiy), the book covers important issues facing all of us in the age of social media, the "cloud," etc.: privacy, the digital "Panopticon," the profit motive vs. creating something socially beneficial, how promising technologies do or don't end up getting funding to move forward, implications for society, even human identity itself. I make absolutely no pretensions to being an expert on any of this, just someone interested in the subject. So, I asked my friend Yosem Companys -- who teaches high-technology entrepreneurship at Stanford University, runs social media for Stanford's Program on Liberation Technology, and previously worked as consiglieri and CEO of Diaspora (with a crucial role to play in "More Awesome than Money") - whether he would be willing to answer a few questions. He graciously agreed. Here's the interview, edited for conciseness and clarity. Note: I've decided, due to the interview's length (16 questions and answers), to break it up into four parts. Here are questions #1-#4.

Question #1: How would you explain what Diaspora was trying to accomplish? Do you believe this is widely understood?
Yosem Companys: People still don't get that Diaspora was, and continues to be, something that is profoundly different from all dominant social networking sites: a DECENTRALIZED network.

Question #2: Why does decentralization make Diaspora "profoundly different from all existing social networking sites?"
Yosem Companys: Well, I should say "public decentralization," as Facebook privately decentralizes its servers to optimize your user experience, but publicly doesn't allow you to run your own version of Facebook on your server. That is the fundamental difference between Diaspora and Facebook, and between Diaspora and any of the new "Facebook Killer" flavors of the month (such as Ello). On Diaspora you have the potential to control your own server -- and, by extension, your own data -- because Diaspora is simply an open-source software package that you download and install on your own server. Others can do the same, and then you connect to them and they connect to you via server-to-server connections, such that you could never see that data they choose to keep private from you, and vice versa (and no one else could either, including the government or malicious hackers, were that data encrypted). Of course, you could use a server running Diaspora that was set up by someone else the same way that you use a centralized social-networking site like Facebook, and that is indeed what most people do. But the revolutionary potential of Diaspora was in giving everyone the option to run their own server and customize the Diaspora software at will, something not possible on most other social-networking sites. Because the software is open source, you can both make modifications to the code and rest assured that open-source developers will patch any security holes, once discovered.

There's More... :: (0 Comments, 507 words in story)
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