Personally, I'd characterize this decision as far worse than "disappointing." Perhaps it's the diplomat in Don Beyer speaking there, because I suspect he must be highly displeased, just as anyone who cares about protecting our environment should be.
June 29, 2015 (Washington, DC) - Congressman Don Beyer expressed disappointment in the Supreme Court's decision today in Michigan v. Environmental Protection Agency that rolled back Obama Administration environmental regulations for power plants:
"Today's Supreme Court's decision in Michigan v. Environmental Protection Agency is disappointing. This ruling undermines President Obama's work to strengthen public health and the environment by limiting the discharge of hazardous pollutants from power plants," said Rep. Beyer. "Our environment is the lasting legacy we will leave to the generations who follow. I look forward to working with my colleagues and EPA Administrator McCarthy to craft a rule in line with today's decision that protects the air we breathe."
UPDATE: David Roberts of Vox says "The Supreme Court's mercury decision is pointless." Let's hope he's right!
This afternoon, April Moore - running for Virginia State Senate against incumbent right-wingnut Sen. Mark "Criminalize Miscarriages" Obenshain - spoke to several dozen supporters at the home of Arlington County School Board Member Barbara Kanninen, host of the event. Among the attendees were State Senators Dave Marsden, Adam Ebbin and Barbara Favola; Delegates Patrick Hope and Alfonso Lopez; Arlington Clerk of the Court Paul Ferguson; Chesapeake Climate Action Network Founder Mike Tidwell; and former Democratic nominee for Congress Andy Schmookler (or as he called himself jokingly, Mr. April Moore). Also check out the video (on the "flip") of Barbara Kanninen, who blasted Mark Obenshain for his extreme record on...well, pretty much everything (e.g., education, health care, a woman's right to choose, the environment).
Highlights of April Moore's remarks included:
*She explained why people who don't live in her district should care about helping her beat Mark Obenshain. According to Moore, Obenshain is Virginia's version of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker - the "Koch brothers' guy" who has "divided that state terribly," "has gone after workers...unions...education...women...the environment...all the while working to cut taxes for the wealthiest corporations."
*Here in Virginia, "Mark Obenshain is the Koch brothers' guy," as the Koch brothers know that Obenshain will "advance their anti-democracy, anti-environment agenda." *It's also "widely believed that Obenshain is planning to run for governor in 2017, and we have got to stop him!"
*"I'm running to win, but even if I can't win, if I can make a good showing...a better showing than Democrats typically make in our very red district, then that too will help weaken Mark Obenshain and weaken his chances of becoming governor."
*She noted that she'd never run for public office, but she's running because of her passion for the environment and for fighting against climate change. She noted the "pernicious influence of Dominion Power," which she quipped "really puts the fossil in fossil fuels." *Mark Obenshain "has been with Dominion Power" all the way - to block climate legislation, to pass whatever legislation "greedy" Dominion wants - even if it hurts people in his own district.
*More broadly, Moore argued that Dominion's power is a classic example of big corporations' "corruption" and power, "banding together basically to steal...our democracy...and the peoples' voices are being drowned out."
*Moore is trying to reach out to conservatives in her district "by trying to use language that is meaningful to them...patriotism...Christian morality" and the "Golden Rule" (that includes future generations). The "first duty of a patriot" is to "protect the gift our Founders gave us - the gift of democracy."
*"In speaking this way, I'm also talking about what's most sacred to me -- to protect our endangered democracy, to protect our endangered planet, and to protect our endangered children and grandchildren." *Finally, her goal is "to make sure that Mark Obenshain doesn't have the chance to do to Virginia what Scott Walker has been doing to Wisconsin."
Great stuff, go April! :)
P.S. I also had a chance to speak with April Moore prior to the event. She emphasized many of the themes that were in her talk, including how she plans to try to reach conservative voters in the district, particularly the Golden Rule. She stated bluntly, "I'm the candidate a real patriot should choose." She also talked about her grassroots strategy to get her supporters to the polls in this low-low-turnout year. She argued that Obenshain is "with the big money every time; I can't think of a single instance where he's voted for the people against what Dominion Power wanted;" also that Obenshain has been willing to "sacrifice his own constituents" on things like Medicaid expansion (just to "stick it to the President"). We discussed the rural hospitals in her district that are being severely harmed by Mark Obenshain and his party's opposition to Medicaid expansion. Finally, Moore argued that "progressive people around the state should take an interest [in this race]...It's in everybody's interest that I be able to run a strong campaign against Mark Obenshain."
Here are a few national and Virginia news headlines, political and otherwise, for Monday, June 29. Also check out the classic, spot-on quote from Stephen Colbert: "History moves fast; it's hard to believe that gay Americans achieved full, Constitutional personhood just five years after corporations did." LOL, exactly!
I was talking to someone at a party last night (yes, I occasionally go to parties, not just political events! LOL) and I was talking to them about how when we were growing up back in the 1970s, our parents let us wander around the neighborhood, bicycle across town, etc., and that somehow we survived it all. Today, of course, if a parent does that they're liable to get nailed for the horror of "free-range parenting".
Why have things changed in that direction? Is it because things have gotten so much more dangerous in recent years/decades? Or is it more because the media deluges us with "if it bleeds it leads" coverage, making people THINK that crime and mayhem are out of control. Like the person I was talking to last night, who when I mentioned that the crime rate today had plummeted in recent decades and was now lower than in the 1970s, when we were busy being "free-range parented" and somehow surviving it, simply looked incredulous/disbelieving, like I was making it up or something, couldn't possibly be right, etc.
Yet really, there's no reason to single out the person I was talking to last night, since I see this phenomenon all the time on a wide range of issues (also, see the graph below which shows widespread ignorance of the plunging U.S. crime rate): people simply aren't aware of the data/empirical evidence, and hold whatever beliefs they do for whatever reasons, regardless of the fact that they are not factually based in any way.
Harmless, you might think, except that these wrong/warped beliefs adversely impact public policy. For instance, to the extent that people believe crime is rampant, they might favor super-tough sentencing guidelines, militarized police forces, restrictions on civil liberties, etc. Another example: to the extent that people believe "Islamist terrorism" is a huge threat to America, even when More Killed by White Extremists Than Jihadists Since 9/11, it certainly has public policy implications. Finally, when people complete ignore decades of climate science, 99%+ consensus among scientists, and reams of evidence that the world is warming dangerously, that obviously leads to horrendous public policy consequences.
Sure, the corporate media bears a great deal of blame here, as do interest groups (e.g., the fossil fuel industry) who actually spend money trying to deceive the public. But in the end, I also believe that individuals have a responsibility as well. I mean, finding the articles I linked to above on crime in America, or the graphs in this blog post, took me about 5 minutes (max) of Googling. This really isn't that hard, which means there's really no excuse for people to be ignorant about stuff like ths.
Quite a contrast between the two Virginia political parties today, with a deeply divided Virginia GOP fighting and fighting...and fighting...and fighting over whether to hold a convention or primary for president in 2016, and also whether to hold a convention or primary in 2017 statewide elections. For more on the RPV meeting, being held in Staunton, see The Bull Elephant liveblog, Lynn Mitchell's live blog, and/or Bearing Drift's liveblog (note: yep, that's right, there are THREE conservative blogs covering today's RPV meeting live from the event; none covering today's DPVA meeting from the event itself). Anyway, here are few highlights from the two meetings.
DPVA: I'm told that the Steering and Central committees decided to push off the question of whether current chairs terms should be extened to three years (from the current two years), with an ad-hoc committee of Chairs and Steering members to be formed to study the issue and report back in September. Hopefully, that kills this truly lame idea (I've heard from a couple sources that it almost certainly does), but we'll see. Other than that, I hear that DPVA Chair Susan Swecker talked about changes she's made, including new hires (e.g., a Communications Director) to staff up/strengthen DPVA, as well as the successful "JJ" dinner.
RPV: As of 5:19 pm, according to The Bull Elephant's Steve Albertson, "Secret balloting on the 'Primary and a Promise' motion has begun." Many hours were spent today debating the relative merits (or lack thereof) of holding a primary or convention for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016, as well as a primary or convention for statewide elections in 2017. Sounds like the party is deeply divided, with Republican Brian Schoeneman tweeting earlier, "41-39 vote against a roll call vote for primary vs convention. Pandemonium erupts." Discord and even "pandemonium" among Virginia Republicans? Works for me! :) In the end, it may very well be that a compromise passes, in which the 2016 nominating process is by primary, the 2017 process by convention. To my way of thinking, a Republican convention is more likely to produce an "extreme team," which is far more likely to lose in the general election than a more sane/moderate ticket, so that's fine with me. Still, would have been great to see Virginia Republicans screw up their 2016 presidential process as well (although some of them apparently fear - with the usual paranoia seen on the right wing- that Democrats might come out to vote for Donald Trump, or whoever the least electable Republican candidate might be).
P.S. Daily Press reporter Travis Fain has been covering the RPV meeting and has had some entertaining tweets. For instance: "You know that phrase 'herding cats?' Pretty sure that's easy by comparison to this RPV meeting." Also: "Whitbeck: Before you yell or blog 'think about... one thing ... Is what I'm about to do going to help us win Virginia in 2016?'" I also like this tweet by ultra-conservative Republican Del. Greg Habeeb: "FWIW, I feel like I'm usually a pretty good decision maker. I'm thinking the decision to attend this SCC meeting wasn't my best one."
UPDATE 5:46 pm: Steve Albertson of The Bull Elephant reports, "The motion to bind Virginia's Republican delegation by primary has carried. Vote was 42 to 39 and 1 abstention." That's for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016. For 2017, it looks like another convention, and possibly another "extreme team." LOL. Also, Markus Schmidt (@MSchmidtRTD) of the RTD tweets, "BREAKING: @VA_GOP will hold a statewide primary on Super Tuesday March 1, 2016 to back a presidential nominee."
Another fun night at the Fairfax County Public School (FCPS) Board Thursday night, this time as the Board debated "Family Life Education" (FLE) curriculum changes. As with the May 7 School Board meeting on transgender protections, it appears that many of the same organized, right-wing, anti-LGBT folks came out to (loudly) express their point of view. See video from the meeting to the right, and let your jaw drop as you listen to some of this insanity, bigotry, ignorance, fearmongering, etc. Fortunately, as Josh Israel reports, it all turned out well in the end:
Thrilled to report that the Fairfax County School Board voted 10-2 to add age-appropriate, science-based Family Life Education curriculum changes that include the vital message that there are LGBT people in the world and that that is okay. Thanks to them, LGBT kids, questioning kids, and kids from atraditional families will be safer and our community will be stronger.
As for the video, a few highlights include strong presentations in support of Family Life Education from 43:37 to 52:07 and from 59:19 to 1:05:40); craziness starting at 52:28 (by Laura Hanford, who claims "this vote is not about bullying or hatred," that there's been "outright deceit" on this by the School Board, and that the curriculum presented is "so extreme on gender and sexaulity that it offended families and people of faith all over the county"); continuing at 56:00 (by Thomas Valentine, who complains about "radical policy changes," falsely compares being transgender identity to anorexoia and that it's a mental illness, and claims this is all about "ideologues who want to force their beliefs onto the children of the county"); predictable craziness from long-time anti-LGBT activist Steven Hunt starting at 1:05:55, from a representative from the "Traditional Values Coalition" starting at 1:09:28, and from 1:12:58 (absurdly claims that protecting LGBT students constitutes discrimination against people of faith). Then there are the bat**** crazy videos -- oh my god, the videos (starting at 1:16:34). It's hard to even know what to say about a lot of this stuff, including the 15-year-old boy reciting the Boy Scout's oath; the guy who says "mankind cannot change sex chromosomes," that transgender identity is a dangerous "belief," and then goes all "violate Godwin's Law" on us by managing to mention Sodom and Gomorrah, Nazi Germany and Martin Niemöller's "First they came for..." quote); etc. Craaazy.
Finally there's the debate itself, with the crowd getting more and more upset, and with the Board majority (other than the two right wingnuts on the Board) struggling to figure out some sort of way to move forward. I hear that they were in disarray leading up to the meeting, but finally came together just minutes before the meeting started. Of course, nothing the Board majority could ever do on this topic would have satisfied the anti-LGBT activists in the crowd, even though the fact is that parents can opt their children out of FLE if they feel strongly about it. So what's the problem then? Why do these people want to tell every other parent what to do, when they already have the right to do what they want with their own kids? Hmmmm.
The following video is from Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring's press conference, held a bit earlier this afternoon in Arlington, on the Supreme Court's historic marriage quality decision. Also in attendance were Laura Herring; Delegates Patrick Hope, Marcus Simon and Rip Sullivan; Arlington County Board member Jay Fisette; Arlington County Clerk of the Court Paul Ferguson; Arlington County School Board member Abby Raphael; Virginia Solicitor General Stuart Raphael; Commonwealth's Attorney Theo Stamos; Arlington Democratic County Board nominees Katie Cristol and Christian Dorsey. AG Herring called today's decision "truly an historic and extraordinary moment in our nation's recognition that Americans cannot and will not be denied dignity, rights and responsibilities including those of marriage, simply because of who they love." Herring added that the work to achieve "equality and a level playing field for every Virginian is not done yet." See the "flip" for more video, of AG Herring answering a few questions from reporters.
P.S. Just imagine if arch-reactionary and homophobe Mark Obenshain (R) had been elected AG instead of Mark Herring, how this all might have played out differently, with an AG potentially fighting tooth and nail to maintain anti-LGBT discrimination instead of being the "tip of the spear" in the path to today's historic Supreme Court ruling. Yes, elections really do matter, as does your vote!
Two days in a row, two - or three, if you count the fair housing case - excellent decisions by the Supreme Court (and no, I can't believe I'm actually saying those words!). Yesterday, it was the Affordable Care Act and Fair Housing, today it's gay marriage (in a 5-4 decision which should have been wider). Great stuff, and a rebuke to the Ken Cuccinellis, E.W. Jacksons, and others (e.g., a lot of the people who showed up at last night's Fairfax County School Board meeting) who continue to live in the intolerant past, while the country moves ahead despite of them. Also, congratulations to Virginia AG Mark Herring, who has done superb work on this issue, in spite of brain-dead attacks by homophobes/right wingnuts against him. Here's a key phrase from the SCOTUS ruling:
No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were. As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death. It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization's oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.
Also, here's Sen Tim Kaine's statement. I'll post more statements in the comments section when I see them.
By recognizing the constitutional right of all people to marry the person they love, the Supreme Court has guaranteed that, across the country, same-sex couples will have their relationships treated with the full legal dignity and respect that they deserve. With our country's fundamental ideal that 'all men are created equal' in mind, I welcome the end of discriminatory bans that have, until today, denied same-sex couples the privileges, responsibilities, and joys of marriage. This is an important step on our continuing quest to create a more perfect union.
This winter Dominion Virginia Power promised Governor Terry McAuliffe it would build 400-500 megawatts (MW) of utility-scale solar power in Virginia by 2020, part of the deal it cut to gain the governor's support for a bill shielding it from rate reviews through the end of the decade. The company also took a welcome first step by announcing a proposed 20-MW solar farm near Remington, Virginia.
The applause had hardly died down, though, when Amazon Web Services announced it would be building a solar project in Accomack County, Virginia, that will be four times the size of Dominion's, at a per-megawatt cost that's 25% less.
Why such a big difference in cost? The way Dominion chose to structure the Remington project, building and owning it directly, makes it cost more than it would if a third party developed the project, as will be he case for the Accomack project. That means Dominion is leaving money on the table-ratepayers' money.
There is nothing wrong with the Remington project otherwise. The site seems to be good, local leaders are happy, and solar as a technology has now reached the point where it makes sense both economically and as a complement to Dominion's other generation. But by insisting on building the project itself, and incurring unnecessary costs, Dominion risks having the State Corporation Commission (SCC) reject what would otherwise be a great first step into solar.
And that's a crying shame, because solar really is a great deal for consumers these days. Utilities now regularly sign contracts to buy solar for between 4.5 and 7.5 cents per kilowatt-hour. Compare that to the 9.3 cents/kWh cost of electricity produced by Dominion's newest coal plant in Virginia City, and it's no wonder that solar is the fastest growing energy source in the country.
Utilities get those rates by buying solar energy from solar developers, not by playing developer themselves. From the ratepayer's point of view, developers have three advantages over utilities: they are experts at what they're doing, they work on slimmer profit margins, and they get better tax treatment. Dominion loses all three advantages if it builds the Remington solar farm itself.
Great news (although how did this case even make it to the Supreme Court, and how did three Supreme Court justices - Thomas, Scalia and Alito - vote for this garbage?).
The Supreme Court on Thursday upheld a key provision of the Affordable Care Act and agreed with the Obama administration that government subsidies that make health insurance affordable for millions of Americans should be available to all.
By a 6-3 vote, a divided court affirmed an Internal Revenue Service ruling that the subsidies should be available not only in states that have set up their own health insurance exchanges, but also in states where consumers rely on the federal government exchange.
Here's Sen. Kaine's statement.
I applaud the Supreme Court for its decision to uphold the important tax credits that millions of Americans - including nearly 300,000 in Virginia - rely on to access high quality, affordable health care. The decision is a direct rejection of the heartless effort led by health care law opponents to push families - many of whom have insurance coverage for the first time - back into the ranks of the vulnerable uninsured.
A usual, Republicans SHOULD be ashamed of themelves but won't be.
This past week has been one of those special times that prove how unpredictable the flow of events can be. It is an important realization, in our dark era in America, to recognize that our sense of what's possible is likely way too constricted. It tells us that it is never appropriate to yield entirely to despair because we "know" that there's no way things can turn around and get better.
I'm talking about the amazing speed with which, in the past several days, America - most definitely including many leaders on the American right - has been turning away from some of the long-celebrated emblems of the Confederate States of America.
The Confederate Battle Flag is being rejected in some places that have long held out for this supposedly guiltless icon of that American region that was willing to fight a Civil War to defend the rights of white people to own and exploit black people and that, two generations ago, resisted with defiant passion being compelled to abandon the regime of Jim Crow by which the descendants of those black slaves were terrorized and oppressed.
The Republican governor of South Carolina says it's time that the Stars and Bars cease flying over the South Carolina state house. The governor of Tennessee has called for the removal from his state house of a bust of Nathan Bedford Forrest, Confederate general and one of the founders of the Ku Klux Klan.
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