It could have been about mental health or affordable care, but this General Assembly session accomplished favors for the former Governor and itself. John L. Brownlee must be silently gloating. His client will benefit from what turns out is the real Virginia Way. To heck with becoming Attorney General.
What the General Assembly accomplished was to provide tacit approval of almost every unethical act Bob McDonnell, or any one of themselves, committed, ever. Mr. Brownlee, a former U.S. attorney, is a more than competent lawyer and he appreciates that the omission of specific restrictions from the "ethics bill" allows him to argue that those activities are condoned.
Some may not remember, but Bob McDonnell's attorney aspired to statewide office. He was cut off at the knees by Ken Cuccinelli, a centrist by comparison. Turns out it is better to have lost and lived to join a very good law firm than to have won and become such a pariah that the only way to earn a living is to bleed the paranoid. It's unfortunate that we'll never know if Brownlee had the stuff to tango with Jonnie Williams. What we do know is that his defense of McDonnell will be that nothing McDonnell did was unethical, at least anything he is charged with, or it would have been included in the ethics bill passed by legislators with the benefit of hindsight.
What is even more unfortunate is that politicians that take advantage of the Virginia Way to fatten their wallets (or purchase personal automobiles with campaign contributions) will continue to thrive. Frankly, there's no luxury like that of candidates willing to subsidize their lifestyle with campaign funds that the state of Virginia treats as their own. And if elected to office, why hire a staff when no one can be more valuable on your staff than yourself? Where's any reasonable standard for behavior, path for remedy, or process to enforce/punish?
So, bravo General Assembly, you may have made John L. Brownlee's case winnable.
On the twelfth day of Christmas, the Commonwealth of Virginia gave to me ...
Gold, frankincense, and myrrh?
Keep the gold, pawn it off for cold hard cash, because on this Epiphany, the three magi would be better off bringing money, messaging, and mobilization to Virginia Democrats.
Campaigns are fought on battlefields defined by demographics, candidates, random events and other factors that may be out of our control. But once the battle has been joined, victory belongs to the side that brings the three M's: money, messaging, and mobilization.
Once upon a time, there was a wild and barbarous land called Virginia, ruled by a race of giant trolls named Republicans. This land also contained tiny dwarves known as Democrats, but nobody ever really tended to notice them.
The Republican trolls liked to do big, messy, smelly, destructive things, like chopping off the tops of mountains to turn them into coal fields, and covering their shores with oil rigs. The trolls liked to drive around in big vehicles known as pickups and SUVs.
One day, a particularly gruesome troll named Gilmore jumped on a rock to get all the others' attention and yelled three words: "No Car Tax!" He repeated it over and over, until all the Republican trolls were excitedly yelling the same words, waving their hands and jumping up and down. (Trolls are very good at repeating things.)
In this way, Gilmore became King of the Trolls and was able to greatly reduce the hated car tax on their pickups and SUVs, and encourage another favorite troll chant -- "Drill Baby Drill" -- to ensure that the messy, smelly oil fields continued to fill the land.
So, all was good in the land of Virginia, until one day the trolls noticed that the dwarves also drove cars, but theirs were smaller and used less gasoline. This angered the trolls, since it contradicted the "Drill Baby Drill" chant.
And so, the new King of the Trolls, named McDonnell -- a troll with unusually excellent hair -- jumped on a tree stump and started a new chant: "Green Car Tax!" Pretty soon, all the Republican trolls were waving their arms and yelling the same thing. So of course, there was a Green Car Tax imposed across the land, the oil fields kept flowing, and all was good in Virginia again.
It is possible that the Democratic dwarves may have said something on this matter, but as usual, no one paid any attention to them.
So, the moral of the story, boys and girls, is this: Trolls rule while dwarves get stomped on. Now shut up and go to bed. THE END.
It's time again for Richmond's favorite reality show, WORST BILL EVER! Excited Republican state Delegates and Senators are lining up today to try to pass the weirdest, dumbest, most cynical or just plain revolting legislation. Make sure to vote in the poll at the end of this post for the bill you think deserves the prize.
This round's contenders include:
- Del. Bob Marshall's "Funny Money" bill (HJ 590) -- Sideshow Bob is the Rocky Balboa of freaky legislation, and he never fails to disappoint. This worthy contender, to study whether Virginia should print its own currency, is one for the ages -- I encourage you to read it in full, while enjoying such lines as "WHEREAS, many widely recognized experts predict the inevitable destruction of the Federal Reserve System's currency through hyperinflation in the foreseeable future..." Needless to say, this bill has been approved in subcommittee.
- Del. Marshall's "Cold, Dead Hands" bill (HB 2340), which would prohibit state employees from helping to enforce new Federal gun laws. Whaditellya? Like Michael Jordan, Sideshow Bob never just takes one shot at the basket. Of course, this bill is too mild for our friends at the Virginia Gun Owners Coalition, who point out that it fails to include a provision to arrest Federal officials who themselves try to enforce Federal laws. Well, good point, but Rome wasn't brutally massacred in a day. This bill, needless to say, has been reported out of committee.
As millions of Virginians celebrate Easter Sunday, it's important to re-recognize the role that religion plays in Virginia's politics. In Virginia, religion has been used as an argumentative backdrop to kill commonsensical rights for homosexuals and women. This year's session of the General Assembly was only the latest round of religion as foundation for denying women fundamental rights to their own bodies and homosexuals their unequivocal right to marry as they see fit.
I'm not a religious person but I've never been one to bash religion or anyone who adheres to this religion or that. Like it or not, religion is here to stay in Virginia for some time to come. Maybe it's exactly how social life in Virginia should be.
But while some Virginians who consider themselves religious understand the importance of allowing all Virginians to share equal rights, there are some who don't. This latter group has co-opted religion to divide Virginians along the lines of first class, second class, and third class citizenship. Didn't the New Testament say we are all God's children?
The federal government is at it again, telling us Virginians how to go about saving energy, money, and the environment. At least, that's what Prince William County Republican Bob Marshall is saying.
Del. Marshall has introduced a bill (HB 66) in the VA General Assembly that would permit the manufacture and sale of incandescent light bulbs within the commonwealth after new federal energy standards go into effect. Because incandescent light bulbs are so inefficient relative to other bulbs in the market, the former would basically be taken off the market by lack of consumer demand. Isn't that what markets are supposed to do Del. Marshall?
This bill by Marshall comes as one of many anti-federal government bills being pushed by the wing-nut conservative House of Delegates who see the federal government as interfering with Virginia's choices, choices in the case of Marshall's bill to add unnecessary energy demands and expenses onto the taxpayers of Virginia.
With so much on the line for human and environmental health during this year's session of the VA General Assembly, Conservation Lobby Day comes as a much needed momentum booster to implement an agenda based upon reason and environmental health.
Conservation Lobby Day kicks off tomorrow at 9AM at Richmond Center Stage (600 E. Grace St.) and at 10AM at the Virginia General Assembly Building on 910 Capitol Square. The purpose of Conservation Lobby Day is to show your elected representatives as well as Virginia's lobbyists that you support environmental protection.
Even though Gov. McDonnell has signaled a call to continue the ban on uranium mining in Virginia in 2012, it seems clear that this is a political tactic drawn out by the McDonnell administration and Virginia Uranium Inc. to mollify the opposition and take away from the powerful arguments of those opposed to the unacceptably risky practice of uranium mining and milling.
The Chesapeake Bay requires appropriate funding to successfully complete Virginia's latest plans to clean the bay and its tributaries. One of the highest priorities will be sustaining the share of state surplus deposited into the Water Quality Improvement Fund.
Whatever issue you choose to come out and show your support for, make sure you come out! Our health and the future of our environment in VA depend on your active participation!
When you're the king of the hill, it's easy to tell everyone else not to fight like Gov. Bob McDonnell has suggested to legislators of the General Assembly. The Republican Party's position of dominance in both the legislative and executive branches gives these individuals a much easier path to shove through their draconian policies. What can the Democratic Party of Virginia do to quell the Republican Party's medieval policy agenda? Fight like hell.
I won't get into a lengthy discussion of what McDonnell refers to as the "Virginia way." Instead, the American way is giving each individual under the stars and stripes an opportunity to live a comfortable life. Unfortunately, the companies and lobbyists who write the Republican Party of Virginia's legislation usually don't think about "the people" or their interests. If the interests of Virginians and big business overlap, so be it. If they don't, oh well.
Civility is a laudable virtue, especially in politics. But the Republican Party only preaches civility when it's the biggest gun in the room, not when it's scrapping for its political lifeline.
It's big business over small business and the individual. It's unchecked pollution over human and environmental health. It's the hand of God over federal health insurance. It's the Republican Party over the Democratic Party if the latter lies down and "plays nice."
President Obama took another step towards protecting Americans and their natural environment today, banning new uranium mining claims situated around one of America's most noteworthy physical attractions, the Grand Canyon. However, opponents of the new ban have assailed President Obama's decision with the usual counter-argument: banning uranium mining is a "job killer." Of course, when these claims are made, no effort is made to put forward data regarding how many jobs will actually be "killed." Thankfully, one arm of that terrible institution, the federal government, keeps data on uranium mining jobs in the U.S., the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
In 2010 (the latest year for which data is available), there were 7,209 uranium drilling holes in the U.S., covering 4.9 million feet. In the same year there was a total of 1,073 uranium mining jobs (including exploration, mining, milling, processing, and reclamation). A quick calculation reveals that for every drilling hole in the U.S., less than 1 job is created (0.15). Not exactly an economic boom of extravagant proportions!
Furthermore, data for 2010 actually showed an increase in drilling holes with a decrease in uranium mining jobs.
In betwixt and between the discussions over whether or not to lift the uranium mining ban in Virginia, the opinion of Southside Virginians on the issue has rarely been sought, at least not often enough, in public and private spheres alike. However, the recent bipartisan letter by Southside political representatives Sen. Frank N. Ruff Jr. and Dels. James E. Edmunds, Danny W. Marshall, Donald W. Merricks, and Thomas C. Wright Jr. cast a long shadow of a doubt about the appropriateness of lifting a uranium mining ban that would primarily affect Southside Virginians.
"We are being asked to push through a proposal to lift a 30-year-old ban on an industry with an abysmal environmental record that, under the most optimistic assumptions, experts conclude the most that can be expected is to reduce some of the quite serious risks to the health and welfare of the surrounding community."
Would those of us in central and northern Virginia find it appropriate if Southside Virginians ultimately determined whether or not uranium mining would take place in our back yards, so to speak? I'm guessing not. So why should the inverse be true? Why should political representatives from central and northern Virginia vote directly against the wishes of Southside residents and their political representatives?
At the Virginia Conservation Network's General Assembly preview at the Capitol Building in Richmond on Saturday, the agenda for conservationists and lovers of human health was laid out for the upcoming General Assembly session beginning in January.
The 2012 General Assembly session stands to be another year of tough battles for the conservationist community as issues such as clean energy credits, uranium mining, the Chesapeake Bay restoration, and a number of other important environmental issues face tough and well-financed opposition groups.
The case of uranium mining in Southside Virginia will perhaps be the most hard-fought and consequential issue for the lives of thousands, if not millions, of Virginians. If the ban on uranium mining is lifted, opponents of uranium mining say that it is only a matter of time before the drinking water for over a million Virginians is contaminated with radioactive "waste."
Given the close proximity of the Coles Hill uranium mining site to communities and large living areas in every direction, not to mention a number of important bodies of water, it's difficult to imagine how such a novel form of uranium mining and milling would be undertaken without disastrous consequences.
Were uranium to be mined and milled in Virginia, it would be the first such case in a state with more rainfall than evaporation, creating a level of uncertainty about the safety of the entire process that simply cannot be ignored.
A point that should be stressed is that if the General Assembly decides to lift the ban for uranium mining only in Southside Virginia, it will only be a matter of time before the exception of Southside VA becomes the rule throughout the entire state. That is to say, uranium mining could spread throughout Virginia. Do you want that in your backyard?
Virginia state and local elections are less than one month away. What are your top priority races, the ones that matter most to you?
Here is a list of key races derived from a number of sources. I readily admit my NOVA-centricity here, while encouraging you to pipe up about which races you think merit the biggest investment of time and money.
VA Dems' overall top priority this election cycle has to be maintaining a Democratic VA Senate so we don't lose our last bulwark against Cuccinelli/Tea Party extremism in the Commonwealth. That said, my personal highest priority race this year is Dr. Babur Lateef's campaign to unseat one of Virginia's worst demagogues, PW County Chairman of the Board of Supervisors Corey Stewart. Stewart gained nationwide notoriety for his anti-immigrant campaign -- as very well chronicled in the 9500 Liberty videos. Stewart made common cause with racist individuals and organizations to basically cleanse his county of Latinos and other immigrants -- with some success.
If he wins, Stewart clearly has his eyes set on higher office. This, in other words, is our best chance to halt his career before he reaches a point where he can inflict widespread damage on the state, even the country.
On to the VA Senate. With so many races going on, the challenge is in finding the right lens to focus on the ones that will make the difference between a Democratic Senate and Cuccinelli Unbound. A few of those lenses include:
Let's face it, the entire system for compensating Virginia General Assembly members if FUBAR. First of all, it's utterly absurd that House of Delegates members only receive $17,000 a year, and that Senators get only $18,000 a year, for their time and effort. Even if you throw in the $15,000 Ryan Nobles talks about in this story, it's still only $32,000 or $33,000 a year. How about we increase General Assembly members salaries while making it all completely transparent? And when I say "transparent," I also mean all the gifts and donations that come from special interests, corporations, lobbyists, etc. As for this tiny $15,000, just tack it on to their salaries, make it 100% transparent (no more "wink wink", to quote Paul Goldman), and be done with it.
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