This year's version of the annual event just outside of Wakefield accomplished little. Though there was a hint of the lunacy usually present at Shad Planking; what there wasn't was much of a crowd nor interest. The biggest symbol of the times was the state-maintained road to the event.
There really wasn't much in the way of genuine politics going on. It was more of an alumni meeting than a political rally; more of a gathering of cronies practicing the Virginia Way interrupted a couple of times by a couple of hecklers. It seems that the last few seasons of rowdies have driven away the attendees who used to come show some civil revelry on behalf of their candidates. And now, with no one in any race to rally around, the most demonstrative types stayed home; and that would leave a big hole in what had become this Ruritan charity event attendance.
Additionally the candidates themselves, apparently led by the Republicans, declared a tacit truce on the sign war; they realized surrender was the better part of valor in that battle. There were a few signs along the road, but not the plastering to which we've become accustomed; maybe a dozen on 460 coming in from Richmond.
And then there was that road. We've discussed here the slow strangling that the McDonnell administration orchestrated during his four years in office in the name of balancing the budget. Well, now it is manifest here. What has been a well-maintained macadam rural route has deteriorated. In fact, the last half mile or more to the event parking area entrance and everything beyond is now feathered with gravel to cover the potholes. It really is symbolic of the treatment of Virginia's infrastructure, from schools and social programs to health care and public safety; not to mention the fraud perpetrated on the Virginia Retirement System when McDonnell announced that the unfunded obligations had been resolved.
There is more to discuss about what was less and that will come in a subsequent post. But if this level of enthusiasm is any indication of the turnout for this fall's election, the margin will come down to the grassroots get-out-the-vote effort. Problem is, for both sides, yesterday showed the grassroots really haven't been fertilized.
The shad are running and Virginia politicians will swim with them today. Last year Democratic candidates gave the Wakefield Ruritan event a cold shoulder. The event's organizers made an insincere attempt to dampen the tea party spirit, discouraging stars and bars. This is a charity event, they cried, after all.
This year Virginia's senior Senator Mark Warner will deliver the keynote and his almost certain Republican opponent will make one of his rare public appearances. It will be informative seeing if Team Warner laid the groundwork for a more civil and less homogeneous atmosphere than this annual carnival for reactionaries nourishes. Earlier this year, they stumbled out of the block when, despite refusing to commit to Democratic events closer in than 60 days, they accepted the Shad Planking appearance well in advance. Maybe, tied to an old playbook, they failed to notice that last year's Democratic statewide success demonstrated the irrelevance of the event. One would hope that the acceptance came with some assurance that the event would be more civil, sane, and inclusive.
The impact of the "traditional" sign war has diminished considerably since the Kaine and Webb surprises during the past decade. When this became a war of paid "volunteers" it was no longer a genuine indicator of anything more than a campaign bankroll. And if the intent is to make this event relevant, where is the outreach from the Ruritan Club or encouragement from more progressive constituents to draw in displays and support from the Democratic Party, the NAACP, or the LGBT community?
So what will today provide? Boney fish, cold beer, and the themes that Senator Warner will employ to shore up and broaden his own constituency, an impressive coalition of common interests. This could also provide the national bellwether for the Democratic strategy that will be used to counter this year's onslaught by Republican reactionaries against the Affordable Care Act. There couldn't be a more promising petri dish.
Sam Rasoul's campaign for the 11th District House of Delegates special election in January 7 got an important endorsement today. According to a press release from the campaign, Sen. Mark Warner said, "I am proud to endorse Sam Rasoul for the House of Delegates 11th District. I worked with Sam in 2008 and was impressed with his work ethic and business background. His experience in finding consensus with people from various backgrounds will make him a valuable asset in Richmond, representing the citizens of Roanoke. Vote Sam Rasoul on January 7."
Kimble Reynolds, who briefly sought an independent run for the 11th, withdrew his candidacy after speaking with Sam Rasoul about his views on education. "I was uncertain as to whether or not there was a candidate that would be that strong advocate for education," Reynolds said in a news release. "...After learning more about Sam Rasoul and speaking with him about the sincerity of his commitment to education, I believe Roanoke has that strong candidate.
Rasoul has stated that one major issue he will stress in the campaign is bridging the gap between public schools and the skill needs of the business community. "As Delegate, I want to do more to empower our educators to be able to implement programs that provide job-ready skills upon graduation. This way our businesses can hire local students who are ready to start their career after high school or community college," Rasoul said.
Now, the key to keeping this district as the only Democratic House seat in SW Virginia is to get our voters to turn out for a special election in the dead of winter. From the activity I have seen so far by Sam Rasoul, that looks better and better.
In the first edition of tales from a sore loser, Virginia Attorney General and loser of November 5th's race for governor, Ken Cuccinelli, suggested that Sen. Mark Warner will be vulnerable during the 2014 election because of the perceived flaws of the healthcare reform legislation. In other words, Cuccinelli could be positioning himself for a senatorial run against Mark Warner in 2014.
According to Cuccinelli, "There is no such thing as an unendangered Democrat who promised, as Mark Warner did, on video, sitting in his Senate office, 'I would not vote for a health-care plan that doesn't let you keep health insurance you like.' " On the other hand, there is no such thing as an unendangered Republican who compares abortion to slavery.
Unfortunately, Cuccinelli may not have learned much from his gubernatorial loss to Democratic candidate Terry McAuliffe. Fortunately for Virginia, Cuccinelli may not have learned much from his gubernatorial loss to Terry McAuliffe.
What a wonderful thing to bolster our pride in this state, after all the depressing news we've had to bear about scandals and reactionary politics. And what a fitting tribute to the Commonwealth that once hosted the great intellects behind the Declaration of Independence, Bill of Rights and Constitution - Thomas Jefferson, George Mason, James Madison.
Scientific and technological breakthroughs don't happen by accident, they occur because of leadership -- academic, industrial and political. As one article from 2010 noted:
Virginia has put some effort into supporting a commercial space sector, anchored by NASA Wallops. In 2004, governors Bob Erlich of Maryland and Mark Warner of Virginia created the MARS partnership. And in recent years the General Assembly passed two laws to make the state more friendly to space transportation companies. The 2007 Virginia Space Liability and Immunity Act gives companies some legal shelter in the event of a mishap, and the Zero G Tax Act of 2008 provides an exemption to companies doing business in the state with plans to launch from MARS or to do spaceflight training.
Yes, tech-savvy political leaders like Mark Warner make the difference between a state that moves forward into the 21st century, and one that falls backwards into irrelevance and decay. Which brings us to the current race for governor.
I have sat on this post for several days. But this information must be shared, no matter how uncomfortable it makes us. We learned in 2007-8 what lax oversight means to this country. If we hoped for any lasting future protections from predatory practices, they were dashed this past week with news of the following Editorial Board editorial from the New York Times. Here we learn that the independence of critical protections are at stake.
For all its rabid partisanship, Congress has shown time and again that it is willing to come together to deregulate corporate America. The latest example is a new bill in the Senate that would effectively end the independence of independent regulatory agencies, including the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the Consumer Product Safety Commission and the National Labor Relations Board.
And you know the hijacked (by the Tea Party) House of Representatives will be eager to pass such predation should it pass the Senate. It is bad enough that Dodd-Frank under-protected us, but for Senators to try to weaken even that bill is inexcusable. Making the commissions and Bureaus less independent will do just that. And the SEC isn't the only entity the senators have taken aim at. Strikingly, Virginians have one of their our own to "thank" for this: US Senator Mark Warner. He is joined by Rob Portman and Susan Collins.
(See below for who to contact for help on that matter.)
I won't be diplomatic about Democratic candidate for governor Terry McAuliffe's change of face regarding offshore oil drilling. In an about face that dovetailed both U.S. Senator Tim Kaine and Mark Warner's (Virginia) bill to overturn the federal hold on offshore drilling in coastal waters, McAuliffe expressed support for offshore drilling for oil.
Previously, McAuliffe expressed his support for exploratory drilling for natural gas, not oil. With his Democratic pals pushing to throw more oil and natural gas rigs into America's coastal waters, McAuliffe has adjudged that the political winds are ripe for a political change of face and a stab in the back to environmentally conscious Virginians who so ardently backed his candidacy.
"Terry believes we need to support coal workers, both through increased exports throughout the world, and workforce training to ensure that displaced workers can find new careers," McAuliffe spokesman Josh Schwerin said. "The fact is, we need an all of the above energy policy that focuses on increasing renewable energy like wind and solar while supporting existing Virginia industries."
Support coal workers, WTF?! I have a bitter pill I'd like the coal industry and its employees to swallow: your time is up, so get over it and find jobs elsewhere.
We elect politicians to make decisions. When they refuse to take a stand, it's our job to hold them accountable.
Yet somehow that rule seems to have a huge loophole when it comes to energy. Because the one thing politicians across the spectrum seem to agree on is the need for an "all of the above" energy policy. And we allow them to get away with this cop-out.
"All of the above" is not a policy, it is the absence of a policy. Have you ever heard of an "all of the above" foreign policy? Maybe an "all of the above" economic policy? How about an "all of the above" policy on abortion? Such things sound absurd because they are.
Granted, politics and government often leave us with policies that incorporate opposing positions, once we've ground through the process of give-and-take. But rarely does anyone start with an "all of the above" position. It's where you may end up after you've tried to protect your ground while giving away as little of your positions, and your soul, as you can. If you start with "all of the above" as your position, you're pretty much guaranteed to get nothing.
Remember that famous quote from Martin Luther King? "I have a dream...of an 'all of the above' civil rights policy where we simultaneously protect and deny the rights of all Americans." Me neither.
In an effort to put more holes in Virginia soil to extract materials millions of years old, Senators Tim Kaine and Mark Warner are renewing their attempts to lift the federal hold on oil and gas drilling in Virginia's coastal waters.
But wait, here comes the political cover! According to The Virginian-Pilot, Warner and Kaine each "vowed" they wouldn't continue their attempts to lift the federal moratorium on oil and gas drilling unless the Commonwealth received a sizable share of the of the oil and gas revenue that would accrue in the future. Under current law, all such profits would go into federal coffers. How this provision came into effect is also a legislative oddity.
For Virginians who are more concerned about the environment than extracting a finite resource that Virginia and the rest of the country could do without, this renewed push by Senators Warner and Kaine come as another disappointing political move by two supposedly "blue" politicians.
(Mark Warner richly deserves this not just because of his egregious votes yesterday, but for his constant bashing of progressives, for his support of mountaintop removal coal mining and the Keystone XL pipeline, etc. Also note, I added the photo, courtesy of DonkeyHotey's Flickr stream. - promoted by lowkell)
Mark Warner voted against the assault weapons ban. Mark Warner voted against limiting the size of magazines. Mark Warner is the most popular political figure in Virginia, and could have voted for both measures without in any way jeopardizing his reelection in 2014
Mark Warner is from a state that saw the slaughter at Virginia Tech. Cho used both ten and fifteen round magazines for his two handguns. Think how much damage he did. Think how much more he might have been able to do had he had 30 round magazines and had to change less frequently.
I have been involved in Democratic politics in Virginia including at a statewide level. Mark Warner is considered the 800 pound gorilla of Virginia Democratic politics. In a sense my taking this stand may make me toxic in Virginia politics.
I don't care.
It does not matter that neither of these amendments were going to pass. I rely on the words of Martin Luther King, Jr.:
There comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but he must take it because conscience tells him it is right.
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.
Self-styled "centrist" Democratic senators like Tim Kaine and Mark Warner say they recognize climate reality and support action to cut carbon pollution. But ... then they see polls that show the public is split on the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline ... and feel pressure from Very Serious People in Washington who won't say no to anything the oil, gas and coal industries want ... and think, maybe we can have both? Get credit for support this current & specific polluting pipeline AND burnish climate bona fides by hand-waving towards some future & not yet existent climate effort?
No. Climate action isn't just about the easy & popular things, like clean energy and energy efficiency. It's also about the hard things, like saying no to oil and coal barons who may spend lots of money to try to defeat you in your next re-election campaign. You can't claim to support climate action, but wilt like corn caught in a global warming-fueled drought every time big polluters come asking for a favor.
Either folks like Tim Kaine and Mark Warner support climate action. Or they support Keystone XL and don't really care about things like confronting superstorms like Sandy or protecting our natural resources for future generations. They can't have it both ways.
Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) signed yet another letter today urging President Obama & Secretary of State John Kerry to approve the Keystone XL pipeline even before a public health, wildlife & climate review can be completed. Why the panic? Whose interests would approving Keystone XL even if it fails review serve?
Building the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline wouldn't solve any of our energy problems - and would make the climate crisis much, much worse. That's hard to explain to people who don't follow politics. Even with Congressional approval ratings at all-time lows, people assume there must be SOMETHING in it for Virginia ... right? Our members of Congress wouldn't just go along with a terrible deal without asking hard questions ... right? But Keystone XL really IS that bad of a deal:
Tomorrow at noon, Virginians are gathering at Senator Warner's Norfolk and Vienna offices to "Carol Against Cuts". ProgressVA, the Virginia AFL-CIO, Virginia Organizing, Move On, AARP, Alliance for Retired Americans, SEIU, and fellow progressives from cross the Commonwealth will reprise well-known holiday melodies with new lyrics, such as such as "Oh Fiscal Cliff" to the tune of "O' Christmas Tree".
Our caroling events are part of our statewide day of action asking Virginia's representatives to protect Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security in the fiscal cliff negotiations while letting the Bush tax cuts for the top 2% expire. We will also visit Senator Warner's office in Roanoke for a candlelight vigil later in the day.
We will be posting pictures, videos, and updates from the events throughout the day - so be sure to check back. Also, if you can please join us, we'd love to have your support and hear your voice.
Three weeks ago tonight, we rejoiced that we had elected President Barak Obama to a second term and retained the US Senate. We ousted numerous Neanderthal wingers. And the people had spoken a resounding "No!" to those who would continue the massive tax giveaways to the millionaires and billionaires. We went to bed around 2:30 AM. Not four hours later the minions of Peter Peterson were at it again, as if no election had ever taken place. They were on every news outlet chanting the contrivance of the "fiscal cliff," which doesn't exist except for their own making. They want "austerity" for all of us (but not them). On one radio and TV show after another, they took aim at the very heart of the people's budget. And so on it went.
The cast of characters was long. I'll name a few names. As this Huffington Post article tells it, the CEO Council demands cuts to the poor, elderly, and the hungry while reaping billions in government tax breaks, contracts and even/especially bailouts. They're engaged in a zero-sum game.
The worst offender, though, is the architect of the faux debt crisis. Peter Peterson, conservative GOP partisan and founder of the Blackstone Group, Center for a Responsible Federal Budget (CRFB) and Americans for Prosperity (AFP), blanketed the networks with disinformation and propaganda. Many ads messaged directly or indirectly against president Obama and Democrats. Through CRFB and AFP he's poured 30 million into the campaign to rip off you and me to benefit rich people like himself.
You need to watch this video to see what a "strong" statement of support US Senator Mark Warner (Yes, D-VA) gives for president Obama (not!). In the video, Warner addresses Democrats rallying in Buena Vista, VA. First, he toots his own horn, "For 20 years I've been coming almost every year to Buena Vista to kick off the fall campaign..."
He then admits it's "One of the most important" campaigns. It determines, "What kind of campaigns we're going to have going forward." But "it doesn't help Democracy when we've got millions of negative campaign ads from folks we don't know tearing each other down." Here we go on the false equivalence again.
At the end of these sixty four days, our country's going to have to come together. True. But Warner is actually acting sanctimonious here and trying to elevate himself as better than anyone else.
"I personally hope that President Obama is going to be re-elected," said Warner. "But whether you vote for President Obama or Governor Romney...." My God, he is at a Democratic rally. He hopes, but doesn't explain why its so important to re-elect President Obama. Can he not make a better case than that. I could and I am not even a politician. I have not been in the US Senate, sent there by the hard work of the DEMOCRATIC Party and people like us.
Warner became governor on our backs. His campaign was one of the hardest I ever worked on. We poured it on. We fought for every single vote. And you'd better believe he wasn't talking the false equivalence then.
Last week I lamented that Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) chose to distance himself from the President of his own party. Warner had claimed false equivalence between the campaign of division and racist hate being waged by the GOP and the campaign on the facts, record, and differences between platforms waged by the Democratic Party and President Obama. And Warner tried to feign superiority to a president, who as a matter of fact has stuck to the issues, facts, AND the record of one Mitt Romney, job destroyer and debt creator. That is a matter of fact (see ElaineinRoanoke's diary on the subject of debt creation yesterday).
I can't emphasize enough how gutless it was to do such a thing when any US Senator, with a safe seat and who is not up for re-election this time (Warner), or one who is about to retire (Webb), should have had the President's back. Were folks like Warner, Webb and others to stand up as a TEAM against such hate, only the most unhinged would dare utter the kind of garbage that run-of-the-mill Republicans are now doing. Now they can get away with saying with utter impunity what previously only the worst racists in America would say. What was merely implied (not that that is acceptable either) is stated outright. The kind of racism which defeated Harvey Gant in his campaign to unseat the uber racist Jesse helms, has become "mainstream GOP."
Now attacks upon the President for his being of a different race, the pretense that he is not a citizen and the suggestion of "otherness" (statements that he is "not one of us," "doesn't understand what it means to be an American," or even claims he is "unAmerican") is skillfully used by a GOP on hate-based "steroids." Though there are more whites on welfare, the myth of African Americans as the main welfare recipients persists and is easily fed. Every speech is crafted to present to the American people lies about Obama's welfare-to-work efforts, which actually move MORE, not fewer, people to work. The lies are right out of the Ronald Reagan Southern Strategy playbook. Every effort at building the "otherness" myth is designed to elicit voter racism.
Please take a look at Mark Warner being Warner in a way that is just so hurtful to Dems this year. Says he:
I think it's going to be very close. I know he's got problems in SW Virginia He's doing better in Eastern and Northern Virginia.
And I'll tell you this much, I'm supporting President Obama, but I also am awful tired of all the negative ads. I wish we wouldn't be spending 2 billion dollars on tv tearing each other down. That money could be used for interstate 81 and scholarships. Hopefully, we'll get through this election like we've gotten through all the others and get back to solving our country's problems, especially the debt and deficit.
He just cannot seem to help himself. He can't endorse the president without trying to distance himself at the same time. He can't talk about health care reform without saying there's a lot that needs to be fixed (in the Affordable Care Act).
His effort to create out of nothing a false equivalence between the two parties regarding negative ads is appalling. The GOP lie machine spins the lies faster than we can rebut them. But Warner pretends both parties are doing it. He also implies that it's "negative" to refute a pile of lies. I call it necessary. And there is nothing wrong with that. Such a false equivalence is cowardly, shameful, and self-serving. Lying down and playing dead will not work. And putting up only "positive" ads won't work either.
Along the way, Warner panders to Bristol Motor Speedway fans, coal, enemies of "ObamaCare," and Peter Peterson's "deficit" hawkeroos. (Hawkeroos are two-faced show-offs who like to prattle away at how spending conscious they are. But they won't make the rich pay their fair share. No, sir.)
What is really disconcerting is his self-adulating self-absorption. He is posturing every minute. Warner's myth of the "radical center" is really all about such posturing and it's also about trying to reinvent as virtuous all those things he doesn't stand for, but should, like enabling the EPA to keep our air and water clean. Or helping the 99% as opposed to the wealthy who don't need more tax cuts. It is as if he's out there saying, "Look at me. I'm better than all of you. I am especially better than President Obama." (No, you are not, Mark.)
UPDATE 11:58am: Warner & Webb voted with Sen. Inhofe. Disgraceful. Fortunately, 53 other senators stood up for public health & killed the bill.
Not only is Sen. Jim Inhofe's bill to block new Environmental Protection Agency mercury standards horrible public policy that would kill a lot of people, a new United Technologies/National Journal poll finds it's wildly unpopular with voters:
A new United Technologies/National Journal Congressional Connection Poll finds that 57 percent of the public supports a recently-finalized Environmental Protection Agency rule controlling mercury and other toxic air pollution from coal-fired power plants as long as companies are given more time to comply.
The poll found that a similar majority-55 percent-thinks EPA should be able to control greenhouse-gas emissions that most scientists agree cause climate change. Just slightly more than one-third of the public-36 percent-said Congress should stop EPA from such regulation. A federal court is expected to rule soon on whether the agency is within its right to regulate greenhouse-gas emissions.
The poll's findings put a majority of Americans out of step with Senate Environment and Public Works Committee ranking member James Inhofe, R-Okla., who is sponsoring a measure coming up for a vote on Wednesday that would nullify EPA's mercury rule entirely. Just under 20 percent of survey respondents said the Senate should vote to uphold the rule as it stands now, while only 14 percent said the Senate should vote to get rid of it.
Again, I'd ask Senators Mark Warner and Jim Webb: This is a hard call? Really? Which part is a tough call, the part where it lets corporate polluters profit by treating America's air and water like an open sewer? The part where people with asthma die? Or the part where it's incredibly bad politics?
Today, the Senate is expected to vote on a bill by Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) to block the Environmental Protection Agency from setting science-based standards for mercury and other toxic pollutants. That Sen. Mark Warner & Sen. Jim Webb are considered "swing votes" by the coal mining industry is a sad statement about how the Democratic Party of Virginia remains pathetically in the back pocket of the coal industry.
Pollution from coal-fired power plants is a major cause of asthma attacks. Historically in America, rather than address those causes, we enjoy "cheap" electricity, then let people get sick - 20 million Americans a year have asthma attacks, with 2 million of those being treated in the emergency room, and 5,000 people a year dying. Economists call those people externalities - costs that don't show up on your power bill.
Thirteen years after public health and conservation groups started pushing the Clinton administration to strengthen clean air standards, the Obama administration finally delivered last December, unveiling new rules. But electric utilities and their allies, led by Sen. Inhofe, are trying to block the rule, giving $9,313,822 to Congress so far this cycle alone (61% to Republicans). Virginia parents, despite their inability to write the large checks demanded in this post-Citizens United world, are fighting back:
McDonnell and the Republicans assassinated it. Jeff Shapiro eulogizes it. Tucker Martin tried to resurrect it in a tweet, hailing Colgan's surrender. But in the end, Governor McDonnell's singular focus on self-promotion has turned our legislature into a congressional clone. Governor McDonnell yells rather than leads; just another wannabe bully.
Virginia has received quite a few headlines these last few months. And it's not been about the best state to do business; it's not been about the best place to raise a child. It's been about ultrasound and the socially conservative overreach agenda that the Republicans pursued in the General Assembly session. -Toscano
Two things have become characteristic of Virginia Republicans. They confuse power with leadership and they are more interested in their own ambitions than the welfare of the Commonwealth. This is distinct and different than the Democrats who have been in power and that is clear in both the Jeff Shapiro piece and the descriptions of this session by state Senator Creigh Deeds (D-25th) and Democratic Minority Whip, Delegate David Toscano (D-57th). Contrast the eras of Gilmore and McDonnell with that of Warner and Kaine.
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