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National Politics

Video: Atlanta TV Station Exposes ALEC's Influence On Local Legislators

by: lowkell

Fri May 22, 2015 at 14:16:52 PM EDT

Now, perhaps a media outlet covering Virginia might want to do the same for Virginia legislators?

Discuss :: (0 Comments)

Video: President Obama's Commencement Speech to U.S. Coast Guard Academy Focuses on Climate Change

by: lowkell

Wed May 20, 2015 at 16:11:39 PM EDT

Excellent speech, see the transcript below (bolding added by yours truly). Now, President Obama should follow up by blocking oil drilling off our coasts and in the Arctic.
There are now fewer days to go until the Class of 2015 graduates than - never mind. (Laughter.) There are now zero days until the Class of 2015 graduates. (Applause.)

Thank you, Admiral Zukunft, for your kind introduction and for your leadership of our Coast Guardsmen on all seven continents. Governor Malloy, Secretary Johnson, Ambassador, distinguished guests, faculty and staff, families and friends.

And Admiral Stosz, as you prepare to conclude your time as Superintendent, thank you for your outstanding stewardship of this Academy. You made history as the first woman ever to lead one of our nation's service academies. (Applause.) And I know you'll keep making history, because I was proud to nominate you for your third star and as the Coast Guard's next Deputy Commandant for Mission Support. (Applause.)

It is wonderful to be with all of you here today on this beautiful day. Michelle sends her greetings as well. She is the proud sponsor of the Coast Guard cutter Stratton - which is tough to beat. But as Admiral Zukunft pointed out, both the Coast Guard and I were born on the same day. So I want you all to know, every birthday from now on I will be thinking about the Coast Guard. (Laughter and applause.)

Now, the Coast Guard may be the smallest of our services, but I have to say you may also be the loudest. (Laughter.) Whenever I visit our military bases, there are always lots of soldiers and sailors and airmen and Marines. They make a lot of noise. But wherever I am - across the country or around the world, including Afghanistan - nowhere near an ocean - the most determined cheer from the crowd comes from our proud Coast Guardsmen, because usually there might only be one or two of them. (Laughter.)

As Paul mentioned, in my State of the Union address this year, I mentioned how I've seen America at its best when commissioning our new officers, including here in New London. And it's true, some folks across the country didn't quite get the reference. One person tweeted that they were pretty sure I just made this up. (Applause.) Then there was one person in town who asked, "Did Obama name drop New London?" So let me do it again. It is a great honor to be back in New London, at the United States Coast Guard Academy - (applause) - to salute the newest ensigns of America's oldest, continuous maritime service. (Applause.)

Cadets, this is a day to celebrate all that you've achieved over these past four years. You have excelled at one of the most selective and rigorous academic institutions in America. You've held yourselves to a high code of conduct, proven yourself worthy to be called commissioned officers in the United States Coast Guard.

You pushed yourselves physically - from Swab Summer to beating your officers at basketball and softball and football. (Applause.) You braced up, squared your meals, spent Friday nights waxing the floors - maybe a little "Rodeo Buffing." (Laughter.) I saw the video. That looks dangerous, by the way. (Laughter.) You made your mark, and you will be remembered. In Chase Hall. In this stadium. And at Hanafin's and Bulkeley House. (Applause.) Which reminds me, in keeping with longstanding tradition, I hereby absolve all cadets serving restrictions for minor offenses. (Laughter.) Minor offenses.

You came together as one team. We are joined today by Commander Merle Smith - the first African American graduate of this Academy - (applause) - Class of 1966, a decorated Vietnam veteran. His legacy endures in all of you - because the graduating Class of 2015 is the most diverse in Academy history. And you took care of each other, like family. Today we honor the memory of your classmate from the Republic of Georgia, Soso, along with Beso. Their spirits will live on in the partnerships you forge with Coast Guards all over the world.

Today, you take your rightful place in the Long Blue Line. For Marina Stevens and her family, it is a very long line. Where is Marina? Just wave at me real quick. There she is right there. Marina's dad is Coast Guard civilian. Her mom, Janet, an Academy graduate, was a Coast Guard captain and will pin on Marina's shoulder boards today. Marina's grandfather was a Coast Guardsman. Her great-grandfather joined the U.S. Lighthouse Service in 1918. That's four generations, spanning nearly the entire life of the modern Coast Guard. No wonder she's named Marina. (Laughter and applause.) It's in her blood.

And, Cadets, I know that none of you reached this day alone. So join me in giving a huge round of applause to your mentors and your incredible parents and your family members - so many of them, themselves, veterans as well. Please give them a big round of applause. (Applause.)

Class of 2015, I'm here as your Commander-in-Chief, on behalf of the American people, to say thanks to each of you. Thanks for choosing to serve - for stepping up, for giving up the comforts of civilian life, for putting on that uniform. Thank you for the service you are about to render - the life of purpose that you've embraced, the risks that you've accepted and the sacrifices that you will make.

But I'm not here to just sing your praises. I want to speak to you about what comes next. Soon, you'll fan out across the Coast Guard and some of you will go to sectors and shore command. Some of you will start your duty aboard cutters. Some of you will start flight training. America needs you. And we need the Coast Guard more than ever.

We need you to safeguard our ports against all threats, including terrorism. We need you to respond in times of disaster or distress and lead your rescue teams as they jump out of perfectly good helicopters. We need you in the Caribbean and Central America, interdicting drugs before they reach our streets and damage our kids. We need you in the Middle East; in the Gulf; alongside our Navy; in places like West Africa, where you helped keep the ports open so that the world could fight a deadly disease. We need you in the Asia Pacific, to help our partners train their own coast guards to uphold maritime security and freedom of navigation in waters vital to our global economy.

These are all demanding missions. The pace of operations is intense. And these are tight fiscal times for all our services, including the Coast Guard. But we are going to keep working to give you the boats and the cutters and the aircraft that you need to complete the missions we ask of you.

We're moving ahead with new Fast Response Cutters, new Offshore Patrol Cutters. We're on track to have a full fleet of new National Security Cutters - the most advanced in history. And I've made it clear that I will not accept a budget that continues these draconian budget cuts called sequestration, because our nation and our military and our Coast Guard deserve better. (Applause.)

And this brings me to the challenge I want to focus on today - one where our Coast Guardsmen are already on the front lines, and that, perhaps more than any other, will shape your entire careers - and that's the urgent need to combat and adapt to climate change.

As a nation, we face many challenges, including the grave threat of terrorism. And as Americans, we will always do everything in our power to protect our country. Yet even as we meet threats like terrorism, we cannot, and we must not, ignore a peril that can affect generations.

Now, I know there are still some folks back in Washington who refuse to admit that climate change is real. And on a day like today, it's hard to get too worried about it. There are folks who will equivocate. They'll say, "You know, I'm not a scientist." Well, I'm not either. But the best scientists in the world know that climate change is happening. Our analysts in the intelligence community know climate change is happening. Our military leaders - generals and admirals, active duty and retired - know it's happening. Our homeland security professionals know it is happening. And our Coast Guard knows it's happening.

The science is indisputable. The fossil fuels we burn release carbon dioxide, which traps heat. And the levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere are now higher than they have been in 800,000 years. The planet is getting warmer. Fourteen of the 15 hottest years on record have been in the past 15 years. Last year was the planet's warmest year ever recorded.

Our scientists at NASA just reported that some of the sea ice around Antarctica is breaking up even faster than expected. The world's glaciers are melting, pouring new water into the ocean. Over the past century, the world sea level rose by about eight inches. That was in the last century; by the end of this century, it's projected to rise another one to four feet.

Cadets, the threat of a changing climate cuts to the very core of your service. You've been drawn to water - like the poet who wrote, "the heart of the great ocean sends a thrilling pulse through me." You know the beauty of the sea, but you also know its unforgiving power.

Here at the Academy, climate change - understanding the science and the consequences - is part of the curriculum, and rightly so, because it will affect everything that you do in your careers. Some of you have already served in Alaska and aboard icebreakers, and you know the effects. As America's Maritime Guardian, you've pledged to remain always ready - Semper Paratus - ready for all threats. And climate change is one of those most severe threats.

And this is not just a problem for countries on the coasts, or for certain regions of the world. Climate change will impact every country on the planet. No nation is immune. So I'm here today to say that climate change constitutes a serious threat to global security, an immediate risk to our national security. And make no mistake, it will impact how our military defends our country. And so we need to act - and we need to act now.

After all, isn't that the true hallmark of leadership? When you're on deck, standing your watch, you stay vigilant. You plan for every contingency. And if you see storm clouds gathering, or dangerous shoals ahead, you don't sit back and do nothing. You take action - to protect your ship, to keep your crew safe. Anything less is negligence. It is a dereliction of duty. And so, too, with climate change. Denying it, or refusing to deal with it endangers our national security. It undermines the readiness of our forces.

It's been said of life on the sea - "the pessimist complains about the wind, the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails." Cadets, like you, I reject pessimism. We know what we as Americans can achieve when we set ourselves to great endeavors. We are, by nature, optimists - but we're not blind optimists. We know that wishful thinking in the face of all evidence to the contrary would set us on a course for disaster. If we are to meet this threat of climate change, we must be realists. We have to readjust the sails.

That's why confronting climate change is now a key pillar of American global leadership. When I meet with leaders around the world, it's often at the top of our agenda - a core element of our diplomacy. And you are part of the first generation of officers to begin your service in a world where the effects of climate change are so clearly upon us. It will shape how every one of our services plan, operate, train, equip, and protect their infrastructure, their capabilities, today and for the long term. So let me be specific on how your generation will have to lead the way to both prepare ourselves and how to prevent the worst effects in the future.

Around the world, climate change increases the risk of instability and conflict. Rising seas are already swallowing low-lying lands, from Bangladesh to Pacific islands, forcing people from their homes. Caribbean islands and Central American coasts are vulnerable, as well. Globally, we could see a rise in climate change refugees. And I guarantee you the Coast Guard will have to respond. Elsewhere, more intense droughts will exacerbate shortages of water and food, increase competition for resources, and create the potential for mass migrations and new tensions. All of which is why the Pentagon calls climate change a "threat multiplier."

Understand, climate change did not cause the conflicts we see around the world. Yet what we also know is that severe drought helped to create the instability in Nigeria that was exploited by the terrorist group Boko Haram. It's now believed that drought and crop failures and high food prices helped fuel the early unrest in Syria, which descended into civil war in the heart of the Middle East. So, increasingly, our military and our combatant commands, our services - including the Coast Guard - will need to factor climate change into plans and operations, because you need to be ready.

Around the world, climate change will mean more extreme storms. No single weather event can be blamed solely on climate change. But Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines gave us a possible glimpse of things to come - one of the worst cyclones ever recorded; thousands killed, many more displaced, billions of dollars in damage, and a massive international relief effort that included the United States military and its Coast Guard. So more extreme storms will mean more humanitarian missions to deliver lifesaving help. Our forces will have to be ready.

As Admiral Zukunft already mentioned, climate change means Arctic sea ice is vanishing faster than ever. By the middle of this century, Arctic summers could be essentially ice free. We're witnessing the birth of a new ocean - new sea lanes, more shipping, more exploration, more competition for the vast natural resources below.

In Alaska, we have more than 1,000 miles of Arctic coastline. The United States is an Arctic nation, and we have a great interest in making sure that the region is peaceful, that its indigenous people and environment are protected, and that its resources are managed responsibly in partnership with other nations. And that means all of you are going to have to step up - because few know the Arctic better than the U.S. Coast Guard. You've operated there across nearly 150 years. And as the Arctic opens, the role that the Coast Guard plays will only grow. I believe that our interests in the Arctic demand that we continue to invest in an enduring Coast Guard icebreaking capacity.

I was proud to nominate your last commandant, Admiral Papp, as our special representative for the Arctic. And as the U.S. chairs the Arctic Council this year, I'm committed to advancing our interests in this critical region because we have to be ready in the Arctic, as well.

Climate change, and especially rising seas, is a threat to our homeland security, our economic infrastructure, the safety and health of the American people. Already, today, in Miami and Charleston, streets now flood at high tide. Along our coasts, thousands of miles of highways and roads, railways, energy facilities are all vulnerable. It's estimated that a further increase in sea level of just one foot by the end of this century could cost our nation $200 billion.

In New York Harbor, the sea level is already a foot higher than a century ago - which was one of the reasons Superstorm Sandy put so much of lower Manhattan underwater. During Sandy, the Coast Guard mounted a heroic response, along with our National Guard and Reserve. But rising seas and stronger storms will mean more disaster response missions. And we need the Coast Guard to be ready, because you are America's maritime first responder.

Climate change poses a threat to the readiness of our forces. Many of our military installations are on the coast, including, of course, our Coast Guard stations. Around Norfolk, high tides and storms increasingly flood parts of our Navy base and an airbase. In Alaska, thawing permafrost is damaging military facilities. Out West, deeper droughts and longer wildfires could threaten training areas our troops depend on.

So politicians who say they care about military readiness ought to care about this, as well. Just as we're helping American communities prepare to deal with the impacts of climate change, we have to help our bases and ports, as well. Not just with stronger seawalls and natural barriers, but with smarter, more resilient infrastructure - because when the seas rise and storms come, we all have to be ready.

Now, everything I've discussed with you so far is about preparing for the impacts of climate change. But we need to be honest - such preparation and adaptation alone will not be enough. As men and women in uniform, you know that it can be just as important, if not more important, to prevent threats before they can cause catastrophic harm. And only way - the only way - the world is going to prevent the worst effects of climate change is to slow down the warming of the planet.

Some warming is now inevitable. But there comes a point when the worst effects will be irreversible. And time is running out. And we all know what needs to happen. It's no secret. The world has to finally start reducing its carbon emissions - now. And that's why I've committed the United States to leading the world on this challenge.

Over the past six years, we've done more than ever to reduce harmful emissions, unprecedented investments to cut energy waste in our homes and building, standards to double the fuel efficiency of our vehicles. We're using more clean energy than ever before - more solar, more wind. It's all helped us reduce our carbon emissions more than any other advanced nation. And today, we can be proud that our carbon pollution is near its lowest levels in almost two decades. But we've got to do more.

So, going forward, I've committed to doubling the pace at which we cut carbon pollution. And that means we all have to step up. And it will not be easy. It will require sacrifice, and the politics will be tough. But there is no other way. We have to make our homes and buildings more efficient. We have to invest in more energy research and renewable technologies. We have to move ahead with standards to cut the amount of carbon pollution in our power plants. And working with other nations, we have to achieve a strong global agreement this year to start reducing the total global emission - because every nation must do its part. Every nation.

So this will be tough. But as so often is the case, our men and women in uniform show us the way. They're used to sacrifice and they are used to doing hard stuff. Class of 2015, you've built new equipment that uses less energy. You've designed new vessels with fewer harmful emissions. Stephen Horvath, selected as a Fulbright Scholar, will research new technologies for renewable energies. The Coast Guard is building more fuel-efficient cutters. So you're already leading. And, Cadets, as you go forward, I challenge you to keep imagining and building the new future we need - and make your class motto your life's work: "To go where few dare." This is a place where we need you.

Across our military, our bases and ports are using more solar and wind, which helps save money that we can use to improve readiness. The Army is pursuing new, lighter, more fuel-efficient vehicles. The Air Force F-22 broke the sound barrier using biofuels. And the Navy runs an entire carrier strike group - the Green Fleet - with biofuels. Our Marines have deployed to Afghanistan with portable solar panels, lightening their load and reducing dangerous resupply missions. So fighting climate change and using energy wisely also makes our forces more nimble and more ready. And that's something that should unite us as Americans. This cannot be subject to the usual politics and the usual rhetoric. When storms gather, we get ready.

And I want to leave you with a story that captures the persistence and the patriotism that this work requires, because this is a nation made up of folks who know how to do hard things. Down in the front row is Dr. Olivia Hooker. In 1921, in Tulsa, Oklahoma, when she was just six years old, her African American community was attacked by white mobs - it was a horrific racial incident. And hundreds of innocent African Americans were killed. The mobs destroyed her father's clothing store. They looted her house. They even burned the little clothes for her doll.

And Olivia could have given in to bitterness. She could have been pessimistic about her country. Instead, she made it better. So in World War II, she enlisted as a SPAR, becoming the first African American woman in the Coast Guard. (Applause.) As a yeoman in Boston, she served with distinction. By the time the war was won, she was discharged, she was a petty officer second class.

With the GI Bill, Olivia earned her master's, then her doctorate. She has been a professor and mentor to her students, a passionate advocate for Americans with disabilities, a psychologist counseling young children, a caregiver at the height of the AIDS epidemic, a tireless voice for justice and equality. A few months ago, Olivia turned 100 years old. (Applause.)

So, Olivia, you're going to have to tell us you're secret. She's still as sharp as they come, and as fearless. (Applause.)

In Yonkers, New York, she even still volunteers as a member of the Coast Guard Auxiliary, and was determined to be here with us today.

So, Dr. Hooker, thank you. You're an inspiration. (Applause.) One hundred years old.

So Dr. Hooker has led a remarkable life. But this is what she says - "It's not about you, or me. It's about what we can give to this world."

Cadets, you're at the start of your careers. And we cannot know, each of us, how many days we will walk this Earth. We can't guarantee we're all going to live to 100. But what we can do is live each day to its fullest. What we can do is look squarely at what will make the biggest difference for future generations and be willing to tackle those challenges.

And as you embark on your life of service, as you man your stations, and head to the seas, and take to the skies, should the sea begin to surge and the waves swell and the wind blows hard against your face, I want you to think back to this moment - to feel what you feel in your hearts today. And if you remember all that you've learned here on the Thames - how you came here and came together, out of many one, to achieve as a team what you could never do alone - if you resolve to stay worthy of traditions that endure - honor, respect, devotion to duty - if you heed the wisdom and humility of a petty officer second class from Oklahoma, to think not of yourself, but what you can give to this world - then I'm confident that you will truly go where few dare. And you will rise to meet the challenges that not only face our country, but face our planet. And your legacy will be a nation that is stronger and safer for generations to come.

So, Class of 2015 - thank you for your service. Congratulations. God bless you. God bless all our Coast Guardsmen. God bless our United States of America.

Discuss :: (1 Comments)

GOP Courts Birchers, Bigots, Boneheads for Decades, Shocked that Party Filled with Them?!?

by: lowkell

Mon May 11, 2015 at 14:09:35 PM EDT

The Republican Party and its apologists -- such as Jennifer Rubin, the right-wing hack blogger employed for whatever reason (eyeballs, presumably) by warmonger/neocon Fred Hiatt over at the Washington Post - truly never cease to amaze. In this case, Jennifer "Right Turn" Rubin expresses dismay that the Republican Party is teeming with "far too many crackpots." And while I agree with her that the GOP most certainly IS filled with a bunch of crackpots (Rubin specifically calls out Ben Carson, Mike Huckabee, Ted Cruz and Rand Paul), I disagree that these folks are in any way an aberration, or that  it should be a surprise in any way. The top-rated comments on this blog post sum up my feelings perfectly.

*"'lest the GOP be seen as a haven for the unhinged.' Sorry Jen, that ship sailed...Years ago...Then sunk."
*"The crackpots on the Republican lunatic fringe are really NOT the issue. The real issue is that so much of the Republican electorate is on that lunatic fringe...the GOP indeed has a very big tent that encompasses almost the entire spectrum of lunacy."
*"The GOP has cynically courted the crazies for the last forty years; they're all yours."
*"'The GOP should not give refuge to conspiracy-mongers' Then who would be left?"
*"It's a little late to be noticing the crackpots -- what about former Rep. Michele Bachmann? former Gov. Sarah Palin? Current Rep. Louis Gohmert? Even Gov. Perry weighed in on Jade Helm 15 by saying one could question 'civilian leaders' but not the military. The fact is that the GOP actively enabled all the crackpots in exchange for votes. Now if you feel the GOP is strong enough without those voters, please do cast them aside so that they become their own political party."
*"Yet another article where Rubin pretends she's not one of 'those people'."
*"You know you are out there when a fringe columnist calls you a crackpot."

I'd simply add that there's no appreciable difference between the 2016 presidential candidate crackpots Jennifer Rubin calls out - Paul, Carson, Huckabee, Cruz - and those she doesn't - Rubio, Walker, Trump, Fiorina, Jindal, Santorum, etc. Also, how about the rest of the party that isn't running for president in 2016, people like Louie Gohmert, Steve King, Joni Ernst, Tom Cotton, Virginia Foxx, Paul LePage, Sam Brownback, etc, etc. I could go on all day with lists of climate science deniers (should be an automatic disqualifer for public office, in and of itself), conspiracy theorists of all stripes, gun nuts, raging homophobes, raging Islamophobes, theocratic extremists, you name it.

And no, these people are NOT an aberration in today's Republican Party; they are a major chunk of today's Republican Party, the same types of people who nominated extremist Ken Cuccinelli for Virginia governor in 2013, along with bat****-crazy E.W. Jackson for LG and Mark "Criminalize Miscarriages" Obenshain for AG. These are also the same types of people who tossed out super-conservative Eric Cantor for Ayn Rand-worshipping nut Dave Brat. Then there are other-people's-sex-lives-obsessed crazies like Del. "Sideshow Bob" Marshall, Sen. Dick Black, and a gazillion others right here in Virginia.

Again, I could go on all day, as there are a gazillion examples, but instead I'll just make one more point and call it quits: the corporate media is largely to blame for this, as they have completely failed to call these people out for what they are, and even worse have continued to draw false equivalencies between the John Birch Society-style far right wing and the Democratic Party, a "business-friendly" bunch which has nobody of any significance even remotely "extreme." Heck, most Republicans of the 1960s, 1970s, even 1980s or 1990s wouldn't have a chance in today's off-the-deep-end, Tea Partie'd version of the GOP.

Perhaps the media might want to talk a bit about how this once-great party has gone off the far-right, John-Birch-Society deep end, after diligently courting those people for decades? Oh right, that would require a tiny bit of courage and integrity, so forget it.

Discuss :: (4 Comments)

Video: Former Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore calls on Hillary Clinton to "withdraw from the race"

by: lowkell

Sat Apr 25, 2015 at 06:59:21 AM EDT

I might take Gilmore the least bit seriously if he: a) called for far-reaching campaign finance reform, including repeal of "Citizens United," enactment of public financing, etc; b) also called on Jeb Bush and a bunch of other Republican candidates to 'withdraw from the race," since they have the same issues Gilmore claims Hillary Clinton has; c) switched parties, since the GOP is the epitome of the corrupting influence of money on our political system (e.g., the "capture" of government by monied interests). Until he does all of those things, I'll continue to simply laugh at this clown.

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Sen. Tim Kaine: "I am proud that we have finally confirmed Loretta Lynch"

by: lowkell

Thu Apr 23, 2015 at 16:00:06 PM EDT

From Sen. Tim Kaine's office; congratulations and good luck to new U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch! As for the absurd delays in confirming this highly qualified nominee by the right-wing Republican-controlled U.S. Senate, the only remedy is clear: Democrats need to take back the Senate in 2016!
In confirming Loretta Lynch as our next Attorney General, the Senate has chosen a distinguished legal mind and experienced public servant to lead the Department of Justice. Throughout her career, Lynch has developed a reputation for her integrity and trusted leadership, which will serve the nation well as she addresses recent tensions between law enforcement and communities across the country. While it is unacceptable that is has taken the Senate 166 days to act on such a well-qualified and highly-regarded nominee, I am proud that we have finally confirmed Loretta Lynch, and I am confident that she will work hard to ensure justice for all Americans.
Discuss :: (5 Comments)

Video: President Obama vs. Sen. Warren on the Trans-Pacific Partnership

by: lowkell

Wed Apr 22, 2015 at 07:17:23 AM EDT

I'm undecided on this one, it really comes down to exactly what's in the Trans-Pacific Partnership. For instance, will there be strong protections for labor, human rights and the environment?  If so, then I could see myself supporting this deal. If not, I couldn't.

Discuss :: (1 Comments)

Talking Points -- In the Republican Congress, 100 Days of Contempt for Hard-Working Families

by: lowkell

Tue Apr 21, 2015 at 13:37:39 PM EDT

From U.S. House of Representatives Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi's office:

 

First 100 Days of the Republican Congress

Last week, House Republicans marked 100 days of the new Republican Congress – 100 days spent stacking the deck for their special-interest friends against everyone else. 

 

With both chambers of Congress, Republicans have missed no chance to show their contempt for hard-working families:

·         Dragging the Department of Homeland Security to the brink of shutdown, endangering the security of our entire nation to satisfy the most radical anti-immigrant voices of their party;

·         Voting to deport DREAMers striving for a future in the only home they’ve ever known;

·         Voting to strip health coverage from millions of American families, to enable insurance companies to deny coverage to people with pre-existing conditions, and to restore limits on lifetime care;

·         Advancing an unprecedented assault on women’s comprehensive health care, placing radical new restrictions on how women with private insurance can spend private dollars;

·         Voting to end the Medicare guarantee as we know it and subject seniors to skyrocketing health costs.

 

Hard-working families need bigger paychecks and better infrastructure, but Republicans can’t be bothered to help.  After the first 100 days of Republican embarrassments on the floor and special-interest priorities on the agenda, it doesn’t seem the next 100 will be any better.

 

Republican Estate Tax Repeal

While Democrats are championing plans to move America forward by raising wages and cutting taxes for hard-working families, Republicans are stuck on a carousel ride as they focus on yet another deficit-exploding Republican tax giveaway to millionaires and billionaires. 

 

While the American people filed taxes for tax day, Republicans were advancing a completely unpaid-for effort to repeal the federal estate tax – a staggering plan to increase the deficit by $269 billion with a tax break that applies to only the 5,400 wealthiest estates in America.

·         Instead of cutting taxes for hard-working families, Republicans are handing billions and billions of dollars to the top 0.2 percent;

·         While hard-working Americans are scraping together to save for a house, for college, to start a business, or for a secure retirement, House Republicans are giving 5,400 estates a tax break worth an average of $2.5 million apiece – more than the typical college graduate earns in an entire lifetime.

 

The American people have had enough of Republicans taking the tools of opportunity away from hard-working Americans to give bigger tax breaks to the super wealthy.  We need a better plan and a better set of values to build a strong and prosperous future for America.

 

Missing Budget Deadlines

Last week, as hard-working Americans prioritized to file their taxes ahead of Tax Day on April 15, even with control of both chambers of Congress, Republicans failed to meet the April 15 deadline to pass a budget.

 

Now, a belated Republican conference committee huddles in secret, prioritizing the desires of the ultra-wealthy and special interests over the dire needs of hard-working American families.

 

House Republicans’ “Work Harder for Less” Budget perfectly captures their priorities: massive tax giveaways for the special interests and ultra-wealthy paid for by making life harder for middle class families.  The Republican budget:

·         Destroys destroy 2.9 million jobs in 2017, and decreases economic growth by 2.5 percent. 

·         Greenlights the Romney-Ryan plan to give millionaires a $200,000 tax break while increasing taxes on the average middle class family by $2,000;

·         Ends the Medicare guarantee;

·         Ends higher education tax credits and ends the boost in the child tax credit;

·         Strips millions of Americans of tax credits for affordable health care.

·         Ignores our crumbling infrastructure and surrenders American leadership in education, research and innovation.

 

House Democrats believe in a budget that invests in the hard-working Americans who are the backbone of our country: making it easier to buy a home, easier to pay for college, easier to save for a secure and enjoyable retirement. 

 

Democrats will continue to stand for opportunity, prosperity and dignity for every American – not just the wealthy and well connected by working to bring bigger paychecks and better infrastructure to the American people.

 

Protecting American Consumers

Today, House Republicans are making another attempt to undermine the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which protects hard-working American consumers, by slashing funding for this vital watchdog group. 

 

Republicans are pushing an insidious scheme to transform a bipartisan bill establishing three advisory boards to provide information about small businesses, credit unions and community banks into a brazen attempt to cut funding for the consumer protection group to limit its ability to support consumer financial protections. 

 

Instead of supporting consumer financial protections essential to stabilizing the economy, promoting competition and transparency, and restoring confidence to the consumer financial marketplace, this bill will undermine the CFPB’s ability to protect consumers:

 

·         Establishing new requirements for the CFPB, then stripping the funding necessary to fund that work, and

·         Capping the CFPB’s budget, which drastically cuts funding by $50 million in FY 2020 and nearly $100 million in FY 2025.

 

Rather than strengthen the agency that has empowered consumers, protected college students, and provided hard-working Americans with free and regular access to their credit scores, House Republicans are undermining CFPB’s ability to protect consumers from the worst abuses in the financial marketplace.

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Beyer, JEC Release Report on Economic Challenges Facing African Americans

by: lowkell

Wed Apr 15, 2015 at 09:41:16 AM EDT

From Rep. Don Beyer's office: 

April 15, 2015 (Washington, D.C.) – U.S. Representative Don Beyer, member of the Joint Economic Committee (JEC), released the following statement on the JEC's new report that African Americans continue to face economic challenges and are nearly three times as likely as white Americans to live in poverty.

 

"This report documents persistent economic barriers African Americans face, even as the rest of the country recovers from the worst financial downturn since the Great Depression,” said Rep. Beyer “If we are to meet the challenge of the promise of equality in America we need to address these inequities in employment, income, wealth, housing and education through policies designed for inclusive prosperity. In our commitment to a new American economy, to inclusive prosperity that lifts up all Americans, let us be ever mindful of the decisions we make that can change the economic condition of black Americans for generations to come."

 

Beyer joined Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY), Ranking Democrat on the JEC, and Congressman G. K. Butterfield (D-NC), Chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) at a press conference to discuss the report, which reveals that African Americans continue to face disproportionately high rates of poverty, unemployment and long-term unemployment as well as significantly lower incomes and slower wealth accumulation than white households. When examining various measures to determine economic well-being, the report finds black Americans lag far behind the white population.  

 

Included in the report’s key findings:

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Kaine-Negotiated Iran Bill Unanimously Clears Senate Foreign Relations Committee

by: lowkell

Tue Apr 14, 2015 at 17:11:16 PM EDT

WASHINGTON, D.C. –  Today, the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act, including a number of provisions Kaine helped negotiate, was unanimously passed by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, 19-0.  The bipartisan legislation would set up a constructive and deliberate process for Congressional review of a final nuclear agreement with Iran that touches upon statutory sanctions enacted by Congress. Under the compromise approved today, after a final deal is reached between Iran and P5+1 negotiators and submitted to Congress, Congress would have 30 days to hold hearings and either approve, disapprove, or take no action on giving Iran relief from Congressionally-imposed sanctions.

 

“I’m pro-diplomacy, and I see positives in the framework [agreement]. But I have also been strongly pro the need for congressional approval,” Kaine said in his opening comments. “There’s been some suggestion that, if you think Congress needs to approve this, you’re anti-diplomacy. That’s ridiculous. There’s even been some suggestion that, if you think Congress needs to approve this, you’re pro-war. That’s offensive. …  I actually think that congressional approval, in this instance under the framework that is now before us, is necessary, helpful and what the American public demands and deserves.”

 

“It’s necessary,” Kaine continued, “because, at the core, this is a negotiation about what must Iran do to get out from under a congressional sanctions regime, so Congress will be involved. It’s helpful because, since Congress will be involved, the only question is, will that involvement be helpful and orderly, or will it be under free-for-all rules? Much better for us, much better for the Administration, much better for the P5+1, much better for Iran – we’re asking to make concessions, big concessions – for them to see a process that is orderly and constructive.”

 

In closing, Kaine noted the fact that Americans, in Virginia and across the country, overwhelmingly support Congress having a role in this process.

 

“Why do my constituents and yours want a deal to have to be approved by Congress? It’s not out of disrespect for the President, and it’s not because they love Congress. … They are so concerned about the magnitude of this deal that they’ll feel more comfortable if both the executive and the legislature take a look and say this is in the best interests of the nation. This is why people get a second opinion if they hear from a doctor something that they don’t like. The American public knows this is big. They feel more comfortable if it’s both the executive and the legislature reviewing it.”

 

As an original cosponsor of the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act, Kaine worked closely with Senators Corker, Menendez, Graham and others for months to produce the most constructive process possible for Congress to engage on a nuclear deal with Iran. Today, Corker thanked Kaine for his efforts and said he is “someone who understands truly the role of the United States Congress and issues of this significance, and has been a stalwart to articulate more clearly than anyone else why it’s important for us to take the role.”

 

Kaine, a strong supporter of diplomatic negotiations with Iran, recently praised the framework agreementannounced by Secretary of State John Kerry on April 2, calling it a “positive step for diplomacy and efforts to peacefully limit Iran’s nuclear program.”

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Mark Herring Amicus Brief Advocates for Targeted, Compassionate Immigration Reforms

by: lowkell

Mon Apr 06, 2015 at 12:53:16 PM EDT

More good stuff from AG Mark Herring.

 

~ Amicus brief argues that recently announced immigration enforcement reforms would create substantial economic and public safety benefits for Virginia while helping to keep families intact ~

 

RICHMOND(April 6, 2015)--Attorney General Mark R. Herring is joining 14 other states and the District of Columbia today in filing an amicus brief advocating for recently announced federal immigration reforms that "will increase State tax revenue, enhance public safety, and help avoid tragic situations in which parents are deported away from their U.S. citizen children, who are left to rely on state services or extended family." The package of executive immigration reforms announced by President Obama in November, and currently subject to an injunction preventing its implementation, would improve our nation's broken immigration system by improving border security, making it easier for highly-skilled workers to remain here, demanding accountability from undocumented immigrants who are already here, and prioritizing the deportation of dangerous criminals instead of breaking up families in Virginia and across the nation. It is estimated that the reforms could extend revocable protection from deportation to up to 92,000 undocumented immigrants in Virginia, producing more than $106 million in increased tax revenues over five years.

 

"Immigration has been a source of economic, cultural, and social benefit for the Commonwealth for more than 400 years," said Attorney General Herring. "While we're waiting on Congress to enact long overdue comprehensive immigration reform, the President has offered lawful, reasonable steps that will boost our economy, keep families intact, and promote public safety by removing criminals and increasing trust between law enforcement and communities. In Virginia, deferred action for young people has enabled us to offer an affordable college education to the children of immigrants who, in many cases, know no home but Virginia. These reforms would offer additional benefits to our Commonwealth, and they should be allowed to move forward."

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Undoing Our Founders' Achievement

by: Andy Schmookler

Sun Apr 05, 2015 at 12:56:49 PM EDT

This piece appeared as an op/ed in newspapers in Virginia's 6th congressional district.

In a previous column, I declared that historians will judge that the most important political battle of our times was not over the issues that most people focus on - immigration, abortion, guns, etc. - but on something far more fundamental. The vital battle now is over whether the American people will be able to preserve the gift our founders gave us, or whether a new kind of Big Money will fully succeed in transforming our nation into a society in which the powerful few dominate the many.

To understand how revolutionary our founders' vision was, we need to remember the old order in the European civilization from which they came. In Europe, for centuries, the ruling one percent of the population controlled nearly all wealth. Power ran only from the top down. Feudal fiefdoms established by the sword dominated those who worked the land; and eventually all became the "subjects" of kings who claimed "divine right" and were answerable to no one.

The founding of the United States was a cure for this injustice.

No longer, in Jefferson's words, would it be supposed that the mass of mankind be "born with saddles on their backs" while a "favored few" were "booted and spurred, ready to ride." America's fundamental principle would be that "all men are created equal" and "endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights."

No longer would the few dominate and exploit the many for, in America, the government would derive its powers from "the consent of the governed."

This great achievement is being dismantled right before our eyes.  

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Yet Another Poll Shows Poll Shows Republicans in Minority, Dems in Majority on Key Issues

by: lowkell

Fri Apr 03, 2015 at 16:01:47 PM EDT

I've written about this many times before, and will continue to do so as long as I see the media drawing an absurd, demonstrably false "equivalence" between Republicans and/or the Tea Party on the one hand, and Democrats and/or Progressives on the other hand. In fact, polling shows overwhelming that On Issue After Issue, Americans Support the Democratic/Progressive Position. Just name the topic, from guns to global warming, from the minimum wage to immigration policy, from LGBT equality to a woman's right choose, and you'll find the same result: Democrats and mainstream progressives are  in the majority, often the overwhelming majority, while Republicans and right wingers of all stripes are in the minority, often the small minority.

Today, we have yet another major poll, this time by the Washington Post and ABC News, demonstrating the same result.

This is an incomplete list, but Hillary Clinton will support international engagement and government action to combat climate change; an immigration reform compromise that exchanges more border security for some kind of path to legalization for the 11 million; a deal with Iran curbing its nuclear program (if one is reached); and a continuation of the movement towards universal health care set in motion by the Affordable Care Act (whatever its fate at the Supreme Court).

By contrast, by the time the eventual GOP nominee is chosen, he will probably have come out against any global climate treaty and at best hedged on domestic climate action; he will have cast serious doubt on whether he can support a real plan for legalization; he will have promised to undo any Iran nuke deal; and he will have vowed to continue the crusade for Obamacare repeal until he draws his very last breath.

[...]

The poll finds that on all of those issues, Republican and conservative voters are on one side, while majorities or pluralities of Americans - including independents and moderates - are on the other...

For the record:
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Video: President Barack Obama's Statement on Iran Nuclear Deal

by: lowkell

Thu Apr 02, 2015 at 15:24:34 PM EDT

Discuss :: (4 Comments)

Reps. Connolly, Scott, Beyer Sign Letter on Two-State Solution Praised by J Street

by: lowkell

Tue Mar 31, 2015 at 14:47:58 PM EDT

I'm definitely with Representatives Connolly, Beyer and Scott on this one. In stark contrast, I am not a fan of this letter, praised by right-wing hack/blogger Jennifer Rubin, and signed by...yep, Sen. Mark Warner. Ugh.
J Street Welcomes Congressional Letter Reaffirming Support of Two-State Solution

MARCH 31ST, 2015

J Street Vice President of Government Affairs Dylan Williams released the following statement today regarding the letter sent by Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) and 78 of his colleagues to President Obama concerning the US-Israel special relationship:

J Street welcomes Members of Congress standing alongside President Obama as he seeks to right the US-Israel special relationship after deeply troubling statements by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The letter correctly urges the President to "to persevere in reaffirming" the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and a commitment to shared democratic values as fundamental to U.S. policy.

It speaks volumes that dozens of Members support the President's constructive reaffirmation of the basis of our relationship with Israel. We hope Prime Minister Netanyahu takes this as a signal that he should join President Obama in seeking to resolve policy disagreements in a civil matter befitting the closest of allies.

Among the 79 signers of the letter are ten Ranking Members of House committees, Assistant Democratic Leader James E. Clyburn and seven Members who identify as Jewish. More than 700 J Street supporters met with Congressional offices in support of the letter on J Street's March 24 Advocacy Day on Capitol Hill, the culminating day of its Fifth National Conference attended by more than 3000 people.

The text and signers of the letter are below.

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Big Money vs. The People: The Main Political Battle of Our Times

by: Andy Schmookler

Sun Mar 29, 2015 at 13:24:51 PM EDT

This piece has run as an op/ed in newspapers in my very red congressional district.

Here's what I bet that historians will say was the No. 1 political battle in the America of our times.

Not the national debt, or abortion, or Obamacare, or immigration, or gun rights.

Instead, historians will say the most important fight was over whether the government of the United States would be the democracy our founders gave us, or whether Big Money would succeed in changing us into a different kind of society altogether.

Most of us are aware that our politics are awash in money like never before. The cost of our campaigns - from state legislatures to the presidency - has vastly increased. This avalanche of money - especially since the Citizens United decision - comes mostly not from ordinary citizens but from billionaires and giant corporations.

As a result, more and more of the decisions made - in Congress, in the White House, at the Supreme Court - favor the rich and powerful at the expense of average Americans.

Right before our eyes, our government - which is supposed to be by and for the people - is being stolen from us.

We need to look at this battle in strategic terms, asking: How is Big Money going about its effort to take over?

It is clear, for example, that it serves the interests of the plutocrats to divide the people against each other.  

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Video: Reagan & HW Bush Chief of Staff, Former Sec. State James Baker Speaks to "J Street"

by: lowkell

Sat Mar 28, 2015 at 13:04:27 PM EDT

On Iran: "If the only agreement is one in which there is no enrichment, then there will be no agreement. Neither the U.S. nor Israel should let the perfect be the enemy of the good."

On a two-state solution: "Israel's future, absent a two-state solution, could be very difficult at best."

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Video: Rep. Gerry Connolly Slams House GOP Draconian Budget

by: lowkell

Tue Mar 24, 2015 at 17:57:24 PM EDT

So true!
Mr. Chairman, this year's Republican Budget Resolution is incredulously titled "A Balanced Budget for a Stronger America." But by every measure, the draconian cuts proposed in this budget would severely WEAKEN America's innovative advantage and competitiveness. It might as well be called "Let's Disinvest in America".

Consider the cuts to basic research, once a bedrock federal priority that has spurred new discoveries that are now vital in our daily lives and the economy. R&D is critical for my Northern Virginian district, where the technology community is driving innovation. But this Republican budget would slash R&D funding by 15% to its lowest levels since 2002. That is a retreat from America's role as the global innovation leader, and essentially cedes the playing field to our international competition.

Similarly, the Republican budget would disinvest in our classrooms. To achieve their ruse of balancing the budget over 10 years, Republicans would cut non-defense spending 24% below the already-reduced sequester levels. For K-12 education, that translates into an $89 billion cut over the next decade and would surely leave every child behind their international peers. It also would put higher education further out of reach for low- and middle-class families.

America did not ascend to its role as the world's leading economy by quashing the potential of future innovators and leaders.

Mr. Speaker, our Republican colleagues are once again showing they know the cost of everything and  the value of very little. I often hear my colleagues lament that we should run government more like a business. Well, if that's the case, perhaps we should start by listening to the business community, which is advocating for us to invest more, not less, in R&D, in education, and in infrastructure for the future workforce and the building blocks of a competitive economy.

These are investments that yield tremendous returns for our families, for our children, for our future, and the Republican budget would eviscerate these pillars of America's exceptionalism.

I yield back

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Thou Art the Man: A Message to the Republican Base

by: Andy Schmookler

Sat Mar 14, 2015 at 12:37:48 PM EDT

This piece has been appearing this week in the newspapers of my very conservative congressional district (VA-06). It embodies the strategy I think we in Liberal America should be pursuing: See the evil. Call it out. Press the Battle.

A story from the Bible comes to mind: King David has taken for himself Bathsheba, wife of Uriah the Hittite. The prophet Nathan comes to him and tells a story of similar wrong-doing. Not recognizing himself in the story, King David becomes righteously outraged.  At this point, Nathan springs the trap and declares: "Thou art the man!"

David accepts his own behavior, because it serves his own interests. When he sees it from the outside, he is so indignant that he says the sinner should die.

In the spirit of that biblical story, I would like to ask the conservatives reading this column what you would have thought, not long ago, if you had heard about political conduct like this:

1) An American president is elected after promising to solve a long-standing problem that costs thousands of American lives and a trillion dollars every year. His proposal is so moderate that its roots are actually in the other party. But that party does everything it can to prevent passage. Then it tries to overturn the law. When that fails, it tries sabotage.

All this - including voting more than 50 times to repeal a law, knowing it won't be repealed - is a spectacle unprecedented in American history.

2) This is part of a pattern in which this opposition party has made it a priority to prevent that president from accomplishing anything. It opposes even ideas that were once its own, even measures that are clearly supported by an overwhelming majority of the people.

Although the president proposes nothing outside the American mainstream - he is more moderate than a great many in his own party's base - the opposition paints him as an extremist.

No party in American history has ever before made the president's failure its top priority.

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Fun: Hang Out in Arlington with Three Extremists (Cooch, Cruz, Snyder) on St. Patrick's Day!

by: lowkell

Wed Mar 11, 2015 at 08:42:19 AM EDT

Wow, this looks like a fun time, huh? That is, if you like hanging out with crazy, right-wing extremists (Ken Cuccinelli, Ted Cruz, Pete Snyder) on St. Patrick's Day. In liberal Arlington, no less - irony alert? Oh yeah, almost forget, right wingnuts have no concept of "irony."

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Antonin Scalia, No Judge He

by: Andy Schmookler

Sat Mar 07, 2015 at 16:54:58 PM EST

If there is any lingering doubt about whether Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia is really a political hack in robes, and in no way a real judge, it looks likely such doubt will be dispelled in the coming months.

I say that because of what seems to be true about him and this case just argued before the Court to try once again to demolish Obamacare.

These two things are reported to be true:

1) Scalia is the author of a whole book on how statutes should be read. In it, he argues (according to several accounts I've read -- I haven't read the book itself) that a statute should be read in terms of the statute as a whole.

2) Apparently the signs are reasonably clear that Scalia is going to completely ignore the principles that he propounded in that book in order to strike against Obamacare. That means, he's ready to allow four ill-chosen words trump the clear intent of the other many hundreds of pages in the statute. Why let principles stand in the way of getting the political victory he desires for his side?

(Almost his whole record suggests that "his side" is the corporatist plutocracy that's already gone a long way toward seizing power from the people.)

Scalia, of course, has tortured the law before in order to serve the interests of the plutocracy.

He perverted the law in Bush v Gore. He did it in Citizens United and the McCutcheon case. And in a host of other cases: Scalia finds consistently in favor of the corporatist system, and against the power of government to be used to protect the less powerful.

With Obamacare, there are several reasons for a political hack of the right to want to destroy it.

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The purpose of Blue Virginia is to cover Virginia politics from a progressive and Democratic perspective. This is a group blog and a community blog. We invite everyone to comment here, but please be aware that profanity, personal attacks, bigotry, insults, rudeness, frequent unsupported or off-point statements, "trolling" (NOTE: that includes outright lies, whether about climate science, or what other people said, or whatever), and "troll ratings abuse" (e.g., "troll" rating someone simply because you disagree with their argument) are not permitted and, if continued, will lead to banning. For more on trolling, see the Daily Kos FAQs. Also note that diaries may be deleted if they do not contain at least 2 solid paragraphs of original text; if not, please use the comments section of a relevant diary. For more on writing diaries, click here. Thanks, and enjoy!

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