"We hold these truths self-evident that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."
With much to celebrate yesterday, we celebrated our nation's birthday. We wished each other a Happy July 4th. We gathered with families and friends. There is much to celebrate. Our great country continues to move forward celebrating all our nation's people. We are inextricably bound together. Together many of us work to make more perfect this union, as our forbears believed we must.
But today, on July 5th urgent work looms. With the GOP gaming elections in multiple ways, voting has become a cruel joke on too many in the electorate. So far our side has not fully mobilized to confront the decades-long attempt to strip you and me of our vote. This is not imaginary. It happens, as I will illustrate.
I believe that until recently Democrats have been unwilling to talk too loudly about this issue for fear that such talk might inadvertently suppress the vote even more. We know that when Democrats turn out, we win. This can be true even in heavily gerrymandered districts. Thus getting every last legal voter registered and to the polls is vitally important in upsetting the GOP gerrymandered apple cart. But it is not gerrymandering alone which keeps Democrats from voting. It is the entire bundle of tactics and strategies designed to peel away votes, a few votes here, a few there, a thousand here and a thousand there, until finally the cumulative effect is major. Remember all those too-close-to-call elections by margins under 100 votes and going into recounts?
Congratulations to former Rep. Tom Perriello on his appointment by Secretary of State John Kerry as "Special Envoy for the Great Lakes Region of Africa." Every time I see Tom get another important job, it reminds me of three things: 1) that he is one of the sharpest people out there; 2) that he was a huge asset to Virginia's 5th CD and to Congress more broadly; and 3) that the voters of Virginia's 5th CD, in their infinite wisdom, made a huge mistake in downgrading from Tom Perriello as their representative to the mindless right-wingnut (Robert Hurt) they've got in there now. Heck, Hurt probably can't even name the U.S. Great Lakes, let alone the countries in the Great Lakes region of Africa (let alone co-author the latest Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review)! Heh. Anyway, congratulations to Tom Perriello, and good luck in your important new job!
The following press release is from Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring's office. Which reminds me; have I mentioned recently how happy I am that Mark Herring is our Attorney General - and NOT right wingnut Mark Obenshain (or Obenshain's model Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli)? :)
~ Virginia was the first Bay state to defend its Bay restoration plan and its ability to work cooperatively with other Bay states and federal partners ~
RICHMOND(July 6, 2015)-Today, a three judge panel of the Third Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously upheldthe right of Virginia and other Chesapeake Bay states to work together to protect and restore the Bay. In April 2014, Attorney General Mark R. Herring filed an amicus brief in American Farm Bureau v. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to protect Virginia's efforts, making the Commonwealth the first state to defend the Bay plan on appeal. The brief laid out the economic, environmental and historic reasons Virginia was compelled to weigh in on the side of the Bay and the reasons that the long history of cooperation between Bay states should be honored.
The brief also refuted arguments made in an amicus brief from 21 attorneys general, all but one of whom were from outside the Bay watershed, that opposed the ability of Bay states and the EPA to work cooperatively to address the health of the Bay, which is North America's largest estuary and a major economic force for the region, annually contributing an estimated $2 billion and 41,000 jobs from commercial fishing, $1.6 billion and 13,000 jobs in saltwater angling, $70 million in crabs, and $680 million in tourism.
"Because of today's ruling, Virginia and our fellow Bay states will be able to continue the important and urgent work of restoring the health of the Chesapeake Bay," said Attorney General Herring. "The most promising plan for Bay restoration was under attack from out of state special interests and I couldn't let that go unanswered. The economic, recreational, environmental, health, and intrinsic value of clean water and a strong, healthy Bay compelled us to come to its defense. We've still got a long way to go to get the Bay back to where we want it, but today's ruling lets us stay on this promising trajectory."
I find myself wondering something about the idea of God. It grew out of my noticing the strangeness of the contrast between two important cultures in the millennium before the birth of Jesus: the culture of the ancient Greeks and that of the ancient Hebrews.
Here's the thing. These two peoples/cultures inhabited basically the same world - empires, metals, lots of war, slavery, annihilation-but despite that sameness they can to very different conclusions about a question of a matter most fundamental to worldview: the question of having God or the gods at the center of the cosmic order
Which is it, and what might be the fundamental difference between the cultures that would account for such different ways of seeing the fundamental order of the world.
The Greeks saw the world of the divine beings as a plurality, a whole diversity of gods having dealings (not always admirable) among each other. A many-ness, and a strong flavor of amorality.
The Hebrews saw the world of the divine as inhabited by ONE GOD -- and indeed from Abraham onward that was THE defining feature of the Hebrew religion, and is still at the center of the basic Jewish prayer, the Shema Yisrael: "Hear, O Israel: the LORD our God, the LORD is one"
So it looks like the Hebrews at least would have said that the difference between believing in One God or in many gods was of the utmost importance.
Which is what leads to the question:
Is it a really fundamental matter about how to perceive reality, and if so, what can account for how these two cultures living choosing so differently on this matter despite inhabiting the same basic world?
Did their cultures give them basically different ways of thinking? If so, what was that difference? Or did they come to have different needs, or different senses of the nature of life, growing perhaps out of different historical experiences?
Why on earth do we name anything - roads, schools, whatever - after traitors, racists, etc. in the year 2015 in this country? Crazy. So...how about we rename anything with "Lee" in it "Lincoln," like Washington-LINCOLN High School instead of Washington-Lee, or LINCOLN Highway not Lee Highway? Or we could name these schools, roads, etc. after any number of great African Americans. But Jefferson Davis and other traitors? No thanks. If you agree, please sign the petition (click below) by a friend of mine and fellow Arlingtonian.
I mean, who wouldn't be attracted to such a positive, optimistic, forward-thinking, inclusive party like the one 2013 Virginia GOP gubernatorial nominee Ken Cuccinelli belongs to? LOL, yeah that was snark. :)
At least theoretically, a populist political movement is supposed to be skeptical, or even hostile, to things like out-of-control corporate power, taxpayer-funded corporate welfare, and the undue influence on our politics of the super-wealthy and well-connected. Yet the "Tea Party," which I've seen referred to in the corporate media many times as some flavor of "populist," has consistently been anything but populist, anything but anti-corporate, anything but working for "the people" over "the powerful" or whatever real populist movements do. To the stark contrary, as the invaluable SourceWatch explains:
While promoted as a spontaneous "grassroots" movement, many of the activities of Tea Party groups were organized by corporate lobbying groups like Freedomworks and Americans for Prosperity...
In an article in the August 30, 2010 issue of The New Yorker magazine, author Jane Mayer links the billionaire brothers David Koch and Charles Koch, owners of Koch Industries to tea party movement funding...
Reports indicate that the Tea Party Movement benefits from millions of dollars from conservative foundations that are derived from wealthy U.S. families and their business interests. It appears that money to organize and implement the Movement flows primarily through two conservative groups: Americans for Prosperity and FreedomWorks...
Media Matters also lists the Sarah Scaife Foundation as having given a total of $2.96 million in funding to FreedomWorks. The Sarah Mellon Scaife Foundation is financed by the Mellon industrial, oil, and banking fortune. The Claude R. Lambe Foundation, also controlled by the Koch family, has donated more than $3 million to Americans for Prosperity...
The Tea Party has also gotten substantial support in the form of promotion from Fox News Channel and its talk show hosts, including Glenn Beck.
In sum, Tea Party members might falsely believe that they're fighting "the man," but in reality they're just tools in a high-stakes game for the benefit of millionaires, billionaires, oil companies, etc. I believe the phrase (ironically) that applies here -- "useful idiots" - is one that used to be attached to "fellow travellers and other revolutionary communist sympathizers during the Cold War." Today, with the Cold War over, I'd argue that the more appropriate use for that phrase is towards the Tea Party and other right-wing, faux-"populist" groups that serve as nothing more than unwitting/witless "propagandists for a cause whose goals they are not fully aware of, and who are used cynically by the leaders of the cause."
Case in point: the Northern Virginia Tea Party's invitation to a speaker from "Virginia Energy Citizens," the job of which is to bash wind and solar power while pimping for the continued trashing of our planet by dirty, dangerous, expensive coal and oil. Check out the "Energy Citizens" fossil fuel propaganda site, and the key to the entire charade can be found in the lower left-hand corner, where you'll find hidden away, in small print and almost unreadable (as if they're ashamed or something), the words "Supported by American Petroleum Institute." Also check out SourceWatch's page on "Energy Citizens", and you'll learn the facts:
Jim Webb announced for president earlier today, and I've seen a slew of references in the corporate media (as well as from his supporters on Facebook) to how he's "moderate," "centrist" or even "conservative." In fact, Webb holds an eclectic mix of views ranging from "left" to "right" on the political spectrum. Of course, I suppose if you're lazy and tending towards mindless, you could just average all those views together to come up with "centrist" or "moderate," but that doesn't seem like a particularly sound approach to me. In fact, as you'll see from where Webb stands (at least rhetorically) on several of the top issues facing our country, he's not that much different from the Bernie Sanders/Elizabeth Warren wing of the Democratic Party in many ways. For instance:
1. Economic inequality: Rhetorically, with his frequent references to "Jacksonian" populism, the "rich getting richer, the poor getting poorer, and the middle class getting squeezed," as well as to CEOs earning 350 times more than workers, Webb is solidly on the "left" of the U.S. ideological spectrum, not much different than Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders frankly. Webb also "Co-sponsored legislation...to raise the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $9.80 over two years" and then to "index the minimum wage to inflation to keep up with future cost-of-living increases." Now, it's true that in practice, Webb hasn't always lived up to his economic populist rhetoric; for instance, he defined "middle class" for the purposes of the Bush tax cuts as earning more than $1 million per year. But at least rhetorically, Webb has long been on the Elizabeth Warren/Bernie Sanders "left" when it comes to income inequality in America.
2. Criminal justice/war on drugs: Webb's definitely on the "left" on this one, speaking for years now about how the "war on drugs" has been counterproductive. Check out Presidential Hopeful Jim Webb Hints At Support For Radical Drug Policy Reform, for instance, which notes that Webb "supports decriminalizing drug use, a position that makes him the most progressive voice on drug policy among the current field of contenders." Webb has also made clear that he thinks we imprison far too many people, calling our system of criminal justice "a national shame, a key indicator of how far we have fallen from our traditional image as an open, fair society." On all this, I bet that Bernie Sanders would strongly agree with Webb, yet somehow Sanders is a "socialist" and Webb is a "moderate" or "centrist," according to the corporate media? Alrighty..
3. Abortion, Gay Marriage: According to On the Issues, Webb said he "never left [the Democratic Party] on social issues and issues of economic fairness." Webb also "Voted NO on prohibiting minors crossing state lines for abortion;" "Voted NO on defining unborn child as eligible for SCHIP;" "Voted NO on barring HHS grants to organizations that perform abortions;" "Voted YES on expanding research to more embryonic stem cell lines." According to Project Vote Smart, Webb received all 100% ratings from Planned Parenthood and NARAL Pro-Choice America while he was in the U.S. Senate, and ZERO percent ratings from the anti-abortion and/or anti-gay Family Research Council, Concerned Women for America and National Right to Life Committee. Also worth noting: Webb "opposes a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage...backs abortion rights as defined by the Supreme Court's ruling in Roe v. Wade." With regard to the Supreme Court's recent decision legalizing gay marriage across America, Webb commented on his Facebook page, "The finding on marriage equality is an historically significant historical application of the 14th Amendment, ensuring that our government no longer discriminates but also more clearly defining the separation of church and state." With regard to personal privacy, Webb said many times in his 2006 campaign for U.S. Senate (and afterward) that "I believe the power of the government ends at my front door unless there is a compelling reason to come inside." Basically, Webb is a social libertarian, which is great from my point of view, but I'm not sure that makes him any more "centrist" or "moderate" than Bernie Sanders or any other Democrat.
4. Trade: According to On the Issues, Webb "believes trade agreements should require other nations to improve labor standards and wages." Recall that in the 2006 Democratic primary with Harris Miller, one of the Webb campaign's main line of attacks was that Miller was helping to ship U.S. jobs overseas. Also recall that the Washington Post endorsement of Miller specifically criticized Webb for a "somewhat strident populism on trade policy [that] tends toward xenophobic sloganeering and business-bashing." Again, how is any of this significantly different than Warren/Sanders rhetoric?
Here are a few national and Virginia news headlines, political and otherwise, for Friday, July 3. Also see President Obama's remarks on the economic progress we've made over the past six years (in spite of the Republicans' desire for President Obama - and with him the country - to "fail," of course).
Jim Webb announces for president, and I do not see the following words or phrases in here: "climate change," "global warming" or "environment." That failure to address what is by far the #1 issue facing humanity - combined with his abysmal record on energy and environmental issues - automatically disqualifies Jim Webb from serious consideration by me, and I hope by any progressive or environmentalist.
P.S. Also note that nowhere in this announcement does Webb note that he is a Democrat seeking the Democratic nomination for president. Of course, given that one of the key members of his inner circle endorsed Ken Cuccinelli for governor in 2013...'nuff said.
After many months of thought, deliberation and discussion, I have decided to seek the office of the Presidency of the United States.
I understand the odds, particularly in today's political climate where fair debate is so often drowned out by huge sums of money. I know that more than one candidate in this process intends to raise at least a billion dollars - some estimates run as high as two billion dollars - in direct and indirect financial support. Highly paid political consultants are working to shape the "messaging" of every major candidate.
But our country needs a fresh approach to solving the problems that confront us and too often unnecessarily divide us. We need to shake the hold of these shadow elites on our political process. Our elected officials need to get back to the basics of good governance and to remember that their principal obligations are to protect our national interests abroad and to ensure a level playing field here at home, especially for those who otherwise have no voice in the corridors of power. And at the same time our fellow Americans need proven, experienced leadership that can be trusted to move us forward from a new President's first days in office.
And yes, we Democrats are very much enjoying this, not to mention hoping that it goes on...and on...and on...and on... :) Heck, if the Democratic nomination fight is over by the time of Virginia's presidential primaries next March 1, it's almost tempting to go vote in the Republican primary -- for The Donald! LOL
Here are a few national and Virginia news headlines, political and otherwise, for Thursday, July 2. Also see Arlington County School Board Chair Emma Violand-Sanchez announcing a new policy supporting equality and respect regardless of gender identity in the Arlington County Public School system.
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