The industry and busloads of miners headed out to DC yesterday and we learned that certain politicians would join them on the public stage today. I called Senator Webb's DC office, got five minutes or less of a staffer's time and used every second, barely stopping for even a deep breath. I was unable to wrestle his name from him, even though I tried. At the end of our conversation, he did ask again for my name and zip code.
As explained to him, I am a coal miner's daughter so we do not hate coal miners. My father was an underground miner who also loved the forests and being there (You see hunting and just "being" in the woods is a part of our culture.)
I explained what it's like to live in a community where mining goes on extremely close to homes and the effect that has on our lives, communities, mountains and streams. Then, as if from Senator Webb's own mouth (it is from his book Born Fighting), these words rolled: They got their wages, black lung, and the desecration of their land. I said that's us. These are the Senator's words and they are accurate, totally accurate. He got it right, then. (Implication: he might not today.)
Contrary to the belief of some, it is not environmentalists or environmental regulation that has taken away the jobs of miners in the Appalachian region but the practice of mountaintop removal through its huge increase of mechanization. If you will track the number of mining jobs over the last decade or more, you will see the number of jobs go down as production goes up. It is the method of extraction that decreases the jobs. (Even though I did not relay this, there is a solution: We should be creating green jobs throughout the region to replace those thousands of jobs already lost to this huge mechanization, jobs that don't destroy our homeland and our lives.)
And contrary to the belief of some (I told him), we understand that you can't shut down coal fired plants all over this nation immediately - we wouldn't have electricity - but that we were looking for a new direction - a start - for green energy.
At the very least, the Senator could have been neutral today and that was my request to the staffer.
I was told this morning of a bumper sticker on a car that said, "Save a miner's job, shoot an environmentalist" and I also relayed this to the staffer along with stressing how important it was that leaders respond to this kind of public display and advocating of violence. It was the only time in our conversation that he responded to anything I had expressed. He said, "Gees" (slightly drawn out).
Two Southside Republican delegates, James Edmunds of Halifax and Tommy Wright of Lunenburg, said this week they are leaning strongly towards voting against the ABC privatization plan.Exactly right. The question is, did Bob McDonnell and his advisors think about any of this over the past year or so, when they started touting this "plan?" Did they talk to anyone about it? If so, did they just ignore everyone and everything? Or, is this simply the gang that can't shoot straight on anything? Lame.
"If we were voting [for the state] to go into the liquor business, I'd vote against it," said Del. Edmunds. "But now that we're in it, I don't see where [privatization] would be of any benefit to our rural district."
Based on his own and his constituents' concerns about the social consequences of what he believes would be the wider availability of alcohol in communities, Del. Wright also said he would have to vote against McDonnell's proposal.
"The only way for the plan to work is to increase the number of stores," Wright said. "I wouldn't be surprised if the number of outlets tripled. And the more availability there is, the more consumption there would be. As a rule there are some costs to society of problems that alcohol does bring."
Needless to say, I'm not happy with this. First off, I'm not happy that Senators Webb and Warner -- both of whom I've spent a lot of time and effort the past few years defending, fighting for, trying to get elected, etc. -- were even speaking at this rally in the first place. Ostensibly, of course, it was defensible as being "pro-coal miner." If that were true, I'd be all for it. But the reality is that this rally was organized by the coal industry groups (astroturf and otherwise), including the West Virginia Coal Association, Citizens for Coal, the Federation for American Coal, Energy and Security (FACES of Coal). These are the same companies, by the way, that have systematically been destroying coal mine jobs by replacing them with capital-intensive (e.g., not labor-intensive) mining and processing techniques like "mountaintop removal." Well, it's also "coal miner removal," but let's not pay any attention to that, I guess.
As an example of how heinous these groups are, we have the West Virginia Coal Association claiming that mountaintop removal mining has "actually helped improve habitat for wildlife in Appalachia." Uh, no.
We also have them saying things like, "Our professional coal miners face daily attacks on the issues of mountaintop mining, on cap-and-trade legislation and the non-consensus 'science' of global warming." The "non-consensus 'science' of global warming?" Try, reams of evidence and "overwhelming consensus of climate scientists." Of course, the coal industry groups have a strong economic interest in denying global warming, but still...ugh.
Then we have the head of Citizens for Coal, Roger Horton, on the Diane Rehm Show, appearing to dismiss charges that people have been threatened for opposing mountaintop removal mining. Wow.
As for "FACES of Coal," that's a fake grassroots ("astroturf") campaign that spreads pro-coal-industry propaganda and bashes the EPA (see here, for instance). Also, see Rachel Maddow for more on "FACES of Coal."
Ladies and Gentlemen, I present to you the Republican Party nominee for Governor of New York, Carl Paladino. We can add him to as Exhibit Z in support of our case, "The Republican Party Has Gone Completely Batshit Insane." By the way, Exhibits A through Y include Sharron Angle, Christine O'Donnell, Sarah Palin, Newt Gingrich, Rand Paul, Dan Maes, Rick Scott, Ken Cuccinelli, Jim DeMint, Sideshow Bob Marshall, a bunch of climate change deniers like crazy Jim Inhofe, and many others too numerous to mention. With that, we rest our case.
That's an excellent point, as Ronald Reagan expanded the federal government, raised taxes multiple times (including a gas tax increase and an increase in corporate taxes), exploded the deficit, expanded Social Security, negotiated with the "Evil Empire," etc., etc. Also, I'd point out that "cap and trade" originated in the Reagan Administration as a conservative, "free market" idea. In today's Republican Party, in other words, Ronald Reagan - or someone with the same views not named "Ronald Reagan" - would be ridden out of town on a rail as a liberalliberalliberalliberal. Today, the party of Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower and Ronald Reagan has become the de facto John Birch Society -- extreme, wildly irresponsible, insane. Let's just call them the "American Taliban" Party.
Democratic consultant Peter Fenn explains it well when he writes:
Poor Republicans. They are beginning to resemble the bar scene from Star Wars. They are purging the conservative voices in their party who have any sort of pragmatic perspective and substituting true kooks. These are not just candidates with hard right views -- they took over the Republican Party in the late '70s and early '80s -- these are candidates who, as the Republican chair in Delaware put it, don't deserve to be dog catcher. Serious ethics issues. No record of accomplishment. Little of any substance on the issues. They are, pure and simple, vessels for anger and unbridled simplicity. The Grand Old Party is fast devouring itself. Political tsunamis do wash up a lot of dead fish on the beach -- it happened when Republicans captured 12 Senate seats in 1980. It appears to be happening again, only worse.
That about sums it up. The only other thing I'd add is that, although I'm happy this morning as a partisan Democrat to see the Republicans self destructing, I'm worried as an American at the future of my country. Is having one of our two major political parties go completely off the deep end a good thing for America? I'm not convinced. How about you?
UPDATE: Another way to put it is that the Republicans "are being subsumed by the Tea Party," and that the "mainstream Republican party is dying or already dead."
...the Republicans thought they could co-opt [the Tea Partiers] and use their anger to fire up their dormant base. The joke is on them. Like HAL in 2000 A Space Odyssey, the master suddenly has become the slave and the Republicans have lost control of their party. They thought they had a tiger by the tail but the tiger has them now. The question is, will there be any Republicans left?
UPDATE #2: Here in Virginia, the partisan Democrat in me shouts go Sideshow Bob, while the rest of me worries for my country's future.
1. FAITH GROUPS OPPOSE PLAN TO PRIVATIZE LIQUOR SALES
2. GOVERNOR ALLUDES TO FURTHER PRIVATIZATION
3. MCDONNELL HEADLINES FUNDRAISER FOR MARTINEZ OF NEW MEXICO
4. MARSHALL URGED TO RUN FOR THE U.S. SENATE IN 2012
5. DEMOCRAT, REPUBLICAN JOINTLY URGE ARLINGTON TO DROP HOT LANE SUIT
7. VIRGINIA REVENUES LAG FOR FIRST TWO FISCAL MONTHS
10. T. BOONE PICKENS TO SPEAK AT VIRGINIA'S FIRST ENERGY CONFERENCE
12. THE IT DOOR GOES ROUND AND ROUND
13. ALLEN HINTS AT FUTURE DURING CAMPAIGN STOP FOR HURT
23. GROUNDING FOREIGN DRIVERS IN VIRGINIA, BY GUBERNATORIAL ORDER
27. LIMITS SET IN RICHMOND AREA FOR WATER USE
28. BEACH COUNCIL OKS PURCHASE OF POTENTIAL LIGHT-RAIL PROPERTY
Congratulations to DC Mayor-elect Vincent Gray, who defeated Adrian Fenty in the Democratic primary yesterday, 53%-46%. Now, it will be interesting to see how Vincent Gray goes about bringing the city back together, and of course whether he decided to keep controversial Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee. On the latter question, Robert McCartney has some thoughts, with which I tend to disagree. Anyway, we'll see soon enough.
P.S. Also, congratulations to my friend Mo Elleithee, who served as a top communications and strategy consultant to Vincent Gray's campaign. After a rough 2009 (McAuliffe and Deeds), Mo was due for a big win! :)
Seriously, Christine O'Donnell is the Republican nominee for U.S. Senate from Delaware after she won tonight's primary over Mike Castle. That immediately moves this race from "likely Republican" to at least "lean Democratic," and may end up saving the U.S. Senate for the Democrats. All I can is, "thank you Sarah Palin, and thank you Tea Party!" LOL
P.S. Christine O'Donnell almost - ALMOST - makes Ken Cuccinelli seem sane. But not quite.
"What we're seeing in the Republican Party is that they invited the Tea Party in and it's turning into the Donner Party, in some instances, because they're turning the energy and the ferocity against each other," said Kaine in response to a question by the Huffington Post, referring to the infamous group of 19th-century American pioneers who eventually had to turn to cannibalism to survive. He added that the divisions have given Democrats "some great opportunities in races that we wouldn't have absent the Tea Party candidates."Yes, and let's hope the "Tea Party" romps tonight in Delaware, New Hampshire, etc. Go Tea Party! :)
Meanwhile, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz warns, "it's very clear that if [Republicans] can't shut down the government, they'll do everything they can to just shut down essential government services that are the lifeblood of what people need right now." I'd just add that if Republicans take over the House of Representatives, they'll not only shut down the government, they'll launch witch hunts against President Obama just like they did against President Clinton in the 1990s. Do you want to prevent that from happening? Good, then get involved now and encourage everyone you know to get involved. If we can close this ridiculous "enthusiasm gap," we win. If not, we all lose. Unless, of course, you're a big fan of "Donner party" politics. Heh.
The Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy is leading a coalition and a petition drive in opposition to Gov. Bob McDonnell's plan to privatize the state's liquor stores.Uh, last I checked, that's also known as "Bob McDonnell's base." Now, they are abandoning him over his cockamamie, misguided "plan" (if we can even call it that) to let the liquor industry run wild in Virginia. Not surprisingly, religious conservatives aren't falling for it. Nor, from what I'm hearing, are many other people.
The coalition, called Your Values, Your Voice, includes the Baptist General Association of Virginia, an umbrella group affiliated with more than 1,400 Virginia churches.
All of this is making the McDonnell people a wee bit defensive and testy. For instance, check this out:
Stacey Johnson, press secretary to McDonnell, said the coalition's objections "have been repeatedly proven incorrect. If these groups oppose gaining a half a billion dollars for transportation without a tax increase, that's their prerogative. But they need to answer: How do they propose to fund transportation in Virginia?"That's right, the McDonnell administration is demanding that a coalition of Virginia religious groups come up with their own transportation plan! Is that bizarre or what? Can anyone remember anything similar from a Republican governor, or even a Democratic governor, in recent years? Bizarre.