(I never wanted Chuck Hagel to be Secretary of Defense in the first place. Here are the suggestions I made right before he was selected for alternatives... - promoted by lowkell)
Chuck Hagel for Secretary of Defense? Seriously? First of all, why this obsessive need of Democrats to nominate Republicans for Secretary of Defense? Is there some kind of self loathing going on here or what? Second, looking at Project Votes Smart's ratings of Hagel, the guy's abysmal on a wide range of issues - many of which relate to the military - such as ZERO ratings from NARAL and Planned Parenthood, ZERO from Environment America, and 100% from the far-right-wingnut Family Research Council (labeled a "hate group" by the Southern Poverty Law Center). He's also on the board of Chevron and otherwise leaves a lot to be desired on energy issues. He also has a poor record on LGBT issues. Bottom line, though: why on earth are we talking about appointing a Republican, let alone a right-wing one, to one of the top positions in the Cabinet, when there are plenty of other qualified candidates? Here are 10 possibilities, off the top of my head, who would be better picks than Chuck Hagel.
1. Michele Flournoy: Seems to me like this brilliant ("degrees from Harvard and Oxford, a stint at the Kennedy School and the Army War College"), serious ("very serious person, incredibly buttoned down, very careful in all that she does, not at all headstrong."), and experienced (former third-ranking civilian at the Pentagon) would be a great choice. She would also be the first female Secretary of Defense, which would be a great "glass ceiling" barrier to smash through. What am I missing here?
2. Wesley Clark: Retired four-star general, brilliant, tremendous experience, etc. A former Republican turned Democrat. Another one who should certainly be on the short list.
3. Eric Shinseki: He's "a retired United States Army four-star general who is currently serving as the 7th United States Secretary of Veterans Affairs. His final U.S. Army post was as the 34th Chief of Staff of the Army (1999-2003). He is a veteran of combat in Vietnam, where he sustained a foot injury." He also "clashed with Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld during the planning of the war in Iraq over how many troops the U.S. would need to keep in Iraq for the postwar occupation of that country." Sounds like a winner to me! [Note: I'm told that Shinseki is not quite at the 10-year retirement requirement to be Defense Secretary.]
There's something seriously wrong, even disturbing, about this interview, and more importantly what it says about the culture regarding sexual assault at UVA.
In an interview taped weeks before the sexual assault scandal that rocked the University of Virginia campus was exposed in Rolling Stone, a school official repeatedly defended a system in which students found guilty -- including students who have admitted guilt -- have been suspended rather than expelled.
Associate Dean of Students Nicole Eramo, who is also head of the university's Sexual Misconduct Board, told a reporter from student-run WUVA Online that she spoke to 38 sexual assault survivors last year. Of those, five filed informal complaints while four filed formal complaints.
Eramo said some accused students have admitted to sexual assault during the informal proceedings, but that those students were not expelled.
Eramo said that in most cases, suspensions run 1-2 years, with the longest being 2 years. She said that while expulsion is a a possible punishment, it has not been used in a sexual assault case during her time at the university.
I mean, frankly, I'm almost speechless here; this is wrong on so many levels I don't even know where to start. Instead, let me just quote a few of the many scathing, articulate comments on the WUVA Media Vimeo page, where you can also watch the full interview.
*"... why do we place Deans like this, who fail to take the path less traveled and fight for what's right, in positions of power and do nothing when their failures are presented to the student body and the world?"
*"The most shocking answer to me was the response that 'Lots of victims don't want their assailant to get in trouble' or 'Lots of victims don't want to lodge a complaint'. Anyone who has worked with domestic violence knows that this is exactly the pattern that many victims of abuse exhibit w.r.t their abusers. So to hear this coming from someone who has apparently worked with battered women is downright jaw-dropping."
*"I kept waiting for Eramo to say 'Rape is Wrong' or 'Rapists have no place in our community' or 'Rapists should be prosecuted.' There was no moral standard in her thinking - she has been programmed to run a tightly controlled and manipulated process that, above all, protects UVAs reputation.
This video is clear evidence that UVA - and probably all Universities - should not be managing their own rape and sexual assault cases. Perhaps it's just me - but even the term 'sexual misconduct' minimizes the whole issue. Perhaps they need a committee on "life ending circumstances" to handle murders?"
A week after Election Day 2014, GMU held its usual "After Virginia Votes" event, at which top representatives from the Republican and Democratic U.S. Senate campaigns analyze what happened. In this case, the Mark Warner campaign was represented by senior advisor David Hallock, while the Ed Gillespie campaign was represented by Paul Logan. In general, I found the event to be a snoozefest, almost totally uninformative and lacking in insight. There was, however, an audacious comment by Warner's rep David Hallock, that had us scratching our heads and wondering if it could possibly be true.
You look at the kind of Republican areas, the rural areas, Senator Warner ran 8-10 points ahead of a traditional Democrat -- ahead of Senator Kaine, ahead of Governor McAuliffe in those areas -- which is more than the margin of victory at the end of the day.
Of course, this comment is consistent with the Warner campaign's whole schtick, that he's a different, speeeecial kind of Democrat, the kind who does much better than a "traditional" kind of Democrat (whatever that means) in rural, "red" areas of Virginia. In the past, specifically 2008, that appears to have been true (although 2008 was a huge Democratic year and Warner was running against a pathetically weak Republican candidate, Jim Gilmore, so take that one with a grain of salt). The question is whether it was STILL true in 2014 for the "radical centrist."
The day of "After Virginia Votes," FreeDem addressed that very question here at Blue Virginia. In short, FreeDem found David Hallock's claim about Warner supposedly running "8-10 points ahead of a traditional Democrat -- ahead of Senator Kaine, ahead of Governor McAuliffe in those [rural] areas" to be false. As FreeDem wrote in his analysis, in Southwest Virginia, Warner was "at most running 4.5 percentage points ahead in one county; for the most part Warner was right around the same range as Kaine." As for Southside Virginia, "Warner didn't just fail to run eight to ten points ahead of Democrats in Southside Virginia, you can't even see a trend of him doing better at all than Barack Obama and Tim Kaine." Bottom line: "once the dust settles, the Warner campaign's claims of running significantly ahead of Democrats in rural Virginia will come under question and be found lacking in support."
Which is exactly what happened -- nice job by FreeDem! Now, almost two weeks later PolitiFact Virginia has decided to weigh in as well (what took you guys so long?). According to PolitiFact, Hallock - and the Warner camp more broadly - is "flat out wrong" in its 8-10 point claim. To the contrary:
The Virginia Sierra Club's 2014 Generaly Assembly Climate & Energy Scorecard is out, and there's a lot of interesting information in there regarding who's great, who's good, and who's not so good when it comes to protecting Virginia's environment and promoting clean energy. There were some definite surprises in the rankings, but one thing was sadly NOT a surprise: Republicans were almost uniformly horrible (e.g., all "F"s "D"s and "C"s in the Senate; mostly bad grades in the House, with a few exceptions like Robert Bloxom's "A+;" Chris Stolle's "A;" Gordon Helsel's "B," Randy Minchew's "B," Bobby Orrock's "B," Riley Ingram's "B," Chris Jones' "B," Keith Hodges' "B," Michael Webert's "B," and Tony Wilt's "B"). What about the Democrats, all of whom you'd hope would get "A"s on the environment? Here's a ranking of Virginia Democratic legislators from best to worst.
"A+" grades: Delegates Rosalyn Dance, Alfonso Lopez, Monty Mason, Sam Rasoul and David Toscano. Thank you to everyone who got a perfect, 100%, "A+" grade from the Sierra Club. You guys rock! :)
"A" grades: Senators Creigh Deeds, Adam Ebbin, Barbara Favola, Janet Howell, Mamie Locke, Louise Lucas, Dave Marsden, Donald McEachin, Chap Petersen, Phil Puckett (!!!) and Toddy Puller; Delegates David Bulova, Betsy Carr, Matthew James, Mark Keam, Kaye Kory, Rob Krupicka, Jennifer McClellan, Scott Surovell, Roslyn Tyler and Jeion Ward. Nice job by all these folks too, except for the vote in favor of SB 459 - which the Sierra Club correctly calls "Dominion's Accounting Sleight of Hand." General rule of thumb: if Dominion's for it, vote against it unless there's some overriding reason not to. Finally, I'm pleasantly amazed that "coal country "Sen. Phil Puckett got an "A."
"B" grades: Senators John Edwards and John Miller; Delegates Mamye Bacote, Eileen Filler-Corn, Michael Futrell, Charniele Herring, Patrick Hope, Algie Howell, Delores McQuinn, Ken Plum, Mark Sickles, Marcus Simon and Luke Torian. Pretty good, but they did vote for SB 459 ("Dominion's Accounting Sleight of Hand"), plus in the cases of Edwards and Miller for SB 25 (establishes a "woefully inadequate to address impacts of [an offshore oil] spill or other accident").
Superb job by Washington Post reporter Laura Vozzella in pulling together her story in today's paper, "Puckett's Senate exit undid McAuliffe's secret plan for Medicaid expansion." Basically, it's a blow-by-blow account, with fascinating quotes and details, of how then-Sen. Phil Puckett's resignation from the Virginia State Senate contributed (or did it?> to killing Gov. McAuliffe's attempt to expand Medicaid unilaterally. I definitely recommend you read the entire thing, but here are a few highlights that jumped out at me.
*Gov. McAuliffe's voice mail message to former Sen. Puckett after it became clear that Medicaid expansion was dead: "Hey Phil? Terry McAuliffe. I want you to know we just lost the vote, 20 to 19, in the Senate. Medicaid is done. I hope you sleep easy tonight, buddy."
*"McAuliffe desperately needed Puckett in the Senate to take the daring step of expanding Medicaid on his own, using budget language the Democratic governor hoped to sneak past Republicans."
*This incident, and the anger/bitterness it engendered, "are likely to make it more difficult for McAuliffe to work with a GOP-controlled legislature to get anything done during the remainder of his term."
*New information: "Even as McAuliffe's aides were spinning Puckett's resignation as a sign of nasty Republican dealmaking, they were working desperately to strike a deal of their own to keep Puckett in the Senate - to protect a secret plan to pass Medicaid expansion without direct legislative approval."
*Gov. McAuliffe "has given a colorful account of their conversation in recent social settings, according to two people he separately regaled. The tale begins with McAuliffe begging the senator to stay and ends with him wishing aloud that Puckett 'rot in hell.'"
*Whether this whole scheme to expand Medicaid unilaterally would have worked is highly dubious, regardless, as the Republican-controlled House of Delegates still would have vehemently opposed it. Regardless, after "Bull Elephant blogger Steve Albertson, spott[ed] the language and warn[ed] that it was a loophole McAuliffe might try to exploit," the last nail was definitely hammered into the coffin.
In the end, of course, the substantive - and tragic - thing about all this is simple: 400,000 Virginians will NOT receive health care coverage due to Republicans' don't-bother-us-with-facts, ideological and political opposition. And billions of dollars of our own tax dollars will NOT flow to Virginia's economy thanks to the right wing. So, yes, Gov. McAuliffe has every right to be angry at "Benedict Puckett" and the Republicans, as do the rest of us. Not sure about "rotting in hell" for anyone, but how about we vote as many of these folks out of office next November? (actually, we can start by electing Kathleen Murphy in a few weeks to fill Barbara Comstock's vacated House of Delegates seat)
This piece appeared recently in the Richmond Times Dispatch.
In its opinion in Citizens United, the Republican-appointed Supreme Court majority pretended it wasn't true. But every sane person knows otherwise: allowing unlimited money to flow into our election process corrupts our democracy. "One person, one vote" gets replaced by "one dollar, one vote," which means that the increasing inequalities of wealth in America subvert the democratic idea of equality of political voice among all citizens.
But less obviously, allowing money to buy political power corrupts not only the political system, but the money system as well.
I used to call out the Koch Brothers, for their campaign to misinform the public about climate change, as being not only immoral but also a kind of crazy. What kind of insanity is it, I asked, for billionaires who already have more money than they and their children and their grandchildren could spend in a lifetime, to damage the future for generations to come, and for life on earth generally, just to get still more money for themselves?
I was thinking of money as something that entitles the owner to get economic goods. And for billionaires like the Koch Brothers, the limit to the goodies they might benefit from consuming or owning has long since been passed.
But in a political system like the one being fashioned by things like the Citizens United decision, money isn't about acquiring economic goods in the pursuit of happiness. It is about buying the government in the pursuit of power.
...in the Senate, Webb was a "climate curmudgeon," [who worked to undermine Presidential authority to negotiate climate treaties, fought against the Environmental Protection Agency, etc.]...And on climate change, by far the most monumental environmental issue, Webb may be little better than the Republican Party to which he once belonged.
So, now that the Republican-controlledHouse Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence has TOTALLY debunked all the right wingnuts' conspiracy theories on BENGHAZEEEEEE, what do they have left? First, a few quick points from the report on Benghazi by (again) Republican-controlled House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. (attention Frank Wolf and other crazy conspiracy theorists, you might want to read this, as it is meant to be the "definitive House statement on the Intelligence Community's activities before, during and after the tragic events that caused the deaths of four brave Americans")
*"There is no evidence of an intelligence failure...CIA provided sufficient security personnel, resources, and equipment to defend against the known terrorist threat and to enable CIA operations in Benghazi...no evidence that the CIA turned down requests for additional security resources at the Annex."
*"...the Committee found no evidence that there was either a stand down order or a denial of available air support."
*"...the Committee found no evidence that any officer was intimidated, wrongly forced to sign a nondisclosure agreement or otherwise kept from speaking to Congress, or polygraphed because of their presence in Benghazi."
*"Appropriate personnel on the ground in Benghazi made the decision to send CIA officers to rescue the State Department officers at the TMF...no officer at CIA was ever told to stand down."
*"The decision to send CIA officers from Tripoli to Benghazi to rescue the Ambassador and bolster security of the U.S. personnel in Benghazi was a tactical decision appropriately made by the senior officers on the ground."
*"The CIA received all military support that was available. One CIA security officer requested a Spectre gunship that he believed was available, but his commanding officer did not relay the request because he correctly knew the the gunship was not available."
*"...intelligence assessments continue to evolve to this day, and the investigations into the motivations of the individual attackers are still ongoing."
*"For her public comments, Ambassador Rice used talking points developed at the request of HPSCI."
*The "CIA, NCTC, FBI and other Executive Branch agencies fully cooperated with the Committee's investigation."
In sum, basically none of the charges leveled in the aftermath of Benghazi by Republicans have proven to be correct. Just as most of us outside the Fox/Rush/Glenn right-wing news bubble figured all along. I just wish the Republican-controlled House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence hadn't dumped this report late on a Friday before Thanksgiving, clearly hoping that it would get as little attention as possible. Of course, if the media were responsible, they would give this report as much (or more) attention as they gave to the hysterical, false accusations hurled around by the likes of Mitt Romney, John McCain, Lindsey Graham, Frank Wolf, etc. in the aftermath of this tragedy. Oh, and we're also "all ears" for apologies from Romney, McCain, Graham, Wolf et al. Nope, not holding our breaths...
Anyway, now that the BENGHAZEEEEE conspiracy theories have been definitively debunked, by Republicans no less, what will the next crazy conspiracy theory by the frothing-at-the-mouth right wing be? Well, there's always one of the people Mitt Romney went out of his way to praise for helping develop "Romneycare," Jonathan Gruber, an MIT academic who apparently thinks everyone other than himself is an idiot (but why any of us should care what he thinks is beyond me). Then there's Ebola, of course, but that's so three weeks ago! Then there's the latest OUTRAGE -- amnesty! tyranny! can we go back to birth cerficates or "death panels?" ;) I mean, Fox, Rush, Glenn, etc, have to have SOMETHING to rant about, right?
Here are a few national and Virginia news headlines, political and otherwise, for Saturday, November 22. Also see President Obama's weekly address, on immigration reform. Key point: if the House had allowed a vote on the bipartisan Senate immigration bill at any time over the past 1 1/2 years, it would have passed and been signed into law. Meanwhile, President Obama is taking action under his lawful executive authority to fix the broken system we have now.
This audio of Democratic State Senate leader Dick Saslaw being interviewed on the John Fredericks Show was posted back in mid October, but I decided not to write about it at the time. Why not? Simple: because, after talking to Virginia Democratic politicos I respected, I decided it would only be damaging to Mark Warner's campaign against Ed Gillespie. Of course, I figured that whether I talked about it or not, the Gillespie folks would use it anyway (as did some of the top Dem politicos I spoke with), but still, I didn't want to "go there." Now, with the election over, we can all listen to Dick Saslaw as he talks and talks and talks about stuff he shouldn't have been talking about at that time, or really ever, regarding details of the Phil Puckett scandal. For instance.
*Saslaw states that "the governor called me on Friday at about 6:30, 7....and told me that he had just found out that Phil was going to resign...of course I was a little shocked." So, right there, he drags Gov. McAuliffe into the thick of things, which contradicts (never believable) stories that it was some sort of rogue operation by Chief of Staff Paul Reagan (Saslaw says it wasn't a good idea for Reagan to have left a voice mail).
*Saslaw adds: "I then immediately called and left a message with Mark Warner." Yep, he drags Mark Warner into it as well, in the final weeks of a campaign in which the Gillespie folks were hitting Warner hard on the Puckett scandal. Brilliant.
*Saslaw keeps on talking: "and then I called...spoke to Tim Kaine's Chief of Staff Mike Henry, and told him, said look, can you have Tim call and find out what's going on....I basically left the same message with Senator Warner." Going for the trifecta, apparently, Saslaw then drags Tim Kaine's office into it, while for good measure also noting that he asked Mark Warner to call Puckett.
*Reveals that "Mark [Warner] called me on Sunday and...said...he had talked to one of the family members...said it was too late, that Phil had already resigned." The question is, why did Saslaw feel the need to go on conservative radio and spew this stuff? Got me, other than he loves hearing himself talk, has zero message discipline and zero sense of political strategy.
Anywway, I'm still baffled as to why the Gillespie campaign didn't use this audio in an ad. At the time it came out in October, I asked one of the Virginia Democratic politicos I most respect if they would have used this in an ad if the shoe had been on the other foot, and the answer was "absolutely yes!" So yeah, seemed like a "no brainer" at the time, but for whatever reason, the Gillespie folks didn't run with it.
I just got done watching Arlington County Board member John Vihstadt (Republican; not sure why the media keeps calling him "independent," since that's just a big charade) on the Kojo Nnamdi Show. I was hoping they'd really tear apart this guy's bogus anti-streetcar, pro-BRT arguments, or at least expose him as a world class b.s.'er. Prior to the show, David Alpert of Greater Greater Washington had encouraged Kojo Nnamdi and Tom Sherwood to ask Vihstadt:
*"What is @voteforvihstadt going to do now to ensure that good transit does get built on Columbia Pike?"
*"And if he says 'BRT,' please remind him that the leading BRT organization defines BRT as requiring a bus lane...Which VDOT has said isn't allowed on Columbia Pike. So I'd like to hear his view of actually possible transit."
In the interview, which begins at around 33:40 of the video, Vihstadt basically just lies, misrepresents and dodges his way around the questions. The guy's certainly a good talker, no doubt about that. The problem is, his torrent of words basically just amounts to meaningless "blah blah blah blah," because none of it adds up or makes any sense the minute you look into it. For instance, Vihstadt claims that his campaign was all about putting an emphasis back on "core services." The problems that he doesn't mention, of course, are: a) the streetcar funding was "dedicated," much of it from the state, none of it from Arlington residents having to pay more taxes, and not in any way "fungible" with education or anything else; and b) by killing the streetcar project, Vihstadt and his merry band of naysayers just killed $3.2-$4.4 BILLION (that's right, "billion" with a "b") in funding that could have gone to...wait for it...that's right, "CORE SERVICES!" Brilliant, huh?
Vihstadt then goes on to simply outright lie, claiming that we can have "Bus Rapid Transit" (BRT) on Columbia Pike, and that this election supposedly wasn't a choice "between a streetcar and doing nothing." Except that Vihstadt's alternative to a streetcar, BRT, is not possible, for a variety of reasons. As Greater Greater Washington explained yesterday, the "Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) turned [Columbia Pike] over to Arlington, but with the condition that the number of lanes open to cars not drop below four-and it's a four-lane road." Ergo, no dedicated lane. The problem, of course, as GGW further points out (and that many of us have pointed out for years now), is that real BRT is not possible without a dedicated lane. Period. To the contrary, real BRT requires a dedicated lane, by definition. Details, details.
It's utterly pathetic (and infuriating) that Republicans in the House have refused to even allow a freakin' VOTE on the bipartisan Senate comprehensive immigration reform bill. If they HAD allowed a vote, it would have passed a long time ago. But noooo. Also keep in mind that most previous presidents, including the sainted Ronald Reagan, have issued executive orders on immigration, so there's a lot of precedent for this (but you didn't hear Republicans scream about Reagan, Bush, etc.). Finally, it's long past time for somebody to address this issue, and I strongly support President Obama doing so, obviously within the bounds of his executive authority.
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