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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.  

There's More... :: (1 Comments, 535 words in story)

Teahadist Susan Stimpson Attacks "liberal interest group Equality Virginia," "mixed-sex bathrooms"

by: lowkell

Sun Mar 29, 2015 at 06:37:18 AM EDT

The following screed (see blockquote below), by Tea Partier Susan Stimpson (running against House Speaker and corporate/polluter shill Bill "ALEC" Howell for Virginia House of Delegates) is not just ugly and bigoted, it's also flat-out wrong on two major points, demagogic on another. First, Stimpson is flat-out wrong in her claim that Equality Virginia is a "liberal interest groups." In fact, there IS a Democratic LGBT equality group in Virginia, known as the LGBT Democrats of Virginia (formerly called the "Virginia Partisans"). At least when it comes to that group, Stimpson could have semi-plausibly claimed that they are a "liberal interest group," although how fighting for EQUAL rights is an "interest group" is a bit beyond me. As for Equality Virginia, that is a NON-partisan group, a " 501(c)(3) charitable organization" which "believes in a truly inclusive Commonwealth where all are equally welcomed and valued, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity." I know, that's soooo radical -- equality for every Virginian and every American, per our Constitution. Yet Teahadist Susan Stimpson attacks this group for pushing an "extreme, liberal social agenda in our schools." WTF?

Oh, and what is that supposedly "extreme, liberal social agenda?" For more on that, see Video: Courageous Stafford County Parent Gives Impassioned Plea for Respect of Transgender Student. Oh, and by the way, Stimpson is being demagogic when she claims that Equality Virginia is pushing for "mixed-sex bathrooms." In fact, we're talking about one student, a fourth grader who is transgender and who identifies as a girl. That's it for the "mixed-sex bathrooms." Now, back to Stimpson's pathetic, disgraceful attempt to ratchet up the hysteria and do whatever she can to win an election.

P.S. Stimpson is also wrong/misleading that Equality Virginia is "allied" in any way to Bill Howell. True, they donated money to Howell's PAC, for what reason I'll never understand, but the last time they did that was back in 2012, and that certainly doesn't make them "allies." Whatever.

The group pushing mixed-gender bathrooms in our schools gave money to Bill Howell for 7 years in a row. Yes, it's true.

Liberal special interest group Equality Virginia is pushing for unisex bathrooms in Stafford County's public schools - so why did Bill Howell take their campaign contributions for seven years?

Instead of standing on principle and sending the money back, Howell was more than content to keep cashing the checks.

Earlier this month, parents in Stafford County were horrified to learn that left-coast style mixed-gender bathrooms might be coming to schools in Stafford County.

Predictably, a liberal special interest group, Equality Virginia, wasted no time in lobbying our School Board to accept its extreme, liberal social agenda in our schools.

There's More... :: (2 Comments, 165 words in story)

Virginia News Headlines: Sunday Morning

by: lowkell

Sun Mar 29, 2015 at 06:56:53 AM EDT

Here are a few national and Virginia news headlines, political and otherwise, for Sunday, March 29. Also, check out that photo of the supposedly "moderate" Republican, Hal Parrish, who's running for Chuck Colgan's State Senate seat, posing happily with one of the craziest, most extreme politicians in Virginia...or anywhere in the country, really.

*Arab summit vows support for Yemen's leader
*Co-pilot who crashed jet reported feeling pressured
*When to expect more 2016 announcements
*McAuliffe: A loftier vision for public service ("I am firmly committed to taking a meaningful step forward on ethical government every year of my term until we reach our goal.")
*Schapiro: Ethics debate could ripple into the fall ("Republicans don't want to give McAuliffe a victory. But they're leery about handing him a defeat. They worry that rejecting the amendments when the General Assembly returns for its spring session April 15 will supply Democrats with a potent talking point in the fall elections and beyond.")
*Challenge to Howell illustrates GOP split ("Dave Brat's stunning primary defeat of U.S. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor last year has emboldened the Virginia GOP's conservative wing to rise against the party's establishment.")
*Cigarette trafficking spawning other crimes and possibly violence
*Smoking pot in D.C. could cost Va. workers their jobs (That's ridiculous.)
*A silver lining at U-Va. ("Rolling Stone's failings notwithstanding, the uproar caused needed soul-searching about the university's approach to sexual assault cases.")
*In Virginia ABC arrest numbers, tilt is toward buyers rather than sellers (Should definitely be the other way around.)
*Virginia State Bar boycotts Israel (Not sure what to make of this, but doesn't sound good.)
*Time for courage on light rail plans ("Virginia Beach's City Council has spent too long cowering before a loud but small group whose blinkered vision for the city involves time travel to the 1960s. Or the 1950s.")
*Racial disparities exists in probation violation penalties, reports show ("More whites than blacks who are charged with probation violations get a break when they go before circuit court judges, case status records from 2014 suggest")
*In the path of Route 460: New route likely to displace homes, businesses
*Tech Board of Visitors to take up tuition and budget issues
*One more chilly day before temperatures turn springlike

Discuss :: (2 Comments)

Bill "ALEC" Howell Signs ALEC Letter to Google Blaming Climate Activists for Their Own Craziness

by: lowkell

Sat Mar 28, 2015 at 16:22:01 PM EDT

From House Minority Leader David Toscano:

Dear Friend,

Last year, under pressure from tens of thousands of their users, Google decided to drop their support of the extreme right-wing organization ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council).  The reasoning was based on ALEC's denial that climate change exists - Google Chairman Eric Schmidt said:  “Everyone understands climate change is occurring and the people who oppose it are really hurting our children and our grandchildren and making the world a much worse place.  And so we should not be aligned with such people — they’re just, they’re just literally lying.” (1)

Of course, you and I know that ALEC has been "literally lying" about a lot more then climate change!  In response to Google's decision, 234 right-wing Republican legislators signed a letter to Google attempting to shift blame to climate activists.  If you read the letter, you'll notice that 7th on the list of 234 names is none other then our Speaker, Bill Howell. (2)  And ALEC constantly uses the Virginia House of Delegates as testing ground for the next round of conservative initiatives.  We must stop this.

I need your help to make sure we make significant gains this November.  We have a crucial reporting deadline Tuesdaynight at midnight.  Can you please make whatever contribution you can today to help us fight back against Speaker Howell and the right-wing Republican caucus this year.  Your contribution, be it $10, $100 or $1,000, is going to go straight to beating Republicans this November, and I think we can all agree, that's a good deal.

Lets win!

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When it Comes to Solar Power, Virginia Falls Behind...Georgia?!?

by: lowkell

Sat Mar 28, 2015 at 12:14:57 PM EDT

Yes, believe it or not, Virginia - which we've heard politicians claims SHOULD be the "energy capital of the east coast" - is not only failing miserably in that goal, it's even falling behind politically "redder" states like North Carolina and Georgia.  Read it and weep (or better yet, get vocal!)
National solar installers like SolarCity, SunPower, SunEdison and Vivint are likely to benefit from the legislation, which would allow residential customers to lease rooftop solar installations and sell the excess power they generate.

Signaling a major compromise, the state's largest utility, Southern Company subsidiary Georgia Power, backed the legislation passed today...

...The "Solar Power Free-Market Financing Act of 2015," spearheaded by Rep. Mike Dudgeon (R), was a year and a half in the making, with a strong push from the conservative grassroots group Georgians for Solar Freedom.

Meanwhile, here in Virginia, it's very VERY difficult for rooftop solar power leasing companies like SolarCity, SunPower, SunEdison and Vivint to operate, as Dominion Power and its bought-and-paid-for political puppets throw obstacles in their path, while keeping the playing field heavily tilted in the direction of dirty energy  (through taxpayer-funded corporate welfare of various types, failure to make the "polluter pay," refusal to adopt a serious Renewable Portfolio Standard for Virginia, etc.).

As a result, Virginia has fallen wayyyy behind many other states when it comes to distributed (or even utility-scale) solar power (see 2014 Top 10 Solar States and note that you won't find Virginia anywhere on there -- #FAIL). So when is this pathetic situation going to change?  Simple: when we forbid state-regulated monopoly Dominion Power from buying our political system, and when we elect more pro-clean-energy legislators to our state legislature.

On that latter point, note that some of the strongest supporters of solar power are conservatives and even Tea Partiers. For instance, see Thanks To Conservatives, Florida Is Now One Step Closer To Making Solar Energy More Accessible, which explains how a "pro-solar conservative group in Florida cleared a major hurdle this week in its journey to make solar more accessible in the state." Also see 'Green Tea Coalition': Strange bedfellows fight for solar power in Sunshine State. So where's the Virginia version of the "Green Tea Coalition?"

Discuss :: (1 Comments)

Virginia News Headlines: Saturday Morning

by: lowkell

Sat Mar 28, 2015 at 06:15:52 AM EDT

Here are a few national and Virginia news headlines, political and otherwise, for Saturday, March 28. Also, check out President Obama's weekly address, in which he "highlighted the progress made protecting American consumers since he signed Wall Street reform into law five years ago, including an important new step taken by the independent Consumer Financial Protection Bureau earlier this week toward preventing abuses in payday lending."

*Elon Musk: Burning Fossil Fuels Is the 'Dumbest Experiment in History, By Far' (It is particularly dumb, not to mention nuts, now that we have clean energy -- efficiency, of course, plus wind and solar - at plummeting cost.)
*In Yemen crisis, risk of wider war between rivals
*Co-pilot in jet crash said to have had depression
*An Obamacare checkup ("The law has lived up to many of its promises.")
*Harry Reid Goes Down Fighting ("With the bruised-and-battered Democratic leader's resignation, the Senate loses one of its toughest and most fascinating characters.")
*Inside Chuck Schumer's 24-hour campaign for leader ("The New York senator got emotional over Harry Reid's retirement. Then he got to work to take his job.")
*The economy is a Democrat: Why recent history shows the value of a progressive president ("When Dems control the White House, the middle class wins. And under Republicans? Not so much...")
*Ted Cruz Is Trying To Gut The Clean Air Act And Repeal All Climate Regulation (This is simply evil.)
*Va. Gov. McAuliffe amends license plate reader bill, angers legislators
*Virginia senator speaking at SC Democratic dinner ("Sen. Mark Warner will speak at the party's annual Jefferson-Jackson fundraising dinner on April 24, a year after his Old Dominion senate counterpart Tim Kaine headlined the same event.")
*McAuliffe reworks ethics bill, will veto Tebow, gun bills
*McAuliffe proposes tighter gift limits in ethics legislation ("The governor said his amendments include an aggregate cap of $100 annually per lobbyist or entity seeking a contract with the state, a policy he said his administration already follows.")
*McAuliffe runs afoul of the feds ("Gov. Terry McAuliffe has never shied away from his reputation as a hustler. This week, he shrugged off the latest complaints of his aggressive style during his regular appearance on WRVA's 'Ask the governor' program. 'I pick up the phone, and I raise heck,' McAuliffe said, likening his business strategy to his approach as Virginia's chief executive.")
*Balancing the tuition scales at U-Va. ("The larger payment from better-off in-staters will free up resources that the university gets from the state and elsewhere so that U-Va. can expand access to talented Virginians of more modest means. Sounds like money well spent to us." Agreed.)
*Swecker takes helm of state Democratic Party (Good luck!)
*Toxic emissions in Va. increase 10 percent in 2013; Radford arsenal remains atop list
*A wind-chilled start to the weekend

Discuss :: (4 Comments)

Dominion's Errors, Accidents Reduce Confidence in Ability to Build Natural Gas Pipeline Safely

by: pontoon

Fri Mar 27, 2015 at 14:54:24 PM EDT

( - promoted by lowkell)

Free Nelson has been reporting on errors, accidents and violations by Dominion and/or its partnerships over the last several months. We became interested in Dominion's safety record last May, when Nelsonians began receiving letters regarding a 554-mile long, 42" natural gas pipeline known then as the Southern Reliability Project.  The pipeline has since been renamed the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP), and is now a partnership between Dominion, Duke, Piedmont Natural Gas and AGL Resources.

The proposed ACP would cut a 125' swath, wide enough for a 6-lane highway, through Nelson's steep, forested terrain, as well through our rolling farmland.  The originally-proposed route for Nelson is approximately 30 miles, entering at the county's northeast corner near Humpback Rock on the Blue Ridge Parkway. It would travel in a southeasterly direction to the James River. This route, or any of the other four recently announced alternate routes through the county, would traverse the land of hundreds of private property owners.

We have heard all the platitudes. The most often heard is that "pipelines are the safest way to transport natural gas." Actually, it is the only way natural gas is transported. But that doesn't mean it is safe. As pipelines increase in size, it becomes more imperative that we know the risks to those in the path of these behemoths. In 2012, a 20" natural gas pipeline exploded in Sissonville, WV along Interstate 77, melting 800' of the interstate highway, destroying three homes and damaging countless others.  Another pipeline, in Appomattox County, Virginia, exploded in 2008, destroying two homes, melting the siding on over 100 others as far as a mile away. Clearly, the radiational heat from these explosions is tremendous.  Yet here in Nelson, Dominion (which has chosen the proposed path) puts existing lawndowners' homes within 330' of a much larger, 42" pipeline which operates at a much higher 1,440 psi than the two pipeline explosions we gave as examples.

We won't address Dominion's many lies, nor the crass, bullying behavior of Dominion toward landowners and our community in this article. But we will share with you the many errors, unreported violations, fines and accidents Dominion and its partnerships have been party to over the last few years.

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Video: AG Mark Herring Says We Should Be "Ashamed" of Predatory Lending in VA, Vows to Fight It

by: lowkell

Fri Mar 27, 2015 at 09:23:43 AM EDT

Yet again, the difference between having right-wing extremist Mark Obenshain (shudddderrrr) as Virginia Attorney General, and having Mark Herring as our AG, is immense. In this case, Herring is fighting against a despicable practice - predatory lending. "...on matters large and on matters small, we are going to fight for the rights of Virginia consumers. But there's one place where we need to do more and we're going to do more. I read a few weeks ago that Virginia is now considered the predatory lending capital of the East Coast, and I cannot accept that. It hurts our reputation as a state, and more than that, it means that here are Virginians who are being hurt, and I cannot accept that." Full remarks on the "flip."

P.S. "Democrats" like Dick Saslaw who support predatory lending should be ashamed of themselves.

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Virginia News Headlines: Friday Morning

by: lowkell

Fri Mar 27, 2015 at 06:19:21 AM EDT

Here are a few national and Virginia news headlines, political and otherwise, for Friday, March 27. Also, check out comedian Aasif Mandvi at the 2015 RTCA Dinner ripping the corporate media's incompetence and idiocy.

*Plane crash called deliberate act ("French prosecutor blames co-pilot in chilling scenario")
*How can airlines prevent crashes like this in future?
*Egypt warships steam toward Yemen coast ("Saudi Arabia continued its bombardment as Egypt prepared to join the Arab-led offensive against Shiite rebels in Yemen.")
*Pat Robertson: 'Was the co-pilot a Muslim? Why did he want to kill all those people?' (More right-wing bigotry and lunacy.)
*GOP's "religious freedom" riot: How a bigoted Indiana law could roil GOP primary (Did I just say "more right-wing bigotry and lunacy?" Yes, yes I did!)
*Senate Approves Budget of G.O.P. Wishes in All-Night Session (This budget would be ruinous for America.)
*Scott Walker Adjusts Stance on Immigration at Private Dinner
*Krugman: Mornings in Blue America ("So, as I said at the beginning, the fact that we're now seeing mornings in blue America - solid job growth both at the national level and in states that have defied the right's tax-cutting, deregulatory orthodoxy - is a big problem for conservatives. Although they would never admit it, events have proved their most cherished beliefs wrong.")
*Derik Jones enters Senate race for Dance's seat
*McAuliffe says he will amend ethics bill before signing ("The bill would cap gifts from lobbyists to lawmakers at $100. But it has come under fire for a variety of perceived loopholes, including elimination of an aggregate cap on gifts." This thing needs a TON of help!)
*McAuliffe vetoes redistricting bills, defends Atlantic Coast Pipeline project (The Atlantic Coast Pipeline is not particularly defensible, and it certainly shouldn't be defended by a Democratic governor.)
*Press Pass: McAuliffe stands by Atlantic Coast Pipeline (Utter bull****.)
*Va. Attorney General Herring to focus on predatory lending (We badly need alternatives to these predators.)
*McAuliffe signs clean budget, bill vetoes coming

There's More... :: (13 Comments, 171 words in story)

Climate Adaptation and Mitigation Go Hand In Hand

by: zhjarjou

Thu Mar 26, 2015 at 16:20:02 PM EDT

( - promoted by lowkell)


I used to think I was working to “stop climate change”. I can’t tell you how many times I used those words while working as a volunteer and student activist back in my home state of Mississippi. The renewable energy campaigns, organizing skills workshops, and multitudes of events that we hosted all focused on building people power to stop the climate crisis. It was good work, it was fun work, it was difficult work, and in retrospect it was a bit naïve. That last statement needs to qualified; the concept of “stopping climate change” was naïve in the sense that it portrays the issue as one with a simple solution. It probably also contributed to the difficulty of the work because it didn’t convey the true urgency of climate change.  

Fast forward five years and a lot has changed. We are no longer talking about climate change as just something we will experience in the future. A myriad of reports, studies, and articles have been written and released over the past several years that discuss the impacts of climate change that we are seeing now. Hampton Roads has consistently been getting national media attention because we’re one of the places that climate change impacts (specifically sea level rise) are most visible.

This brings me to the title of the article, Adaptation and Mitigation Goes Hand In Hand. First it is helpful to define these two terms. Adaptation is to “become adjusted to new conditions” and in terms of climate change and sea level rise in Hampton Roads includes things like raising roads and houses and changing building standards to account for rising seas and resulting flooding.  Mitigation is “the action of reducing the severity, seriousness, or painfulness of something” and in terms of climate change basically boils down to reducing our greenhouse gas emissions which includes things like transitioning from fossil fuels like coal, oil, and natural gas to clean, renewable energy like wind, solar, geothermal, reducing wasted energy through energy efficiency, as well as addressing emissions generated by our system of food production.

As I mentioned earlier, portraying an issue as something far off in the future downplays the urgency and doesn’t help when trying to get people involved in a social movement. But on the other end of the spectrum, specifically with regards to climate change, the urgency of the issue can also push the conversation to focus more heavily on the adaptation side of the solutions, things that people will see and feel in the immediate future (for example someone’s house being elevated to adapt to flooding). It is critical for the future of Hampton Roads for us to keep the focus on both mitigation and adaptation. No matter how much we adapt to climate change if we ignore the need to drastically reduce our carbon emissions the problem will only persist and get worse, and all the effort and money put towards adaptation efforts will eventually be all for nothing.

There's More... :: (1 Comments, 831 words in story)

Dominion Plan for New Gas-Fired Power Plant Would Worsen the Climate Crisis

by: lowkell

Thu Mar 26, 2015 at 12:14:19 PM EDT

Statement from the Chesapeake Climate Action Network on Dominion's latest bull****:
RICHMOND-Dominion Resources, already the top emitter of planet-heating greenhouse gas pollution in Virginia, announced a proposal this morning to build a new 1,600-megawatt gas-fired power plant in Southside Virginia. If approved, the plant would be the largest gas-fired power plant in the state.

Kirsten Collings, deputy director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, had the following statement in response:

"You can't solve the climate crisis by investing in more fossil fuels. A growing body of evidence shows that fracked gas could be worse for the climate than coal over the next 20 years because of leaks of heat-trapping methane. Governor McAuliffe has his facts wrong in endorsing this project as 'clean,' just as he did when endorsing Dominion's massive Atlantic Coast pipeline for fracked gas.

"The reality is that Virginia simply doesn't need and can't afford new investments in fossil fuels. Dominion could more than offset the need to build a new gas-burning power plant by investing in modest energy-saving technologies that would reduce demand along with Virginians' utility bills. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, Virginians pay the 7th highest average electric bills in the nation, and our state ranks near the bottom on energy efficiency. Dominion should invest in the commonwealth's vast clean energy resources, which would create jobs, lower bills and reduce emissions of climate-disrupting pollution."

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Another Candidate Set to Jump in Dem Primary to Succeed Sen. John Watkins?

by: lowkell

Thu Mar 26, 2015 at 10:25:18 AM EDT

In the race to succeed retiring State Senator John Watkins (R-SD10), the candidates currently listed on VPAP are: Dems Emily Francis (a strong progressive and environmentalist, Dan Gecker (who has run as an "I" in the past and who says his political hero is Ronald Reagan); Republican Glen Sturtevant; and Libertarian Carl Loser. In the Dem primary, since the strongest progressive and environmentalist by far is Emily Francis, you just know who the Dem "powers that be" (e.g., Dick Saslaw, who despises progressives and environmentalists with a burning passion) would be supporting the conservadem, and you'd be right.

But now, a major wild card is rumored to be entering the race, and it could mess up all of the "powers that be"'s well-laid plans. That would Alex McMurtrie, a former Republican (correction: the Washington Post article I linked to was wrong, McMurtrie was a Democrat, although it's easy to confuse, as his campaign slogan reportedly was "Conservative Alex McMurtrie" - lol) House of Delegates member (back in the 1980s), now, who last ran (as an "I") and got crushed by John Watkins (R), who's now retiring, back in 1999.

Who knows what the guy really is now, but he donates to both Rs and Ds. Anyway, I hear from sources that he turned in his petitions yesterday to run as a Democrat in the primary for the SD-10 Dem primary. This could be fascinating, as it means two white, male, conservadems will be running, along with a woman who happens to be a progressive and environmentalist. Also, McMurtrie is by all accounts "loaded" in terms of money. So...could McMurtrie split the votes with Gecker and gives Francis a clear path to winning this primary? We can only hope. Stay tuned.

P.S. I also hear our old friend Paul Goldman may be involved in the McMurtrie race. Goldman's really got to be giving Dick Saslaw heartburn these days, and I can't say that doesn't put a smile on my face. :)

Discuss :: (1 Comments)

Video: Courageous Stafford County Parent Gives Impassioned Plea for Respect of Transgender Student

by: lowkell

Wed Mar 25, 2015 at 17:36:24 PM EDT

Last night, the Stafford County School Board, prior to voting, took public feedback on a debate over transgender students' bathroom access. For some background,  see Think Progress, which explains:
Hartwood Elementary School, part of the Stafford County school system, started by accommodating the student's identity. She was allowed to use the girls' room per her gender identity and in consultation with her parents. When another parent complained, the district's Executive Director of Human Resources, Rick L. Fitzgerald, released a message on behalf of the district referring to recent guidance from the Department of Justice that indicates that the "sex" protections under Title IX protect transgender students' use of facilities that match the gender with which they identify. Allowing the fourth-grader to use the girls' room was simply the district complying with the law.

...The transgender student's father, Jonathan Adams, also testified. He admitted to having some of the same misconceptions when the child he thought was his son insisted she was a girl. "And then I watched my little girl grow up," he said. Adams proclaimed that he was "very proud to have a special little girl," and implored others "not to trade understanding for fear or trade misconceptions for hate."

Later in the evening, however, the school board voted 6-0 to direct the superintendent to restrict the girl's bathroom use.

Also interesting were the comments by the public. For the entire debate, most of which involved parents opposed to allowing the transgender student (who identifies as female) to use the girls' bathroom, see here. The video I've included is of a courageous parent (of two students in the Stafford County school system) delivering an impassioned plea for respect and tolerance for the transgender student. Sadly, her pleas feel on deaf ears...
Discuss :: (3 Comments)

Virginia News Headlines: Thursday Morning

by: lowkell

Thu Mar 26, 2015 at 06:32:16 AM EDT

Here are a few national and Virginia news headlines, political and otherwise, for Thursday, March 26. Also, courtesy of Stafford Dem Marc Broklawski, check out the "'greatest hits' compilation of extreme Tea Party testimony bullying the Stafford School Board into abandoning Title IX." It's kinda like watching Faux "News" or Glenn Beck or something. And no, that is NOT a good thing! Ugh.

*Slandering solar is not about protecting taxpayers, but utility's monopoly status (By former Rep. Barry Goldwater, Jr.)
*Saudi Arabia launches heavy strikes in Yemen
*Pilot reportedly locked out of cockpit as plane crashed
*Bowe Bergdahl, once-missing U.S. soldier, charged with desertion
*Opinion analysis: A small victory for minority voters, or a case with "profound" constitutional implications?
*Should Your State Be Able to Ignore the Nation's Most Important Pollution Law? ("Republicans think so." And of course, yet again, they are wildly wrong.)
*Obama's Very Smart Reason for Being So Tough on Netanyahu (Agreed, stay the course.)
*McAuliffe to sign state budget with no amendments or vetoes ("A year after Gov. Terry McAuliffe and the General Assembly engaged in a bitter, three-month standoff over adopting a budget, the governor on Thursday is expected to sign a revised budget without any amendments or line-item vetoes.")
*Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe is expected to veto about 20 bills (He should have vetoed or heavily amended the Dominion bill too.)
*Rep. Beyer set to replace Rep. Van Hollen as DCCC finance chair
*Dominion plans to build natural gas power plant in Southside (Again, they should first and foremost be maxing out energy efficiency, which they most certainly are not, and also renewable energy, before building any new fossil-fuel power plants.)
*Morrissey announces Senate bid, vacates House seat ("Del. Joe Morrissey, I-Henrico County, on Wednesday formally announced his bid for state Sen. Rosalyn Dance's seat in the 16th Senate district. As required by state law, Morrissey vacated his seat in the 74th House of Delegates district.")
*McAuliffe orders Va. ABC officers to be retrained in use of force, diversity
*Budget to take Beach forward ("The knee-jerk response to a proposal - by anyone, anywhere - to increase taxes by 6.4 percent is NO. It's particularly true in Virginia Beach, where the city manager has recommended increasing the real estate tax rate to 99 cents per $100 worth of property. Residents are unconvinced of the need.")
*SCOTUS Alabama decision may affect Virginia election maps
*Mother, daughter from Virginia on flight that crashed in French Alps
*Editorial: Morrissey isn't getting state political leaders' hints
*Temperatures in 70s Thursday, showers likely; snow possible Friday night

Discuss :: (7 Comments)

SCOTUS Ruling on Alabama Racial "Packing" Could Be Important Precedent for Virginia Cases

by: lowkell

Wed Mar 25, 2015 at 12:58:16 PM EDT

Today's Supreme Court decision on racial gerrymandering invalidates an Alabama redistricting plan that packed minority voters into  majority-minority districts. What "packing" African Americans does is to basically guarantee an African-American will be elected in the "packed" district(s), but that African Americans' voting power will be diluted everywhere else.

Here in Virginia, this issue came to a head last fall, when three federal judges ruled "that the lines of the state's 3rd Congressional District were drawn in violation of the U.S. Constitution" and "ordered the General Assembly to redraw them by April 1, in time for the next congressional election in 2016."

The 3rd District is the only one of Virginia's 11 congressional districts with an African American majority. It has been represented since 1992 by Rep. Bobby Scott, a Newport News Democrat who is unopposed in the Nov. 4 election.

In a 2-1 decision, the judges agreed with the plaintiffs in a lawsuit filed a year ago that the congressional redistricting plan adopted by the Republican-controlled Assembly in 2012 amounted to racial gerrymandering, packing African American voters into Scott's district and leaving adjoining districts safer for their Republican incumbents.

In order to comply with the panel's ruling, the legislature might have to pull some Democratic-leaning voters out of Scott's district and redistribute them to surrounding districts, possibly creating less-hospitable electoral terrain for Republican Reps. Randy Forbes of Chesapeake and Scott Rigell of Virginia Beach.

Note that in 2012, Barack Obama lost the 4th CD (Forbes' district) by just 1 point, while Tim Kaine narrowly won it. Thus, a shift of even a few points could make Randy Forbes' political life a lot less cozy. Same thing with Scott Rigell, whose second district Barack Obama narrowly won in 2012.

Meanwhile, yet another Virginia lawsuit accuses "the General Assembly of 'racial gerrymandering' by packing black voters into 12 of the state's House of Delegates districts." For that reason, "[t]he plaintiffs are asking the court to declare the challenged districts invalid and to block the state from holding elections because of the disputed districts." If plaintiffs win this case, it could lead to the redrawing not just of the affected districts, but also potentially surrounding ones as well. And that, in turn, could have significant consequences for the balance of power in the Virginia House of Delegates. Not surprisingly, House of Delegates Republicans are in no hurry to deal with this situation, and would clearly prefer that it just go away. Unfortunately for them, but fortunately for those who dislike racial gerrymandering and "packing," that's not likely.

Bottom line: Today's SCOTUS ruling has potentially big implications for Virginia, because Rep. Bobby Scott's case is factually similar, as is the House of Delegates case.  

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