Here's video of last night's Arlington County Board Democratic debate (candidates attending were Peter Fallon, Christian Dorsey, Bruce Wiljanen, Katie Cristol and Andrew Schneider; James Lander was at a School Board meeting so did not participate in the debate). We'll start with the candidates criticizing the County Board for its decision to sell the historic Reeves farmhouse property. See the comments section for more video, including a question on widening I-66 inside the Beltway (all candidates said that was a very bad idea); one on the qualities the County Manager should have (basically, perfect in every way - lol), another on County Board transparency (yes!), opening and closing statements. Worth noting: Andrew Schneider was endorsed by 2014 Demoratic County Board nominee Alan Howze. Schneider also made a very strong statement about why he's a liberal Democrat, and why "I don't think you can be an elected Democratic leader and not support our party and our nominees." I strongly agree with Schneider, simply would change the word "can be" to "should not be."
Here are a few national and Virginia news headlines, political and otherwise, for Friday, May 22. Also, check out the video by Catherine Read from last night's Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) meeting. Here's her description: "Phil Hicks of Metro DC PFLAG. A graduate of FCPS public schools and the father of two gay sons who also went through the Fairfax County Public Schools. This is the reality of the times we live in."
Virginia Del. Joseph Preston is running an almost certainly losing campaign against incumbent State Senator Rosalyn Dance in the Democratic primary for the 16th State Senate District. Preston recently filled out a questionnaire from the Virginia Christian Alliance, and as you can see below and on the "flip," hilarity (presumably unintended) soon ensued. Believe it or not, Preston answered "undecided" to a slew of questions, including ones on important/hot-button issues like whether or not to support a "personhood" amendment (that would, effectively, ban abortion, as well as many forms of contraception, embryonic stem cell research, etc.), what he thinks about "physician-assisted suicide," "Common Core" educational standards, and a constitutional amendment requiring a 2/3 majority to impose new or increased taxes/fees. I mean, how on earth can you be running for State Senate and be undecided on these important matters? The hell? I mean, I've never been a huge Rosalyn Dance fan, but this guy's clearly not a serious challenger...
A few weeks ago, Terry McAuliffe was actually arguing that he has no leadership role to play on whether "the state of Virginia and its retirement fund and other relevant funds should divest from fossil fuel companies." McAuliffe's pathetically weak answer:
No! I think they have to make the decision what is in the best interest of whatever they're making their investments; they have a fiduciary duty to make those investments. And clearly as governor I am not going to sit here and tell the people who manage these funds what to do -- not my role. And I clearly understand my role...Jeff, it is not my job to come in and tell our businesses what to do. I am a fiscally conservative, pro-business Democrat; I am socially very progressive...
As I said at the time, that was wrong on almost any level you consider it, not to mention a pathetic abdication of leadership. Now, the largest (by far) state Democratic Party has shown what its state's governor has shown -- real leadership on the most important issue facing humanity, that being climate change. Check this out.
At the California Democratic Party convention this weekend, state party officials voted to adopt an official resolution endorsing fossil fuel divestment.Citing the growing threat posed by climate change, the resolution urges the state's public universities and pension funds to divest their financial holdings from the top 200 fossil fuel companies as part of a comprehensive solution to the climate crisis. The resolution marks the first endorsement for fossil fuel divestment from a state political party, and adds major momentum to the legislative push for S.B. 185, a coal divestment bill. The news also builds pressure on statewide institutions like the California Public Employees' Retirement System and the University of California endowment, who have long faced calls for divestment.
The adopted resolution reads, in part: "[t]he California Democratic Party calls upon the University of California and California State University endowments, the University of California Retirement Plan, and the California Public Employees' Retirement System (CalPERS) and the California State Teachers' Retirement System (CalSTRS) institutional pension funds, to immediately stop new investments in fossil fuel companies, to take steps, without risking any financial loss to its members, to divest all holdings from the top 200 fossil fuel companies as determined by the Carbon Underground list within five years, and to release periodic updates to the public, detailing progress made toward full divestment."
Exactly, the California Democratic Party nails it, as did Gov. Jerry Brown in his powerful "State of the State" address back in January. Now, what about the Democratic Party of Virginia? Gov. McAuliffe? Lt. Governor Northam? Attorney General Herring? Other leaders in our state? When are they going to call for divestment by state pension funds, colleges and universities, etc. from planet-killing fossil fuels? The crisis is urgent, action is required immediately, so what on earth (other than fear of the fossil fuel companies, fossil-fuel-allied utilities, etc.) is stopping them?
P.S. No reason for local parties to wait for DPVA; I also call on Dem committees in Arlington, Alexandria, Fairfax, Prince William, Stafford, Henrico, Loudoun, Virginia Beach, Richmond, Roanoke, Norfolk, Charlottesville, etc, etc. to pass divestment resolutions.
Here are a few national and Virginia news headlines, political and otherwise, for Thursday, May 21. And of course, farewell to David Letterman, who I never stay up late enough to watch live, but snippets of whom I get to watch on YouTube. :)
Some thoughts about the press release that my wife, April Moore, put out earlier this week. In it, she challenged her opponent - Virginia State Senator (and apparent would-be-Virginia's Scott Walker), Mark Obenshain - to condemn the suit threatened by corporate powerhouse ALEC against the League of Conservation Voters.
ALEC's attempt to intimidate the LCV represents should be understood as part of the larger picture of how the Big Money Power is subverting American democracy.
This particular abuse of money power is not directly connected with the electoral process. Rather it is an attempt of Big Money to strangle the public discourse on which a healthy democracy depends, the flow of information and ideas that helps the American people give informed consent to their government.
Bringing such a suit - or even just threatening it - represents a serious abuse of the legal system to silence those people who are doing for the nation precisely what our founders had in mind when they constructed the American system of liberty: telling the public the truth about what's going on.
This kind of abuse of the legal system has a name: SLAPP, Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation.
Although America's founders set up the court system as a means for achieving justice, in suits like this, that purpose is turned on its head. "Justice for all" is what is implied by the blindfold that Lady Justice wears. When Justice weighs the facts and the law in its scales, it is blind to who is powerful and who is weak. Thus the Courts are supposed to be the one place - besides also the ballot box - where the weak have equal standing.
I strongly support Atif Qarni for this nomination (the primary is on June 9; don't forget to vote!), but I honestly think that all three candidates did fine in this debate. The main differences between the candidates, I'd say, are on: 1) electability (I'd argue that the teacher and former U.S. Marine - Atif Qarni - who lives in Manassas would be the best Democratic candidate/best bio of these three to take on Republican Hal Parrish in the general election); and 2) their main areas of emphasis (Qarni's is clearly education and on putting a teacher in the State Senate). Finally, great job by Potomac Local in hosting this debate and making the video available for all of us to watch - thanks!
P.S. I'd add that on ethics reform, Atif Qarni had the strongest answer (no gifts whatsoever for members of the General Assembly), Jeremy McPike second (the problem being his own ethics "issues" that Hal Parrish and the Republicans will certainly remind voters about if McPike is the nominee), and Michael Futrell third (not even sure he answered the question the first shot at it).
Here are a few national and Virginia news headlines, political and otherwise, for Wednesday, May 20. Also, check out the video of this past weekend's debate for the Democratic nomination in the Mt. Vernon (Fairfax) Magisterial District Supervisor's race. The candidates are Jack Dobbyn, Tim Sargeant, Dan Storck and Candice Bennett.
I knew the Republicans would make a strong effort to unseat State Sen. John Edwards of Roanoke this year, mainly because he and Del. Sam Rasoul are the only Democrats remaining in the General Assembly from southwest Virginia. That part of the state is so Republican now that Edwards' seat, in a district that still leans Democratic, was one of their best shots at unseating a Democratic incumbent. However, the greatest threat to Edwards now is coming from a completely unexpected source, Don Caldwell, commonwealth's attorney for Roanoke City. Don has always run as a Democrat and even chaired the city Democratic committee until a few years ago. Now, he has filed papers to run in November as an independent against Edwards and his Republican opponent, Nancy Dye.
Dye is well-funded and is certain to welcome Caldwell's entry into the race if he does go through with his plans to run. As Carter Turner, chair of the Roanoke County Democratic Committee said recently in the Roanoke Times, "I think John's got his hands full even if Don doesn't run. Dye's got literally some of the best people in the industry doing stuff for her. I think she's formidable."
All I can figure is that Caldwell, who has been commonwealth's attorney for more than 30 years as a Democratic office holder, was hoping that John Edwards would retire this year. When Edwards didn't, Caldwell decided to morph into an independent. He's bidding to become the spoiler in a three-way race, someone who is willing to turn his back on the party that supported him all those years.
Caldwell's justification to the Roanoke Times was that he wanted to "get away from the dogma of both parties and get back to serving the reasonable people on both sides." He didn't elaborate on exactly what Democratic "dogma" has driven him to become an independent after decades of being quite happy to run on that same dogma as a Democrat in a city that is a Democratic stronghold. Since about 40% of the district is the city of Roanoke, Caldwell could simply think he can somehow corral 33% plus 1 and win. The probable outcome of his independent candidacy, however, is that he might peel off just enough votes from Edwards to throw the election to Dye.
Rep. Gerry Connolly nails it. The bottom line: we need to be massively REforesting, not burning forest for fuel!
May 19, 2015
The Honorable Gina McCarthy
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Ariel Rios Building
1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W
Washington, D.C. 20460
Dear Administrator McCarthy,
Thank you for your leadership and continued efforts to finalize the Environmental Protection Agency's Clean Power Plan. As a strong supporter of this plan, I believe you have laid forth a forward-thinking, flexible, and attainable approach to reducing our nation's carbon footprint. I appreciate your willingness throughout this process to consider public feedback on the draft plan and trust the final plan you develop will establish our country as a global leader on climate change.
I write to share my concern with the EPA's draft proposal to treat waste-derived feedstocks and non-waste biogenic feedstocks derived from sustainable forest or agricultural practices as having zero emissions. As you know, following EPA Assistant Administrator McCabe's November 2014 memorandum, there has been considerable debate regarding this decision, including questions surrounding the science behind it, and the perception that this decision will result in the unsustainable promotion of forest harvesting for energy production.
...or that renewable energy "can't make it without subsidies," or that "government shouldn't pick 'winners and losers," or that fossil fuels are the "choice of the market," or that the Clean Power Plan is "too expensive," or some other utterly false nonsense, simply show them this article and laugh. By the way, those $5.3 trillion in subsidies for fossil fuels don't count "negative externalities," such as the enormous health (cancer, asthma, etc.) and environmental (acid rain, global warming, oil spills, fracking damage, etc.) costs associated with fossil fuels, but which fossil fuels don't incorporate into their price thanks to extremely lax government policies. The $5.3 trillion in subsidies for fossil fuels also don't count indirect subsidies, such as massive government subsidization/encouragement of automobile-oriented development, military expenditures needed to defend oil supply lines/sources, etc, etc. Add all that up, and it comes to many, many times more than $5.3 trillion, to the point where fossil fuels would be utterly noncompetitive (think $10-$20/gallon or more gasoline if all these costs were incorporated) with clean energy.
From Right Wing Watch, which listens to extremist rantings/ravings like these so we don't have to:
Rep. Dave Brat, the Virginia Republican who unseated Rep. Eric Cantor last year thanks in large part to his uncompromising anti-immigrant politics, told talk radio host John Fredericks yesterday that a proposal to allow DREAM Act-eligible immigrants to enlist in the military represents the "decline of Western Civilization...I think everybody knows their old Roman history, part of the reason Rome fell was because they started hiring the barbarians in, otherwise known as the Germans at the time, to be troops in their own army, and that led to their eventual downfall."
Brat also had a response to proponents of the measure who pointed out that being willing to serve in the U.S. military shows a certain level of patriotism: "I wanted to stand up and shout, I mean ISIS is willing to serve in our military as well."
Yep, Brat is completely bonkers (not to mention racist), yet he was elected to Congress and undoubtedly will be reelected next year. Great job, 7th CD Republican voters!
Oh, and "Later in the conversation, Brat compared allowing undocumented immigrants who were brought to the country as children to serve in the military to requiring President Obama to hire Republicans to serve in the White House, a nonsensical comparison for a number of reasons, including that President Obama is in charge of both the military and the White House." Ee gads.
I just got back from an event in Arlington, at which a consortium of Virginia community and labor organizations - Mid-Atlantic Laborers Union/LIUNA, CASA in Action, NAKASEC Action Fund, SEIU Virginia 512, SEIU 32BJ, UFCW Local 400 - made joint endorsements in four contested Democratic primary contests: Katie Cristol and Christian Dorsey for Arlington County Board; Penelope Gross for Fairfax County Board; Rosalyn "Roz" Dance for State Senate from the 16th district; Steve Heretick for House of Delegates from the 79th district (currently misrepresented by the godawful Johnny Joannou, who masquerades as a "Democrat" but really should be a Republican).
The endorsements are valuable, as they come with both money and potentially dozens of volunteer "ground troops" (e.g., door knockers). How much money? I was told $10,000 each for Katie Cristol and Christian Dorsey; $5,000 for Penny Gross; $5,000 for Rosalyn Dance; "in the $10,000 range" for Steve Heretick.
As for how these endorsements were determined, there was an interview process, and in talking to some of the labor representatives there today, clearly they were looking for diversity as well. For instance, in Arlington, I was told point blank that they wanted a woman on the County Board to replace Mary Hynes (who is retiring), and also a person of color to replace Walter Tejada (also retiring), in addition to being strong and forceful on the issues they care about (e.g., affordable housing, raising the minimum wage, immigration, health care coverage, a government that works in the public interest and not for the special interests, etc.).
Anyway, here's some video (also see the comments section) which will give you a feel for what this effort is all about. The speakers are Jaime Contreras from SEIU 32BJ, David Broder from SEIU Virginia 512, Austin Thompson from the African-American Youth Voter Engagement organization, Gustavo Torres from CASA in Action, David Allison from the Mid-Atlantic Laborers Union, Boaz Young-el from UFCW Local 400, and Arlington County Board candidates Christian Dorsey and Katie Cristol. (note: also present and part of the coalition was Julie Koo of the NAKASEC Action Fund)
P.S. I asked why they had decided to endorse in these specific races, and basically was told that it was a combination of resource limitations/allocation choices, where they felt the strongest about the candidates, the results of candidate questionnaires and interviews, the desire for diversity, etc. For my part, I would have loved to see them endorse Emily Francis (by far the strongest progressive in that race) and Atif Qarni (the best chance of holding the seat, also a strong progressive) for State Senate in their primaries, also Paul Krizek in his primary for House of Delegates, and possibly others, but I understand that this is a new organization and that they can't do everything.
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