I grew up with brothers, so I knew from an early age that the easiest way to make friends with guys was to feed them chocolate chip cookies. I took this strategy with me to college, commandeering the tiny kitchen in our coed dorm. The aroma wafting down the hallways reliably drew a crowd.
One fan was so enthusiastic that he wanted to learn to make cookies himself. So the next time, he showed up at the start of the process. He watched me combine sugar and butter, eggs and white flour.
Instead of being enthusiastic, he was appalled. It had never occurred to him that anything as terrific as a cookie could be made of stuff so unhealthy. It's not that he thought they were created from sunshine and elf magic; he just hadn't thought about it at all. He left before the cookies even came out of the oven.
I felt so bad about it, I ate the whole batch.
But I can empathize with that guy when I'm told that as an environmentalist, I should love natural gas. Natural gas is the chocolate chip cookie of fossil fuels. At the point of consumption, everybody loves it. It's cheap, there's gobs of it, and it burns cleaner than coal, with only half the carbon dioxide emissions. Disillusionment sets in only when you look at the recipe. ("First, frack one well. . .")
(Note: Mike Casey is the founder and president of Tigercomm, a leading cleantech Public Relations firm based in Arlington. He is a veteran of Virginia politics - including the successful effort to turn the Virginia Senate in 2009, as well as designing and running the 2013 communications effort for Tom Steyer's NextGen Climate Action in the Virginia governor's race. The views expressed here are his own. Also, full disclosure: I am a consultant to Tigercomm. - promoted by lowkell)
Former VCU political science professor Bob Holsworth was recently quoted in the Washington Post regarding "the increasingly narrow line Democrats in Virginia must walk to satisfy environmentalists and campaign donors without alienating business interests."
According to Holsworth, Gov. McAuliffe "has just made a calculation on this...[that it] isn't a political liability until we see that these environmental groups are able to develop grass-roots traction to be able to successfully oppose this."
Good point, Bob Holsworth. I accept your challenge.
It was a frustrating evening for the hundreds of Nelsonians who attended an "Open House" hosted by Dominion to lay out its planned route of the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline. Lined up outside the entry door, residents came prepared with questions, most of which went unanswered. The same old rehearsed lines were stated over and over again. "This is in the preliminary stages, we just don't know yet." "We haven't done the engineering yet, we can't answer that now." "That depends on the category you are in, and we're not sure yet." "We'll abide by all DEQ and FERC regulations."
In a divide and conquer tactic, Dominion had stations set up, which allowed them to frequently tell Nelsonians looking for answers they would have to move to another station, stand in another line, to ask a different "expert" the question they wanted answered. Attendees heard frequently, "You'll have to ask so and so that question, I don't know."
Anti-pipeline group, Free Nelson, attended the event and its members learned several of Dominion's representatives weren't from Virginia. When speaking to one rep about the devastation caused in Nelson by Hurricane Camille, particularly the Davis Creek area, Free Nelson was surprised the representative looked so confused. When asked, "Are you from Virginia?" "Well, no," she replied, "but most of the Dominion representatives here are." Free Nelson explained about the 12 mudslides in the Davis Creek area during Camille which took the lives of 52 people, 20 of whom were never found. When Free Nelson pointed out the Atlantic Coast Pipeline is routed through the Davis Creek area, the Dominion rep replied, "Well, we have a procedure to follow should we find human remains."
Curious about who's benefited from Dominion's concern for Virginia's political process, I thought I'd survey the contributions to candidates reported on The Virginia Public Access Project. Intending to provide a roster of recipients, it became clear that it is easier to list General Assembly members who have missed the beneficence.
Members of the Virginia Senate who are not beholden to Dominion:
Members of the Virginia House of Delegates who are not beholden to Dominion:
Sullivan, Richard C. (Rip), Jr. (D-48th)
Rasoul, Sam (D-11th)
Lindsey, Joseph C. (D-90th)
Farrell, Peter F. (R-56th)
Bloxom, Robert S., Jr. (R-100th)
Berg, Mark J. (R-29th)
Adams, Leslie R. (R-16th)
The range of contribution amounts ranges wildly from a quarter thousand to a quarter million dollars and seems directly proportionate to some combination of seniority and influence. The fact that the highest percentage of contributions (but not by far: 54 to 43) goes to Republicans follows that logic but I have not looked at trends over time. The "honor rolls" for both chambers will be presented separately.
From the superb Ken Burns series, The Roosevelts, I loved the following passage about Teddy Roosevelt as Governor of New York. Yes, TR was a Republican, but as the following passage makes clear, he was absolutely NOTHING like the Republicans of today. Regardless, TR was right then and he's right today: Republicans, and more importantly the country, would be far better off if they adopted TR's attitude towards government, business, the environment, etc., than the bizarre, warped, extreme positions they hold today.
P.S. I started off as a progressive Republican myself as a teenager, in the same line of thought as Teddy Roosevelt and many others (e.g., Bob LaFollette, Dwight Eisenhower, John Chaffee, Lowell Weicker, Jacob Javits, Nelson Rockefeller), but got the heck out of that party when I saw it taken over by supply siders (aka "Voodoo Economics"), racists and theocrats back in 1980. Sad to say, Republicans have only gotten (much) worse since then. I'm 100% confident that Teddy Roosevelt would not be a member of the Republican Party today (nor would Abraham Lincoln, of course, or Javits, LaFollette, probably George Romney, etc, etc.).
Boss Platt feared the new governor harbored what he called "altruistic ideas," and was a little loose on questions affecting the right of a man to run his own business in his own way. He was right. Roosevelt promised to consult Platt as he went along, but he had concluded that it was neither wise nor safe for Republicans to take refuge in what he called "mere negation." New circumstances demanded a new kind of reform - progressive reform. The Republican Party, he felt, should actually offer real solutions to real problems...the old natural laws of the marketplace were no longer adequate. Government, [Roosevelt] believed, needed to step in to tame the market's excesses and maintain necessary order. Wrongs now had to be righted through legislation as well as persuasion. Roosevelt intended to strike a balance between what he called "mob rule" and improper corporate influence...In less than 6 months, he secured passage of bills that taxed corporations, limited working hours for women and children, improved sweatshop conditions, created or protected forest preserves...
This is the fourth letter in our series, "We're Rural, Not Stupid." Dominion held its first open house for residents last night in neighboring Augusta County, VA. One attendee said, "At yet another table someone was asking about gas export. We pressed the brown shirt [the Dominion representative] who finally said Dominion just builds the pipeline." Tonight it's Nelson's turn to listen to the "experts" tell us how wrong we are.
Cheryl Borgman is a life-long Democrat who stands strongly against Dominion's Atlantic Coast Pipeline. She has worked with Nelson Democrats consistently in the past in campaigns for local, state and federal candidates. Cheryl has canvassed, phone banked and done a lot of data entry. She's one of the folks the local committee can count on...one of the ones with the asterisk by their name, because they always say yes when asked to help. This year, she feels differently. She has sent her letter to the local Democratic Committee and to Democratic candidates seeking office in 2014.
Basically, by virtue of holding Marketplace Fairness up, Goodlatte is guaranteeing a big, fat, regressive tax increase. He is also very possibly guaranteeing taxes on Internet access, which isn't something many people are fans of. All to keep online retailers from collecting and remitting sales taxes that are already due.
Why would Goodlatte do such a (crazy, stupid, ridiculous) thing? According to the Virginian Pilot's Roger Chesley, just follow the money. Specifically, "Goodlatte's sizable donations from Internet and computer companies," which combined with his actions (or perhaps one should say inaction) "suggest he's looking out for their interests - not Virginians'."
The commonwealth's 2013 transportation package, the first major overhaul of road funding in decades, shored up a crumbling system that needed more money. The state had repeatedly siphoned dollars from construction budgets just to keep up with maintenance.
But the package relies heavily on the collection of Internet sales taxes. Without that money, the state's gas tax will rise by 45 percent starting Jan. 1.
That's how Goodlatte & Co. can pretend to keep taxes low; they simply shift them from one person to another. In this case, they shift the tax burden from people who buy stuff on the Internet to folks who buy gasoline.
This is the third in our series of letters from Nelsonians relating their concerns about Dominion's Atlantic Coast pipeline.
Marion Kanour is an involved and active member of the Nelson community. She was born and raised in Norfolk, served in the US Marine Corps for 4 years as an Aviation Supply Officer and has been an ordained Episcopal Priest for 21 years. Marion currently serves as the Priest of Grace Episcopal Church, Massie's Mill, Nelson, VA. She has a knack for seeing needs in our community and setting about to fill those needs. As well as supporting many community groups (i.e, the renovation of a local baseball field), she has played an integral role in the creation of Nelson's Domestic Violence Task Force, as well as being the organizer of one of Nelson's anti-pipeline groups, Free Nelson. She and her wife, Barbara Heyl, live in the Greenfield area of Nelson County.
The following is the second in a series whose purpose is to show what's gone wrong in our nation's political arena, and to help start the process of setting things right. The series is addressed to all those who are disturbed by what the Republican Party has become, and frustrated by the failure of the Democratic Party to combat it effectively.
Summary: In the conduct of today's Republican Party, we can see a pattern of destructiveness. It displays an insatiable lust for power and wealth, an impulse to prey upon the vulnerable, a preference for conflict over cooperation, a persistent dishonesty, and a willingness to sacrifice the greater good for selfish advantage. Putting the pieces together, we see that our national crisis is not just at the political level, but goes deeper to the moral and spiritual levels.
I have a message and a plan to help turn back this force. To succeed, it will need the help of many.
The Republican Party, I have said here, has been taken over by a destructive force. Time now to flesh out more of the picture showing the relentlessly destructive nature of what now animates the Republican Party:
It's a force that's insatiable in its lust for power and wealth.
Even though we have the greatest income inequality that we've had in living memory, this force works continually to widen that gap still further. All their budgetary proposals would take from average Americans to give more to those who already have the most. As they protect those who have tripled their share of our national income, they cut food stamps to the most vulnerable Americans -- even at a time when jobs are scarce and even the middle class is struggling.
In the realm of political power, this force has given us a Supreme Court that handed down that disgraceful decision in Citizens United, making it still easier for the nation's widening inequalities of wealth to be translated into inequalities of political power. With our government put up for auction, "All men are created equal" gets swamped by the Almighty Dollar. The Republicans have been working to turn our government from one "by the people" into one controlled by those giant so-called "persons" that make up the corporate world.
With special session only days away, Virginians are still waiting for Speaker Howell and the rest of House Republican leadership to show that they're even willing to consider a plan to expand Medicaid and close the coverage gap. Republican leaders have yet to put forward legislation to ensure that 400,000 Virginians have access to the healthcare they deserve – but they have wasted thousands of taxpayer dollars on political posturing.
Even as conservative Republican governors in Arizona, Pennsylvania, Indiana, and Wyoming have embraced expansion, Virginia House Republicans are willing to squander taxpayer dollars while hundreds of thousands of their constituents go without care. Bringing back lawmakers to Richmond without taking action is an expensive political charade, and Virginians just aren’t buying it.
And as House Republicans stay silent on a plan, editorial boards across the state are calling on them to change their tune.
There's always a story behind the story and sometimes one belies the other. Remote Area Medical (RAM) is a godsend; make no mistake about it. But like any private sector organization, the transparency or accountability we demand from government is not always evident. Today's "conservatives" would never acknowledge that.
Watching and taking part in the transformation of a rural air terminal into expeditionary specialty clinics, dental and vision, is not an immersion in military precision. It almost can't be when much of the labor is borrowed. The effort resulting when organization is flattened results in stove-piping. The raw volunteers care about pitching in and recognize the limits of their ability to contribute to technical assembly of the equipment. There are enough seasoned volunteers that as long as the boxes and bags are lined up at their assigned places, they can readily and efficiently assemble and order materials; in their areas. The lack of organization and efficiency among the unguided volunteers is more than compensated for by their numbers and camaraderie. From pitching tents (probably the most organized effort), to setting up tables and chairs, to moving crates and boxes, the unbridled activity ends in mission accomplishment.
This is at the tactical delivery end. Strategically there is always another view that is masked by the appearance if not the reality of good intentions. My father had no time for the American Red Cross. After raging battles on isolated Pacific islands during World War II, the Red Cross sold donuts to the Marines and sailors ashore; the Salvation Army was there handing out goods gratis. Guess which organization he favored. My wife cannot turn down a request for a donation from Saint Jude's in Memphis despite having no clue who Danny Thomas was; it's those children. On the other hand, when I see anyone collecting donations to benefit our military service members or veterans, I challenge their credentials on the spot. I wasn't as discerning with RAM until I saw the DC-47 (a WWII DC-3 configuration) touch down in Lee County. After all, RAM had been endorsed via association by both of Virginia's United States Senators, our current Governor, and General Assembly members from both sides of the aisle.
Here are a few national and Virginia news headlines, political and otherwise, for Monday, September 15. Also, I've finally gotten around to reading Thomas Piketty's "Capital in the 21st Century," am finding it fascinating (and highly relevant to political battles in this country over income inequality, fiscal policy, etc.), and thought I'd post this interview with the author a few months ago. Also note that the Roosevelts, who are the subject of a documentary by Ken Burns currently running on PBS, would almost certainly appreciate the data and conclusions of Piketty's book. Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush and Dick Cheney? Not so much!
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