Thursday, February 21, 2019
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A Siegel


Terry McAuliffe: Use Dirty Money for Good Deeds

The fundraising for Virginia Governor-Elect Terry McAuliffe's inaugural party is seeing a serious lift due to donations from fossil-fuel dependent Corporations.  Most notably,
McAuliffe's Inaugural Committee Dominion: Global Warming Starts Herehas received $25,000 from Alpha Natural Resources, an $8 billion coal company that gave $92,500 to Cuccinelli's campaign. Dominion Resources, a Virginia-based coal, gas, and nuclear conglomerate that gave Cuccinelli $75,000, has given McAuliffe's committee $50,000.
Yes, of the $325,000 from large contributors through 2 December, just under 25 percent comes from two firms closely associated with seeking to undermine climate science, hamper Virginia's moves to greater energy efficiency and a cleaner electricity system, and who strongly supported the campaign of fossil-foolish climate-science denier Ken Cuccinelli.

Differences on climate science and clean energy were stark during the election campaign.  And, those differences played a significant role in McAuliffe's election, as Virginians want to move forward to a clean-energy 21st century rather than double-down on polluting 19th century energy concepts.

As a Virginian concerned about creating a prosperous clean-energy future for my children and my fellow Virginians, that these fossil-foolish interests can (seemingly) buy a seat at the table for such relatively paltry -- for them -- amounts is disconcerting and raises concerns of that 'business as usual' processes of buying access and influence in Richmond will continue on their merry way.

Hit it out of the park, Terry…

When listening to political debates, rarely does the moderator ask a question that makes me sit back and think: "nicely phrased ... wouldn't have thought to ask this ... interested to hear the answer ..."  Chuck Todd's opening question at the Fairfax Chamber of Commerce debate about advertising fostered that reaction.

As posed to our next governor, Terry McAuliffe

Nearly $20 million's been spent on TV ads in this race. 75% of 'em, we did the calculation, have been negative. This is both of you. I want each of you to respond to the stereotype you've been tryin' to create-- about the other. Mr. McAuliffe, the stereotype of you is that you're an operator, cheerleader more than a legislator or governor. That you don't have the relevant experience to be governor. And that you're a man in a hurry, who's willing to use political connections, sometimes in very high places, to take shortcuts. Your response?
This question provided Terry a chance to hit a homer out of the park, make news, undercut Cuccinelli, and add -- in my opinion, with just this one question response and the reporting that might have followed from it -- points to the lead.  

See after the fold for a concept for a(n overly long) truthful response to the question that might have achieved this result.

Can Virginia House Dems Use their Window of Opportunity for Leverage?

The Virginia legislature seems poised to adopt a mediocre transportation bill - better than what Governor McDonnell proposed originally, but still pretty bad -- but the voting is likely to be close, as Tea Party Republicans are prepared to vote NO on the Governor's top priority because it includes tax revenues to pay for common goods.

This legislation represents one of the rare occasions where House of Delegates Democrats might actually have serious leverage. In looking at this bill, here are three major problems that House Democrats can use their leverage to address:

  1. Wholesale gas tax is lower than general sales tax rate.
  2. Hybrid tax is punitive and the (il)logic doesn't stand up to scrutiny.
  3. There are horrid transportation boondoggles embedded in this that will syphon off $billions (potentially $10s of billions) of limited resources that could be better spent on other transportation projects to improve Virginians' lives, improve Virginia's economy, and better serve Virginia's future.
Addressing these very quickly:

Is an Independent Prosecutor Required for Ken Cuccinelli?

Putting aside the wasteful misuse of public resources for an anti-science vendetta that undermines the academic reputation of the Commonwealth and Virginia's top-notch public universities (for the real story, see here), recent news items make this Commonwealth citizen wonder whether a special/independent prosecutor is required to look into Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli's actions.

Two recent items suggest that something fishy is going on ...

1.  It appears that candidate for Governor Ken Cuccinelli's driver is a paid Virginia employee?  Is it an appropriate (excuse me, legal ...) use of taxpayer funds to pay for campaign staff?

2.  Ken Cuccinelli's forthcoming book has a co-author (secondary author?) listed on the cover.  That 'co-author' is a Commonwealth employee (Brian Gottstein) who works for the Attorney General.  Ken Cuccinelli reportedly received a $30,000 advance for this book.  Is it appropriate (legal ...) for a government official to have a subordinate, who is paid by the taxpayer, work on something for which he receives outside compensation?

These are questions ...

These questions might have reasonable (potentially even very reasonable ...) answers and explanations.

Bob McDonnell’s New Math Doesn’t Add Up

Virginia Republican legislative initiatives have earned the Commonwealth unpleasant nationwide (and global) attention in recent years.  Whether the abuse of public resources to undermine Virginia's academic reputation with anti-science legal shenanigans (2010 to present); the social, moral, and medical outrage of trying to require unnecessary ultrasounds on women seeking to execute their Constitutional right to control their own medical destinies (2012); or the anti-democratic efforts to redistrict (out-of-cycle) to manipulate the Commonwealth's Senate districts and to shift the Electoral College votes from Virginia to skew away from voters' intent, Virginia's GOP has provided lots of substantive reasons for intensely outraged attention to their anti-science, anti-constitutional rights, and anti-democratic tendencies.

These flashpoint issues have masked other serious issues. While the threat to the Electoral College and the legislation to redistrict the Commonwealth's Senate seats are capturing the majority of attention, Governor Bob McDonnell's very troubling and damaging transportation proposal is receiving minimal (if any) national attention.  

And, this matters.  

“Investigate the Gun at FreedomWorks”

Such is the print version title of my letter to the editor published in The Washington Post this morning.  Published prominently on the top page of the "Free for All" section, it appears online as Breaking the Law at FreedomWorks:

The Post's article about Dick Armey's armed coup at FreedomWorks ("Big donor steps in as tea party reels," front page, Dec. 26) provided a new angle on the term "office politics."

After reading about how Armey walked into the group's D.C. offices with "an aide holstering a handgun at his waist," I expected to see a discussion of how this was (or was not) a criminal action. This expectation went unfulfilled.

The Armey coup certainly suggests the possibility of a direct violation of D.C. law, which prohibits the public carrying of weapons. Simply put, one can have a licensed weapon in the home but very few (such as police or the FBI) have the right to carry a weapon.

Beyond a firearms violation, what about assault? Here's one common-law definition: "an intentional act by one person that creates an apprehension in another of an imminent harmful or offensive contact." Illegally displaying a firearm while you force people out of their offices certainly would seem to fit the bill.

Less than two weeks after the tragedy in Newtown, Conn., the absence of discussion of the legal implications of carrying a weapon into the workplace is strikingly bizarre.

As one can't cover every subject in a LTE, there are many additional angles and issues to the "Armey Coup" (some raised after the fold) but there is one that should be a serious item for this community:  

Why is the 'progressive community', including members of Congress, not pushing hard for investigation of and, if warranted, legal action about the Armey Coup in downtown Washington?  

The Armey Coup

1.  involves (and potentially puts at risk) one of the main players in fostering the Tea-Hadist threat to American Democracy (and democracy);
2. provides a potential path for learning more about and shining light on 'hidden' (whether billionaire, Corporate, or otherwise) fiscal support for Tea-Hadists;
3. involves a(t least one) significant Republican operative who might be liable for criminal charges; and
4. is highly relevant to helping foster a more sensible national discussion about guns and the appropriate role(s) for weapons in society.

With this in mind, why the 'crickets'?

“More Fair, More Simple”: George Allen’s Grammatical and Philosophical Failures – Energy Edition

Virginia Republican Senate candidate George Allen evidently is enamored with the word "more". Listening to his debate with Governor Tim Kaine, George used the words "more fair" and "more simple" to describe his philosophical concepts behind tax codes that would lower the wealthiest income tax cuts.  While many use the "do I want to drink a beer with the candidate" question as influential for deciding what to do in the voting booth, one of my preferred short hand questions: "Would I want the person to teach my children?"  Simply put, my elementary school children would not get away with saying "more fair" and "more simple". In fact, while brushing her hair during the debate (as she wanted me to change the channel), my eight-year old daughter said "No. Doesn't he know that it is 'fairer' and 'simpler'?"  Cutting to the core: George Allen, not smarter than a third grader.

While George Allen's grammar might grate, his policy concepts and ideological are the real issues of concern.

When it comes to energy, George Allen's rhetorical flourishes during the debate might have captured the attention of the poorly informed and ingratiated him with his fossil fuel financial backers, but his truthiness-laden misdirections, misrepresentations and half-truths were in support of policies that -- if enacted -- would impoverish the Commonwealth of Virginia and endanger the Union's future.

To provide a path for understanding the shallowness and danger of George Allen's energy concepts, let's take the time to go through Allen's deceivingly named "Unleashing America's Plentiful Energy Resources and Creativity (American Energy Freedom Act)".

Cherry Blossoms: Another Global Warming Canary …

Pancake with Maple Syrup, PanciousCherry Blossoms at Tidal BasinAmid all the screaming signs about Global Warming's increasingly serious impact on the world around us and on human civilizations future prospects, the 'luxury' symbolic canaries in the coal mine always create mixed emotions.  Global Warming's threat to  skiing (and declining viable Winter Olympics locations), and to wine making and bourbon and beer and chocolate  and  maple syrup and ... production, etc ... Yes, these are tangible examples of how global warming impacts the world around us and impacts us.  On the other hand, compared to increasing natural disasters, devastating storms and droughts threatening vulnerable populations and disruptions to global agricultural production systems, these are "luxury" items that (in and of themselves) whose disruption does do not represent a fundamental threat to human civilization (no matter how important the maple syrup for your pancakes or that bourbon for warming up after a day on the slopes).  Yet, as we all know in our Madison Avenue dominated world, symbols matter and cherished symbols even more so.

As a native of the Washington area, the Cherry Blossoms are perhaps the quintessential universal symbol of nature's  beauty.  While those around the Tidal Basin are "the" trees for the Cherry Blossom festival, there are numerous communities with large numbers of these trees and it is hard to be a resident without having some connection -- year in and year out -- with this blossoming sign of spring, even if one doesn't deal battle the tourist hordes to see the Washington Monument framed by blossoms. (Note, the photo above from GHBrett wonderfully captures the framing using a tree that I am almost certain that I have known for decades and have likely taken 20 photos over the years of various visitors/tourists/family members.)

WashPost continues truthiness jihad against EVs

The Washington Post editorial board has waged a campaign against electrification of the nation's transportation system Whack A Mole Fever(especially cars), often using true facts in a fashion that creates untruthful truthiness.  Whacking such moles is, well, exhausting since it is easier to spin truthiness than to be truthful. Charles Lane's OPED celebrating a temporary closure of the Chevy Volt line provides multiple examples of truthiness-laden editoralizing.

Following guidance from The Debunking Handbook, following the fold are a few truths with examples of how Lane misleads Washington Post readers.

Compare Apples to Apples

Any auto buyer knows that a BMW delivers a different vehicle -- with a different price tag -- than the typical KIA, a Lamborghini isn't a Fiat, a ...  When shopping for cars, amid the myriad of different options, a buyer will try to compare same to same.

EV-opponents all too often slip in a comparison that violates this rule when they are seeking paths to dismiss the value of hybrids (HEVs), plug-in hybrids (PHEVs), and all-electric vehicles (EVs).  Thus, in today's OPED, Charles Lane compares the Chevy Volt to the Chevy Cruze.  Simply put, these two are not in the same league.

New EPA rules better than you think …or Administration claims

Yesterday, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson went to a children's hospital to announce the new regulations to control boiler emissions that will address 40-year old gaps in the Clean Air Act. As Jackson and commentators have noted, these regulations will save thousands of lives and have an economic value easily nine times greater than the costs to implement them. An 800 percent return on investment should look pretty good to any of us.  As David Roberts so accurately put it:
The Mercury Rules Announced Today Are a Bona-Fide Big Deal
Examining the discussion of the new regulations suggests a question: has the Environmental Protection Agency and all the advocates for action gotten the value calculation wrong?

While Meteor Blades at Daily Kos commented Three cheers for the Obama administration's new mercury and acid emissions rules, do we have good reason to belt out loudly with a fourth cheer?

Based on an initial look, the answer seems to be yes.

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