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Paucity of Climate Change Media Coverage Stands in Stark Contrast to...

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Now that 2011 is over, may the media reflections begin! 2011 was a year to remember, as well as a year to forget, for any number of different and varied reasons. The Arab Spring brought a wave of democratically-styled popular uprisings that have reshaped politics in the "crucible of empires" (i.e. the Middle East). 2011 also witnessed a historic do-nothing U.S. Congress who appeared more willing to send the U.S. into a global sinkhole than to compromise on matters of ideology (I'm referring to the GOP, of course).

Sadly, all of the momentous news stories that made 2011 a memorable year also overshadowed the issue of climate change in the media. According to The Daily Climate's archive of global media, there were 19,000 climate change-related stories in 2011, a 42% decline from the peak year of 2009. The dip in climate change coverage ironically came amid some of the world's most extreme and devastating natural weather events. The wildfires in Arizona, famine in the Horn of Africa, devastating hurricanes across broad swaths of the U.S., and the historic drought in Texas all occurred in 2011. In the U.S. alone, we witnessed 12 "extreme" natural disasters in 2011, a record-breaking number (extreme natural disasters are quantified as having caused $1 billion in damage or more).

With these extreme weather events so prominent across the globe, it would have been sensible for the media to refocus its attention on climate change. After all, isn't the media supposed to be an institution that looks out for "the people"? It seems clear in hindsight that the media coverage surrounding climate change was at odds with the severity of the dangers posed by this phenomenon.  

The Top Story of 2011 that the Media Missed

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Cross-posted at Daily Kos

As we speak, media moguls around the world are releasing lists of the top stories of the year gone by.  But I guarantee that most will miss or underplay the one story of greatest consequence to our lives and those of our descendants - in 2011, Mother Nature demonstrated that climate change is real and dangerous, while leaders around the world did absolutely nothing in response.

2011 was a year full of big headlines, from bin Laden's capture to the earthquake in Japan to the Gabby Giffords shooting.  But global warming has the capacity to kill and disrupt the lives of more people than any terrorist leader, crazed gunman or even tsunami can ever dream to.  (Take for example the European heat wave of 2003 that killed over 40,000 people.)

As the PBS News Hour reports:

Nationwide, more than 6,000 heat records have been broken this year. On average, the U.S. has three or four events every year that are considered major natural disasters. But, this year, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration counted at least a dozen such events. Based on reports to date, damages are expected to exceed $52 billion.

Top 30 Blue Virginia Stories of 2011

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Courtesy of Google Analytics, here are the Blue Virginia stories which received the most "page views" in 2011. All stories are by yours truly, unless otherwise indicated. Thanks to everyone who contributed diaries and/or comments to Blue Virginia in 2011, and also thanks to all our readers. Next year should be a fascinating one, with Barack Obama and Tim Kaine on the ballot, plus many other important races, plus the 2013 General Assembly session, plus Kookinelli's latest kookiness, etc, etc. Stay tuned to Blue Virginia as it unfolds in 2012!

1. Maps of New Virginia Senate and House Districts (maps by Dave Leichtman)
2. Why Virginia Democrats Lost the State Senate (by Peter Rousselot)
3. Eugene Delgaudio: Radical Homosexual Pirates Invade Tampa; Loudoun County Next?
4. Loudoun Republican Urges People to Thank Communist Soviet Veteran?!? FAIL!
5. George Allen: "Macaca" Was a "Made Up Word"
6. Virginia Polls are Closed: Results Thread
7. Small Earthquake Felt in Northern Virginia (by The Green Miles)
8. Top 10 Ronald Reagan Myths
9. Too Conservative Blog: Loudoun Republican Party "Goes WAY Too Far" on President Obama
10. Major Flooding Paralyzes Northern Virginia (by The Green Miles)
11. I Just Got One of the Weirdest Phone Calls of My Life (I still can't believe this actually happened. WTF?!?)
12. Winners and Losers: Election 2011
13. Why I Really Left Diaspora* (by ycompanys)
14. Polls are Closed: Results Thread
15. Virginia General Election Day 2011: Open Thread

What I’ll Remember Most About the 2011 Elections

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At this morning, Virginia Democrats do not hold a single Virginia executive office, they're a small minority in the House of Delegates, and now they have (barring recount) lost control of the State Senate. Former Arlington County Democratic Committee Chair Peter Rousselot has written a devastating postmortem that I can't recommend enough and encourage you to read in full if you haven't already.

As for me, what I'll remember most about the 2011 election cycle is this ad from House Minority Leader Ward Armstrong trashing just about everything Democrats believe in. The leader of House Democrats - as chosen by his fellow House Democrats - distances himself from President Obama, a woman's right to choose, reasonable gun safety regulations, and limits on air pollution - all in one ad.

I understand the need to emphasize different issues and rely on different messaging in different parts of the state. But if you try to run away from the leader of your party and everything your party believes in, not only are you hurting your own team, voters don't buy it. A friend pointed me to this quote from Harry Truman:

I've seen it happen time after time. When the Democratic candidate allows himself to be put on the defensive and starts apologizing for the New Deal and the fair Deal, and says he really doesn't believe in them, he is sure to lose. The people don't want a phony Democrat. If it's a choice between a genuine Republican, and a Republican in Democratic clothing, the people will choose the genuine article, every time; that is, they will take a Republican before they will a phony Democrat, and I don't want any phony Democratic candidates in this campaign.
Just as Harry predicted, Ward Armstrong lost anyway. And just as former Rep. Glenn Nye did last year, Armstrong managed to not just lose, but hurt the party he was supposed to be leading in the process, making Democrats look like a bunch of gutless phonies who'd throw a friend under the bus in a second if a consultant told them it might help their chances of getting re-elected.

Loudoun’s Appearance of Corruption

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November 8th will be an interesting day in Loudoun County. There are a rather significant number of threads that, stitched together, form a fabric of pre-electoral corruption with post-electoral significance that will extend into the next decade.

Take the case of Loudoun developer and cable company owner MC Dean. MC Dean and company has spent twenty years building developments in Loudoun, thanks to their close, personal relationships with people on the current, and previous, Board of Supervisors. There's a funny thing about these developments, too. There's a monopoly cable provider - OpenBand - with exclusive rights to provide Internet and TV service to those communities. OpenBand is, of course, owned by the Dean family as well.

This year, the OpenBand cable franchise is up for renewal by the Board of Supervisors here in Loudoun County. Many of the communities who OpenBand serves are actually suing OpenBand, their experiences have been so bad. Of course, those communities and residents don't vote on the cable franchise renewal. The members of the Board of Supervisors do.

So it is interesting to note the buckets of money that MC Dean and OpenBand (and their owners and executives) have been contributing to certain Supervisor races.

Follow below the break for the details of what is going on.

What If Republicans Take Back the Virginia State Senate?

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What will happen if Republicans take back the Virginia State Senate on November 8? I've thought about this question off and on (mostly off) for the past few months, and I still haven't reached any firm conclusions. However, with a definite possibility (30%? 40%? higher?) of that actually happening in 5 weeks, I thought it might be worth throwing out a few thoughts and opening it up for discussion.

1. One thing is clear: a Republican takeover of Virginia's government, with no checks or balances on them to speak of, would be extremely bad news for Virginians. Extremely bad news, that is, unless you're a wealthy, white, male Virginian (or a big, powerful corporation). But for the remaining 95%-99% of us, it could get really ugly.

2. The only question is how far right wing an agenda the Teapublicans would push, whether on LGBT rights, women's reproductive freedoms (and you thought shutting down abortion clinics was bad...), gun laws (see here for more on that subject), immigration laws (Arizona and/or Alabama here we come?!?), crazy federalist stuff like teahadist Jim LeMunyon's radical "REPEAL" amendment, trashing Virginia's environment, etc., etc. In short, if Republicans win the State Senate on November 8, 2012 and 2013 could truly be horrible years to be a Virginian.

3. Would a far-right-wing lurch by Virginia Republicans tarnish Bob McDonnell's utterly-false-yet-ubiquitous "moderate" image, potentially making him less appealing as a national figure (although paradoxically making him more appealing among the teahadist base)? Would McDonnell try to rein in a Republican-controlled General Assembly, would he encourage them, would he hide under his desk, or what?

4. Would a far-right-wing lurch by Virginia Republicans cause their approval ratings among Virginia independent voters to plummet (for possible analogies, see Wisconsin, Ohio, Florida, and other states where something like this has happened), potentially increasing Barack Obama's and Tim Kaine's chances of winning Virginia in 2012? Would this effect carry over into 2013, making it more likely that Democrats would make big gains, including possibly taking back the governor's mansion, that year? In sum, would a far-right-wing lurch by Virginia Republicans next year, if they are not restrained by a Democratic-controlled State Senate any longer, hurt their electoral chances in Virginia and actually help Democrats in 2012 and 2013?

5. The bottom line for me is that, purely as a partisan Democrat, I actually can see upsides to Republicans taking back the State Senate, for the reasons listed above. However, as a Virginian, I only see downsides, at least in the short term. The question is, would the short-term downsides (and possibly longer-lasting damage) be "worth it," if they were compensated for by the long-term destruction of the Republican "brand" in Virginia, by Barack Obama and Tim Kaine winning in 2012, by Democrats taking back the governor's mansion (and gaining multiple seats in the House of Delegates) in 2013, etc? That's a tough call, and it's highly tempting. In the end, though, I come down to fighting the battle at hand and to avoiding the "known known" disaster in the short term, which a Republican takeover of the State Senate almost certainly would be.

What do you think? Feel free to weigh in. Thanks.