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Virginia Republicans on Robert Hurt

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With friends like this, Robert Hurt doesn't need enemies.

Gerry Connolly: Bush Administration, GOP Policies Led to Oil Disaster

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Yesterday, four Congressmen - Rush Holt of New Jersey, Jared Polis of Colorado, Earl Blumenauer of Oregon, and Gerry Connolly of Virginia - spoke for  60 minutes in the House of Representatives on the "oil spill disaster" in the Gulf of Mexico.  Here are a few key points by Rep. Connolly. I strongly recommend that everyone read this, because it absolutely nails both the diagnosis of what caused this disaster and the potential risks to more, mindless "drill, baby, drill" here in Virginia and nationally.  Good work on this one by Rep. Connolly!

*The "thick oil spill" - let alone the overall surface oil spill - is so large, it would spread from "Dale City near Manassas in Prince William County and [go] as far as Wilmington, Delaware."

*"This oil spill could have been prevented."

*"The 2009 Government Accountability Office report said that during the previous administration categorical exclusions were issued far too frequently and it could lead to serious problems. Well, indeed, it did."

*The Dulles rail project "had to go through a 2-year environmental review that cost millions of dollars of taxpayer-funded money for a public project. But ironically, a private oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico was excluded from that process. It didn't have to do it."

*"...we consciously decide[d] during the Bush administration and by previous Congresses, frankly controlled by our friends on the other side, consciously to exclude such oil drilling from the regular environmental review that could have detected problems..."

More after the "flip"

Herrity Supporter Laments: Tea Partiers “are against everything”

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As a Democrat, I've got to say I'm very much enjoying the aftermath of tea party favorite Keith Fimian's victory Tuesday evening over establishment Republican (formerly "moderate" Republican) Pat Herrity. For instance, check this out in today's Washington Post.
Meanwhile, Northern Virginia's moderate Republicans, once defined by an unusual brand of fiscal conservatism and an independent streak on social issues, such as immigration, are scratching their heads and wondering about their futures.

"It certainly is concerning," said Supervisor Michael R. Frey (R-Sully), a five-term moderate who might face his own intra-party challenger in 2011. "The frustrating thing is if you do anything, you are no longer considered a conservative. It seems like tea partiers are against everything. What are they for?"

Herrity was roundly endorsed by all of Fairfax County's Republican leadership, prompting questions Wednesday about the party's political relevancy.

In short, it appears that moderate Republicans are an endangered species in Northern Virginia, and around the country for that matter. These days, anything to the left of Attila the Hun earns Republican politicians the dreaded "RINO" ("Republican in Name Only") label and a one-way ticket to Pat Herrity-style defeat.  Thus, Michael R. Frey's angst over the loss by his pal Pat Herrity to right-wingnut Keith Fimian.

The problem for Frey is the problem for all Republicans these days is simple: they have to move (far) right -- and be "against everything", as Frey laments -- in order to win the party's nomination, but doing that makes them far less electable in moderate, suburban, "swing" districts like the 11th CD. Again, as a Democrat, I've got to say I enjoy this very much. However, as a former Teddy Roosevelt-style Republican and also as an American first and foremost, I find it sad to see this once-great party continue its descent into extremism, intolerance, know-nothingism, and a rigid "party of no" attitude.  As far as Virginia's 11th CD is concerned, the bottom line is this: Keith Fimian has morphed into a Tea Party Republican, he is unelectable in this district, and congratulations will soon be in order to Gerry Connolly on his re-election to a second term in Congress!

P.S. With regard to his comment that the tea partiers "are against everything," I've just gotta ask Michael Frey, "when did you figure THAT out?!?"

Thank You…Corey Stewart and Martin Nohe?!?

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I can't believe I'm saying this, but...thanks to Republican Prince William County supervisors Corey Stewart and Martin Nohe. Why, you ask?  Check this out.
The Prince William Board of County Supervisors agreed to join a regional compact Tuesday that calls for jurisdictions in the Washington area to work collectively to solve problems and better the region by 2050.

[...]

The document the board endorsed, the Region Forward report of the Greater Washington 2050 Coalition, outlines nine goals for the region to achieve within 40 years. The Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments approved the report in January, and Prince William is the 17th of the 21 jurisdictions in the council to endorse it.

Among other things, the Greater Washington 2050 Compact calls for "preservation and enhancement of our Region's open space, green space, and wildlife preserves;" "a transportation system that maximizes community connectivity and walkability, and minimizes ecological harm;" "a significant decrease in greenhouse gas emissions;" and "healthy communities with greater access to quality health care and a focus on wellness and prevention."  

Good stuff, my only problems with this are: 1) it's not legally binding; and 2) as the compact itself acknowledges, "Many of the goals...are only realizable because of state legislative actions that are already accomplished or may be enacted in the future." Good luck getting "state legislative actions" in support of this otherwise excellent document from the Flat Earth House of Delegates (Bill Howell et al.) or from Pat Robertson's Manchurian Candidate (Bob McDonnell). Other than that, I'm very happy to see this compact, and even happier to see Republican-led Prince William County signing on (along with Arlington, Alexandria, Fairfax City, Fairfax County. Falls Church, Loudoun, and Manassas Park)!

My (Snarky) Virginia Endorsements for June 8th

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The following endorsements are made in good, snarky, blogger fun. Having said that, there is a grain of seriousness in here, as of course I wish the Republicans will nominate the craziest, most far-right-wing, unelectable people for the general election. Either that, or - paradoxically - let's hope they nominate someone who is completely unacceptable to the far right wing, prompting them to bolt and support a  third-party candidate, as Laurence Verga campaign manager Bill Hay worries in today's Washington Post.

Virginia CD #1
Go Catherine "Bullet Box" Crabill!  The deal here is that if Crazy Crabill defeats Rep. Rob Wittman for the Republican nomination on Tuesday, then Democratic nominee Krystal Ball has a shot at winning in November. If not, then Ball - as strong a candidate as she might be - almost certainly won't win. So, again, go Catherine Crabill, the "blue team" is rooting for you! :)

Virginia CD #2
I've got to disagree with Bearing Drift on this one. Bert Mizusawa has far, far too impressive a resume -- "a Brigadier General in the Army Reserve, and one of the Army's most highly decorated officers... a Masters in Strategic Studies from the U.S. Army War College and is a graduate of National Defense University's CAPSTONE program" -- to be the Republican nominee in this district. Instead, I strongly endorse Regent University grad, Obama donor (and also Louise Lucas donor), used-car dealer, and "Cash for Clunkers" beneficiary Scott Rigell for the Republican nomination in the 2nd CD. It should be hilarious watching Glenn Nye tear Rigell apart for hypocrisy, among other things.  Go Scott Rigell! Heh.

UPDATE: Also, see Dan Sullivan's excellent diary on this subject.

Virginia CD #5
On this one, I've got to go with the Bearing Drift guys: Feda Morton for Congress!  As far right wing as you can get, Morton also -- according to The Hook - is the "traditional family values candidate who once lost custody of her children" and is now "in the news again for alleged plagiarism." As one commenter wrote at The Hook, "Man. This woman is a disaster." Exactly, which is why I strongly endorse her for the Republican nomination against the superb Rep. Tom Perriello. I also strongly encourage any and all tea partiers to run as third, fourth, or fifth party candidates this November. The more the merrier, I say!

Virginia CD #8
Who cares, Jim Moran's going to romp in this rock-solid "blue" district over either Matthew Berry or Patrick Murray. Yawn. Also, as Loudoun Insider at Too Conservative points out, the two Republican candidates are apparently in a "we may lose, but at least we'll be pure" contest.  The only question is, will that "purity" allow them to break 40% of the vote in Arlington and Alexandria this November? I doubt it, but stay tuned!

Virginia CD #11
I had always assumed that Keith Fimian was the more right wing candidate in this race, but after listening to this past Friday's WTOP debate between Fimian and Pat Herrity, I'm not so sure anymore. Given this, I guess I'd have to go with Fimian for the Republican nomination, given that he's already a proven loser (by 12 points in 2008) against Rep. Gerry Connolly.  Plus, there's the "Real Keith Fimian Story", and quite a story it is! Heh. With that, I say, go Keith Fimian!

J.R. Hoeft: “Where are the environmental Republicans?”

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I don't agree with Bearing Drift's J.R. Hoeft on much, but I certainly have asked myself this question for years now" "Where are the environmental Republicans?"
... politically, what's perhaps the most disturbing issue is the lack of comment from Republican leaders. Whether it be John Boehner, Eric Cantor or Bob McDonnell, the lack of seizing initiative on this issue from conservatives has been appalling.

Certainly now is not the time to be talking about drilling off the coast of Virginia - although the president is wrong to ditch the plan altogether. However, now is a great time to be talking about tax breaks and incentives for alternative energy production.

Whether it be biofuels, solar, wave energy, wind power, nuclear, or other - why has no Republican seized the opportunity to talk about the "all of the above" solution? Why have they not spoken about how dreadful this spill is and how it is yet another example, in a long string of examples, of how oil is a commodity that we eventually have to ween ourselves off of? Why have they not promoted and presented alternatives?

A few possible answers to J.R. Hoeft's questions?

1. As a commenter on Bearing Drift points out, " the age old adage of 'follow the money' usually reveals plausible answers to the queries."  For instance, according to Sourcewatch, BP donated $198,500 to federal candidates in 2008, of which 59% went to Republicans. In 2006, BP donated $219,500 to federal candidates, of which 65% went to Republicans. According to Open Secrets, Exxon Mobil in 2008 donated $1.4 million to federal candidates, of which 76% went to Republicans. In 2006, 90% of Exxon Mobil's contributions to federal candidates went to Republicans. On and on it goes, where it stops, we all know - weakened environmental laws, gutted federal oversight of the oil industry, billions of dollars in corporate welfare to Big Oil, thousands of dead and dying animals (not to mention an entire way of life) on the Gulf Coast.

2. Ideologically, today's "conservative" movement is a far cry from what "conservative" used to mean, back when the Teddy Roosevelts of the world - or even the Dwight Eisenhowers, Richard Nixons and Gerald Fords of the world - were in charge.  It seems to me that, just as the root of "progressive" is "progress," the root of "conservative" should be "conserve," and that included "conserving" natural resources. In addition, you'd think that a movement with so many religious people would believe in "creation care."  Unfortunately, today's conservative movement seems to have ditched the "conserve" part from its vocabulary, and instead chosen to worship on Grover Norquist's altar of the "free market." Of course, it's not even really a "free market," as there are distortions - tax breaks, subsidies, lax regulations, failure to price in "externalities" - which wildly tip the playing field away from energy efficiency/clean energy and towards dirty fossil fuels.

3. Today's conservative movement actually has people in it who aren't just pro-business, but are actively anti-environment (bizarre, I know; how can anyone actually be ANTI-environment? WTF?). These people are the ones claiming that those of us who want to protect our planet - the only one we've got, last I checked! - from devastation and degradation are "radicals" and "extremists." The fact is, the people who want to trash our planet - or at the minimum, who don't care if we damage our environment, all in the pursuit of profits, cheap energy (however dirty or dangerous), and their (bizarre) version of the "American Way" - are the "extremists." Because, I put it to you, it's "extreme" (and completely crazy) to believe in destroying our only home.

The question is, do the J.R. Hoefts of the world have any influence in the Republican Party of John Boehner, Eric Cantor, Mitch McConnell, Rand Paul, Don "This is not an environmental disaste" Young, and their ilk?  Unfortunately,  as far as I can tell, the answer to that question is a resounding "NO!" Which is one of the many reasons - along with the Jerry Falwell fundamentalist influx - why I decided to leave the Republican Party back in the early 1980s. What I don't understand is how anyone who is pro-environment can remain in a party which, by the very nature of its ideology and by the very makeup of its main contributors, is inherently, even extremely, anti-environment. I'm not saying these people will or should become Democrats, but how about a new, Teddy Roosevelt-style Republican Party that ditches the pro-"robber baron" mentality and puts the "conserve" back in "conservatism?"  Along those lines, the big question is, who - if anyone - is going to be today's Teddy Roosevelt?

UPDATE: Also see this column by another pro-environment Republican, "Loudoun Insider" at Too Conservative.  He writes, "I am no fan of over-bearing regulation, but this incident should shut up the no-regulation crowd for good.  Stringent, competent regulation (not this kind of BS) is absolutely necessary to protect our finest natural resources."  I agree, it should "shut up the no-regulation crowd for good," but sadly, I doubt it will. These people are greedy, and they are shameless.

P.S. Just to emphasize, protecting the environment should never be a "liberal" or "conservative" issue. Whether you are a hunter, angler, or other outdoorsperson who wants to protect the habitat you enjoy; a religious person who believes that protecting "god's creation" is a sacred duty; an enlightened businessperson who knows that environmental responsibility and energy efficiency are completely consistent with making good profits; someone who simply loves nature and wants to protect it; a national security "hawk" who wants to keep money out of the hands of Ahmedinejad and Al Qaeda; and/or a pragmatist who knows that an unhealthy environment means unhealthy humans as well; you should want to slash our dependence on oil and other dirty, fossil fuels, while preserving the environment for generations to come. Again, how is any of that "liberal" or "conservative?"  Answer: it isn't.

Leslie Byrne on 11th CD GOP Primary: 30,000 Voters or Bust

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With the 11th Congressional District Republican primary between Pat Herrity and Keith Fimian just 1 week away, it's hard to say who has the edge. Not surprisingly, given how tight this race seems to be, the two candidates are pounding each other, with Fimian claiming Herrity voted to raise taxes (aka, "evil" in the right wingnut worldview) and Herrity calling Fimian a "tax cheat" (why that's bad in the government-and-taxes-are-evil crowd is hard to say, but whatever).  Meanwhile, Rep. Gerry Connolly hangs  back and, presumably, enjoys watching the spectacle.

So, what to look for on June 8? According to Leslie Byrne, who used to represent the 11th district in Congress, the key is turnout.

Leslie Byrne, a Democrat who held the seat during the mid-1990s, said the turnout number to watch is 30,000. If voter turnout is less than 30,000, "I'm going to say that the Republican doesn't have a chance" in the general election, she said.
Is 30,000 the number we should be looking at?  I went back and checked previous June primaries in that district, and what I found.

2008 Democratic primary turnout (Leslie Byrne vs. Gerry Connolly): 24,680
2006 Democratic primary turnout (Ken Longmyer vs. Andy Hurst): 19,649

Also, just for comparison purposes:

2009 Democratic gubernatorial primary turnout (Terry McAuliffe, Brian Moran, Creigh Deeds): 37,539
2005 Republican gubernatorial primary turnout (George Fitch vs. Jerry Kilgore): 21,068
2005 Democratic gubernatorial primary turnout (Leslie Byrne, Chap Petersen, Phil Puckett, Viola Baskerville): 12,855

Looking at these numbers, it would appear that Leslie Byrne's turnout target of 30,000 is somewhat high, as only one primary election in recent years hit that number in the 11th CD. Also, I'm not sure how much stock to put in June primary turnout as a leading indicator for November, given what happened in 2009 (relatively high turnout for Democrats in June, Democrats got crushed in November) and 2005 (low June turnout, Kaine won in November).  What are you looking for next Tuesday? Please feel free to use this as a threat do discuss the upcoming elections.

In Search of Empathy (and Where Not to Find It)

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I offer the following tidbits, each story with a common thread: Where is the empathy?

• Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged tops books borrowed at the Virginia Tech Newman Library for a recent year.
• Hopes for extension of unemployment benefits died last week.
• Concern for needy declines as the poor and working poor are "nickeled and dimed."
• President Obama wanted his US Supreme Court nominee to possess empathy, though to date we do not know if or how Elena Kagan has demonstrated such, or whether she would be another corporatist on the high Court. Republicans criticized and mocked the empathy criterion.

And then, there is this: A recent University of Michigan study on empathy among young people found a sharp reduction in it.  College students today score much (40%) lower in empathy than college students did just 10 or 20 years ago. The biggest drop came after 2000, which is not surprising given the arrogant, resource-grabbing culture promoted by Bushism.  Every man (and woman) for himself and God help us all. It's the GOP/Club for Growth/(Milton Friedmanomics/"Tea Partiers"/Freedom Works/Americans for Prosperity," mantra.  

Ruthless opportunism marks everything George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Newt Gingrich and the newer reinvention of the far right seek.  There is nothing more sacred than their very own tax shelters, preferences or cuts, except, perhaps, their tendency to hijack patriotism and contort it into something it is not.  They use up resources way out of proportion to what they contribute and without regard for what they destroy in the process.  Think BP.  Think Halliburton.  Think Wall Street.  Think those who believe any American should be a second class citizen.

To quote cognitive scientist, George Lakoff, the radical-wrong's ideology is:

"empathy-free, self-interest maximizing, with disdain or even hatred for those seen as lesser beings."

Lakoff notes that this wrong-wing (my term) ideology is self-reinforcing: a system that essentially promotes that values-free system itself.  It mocks altruists, "do-gooders," and "bleeding hearts," as if those were actually bad things. If the trend with college students continues, eventually a majority could take such a jaded view of others.  For sixty years the fringe has orchestrated a movement to change the way we view our responsibility to one another.  From Nixon to today's GOP, they've nixed the common good.  Now the fringe has grown from less than 10% to roughly 25%.  And the 25% is holding our nation hostage to their Party of No "leadership."  Now we see the result of values-free, self-adulating, self-aggrandizing  destructiveness.  The radical wrong is destroying everything in its sight. We are either part of the problem or part of the solution.  Democrats cannot have it both ways.  

GOP “far out of step,” “not being very intelligent” on DADT

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Unfortunately, in addition to people like John BONEr and Eric Can'tor "not being very intelligent" on the "Don't Ask Don't Tell" policy, I'd add that the GOP is also motivated by: 1) homophobia; and 2) the desire to defeat Obama and the Democrats on everything they want. Neither are good reasons to be against repealing this stupid, ineffective, obsolete, self-defeating, harmful, discriminatory, wildly unpopular policy.  Enough talk about this, we know the answer. Just ditch it. Now.