Monday, December 9, 2013

Affordable Care Act: Keeping it Local

% Uninsured. Darker = More Uninsured
I am one of those whose health insurance is employer provided, so I don't really have anything to do as the Affordable Care Act takes effect. But, I've been listening to the news stories about the website woes and to other stories about coverages, availability, etc. Unfortunately, much of that information is tainted by the bias, or the lack of knowledge, of those talking the loudest.

How will ACA affect folks in the central Shenandoah Valley? How many people are uninsured? How much will it cost? How many plans are available? At this phase of buying anything new it seems there are lots of questions.

This interactive tool, publicized by the Washington Post and developed by consumer finance website ValuePenguin, lets you take a look on a county-by-county basis at the extent of the problem of uninsured Americans as well as the number of companies and the number of plans offered. It might just blow away a little of the smoke and help clear the air on ObamaCare.

For example, Rockingham County has 11, 556 uninsured individuals among its population of 63,467. That's over 18% uninsured. Three companies will be offering a total of 28 plans in Rockingham County. An individual age 30 with an annual income of $35,000 would not qualify for a subsidy and the premium of the Benchmark Silver Plan is $243.

In Augusta County there are 8,603 uninsured individuals which is 14.6% of the population. Four companies are offering 38 different plans. Once again our 30 year old making $35,000 would not qualify for a subsidy and the premium for the Benchmark Silver Plan is $246.

Check it out. Put in your own income. Explore the country. Yes, you will notice that suburban/urban areas, especially in the Northeast and Northwest typically have more companies and more choices of plans. You will notice that premiums vary by locality. You will find counties in WV and many other states, often in the South, that top 20% uninsured. Places in Texas and, I am sure other places, top 30%. How do you spell Disgraceful? How do you calculate the hidden costs for the rest of us?

Friday, November 15, 2013

Racist or NOT Racist?

Sometimes an old community stereotype just won't go away. Kind of like the hateful stereotypes inherent in racism that are all too often part of American society.

A WHSV/TV3 story about the juxtaposition of Halloween and the KKK in Craigsville, Virginia gets examined (at 2:00) in The Daily Show's "Racist or NOT Racist" segment that aired on November 13.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Hometown boy?

"It ain't over till it's over," but the daily shifts in the unofficial vote tally in the attorney general's contest now has Mark Herring up by 117 votes. Mark Obenshain may wish he'd made a few more friends in his hometown - he lost Harrisonburg by 186.

Electoral boards have until the end of today to certify votes including provisional ballots. WTOP reports that on Friday the GOP dominated State Electoral Board pushed through a change in procedures used in Fairfax County that may mean most of the 400+ provisional ballots will not be counted. It would ban legal representatives from acting on behalf of a voter unless that voter is present - it is highly unlikely many will be able to show up and protect their vote. The Fairfax Electoral Board disagrees with the change but will comply. Mark Herring carried Fairfax with 61% of the vote.

Then let the recounts and challenges about uncounted ballots begin. It is likely both Marks will keep talking turkey over Thanksgiving but only one will get an early Christmas gift when all the counting and recounting finally wraps up sometime in December.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Classless Act

I'm a loser.
Apparently Ken Cuccinelli has no plans to make the traditional congratulatory call to the winner in the Virginia gubernatorial contest, Terry McAuliffe. The Cooch lost the race by 2.5% or about 55,000 votes.

Even the most bitter rival meet on the field and shake hands - loser congratulating winner even though it rips the soul. It is the right thing to do. Cuccinelli lost on Tuesday and his lack of class shows he is a loser as a human being, too. Virginian's should hope this is the last we see or hear of him.

Over 70% of my precinct voted for the three Repugs. Gives me reason to pause and reflect. Love thy neighbor as thyself only goes so far.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

How Terry McAuliffe almost blew it

Terry McAuliffe will be the next governor of Virginia but he almost let a sure thing slip away during the last couple of weeks. In doing do, he likely hurt both his statewide running mates, especially attorney general candidate Mark Herring who will have a fight to survive a recount. What are some of the factors that cut what looked like a comfortable 6-8% margin of victory down to about 2.5%? And what can Democrats learn from a near collapse that, if the election were held a week later, could have turned the Commonwealth into a bitter tea party? My foggy brained analysis after counting and recounting absentee votes until after 2:00 a.m on Wed morning:
  • Terry McAuliffe was never able to shake the label of "outsider" or "carpetbagger" and by bringing in Bill Clinton for a statewide tour he reinforced that image among independents and energized Republicans. I'm all in favor of bringing in political heavyweights to fire up the base, but beware of unintended consequences in a campaign's closing days.
  • With the right wing media bashing, and the mainstream media questioning, the rollout of ObamaCare, was it the right thing to bring the president and vice president to the state for campaign appearances? I think not. All that did was, in the minds of some voters, to tie McAuliffe to questions about the competency of government and to link him more with Washington than Richmond. Again, McAuliffe's campaign brought more Republicans out to vote and got many independents questioning him just as it was time to cast votes.
  • Terry McAuliffe we hardly know you! At some point voters want to make a personal connection that establishes trust. Negative campaigns tarnish everybody - voters need at least a few positive reasons to support a candidate rather than simply voting against the other guy. Beyond the Democratic diehards, McAuliffe never succeeded in building that relationship. Perhaps McAuliffe should have taken a page from the Obenshain playbook and given his family a greater role in explaining Terry "the father and the man" to voters.
  • I never thought a minor party candidate would garner double digits like some pre-election polls indicated. I wondered if, come election day and crunch time in the voting booth, more than 5-6% of the voters would decide to "send a message" or "waste a vote." Sarvis, with few resources or recognition, ran a pretty good campaign and aired some compelling TV ads but in the end about half of his "support" drained away, with most going to Cuccinelli.
Virginia was lucky to dodge the disaster that a Governor Cuccinelli would have inflicted on this fine Commonwealth. Now Governor Terry McAuliffe needs to build and mend the bridges that he failed to build and mend in the campaign.
Oh, I've got that day after the election "what if" hangover.  ~Bill Bolling

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Five reasons to NOT support Mark Obenshain

Mark Obenshain has not been a very good senator and he would be an even worse attorney general. Here are the top 5 reasons you should NOT vote for Mark Obenshain on November 5:
  1. Mark Obenshain supported legislation that would force a woman who had suffered an emotionally devastating miscarriage to report it to police. He eventually withdrew the bill citing "flaws" but that doesn't excuse his basic premise that government should actively intrude in women's personal lives.
  2. Mark Obenshain has pushed for voter ID laws that obviously target minorities and poor and would make voting more difficult for thousands of Virginians.
  3. Mark Obenshain supported a personhood bill that, if enacted, potentially would ban some forms of birth control.
  4. Mark Obenshain did not support the transportation bill that eventually passed with bipartisan support and the signature of a Republican governor. In short, Mr. Obenshain voted against jobs and improving the Commonwealth's economic climate.
  5. Mark Obenshain has received big bucks from oil, coal, and natural gas companies. If you care about issues like clean water and clean air then Obenshain's friends who favor mountain top removal coal mining, fracking, and uranium mining in Virginia should scare the bejesus out of you.
Ken Cuccinelli and Mark Obenshain - twin sons of different mothers. The former is a far right extremist with a mean-spirit scowl. The latter is a far right extremist with a fake smile. Don't be fooled. If Obenshain is elected the Office of the Attorney General will become ground zero for rolling back women's rights, for diminishing our democracy, and for degrading our environment.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Rand Paul takes a page from Wikipedia.... literally!

Appearing at a campaign stop on behalf of Ken "The Cooch" Cuccinelli, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul tried to connect pro-choice Virginians with the evil state depicted in the 1997 sci-fi movie (and financial flop), Gattaca. Paul stopped by Lynchburg, the home of Liberty University, to help The Cooch make up a double digit deficit in the most recent polls.

But, if this appearance by tea party favorite Rand Paul was supposed to put a tourniquet on the bleeding, it failed miserably. Seems Mr. Paul, who wants to run for president, was at a loss for words so he heavily plagiarized the Gattaca article on Wikipedia. Now The Cooch and his campaign are distracted by a prominent surrogate cheating. Watch for yourself:

Voters are heading to the polls in one week and the Cuccinelli, Jackson, Obenshain team of monsters and goblins just got caught in another scary mess. Have fun this Halloween, but if any of this trio gets elected the trick will be on the people of the Commonwealth of Virginia.

This crew is all tricks and no treats.
Be afraid, very afraid.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

All the news that's fit to print... or spew.

The Washington Post recently ran a blog/article on How Jon Stewart became President Obama's biggest problem. The accompanying chart got me to thinking about where I get my news and information. Seems our household doesn't fit neatly in the 60-64 (getting close to the 65+) demographic in which our dates of birth places us.

So, where do I get my news? Who do I trust? Who do I return to day after day?

I watch local and network national/local news (mostly ABC or NBC) almost every day. I DVR the Colbert Report and Daily Show and watch them the next day. Some days I'll catch all or some of MSNBC shows like Morning Joe, Hardball, or Maddow (MSNBC may lean forward, but there really is diversity of views). Most Sunday morning will find me watching Meet the Press and perhaps another Sunday showIt all gets supplemented with Time magazine, the Washington PostMother Jones and 60 Minutes and occasionally with articles from the Wall Street Journal or the Economist (and similar magazines). A day or two a week I'll catch a show on NPR. Our local papers are pretty lame and the opinion pages hollow, but I check out interesting articles online.

I try to be fair and balanced by watching Fox from time to time but their bias and blatant use of "false facts" and bogus "experts" leads me to push the button on the remote and move on. Same with Limbaugh and the other right wing radio jocks who are making big bucks spreading manure. Unfortunately, too many Americans will buy the big lie they are selling.

So, where do you get your news and how do you form your opinions. Only watch/listen to those with whom you agree? Or, do you intentionally seek out other points of view?

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

How will Bobblehead Bob vote?

Twin Sons of
Different Mothers

The vote on the CR that will reopen the United States Government and avoid default is on the floor as I type. What will Bobblehead Bob Goodlatte do? Vote for the good of his constituents and the American people or with his twin son from a different mother, Ted Cruz?

There is no winning choice for these clowns who held the American Government and people hostage for two weeks.

My prediction is that Bobblehead Bob will pussy out and vote "No." Why? Well all, or nearly all, Democrats will vote yes. They will be joined by a couple dozen common sense Republicans to forge a majority to get Americans back to work and short-circuit the GOP-engineered default. Our lovable Bobblehead Bob can vote "No" and cozy up with the tea partiers with full confidence that his vote won't matter.

How is that for courage? How is that for looking out for everyday Americans? How is that for representing constituents?

We should expect more of Bobblehead Bob Goodlatte, but unfortunately over the years he's torched those expectations along with many bridges.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

It is only natural... Natural Bridge, that is!

Could a limestone formation 215 feet high that was once owned by American's third President become part of the Virginia State Parks? Let's hope so because it is a natural fit.

Governor Bob McDonnell has let it be known that the Virginia State Park system would welcome a new addition of Natural Bridge, located in Rockbridge County, if a private group wants to buy it, claim some tax credits for conservation easements, and then donate it to the state. If that happens by the end of the year the General Assembly could work out funding for needed improvements, maintenance, and staffing. Natural Bridge is currently privately owned and the planned auction is on hold while the parcels are surveyed.

There are many reasons that Natural Bridge is a great fit in the Commonwealth's system of parks. Proximity to heavily traveled I-81, the Blue Ridge Parkway, and Lexington make it a "natural" stop for tourists. Under private ownership ticket prices were high ($21 for adults and $12 for children) and raised $1-2 million each year. The state will probably lower the admission making it accessible to more people and an even more attractive tourist destination that will reap benefits for the nearby caverns and local businesses (and sales tax collections). The National Historic Landmark was owned by Thomas Jefferson who bought it from King George III for 20 shillings. It was later surveyed by none other than George Washington.

Another compelling reason for adding Natural Bridge to Virginia State Parks is the fact that the Shenandoah Valley and Highlands are woefully underrepresented in the system. Only three parks - Sky Meadows, Shenandoah River, and Douthat - are found in the region that stretches from Roanoke northward along I-81 to the West Virginia line.

Our elected officials should be desperately seeking investors to make this deal happen. It is a win-win for everyone.

Washington food fest

Even while the government is shut down and default threatens, lobbyists make sure they get want they want from their bought and paid for politicians. Guess who picks up the tab?

Tell your congressman and senators to represent us, because corruption is so unAmerican.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Goodlatte to furloughed workers: Let them eat BBQ

Bobblehead Bob...
overdosed on tea.
Bob Goodlatte is hosting a BBQ at the Rockingham County Fairgrounds this rainy Sunday afternoon. I thought about going and asking how he could be hosting a social event when so many federal workers are furloughed and when businesses and federal contractors throughout the 6th District are severely impacted. Shouldn't our congressman be in D.C. trying to figure out a way out of this Republican/tea party ignited mess?

But, prudence took over when I re-read the letter I recently received (a friend got an identical one) from him. It doesn't take a genius to understand that our representative lives in Republican La-La Land where all blame is heaped on Senate Democrats and President Obama. Bobblehead Bob failed to address a single point in my original communication to him. Apparently his staffers just scratched through the Boehner & Friends book of "Tea Party Talking Points" and cobbled together a generic letter to send to anyone who asked him to please drop unreasonable demands and end the shutdown while moving away from the brink of default.

Looking at the invitation I realized today is not a BBQ for constituents where our congressman would listen to all points of view. Nope, not even close - this is a campaign event (the RSVP goes to his campaign) that he'll use to pick pockets of adoring lemmings for his next election (once again breaking his term limit promise). Our congressman won't do any listening this afternoon. Instead, he'll be railing against our President and against any Democrat he can find while taking irresponsible positions to make sure he doesn't get challenged from the right. I could show up but my words would fall on deaf ears and I'd risk being run out on a rail.

Better to stay home and check out what prudent steps to take as Congress Attacks America. Then maybe I'll call some family and friends who are among the groups taking the brunt of this GOP shutdown and offer some empathy or maybe a meal. Then I'll do a little reading, maybe to reassure myself that, in spite of the group gathered at the fairgrounds, Americans as a whole are pretty much a practical, common sense people. Three-quarters of us know the current impasse is driven by Republicans. As one of the pollsters in the recent NBC/Wall Street Journal Poll noted,“These numbers lead to one inescapable conclusion: The Republicans are not tone deaf; they are stone deaf.”

Friday, October 11, 2013


In a world where news seems to be dominated by those who want to tear us down rather than lifting us up, I am glad that I got to hear Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band three times during the amazing Wrecking Ball tour. During the 133 shows his words, energy, and music reminded millions of folks living in 26 nations that we can DREAM BABY DREAM.

Turn up your speakers.   Play it loud.   Play it proud.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Government is the enemy

"Government is the enemy
until you need a friend."
William Cohen, Republican Senator from Maine, 1996

Hey Bobblehead Bob, under current Republican leadership, government has become the enemy: of tourists and small business, of farmers, and indeed of all Americans.

Bobblehead Bob Goodlatte, it is long past time to represent your constituents. It is long past time to represent the American people. NOW is the time to sever your perverted subservience to the tea party terrorists.

Virginia League of Conservation Voters Endorsements

After a grueling and detailed process, the Virginia League of Conservation Voters has endorsed candidates for statewide office and in 20 House of Delegates districts. The goal of the League is to elect candidates with a strong conservation ethic and to build a legislative majority to protect our environment and heritage.

For Governor the League endorses Terry McAuliffe because he is committed to keeping the moratorium on uranium mining in Virginia, strengthening Virginia’s land preservation funding program, encouraging the growth of clean energy and clean energy jobs, and studying the ways Virginia can lessen its impact on climate change.

For Lt. Governor the League endorses Ralph Northam because of his strong leadership in restoring and protecting the Chesapeake Bay. Senator Northam has also lead efforts to improve Virginia’s Renewable Portfolio Standard program.

For Attorney General the League endorses Mark Herring because of is demonstrated devotion to protecting our air, water, and open spaces, supporting an increase in Virginia’s investment in clean energy to create jobs and combat climate change, and supporting the ban on uranium mining.

The League also endorsed 20 candidates, from both parties, for the House of Delegates. No candidates in the central Shenandoah Valley won that coveted endorsement - now what does that say? Check out the conservation scorecard to find out.

Monday, October 7, 2013


INEQUALITY FOR ALL, the Robert Reich film about the exploding income gap in the United States, is on the big screen. It is playing in a number of major cities and will be opening at more locations, including the Regal Downtown Mall 6 in Charlottesville, VA within days. Hopefully other theaters in western Virginia, perhaps the Visulite in Staunton, will schedule it too.

INEQUALITY FOR ALL is currently playing at the E Street Cinema in our nation's capitol. General admission is $11.50 but, since he's not doing much of anything right now, maybe Bobblehead Bob Goodlatte can catch the bargain matinee for just $8.50! He might just learn a few shocking things about America the Beautiful (for some but not for all):

Reich advocates (and tells us how to get these things done) raising the minimum wage, giving workers a stronger voice, reforming Wall Street, fixing the tax system, investing in education, and getting the corruption of money out of politics.

Hey Bob, make it fun afternoon. Invite your obstructionist buddies Eric Cantor, Randy Forbes, Robert Hurt, Morgan Griffith, and Robert Wittman to join you. Enjoy a bitter tea party afterwards!

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Blue Ridge Parkway closes during prime time

Every October the autumn leaves light up our mountains with stunning hues of reds, yellows, and oranges making this month one of the busiest (estimated to be an average of 70,000 per day) for the Shenandoah National Park and the Blue Ridge Parkway. With the House Republicans holding America hostage and forcing a shutdown, many who love to visit those stunning national treasures will find themselves turned away at the gate.

The Blue Ridge Parkway announced that all park programs and events have been cancelled. Campers and visitors in lodges must vacate by 6:00 pm on October 3. It is lights out for those wishing to experience the beautiful fall colors on the parkway.

Oh well, people can see the colors in their own neighborhood or catch a glance from one of the I-64 overlooks on Afton Mountain. No lasting harm, no foul.

Not so fast - beyond missing the views and the experience of the great outdoors, there are real human consequences to the Blue Ridge Parkway closure:
  • 195 Park Service employees are on furlough and an estimated 200 employees of concessionaires will lose their jobs forcing them to dip into savings or use credit cards to pay for food and mortgages;
  • The Blue Ridge Parkway will lose approximately $450,000 per day in fees;
  • Communities along the parkway, like Waynesboro and Roanoke, will see fewer visitors and small businesses (and their employees) catering to tourism will take an hit - it is estimated that losses along the 469 miles of parkway could total as much as $76 million per day;
  • Because of reduced tourism there will be less Virginia sales, gas, and meals taxes collected.
Do the national math: 401 parks and other sites x 20,000 Park Service employees furloughed x how many (??) concessionaire jobs lost x lost tourist dollars in thousands of communities = a huge hit to the American economy. Could Republicans actually be gleeful that a rise in unemployment is a good thing since it might reflect in the President's poll numbers?

Now you may be saying "hey, the House sent a bill to fund the Park Service and exempt it from the shutdown." How convenient - cherry picking a few programs to appease constituents hoping to keep the heat off the politicians who are still collecting their paychecks. Nothing new about public "servants" serving their own interests first.

Bobblehead Bob
Listening to people or party?  
At the core of the shutdown are approximately 75-80 tea party wingnuts from safe (gerrymandered) districts who have little interest in the hard work of governing but a great passion for tearing down the people's government. Many looked forward to and encouraged a government shutdown. It seems that Speaker John Boehner and representatives like Bob Goodlatte lack the gonads to stand up to these terrorists thereby enablin the crazies in their own party. The inevitable result is a scruffy tail is wagging a mongrel dog known as the House of Representatives.

Tell Bob Goodlatte the GOP engineered shutdown is hurting people and communities in the 6th District. Tell Bob Goodlatte it is time to stop marching in lockstep with the party and put constituents first. Tell Bob Goodlatte a prolonged shutdown will undermine the national economic recovery. Tell Bob Goodlatte to join Rep. Scott Rigell (VA-02) and a growing number of Republicans who support passing a clean continuing resolution without unrelated stipulations.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

American disconnect

Republicans are masters at spinning false facts into tea party "realities" that are deadlocking our government and undermining our nation.

I don't know where I'm a gonna go

With sincere apologies to Jimmy Buffett. Check out Jimmy performing Volcano in Jacksonville, January 2012.

Now I don't know

I don't know

I don't know where I'm a gonna go
When the tea party blow

Let me say now, I don't know

I don't know

I don't know where I'm a gonna go

When the capitol blow

Ground she's movin' under me

Tidal waves out on the sea

Sulfur smoke up in the sky

Pretty soon we learn to die

Let me hear ya now, I don't know

I don't know

I don't know where I'm a gonna go

When the U.S.A. blow

Now my girl quickly say to me

Mon you better watch your feet

Tea party bull shit come down soft and hot

You better pray for truth now or pray for truth not

Let me say now, I don't know

I don't know

I don't know where I'm a gonna go

When the tea party blow

"Mr. Utley"

No time to count what I'm worth
Cause I just left the planet Earth

Where I go, I hope there's rum

Not to worry, Mon soon come

Now I don't know

I don't know

I don't know where I'm a gonna go

When the GOP blow

One more now, I don't know

(Ah, he don't know)

I don't know

(He don't know, mon)

I don't know where I'm a gonna go

When the U.S.A. blow

But I don't want to land on no Speaker Boehner

Don't want to land near Ted Cruz

(No no no)

Don't want to land on no Bobblehead Bob

Don't want to see my country go low

(No no no)

Don't want to land in a closed National Park

Or anywhere in TexAss

(No no no)

Don't want to land in no Houston airport

Or the racist territory

(No no no)

Don't want to land in no Fox News swill

Don't want to land in the NRA

(No no no)

Don't want to land on no Bob Goodlatté

I got nothing more to say

I don't know

I don't know

I don't know where I'm a gonna go

When our economy blow

Just a one more, I don't know

(He don't know)

I don't know

(I don't know, man)

I don't know where I'm a gonna go

When our beloved country blow

when I blow, (hey)

when I blow (hey)

When I blow it smells

Friday, September 6, 2013

Cooch's attack ad misfires

If you run a dishonest
campaign, how can you
be trusted as governor?
This week the Cuccinelli campaign released a new ad attacking Terry McAuliffe, alleging that the Democratic gubernatorial candidate made millions when Global Crossings went bankrupt in 2002. The ad features emotional responses from three former Global Crossing employees. Two of those employees told Mother Jones magazine they were never told their (heavily edited) interviews would be used in a political attack ad in another state.

Deb Goehring, a former employee featured in the ad says she was asked several times about McAuliffe making money off Global Crossings. "I said I don't really know anything about Terry McAuliffe," Goehring told Mother Jones. "He was not involved in day-to-day operations in any way that I saw. As far as I'm concerned, he was like me, a stockholder, and he was able to make money at it. More power to the man. Good for him."

Also featured in the ad is former employee Corey Darrow, who seemed glad to tell her story about the impact of the Global Crossing bankruptcy, but feels mislead that the filmmaker never disclosed that it would be used for a negative ad, telling Mother Jones, "I'm kinda glad I got my story out there. What's it doing for me? I dunno," she says. "But I wish I would've known where it was going to be shown and when."

There is more at Mother Jones, including the background of how Cuccinelli's filmmaker misrepresented himself to take advantage of innocent people for political purposes.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Mossy Creek

Mossy Creek, a nationally acclaimed trout stream in Augusta and Rockingham counties, is getting a major upgrade! The WSLS video tells the story about significant restoration work being done on a stretch of the stream near Mount Solon in Augusta County. Years of mostly manmade obstacles like a dam that turned the flowing creek into a pond, along with heavy agricultural use along the banks, had rendered this section of the creek almost lifeless and certainly not healthy trout habitat.

Thanks to the efforts of Trout Unlimited, landowners, and the National Fish & Wildlife Foundation, Mossy Creek is healthier and so are all the downstream waters such as North River, the Shenandoah River, and the Chesapeake Bay. Improving Mossy Creek is not only good for the environement, it is good for the economy -  sport fishing generates business for local outfitters, gas stations, and restaurants, as well.

Watch the video on the Trout Unlimited website.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

First Cracks in the VA GOP

Watch out for shards if
you drink the tea.
Republican heads are exploding over the news that Boyd Marcus, a widely respected GOP strategist, has endorsed Terry McAuliffe for governor. Marcus, who has worked for the likes of Eric Cantor, Jim Gilmore, and Bill Bolling told the Associated Press, “I was looking at the candidates, and I saw Terry McAuliffe as the guy who will work with everybody to get things done.”

The McAuliffe campaign's announcement included a quote from Marcus that further elaborated on his difficult decision to reject the extremism of Ken Cuccinelli, “I’ve never before supported any Democrat, but this election Terry is the clear choice for mainstream conservatives.”

In the wake of the announcement, Marcus sold his interest in the GOP-based PR firm Marcus & Allen thereby cutting ties with his old Republican buddies. GOP chairman, Pat Mullins, and other party leaders expressed anger and dismay as they resorted to familiar, but tired, tactics of character attacks and name calling.

Boyd Marcus hasn't changed his philosophy about government. Rather the Virginia Republican Party, under control of tea party whackos, has abandoned mainstream and responsible conservatives. Marcus may be the biggest name to jump from the sinking (and stinking) ship, but he won't be the last. Because of issues affecting the Commonwealth's economy - transportation for example - some GOP-leaning business leaders have already moved towards McAuliffe. Over the next couple of months, motivated by Marcus's lead and by the extreme and the divisive Cuccinelli agenda, we can expect to see more Republicans endorsing Terry McAuliffe as the best candidate for Virginia's future.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Earth Overshoot Day

August 20 is Earth Overshoot Day - the day this year that humanity has used up nature's resource budget for all of 2013. For the rest of the year, mankind will engage in ecological deficit spending by drawing down resources and accumulating carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

Twenty years ago Earth Overshoot Day happened on October 21. Ten years ago it was September 22. Each year humanity increases its demands on nature's bounty a bit more and Earth Overshoot Day moves up a few days on the calendar. By 2050 when the Earth's population is expected to reach 9 billion (currently about 7.2 billion), the pressure on nature's resources will be enormous. Finite resources and seemingly unlimited population growth = disaster.

Some nations, such as the U.S. and much of Western Europe are ecological debtors based on the per capita demand for ecological assets versus the availability of those assets. Other nations, Brazil for example, are ecological creditors. Check out the ecological footprint of nations and how it changed from 1961 to 2007 in this neat interactive map.

It would be great if governments enacted policies to encourage or require businesses and individuals to conserve resources. But, since that is only likely to happen in a limited way, what can you and I do to reduce our personal footprints and tread more lightly on the earth's resources? Take this quiz to find ways to reduce your family's consumption and ecological footprint (and perhaps save some money, too).

Learn more about the Global Footprint Network and steps nations, businesses, and individuals can take to get on the path to sustainability before the Earth's ecological budget in busted.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Mark Herring brings "curb service" to Staunton

Sen. Herring addresses
the crowd.
Arriving exactly at the promised time, Senator Mark Herring brought his campaign for attorney general to Wright's Dairy-Rite in Staunton. About 30 area residents joined him on the patio as he introduced himself to the Queen City and central Shenandoah Valley.

During his remarks Herring pointed out the sharp differences between himself and his opponent. On transportation Herring worked with the governor and across party lines to pass much-needed legislation to bring our aging and crowded roads up to speed - his opponent opposed the bill. On women's rights Herring supports a woman's right to make her own health care decisions without undue interference from the government - his opponent has supported legislation to deny women access to clinics and to ban many forms of birth control.

After brief remarks Sen. Herring
discussed issues with voters.
Notably, Senator Herring has proposed a five point plan to strengthen plan would create an ethics commission, limit gifts while strengthening disclosure requirements, punish corruption by public officials, prohibit using campaign donations for personal use, and expand public access to records. In a state where honor guided the ethical behavior of elected officials, the recent behavior of the governor and current attorney general has shattered public confidence in our democracy. Herring's proposals would help restore faith in government that represents people rather than deep pockets.

Herring promised to make people and the law - not partisan politics - the focus of the attorney general's office. Now that would be a sharp contrast to the current occupant's right wing agenda. It is also a sharp contrast to Herring's opponent who says politicians should weight the "political calculus" to determine if they will do the right thing.

Keeping politics out of the Commonwealth's law office and restoring faith in government - after the last 3 1/2 years that would be quite refreshing!

Friday, August 9, 2013

Republicans beholden to title loan sharks

LoanMax, the car title loan outfit with dozens of stores across the Commonwealth, is banking heavily on a GOP win in November.

Right after the Republican Convention nominated Ken Cuccinelli, E. W. Jackson, and Mark Obenshain, Select Management Resources LLC, operator of LoanMax outlets, took the trio barnstorming across the state. Wonder why didn't they use some of the cars they've repossessed? The trip, which was by air, lasted three days and took the candidates to various cites on a "meet the voters" tour. Bet there were few customers of LoanMax in those audiences!

Such a trip isn't cheap and that is probably a good indication that LoanMax wants even less oversight than the little they currently have in the Commonwealth. The payday and title loan business model typically preys on the uninformed and those in need to lock them in a cycle of high interest and unreasonable fees. So much better if nobody is watching the henhouse!

According to the Virginia Public Access Project Cuccinelli and Obenshain reported in-kind donations of $9,000 for the trip. However, Jackson, the lieutenant governor candidate, reported nothing. It isn't the first time Jackson has neglected to report contributors. And, he has previously been fined by the State Board of Elections for failing to make timely reports.

So, we have a GOP ticket with cozy ties to a predatory industry that takes advantage of Virginia residents. That's enough chicken litter to sink most campaigns but read on.... 

Ken Cuccinelli's ethics continue under intense scrutiny for the thousands of dollars in gifts he received (many unreported until he was called on it) from Governor McDonnell's friend Jonnie Williams.

And in Rev. Jackson we have a candidate who plays fast and loose with money and the truth. Wonder who counts the cash in his offering plate?

You'd have to be a dumb cluck to support this ticket!

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Gov. McDonnell's final service to Virginia - Resign!

With federal prosecutors closing in on Governor Bob McDonnell's corruption, the Commonwealth is left leaderless with an impotent chief executive until a new governor is sworn in early next year. The best thing that Bob McDonnell can do for Virginia, and for himself, is to resign.

Governor McDonnell flanked by
Lt. Governor Bolling - who is clean in this scandal -
and Attorney General Cuccinelli - who isn't.
The Washington Post reports that Jonnie Williams Sr, the chief executive of Star Scientific, has been interviewed by prosecutors and has turned over financial records detailing the more than $120,000 in gifts given to McDonnell and his family. Other company officials are also being interviewed.

McDonnell could be charged with corruption under the Hobbs Act that prohibits elected officials from taking official actions in return for money or gifts. The Supreme Court has held that a violation of the law occurs when "... a public official has obtained a payment to which he was not entitled, knowing that the payment was made in return for official acts."

Even if McDonnell is not charged, his tenure as chief executive is basically done - his political goose is cooked. He can stay in office while bringing more disgrace to Virginia as government stumbles along to the end of his term. Or, he can resign, free the Commonwealth of six months of purgatory, and allow Lt. Governor Bill Bolling to take over the Executive Mansion. True, Bolling would be little more than a caretaker, but that is preferable to months of a state government mired in scandal and controversy that destroys faith in our representative democracy.

Perhaps we can thank Governor McDonnell for bringing attention to Virginia's lax ethic laws that earned a big fat "F" from the Center for Public Integrity for being " of nine states with no statewide ethics commission, one of four states with no campaign finance limits and one of only two states (South Carolina is the other) where the part-time legislators handpick the judges before whom many of them practice law." Smells like rotten eggs.

The cooked goose of a governor says he'll propose changes to the Commonwealth's ethics laws - kinda like a fox with a bloody chicken in his jaws promising to fix the lock on the henhouse door. It would be far preferable for someone removed from this scandal - perhaps an interim Governor Bill Bolling - to lead a sweeping ethics reform movement and have proposed legislation ready for the 2014 session of the General Assembly. If the elite 140 (who also get lavished by nice gifts that are legal - but not moral or ethical IMHO) under state law drop the ball on ethics reform shame on them - and us - for failing to raise our Commonwealth to a higher standard.

Prior posts on corruption and the lack of enforceable ethics laws in Virginia:

Monday, July 29, 2013

Carlos Danger meets Robbin' Hood

“Halt, who goes there,” Carlos Danger shouted in the cold night air. “Between the chill and the shrill sound of the jangling coins the equipment is wilting.”

“Tis only me,” replied Robbin’ Hood. “I’m taking from the rich and giving to me. They’re showering me with money. My cup runneth over.”

“I don’t give a tweet about money. Ya know any hot babes who want a little sexting fun? That’s what I give a tweet about,” Carlos firmly replied. "Besides, I thought Robin Hood took from the rich and gave to the poor."
Bob McDonnell flashes
his Rolex.
I won't post what
Anthony Weiner flashes.

“Sexting?” Why waste your time on that? It won’t buy you clothes, watches, or other nice things. I agree with The Cooch... time for us Republicans to ban that nasty stuff. Besides, I gotta agree with my compatriot and the next governor, if ya gotta pick your sin, money lasts longer than poon tang.

“Ah Robbin’, your wife looks really hot in those new clothes from Nordstrom, Macy’s, Saks Fifth Avenue, and Lord & Taylor. What’s her cell number? Maybe we can exchange a few pics.”

“Oh, Carlos,” shouted Robbin, “leave my wife outta it you perverted Democrat.”

“Okay Robbin’, forget it. Five kids? She’s been rode hard and put away wet... way past a prime weiner like mine. But whatta ya gonna do with all your cash?”

“I’m just trying to get to the end of my term without being tarred and feathered and with my bank account stuffed. Plus, I like this watch! These damn Virginians are getting pissed off over nothing. Don't they realize that everyone does it? They'll really be mad when they find out taxpayers are picking up my legal bills.”

“Yeah, I know what you mean. The national media is trying to run me out of the mayoral race just cause I want to stuff something... if ya know what I mean.

Three months later...

“Well, Robbin’, guess we’re cooked goose. Run outta the Big Apple and the Capitol of the Confederacy. What do the people not understand about the privileges of power? Why don’t we hang together for a while and plot our comebacks? After all, they forgave Sanford and Vitter.

“Carlos, you are so right... the voters don’t have any understanding of the sacrifices we make doing the people’s business. They seem to forgive sex scandals, but no so much when money is involved....! Hey, maybe my friend, The Cooch, will let us stay with him Smith Mountain Lake for a week or so. Freebie from his (and my) friends with deep pockets. Sweet place. Besides, he's got nothin' to do now that he got his butt kicked.”

“Any hot women around the lake?”

“I’ll flash the Rolex!”

“I’ll flash my junk!”

"Well that's okay but, The Cooch won't look at any boobs."

"Party pooper."

A short spoof of political corruption starring:
  • Anthony Weiner as Carlos Danger
  • Bob McDonnell as Robbin’ Hood

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Mark Herring to visit Staunton

Mark Herring, the Democratic candidate for Attorney General, will visit Staunton on August 13. Details in the flyer below:

Click on picture to zoom in.
Join Mark to learn more about his ideas for
common sense leadership
in the important office of Attorney General.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Coal combustion waste is a major polluter of water

We know coal pollutes the air causing or complicating health issues for many people around the globe. On the east coast, downwind from many Ohio Valley and other coal-fired utilities, the air quality can be downright dangerous at times - much of that because what goes up into the air from those tall smokestacks ends up in our lungs.

Now there is new evidence that coal is perhaps the major contributor to toxic pollution of our streams and rivers. It not only comes from toxins that fall in rain, but also from wastewater laden with arsenic, boron, mercury, and other chemicals that are released in waterways in violation of the Clean Water Act. It is becoming increasingly clear that "coal plants have used our rivers, lakes, and streams as their own private waste dumps for decades."

The Executive Summary of CLOSING THE FLOODGATES: How the Coal Industry is Poisoning Our Water and How We Can Stop It begins:
Coal-fired power plants are the largest source of toxic water pollution in the United States based on toxicity, dumping billions of pounds of pollution into America’s rivers, lakes, and streams each year. The waste from coal plants, also known as coal combustion waste, includes coal ash and sludge from pollution controls called “scrubbers” that are notorious for contaminating ground and surface waters with toxic heavy metals and other pollutants These pollutants, including lead and mercury, can be dangerous to humans and wreak havoc in our watersheds even in very small amounts. The toxic metals in this waste do not degrade over time and many bio-accumulate, increasing in concentration as they travel up the food chain, ultimately collecting in our bodies, and the bodies of our children.
Placing profits first, we can't expect the industry to police itself or to easily give up the cheap (for them, expensive for our health) ways to dispose of toxic wastes. Take action to tell the EPA that we need strong regulations to safeguard our waterways and American families from toxic wastewater from coal plants.

Monday, July 22, 2013

It's a Boy

Okay America, it is time to get over it - we kicked the Brits and royalty out over two centuries ago, already! Yet most Americans - or at least the news media - seem absolutely enthralled by what emerges from the royal womb. Why should we give a cluck?

So, here is my tribute to William and Kate with assistance from the legendary British group, The Who, from their great rock opera, Tommy.

Hey William. Hey Kate. How about naming the kid Tommy?

Sunday, July 21, 2013

A Fairy Tale

A Fairy Tale eggplant that is. I bought the plants at a local greenhouse and really wasn't aware that these small, striped eggplant are so different than the large Black Beauty eggplant I'd grown for years. When the first fruits appeared I thought something was wrong, that they were deformed, or worse. The fruits weren't the deep purple I was used to and they were about the size and shape of a small banana - 5" or so.

So, a couple nights ago I used them in a cheesy squash/eggplant casserole and it came out great. Mild flavor, white flesh, skins more tender than the large eggplant, and they didn't seem to brown as quickly when exposed to the air. Plus, the small size is a bit deceiving since the plants are prolific and produce an abundance of the fruits.

Tonight I fixed them an interesting fried way that is a bit bland but the texture and mouth feel was great. The eggplant and the potato flakes lend themselves to adding flavors like Cajun spices or dipping in dressings or sauces that give it just the kick you want. Here is what I did for what I'll call Potato Crusted Eggplant:
  • Peel and slice the eggplant in 1/2 inch slices and place in cold, lightly salted water for 10 minutes.
  • Beat one egg with a tablespoon of water and add salt and pepper to taste (you could substitute seasoning salt, Cajun spices, Dizzy Dust, or your own concoction).
  • Put one cup of instant mashed potato flakes in a shallow bowl.
  • Heat a cast iron skillet with 1/4 cup butter over medium flame.
  • Drain the eggplant and dip slices in the egg mixture and then coat in the potato flakes. Brown in the butter for 3-4 minutes per side until golden. 
  • Serve warm as a side dish or as an appetizer with a dipping sauce.
Fresh eggplant from the garden doesn't last all that long so enjoy them while you can. Eggplant Parmesan is good, but there is more than one way to skin an eggplant (and way more than one variety of eggplant to choose from).

Friday, July 19, 2013

American Skin

President Barack Obama spoke eloquently as an American today. "It ain't no secret" that racism in America still exists in all but Faux News wingnut minds. Other than the president, few have spoken as poignantly as Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band.

Newsleader calls for a hundred year plan for Augusta Schools

In a recent editorial, Staunton's Newsleader chastised the Augusta County School Board for failing to come up with a "plan to guide the school system into the next century." Now that would be quite a feat even for the crystal balls sitting around that all-knowing editorial table.

Almost by definition any strategic plan is a work in progress that must change with the times. Planning for the next three to five years should involve a reasonably high level of specificity and perhaps forecasts for 10 to 20 years can at least get some things right. But, a 100 year plan? Surely the Newsleader jests! There are way too many variables and unknowns to take a stab at such a distant target. Technology, Virginia politics and laws, whims of the board of supervisors, federal laws, derechos, climate change, and all sorts of unpredictable things are out there just waiting to blow any plans totally out of the water.

One hundred years ago could the editors have seen beyond slow typesetting, black and white newsprint, and newspaper boys? Did they know that TV, with its color and moving pictures, would rock the world of newspapers? Could their clairvoyance have foreseen the internet and online media that is killing traditional print newspapers and magazines?

Just a few years ago could the managers at the Newsleader have seen their incredibly shrinking presence in the community and the outsourcing of their printing operations? Did they see the decline in subscriptions? Did they know a once proud independent newspaper would be owned by Gannett?

Perhaps the editors's scrying is blind to the coming end times for the Newsleader? My crystal ball gazing tells me the Newsleader will be a historical footnote as we move into the next century and likely be only a vague memory long before. So, I doubt we get an editorial followup accessing the 100 year success of the School Board strategic plan. Fortunately, none of us will be around to judge the accuracy of this prediction.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Run for the border Bobblehead Bob

Bobblehead Bob runs for the border... if he knows where it is. Maybe between Augusta and Rockingham, Bobblehead?

Augusta County needs data on nutrient pollution

The Augusta County Board of Supervisors is considering joining a nutrient monitoring program to get factual information on the amount of agricultural and non-point pollution entering the Middle and South rivers. This pollution, of course, travels downstream to other counties and eventually into the Chesapeake Bay.

The U.S. Geological Survey will provide equipment to monitor sediment, nitrogen, and phosphorus over a three year period. The EPA has assured officials that the program will be accepted in setting the watershed model for the Chesapeake Bay.

All sounds good, right? Free equipment and accurate data to drive future decisions. Well, some supervisors say not so fast. The hangup is the $85,000 annual cost to properly conduct the monitoring. One member of the board, Larry Wills, is seeking state funding and/or cost sharing with downstream Rockingham County but apparently he has come up dry so far.

Even Rep. Bob Goodlatte seems to support a monitoring program because of the up-to-date data it will provide. But, in typical Bobblehead Bob talking out of both sides of his mouth fashion, he doesn't want the data to actually accomplish anything, saying the Chesapeake Bay model is flawed.

With a 2025 deadline approaching for Virginia's blueprint for cleaning up the Bay, we need all the data we can get to make accurate, scientific decisions. Yes, the Commonwealth should be picking up some or most of the tab for localities but even without that funding Augusta County should move forward now. Costs of monitoring and restoring our streams and rivers will only increase in the future and decision makers need quality information sooner rather than later. Plus, plenty of Augusta residents fish, swim, and canoe in these popular local rivers.

Perhaps Mr. Wills can explore the possibility of working with organizations that have trained volunteers to do the water monitoring to help trim some costs. Organizations like Friends of the Shenandoah River and Friends of Middle River have been doing just that for years.

Check out CCC's earlier posts on the South River and Middle River.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Your summer float could land you in hot water

South Fork Shenandoah River
There isn't much better than a river float on a hot summer day. Maybe you get your fishing line wet. Perhaps you sit on a rock in the middle of a rapids enjoying the cool bubbling water, birds, and quiet. You are thrilled by successfully running a tricky Class 3.

Our navigable waters - streams, creeks, rivers, and bays - are supposed to be open for all Virginians. They are conserved for the people as places for fishing, swimming, boating, and solitude. All sportsmen thought that access to our public waters was assured but recently some landowners have accused boaters and others of trespass even though they never set foot on dry land.

It appears that simply posting signs and threatening to sue is enough to "privatize" a river or steam. When you show up in court the landowner has the upper hand as he/she often won't have to prove ownership of the riverbed and our "commonwealth" won't lend a hand or a paddle to defend your rights to public access. More info on the background and legalities at the Virginia Conservation Network.

This loophole in the law needs to be plugged and only the General Assembly can do it. Contact your delegate and senator and tell them to act during the 2014 session. Tell them to keep our navigable rivers in the public domain for the use of everyone in the commonwealth.

Friday, July 12, 2013

How a bill doesn't become law

Bobblehead Bob Goodlatte and his Republican cronies are responsible for one of the greatest do-nothing Congresses in American history. Jimmy Kimmel offers a contemporary take on the old School House Rock cartoon, How a Bill Becomes Law, as he lambasts our dysfunctional legislators.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Virginia makes progress on the Chesapeake Bay but work remains

Virginia and all the Chesapeake Bay states are making progress on reducing pollution flowing into the bay, but no state has achieved all their 2013 goals. The Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint lays out the plan for restoring rivers, streams, and the bay itself. In 2009 the bay jurisdictions created two-year milestones to provide transparency and accountability.

Virginia set eight goals and, according to the analysis done by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and the Choose Clean Water Coalition, is meeting five. Stream fencing and urban stream restoration made significant progress and exceeded targets while stormwater ponds, wastewater treatment plants, and forest buffers are on track. Among the areas that the Commonwealth needs to redouble efforts are planting grass buffers along farm streams and constructing urban infiltration projects. As Jacob Powell of the Virginia Conservation Network noted, "it is clear that Virginia must now commit to investing in a modern stormwater infrastructure the same way it has committed to our wastewater infrastructure."

For more information check out the Chesapeake Bay Foundation's press release that highlights the progress being made and has links to the individual state reports. Let your state legislators know that you appreciated the work that has been done and ask them to uphold Virginia's promise to finish the job of cleaning up our creeks, rivers, streams, and the Chesapeake Bay.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

What is a Master Naturalist? Want to be one?

Virginia Master Naturalists are volunteer educators, citizen scientists, and stewards helping Virginia conserve and manage natural resources and public lands. The Virginia Master Naturalist program is sponsored by Virginia Cooperative Extension Service, Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, Virginia Department of Forestry, Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, and Virginia Museum of Natural History.

The Headwaters Chapter of Virginia Master Naturalists serves the counties of Augusta and Rockingham and the cities of Harrisonburg, Staunton, and Waynesboro. Headwaters is currently seeking applicants for the next class of volunteer educators, scientists, and stewards. This short video highlights just a few of the activities of the class of 2012-13:

For more information about the program, training, goals, and commitment email the Headwaters Chapter or call 540-234-9336. For information about other chapters visit Virginia Master Naturalists and click on the chapters link at the top of the page.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Governor McDonnell is more than an embarrassment, he's breaking the law

Rachel Maddow schools the nation about the embarrassment Republican governors are heaping upon their states and their party. Governor Bob McDonnell is more than a simple embarrassment like Maine's crazy LePage - Virginia's governor is both an embarrassment to the Commonwealth and is breaking the law. Governor McDonnell should resign immediately.

Coverage on Bob McDonnell begins at approximately 5:40.

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

On July 4th - Remember - This Land Is YOUR Land

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band - "This Land Is Your Land" (Woody Guthrie cover) from Consequence of Sound on Vimeo.

Irritated by Irving Berlin's "God Bless America," Woody Gutherie wrote "This Land Is Your Land" in 1940 and recorded it in 1944 yet it wasn't released until 1951. Performed by many artists, perhaps most notably by Pete Seeger, this song remains our premier anthem of Government of the people, by the people, and for the people. More about "This Land Is Your Land" including the missing verse and why it took so long to be released.

This Independence Day may we all recommit to our democracy by reclaiming it from the corruption of money both nationally and here in Virginia.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Bobblehead Bob's pathway to nowhere

Bobblehead Bob Goodlatte and his Republican cronies in the House of Representatives harken back to the days of "just say NO! In this case, Goodlatte (VA-06), chair of the House Judiciary Committee, and most other Republicans are applying that phrase to immigration reforms and are not even willing to consider any path to citizenship for persons currently in the U.S. illegally.

The Senate recently passed bipartisan legislation that substantially beefs up border security (to the tune of some $6.5 billion per year) and includes a "pathway" to citizenship. The term "pathway" is a bit misleading as the Senate bill actually creates a long and winding road filled with obstacles on the way to citizenship. It would take 13 years and require, among other things, for an individual to pass a criminal background check, pay a fine for violating the law, learn English, and provide proof of pay taxes. Not exactly a pleasant walk on a park pathway.

Over in the House they only see two things for immigration reform - higher fences and more guns on the border. Unwilling to consider any means to attain citizenship, the GOP would create a permanent underclass of "illegals" living, working, and paying taxes in the United States. In that shadow existence they'd live in fear, in a permanent subclass, and in a degree of desperation - not exactly characteristics of a healthy community. Goodlatte and the other bobbleheads would make our cities and towns less safe, less productive, less caring, and less just while trampling on the American Dream for everyone.

A majority of the House of Representatives - Democrats plus the few common sense Republicans in that chamber - would probably support immigration reform similar to the Senate bill. But with a fractured Republican Party, a serious lack of leadership from Speaker Boehner and others, gerrymandered congressional districts, and shortsighted congressmen who think only of the next election there is a good chance that Bobblehead Bob's Judiciary Committee and the entire House will do absolutely nothing.

Doing nothing isn't exactly new for the House. Doing nothing is getting old and hurting our nation as we prepare to celebrate Independence Day. It is time for Bob Goodlatte's tired world view to take an exit to the 1950s. It is time for new representation for the good people of Virginia's Sixth District.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Corruption at the intersection of money and politics in Virginia

What do Virginia Republican and Democratic officeholders have in common? They love gifts! Nice gifts! Expensive gifts! Ah, the perks of political office in the Commonwealth. But, is it really a "commonwealth" when some birds, already feeding at the public trough, feel entitled to some extra luxury grist?

Between 2002 and 2012 Bob McDonnell gladly received gifts worth $303,550, including a $25,000 flight to Puerto Rico and a $19,000 luxury suite at a Redskins game. During the same period, his predecessor in the Executive Mansion, Tim Kaine, received $201,595 worth of gifts.

Politicians don't have to be a big dog Governor for Santa, the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy to visit his or her office with nice things: Current Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli has accepted gifts valued at $69,363 (is he running for Governor hoping for a big shower of freebies?). Speaker of the House William Howell  topped the Cooch with $73,171. Even lesser known legislators like Senator Frank Wagner ($45,182) and Delegate Ken Plum ($40,679) get some damn nice stuff.

And just who are these Santas and Tooth Fairies lavishing gifts on politicians? Among the top 10 between 2002-12 are some familiar lobbying big dogs including: Dominion ($175,149), Virginia Uranium ($148,274) Virginia Trial Lawyers Association ($87,776), and American Legislative Exchange Council ($77,048).

As long as the gifts are reported on the annual financial filings it is perfectly legal under current Virginia law.

But, there are reports that Governor McDonnell was given a $6,500 Rolex by Jonnie R. Williams Sr., the CEO of a dietary supplement manufacturer who has been lobbying government officials. It is also alleged that Williams paid for a $15,000 Bergdorf Goodman shopping spree for McDonnell's wife and ponied up $15,000 for catering at McDonnell's daughter's wedding. If true, the Governor is covered in broken eggs and the yoke is on him.

While we should all be hopping mad if the allegations about Governor McDonnell's failure to report the watch and other gifts are true, we should totally outraged that with simple disclosure, all the gifts are perfectly fine by Virginia's ethics rules. The corrupting influence at the intersection of money and politics threatens the foundations of our democracy. It apparently isn't enough for donors to make huge contributions to campaigns, they also "buy" influence with nice personal perks for the people's representatives.

One branch of Virginia government, the courts, is taking ethics seriously (maybe too seriously) and has promulgated a rule that clerks offices can't accept any gifts without the approval of the judge. So a clerks office accepting a Christmas fruitcake or box of candy from a law firm gets far more scrutiny than the Governor pocketing a top tickets to a Redskins game or a $4,000 night-vision monocular from defense firm.

In the henhouse we affectionately call the "Commonwealth of Virginia" all birds are equal, but big birds are definitely more equal than little chicks employed by the state. I cry fowl... err... foul. It is past time for a constitutional amendment or legislation to end the wholesale buying of the people's government that takes place under both corrupt political parties.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Landis, Bell and the United States of ALEC

Augusta County residents, are YOU represented in the Virginia House of Delegates? Probably not. Delegates Dickey Bell and Steve Landes pay far more attention to ALEC than they do to YOUR interests. Oh, maybe you live in one of the precincts misrepresented by Ben Cline - not to worry, ALEC controls many of his actions too.

We should all weep that our "democracy" has become government of, by, and for the rich and powerful corporations and special interests. Our "representatives" are laughing about all us dupes as they strut to the bank.

Prior posts about the corrupting influence of ALEC in the Virginia General Assembly:

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

What's wrong with coal? What's wrong with Virginia?

The good news: The United States is a global leader in reducing carbon pollution as we retire dirty coal plants and replace them with clean, renewable energy. Several states, including South Dakota, Iowa, and Minnesota are getting a significant amount of their electricity from renewable sources.

The bad news: Far from being a leader, Virginia lags behind much of the rest of the country in getting rid of coal and moving to a clean energy future. Dominion Resources continues to stymie efforts to move the commonwealth (Richmond is not only the state capitol, it is also the asthma capitol) to greater use of wind and solar energy. Placing profits above people, the powerful company is aided and abetted by failed leadership in the Executive Mansion and General Assembly.

Get involved: Contact your state legislators and tell them it is time, indeed past time, to move Virginia towards clean and renewable energy. Join the Sierra Club Beyond Coal campaign