Saturday, January 26, 2013

Stand up for off-shore wind power!

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) is taking public comment on leasing an area off the Virginia coast with huge wind energy potential. In addition to bringing good jobs to the Commonwealth, it is estimated that wind in this prime area could generate enough electricity for half a million homes.

Dominion Virginia Power, which has a long history of dragging its feet on renewable energy, could use its deep pockets to outbid competitors on these new offshore areas and then do nothing by sitting on the leases for years. That would mean no new job creation and dirtier air and water as Dominion continues to burn dirty coal to generate electricity.

Tell BOEM to require companies bidding on offshore wind leases that they must begin construction of turbines and infrastructure in a timely manner. Tell BOEM that delaying development of wind energy will hurt the state's economy and environment. Tell BOEM that now is the time to move to a 21st century clean energy economy.

Friday, January 25, 2013

History repeats itself

Changing demographics has the Republican Party scrambling to hold on to power in the states and to regain a chance to win the presidency (even if they don't win the popular vote). But, instead of putting forth new ideas with broad appeal Republicans across the nation are pushing various schemes to rig election rules in their favor. If this sounds like trying to deny the will of the people, you are absolutely right. If it sounds like something new in American politics, you are dead wrong.

Voter ID laws designed to limit citizen participation have been and are still being proposed in state after state including the commonwealth. Not satisfied with gerrymandering just every ten years, the GOP members of the Virginia Senate are pushing a ultra-partisan redistricting plan they hope will pump up the number of Republican leaning districts giving them an electoral advantage. And across the country, but most especially in "presidential blue states" where Republicans control the legislatures, they are advocating for changes in how electors are chosen.

When parties fall out of step with the will of people, desperation sets in as politicians try to hold on to power. As is happening today with Republicans, it also happened in the late 1790s and early 1800s as Federalists felt power slipping through their fingers. James Madison words to Thomas Jefferson about Federalists could just as well be written about today's GOP: "The horrors which they evidently feel at the approach of the electoral epoch are a sufficient warning of the desperate game by which they will be apt to characterize the interval."

Jefferson was fully aware of the Federalist's strategy, writing to his daughter, Patsy: "Our opponents perceive the decay of their power. Still they are pressing it, and trying to pass laws to keep themselves in power."

The influential New York Federalist, Alexander Hamilton, devised a plan to get Governor John Jay to change election laws to deny the will of the people in the selection of presidential electors. Hamilton implored Jay: "In times like this in which we live, it will not do to be over-scrupulous."

Flashing forward to today's Republican acts of desperation, it at least fair to point out that some in the party are urging a focus on issues of the American people rather than a strategy of rigging the political game. Even Governor Bob McDonnell and Lt. Governor Bill Bolling are urging the Senate to back off on the redistricting. Perhaps they hear the echo of John Jay's words in response to Hamilton's ploy: "Proposing a measure for party purposes, which I think it would not become me to adopt." Or perhaps they are recalling the fate of the Federalist Party which, although it left a lasting imprint on the young nation, was nearly extinct by the 1820s.

Agreeing with Reagan

I sometimes didn't agree with President Ronald Reagan, but we all acknowledge his great and lasting influence on American, and especially Republican Party, politics. So, on today's hot button issue of guns, where would President Reagan stand? On February 6, 1989 Reagan, a strong supporter of Second Amendment rights, also spoke of its limits and our nation's responsibilities.
I do not believe in taking away the right of the citizen for sporting, for hunting and so forth, or for home defense. But, I do believe that an AK-47, a machine gun, is not a sporting weapon or needed for defense of a home.
It is time to listen to voices of common sense and to take meaningful action to ban military assault weapons, to ban large clips, and to require background checks for all gun sales. I think President Reagan would agree.

Monday, January 14, 2013

A Real Deal On Taxes

The IRS announced it will start accepting tax returns on January 30 after most of the retroactive changes enacted on January 2 as part of the "fiscal cliff" deal are updated and programmed into their processing systems. If you claim certain credits, such as the residential energy credit and general business credits, or depreciation of property you'll have to wait to file, possibly until the first of March. The tax filing deadline is April 15.

AARP Foundation TaxAide is the nation's largest free, volunteer-run tax assistance and preparation service. Many individuals - not just AARP members or seniors - can take advantage of free tax preparation, advice, and e-filing of federal and Virginia returns at a TaxAide site. The volunteers are trained and certified and most types of individual returns are within the program's scope.

In the central Shenandoah Valley, TaxAide has sites in Harrisonburg, Verona, Waynesboro, Lexington, and Lovingston. Days, hours, scheduling, and other specifics vary by site so be sure to check it out before just showing up at the door. To find the TaxAide site most convenient for you, check out the AARP TaxAide site locator. What's not to like about free?

Friday, January 11, 2013

Shame on Bobblehead Bob

Bobblehead Bob
Our own Bobblehead Bob Goodlatte is a prominent member of the Republican Hall of Shame for voting against Sandy relief. The 6th District's #1 Bobblehead offered a pitiful explanation for his opposition to the $9.7 billion to pay for flood insurance claims saying some of the money would "not reach victims" and there would "not be offsets from other areas of government spending." The hypocrite didn't have these concerns when he advocated for emergency drought relief crop assistance.

Bob's bobblehead continues dancing in the back window of the tea party wingnut sedan. What doesn't he understand about "we the people?" What doesn't he get about "we take care of our own?" Bobblehead Bob is one of the people Jon Stewart was referring to when he asked, "Who are these assholes?"

Bob has a chance to pull his head out of his rectum by voting yes on the remaining Sandy relief legislation that will be taken up by the House on January 15. We shouldn't hold our breath - I suspect Bob will still be gazing where the sun don't shine.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Governor's transportation plan filled with pot holes

Governor Bob McDonnell has put out his plan for transportation funding and, as was true with his earlier privatization plans for ABC stores, it looks like it was designed by a drunk dodging pot holes on I-81. The plan eliminates Virginia's 17.5¢ gas tax and "replaces" it by jacking the state sales tax up from 5¢ to 5.8¢. Among other provisions - vehicle registration fees would go up and alternate fuel vehicles would be subject to a tax of $100 per year.

On the smoke and mirrors side of Bob's ledger, the plan anticipates $1 billion in revenues from an Internet sales tax that is anticipated in legislation pending in Congress. That's all well and good except (1) Congress hasn't shown a great propensity to pass legislation and who knows how this will proceed; (2) these funds, assuming Congress acts, will be there irregardless of how the Commonwealth funds transportation; and (3) using all these funds for roads will deprive schools, mental health, public safety, and other programs of the General Fund of their fair share.

One question for which I haven't seen the answer - if the gas tax is eliminated, will gas be subject to the new 5.8% sales tax just like any other good? If so and assuming $3.50 per gallon, the tax would be 20.3¢ and index the tax to gas price - probably a good way to address funding.  Depending on how this is answered might negate some of the questions below while raising others.

So, let's look at a few of the potholes in the governor's concrete cracking idea:
  • Would out of state motorists stopping for fuel get a free ride on Virginia's roads?
  • Why hit alternative fuel vehicles with a $100 annual tax if the gas tax is eliminated? This annual tax may make some sense if the gas tax is retained but under the governor's proposal it unfairly punishes owners of alternative fuel vehicles.
  • Virginia's gas tax is already lower than the taxes in surrounding states.
  • If the gas tax is eliminated, will the tax for diesel used by passenger cars like the popular Jetta TDI also be eliminated?
  • The gas tax is a "user fee" for folks utilizing public highways. Eliminating the gas tax shifts it away from drivers to non-drivers and those who drive less and are efficient in their use of the roads.
  • The plan sounds like it will generate lots of new money (assuming the Internet sales tax goes through) but according to many analysts it still falls $1 billion short of what is really needed to upgrade roads in NOVA, Hampton Roads, and other congested highways like I-81.
Some have said Governor McDonnell has put out a bold plan that is "outside the box." Yeah, maybe. His plan may contain a few good ideas. But, beware of the potholes.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013


Gabby Giffords' and Mark Kelly's commentary in USA Today announced a new campaign to curb gun violence in America. Their words make a lot of common sense that hopefully won't fall on too many deaf ears owned by the NRA:
Forget the boogeyman of big, bad government coming to dispossess you of your firearms. As a Western woman and a Persian Gulf War combat veteran who have exercised our Second Amendment rights, we don't want to take away your guns any more than we want to give up the two guns we have locked in a safe at home. What we do want is what the majority of NRA members and other Americans want: responsible changes in our laws to require responsible gun ownership and reduce gun violence.
Giffords and Kelly have launched a new PAC, Americans for Responsible Solutions, to help find ways to prevent gun violence while protecting responsible gun ownership. Check out what they have to say, join their effort, and make a contribution.

After all the killings including those at Virginia Tech, Gabby Giffords simple statement "enough"says it all. Only fools refuse to listen.