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Changes in the political climate can sometimes sneak up on you -- just like changes in the terrestrial climate. Case in point: A recent opinion piece in the right-wing Human Events, "A Conservative's Case for Global Warming", provides a hint that the GOP may be about to start tiptoeing away from climate change denial.

While still repeating a number of easily disprovable climate denial whoppers (e.g., that the earth hasn't warmed in the last 18 years, even though it has, and the usual cheap attempts to downplay the overwhelming scientific consensus), the author seemed to be striving to reposition conservative opinion to accept the reality of climate change -- this, even though he is a member of the Heartland Institute, notorious for (among other travesties) its repugnant Unabomber billboard campaign.    

Others have noted the curious phrase that is now ubiquitous among Republican politicians – "I'm not a scientist" -- and like Jonathan Chait, have speculated on whether this phrase represents a kind of tactical retreat:

“I am not a scientist” makes sense as a way to resolve a tension within Republican politics. It may be a political liability for Republicans to openly associate themselves with the kook conspiracy theories popular among conservative ideologues. One solution might be for Republicans to concede that anthropogenic global warming is indeed real, but that any solution is simply too costly. That might allow Republicans to minimize their kook exposure while still hewing to the bottom line party doctrine that individuals and firms ought to be able to dump carbon into the atmosphere for free.
Climate change denial remains rife in Republican ranks, of course – CAP Action counts 56% of Congressional Republicans in the “climate denier caucus”.  But look closely and the signs are of the first troops starting to back away, hopefully heralding the very beginnings of a full-scale retreat.
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The latest fashion among right-wing trolls?  Attempt to halt all criticism of the Koch Brothers by bringing up the name of environmentalist billionaire Tom Steyer.  We have our billionaire political donors, you have yours – what’s the difference?

Ah, false equivalency, the last refuge of the simple mind.  Well, in case you need some troll repellent, here are four fun facts demonstrating the enormous differences between Steyer & the Kochs:

1) Making money vs. losing it: As Steyer puts it, the Kochs’ priorities “line up perfectly with their pocketbooks — and that’s not true for us.”

If you want to know why the Koch brothers went to the bother of spending hundreds of millions of dollars to create a vast infrastructure for casting doubt on climate science, well, it’s not too hard to find a motive.  Just check out their stake in oil and petrochemicals, investments whose value is likely to go down the moment we put a price on carbon dioxide emissions.

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Cross-posted at Blue Virginia

It's not enough to tell people that Barbara Comstock is too extreme to be the 10th District's next US Representative. Better to cite some examples -- of which few are as devastating as her support for giving fertilized eggs the legal status of people.

This past legislative session, Comstock voted for Delegate Bob Marshall's fetal personhood bill -- giving it crucial cover as one of only 5 Republican women in the House of Delegates. But this was not just another bill about which reasonable people might disagree -- more like the legislative version of a hand grenade.

Waldo Jaquith describes the potential impact of this bill better than anyone:

Of the 30,826 laws in the Code of Virginia, 11,482 of them—37%—contain the word “person.” And there are 118 different things that “person” means in those 11,482 laws, because there are very specific things that they need to mean. Under Virginia law, a business cannot be guilty of murder[...]

It is through this lens that I was alarmed to read Del. Bob Marshall’s HB 1: [...] “A bill to construe the word 'person' under Virginia law, including but not limited to § 8.01-50 of the Code of Virginia, to include unborn children."

Wow. All 118 definitions of the word “person” would suddenly be amended to include “fetus.” This bill would serve as a wrecking ball against the Code of Virginia. Dozens and dozens of carefully constructed definitions would suddenly be rendered syntactically and legally ridiculous.

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Cross-posted at Blue Virginia

Had enough of the brain-dead "debate" over government in Washington?  Well, Aneesh Chopra -- President Obama's former Chief Technology Officer (CTO) and a 2013 candidate for Virginia Lieutenant Governor -- has some actual new ideas to offer.

In his new book, Innovative State, Chopra paints a picture of government on the model of a sleek, high tech startup, engaging citizens and solving problems by opening access to information and finding innovative new ways to meet our highest goals.

Progressives recognize the need for government to help citizens build and maintain a civilized society.  But to be effective, we have to push our governments to keep up with the speed, efficiency and challenges of the Internet Era.  As Chopra puts it:

Americans have always understood that government is not some sacred entity with which the people should not tamper.  It is a tool.  Like other tools, it needs to be revised and upgraded to remain useful.
As he notes, America’s founders junked their first attempt at self-government -- the Articles of Confederation -- after only 8 years when it proved inadequate.  Why cling to outdated and inadequate government models today?
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Cross-posted at Blue Virginia

In George Orwell’s Animal Farm, the pigs on Mr. Jones’ farm lead an animal revolt against him – a revolution based on high principles, which one by one the pigs violate as they begin to act like the men they replaced.  As the pigs start walking on two legs, they replace their slogan “Four legs good, two legs bad” with the new, improved “Four legs good, two legs better.”

I thought of Orwell as I listened to Dave Brat’s latest speech celebrating his victory over House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (VA House District 8)– and announcing his choice of Cantor’s former political director to be his new campaign manager.  Well, that revolution didn’t last long, did it?

The media, of course, has been full of commentary about the Tea Party “revolt” against the “Republican establishment”.  But we’ve heard too few good explanations of what this “revolt” is really about.

If you were to search for the core of modern conservatism – the driving force and principle at the heart of it – you will find that it is not fundamentally driven by religion, by prejudice, by support for the military, by love of guns or rural values.  All of these perspectives are certainly important, particularly to the GOP grassroots.  But what drives this party – more than ever before – is the money, support and agenda of the most enormous corporations on Earth.  This is the party of the Koch Brothers, the party of ALEC, the party of Exxon-Mobil and Wall Street.

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Sun Jun 08, 2014 at 06:02 PM PDT

BREAKING: Treachery in 'Ol Virginny

by kindler

Cross-posted at Blue Virginia

Benedict Arnold. Judas Iscariot. Brutus. Quisling.

Add to the names of history’s traitors one Phillip Puckett. This former Democrat apparently made a deal to resign his Virginia state Senate seat just to hand the majority to the GOP. In return he gets – no, not thirty pieces of silver, but a seat on the Tobacco Commission and a judgeship for his daughter.

Judges, you know, those people who are supposed to administer the law fairly, honestly and dispassionately? You might think that obtaining the job through such sleazebaggery would taint the rest of her career a bit.

Is this act of openly bribing a state official even legal? All I know is that if Republicans want to play such unscrupulous, hardball, no-holds-barred politics, the answer is not to respond by playing patty cake with them. If they are going to take power through dishonest means, just playing along is not the way to honor or maintain a democracy.  

If they want a fight, let’s give them a fight.  Let’s shout out our protest everywhere from social media to the streets. Democrats should boycott every institution rendered illegitimate by this dirty act, from the General Assembly to Mr. Puckett’s daughter’s courtroom.  

Virginia was born when the people in this colony could no longer brook the tyranny of King George III. From that fight we gained democratic governance. Now we need to fight to bring that principle back.

Discuss

Cross-posted at Blue Virginia

Barbara Comstock, who wants to be the chief lawmaker for Virginia's 10th Congressional District, has a fatal attraction to law-breakers.  She has literally made a career of defending Republicans guilty of crimes, corruption, even treason.  And by "defending", I don't mean saying a few nice things about -- I mean creating and leading big legal defense funds and PR campaigns aimed to keep these crooks out of jail.  

Don't believe me?  Here are two names to recall from the recent past: "Scooter" Libby and Tom De Lay.

Exhibit A: I. Lewis "€œScooter"€ Libby, Dick Cheney's Chief of Staff, was notorious for leaking the name of undercover CIA agent Valerie Plame in 2003 -- to punish her husband for revealing the faulty intelligence underlying George Bush's claims that Saddam Hussein's Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.  With this act of political retribution, the man threatened the lives of agents in the field.

So who stepped forward to "mastermind the Scooter Libby defense committee"?  None other than Comstock, "a corporate lobbyist and Bush loyalist bearing checks with Libby’s name on them."  

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Cross-posted at Blue Virginia

Way back in the distant past -- 2013, to be precise -- Virginia GOP leaders were denouncing Terry McAuliffe as a Washington insider unfit to be governor of a state on the OTHER side of the Potomac.

Today, the Virginia Republican party is proudly touting Washington insider candidates in its two most prominent races: Ed Gillespie for U.S. Senator, and Barbara Comstock for 10th District U.S. Representative -- who shall hereafter be referred to as "the Beltway Bandit Twins."

Do you really know what these two have done while slithering through the rankest political sewers of our nation's capitol?  Now is your chance to test your knowledge.  Identify who -- Gillespie or Comstock -- did which of the following.  Answers (with sources) below the fold, so you can rank your scores.  No peeking!

1) Defended George W. Bush's claim that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction: "British Intelligence stands by their assessment that the Iraqis sought to purchase uranium from Niger. That’s a fact today, and it was a fact when the President said it 7 months ago."
2) Created committee to defend "Scooter" Libby, Dick Cheney's former aide, after he leaked the name of CIA agent Valerie Plame in an act of retribution.
3) Served as lead investigator for former Congressman Dan Burton's committee, famous for hounding Bill Clinton with conspiracy theories.
4) According to ex-conservative David Brock, "once dropped by my house to watch the rerun of a dreadfully dull Whitewater hearing...screaming over and over again, 'Liars!'"

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Despite all the bad influences on the U.S. media, there remain a large vestige of serious journalists doing excellent work.  But their efforts are drowned out by the cacophony of often shamelessly demagogic punditry that now drives the media wagon.  

While true journalism has genuine, time-honored standards (getting the facts right, digging for the hidden truth, cultivating and respecting sources), punditry has absolutely none.  Pundits have zero obligation to tell the truth, to make accurate predictions, to engage in any journalism of their own.  

This has been proven as newspapers and TV stations have shown not the slightest interest in subjecting climate change denying pundits like George Will and Charles Krauthammer to any discipline or pressure to get their facts straight.  No, because all they're doing is "expressing opinions." And they clearly have been granted lifetime appointments, like Supreme Court Justices.

It's complete amateur hour, yet it is now driving our media and political narratives.  As star journalists are drawn to spend more time bloviating on cable TV than chasing down leads or writing stories, their work suffers, and the public debate is cheapened and made more frustrating and often worthless.

Meanwhile, the point-counterpoint model creates the impression that no problem is ever resolvable, since there are always two equal sides, and -- of course -- both are equally right and equally wrong.  It's no surprise that in such a situation so many Americans are left confused and disillusioned about their democracy.

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Cross posted at Blue Virginia

It's 2014 and we just spent one more year failing to respond to global climate disruption.  So please join me in my New Year's Resolution to move on from debating climate science to developing climate policy.

I am as guilty as anyone of spending more time debating climate denial trolls than actually crafting solutions, lobbying to get them passed and working to ensure they are adopted.  This unproductive situation is the result of the effective diversionary tactic developed and executed by the Koch brothers, Exxon Mobil and the other fossil fuel titans who have spent millions to sow doubt about climate change through a huge network of organizations, individuals, websites and blogs.  

Their endless factoids and talking points would only make sense if pretty much the entire global scientific establishment were engaged in the biggest conspiracy that the world has ever known.  Which is, quite simply, science fiction.  

As long as we remain stuck on this phony debate over settled science, however, we remain one step away from working to actually reduce greenhouse gas emissions and prevent the climate change that is already happening from turning truly catastrophic.

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Cross-posted at Blue Virginia

This past week, the Los Angeles Times took a little-noticed step that could have a profound impact on your children’s and grandchildren’s future: it decided to ban climate change deniers from its pages.  If this step catches on and spreads to other media outlets, it could finally lead us away from the distraction of the phony, manufactured “debate” over the existence and causes of the global climate disruption and actually get down to the real work of confronting this challenge.  

Editor Paul Thorton was admirably simple and direct on this point:

[W]hen deciding which letters should run among hundreds on such weighty matters as climate change, I must rely on the experts -- in other words, those scientists with advanced degrees who undertake tedious research and rigorous peer review.

And those scientists have provided ample evidence that human activity is indeed linked to climate change. Just last month, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change -- a body made up of the world's top climate scientists -- said it was 95% certain that we fossil-fuel-burning humans are driving global warming. The debate right now isn't whether this evidence exists (clearly, it does) but what this evidence means for us.

Simply put, I do my best to keep errors of fact off the letters page; when one does run, a correction is published. Saying "there's no sign humans have caused climate change" is not stating an opinion, it's asserting a factual inaccuracy.  [Emphasis added]

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Cross-posted at Blue Virginia

If you want to know the source of the conspiracy theories floating around Virginia Democratic gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe's former company, GreenTech Auto, look no further than a little website named Watchdog.org and its so-called "Virginia bureau."  It sounds like some sort of muckraking investigative site -- until a closer look reveals that this is in fact a watchdog trained to only bark at Democrats and wag its tail at Republicans.

However, it's not just another volunteer-based, opinionated blog like, say, Blue Virginia.  Watchdog is funded by big corporate, conservative interests -- including the Koch brothers -- to essentially manage the opposition research for campaigns like Ken Cuccinelli's so that the campaigns can focus their time and money on other things.  

They're certainly not legitimate journalists, but they've established their "bureaus" in state capitals across the country, and some state capital correspondents' associations grant them press credentials.  Unfortunately that includes our very own Virginia Capital Correspondents Association, of which Watchdog's Kenric Ward -- unlike any other blogger or lobbyist -- is allowed to be a member.

Thanks to some investigative journalism done about them, here's what we do know about the shadowy Watchdog.org:

It gets big bucks from right wing donors:  Watchdog is run by the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity, which itself was launched by the conservative Sam Adams Alliance.  These groups are so tied in to all the other major Tea Party power brokers and organizations that it's hard to go through all those links without pulling out a progressive version of Glenn Beck's chalkboard.  

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