Category Archives: Politics

Maybe it really is time to kick out the incumbents

When things don’t go well for some time, it is apparently reasonable to suggest that we need to kick out the incumbents, and I think it might be time to kick out the incumbents in religion. Christianity has been around for a long time and controlled kings and empires, and “peace on earth good will to men” has not happened. Christian Dominionists keep war against unbelievers on the front burner. Islam is a few years younger than Christianity, and they have that whole jihad terrorist fatwa thing going — a state of affairs that is not evidence of progress in meeting expectations for the good life. Judaism is over three thousand years old, and their God promised a lot more than has been delivered. Peace is even farther away from realization because each group has its own supremacists, which means we are all condemned to war until the last sect standing.

I am not suggesting that we kick out the incumbent God. God is either there and impervious to kicking out, or not there to kick out in the first place. But we do not hear directly from God, we hear from God’s managers, translators, handlers, and emissaries who tell us what God wants us to do. They have had thousands of years to get the message right, and somehow the whole group of prelates, bishops, imams, preachers, prophets, gurus, rabbis, evangelists, and even the Pope himself, have been ineffective. If we kicked them all out and replaced them with people who weren’t so much into the ideology, or the organization, or the profitability model, or whatever it is that has them stuck, maybe we would get a better result.

Note from Tom Brewster, 9th District Democratic Chair

Tom Brewster, Ninth District Democratic Chair, sends this message to Democrats in the Ninth District:

Wednesday, November 3, 2010, 12:05 PM

Dear 9th District Committee, Chairs, and Special Friends,

I know that each one of you share my sentiments of disappointment over last night’s election results. Personally, I would like to thank our Congressman for his hard work, dedication, and loyalty to our 9th District Committee, Democratic Party, and constituents of the 9th Congressional District. Words cannot express our appreciation for his outstanding service. I look forward to continuing to work with Congressman Boucher on new and exciting projects in the future. He is no doubt the best Congressman in the United States of America.

Now comes the difficult part, regrouping. It is important that we continue to grow our party and strengthen our organization here in the 9th Congressional District. I would love feedback on what our priorities should be as we move forward. Our local democratic committees, candidates, and elected officials need us now more than ever.

On a positive note, congratulations to 9th District Committee member, Joseph Puckett, on his election to the Russell County Board of Supervisors!

Thank you for your work during this campaign. I look forward to seeing you soon.


Jon Stewart’s moment of sincerity at the Rally to Restore


It’s the semantics

Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, R-VA, is fighting implementation of HCR in Virginia (using Virginia taxpayer money) based on two semantic points:

  1. The commerce clause of the U.S. Constitution allows Congress to regulate “activities that substantially affect interstate commerce.” Cuccinelli is arguing that under this clause, the U.S. cannot require individuals to purchase insurance or pay a fine for not doing so because not purchasing insurance is not “activity,” rather, he says, it is “inactivity,” non-participation in health care commerce.
  2. The Constitution gives Congress broad powers of taxation, and the fine for not purchasing health insurance would be collected when taxes are filed. Cuccinelli argues that the fine does not qualify as a “tax,” and is rather a “penalty” not covered by the powers of taxation.

Regarding the first argument, nobody chooses not to participate in health care. When the car stops spinning and flipping over and they pull you out of the wreck unconscious, you don’t have a card in your wallet that says, “I participate in health care. Please take me to the hospital.” There is no alternative to taking you to the hospital. If you put a card in your wallet that says “I chose not to participate in health care. Let me bleed to death here on the road,” the responders will still take you to the hospital. They are mandated to care for you, and they don’t have time to check your wallet. They are checking your vital signs and tying you to a rigid transport device in case your neck is broken. You will go to the hospital. If you have insurance, your insurance pays. If you don’t have insurance, everyone else pays for you in the form of higher premiums and/or tax-supported services. Everyone is in the health care market because no one can be turned away from an emergency room. Refusal or neglect to purchase insurance in this case is an active choice to let everyone else bear the cost when you need care.

Regarding the second argument, in Virginia we have a $500.00 uninsured motorist fee. If you go to register a car and you do not have insurance, you pay that fee. An uninsured motorist gets nothing for the $500.00. It is not a tax. It is a pure penalty for not purchasing insurance. The fee is put into a fund that is parceled out to insurance companies to reimburse them for their losses due to uninsured motorists interacting with their paying subscribers. So in Virginia, you pay a penalty for not purchasing the required insurance, you get no insurance for the fee, and the fee goes to subsidize the insurance that other residents have purchased.

In view of this Virginia requirement, it appears that Cuccinelli’s argument is political as well as semantic, since he has raised no objection to the Virginia statute. Virginia solicitor general Duncan Getchell told the court that by requiring individuals to purchase a commercial product, the U.S. government was exercising authority that is “unprecedented, unlimited, and unsupportable in any serious regime of delegated, enumerated powers.” I take issue with the “unprecedented,” because Virginia has a precedent. One well-documented requirement to meet a defined need does not qualify as “unlimited,” and since the need is defined and documented, it is apparently not “unsupportable.”

Uninsured in Virginia

The Bristol Herald Courier reported today that Virginia U.S. District Judge Henry Hudson will rule by the end of the year on the constitutionality of the new health care reform law. The suit was brought by Virginia State Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, using Virginia taxpayer money. It alleges that the HCR provision requiring individuals to purchase health insurance is not a proper exercise of the government’s authority.

In the motor vehicle code in Virginia, there is a provision that corresponds to the HCR requirement to purchase. Virginia requires people who register a vehicle to have insurance or pay an uninsured motorist fee to help pay for damage done by people without insurance. This is the same motivation for the requirement to purchase that is included in HCR, since everyone at some time needs medical care, and forcing the cost of your care on other people while keeping your money in your pocket is just not nice.

If Virginia’s objection to requirement to purchase is upheld, then in order to have health care in the United States, we will have to fund it with tax dollars. The suit recognizes that the federal government has the power to levy taxes. It follows that if health care reform had come to us with a tax-payer funded public option or with single payer, apparently there would have been no objection from Virginia. However, those of us with good notes or sufficient memory of the last couple of years know that Republicans wanted people to purchase insurance from private insurers.

For reference, here from the Virginia Division of Motor Vehicles is information on the Uninsured Motorist Fee. Note that it does not raise revenue for the state to use. It sustains a fund that is paid out to insurers, but the citizen who pays the money has no protection. This fee serves the same purpose as the HCR requirement to purchase, but carries no benefit for citizen who pays:

Uninsured Motor Vehicle Fee — information for citizens:

The Virginia Uninsured Motor Vehicle (UMV) fee allows a motor vehicle owner to register an uninsured motor vehicle. At the time of registration, the motor vehicle owner must certify whether the vehicle is insured or uninsured.

If the vehicle is uninsured, the motor vehicle owner is required to pay to DMV a $500 uninsured motor vehicle fee in addition to normal registration fees. Payment of the $500 fee does not provide the motorist with any insurance coverage. If involved in an accident, the uninsured motorist remains personally liable. This fee is valid for twelve months but may be prorated for a shorter amount of time.

Motor vehicle owners who falsely certify that they have insurance and are found by DMV to be uninsured face stiff penalties. In addition to facing suspension of all driver and registration privileges, compliance includes payment of a $500 statutory fee, a $85 reinstatement fee and filing proof of insurance for three years. During the three-year period, insurance companies cooperate with DMV by providing notification if a policy is canceled. This requirement to maintain proof of insurance enables DMV to ensure that these motor vehicle owners maintain liability insurance on their registered vehicles.

This information is posted on the same website for insurers, and describes how the money is held and dispersed:

Uninsured Motor Vehicle Fee — information for insurers:

Every person registering an uninsured motor vehicle shall pay a fee of $500 at the time of registration. Payment of this fee allows a motor vehicle owner to operate an uninsured motor vehicle. Payment of this fee does not provide the motorist with any insurance coverage. If involved in an accident, the uninsured motorist remains personally liable. The fee is valid for twelve months but may be prorated for the unexpired portion of the registration period.

Uninsured Motorists Fund
As provided for by Motor Vehicle Code 46.2-710, all revenue collected by DMV as a result of registering an uninsured vehicle is paid into the state treasury and held in a special fund known as the Uninsured Motorists Fund. The purpose of the Fund is to reduce the cost of uninsured motorist insurance coverage. Moneys are distributed annually from the Fund among the insurers writing motor vehicle bodily injury and property damage liability insurance on vehicles registered in Virginia. Moneys are distributed in proportion that each insurer’s premium income for the basic uninsured motorists limits coverage bears to the total premium income for basic uninsured motorists coverage written in Virginia during the preceding year.

Worst reasons to vote for a candidate

I have been calling voters, and most of them are interested in the issues or at least know what one or two of the issues are. Some are still in Neverland. Here are the worst reasons I have heard to vote for a candidate:

  • The candidate is a good Christian — bad reason because you can’t know this.
  • The candidate is not a good Christian — see above.
  • The candidate will protect marriage — bad reason because there is nothing a candidate can do to protect marriage. Get some counseling, and quit acting like it is someone else’s fault. The candidate who is promising to protect marriage is actually going to do away with the minimum wage, Social Security and Medicare, and what is that going to do to your marriage? Your mother-in-law will have to move in with you and you or your spouse will have to get a third job.
  • The candidate will end abortion — bad reason because nobody is going to do this by passing laws against abortion. Overturning Roe v. Wade will not end abortion. If you want to end abortion, find the candidate who will guarantee children free health care and a good education and promise to work for a living wage for parents. Life is cruel and hard. Make it less cruel and hard, and you will get so many children running around that you will have to figure out something to do about overpopulation.
  • The candidate is an incumbent — bad reason because it is only half of a reason. You should vote for an incumbent doing a good job, and against an incumbent who isn’t. If you can’t tell the difference, you should start reading the newspaper.
  • The candidate is not an incumbent, need some new blood, etc. etc. out with the old in with the new — a bad reason because it is only half of a reason. When you get a new model, pay at least as much attention to the features of the new candidate as you would to the features of a new refrigerator. Different is not necessarily better.

Attorney General Cuccinelli’s Town Hall Rally

Virginia Attorney General Cuccinelli arrived early for the Town Hall in Abingdon on Thursday, Sept. 2nd, and he circulated among the gathering crowd in a very personable manner, followed along at a discrete distance by Morgan Griffith, Virginia State Representative from the 8th District, who is running against Congressman Rich Boucher for the Ninth District seat in the U.S. Congress. The topic of the town hall was of course Cap and Trade, the issue that Griffith has defined as the vulnerable point for Boucher in the Ninth.

Knowing the issue well and being familiar with the rhetoric surrounding it as well as the stark reality of the human and environmental cost of coal and oil production, I heard little new in Mr. Cuccinelli’s presentation. He did, however, reference a study by the Heritage Foundation showing Virginia utility rates doubling by 2035 due to Cap and Trade. He also predicted that Virginia would lose 50,000 associated jobs. He said that many studies had been made, but this was the “most credible study.”

I was unable to find the study that Mr. Cuccinelli cited on the Heritage Foundation web page, and I went to Mr. Cuccinelli’s web page to see if he had posted a link to the study, but I could not find it there either. I went back today for another search. The site has no search function, and I went through many menus, finally locating the figures that were quoted in a “paper,” not a study.

So I can stop wondering how the “credible” study was constructed, whether it took into account the projected development of clean energy production, or whether it considered jobs created in clean energy in the job loss prediction. It does not matter what it considers, because it is a paper and not a study. The predictions in the paper have the same weight as the claim that I remember did so much damage to the fight for an Equal Rights Amendment for women, the one that said if we had an equal rights amendment women would all have to grow chest hair. But a paper is not a study. I digress.

The predictions of the paper were given more credibility by inclusion as a slide in Mr. Cuccinelli’s PowerPoint presentation.

The lone speaker at the Town Hall for environmental issues was repeatedly interrupted with shouts of “Sit down!” and “Shut up!” Mr. Cuccinelli interrupted him to ask “Do you have a question?” This was surprising, since he had explained earlier that some of the best ideas put forward by legislators in Richmond come from constituents, and told folks he was here to hear questions, comments, and suggestions.

The USA may be the last place in the world to have clean energy because our elected officials are deeply invested in and indebted to dirty energy at both state and federal levels. They actively deny opportunity in research and development, or we would already be burning coal cleaner than we do. Mr. Cuccinelli pointed out one such denial, Virginia’s refusal to consider even a portion of the $10,000,000 cost of carbon sequestration research in a rate hike request by a Dominion Power. This denial was also in his PowerPoint. He was taking credit for making sure that the power company did not pass along the cost of this R&D effort to the consumer.

The actual difference between the position of Rick Boucher and the position of Morgan Griffith in the matter of Cap and Trade is minimal, and the difference in what actually comes about will never be known. We will elect one or the other and never be able to compare them. Of course the loser in the contest always gets political sniping rights, so whomever we elect, the other one will be able to say he could have done better. That is the way politics works.

I hope that people in the Ninth recognize the ability that Congressman Boucher has to represent them in Washington, that they will think of the clean water, jobs, broadband, roads, and other infrastructure that he has brought to the Ninth District. Surely they can see his commitment to coal if they are looking. I can see it very clearly, and I wish he had a little less commitment to coal. But coal production is one of those complex issues that would get better for everyone if we could look straight at it and work on creating better processes.

I hope also that Ninth District voters in November will remember Congressman Boucher’s many services to individuals in the district, both Democrat and Republican. If a person lives in the Ninth and cannot personally name four or five people who have been assisted over the years by Congressman Boucher, that person has not been paying attention.

What a kilowatt-hour costs

At last night’s Town Hall in Bristol, Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell expressed support for off-shore wind energy, and I want to respond to his statement that we cannot afford the move to clean energy because the price per kilowatt-hour is higher for clean energy.

I believe in general that there is common ground between factions in our state and in our nation even at this most contentious time, and the common ground is the common good. I am by commitment holding fast to the idea that people all want to be happy, and nobody wants to see anybody else suffer. For the most part, disagreements arise among us because some people see the world as simple and compartmentalized, and others see the world as incredibly complex and interrelated.

With regard to the clean energy question, the objection of cost per kilowatt-hour appears reasonable if we compartmentalize energy production. We look at a power plant, calculate its costs, and arrive at a selling price that we call the cost per kilowatt-hour. We balance this cost against the effect of carbon emissions, which some of us still question. This distraction keeps us from seeing other immediately quantifiable and visible costs of dirty energy production that are distributed over the ecological and economic community.

If we can see past the simple formula we now use for cost per kilowatt-hour, we can see that a more accurate reflection of the cost of coal and oil energy production would have to include these costs as well:

  • land use lost to pollution from run-off and residue
  • health effects of fly ash that dusts heavy metals and radiation across our landscape and in our children’s schools and play areas
  • loss to sea and maritime industries including food production related to oil spills at sea
  • cleanup from oil spills at sea
  • losses to insurers and investors when coal and oil production damages occur
  • loss of income to families of dead or disabled workers
  • medical care and loss of income associated with black lung and similar rock and coal dust effects to miners
  • costs of oil-related conflicts like the wars in Iraq and in Afghanistan.

I am sure that I have left out something in this formula, but you can see the point. To compartmentalize the calculation of costs we pay for carbon-based energy to the amount that a power plant has to charge for a kilowatt-hour is neither honest nor accurate. We are paying more for dirty energy than we think we are, because in the interest of dirty energy, our economy must absorb all of these costs.

Why I am voting for Rick Boucher in November

Anyone familiar with the posts on this web site knows that I am not in agreement with Congressman Rick Boucher on some issues. I am, however, supporting him with my vote in November. Here are the reasons why:

  • He has always kept his local office open for his constituents, and over the years he has helped countless people with Social Security, black lung claims, and other needs. His office is central to us as a place where we find help.
  • He knows the Ninth District, it is his home as it is mine, and he has demonstrated over the years that he understands and cares about the Ninth.
  • He works hard in Washington. He is virtually always present for votes, and he always represents the Ninth.
  • He supports women’s right to choose. He knows, as everyone should, that anti-abortion legislation will not stop abortions. Ultimately it will be women who repudiate abortion and find a better way. We will do that one by one, by our own personal choices, because we love babies more than governments and churches do. In nations with abortion on demand, the abortion rate is already lower than ours. Women choose babies, and most of the people working in childcare and child advocacy are women. Your Mom was a woman. When women choose, children win.
  • He isn’t a tax and spend liberal, because he always knows where the money is going. But he is also not an ideologue dedicated to a failed mantra of “No, no, no” that he has to keep reciting. In today’s definition, he is right of center, a true representative of the Ninth.
  • He understands Cap and Trade. I want clean energy, but I understand how coal fits into our economy, so I understand his focus. The move to clean energy will be made, perhaps within our lifetimes. Cap and Trade is a transitional compromise that lets our miners keep working. Without Congressman Boucher’s influence, the Cap and Trade rules would be more difficult for Virginia coal miners. I hope nobody votes against Congressman Boucher because of his hard work on Cap and Trade. If they do, they will be tossing away their best chance of continuing to do business.
  • He has brought us recognition, jobs, money, and resources. He is committed to our people and our economic development. He has worked consistently to build infrastructure, roads, broadband access, and utilities including clean water to people in the Ninth. He has brought in companies and businesses. We need him to continue this important work.

What bears repeating

If there were critical fact-based comment, people would notice that under the “small government” conservatives, government grew by leaps and bounds. Also, they would see that the surplus that “tax-and-spend” liberals handed to cost-conscious conservatives was rendered — by conservatives — into a staggering deficit.

“How American Democracy Isn’t Working,” from way back on March 4th.