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Username: Elaine in Roanoke
PersonId: 171
Created: Sat May 09, 2009 at 08:38:58 AM EDT
Elaine in Roanoke's RSS Feed

"Kookinelli" - Virginia's Embarrassment

by: Elaine in Roanoke

Fri Apr 02, 2010 at 11:55:42 AM EDT

(Also posted at Blue Virginia)

Here he goes again. Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli vows once more to sue the federal government. Now, he is challenging  the Obama administration and Environmental Protection Agency's new fuel efficiency standards for cars and trucks.

Cuccinelli has already filed suit against the EPA's determination that it can regulate greenhouse gases because they cause global warming and are harmful to human health. A Cuccinelli  spokesman said the EPA's announcement of fuel efficiency standards amounts to a "tacit denial" of Cooch's insistence that the EPA reconsider its greenhouse gases determination.

Well, duh...Of course it does.

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Bolling: Latest Blip on Hypocrite Radar

by: Elaine in Roanoke

Wed Mar 31, 2010 at 17:41:22 PM EDT

(Also posted at Blue Virginia)

We all have had chuckles - plus a large dose of disgust - watching all the Republicans who railed against the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and voted en masse against it, proceed to tout the benefits in their own districts. Now, Bob McDonnell's hand-picked "jobs czar," Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling, is joining their ranks.

Bolling spent last year attacking the federal "stimulus bill,"  saying that all the efforts to combat the Wall-Street-greed-driven Great Recession, were "massive federal spending bills that would result in the largest expansion of government in 40 years" and "will balloon the size of the federal government and increase the federal debt dramatically, and...do little to stimulate economic growth."

Now, Bolling has gotten stimulus religion, Last week, according to the Washington Post, the lieutenant governor, speaking on behalf of his boss Bob McDonnell, praised almost 40 energy conservation projects proposed by local governments in Virginia. The cost - funds from the Recovery Act - totals $13.2 million.

"Jobs will be the first dividend from these innovative programs and projects, but they also have the potential to save tax dollars and reduce energy costs for Virginians for years to come,"  Bolling said.

I have just one comment: Welcome to the "GOP Hypocrisy Hall of Shame," Mr. Bolling.

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Myths about the State Budget

by: Elaine in Roanoke

Tue Mar 30, 2010 at 11:03:03 AM EDT

(Cross-posted at Blue Virginia)

Here we go again. Gov. Bob McDonnell wants to walk in the footsteps of George Allen and shrink the big, bad, state government. When Allen tried that, it was simply a smokescreen for his radical conservative agenda. He was more interested in  vouchers for private schools and privatizing mental health and child support services than in ending unnecessary state spending.

Conservatives in the GOP always throw around this budget figure: "State spending over the past decade has grown 73 percent in the past 10 years." NOT TRUE.

The figure bandied about by those who begrudge any state revenue going to anyone except themselves includes directed funds, such as money that gives tuition help to state colleges. According to the latest JLARC report, the actual increase in state spending for the General Fund  in the last 10 years is 46 percent.

If one is honest and corrects that figure for inflation and state population growth (10 percent), the state budget has grown only 8 percent over 10 years, or less than 1 percent per year. That is hardly profligate state spending.

However, here we go again...  

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Cuccinelli - Governor's Mansion Fever or Potomac Fever?

by: Elaine in Roanoke

Sun Mar 28, 2010 at 11:42:36 AM EDT

I can't figure out what is driving Ken Cuccinelli to make himself the center of attention and the guy in the McDonnell administration that is hogging all the headlines. Is he already running for governor? Does he have aspirations for some Washington job? Perhaps he wants to vie with the Republican governor to get his name on some short list for vice president. Or, perhaps he is just an egomaniac who has to be the center of attention.

Whatever drives him, he has made sure he filled the headlines and airwaves with his agenda. First, there was the filing of a lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency, stating that, in Kenny's estimation, the agency has no authority to regulate CO2 emissions (even though the present conservative Supreme Court has already ruled that it does.)

Next came that letter to all the state colleges and universities, telling them to go ahead and discriminate against GLBT employees and students.

He followed that with his ridiculous lawsuit against the recently passed health reform legislation. His suit is based on the "supremacy" - in his mind - of a Virginia law denying the right of the federal government to mandate individuals to have health insurance. I guess Cuccinelli didn't check the wording of the law he so vehemently opposes.

There is NO penalty - financial or criminal - for anyone who fails to pay the penalty the law imposes for those who refuse to have health insurance. Thus, there is no standing to sue because no one will have damages because of their failure to follow the mandate ("Waiver of Criminal Penalties" and "Limitations on Liens and Levies" sections of the law)

Maybe Cooch wants the overturn of the health reform law under the pre-Civil War idea of nullification. (Probably, he just wants more publicity, knowing that his suit will fail.)

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Cantor Needs Phobia Treatment

by: Elaine in Roanoke

Fri Mar 26, 2010 at 21:19:18 PM EDT

I have decided that the best way to be able to stomach Ken Cuccinelli and Eric Cantor is to expose them to the healing powers of satire and parody. So, here goes....

Poor Eric Cantor (R-7th). He is soooo afraid. He can't stand his own shadow. He told us just a day or so ago how scared he was, how someone had shot into his Richmond office, and he was also scared because he is Jewish. Now, the Richmond police inform us that the shot fired into a downtown building containing an office occasionally used by Rep. Eric Cantor was "a stray bullet from random gunfire."

A bullet on a downward track broke a front windowpane in a building at 25 E. Main Street on  Tuesday, police said. There is no sign identifying the building as a campaign headquarters for Cantor. In fact, the office is only occasionally used by Cantor or his staff and is not even listed on his website as one of his offices.

I actually think that Little Eric suffers from "Demophobia." This mental affliction is highly contagious among GOPers and Tea Pots. They see a liberal conspiracy around every corner. They confuse fascism, socialism and communism, but they are sure - somehow - that the BIG, BAD Democrats are all three at the same time.

Plus, according to frightened little Eric, we "evil" Democrats are so mean that we stir up all the the "good" Americans and then "force" them to write us obscene emails, to scream and spit at us, to hurl epithets at us, to commit vandalism at our homes and offices. We are that B...A...D..., according to Little Eric.

I want Eric to know that therapists do have treatments for phobias like the one he suffers from. Some are described below.

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Cantor: Another GOP Embarrassment

by: Elaine in Roanoke

Thu Mar 25, 2010 at 19:49:21 PM EDT

As if the Virginia Republicans hadn't inflicted enough on the rest of us with the timid, hesitating guy who was elected governor and the fire-breathing wing nut who became attorney general, now we have Rep. Eric Cantor (R-7th), GOP House whip, blaming the Democrats for the crazies that the GOP encouraged and assisted in their campaign to demonize the President of the United States and the health care reform bill.

Now we have the absurdity of Cantor blaming the people who have been victimized by death threats and obscene comments left on answering machines for the hatred the Republican party has only too happily promoted.

Cantor angrily lashed out at several Democratic leaders, accusing them of "dangerously fanning the flames" by blaming the GOP. He said he, too, has also been the recipient of threats.

The incident he was evidently referring to was last week when Cantor's office in Richmond had a window broken by a bullet. Police now believe that someone fired a weapon in the air after hours, and the bullet broke the window as it fell to the earth. It did not even have enough force to penetrate the window's blinds.

(I once had my classroom penetrated by a bullet after school hours. A window was broken and the bullet lodged in the wall opposite the windows. The police determined the bullet was probably fired by vandals with no malice. So, Mr. Cantor, don't worry. Your incident was probably like mine.)

That's not what we are talking about here. We are discussing why Republicans have spent most of this year fanning the fires of extremism and why Eric Cantor would dare to blame the Democrats for it.

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Cuccinelli: Our Right-Wing Don Quixote

by: Elaine in Roanoke

Wed Mar 24, 2010 at 16:15:17 PM EDT

It only took minutes after health-care legislation was signed into law by President Barack Obama for Ken Cuccinelli to file his bogus lawsuit against the Federal government. State Solicitor General E. Duncan Getchell Jr. and Deputy Attorney General Wesley G. Russell Jr. filed his complaint in U.S. District Court in Richmond.

I absolutely agree with David Mills, executive director of the Virginia Democratic Party, who said the attorney general's office is being used as a "piggy bank for Ken Cuccinelli's political agenda." I might have worded it a bit stronger, but Mills is right on target.

Del. David L. Englin (D-Alexandria) decided to give people a way to fight back. He said, "This is an egregious waste of taxpayer dollars...[Cuccinelli] claims he's received nothing but positive feedback from Virginians, but I have constituents call me every day asking what they can do to oppose Cuccinelli's efforts."

So, Englin has started an online way for Virginians to tell Cuccinelli they oppose his action. A website (http://tools.advomatic.com/59/Cuccinelli) has been set up that will directly connect you with the office of the attorney general.

Cuccinelli's waste of tax money is simply the latest in a long history of recalcitrant reactionaries trying to use the courts to sabotage social progress.  

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Cuccinelli: Making Virginia Look Foolish

by: Elaine in Roanoke

Tue Mar 23, 2010 at 10:29:53 AM EDT

Virginia attorney general Ken Cuccinelli is insisting that he will file suit against the federal government because the recently passed health reform law requires citizens to either purchase health insurance (with or without government assistance, depending on income) or pay a fine.

According to our legally-challenged attorney general, the federal government has no constitutional right to insist that individuals purchase insurance.

Cuccinelli said in a statement released by his office. "We contend that if a person decides not to buy health insurance, that person - by definition - is not engaging in commerce, and therefore, is not subject to a federal mandate."

What does Kookinelli think about Virginia's mandate that drivers either purchase auto insurance or pay a large fee into the state "uninsured motorist fund"? Isn't that government insisting I and every other person who drives buy insurance?

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Jim Webb Gave It a Good Try

by: Elaine in Roanoke

Mon Mar 22, 2010 at 18:56:12 PM EDT

Our senior senator, Jim Webb, has proven many times that he is a populist in the best sense of the word. He has continued to advocate for those of us who are definitely not part of the social elite, whether we are veterans, laborers, or hard-pressed members of the middle class.

Not long ago, Jim Webb joined with Barbara Boxer of California to introduce an amendment to recent "tax extenders" legislation, which was designed to give taxpayers a chance to recoup a small bit of the money they provided to bail out the executives who got the global economy in the mess we are in.

The Webb-Boxer amendment would have provided for a one-time 50 percent tax on bonuses in excess of $400,000 paid to executives of Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and any other financial institution that received at least $5 billion through TARP. The "fairness" tax would apply only for the excess amount of the bonuses (and not on basic income) earned in 2009 and compensated in 2010.

As Sen. Webb said, the amendment "at a time of huge deficit spending...would recover $3.5 billion to $10 billion" for us taxpayers.

Want to guess where that perfectly reasonable idea went?

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GOP: Premier Nature Haters

by: Elaine in Roanoke

Sun Mar 21, 2010 at 11:39:02 AM EDT

The League of Conservation Voters has released its latest environmental scorecard for the first session of the 111th Congress. Not surprisingly, Virginia's Democratic representatives and senators score far higher than the state's Republicans.

Both Sens. Mark Warner and Jim Webb had 100% scores. Two votes that were especially significant were on the Omnibus Public Land Management Act and opposing a Republican amendment to appropriations for the Interior Department that would implement the Bush administration plan for offshore drilling in the outer continental shelf, including off Virginia.

The land management bill protected potential wilderness areas and designated areas as national scenic areas in the Jefferson National Forest. The bill also funded additional trails for recreation in that forest.

On the other side of the Capitol, Virginia Republicans showed their disdain for environmental protection.

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Hey GOP: It's Not Nice To Fool Mother Nature

by: Elaine in Roanoke

Sun Mar 21, 2010 at 11:38:07 AM EDT

The League of Conservation Voters has released its latest environmental scorecard for the first session of the 111th Congress. Not surprisingly, Virginia's Democratic representatives and senators score far higher than the state's Republicans.

Both Sens. Mark Warner and Jim Webb had 100% scores. Two votes that were especially significant were on the Omnibus Public Land Management Act and opposing a Republican amendment to appropriations for the Interior Department that would implement the Bush administration plan for offshore drilling in the outer continental shelf, including off Virginia.

The land management bill protected potential wilderness areas and designated areas as national scenic areas in the Jefferson National Forest. The bill also funded additional trails for recreation in that forest.

On the other side of the Capitol, Virginia Republicans showed their disdain for environmental protection.

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What's a Virginian To Do?

by: Elaine in Roanoke

Fri Mar 19, 2010 at 10:57:53 AM EDT

Texas has gone too far. Too far. I really didn't care when their bouffant-haired governor made his veiled threat to secede from the Union, as if the Civil War was just a bad dream. I even thought it was kind of nice how warmly Texans welcomed their most famous - or infamous - son home after he finished the most disastrous presidency since Herbert Hoover.

Now, however, that Texas State School Board has gone too far.

There are two truisms about Virginia that have lasted down the ages. The first is what William Faulkner's realized. All Southerners, and especially Virginians, never forget the past because it isn't even past to us. We revere our history. We treasure it, warts and all. Our history is like our family, worth defending at all costs.

The other truism is that there are three "saints" in Virginia's history, men who are above criticism, flawed as they might have been: Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson, and Thomas Jefferson.

How dare those twerpy, right-wing upstarts in Texas say that Thomas Jefferson's role in American history has to be downplayed simply because he understood that common sense demanded a separation between church and state!

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Is Virginia Providing "High Quality" Education?

by: Elaine in Roanoke

Thu Mar 18, 2010 at 11:20:47 AM EDT

Last week, a majority of the Roanoke City School Board voted to look into pursuing legal action against the Commonwealth of Virginia for an alleged breach of state constitutional rights. The board voted 5-2 on a motion that said the state - by cutting hundreds of millions of dollars in state aid to localities again in this budget - is not fulfilling its constitutional requirement to establish and maintain a high-quality program of education.

Specifically, the state constitution says that "the General Assembly shall provide for a system of free public elementary and secondary schools for all children of school age throughout the Commonwealth, and shall seek to ensure that an educational program of high quality is established and continually maintained."

Roanoke schools are facing another deficit of between $4 million and $16 million, depending on the details of the budget just passed by the state. Last year, the city privatized its transportation, closed two schools, eliminated all teacher aides except those required by federal mandates, and enlarged class size. This year, the worst case scenario would be the elimination more than 150 additional jobs, including 140 teachers.

While I seriously doubt that a lawsuit can accomplish anything other than to shine another spotlight on the drastic cuts in educational funding in the last few years and those in the upcoming biennium, localities are in a double bind because they have regularly supplemented state aid with additional dollars because the state funding has never met what most educators - or parents - believe constitutes a "quality education."

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Another Budget Casualty: Virginia's Pension System

by: Elaine in Roanoke

Tue Mar 16, 2010 at 19:12:51 PM EDT

The budget passed by the General Assembly for the next biennium not only screws over the poor, the children and the sick. It also will not pay more than $620 million that should be paid by the state into the Virginia Retirement System (VRS). Legislators did say that they will pay the money back with interest over the next decade. Even so, they compounded the shortfall to the state pension system by giving authority to localities to postpone or eliminate their payments into VRS.

Believe me, this situation won't sit well with the people who determine Virginia's bond rating. We may well be kissing that triple-A bond rating goodbye.

For several decades, there have been those in Richmond who have wanted to water down state employee and teacher retirement benefits. Now, the recession has given them a way to do what they wanted all along. I don't have any complaint with efforts to make sure the pension system is viable for future retirees. My gripe is when a few guys get in a back room in Richmond and basically decide what will be done with the retirement of state and local employees and teachers.

Just think. State support of K-12 education has dropped to the level it was four years ago. Medicaid, already one of the stingiest programs in the nation, has been hit hard again, and now the pension system is being used as a bank by the legislators. And, why?  

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Budget Casualty: Public Education

by: Elaine in Roanoke

Mon Mar 15, 2010 at 10:18:11 AM EDT

I've reconciled the apparent contradiction in a press release from the State Senate Democratic Caucus yesterday stating, "the final budget agreement makes $253 million in K-12 education cuts over the biennium, but prevents over $400 million in additional cuts that were desired by the House of Delegates," with the story in my local paper today, which states, "Direct aid to schools is cut by $645 million, excluding a funding cap on support staff."

It appears that the Democrats in the Senate were masking what is actually taking place with state financing of public education by pretending that the cuts proposed by former Gov. Kaine in December had actually been enacted, and then claiming that the budget agreement cut only $253 million from state aid.

The correct figure for the hit being taken by K-12 in this upcoming budget is $645 million. I will grant that the Democratic-controlled Senate kept the number from being Gov. Bob McDonnell's desired $731 million cut.

The GOP and the "Jobs Governor" are directly responsible for what they are doing to public education. McDonnell can start out his tally of "jobs" he is bringing to the Commonwealth by putting down a negative 15,000 to 25,000. That is the number of Virginians who will be thrown out of work so that schools can balance budgets with revenue that will be the same as what they received from the state in 2007.

Here's just one example:

Locally, the Roanoke City School Board met early this morning and approved a preliminary budget to send to city council, one cutting 146 full-time position, including 130 instructional positions.

Now, we always hear from the conservative Republicans that the schools should cut out the "fat" and keep teaching positions and schools open in all neighborhoods. That's impossible.

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Gov. Wimpy's Forgotten Promises

by: Elaine in Roanoke

Fri Mar 12, 2010 at 10:11:29 AM EST

I certainly hope that many people who thought they were voting for the guy best able to lead Virginia in this difficult time are rethinking their choice after a few months of seeing Bob McDonnell in action.

Robert McCartney of the Washington Post recently took stock of just how Gov. Bob McDonnell is or is not fulfilling the promises he made to voters, promises that were mainly responsible for his resounding victory over Creigh Deeds. The two promises McCartney looked at were McDonnell's promise to shrink the size of government and cut the budget without having to cut basic services to citizens and to lead from day one in solving our transportation mess, an issue that is so important to much of northern Virginia.  

So, let's see where the little guy stands on those issues - and a few more:

McDonnell's leadership on the massive budget shortfalls Virginia has consisted of recommending nothing to the legislature. Instead, he let them take all the heat for the cuts in basic services that the Republican "we-hate-government-no-new-taxes" philosophy dictates. Plus, his plan for tackling transportation morphed into a "plan" to delay any plan until next year because the legislature was "too busy."

During the campaign McDonnell told voters that Creigh Deeds' idea for a bipartisan commission to redistrict the state was a fine idea that he also embraced. It turns out his embrace meant smothering the idea and letting it die in the GOP-controlled House of Delegates.

Even his response to AG Ken Cuccinelli's terrible leap into gay-bashing at Virginia's colleges and universities was a halfhearted "executive directive" against discrimination that has no standing in the law. If he had followed both Mark Warner and Tim Kaine and issued an executive order against discrimination based on sexual orientation, then people would have had recourse in court. His  "executive directive" is worth absolutely nothing legally. It simply says that the governor doesn't want you to do that.

If this is leadership, then I have a fine, historic bridge in Brooklyn to sell you - cheap.

Let's continue looking at McDonnell's record so far.  

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The "Best" Legislature Money Can Buy

by: Elaine in Roanoke

Wed Mar 10, 2010 at 10:31:36 AM EST

As if I needed further proof of just how bad the influence of money on governance in Virginia has become, my local paper recently ran two stories that gave me two additional reasons to be disgusted by the ease with which  special interest money can buy our democracy.

One involved a revenue bill which appeared to have no opponents in the General Assembly until it found itself the target of a successful big-money lobbying effort that ultimately doomed it.

The second instance of political prostitution concerned bills that passed this week. Those bills, introduced by Sen. Steve Newman (R-Falwell) at the behest of Gov. Bob McDonnell, give the state a role in the creation - and funding - of charter, online and virtual schools despite objections from some that doing so would raid public school funding in a time of unprecedented budget cuts.

My disgust was caused by the fact that K12, a Herndon company that would benefit greatly from the online education part of the bill, was invited by the governor's office to sit in on working group sessions that essentially wrote the legislation.

I guess K12 got a good return on the $40,000 it donated to Bob McDonnell's campaign and inauguration and the $17,500 it gave to various legislators who sit on the education committees. I knew that the world's oldest profession in a political sense was rampant in Richmond. I just never knew how cheaply those people could be purchased.

Here's more detail of what went on in Richmond.

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The Buck Passes to Local Government

by: Elaine in Roanoke

Sun Mar 07, 2010 at 12:15:10 PM EST

We all know that Bob McDonnell and his fellow Republicans have painted themselves into a "no new taxes" corner in order to satisfy their base. Now, others will have to suffer for that.

There is one week to go before the end of the General Assembly session, but no budget agreement appears on the horizon. Even so, one thing is sure about this budget. It will put pressure on local government officials to either raise revenue - increase property taxes - or be the face of the cuts in services that will be deeply felt in Virginia's cities, towns, and counties.

We can look at public education as an example of how the state passes the fiscal buck for their own demands on localities. The state, even in these bad times, requires schools to maintain 21-to-1 student-teacher ratios, provide free textbooks and transportation and offer programs for at-risk students and free and reduced-price breakfasts in any school where at least one-fourth of students qualify for them.

The federal No Child Left Behind law mandates frequent testing, which carries a high price tag while delivering dubious data. It also mandates a certain level of improvement per year in educational outcomes and remedial instruction for those who fail to meet the minimum standards.

I haven't even scratched the surface of the mandates for education.

So, what does Bob McDonnell have to say about the state passing mandates on to the localities without sufficient state revenue to fund them? "They'll be innovative, they'll be creative, and they'll find a way to manage better," he said.

No, they won't. Virginia's localities can't be "innovative;" they can't "manage" better. McDonnell and the rest of the "don't tax me" crowd have identified the problem facing us right now the wrong way.

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We Need an Echo Chamber

by: Elaine in Roanoke

Thu Mar 04, 2010 at 10:00:00 AM EST

Progressives in this country are at a disadvantage in winning over public opinion for many reasons, but one important one is we don't have the equivalent of the right-wing echo chamber that repeats its propaganda until it becomes accepted as fact, even when it is a blatant lie.

Let me quote just a couple of things from the man who took political lying to a new low - Joseph Goebbels, propaganda minister for Adolf Hitler:

"The most brilliant propagandist technique will yield no success unless one fundamental principle is borne in mind constantly - it must confine itself to a few points and repeat them over and over...If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it...The truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State."

So, to us it may be obvious that Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh, and others are repeating obvious lies and following the advice  of Goebbels. To many Americans, all they know is that they heard different people say the same thing over and over, so it must be true.

Dr. Anthony P. Young, a psychologist, says that if a person believes that a lie is real, it will become real in its consequences.

"Individuals construct reality in their own mind. If you believe something is true, it becomes true regardless of what the facts are," maintains Young, a specialist in forensic psychology. This is what we are fighting against.

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Virginia Will Pay a Price

by: Elaine in Roanoke

Tue Mar 02, 2010 at 13:07:30 PM EST

The decision by the majority of those who bothered to go to the polls last November to put a fundamentalist in the governor's mansion and a far-right, homophobic guy in the attorney general's office will surely cause problems for Virginia. I'll get to one relating to attracting employment to Virginia later. But, first, the side show that has become Virginia governance.

We all know by now that incoming Republican Bob McDonnell did not see fit to continue the eight-year pattern by Democratic governors of  issuing a non-discrimination policy that rejected bias in hiring and promotion of state employees based on their sexual orientation.

He contended that only the legislature had the ability to protect those citizens from the actions of bigots. That is his "opinion," despite the fact that the Code of Virginia gives the governor the right to set policy for state agencies, unless prohibited from doing so by the Code of Virginia.

Meanwhile, certifiable nutjob Del. Bob Marshall (R-Far Right Field) has made another ridiculous, homophobic comment about a bill introduced by Democratic Sen. Don McEachin to do what the governor said was necessary - make discrimination in state hiring on the basis of sexual orientation illegal by legislative action.

"I think there first should be some finding that homosexuals, as a class, are being discriminated against," Marshall said. "In all of my experience and reading, gay individuals seem to have more income, to attend more cultural events, to take more vacations than the rest of us."

Words escape me in commenting on the stupidity of that remark.  So, I'll just move on to the harm these homophobes may cause the state.  

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