Category Archives: Gun rights

The Cooch’s Freak Show Dream Team

cooch dream teamBy Peter Galuszka

Ken Cuccinelli just can’t keep away from the bizarre, but perhaps that’s what makes him what he is.

He stages a convention instead of a primary to neuter Bill Bolling. And since a convention is smaller, it draws more GOP hard-righters than  June bugs on a humid night and they succeed in getting Bishop E.W. Jackson and Mark Obenshain selected. They underline the social conservatism that turns millions off and makes Virginia the butt of jokes on late night talk shows.

The Bishop is an even bigger gay basher than Cuccinelli and says that Planned Parenthood is responsible for more fatalities among African-Americans than the Ku Klux Klan. This may be new to a Harvard Law graduate, but women of any color have a legal right to an abortion within limits. The U.S. Supreme Court said so. Look under Roe vs. Wade.

Then there is the attorney general candidate Mark Obenshain of the legacy Republican family. He proposed and withdrew legislation to require any woman in Virginia who miscarries a pregnancy to report it to the police. The idea is so repulsive it is beyond words. A woman may have miscarried to her great sorrow due to medical reasons and then would have to go through the added horror of having to report to the police? Yes, this comes from a cabal that otherwise wants to keep the government out of your lives. Even Josef Stalin wouldn’t think of this.

What does the dream team have to say on the many policy issues facing a troubled state? We have a bunch of lame and poorly thought out tax cuts and Cooch playing hardware store populist. Cuccinelli was against McDonnnell’s mammoth road building tax plan and has since backed away from his opposition.

Is this good news for Terry McAuliffe, who has plenty of issues of his own? Yes, I would think. Cuccinelli doesn’t need the fringe hard right voters. He’s already got them in his pocket. He needs the center and Mark and the Bishop aren’t going to be much help there.

It boggles the mind how Virginia is so schizo. It is attracting hundreds of thousands of newcomers who are running the state’s economy and are dragging it into the 21st century world. Yet the Republicans put up people like this who aren’t dragging us to Virginia’s recent dark past but to medieval times.

Global investors might think twice or three times before investing in this freak show.

McAuliffe: Can a Schmoozer Transform?

By Peter Galuszka

On Easter Sunday, I was driving in a cold rain to Charlottesville for a family event. My cell phone started beeping with messages from Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Terry McAuliffe.

He said he was on his way to his own family brunch but wanted to tap me for $5. I got similar messages from two other staffers.

Why bother me at Easter? Political analyst Larry Sabato wondered the same thing. In a tweet that day he complained about finding “11 obnoxious messages for $$$. Now I know the answer to the age old Q; Is nothing sacred?”

And that may be McAuliffe’s biggest problem as he faces arch-conservative Ken Cuccinelli in the off-year governor’s race. In my profile of him in Style Weekly, I note that McAuliffe is trying to rein in an expansive personality that has made him a top political schmoozer and fundraiser for Democrats from Jimmy Carter to Bill and Hillary Clinton.

A decades’ long political operative who has never been in elected office, he can be bombastic and smooth, as his recent dealings with GreenTech Automotive shows. He flirted with Virginia for a hybrid  car plant before going to Mississippi. He has been accused of somehow using the car plant to win special visas for foreign workers and maybe misleading the Virginia Economic Development Partnership about his intentions in the Old Dominion.

Meanwhile, he must overcome some of his misunderstandings of traditional Virginia thinking. However, it’s probably a good thing that he’s going to skip the Shad Planking in Wakefield tonight with its Confederate flags where Cuccinelli will be keynote speaker.

While polls are about 50-50 in the race, McAuliffe’s fundraising prowess has shown brightly. In the first quarter, he raised more than $5 million — more than double the take of Cuccinelli, who has hamstrung by not being allowed raise money during the General Assembly session because of his position as Attorney General. Read on…

(Also, here as a Q&A with McAuliffe)

“One Piece At a Time”

By Peter Galuszka

Straying from the Virginia plantation, I’ve been noticing how Cyprus, a small historic island nation in the Mediterranean Sea, is once again acting the tail wagging the Euro-system dog and is affecting the finances of many farflung people.

The Euro-crisis has taken hold in tiny Cyprus, forcing such draconian suggestions as a tax on all bank accounts and account closings. The uncertainty, once again, has rattled global markets and is affecting the investments of millions, including mine.

The reality of Cyprus is that much of the hot money there, according to Joe Nocera of The New York Times, is from Russia where a paucity of rule of law encourages rich Russians to park their cash elsewhere lest it be confiscated by Vladimir Putin or who knows whom else.

Cyprus has long been a jumping off place for questionable Soviet or Russian activities for decades., be they illegal arms, drugs or dollars.

Example, back in the mid 1990s, when I was an American news correspondent in Moscow, I got to travel to Izhevsk, an industrial town in the central province of Udmurtia a couple of hours by air from the capital.

Izhevsk had been closed for many years to foreign visitors because it is the home of the Kalashnikov assault rifle and other vital defense plants. The city had something like five main factories where various forms of the venerable AK were made, although plenty were made under license in countries such as China, Romania and Poland.

The day my photographer and I got there, the city was in turmoil. A high ranking police officer and most of his family, including a couple of his children who were themselves police officers, were slaughtered at his birthday party by Kalashnikov-wielding thugs who broke into his apartment.

The police official was about to launch a major crackdown on the illegal gun trade that had gotten out of control when the Soviet Union fell apart in 1991. It was an open secret in Izhevsk that factory workers were siphoning off gun parts in their lunch pails, sort of like in the Johnny Cash song about the pilfered car, “Once Piece at a Time.”

Many of the gun parts ended up, you guessed it, in Cyprus, where underground plants reassembled the AKs for sale on the world market.

We stayed in town long enough for the funeral of the police officers which was attended by 30,000 people.

Mind you, this happened almost 20 years ago. What’s sad is that this kind of sleazy dealing is still going on between Cyprus and Russia and the rest of us are affected. One can’t help put think of the euphoria that came when the Euro was adopted and how it has turned out to be a total disaster.

Is Virginia a Leader in Gun Control?

By Peter Galuszka

For all of the sound and fury over guns in Virginia — panicked shooters are draining firearms shops of ammunition — the Old Dominion actually has been a leader among states on the gun control issue on a couple of fronts.

For details, see my story in this week’s Style Weekly.

First, Richmond was in the forefront of a much-imitated program back in the 1990s called “Project Exile” which carried mandatory federal prison terms for any felon caught in a crime.

Back in the day, Richmond’s central area was racking up the second highest murder rate in the country. The problem started with an inner-city crack cocaine epidemic and then morphed into an OK Corral motif when a lot of kids started carrying guns and using them whenever their blood got hot during a macho argument.

Project Exile worked, former Richmond Police Chief Jerry Oliver told me, because it addressed “so much gun carrying among immature young males who were unschooled and unchurched.”

To be sure, there were criticisms that Project Exile had racial tinges because it was directed at mostly young African-Americans in Richmond’s central area. Civil rights lawyers told me that they watched a kid go to jail because he had a gun on him while he was caught with a marijuana joint in his pocket. At the same time, the leading proponents of Project Exile, such as Richmond’s then Commonwealth’s Attorney and Chief Oliver are also African-Americans.

Programs like these lose their relevancy in the case of mass shootings of the Virginia Tech or Sandy Hook type which involve legally-bought guns and shooters with distinct mental illnesses. Oliver told me that in many of those cases, the shooter often doesn’t care if he gets caught because he may well intend to kill himself in the fray.

What helps is keeping a federal registry with lists of names of people considered ill enough with mental issues to make themselves dangerous if they have guns. This goes on a National Instant Criminal Background Check System that licensed gun dealers need to check before selling a firearm.

The Wall Street Journal reports that many states don’t bother supplying the system with much data. But guess which state supplies the most? Virginia.

That’s right. The Old Dominion, led by former Gov. Time Kaine and then Atty. Gen. Robert F. McDonnell (bipartisanship anyone?) actually made sure that lots of names made the list after the Virginia Tech horrors.

Of course, the list is useless at gun shows where sellers and buyers don’t have a legal requirement to check someone’s background before selling a gun. That will be addressed by President Barack Obama’s reform proposals.

Virginia’s efforts are sensible measures to ensure safety with guns. You wouldn’t know by looking at the General Assembly where legislators are ripping apart any proposal for reform. As for shooters, they are cleaning out the ammo stores. What amazes me is they’re even making a run at .22 caliber Long Rifle rounds. They can be deadly but they are the type of bullet I used to use to hunt squirrels with using my bolt-action, single shot rifle when I was 11 years old. Go figure.

Here Comes Cooch-ageddon!

Illustration credit: Ed Harrington, Style Weekly.

Hard right conservative Kenneth T. Cuccinelli has a very good chance of becoming the next governor. At least that’s my view 11 months out.

I disagree with Cuccinelli on almost everything and will spare my readers the list. But I do agree on one thing: he has proved to be a wily politician. He’s turned the Republican establishment on its head. His likely opponent Terry McAuliffe has yet to prove himself as a viable opponent if he is indeed the Democratic choice, as he now seems he will be. Cuccinelli’s off-year race will be one of the most closely watched by the national media.

Enough talking. Read my cover story in Richmond’s Style Weekly.

McDonnell: Get Real On Assault Rifles

By Peter Galuszka

The usual attitudes are moving beyond infuriating. Year after year, Virginia politicians put enormous effort into expanding the presence of guns in state society, from allowing more than one purchase of a handgun each month to taking away the rights of localities to fingerprint people applying for concealed weapons permits.

Now in the aftermath of the shooting of 20 small schoolchildren in classrooms in Connecticut, Gov. Robert F. McDonnell wants to talk about arming teachers rather than addressing the real issue of banning assault rifles and high-bullet magazines.

“If people were armed, not just a police officer but other school officials who were trained and chose to have a weapon,” he told Washington radio station WTOP, “certainly there would have been an opportunity to stop aggressors coming into the schools.” Fellow Republican Bob Marshall of Prince William County, always good for hard-right zaniness, wants teachers to take special arms classes from State Police.

These ideas capture the essence of what is so terribly wrong with Virginia and the rest of the country. In the McDonnell-Marshall worldview, the gun is god. This concept was put very nicely in a blog by Garry Wills in the New York Review of Books:

“The gun is not a mere tool, a bit of technology, a political issue, a point of debate. It is an object of reverence. Devotion to it precludes interruption with the sacrifices it entails. Like most gods, it does what it will, and cannot be questioned. Its acolytes think it is capable only of good things. It guarantees life and safety and freedom. It even guarantees law. Law grows from it. Then how can law question it?”

McDonnell’s statement drew immediate rebuke from educators and political opponents. Meg Gruber, president of the Virginia Education Association, says expanding the number of guns in schools is not the answer. Rep. Gerald E. Connolly, D-Va., called McDonnell’s statement “outrageous, extreme and reprehensible.”

What makes McDonnell’s views so out of synch is that Virginia Tech was the scene of an even worse bloodletting in 2007, when a mentally ill student opened fire in classrooms. Some people touched by that horror are involved in gun control issues and still have to listen to the likes of McDonnell.

This time around, it probably will be different. The fact that so many of the victims in Newtown were primary schoolers is changing the equation, as is the fact that the right wing has been weakened by its losses in November’s election.

As the mood shifts, pressure is coming from other quarters, namely from big public retirement funds. One such group pressured Cerebus Capital Management into putting on the block its share in Freedom Group, the firm that makes the Bushmaster semi-automatic assault rifle used in Connecticut and also in the D.C. sniper slayings 10 years ago. Big outdoors goods retailers like Dick’s are scaling back weapons sales.

They seem to be getting the message. McDonnell and Marshall obviously never will.

Time for a Talk on Gun Control

By Peter Galuszka

Once more time, we have mass death by firearms perpetrated apparently by a man with severe mental illness.

In this case, however, some 20 of the victims were schoolchildren roughly between the ages of five and 10. When the gunman entered Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Ct., they were utterly helpless.

The apparent guns used, a Glock pistol and a Bushmaster .223 M4 carbine rifle, have wielded carnage in other mass shootings. The former has been used in numerous such shootings. The latter was a type similar to that used by the D.C. snipers 10 years ago.

We’ve been reading a lot of hype about how gun sales in places like Virginia are supposedly linked to a declining murder rate. A couple problems here.

While murder rates in general are trending downward,. there is no question that instances of mass shootings have increased.

Secondly, the gun crowd says that everyone should pack a piece to product him or herself in just such as setting. Old Dominion lawmakers have even proposed having college students carry weapons in class to prevent the Virginia Tech type of tragedy.

What were we have supposed to have done in the Connecticut case? Give a six year old a Smith & Wesson with her  Sponge Bob Square  Pants lunchbox?

As President Barack Obama says, it is really time to revisit the issue of sensible gun control. With the GOP in disarray and the Tea Party madcappers fading, now is the time to hold just such a discussion.

Crime Drops, But Virginians Pack More Heat

 By Peter Galuszka

Virginians have been buying more firearms than ever even though crime has been steadily falling. Why?

Last year, 420,829 firearms were bought through licensed gun dealers in Virginia. That’s a 73 percent increase from the sales in 2006. Leading the list were pistols (175,717) sold last year, followed by rifles (135,495). Central Virginians packed more heat than anyone else, followed closely by Northern Virginians, according to the Richmond Times Dispatch.

Now comes the hard. As more firearms are sold, the crime rate continues to fall. From 2006 to 2011, violent crime committed with handguns dropped from 4,040 to 3,154, about 25 percent, the newspaper reports.

Is there a correlation between heightened gun sales and decreasing crime?

Indeed, some believe that hardened criminals are less likely to threaten victims if they know there’s a chance they could be looking down the barrel of a 9 mm. Glock or something that fits more easily into a lady’s handbag, such as a Ruger LCP 380 Ultra Compact Pistol.  By some accounts, women, as well as men, are flocking to training courses and firing ranges operated by gun stores.

At first glance, “the data is pretty overwhelming,” Thomas R. Baker, a criminologist at Virginia Commonwealth University, told the Richmond newspaper.

When you take a longer view, however, the thinking tends to fall apart. According to FBI reports, violent crime has been on a fairly steady downward trend since the early 1990s – much earlier than 2006 when Virginians started buying guns like crazy. The Economist magazine says the violent crime rate is at its lowest in 40 years and the murder rate is less than it was a half a century ago.

It’s anyone’s guess why crime has continually dropped. Theories include demographic shifts in which younger, inner city men who tend to be involved in violent crime have become steadily fewer in number. Better community-based police work could be a cause. The cold-hearted even say more low-income babies are being aborted.

Gun proponents suggest that one reason for the gun fad among the law-abiding was a fear that President Barack Obama would force a severe crackdown on gun sales when he was elected in 2008. If so, it hasn’t happened yet. Some worry that the recession would bring about more crime but history shows that there was more violence in the Roaring 1920s than the Depression-racked 1930s. They also want to be ready if caught in rare yet highly publicized mass-shootings such as those at Virginia Tech and at a movie theater in Colorado.

In my view, Virginians are packing heat with gusto for the wrong reasons. They and their gun sellers are riding a wave of irrational fear that has been vigorously promoted by social conservative politicians in the 2010 and 2012 elections.

Besides this, linking the desire for personal and deadly firepower to the country’s first African-American president raises some rather ugly questions.

President Barack Obama!

By Peter Galuszka

President Barack Obama’s re-election and success with Virginia in Tuesday’s contest could provide  a fresh opportunity to solidify more economic recovery than what have otherwise may have happened. It could be a real chance for bipartisan progress.

Here’s my takeaway at 2:30 a.m.:

  • Virginia has again shown that it is morphing into a different kind of state. Losing some but not all power are the Old Republicans and their new iterations. Gaining power are Democrats, many of them newcomers with diverse backgrounds.
  • Bye, bye Tea Party. The anti-government, anti-spending curmudgeons of  two years ago are quickly fading in influence. Good thing. They had been a major and negative force trumping any bipartisan progress. Although Eric Cantor got re-elected, he’ll have a harder time playing obstructionist since he’ll no longer have a parade to try to race to get in front of and lead. And maybe we can give those God-awful Patrick Henry costumes to Goodwill.
  • Obamacare will not be repealed. GOP hasn’t the votes. Alleluia. Although flawed, Obamacare means that more people will be insured and health insurers won’t be able to get away with such practices as denying coverage for “pre-existing” conditions. No goofy vouchers for Medicare recipients. Not with Democrats controlling the Senate. Let’s get on with price transparency and breaking the stranglehold of Big Insurance and Big Pharma.
  • Hello manufacturing. Goodbye “Knowledge Economy.”  Obama can now solidify gains in the reviving American economy and help us once again make real things instead of just be providers of services that only help export jobs.
  • No more lying ads. We won’t have to listen to Romney  falsehoods about how Obama has a ‘War on Coal” and how he helped kill a crappy Bill’s Barbecue chain and send Jeep jobs to China.
  • Toodles, Ayn Rand. We won’t have to listen to the importance of selfishness by such faddish True Believers as Paul Ryan who was surprisingly irrelevant in the campaign. Now we can concentrate on helping Americans, not lecturing them on their irresponsible, spend thrift ways.
  • Energy. Inevitable changes will proceed, including towards cleaner natural gas, away from dirtier coal and towards renewables. Now we might start paying serious attention to greenhouse gases and make coal mines safer.
  • George Allen’s defeat means we won’t have to turn our clocks back two decades.
  • It will be harder to wage the War on Women with social conservatives trying to dictate unwanted oversight of their personal matters. Medieval advocates of “legal rape” can crawl back in their holes. It looks like Roe V. Wade is secure.
  • All in all a great night.

The Tea Party Fades Into History

By Peter Galuszka

Whatever happened to the Tea Party movement?

The other day I found my laminated plastic media credential for the Virginia Tea Party PATRIOTS CONVENTION that happened about this time two years ago at Richmond’s convention center.

I was overcome with nostalgia. It was such a fun group: Patrick Henry re-enactors, Jamie Radtke, gun nuts with Glock pistols, Libertarians, Corey A. Stewart in a lonely booth bashing immigrants and even our very own Very Rev. James A. Bacon Jr. preaching about runaway federal spending.

Back then, they packed a wallop. The succeeded in getting enough hard right politicians elected that they took the House of Representatives, the Virginia House of Delegates and almost took the U.S. and state Senates.

But now, in the word of Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne, the right’s neoconservative wing is facing a total rout. Abandoning them,  Mitt Romney is praising Barack Obama’s foreign policy initiatives. Romney doesn’t “want another Iraq.” Paul Ryan’s Ayn Randism is nowhere in evidence. Where’s the “Power of Selfishness?” Whatever happened to Main Street Republican Eric Cantor trying to run the lead the Tea Party parade? Now Obama is back talking about a “Grand Bargain” on debt that might have been possible had Young Gun Eric not gotten in the way with his oversized ego.

According to Dionne: “The biggest sign that tea party thinking is dead is Romney’s straight-out deception about his past position on the rescue of the auto industry.” Tea Baggers conjured up “Obama the Socialist” on this one. Turns out the bailout worked. So much for free-market fundamentalism.

Dionne notes that this is all related to the fact that the election comes down to undecided voters in swing states, like Ohio and Virginia. Despite what you may read on this blog, most voters don’t want the rich to get special tax breaks and don’t want their Medicare and Social Security cut or replaced with some hoary scheme to prop up Big Insurance with a voucher system.

It could be that Romney will scurry back to the straight-no-chaser version of conservatism if he wins. But having read more about what he did in Massachusetts, I really don’t know where is is or was. He used to sound like Obama before Obama became Obama.

But if you want a thermometer check, all you have to do is read Bacon’s Rebellion. Remember all those dire, clarion calls about deficit spending? How big, bad and awful, the federal (but not state) government is? Now we get recycled press releases from the Governor’s office about how universities can help recruit corporations.

The Tea Party exists, I guess. But their Websites haven’t changed since early 2010. Too bad they took ownership of that cool rattlesnake flag. I really liked it but if I a license plate with one for me car, people will get the wrong idea.

Keeping the Silence About Guns

By Peter Galuszka

 Late morning near Ashland, the shopping crowd of mostly middle-aged white  men is busy poring over the wares at Green Top  Sporting Goods. Although it is  only late July, hunting season looms and buyers are checking guns and rifles of  all types and sizes. Also on display are scores of handguns, mostly automatics, in glass cases. In the corner behind the counter are assault-style, semi-automatic rifles in evil-looking metal and plastic.

In one aisle, a boy of about 13 picks up a bolt-action hunting rifle with a scope. “Look dad, this one can go to 1,000 yards,” he says.

Green Top has been a local landmark since 1947 in its familiar green-roofed building on U.S. 1 just north of Richmond. The building will shut down within about a year and Green Top, which also offers lots of fishing gear, will move about a mile away to a big box store already closed by Gander Mountain Co. Both are not far from yet another big gun dealer, Bass Pro Shops.

The two chain stores are noteworthy these days. James Holmes, who allegedly shot and killed 12 and wounded 59 in a mass shooting at a Colorado movie theater, bought his weapons at local outlets of Gander Mountain and Bass Pro Shops.

At Gander Mountain, Holmes picked up a Smith and Wesson .233 semi-automatic rifle and a .40 caliber Glock pistol. At Bass Pro Shops, he got a Remington 870 shotgun. Somehow, he allegedly snuck all three firearms,  along with thousands of rounds of bullets he bought on the Internet, into a  midnight showing of “Dark Knight Rises” while wearing bizarre, combat-looking regalia.

In Virginia, there’s nothing essentially wrong with firearms since the state has many square miles of excellent hunting land. Yet the gun mentality is very strong. The Colorado killings are strangely drawing little comment. Even more strange is that the theater killings still don’t match the 2007 Virginia Tech shootings that ended up with the shooter and 32 others dead. Still, Colorado doesn’t come up much.

The Virginia Tech terror lurked in the background on Feb. 28 when Gov. Robert F. McDonnell signed into law a repeal of 1993 statute that limited the purchase of more than one handgun every 30 days. The law had been a signature bill by former Gov. Doug Wilder who was incensed that Virginia had been funneling illegal firearms into large northern cities.

Conservative forces and Second Amendment activists had lobbied for years to get rid of the ban. Families of Virginia Tech victims begged McDonnell not to go along with the General Assembly although he had backed ending the repeal. Before he signed the  repeal into law, his staff dutifully alerted reporters. But the usually talkative McDonnell made no statement. As is the case now, the silence was maintained.

Yet Another Mass Shooting

 — PAG


I want to be an underclass lover

Lay it down like a big ole’ brother

No mind who gets stuck

With the leftover

I get my F&%#

Without too much workover

Don’t care about the deficit

Don’t give a damn about the debt

’cause when it comes to lov’in

You ain’t seen noth’ yet

Ya know, the over class

They got theirs!

Henry the Eighth

And all them squares

And their deficit

Almost as big as mine

So hang on honey

Here it comes

Just a second now, we’re headin’




ALEC, the Tea Party and the Feral GOP

House Speaker William J. Howell

By Peter Galuszka

Virginia’s conservatives have gone through a spasm of controversy as they struggle to find their message. They desperately need to balance their ideas of fiscal discipline and limited government with a wide spectrum of unrelated hard-right social issues.

The clearest evidence yet of the quandary for their soul involves the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which has just backed away from pushing “Stand Your Ground” laws that were involved in the shooting of a young African-American from Florida, Trayvon Martin.

ALEC had been a cozy, four-decades-old group of deep-pocketed corporations and lobbyists that ghostwrote template-style laws for state legislatures around the country to boost the conservative agenda of cutting taxes and government spending and cater to the business community’s desire for few regulations. For a long while, it seemed like a gigantic Chamber of Commerce funded by big corporate names such as Coca-Cola, Wal-Mart and Johnson & Johnson to push business-friendly laws.

But as the Tea Party movement gained steam in 2010, its disparate elements pushed right-wing social issues that ended up alienating many and polarized legislatures, including Virginia’s General Assembly. That spilled over into ALEC, which ended up pushing voter ID laws designed to take voting power away from minorities when there was no real issue over identity fraud and suck up to the gun lobby by pushing the idea that if one feels under attack, he or she may whip out a firearm and blow away an assailant without much legal consequence.

Incredibly, Virginia taxpayers have shelled out $231,000 over the past decade so legislators, mostly Republicans, can go to ALEC confabs and learn what the latest is in conservative designer legislation. A big player is House Speaker William J. Howell (R-Stafford), who, according to The Washington Post, made 60 percent of his publicly funded trips to ALEC meetings.

The unexpected fury over the  Trayvon Martin shooting involving a Stand Your Ground law blew everyone’s cover. It had the entire cossetted ALEC world tossed on its head. Firms such as Coca-Cola, Mars, Wendy’s and Kraft, all of which are consumer products firms whose billions debate on a positive public image bailed on ALEC. The constant deluge of the Trayvon shooting was very bad for their business. Now ALEC says it is dumping social issues and sticking to economic ones.

Howell didn’t seem to know what to do. He attacked left-leaning critics such as “ProgressVa” and had the bad taste and judgment to personally insult Anna Scholl, the head of ProgressVA at a press conference, demeaning her intelligence by saying he needed to speak to her only in monosyllables. Howell, usually more stately than that, soon issued a public apology to Scholl.

What’s revealing about Howell’s tantrum, however, is how it shows that mainstream conservatives really don’t know what to do with the social radicals in their movement. For years, they’ve enjoyed the upscale, closed-door demeanor of ALEC meetings until the Tea Party types shook everything up. It was fine, everyday work bashing unions and trying to cut taxes for companies and the rich. Yet they became spooked by what ended up being a weak, ephemeral and loosely organized group that they went freak-out if not totally feral.

Big business interests figured it out faster and with the exceptions of firms such as Wal-Mart, they bailed on ALEC. This shows that a lot of the GOP stalwarts in Virginia and nationally have feet of clay. They are not sure of their agenda, as their unimpressive primary run so far has shown. Locally, they have let social right-wingers hijack this year’s General Assembly with issues that had been decided decades ago, such as women’s right to abortions and gay rights. Real work important to the Commonwealth didn’t get done. Because of the distractions, it took four tries to get a (bad) $85 billion budget passed.

It is time to put the Tea Party in its place and get past it. The Republicans are paying a huge price and will probably lose the presidential election if they continue. Meanwhile, the Democrats, who have stood on the sidelines snickering at the GOP melee, need to get engaged and shut down this social nonsense once and for all.

Five Ways Virginia Sucks

By Peter Galuszka

An alternative blogger is listing five ways Virginia may be the worst state in the union, a.k.a. “Bob Land.”

Tara Lohan of AlterNet notes that generally, watching the news these days is like going through a time warp when it comes to debates about birth control or teaching science in the classroom. States such as Georgia and Missouri come to mind in this regard, but Virginia, she says, is the worst.

Here are five reasons why:

  • Despite the horrific Virginia Tech shootings and public polling wishing otherwise, Gov. Robert F. McDonnell has successfully pushed through a measure to repeal the one handgun a month purchase limit in the state. He apparently doesn’t care that New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg says that “Virginia is the No. 1 out-of-state source” of handguns in the country.
  • Virginia may have 1,600 children up for adoption. But not if you are gay or lesbian. Virginia allows adoption agencies to deny placements” to people who conflict with their religious beliefs.
  • Hard right Atty. Gen. Kenneth Cuccinelli has waged a vigorous and expensive campaign in his witch hunt against former University of Virginia climatologist Michael Mann.
  •  Virginia’s powers have been backing a new coal-fired electricity plant just upwind of Colonial Williamsburg. According to The Virginian-Pilot, the plant would emit 2,000 pounds of arsenic, up to 7,000 pounds of benzene, 1,390 pounds of chromium and 118 points of mercury into the air every year.
  • McDonnell launched a “War on Women” with his backing of a law requiring women considering abortion to have an ultrasound test. He backed away from a more invasive way of doing the test which is not deemed a medical necessity.

In general, Lohan hits the highlights, although she misses a little context. One is that since he is elected separately, Cuccinnelli doesn’t report to McDonnell. The Old Dominion Electric Cooperative coal plant has been put on hold mostly because of financing issues. The flood of natural gas, much from hydraulic fracking, has put a serious dent in the viability of new coal-fired electricity.

But she hits most of the notes. Interesting to read something other than what a dandy state Virginia is for business.