Category Archives: Blogs and blog administration

Dominion to Sponsor Bacon’s Rebellion

Dominion_logo3by James A. Bacon

Bacon’s Rebellion is pleased to announce that Dominion is sponsoring year-long blog commentary and journalistic coverage of energy and environmental issues in Virginia.

Dominion joins a list of Bacon’s Rebellion sponsors that has included the Piedmont Environmental Council, Bon Secours Richmond and Smart Growth America. Like its predecessors, Dominion asks for nothing more than objective, in-depth commentary and journalism. Dominion will exercise no editorial control over content published by Bacon’s Rebellion.

Unlike previous sponsorships, this one may prove to be controversial. Dominion is regarded in some quarters with suspicion and hostility due to its extensive lobbying clout, large contributions to Virginia electoral campaigns and significant impact on rate payers and the environment. When I weighed the pros and cons of a Dominion sponsorship, I had to consider the possibility that critics might accuse Dominion of having “bought” me to influence my journalistic coverage. After careful consideration, I decided not to be deterred.

First, my professional reputation as a journalist is the source of my livelihood and is not something I will compromise. If anything, Dominion’s sponsorship will cause me to downplay personal opinions of a politically conservative nature that might be construed as sympathetic to the company in favor of pursuing a more straightforward, journalistic approach.

Second, the beauty of the blog format is that readers will hold me accountable. Readers show me no mercy as it is, which I regard as a blessing because they keep me honest and prevent me from getting lazy. If I cut Dominion slack it doesn’t deserve, readers will tell me about it. Loudly.

Third, in the interest of full transparency, I am posting the sponsorship agreement online, with only the dollar amount of the sponsorship redacted.

Here’s how I envision approaching energy and environment. The big story is how the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed Clean Power Plan will be implemented in Virginia and what impact the restructuring of Virginia’s energy industry will have on consumers, the economy and the environment. It’s a many tentacled story, reaching into such issues as nuclear energy, renewable fuels, energy efficiency and natural gas production, among others.  I’ll be writing about all those, as well as related matters such as pipelines, transmission lines and the demand for energy in Virginia’s economy. I will endeavor to develop a wide range of sources in the electric power industry, the political and regulatory communities, the business and financial worlds, the environmental community, academia, and among entities representing consumers and rate payers. As Virginia’s largest energy company, with stakes in electricity and natural gas, Dominion will be an important contact, and I will solicit Dominion’s views just as I solicit the views of others.

I am entirely comfortable with the arrangement. Indeed, thanks to this sponsorship, I will be able to dig into one of the biggest issues of our time and to explore perspectives that otherwise would be overlooked in Virginia. I see that as a benefit for everyone.

On the Road Today…

on_the_roadSorry, no blog post for the Rebellion today. Your humble correspondent is on the road in search of paying gigs. I’ll keep my eyes open for bloggable material in the deepest, darkest heartland of Northern Virginia.

— JAB

Note to Readers

Late last night, I published a detailed accounting of the impact of SB 1349 on Dominion Virginia Power. I took that story down this morning when Dominion expressed concern about the accuracy of some of the numbers I used. I expect to get an update from Dominion officials this morning, and I will update the article, if justified, and put it back online later today.

This article provides the most detailed media accounting yet published on the legislation and it is imperative to make it as accurate as possible.

— JAB 

Time for a Red Cloud’s Rebellion?

ISideWith

I don’t need much of an excuse to pull up stakes and move to Jackson Hole — and this could be enough to push me over the edge. I took the ISideWith.com quiz to see which party I was most closely aligned with, and which states other respondents most closely matched my own. As far as states are concerned, I’d clearly feel most at home in Wyoming. Virginia… not so much. That probably explains all the guff I get on this blog!

Think there’d be a publishing niche in Wyoming for a Red Cloud’s Rebellion?

Check it out. Where do you fit in?

— JAB

Ain’t Too Proud to Beg

temptationsBy Peter Galuszka

The World Wide Web is a wonderful thing. It can provide useful, nearly instantaneous information, build communities and topple dictators.

It has also wreaked havoc on how journalists and commentators gather and disseminate original content. Tens of thousands of journalists have lost their jobs because the old business model that paid them has collapsed.

Blogging, fashionable for two decades ago, is, of course an offshoot of the Net. It is based on slicing and dicing other people’s original content.

Jim Bacon and I do that on this blog, but we also accomplish a lot more. We create our own original content that often is unique. Between us, we have more than eight decades of experience and hope that shows in our work.

We have been working mostly for free, but we need to pay our bills. Some blogs and Net services have paywalls or require subscriptions.  We’re not asking for that, but we are requesting that you consider making a contribution so we can keep on doing what we have been.If you would like to contribute you can do so by looking at the payment icon on the upper left of the home page.

Many thanks.

Show the Love, Support this Blog

love_baconDear readers,

Bacon’s Rebellion is Virginia’s leading non-partisan blog devoted to state and local public policy issues. There are other great blogs in Virginia, but they are aligned with one partisan viewpoint or the other. We’re different. We focus on policy issues — not politics — and we entertain a wide variety of perspectives. People don’t read Bacon’s Rebellion to seek confirmation of their biases, they read it to challenge their biases and engage in intelligent, civil discourse.

With one brief interruption, I’ve been publishing Bacon’s Rebellion since 2002. I have supported the blog through sponsorships, in which various groups have provided financial support to underwrite quality journalism. I will continue seeking sponsorships, but the marketplace is changing: People with the resources to hire experienced writers often want to publish their own blogs and publications. I have to put bread on the table, and so does regular contributor Peter Galuszka, and if that means dedicating our time to publications other than Bacon’s Rebellion, then that’s what we have to do.

If you like Bacon’s Rebellion… if you appreciate the content and commentary you find here and nowhere else… I ask you to please support the blog financially. The more readers collectively contribute, the more time Peter and I can devote to Bacon’s Rebellion.

In the left-hand column, you’ll find a “Contribute Now with Paypal” button which will allow you to voluntarily “subscribe” to the publication. (We also take credit cards.) Pick a level of support with which you’re comfortable — $2 monthly, $5 or even $10 — and accept our thanks.

James A. Bacon Jr.
Publisher

Update: Many thanks to readers who have contributed to Bacon’s Rebellion. You are wonderful, we feel your love, but you are too few in number. Therefore, we’re launching into NPR-style fund-raising mode. We will elevate this and other appeals to the top of the blog as long as it takes to generate a respectable revenue flow.

The Strange Story of Health Diagnostic Laboratory

HDL's Mallory before her fall.

HDL’s Mallory before her fall.

By Peter Galuszka

The biggest problem facing the health care industry in Virginia and the rest of the country isn’t Obamacare or the lack of new medical discoveries. It the lack of transparency that hides what is really going on with pricing tests, drugs and hospital and doctors’ fees. Big Insurance and Big and Small Pharma cut secret deals. We are all affected.

I’ve been wanting to blog about this – especially after Jim Bacon’s recent post on the supposed tech trend in health care – but I wanted to wait until a story I’ve been working on for a few weeks was posted at Style Weekly, where I am a contributing editor.

In it, I explore the strange story of Health Diagnostic Laboratory, a famed Richmond start-up that went from zero to $383 million in revenues and 800 employees in a few short years. The firm said it was developing advanced bio-marker tests that could predict heart disease and diabetes long before they took root. HDL’s officials thought it would transform the $1.6 trillion health care industry.

Richmond’s business elite applauded HDL founder Tonya Mallory, a woman who grew up just north of the city and had the strong personality and drive to create the HDL behemoth. Badly wanting a high tech champion in a not-so high tech town, the city’s boosters did much to publicize HDL and Mallory, believing they could draw in more startups.

The story was too good to be true. It start to deflate last summer when the federal government noted that HDL was one of several testing labs being probed for paying doctors $17 for using HDL tests for Medicare patients when Medicare authorized $3 per test. Mallory resigned Dept. 23. Several lawsuits by Mallory’s former employer, Cigna health insurance and another have accused HDL of fraud. HDL has responded in court.

One legal picture suggests that HDL wasn’t a true tech startup but a new firm that stole intellectual property and sales staff. HDL says no, but its new leader Joe McConnell has taken steps to reform sales and marketing and is said to be working with the U.S. Department of Justice to settle a federal investigation.

The HDL affair raises issues about the inside marketing and apparent payoffs that are the biggest problem the health care industry faces. It doesn’t matter what kind of “market magic” combined with new technology comes up if something like this keeps happening.

This is all the more reason for a universal payer system. That may be “socialized” medicine but in my opinion it is the only logical way to go.

Whatever Happened to “Boomergeddon?”

rush_limbaugh5By Peter Galuszka

Attention ditto-heads!

Before President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address last night, there was an interesting piece on CNN of hard-line conservatives claiming two years ago that the U.S. economy would collapse if Obama were re-elected.

They claimed that the U.S. faced uncontrollable government spending and ever-growing budget deficits. Obama’s efforts to kick-start the economy were just one missfire after another. Don’t believe me? Look up a zillion posts in Bacon’s Rebellion written by the usual suspects.

My favorite segment on the CNN report was radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh making his usual dire predictions about our plunge to Boomergeddon:

“How long does this country have if Obama wins? We’re headed toward an economic collapse and we are the leader of the world. ….If Obama’s re-elected, it will happen. There’s no IF about this. And it’s gonna be ugly. It’s gonna be gut-wrenching, but it will happen. The country’s economy is going to collapse if Obama is re-elected. I don’t know how long: a year and a half, two years, three years.”

Well we’re almost there and guess what? Obama felt comfortable enough strong economy last night to rebrand himself as a liberal and push programs to finally help out the middle class. They include a more fair tax system and helping make community college study free. In a University of Richmond poll in last year’s fourth quarter, most of the 62 chief executive officers of Central Virginia companies said they had “strong optimism” about the country’s brightening economic picture.

What about deficits? Well, not to raise any names associated with this blog, but last October, the budget deficit had dropped to its lowest level since the Great Recession. It had fallen to $483 billion in f/y 2014. That’s only 2.8 percent of GDP and less than the average of the previous 40 years, the U.S. Treasury Department reported.

Hmm. Does anyone have a copy of the book “Boomergeddon?” I can’t find mine and want one as a keepsake.

Virginia’s Top Stories in 2014

mcd convictedBy Peter Galuszka

The Year 2014 was quite eventful if unsettling. It represented some major turning points for the Old Dominion.

Here are my picks for the top stories:

  • Robert F. McDonnell becomes the highest-ranking former or serving state official to be convicted of corruption. The six-week-long trial from July to September of the Republican former governor and his wife, Maureen, was international news. In terms of trash, it offered everything – greed, tackiness, a dysfunctional marriage, a relationship “triangle,” and an inner glimpse of how things work at the state capital.  More importantly, it ends forever the conceit that there is a “Virginia Way” in which politicians are gentlemen above reproach, the status quo prevails and ordinary voters should be kept as far away from the political process as possible. It also shows the unfinished job of reforming ethics. The hidden heroes are honest state bureaucrats who resisted top-down pushes to vet dubious vitamin pills plus the State Police who did their investigative duty.
  • Eric Cantor loses. Cantor, another Republican, had been riding high as the 7th District Congressman and House Majority Leader. A wunderkind of the Richmond business elite, Cantor was positioned to be House Speaker and was considered invulnerable, at least until David Brat, an unknown college economics professor and populist libertarian, exploited fractures in the state GOP to win a stunning primary upset. Cantor immediately landed in a high-paying lobbying job for a financial house.
  • Terry McAuliffe takes over. The Democrat Washington insider and Clinton crony beat hard-right fanatic Kenneth Cuccinelli in a tight 2013 race. He bet almost everything on getting the GOP-run General Assembly to expand Medicaid benefits to 400,000 low income Virginians. He lost and will try again. He’s done a pretty good job at snaring new business, notably the $2 billion Shandong-Tralin paper mill from China for Chesterfield County. It will employ 2,000.
  • Roads projects blow up. Leftover highway messes such as the bypass of U.S. 29 in Charlottesville finally got spiked for now. Big questions remain about what happened to the $400 million or so that the McDonnell Administration spent on the unwanted U.S. 460 road to nowhere in southeastern Virginia.
  • Gay marriage becomes legal. A U.S. District Judge in Norfolk found Virginia’s ban on gay marriage unconstitutional and the U.S. Supreme Court pushed opening gay marriage farther. The rulings helped turn the page on the state’s prejudicial past, such as the ban on interracial marriage that lasted until the late 1960s.
  • Fracking changes state energy picture. A flood of natural gas from West Virginia and Pennsylvania has utilities like Dominion Resources pushing gas projects. It’s been nixing coal plants and delaying new nukes and renewables. Dominion is also shaking things up by pitching a $5 billion, 550-mile-long pipeline through some of the state’s most picturesque areas – just one of several pipelines being pitched. The EPA has stirred things up with complex new rules in cutting carbon emissions and the state’s business community and their buddies at the State Corporation Commission have organized a massive opposition campaign. McAuliffe, meanwhile, has issued his “everything” energy plan that looks remarkably like former governor McDonnell’s.
  • State struggles with budget gaps. Sequestration of federal spending and defense cuts have sent officials scrambling to plug a $2.4 billion gap in the biennial budget. It is back to the same old smoke and mirrors to raise taxes while not seeming to. Obvious solutions – such as raising taxes on gasoline and tobacco – remain off limits.
  • College rape became a hot issue after Rolling Stone printed a flawed story about an alleged gang rape of a female student at the prestigious University of Virginia in 2012. Progressives pushed for raising awareness while conservatives took full advantage of the reporter’s reporting gaps to pretend that sex abuse is not really an issue.
  • Poverty is on the radar screen, especially in Richmond which has poverty rate of 27 percent (70 percent in some neighborhoods) and other spots such as Newport News. Richmond Mayor Dwight Jones got a lot of national press attention for his campaign to eradicate poverty but it is really hard to understand what he’s actually doing or whether it is successful. The real attention in Richmond is on such essentials as replacing the Diamond baseball stadium, justifying a training camp for the Washington Redskins and giving big subsidies for a rich San Diego brewer of craft beer.
  • Day care regulation. Virginia has a horrible reputation for allowing small, home day care centers to operate without regulation. Dozens have children have died over the past few years at them. This year there were deaths at centers in Midlothian and Lynchburg.
  • The continued madness of the Virginia Tobacco Indemnification and Community Revitalization Commission. This out-of-control slush fund in the tobacco belt continued its waywardness by talking with Democratic State Sen. Phil Pucket about a six-figure job just as Puckett was to resign and deny a swing vote in the senate in favor of expanding Medicaid. The commission also drew attention for inside plays by the politically powerful Kilgore family and giving $30 million in an unsolicited grant to utility Dominion.

Woo Hoo! One Million and Counting…

million

Bacon’s Rebellion passed a big milestone late last night — we hit one million page-views since our blog-relaunch in July 2011. We know there are other political blogs in Virginia that generate more traffic but we’re really proud of the caliber of our audience and quality of interaction in our comments. Thank you, Bacon’s Rebellion readers for helping to bring us this far.

— JAB