Author Archives: Peter Galuszka

Thank God for Medicaid Expansion

By Peter Galuszka

For years after the Affordable Care Act, “Obamacare,” made millions of federal dollars available for states to expand Medicaid health coverage, Virginia Republicans steadfastly blocked Virginia from using the money.

Led by former House Speaker Bill Howell and Sen. Tommy Norment, the GOP claimed that expanding Medicaid to nearly 400,000 people would be too expensive and would blow out state funding.

This skinflint approach was finally put to rest after Democrat Ralph Northam became governor in 2018, foreshadowing a Democratic sweep of the General Assembly in elections last year.

Thank God the Democrats prevailed.

Virginia’s formerly robust economy has been shattered by the COVID 19 pandemic. Last week, some 110,000 Virginians filed for unemployment support. It was 46,277 the week before.

Who covers them is an open question but many would qualify for Medicaid. Expansion has boosted lower-income Virginians so that they may be able to better ride out the pandemic. Continue reading

“We Are All Keynesians Now”

John Maynard Keynes

By Peter Galuszka

John Maynard Keynes, the British economist, advocated government spending and monetary intervention as suitable for modern economies.

When I was a student at a liberal college in New England in the early 1970s, we were taught that Keynes very much had the right idea. As evidence, we had the Great Society programs of Lyndon B. Johnson and, strangely, the Vietnam War. They all relied on vast amounts of deficit public spending.

Since then, free-market types came into favorable light and it all became the magic of the market, little regulation and other panaceas.

According to whom you read, pro-capitalism economist Milton Friedman admitted the necessity of Keynes’ thinking by stating, “We’re all Keynesians now.” President Richard Nixon, a Republican, is also credited with the quote when he took the U.S. off the gold standard.

The phrase is taking on increasing relevance with the COVID-19 pandemic. Virginia is no exception. Continue reading

Photo Project Spotlights Pipeline Impact


By Peter Galuszka

Veteran photographer Karen Kasmauski, who grew up in Norfolk, has a brilliant online project that shows the human and environmental impacts of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.

She is a senior fellow with the International League of Conservation Photographers, a non-profit group that funded her project that centers mostly in rural Nelson and Buckingham Counties that would be dissected by the natural gas pipeline.

She combines spectacular aerial photos with deep close ups of people.

One of her subjects is Ella Rose, a retiree who lives in a small house in Union Hill. She was living a quiet happy life in her natural setting until she got a letter from Dominion Energy stating that they would be routing the ACP about 150-feet from her house.

Union Hill is a touchpoint for pipeline controversy since it is largely African-American community that ACP officials have selected for a compressor station. It is one of similar localities that seem to be targeted with other loud and disruptive equipment along the pipeline route. Continue reading

Is It the Death Knell For Dominion’s Pipeline?

By Peter Galuszka

For more than a decade, hydraulic fracturing drilling for natural gas and oil has transformed the American energy picture, leading to big revivals in such energy fields such as Marcellus in West Virginia and Pennsylvania and the Bakken field in the Dakotas.

It has prompted Dominion Energy and its utility partners to push forward with an $8 billion or so Atlantic Coast Pipeline that will take Marcellus gas through Virginia all the way to South Carolina. The project, tied up in court fights, has been enormously divisive as property owners have protested the utilities’ strong arm methods of securing rights of way.

But now there’s clear evidence that the fracking boom is over, and that has huge implications for the ACL project. The reason? Oil and gas prices have dropped thanks to a perfect storm of issues. There’s the coronavirus pandemic tanking the U.S. economy, bitter energy wars between Russia and Saudi Arabia, and the fact that fracking gas and oil rigs are enormously expensive and wells can produce for only a short period.

The Hill reported last week: “Oil sank to $23 (a barrel) from a high of $53 in mid-February, far below the break even point that producers need to drill new wells to maintain supply, and with volumes rapidly diminishing at existing wells.”

The newspaper points out that a fracking well can cost more than $10 million while a traditional well is only $2 million. As price pressure mounts, the number of wells nationally has plummeted from 790 to 772 in one week.  At the Bakken field, reports The Washington Post, producers are cutting costs.

The situation has clear implications for the ACL project which was conceived at the height of the Marcellus boom. Dominion claimed that the gas would be badly needed in coming years while others claimed there isn’t enough demand. Continue reading

An Interview With the State Epidemiologist

Here is interview I did today for Style Weekly with Dr. Lillian Peake, the State Epidemiologist for Virginia. It was for Style Weekly, but I think they won’t mind if I share it with you.

— Peter Galuszka

Virginians Hit the Sauce

By Peter Galuszka

Virginians are stocking up on spirits, fearing that the ABC store system might shut down because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Last week saw sales of $30.1 million up from $4.5 million the previous week. While big, the volume has not surpassed the holiday seasons last year.

For days, there have been rumors that ABC stores would shut down.

Not so, says the ABC system. They are changing store hours to open at noon and close at 7 p.m., seven days a week

So far, one store in downtown Richmond has been temporarily shut down because an employee tested positive for the virus.

Governor Ralph Northam, hoping to ease the financial pain of restaurants now closed to dining inside, has urged them to ramp up their takeout and delivery sales by letting them include wine and beer.

There had been talk that cocktails might be included, but the ABC says no.

A local ABC store employee told me that there are big runs on large bottles and there are some shortages but generally, the delivery system seems to be working. ABC also offers online sales.

Among the best- selling brands are Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey and Tito’s vodka.

Bottoms up!

Racism and COVID-19 in Virginia

By Peter Galuszka

“The Chinese Virus?” “Kung Flu?” Wuflu?”

These are some pejorative and racist names being bandied about for what is technically known as the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2. The disease associated with the virus is COVID-19.

These distinctions are part of a column written by the Virginia Asian Advisory Board in today’s Virginia Mercury. They write: “In an already anti-immigrant environment, Asians, particularly Chinese, are reportedly facing increasing acts of racism.”

They report that businesses with Asian-sounding names are being shunned, Uber and Lyft drivers are not giving rides of people based on their names and the social media is filled with stories critical of Asians, which is nuts because Asia is even more diverse than Europe.

Donald Trump, our Incompetent in Chief, is leading the charge for demeaning Asians by insisting on calling the virus the “Chinese Flu.”

During the 2016 campaign, he constantly put down Mexicans and other Latinos. That summer I was taken aback when I was at my neighborhood swimming pool. A group of what looked like eighth-grade boys was splashing around shouting “Mexico sucks!” I stopped them and asked them why they were saying that. They said, “That’s what Donald Trump says.” Continue reading

What Will COVID-19 Do to Virginia’s Economy?

Hey, Baconauts!

This is a podcast I did last week for WTJU, the official radio station of the University of Virginia,I have been contributing for a number of years. I hope you find it interesting.

— Peter Galuszka

A Look at Richmond and COVID-19

By Peter Galuszka

Here is a roundup story I wrote for Style Weekly that was published today that explains the effects of COVID-19 on the Richmond area. Hopefully, BR readers will find it of interest.

It was a tough piece to report. The impacts of the deadly virus are very complicated and multi-faceted. An especially hard part was trying to keep with the fast-changing news, notably the number of new cases and deaths. We were updating right up until the story closed Monday afternoon. It was hard to talk to people with social-distancing and closings.

The experience shows the delicate balancing act between taking tough measures to stem the contagion and keeping the economy going. My view is that tough measures are needed because without them, it will all be much worse, particularly more illness and death as the experience in Italy has shown.

Incredibly, our utterly incompetent president, Donald Trump, now wants to focus on the economy more than taking necessary containment steps. It’s far too soon for that. Regrettably, a number of Bacon’s Rebellion commenters are sounding the same irresponsible tune in keeping with their big business and anti-regulation laud of free market capitalism. Continue reading

Is Northam Up to the COVID-19 Challenge?

By Peter Galuszka

Governor Ralph Northam has approached the COVID-19 pandemic  with a light touch that has drawn criticism for doing too little too late.

He has declared a state of emergency, banned gatherings of more than 100 people and closed schools until well into April. But he’s also not closed restaurants and businesses or done much to make sure that Virginian’s health workers have enough testing kits and respirators and personal protective equipment, such as masks and hazardous material suits.

Consequently, health workers have been slicing up bandanas or reusing face masks against manufacturers’ warnings to protect themselves from the deadly virus.

The Washington Post has compared the responses of regional leaders in an article this morning. Larry Hogan, Maryland’s Republican governor, got high marks for his pro-active, can-do attitude that saw him taking tougher policies earlier on. The Post gave Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser a little below Hogan in her response.

But, the Post reported, “If you’ve got Maryland and D.C. shutting down, but we aren’t, that cuts down tremendously on what Mayor Bowser and Governor Hogan are trying to do,” said Libby Garvey, a Democrat and board chair of Arlington County.

A Northam spokesman said that the lighter approach is appropriate because it doesn’t strangle Virginia’s economy and the state is more rural and spread out than Maryland or Washington. Continue reading

Spy V. Spy in Virginia Politics?

Erik Prince

By Peter Galuszka

Erik Prince, the highly controversial former Navy SEAL and founder of the security firm Blackwater, recruited spies to infiltrate liberal groups and the 2018 political campaign of U.S. Rep Abigail Spanberger, according to media reports.

His role was disclosed in a lawsuit deposition involving the right-wing group Project Veritas that has tried to work covertly to embarrass journalists and others, according to the Washington Examiner.

Spanberger, a Democrat, knocked off U.S. Rep. Dave Brat, a conservative favorite, in the 7th District, which includes parts of the Richmond suburbs. Her victory stunned political watchers since the district historically has voted  for Republicans. She had worked previously as an undercover operative for the CIA on issues including terrorism and nuclear proliferation.

Prince is alleged to have hired Richard Seddon, a former intelligence officer with MI-6, for various covert political missions. In one case, Seddon allegedly recruited Marisa Jorge, a Liberty University graduate to work in Spanberger’s campaign. Continue reading

Takeaways on Biden’s Big Win

Photo credit: Richmond Times-Dispatch

By Peter Galuszka

Joe Biden prevailed in the Virginia Democratic primary Tuesday, showing that the state’s movement to the political left can go only so far.

The former vice president got 53% of the vote with Sen. Bernie Sanders snaring 23%,and Elizabeth Warren and Mike Bloomberg far behind. Nationally, Biden’s remarkable comeback on Super Tuesday has made him the leading Democrat, although Sanders isn’t gone yet. Here are some takeaways:

  • Political analysts in the state such as Steve Farnsworth, a professor at the University of Mary Washington, have said that while changing demographics have made the state bluer, it is far from California. The analysts are right, despite what a number of conservatives claim.
  • The turnout was large. That’s significant because if it is likewise large in November, it’s bad news for Donald Trump.
  • A number of state Democrats supported Biden at the last minute, worried that Sanders would be a giveaway to Trump.
  • Democratic leaders know that they must hold on to the gains they made in 2018 and 2019. Two key bellwethers are U.S. Reps. Abigail Spanberger of the 7th District and Elaine Luria of the 2nd District, who defeated prominent Republicans in 2018. If either of those two loses in November, it would be a big symbolic blow to moderate Democrats.
  • Continue reading

In Memory of a Great (West) Virginian

By Peter Galuszka

Katherine Coleman Goble Johnson, a pioneering and brilliant African-American mathematician whose on-the-money calculations kept early astronauts alive, died Monday at the age 101. She spent most of her life in Hampton and worked for NASA there until she retired in 1986.

Her life and that of two other female African-American mathematicians from NASA, were portrayed in the 2016 film “Hidden Figures. Last year, she was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal.

Ms. Johnson was born in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va, where she was able to develop her talents despite the restrictions of the Jim Crow era. In the Mountain State at one point, public education was not provided to black people from high school on. So, her Father moved the family to the town of Institute where a high school was available. She graduated summa cum laude From West Virginia State, a historically black school, in 1937 when she was 18 with degrees in math and French.

For years she moved in and out of education, teaching at a school In Marion. Va. and continuing her studies. She moved permanently when her husband found work in Hampton. Continue reading

Why Won’t They Let Professor Funke In?

Hajo Funk. Photo credit: Main-Echo

By Peter Galuszka

There’s a very curious case involving the University of Virginia that involves freedom of speech and free education, but it doesn’t involve the usual complaints of Mr. Jefferson’s University being a hotbed of Bolshevism.

Rather, it involves a renowned German professor who has had a rough time getting a U.S. visa after he was invited to teach in Charlottesville, according to the Cavalier Daily. Political scientist Hajo Funke had been invited to lead two courses as The Max Kade Distinguished Visiting Professor. On Thursday, he finally got his visa after a months-long wait.

Funke’s specialty is the study of right-wing politics, notably the re-emergence of the trends in Europe which has seen the rise of white supremacism, anti-immigration and anti-Semitism. Some examples include Hungary, Poland, Russia, France and other countries.

He had been slated to teach two courses, “Right-Wing Populism and the Far Right” and “Historical Political Memory” but had had to do them via teleconferencing from Berlin.

The university invited him to teach in November and he went to the U.S. Consulate in Germany to apply for the appropriate visa. Surprisingly, he was told that approval was being delayed with no reason given. According to the media, one possible reason is that he had visited Iran to see his wife’s family and to do some research. Continue reading

Huge Dominion Pipeline Project Loses Partner

By Peter Galuszka

The delayed Atlantic Coast Pipeline is undergoing a major change due to rising costs and legal delays – The Southern Company, based in Atlanta, is backing out of the project as an equity partner.

According to an announcement late Tuesday, Dominion Energy will acquire The Southern Company’s 5% stake in the natural gas project whose cost has risen from $5.1 billion to $8 billion thanks largely to legal challenges by environmentalists and regulatory agencies. The new ownership structure will be 53% Dominion and 47% Duke Energy, based in Charlotte.

The Southern Company will be still related to the project as an “anchor shipper,” the announcement said.

Another surprise in the announcement is that the pipeline project will buy a small Liquefied Natural Gas plant in Jacksonville, Fla. Dominion will assume ownership of it from Southern. That raises questions because for years Dominion has vigorously denied that the 600-mile-long pipeline has any link to plans to export LNG. Dominion does own an LNG export facility at Lugsby, Md. on the Chesapeake Bay that exports LNG mostly to Asian utilities. Continue reading