By Peter Galuszka
Momentum is growing to rename three Virginia military bases which bear the monikers of Confederate generals. It is part of a movement to reassess Confederate symbols within the military nationwide.
The three bases are Ft. A.P. Hill, named for Confederate Gen. Ambrose Powell Hill Jr.; Ft. Pickett, named for Gen. George Pickett; and Ft. Lee, named for Gen. Robert E. Lee.
This comes in the middle of a controversy between military leaders and President Donald Trump, who says he won’t even consider renaming bases.
There has been a growing rift between Trump and numerous military leaders, notably James Mattis, a decorated Marine general and Trump’s former secretary of defense, about accusations that Trump has tried to politicize U.S. armed forces.
Part of the tension involves Trump’s controversial plan to use federal units, such as the Army’s famed 82nd Airborne Division, to crack down on demonstrators after the slaying by Minneapolis police of George Floyd, an unarmed and handcuffed African-American accused of passing a phony $20 bill. Continue reading
By Peter Galuszka
In 2014, the Sheriff’s Department of York County and Poquoson got their very own tank-like vehicle, called a “Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP).”
Fully armored and tan in color with steep sides, it looks like something out television footage of the war in Iraq where U.S. troops needed to get through mine-infested streets and terrain safely.
But why do such generally sleepy communities such as these need a high-powered armored car? Sheriff J.D. “Danny” Digs told The Virginian-Pilot and Daily Press that it isn’t meant to “intimidate people” but can be useful during adverse weather when trees are down. Really? Wouldn’t a pickup truck work?
The newspaper story is important since it combs through what Virginia law enforcement got after the “1033”Defense Department program started to sell surplus military gear to local law enforcement in 1997.
It notes that military surplus sales in Virginia went from $216,000 in 1999 to $853,824 in 2019, according to Defense Logistics Agency statistics. The latter number included the cost of another MRAP so Virginia Beach could get its very own armored truck. Over time, the City of Portsmouth got 87 M-16 assault rifles. Other goodies include night vision glasses. Continue reading
Posted in Budgets, Business and Economy, Commentary, Courts and law, Crime , corrections and law enforcement, Culture wars, Defense, Disaster planning, Federal, Gun rights, Individual rights, Mental illness, Poverty & income gap, Property rights, Public corruption, Public safety & health, Race and race relations
The Internet Research Agency in St. Petersburg, Russia
By Peter Galuszka
Around midnight Monday, reporters in downtown Washington D.C., stood by ready to cover the next round of protests about the slaying of African Americans by police.
They started getting tweets marked #dcblackout suggesting that internet service was being interrupted because of a secret program presumably run by the government that would cut them off.
The curious thing, NBC News reported, is that the reporters’ cell phones worked just fine. Later Twitter was contacted and began to investigate. It was curious that the questionable tweet seemed to be coming from the left-wing ANTIFA group that is said to have helped organize protests around the country.
A tweet labeled as been sourced with ANTIFA proclaimed “Tonight’s the night, comrades. Tonight we say F&*^The city and we move into the residential areas, the white hoods and we take what’s ours.”
Twitter quickly uncovered the problem. The tweets were fakes put out by a far-right white nationalist group called Identity Evropa. Twitter took down the sites because they violated the company’s policy against using social media to incite violence, NBC reported. Continue reading
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By Peter Galuszka
Get ready. The names of all kinds of leftist organizations are going to be kicked around as the masterminds behind violent, cop-beating looters, especially the so-called ANTIFA movement in Virginia and across the country..
But what is reality? I don’t have clear answers but I have some ideas to share since I have been dealing with activist groups since I was in high school in the late 1960s. I hope they help this blog’s discussion.
First, there’s plenty of research available about ANTIFA and there are already plenty of reports about it. It is not a single group but a very loose collection of autonomous activist groups, most of which do not advocate violence. For reference, see yesterday’s Daily Beast piece with the blunt headline, “Trump’s ‘ANTIFA Threat Is Total Bullshit – And Totally Dangerous.”
That article and plenty of others note that ANTIFA, or whatever it is, has no clear chain of command and uses ultra-fast social media to alert other activists about rallies and protests but has no control over them. If you are thinking about the tightly-controlled and secretive Communist cells of the past century, you are not getting it. Continue reading
Posted in Bacon and pigs, Business and Economy, Commentary, Correction, Courts and law, Crime , corrections and law enforcement, Culture wars, Demographics, Disaster planning, Economic development, Electoral process, Federal, Government Oversight, Gun rights, Immigration, Individual rights, Labor & workforce, LGBQT rights, Libertarians, Media, Money in politics, News, Politics, Poverty & income gap, Public corruption, Race and race relations, Transparency
Robert Bobb, of the Robert Bobb Group, functioned as Petersburg’s de facto CFO for a year or more. He was tough, but he got the city’s books straightened out.
by James A. Bacon
Two weeks ago, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a $3 trillion coronavirus-relief bill that would direct nearly $1 trillion to state, local and tribal governments. This massive bail-out would come on top of massive assistance to states and localities in previous legislation: $150 for a Coronavirus Relief Fund, $30 billion for an Education Stabilization Fund, $45 billion for the disaster Relief Fund, $25 billion for public transit systems, an increase in the federal government share of Medicaid spending, and billions more for miscellaneous programs. Also the Federal Reserve Bank has set up a $500 billion program to facilitate short-term state and local borrowing.
The ball is now in the U.S. Senate’s court. What, if anything, will the Senate propose in the way of a second wave of fiscal assistance? Judging from their press releases, Virginia Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine have so far refrained from committing themselves to a Pelosi-style bail-out of the states. Their statements have focused on narrow-bore initiatives for water improvement projects, National Guard benefits, and a restaurant meals program for Americans struggling with food security.
Sooner or later, however, they may be called upon to either support or oppose a second-wave bailout. They will receive intense pressure from their Democratic Party colleagues representing the states — Illinois, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut — in most desperate need of fiscal rescue. When they do so, I hope that that the two former governors will remember the hard choices they made to keep Virginia’s fiscal house in order, and, similarly, how the McAuliffe administration forced the City of Petersburg, when faced with fiscal collapse, to make hard, hard choices to put its finances in order. Continue reading
What has the federal government done to help Virginia cope with the COVID-19 crisis? The following data comes from the White House. Clearly, the decision to compile and disseminate the information was political. But the data speaks for itself.
- The Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) has obligated $200.2 million or Virginia to respond to COVID-19
- FEMA has delivered the following from the Strategic National Stockpile to Virginia:
- 214,389 N-95 masks
- 510,222 surgical masks
- 82,621 medical gowns
- 2,056 coveralls
- 101,035 face shields
- 386,975 gloves
- Health and Human Services has awarded over $21.29 million in CARES Act funding to 26 health centers across Virginia to assist in combating COVID-19
- The Commonwealth of Virginia has received a total of $931.4 million from HHS.
- The Small Business Administration issued over $8.7 billion in loans to over 40,300 Virginia small businesses
- Housing and Urban Development made over $52,639,529 in COVID-19 funding available to Virginia via CARES Act authorizations
- The Department of Transportation allocated more than $456.3 million in Federal Transit Administration funds to help the Virginia public transportation systems respond to the challenges of COVID-19
By Dick Hall-Sizemore
The President does not seem able to formulate a national strategy for COVID-19 testing. So, I am proposing one:
- Say to Abbot Laboratories, “Here is $1 billion. Turn over the rights to your new testing machine to the government.”
- Say to Abbot Laboratories, “Here is $100 million. Train an army of technicians to use your testing machines.”
- Invoke the National Defense Procurement Act and say to various labs and manufacturers, “Here is $2 billion. Manufacture xx number of the Abbot testing machines and the needed reagents and other supplies and deliver them to the federal government.”
- Announce a national schedule for distributing the Abbot machines and supplies to state governments, based on need and demonstrated level of virus outbreak.
- Say to the nation’s governors, “Set up a testing schedule and procedures that best suit your state and allow people to start working as soon as you determine it is safe, based on testing.”
The dollar amounts are somewhat arbitrary and subject to change, based on better projections than my SWAG.
By Peter Galuszka
This week is the tenth anniversary of one of the worst coal mine disasters in recent U.S. history. The massive explosion at the Upper Big Branch at Montcoal, W.Va. on the afternoon of April 5, 2010 killed 29 miners, the largest number in 40 years.
The disaster meant the undoing of Massey Energy, a Richmond-based company that had been widely called out for its safety violations and mountain-top removal mining practices.
I wrote a book about the firm and Central Appalachian coal that was published by St. Martin’s Press in 2012. West Virginia University Press bought paperback rights to the book and we published an expanded and updated version in 2016.
Today, I have a remembrance in today’s Washington Post. It will be in print this Sunday on the Local Opinions page in the Metro section.
For many years, Massey Energy and its predecessor firm, A.T. Massey, operated a headquarters in a chunky building in downtown Richmond. The Massey family has been generous with its local donations and has helped such institutions as the Massey Cancer Center at Virginia Commonwealth University and the Virginia Institute of Marine Science.
The Massey family was notorious for breaking labor unions but during the two years it took to research the book, I learned that miners felt the firm listened to them and tried to take care of them.
Then a stocky man with a moustache, Don Blankenship, took over. He became notorious for skimping on safety and micro-managing. He served a year in federal prison for ignoring safety at UBB. Continue reading
Statue of Gov. Harry F. Byrd on the state capitol grounds.
By Peter Galuszka
Right-wingers in Virginia have been apoplectic for months that Democrats finally captured the General Assembly after years of Republican control.
They also were enraged that the legislature this winter passed a number of reforms that would draw Virginia into the 21st Century such raising the minimum wage, boosting collective bargaining, tightening rules on carbon pollution and raising taxes for cigarettes, a deadly product.
Now such conservatives are using the COVID-19 pandemic as an excuse to throttle or delay such needed reforms. They have banded into groups such as the Coalition fort a Strong Virginia Economy. They have used the Virginia Municipal League’s complaints against the reforms, claiming they cost too much, as a way to derail new measures.
According to the left-leaning blog site Blue Virginia, one of the more extreme advocates for scrambling changes is Dave LaRock, a far-right Republican delegate from Loudoun County. A pronounced gay-basher, LaRock wants to squelch all of the reforms made by the more progressive General Assembly. Continue reading
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Tagged Peter Galuszka
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
Posted in Budgets, Business and Economy, Courts and law, Economic development, Energy, Environment, Federal, Infrastructure, Planning
Tagged Atlantic Coast Pipeline, Dominion, Peter Galuszka