Category Archives: Politics

Buy Bacon’s Book

By Peter Galuszka

This is a shameless advertisement. Jim has written an excellent book and you should buy it and review it.

While some of Jim’s focus is at odds with a similar book I wrote eight years ago, “Maverick Miner” is a really well put together effort at research and writing.

In my reporting, I asked many people, mostly miners, what they thought about E. Morgan Massey. The response: tough on unions but good guy. I heard this over and over. I was told that if rank and file miners had a serious problem, they could call Morgan and he’d come to the mountains to work things out. I heard this a lot and it gives credence to Jim’s book.

You should buy the book, read it, and like it or not, post something on Amazon. Here’s something I did:

“In this book, Jim Bacon, a Richmond journalist, tells a fascinating story about 94-year-old E. Morgan Massey, the former head of coal company that would become highly controversial. Massey paid Bacon to write a private narrative about the Massey family and agreed to let Bacon write his own unabridged account. Taken as a biography and while understanding that this is from Massey’s viewpoint, the result works very well. Massey explains why he hired Donald L. Blankenship, who achieved remarkable notoriety as the boss of Massey Energy, a company spinoff. He ended up in federal prison. The book underestimates the human and environmental cost of coal mining in the Central Appalachians. It also takes Massey’s side in dissecting what caused the April 5, 2010 explosion that killed 29 miners – the worst such U.S. coal disaster in 40 years. Even so, Bacon’s access to internal sources and records is a welcome contribution to understanding a great story.

Peter Galuszka is author of “Thunder on the Mountain: Death At Massey and the Dirty Secrets Behind Big Coal.” (St. Martin’s Press, 2012)

What Texas’s Crisis Means for Virginia

by Peter Galuszka

The Texas freeze and ensuing energy disaster has clear lessons for Virginia as it sorts out its energy future.

Yet much of the media coverage in Virginia and certainly on Bacon’s Rebellion conveniently leaves out pertinent observations.

The statewide freeze in Texas completely fouled up the entire energy infrastructure as natural gas pipelines and oil wells stopped working, coal at generating plants iced over and wind turbines stopped working.

Making matters much worse, Texas opted not to have power links with other states. Its “free market” system of purchasing power meant utilities skimped on maintenance and adding weather-relative preventive measures such as making sure key generation components were weatherproof.

The result? Scores dead and millions without electricity. Here are more points worth considering in Virginia:

Climate Change is For Real

It is a shame that so much comment in Bacon’s Rebellion is propaganda from people who are or were paid, either directly or indirectly, by the fossil fuel industry. Thus, the blog diminishes the importance of dealing with climate change in a progressive way.  Continue reading

Foy on Healthcare Reform: More Price Transparency

Jennifer Carroll Foy

by James A. Bacon

Judging by his campaign fund-raising e-mails, Terry McAuliffe thinks he can snag the Democratic Party nomination for governor by running against the Republican’s poll-leading candidate, Trumpette Amanda Chase. Given his name recognition as a former governor, that may work. But give his lesser-known rival for the nomination, Jennifer Carroll Foy, credit for talking serious public policy.

Foy’s missive on health care probably won’t garner much attention from the media, which prefers political catfights over debates of substance, and it may not win over many voters. After all, how many voters read public-policy white papers? Her position paper won’t even win over me — Foy’s natural instinct is to turn to government to solve every problem. But at least the former Prince William County delegate has given serious thought to improving Virginia’s healthcare system. And at least one of her proposals — to improve price transparency — is something that even small-government, free-market conservatives can work with.

Rather than dwell on her proposals to establish a prescription drug affordability board, steer funds into a Virginia Reinsurance program, and initiate a half-dozen programs to spend more money, permit me to focus on the Big Idea that has the potential to build bipartisan consensus. Continue reading

Before There Was an Atlantic Gas Pipeline….

N&W coal train in West Virginia

…There Was the Coal Slurry Pipeline.

by James A. Bacon

The early 1980s were a momentous time for the U.S. coal industry, and for Virginia economic history and politics as well. As the world turned to coal in the wake of the Arab oil embargo, coal exports through Hampton Roads were surging. Loading terminals literally could not load the black rock fast enough, and dozens of ships were backing up in Hampton Roads waiting for their turn at dock. Meanwhile, the Norfolk & Western Railway (soon to become part of Norfolk Southern) and the C&O (soon to become part of CSX) exercised duopoly control over rail shipments to the ports, and, newly deregulated, they used their power to charge punishing tariffs. Thus commenced a years-long battle between railroads and coal operators over the spoils of a once-in-a-lifetime export boom.

E. Morgan Massey, president of the Richmond-based A.T. Massey Coal Co., took the lead in taking on the railroads. Not only did he build new terminals in Newport News and Charleston, S.C., to bust the railroad monopoly on loading facilities, he helped orchestrate a bid to build a 350-mile coal slurry pipeline across Virginia to bypass the railroads. Just one hitch: A coal slurry pipeline had to cross railroad rights-of-way, and only the General Assembly could grant the eminent domain. Thus began one of the greatest lobbying battles between business lobbies – VEPCO, the Transco pipeline company, and coal industry interests on the one hand, and the railroads on the other — that Richmond had ever seen.

Chapter 8, “Rails and Pipes,” of my new book, “Maverick Miner” tells the story of the clash between business titans from Massey’s perspective. Here, for the joy and delight of Bacon’s Rebellion readers, I excerpt the section that focuses on the coal slurry pipeline debate. There is no coal slurry pipeline in Virginia today, so it is not a spoiler to reveal that the railroads won the legislative battle. But Morgan and his allies, VEPCO and Transco, felt like they squeaked out a victory in the business war. Continue reading

The Mythology of Robert E. Lee

By Peter Galuszka

With excellent timing, the former head of the history department at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point has come out with a book about the mythology of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee and much of the White “Southern” culture.

Retired U.S. Army Gen. Ty Seidule, a former paratrooper, has deep Virginia roots and his analysis goes right to the heart of the problems plaguing Virginia, Civil War memorabilia, Richmond, Charlottesville, the Virginia Military Institute and more.

He grew up in Alexandria and had ties to the Episcopal prep school where he expanded his desire to be a “Southern” gentleman while worshipping the likes of Lee and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson.

Here’s a link to my review of his book in Richmond’s Style Weekly. The Post also reviewed the book this past Sunday.

A Tale of Three Virginias

Source: UVa Weldon Cooper Center; statchatva.com

by Shaun Kenney

For those who have taken the opportunity to get to know the Old Dominion, one would be well served to drive the Colonial Parkway.

Built by the Rockefeller family in the 1930s, the road is designed in such a way that you could travel the length from Jamestown through Williamsburg and to Yorktown without even so much as noticing the colonial capital.

This is by design, of course. Yet it is also a way of understanding how unique Virginia is among her sister colonies turned states. Whereas New England built townships upon the rocky yet rich black soil, Virginians built farms and plantations upon cheap land, pushing further west when the soil gave out or new opportunities arose.

Townships and cities were the oddities.

For almost 400 years, this concept of Virginia was Virginia. We were an agrarian society of farms and farmlets, ranchers and miners, fishermen and merchants. True, we built a great manufacturing city in Richmond and a great port at Hampton Roads — our own Athens and Piraeus — but much like our Colonial Parkway, these major ports could go unnoticed. Continue reading

Is the Wason Center Doing Push Polling for the Democratic Party?

Relax, the headline is totally facetious. The Wason Center at Christopher Newport University is an independent organization that values its integrity. It is not doing push polling for Democrats. But you’ve got to wonder if the results would have been any different if the two had been working in sync.

Here’s the question Wason asked in a poll the results of which were released yesterday: “If you were making up the budget for the Virginia state government this year, would you increase, decrease or keep spending the same for…”

Continue reading

Virginia’s New Rules for Permitted Political Discourse

You will be assimilated.

by James A. Bacon

In censuring Sen. Amanda Chase, R-Chesterfield, the Senate of Virginia has established new rules for acceptable political behavior and rhetoric. The rules are always changing, so it’s important to keep up or risk being consigned to the netherworld of the political undead.

You can read the censure here. Do not misinterpret what follows as a defense of Chase. She’s destroying Virginia’s Republican Party with her antics and hyperbolic language, and she has brought much of this obloquy upon herself. Rather, take the recitation of the charges listed in the censure as signs of a phenomenon even more disturbing than Chase: evidence of how the political Left in Virginia increasingly dictates the rules of acceptable political discourse and to whom the rules apply.

Charge #1: Chase berated a Capitol Police officer on duty when the Senator was not given access to a restricted parking area in front of the Capitol. She addressed the officer profanely and made offensive remarks to the Clerk of the Senate. She suggested the officer had been racially motivated in reaction to the Senator’s “white privilege.”

New rules: Profanity and rudeness now are grounds for censure. So is imputing racial prejudice to a person of another race…. depending upon the race in question. Continue reading

Figure It Out!

In a column posted earlier today Kerry Dougherty wondered if the GOP can successfully channel COVID frustration into electoral victory later this year. I proffer no predictions on election outcomes, but there are abundant signs that people are fed up. Nationally, that frustration helped boot Donald Trump from the White House. But Democrats are the party in power in Virginia, and public ire at lockdowns, the bungled vaccine rollout, and school closings likely will be directed at them.

Consider the brief rant of Brandon Michon, shown in the YouTube video above, against the Loudoun County School Board. “You’re a bunch of cowards hiding behind our children as an excuse for keeping schools closed. … The garbage workers pick up my freaking trash and risk their lives every day — more than anyone in this school system! Figure it out! … You know what? … There is a line of people out there who will gladly take your seat and figure it out. It’s not a high bar. Raising the freaking bar!” Continue reading

Will Northam’s Bungled Vaccine Rollout Help Virginia’s GOP?

by Kerry Dougherty

Political scientists are fond of pointing out how Mother Nature can, at times, intrude into politics in the most unexpected ways.

For example, the list of big-city mayors who lost their jobs due to slow snow removal is long. There’s a name for this phenomenon: Plow or perish. 

According to Bloomberg News, it started with New York City Mayor John Lindsay whose lack of alacrity in a February 1969 blizzard not only cost 42 New Yorkers their lives, but cost him his job.

In 1979, Chicago Mayor Michael Bilandic bungled a blizzard and was gone in the next election.

Denver Mayor Bill McNichols also blamed a 1982 blizzard for the demise of his 15-year reign. Continue reading

Voters Still Want Principled, Conservative Policies

I am delighted to introduce a new contributor to Bacon’s Rebellion: Robin Beres, a former editorial writer for the Richmond Times-Dispatch. — JAB

by Robin Beres

Inauguration Day has come and gone, and President Joe Biden is safely ensconced in the White House. For more than a week now, he has been sitting at the Resolute desk, merrily signing one executive order after another. What exactly is in many of them and how they will impact Virginians remains to be seen.

But for now, there is hope that the long, national slugfest we endured during President Donald Trump’s four years in office will end. Biden’s inaugural words calling for unity hit the right tones. It was full-throated and patriotic — and sounded reassuringly like a speech from a well-seasoned statesman rather than a feeble old man. We can only pray his remarks hold true.

And, for now at least, most of the protests that marked 2020 appear to have stopped (except in places like Portland, Oregon, and Seattle, where unrest and rioting have become near-daily occurrences). On Inauguration Day, in a locked-down Washington, D.C. — to all appearances under martial law — there was none of the looting, destruction, or cry-ins we saw during Trump’s 2016 Inauguration.

With nearly 26,000 gun-toting National Guardsmen present, there were no further acts of insurrection such as happened at the U.S. Capitol on January 6. Never has the nation seen such a dreadful exhibition of anarchy and, hopefully, we never will again. The entire episode was repulsive. Continue reading

Dig This — the Virginia GOP As a Big Tent Party!

by James A. Bacon

Virginia Republicans, divided between populist cultural conservatives and traditional free market/small government conservatives, may well immolate themselves when it comes time to select candidates for statewide office. I proffer no predictions. But, should the GOP find some way to maintain a facade of unity, there is one very promising sign for the future: The party is attracting candidates from beyond its traditional white racial/ethnic base.

The Bull Elephant, a partisan Republican blog, lists 10 declared or talked-about candidates for governor, five for lieutenant governor, and five for attorney general. The seven minority candidates include:

Sergio de la Peña, a retired Army colonel and Trump administration appointee to the Pentagon. The 65-year-old de la Peña, whose Mexican family moved to the U.S. legally, says he learned English and assimilated. As a candidate for governor, he supports making English the state’s official language and would end benefits for illegals. He supports funding law enforcement, prosecuting looters and rioters, and the right to bear arms. On jobs, says his website, “Sergio will restart the economy by creating an open and competitive economic environment.” Continue reading

There Is a God and He Has a Sense of Humor

President Biden. Credit: deadline.com

by James C. Sherlock

The Left won control of government in the most recent elections nationally and in Virginia. Elections indeed have consequences.

The focus on race instead of class by the newly victorious left will have major consequences here.

A combination of (1) Biden policies requiring antiracism training for federal workers and contractors; and (2) state requirements for biannual antiracism training for teachers and rewriting of syllabi to achieve antiracism together will be felt more heavily in Virginia, especially dark blue Northern Virginia, than anywhere else in the nation.

Virginia, because of its massive concentration of federal workers and contractors in Northern Virginia and military and contractors in Hampton Roads, will be the state most heavily effected by the new Biden administration policies.

Virginia’s education system is already in the midst of an antiracism transformation at the hands of the Governor, the General Assembly, the Department of Education, left-leaning school boards in districts like Albemarle County and left-wing schools of education in Virginia such as those of UVa and VCU.

I am going to use this essay primarily to offer commentary from the Left on what this means and whether it will work. Continue reading

An Era of Kindness, Civility and Decency? Not in Virginia.

Sen. John Bell

by James A. Bacon

Virginia Attorney General Mark R. Herring commented upon the inauguration of President Joe Biden today with the following remark: “Today, we move forward as one country into a new era where kindness, civility, and decency are once again represented at the highest levels of our government.”

That’s a lofty sentiment. I hope it proves true.

However, Herring’s colleagues in the General Assembly apparently failed to get the memo. A state Senate committee voted along party lines yesterday to censure Sen. Amanda Chase, R-Chesterfield, for “fomenting insurrection against the United States” in reference to the storming of the U.S. Capitol by Trump supporters.

I am no fan of Chase, as my previous posts on this blog attest. She’s a loose cannon on the ship of state. But I don’t believe in canceling everyone with whom I have strong disagreements. What, precisely, did Chase do or say to warrant a censure for fomenting insurrection? Continue reading

Where Goes the Virginia GOP in a Post-Trump Presidency?

Kirk Cox. (Photo credit: Roanoke Times.)

by James A. Bacon

In the aftermath of the mob action at the U.S. Capitol two days ago, establishment Republicans have decisively condemned not only the rioters but President Trump for firing them up with assertions that the 2020 election was stolen. As best I can tell, hard-core Trump supporters seem unrepentant. They still think the election was stolen, they’re more convinced than ever that the system has failed them, and they feel no regrets for taking their protest into the halls of Congress.

Although divisions in the Republican Party start at the top, the fissures extend deep into every state. Here in Virginia, the contrast between establishment figure Del. Kirk Cox, R-Colonial Beach, a former Speaker of the House, and Sen. Amanda Chase, R-Chesterfield, a die-hard Trump supporter, could not be more stark. Cox condemned the Capitol riot in no uncertain terms. Chase, who attended the rally in Washington, defended the protesters. Indeed, she portrayed them as the victims, highlighting in a tweet the fact that Capitol Police shot and killed Ashli Babbitt, a 35-year-old Air Force veteran from California who was among a group of people forcing entry through a door.

I don’t know how this division heals. Unless it does, I see no way for Republicans to create an effective counterweight to the Democrats in Virginia. Democratic ascendancy in Richmond seems assured for the foreseeable future.

Can Republicans achieve a rapprochement between the two wings of the party? Is such a rapprochement even desirable? Continue reading