Category Archives: Politics

Who Rules America in 2020?

by James A. Bacon

One of my college textbooks back in the early 1970s was a book by G. William Domhoff, “Who Rules America?” He argued, as best I can remember, that a corporate elite wielded power through its influence over government as well its control of cultural institutions such as think tanks, foundations, academic departments. Apparently, Domhoff has updated his book several times over the years, but his fundamental thesis hasn’t changed.

It’s time for a fresh look at the question of who rules America. I would argue that America’s elites have fractured. A post-WWII corporate elite, based on wealth, still exists, but it has schismed. Some plutocrats remain relatively conservative on cultural issues, while others have embraced leftist nostrums. Moreover, there has arisen a cultural elite that is highly resentful of the power and privileges of the corporate elite. Members of the cultural elite aren’t mega-wealthy, but they are privileged and well-to-do, and they exercise enormous authority. They have captured the mainstream media, the universities, the foundations, the nonprofits, the museums and other cultural institutions, and through them, they frame the dominant narratives of our time.

The old corporate elite was motivated primarily by a desire to perpetuate its wealth. The new cultural elite is envious and would like to reappropriate much of that wealth for redistribution as it sees fit. Even more alarmingly, the cultural elite has a totalitarian instinct. Convinced of its righteousness, it is bent upon imposing its values and priorities upon the rest of the population. Continue reading

The Systemic Racism of Monument Avenue

By Peter Galuszka

Richmond’s grand Monument Avenue, a double lane, tree lined thoroughfare, has been the epicenter of the Black Lives Matter campaign that has focused on the statues of several Confederate figures one the road, including Robert E. Lee, J.E.B. Stuart, Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson and Jefferson Davis.

All are up for removal, but the same foot-dragging that has for years protected the statues that some consider racist is at work today. Protestors have torn down Davis and have defaced the rest. On Sunday night, they nearly ripped down the Stuart statue as two city council members urged that it be removed on an emergency basis.

Lee’s statue has been ordered down by Gov. Ralph Northam, but the effort has been tied up in lawsuits by several property owners. One claims either that the original deed that gave the state the site for Lee included language that it could not be removed. Other plaintiffs, most anonymous,  claim that removing the statues would hurt their property values and their special tax status.

If anything smacks of white privilege and entitlement, this is it. But for more perspective, this article in The Atlantic neatly sums up the history behind the statues and the Avenue, noting that the issue has everything to do with rewriting Richmond’s history and making a marketing play to sell expensive and exclusive real estate decades after the Confederacy was suppressed. Continue reading

Harsh But Fair? You Decide.

 RPV Chairman Jack Wilson issued a statement today blasting Governor Ralph Northam for allowing COVID-19 to fester in Virginia nursing homes. In a missive headed, “Northam Creates Nursing Home Death Camps,” he said: 

There is a massive problem taking place in Virginia nursing homes and Governor Northam is sweeping it under the rug. When will he take action? When will he take responsibility? Every moment spent parading around with Pharrell Williams and dangling the statue issue in front of Virginians like a set of keys is a moment lost in the fight against COVID-19. He frees criminals from jail because of COVID-19, but delivers a death sentence to our seniors. Virginia is desperate for leadership, and Northam refuses to provide it.

The statement certainly is no worse than a recent fund-raising letter from Attorney General Mark Herring’s gubernatorial campaign, signed ‘Team Herring,” that accuses President Trump of using the COVID-19 crisis to “fan the flames of racism and xenophobic hate.” Referring to COVID-19 as the “Wuflu” or “Chinese flu,” you see, encourages “acts of harassment, aggression, and violence toward Asians, Asian Americans, and Pacific Islanders.”

Surely we’re better than this.

On second thought, maybe we’re not.

— JAB

From Moon Walking to Slow Walking

by Kerry Dougherty

I’m tired of writing about Gov. Ralph Northam. I wish he’d stop doing dumb things so we could all go back to ignoring him.

But here we go again. This time it’s another Northam bait-and-switch.

What is it with this governor? He claims to worship at the altar of science and numbers but becomes an apostate when the facts don’t suit his agenda.

Yesterday, for instance.

Shortly before his Tuesday press conference Northam excitedly Tweeted: “Tune in now – I’m giving an update on #Covid-19 in Virginia and making an important announcement.”

I knew the big announcement wouldn’t be that Northam was looking at our collapsing COVID numbers and was ready to loosen his stranglehold on the commonwealth. That’s not his style. Gullible Virginians may have been tricked into watching, however.

Northam spent about THREE minutes at his presser discussing the biggest issue facing the state: The drawn-out Covid shutdowns that are crushing our economy, forcing businesses into bankruptcy and causing hundreds of thousands of Virginians to lose their jobs. Continue reading

The ACP Wins One But The War Drags On

By Peter Galuszka

The $8.5 billion Atlantic Coast Pipeline has won a significant legal victory but the war is far from over.

The U.S. Supreme Court, in a 7-2 decision, has ruled in favor of project operated by Dominion Energy and Duke Energy saying that its 42-inch pipeline can cross under the Appalachian Trail in the George Washington National Forest.

The Court ruled that the pipeline can pass 600 feet underneath the trail and that the U.S. Forest Service has the right to allow a right of way. The Richmond-based 4th Circuit Court of Appeals had previously ruled that the Forest Service had no such authority.

Dissenting, Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan wrote that the U.S. Minerals Leasing Act does give the federal government the right to regulate federal land, including trails. Justice Clarence Thomas, who wrote the majority ruling, said that plans to bury the pipeline under the Appalachian Trail represent an easement which is not the same as “land.”

The project still faces eight other permitting issues involving the Forest Service, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, the National Park Service and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Continue reading

Libertarians Need Not Apply

By Peter Galuszka

The Virginia Republican Party had a big shock Saturday.

Far-right candidate Bob Good snatched the party’s nomination in the fifth congressional district from incumbent Denver Riggleman, who was backed by President Donald Trump and Jerry Falwell Jr., the head of Liberty University.

The remarkable twist could presage an arch-conservative backlash against Trump’s populism in the run up to elections this November.

University of Virginia political analyst Larry Sabato tweeted early Sunday morning that “the Virginia GOP has gone so far to the right that a congressman backed by (Trump and Falwell) isn’t conservative enough to renominate.”

The 5th District includes the cities of Lynchburg and Charlottesville and covers broad swaths of highly socially conservative rural areas. Riggleman’s problem was that he had Libertarian tendencies and had officiated at a gay wedding. Continue reading

The Ups and Downs of Felix Dzerzhinsky

Felix Dzerzhinsky toppled. Photo credit: AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko.

By Peter Galuszka

For three decades, a 15-ton statue of Felix Dzerzhinsky loomed over a square in downtown Moscow. He rose high near the Lubyanka building, a turn of the century, yellow-colored one-time insurance office that served as the national headquarters for the KGB.

“Iron Felix,” born of Polish nobility, is best known as V.I. Lenin’s henchman, the leader of the Red secret police who orchestrated the deaths of hundreds of thousands during the Russian Civil War. He became regarded as the grandfather of various Soviet security agencies, including the MVD, NKVD, KGB and now the FSB and SVR.

Then in August 1991, Soviet hardliners attempted a coup against Mikhail Gorbachev, the reform-minded Communist Party chief. The coup failed, touching off a storm of retribution.

As many as 1,320 statues of Lenin cross the country came down. Leningrad became St. Petersburg, the Kirov Ballet reverted to its old name, the Mariinsky Ballet, and the city of Moscow ordered the statue of Felix taken down.

In order words, there is a strong similarity between what happened just before the Soviet Union fell apart in December 1991 and what is going on today in this country, especially in Virginia. Continue reading

“Systemic Racism?” Damned Right!

By Peter Galuszka

There has been much debate on this blog regarding whether there is “systemic racism” in Virginia and the rest of the country.

It’s a crucial question in the aftermath of the death of George Floyd, an unarmed and handcuffed African American who was killed on video by a white Minneapolis police officer two weeks ago. The killing sparked nationwide demonstrations, some rioting and a big rethink of race relations.

Regarding is “system racism,” my answer in a resounding “yes” although I agree there has been significant progress in race relations since the since the 1960s.

A few examples:

  • Virginia was the embarkation point for American’s first slaves.
  • Slavery was a key social, economic and political institution for several hundred years.
  • The Civil War was fought over slavery. Most battles were in Virginia.
  • The state embraced Jim Crow laws and kept them for years. These made it crimes for people of different races to go to school together, go on public transit together, sit together in restaurants, get married and so on.
  • There were plenty of lynchings in Virginia. Many went unpunished.

Continue reading

Our Gutsy Governor

By Peter Galuszka

On June 24, 2015, Nikki Haley, a Republican who was South Carolina’s first non-white governor, called for the removal of a Confederate flag that had been flying over the state’s capitol grounds for years.

“This flag, while an integral part of our past, does not represent the future of our great state,” she said. Her action came a few days after an avowed white supremacist walked into an African-American church and opened fire, killing church members attending a service.

I was watching the news on TV when she made her gutsy move. I was deeply impressed.

And now, Ralph Northam, a Democrat who is governor of Virginia, has taken a similarly gutsy move. He has ordered that the state-owned statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee be removed from its stand on Monument Avenue in Richmond. It has been there for about 130 years, erected by white supremacists with deep sentiment for their romantic myths of Southern history.

“I believe in a Virginia that learns lessons from our past and we all know that our country needs that example right now,” Northam said. Continue reading

Northam and Falwell — Feuding with Scriptures

Jerry Falwell, President, Liberty College

By Dick Hall-Sizemore

Virginians have been treated this spring with a feud between the Governor and Jerry Falwell, Jr., president of Liberty University.

First, Falwell defied the Governor’s coronavirus-related stay-at-home order and told students they should return to the campus after spring break. Northam responded by suggesting that Falwell “look to the actions of the leaders of Virginia’s flagship universities for how to set a strong example in this health crisis.” He then quoted a verse in I Corinthinans, “It is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful.” In the end, only a handful of students remained on the Liberty campus, while the university conducted most classes online, which it is well set up to do.

Next, Falwell objected to wearing a mask as the Governor directed, on the advice of medical experts. Then, he declared that he would wear a mask designed by him to display the infamous blackface photo in the Governor’s medical yearbook. Asked about this statement, the Governor replied, “I would just say that in response that my background in neurology and psychiatry is to deal and really help parents deal with their children’s behavior and child psychology 101, chapter one tells us, ‘do not water the weeds’ and I would consider the source.” Continue reading

The Real Danger with ANTIFA

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

WTJU Podcast: COVID-19 and the Economy

By Peter Galuszka

Here’s is the twice-monthly podcast produced by WTJU, the official radio station of the University of Virginia. With me on this podcast  are Nathan Moore, the station general manager, and Sarah Vogelsong, who covers, labor, energy and environmental issues across the state for the Virginia Mercury, a fairly new and highly regarded non-profit news outlet. Our topic is how Virginia is handling the economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic.

And Now For Something Completely Different

By Peter Galuszka

Dear Baconauts,

As you know, people like me have been described by a B.R.  commenter as those who submit “scorch and burn, mock and smear writings encased in scornful, supercilious, opinionated, and shallow rhetoric.”

I freely admit this and am damned proud of it.

But instead of dishing out the usual sarcastic bile, I have another idea today. I don’t know about you, but with me self-quaranting as much as possible, I am running out of things to read or watch. I still have for-pay work but who knows how much that might last? So, why don’t we exchange ideas of new stuff to occupy our minds with. Here’s a list of recommended movies, TV series and books:

  • On Netflix, I am a huge fan of the German TV series “Bablyon Berlin,” which imagines a very dark, brooding German capital after the Great War and before Hitler. The chief characters are Georeon Rath, a shattered war veteran and police detective who gets into the seamy side of life. His heart throb is Charlotte Ritter, an office worker and part-time prostitute. The series has everything, shady characters, mysterious train shipments from the Soviet Union, fascists, communists, early porn studios. The acting, story line and photography are excellent. It’s like a grown up version of “Cabaret.”

Continue reading

Notes from the Right Wing Echo Chamber

By Peter Galuszka

On Wednesday, I was standing next to the Capitol grounds in Richmond watching brightly decorated cars and pickups drive on 9th Street, their horns blaring.

I was attending the drive by protest rally on assignment for Style Weekly and happened to speak to Jason Roberge, a Spotsylvania County resident who is one of several Republicans hoping to oust U.S. Rep. Abigail Spanberger, a former covert CIA officer who represents the 7th Congressional district.

Roberge was there to protest what he says is Gov. Ralph Northam’s “terrible job” in temporarily shutting down businesses to prevent the spread of the COVID 19 virus. The rally was part of a series of protests across the country that are being set up on cue from right-wing activists.

Roberge told me: ”I hear he’s (Northam’s) down on North Carolina beach while this is going on.” As he spoke the House of Delegates was holding a special session under an outdoor tent nearby while the Senate presided at the Science Museum of Virginia.

Northam at the beach? It turns out that the conservative echo chamber has been peddling a story, firmly denied by Northam’s office, that he was at his house in Manteo, N.C. not far from the beaches at Nags Head during the special General Assembly session. Continue reading

Rethinking Ralph Northam

By Peter Galuszka

Governor Ralph Northam has been taking his lumps, especially from critics on this blog, for his performance in handling the COVID-19 pandemic.

He’s been described as inept, incompetent, unresponsive and, incredibly, as potentially dictatorial.

What is indeed curious is that while Northam was slow to get moving on virus issues, he has gotten rave reviews from the public, at least according to one poll.

More than three quarters of those contacted, 76%, approve of how Northam is handling the coronavirus crisis, according to a statewide poll conducted by the Center for Public Policy at the L. Douglas Wilder School of Government at Virginia Commonwealth University.

Of those, 40% have replied that they “strongly approve” of Northam’s performance. The approval ratings cross party lines, the poll reports, with the highest overall approval ratings being in Hampton Roads. Continue reading