Category Archives: Scandals

Screwing Workers On Safety and Liability

A GRTC bus driver in better times

By Peter Galuszka

At 4:30 a.m. on April 27, about 100 workers of the Greater Richmond Transit Company — half of the total – failed to show up for work.

Worried about the health of its membership, Local 1220 of the International Amalgamated Transit Union demanded additional safety measures such as full personal protection equipment, time and a half hazardous pay, limits on the numbers of passenger and testing.

GRTC management threatened to fire workers who stayed away from work but agreed to talk. A resolution may come at a May 19 board meeting.

Indeed, stories are showing up throughout Virginia and across the country as workers most likely to be exposed to COVID-19 often have the least protection and no guarantees their employers will provide testing, hospitalization and sick pay.

In Timberville near Harrisonburg, workers at a Pilgrim’s Pride poultry plant worry that they are required to work at less than six feet –- considered safe distancing –- from each other. In Norfolk, non-union workers at a General Dynamics ship facility were required to do electrical work until they refused, citing exposure threats and a death. 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

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

Is This What We’ve Come to? Now Terry McAuliffe and Levar Stoney Are Racist?

Justin Fairfax. Photo credit: Richmond Times-Dispatch

MEMO TO: LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR JUSTIN FAIRFAX

FROM: JIM BACON

If you’re seriously interested in running for Governor, you’re not helping your case when you call former Governor Terry McAuliffe a racist, and, more inexplicably, when you call the African-American mayor of Richmond, Levar Stoney, a racist.

Sure, I get it: You’re angry about the sexual misconduct allegations filed against you by two women. You’re frustrated by the he-said/she-said nature of the charges and your inability to clear your good name. You’re resentful that McAuliffe called for your resignation as Lieutenant Governor a year ago, and it is a not unreasonable conjecture that McAuliffe, who may nurture a desire to run for governor again, was motivated by a desire to clear the field — if not for himself, then perhaps his protege Stoney.

You’re also furious at the role played by Stoney, one of his aides, and the aide’s wife in persuading one of the two accusers to go public. You won’t have trouble convincing anyone that Stoney, who has statewide political ambitions, found it politically advantageous to neuter another prominent African-American office holder who had his eye on the same prize.

But none of that makes them racist. You could plausibly argue that McAuliffe and Stoney are ruthless, amoral, sanctimonious scumbags. I’m not saying that, but such an interpretation is more in line with the facts that you’ve presented so far. If you had take that rhetorical course, many people would be inclined to believe you. Continue reading

Mayberry on Acid

By Peter Galuszka

In a bizarre case for a small Virginia locality, 14 former and current local leaders of Warren County and Front Royal — including the entire Board of Supervisors — have been charged with misdemeanors relating to a major embezzlement case that involves the local economic development authority.

The Sept. 24 charges by the State Police follow the indictment in May of Jennifer McDonald, the former head of the local EDA, on 28 felony charges related to embezzling funds in a deal involving a promised new data center and office park.

Although he was not charged, Sheriff Daniel T. McEathron killed himself with a self-inflicted gunshot wound a few days after McDonald was indicted. He had been involved with an $8 million scheme to build a regional law enforcement training center at the project.

This could be the largest-ever public fund embezzlement scheme involving a single locality in Virginia’s history. To be sure, the state recently has had its share of schemes and scams. They include a $1.4 million state grant to a bogus Chinese company in Lynchburg. The executive director of the Virginia Tobacco Region Revitalization Commission was caught siphoning away public funds some years ago. Continue reading

Blackface Controversies? That’s Still a Thing?

“Ralph Northam Assures Trudeau His Political Career Will Suffer No Consequences Whatsoever,” reads yesterday’s headline ripped straight off the Internet.

RICHMOND, VA—As Justin Trudeau found himself embroiled in a scandal over painting his face dark for ethnic costumes in the past, he began to despair. “How will I ever overcome this, eh?” he said, shaking his head. “I apologized, but we Canadians are always apologizing, so I’m not sure how to make anyone see that I really mean it this time.” …

Just then, the phone rang. On the other end of the line was Virginia Governor Ralph Northam with words of comfort for his progressive ally…

Oh, wait, that’s not an actual news story. It’s from the satire site, The Babylon Bee. For a moment there, they had me snookered.

Bad News at Richmond’s City Hall

Selena Cuffee-Glenn

Back in 2015, the City of Richmond was a managerial mess. Accusations flew of incompetence, conflicts of interest and revolving chair style management. One big problem was the deeply flawed installation of a financial computer system crucial to keeping the municipality functioning.

Then-Mayor Dwight Jones’s solution was to hire a ringer, Selena Cuffee-Glenn, who had earned a reputation for efficiency and competence as Suffolk’s city manager. She had a pair of degrees from the University of Virginia and a personable manner. When Levar Stoney succeeded Jones as mayor in 2017, he kept Cuffee-Glenn as the city’s chief administrative officer.

Then, reports circulated that relatives of Cuffee-Glenn seemed to be getting prize positions. Her daughter got a job at the city’s human resources department. A niece didn’t even have to formally apply for her $70,000 a year position.

An Inspector General’s report showed that as many as six Cuffee-Glenn relatives were working in some city capacity. On Sept. 18, Stoney fired her.

She says that her hiring policies did not violate any rules. She says she had no role in helping relatives get jobs. Her husband, for example, works for the city Sheriff’s Department, which she does not oversee. On the other hand, one relative got a Public Utilities job at a higher than average hourly rate. Continue reading

Politico’s Juicy Tale of Liberty and the Falwells

by Peter Galuszka

Jerry Falwell Jr. is hitting the news big time following a Politico investigation that alleges self-dealing and sexual misconduct by the powerful head of the evangelical Christian school Liberty University.

More than two dozen Liberty officials and Falwell associates working for Falwell as a “dictatorship” where people are afraid of discussing issues involving him and the school. One allegedly said, “we’re not a school, we’re a hedge fund.”

Personally, I would not really care much about the inner workings of a private, religious school.

What makes this different is that the Falwell family has been major force in conservative, Christian politics for decades. Liberty’s phenomenal growth from a small bible school to a $3 billion operation with more than 100,000 students is a remarkable story.

Falwell’s and the Lynchburg school’s support of Donald Trump is curious given its intensity and contradictions due to Trump’s serial adultery and taped recorded admissions of sexual abuse. Liberty is so strict it hands out demerits or even expels students for what it considers sexual misconduct. Continue reading

Blackface Mystery Solved: Ralph Northam as Michael Jackson

Published in the Roanoke Times today, a concise synthesize of my blog posts about Ralph Northam costumed as Michael Jackson:

Ralph Northam’s racism controversy has tumbled down the memory hole. The governor has struck with the story that the photograph appearing in the 1984 Eastern Virginia Medical School yearbook of a man in blackface was not of him, and a McGuire Woods inquiry failed to find any evidence to prove otherwise. Critics who once called for his resignation have fallen silent as the governor pivoted left on social justice issues. And the media, which normally loves a good scandal, apparently has concluded that there is little left to be discovered.

But politicians and reporters are overlooking the obvious identity of the man in the yearbook photo — it is of Ralph Northam dressed in Michael Jackson costume. Continue reading

Give Fairfax a Chance to Clear His Name

Lawyers for Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax have formally requested prosecutors in Suffolk County, Mass., and Durham County, N.C. to open criminal investigations into the sexual assault allegations made against Fairfax in February, reports WJLA.

The allegation of Meredith Watson, who accused Fairfax of raping her in 2000 when they were students at Duke University, should be fully investigated, argued Barry J. Pollack, Fairfax’s attorney, in the letter to the Durham County district attorney. Wrote Pollack:

If an investigation were to determine that the allegation is true, it should be criminally prosecuted. Conversely, if an investigation were to determine that the allegation is false, which Lt. Governor Fairfax is confident would be the conclusion of any unbiased and professional investigation, the matter could be closed and the public informed.

Continue reading

Elephant in the Corner? What Elephant?

The news media has settled into a new narrative about Ralph Northam’s blackface scandal: After keeping a low profile for four months following the revelation of a racist photo appearing in his 1984 medical school yearbook, the governor is back in the public eye and reasserting his gubernatorial prerogatives. Without explicitly saying that he has left the scandal behind, the media is saying… he has left the scandal behind.

Republicans continue to criticize Northam, but to little effect, and senior Democrats have all but forgiven him. Writes the Washington Post this morning: “Last week, several high-profile Democrats who questioned Northam’s leadership in February praised him for … calling the special session on guns, including U.S. Sens. Tim Kaine and Mark R. Warner (Va.), as well as Northam’s scandal-scarred attorney general, Mark R. Herring.

Further, the Post quotes Christopher Newport University pundit Quentin Kidd as observing that most African-Americans want Northam to stay in office. “I would imagine all those Democrats who had called for his resignation would just forget about it,” says Kidd. “They would just act like nobody sees that elephant in the corner.”

Bacon’s bottom line: I can understand Republicans’ frustration at their inability to kneecap Northam politically. But I think they have mishandled the messaging. Continue reading

Northam Blackface Update: Head and Shoulders Analysis

As part of its examination into the Eastern Virginia Medical School (EVMS) yearbook scandal, in which an unidentified figure appeared in blackface on Ralph Northam’s profile page, investigators with the McGuire Woods law firm considered a piece of evidence submitted by Northam’s personal law firm, Alston & Bird: a facial recognition report. “This report, conducted by a reputable vendor,” summarized the McGuire Woods report, “found the image of the Photograph was not of sufficient quality to conduct a comparison with other photographs.”

While the photograph is of such poor quality that facial-recognition analysis may be impossible, there is much else than can be gleaned from the photo. I have made the argument in previous posts that the figure in blackface was dressed in Michael Jackson costume.

Now a clever reader, who asks to remain anonymous, suggests another thrust of analysis: measuring the slope of the person’s shoulders and the angle at which he holds his head.

States the reader: “I noticed that the figure in the yearbook photo stood in a somewhat awkward way, with his body leaning left but his head tilted to the right (from the vantage of the viewer).” He pulled photos of Northam off the Web for purposes of comparison. “This is not unbiased evidence because I selected photos that worked, rather than doing a random sampling of photos. But it does show that the way Northam stands at times does appear to be similar to the yearbook photo.  A chiropractor might be able to untangle this!” Continue reading

Northam in Blackface: Talk to the Hand

Several days ago I advanced the argument that the identity of the blackfaced individual in Ralph Northam’s infamous 1984 medical school yearbook was none other than Northam himself, garbed in the likeness of Michael Jackson. That theory landed with a resounding thud. No one in the media (or anywhere else, for I can tell) took note of the interpretation. But, then, no one offered any evidence to the contrary. Undeterred by the public’s extraordinary indifference to a fascinating question — c’mon, people, doesn’t anyone like a good whodunnit anymore? — I press on.

I have two more angles to explore. One angle demolishes one of Northam’s  explanations of why he believes the man in blackface was not him. But the other raises new questions, which, if answered, potentially could lead to information exonerating the governor — or convicting him.

Today, I focus on the hand of the man in blackface — the hand holding a can of beer.

But first, a refresher. Here are the specific reasons, cited in the McGuire Woods inquiry into the origins of the blackface photo, that Northam cited why he could not have been the man in blackface (hereinafter referred to as Blackface Dude). Continue reading

More Blackface Backlash

Governor Ralph Northam seems to be weathering the blackface scandal, but that doesn’t mean he won’t continue to suffer fallout from the P.R. debacle. The Virginia Southern Christian Leadership Conference is launching a statewide tour to address issues arising from revelations of a photograph of a person dressed in blackface and another in Ku Klux Klan garb on Northam’s profile page in the 1984 Eastern Virginia Medical School (EVMS) yearbook.

Rev. William Keen, the organization’s president, said the SCLC believes more needs to be done to investigate the controversial picture appearing on Northam’s medical yearbook page, reports WSLS television. The article provided no details on what Keen found lacking in Northam’s denials that he was the figure in blackface.

(A good place to start would be to request answers from the governor arising from new evidence that the yearbook photo shows him attired in a Michael Jackson costume.)

Meanwhile, the Richmond Free-Press, an independent newspaper geared to Richmond’s African-American community, quotes representatives of several African-American organizations as demanding the Northam atone for the racial sins he committed 35 years ago. Continue reading

Update: Northam in Michael Jackson Costume

I have expanded the photographic evidence and commentary in my previous post, in which I argued that the figure in the infamous Eastern Virginia Medical Society yearbook photo was Ralph Northam costumed as Michael Jackson. I wrote the original post as a lark, but after digging deeper, I am 95% certain that my theory is correct. The post is definitely worth re-reading. I would welcome feedback on the plausibility of my interpretation.

Update: I have made even more extensive revisions to the previous post. In addition to buttressing the case that Northam posed as Michael Jackson in the blackface photo, I have added the following sections:

  • Cherchez la femme!
  • Fat legs, skinny legs
  • Bad teeth, worse photo
  • A Bud in the hand is worth two in the bush
  • Questions of chronology
  • An alternative narrative