Tag Archives: Peter Galuszka

The Lies in “Hillbilly Elegy”

By Peter Galuszka

A 2016 memoir by J.D. Vance, a former Ohio resident, drew praise from conservatives for its laud of self-reliance and disciple and criticism from others for its long string of debunked clichés about people from the Central Appalachians.

The book, Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis,” was held up as being a great explainer as to why so many in the White lower classes voted for Trump.

Vance exalts the strength of self-discipline, family values and hard work. He complains that when he worked as a store clerk he resented it when people on welfare had cell phones but Vance couldn’t afford one. He ended up going to Yale Law School.

Vance also spends a lot of time complaining about his dysfunctional family including a nasty grandmother, a mother constantly stoned on alcohol and opioids and lots of divorce – in other words the “social rot” of the hillbilly lifestyle he so disdains.

His tie to Appalachia is a bit thin. He grew up in a suburb of Cincinnati but spent summers in Jackson in the mountains of East Kentucky.

Now director and child actor Ron Howard has made a feel-good movie from the book that stars Glenn Close and Amy Adams. It is getting lousy reviews. Continue reading

Behind Dominion’s Shift to Renewables

Image credit: Style Weekly

By Peter Galuszka

Ever wonder why Dominion Energy found religion and announced a major shift to renewable energy?

The answer is that modern, high technology businesses want it and the Richmond-based utility wants to respond to their desires.

This one of the themes in this recent cover story I did for Style Weekly that explores how Dominion’s major shift in direction is part of several dynamics that are pushing solar wind and other renewables instead of keeping on with fossil fuel.

Here’s the reporting in a nutshell:

  • Virginia’s economy is being driven more by data centers, giant box-like warehouses loaded with servers that can handle tremendous amounts of data. Northern Virginia, the incubator of the Internet, already handles about 70% to 80% of the global Net traffic and has a mature and still growing network of data centers.
  • The Northern Virginia experience is shifting downstate. Henrico County now has a partially construction data center run by social media giant Facebook. Centers have been announced or are being planned in Southside and Southwest Virginia.

Continue reading

Why We Love Governor Ralph

Governor Northam loving those poll numbers. Photo credit: Richmond Times-Dispatch

By Peter Galuszka

He’s been through “coonman,” “blackface,” a muddled interview about late term abortion, and aggressive and controversial steps to stop the pandemic, but Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam has sprinted through a recent statewide poll with flying colors.

According to a new Washington Post-Schar School poll, more than half of Virginia’s registered voters approve of the overall job performance of Gov. Ralph Northam, and an even larger majority support his handling of the novel coronavirus pandemic. “Northam’s job approval rating of 56 percent is up from 49 percent about a year ago and from 43 percent in the wake of his blackface scandal in early 2019, “The Post said.

“His disapproval is also up, at 38 percent from 31 percent last year, with far fewer voters now expressing no opinion. But his ratings remain net positive by 18 percentage points.”

The Governor gets a drubbing on this blog, but not with people who really count, given their numbers. Continue reading

What Is Cuccinelli’s Role in Defining Extremism?

Photo credit: Forbes

By Peter Galuszka

Allegations that the Wolverine Watchmen, a far right extremist group based in Michigan, discussed kidnapping Gov. Ralph Northam draw questions about the role another Virginia politician has played in defining extremist threats.

Kenneth Cuccinelli a former Republican attorney general and failed gubernatorial candidate, has been accused of helping delay a report by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security that designated white supremacist groups as the biggest domestic threat the country faces.

That apparently is at odds with President Donald Trump’s view that threats by the so-called “Antifa” leftist groups are the main worry.

Cuccinelli is currently acting deputy to Homeland Security chief Chad Wolf. Both The Washington Post and The New York Times have reported that Cuccinelli helped block an assessment by former Homeland Security intelligence chief Brian Murphy that white supremacists are the larger threat. Continue reading

Is a Mighty Storm Coming?

By Peter Galuszka

November’s election is coming during one of the most dangerous and deeply divisive periods in American history. There are some clear warning signs that a contested election could lead to significant unrest and violence and perhaps worse.

Race-related demonstrations, the COVID-19 pandemic and the constantly polarizing rhetoric from Donald Trump have all contributed to a spike in domestic terrorism, white supremacy groups and direct threats against public officials.

This week, some 13 hard-right terrorists were charged in connection with the planned kidnapping of Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat. According to the accusations filed by the FBI and state law enforcement, the group intended to take the captured governor to another state, hold a “trial” and perhaps execute her.

(Update: recent news reports say that six were charged in connection with Gov. Whitmer’s planned kidnapping and seven people were charged for planning violent acts, perhaps instigating a civil war).

In Virginia, meanwhile, gun sales have hit new records in the run up to the Nov. 3 election. Data from the Virginia Firearms Transaction Center, which has tracked mandatory background checks on buyers since 1990, shows estimated firearm sales have spiked in 2020, a year rocked by the global pandemic and protests across the country, WRIC-TV reported.

Continue reading

End the Coalfield Boondoggle

Alpha Natural Resources mine facility

By Peter Galuszka

The General Assembly’s auditing watchdog has recommended the elimination of  two coal tax credits that have been a bonanza to Virginia coal companies worth $315 million from 2010 to 2018 but have created only 10 jobs.

The report by the Joint Legislative and Audit and Review Commission (JLARC) studied 16 different tax credits to boost the state’s economy but recommended  only eliminating the ones involving coal production.

Those credits involve the Coalfield Employment Enhancement Tax Credit, formed in 1995, and the Production Incentive Tax Credit, formed in 1986 to help with electricity generation.

Virginia’s coal production peaked in 1990 and has been declining since. In 2000, for instance, it had been 33 million short tons but in 2019, it had dropped to 12 million short tons.

Continue reading

Trump’s ICE Scandal in Farmville

By Peter Galuszka

In a remarkable display of incompetence, the Trump Administration this summer transferred dozens of undocumented aliens being held in detention centers in Arizona and Florida to a private prison in Farmville just so special federal tactical officers could beef up crowd control in Washington, D.C.

Consequently, some 300 inmates at the Farmville Detention Center operated by the privately held Richmond-based Immigration Centers of America contracted the COVID 19 virus and one died.

The action, reported this morning by The Washington Post, prompted U.S. Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine to call for stricter oversight of the Farmville facility that operates under a contract with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency to hold undocumented aliens while their cases are being reviewed or while they await deportation.

Jennifer Boysko, a Democratic state senator, called for changes in state law to allow greater regulation of private prisons.

According to the Post, the Trump Administration wanted more protection from generally peaceful protests that were being held near the White House that called attention to police slayings of African Americans while in custody. Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser declined to call for federal help. Continue reading

The Tell Tale Heart: Racism in Richmond Medicine

By Peter Galuszka

On Saturday, May 25, 1968, the Medical College of Virginia, now part of Virginia Commonwealth University, made medical history.  A surgeon recruited from Stanford University a couple of years before successfully transplanted the heart from one middle-aged man to another.

MCV officials in Richmond officials were ecstatic. Organ transplants were a hot, fairly new surgical procedure. Once stuck in the junior varsity leagues of medical training and research, MCV was basking in glory from media coverage.

There was one peculiarity that no one seemed to notice. The name of the heart donor was missing. As it turned out, the donor was Bruce Tucker, a Richmond Tucker happened to be African-American.

Tucker had suffered a serious brain injury from a fall the day before. He was taken to MCV. Hospital officials made a perfunctory search for his relatives. Tucker’s brother was desperately looking for him and his business card was in Bruce’s pocket. No one found it.

So, after Bruce was pronounced dead, his heart was removed and placed in the chest of Richard G. Klett, a white business executive from Orange. This shocking story is well documented in a highly readable book by Richmond author and journalist Chip Jones that has been just published by an imprint of Simon & Schuster. Tucker’s brother finally located hospital officials who started talking about an autopsy and that he needed to find a funeral director. Continue reading

School Teachers Get Virus? Too Damned Bad!

By Peter Galuszka

Here at Bacons Rebellion, a favorite blood sport of late has been tearing apart school teachers by ripping up their “values,” their personal courage, their honesty, their intellects and their mindless lapdog following of their commissars at teachers’ unions

The same is true for college professors and administrators (Golly Darn, Reed Fawell just discovered the 1960s!”)

The issue is a deadly one, the COVID-19 pandemic that has so far killed more Americans – twice more U.S. military in fact – than were killed in the Vietnam War. Today, there is an understandably complicated and confusing exercise that will try to come up with the safest ways to go back to school.

I won’t get into that because I am no expert, but I cringe when I read the likes of Kerry Dougherty and James A. Bacon Jr. in their endless attacks on the teaching profession.

She opines: “Odds that elected representatives will have the courage to  stand up to the teachers and reopen schools? Zero. It seems that some teachers want guarantees that there is no risk. Preposterous. There can never be a risk free environment.” Continue reading

The Return of the “Cooch”

By Peter Galuszka

Early this past Wednesday morning, Mark Pettibone and Connor O’Shead were walking on their way home after a peaceful protest in Portland, Ore.

Suddenly an unmarked van pulled in front of them. Men wearing green uniforms, tactical gear and generic signs reading “POLICE” hustled them into the vehicle. They were not told why they were being detained. After 90 minutes, the badly shaken men were released without being charged.

The episode might sound like the activities of Russian President Vladimir Putin and his “little green men” who have shown up in places like Crimea and Eastern Ukraine to intimidate and detain people.

But this was Portland, a progressive city that has seen protests for weeks. President Donald Trump has urged federal authorities to move in on cities to restore his sense of order even though city officials in Portland do not want his help and are investigating what is going on.

And, guess who is playing a role in what could be a growing national trend of federal law enforcement performing “snatch and grabs” of innocent protestors?

That would be Kenneth Cuccinelli, the former hard right, state attorney general and failed gubernatorial candidate. He is now acting deputy secretary of the Trump’s Department of Homeland Security. Continue reading

Thank Europe For a Badly Needed Reality Check

By Peter Galuszka

It’s time for a pandemic reality check, especially at Bacon’s Rebellion.

The blog is flooded with post after post about how the coronavirus crisis is exaggerated and how Gov. Ralph Northam “King Ralph” is Public Enemy No. 1 and wields improper power by closing schools, bars, beaches, businesses and so on. I won’t mention names since you know who you are.

Add to backdrop the enforced parochialism at Bacon’s Rebellion, in which we aren’t supposed to think beyond the borders of the Old Dominion, despite the fact that Virginia has enormous ties with other countries and travel and contact are essential.

Among the most damning data about the lack of progress against the virus, led by the unspeakably incompetent leadership of Donald Trump and Virginia’s provincialism, can be found in a small story in today’s Washington Post.

As some readers may know, the European Union has finally loosened its travel rules, particularly for Canada, New Zealand and Japan. But not for the United States. Why? As of June 15, the E.U. had recorded only 15 new cases of COVID 19 infection per 100,000 for the previous two weeks. The U.S. recorded a whopping 145 cases per 100,000 for the same period. 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

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.

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