Monday, July 26, 2021
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WaPo’s Pearlstein: lunacy on liquor stores

In today's Washington Post, business columnist Steven Pearlstein has a piece forthrightly entitled "Privatizing Virginia liquor stores makes sense."  Having "play[ed] with the numbers" over the weekend, Pearlstein purports to explain how it's a winning proposition for everybody - or as he puts it, "the rare opportunity of a free lunch."

Since the cliche holds that there's no such thing, Pearlstein's logic deserves scrutiny.  And when scrutinized, that logic reveals a hole big enough for passage of a Mack truck hauling a big trailer full of lobbyists.  

Coal Electric Plant Proposal, Bitter (and Racial?) Divisions

A great article appeared in yesterday's Virginian-Pilot about the proposed coal-electric plant in the town of Dendron, Virginia, upstream (and upwind) from Hampton Roads on the James River.  

The proposal is still early in the permit-seeking process, but the tiny, destitute town and its surrounding population have already formed staunch and angry Pro- and Anti- groups.  The article suggests that, most unfortunately, these groups are noticeably arranged along racial lines.

If all goes as planned, the plant's twin 650-foot emission stacks - nearly 100 feet taller than the Washington Monument - will rise just behind the backyards of Main Street. Where tranquil woods now stand, bulldozers will muscle mounds of fly ash that will rival Mount Trashmore in Virginia Beach. Each week, more than 500 boxcars of coal will clatter in around the clock.

The dilemma cleaved Dendron largely along racial lines, a fact residents say they hate to mention, but then do. The community, roughly half black and half white, had a long history of getting along - until blacks saw the plant as opportunity and whites saw it as disaster.  

Suddenly, conversations grew testy between old friends. "Yes" and "no" signs were swiped out of yards. Mundane town meetings turned into accusation-filled marathons.
While it's tempting to start trying to explain this apparent phenomenon, that seems unwise.  Pushing this story into a pre-existing narrative formed by the local and national history of racial politics is unlikely to isolate or clarify anything useful about the specific issue of whether this plant ought to be built, and whether it ought to be built in Dendron.
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