Shelly Simond Contests Court Decision Calling Election a Tie

The drawing for the winner of Virginia 94th House of Delegates in Newport News race has been cancelled as Shelly Simonds (D) takes her case to court.

A ballot showing votes for both the incumbent David Yancey (R) and Simonds, with the latter's name crossed out had been discarded as invalid and
At the end of the day, Republican and Democratic officials alike stated that they were satisfied with the process and outcome.
But a volunteer observer working for Yancey — John Alvarado, who also happened to be Yancey’s campaign manager — had seen Mallory’s discomfort during the recount. State law limits the ability of observers to communicate with election officials during the recount, but afterward, Alvarado sounded the alarm with Yancey’s legal team...  

Yancey took the case to court and the three judge panel,
all of whom were elected by a Republican-controlled legislature — agreed, leaving the race tied at 11,608 votes each for Yancey and Simonds.  
Simonds is a former teacher and member of the Newport News School Board since 2012.  She has a Masters in Communications from Stanford University and worked as a journalist before moving to Newport News in 2000.   She got her start in Virginia politics as a member of the Legislative Contact Team with the League of Conservation Voters.

Yancey has emphasized his "proven record of supporting legislation that makes it easier for Virginia businesses to operate and grow," and putting "criminals behind bars," as well as his support for funding for storm water management and the solar industry.  He had been endorsed by the local newspaper, the Daily Press.

If the election isn't resolved by January 10, no one will be seated. If Simonds wins, the House of Delegates will be evenly split.

For updates, see twitter's #StandWithShelly and Yancey4Delegate.


Beth Macy: The Serfs of Appalachia

This MICHAEL WILLIAMSON/THE WASHINGTON POST photo accompanied Beth Macy's review of Ramp Hollow in the Wall Street Journal.


"The Serfs of Appalachia, " Beth Macy's review of Ramp Hollow that appeared in the Wall Street Journal is behind a paywall, but your library may have a subscription. You can also read it, if you go to the link you get when you search on Google for the title.
Beth has written a better review than JD's condescending one. Consider the authors. In publishing Beth, the Wall Street Journal did a much better job of selecting an outside reviewer than did the New York Times in choosing Vance. In fairness, the latter paper ran an earlier (positive) review from its book critic, WV native Dwight Garner, who now lives in Harlem:

The Washington Post has yet to run a review of Ramp Hollow, while it printed a positive review of Elegy by Amanda Erickson.

Interestingly, Executive Editors Gerard Baker and Marty Baron let you know how to email them and members of their staffs. Dean Baquet of the NYT and its writers in general don't list email. Maybe we should write Baker to thank the paper, Baron to request a review and tip off Baquet here.

The Post printed a story referencing Vance and citing his book by a Philadelphia/DC reporter Karen Heller, who says Vance is a reluctant spokesman for our region. Maybe he's being disingenuous?

It also printed a piece on food sympathetic to Vance's description of foodways by Sonny Bunch, executive editor of the Washington Free Beacon, who previously served as the film critic for the Washington Times and the assistant editor of books and arts for the Weekly Standard, all conservative publications.

When you go from working-class to professional-class, almost everything about your old life becomes unfashionable at best or unhealthy at worst. At no time was this more obvious than the first (and last) time I took a Yale friend to Cracker Barrel. In my youth, it was the height of fine dining—my grandma’s and my favorite restaurant. With Yale friends, it was a greasy public health crisis.

Oh please, Mr. Bunch, don't take Vance's description as a stereotype of how all folks in our region eat. Kentucky natives Lora Smith and Ronni Lundy and WV native Wendy Johnston, just for starters, could explain otherwise. So could chef Tunde Wey, even though he's from Nigeria.

The Post did publish this piece, already circulated here by employment attorney Betsy Rader, who is running for the Democratic nomination for the 2018 Ohio 14 Congressional race:

BTW, here's ProPublica's review by Alec MacGillis, one from the New York Journal of Books by Thomas McClung and one from Publisher's Weekly by Sarah Jones.


I got to hear Beth talk about her upcoming book, Dopesick, thanks to the Radford (VA) public library.  I'm looking forward to reading it. As usual, she was entertaining and thought provoking. Here's Beth's 2012 series in the Roanoke Times, "The Damage Done", in which she started writing about the topic and and her 5/28/16 article in The New York Times Magazine on Suboxone, a treatment for oxycontin that many law enforcement officials, former addicts and their families argue "only continues the cycle of dependence and has created a black market that fuels crime

And while I'm on the topic, you may remember fellow Southern Appalachian Writers' Cooperative member Michael Henson's article, which appeared in Still: The Journal. The New Yorker article to which he refers, "The Family That Built an Empire of Pain" is by Patrick Radden Keefe. There's another article on the Sackler family in the October 16 Esquire by Christopher Glazek.

The llustration is by Ben Wiseman from the The New Yorker article "The Family That Built an Empire of Pain" by Patrick Radden Keefe.



Joe Giarratano Writes About Marie Deans

Yesterday, I when I got home I found a review copy of Peppers' A Courageous Fool: Marie Deans and Her Struggle against the Death Penalty (Vanderbilt, 2017), ISBN 9780826521613.  When I opened it this morning,  I saw that Joe Giarratano had written the eloquent introduction. 

On December 11, I had gotten a facebook message from poet and young adult novel author Mary Crockett Hill suggesting I might want to review this book written by Todd Peppers, a professor she knows from Roanoke College for the Roanoke Times.  I wrote her back, telling her that I remembered Marie Deans. who died in 2011, from when I wrote about Joe Giarratano for the New River Free Press, both when Wilder pardoned him in 1991 and when I visited him with my friend Ruth, after he started teaching Peace Studies at Augusta in 1992 with the help of journalist and peace studies teacher Colman McCarthy.   In looking up how to spell Joe's name, I was glad to read that he had been granted parole from Deerfield in November 2017 and that he's expecting to be released this month. 

According to his attorney, Stephen A. Northup, Giarratano plans to move to Charlottesville and work as a paralegal with lawyer Steven D. Rosenfield. He also hopes to work with the University of Virginia Law School’s Innocence ProjectHere's Joe's blogpost on his parole. 

In 2009, many folks including McCarthy asked then Governor Tim Kaine to release Joe.  Kaine refused to do so.  This release is too long in coming.  The last time I wrote about Joe, it was in May 2012 about his description of the effects of solitary confinement while serving at Red Onion.

After several dead ends, this afternoon, a Roanoke Times features writer Mike Allen suggested if I want to review the book, I should contact his editor.  I've written reviews for the paper before, as well as The Journal of Appalachian Studies, LLRX, The New River Free Press and have interviewed authors about their books for The Guardian.  We'll see if she'll assign a review.  If so, I'll post a copy and a link, here, at The Writing Corner.  If not, I'll write the review here.


Ken Ward, Jr. Selected for Partnership by ProPublica

Illustration is by Lyndon Hayes and used with permission.  It accompanied "Sustained Outrage: Ken Ward Jr. stayed home to make a difference," Brent Cunningham's 11/28/2011 interview with the Charleston Gazette-Mail (WV)'s Ken Ward, Jr. in the Columbia Journalism Review.  At the time Cunningham was managing editor of CJR and went on to become deputy editor.  Since January 2015, he has served as managing editor of the Food & Environment Reporting Network (FERN),  a non-profit news organization which produces in-depth and investigative journalism on food, agriculture, and environmental health.  Cunningham served as the statehouse correspondent for the Charleston Daily Mail (which merged with the Charleston Gazette) from 1990-4.


After ProPublica announced October 5 its project to pay for a local reporter to do investigative journalism across the country, they thought they'd get 75 applicants. Instead there were 239 applicants from 45 states and one of the seven selected is the Charleston Gazette-Mail of WV's Ken Ward Jr.

Ken Ward Jr., a reporter at the Charleston Gazette-Mail since 1991 who covers the environment with a focus on coal mining, mine safety, the chemical industry and workplace safety. In 2014, when a chemical leak contaminated the drinking water of hundreds of thousands of people, Ward exposed significant flaws in federal safety guidelines for the chemicals and in the state’s water sampling program. His disclosures led to the appointment of an independent scientific team to examine the spill’s impacts. 'I can’t think of many places that are in need of good journalism more than West Virginia is, or what higher calling journalists have than to try to write stories that make their home a better place,' Ward said in an interview with the Columbia Journalism Review a few years back.

 Charles Ornstein, a senior reporter at ProPublica, covering health care and the pharmaceutical industry, has been selected to be the senior editor of the local reporting network.
I couldn't be happier with this project.  I love that that ProPublica is partnering with local reporters rather than parachuting in to report on national issues. The New Yorker, The New York Times, Washington Post and others could (should) do the same.

I couldn't be happier than with the selection of Ward.  He's a great partner and reimbursing his salary will help out the Gazette-Mail.  I've admired Charleston Gazette for years, which merged with the Daily Mail.  Would love for them to use the money to add Paul Nyden back into the mix, since they retired him at the time of the merger.  The link is Ward's overview of Nyden's career, in which he writes,
So much of what I know about the coal industry, organized labor, and journalism I learned from him. Every time I write a story about coal, I’m standing on his shoulders. Lately, I’ve been trying in the paper and on this blog to write about what comes next for the coalfields. But it turns out, if you go back and read Paul’s dissertation, Miners for Democracy: Struggle in the Coalfields, Paul in his own way framed far better than I ever could the heart of the challenges the people of our region faced 40 years ago and are still struggling with today:
Today, thousands of railroad cars leave the mountains every day, overflowing with coal. When they return, they are empty. The people of Appalachia have nothing to say about how that coal is used nor about who reaps the harvest of riches from their mines. Someday, the vast riches of Appalachia will no longer flow into the hands of a few powerful individuals, but into the hands of the whole Appalachian and American peoples.

In addition to monetary support, Propublica promises to offer editorial guidance.  That guidance could (should) go both ways, in the case of Ward.  The other newsrooms and reporters selected by ProPublica are:


The masthead below, is from Ward's blog, The Coal Tattoo, which he maintains for the Gazette-Mail, in addition to reporting for the paper.  The paper's Brenda Pinnell designed it using (with permission) a photo of the mountaintop removal site near Kayford, WV by from the National Geographic's Dennis Dimick's and a family photo of Bud Morris from his widow Stella Morris. His death in December 2005 was part of a Gazette series on coal-mine safety published after the Sago Mine disaster in 2006.


It saddens me that U.S. Senator Al Franken announced today that he will resign his Senate seat

Photo by Jacquelyn Martin, AP accompanied an NBC story. Caption: "Sen. Al Franken holds hands with his wife, Franni Bryson, as he leaves the Capitol after announcing his resignation."

It's an odd photo.  Franken smiling as he leaves the Senate, Frannie looking like she's being tugged along.  And what's with the guy to the right of Franken staring intently at the camera.  His demeanor had been more serious during his statement announcing he will be resigning.  Listening to him in the Senate during this speech and those before it, or when he was questioning Trump's nominees for the cabinet, I always felt he was representing me, as well as the citizens of Minnesota--representing me better than my own Senators, although both are members of his party.

Politico had published a list of the extensive number of Democratic Senators who pressured Franken to resign.  As Dahlia Lithwick (JD, Stanford, 1996) wrote in Slate.com yesterday

By every metric I can think of, it’s correct. But it’s also wrong. It’s wrong because we no longer inhabit a closed ethical system, in which morality and norm preservation are their own rewards. We live in a broken and corroded system in which unilateral disarmament is going to destroy the very things we want to preserve.

Charlie Pierce added today in Esquire:

Lithwick is dead right. There is no commonly accepted Moral High Ground left to occupy anymore, and to pretend one exists is to live in a masturbatory fantasyland. It’s like lining yourself up behind Miss Manners in a political debate against Machiavelli. Until the Democrats are willing to think asymmetrically about the very real political danger posed by the president* and his party, the danger will grow until it becomes uncontrollable, and that point is coming very soon, I fear. By the time the Democrats admit to themselves that their political opposition has moved so far beyond shame that it can’t even see Richard Nixon any more, the damage wrought to our political institutions may be beyond repair.

Oh, and just a reminder, out there touring a book right now are veteran conservative ratfckers Corey Lewandowski and David Bossie. Lewandowski grabbed a female reporter on the campaign trail and Bossie once invaded a hospital room and berated the mother of a young woman who’d committed suicide. You look across a political landscape like the one that the last few decades have created, and the Moral High Ground looks like the lichen-mottled ruins of a dead civilization.
The New Yorker's Masha Gessen, whose “The Future Is History: How Totalitarianism Reclaimed Russia,” won the National Book Award in 2017 opined,
the force that is ending his political career is greater than the truth, and this force operates on only roughly half of this country’s population—those who voted for Hillary Clinton and who consume what we still refer to as mainstream media....
Franken...didn’t take his apologies back now, but he made it plain that they had been issued in the hopes of facilitating a conversation and an investigation that would clear him. He had, it seems, been attempting to buy calm time to work while a Senate ethics committee looked into the accusations. But, by Thursday morning, thirty-two Democratic senators had called on Franken to resign. The force of the #MeToo moment leaves no room for due process, or, indeed, for Franken’s own constituents to consider their choice.
MN attorney Carol Overland (website), my fellow member of Energy Justice Network's No New Coal Plants! email list, who works on utility regulatory issues with clients directly affected by utility infrastructure and policy, wrote on Facebook December 6:

What's on my mind? I don't want to lose Senator Al Franken, don't want him to resign. He has been the one challenging the tRump appointments in committee, and "our Amy" has been mostly silent, voting against, but not on the front line in questioning their qualifications and lack thereof. He has stood up on health care, net neutrality, other issues, vocally and eloquently. Yes, I'm stating this publicly, on the record, this feminist #metoo attorney does not want Al Franken to resign.
In announcing his resignation, Franken said,

...this decision is not about me. It’s about the people of Minnesota. And it’s become clear that I can’t both pursue the Ethics Committee process and, at the same time, remain an effective Senator for them.

Let me be clear. I may be resigning my seat, but I am not giving up my voice. I will continue to stand up for the things I believe in as a citizen, and as an activist.

But Minnesotans deserve a Senator who can focus with all her energy on addressing the challenges they face every day.

There is a big part of me that will always regret having to walk away from this job with so much work left to be done. But I have faith that the work will continue, because I have faith in the people who have helped me do it.

I'm glad he will continue to speak.  I just hope folks will be listening.  The complete statement is eloquent. The video and transcript are here. I suggest you read it, rather than selected soundbites.  And while you're at it, you can listen to some of what we'll be missing. Here are just three:

12/4/17:  Franken on net neutrality

12/1/17:  Franken on the Republican tax bill

11/13/17: Franken on the Russian investigation