Author Archives: James A. Bacon

A Win! Va. Ed Dept Removes “Virginia Math Pathways Initiative”

by Asra Q. Nomani

Yes, Virginia, there is critical race theory in the state. Read our examples at Parents Defending Education. There were 20. Now, there are 19.

In their first week in office, Jillian Balow, the new Virginia superintendent of schools, and Elizabeth Schultz, the new Virginia assistant superintendent, have eliminated the Virginia Department of Education’s controversial “Virginia Math Pathways Initiative” that was set to eliminate accelerated math options for students.

The initiative outraged many parents for dumbing down math in the state and reducing advanced math courses for students prior to 11th grade, essentially blocking advanced learners from from moving forward in earlier grades. Continue reading

A Monumental Outrage

Charlottesville’s hasty—and possibly illegal—destruction of its Robert E. Lee equestrian statue establishes a toxic precedent.

by Catesby Leigh

The century-old equestrian statue of Robert E. Lee in Charlottesville, Virginia, has been broken up, and, more likely than not, melted down into bronze ingots by now. But nobody involved in this officially sanctioned act of iconoclasm is saying whether that’s the case. Four weeks after the filing of a petition for injunction intended to prevent the statue’s destruction, the Charlottesville circuit court hasn’t even scheduled a hearing. Charlottesville’s woke excuse for a newspaper of record, the Daily Progress, has been notably incurious about the statue’s current whereabouts or condition.

The Lee equestrian was mainly the work of Henry Merwin Shrady, the sculptor who created the Grant Memorial at the foot of Capitol Hill in Washington. In a way, it was conceived as a peace monument. It showed the Confederate commander in dress uniform, hat at his side, back ramrod straight and with a facial expression of sober resolve. Traveler, his mount, walked with head bowed. Lee had surrendered but retained his dignity in defeat. The expression of resolve reflected a determination that the war be over.

After midnight on December 7, 2021, Charlottesville’s city council hastily—and possibly illegally—approved a resolution to donate the bronze statue, which had been removed from a downtown park in July, to a local African-American heritage center. The center proposed to melt the bronze down so that it could be recast in a “community”-inspired memorial celebrating wokedom’s new world of elevated racial consciousness. Continue reading

Times, Post Mangle the Heaphy Story

Square peg, round hole, mainstream media hammer.

by James A. Bacon

Here is what happens when The New York Times imposes its national narrative upon a Virginia story: we are afflicted with articles with headlines like this: “Top Jan. 6 Investigator Fired From Post at the University of Virginia.”

“Democrats in Virginia,” says the sub-head, denounced the action as “a partisan move aimed at helping former President Donald J. Trump undercut the investigation of the Capitol riot.”

The Times quotes Senator Scot Surovell, D-Fairfax, as saying, “This is purely payback for Jan. 6 — there is no other reason that makes any sense. In our state, we normally leave those decisions to the school’s board of visitors and president.” Surovell presented no concrete evidence to support his speculation.

At least reporter Michael S. Schmidt had the decency to quote Victoria LaCivita, a spokesperson for Attorney General Jason Miyares, who ordered the firing. Not that it changed the way the Times framed the story, but she  directly contradicted Surovell thesis. “The decision had nothing to do with the Jan. 6 committee or their investigations,” she said. Heaphy had been a “controversial hire,” she added, and the decision to fire him had been made “after reviewing the legal decisions made over the last couple of years. The attorney general wants the university counsel to return to giving legal advice based on law, and not the philosophy of a university.” Continue reading

Suddenly, Democrats Don’t Like Executive Orders

by Kerry Dougherty

Good grief, they have no self-awareness, do they?

I’m watching hysterical Virginia Democrats lose their minds because the new Republican governor issued an executive order that actually RESTORES civil liberties to Virginians.

Yet, back when Ralph Northam was issuing one useless executive order after another, the left was silent. In fact, many of them cheered as the governor stomped all over the civil rights of Virginians.

They thought it was fine when the governor ordered every person over the age of 10 to wear masks in indoor settings.

They didn’t object when he lowered the mask requirement to five.

They didn’t care when he forbade sitting on the beach. Or when, in March 2020, he became the first governor in the nation to close schools — public and private — through the end of the school year. Continue reading

Begun, the College Wars Have

Tim Heaphy, pictured in 2017. Photo credit: The Cavalier Daily.

by James A. Bacon

Attorney General Jason S. Miyares has fired the university counsels of the University of Virginia and George Mason University: Tim Heaphy at UVa and Brian Walther at GMU.

I have no inside knowledge about why Miyares took these actions, but they are, I believe, best understood as the opening salvos in what will be a long-term effort by Miyares and Governor Glenn Youngkin to change the increasingly totalitarian culture of Virginia’s higher-ed system that stifles free speech and free expression.

In Virginia the governor appoints members of the boards of visitors, but the attorney general appoints the university counsels. BoV members serve on a rotating basis, with only a few seats expiring June 30 at the end of every fiscal year. But university counsels serve at the pleasure of the attorney general, as I understand it, and can be replaced at any time. Miyares has lost no time in acting.

AG spokesperson Victoria LaCivita said in a statement to The Washington Post that Heaphy had been a “controversial” hire and that Miyares’ predecessor Mark Herring had “excluded many qualified internal candidates when he brought in this particular university counsel.” Continue reading

Jeanine’s Memes

From The Bull Elephant

Belligerence as Leadership

Image credit: MyVaccineUpdate.com

by Joe Fitzgerald

About one in 16 American adults suffer with chronic pulmonary disease. Serious health guidelines say they’re the primary ones who should not wear masks. Some of them still can, but a figure of 6% is about the maximum of adults who shouldn’t wear them.

The governor of Virginia, elected to eradicate a subject that isn’t being taught, has decided that removing masks from public schools is the hill he wants to die on.

The two possibilities are that he truly believes life-saving mask mandates in public schools threaten personal freedom, or that he wants to pick a fight early on to exhibit his strength as governor.

The latter seems more likely. And while even some people are his side of the aisle are smart enough to see what he’s doing, a lot of the people who voted for him aren’t. They elected a reality TV star as president and now a financial speculator as governor. Somehow the image of a private equity manager struck them as more John Wayne than Jacob Marley. Continue reading

The Rioters Among Us

Jacob Fracker (left) and T.J. Robertson at the U.S. Capitol

by James A. Bacon

I’ve not given much attention to the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol because this is a Virginia blog, not a blog about Donald Trump and the 2020 presidential election. But maybe I should. Many of the rioters came from Virginia. We have U.S. Capitol rioters among us. How dangerous are these people? Do they, as CNN implies with its “Democracy in Peril” tagline, represent a threat to our democratic republic?

Some truly bad guys might have been involved in the riot.  Several members of the right-wing Oath Keepers have been charged with seditious conspiracy. I withhold judgment until I see the evidence presented in court. But none of the Oath Keepers claim Virginia as their home. What about our rioters? Two news stories today give us some clues to the level of danger they pose.

Paralyzed-arm guy. Two Virginia Beach brothers — Eric and Paul Von Bernewitz — have plead guilty to charges of violent entry and disorderly conduct on the Capitol grounds. According to WAVY-TV, Eric wanted to attend the rally for President Donald Trump that day and his brother Paul agreed to go along because he wanted to watch after his brother, who has a paralyzed right arm. They told investigators they got caught up in the excitement of the crowd as they marched to the Capitol after the Trump speech. Continue reading

Mask Hysteria

by James A. Bacon

People, get a grip! Emotions over this mask business are running out of control — on both sides of the debate.

On the right: Amelia Ruffner King, a 42-year-old Luray mother, has been charged with a misdemeanor for issuing threats to the Page County School Board. “No mask mandates,” the Page Valley News reports her as saying. “My children will not come to school on Monday with a mask on, alright. That’s not happening. And I will bring every single gun loaded and ready,” King continued as she was cut off a second time by the chairman for exceeding the three-minute time limit during the citizen comment period. Then as she left the room, she added: “I’ll see ya’ll on Monday.”

That kind of rhetoric is unacceptable. In a civilized society people cannot publicly issue threats, even if the violence is only implied. (Not to mention, such rhetoric feeds the leftist narrative that the parents-rights movement is a potential terrorist threat to democracy.)

On the left: Michelle Cades, a Fairfax County mother, says her 8th-grade special-needs daughter will no longer be able to attend class if the mask mandate is lifted. Reports American University Radio: her daughter’s anxiety about COVID is so extreme that she needs extra time to navigate the halls between classes so she can avoid clusters of other students. “If suddenly lots of students were not wearing masks at all, either in the halls or in my kids’ classes,” Cades says, “I honestly don’t know how my child would tolerate going to school.” Continue reading

COVID Vs. the Flu

Source: Virginia Department of Health

by James A. Bacon

I have seen considerable discussion on the internet recently about the relationship between COVID-19 and influenza. One thing that seems to be widely accepted is that influenza receded — indeed it practically disappeared — as COVID-19 surged. Where the disagreement occurs is over why influenza faded and now seems to be making a comeback.

The conventional wisdom is that the masking and social-distancing measures enacted to slow the transmission of COVID-19 also acted to slow the spread of influenza. That makes intuitive sense given that the measures were designed to fight influenza epidemics in the first place and were dusted off out of desperation to “do something” about COVID-19. If the conventional wisdom is correct, we would expect to see the relaxation of masking mandates under the Youngkin administration lead to an increase in reports of Influenza Like Illnesses (ILIs) compared to the normal seasonal pattern.

An alternative theory making the rounds is that the COVID-19 and influenza viruses compete with one another. COVID-19 triggers temporary immunological responses that suppress the flu. As COVID-19 advances, the flu retreats; as COVID recedes, the flu advances. Continue reading

W&M Leadership Transformation (Purge?) Nearly Complete

by James A. Bacon

Katherine Rowe took the helm of The College of William & Mary July 1, 2018. In three-and-a-half years as president, she has replaced most of the deans and senior administrators carried over from the tenure of her revered predecessor W. Taylor Revely III. The overhaul is summarized in the graphic below, created by a W&M source who asks not to be identified.

Business School Dean Larry Pulley announced his resignation earlier this month. No replacement has been announced.

It is common for university presidents to replace senior officials with newcomers who reflect their priorities. In this case, achieving “diversity” appears to be a top consideration. Of the six major appointments, only one is a White male. That would be totally fine if the new appointees are the best-qualified people for their jobs. Are they? Continue reading

Note to State School Superintendent Jillian Balow…

You might want to update the Virginia Department of Education website. You’ve been Superintendent for Public Instruction for almost a week now, but here’s what the VDOE website shows on its “About” page as of Jan. 21, 10:33 a.m.

You’ve got a tough job ahead, and I suspect that you’re busier than a one-armed paper hanger right now. But you might want to remind people who’s boss.

— JAB

Lawmaker Introduces Bills Protecting Workplace Freedom

Translation: pay us for our work for the union.

by F. Vincent Vernuccio

As a handful of localities push to give government unions a monopoly over public employee contracts, lawmakers in Richmond are looking to protect public employees around the state.

Delegate Nick Freitas, R-Culpeper, has introduced a suite of bills to help protect the rights of public employees, promote union democracy and protect taxpayers.

The three bills would 1) ensure that public employees are informed of their rights to choose not to join and pay a union and allow them to leave the union at any time, 2) allow public employees the opportunity to vote to keep or remove the union at their workplace, and 3) prevent taxpayers from having to pay for union work.

The legislation is in response to troubling provisions that have emerged in some county and school district ordinances that are harmful to public employees and taxpayers. Last May, a new law went into effect that allowed localities to pass ordinances giving government unions a monopoly on contracts for public employees.

Here are more specifics on the three bills: Continue reading

The Great Unmasking

by Kerry Dougherty

Excellent news for students in two Hampton Roads school districts.

On Thursday, the ever-sensible Chesapeake School Board voted 7-1 to abolish its mask mandate. Beginning Monday, students in Chesapeake can breathe free again!

The board is complying with an executive order signed by Gov. Glenn Youngkin on Saturday, removing the former governor’s mask mandate for all Virginia students in grades K-12.

In a more stunning move, the left-leaning Virginia Beach School Board also decided more or less to comply with Youngkin’s order by a vote of 9-2.

In a weird sleight-of-hand, the board voted to allow parents to opt their children out of its mask mandate beginning on Monday. The compromise was crafted by Superintendent Aaron Spence. It allows the Beach to keep its mandate in place, while letting parents decide if their kids should wear masks for seven hours a day. Continue reading

Youngkin Unveils No-Mandates COVID Plan

by James A. Bacon

So, what does a COVID-19 containment strategy look like without the activist governor’s usual go-to tools of mask and vaccination mandates? Governor Glenn Youngkin has provided the answer with the COVID Action Plan he unveiled this morning.

The key elements are: (1) encourage (but don’t compel) people to get vaccinated, (2) help healthcare providers cope with the surge of hospitalizations caused by the Omicron variant, and (3) re-prioritize testing to identify the virus in K-12 students, healthcare professionals, and medically vulnerable individuals.

“Today’s announcements are designed to give Virginians the tools and resources needed to make the best decisions for their families, strengthen our hospital systems, and ensure a strong recovery as we encounter new challenges associated with the pandemic that has become part of our everyday life,” Youngkin said in a press release announcing the plan.

The initiatives follow a Day One executive order prohibiting vaccination mandates. Most of Virginia’s public universities, which had made mandates the centerpiece of their COVID-19 strategies, have announced that they will comply with the order. Battles with local school boards are still being fought over requirements to wear masks in public K-12 schools. Continue reading