Richmond to Parents: You’re On Your Own

by Chris Braunlich

A week after party-line votes killed Republican initiatives to assist parents of school-aged children financially with federal COVID-19 dollars, Governor Ralph Northam proposed sending another $223 million of those dollars to public schools, adding to millions already sent.

There is a major divide in the way Republicans and Democrats view the role of parents in a child’s education. In this age of COVID, parents need bipartisan support. They are not receiving it.

Northam’s proposal sends funds to public schools for testing supplies, personal protective equipment, sanitation supplies and technology for distance learning. While public schools have mostly not been open for in-school classes, they will receive $175 per pupil. Private schools, which mostly have been open, have not been told whether they will receive an equal per-pupil share of the funding to protect the children attending their schools. Continue reading

Note to Readers Re: Technical Issues

A week or more after a major disruption in our hosting service, Bacon’s Rebellion continues to experience technical difficulties. I am hearing from many of you that when you call up the blog, you land on an out-of-date page and can find no way to find the current posts. The solution is simple: Click on the “Home” button.

In the meantime, we will continue to try to get to the root of the problem.

— JAB

Wind and the Grid: a Precautionary Tale from the U.K.

U.K. wind farm. Photo credit: Daily Mail

by James A. Bacon

So, you think the rolling blackouts experienced in California were a fluke and of no relevance to Virginia? Well, then, consider what’s happening right now in the United Kingdom, where “unusually low wind output” and a series of planned power plant outages puts the nation at risk of blackouts. You see, the U.K. relies upon wind power for literally half of its electricity, which is just dandy when the wind is blowing, but not so great when the airs are calm.

As it happens, here in Virginia, Dominion Virginia Power has finished installation of its first two offshore wind turbines. Those two units are paving the way for a much wider deployment of wind power in the Atlantic Ocean. The utility forecasts that wind will account for 5.1 megawatts of its electric-generating capacity (about 20%) within 15 years.

In the U.K. the becalming of the wind — windpower is expected to drop from 51% of output to as low as 10% over the weekend — coincides with planned outages at two of the country’s nuclear reactors, reports the Daily Mail. The National Grid Electricity System Operator reassured the Brits that it would “make sure there is enough generation” to prevent blackouts…. In other words, the U.K. will be cutting it really close. Continue reading

Envision This: a Lawn with No Signage

Look, ma, no signs! Residential rooms on the University of Virginia’s Lawn in 2010 before unsightly signage became ubiquitous. Source: mbell1975 flickr account.

by James A. Bacon

In a letter written to Aubrey Daniel, one of the strongest critics of the UVa administration, Rector James B. Murray Jr. brings out new facts and arguments regarding Jim Ryan’s handling of the “F— UVA” Lawn sign controversy.

Criticism has focused on a student’s use of profanity in a sign on the door of her Lawn residence. Although the university has rules against the indiscriminate display of signage, it has not enforced them in recent years. Therefore, Ryan has decided, singling out the student to remove her offensive sign at this time would violate her right to free speech. Recent photos focusing on a handful of offensive sign, Murray writes, “do not tell the full story.” He elaborates: Continue reading

News Flash: Teaching Is Not a Work-from-Home Job

by Kerry Dougherty

This is rich.

Some Chesapeake teachers – you know, people who went to college to learn how to teach kids — are balking at orders that they return to the classroom in early November.

They don’t feel safe, apparently.

While it was initially expected that the first semester would be entirely virtual, a sharp downward trend in COVID-19 infections means that schools are reopening faster than expected. As high school kids return, more teachers are needed.

This does not include teachers with medical exemptions, by the way. They can continue to work from home.

Chesapeake was the first local school district to bring students back to the environment where they learn best: The classroom. Continue reading

UVa’s Lawn Scandal — Bad Leadership and Worse Lawyering

Ms. Azher’s pinboard pictured here has a note that states: “I stand with farm workers”

by James C. Sherlock, University of Virginia, College of Arts and Sciences, 1966

Hira Azher’s profane sign on the door of her room on the University of Virginia’s Lawn has made headlines, and the ensuing controversy has raised many questions. This article will highlight a new issue. University administrators, I will argue, botched the handling of the incident by turning what should have been a breach-of-contract issue into a constitutional freedom-of-speech case.

After alumni raised objections to the now-infamous sign, which said “F— UVA,” President Jim Ryan sought legal advice from University Counsel Timothy Heaphy. Heaphy concluded that the student’s use of profanity was protected by the First Amendment. Although the resident contract signed by Lawn residents gives the University the right to regulate signage, he argued, the institution’s failure to enforce that particular provision in the past essentially gave Azher a pass.

But my analysis suggests that the contract is clear. The University could have enforced it when Ms. Azher breached it with her door sign, which is prohibited by both the contract and University fire regulations.

Mr. Heaphy serves both the University President and the Board of Visitors. He gave each of them and the rest of us bad information. The public representations of the President, the Board and the Counsel himself on facts of the case do not withstand a fact check of the housing contract that Heaphy’s own lawyers wrote and that Azher signed and continues to violate.  Continue reading

The November Election, Marijuana and Northern Virginia

By DJ Rippert

Up for grabs. In about three weeks Americans who haven’t already voted will go to the polls and vote. The presidency, the U,S, House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate are all in play.  Regarding the impact of the legalized adult use of marijuana in Virginia, the U.S. Senate is the key. That belief makes the relatively safe assumption that the Democrats will maintain a majority in the House. The reason the Senate is the key to recreational marijuana use in Northern Virginia involves Washington, D.C. Washington has already legalized the recreational use of marijuana.  However, the implementation of a retail capability to buy and sell marijuana has been thwarted by Republicans using federal appropriations bills.  That thwarting will end if the Democrats control both the House and Senate.

Continue reading

Virginia Should Reject the National Popular Vote Compact

by Emilio Jaksetic

On February 11, 2020, the Virginia House of Delegates passed House Bill 177. If enacted into law, the legislation would have made Virginia a participant in the National Popular Vote Compact (NPV Compact), and would assign Virginia’s Electoral College votes to the presidential candidate who receives a majority of the popular vote in the United States. On February 25, 2020, the Virginia Senate Privileges and Elections Committee voted to defer consideration of the bill to the 2021 legislative session. The General Assembly should not pass legislation to make Virginia participate in the NPV Compact.

Passage of legislation to make Virginia part of the NPV Compact would nullify the will of a majority of Virginia voters and replace it with the will of a majority of voters in 49 other States and the District of Columbia. Continue reading

Statistical Malpractice: ACT-Tests Edition

by James A. Bacon

Here’s the smiley-face spin on the latest ACT college-readiness scores by Virginia students, straight from the Virginia Department of Education press release:

Virginia students again outperformed their peers nationwide by significant margins this year on the ACT college-admissions test. The performance of Virginia high school graduates improved in all subjects assessed by the four-part test, while the achievement of graduates nationwide declined in English and mathematics, and was flat in reading and science.

Here’s a frowny-face interpretation of the latest data: The percentage of Virginia high school graduates taking the ACT exams declined again in 2020: by two percentage points. Of the 19.3% of grads (not quite one in five) who took the exams, fewer than half (48%) rated college-ready in all four of the English, reading, math, and science benchmarks. Continue reading

Only in Virginia…

Source: National Renewable Energy Laboratory

Who came up with this idea? Now that Dominion Energy has completed reliability testing for its first two offshore wind turbines, the Northam administration is announcing the formation of the Mid-Atlantic Wind Training Alliance to provide industry certifications for wind-project operations and maintenance. What better place to base such a program than…. 200 miles away from the wind industry in a place with virtually no wind. Yes, friends, the new program will be hosted by the New College in Martinsville where average wind speeds (see map) are among the lowest in the state. To be fair, according to Virginia Business, alliance partners Centura College and the Mid-Atlantic Maritime Academy are located in Hampton Roads where the wind industry will be located.

JMU’s enrollment meltdown. James Madison University is getting hammered by the COVID-19 epidemic — and the administration’s handling of it. First, 250 students, mostly freshmen, chose to defer their enrollment. That’s out of an undergraduate student body of roughly 22,000. Then, after a spike in positive cases early in the semester, students were sent home in mid-September for about a month. Now they’re returning. But not all are returning. As of the latest report, according to the Daily News-Record, 1,798 had discontinued at JMU. That far exceeds the normal attribution rate; last year only 1,063 students dropped out during the fall semester.

Loudoun Schools briefly recover sanity. The Loudoun County School Board has voted to revise its “Professional Conduct” policy governing speech off school property, which would have forbidden employees from making public utterances opposing a controversial school policy to dismantle “white supremacy” and “systemic racism.” After an outcry from teachers unions and community members against this blatant violation of free speech, the board voted 9 to 0 to refer the draft policy back to the human resources department, reports The Virginia Star.

Finally — a New Budget Bill

Photo Credit: Richmond Times-Dispatch

By Dick Hall-Sizemore

The money committees have reported a “conference” budget bill, which the General Assembly will probably adopt either tomorrow or Saturday.

The legislature has backed off the earlier contingency appropriations that drew objections from the Governor.

As with any budget, there are numerous moving parts. The legislature would capture savings in several areas and provide additional spending in others. Here are some of the major spending items:

  • $95.3 million for K-12. The source of the money is revenue from licensing of “gray” machines or “games of skill.”
  • $60 million for higher education “to maintain affordable access.”
  • $11 million for a one-time $500 bonus to state law-enforcement and corrections officers.
  • $379.6 million over the biennium to reappropriate some of the $2 billion in new spending earlier unalloted due to revenue shortfalls.

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

Ryan Wilts in Conversation with Azher

UVa President Jim Ryan

by James A. Bacon

I concluded my previous column, “Hira Azher Speaks,” by asking the question, what is it about the University of Virginia that foments such deep-felt aggrievement and resentment that Azher, a self-described Muslim person of color, would feel motivated to plaster the words “Fuck UVA” on the door of her Lawn residence? Azher would say that she is motivated by the desire to condemn UVa’s culture of “white supremacy.” For many people, such an explanation is sufficient. But for those of us who find it absurd to describe the modern-day institution as a bastion of white supremacy, Azher’s sentiments call for a deeper explanation. The question I ask is this: Has the ideology of grievance and victimhood created a toxic culture at UVa?

The intellectual currents underpinning the left-wing Oppression Narrative run deep. But this also is part of the problem: UVa’s leaders — in particular, President Jim Ryan — share so many of the underlying assumptions of that narrative that they find themselves incapable of responding forcefully to students like Azher. UVa’s leaders are conflicted, therefore, they are weak.

Ryan’s ambivalence comes through clearly in conversation with Azher, which she recorded and posted on Twitter. “For everyone who asked about the convo with Jim Ryan,” she tweeted, “he kept laughing, talked about himself, & ignored everything I said :))” 

Having read the transcript and listened to part of the recording, I have a very different reaction. Ryan was very solicitous of Azher’s views. He allowed her to do most of the talking. She was confident and forceful. He, like a supplicant, laughed nervously in places. Never disputing her assertions about the prevalence of white privilege, he meekly pressed the point that the KKK reference and her use of profanity was counterproductive to winning over people to the need for “change” that both she and he shared. Continue reading

The “F— UVA” Girl Speaks

Hira Azher, from her Twitter account

by James A. Bacon

Hira Azher, the young University of Virginia woman thrust into the limelight after she posted the infamous “Fuck UVA” sign on the door of her Lawn residence, has written a column in the Cavalier Daily to defend her action, lambaste UVa President Jim Ryan, and attack the university as a white supremacist institution.

Ms. Azher comes across as self-absorbed and self-pitying, wallowing in the rhetoric of grievance and victimhood. If you think that assessment is harsh, read the column for the full text to see if I am portraying her views unfairly. 

By way of background, Azher told WVIR TV that she was prompted to mount the sign on the door after suffering an injury and surgery to her ankle. She faulted the university for its lack of Americans for Disability Act accessibility on the Lawn and its response to her injury. “The solution was not to make the lawn more accessible,” she said, “the solution was to find me alternative housing for up to a month, which in itself is a problem.”

In the commentary, she writes:

<i>”As a Muslim woman of color at this University, I am constantly and painstakingly aware that this institution was not made for people like me, and everyday, the University continues to function and uphold white supremacist ideals that makes this very clear for marginalized students across the Grounds.”</i> Continue reading

Enjoy Driving at Night Without Headlights? You’re in Luck!

by Kerry Dougherty

Oh my. This really is special.

Virginia’s General Assembly – in the midst of an expensive special session with no end in sight – just passed a bill that, if signed by the governor, will forbid police officers from stopping a car that is being driven at night without headlights, tail lights or brake lights.

This is what happens when Michael Bloomberg bankrolls extreme left-wing candidates in your state and these blockheads will vote for any measure that’s aimed at crippling the police.

You’re not hearing much about this deeply flawed bill because the slobbering lapdogs in the media are overjoyed that it also prevents the cops from stopping cars due solely to the aroma of marijuana. A milestone for the Old Dominion.

But pot is only one part of the bill. Continue reading