Dueling Biographies

I present here two readable accounts of Robert E. Lee, his tenure as president of Washington College, and his claims upon the modern imagination. The first was written by Washington & Lee journalism professor Toni Locy in a piece published in The Nation magazine, and the second by Al Eckes, W&L class of 1964, in an essay distributed by the General’s Redoubt, an ad hoc group of W&L grads formed to preserve Lee’s legacy at the university. The second essay includes a brief refutation of key points in Locy’s piece by Rex Wooldridge, secretary of the General’s Redoubt.

The essays are fascinating on two grounds: first for learning about a little-known phase of Lee’s life during a traumatic time of Virginia’s history, and second for the dueling interpretations of the man from a 21st century perspective. You will likely find much in both essays about the man and his times that you didn’t know before. I urge you to read them in tandem, and then decide for yourself whether Lee is worthy or not of being honored today.


Still Asking: Who Is NAH LLC?

Jim Bacon talks to John Reid with WRVA’s Richmond Morning News about NAH LLC, its $1.8 million contract to take down the Confederate statues, the mystery of who owns the company, and whether Mayor Levar Stoney followed proper procurement policy in hiring the company.

Will COVID-19 Spark a U.S. Manufacturing Renaissance?

Thanks to COVID–19, super-duper high-tech manufacturing processes at Micron’s Manassas semiconductor plant are getting even more high-tech.

by James A. Bacon

Will the COVID-19 epidemic inspire the “re-shoring” of manufacturing to the United States and a revitalization of the U.S. manufacturing economy? If so, that could be great news for Virginia communities bet on manufacturing as a source of economic development.

The story is not a simple one. Several commentators in the latest edition of the Virginia Economic Review, published by the Virginia Economic Development Partnership, explore the ramifications of the epidemic for global supply chains and corporate manufacturing strategies. While there is a consensus that corporations will seek to reduce their dependence upon China, the pundits have diverse views on how likely multinational corporations are to repatriate manufacturing operations to the U.S. and what kind of job skills would be required.

Here follows some of the pithier observations and quotes on the topic from the Review. Continue reading

With All the COVID-Relief Money Flowing, Why Is There an Eviction Crisis?

by James A. Bacon

We’ve been living with the COVID-19 epidemic in Virginia for more than four months now. Given the fact that hundreds of thousands of our fellow citizens have lost their jobs, it should not surprise us that some have had trouble paying their rent.

But I am surprised to read that Virginia is in the midst of a full-blown eviction crisis. Apparently, there is a backlog of more than 12,000 eviction cases in the courts. The Supreme Court of Virginia suspended eviction hearings in the early weeks of the epidemic, but let eviction proceedings resume May 18.

“People who did all the right things, who worked and were able to pay their rent and their bills have found themselves our of work and also out of money,” said Governor Ralph Northam in June. Now spokesmen for the poverty lobby are warning that thousands of people could be thrown into the streets, exacerbating the public health crisis.

There very well may be a genuine problem here. I’m not denying that. But there is more than meets the eye to this eviction crisis, and taxpayers should demand an explanation. Continue reading

Trust the USPS With the Next Election?

by Kerry Dougherty

I’m playing postman, I thought a couple of weeks ago as I delivered mail to four of my neighbors.

That was the day that every single envelope in my mailbox was addressed to someone else. It was a record. Usually there are no more than one or two wayward envelopes.

Our regular mail carrier was on vacation, I learned, as if that excuses such incompetence.

But where’s MY mail, I wondered later when no one brought so much as one of those ubiquitous Bed, Bath and Beyond coupons.

Everyone has at least one postal horror story. Here’s another one of mine:

Several years ago my niece in Greensboro, N.C., had a baby. It was our family’s first grandchild and much excitement ensued. I found a beautiful blanket for that cherub, wrapped it, addressed it and sent it Priority Mail. You know, so it would arrive promptly. Continue reading

Taxaginia Reappears As Special Session Looms

Another try at imposing a Virginia estate tax this month?

By Steve Haner

It must be a reflex. Waken or startle a Democrat and they shout, “raise taxes!” Our friends at the Commonwealth Institute for Fiscal Analysis came out Monday with a new list of (mostly old) tax proposals for the August 18 General Assembly special session. It drew the attention of Virginia’s Public Radio in a report this morning.

Keep in mind, it is still unknown (to us anyway) how much (or little) cash the state accumulated to carry forward into the new budget cycle that stated July 1. And nobody outside of state government has seen the new Fiscal Year 2021 and 2022 revenue forecasts, showing the impact of the economic-shutdown-induced recession. We see those August 18. Why wait for actual data before proposing new tax hikes?

For that matter, nobody can be sure yet just how much money the tax increases already approved by the 2020 regular session will extract from Virginia businesses and individuals. That might also be clearer come August 18. The tobacco and motor fuel tax increases landed hardest on those low income taxpayers the Commonwealth Institute seems most concerned about.

No, the General Assembly is back in town, so tax hikes must be sought, including proposals the Democratic majorities rejected just a few months ago. The wish list is worth reviewing, even if there is no sign legislators are rushing to introduce them. The rules for the special session might even preclude them.  Continue reading

Lane Waives Public School Accreditation

Superintendent of Public Instruction James Lane has exercised “emergency authority” to waive annual public school accreditation for the 2021-22 school year.

Due to the COVID-19 epidemic, public schools sent kids home early last spring and canceled the Standards of Learning (SOL) exams. Student performance on SOL tests in English, math and science are key metrics under the state Board of Education’s accreditation standards. Without the 2020-21 SOL results, there is insufficient data to calculate accreditation ratings for the current school year. And because year-to-year growth in English and math are accreditation criteria, Lane says in a press release today, it is necessary to scrap accreditation next year, too. Continue reading

Run for your Local School Board

by James C. Sherlock

Bill O’Keefe published an essay here today, the title of which is “Revisionist History is a Fool’s Errand.”

Revisionist history is unfortunately not a fool’s errand, but rather a business, and a successful one, run by people that hate America and wish for its destruction. They despise and reject the civil rights movement as a weak bourgeois response to a situation that required revolution. Today’s woke revolutionaries quote Martin Luther King at their peril.

From a personal communication by a distinguished friend of mine:

“The source of the problem is 40 years of “education” in which the “educators” and the books they have used reviled America’s failures and refused to acknowledge its successes and virtues, especially the latter. The failure to educate Americans in their own history is a failure that mightily contributes to the current absence of common ground.”

We have spoken here before of neo-Marxist Howard Zinn’s “A People’s History of the United States,” a 1980 revisionist history that continues to be mandated for too many pupils. Designed as a middle-school and high-school textbook, it has sold over 2 million copies. Lesson plans with similar tripe are available for teacher download from links published by the National Education Association. Continue reading

As Deadline Approaches, JMU Enrollments Look Good

by James A. Bacon

The big question college administrators are asking right now is how many students will enroll in their institutions this fall? A consumer revolt against the high cost of attending a four-year residential college was brewing even before the COVID-19 epidemic. Now many parents are questioning whether it makes sense to take the risk of paying sky-high tuition for their kid to enjoy the privilege of taking their courses online this fall.

Truth-or-consequences time is drawing nigh, and numbers are dribbling in. The figures are looking positive for James Madison University. As of July 27, JMU had received 4,772 deposits for the incoming freshman class, reports the JMU student newspaper The Breeze. That compares to 4,491 entering freshman in the 2019-20 school year. Continue reading

Systemic Racism? What’s That?

By Peter Galuszka

At Bacon’s Rebellion there’s a constant, grating mantra debunking the concept that the U.S. has a serious problem with “Institutional” or “Systemic” Racism.

Slavery? Jim Crow? Irrelevant! We’re treated to commentary after commentary that Blacks just need to try harder. They are lazy. They do not support family values. They get too much wasted money in school spending and health care. Their constant abuse by law enforcement is imaginary. Black Lives Matters is a hateful, racist movement. BLM jeopardizes our values. Students interested in the movement were not “indoctrinated” enough. It’s bad enough if it comes up in public schools, but let BLM come up at a toney private institution in a wealthy, mostly White suburb, then it is a blood libel against every private school headmaster in the country.

For a partial list of blog postings with ideas, please see the URLs at the end of this column.

Ok. So what? Well, this morning I saw a small story in The Washington Post that shocked me since it went right to the heart of Institutional and/or Systemic Racism. If you still don’t believe it exists, read on. Continue reading

Hospitals Made Their Bed, but They Don’t Like Laying in It

by James A. Bacon

The Virginia Hospital & Healthcare Association has joined the Virginia College of Emergency physicians in suing the state Medicaid program over emergency budget cuts that they claim will cost them $55 million in reduced Medicaid payments, reports the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

The cuts will create hardship for hospitals already struggling with increased costs and decreased revenue relating to the COVID-19 epidemic, the VHHA says. Virginia hospitals claim to have suffered a net loss of $1 billion from March through June, even after federal aid from the Provider Relief Fund is taken into account. Losses for the year could exceed $3 billion.

I’m almost tempted to sympathize with the hospitals over a plight not of their making…. until I remember that Virginia’s hospitals led the charge for Medicaid expansion in 2018. And that, before the epidemic, Virginia’s biggest tax-exempt “nonprofit” healthcare systems earned profit margins far in excess of the 3.0% considered adequate for financially healthy hospitals, some of which they devoted to buying up doctors’ practices, starting their own insurance companies, and otherwise shoring up their vertically integrated monopolies.

The hospitals forgot a critical lesson: Politicians have no loyalty but to themselves. What the General Assembly giveth, the General Assembly can taketh away — and usually will in times of financial stress. Virginia’s hospitals fought for a bigger government role in healthcare, and they got it… good and hard. Continue reading

Take a Seat, the Doctor Will See You Shortly

By Dick Hall-Sizemore

The latest action by Virginia hospitals is sheer chutzpah.

The 2020 General Assembly adopted actions aimed to reduce state Medicaid payments for emergency room services later deemed to be unnecessary. As described by the Richmond Times-Dispatch, the aim was to discourage Medicaid recipients from unnecessary use of emergency departments instead of seeking care from their doctors or urgent care centers. “They should talk to their primary care physician,” said Del. Mark Sickles (D., Fairfax), chairman of the House Health, Welfare, and Institutions Committee and vice-chair of the House Appropriations Committee. Continue reading

Maryland Governor Stands Up for Private Schools

by Kerry Dougherty

It was inevitable.

Once teachers’ unions and associations began using their muscle to lobby to keep public schools closed this fall it was likely that city and state officials – who often owe their jobs to militant teachers’ groups – might try to close private schools, too.

Think about the optics: Private school kids merrily heading to school every day while public school kids sat at home, isolated, eyes glazed, staring dully at computer screens.

Private schools around the country resolved to open while many public schools knuckled under to teachers who want to keep them closed.

Almost immediately a rash of news stories and editorials began to appear, reporting on educational “haves” and “have-nots,” essentially lamenting the fact that not all children would experience another semester of substandard virtual education.

Last week the Montgomery County, MD health officer made the first move to halt the reopening of private schools: He issued a blanket executive order ordering them closed in that toney Washington suburb until at least Oct. 1. Continue reading

Revisionist History Is a Fool’s Errand

by Bill O’Keeffe

One of the actions growing from the Black Life Matters movement is an effort to eradicate the memory of anyone associated with the Confederacy. Here in Richmond, Virginia Commonwealth University has a process in place that could lead to removing commemoration even of individuals who served as a doctor or nurse. The City of Richmond is removing all statues of Confederate generals from Monument Avenue. Only the statue of Robert E. Lee remains because of legal action taken by residents of the historical district.

Advocates are being carried away by emotion without thinking through the long run consequences or whether they have any historic, objective or logical justification. No one argues in favor of slavery or denies that it was morally reprehensible. But that comes from today’s knowledge and understanding. Applying today’s standards to  past actions not only distorts history but is misleading and robs future generations of the opportunity to learn accurately.

What does history tell us about slavery, secession, and Robert E. Lee? Slavery far predates the Civil War. It goes back to biblical times and was accepted in Europe up through much of the 18th century. Should our condemnation go as far back as the days of the pharaohs? The Emancipation Proclamation began a process that has taken far too long to achieve but much of human progress is slow and painful. Continue reading

None Dare Call This Institutional Racism

Here’s how the James Madison Center for Civic Engagement web page defines institutional racism (my boldface):

Institutional racism is distinguished from the explicit attitudes or racial bias of individuals by the existence of systematic policies or laws and practices that provide differential access to goods, services and opportunities of society by race. Institutional racism results in data showing racial gaps across every system. …”

I presume by “opportunities of society,” JMU includes access to jobs. Now, let’s look at the faculty employment patterns at JMU, as detailed in JMU’s 2019 Fact Book (showing percentage of each race/ethnicity in Virginia’s population in parentheses).

Instructional faculty
White — 79.3% (61.2%)
Asian — 5.5% (6.9%)
Hispanic — 3.0% (9,8%)
Black — 3.0% (19.9%) Continue reading