“Hard” and “Soft” Threats to Academic Freedom

by James A. Bacon

Dismissals and de-platforming of conservatives in academia have gotten a fair amount of media attention, but they are only the most outrageous and visible of the threats to intellectual diversity on college campuses. In a new study for the Center for the Study of Partisanship and Ideology, Eric Kaufman, a professor of politics at the University of London, finds that lesser forms of discrimination against conservatives and other intellectual minorities, such as gender-critical feminists, occur outside of public view. Continue reading

Politicians Get the Gold Mine, the Middle Class Gets the Shaft

by James A. Bacon

Thousands have Virginians have fallen behind on their electric bill payments as they struggle through the COVID-19 epidemic. The General Assembly wants to help. So, in the budget compromise reached by the House of Delegates and the state Senate, Dominion Energy will be directed to forgive customers’ unpaid balances that were more than 30 days in arrears as of Dec. 31, 2020.

Who will pay for this? Not the Commonwealth of Virginia. The state may be awash in $2.4 billion in federal COVID relief funds plus $410 million in tax revenue over forecasts this year, but, no, legislators want to spend every dime.

And not Dominion Energy. The budget bill reaffirms the utility’s right to use the bill-forgiveness costs to offset earnings from 2017 to 2020 in the State Corporation Commission’s next review of its profits, reports The Virginia Mercury.

You, dear ratepayer, will pay the cost (unless you’re one of those who have fallen behind in your payments). With apologies to Jerry Reed, the politicians get the gold mine, and Virginia’s middle class gets the shaft. Continue reading

Scrap Art Genius Sam Hundley Debuts First Book

Sam Hundley, author/illustrator of “Gifts of the Magpie,” photographed on the Chesapeake Bay beach in Ocean View, Norfolk, VA, Oct. 17, 2019. Photo by Randall Greenwell.

by Kerry Dougherty

Remember when The Virginian-Pilot was a thing of beauty?

When the graphics that accompanied the hard-hitting news stories were so dazzling that they were what grabbed your attention?

Remember when newspapers around the country imitated what we were doing in Norfolk?

There was one man behind much of that style and sizzle: Sam Hundley.

For decades he was the newspaper’s unrivaled artistic king. The guy who wore out the carpet at newspaper awards ceremonies as he shyly marched up to the stage over and over again, collecting prizes while the rest of us just sat there.

In addition to the countless Virginia Press Association awards hoovered up by all of The Pilot’s talented designers, Sam won gold awards from the Society For News Design International. He illustrated the October 2011 cover of National Geographic Magazine and the 2019 album cover for the Meat Puppets’ “Dusty Notes.” Continue reading

Virginia Ranks 40th of 53 in Nursing Home Ratings

by Carol J. Bova

One of three nursing homes receiving Medicare payments in Virginia (35.3%) scored below average or much below average in the latest Medicare ratings found in the new Care Compare website.

On February 1, 2021, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) updated its ratings report for nursing homes in the United States, District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and Guam. Compared to the ratings before the COVID-19 pandemic, Virginia has reduced the number of facilities with the low 1- and 2-star ratings. Still, Virginia nursing homes ranked 40th of 53 for below and much below average overall quality.

Nursing Home Ratings by State

Who owns these nursing homes? Continue reading

Racial Preferences for Minorities in COVID Vaccinations?

By Hans Bader

Virginia is apparently giving preference to certain clusters of minority residents in access to the COVID-19 vaccine, as Judicial Watch notes:

In the next few weeks, the state will give preference to black and Latino residents 65 and over while much older white seniors, many in their 80s, cannot secure an appointment to get inoculated. The plan was announced a few days ago by Dr. Danny Avula, who was appointed by Governor Ralph Northam this year to be the state’s vaccine coordinator…. In recent weeks, [a news] article says, roughly 10,000 vaccines were channeled specifically toward trusted clinics in neighborhoods with older black residents… the reporter cites “some experts” that have raised concern over age-based vaccine prioritization because it fails to account for lower expectancies among black and Latino communities, though it does concede that 75% of Virginia’s deaths are among those over 70….

Continue reading

Fairy Tales, Absurdities, and COPN

by James C. Sherlock

We read in the Virginian-Pilot yesterday this statement from columnist Gordon Morse: “Covering indigent care and doing so in ways that do not undermine the entire health care system is central to the existence of COPN.”

In his column, he moved on to this common and reductio-ad absurdum corollary: “You can, as an alternative to COPN (or any regulatory structure), just throw it wide open and see what happens.”

Mr. Morse’s narrative about COPN — repeated endlessly by the law’s supporters — is that without COPN, poor people would be left to die on hospital steps. The story captures the hearts and votes.  It has worked for nearly 50 years and works today. 

Morse has been around forever and should know better. The fact is, COPN and healthcare facility licensing are separate sets of regulations in Virginia. Care for the poor does not depend upon COPN. At all. Never did.

Undeterred, Morse plays the compassion card face up. COPN supporters have no other card to show in polite company. Continue reading

Diversity, Equity, Inclusion… and Conformity and Indoctrination

Janice Underwood

by James A. Bacon

Almost every public university in Virginia has diversity office dedicated to increasing minority representation — in particular African-American and Hispanic representation — in the student body, faculty and staff. But the Northam administration deems those efforts inadequate. The Governor’s Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion has just published a “Strategic Plan for Inclusive Excellence” in higher education, part of a broader ONE Virginia plan to advance “visible” diversity, equity and inclusion across state government.

Said Janice Underwood, Virginia’s Chief Diversity Office in a press release announcing the plan: “Using the Inclusive Excellence framework, ONE Virginia will help implement tangible reforms that interrupt long-held systems of structural inequity to create sustainable change, innovation, and productivity across state government, throughout Virginia, and around our country.”

As underscored by Underwood’s quote above, the strategic plan is built on the premise that Virginia’s institutions are systemically racist. The proposed remedy: Impose a politically correct regime on Virginia’s decentralized institutions that puts into place a machinery for indoctrinating faculty, staff and students and suppressing non-conforming views. Continue reading

Dominion EV School Bus Crash #3 Ends Session

Photo Credit: The Washington Post

by Steve Haner

Dominion Energy Virginia’s effort to force its ratepayers to finance a fleet of electric school buses has finally crashed, defeated by the House of Delegates for a third time in the final roll call of the 2021 General Assembly Saturday night.

The 41-49 rejection by the House at about 11 p.m. followed an earlier 46-46 rejection just before 9 p.m. In both cases the House was rejecting near-identical conference reports on Senate Bill 1380, first killed and revived about ten days ago.

In all three cases, the utility had no problem getting exactly what it wanted from its compliant friends in the Virginia Senate, which backed these newest versions of the bill Saturday by 25-12 and 27-12.

Del. Dan Helmer, D-Fairfax, got the final word on the House floor before the final vote. “I think we have a really excellent opportunity to say we need regulatory reform in Virginia,” Helmer told his colleagues in urging rejection of the proposal. That linked this bill’s defeat to the earlier rejection – by those same utility-compliant senators – of a series of reform bills seeking to rebuild State Corporation Commission (SCC) authority over rates.  Continue reading

Virginia’s Descent into Madness — Literal Madness

by James A. Bacon

Do you ever get the sense that society is on the brink of a total mental breakdown? I do, and never more so than when I read the news. Indeed, after reviewing today’s news feed, I’m tempted to think that Virginia may be further down the path to mass psychosis than other states. Consider…

So many people are suffering from mental health issues in Prince William County that the county’s “co-responder” program that pairs mental health specialists with police officers has been “overwhelmed with police calls, reports the Prince William Times. The police department received 272 mental health calls during January, but “co-responder” units were dispatched in only 76. Now Prince William County Executive Chris Martino wants to double the size of the program. And even that, he concedes, will not be enough.

Meanwhile, the Fairfax County school district wants to increase spending on mental health to deal with the consequences of the COVID-19 school shutdowns, reports The Washington Post. Fairfax schools hope to hire a “trauma-informed social emotional learning specialist” who will help children “process the lingering damage of the pandemic.” The school district’s budget, says one school board member, reflects priorities that include “emotional supports for our students and our staff.”

Then there is the General Assembly, truly a case of lunatics running the asylum. Continue reading

The Virginia War On Fossil Fuels

by Steve Haner

First published in the Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star Feb. 26 then distributed by the Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public Policy.  

The lesson of the Texas grid collapse is not just about electricity. Imagine the week Texans would have had if once the power went out and stayed out, they had no gasoline, diesel, propane, or natural gas to fall back on. How much worse would their plight have been without natural gas heating homes and businesses, propane space heaters and grills, and gasoline or diesel-powered cars and trucks to get where they needed to go?

You might think it alarmist to imagine that, but it is not. An all-electric economy, with the electricity itself reliant on unreliable wind and solar generation, is exactly the future envisioned for Virginia and being put into place by Governor Ralph Northam and the majority in the General Assembly.

The 2020 Virginia Clean Economy Act already requires the retirement of coal and natural gas electricity generation in the state in less than 30 years. That’s what zero carbon means, although fortunately Virginia’s main electricity provider maintains a fleet of aging nuclear plants not mandated to close. Yet. Continue reading

Note to Readers: Changes Coming to Comments

As part of our slow-motion overhaul of Bacon’s Rebellion, we are shifting to a new platform, Disqus, for posting comments. It will be a bit of a pain for regular participants — you’ll have to re-register — but the change-over will give us more editorial control.

Bacon’s Rebellion has some of the sharpest, most informative dialogue of any blog or website in Virginia. We love the way readers engage in debate and expand upon our posts by providing links, photos, graphs, and maps. Now we hope to raise the bar even higher. Our immediate goal is to improve the reader experience by quickly dousing the flame wars that occasionally break out. Also, Disqus has cool features that we expect to experiment with. As always, we will be attentive to feedback from our readers.

I will be announcing other exciting changes soon.

— JAB 

First They Come for the Gas Pipelines, Then the Nukes, and Then… Your Gas Grill?

by James A. Bacon

As Virginia hurtles towards its brave new future of a net zero-carbon economy, the political class needs more data so it can figure out who else to regulate and what else to shut down. Our overlords have a good handle on CO2 emissions in the electric grid and the transportation sector, but Virginia’s economy is so big and sprawling that many carbon “polluters” have not been identified.

A bill submitted by Sen. Joe Morrissey, D-Richmond, would correct that data deficiency. The bill would allow the state Department of Environmental Quality to conduct an inventory of “all greenhouse gas emissions” and to update it every four years. DEQ would publish the date on its website and show how emissions compared to the baseline. The bill has passed both the House and the Senate.

“Good policy requires good data and this legislation gives us the ability to get the data we need to craft good policy going forward,” The Virginia Mercury quotes DEQ Deputy Director Chris Bast as saying. Continue reading

First They Came for the Gas Pipelines. Then They Came for the Nukes…

North Anna nuclear power station

by James A. Bacon

Yesterday I highlighted a study by University of Virginia professor Bill Shobe purporting to show how Virginia can achieve a “zero carbon” economy by 2050. A key element for eliminating greenhouse gas emissions was re-licensing Virginia’s four nuclear power units — two at the North Anna power station and two at the Surry station — to provide reliable base-line capacity to offset the effects of intermittent power production from solar panels and wind turbines.

We cannot take it for granted, however, that Dominion Energy will win renewal of those licenses. The licenses for North Anna Units 1 and 2 expire in 2038 and 2040, at which time they will be 60 years old. Dominion would like to continue operating them for an additional 20 years. Foes of nuclear power hope to derail the renewal of the licenses for North Anna, which, located above a geologic fault line, shut down temporarily after a 2011 earthquake measuring 5.8 on the Richter scale.

Beyond Nuclear, the Sierra Club and the Alliance for a Progressive Virginia are seeking a formal hearing before an Atomic Safety and Licensing Board panel, according to The Central Virginian. The environmental groups say that because a new nuclear reactor at North Anna would have to meet a higher standard for withstanding an earthquake, an upgrade might be warranted for the two existing units also.  Continue reading

Fire State Officials Who Failed Us in COVID

by James C. Sherlock

If senior members of the state bureaucracies escape accountability for their failures before and during COVID, the agency cultures won’t change and it will happen again.  

I am going to review below the extent of their written responsibilities for pandemic planning and the high quality planning support they were given before COVID struck.  

It is clear that the planning framework, guidance and assumptions from 2012 proved prescient in COVID.  

Those responsibilities were widely ignored within the government of Virginia in the nearly eight years between when the directive was published and COVID struck. Readers can judge for themselves how much it mattered that the required planning was not carried out.

Post-COVID “lessons learned” written by the state bureaucracies will be utterly insufficient if left to stand alone. There is only one overarching lesson learned. Some did not do their jobs and people died as a direct result. Continue reading

Richmond Bigfoots Beach Elections

by Kerry Dougherty

They think they’re so clever. Richmond Democrats, that is.

They believe that by forcing Virginia Beach to adopt a ward voting system – without first bothering to find out what the people want – they can turn the city council blue.

What other reason could there possibly be for passing a bill — on a party-line vote — that appears to affect only one city in the commonwealth?

But not so fast, Democrats.

A ward system also favors underfunded grassroots candidates with devoted followers who are willing to invest shoe leather in a campaign. You know, tea party types. Careful what you wish for.

Let’s back up.

Continue reading