The Fascists Next Door

Displaying dangerous fascistic tendencies… Photo credit: DailySIgnal

by Ann Mclean

Want more evidence that the University of Virginia has become an impermeable thought bubble where people can say the craziest things without fear of contradiction? Consider this: Two University of Virginia professors —Manuela Achilles and Kyrill Kunakhovich — taught a history course this spring that portrays American conservatives as fascists. They weren’t being hyperbolic. They really meant it.

In their analysis, the wellspring of fascism is not worship of the all-powerful, totalitarian state — which conservatives totally reject — but the traditional American virtues of family and patriotism.

I first learned of this class from a young friend of mine. Here is her description: 

Recently, I enrolled in a fascism class thinking it would be a great way to weed through the constant accusations that politicians make about who is fascist and who is not. The class started out great. We studied Hitler and Mussolini and other fascisms in Europe, then moved to Asia to look at Japanism, but the more the course progressed, the more I was confused about what fascism actually is. My professors chose to leave fascism undefined and allow each student to come to their own conclusion. That seems pretty reasonable, right? I thought so, too. Continue reading

Yes, Virginia, There Is Critical Race Theory In Our Schools

by Elizabeth Schultz

School districts across Virginia have been expending resources, directing staff time, and hiring consultants to address “equity” in curriculum delivery and for professional development of teachers and other employees. Fairfax and Loudoun County, the two largest counties in the Commonwealth, have set the lead in driving the changes in education and embracing critical race theory and “anti-bias” in their respective divisions.

Critical Race Theory (CRT) pushes the distorted concept that the most important thing about a person is his or her race. It divides people by those who are “minoritized” and those who are “privileged” and “oppressors,” advancing Marxist ideology that, by default, all interactions are derived from racism, our history and nation is built on racism, and all inequities are, yes, ascribed to racism. The color of one’s skin defines whether they are racist, not their beliefs or actions.

As a result, to undo the professed mantle of inherent racism in all aspects of society, CRT demands “diversity, equity, and inclusion”, addressing “justice”, and, according to activists like Ibrahm X. Kendi, the Center for Antiracist Research director at Boston University, requires people to become “anti-racist.” Continue reading

Wind Power Is Beautiful But Expensive

by James A. Bacon

Offshore wind turbines are works of engineering beauty. Soaring as high as the Washington Monument, they are a magnificent sight to behold, as I saw for myself on an excursion Wednesday to view Dominion Energy’s two experimental wind turbines up close. The towers are also very expensive — not just the two pilot turbines, which no one pretended at $300 million for the pair would produce economical electricity, but the fully built-out wind farm with 180 turbines at a cost currently estimated at $7.8 billion.

If the only cost you consider is the expense of erecting a turbine itself, offshore wind can look competitive with solar and combined-cycle natural gas. Dominion officials estimate their wind turbines will generate electricity at a cost of 8 cents to 9 cents per kilowatt hour. That’s less than the average rate of $10.83 cents per kilowatt hour Dominion charges its customers.

But the turbines don’t generate electricity in a vacuum. They are part of an electrical-generating system. And you can’t build a system around turbines that generate electricity only when the wind blows. Dominion must build a major transmission line to plug into the grid and maintain backup power sources to kick in when the winds fall still. Continue reading

Packing the UVa Law School Faculty

Risa Goluboff, dean of the University of Virginia Law School

by Ann McLean

Earlier this week UVA Today touted the addition of 17 high-profile professors — packed with former U.S. Supreme Court clerks, Rhodes Scholars, and even a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship genius grant recipient — to the University of Virginia Law School.

“Our new and incoming faculty are either already academic superstars or superstars in the making,” said Dean Risa Goluboff. They are “highly influential voices in their fields whose scholarship will have an impact at UVA Law, both inside and outside of the classroom, and well beyond it.”

The law school’s run of prestigious hires, who include nine women and seven “people of color,” have sparked envious praise on Twitter, gushes the article, written by Eric Williamson, associate director of communications for the law school. “I feel like they must be amassing this incredibly all star faculty for a reason,” one woman is quoted as tweeting. “A new Marvel series? Avengers: Endgame 2?”

The article omitted one salient fact of interest to the broader UVa community — there is no intellectual diversity in the group. Every new hire tilts to the left ideologically. There’s not a conservative among them. Continue reading

Pre-COVID Test Results Show a Failed Public Education System

by James C. Sherlock

I have questions in my own mind about the quality of Virginia public schools.

In search of answers I invested several weeks full time in building into a spreadsheet what I consider some of the critical metrics among both Virginia public schools in general and ten different school districts that I chose.  

For each of those districts I recorded data on: 

  • demographic groups by racial cohort, economically disadvantaged, and English learners;
  • school investment; 
  • chronic absenteeism; 
  • SOL reading and math performance of each demographic group in each district; and  
  • Compared them to state averages in each metric.

I chose and paired the ten different school districts (of 133) in an attempt to get a cross section of urban, suburban and rural districts in Northern Virginia, the Richmond area, Southwest Virginia, Hampton Roads and Southern Virginia.

I used the 2018-19 school year, the last year before COVID, to provide a baseline for learning losses and what those schools need to do going forward.  

The data reveal enormous problems with the basic building blocks of education.  Continue reading

Still an Open Question: Will Virginia Become Supply Chain Hub for East-Coast Wind Farms?

The Luxembourg-flagged Vole Au Vent is seen here installing one of Dominion Energy’s two experimental wind turbines 27 miles off the Virginia coast last year. Photo credit: Dominion. An American-made vessel will install the next 180 or so turbines.

by James A. Bacon

The primary justification for spending $7.8 billion to build a wind farm off the Virginia coast at a significantly higher cost per kilowatt than other energy sources is to advance Virginia’s goal of achieving a zero-carbon electric grid by 2050. But an important secondary consideration is the hope that the project will jump-start the creation of a new industry in Hampton Roads serving the emerging East Coast offshore wind industry.

Virginia has deep channels, no bridge obstructions, an active  maritime community, and perhaps the nation’s largest shipbuilding industry. Dominion Energy’s Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind Project, it is hoped, will catalyze development of a multibillion-dollar offshore wind-energy industry in Virginia.

That case is a little harder to make these days. When Dominion decided to invest $500 million in building an offshore wind-turbine installation vessel, none of Virginia’s shipbuilding companies was interested. All were booked up with Navy contracts. The vessel, named after the mythical Greek sea monster Charybdis, is being constructed in Brownsville, Texas. Continue reading

What Dominion Has Learned From Its Experimental Wind Turbines


by James A. Bacon

Dominion Energy spent $300 million to erect the two wind turbines now standing about 27 miles off the Virginia coast, a sum that could never be justified by the 12 megawatts of generating capacity they add to the grid— enough to power only 3,000 homes. The real benefit will come later, when Dominion builds a proposed 180-turbine wind farm expected to generate 2,640 megawatts of capacity, enough to power up to 600,000 homes, at a projected cost of $7.8 billion.

Thanks to the data gathered from the two experimental turbines, Dominion officials say it will need 40 fewer of the multimillion-dollar turbines than it had originally anticipated, a savings of hundreds of millions of dollars. Also, from the experience of leasing an expensive, hard-to-book installation vessel, Dominion is investing $500 million, risking shareholders’ money not ratepayers’ money, which will serve other East Coast windfarm projects as well as Dominion’s at a lower cost than chartering a European vessel.

Company officials say they have learned other odds and ends from the experimental turbines that will inform their safety and environmental efforts going forward. Continue reading

Who’s Setting Car Fires in Norfolk’s Ghent Neighborhood?

by Kerry Dougherty

Who’s setting those car fires in Ghent?

Oh, you haven’t heard about the arsons? Buckle up.

Last Friday night, as rain drenched Norfolk, Patrick and Tiffany McGee and their two young sons were watching TV in their picturesque Cape Cod with a picket fence on the corner of Redgate and Claremont Avenues in West Ghent.

According to a witness report filed by Patrick McGee, Tiffany saw a figure outside of their home and by the time her husband — a former Navy SEAL — opened the door and sprinted outside he found their two cars engulfed in flames. Patrick got his family out of the back of the house and to safety while neighbors who’d gathered near the inferno called for help.

The fire trucks arrived, one after another, and finally put out the conflagration which had spread to the attached garage and nearby trees. Continue reading

Beach School Board’s Meeting Was Legal. But It Wasn’t Right.

by Kerry Dougherty

Good news for elected officials who find the public’s presence at their meetings a pesky distraction, who give half-hearted, last-minute notice of meetings and then lock the doors to the building where the meeting is being held.

It’s all legal!

Yep, apparently Virginia’s Freedom of Information Act law has broad exemptions for what are considered “special meetings,” so the June 1 shenanigans of the Virginia Beach School Board members — who did all of the above — did not run afoul of the open meeting statutes, according to a judge’s ruling yesterday.

Neither did the fact that they were obviously trying to confuse the public by postponing and then cancelling meeting dates, which resulted in the happy accident of thwarting a scheduled rally protesting Critical Race Theory in Beach schools. Continue reading

These Two Electric Chargers Ran Out of Gas, So to Speak

Out of Order

I’m just back from a trip to Virginia Beach on a media tour of Dominion Energy’s two experimental offshore wind turbines. I’ll have more to say about them shortly. As for the subject of this post… Driving home, I stopped at the Interstate 64 rest stop between West Point and Richmond. Very conveniently for drivers of electric vehicles, the rest stop sports two EV fast-charging stations. Recharge your car while you’re taking a leak!

Dominion Energy installed the fast-charging station in partnership with the Virginia Department of Transportation in 2009, according to this article in the Richmond Times-Dispatch. It was to be the first of many.

Correction: The original version of this post made the inaccurate assumption that these charging stations were part of a recent Northam administration initiative with Los Angeles-base EVgo funded from a Volkswagen settlement. Bacon’s Rebellion regrets the error. But Bacon’s Rebellion still wonders who paid for the charging stations — Dominion rate payers or shareholders — and how long they have been out of order.

— JAB

From Farming Corn to Electrons

Dominion solar farm. Photo credit: Dominion.

By Dick Hall-Sizemore

In light of recent denials by local governing bodies, there has been some skepticism expressed on this blog as to whether the Commonwealth could meet its goals on solar energy. Going against recent trends, however, has been the city of Chesapeake.

According to the Virginian-Pilot, the city council recently approved an application to build a 900-acre solar farm. This most recent approval about doubles the size of three previously-approved projects. It is estimated the project will cost $100 million. The company anticipates generating 118 megawatts, enough to power about 20,000 homes.

The land involved is now prime farmland. An interesting aspect of this project is that is an amalgamation of acreage from multiple owners. Continue reading

Herd Immunity Versus Herd Insanity

by James A. Bacon

Like 450 other higher-ed institutions across the United States, the University of Virginia will require all students to be fully vaccinated for the COVID-19 vaccine if they want to return to classes this fall. The mandate extends to the 2,800 students who got the virus and now enjoy acquired immunities. Oddly, the mandate does not include university employees, even though they are older on average and more likely to catch and spread the virus.

Virginia may be reaching herd immunity as the number of confirmed cases rapidly approaches zero, but UVa can be fairly said to have reached herd insanity — the phenomenon of following other colleges and universities issuing vaccine mandates because everyone is issuing them.

A couple of days ago I wrote a post asking the university to reveal UVa President Jim Ryan’s justification for asking the Board of Visitors to approve the mandate. No explanation is forthcoming. The university says that the president’s “working papers” are exempt from the Freedom of Information Act. Judging by the comments on that post (150 at this point), readers were more fixated on the scientific and moral dimensions of the policy than UVa’s lack of transparency, so I turn to that issue today.

While pro- and anti-mandate advocates were contending on Bacon’s Rebellion, Aaron Kheriaty and Gerard F. Bradley published a column in the Wall Street Journal that clarified several aspects of the debate. Continue reading

Does Richmond Have a Police Shortfall?

Photo credit: Justin Morrison, Richmond Times-Dispatch

by James A. Bacon

Two billboards have popped up in the City of Richmond suggesting that poor pay and understaffing of the police department were putting public safety in jeopardy. Police Chief Gerald M. Smith responded in a public statement that, yes, violent crime is up this year compared to 2020 but that’s mainly because the COVID-19 lockdown kept people off the streets and out of trouble last year.

“We are not saying that violent crime isn’t going up,” Smith said, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch. “We are giving you a depiction of the overall, big picture. It is going up as compared to the asterisk year 2020.”

The group behind the billboards represents roughly 350 Richmond police officers. “It is a crisis when you have so many experienced officers leaving the department at such an alarming rate,” said spokesman Brendan Leavy, a Richmond detective. “There is a mass exodus of experienced officers quitting.”

Has the two-decade decline in crime rates reversed itself? That’s an important question. So is the issue raised by Leavey: Have low pay and low morale led to police understaffing? One might think that is an easy question to that answer. But there is a large discrepancy between the numbers reported by the City of Richmond and those contained in the Virginia State Police’s “Crime in Virginia 2020” report. Continue reading

Charlottesville: Where All the Children Are Above Average

by James A. Bacon

Virginia has its very own Lake Wobegon, Garrison Keiller’s fictional Minnesota community where “all the children are above average.” According to a presentation made to the Charlottesville School Board last week, students in the City of Charlottesville aren’t just “above average” — they’re way above average. Indeed, the city’s public school system has identified 86% of the city’s students as “gifted,” according to the Daily Progress.

The 86%-gifted finding is all the more remarkable when you consider the fact that only half (50%) of Charlottesville public school students passed their English Standards of Learnings (SOL) exams in the 2018-19 school year, and only 20% qualified as “advanced.”

The state requires school systems to screen, refer and identify students for gifted education. The gifted label allows students to to attend summer residential governor’s schools. Gifted students also are given enrichment lessons and activities. Continue reading

With Defeat in Connecticut, Will Virginia Drop TCI?

By Steve Haner

First published this morning by the Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public Policy.

Why do Virginia’s leaders run away from the Transportation and Climate Initiative? Could it be because the first state legislature to consider it, in reliably Democratic Connecticut, just adjourned without even taking a vote on the proposed carbon tax compact, despite strong support from Democratic Governor Ned Lamont?

The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality has called a June 24 public meeting to discuss efforts to ramp down carbon dioxide emissions from transportation sources, but it made no mention of the pending TCI interstate compact. Instead it focused on the General Assembly’s approved 2045 goal of “net zero” emissions in all sectors of the economy, including transportation.

Reaching this target will help Virginia do its part to address the climate crisis, improve air quality and public health, and tackle inequities in our transportation network. The first step to these efforts will be public outreach and engagement by DEQ with support from our project facilitator AECOM. This project will inform an upcoming DEQ report that will investigate strategies to accelerate low-carbon transportation solutions and ultimately eliminate greenhouse gas pollution from the transportation sector,” DEQ wrote.

Is the stated goal of TCI, a 30% reduction in CO2 emissions by 2033 achieved by taxing and rationing gasoline and diesel, no longer considered sufficient by Virginia leaders seeking to avert to claimed catastrophe of climate change? Will some different “strategy” be proposed? Or are they just pretending to back away from the TCI approach for the time being? June 24 may finally bring the issue to light. Continue reading