Author Archives: James A. Bacon

Maybe We Should Discuss the Political Determinants of Health

by James A. Bacon

As it takes up the issue of “social determinants of health,” the Joint Commission on Health Care is probing the social and economic origins of unequal health outcomes for different population groups in Virginia, according to Radio IQ.

By defining the issue as social determinants of health, as opposed to social correlates of health, the political left has already won the battle. The inevitable result will be pressure to increase state spending on programs asserted (but never proven) to ameliorate social inequities.

“There is a 20-year difference between the localities with the highest and lowest life expectancy rates in the state with Manassas Park at 89.3 years and Petersburg at 64.9 years,” said commission staffer Jen Piver-Renna yesterday when briefing the Commission.

“These are lifelong challenges people are facing: housing, health access, food access, crime, education,” Commission Chair Rodney Willet, D-Henrico, told Radio IQ.

Delegate Cia Price, D-Newport News drew the inevitable political conclusion: “If improving community conditions includes a healthy and safe place to live, we need to be thinking about that not just in this joint commission, but in general laws meetings too. There was redlining, underfunding, all of these things that have happened to communities which have caused these health issues.” Continue reading

Is Something Wrong at UVA Health?

UVA Medical Center

by James A. Bacon

An anonymous group of Charlottesville residents has organized to bring attention to issues troubling the $3.3 billion UVA Health division of the University of Virginia.

Calling itself Parrhesia — Greek for speaking candidly and freely — the group of “concerned citizens of Charlottesville and patients of UVA Health” portrays the healthcare division as an oppressive workplace where doctors and nurses are disciplined for violating UVA Health “values,” are afraid to speak openly, and are subject to punishment if they do.

The Parrhesia website makes no outright allegations of wrongdoing. Rather than speaking “openly and freely,” however, it has adopted the rhetorical device of making a statement or publishing an email and then asking, “is it true?” The issues raised are potentially serious. They include:

  • The unexplained departure of Doug Lischke, CFO of UVA Health;
  • Weaponization of ASPIRE, the health system’s Diversity, Equity & Inclusion program, through the filing of anonymous complaints against doctors and nurses;
  • A culture of fear and retaliation;
  • Pressuring doctors to make false/misleading statements in patient medical records.

Continue reading

Lawsuit Details How VMI Has Captured Its Alumni Association

by James A. Bacon

Twenty-nine Virginia Military Institute (VMI) alumni have filed suit in federal court against the VMI Alumni Association, alleging that the organization is entwined so tightly with the VMI administration that it operates for the benefit of VMI and not its alumni members.

The lawsuit recapitulates numerous controversies between dissident alumni and the association, including a thwarted takeover bid of the alumni association, a dispute over members’ access to alumni email lists, and the association’s suspension of seven members for ten years and one for life.

Traditionalist alumni object to the direction the military institute has taken since former Governor Ralph Northam appointed Cedric Wins in place of J.H. Binford “Binny” Peay III as Superintendent in 2020, and they are unhappy with the way the alumni association has marched in lockstep with Wins.

The rebels accuse Wins and the Northam-appointed Board of Visitors of undermining the Rat Line, the Honor Code, the memory of Stonewall Jackson, and other long-standing VMI traditions in a misbegotten quest for racial equity. Diversity, Equity & Inclusion initiatives inaugurated by Wins and his allies on the Board of Visitors have become a particular flashpoint. The lawsuit focuses, however, on issues relating to alleged abuses of power by VMI officials and the alumni organization in their feud with traditionalists. Continue reading

Before the Bill of Rights, There was the Virginia Declaration of Rights

Virginia Declaration of Rights

by Thomas M. Moncure, Jr.

Reliable estimates place the number of Virginia residents born outside the United States at 12% to 15%. In 2012, for the first time since about 1650, a majority of residents were born outside of Virginia. And this native count includes first-borns who live in homes where Farsi or Hindi or Spanish is spoken. Ethnic Virginians -– those of us more than three generations deep — are now a distinct and shrinking minority in the Commonwealth.

This onrush of aliens has obvious political consequences: Virginia turning from red to blue. A more subtle, if more substantial consequence, is dramatic cultural change. Coming from foreign places like Guatemala or Foggy Bottom, these new residents tend to focus on the national or international. They have some awareness of the federal precedents -– the coming 4th of July holiday is a reminder –- but know little or nothing of the contribution of Virginia and the Virginians.

We ethnic Virginians have been remarkably poor stewards of our own history. June 12 marks the 248th anniversary of the adoption of the Virginia Declaration of Rights, the single most important document in the development of American constitutional liberty. In a more perfect Virginia this would be the most celebrated date on the calendar. Continue reading

Bad Blood in the Virginia Beach GOP

by James A. Bacon

I was fully prepared to believe the worst when I dipped into a Virginian-Pilot article about an indictment filed against Laura Hughes, chairwoman of the Virginia Beach Republican party. According to the Pilot, she was charged with the felony of “intercepting wire communications.” Another case of politicians behaving badly!

It has become routine for Virginia elected officials and politicos to do stupid or unethical things, and I try to acknowledge the more prominent cases so readers can see that the corruption and incompetence they observe in their hometowns are all-too-prevalent elsewhere in Virginia. But after reading the Pilot’s account, I was left scratching my head. What was this all about?

“The allegation that Ms. Hughes recorded an openly audible conversation in GOP Party headquarters with her cell phone is an absurd basis for a felony prosecution,” says a statement released by Hughes’ attorney. “There is no allegation that any recording was surreptitious or done without the knowledge of those on an open speaker phone call. Neither is there any allegation that the alleged recording was shared or even played.” Continue reading

Virginia’s Interstate Hell Hole

 Annual Person-Hours of Delay on Interstate 95. Source: Radio IQ

At a meeting this week of the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission (JLARC), reports Radio IQ, Director Justin Brown brought up what the radio station deemed a “troubling” point regarding the horrendous, worst-in-the-country traffic congestion on Interstate 95 between Northern Virginia and Richmond: the express lanes designed to alleviate traffic are run by a private operator — Australia-based Transurban.

“The way it’s structured, the state has to pay the operator if the state builds any projects that are proven to divert any traffic away from the I-95 express lanes,” Brown said. “We tried to quantify the monetary impact of that. But nobody had a great guess, and everyone said it would be really big.” Continue reading

Bond Rating and Back Slapping

by Jon Baliles

Mayor Levar Stoney reportedly pulled a back muscle two weeks ago from slapping himself on the back after he announced the city received a AAA bond rating from the Fitch Rating Agency. It is the first time the city has ever received the designation, although the other two main rating agencies, S&P Global (with a AA+ rating) and  Moody’s (at Aa1), both have Richmond at one step below the vaunted AAA rating.

The AAA rating allows the city to borrow money at the best possible and most favorable interest rate, which is certainly timely because the city is about to issue $170 million to build a baseball stadium ($130 million) and related infrastructure ($40 million).

After two years of pretending the city’s plan for the Diamond District would create a CDA, and the new revenues from that development’s early phases would pay the bond debt service for the stadium, the Mayor did an abrupt about-face in April and announced the city would issues all of the debt to build the stadium and infrastructure, which shifted all the risk to the city. He said it was a risk worth taking. Continue reading

Jeanine’s Memes

From The Bull Elephant

Another Rubber-Stamped UVA Budget, But Some Useful Discussion This Time

by James A. Bacon

The University of Virginia Board of Visitors unanimously approved a $5.9 billion budget for UVA in 2024-25. The $2.4 billion budget for the academic campus in Charlottesville represents a 6.8% spending increase over the current year. The budget also includes $3.3 billion for the UVA medical center and $76 million for the College at Wise.

Although the Board session was free from controversy, Board members did lay the groundwork for deeper analysis next academic year when Governor Glenn Youngkin’s appointees will comprise a 13-to-7 majority of the Board. In the scant time allowed for discussion, the Board addressed two critical topics that had been missing from the Ryan administration’s presentation of the budget: faculty productivity and the size and cost of the Diversity, Equity & Inclusion bureaucracy.

Board member Doug Wetmore got straight to the point regarding DEI spending, asking point blank, “What’s the DEI budget for the upcoming year, and how does it compare to the previous year?”

The DEI budget is $7.5 million, answered Chief Operating Officer J.J. Davis, who added that the number includes the cost of the EOCR (Equal Opportunity and Civil Rights) office, which is charged with enforcing federal civil rights law and is folded into the Division of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion. Continue reading

Virginia Untethered From California’s Nutty EV Regs

by Kerry Dougherty

Well, God bless Gov. Glenn Youngkin and Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares .

On Wednesday the dynamic duo announced that they’d found a way to undo some of the damage done by the commonwealth’s Democrats when these far-left lawmakers hooked Virginia’s wagon to California’s.

You can read the attorney general’s advisory opinion here.

Let’s back up.

In 2021 when Dems were running all three branches of Virginia state government, the General Assembly recklessly passed a bill – and the loathsome Ralph Northam signed it – linking our state laws on electric vehicles to California’s.

As if California is a state that any of the 49 others would want to emulate.

California has now revised its regs on EVs effective January 1, 2025 and Mirayes opines that we’re not obligated to follow the new ones.

Hallelujah!

The Richmond-Times Dispatch reports that “The new California mandates step up the pace to require that all new car, truck and SUV sales be zero emission vehicles by 2035, with 35% of new sales being electric vehicles in model year 2026.” Continue reading.

Bacon Meme of the Week

Auditing AI


by James A. Bacon

This is an issue that every university, corporation or government entity, not just the University of Virginia, should be thinking about: How will Artificial Intelligence affect their accounting, finances, and operations?

AI overlords aren’t likely to enslave the human race any time soon. But the technology is progressing at a logarithmic rate, and in the hands of malign or incompetent people it can cause considerable harm long before we find ourselves kneeling before killer robots and addressing them as, “sir.”

The UVA Board of Visitors voted Friday to adopt a wide-ranging two-year audit plan for the UVA Health division. Among many initiatives, the plan included this: Continue reading

Cell Phone Ban Working in Chesapeake

by James A. Bacon

Chesapeake public schools banned cell phones and tablets in school for most of the school day and now report to The Virginian-Pilot that students are less disruptive and paying more attention in class.

The rule enacted this year requires devices to be stored in a bag, locker or vehicle during school hours. High school students were allowed to use them during lunch, writes the Pilot, but officials said they will likely remove that exception next year.

“Teachers are ecstatic about it,” says Jeff Johnson, principal of Great Bridge High School. They’re spending less time asking students to put devices away and making fewer referrals for discipline issues, he explains. Continue reading

UVA as Entrepreneurial Hub?

by James A. Bacon

Does the University of Virginia have what it takes to become an engine of technological innovation and entrepreneurial wealth creation? Mike Lenox, professor of entrepreneurship at the Darden School of Business, thinks that it does. James Murray, a venture capitalist specializing in telecommunications and information technology, isn’t so sure. They engaged in one of the more spirited, if all too brief, debates in a Board of Visitors meeting in recent memory.

Lenox was invited to the Board Thursday to present the University’s Pan-University Entrepreneurship Initiative. While it is unrealistic to think that UVA could duplicate the success of a Berkeley or a Stanford in Silicon Valley, he said, it is reasonable to aspire to become a second-tier innovation center on the scale of a Boulder, Colorado (home to the University of Colorado.)

UVA and Charlottesville have developed a respectable innovation ecosystem, said Lenox. UVA alumni have created three billion-dollar “exits,” or business cash-outs, including Lending Tree and, most recently, Reddit. The talent exists. But would-be entrepreneurs need more support — some of which UVA can provide. Continue reading

Acampora Previews Religious-Diversity Recommendations

Christa Acampora addresses the Board of Visitors while board member Stephen Long looks on.

by James A. Bacon

The University of Virginia’s task force on religious diversity and belonging won’t issue formal recommendations until the end of the month, but task force chair Christa Acampora gave the Board of Visitors a preview today of the topics it likely will address. At the top of the list will be integrating the religious identity of UVA community members into the broader Inclusive Excellence framework for Diversity, Equity & Inclusion.

The primary emphasis of Inclusive Excellence and DEI until now has been race/ethnicity, sexual orientation and gender. To those identity groups, presumably, UVA would add religions, particularly “minority” religions. Continue reading