Author Archives: James A. Bacon

The Best Cities for Cat Lovers


by James A. Bacon

Now it’s time for some clickbait — a ranking of the Best Cities for Cat Lovers based on a methodology of dubious merit from Lawnstarter. The compilers derived their ranking from eleven metrics ranging from the number of pet-friendly hotels, animal shelters, pet stores, and veterinarians per 100,000 residents to the median per-visit cat sitter rate.

The best city for cats in the United States is Orlando, Fla. The worst, among 200 cities surveyed, was New York.

If you want to how Virginia cities scored, you’re just going to have to click to finish reading this post! Continue reading

UVa and Tech Are Leaders in Building Massive Diversity Bureaucracies

Source: “Diversity University: DEI Bloat in the Academy”

by James A. Bacon

The University of Virginia and Virginia Tech have the second and fifth largest bureaucracies devoted to Diversity, Equity & Inclusion among 65 large public universities studied by the Heritage Foundation’s Center for Education Policy. UVa has 94 DEI personnel, while Tech has 83, according to Jay P. Greene and James D. Paul in their paper, “Diversity University: DEI Bloat in the Academy.

In another way of looking at the data, the authors found that UVa has 6.5 DEI staff for every 100 tenured and tenure-track professors. Tech has 5.6 DEI personnel per 100 faculty — compared to 3.4 per 1,000 for the average university. The figures for UVa, Tech and other universities surveyed are conservative in the sense that they do not include positions such as admissions and facilities managers that include DEI as part of their missions.

Based on climate surveys at several universities, the authors found no relationship between the size of the DEI bureaucracies and student satisfaction with their college experience. Continue reading

The Bear Truth About That Massachusetts Outbreak

by Kerry Dougherty

I have a little assignment for you before you read the rest of today’s post.

Google “Provincetown Bear Week.” I’ll wait.

Back?

Yep, it’s a gathering of burly gay men who descend each summer on this Cape Cod enclave which is renowned for its eclectic shops and studios as well as its partying gay community. Like heterosexuals, gays come in all shapes and sizes and large, hairy men call themselves “bears.”

Much goes on during Bear Week that could spread germs. I’ll leave it there.

These are adults. They aren’t breaking any laws. I’m not judging.

I have nothing against bears or anyone else. But it’s worth noticing that Bear Week was held this summer in Provincetown, Massachusetts from July 10 through the 18th.

What a coincidence!

Contact tracing of so-called “breakthrough infections” of COVID infections in vaccinated individuals shot up to 364 people who were in Provincetown from July 3 through the 17th. Another 127 unvaccinated adults tested positive. Continue reading

Senator Warner Embraces Legislative Flim-Flam

U.S. Senator Mark Warner

by Emilio Jaksetic

On August 1, 2021, a bipartisan group of senators, including Senator Mark Warner, D-Va, issued a brief: “Senators’ Statement on the Finalized Bipartisan Infrastructure Agreement Legislative Text.” The statement contains a hypertext link to a draft bill that is 2,702 pages long.

As a matter of common sense, it is not plausible to believe that Warner has been able to read and understand all 2,702 pages. And it is improbable that Warner could give Virginians a reasonable and understandable explanation of the meaning, implications, and consequences of the mind-numbing multitude of provisions in the legislative monstrosity.

Warner has abandoned his responsibility as a Senator to represent Virginians in a reasonable manner. Instead, he has embraced the role of an arrogant, inside wheeler-dealer who (1) relies on secret negotiations by small, self-selected groups of senators, and (2) seeks to get legislation advanced without hearings, without a meaningful opportunity for public comment, and without reasonable legislative deliberation. Instead of being proud, Warner should be ashamed of himself. Continue reading

The Border Crisis Is Here, Virginia

by James A. Bacon

Off the top of your head, which states would you expect to be the top destinations for illegal immigrants? California, of course. Texas. Florida. New York. Would you expect Virginia to be in the Top 10?

By at least one metric — the number of pending immigration cases — Virginia is sixth in the nation. According to the TRAC Immigration database, there are more than 58,000 immigration cases on the waiting list, and the number continues to grow, reports WSLS television.

Relatively speaking, Virginia has been less impacted by the mass rush on the border that commenced several months ago. Only 923 cases have been filed in Virginia in the last 90 days, ranking it 11th in the country. Still, the Old Dominion is in the front lines of the illegal immigration crisis to a greater degree than I ever imagined. Unfortunately, our public policy debate does not reflect this reality. Continue reading

Jeanine’s Memes

Sunday Memes from The Bull Elephant

Repeal the Clean Economy Act

by Bill O’Keefe

The Virginia Clean Economy Act (VCEA) mandates a plan for the Commonwealth electric grid to become carbon free. It is one of the most ambitious climate policies adopted by any state. Dominion Energy is the primary vehicle for achieving the carbon free goal.

There is only one reason for such an ambitious, costly, and risky policy. The General Assembly and the Governor accept the narrative that climate change is caused by fossil energy use and is a foreseeable existential threat. Is it, and is VCEA the best strategy for responding?

There are strong reasons to doubt that the “Climate Crisis” is in fact an existential crisis or that the Commonwealth has adopted the most efficient and cost-effective strategy for dealing with whatever  climate problem actually exists.

Almost all that policy makers and legislators know about climate change comes from interpretations of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change  (IPCC) and its periodic reports.  For the most part, decision makers are provided papers and briefings on what the IPCC has concluded, primarily from its Summary for Policy Makers (SPM). It will come as a surprise to learn that the Summary for Policy Makers does not necessarily reflect what is contained in the underlying scientific assessment. Continue reading

COVID: Is It Time to Start Panicking Again?

by James A. Bacon

COVID-19 is moving faster than we can keep up with. The headline news from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, based on a study of an outbreak in Massachusetts, is that vaccinated people are just as likely to spread the highly contagious Delta variant of virus as unvaccinated people. The vaccinated are far more resistant to the disease, but they’re just as likely to spread it.

What the heck do we make of that?

For example, how does this new finding impact mandated-vaccination policies in universities and many places of employment on the grounds that the unvaccinated pose a significant transmission risk to others? If vaxxed and unvaxxed are just as likely to be plague vectors, what’s the public-good justification for requiring vaccinations?

In another issue, the CDC argues that everyone should start wearing masks again. Personally, I don’t feel that masks assault my civil liberties, and I’ve made the decision to start wearing them again in public places. I’m vaccinated, so I don’t feel particularly at risk. If I do get the virus, odds are that I won’t even know it, and if I do, it will be like a bad cold. But if there’s a chance that I could carry and spread the virus to others, I feel a responsibility to the community to wear a mask. Continue reading

Wake Up, People! This Is Me Telling You That the Old Answers Are Not Working!

Photo credit: WTKR televison

by James A. Bacon

How many children have to be killed, wounded and traumatized before people wake up?

Headline from today’s Virginian-Pilot: “Nearly a dozen children have been shot this month in Norfolk. Communities are hurting…”

And then it adds this kicker: “and activists want change.”

The Virginian-Pilot spoke with elected officials, community organizers, the city’s police chief, and nearly two dozen families impacted by the violence. There are lots of ideas out there — more funding for recreation centers, expanded peer mentorship, getting guns off the street. The usual suspects… all of which have been tried and all found lacking.

The story does extract the beginnings of insight from one person. Councilman Paul Riddick cuts to the quick: “We have no one but ourselves to blame,” he says, referring to city leaders “We have lost control of our youngsters.”

But then he says the city needs to redistribute money from wealthy areas to poor areas to build more libraries and recreation centers. Libraries? Are you kidding me? The City of Norfolk needs to build more libraries to reduce the number of random shootings? Continue reading

Delta Dawn at JMU?

by Joe Fitzgerald

More than 1 in 9 James Madison University students was infected with Covid-19 during the school year that ended in May. To date, the university has accepted little responsibility for those illnesses or for any associated spread in Harrisonburg and Rockingham County.

President Alger and members of the Senior Leadership Team have been predominantly silent about any mistakes the university may have made and what it will do to correct them this year as students return in the midst of the more virulent Delta Variant spread.

The university’s stance a week after classes began last year was “cautious optimism,” according to an email from Alger a few days before in-person classes were canceled. A few weeks later a university spokesperson, not Alger or any senior administrator, told the media, “There’s nothing at blame here except for the virus.”

Silence from the university and from Alger has continued this summer. The university has said it will require students to be vaccinated, but in effect the policy amounts to asking students to tell the university if they aren’t going to be vaccinated. Faculty and staff are explicitly not required to be vaccinated. Continue reading

What Fun! Spending $4.3 Billion in “Free” Money!

Manna from heaven

by James A. Bacon

Before departing for the private sector, former Secretary of Finance Aubrey Layne outlined his thinking for the disposition of $4.3 billion in federal COVID-helicopter money: The funds are a one-time windfall. Spend them on one-time projects. Do not use the money to fund programmatic expansions that will make an ongoing claim on future tax dollars.

In recent days, the Governor’s Office has been issuing press releases on how Governor Ralph Northam proposes to allocate the manna from heaven, technically known as the American Rescue Plan. To a significant degree, the Governor is hewing to what might be called the Layne Doctrine. Here are the ten announcements he has made so far, listed in the order in which he made them: Continue reading

Dueling Claims of Victory in Transgender Lawsuit

by Emilio Jaksetic

On July 27, 2021, Judge J. Frederick Watson, with the 24th Judicial Circuit of Virginia, issued a decision on a lawsuit challenging the adoption of the Virginia Board of Education’s Model Policies for the Treatment of Transgender Students in Virginia’s Public Schools, reports The Virginia Star. Because Judge Watson dismissed the lawsuit for lack of standing, he properly did not rule on the substantive merits of lawsuit.

A copy of Judge Watson’s decision is available here. A copy of the Virginia Board of Education Model Policies is available here.

Despite dismissal of the lawsuit on procedural grounds, both sides claimed victory.

The Christian Action Network claimed victory on the grounds that Judge Watson’s decision included a ruling that the Model Policies is a guidance document and that school boards have the option to decide whether or not to follow it. Furthermore, the Christian Action network claimed “the judge is granting school boards the right to decline to act on Virginia’s ‘Model Policies,’ which is exactly what our lawsuit intended.”

The ACLU of Virginia claimed victory on the grounds that dismissal of the lawsuit was warranted, and asserted “[a]ll school boards in the state are legally required by law to pass policies aligning with the model policies for the 2021-22 school year.” Continue reading

Vaccine Shaming Will Backfire

by Kerry Dougherty

Lemme get the straight. The president wants everyone in the country to get vaccinated against Covid-19 — an admirable goal that would likely reduce the virus to a national head cold.

So how is he persuading those who are reluctant to take the vaccine to get a shot?

By insulting them.

Just this week Joe Biden said “If you’re not vaccinated, you are not nearly as smart as I thought you were!”

Way to go. I’m sure that calling the unvaxxed stupid ought to convince them to roll up their sleeves. Continue reading

Stoney Off the Hook for Statue-Removal Contract

Mayor Levar Stoney

by James A. Bacon

A special prosecutor has closed his investigation into Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney’s awarding of a $1.8 million statue-removal contract to NAH, LLC, set up by a former campaign contributor. Timothy Martin, Augusta County’s Commonwealth Attorney who was assigned to the case when Richmond’s chief prosecutor recused herself because of a conflict of interest, said he will not seek charges against Stoney. Authorities found no evidence of public corruption. “It’s over,” Martin said, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

“This is exactly what we said in July 2020; that there was no evidence of anything. The mayor had nothing do with the choice of this contractor,” said Stoney’s attorney Jeff Breit.

However, Martin said it is “still debatable” (the RTD’s words) whether the administration violated emergency procurement rules or the state’s law on war memorials. He would not consider charges based on those allegations because the scope of his investigation was focused on public corruption. Pursuing charges on the technicalities of procurement policy, he said, would be a “misuse of resources.” Continue reading

Nuking the Schools


by James A. Bacon

The COVID-19-related shutdowns of K-12 schools across the country have been educational disaster of historic proportions, according to data published in a new McKinsey & Company report. McKinsey doesn’t use the phrase “disaster of historic proportions,” but how else can one describe a response to the pandemic that left students on average five months behind in mathematics and four months in reading?

Worse yet, the racial gap in educational achievement has widened. Students in majority Black neighborhoods ended the year with six months of unfinished learning and students in low-income schools with seven months, the report says.

Over and above the lost academic ground, the shutdowns had a tremendous adverse impact on children’s mental health. Thirty-five percent of parents say they are “very” or “extremely” worried, a significant increase from pre-pandemic levels.

The numbers are national in scope. McKinsey did not break down estimates by state, so there are no Virginia-specific numbers. But given the fact that the school shutdowns were more pervasive and longer lasting on average in parts of Virginia, especially in Northern Virginia and center-city jurisdictions, one can predict that the educational collapse is at least as catastrophic in the Old Dominion as in other states. Continue reading