Author Archives: James A. Bacon

Bacon Bits: Signs of the Times

I identify as a rattlesnake. The Department of Motor Vehicles has issued approximately 5,600 drivers licenses and other forms of identification with a “nonbinary” identification since an enabling law went into effect July 1, 2020, reports The Virginia Mercury. “For decades the government put lots of people in boxes in lots of ways,” said the law’s sponsor Scott Surovell, D-Fairfax. “And going forward I don’t think a lot of young people see themselves that way.” Gee, I thought the purpose of ID cards was to help authorities verify if people are who they say they are, not to be a vehicle for self expression — like, say, customized license plates. Ok, I was wrong about that. How, then, can I, as an ordinary male, express my identity? Surely, it is but a small step from stamping the Gadsden Flag on my license plate to embossing it on my ID card. Do I hear any legislators volunteering to submit a bill?

Eat your heart out, VCU. The Virginia Commonwealth University police department has, as I recently noted on this blog, appointed two of its officers as liaisons with the LGBTQIA+ community. Not to be outdone, the 170-person University of Virginia police department has hired a full-time Diversity, Equity & Inclusion officer to organize racial and cultural sensitivity training. Indeed, university officers received such training Sept. 1, exactly one week before an unidentified White man hung a noose on a statue of Homer on the University grounds. The noose, which is associated with lynching, is often considered a symbol of White supremacy. “The recent training allowed police to identify the incident as a hate crime without second-guessing it,” writes The Daily Progress, quoting DEI officer Courtney Hawkins. The article did not explain how hanging a noose on a statue of an old, dead White man constituted a hate crime. Hopefully, the investigation into the incident will identify the perpetrator and illuminate his thinking.

Speaking of hate crimes… University of Virginia Health has organized what it calls Emotional Emancipation Circles where Black students can “heal the emotional legacies of racism and racial trauma.” Participants will “share stories and deepen our understanding of the impact of historical forces on our sense of self-worth, relationships, and communities.” Among other skills, participants will learn “African-centered practices for healing cultural wounds.” I don’t know anything about these African-centered practices, but they have to be better than the Euro-centered practice of cultivating grievance, victimhood, and fragility- and fatalism-inducing self-pity. The further these Emotional Emancipation Circles can distance themselves from Eurocentric psychiatric influences the quicker the healing can begin.

Media Gins up Anemic School Walkouts

by Kerry Dougherty

You could almost hear the local media panting Tuesday morning. There were rumors that some Virginia high school students were going to walk out of school to protest the new parental rights policies of the Youngkin administration.

You know, the Department of Education regulations announced earlier this month that support the principle that parents are the ultimate authority over their own kids.

I wrote about this reversal of Ralph Northam’s policies on parental authority last week.

The mainstream media, desperate to weaken an increasingly popular Youngkin, portrays the policy as limiting transgendered rights.

That’s nonsense and if members of the media took the time to actually READ the language of the regulations, as I did, they would know it. Continue reading

To Be Elected Or Not

Alan Rickman as the Sheriff of Nottingham in “Robin Hood Prince of Thieves.” He was unaccountable, too.

by Jim McCarthy

The exploits of Robin Hood and his band of merry men in the cover of Sherwood Forest have been colored heroic as they engaged in a redistribution of wealth from one class of Englishmen to another. The Sheriff of Nottingham was a spoiler, though his mission was one of law and order as a minion of the king or royalty charged with maintaining peace and order while collecting taxes and rents (usually produce or farm animals) from the feudal estate and its serf residents. The sheriff (shire reeve) transplanted to the colonies morphed into an elective position and, in many instances to the present, is the sole and primary law enforcement officer in a jurisdiction.

The Virginia Sheriffs’ Association (VSA) counts 123 members responsible for the management of 8,000 to 9,000 deputies and staff. Most residents are familiar with the broad range of duties performed by sheriffs, from law enforcement to supervision of county and regional jails (with about 28,000 inmates), to service of process (over 3 million events), and security for city and county courts. Just over half of the sheriffs identify politically as independent; 29% as Republican; 15% as Democrat. Of the thirty city sheriffs, nine identify as independent, nine as Democrat, six as Republican, and six with no affiliation.

Whether a political party can represent a more appealing choice or prospect for enforcement of the law is debatable and likely irrelevant to voters. In the nation’s contemporary hyper-partisan environment, however, political intrusion into every electoral office has become the norm. At the end of 2019, the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors announced plans to create a county police department, in part it said, related to asserting civilian authority over the jurisdiction’s policing. The county’s sheriff proclaimed that the move was unnecessary because his office was held responsible and accountable every four years at election time. Besides, he offered, the proposal was a mere power grab by political opponents. Continue reading

Graph of the Day: Maternal Mortality

Source: National Center for Health Statistics, by way of The Virginia Mercury

by James A. Bacon

When writing about “systemic racism” in health care, journalists routinely cite the disparity in health outcomes between White and Black Women. Here in Virginia, the maternal death rate per 100,000 for Black women in 2018 was 37.3 — nearly twice the rate of 14.9 for White women. The disparity has grown even wider since then. That disparity often is presumed, without the need for further proof, to reflect racism.

But could there be other explanations? Virginia health officials will be working over the next two years to understand the disparity by digging into the details of individual cases to get a clearer idea of the factors that might have contributed to the deaths, reports the Virginia Mercury.

Among other factors the team will examine is “noncompliance with appointment.” Is it possible that women who died from pregnancy- or birth-related issues were more likely to have missed their prenatal medical appointments? Could some mothers, for instance, have had difficulty accessing transportation to the doctor’s office or been unable to break free from their jobs? (Or could they have just forgotten about their meetings or otherwise blown them off?)

I’ve never heard this mentioned as a possible factor before. Depending on the findings, the inquiry could change the complexion of the debate. Difficulty in finding transportation is a very different problem than, say, physician racial bias.

Continue reading

Map of the Day: Corporate Tax Rates

Why does Virginia have such an also-ran economy? Perhaps one reason, among many, is that its combined state and local corporate tax rate is higher than that of 24 other states. We’re not hostile to business like, say, Illinois or New Jersey, but we’re not welcoming either. — JAB

Wokewashing Comes for the Executive Mansion

by Shaun Kenney

Ned Oliver over at Axios Richmond takes two separate and distinct wires and touches them together for maximum dramatic effect, namely how the tour for the Virginia Executive Mansion — recently reopened after the COVID pandemic — whose narrative has satisfied historians for a good two decades or more, is today somehow tied into Youngkin’s opposition to Critical Race Theory.

From the objective-because-it-is-short method at Axios Richmond:

Why it matters: One of Youngkin’s first acts as governor was to ban public schools from teaching what he called “inherently divisive concepts,” prompting fears his administration was attempting to whitewash history books.

  • His administration’s handling of tours at the Executive Mansion offers up-close insight into how he thinks complex histories should be taught.

Does anyone in their right mind think this is objective reporting? Continue reading

Last Passenger on the Titanic

by James A. Bacon

The good news regarding the Silver Line extension of the Washington Metro rail system to Washington Dulles International Airport is that the service is fiiinnaally scheduled to commence in October after four years of construction delays.

The bad news is that Metro might not have enough rail cars in service to run on the line.

“The rail car shortage arose last year when more than half of Metro’s fleet — 748 of its most modern cars from the 7000-series — was removed from service owing to a wheel-widening malfunction that caused a derailment,” reports The Washington Post. “More than three-quarters of them remain out of service, pending review by the system’s regulatory agency.”

The really bad news is that Metro’s operating deficit, estimated to run $185 million next year, is projected to hit $738 million in Fiscal 2024 and reach $924 million four years after that. With those deficits, it’s hard to imagine service getting any better. Continue reading

VEA’s Failing, Flailing Excuse for a Report

by James A. Bacon

The Youngkin administration threw down the gauntlet last week when it issued the latest public school-accreditation data. Despite unprecedented learning losses during the COVID epidemic, the percentage of Virginia public schools meeting the accreditation standards fell from 92% pre-COVID to 89% post-COVID, a decline of only three percentage points. Commented Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow: “Frankly, the ratings we are releasing today fail to capture the extent of the crisis facing our schools and students.”

Now the Virginia Education Association has countered with a report, “Failing State, Not ‘Failing Schools.’” The report blames systemic racism and under-funding of non-accredited schools.

“Certain politicians have deprived many of our schools of critical resources, particularly in Black communities, and then point the finger at educators for the challenges these schools face by referring to them as “failing schools,” the VEA says. “This deflects blame and ignores the legacy of state-sanctioned policies in certain Black communities, and perpetuate inequities we see in student outcomes today.”

The report is remarkable in many ways. First and foremost, it makes non-accreditation shortfalls all about race. While the Youngkin administration has emphasized that minorities are hurt the most by school-underperformance, it has never suggested that race is the issue. The VEA flat-out blames racism. Second, the VEA repeatedly contends that non-accredited schools are under-funded. This claim is so lacking in factual support that it approaches outright dishonesty. Finally, the VEA suggests that the answer is more money, always more money. No need for better management, no need for teachers, administrators, parents or students to change the way they do anything. The entire onus for fixing the system belongs to the state and Virginia taxpayers.

I’m not buying it. Not one little bit. Continue reading

Why Local Leaders Won’t Say The G Word

by Kerry Dougherty

If you want to understand what’s going on with the surge in violent crime in Tidewater, you really need to watch the movie “Jaws.”

Remember how the mayor of Amity wanted to keep the beaches open even after he knew that a massive, man-eating Great White shark was feeding in local waters?

Well, that’s what’s going on around here, but with gang activity. No one wants to talk about it, because it might discourage tourism and investment. Never mind that not only are gang members shooting each other, but sometimes innocents are caught in the crossfire.

Instead, local leaders wring their hands, clear their throats, hold meetings and politely talk around the problem.

Heck, if they’re lucky, they’ll even get glowing newspaper coverage — with headlines like “Hampton Roads Leaders Zero In on Crime” — to show that they’re taking “gun violence” seriously.

Oh, please. Continue reading

“Too Thin”

The Jackson Arch — before sandblasting

by Donald Smith

The Virginia Military Institute’s hands were tied, it seems. It tried for months to justify leaving an inscription of Stonewall Jackson’s name on an arch at the Old Barracks on VMI’s Main Post. But the school’s leadership couldn’t find a way, so it chose… to take a sandblaster to the  National Historic Landmark.

That’s the conclusion I draw from VMI’s explanation of its decision to expunge Stonewall Jackson’s name from the formerly named Jackson Arch. (See “Retained and Contextualized At VMI” for the full explanation.)

According to the chair of VMI’s Commemorations and Memorials Naming and Review Committee (CMNRC), the original intent of installing a statue of Thomas Jonathan Jackson on the Main Post and inscribing his name on the Post chapel and upon the arch was to honor “Stonewall” Jackson, the brilliant Confederate general. However, only “most compelling” reasons would allow his name to  remain on Jackson Arch today. “The Committee spent months analyzing reasons that might allow the continued display of the Jackson tributes,” said the committee chair, but could not find sufficient justification.

I think Lucky Ned Pepper, the villain in the movie True Grit said it best: “Too thin!” Continue reading

Virginia’s Student “Growth” Model Stunts Achievement

by Matt Hurt

Virginia’s system for accrediting public K-12 schools has engendered some concern since the release of  school accreditation data on September 19. While  students exhibited lower proficiency during the 2022 school year than in 2019, as measured by Standards of Learning test scores, the percentage of schools meeting the requirements for full accreditation barely budged.

Table 1 below demonstrates the rates at which Virginia schools obtained a Level 1 rating (the highest available in our accreditation system) for each of the key metrics. Table 2 below displays the overall pass rates in Virginia for each of those content areas. (The English accreditation indicator is a composite of reading and writing results.)

Note that the English and math SOL pass rates dropped from 2019 to 2022, but Virginia schools didn’t realize similar declines in accreditation ratings. English (a composite of reading and writing) pass rates fell 4.27% but schools awarded the Level One accreditation rating increased 0.83%. Math SOL pass rates plummeted 15.56% but schools slid only 0.88%.

Continue reading

Jeanine’s Memes

From The Bull Elephant

Addressing the Spiral Effect in Learning Loss

by Dr. Kathleen Smith

During the COVID-19 pandemic educators did what they had to do in a short amount of time (five months in the case of Virginia) with little resources (extra funding came long after September of 2020) to keep kids learning through the 2020-2021 school year. A wholesale shift to remote and hybrid learning had never been tried before. Perhaps the challenge could have been handled better, but educators did the best they could under trying circumstances.

Rather than panic over the gap between the pre- and post-pandemic Standards of Learning pass rates, educators should focus now on catching up. The good news is that they know what they need to do, and they have many resources to get the job done.

Here is the bad news: teachers have only a finite amount of time to sequence what needs to be taught, and the scope of recouping lost learning is more than can be accomplished in one school year. Their job is made more challenging by the phenomenon of “spiraling” — in which a student must master one skill level before moving on to the next.

For example, in mathematics, the student first learns simple multiplication and then moves on to more complex multiplication. Continue reading

Bacon Meme of the Week

Of Monocans and Manumissions

The Natural Bridge, as rendered by German artist Edward Meyer in 1858.

by James A. Bacon

Virginia’s history is endlessly fascinating. A study of the state’s past illuminates many issues that still confound us today. Such is the case with a monograph that reader Kemp Dolliver has brought to my attention: “Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry, and the Natural Bridge of Virginia.”

This article, written in 1997 by David W. Coffey, then a history professor at the Virginia Military Institute, touches upon two issues that are relevant today: (1) the dispossession of the lands of the Monocan Indians; and (2) Jefferson’s attitude towards race.

Monocan Indians. The Monocan Indians, as we are repeatedly reminded, inhabited the territory now known as western Virginia during the pre-colonial era, and the land where the University of Virginia and Virginia Tech are located was taken from them. This history, usually told in a manner to suggest that the European settlers of Virginia were uniquely rapacious and unjust, is devoid of critical context.

Citing an earlier source, Coffey’s article notes that the Natural Bridge held a special place in the hearts of the Monocans. In their mythology, the geological wonder proved their salvation. “Long, long ago,” the Monocans were set upon by the Shawnees and the Powhatans. Many of the Monocan braves fell in battle. As they fled their pursuers, the Monocans came upon a high chasm. As they cried out for deliverance, the Great Spirit created the Great Bridge for them to cross. Then, standing against their enemies on the narrow crossing, the Monocan braves turned to face their enemies and fought victoriously. Continue reading