Author Archives: James A. Bacon

Bacon Bits: Government Failure, Private Initiative

Will Metro ever get its act together? The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority has pulled the 7000 series of rail cars from service after a derailment on the Blue Line and discovery of more than two dozen wheel-assembly defects similar to those that had contributed to the accident, reports the Washington Post. “The potential for fatalities and serious injuries was significant,” said National Transportation Safety Board Chair Jennifer Homendy, “This could have resulted in a catastrophic event.” The news represents the latest in a long series of setbacks for the commuter rail system, which serves Northern Virginia. It comes at at time when transit officials were hoping that ridership, devastated by the COVID-19 epidemic on top of a history of safety and service issues, might rebound. But never fear, the federal government has a printing press and it has limitless dollars to prop up failed enterprises.

K-12 education in crisis. The crisis in K-12 education has far deeper roots than the COVID-19 epidemic. Nationally, 13-year-olds saw unprecedented declines in both reading and math between 2012 and 2020, according to scores released a week ago by the National Assessment of Educational Progress. Despite relentless efforts to close the racial achievement gap, the “Nation’s Report Card” shows that Blacks are falling behind even faster than Whites, Asians, and Hispanics. Declines were most severe in the bottom 10th percentile. “It’s really a matter for national concern, this high percentage of students who are not reaching even what I think we’d consider the lowest levels of proficiency,” said George Bohrnstedt, a senior vice president and institute fellow at the American Institutes for Research, as quoted in the 74 Million blog.

Dumb and dumber. Speaking of the NAEP scores, fewer than half of Virginia’s 4th graders score “proficient” or higher  in the NAEP tests. By the 8th grade, they fall even farther behind. Here are the most recent numbers (2019): Continue reading

The Alumni Rebellion Gains Momentum

First, Stuart Taylor and Ed Yingling (with Princetonians for Free Speech) got a column published Monday in the Wall Street Journal about the formation of the Alumni Free Speech Alliance. Fox News followed with a story yesterday (seen above). Since then, Inside Higher Ed, the leading higher-ed trade publication, has run a news story of its own.

The response has been fantastic. Yingling has been overwhelmed with inquiries. The number of subscribers to The Jefferson Council blog jumped 50% overnight.

If anyone in Virginia has an interest in starting a university alumni group to address issues centered on free speech and intellectual diversity, check out the Alliance website. Or contact Yingling directly at edyingling[at]comcast.net. Continue reading

McAuliffe Unhinged

by Kerry Dougherty

This is what happens when Democrat Terry McAuliffe gets tough questions from the press instead of his customary tongue bath:

This interview was taped last week by an ABC affiliate in Washington, WJLA 7News. The reporter, Nick Minock, interviewed Glenn Youngkin and McAuliffe, giving each candidate 20 minutes. McAuliffe stormed off after just 10 minutes, berating the reporter for not asking better questions as he left.

Not a good look. Continue reading

No CRT to See Here, Move Along Now

From the Critical-Race-Theory-is-a-conservative-bogeyman department:

Celebrate #UnityWeek and join panel discussions where you can engage in healthy and positive conversations about unity. Featured for Unity Week is the “Stamped from the Beginning Community Read Project,” a Virginia Beach Public Library (VBPL) read program series featuring “Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America” by Ibram X. Kendi and its youth and teen adaptations. Continue reading

Why W&L’s Dudley Must Go

Republished from The Generals Redoubt newsletter.

The Generals Redoubt is calling for Will Dudley to resign or be terminated as President of Washington and Lee University and for a new president to be recruited who better reflects the historical values of the school and the majority of its alumni. Unfortunately, there are too many reasons to justify his dismissal for one newsletter, so this is the first of several editions explaining why #DudleyMustGo.

In the broadest sense, Dudley should be terminated as his words and deeds indicate that he sees Washington and Lee as deeply flawed. Both he and Rector McAlevey want to reimagine Washington and Lee in a worldview not shared by the vast majority of W&L alumni, parents, and students. Continue reading

This Is It! Act Now to Save the UVa Honor Code, or It Dies!

Letter from Bert Ellis, president of The Jefferson Council to All Friends of the University of Virginia.

I am writing this letter as Bert Ellis, a passionate Double Hoo (College ‘75, Darden ‘79) and as a Founder and President of The Jefferson Council. Our University is under attack from multiple sources and at multiple levels. The entire academic and community experience that so many of us shared at UVA is totally at risk. Our Administration has totally politicized the entire university to the detriment of all that we hold dear. Continue reading

Another Assault on Virginia Landlords

HUD listening session soliciting input from landlords.

by James A. Bacon

The Office of the Attorney General has filed lawsuits accusing 13 Richmond-area real estate companies of discriminating against prospective renters who receive federal housing vouchers.

“Every single Virginian has the right to a safe, comfortable home, regardless of whether they have some assistance paying their rent,” said Attorney General Mark Herring. “Blocking Virginians who would use a [voucher] to pay their rent is outright housing discrimination and will not be tolerated in Virginia.”

Housing vouchers allow recipients to escape public housing projects and move freely in the private rental market. But participation in the federal Housing and Urban Development (HUD program is voluntary, and many landlords opt out. Herring views such behavior as a form of housing “discrimination,” a way to screen out potentially undesirable tenants, reports the Richmond Times-Dispatch. While federal law does not prohibit discrimination based on the source of income, the practice may violate a state anti-discrimination law enacted in 2020. These lawsuits put the Virginia law to the test.

What could go wrong? Continue reading

A New Low: Sleazy Attempt to Get Youngkin Voters to Stay Home

by Kerry Dougherty

There are all sorts of slimy political campaigns. There are campaigns that try to scare folks into voting against a candidate. There are campaigns built on distortions and outright lies.

Perhaps the most repulsive campaigns are those that engage in subterfuge to try to discourage citizens from voting.

Voter suppression is profoundly undemocratic. Surely we can all agree about that.

Yet we learned this week that Dominion Power gave generously to a shadowy PAC that has exactly one purpose: to pretend that conservatives are unhappy with Glenn Youngkin’s stand on guns in an attempt to convince rural Virginians to stay home in November.

Sick. Continue reading

Alumni Power

Image credit: Brent Nelson, Flickr

by James A. Bacon

The university alumni rebellion, which first took root in Virginia, is going national.

Washington & Lee University was the first higher-ed institution in the country, to my knowledge, where alumni organized to fight the leftward drift of their alma mater. The W&L group, known as the Generals Redoubt, was followed quickly by The Jefferson Council (to which I belong) at the University of Virginia and The Spirit of VMI at the Virginia Military Institute.

Now the W&L and UVa groups have joined with newly formed alumni organizations at Princeton University, Cornell University and Davidson College to form the Alumni Free Speech Association. While each institution has its unique, parochial issues, they share a common resolve to stand up for free speech, free expression, independent inquiry, and intellectual diversity in the face of a doctrinaire “woke” ideology that, in increasingly totalitarian fashion, dictates the permissible range of opinions people are allowed to express.

Graduates are creating new organizations from scratch because the incumbent alumni organizations almost universally have failed to represent all of the alumni. They have been co-opted by the university presidents and turned into fund-raising arms. If the University of Virginia alumni association is any indication — and I hear the same critique of the associations at W&L and VMI — they function as rah-rah-aren’t-we-great propaganda arms for their university administrations and sugar-coat the march toward leftist orthodoxy. Continue reading

Alumni of the World Unite!

The Free Speech Wall in downtown Charlottesville

This press release was issued today by the Alumni Free Speech Alliance, of which The Jefferson Council is a founding member. I serve as vice president-communications of the Council. — JAB

Millions of college and university alumni around the country are dismayed by the intolerance of unpopular viewpoints at their alma maters, and many have begun to fight back.

Alumni have organized groups at five of America’s most prestigious higher-ed institutions — Cornell University, Davidson College, Princeton University, the University of Virginia, and the Washington & Lee University – to defend free speech, academic freedom, and viewpoint diversity in college campuses. Today those groups are announcing that they have joined forces under the banner of the Alumni Free Speech Alliance to launch a national effort to mobilize alumni.

“Free speech and academic freedom are critical to the advancement of knowledge and to the success of our colleges and universities,” said Edward Yingling, a co-founder of the Princeton alumni group. “Yet these basic principles are under attack today at schools across the country.”

(See the column co-authored by Yingling that was published in today’s Wall Street Journal.) Continue reading

Virginia Elections: Endanger Kids, Lose Your Seat

by Kerry Dougherty

I tried to warn you that kids would get hurt. I tried to warn the governor.

On February 2, 2020 we published “Insane Bill Will Endanger Kids” after Democrats in the General Assembly passed HB257, reversing a law that had compelled school principals to report cases of sexual battery, stalking, assault and battery and threats against school personnel and schools themselves.

What could possibly go wrong when the very people with an interest in making their schools look safe — principals — were allowed to sweep crimes under the school desks?

I begged the governor not to sign this pile of legislative fecal matter, but he did on March 12.

Of course he did. This is just one more part of the left’s soft-on-crime, perps-first agenda.

Now this: At least two girls were sexually attacked in Loudoun County public schools and the alleged rapist was transferred between schools. The public only found out when the outraged father of one girl went public. Continue reading

Jeanine’s Memes

From the Bull Elephant

Save the Jackson Arch

By Donald Smith

This past summer, Washington and Lee University decided to keep Robert E. Lee’s name as part of the college’s name. Sentiment to keep Lee’s name was strong in and around Lexington.  “Retain The Name” signs were commonplace.  It’s not too late to trot those signs out again, to retain — or save, actually — another prominent name in Lexington and Virginia’s history — Stonewall Jackson.

Jackson’s name is carved into one of the arches at the Virginia Military Institute’s Old Barracks. The arch is commonly referred to as “Jackson Arch.” This past May, the VMI superintendent recommended that Jackson’s name be removed from the arch, and the Board of Visitors concurred. The stated reason: “certain venerations to the ‘Stonewall’ persona were overstated within the context of his contributions to VMI.”

Removing a sign is one thing — as long as you can remove it intact and undamaged. But what if you can’t remove it intact? Continue reading

Virginia Likely to Reinstate Parole for Murderers

by Hans Bader

Senator Joe Morrissey, D-Richmond, predicts that Virginia’s senate will vote to bring back parole in 2022 — “across the board,” meaning for even the most serious crimes, such as murder. Restoring parole could increase the number of murders, rapes, and robberies in Virginia. The Richmond Times-Dispatch reports:

A movement to reinstate parole in Virginia could hinge on the outcome of election results next month. Democratic gubernatorial nominee Terry McAuliffe has indicated willingness to support expanded parole …. While many Democrats support reinstating parole broadly in Virginia, Republicans generally oppose it. The Democrats hold a 55-45 seat edge in the House of Delegates. … The issue will be debated in next year’s General Assembly session.

“I will be introducing a bill that will reintroduce parole across the board,” said Sen. Joe Morrissey, D-Richmond. “I think it will pass [the] Senate Judiciary [Committee] and … the full body.” Democrats control the Senate 21-19. Senators are not up for election until 2023. But Morrissey said he predicts a possible roadblock to parole expansion in the House, where he thinks Republicans will make gains in the Nov. 2 election. … Virginia created parole in 1942 and abolished it in 1995, passing a “truth in sentencing” law among other criminal justice measures in an effort to reduce high crime rates…. Continue reading

Last Local? Harrisonburg’s City Races Could Still Top the Ballot

by Joe Fitzgerald

I barely recognized Mark Obenshain (the Republican state senator from Harrisonburg — ed.) the last time I saw him, and had to tell him who I was. Odd, because we used to run into each other regularly at Keister Elementary, at one time our shared precinct.

That was back when all politics was still local in Harrisonburg. There could be an Obenshain barn sign stored in a shed at a city elementary school and a Democratic official – that would be me – could roll his eyes and entertain the possibility it was donated for art projects. As an election judge, formally closing the polls, I could find Mark and one other guy chatting outside on a cold Election Day and just tell them, instead of making a loud declaration.

The big change from all politics being local began when Suzanne and the now-retired registrar took various actions to prevent or slow student registration in 2008. But as late as 2010 I could still see Mark outside the polls at Keister and note that it was the last local election for 12 years.

I sort of remember thinking he was one of the few people who would get it. With local elections moved from May to November, the congressional year without a Senate or Presidential race was the only time local issues and city council candidates might dominate the ballot. Continue reading