Author Archives: James A. Bacon

DHR Sets the Fiscal Benchmark for Statue Removal

The Lee statue being removed from the U.S. Capitol building.

by James A. Bacon

Let us all praise Virginia’s Department of Historic Resources. The department may be part of the culture-cleansing machine taking down historical statues and moving them to locales where they don’t offend people, but at least it is looking out for the taxpayer.

The Northam administration, acting through DHR, made national news last December when a statue of Robert E. Lee was removed from the National Statuary Hall Collection of the U.S., Capitol and relocated to a Richmond storage facility. But news accounts, such as this Associated Press piece, didn’t tell the story behind the story.

DHR arranged for the removal and transport of the statue to Richmond for $11,700. Let that serve as a benchmark for appraising the procurement policies of governments and universities carrying out their purges. (For background, see Carol Bova’s recent article, “Making Money from Cultural Cleansing.”) Continue reading

Why So Much Vaccine Hesitancy?

COVID-19 Vaccine doses received -- Virginia

COVID-19 vaccines received — Virginia

by James A. Bacon

Only a month ago, it seemed as if we were putting COVID-19 behind us. With the emergence of the super-virulent Delta strain, all bets are off. Even vaccinated people and virus-resistant school children are being called upon to start wearing masks. I have no set opinions on the proper course of action. Receptive to a wide range of viewpoints, I am in data-gathering mode. Suspecting that many other readers are as well, I am resurrecting a Bacon’s Rebellion feature from earlier in the pandemic in which I regularly posted snapshots of Virginia COVID data.

The graph above highlights the fact that almost everyone who wants a vaccine in Virginia has been able to get it. The state has received 10.2 million doses, of which 87.5% have been administered. The rate at which the state is receiving new vaccine supplies, an indicator of how many people are getting vaccinated, has tailed off to almost nothing. Earlier this year, vaccine supply was the bottleneck. Today, vaccine hesitancy is the problem.

Why? Continue reading

Out of Many, Weakness

The Stonewall Jackson Shrine, recently renamed the Stonewall Jackson death site.

by Donald Smith

John Hay, Abraham Lincoln’s press secretary, wrote that Stonewall Jackson’s temperament and personality reminded him of John Brown. Hay didn’t mean that as a complement. But he did have a point. Jackson was an eccentric. At times he looked silly — sucking a lemon, wearing a beaten uniform, losing control of his VMI classroom, holding his arm up in the air so his blood would flow properly.

For all his quirks, Jackson was one of America’s great battlefield generals. He was also a man of character. He was devoted to the Virginia Military institute where he taught. And in creating a Sunday school for Black slaves, he defied the disapproval of the community. His legacy matters — at VMI and beyond.

The cities of Richmond and Charlottesville have pulled down statues to Jackson, Lee and many other Confederate figures. Progressives and SJWs are still celebrating in their parents’ basements. I find that less distressing than Jackson’s treatment at the hands of VMI. Continue reading

Dazed and Confused: The CDC

by Kerry Dougherty

Confused?

Of course you are. Anyone watching the hair-on-fire ninnies at the CDC is dizzy by now.

They lack common sense, their pronouncements are irrational, their messaging is bizarre. Oh, and they clearly have no idea what they’re doing.

One day these “experts” are experiencing scary “feelings of impending doom.” Next they announce that the vaccinated can ditch the masks. Now they say the vaccines work but the vaccinated should wear masks to protect others, presumably the unvaccinated.

Ridiculous.

Oh, and without citing any data, on Tuesday the CDC declared that all children in grades K-12 — who are at almost no risk of serious illness — should wear masks all day in school this fall. Continue reading

COVID and Labor Shortages Are Aggravating Virginia’s Mental Health Crisis

Despite rising incidence of mental illness and substance abuse, admissions to hospitals in Virginia has trended lower in recent years. Something is broken. Source: Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association

by James A. Bacon

The story made big headlines earlier this month when the Northam administration announced that five of the Commonwealth’s eight mental health institutions have stopped taking new patients. Two things are happening to make a chronically bad situation worse. First, the number of patients referred to state hospitals through Temporary Detention Orders (TDOs) has soared — from 3.7 patients per day in FY 2013 to 18 per day currently, or a 392% increase. Second, the hospitals are suffering staff shortages, in part due to the COVID-19 epidemic but also because “the level of dangerousness is unprecedented,” according to a letter from the Virginia Department of Behaviorial Health and Development Services to partners and providers.

“There have been 63 serious injuries of staff and patients since July 1 and we are currently experiencing 4.5 incidents/injuries per day across the state facilities,” the letter stated. Employees are quitting. One facility, the Commonwealth Center for Children & Adolescents, can safely operate only 18 of its 48 beds.

Similar supply-and-demand issues are spilling into the private hospital sector. Private psychiatric hospitals, which provide acute short-term care, are experiencing a similar imbalance between demand for psychiatric facilities and a labor shortage. Continue reading

UVa, Wokeness, and Rooms on the Lawn

by James A. Bacon

Once upon a time in a galaxy far far way, it was considered a great honor among 4th-year University of Virginia students to be selected for residence on the Lawn — the architectural heart of the university designed by Thomas Jefferson and now designated a world heritage site. The accommodations  were less than luxurious — most memorably, the 47 rooms were not equipped with their own bathrooms. There were offsetting advantages. The rooms had fireplaces, and the University provided a plentiful supply of wood. But living on the Lawn was mainly about status. It conferred recognition of a student’s accomplishments in his or her first three years.

Something is happening at UVa, and I don’t fully understand it. The prestige of a Lawn residency is declining. The trend was made visible last year when a 4th-year woman posted a prominent sign on her door emblazoned with the words “F— UVA” and in subsequent statements dismissing founder Thomas Jefferson as a slave-holder and a rapist. As evidenced by supporting signage on other doors, other Lawn residents shared her sentiments.

But the decline in prestige long precedes that particular expression of animus toward the university granting the honor, and it precedes even the reign of wokeness under current President Jim Ryan. As shown in the table above, submitted by UVa in response to a Freedom of Information Act request by UVa alumnus and Bacon’s Rebellion contributor Walter Smith, applications to live on the Lawn have fallen steadily and precipitously — 37% — over the past five years. Continue reading

Wokeness at the Table

by Kerry Dougherty

Do you wake up every morning wondering what mundane aspect of ordinary life will suddenly be declared racist and evil?

Me too.

Gird your loins, here’s the latest: Table manners.

Do you teach your children and grandchildren good manners? You know, napkin on lap, elbows off the table and the proper use of utensils?

Congratulations. You’re a colonizer.

How dare you suggest that your children shouldn’t eat with their hands? Why, you’re barely better than a slave owner!

Yep, that’s the thesis of an article in “Parent’s Today,” a publication that I didn’t know existed until this weekend when an article, “Why The Way We Teach Kids Table Manners Is Actually Kind Of Racist” went viral on social media. Continue reading

What Is a Farming Landowner to Do?

by Jim Kindig

My 3rd great grandfather came to Augusta County in the 1820s, cleared land and established crops on land that is still in our family. Several of my neighbors could tell similar stories. We love farming, but it’s a hard life. Incredible increases in productivity have kept agricultural commodity prices depressed for 80 years. To keep up with the latest and greatest agricultural machinery and technology, farmers have borrowed heavily, using their ancestral lands as collateral. One or two bad years, and they go broke. Many see no way out of their cycle of indebtedness.

Today there is light at the end of the tunnel, so to speak, and that light comes from the sun. Large-scale solar farms offer landowners a low-risk means to keep their farm land. They can lease acreage to a solar developer for a guaranteed income over 25 years. At the end of the lease, they can easily convert the land back to agricultural production with no degradation of soil quality or health. Continue reading

Fredericksburg’s Tree Tyrants

Sallie Daiger sits on the porch of her pre-Civil War home on Caroline Street in Fredericksburg.

by James A. Bacon

I was driving up Interstate 95 to Fredericksburg one Saturday in April when I got a call from my mother. Pick up a rental chain saw on the way into town, she said. She wanted me to cut down a crape myrtle in front of her house. I knew well the tree she was referring to. She’d planted it as a sprig twelve to fifteen years before, and it had become a nuisance. Branches slapped against the telephone lines overhead, draped over the sidewalk, and shed debris on cars parking in the street. My sister, a housekeeper and I had taken turns pruning it, but the branches quickly grew back. I agreed that it was time to take the wretched thing down for good.

I’m no expert with a chain saw, but it wasn’t a difficult job. I lopped off the branches previously amputated with a hand saw, and carved out chunks of the trunk to chest-high level. Then I attacked the base of the tree, cutting around the rim as deep as the chain saw blade would go. I’d made it about 60% of the way through the trunk when a neighbor approached me in a state of alarm.

Frank Widic was a tree steward with Tree Fredericksburg. I had to immediately stop what I was doing, he told me. The crape myrtle was located on city right-of-way, and I was forbidden by ordinance from cutting it! I protested that the city had done nothing to maintain the tree, and that it needed to come down. That didn’t matter, Widic said. He  put me on his cell phone to talk to Anne Little, president of the nonprofit Tree Fredericksburg organization.

Little was even more emphatic. City rules were very clear, she said. I had to stop. If I didn’t, she was obligated to notify the police. Whoah, thought I. This was way above my pay grade. I handed the phone to my mother, who was watching events unfold from a perch on the porch. Continue reading

How Not to Treat a Conservation Easement

Abandoned camper. Photo credit: Wikipedia

The Commonwealth needs to tighten up its system for granting and overseeing conservation easements, the Virginia Office of the State Inspector General (OSIG) has found.

One of three conservation-easement properties visited by OSIG auditors did not meet Conservation Value Review Criteria adopted to provide for quality conservation value. The inspectors saw “trash, old tires, scrap metal piles, old campers, inoperable vehicles, and a manure storage area that contained deceased cattle parts on the property.”

Additionally, easements between $500,000 and $1 million lacked restrictions for water quality, historical preservation and agricultural use when compared to easements resulting in tax credits of $1 million or more. Continue reading

Making Money from Cultural Cleansing

This imagery was in preparation of the $430,000 contract with the University of Virginia to remove the George Rogers Clark bronze sculpture located at the UVa Corner Park.

by Carol J. Bova

Richmond business owner Devon Henry is best known for his role as owner of NAH, LLC, for procuring a $1.8 million contract from Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney to take down Richmond’s Confederate statues. While Stoney’s handling of the contract outside the normal procurement process became a political liability — a special prosecutor and the Virginia State Police are still investigating the deal — Henry has become the go-to guy for taking down monuments to Confederate generals and other symbols out of fashion with Virginia’s political class.

Henry built a construction company, Team Henry Enterprises, winning bids as a minority contractor, primarily from the federal government. In 2018, Team Henry broke into the state/local contracting business with a contract to erect the Memorial to Enslaved Laborers at the University of Virginia, which after eleven revisions totaled $5.5 million. Continue reading

Slow Service: The New Normal

by Kerry Dougherty

We waited at least 20 minutes after we were seated to place our drink orders. Another 15 to get our cocktails. Another 30 for appetizers (cups of soup) and another 30 for our entrees.

It was so late when we finished, we skipped dessert.

Welcome to the “new normal” in dining out: Painfully slow service.

It seems it’s the same almost everywhere. Restaurateurs, unable to hire employees who are cashing fat government checks for doing nothing, are hobbled by lack of workers.

Shoot, one oceanfront restaurant recently posted a notice on its marquee that read something like, “Be Patient We Have No Staff.” Another Beach establishment is plastered with “help wanted” signs — even in the ladies’ room.

I’m not complaining about my Saturday night dining experience, simply observing. Despite the desultory service, dinner was delish and the company was even better. Our server was cheerful, just slow. Continue reading

Confederate Statues and Judicial Fiats

by James A. Bacon

The Roanoke County Courthouse is located, oddly enough, in the independent city of Salem. Nearby, within the sight of the courthouse, there stands a statue of a Confederate soldier in front of a building owned by Roanoke College. The college would like to remove it, but the statue is situated on a scrap of land owned by Roanoke County, and only the Board of Supervisors is empowered to make the decision. The County has not been moving on the matter as expeditiously as some would like, and now Roanoke County Circuit Court judge Charles Dorsey has determined that the statue “obstructs the proper administration of justice in the Roanoke County Courthouse.”

The arguments in favor of keeping the Confederate statues are familiar to us all, and I will not re-hash them here other than to note that this particular statue, raised in 1909, does not glorify the Confederacy, the ante-bellum era, or the mythology of the Lost Cause. The placard says simply that it was erected “in memory of the Confederate soldiers of Roanoke County. … Love makes memory eternal.”

My interest here is not to re-litigate the propriety of maintaining a statue that honors nameless Confederate soldiers but to highlight Dorsey’s judicial activism. Impatient with the processes of representative democracy — the county board will not take any formal action until January 2022 — he has issued an order:

Either the Court must be removed to an appropriate location or the monument must be removed during the operation of the Court, the Court so finds, and the same is ORDERED.

Continue reading

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