from Liberty Unyielding
On February 22, Virginia’s progressive House of Delegates removed language from the state’s proposed budget that limited early releases of inmates who committed both violent and non-violent offenses. It removed that language in a 53-to-44 vote, then passed the House’s version of the state budget by a 75-to-24 vote.
If the final state budget also lacks this language, it will be argued that the affected inmates are entitled to be released earlier, including at least 500 of them this year, and thousands more in the years to come. In 2023, the Virginia Mercury reported that 8,000 offenders in Virginia prisons are there for a combination of violent and non-violent offenses, and thus would be effected by this sort of provision.
This provision would allow the affected inmates to benefit from a 2020 law passed by Democrats that released many non-violent inmates earlier by dramatically expanding time off inmates’ sentences for avoiding major prison infractions and participating in prison programs. This time off is known as “earned sentence credits.” Affected inmates who previously received 4.5 days off their sentence for every 30 days they largely complied with prison rules instead got 15 days off . Effectively, this shrank their period of incarceration by nearly a quarter from what they otherwise would have served. Prisons have been emptied as a result: Virginia recently announced plans to close four state prisons in 2024.
by Kerry Dougherty
Elections have consequences.
And when Virginia voted last November to give Democrats a slim majority in the General Assembly they also voted to give almost 8,000 violent criminals a shot at getting back on the streets.
This ill-conceived measure – SB427 – is the evil brainchild of Sen. Creigh Deeds, who believes that juries and judges should be second-guessed once an inmate has served at least 25 years of his – it’s almost always a male – sentence.
News flash: any inmate who’s served that many years in prison is a bad dude. A murderer, a rapist or some other sort of vile reptile. These are not petty criminals or marijuana users.
(Deeds’ initial bill wanted to spring felons after 15 years behind bars, but he amended it.) Continue reading
by Kerry Dougherty
When she was hospitalized in September 1998, my brother and I had a somber discussion with her physician. We asked how long our mother – who was clearly failing – would live.
“How long is a piece of string?” the doctor shrugged.
She died four days later.
I’ve been thinking about my mother, her suffering and her last years spent under a death sentence since I learned that Virginia Democrats are again pushing an assisted suicide law. Unlike earlier bills that died in committee, this one, introduced by Sen. Ghazala Hashmi, cleared the Senate’s health subcommittee, a first step toward becoming law.
This measure – SB280 – would allow doctors to prescribe lethal doses of medication to patients who are determined to be terminally ill with less than six months to live.
As if that’s an exact science. Continue reading
Del. A.C. Cordoza
by Kerry Dougherty
How exactly is Virginia’s General Assembly celebrating Black History Month?
By killing a bill to protect children in public school lavatories, introduced by Del. A.C. Cordoza of Hampton.
Cordoza is an African-American. And a Republican. He was famously denied membership in the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus when he was elected in 2022.
Sadly, to the caucus, he’s not the right kind of Black man. Because his views are on the right.
Cordoza claims his bill that would require school personnel to check bathrooms every 30 minutes would not require added personnel nor would it cost taxpayers a dime.
It was tabled, he told the Virginia Mercury, because he’s a Republican.
While the proposed legislation was not expected to impact state spending, Cordoza said his bill was still forwarded from the House Education Committee to the House Appropriations Committee for review. It died in that committee without a hearing.
“It’s sent there to die,” said Cordoza, “to die quietly because they don’t want the world to know that they’re killing a bill to protect little girls in the bathroom, but they want to make sure that a Black Republican is not the one who does it.” said Del. A.C. Cordoza, R-Hampton.
It’s actually a practical suggestion, given that there have been a number of assaults in several school bathrooms, and perhaps some that have not been reported. Having an adult stick his or her head in the lavatory every 30 minutes would certainly discourage bullies and sex offenders. Continue reading
from the Liberty Unyielding blog
Killings and violence have risen in the U.S. over the last decade, as some government officials have come to sympathize more with criminals than their victims. The Virginia Legislative Black Caucus recently said it is “in profound solidarity” with Virginia’s prison population, and that its members “work to dismantle the unjust criminal system.” They said the criminal-justice system has the “role of dehumanizing, abusing and punishing Black America.”
Thirty-two of Virginia’s 140 state legislators belong to the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus, including the speaker of Virginia’s House of Delegates, Don Scott; the president pro tempore of the state Senate, Louise Lucas; the head of the House Appropriations Committee; and the head of the Senate Rules Committee.
On February 14, the VLBC issued a statement that began:
The Virginia Legislative Black Caucus (VLBC) remains in profound solidarity with the 122,500 Virginians who are actively trapped in our state’s criminal justice system, nearly half of whom are Black. When slavery was abolished by the 13th Amendment, it was qualified with “except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted.” With that, mass incarceration was born and the criminal justice system absorbed the role of dehumanizing, abusing and punishing Black America. Continue reading
by Martin Caplan, MD, and Kenneth Lipstock, MD
Apparently, Virginia’s doctors and nurses are racist.
This is the message of two bills that are moving through the state legislature. The bills would force medical professionals to take ongoing “implicit bias training” to get and keep their license. The problem is that such training is insulting, dangerous, and scientifically indefensible. It’s grounded in the false idea that people mistreat and even oppress others, especially those of a different race.
It’s a popular narrative, but there is no sound evidence to support it. What is clear is that if our lawmakers pass these bills, they’ll encourage racial division and tribalism, while undermining the medical profession and hurting patients who need our help. Continue reading
by Hans Bader
A judge recently found that the City of Richmond racially profiles black motorists, dismissing the indictment of a black convicted felon accused of illegally possessing a gun. The judge did not find that defendant Keith Moore had been treated differently than a similarly situated white motorist. Instead, he ruled that Richmond police stops are racially discriminatory, based on statistics showing blacks are stopped and arrested at much higher rates than whites; and based on Richmond’s past “history of discrimination,” such as racialized zoning and redlining, and the “Confederate foundations” of the Richmond Police Department. “The Court will not require Moore to provide evidence of similarly situated individuals to prove his selective enforcement claim,” wrote the judge.
This is likely to create big problems for the City of Richmond, potentially leading to many criminals being released from jail. If a judge claims racial discrimination happened, he should identify what policies are racially discriminatory, or give concrete examples of discrimination, so that the problem can be fixed. But Judge Gibney failed to do that in his February 12 ruling in United States v. Keith Rodney Moore. So now the City is deemed guilty of discrimination, based on things no individual police officer can change (such as city-wide statistics), and things that literally no one can change (such as the confederate origins of the police department and Richmond’s segregated past). If other judges follow this flawed ruling, other criminals can also have their indictments dismissed based on city-wide statistics, even if it is undisputed that they committed the crime for which they were arrested.
Although the judge cited statistical disparities, he did not cite any specific police practices that led to blacks being stopped at higher rates, as he should have done if police were actually at fault. In Smith v. City of Jackson (2005), the Supreme Court ruled that even unintentional discrimination (disparate-impact) cannot be proved through statistics unless “specific” practices are identified that caused the “statistical disparities.” The disparities themselves are not enough. Continue reading
Speaker Don Scott
by Kerry Dougherty
Great. Just what embattled Virginia Republicans need now: an ugly social media post attacking the new speaker of the House of Delegates over a crime he committed and did time for almost 30 years ago.
It’s no secret that Portsmouth Democrat Don Scott was convicted on drug charges in 1994 and served seven years in prison for his crime. He was released, turned his life around, became a lawyer, a member of the House of Delegates and was elected speaker this year.
The Washington Post sums up Scott’s biography this way:
Scott was convicted of carrying drug-related money across state lines just as he finished law school in Louisiana. Years after his release, Scott had his Virginia voting rights restored by then-governor Robert McDonnell (R), got his law license and has risen rapidly through the ranks at the General Assembly to become the first Black speaker in state history.
Oh, and when his friend and neighbor, Portsmouth Circuit Court Judge Johnny Morrison, needed a kidney, Scott donated his.
That’s an extraordinary act of generosity.
Look, I don’t agree with Scott’s politics and I think that most of the initiatives Virginia Democrats are pushing are radical and bad for the commonwealth. The party’s soft-on-crime positions are long-standing and detrimental to public safety.
But that has nothing to do with Scott’s past. Continue reading
by Nancy Almasi
Dartmouth College is making news regarding its return to using the SAT/ACT scores once again as a part of its admissions process. The policy will become effective in 2025 for the incoming class of 2029.
Many colleges and universities decided to make the SAT/ACT test optional during the COVID-19 pandemic when health protocols made taking these tests more difficult for students. This came on the heels of many years of pressure from those who believe that SAT and ACT tests are biased towards those who are wealthy and/or white, arguing that those who can afford SAT prep classes, tutoring, and books have an unfair advantage.
Dartmouth’s policy reversal came as the result of a faculty study prepared by three economists and one sociologist. The professors compared the admissions data from the years when the standardized tests were optional with the data when the tests were required. They concluded that the scores were helpful in finding well-rounded, academically prepared students from diverse backgrounds.
Dartmouth President Sian Leah Birlock wrote the following in her email to the Dartmouth campus about the policy change.
SAT and ACT scores reflect inequality in society and in educational systems across the nation. The research does not dispute that. Crucially, though, the research shows that standardized test scores can be an important predictor of academic success at a place like Dartmouth and beyond—more so even than just grades or recommendations, for example—and with a test-optional policy, prompted by the pandemic, we were unintentionally overlooking applicants from less-resourced backgrounds who could thrive here.
by Joe Fitzgerald
Everybody probably already knew what moving the goalposts meant, but with Taylor bringing in a new set of football fans, the sports-related metaphors can probably be used more widely.
Moving the goalposts is of course a reference to changing the standards in the middle of a process. Latest example: the Rockingham County School Board’s half-assed approach to banning books.
We all know the things wrong with their approach. Some of the books aren’t in the library; they haven’t read them; they can’t substantiate their claims of parental complaints; they’ve over-ruled a policy they didn’t know existed; and they’ve interfered in an educational process in which they have no training.
Two writers in The Harrisonburg Citizen have recently suggested that there are two sides to the issue or that the problem is not the book-banning but the way it’s being discussed. Giving the Fahrenheit 451 crowd this benefit of the doubt moves the goalposts toward censorship and religious domination of public discussion. There’s a reason the First Amendment is the first one, and there’s a reason its first clause says the nation won’t give special respect to an establishment of religion. Continue reading
by Joe Fitzgerald
VPAP and CFReports let you go from “How about that?” to “Oh, my God!” in 5.2 seconds. They’re attractive to the kind of nerds who used to go through the encyclopedia or the World Almanac. Yes, I did. Why do you ask?
One local PAC became a subject for a dive into CFReports and VPAP when someone asked if it was true they paid for health insurance for one of their principals. The answer is that with Virginia’s campaign finance reporting rules, it’s hard to say.
VPAP and CFReports are explained in Part 1 of this series. A PAC, as explained there, is a political action committee. It raises money from political donors and spends it on political candidates or causes.
That cause for Rural Ground Game, RGG, is electing rural Democrats. The perceived need for the PAC is the myth that the Democratic Party ignores rural areas and therefore doesn’t win rural elections. The actual case is that Democrats don’t win rural elections because rural voters vote overwhelmingly Republican, but the myth is popular among those who run better against their fellow Democrats than against Republicans. Continue reading
by Joe Fitzgerald
There’s a donor in CFReports named “no name.” He, she, or it is listed on the report as “Name, No.” This same donor is called “Unknown Entity” in VPAP. Or perhaps “Entity, Unknown.” (VPAP and CFReports are described in Part 1.)
This donor’s address shows up as Matt Cross’s house on his campaign reports. (The address is public record, but it feels like doxing to use it here.) “No Name” gave Cross $170 for his 2021 campaign for the Rockingham County School Board, which he now chairs.
Cross’s reports demonstrate two things about Virginia’s system for campaign finance reporting. One is that it’s as easy to make at least a dozen mistakes as it is to make one. The other is that if a report is riddled with errors, it’s not clear what’s to be done about it.
Cross’s finance reports are good examples of the idea that the kind of campaign a politician runs can show us what kind of public official they will be. Cross’s reports show a candidate who appears to either not know how to fill out the reports or perhaps thinks the rules don’t apply to him. Maybe that’s what we should expect of a candidate who, upon taking leadership of a like-minded board, began banning books without regard for how they were chosen or what the process is for challenging a book. Instead they are banning books regardless of whether they’re in county schools, based not on any identifiable process but on vague parental complaints they have yet to produce.
The law on “No Name” at Cross’s house is that any campaign donor must be identified by name, address, and occupation. If that information is not available, the money is not supposed to be used for campaign purposes, but should be donated to charity. In the past, local candidates have given unidentified money as well as unspent funds to churches or non-profits. (Where the money goes is not regulated. One Harrisonburg City Council candidate, unopposed for re-election, gave $460 to his son for “campaigning.”) There is no report on VPAP of Cross donating any campaign money to charity, so it’s hard to say what he did with No Name’s $170.
As noted above, the donor’s occupation is supposed to be listed on CFReports. But that information does not appear on any of the donors in a particular group of campaign reports, defined further down. Continue reading
by Joe Fitzgerald
When a governor was accepting gifts and amenities from a supporter some years back, the surprise for many Virginians came when it was time to indict him. The Feds had to do it, because he probably hadn’t broken any state laws, and eventually, after trials and appeals, he didn’t stand convicted of breaking any federal laws either.
The big surprise, the dirty little secret, the obscure fact about campaign finance is that very little is illegal. This is in part because the people who would have to make things illegal are the same people who might be doing the potentially illegal things. Stated another way, a delegate or senator is not going to find fault with a fundraising system they’re going to need next year. Any action they vote to ban might be one they’ve used themselves. A state senator asked to outlaw a particular type of fundraising might instead think it’s worth trying in the next campaign.
The Virginia system is that a candidate can raise as much money as he or she wants so long as it’s all reported. There’s a 69-page document on the state elections website on what needs to be reported and how. There’s a slightly shorter version for a Political Action Committee, a PAC. I’ve read both. Neither is complicated.
But what is complicated is the process to read the reports. CFReports is the state site where anybody on the web can read about any donation to Virginia races from school board to governor, if they know what to look for. VPAP, the Virginia Public Access Project, presents these reports in a more general and more readable form than CFReports, but neither offers any interpretation of the numbers. Is a donation larger than usual? Smaller? Did a major donor give more this year than last? Continue reading
by the staff of Liberty Unyielding
It’s the “return of compulsory chapel: George Mason University, a Virginia public institution, will require students to take two social justice courses,” notes Walter Olson of the Cato Institute. A student taking such courses will have “to demonstrate” “competencies” in “diversity,” “equity.” and “inclusion.” George Mason University is Virginia’s largest university.
Last month, George Mason University announced:
Students entering Mason in Fall 2024 or later will be required to take two Mason Core courses that have the Just Societies flag….
Courses with a Just Societies flag must meet both of these outcomes, in addition to other required course outcomes related to the primary Mason Core Exploration category. Upon completing a Just Societies course, students will be able to demonstrate the following two competencies:
- a) Define key terms related to justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion as related to this course’s field/discipline and
b) Use those terms to engage meaningfully with peers about course issues …
- Articulate obstacles to justice and equity, and strategies for addressing them, in response to local, national, and/or global issues in the field/discipline
The National Review says that “the classes no doubt will be grievance-dominated and utopian.”
There is a course approval process for faculty wishing to teach these required courses. But as a practical matter, only courses with a left-leaning ideological slant are likely to be approved. “What do you suppose would happen if a GMU professor proposed a course on the theme that the most just society would be one with a minimal government?,” asks George Leef of the James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal. Continue reading
by the staff of The Cadet
The Virginia Military Institute (VMI) Rat Mass of 2024+3 is now the Class of ’27. That recognition brings a time to pause and reflect on the past and future of what was and is no longer. The mantle will soon pass to the Class of ’25 for their Ratline next year and it is time to address “the elephant in the room.” Unless ’25 brings it back, the Ratline will continue to degrade into a risk-averse basic training curriculum providing little more to incoming Cadets than how to march and endlessly repeating the Inscription on the Parapet and the VMI Mission. While the knowledge and understanding of this information is important for a Rat undergoing our indoctrination phase, what value does it provide if Rats do not have the time management skills, self-discipline, or physical ability to compete in our academic and military environment?
It was the administration, not the First Class, that dictated the date for “breakout.” The activities were known well in advance not only by Rats but by parents who asked on social media how they could attend. The much advertised “fakeout” (fake breakout) to try and add a little mystery was an open secret, and directly pinpointed the true date of “breakout.” Though the First Class, and especially the Rat Disciplinary Committee (RDC), worked hard, a majority of the Corps were not involved in the event that took place on Tuesday afternoon, starting around 2:00 p.m., and only lasted several hours. Turnout for the Second Class sweat party was weak, at best. Professors scheduled exams the next day requiring many to choose between participation and their grades. Coaches and (the senior cadets who mentor Rats) in NCAA programs were notified and briefed on the events, of which they immediately informed their freshman players. Rats were not even required to fill the sandbags used to depict their class year in the photo. They are now returning to storage until needed for the next spectacle.
The administration stated the main Rat Mass priority is “retention” with the Dean continuing to brief the Board of Visitors (BOV) on the failing numbers for Corps and, especially Rat Grade Point Averages (GPAs). An increasing number of Cadets who would normally be placed on academic suspension are being held in the Corps, while the Dean advocates for General Order 1 restrictions on Corps events that limits the “leadership laboratory” experience of VMI to no more than a few hours a week.
The Blue Book and other official documents have now expunged the term “Rat” in favor of “New Cadet.” Photos soliciting donations in the name of “One VMI” show cadets packing stands for basketball and football while first Class Ratline activities were canceled in favor of mandatory attendance at those games. Continue reading