Category Archives: Culture wars

Virginia Leaders Reject the Very Concept of America

Soon to be banned?

by James C. Sherlock

This blog is dedicated to tracking, reporting and assessing the political culture of Virginia. Our authors, right, center and left, report and assess individual events.  

But as we track the legislation, executive orders, regulations and rhetoric coming out of Richmond and the rogue actions of every state board the Governor appoints, we cannot but conclude that Virginia, by fair elections, is now run by people who reject the very idea of America. 

They see themselves as counter-culture warriors and the American culture a prison from which they need to provide an escape. They consider themselves uniquely enlightened and are thus utterly intolerant of dissent. 

They have not come to grips with the fact that their mindset opposing everything that made America great now commands the heights of American culture. Conflicting opinions have been banished from colleges, K-12 school faculties, most of the dominant media, government, social networks, executive suites, and the entertainment industry.

The fact that disagreement with their views persists despite that wall of noise frustrates them beyond measure. They believe that it requires further active suppression.

They are loudly and unrelievedly stricken by what they see as America’s fundamental failings and are deploying strategies to deal with them. I offer a few of those strategies for your consideration. Continue reading

Wins Appointed as 15th VMI Superintendent

Maj. Gen. Cedric Wins

by James A. Bacon

Maj. Gen. Cedric T. Wins will serve as the Virginia Military Institute’s 15th superintendent after a unanimous vote by the military academy’s Board of Visitors this morning. A 1985 VMI graduate and career military officer, Wins has served as interim superintendent since shortly after the November resignation of J.H. Binford Peay III under pressure from the Northam administration.

Wins, an African American, has led the academy during one of the most tumultuous periods in its modern history. After anecdotal reports of racial incidents in recent years, the Institute has been characterized as “relentlessly racist” by The Washington Post and criticized for its “appalling” racism by Governor Ralph Northam and Democratic Party leaders. VMI is currently being scrutinized in an “equity audit” ordered by Northam, in which investigators are poring through documents, conducting surveys on attitudes toward race, and  interviewing students, faculty, staff, and alumni.

The Superintendent Search Committee nominated Wins from what chairman Gene Scott called a “very strong” candidate pool. “Maj. Gen. Wins distinguished himself as a frontrunner through his experience as a military leader and innovator,” said Scott. “His ability to communicate a vision for the development of leaders of character and the future of the Institute set him apart from others.” Continue reading

Hate, Hostility and Harassment at UVa

Nick Cabrera tweeted this photo of himself posing maskless with Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Green at the Conservative Political Action Conference. COVID scolds wanted to impeach him from student council.

by James A. Bacon

Last fall Nickolaus “Nick” Cabrera ran for election as a first-year representative to student council at the University of Virginia. His platform was anodyne — showing unity in confronting COVID-19, getting Class of 2024 t-shirts delivered, that sort of thing. He didn’t run on an ideological or partisan political platform, but he didn’t hide anything either. It wasn’t until he was actually elected to a spot on Student Council that people took notice. Horrors! He supported Donald Trump for president! The word went out on the social media tom-toms. Before long, he was a campus villain.

It wouldn’t be long before Cabrera received his baptism under fire as the sole conservative representative in a student council populated entirely by representatives on the blue end of the political spectrum.

UVa erupted in a furor when minority and woke-white students took umbrage at the use of language by a Commerce School professor. Student Council passed a resolution demanding implementation of a “strike” system — three strikes and you’re out — to hold professors accountable for the use of words deemed offensive. Cabrera was the only student to speak against a measure he saw as a threat to free speech and due process. His stand on principle earned him the animosity of other council members, who said in essence he had no standing as a white person to speak on the matter. (I have described that encounter in detail here.) Continue reading

VDOE Transgender Policies Dangerous to Both Children and School Personnel

by James C. Sherlock

Virginia’s Model Policies for the Treatment of Transgender Students in Virginia’s Public Schools is a bigger mess the more I study it.

It is as far as I can tell unprecedented in scope. I checked parallel California, D.C. and Arlington County policies. None of them comes close to the dangerous nonsense in Virginia’s new Model Policies.

Even if we ignore the legal, medical, ethical and parental rights issues, which we won’t, Model Policies will prove untenable in any school that tries to comply.

We absolutely need to make transgender students feel safe at school and not discriminate against them in any way.  Arlington County has done it well in my view. But the Virginia Department of Education’s (VDOE) (Department) new regulation fails every test of professionalism and common sense with its attempt to address those needs.

Be assured however that Model Policies meets key tests of radical progressivism.

  • Its prescriptions challenge the tenets of every major religion and the ethics of people who care about ethics;
  • It is unsupported by evidence or common sense, uncaring of consequences, unachievable by sentient adults; and
  • It is mandatory.

Continue reading

Woke Privilege at the University of Richmond

Thomas Hall, a UR dorm building upgraded five years ago for $7.9 million.

by James A. Bacon

Faculty and students are up in arms at the University of Richmond,  demanding the renaming of buildings that are named after a president and long-time rector the segregationist era. Faculty have voted to approve a statement of “no confidence” in Rector Paul Queally and have called for him to resign. Meanwhile, the Black Student Coalition organized a march across campus recently, chanting, “No justice, no peace, no racist trustees.”

Read the list of demands in this Richmond Times-Dispatch article. Decide for yourself how self-indulgent they are. Just remember, this is an institution that costs rich families $74,600 a year for tuition, room, board, and other charges but provides an average need-based aid package of $53,900 to 39% of the student body.

I have have zero sympathy for anyone at UR complaining about anything. By virtue of attending this cloistered academic oasis, they’re all “privileged.” And that especially includes people getting steep tuition discounts, whatever their race or ethnicity. Continue reading

Richmond’s Rage of the Woke

The bronze equestrian statue (1890) of Robert E. Lee covered in graffiti, September 2020 (Photo courtesy of author)

by Catesby Leigh

Beautifully landscaped with ample medians and harmoniously lined with gracious houses in various historic styles, Richmond, Virginia’s block-paved Monument Avenue and its several statuary tributes to Confederate leaders were once recognized as a triumph of American urban design. The residential frontages served admirably as a variegated frame for the monuments, creating a superb urban tableau that it made no sense to eradicate—especially as the monuments lost ideological currency with the passage of time, as monuments often do.

But after the mayhem triggered by George Floyd’s fatal arrest in Minneapolis in May 2020, the 14 blocks of the avenue comprising a National Historic Landmark District present a sorry spectacle. Bare pedestals, with the vandals’ graffiti not entirely washed away, stand on the avenue’s median. Statues of General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, the cavalry commander J. E. B. Stuart, Confederate president Jefferson Davis, and the world-renowned oceanographer Matthew Fontaine Maury, who played an inconspicuous role in the Confederate war effort, are gone—victims of fanaticism fueled by Twitter slogans drawing, in turn, on national-guilt and systemic-racism narratives in which Americans have been increasingly indoctrinated. Continue reading

Maybe VMI Needs to Close on Our Terms

A modest proposal

by Shaun Kenney

The Virginia Military Institute (VMI) is a hallowed institution to many. VMI men have a certain command presence that is rooted in realism yet rarely if ever accepts impossible as a status quo.

The things that make VMI such an institution are the intangibles. VMI’s storied Honor Code, her graduates such as General George S. Patton, the 1864 Battle of New Market, and the gallows humor that seems to prevail among most alumni. “They can’t kill you and they can’t send you back to the rat line” is a common refrain

This thicket of intangibles — honor and tradition — are what makes institutions such as VMI unique and truly Virginian. Continue reading

Driving While Black

Photo credit: Pope County Tribune

By Dick Hall-Sizemore

If anyone ever doubted there was a need for society to address the problem of police officers stopping Black drivers, a recent event in the town of Windsor should dispel those doubts.

The incident is reported in today’s on-line Virginian-Pilot. Like incidents at Virginia institutions of higher education that have been recently discussed on this blog, the narrative is based on side’s story. In this case, the description comes from a lawsuit filed in federal court by the Black driver. Unlike those other incidents, however, there is graphic police body camera footage that backs up the Black driver’s story.

For those who do not have access to the Virginian-Pilot with the accompanying body cam footage, I will summarize the incident: Continue reading

When “Words Are Violence,” Only One Side Gets to Speak

If you’re not woke, you’re a fascist.

by James A. Bacon

Victoria Spiotto was brought up in a conservative, religious family of Italian descent in Loudoun County.  It was at the University of Virginia where she found her political identity as a conservative. One day in her third year, she was walking the grounds when she came across a Young Americans for Freedom (YAF) table displaying a 9/11 memorial. She found the club appealing, and started learning about thinkers to whom she’d never been exposed to before — the philosophers and thought leaders of conservatism. By her fourth year, she was leader of the club, determined to grow the organization.

Conservatives are mostly invisible at UVa, and they have few means of connecting. Spiotto wanted to let people know the group was out there, that YAF was a club where students of a conservative/libertarian stripe could find like-minded people and make friends. So, she began organizing a series of initiatives to get noticed. “It wasn’t a call to fight.” The idea, she says, was to “stand your ground. Don’t compromise on the truth you believe in.”

YAF now may be the most vilified student organization at UVa. The hostility is unrelenting. Spiotto and her buddies don’t worry for their physical safety. But left-wing students take down their signs and rain down vitriol on social media. Student Council leaders stifle dissent. Continue reading

Et Tu, Tech?

by James A. Bacon

I have long thought of Virginia Tech as the most tolerant of free speech and expression among Virginia’s larger universities. There have been minor eruptions of cancel culture, but nothing as debilitating as the examples we’ve documented elsewhere. Looks like I was wrong.

Speech First, a nonprofit group working to combat free speech restrictions in higher-ed, has filed a lawsuit in the Roanoke federal district court, charging that the administration has created a series of “content-restricting policies and processes that allow the university to police and censor speech they deem ‘biased’ or ‘unwanted.'”

According to the Speech First press release, the lawsuit challenges four specific policies that chill student speech: the University’s discriminatory-harassment policy, its bias-related incidents, its computer policy, and a requirement that students obtain administrative approval to distribute flyers. Continue reading

The Bureaucratic Banality of Academic Oppression

by James A. Bacon

Two-and-a-half years ago, Kieran Ravi Bhattacharya, a medical school student at the University of Virginia, attended a session on “microaggressions” in which psychology professor Beverly Colwell Adams gave a presentation about her research. In what he thought to be a collegial manner, Bhattacharya challenged her analysis.

The challenge was not well received. Indeed, other participants in the session deemed his questions disrespectful. There followed a sequence of events in which Bhattacharya was investigated by the Academic Standards and Achievement Committee for unprofessional behavior, was told to submit to psychological evaluation, was suspended, was branded as a threat to the university community, was banned from the university grounds, and ultimately was expelled.

Bhattacharya has detailed his side of the story in a lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court in Charlottesville against the University of Virginia and various university officials. The defendants filed for a motion to dismiss, but Judge Norman K. Moon ruled that the case should proceed. I base the account that follows upon the details contained in Moon’s ruling.

That ruling presents only one side of the story, Bhattacharya’s, and has to be considered in that light. But Bhattacharya version is well documented with emails and audio recordings. If substantially correct, the implications for freedom of thought and expression at the University of Virginia are extremely troubling. The lawsuit opens a window into the internal workings of Virginia’s flagship university. Free thought and expression are stifled not only by the widely recognized phenomena of doctrinaire faculty and Twitter Outrage Mobs, but by administrators acting through the university’s clunky bureaucratic machinery. Continue reading

Charlottesville Deserves a Mayor Who Likes the City

by Kerry Dougherty

There are few requirements in most places to run for mayor. Affection for your own city ought to be a minimal requirement.

Pity Charlottesville’s mayor doesn’t even meet that.

Let me back up.

After last Friday’s “Kerry and Mike” radio show a couple of listeners emailed to say I’d been a little rough on the mayor of Virginia Beach during an interview about the melee at the oceanfront that ended with 10 people shot and two dead on March 26.

Clearly these armchair critics have been watching too many mainstream media interviews of Joe Biden and members of his administration. Those who watch only network news, CNN and MSNBC, would be shocked to discover that good interviews are not a series of softballs lobbed at friendly pols to make them appear competent. Continue reading

Virginia Board of Education – In Loco Parentis and Headed to Court

Mark Herring

by James C. Sherlock

Is your child yours or does he or she belong body and soul to the state in the person of the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE)?   

That is a question that is not only reasonable, but absolutely necessary after reading its new transgender student regulation. That regulation represents a straight-up, in-your-face denial of parental rights.

The quasi-religious fervor with which the radical left now pushes children to “find” their transgender selves and the state to offer “support” in that decision to very young children is as disturbing as anything in American life. They consider that gender identity is an innate characteristic that most children “declare” by age five to six. They further believe the state should take it from there to protect them from their parents.

VDOE just released what will prove a fiercely controversial Model Policies for the Treatment of Transgender Students in Public Elementary and Secondary Schools pursuant to House Bill 145 and Senate Bill 161 enacted by the 2020 Virginia General Assembly. Under that 2020 law, the “policies” just released are mandatory for school boards, thus granted the status of a regulation.  

The whole conceit that the government – read the radical progressive left who wrote this regulation for VDOE – knows best what is right for your children is on full display in the document. It presumes to enforce government decisions on the sexuality of very young children both hidden from and against the wishes of the parents.   Continue reading

Free Stuff for Everyone… Except the Middle Class

by James A. Bacon

Free bus fare for everyone?

Why not? Bus passengers already pay only a fraction of what it costs to operate local and regional transit systems. Ridership is down, thanks to COVID. Besides, it costs money to collect the fares. In the name of “equity” for poor people and minorities, why not just eliminate bus fares altogether?

That idea gets a serious airing in a column published today in The Virginia Mercury.

Virginia is providing free tuition for lower-income students attending community college. The state is jacking up the minimum wage. It is charging middle-class consumers higher electric rates to reduce charges for poor people. It is crushing small businesses with COVID-19 restrictions. Uncle Sam is crippling small landlords with a blanket moratorium on housing evictions, no matter why people are falling behind in their rent. Why the hell not provide free bus service for the poor — even as Virginia flirts with joining the Transportation and Climate Initiative for the express purpose of driving up the cost of driving automobiles?

This, my friends, is a war of the cultural elites upon the middle class. The elites despise us even as they plunder us. Continue reading

Public Schools Should Accommodate Religious Diversity

Sikh religious observance

by James A. Bacon

Diversity may be our greatest strength, as we commonly hear, but it also creates problems that need to be worked out. A case in point is the public school calendar, which was set when the United States was an overwhelmingly Christian nation. When 99% of the population was Christian, it was simple common sense to organize school breaks around the observance of Christmas and Easter. Today, with immigrants from around the world, public schools are filled with Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, and Sikhs whose holy days are not accommodated by school schedules.

The Fairfax County School Board made a stab at compromise, directing teachers to continue holding classes on a list of 15 days marked by non-Christian religious and cultural observances, but to postpone tests and social and athletic events on those days. The board also voted to let teachers take two holy days off, but only if they made up the 16 hours missed, according to an opinion piece by Joyce Winslow published in The Washington Post. Winslow, who is Jewish, was not happy. She writes:

In effect, the board created a two-tier education system by establishing a “separate but equal” policy for minority faiths that is not equal and will continue to add to children’s “feelings of inferiority.” The Supreme Court found this unconstitutional for race in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka in 1954. The same should apply for religion.

Continue reading