Category Archives: Government Oversight

“Puberty Blockers Are Wonderful” – UVa Children’s Hospital

by James C. Sherlock

How do people communicate?

Generally by words and visuals and, in person, with body language. The art and science of marketing and sales is one of the bulwarks of any economy — and any political system.

My article on the hard selling of hormone treatments — puberty blockers and cross-gender use of estrogen and testosterone — by UVa Children’s Hospital Transgender Youth Health Services has drawn a lot of attention.

Two of the most famous lines from the video and its transcript are:

Puberty blockers are wonderful. They provide sort of a break.

Well. What child and parent wouldn’t want a break? Is there ice cream?

That enthusiastic endorsement caused me to check out the FDA warnings on puberty blockers.

Wonderful is not the first word that comes to mind. Continue reading

The Circle of Government Fecklessness and Homelessness – Newport News Edition

Newport News City Manager Cynthia Rohlf

by James C. Sherlock

Newport News ought to work.

It starts with Newport News Shipbuilding (NNS). I’ll let them describe it.

Newport News Shipbuilding is the sole designer, builder and refueler of U.S. Navy aircraft carriers and one of two providers of U.S. Navy submarines.

With approximately $4 billion in revenues and more than 25,000 employees, we are the largest industrial employer in Virginia and the largest shipbuilding company in the United States.

We build the most advanced ships in the world using our expertise in nuclear propulsion, naval design and manufacturing.

Many of the 187,000 citizens of Newport News either have a family member who works at NNS, one of its 2,000 active suppliers (half of which are small businesses) or one of the businesses who provide services to those employees. The population of Newport News is a full five years younger (median age 32.9) than that of the rest of Virginia (37.8).

So, as I said, Newport News as a city ought to work, if for no other reason than that it is anchored by 550 acres of the most spectacularly accomplished industrial plant and white- and blue-collar workers in the world.

But in key government services it does not work. Continue reading

Can Teaching Be Fixed to Transform It From a Burnout Job? – A Professional Approach

by James C. Sherlock

K-12 teachers all over the state and country report burnout.

There are lengthy discussions — OK, arguments — about the reasons for that situation. But no one denies it is happening.

One of the attractions of teaching when I was a kid and a young man was that teachers, largely then as now women, could raise their families, teach and enjoy and feel fulfilled by both.

  • Most went to school with the school buses and came home with the school buses. They were home when their kids got home. They were with their kids in the summers.
  • They did not work at home or at school on their computers and the internet because there were no home computers or internet. They had a free period during the day, but they did grade papers at home. Sure. Sometimes. Lesson plans. Ditto. I know I did in my brief pre-military stint as a teacher. But I did not find that stressful. Neither did my married colleagues. Teaching was fun.
  • The undergraduate education schools taught their students how to teach. Both the curricula and student teaching were meaningful. They prepared student teachers for their first and second years of teaching far better than they do today.
  • Ed school emphasis was on their undergraduates. Teachers did not require graduate degrees to teach. (Still don’t, but their own schools today make them second-class citizens if they do not have one. Lower pay. Unlikely to be a principal. Not versed in the latest graduate school of education trendy theories, so they don’t get sent to professional conferences. Regardless of the relative quality of their teaching. They can be Master Teachers in some divisions, but that was an afterthought.)
  • That system worked for both the teachers and the kids, both their own and those they taught.
  • It worked for the schools, because they could fill their classrooms with qualified teachers, who did not burn out and quit.

There is a professional approach to returning the job of teacher to a lower stress condition. First, insist on it. Then re-architect the school and thus the profession of teacher to make it happen. Continue reading

Social Theory vs. Science in K-12 Discipline in Virginia – Fraud or Just Wrong?

Both fraudulent and wrong?

by James C. Sherlock

American school children have in my lifetime been the subject of widespread experiments in theory disguised as breakthroughs in education.

Consider the “new math” and the “reading wars” as prominent examples.

Now we have social theory on school discipline created by federal civil rights lawyers piggybacking on what may or may not prove to be successful academic practices for children with disabilities. That social theory has been promulgated as state policy guidance in Virginia.

A Multi-tiered System of Supports (MTSS) has been used successfully in some instances to help teach academics to the learning-disabled.

This system was extended by lawyers from the aspirational left to school discipline and social-emotional learning without evidence. Now it has been published by the Virginia Board of Education for use by every school division in Virginia as a potential cure for “systemic racism” in discipline.

The 2021 Model Guidance for Positive, Preventative Code of Student Conduct Policy and Alternatives to Suspension (Virginia Model Guidance) may be fraudulently referenced. It is certainly incompletely referenced. Continue reading

Portsmouth, Norfolk and Newport News – New Applications for Section 8 Vouchers, Public Housing Mostly Closed

Virginia’s 3rd Congressional District – Congressman Bobby Scott (D)

by James C. Sherlock

I authored a piece here recently about the Norfolk Redevelopment and Housing Authority (NRHA) and the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher program.

I made the point that it is very difficult to find housing that can profitably be rehabbed to Section 8 standards.

I note that the only open waiting list in the NRHA is for an apartment at Riverside Station Apartments, a 220-apartment mixed-use development using tax credits for public housing set-asides. Twenty-three apartments are set aside for NRHA, but the development is not yet ready for occupancy. I am unable to determine when it will be.

In the spirit of evenhandedness, I offer the following about vouchers and public housing at the Portsmouth Redevelopment and Housing Agency (PRHA) and the Newport News Redevelopment and Housing Agency.

In Portsmouth and Newport News, both the voucher programs and the public housing program waiting lists are closed to new applicants, and reportedly have been for years. The only exception noted is in the availability of single room accommodations in public housing in Portsmouth.

It is sad. We hear all about the housing programs when they are authorized and funded.

Nothing when they create expectations — dependencies really — that they fail to meet. Let’s take a look. Continue reading

Public Featherbedding at the Norfolk Redevelopment and Housing Authority?

The Young Terrace public housing community is along St. Paul’s Boulevard, just north of downtown. (Bill Tiernan) Credit Virginian Pilot

by James C. Sherlock

Daniel Berti published an excellent investigative report this morning in The Virginian-Pilot.

“Norfolk’s housing authority is in ‘dire’ financial condition, bloated after years of failing to downsize” details what may prove to be waste and abuse at that agency to preserve jobs as the administrative requirements and funding of the mission have diminished.

In other words, the report details what some may construe as government agency featherbedding. If it is true, it has been a big mistake, because federal dollars are involved.

I congratulate both the author and the paper on this exclusive. Please read it.

The article, as revealing as it is, does not mention the annual independent audits the Norfolk Redevelopment and Housing Authority (NRHA) is required by federal regulation to undergo.

It has been my experience over the years that local agencies spending federal funds often get into financial trouble that is traceable to audits.

Most often to good audits that are ignored. Continue reading

Gender Dysphoria Treatment for Children Needs Some Rules in Virginia

by James C. Sherlock

Virginia needs, for the protection of children, parents, and physicians, a law to specify minimum age requirements and require court orders for voluntary medical intervention in child sexual development.

When there are physical abnormalities involved, the court can order those treatments as well.

On the other hand, I propose a ban on voluntary sex reassignment surgery in minors.

A court order is already required in Virginia for non-therapeutic sterilization of children. Virginia law makes no reference to the treatment of gender dysphoria in children.

Some will try to parse the differences, but it seems almost axiomatic that consent to puberty blocking and hormone replacement therapy (HRT) for minors should be treated the same as consent to sterilization. Continue reading

The Crisis of Reducing Costs and Maintaining Standards at Virginia’s State Colleges and Universities

Courtesy Virginia Tech

by James C. Sherlock

Virginia’s state-funded colleges and universities are too expensive.

Tuitions are the headline numbers.

But student fees and food and housing costs are as important to the budgets of families and individual students as tuition.

Costs within the college system have gone up because of a general lack of management systems and data to support oversight. They are going up further because of inflation in the economy.

Demand is going to plummet starting in 2025 as the “demographic cliff” of a 15 % drop in freshman prospects approaches due to the decline in birth rate in the 2008 recession that lasted for years thereafter.

The missing babies from 2008 would have begun entering college in 2025. Not a rosy scenario for the colleges. They all talk about it a great deal internally.

Some will have to get smaller to maintain student quality admissions standards or, alternately, lower those standards along with those of the programs of instruction.

Maintaining the same staff with smaller numbers of students will not work without massive price increases that they will not be able effectively to pass on without exacerbating the demand crisis.

Action is demanded, or parts of the Virginia higher education system, generally the smaller ones, are going to price themselves out of existence. The ones that do not act will be in a continuing crisis of their own making.

In the realm of enterprise disruptions, declining demand and increased costs are the big leagues. Continue reading

New Fed Policy Would Hide CMS Data on Patient Safety Records of Hospitals

by James C. Sherlock

One of the most disturbing commentaries I have read in a long time relating to federal efforts to improve hospital patient safety reports a major step backwards in that program.

I have written here many times of the power of the hospitals over Virginia’s politics. A proposed new federal rule shows that power at the federal level. It would negatively affect your ability to understand and compare the patient safety records of hospitals.

The Biden administration Centers for Medicare/Medicaid Services (CMS) proposes to hide from the public a CMS rating that helps consumers view relative patient safety grades of hospitals. As important to the hospitals, perhaps, no one would be able to report on that information.

It also proposes to waive $350 million in fines for hospitals that violated existing regulations.

CMS for the Secretary of Health and Human Services is, with this rule, exercising the extraordinary powers the Secretary gives himself by constantly extending the Declaration of Public Emergency for COVID.  And yes, that is legal.

Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association (VHHA) submitted a 17-page letter of comment. It of course supported the waiver of fines.  On the issue of suppressing patient safety data, the VHHA wrote, unsurprisingly:

“VHHA and its members are supportive of the proposed suppression (of data) in the HVBP program.”

The letter also encouraged CMS to also suppress pneumonia mortality measure because of the potential overlap with COVID- related pneumonia.

The only way that could happen since CMS is already suppressing data with a primary or secondary COVID diagnosis is if there was no reported COVID indication in pneumonia cases.

The proposal itself represents a major scandal.  A total of 1,533 comments, now closed, were submitted on the proposed rule.

They comments from doctors and patient safety groups were unsupportive.  Hospitals were very supportive.  The Virginia Department of Health sent a short letter on the larger rule, but did not comment on data suppression.

The result: political healthcare rules courtesy of the Biden administration and the hospital lobby.

The following article is reprinted by permission of Kaiser Health News. Continue reading

The “Occasional” Butchery of Children

By James C. Sherlock

Chloe Cole after childhood surgical transition to a boy (left) and de-transition to a girl (right) – Courtesy of Chloe Cole and the New York Post

The New York Post wrote recently:

At 12 years old, Chloe Cole decided she was transgender. At 13, she was put on puberty blockers and prescribed testosterone. At 15, she underwent a double mastectomy. Less than a year later, she realized she’d made a mistake.

Note the gracious acceptance of agency by this young woman, even though she made a “decision” at 12 that she was transgender.  Some clearly think that a child of twelve is mature enough to make such a decision.

We see no such agency proclaimed by her parents, pediatrician, endocrinologist or psychologist.  I am sure they were “supporting” that child.

No agency is apparently accepted by the state in which she lived.  The state in which her doctors were licensed.

Let’s examine the agency of the adult players in such matters in Virginia.

Continue reading

America’s Petroleum Refining Capacity in the News – What is Going On?

By James C. Sherlock

This is a note about perhaps the highest profile national inflation issue, the price of gasoline and diesel.

The President is demanding more supply from U.S. refineries.  Headlines like this one blare at us today:

Biden threatens oil companies with ’emergency powers’ if they don’t boost supply amid inflation spike.

The letter behind such headlines, which is exactly what it seems to be, was sent to the largest refiners in the country.  Among other things, the President wrote:

My administration is prepared to use all reasonable and appropriate Federal Government tools and emergency authorities to increase refinery capacity and output in the near term, and to ensure that every region of this country is appropriately supplied.

I looked up the data on oil refining that Mr. Biden’s Energy Information Administration has published.

From the numbers on American refinery input and capacity, Mr. Biden will need more than “emergency powers” to increase refining output.

He will need a a genie.

Continue reading

Medicaid, Public Health and Chronic Disease Management

UVa Hospital

by James C. Sherlock

From the CDC:

Chronic diseases have significant health and economic costs in the United States. Preventing chronic diseases, or managing symptoms when prevention is not possible, can reduce these costs.

Virginia pays a great deal of money every year to contractors who manage the care of its Medicaid population.

It is a hard job, but even though the challenges are tough, it has appeared to me for a long time that we are not getting our money’s worth from $18 billion annually in Medicaid payments for the populations managed by these contractors.

A white paper, “Prevent Costly Chronic Disease Through Member Engagement” caught my eye as the basis for a follow up to my earlier report on public health and Medicaid managed care in Petersburg.

This is that update. Continue reading

Personnel Shortages that Plague Virginia’s Health Facilities Inspection Staff in the Hands of Budget Negotiators

UVa Hospital

by James C. Sherlock

One of the most important responsibilities of Virginia state government is to inspect medical facilities and home care providers to ensure we are safe when we enter their care.

It continues to fail in that responsibility thanks to years of Virginia budgets that have consciously ignored the need for increased inspector staff and increased salaries with which to competitively hire that staff.

I have reported for a long time that the staffing of the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) Office of Licensing and Certification (OLC) is scandalously deficient. Based upon an update today from OLC, it remains so.

That organization has only half of the inspectors it needs to carry out its defined responsibilities.

Those highly skilled and very dedicated people, largely registered nurses, are asked to do every day for Virginians what we cannot do for ourselves and what our elected representatives have refused for decades to properly fund them to do.

Think of that next time you use the facilities and home providers they are required for your safety to inspect.

We hope the current General Assembly budget negotiators keep it in mind for themselves and their families.

Or the Governor sends the budget back until they do. Continue reading

Improving Petersburg Public Health is a State Issue as Well as a Local and Personal Responsibility

By James C. Sherlock

The RTD today published an article “Petersburg is Virginia’s least healthy locality, and money is a big reason why” about one of my favorite subjects – the stubborn health problems in Petersburg and other poor urban areas of Virginia.

The story references the latest annual study from the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute that ranks localities in Virginia from 1 to 133 in both health outcomes and health factors.

Residents of Petersburg, where the median household income is among the lowest in the state, face a life expectancy of only 66.2 years, the lowest in the state and 10 years worse than the national average, according to a study from the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute that was circulated by the Virginia Department of Health.

It has ranked as the state’s least healthy locality in eight of the past 10 years.

The RTD headline attibutes those results to lack of money.   But the headline is nonsense.

We can and should do far better with the government assets and funded programs already in place to help Petersburg.

Continue reading

George Orwell Call Home

Nina Jankowitz

by James C. Sherlock

This blog, while proudly based in individual research, often offers controversial ideas.

Uniform agreement is not expected. Debate is encouraged. We learn from one another and even occasionally change a few minds on both sides.

Yesterday the Biden administration announced the establishment of a federal “Disinformation Governance Board” in the Department of Homeland Security to “combat online disinformation in the 2022 midterms.”

Seriously. It was disclosed yesterday afternoon by Secretary Mayorkas in his testimony on Capitol Hill.

You will not be shocked to learn that neither The Washington Post nor The New York Times has yet covered the story. I just checked. Yet it represents a bigger threat to our nation than Russia and China. And it lives within the Department of Homeland Security. Continue reading