Category Archives: Individual liberties

Virginia Senate Committee Passes Second Look Bill

by Hans Bader

Do all inmates deserve a chance for release? Even a serial killer, or a serial rapist who has been locked up and released before?

They may soon have that chance in Virginia. In the state Senate, the Judiciary Committee has just approved the Second Look bill, SB 842. It would allow offenders of all kinds to file petitions for release or modification of their sentences after they’ve served 15 years. Judges wouldn’t have to grant the petitions, but they could if they think an inmate has mended his ways.

Under the bill, an inmate could be released despite any “combination of any convictions” such as being convicted of both murders and rapes. The bill was approved in an 8-to-6 vote largely along party lines, over conservative opposition.

Supporters of the bill argue that “everyone deserves a second chance.” But to critics, the bill goes beyond giving offenders a second chance, because it gives even the most persistent re-offenders the opportunity to seek release — people who already had and squandered a “second chance.” As an objector noted, “most inmates doing more than 15 years have already had their second, third, fourth, and fifth chances — the typical released state prison inmate has five prior convictions, according to Rafael Mangual, who studies the criminal-justice system at the Manhattan Institute.” Continue reading

You Support Free Speech? Show It.

We support free speech… unless it’s hate speech… and hate speech is anything that offends us.

by James A. Bacon

The leaders of Virginia’s colleges and universities are sensitive to the public’s distrust of higher-ed’s ability to protect freedom of speech and “cultivate robust and divergent viewpoints.”

“Today’s students may hesitate to discuss difficult topics for fear of retribution or ostracism,” write four Virginia higher-ed presidents in an op-ed published in the Richmond Times-Dispatch. “Yet free expression and academic freedom are essential to the tripartite mission of learning, discovery and engagement.”

To address these fears the Virginia Council of Presidents has issued a statement expressing support for free expression:

As presidents of Virginia’s public colleges and universities, we unequivocally support free expression and viewpoint diversity on our campuses. Free expression is the fundamental basis for both academic freedom and for effective teaching and learning inside and outside the classroom. Our member universities and colleges are bound to uphold the First Amendment. We are committed to promoting this constitutional freedom through robust statements and policies that are formulated through shared governance processes and through actions that reflect and reinforce this core foundation of education. We value a scholarly environment that is supported by a diversity of research and intellectual perspectives among our faculty and staff. We pledge to promote and uphold inclusivity, academic freedom, free expression, and an environment that promotes civil discourse across differences. We will protect these principles when others seek to restrict them.

Noble words. But I won’t believe the presidents’ commitment to “free speech and viewpoint diversity” until I see massive changes in the way they run their institutions. Continue reading

FOIA Council Responds on Request to UVa for Threat Assessment Team Records on Shooter

by James C. Sherlock

On Sunday I asked the FOIA Council to provide an advisory opinion on the University of Virginia’s decision that information about that school’s threat assessment team deliberations in the case of the November shooter, Christopher Jones, will not be released as I requested.

I received the answer this afternoon, which is far quicker than I anticipated. The Council suggests a more binding route. I quote:

Dear Mr. Sherlock:

In this instance, it appears that there may be some miscommunication or misunderstanding given that it appears that you have asked for threat assessment team information and certain other information pertaining to Mr. Jones, but in reply the University has cited the scholastic information exemption rather than the threat assessment team information exemption.

You also mentioned that the University indicated that redaction of these records would be so extensive as to effectively render them meaningless. You are correct that the threat assessment team information exemption requires that certain information be made available after certain types of incidents, and it would appear to apply to such threat assessment team records after an incident such as this one that resulted in student deaths.

However, the University is also correct that scholastic records are exempt from mandatory disclosure (and although the University did not appear to cite other provisions of law, note that certain student contact information is actually prohibited from release pursuant to subsection B of § 2.2-3705.4, and there are also various provisions of law outside of FOIA that may also affect access to student records).

It is possible that either or both of these exemptions could apply in different scenarios depending on the actual contents of the records, but without knowing those contents, it is not possible to render an informed opinion regarding whether these records are exempt from disclosure or must be produced.

To that end, you asked that this office review the 65 records withheld by the University in this matter and render an opinion based on that review. The Virginia Freedom of Information Advisory Council is a state legislative branch council that was created to issue opinions on the operation and application of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), to publish educational materials, and to provide training about FOIA. Continue reading

A Christmas Guide to De-Bugging Virginia

by Kerry Dougherty

This is not a sponsored post. I wish it were; I could use the loot. This is just my gift to you, a last-minute Christmas shopping tip. You’re welcome.

I don’t know why more people don’t do their Christmas shopping at truck stops. These friendly joints stock loads of items you can’t find at Macy’s. Like those chubby little baseball bats to crack the craniums of would-be carjackers. Plug-in seat heaters to keep your buns toasty on the interstate in February. And matching camo pj’s for the whole family.

In fact, a truck stop is where I stumbled on my go-to Christmas gift a few years ago.

It was late November and I was driving to a college football game in Mississippi. I stopped, as usual, at the Kenly 95 in North Carolina, the Nordstrom of truck stops. A vast emporium featuring fried food, ball-cap boutiques and clean bathrooms.

When I walked in, a colorful display caught my eye: a pyramid of yellow guns and a video loop touting something called the Bug-A-Salt: a sort of pump-action air rifle for killing flies and other pests.

“Insect hunting is now officially a sport!” enthused the narrator.

I stood transfixed as this gadget came to life on the screen. A yellow air gun that fired table salt. At bugs. In slow motion, you could see flies vaporized by a single shot.

Best of all, no messy marks on walls or screens. No more bugs fleeing the flyswatter at the last minute.

Probably doesn’t work, I thought, as I headed to a little coffee stand.

Something drew me back, though. I sipped my coffee and watched the infomercial again.

I left Kenly a few minutes later 40 bucks lighter, with a Bug-A-Salt under my arm. Continue reading

Richmond’s Metzger Bar and Butchery Denies Service to Christian Non-Profit

by The Republican Standard Staff

On Wednesday evening, an hour and a half before a reserved Family Foundation gathering in a private room, Metzger Bar and Butchery denied entry and service to the pro-family group, solely based on their political opinions and religious beliefs.

“It is alarming and disgraceful that this restaurant has a political litmus test to get in the front door,” said Victoria Cobb, President of the Family Foundation. “All Virginians should be concerned about this extreme bigotry and intolerance of people of faith, irrespective of their own political or religious beliefs. Everyone should be concerned that Virginians are being denied access in the marketplace, solely based on their beliefs.”

Cobb continued, “We live in a free market and people have many choices of where to dine, so we took our business elsewhere. Metzger’s has now isolated a wide base of customers who would rather go elsewhere than patron a bigoted restaurant. Most Virginians are charitable and would not only serve people with differing political or religious viewpoints but would share a meal with them and enjoy the exchange of different viewpoints.” Continue reading

Cause, Effect, and Regret

Photo credit:

by Jim McCarthy

Bacon’s Rebellion recently hosted a series of articles exhaustively parsing the procedures and policies at the University of Virginia regarding threat assessments in preventing violence related to the killing of three students and wounding of two by a colleague. The examination included the possible human failures that contributed to the event. Under state legislation, institutions of higher education in the Commonwealth had been tasked to produce policies and procedures designed to afford safety to campus communities, including intervention somewhat similar to “red flag” laws. The UVa shooter had been previously identified to campus authorities as “possessing” a firearm; upon inspection, a cache of arms was discovered in his dorm room. Cause and effect? Broken procedures and policies? Negligence?

There is no arithmetic or mathematical equation that governs or can predict cause and effect in human behavior. Unlike gravity, laws and rules of society and its organizations are essentially the overt expression of norms of behavior functioning as guides and generally will succeed because they are accepted by most as necessary to civility and peace and safety. When these guardrails fail, the effects can be deadly. Continue reading

Religious-Rights Speaker Stirs UVa Controversy

by James A. Bacon

Three days ago the National Lawyers Guild at UVa condemned the invitation of Erin Hawley, senior counsel for the Alliance Defending Freedom, to a Federalist Society event previewing a U.S. Supreme Court case touching upon religious freedom. The “progressive” law student group cited the Southern Poverty Law Center designation of the Alliance as an anti-LGBTQ+ “hate” group.

The Federalist Society, a group of mostly conservative and libertarian law school students, invited Hawley to a discussion of 303 Creative LLC v. Elenis, a pending Supreme Court case. The Alliance Defending Freedom represents the plaintiff in that case, Lorie Smith, who believes on religious grounds that marriage should be between a man and a woman, and refuses to design websites for LGBTQ+ couples.

The National Lawyers Guild (NGL) at UVa “condemns the views of the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) as well as the Federalist Society’s decision to give them a platform by inviting them to speak at an event at the law school,” stated the NGL Facebook page in a post that garnered 88 “likes.”

(In the aftermath of the triple-murder shooting at the University of Virginia Sunday night, the Federalist Society canceled the Tuesday meeting “out of respect for the tragedy,” said Julia Jeanette Mroz, president of the UVa chapter. “As a student group, we felt it appropriate to follow the University’s lead in designating today a Day of Observance. No other circumstances bore on this decision.”

(The Society is working with Hawley to reschedule the event this spring.) Continue reading

The Commissars of Charlottesville

Leon Trotsky, People’s Commissar for Military and Naval Affairs, 1918

by James C. Sherlock

Leon Trotsky, who headed the Red Army from 1917-22, did not trust it.

On 6 April 1918, he wrote in Isvestia:

The military commissar is the direct political agent of Soviet power within the army. His post is of the highest importance. Commissars are appointed from the ranks of exemplary revolutionaries, capable of remaining the embodiments of revolutionary duty at the most critical moments and under the most difficult circumstances…. The military commissar ensures that the army does not become isolated from the Soviet system as a whole and that individual military institutions do not become breeding grounds for conspiracy.

With commissars at every level of the army, they had their own reporting chain independent of the operational chain of command. And punishments both quick and much to be feared.

Progressives, themselves unwilling to entrust the revolution to those who may subvert it, are fond of similar structures.

Witness the broad and deep Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) system at the University of Virginia. Continue reading

Outrage Is No Substitute for Thought

UVa students push back against learning about other viewpoints.

by Shaun Kenney

WARNING! This is a long one . . . so pour your favorite scotch or cup of coffee and be prepared to consider alternate viewpoints that may offend. As the libertarian philosopher Robert Nozick remarks, “My thoughts do not aim for your assent, just place them alongside your own for awhile.”

One of the things I deeply appreciated about my time at the University of Virginia was its treatment of the humanities writ large. In short, everyone — no matter what their intelligence or depth — should expose themselves to something more than just their profession. “What good is it to earn your first million at the age of 30,” opined one professor, “only to find out you can’t have a conversation because you are a boring person!

I had the privilege of encountering not just one but two generations of Virginia students. The first was among my peers during the late 1990s; the second when I darkened the towers to pursue my own academic career, which remains an ongoing project to be sure.

Of course, I was instantly identified by more than one professor as having a Jesuit background. For those unfamiliar with the accolade, a Jesuit education is considered to have a certain approach to the world. Continue reading

Wonders Never Cease: WaPo Gives Fair Treatment to Alumni Rebellion

Bert Ellis, UVa graduate, president of The Jefferson Council, and newly appointed to the University of Virginia Board of Trustees, is highlighted in The Washington Post article on the alumni-led free speech movement.

by James A. Bacon

Every once in a while The Washington Post reminds us of the kind of newspaper it used to be — capable of producing balanced journalism. Education reporter Susan Svrluga has published an article describing the rise of what I (not she) call the alumni rebellion. She cites the concerns of Virginia-based organizations — the Jefferson Council (on whose board I serve), the Spirit of VMI, and the General’s Redoubt — as well as allied groups in Princeton, MIT and other nationally known universities about the erosion of free speech on college campuses.

Svrluga doesn’t squeeze our statements into a left-wing narrative, she doesn’t mischaracterize our concerns, and she quotes us fairly, accurately, and in context. To be sure, she gives space to those who minimize our allegations about the state of higher-ed today — as it is her obligation to do. It’s important for readers to know that not everyone agrees with us.

The contrast with Ian Shapira, The Washington Post author of repeated hit jobs on the Virginia Military Institute, is dramatic. Shapira epitomizes the new school of journalism. He started with his narrative of VMI as a systemically racist institution, uncritically repeated information that confirmed his belief, and ignored or sought to discredit information that did not. He did go through the motions of producing pro-forma statements for the “other side of the story,” but he never let them interrupt his pre-determined narrative.

So, kudos to Svrluga for letting us tell our story.

While I am grateful for Svrluga highlighting the new alumni-led free-speech movement, I do believed that she missed a critical angle. By way of preface, I need to quote UVa spokesman Brian Coy and renowned political scientist Larry Sabato. Continue reading

A Letter to an Old Friend

by James C. Sherlock

This article is rendered as a letter responding to an old friend and mentor, the University of Virginia, my alma mater.

I can imagine the University’s response to my last article on its culture:

The changes we have experienced in the culture of the University, its pervasive progressivism, which some may see as toxic to a public university, are not unique to the University of Virginia, have been decades in the making and will be very difficult to change from within.

I note the pessimism, but do not share the conclusion. Change it must, and we must not shelter in place and hope it blows over.

I firmly believe that the University will not survive as a public institution, and will not deserve to survive, with a leadership structure monitored by a political Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) commissariat that tolerates no dissent from progressive orthodoxy.

I don’t believe it will survive hiring practices that render the faculty politically single-minded.

I don’t believe it will survive a student experience that has driven large majorities of students to respond to surveys that they feel afraid to engage in debate on topics related to progressive dogma.

How can we honestly say we promote diversity, but not diversity of thought?
Continue reading

They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?

by Jim McCarthy

A month ago, a Bacon’s Rebellion column (“Commonwealth Attorney Nullification“) took issue with a national newspaper op-ed in which a Commonwealth’s Attorney pledged he would never prosecute a woman for having an abortion, no matter what Virginia law might say. The BR author suggested that such thinking would lead to anarchy.

The CA’s words are certainly provocative, to be understood as political bombast in his re-election campaign. The words are not a threat of violence and, at the same time, not abstract. Some may choose to characterize them as anarchical. Without more, their dangerous portent will be measured at the polls.

In 1919 the U.S. Supreme Court found in Schenck v US a clear and present danger in the language of protestors against the military draft as a violation of the Espionage Act of 1917. The ruling is best known for Justice Oliver Wendall Holmes’s phrase about “shouting fire in a crowded theatre” was not permitted free speech. The prosecutor’s vow might better be understood as shouting fire in a deserted theatre. 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

After Getting Fined, Del Rio Deletes Twitter Account

Ron Rivera. No free speech for “hurtful” words

by James A. Bacon

Last week, Jack Del Rio, the defensive coordinator for the Washington Commanders (formerly known as the Redskins) created a mini-furor when he referred to the Jan. 6 riots at the U.S. Capitol a “dust up.” His remark proved to be the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back, effectively killing (for now) a legislative initiative to create a special taxing authority for a Commanders football stadium in Virginia.

While Del Rio screwed up by minimizing the significance of the riot, I expressed worry in a column last week that the Commanders organization would be punished for a comment made not by the CEO but by an employee tweeting in his private capacity.

Well, the assault on free speech and free expression just got worse. Calling the events of Jan. 6 an “act of domestic terrorism,” head coach Ron Rivera fined Del Rio $100,000. The next day Del Rio deleted his Twitter account. In a groveling pander to critics, Rivera also described Del Rio’s comments as “extremely hurtful to our great community here” in the D.C./Maryland/Virginia area.

Nobody cares about “hurting” my feelings, and I don’t particularly care about the feelings of those who have filed and honed the exquisite delicacy of their own sensitivities into weaponized spear tips. But I’ll tell you what’s worrisome. It’s worrisome when you apply after-the-fact standards, never enforced before, to punish an employee for expressing his opinion in a private capacity. It’s worrisome when you describe the events of Jan. 6 — “an act of domestic terrorism” — that’s every bit as ill-considered as the comment you’re criticizing. “Domestic terrorism?” How many people did the Jan. 6 protesters kill?

I never had much respect for the Commanders organization to begin with. The football team has been a tax-sucking parasite for as long as I can remember. Now, in a desperate bid to revive his latest parasitic tax-sucking scheme, owner Dan Snyder has aligned himself ideologically with the Left and punished the expression of free speech. Reminder: the Washington Commanders football franchise is estimated to be worth $4 billion. 

Several points need to be made. Continue reading

Right Decision, Terrible Reason

Jack Del Rio talks to reporters after practice Wednesday. Photo credit: The Washington Post.

by James A. Bacon

The decision to spike a deal to lure the Washington Commanders football team to Virginia has fallen apart. Commanders CEO Daniel Snyder had enlisted some bipartisan support for a proposal to create a Football Stadium Authority to finance construction of a stadium and a “mini city” around it in Loudoun County, but the legislation was floundering over the issue of how much of the tax revenue generated by the project would be rebated to the team.

Yesterday, reports The Washington Post, Senate Majority Leader Richard L. Saslaw, D-Fairfax, pulled the plug on the legislation because of a controversial social-media post made by Defensive Coordinator Jack Del Rio about the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol.

There is no evidence that Del Rio was speaking for the Commanders organization. And he later apologized for part of his comment that caused the most problem — calling the riot a “dust up” compared to the George Floyd riots of 2020.

But Saslaw said the comment was the last straw after controversies over sexual harassment and financial mismanagement plaguing the Commanders organization. “This obviously was not very helpful, to put it mildly, but there’s so many other things out there,” he said. “A lot of people are saying, ‘Saslaw, this thing needs to wait.'” Continue reading