Category Archives: Individual rights

Walter Williams RIP

Virginia conservatives lost one of their intellectual heroes earlier today when Walter Williams passed away at the age of 83.

A professor of economics at George Mason University, Williams was a prolific author of articles, columns, book reviews and scholarly papers. Adopting a low-key, common-sense tone, he relentlessly applied economic logic in defense of free-market principles, against government intrusion into the economy, and against the delusions of do-gooders. Along with Thomas Sowell, another African-American pioneer of contemporary conservatism, Williams paved the way for younger African Americans to embrace conservative and free-market ideas.

Williams showed how government interventions in the economy often have unintended and undesirable consequences. More controversially, he showed how discrimination on the basis of race imposed an economic cost not only on the victims but the discriminators, and he illuminated how segregation in the Jim Crow era was the product of state- and local-government laws, ordinances and regulations. Without government coercion to back them, the rules could not have been enforced. But Williams’ work transcended race. A defender of the U.S. Constitution and individual liberties for all people, he was an inspiration to millions of Americans.


Stewart Gets Last-Minute Gift From Trump

Corey Stewart

Peter Galuszka

Corey A. Stewart, a conservative firebrand from Prince William County, is getting a last-minute going-away present from President Donald Trump.

As Trump’s administration comes to an end, Trump has created a position on trade at the U.S. Commerce Department that is just for him. In 2016, Stewart headed Trump’s Virginia election campaign before being fired. Stewart said that he was Trump before Trump was Trump.

Stewart is an international trade lawyer and is expected to strong arm Trump’s tough and confusing trade policies.

A special target is China, which Trump has castigated, with some justification, for cheating on business deals, fiddling with its currency exchange rates, growing its armed forces and trampling on human rights.

Stewart will toughen enforcement of Trump’s hostile trade relations, according to news reports.

Some trade experts wonder what the Stewart story is all about. According to Reuters, William Reinsch, a former Commerce undersecretary, said he viewed hiring as “peculiar” since he is filling a position that does not exist. Continue reading

Anti-Bias Training… or Government-Mandated Indoctrination?

by James A. Bacon

In September President Trump issued an executive order banning bias and diversity training in the federal government that inculcates divisive concepts such as the idea that some people, by virtue of their race or sex, are inherently racist, sexist or oppressive.

Three days ago, Virginia’s attorney general, Mark Herring, joined a coalition of attorneys general in urging the president to rescind the order on the grounds that it could be “misconstrued” to roll back implicit bias training for federal contractors and federal grantees.

“Government should expand and increase its commitment to training centered on understanding and combating racial injustice,” said Herring in a press release. “Now is the time for greater communication and support for diversity, equity and inclusion, not less.”

Looking ahead the 2021 General Assembly session, Herring says Virginia police should undergo training to eliminate “implicit bias” and “racial bias,” among other topics meant to further racial justice. Meanwhile, the Virginia Department of Education and local school boards across the state are implementing “implicit bias” seminars and training sessions for teachers, administrators and even students. Continue reading

Voters, Consider the Fate of the Bill of Rights

by James C. Sherlock

Before voters go to the polls on Tuesday, I think it a useful exercise to consider the future of the Bill of Rights with a Supreme Court “expanded,” as promised by Democrats if they control the Presidency and the Senate, to provide a leftist majority.

To enable that reflection, it is useful to remember that the current Bill of Rights is composed of 10 amendments offered as constraints on the national government and, by extension of most of them, to state governments.

As a general observation, the left wing of the Democratic party opposes any restraints on federal power.

We will examine the controlling Supreme Court decisions that affect the enforcement of these freedoms and would be put in jeopardy by a court that embraced critical theory.

What follows are the musings of a citizen who is not an attorney, albeit a citizen who can and does read and recounts the common understandings of the Court decisions below.

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How Title IX Created the Campus Sex Police

Teresa Manning

by James A. Bacon

When Congress enacted Title IX in 1972, the intent of the federal law was to ban discrimination against women at higher-ed institutions receiving federal funds. The application of the law morphed over the years to require equal funding of women’s athletic programs, ban “hostile” workplace environments, and in 2011 under Obama administration administrative guidance, root out sexual violence.

In a new report published by the National Academy of Scholars, “Dear Colleague: The Weaponization of Title IX,” Teresa Manning documents how at James Madison University, George Mason University and Virginia Tech, among other higher-ed institutions, the law is no longer applied to equal access issues, which are no longer a concern, but is used to advance a feminist agenda.

“By [President Obama’s] stroke of a pen, an educational equal access law was transformed into a campus sex crimes law,” writes Manning, a pro-life GMU law professor who was appointed in 2018 to a post in the Trump administration’s Office of Population Affairs. Continue reading

The Greatest Threat to Academic Freedom and Integrity in UVa’s History

Joel Gardner, Undergraduate class of 1970; Law School class of 1974.

The following passage is excerpted from a letter written by Joel Gardner, author of “From Rebel Yell to Revolution,” to University of Virginia President Jim Ryan. — JAB

Our University community is more divided than at any time since the anti-war turbulence of 1969-70. I lived through that period on Grounds and chronicled in my book its many negative consequences for community cohesion. Fortunately,  that turbulence was short lived, and by the time I graduated from the Law School in 1974 the divisions it created were mostly gone. But unfortunately, the cause of the current divisiveness is more insidious as it has become part of University policy. I am speaking about the social justice diversity and inclusion agenda based on race, ethnicity and gender that you have made the capstone of your “great and good” strategic plan.

With all due respect, many of us believe not only that such a social justice agenda is not “good,” but that even if it was, it would not be proper or appropriate for a university, especially a public university, to adopt it as policy. During our discussion I quoted from former Yale Law School Dean Anthony Kronman’s article “The Downside of Diversity.” If you have not read it in full, I suggest you do so (Wall St. Journal, 8/2/19). In it, Kronman states that diversity based on race and gender “is not an academic value. Its origin and aspiration are political. The demand for ever greater diversity in higher education is a political campaign masquerading as an educational ideal.” He further concludes that this form of identity politics “has steadily weakened the norms of objectivity and truth and substituted for them a culture of grievance and group loyalty. Rather than bringing students and faculty together on the common ground of reason, it has pushed them farther apart into separate silos of guilt and complaint.”

Having spent the past six years in Cville totally immersed in everything UVA, I can relate that any objective observer would confirm most of Dean Kronman’s observations. Indeed the current travesty on the Lawn is Exhibit A. I listened to the audio of your discussion with the Lawn student and read her opinion piece in the CD. One could not find a better example of the grievance and victimization culture that flows from your diversity social justice agenda. Continue reading

Bacon Bits: Fear, Loathing, and Excess

Rise of the surveillance state. The Virginia Supreme Court has declared that Fairfax County’s mass collection of license plates does not violate legal privacy protections. Automated cameras can collect and store data even if a driver is not suspected of committing a crime, and police can access the data for 364 days after its entry in the system, reports The Virginia Star. Good to see that the American Civil Liberties Union, which is on the wrong side of so many issues these days, litigated the case on the behalf of Harrison Neal, a Fairfax County resident whose license plate data was collected. Also good to see that The Virginia Star has gotten its sea legs as a news-gathering publication and is starting to run stories I don’t see anywhere else.

Who is driving Critical Race Theory in Loudoun County? Kudos again to The Virginia Star for publishing a short profile of the power behind the throne in Loudoun, an obscure unelected group called the Minority Achievement Advisory Committee (MSAAC). Much of the left-wing racial policy in Loudoun schools has originated with this group, including most recently the proposed wording, since withdrawn, of an employee handbook that would have allowed the school system to punish employees who publicly disagreed outside school with its controversial policies on race. The story does not dig deep, but it’s a start. The public knows more about the so-called “anti-racism” movement in Loudoun now than it did before.

Millions more for educating the elites. The University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business has announced the launch of the Sands Institute for Lifelong Learning, including the establishment of an endowment for 12 new faculty positions at the business school, thanks to a $68 million gift made last year. The Institute is named after donor Frank M. Sands Sr., founder of the Sands Investment Group Inc., and his wife Marjorie, reports Virginia Business. The gift will develop more online courses, build a 199-room hotel and conference center, and offer new degrees for “working professionals.” Question: What is the educational value added and the social value added of this gift? Not to second-guess the Sands’ generosity, but could they have made a more positive impact by directing their gift to help people who are not members of the nation’s business elite? Continue reading

Why We Love Governor Ralph

Governor Northam loving those poll numbers. Photo credit: Richmond Times-Dispatch

By Peter Galuszka

He’s been through “coonman,” “blackface,” a muddled interview about late term abortion, and aggressive and controversial steps to stop the pandemic, but Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam has sprinted through a recent statewide poll with flying colors.

According to a new Washington Post-Schar School poll, more than half of Virginia’s registered voters approve of the overall job performance of Gov. Ralph Northam, and an even larger majority support his handling of the novel coronavirus pandemic. “Northam’s job approval rating of 56 percent is up from 49 percent about a year ago and from 43 percent in the wake of his blackface scandal in early 2019, “The Post said.

“His disapproval is also up, at 38 percent from 31 percent last year, with far fewer voters now expressing no opinion. But his ratings remain net positive by 18 percentage points.”

The Governor gets a drubbing on this blog, but not with people who really count, given their numbers. Continue reading

UVa’s Lawn Scandal — Bad Leadership and Worse Lawyering

Ms. Azher’s pinboard pictured here has a note that states: “I stand with farm workers”

by James C. Sherlock, University of Virginia, College of Arts and Sciences, 1966

Hira Azher’s profane sign on the door of her room on the University of Virginia’s Lawn has made headlines, and the ensuing controversy has raised many questions. This article will highlight a new issue. University administrators, I will argue, botched the handling of the incident by turning what should have been a breach-of-contract issue into a constitutional freedom-of-speech case.

After alumni raised objections to the now-infamous sign, which said “F— UVA,” President Jim Ryan sought legal advice from University Counsel Timothy Heaphy. Heaphy concluded that the student’s use of profanity was protected by the First Amendment. Although the resident contract signed by Lawn residents gives the University the right to regulate signage, he argued, the institution’s failure to enforce that particular provision in the past essentially gave Azher a pass.

But my analysis suggests that the contract is clear. The University could have enforced it when Ms. Azher breached it with her door sign, which is prohibited by both the contract and University fire regulations.

Mr. Heaphy serves both the University President and the Board of Visitors. He gave each of them and the rest of us bad information. The public representations of the President, the Board and the Counsel himself on facts of the case do not withstand a fact check of the housing contract that Heaphy’s own lawyers wrote and that Azher signed and continues to violate.  Continue reading

Is a Mighty Storm Coming?

By Peter Galuszka

November’s election is coming during one of the most dangerous and deeply divisive periods in American history. There are some clear warning signs that a contested election could lead to significant unrest and violence and perhaps worse.

Race-related demonstrations, the COVID-19 pandemic and the constantly polarizing rhetoric from Donald Trump have all contributed to a spike in domestic terrorism, white supremacy groups and direct threats against public officials.

This week, some 13 hard-right terrorists were charged in connection with the planned kidnapping of Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat. According to the accusations filed by the FBI and state law enforcement, the group intended to take the captured governor to another state, hold a “trial” and perhaps execute her.

(Update: recent news reports say that six were charged in connection with Gov. Whitmer’s planned kidnapping and seven people were charged for planning violent acts, perhaps instigating a civil war).

In Virginia, meanwhile, gun sales have hit new records in the run up to the Nov. 3 election. Data from the Virginia Firearms Transaction Center, which has tracked mandatory background checks on buyers since 1990, shows estimated firearm sales have spiked in 2020, a year rocked by the global pandemic and protests across the country, WRIC-TV reported.

Continue reading

Fraternities as Bastions Against the Cultural Totalitarians

The University of Virginia’s fraternity row. Photo credit: Daily Mail

by James A. Bacon

Back when I attended the University of Virginia many moons ago, I was a GDI — an acronym for a God-Damned Independent. During the fall rush my first year I attended two fraternity parties on Rugby Road and found nothing entertaining about hanging out with people whose sole purpose seemed to be getting sloshed. Those two experiences were all I needed to needed to convince me that I would never join a fraternity. 

As much personal disdain as I had for the Greek system, it never occurred to me to want to abolish it. It never occurred to me to insist upon imposing my values upon others. My philosophy has always been to live and let live. If the frat boys wanted to spend their colleges years in a drunken stupor, that was their choice and nobody’s business but their own (and their parents).

But we live in a different time now. We live in an era in which cultural totalitarians presume to tell everyone else how to live. And the cultural totalitarians are taking aim at fraternities and sororities as evil institutions that reinforce class stratification, elitism, discrimination and cultural appropriation, and, thus, must be abolished. I now find myself in the anomalous position of defending them. Continue reading

UVA Legal Counsel Opines on Free Speech

The “F— UVa” sign on the door of a University of Virginia resident of the Lawn violates no university policy and is protected by the First Amendment, concluded University Counsel Timothy J. Heaphy. However, a new policy banning all signs on lawn room doors could pass constitutional muster if applied prospectively instead of retrospectively.

“A new policy banning signs would also maintain the historic character of the Lawn, consistent with its status as a UNESCO World Heritage Site,” Heaphy opined in a letter addressed to university Rector James B. Murray Jr. on Sept. 29. “Students would have ample other opportunities to exercise free speech even if they could not post signs on their doors.”

However, he warned, “a blanket rule against all posters would be overinclusive, as it would remove the ability of any lawn resident to use his or her prominent
residence as a forum to promote events, highlight activities, or show support for particular perspectives or ideas.” Read the full BOV Statement in support of Ryan.

Bacon’s bottom line: Heaphy’s argument against restricting free speech makes sense to anyone who reveres the U.S. Constitution. I just wonder how long the logic would hold up if someone posted “Blue Lives Matter” or “Make America Great Again” on a door sign on the Lawn. Can anyone be found to do such a thing? It would make an instructive experiment. Continue reading

Loudoun’s “Anti-Racism” Discriminates against Whites

Loudoun public school administrative building

by Hans Bader

The Loudoun County Public Schools (LCPS) are planning to impose illegal racial preferences in student discipline, and have already made changes to school admission policies that are being challenged in court. The district also plans to restrict teachers’ out-of-school speech, by punishing them for speech that disagrees with school policies, and by punishing teachers who fail to report such speech by their peers. These speech restrictions are vague, viewpoint-discriminatory, and violate the First Amendment. Some of the speech they restrict is also protected against discipline by civil-rights laws. Yet, they may be adopted on October 12.

The schools’ “Action Plans to Combat Systemic Racism” focus on the “disruption and dismantling” of school systems, such as discipline, that fail to generate “equitable outcomes.” “Equitable outcomes” does not mean equal treatment, but rather, each racial group receiving the same statistical outcome. For example, discipline processes that lead to a higher proportion of one racial group being disciplined than another are not considered “equitable” even if each individual student is treated the same. Continue reading

A Public Service – Watch Angela Davis Speak at UVa

Angela Davis 2010

by James C. Sherlock

The University of Virginia did all of us a favor when it hosted and recorded a speech by the Marxist Angela Davis through its Excellence in Diversity Series from September 2017 through March 2018.

The credit on the UVa web page below the video states:

Angela Davis’ work as an educator – both at the university level and in the larger public sphere – has always emphasized the importance of building communities of struggle for economic, racial, and gender justice. She has authored 9 books and has lectured throughout the United States as well as in Europe, Africa, Asia, Australia, and South America. She draws upon her own experiences in the early seventies as a person who spent eighteen months in jail and on trial, after being placed on the FBI’s “Ten Most Wanted List.”

The Angela Davis event was supported by the University of Virginia Bicentennial with funding provided by the Alumni Board of Trustees, and by many UVA PARTNERS.

Continue reading

Free Speech Guaranteed — Except When You Disagree with Us

by James A. Bacon

The Loudoun County School Board expects public school employees to conduct themselves in a professional manner. A draft policy for professional conduct contains all the usual things one would expect. Teachers and other employees should treat students and peers with dignity, respect and civility. They should not bully people, consume alcohol or drugs in the workplace, use racial slurs or insults, or engage in inappropriate or sexual relations with students.

But the proposed policy, which the board is scheduled to vote on Oct. 12, contains something extra. It would curtail what school employees can say outside of school. Specifically, it would prohibit anyone from making speeches, social media posts or any other “telephonic or electronic communication” that is “not in alignment with the school division’s commitment to action-oriented equity practices.”

In other words, if you are a public school employee who disagrees with the leftist social-justice agenda of the Loudoun County Public School system, shut up or face the consequences. Continue reading