Category Archives: Race and race relations

Who Are These Guys, and Where Do They Get All Their Money?

Shenandoah Valley Juvenile Center

The report issued by the Northam administration investigating charges of abuse at the Shenandoah Valley Juvenile Center has come under withering criticism by nonprofit groups that filed a lawsuit last year bringing attention to the treatment of unaccompanied immigrant children held there. The Virginia Mercury has the story here.

While I used the Department of Juvenile Justice report as the basis for a blog post yesterday arguing that people were making much ado about a non-scandal, I have to concede that the criticisms of the report are substantive. By substantive, I don’t presume them to be valid. But they are are not frivolous. If I were reporting the story, I would deem them worth probing to see if they were valid.

An interesting sidebar to the controversy is the revelation of the existence of two nonprofit groups that revealed (or, depending upon your viewpoint, concocted) the abuses the first place. One is the Washington, D.C.-based Washington Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs. The other is the Henrico County-based disAbility Law Center of Virginia. Both pursue social-justice work. One hews to high standards of transparency; the other does not. 

The Washington Lawyer’s Committee (WLC) is forthright about its commitment to social justice — or at least a leftist perspective on social justice. States the organization’s Guidestar profile: “While we fight discrimination against all people, we recognize the central role that current and historic race discrimination plays in sustaining inequity and recognize the critical importance of identifying, exposing, combating and dismantling the systems that sustain racial oppression.”

The organization reported more than $5 million in revenue in its 2016 990 form, makes the forms accessible on its website, and lists 27 employees on its website. Unlike many nonprofits, the WLC is open about where its money comes from. in 2016 about $3 million came from “contributions and grants,” $830,000 from fund-raising events, and $1.8 million from “legal fees and court awards.”

Most impressively (from a transparency perspective), WLC lists many of its major donors, which include Wiley, Rein & Fielding, a K Street law firm ($414,000); Dentons US LLP, also a K Street Law firm ($173,000), and the Morrison & Foerster Foundation, a San Francisco-based foundation ($215,000); the D.C. Bar Association ($80,000); and Kirkland and Ellis, a Chicago law firm ($153,000), among others. WLC reported another $1.7 million in contributions from unnamed individuals who contributed less than 2% of total revenue.

What emerges is a picture of a well-funded activist group funded mainly by wealthy lawyers, which supplements its income by collecting legal fees and awards from the lawsuits its files. This is not a grassroots organization. It reflects the views of the nation’s liberal legal elite.

In describing what it does, WLC notes a special concern for “people of color, women, children and persons with disabilities [who] are disproportionately forced to live in poverty” (my italics). That may explain the connection with the disAbility Law Center of Virginia. which provides advocacy services across Virginia for people with disabilities.

The disAbilities Law Center is not nearly as transparent. Its 2015 990 form reported $2.9 million in revenue, and its website lists 34 employees. But the nonprofit did not reveal who its major contributors are. More than $2.6 million was classified as “Government grants (contributions),” another $109,000 was described as “National Disability Rights,” $61,000 came from “other attorneys fees,” and $4,000 from settlement fees. The nonprofit reported no revenue from membership dues or fundraising events. As with the WLC, it is safe to say that the disAbilities Law Center is not a grassroots organization, but rather relies upon generous benefactors. I would conjecture that the group’s priorities reflect the preoccupations of liberal elites, but further research is required to document the suspicion.

How does a nonprofit focused on disabilities get mixed up with a center holding illegal unaccompanied-minor immigrants? In its own description, the disAbilities Law Center is part of a “nationwide network of organizations known as ‘Protection and Advocacy systems,’ designed to offer an array of education and legal representation services to people with disabilities and to combat abuse and neglect in both governmentally operated and privately operated facilities.”

The federal government officially recognized the disAbilities Law Center in July 2018 as a group with “authority to monitor conditions and treatment in immigration facilities if those facilities have residents with disabilities.”

So, what does all this mean? The Virginia Mercury was the only media outlet to report today on the follow-up criticism to the report. Reporter Ned Oliver describes the groups as “advocates for the immigrant teens,” never mentioning their social-justice mission or the fact that they are part of a larger constellation of organizations seeking to influence public policy.

Now, this network may be totally benign and above-board. Or it may be part of a larger coalition of nonprofit and advocacy groups intent upon undermining the Trump administration immigration policy by filing lawsuits and generating publicity. I don’t know the truth of the matter. My point here is not to criticize either group, for I have no tangible basis for doing so, but to raise the kind of questions that the media should be asking when they report on the Shenandoah Valley Juvenile Center controversy. If a right-wing legal advocacy group were filing a lawsuit, the ideological orientation of the group surely would be noted in any story. The same rule should apply to liberal-progressive groups and their causes.

Bacon Bits, Your Tasty Morning Info Treat

More hidden deficit spending. Virginia devoted 33% less to capital spending on K-12 schools (inflation-adjusted) in 2016 than in 2008, according to the left-leaning Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. That compared to a 26% reduction nationally. The cuts, say CBPP, “mean less money to build new schools, renovate and expand facilities, and equip schools with more modern technologies, further diminishing the environment in which teachers educate and children learn.”

The CBPP made no effort to correlate the capital spending with K-12 enrollment, which has increased only modestly nationally since 2008 after years of strong growth. Presumably, stable enrollment limits the need to build new schools. However, it should surprise no one if school systems were engaging in hidden deficit spending by deferring maintenance and repairs.

Best colleges for the money. From Money magazine, which considered graduation rates, tuition charges, family borrowing, alumni earnings, and 22 other data points to rate educational value: University of Virginia, 10th best in the country; Washington & Lee University, 24th; Virginia Tech, 29th; James Madison University, 39th. Four Virginia colleges in the top 50. Not bad.

What if there aren’t any fascists to fight? When there weren’t any fascists to be found at weekend rallies in Washington, D.C., and Charlottesville, Antifa, the so-called anti-fascists, found someone else to fight. Yesterday, I noted how they turned on the police. Today, the Washington Post’s Avi Selk details how they turned on the media. “Videos show Antifa members accosting reporters specifically because they’re reporters.” Antifa uses the cause of anti-racism to shield the fact that they are enemies of a free society.

Coal mines and methane. Three hundred active and 200 inactive coal mines identified by Climate Home News account for one-tenth of all U.S. methane emissions into the atmosphere. Methane has 34 times the global warming effect of carbon dioxide.

Environmentalists have criticized natural gas as an electric power source. Although natural gas combustion produces less CO2 than coal combustion, the argument goes, when methane leakage from gas pipes and wells is taken into account, the natural gas supply chain is just as bad for global warming. I responded that the argument failed to take into account the massive outpouring of gas from coal mines, but I had no hard data. Now I do. Thanks Climate Home News!

Fizzle

Jason Kessler defiled the American flag yesterday by associating it with racism. With his latest rally a pathetic bust, Virginians can only hope we have seen the last of him.

So much for the Alt-Right.

Denied a permit to hold a really in Charlottesville, Alt-Right agitator and provocateur Jason Kessler organized a rally in Washington, D.C., on the anniversary of last year’s Unite the Right rally that resulted in widespread violence and the death of a counter-protester. Thousands came — but they were almost all counter-protesters. The Washington Post reports that Kessler attracted only 40 to his “white civil rights rally.”

Other than Kessler and the media, which still hews to the philosophy that if it bleeds, it leads, the group most disappointed by the pathetic Alt-Right showing likely was the radical left.

Antifa members vented their frustration at not being able to confront the rallygoers by lighting smoke bombs and firecrackers and throwing eggs in the direction of police. By then, a steady rain was falling, however, and the protest was fizzling. Most began heading home, but police kept a watchful eye as the black-clad group carrying umbrellas wandered about knocking over trash cans, chanting “Bust a window!” and yelling at police to get out of their cars and “meet us in the streets.”

Meanwhile, in Charlottesville, counter-protesters gathered despite the absence of any white supremacists at all. Last year, lefties criticized the police for letting the situation spiral out of control. This year, they criticized the police for their excessive presence. Reports the Washington Post:

Protesters screamed at police officers, whom some demonstrators had all weekend tried to associate with racism and fascism.

The night before, protesters had gathered at the steps of the Rotunda at the University of Virginia, before a giant banner that said, “Last year they came with torches; this year they come with badges,” and then marched through the streets for hours. On Sunday, the protesters, who had come out to combat absent white supremacists, were trying to combat the police, too. They cursed them. Insulted their looks. “Blue lives don’t matter,” the crowd chanted. And: “We don’t need cops.”

The radical left desperately needs a radical right to give itself meaning and legitimacy in the eyes of the broader public. Take the radical right out of the equation, and the radical left has to find new enemies — and it looks like the police are the most likely candidates. Unlike the Alt-Right, which appears to be imploding, the radical left isn’t going away.

Is Charlottesville Governable?

Charlottesville Police Chief RaShall Brackney. Good luck, you’re going to need it.

The city of Charlottesville arguably has the most left-wing city council of any local government in Virginia. Some of the local left’s fixations are harmless. Advancing the goals of energy efficiency and renewable power in the cause of combating climate change may or may not represent a good return on investment of public dollars, but at least the results — incremental improvements to the environment — are benign. However, the implementation of progressive doctrine can have pernicious effects in such areas as K-12 schools and public safety.

Public safety has become a polarizing flash point in the aftermath of the Unite the Right rally a year ago. Local leftists declared the racist rhetoric of assorted Nazis and Klansmen so heinous that they forfeited the freedom of speech and assembly. Ned Oliver with the Virginia Mercury describes how the debate rages still:

Anti-racist activists in Charlottesville say they’re fed up with calls for civility as groups peddling violent hate speech cloak their rallies in the constitutional rhetoric of free speech, often framing their gatherings literally as “free speech rallies” rather than letting the speech itself — support for the KKK for instance — serve as the headliner.

And a year later, Charlottesville residents remain outraged that the city granted white supremacist groups a permit to hold their infamous Aug. 12 rally in the city.

It’s not surprising in such an environment that law enforcement has become highly politicized. Former Police Chief Alfred S. Thomas Jr. lost his job after a July rally last year in which the police tear gassed rioting leftists and then the August rally in which Charlottesville police allowed leftist and rightest demonstrators to clash violently. After an interim chief served briefly, RaShall M. Brackney, a black woman, has been appointed to run the department.

I know nothing about Ms. Brackney’s professional background or philosophy of law enforcement, but she will not have an easy job. She will be contending with a leftist movement, emboldened and radicalized by the United the Right rally, that deems much of what Charlottesville police officers do as illegitimate. The city has created a Police Civilian Review Board. One sign of things to come: According to this Daily Progress article, progressives are targeting what one defense attorney describes as the department’s stop-and-frisk policy. The broader Black Lives Matter agenda likely will receive full consideration.

Ms. Brackney speaks optimistically of how the police will forge bonds with the community. “In Charlottesville, we have the opportunity to implement best practices and shape the narrative for police-community relations,” she said. “In order to do so, we must collectively define what does a healthy relationship look like between law enforcement professionals and the communities we serve. We then need to identify pathways moving forward to achieve those goals and finally build on successful outcomes.”

My question: Is the left interested in civility and better police-community relations, or will it work to inflame minorities’ sense of grievance and injustice as a way to advance their radical agenda? Without a sense of continual outrage, the left has nothing to offer. I worry that the leftists will continually “move the goalposts” until the police are so bound and handcuffed that the city becomes ungovernable. Moderate liberals (there are virtually no conservatives to speak of in the city) will have to push back. If they don’t, Charlottesville will become synonymous not  only with racial confrontation but anarchy.

Charlottesville’s Path to Polarization, Part 2

by Reed Fawell III

This is the second of five posts on the events surrounding the white nationalist protests against efforts to remove the Lee and Jackson statues that occurred in the spring and summer of 2017 in Charlottesville, Va.  The facts asserted are based on the narrative found in the Independent Review of the 2017 Protest Event in Charlottesville.”

An altogether different cast of white nationalists, a Ku Klux Klan group based in Pelham, N.C., decided to protest Charlottesville’s decision to remove the Lee statue soon after the news of the May 13 rallies reached them. On May 24, 2017, a Klan member (the Klan Rep.) filed an application for a “public demonstration” on July 8, from 3:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. to “stop cultural genocide” in Charlottesville.

Based on her experience at such rallies held in Berkeley, Ca.; Danville, Va.; Columbia, SC; Raleigh, NC; and Stuart, Va., the Klan Rep. requested that Charlottesville:

  1.  provide bus transport for the Klan from a secret offsite location to and from the protest site in Charlottesville, given that “jurisdictions that use this strategy keep the Klan separated from protesters,” and that,
  2. the city delay announcing the Klan event to the public “until the last minute.’ Again, in her experience, a delay in announcing Klan events until the last minute would result in a smaller and less hostile crowd of counter-protesters at the event.

The city declined both requests.  It publicized the rally on May 24, the day the Klan filed its application.  It later also denied bus transport, believing buses unnecessary.  The Charlottesville Police Department (CPD) did agree with the Klan as follows.

The rally event would be shifted from the Charlottesville City Circuit Courthouse steps, as originally requested by the Klan, to the site of the Jackson statue in Justice Park that had just been renamed from Jackson Park, its original name since 1921.

Regarding transport, the CPD would meet the Klan at “a secret location on City property just outside the downtown area.”  From that rendezvous point, two CPD squad cars would escort the Klan’s caravan of cars (not to exceed 25) to a surface parking lot in the city next to the Albemarle County Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court (JDR).  This lot was within a short walking distance across Park Street to the Klan’s designated rally area (KKK Zone) within Justice Park.  Once parked on the surface lot, the police would escort the Klan on foot to their KKK Zone.

To facilitate this plan, the Klan would assemble overnight in Waynesboro, Va, then drive over the mountain to Charlottesville the next afternoon.  In so doing, the Klan would alert CPD to its arrival when 10 minutes away from the rendezvous site to assure their timely arrival at Justice Park by 3:00 p.m.

The CPD later described the Klan Rep as “overall, very cooperative” in working out their plan.  CPD also said that the Klan ‘adhered to the plan’ created by the police.

The Klan’s Rep., however, expressed grave concerns soon after she learned that the City had announced their rally to the public on June 24.  She told CPD that the “counter-protesters had begun organizing on social media to attend the Klan event while armed, and she urged a weapons check at Justice Park to avoid a ‘blood bath.’”

These, and subsequent events, would highlight Charlottesville’s failure to seek advice from others on how they had dealt with threats of violence in similar situations.  And how the City and Virginia state officials had otherwise failed to train, prepare, and cooperate with one another, to effectively thwart threats posed by such events.  Thus, violence ensued in Charlottesville on July 8.  Those actions ignited a cascade of consequences that fractured the City, severely impairing its ability to deal with the larger and more dangerous protests on August 11/12.  And those adverse impacts plague the City still.

This, I believe, is the central finding of the Independent Report.  But why and how did this happen in Charlottesville?  This needs further exploration.

Inexplicably, this failure occurred despite ample intelligence on the threat posed. CPD’s own intelligence gathering clearly predicted “that the July 8 event would likely be a large, confrontational, and potentially violent event … The sharing of all intelligence made (this) clear to all CPD personnel.”  Some 600 to 800 counter- protesters, and up to 100 Klan, were projected to attend.  Many would be armed.  And the counter-protesters were known to be planning to shut down the event.

“For example, the Greensboro, North Carolina police shared with the CPD a flyer from social media advertising for (out of town) counter-protesters to (travel to and) attend the Klan rally in Charlottesville ‘to shut them down.’”  The North Carolina police also suggested that squabbling within the Klan might significantly reduce the 100 Klan members earlier estimated to travel to Charlottesville for the rally.  Both predictions proved highly prescient on July 8.

Continue reading

The Far Right Is in Decline. If Only the Same Were True of the Far Left

Good news is a scarce commodity these days, but here’s a heartening headline from the Wall Street Journal: “A Year After Charlottesville, the Alt-Right Movement Frays.”

Alt-Right rallies around the country are fizzling as white supremacist groups are hampered by lawsuits, infighting and a social media crackdown. “It’s been a total fracturing of the right,” the Journal quotes Jason Kessler, organizer of last year’s Unite the Right rally, as saying.

Hopefully, white supremacists will continue their downward spiral into total irrelevance. The answer to identity politics on the left is not identity politics on the right. Let progressives claim the banner of resentment and grievance. Conservatives and Libertarians need to preach a gospel of aspiration, prosperity, opportunity and uplift for all Americans.

According to a spreading progressive doctrine, racism by definition can exist only on the right, not the left. The expression of resentment, antagonism and hatred of ethnic/racial minorities, born of powerlessness, cannot be racism. Only those in power can be guilty of racism. From everything I’ve seen, those who hew to the white supremacist movement are, from a socioeconomic perspective, a bunch of sad, pathetic losers. Plumbers, truck drivers and gun-store clerks living in their parents’ basement have no power. But in places like Charlottesville and Portland, leftists control the levers of government. How’s that for irony?

Hypocrisy aside, if the left wants to make the argument that hatred is legitimate as  long as the haters are leftists, let them make that argument. That makes the choices all the more stark.

Speaking of which… Don’t miss Reed Fawell’s series of posts on “Charlottesville’s Path to Polarization,” which are based upon the meticulous and scrupulously even-handed, “Independent Review of the 2017 Protest Event in Charlottesville,” We published Part 1 a couple of days ago, and Part 2 will be forthcoming in a day or two, with the rest to come (hopefully) within a few days after that. The posts are long but immensely informative. Make sure you read them.

Charlottesville’s Path to Polarization, Part 1

The Lee Statue in Charlottesville

by Reed Fawell III

This is the first of five posts on the events surrounding the white nationalist protests against efforts to remove the Lee and Jackson statues that occurred in the spring and summer of 2017 in Charlottesville, Va.

America’s national and local media constantly make references to the August 11/12, 2017, white nationalist protest rally in Charlottesville. Typically, these allusions render an over-simplified judgment without facts, nuance, context or perspective. Consequently, the rhetoric inflames public opinion, exacerbates the harm done by the rally, forecloses the possibility of reconciliation, and makes it more difficult to prevent a recurrence in the future.

The media’s short-hand references to “Charlottesville” display a woeful ignorance of the demonstrations and political events in the city during 2016 and 2017 that preceded and influenced the events of August 11/12. Absent that string of events, the outcome of the August 11/12 Unite the Right rally surely would have been very different. Indeed, the event and the violence it engendered might never have taken place.

Fortunately, there is an antidote to our national amnesia — the Final Report, Independent Review of the 2017 Protest Event in Charlottesville written by Timothy J. Heaphy with the Hunton & Williams law firm. Drawing on meticulous research of that report, I hope to shed light on those earlier incidents, discern their underlying causes, and explain how they shaped the events of August 11/12.

Here we will start with a chronology of events leading up to the July 8 and Aug 11/12 protests, taken almost exclusively from the Independent Review. To avoid personalizing the narrative, I have deleted the names of participants.

From March 2016 to June June 2017:
Events Leading up to July 8 and August 12 Disturbances in Charlottesville

In March of 2016, Charlottesville’s Vice Mayor and a University of Virginia professor and chairman of the local NAACP called an “unscheduled rally in Charlottesville.” There the Vice Mayor “expressed distaste for the Lee Statue” and the UVA professor argued that the statute evoked “all the horror and legacy for black people. It romanticizes for people who do not know. They look at that statute, they think it was a gallant person who saved us, but he was a terrorist.” The vice mayor then urged Charlottesville to remove the city’s two statues of Lee and Jackson.

This rally in downtown Charlottesville ignited at virulent controversy. The debate over the future of the statues became “a significant factor in the radicalization” of a local leader who would become a key figure in the later Unite the Right rallies in Charlottesville,” a man who “described himself as an advocate for ‘white civil rights’,” one who “believed that whites were unfairly asked to “apologize for history” and to ‘deny their cultural heritage’.” He was also reportedly angered by the Vice Mayor’s urging the boycott of a UVa lecturer’s restaurant for criticizing the Black Lives Matter movement on his Facebook page. Later, too, based on research turned up by that white nationalist leader, the vice mayor resigned his job at Albemarle high school for having posted “racially offensive and inflammatory statements” on Twitter before he’d moved to Charlottesville in 2011.

Thus, in March of 2016, there began a long series of escalating rhetoric and actions by opposing factions within the Charlottesville community that, over the ensuing 18 months, would cascade into the tragic events of August 11/12, 2017.

For example, on May 28, 2016, the Charlottesville City Council, responding to local pressures, created a Blue Ribbon panel whose designated objective was to provide the Council with options on how to tell “the full story of Charlottesville’s history of race and changing the city’s narrative through its public spaces.” That fall, on Nov. 10, the panel delivered its draft report. It recommended that the Lee and Jackson statues remain in place while adding context to the monuments, telling a fuller story about what they represented. The “draft” report changed in December, however, when the same panel offered one of two options for the Council to consider: that context be added if the statues be left in place, or that they could be removed. On Feb 6, 2017, the City Council by 3-2 vote ordered the removal of the Lee statue.

The council’s vote sparked a lawsuit in March 2017 claiming that removing the statue would be illegal, and that the city was required by law “to protect and preserve” the statues. The Court affirmed the plaintiffs’ request to stay the City Council’s order. That litigation on the merits of the case continues unresolved today, although the court did affirm the city’s right to change the names of Lee and Jackson Park.

Meanwhile, on Jan. 31, 2016, Charlottesville’s mayor called “an unscheduled” rally to protest the inauguration of President Trump. “Hundreds gathered in Charlottesville’s downtown mall” where the mayor proclaimed the city “The Capital of Resistance to Trump’s agenda.” A Charlottesville police officer later noted that in his view: “The mayor’s event was tantamount to war. The mayor’s rhetoric was ‘the recipe for undermining the legitimacy of the institutions of government’.” Continue reading

An Unfortunate Turn in Bike Lane Debate

This sign is perfectly clear, right?

As almost always seems to happen in Richmond — and it’s disappointing — a neighborhood debate in Northside over a planned dedicated bicycle lane may turn into something else.

“Given the economic environment, the needs of people, anything that limits access to more affordable transportation options does everyone a disservice, but particularly people of color,” said Najeema Davis Washington, who co-founded Black Women Bike in 2011.

I wrote about the proposal at the start of this month, taking a skeptical stance.  This column in today’s Richmond Times-Dispatch by Michael Paul Williams included that quote at the top to set the tone. He has one basic hammer, and everything is a nail. In this case I think he might be hitting his thumb.

A proposed Richmond City Council ordinance would stop the plan to take two lanes of Brook and dedicate them (with barriers) for bikes 24/7. It was set for the July 23 agenda but delayed, perhaps to gather more information on impact or to reconsider alternatives. I sometimes see the patron, Council President Chris Hilbert, around the condo building where we both live and haven’t pressed him for details on the delay.

My primary purpose in writing the first column was to raise the issue, because I think most homeowners in the area were unaware. I also had seen the problems on Franklin Street, and admittedly people are getting used to the new configuration (but they do not like it). Williams’s column in today’s paper is the first mention of Brook Road in that medium, and the more people who know, the better. (One Richmond TV station has also covered it.)

I also brought it up because transportation is probably the issue that addicted me to this blog, as Bacon and I wrangled over highway taxes, etc. Apparently, there are federal funds available to encourage localities to take perfectly good highway lanes out of service – who knew? I’ve learned the phrase road diet!

The people who have the biggest stake in this issue are the property owners along the route, and most of the properties are single or multifamily residential. Many more apartments are coming. Many homeowners park on Brook, lacking driveways or alleys. The proposed bike lanes run from the Gilpin Court housing project up to Henrico County, past Virginia Union University and Union Seminary and a hospital. It is a very diverse neighborhood, which is one reason I like it. I’m sure people of color are on all sides of this discussion, and some homeowners will welcome this because it will divert traffic somewhere else.

Just yesterday I drove up Brook and a tractor-trailer was waiting to turn left at a light at a big intersection. It had its butt end sticking out in the traffic lane. It’s a long wait for that turn light and if that had been the only lane for cars, a multi-cycle backup would have resulted. Maneuvering around it reminded me of my concerns. My opinion matters less than those of people directly on Brook or the closest side streets. As a city taxpayer, however, it might matter a bit more than an advocate from DeeCee.

Updates: Money, Power and Politics (Oh, My)

The following are updates on earlier Bacon’s Rebellion stories of mine.

Clean Virginia Files First Report

Clean Virginia Fund, the political action committee that is trying to buy legislators’ loyalty away from regulated utilities, has filed its first report with the State Board of Elections.  Charlottesville financier and hedge fund magnate Michael D. Bills is the only donor, putting in $50,000.  Two senators and nine delegates, all Democrats, accepted a total of $32,500.  Dominion Energy and Appalachian Power donated a combined $175,000 during the same period so if this is really a bidding war, Clean Virginia has some catching up to do.

Hunton Andrews Kurth, the Richmond law and lobbying firm, is off to a slow start, giving only $23,000 on this report.  The firm drew notice for saying it would not support legislators who refused donations from its utility client.  Its largest check was to the Democratic Commonwealth Victory Fund, which supports both House and Senate candidates in that party.  (Dominion Energy gave to that, too.)

Somehow I don’t think any of the legislators who are refusing corporate or utility dollars will refuse help from that party committee. The check was probably to attend the Democrat’s annual event at the Homestead, where I’m sure all had a nice chin wag over the bar or on the golf course.

Dominion Energy Doubles Down on T1 Rider Taxes

Responding to an adverse recommendation from a State Corporation Commission hearing examiner, Dominion Energy has filed comments asking the full commission to ignore her opinion and make the customers pay too much.

Its first and most important argument is that the commission doesn’t have the authority to exercise discretion over the future transmission charges under rate adjustment clause T1.  It points to language in the 2007 statute that created this RAC and the whole system of RACs.  In the case of transmission costs under T1 the language says that any bill from regional transmission entity PJM is presumed to be reasonable and prudent.

This isn’t about the taxes, it’s about that language.  That “reasonable and prudent” presumption is even more frequent in the statute now, thanks to the 2018 legislation.  This is once again proof that Dominion inserts that phrase (and it writes these bills, no legislator does) to override the judgement of the SCC.  Those of us who worked on that 2007 statute never contemplated that Dominion would take advantage of that presumption to self-calculate its charge based on false information – in this case an erroneous tax rate.

If the SCC stands with its hearing examiner, expect the utility to take the battle back to the Virginia Supreme Court or back to its friendly legislators.  Once again, as it has been for more than a decade, the only real issue is will the legislature listen to the SCC or let the utility make it own laws and rules.

The AG Giveth, the AG Taketh Away

Attorney General Mark Herring has notably been a bit less predictable than many previous AG’s on the question of who his client is, if the state law or regulatory position he would normally defend was highly unpopular with various interest groups.

He earned praise in many circles recently for deciding to have his staff defend certain abortion-related regulations, but now has decided to not let his staff join in the appeal of a recent decision on legislative districts and the Voting Rights Act.  The Republican legislators seeking a delay on drawing a new map pending that appeal will need to fund their own legal efforts.

Continue reading

Watch Your Tongue. The PC Vigilantes Could Come for You

Donald Green: fired for a politically incorrect Facebook post

The digital mob now rules. Watch what you say on social media. Anything you write, or like, or re-tweet, can and will be used against you. If you work in any capacity for public schools there is a good chance that you will be reported, investigated, and perhaps even fired for privately expressed views — whether or not it affects your job performance in any way.

I’m not talking about candidates for national office, such as Republican nominee Corey Stewart… who now is catching flak for KKK fliers tossed onto driveways in Prince William County. He denounced the KKK yesterday in unvarnished terms, but his partisan foes will continue to play up the story. As far as I’m concerned, he brought the problem upon himself when he dallied with far-right figures involved with last year’s United the Right rally in Charlottesville. Even if he doesn’t hold racist views (which I doubt he does), he showed poor judgment in associating with people who do. If he aspires to statewide office, his past associations are fair game.

My concern is what is happening to regular folks. PC vigilantes are running amok, and craven administrators are caving in.

First case in point, in the news today: The Chesterfield school system has fired its chief of security, Donald Green, who had served since 2014. What was his offense? Did he bungle his job? No. Did Chesterfield schools suffer unforgivable lapses in security? No. He committed the cardinal sin three years ago of sharing the Facebook post displayed to the right.

Now, we can have a debate over the substance of the tweet. I don’t know who these children were. Perhaps they were Palestinians. Perhaps they were indoctrinated by ISIS. But, objectively speaking, there are children in the Middle East raised to hate people in the West. And, objectively speaking, there are people in the West for whom it is dogma that all cultures are morally equal and who assert that it is bigoted to argue otherwise. Is the original post provocative? Sure. Can reasonable people disagree about the validity of the point it is making? Sure. Does it send a message of hate against American Muslims or Muslims in Chesterfield County? Only in the fevered imaginations of the PC vigilantes.

According to the Chesterfield Observer, however, multiple citizens took screenshots earlier this week of the offending posts (apparently there was more than one) and sent them to school administrators. The human resources staff opened an investigation. The school system confirmed Thursday that Green is no longer employed by the school system. Stated school spokesman Shawn Smith: “We take seriously our responsibility to provide a safe, supportive and nurturing learning environment that is free from disruptions and distractions.”

Really? Green, who made the Facebook post made in 2015, was creating “disruptions and distractions” in 2018? The people who made an issue of the post were not creating the disruptions and distractions?

Second case in point, also in the news today: A teacher twice recognized as a Teacher of the Year by the Norfolk school system made the following post to a group of Facebook moms: “Going on a field trip to the zoo tomorrow from 1-3 with my 60 middle school kids from the hood. Fair Warning!”

WAVY TV says what happened next:

“I was like, ‘Wow? Are you kidding me? Why would you say something like this?'” said Sydneigh Lillard, a mother of three who is part of the Facebook group. “It was really sick to me for that to be coming from an educator.”

Lillard said educators, in her opinion, are supposed to serve as role models and help uplift students. Lillard doesn’t think the teacher was doing anything close to that in this case.

“To draw negative attention to them by referring to them as kids from the hood?” Lillard said. “People don’t think of positive things when they think of ‘the hood’. But being from the hood doesn’t mean the kids are bad.”

Rather than point out Lillard’s absurd and tortured reasoning — that the teacher had implied that being from the “hood” means the kids were bad — Norfolk public schools responded to the controversy as follows:

Norfolk Public Schools (NPS) is aware of a disturbing social media post that has been circulating today. The views expressed in this post are not reflective of NPS as we pride ourselves with being the cornerstone of a proudly diverse community. A full investigation has been launched into this situation. As this is a personnel matter we are limited in making any further comment.

WAVY-TV thoughtfully declined to release the name of the teacher on the grounds that she “has not been charged with any crime.”

Wow, it’s hard to keep up with the latest evolution in politically correct speech. I didn’t know — and obviously the teacher didn’t know — that it now is a thought crime to refer to “the hood” — not even in a light-hearted reference to her rambunctious, middle-school charges from the inner city. No doubt fearful of losing her job, the teacher issued online an abject, groveling apology.

It’s not as if either Green or the teacher of the year had evinced sympathy for the KKK. (Just curious, is it now not merely odious but a firing offense to sympathize with the KKK?) It’s not as if they had uttered racist sentiments. It’s not as if they had used the “N” word. It’s not as if they had called someone a “nappy headed ho.” A fever has gripped this country, the realm of “acceptable” speech is contracting severely, the arbiters of acceptable speech are the most easily offended among us, and charges of politically incorrect language send administrators into a paroxysm of fear. Innocent people are being investigated and are literally losing their jobs over thought crimes.

This is the Red Scare all over again — except it’s not limited to State Department employees and Hollywood screen writers. The PC enforcers see racists under every bed and read racism into every remark. Everyday Americans are being assailed by the PC vigilantes and losing their jobs. You want more Corey Stewart? This is how you get more Corey Stewart. You want more Donald Trump? This is how you get more Donald Trump. People who are not crass, bullying, belligerent jerks like our president need to stand up and put an end to this madness or more Americans will see Trump as their only defender. And if you think things are ugly now, you ain’t seen nothing yet.