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.
by James A. Bacon
Pity poor Stephen Farmer. The newly appointed vice provost for enrollment at the University of Virginia has a thankless job: fulfilling the goal of admitting more African Americans and Hispanics, even as Virginia’s flagship university has inadvertently branded itself as a racist institution.
Farmer’s appointment was highlighted in the most recent issue Virginia, the UVa alumni magazine. A UVa alumnus, Farmer was recruited from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where he was vice provost for enrollment and undergraduate admissions. With a record of attracting more first-generation students and students from underrepresented minorities, Farmer has made “remarkable contributions to the shape of the class,” says Provost M. Elizabeth Magill.
Taking charge of both undergraduate admissions and student financial services, Farmer will build new strategies for attracting applicants and supporting students’ financial needs. “There’s a real logic in bringing them together,” Magill said.
He has two big challenges. First, in its recent report, “Audacious Future: Commitment Required,” UVa’s Racial Equity Task Force has articulated the goal of building a student body that “reflects the racial and economic demographics of the Commonwealth of Virginia.” Only 7.4% of the undergraduate student body is African-American, compared to about 20% of Virginia’s population. Only 7.4% is Hispanic, compared to about 10% of the state population. Asians are significantly over-represented: 17.1% of the student body compared to 5.6% of the state population. Whites are slightly under-represented. (These numbers are calculated from data published on UVa’s Diversity Dashboard, omitting foreign students and students whose race is unknown.) Continue reading
Constitution of Virginia
by James C. Sherlock
We have in this series explored the case In Re: Final Determination of the Office of Attorney General Division of Human Rights in DHR Case No.: 19-2652, NAACP Loudoun Branch v. Loudoun County Public Schools (LCPS).
This non-judicial investigation and determination has made famous:
- the new law, Subdivision B 2 of § 2.2-520 of the Code of Virginia that established in 2020 the Department of Law (AG’s office) Division of Human Rights (the Division);
- the Virginia Human Rights Act, Virginia Code § 2.2-2900 et seq and Virginia Code § 2.2-520 et seq (The Act) that Herring’s new Division of Human Rights cited in this finding; and
- the regulations written by the Division’s itself to guide its actions and the compliance of wrongdoers.
The determination was a result of a formal investigation that admitted evidence, including six and 1/2 pages of hearsay, that no court would have considered.
It measured the discriminatory impact on Black/African-American and Latinx/Hispanic students who applied and were accepted to Loudoun Academies by means of a racial statistical analysis of the student body. Continue reading
A Wind Turbine Installation Vessel (WTIV). Photo credit: Wikipedia
by James A. Bacon
As it looks forward to developing an $7.8 billion wind project off the Virginia coast, Dominion is developing a specialized vessel capable of installing the massive turbines with blades the length of football fields, according to The Virginia Mercury.
The federal Jones Act bars foreign ships from carrying shipments between U.S. ports, which could create regulatory obstacles to hiring European vessels for the task of implanting an estimated 180 wind turbines into the U.S. seabed. Moreover, projected demand for the the world’s small supply of wind turbine installation vessels (WTIVs) is so strong that the day rate for leasing them now exceeds $200,000 a day.
Once upon a time Dominion was in the business of operating coal barges, but never has it ventured into the deep blue sea. WTIVs cost on the order of $250 million to $300 million each. (In August Scorpio Bulkers signed a letter of intent with Daewoo Shipping and Marine Engineering to to build such a vessel for a cost of $265 million to $290 million.)
While many observers balk at the high cost per kilowatt of offshore wind — far exceeding the cost of solar power — the endeavor has won support from the Hampton Roads economic development community, which hopes the Dominion project — including the U.S.’s first WTIV — will give Virginia a first-mover advantage in building a wind-power manufacturing, logistics and maintenance hub for the emerging industry. Think of the project as Virginia’s $4 billion lottery ticket. Continue reading
Hat tip: John Butcher
Agreed: There is not enough bacon. Indeed, the phrase “too much bacon” is literally an oxymoron. Otherwise, I’m in big trouble. I like my eggs sunny side up, prefer English muffins to toast, and put Starbucks creamer in my coffee. — JAB
Why is this man smiling?
by James C. Sherlock
I just finished reading the 61-page “Final Determination of the Office of Attorney General Division of Human Rights in DHR Case No.: 19-2652, NAACP Loudoun Branch v. Loudoun County Public Schools.”
The first thing I discovered is that the Democrats in the last session created a kangaroo court within the Attorney General’s Office for civil rights cases. It is the new Division of Human Rights.
The second thing I noted was the state-sponsored extortion that was part of the “determination.” This essay will be about the new law that enabled this determination, the finding and its implications.
Part II will expose the state-sanctioned extortion that the “determination” endorses.
This case, while focused on public schools in Loudoun County, is a shot across the bow of every business in Virginia. Not only small businesses are in the crosshairs. Consider Boeing and Amazon, corporate nomads both. Good thing they established headquarters in Northern Virginia before this law. But then again, they are flexible with regards to the states in which they do business. Those two Goliaths used to call the states of Washington and then Illinois (Boeing) and Washington (Amazon) home. Continue reading
by James C. Sherlock
A story by Dana Goldstein published in the New York Times on June 30, 2020, illustrates America’s new favorite parlor game: Pick your expert.
This essay is hereby entered in the Virginia schools division of the bigger game. Ms. Goldstein wrote:
“The American Academy of Pediatrics has a reputation as conservative and cautious, which is what you would expect from an organization devoted to protecting children’s health. But this week, the academy made a splash with advice about reopening schools that appears to be somewhat at odds with what administrators are hearing from some federal and state health officials.”
“The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, for example, have advised that remote learning is the safest option. But the (American Academy of Pediatrics) guidelines strongly recommend that students be “physically present in school” as much as possible, and emphasize that there are major health, social and educational risks to keeping children at home.”
Later, there was a government-directed shotgun wedding of the two opinions, but the core AAP recommendation remains. So like every other argument, confirmation bias proved determinative in how various interests chose their “experts.” Continue reading
Substitute teacher Anna Kimerer teaches from a cart carrying musical instruments and supplies.
by James A. Bacon
In Washington County, down by the border with Tennessee, Emory & Henry College students are helping to fill gaps in the ranks of local school teachers by volunteering as substitutes. Writes the Bristol Herald-Courier:
Emory & Henry senior Aleah Bowers actually quit her job at a local grocery store to help answer the need for substitutes in Washington County schools.
“I’m substituting about four days each week,” said Bowers, who plans to take the jobs through the Christmas holiday. She also hopes to substitute next semester while she is student teaching.
“I’ve been all over Washington County as a substitute. I actually love it. Not only do I get to interact with the students, but I get more experience as a teacher.”
Pastor Belinda Baugh addressing community residents in a “City of Hope” march in Petersburg: Fathers, your children need you! Photo credit: Belinda Baugh
by James A. Bacon
When you ask a group of politicians, activists and intellectuals to put together a plan to “reimagine” public safety, you get a report like the one just issued by a City of Richmond task force. It calls for measures such as routing many 9-1-1 calls to mental health and conflict-resolution professionals instead of the police, reallocating dollars from police to social services, connecting youth with community resources, and creating an Office of Restorative Justice and Community Safety.
More money. More programs. More jobs for bureaucrats and activists. It’s basically the same failing approach that inner cities have tried to address poverty and crime since the inauguration of the Great Society in the 1960s.
One wonders if the authors talked to anyone besides other politicians, activists and intellectuals… if, for example, they talked to people akin to those quoted in this Richmond Times-Dispatch article about Petersburg. Richmond is not Petersburg, of course, but the two cities are sociologically similar. They both have large populations of poor African-Americans concentrated in largely segregated neighborhoods. Petersburg has the highest per-capita murder rate of any jurisdiction in Virginia; Richmond has the third highest. Continue reading
by James A. Bacon
Fairfax County’s decision to cope with COVID-19 by keeping kids at home to learn online is turning into a disaster for students who were struggling before the epidemic hit, especially English learners and students from economically disadvantaged families.
An internal analysis by the Fairfax County Public Schools found that the percentage of middle- and high-school students earning F’s in at least two classes jumped by 83%, from 6% to 11%. Online learning has been especially challenging for English learners, 35% of whom had two or more flunking grades. Many if not most English learners are Hispanics, 25% of whom failed in two or more classes.
The report shows that online learning accentuated performance differences that already existed. “These analyses indicated that students who performed poorly this year were those that performed poorly last year and would likely have performed poorly even without the challenges presented to them this school year,” states the report. “Those that performed well this school year were primarily those that performed well last school year.” Continue reading
by Emilio Jaksetic
According to The Virginia Star, some Virginia counties are considering drafting resolutions to oppose enforcement of Governor Ralph Northam’s executive orders on COVID-19.
While I believe Northam abused his emergency powers, this is not the solution. If passed, these resolutions are likely to be found to be legally unenforceable by Virginia courts on four grounds.
First, in Virginia, local governments (county, city, town, or regional) have limited power. The local governments derive their existence and powers from laws passed by the General Assembly (VA Constitution, Article VII, Sections 1-3). Furthermore, under the Dillon Rule, local governments have only those only powers that are:
- expressly granted by the General Assembly;
- necessarily or fairly implied by the expressly granted powers; and
- essential to the declared objects and purposes of local government.
According to the Dillon Rule, any reasonable doubt about whether such powers exist “must be resolved against the local governing body.” Continue reading
by James A. Bacon
Drawing upon testing of 5.3 million students in all 50 states this fall, the Renaissance testing service found that students in some grades had fallen 7 weeks behind expectations for reading and as many as 12 weeks behind for math. Continue reading
Here is a shout-out to three small publications that are covering important Virginia news stories while the commercial media continues to shrink into impotence, irrelevance, or in the case of the Washington Post, malevolence. — JAB
Give credit where credit is due. The Virginia Mercury is a left-of-center publication, but it is hammering the Northam administration for a lack of transparency regarding alleged Virginia Parole Board misconduct. An Office of the Inspector General (OSIG) report concluded this summer that the parole board had violated its victim-notification procedures when granting parole to a convicted killer. The Northam administration got wind of the findings, and when report was issued it was so heavily redacted that it was almost unreadable. Republicans have been raising hell about the lack of transparency… and the Mercury has been remarkably sympathetic. Read the Mercury’s latest update here.
Speaking of independent media outlets…. The newly created Virginia Star is establishing itself as a worthwhile news source. Today the publication featured an interview of Angela Greene, the female African-American police chief who was placed on administrative leave after her department announced felony charges against Sen. Louise Lucas, D-Portsmouth. Lucas had helped organize a rally this summer in which protesters spray painted the a Confederate statue. Later that night, protesters beheaded four statues of soldiers attached to the monument, and the monument fell upon a man and killed him. The charges resulted in an uproar as Democrats rallied to the defense of Lucas, one of Virginia’s longest-serving African-American legislators. In the resulting fallout Greene, who herself had replaced a previous female African-American police chief, was canned. She gave her first public interview to the Star. Said she: “I was retaliated against because I refused to treat criminal behavior differently because of the alleged offenders race, creed, gender, or political affiliation.”
More COVID fallout. James Madison University recorded 783 students who accepted then withdrew or deferred their enrollment at JMU this fall. The unexpected loss of those students blew a $12.6 million hole in the university’s budget, reports the student newspaper The Breeze. The no-shows cited the coronavirus as the main cause for their decision. Some who unenrolled cited their fear that online classes would limit opportunities to connect with faculty. Others cited fears that they might expose vulnerable family members to the virus. Every university has been struggling with how to manage the virus, but JMU more than most. The student newspaper has been on top of the story from the beginning.
Image source: Washington Post
by James A. Bacon
Ever alert to signs of racism everywhere, the Washington Post published this morning a lengthy article about COVID-19 and race. “Racial, ethnic minorities reel from higher covid-19 death rates,” proclaims the headline. “A Post analysis shows that communities of color continue to die from the coronavirus at much higher rates than Whites.”
The Post starts by taking note of the racial disparities in death rates:
As another wave of infections sweeps across the country this fall, losses among racial and ethnic minorities remain disproportionately large. Black Americans were 37 percent more likely to die than Whites, after controlling for age, sex and mortality rates over time. Asians were 53 percent more likely to die; Native Americans and Alaskan Natives, 26 percent more likely to die; Hispanics, 16 percent more likely to die.
The Post then proceeds to explore variety of explanations for the discrepancy, all of which fall under the rubric of “structural racism.” States the Post: “Minorities face a long history of unequal access to medical care — which may have impacted treatment decisions and outcomes.” For example, noting that African-American patients were more likely than whites to receive “an older, less-expensive and riskier blood thinner linked to higher morality from covid-19,” the Post quotes a scientist as “wondering” whether some doctors chose the older, more established product for minority patients because the newer drugs were overwhelmingly tested on whites. Continue reading
by James A. Bacon
In his new book co-authored with Richard J. Cebula, “Runaway College Costs,” James V. Koch goes beyond the usual lamentations about how out-of-control costs are making colleges and universities increasingly unaffordable and inaccessible to millions of Americans. He describes how higher-ed governing boards have largely failed in their fiduciary duty to students to curtail the expensive ambitions of college administrators.
As alumni revolts gain momentum at the University of Virginia and Washington & Lee University, disgruntled graduates seeking to tame the politically correct enthusiasms of the current regimes would do well to read this book. It provides the best overview of higher-ed governance issues I have seen anywhere. If conservative alumni hope to exert influence on the direction their alma maters are going, they need to understand who holds power in the modern university and how they wield it.
Koch starts with the observation that the vast majority of college and university boards of visitors act as rubber stamps for spending and tuition proposals submitted by their institutions’ presidents. Dissenting voices are rare, and unanimous votes are the norm. Costs and tuition have increased relentlessly over the years because governing boards have allowed them to. Continue reading