Category Archives: Uncategorized

The Real Election Integrity Issue in VA this Year

by Paul Goldman

Virginia is on track to hold an unconstitutional, illegal election this November 2. The Governor knows it. The Lieutenant Governor knows it. The Attorney General knows it; indeed, he is in court fighting my effort as the lawyer for the defendants in Goldman v Northam, et al, which is a federal action against the Governor and the Virginia Board of Elections. (The case is number 3:21 – cv – 00420 and all the documents can be found in the federal court PACER system, free to all Virginians).

The upcoming November elections for the House of Delegates are flat-out unconstitutional. The constitutionality was decided in a previous federal case in Virginia (Cosner v. Dalton, et al, 52 F. Supp. 350 (E.D. Va. 1981). The defendants were John Dalton, then Governor of Virginia, and the top officers of the of Elections. In Cosner, the federal court merely applied the law as first articulated in the seminal case of Reynolds v Simms (377 U.S. 533). In 1964, the United States Supreme Court had declared the equal protection clause of the 14th applicable to the apportionment of the districts in state legislatures.

“Simply stated, an individual’s right to vote for state legislators is unconstitutionally impaired when its weight is in a substantial fashion diluted when compared with voters of citizens living in other parts of the state.” Reynolds at 568.

In the ensuing decades, Attorneys General of Virginia and their counterparts in other states have been in federal courts around the country trying to define the term “in a substantial fashion” as a statistical marker for legal purposes. Legendary Virginian Henry Howell, the leading anti-Byrd Democrat at the statewide election level, became the first in Virginia to put the Reynold’s decision to a constitutional test in the case of Mahan v Howell, 410 U.S. 315 (1973). Continue reading

Jeanine’s Memes

From the Bull Elephant

September 16

At the Jersey Shore before I was born.

by Kerry Dougherty

I’m almost never satisfied with my writing. That’s why, if you read one of my posts in the morning and go back in the afternoon it will be slightly different. I can’t stop tinkering.

Over the years I’ve written a handful of pieces that I thought were pretty good. This is one. I’ve shared it before, but I’m posting it again today for those who may have missed it or don’t mind reading it again.

The reason for offering you this today will be obvious to anyone who reads to the end.

I can remember exactly where I was on September 16, 1998. I remember what I was wearing, the cup of 7-Eleven coffee that went cold on the tray table and the way the morning sun sifted through the dingy window.

Shortly after dawn, I was in a hospital bed in Hamilton, N.J., cradling the snowy head of the woman who taught me how to ride a bike, roller skate and shuffle cards like a blackjack dealer.

If you had peeked into her room, you would have seen a frail, sick woman. That isn’t what I saw. Continue reading

The Economics of Flood Control in Virginia

Hampton Roads base flood – 1% annual risk

by James C. Sherlock

We have work to do, and need to do it quickly and well.

  • If we want to get storm defenses built before major storm damage rather than after; and
  • if we want the federal government to pay 65% of the costs.

Let’s assume we do.

The “Virginia Coastal Resilience Master Planning Framework” appears to be heading in a direction that may miss important pieces of any benefit/cost assessment. And those assessments drive federal interest.

The assumption in Framework going forward appears to be that the value of flood protection is in loss avoidance. Exclusively. 

Indeed, all of the work that I can find in flooding assessments Virginia is put towards the goal of understanding the costs of such losses.

Not sufficient, but fixable. Continue reading

A Closer Look at Those “Driving While Black” Statistics

by James A. Bacon

When the Commonwealth published its Virginia Community Policing Act traffic-stop database last week, the Richmond Times-Dispatch spun the data this way:

Black drivers are disproportionately stopped and arrested, and they have their cars searched at higher rates than any other race statewide.

Here’s what the RTD could have written:

Black drivers stopped for traffic violations were disproportionately likely to be let go with warnings — or subject to no law enforcement actions at all.

Any fair-minded story would have provided both conclusions and conveyed the complexities and uncertainties in analyzing the data. Instead, the newspaper settled for cherry picking data that supports its ongoing Oppression Narrative. The reporters did not come right out and say that the statistical disparities are attributable to “racism” or “discrimination,” but the implication is clear enough. In contemporary society, statistical disparities are widely deemed to constitute proof. Continue reading

Horse Play

A herd of horses live on Shackleford Banks, a barrier island near Beaufort, N.C., where the Bacon family is vacationing. The horses do not comprise a thundering herd of popular imagination, rather they are dispersed in small groups — “harems” — with a stallion, two or three breeding mares, and their colts. Five or six of these groups reside in the eastern tip we visited, along with a few unaffiliated mares too old to breed and young stallions who have not succeeded in winning the affections of any females. Continue reading

Sunset: Beauford, N.C.

The Bacon family is on vacation this week in Beaufort, N.C. Blogging will be sparse.

Left Behind…

Richmond resident and green card holder Javed Habibi has lived in Richmond since 2015 with his wife, and four daughters. The electrician and his family visited Afghanistan in June and was scheduled to return to the U.S. Aug. 31, but all hell broke loose when Kabul fell to the Taliban. The U.S. government promised him that he and his family would be evacuated. Said Habibi to the Associated Press: “They lied to us.” — JAB

Thirteen Glasses of Beer

by Kerry Dougherty

They were heartfelt and poignant. Most remarkably, they seemed spontaneous.

I’m talking about the makeshift memorials that suddenly appeared in American taverns, breweries and restaurants over the weekend to honor the 13 service members killed in action in Afghanistan on Thursday.

Most featured 13 glasses of beer on an otherwise empty table marked “Reserved.” Many listed the names of the fallen. Others had simple words of appreciation.

These tables were inspired, it seems, by the “Missing Man” table at many Armed Forces dinner events and they served as moving reminders of the Marines, soldier and sailor who were killed by a suicide bomber outside the Abbey Gate of the Kabul Airport as they tried to protect Americans and Afghans trying to flee that country.

No one seems to know who bought the first 13 beers and set them on a table marked “Reserved,” but by Sunday they were everywhere, from Cowboy Jack’s in Fargo, ND to First Line Brewing in Orchard Park, NY. From Klooz Brewz in Lebanon IN, to the Thirsty Horse Saloon in San Antonio. From Southern Craft in Bristol, VA, to at least two local joints, O’Connor Brewing in Norfolk and New Realm in Virginia Beach. Continue reading

RIP: Ed Risse

by James A. Bacon

Readers of Bacon’s Rebellion in the early days may remember Ed Risse, a long-time contributor to the blog (and its predecessor publication, a biweekly newsletter). Ed, who was 84, passed away a week ago from injuries sustained from a fall.

Ed, whose idiosyncratic byline was E M Risse (with no periods), was a ponderous writer, prone to long essays loaded with specialized vocabulary of his own devising, but a brilliant thinker — the deepest and most original thinker of my acquaintance. Readers who could plow through his work were well rewarded. His passion was human settlement patterns — land use and its relationship to transportation, municipal services, taxes, livability and sustainability. His core thesis was that sprawling, low-density, autocentric development (what others called suburban sprawl, a term he thought too imprecise to ever use himself) had turned Northern Virginia and other Virginia metros into an uninhabitable mess.

The antidote to “sprawl” was balanced, mixed, and compact growth. Ed famously said that if Fairfax County had been developed at the same density as Reston, which is widely regarded as a very livable community, the entire population would fit into a third of the county, leaving the rest for countryside. His vision was similar to that which we now call Smart Growth, although Ed, always the purist, had his disagreements with Smart Growthers, too. Continue reading

What Impact Did COVID Have on the SOLs?

by James A. Bacon

Most Virginia news media duly reported the release of the latest Standards of Learning (SOL) data showing the biggest collapse in pass rates in the history of the SOLs. Most accepted the Northam administration’s spin that the decline was due mainly to COVID-19-related disruptions, and that Virginians should not read too much into the results. Then the media dropped the story. K-12 news coverage moved on to other topics such as the shortage of teachers and bus drivers. (The Washington Post did not deem the SOL story worthy of coverage of any kind.)

You’d think that a collapse of the magnitude seen in the 2020-21 school year — 46% of all students failed to pass their math SOLs — would generate greater interest. You’d think widening racial gap in educational achievement — 66% of Black students failed their math exams — would prompt more scrutiny. Perhaps if the governor were a Republican, the media would be more interested in exploring the story.

Whatever the reasons for the media’s lack of interest in the most important K-12 education story of the year, Bacon’s Rebellion is prepared to step in.

Every school district faced the COVID-19 pandemic. Every school district had to make tough choices based on imperfect and evolving information about whether to continue in-person classes, shift to remote learning, or cobble together a hybrid of the two. But in some districts, the decline in SOL performance was far worse than in others. Continue reading

2021 SOLs Don’t Tell Us Much of Anything

by John Butcher

2020 was the first spring since 1998 without SOL tests in Virginia. Then came 2021, when participation in the testing was voluntary.

The VDOE press release says, “[2020-21] was not a normal school year for students and teachers, in Virginia or elsewhere, so making comparisons with prior years would be inappropriate.” The first line of the very next paragraph of the press release then quotes the Superintendent making a comparison: “Virginia’s 2020-2021 SOL test scores tell us what we already knew—students need to be in the classroom without disruption to learn effectively.”

Let’s look at some data and see whether they offer any principled implications.

But first: As we have seeneconomically disadvantaged students (“ED”) underperform their more affluent peers (“Not ED”) by around twenty points, depending on the test. This renders the school and division and state averages meaningless because of the varying percentages of ED students. Fortunately, the VDOE database offers data for both groups. Hence the more complicated analyses below.

To start, let’s look at the numbers of students tested by year for reading in Richmond and statewide. Continue reading

Another Sign of the Education Apocalypse

Source: State Council of Higher Education for Virginia

by James A. Bacon

Tom Allison, a staff analyst with the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV) has uncovered quite the conundrum. How does the Commonwealth reverse the plummeting rate at which low-income students are completing the Free Application for Federal Student Assistance (FAFSA) form?  The free-fall in applications, which are necessary to qualify for federal financial aid to attend college, could presage a decline in actual college attendance.

Nationally, FAFSA completions are down 4.4% from this time last year. Virginia under-performed the nation, with completions down 4.9%, writes Allison in a new SCHEV publication, Insights, which draws upon SCHEV’s in-depth data collection to inform policy making.

What really concerns Allison is the fact that at Title 1 schools (schools with high concentrations of low-income students) in Virginia FAFSA completion is down 22.3% — three times the national average for Title 1 schools.

“Virginia’s low-income students already enroll in college at lower rates, and these data indicate they are likely to fall further behind,” he writes. Continue reading

SOL Test Scores Collapsed In 2020-21 School Year

by James A. Bacon

How bad are the Standards of Learning test results for the COVID-afflicted 2020-21 school year? They’re so bad that the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) press release announcing the results didn’t mention bare-bones numbers until the seventh paragraph, and even then it provided no basis for comparison to the previous year, 2018-19, in which the tests were given.

The results were so bad that the press release didn’t summarize the results in a table, as it has every year previously. Instead, it provided a link to VDOE’s “Build-A-Table” database for readers to figure out themselves.

The results were so bad the press release alluded to the widening racial/ethnic gap in pass rates but provided no numbers, as VDOE always has in the past.

The 2020-21 school year might well have seen the greatest regression in learning in Virginia history.

Rather, the VDOE press release amounted to a lengthy exercise in deflection and blame shifting. It attributed the dismal scores to the “extraordinary circumstances” of the COVID epidemic and the “disruptions to instruction” that followed from school closing across most of the state. Continue reading

VMI, Media Bias, and Lies by Omission

by Larry Houseworth

Charlie Beckett of the London School of Economics addressed journalism’s turn to emotionalism in a talk given at the 2015 Science Festival in Bradford, West Yorkshire, England (“How journalism is turning emotional and what that might mean for news.”) He stated, “the value of objective journalism is the idea that journalism can attempt to give an account that is balanced, fact-based and that gives a fair summary not just of what has happened but the context around it without the distortion of the journalist’s own feelings.”

Beckett acknowledged there is a place for tempered emotion. He said, “Making a drama of a crisis has always been part of mass media. The theatre of news is as old as broadcast journalism. … If news does not get your attention, if you do not find it interesting, amusing, frightening or uplifting than you are less likely to take notice.”

The balance of emotion and objectivity “can only be an aspiration,” he conceded. “All journalists are human and have different factors that shape their worldview and their understanding of particular circumstances. … By selecting a story for reporting you have made a choice. The facts that you omit, as well as those you include, are selective.”

To validate Beckett’s opinion, we need look no further than the media’s recent treatment of the Virginia Military Institute where the omission of relevant facts has colored the coverage. Continue reading