How No Regulation Toasted Vaping

By Peter Galuszka

There’s a mighty disconnect between being innovative in developing new products and putting the buying public in danger. We are often lectured about the benefits brought by industrial creativity unfettered by regulation on this blog and elsewhere but that isn’t always the case.

In fact, doing so without meaningful regulation can spell big disaster for both the public and corporations. The case in point: vaping.

About a decade ago, tinkerers in Asia came up with a pipe-like, vapor device that could give the user an addictive kick of nicotine mixed in a soup of vegetable glycerin, propylene glycol and any number of hundreds of flavors.

In a few short years, vaping grew with mostly-Asian-made devices to head-shop-like outlets typically located in chic-chic shopping districts or strip malls, some with the motif of 50-year-old head shops with lots of the art of psychedelic or the heavy metal era.

Obviously aimed at young vapers, flavors galore were added. Here’s one of them pitched by a vaping shop I visited for a news story:

“If you gaze at the stars long enough, you might get a glimpse of the proverbial “pie in the sky.” Reward yourself here on Earth, instead, by trying this incredibly delicious toasted coconut cream flavor. The buttery baked piecrust and the sweet vanilla with coconut filling are enough to make you feel like you’ve tasted heaven!”

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This Says It All: In Just Four Years

This says it all – from J. Miles Coleman, at Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball. I saw it this morning on The Bull Elephant, which focuses on Loudoun. Would Virginia Beach and Henrico look the same? If you have any doubts the Trump era has produced a true realignment, dispel them. SDH

Virginia’s Rural Development Strategy — and Suggestions for Improvement

by James A. Bacon

You most likely missed it because it has gotten next to zero publicity, but the Commonwealth does have an economic development strategy for rural Virginia.

In 2017, a group of rural development stakeholders come together to form a “Rural Think Tank” to identify policies the state should pursue to position smaller metros and rural areas for economic growth. After deliberating, the twelve think tank members came up with five strategic priorities, as described in the latest edition of the Virginia Economic Review, a publication of the Virginia Economic Development Partnership (VEDP). This second edition of the quarterly publication is devoted to “America’s Rural Growth Challenge.”

The priorities include:

Ubiquitous broadband access. Topping the list is ubiquitous broadband access, a priority embraced by the Northam administration that receives broad bipartisan support. The ability to plug into the Internet is a necessity not only for business growth but is essential to education, healthcare, social connectivity, and the quality of life. As the Virginia Economic Review quotes Didi Caldwell, past chair of the Site Selection Guild, put it, “Broadband is to the 21st century was electrification was to the 20th. Rural communities need it to thrive and survive.” Continue reading

NoVa Rules Now

This electoral map published by the Virginian-Pilot is a bit dated, but it shows the dominance of Northern Virginia in House of Delegates districts that elected Democrats last week.

by James A. Bacon

The big shift in power in the General Assembly does more than put Democrats in control of the state legislature. It gives Northern Virginia more power than ever before. Northern Virginians taking senior leadership positions in the General Assembly in January include:

  • Sen. Richard Saslaw, D-Fairfax, Senate Majority Leader
  • Del. Eileen Filler-Corn, D-Fairfax Station, Speaker of the House
  • Del. Charniele L. Herring, D-Alexandria, House Majority Leader
  • Del. Richard C. Sullivan, D-Fairfax, Democratic Caucus chairman

Just as significant, roughly half the Democratic Party caucus hails from Northern Virginia. In the Age of Trump, Northern Virginia has become a politically blue monoculture. In many NoVa districts, Republicans didn’t even run candidates.

So, here’s a question: To what degree will Northern Virginians elected officials vote their liberal/progressive philosophical inclinations and to what degree will they vote their geographic interests? Continue reading

RRHA Freezes Enforcement of Rent Collection


by James A. Bacon

The Richmond Redevelopment and Housing Authority (RRHA) has announced an agency-wide freeze on the enforcing rent payments through the end of the year. No public housing family will be removed from their home for debt owed to RRHA during that period.

“During this time,” the authority said, “RRHA will undertake an agency-wide evaluation of our public housing families’ rental accounts and give tenants that are in arrears the opportunity to come current. By utilizing a combination of repayment agreements, debt forgiveness, philanthropic contributions, and other eviction diversion methods, RHHA will endeavor to bring every RRHA family with a delinquent rental account as close to good standing as possible.”

The action comes in response to pressure from “tenant advocates,” reports the Richmond Times-Dispatch. Omari Al-Qadaffi, a housing organizer with the Legal Aid Justice Center, praised the move. “We’re very encouraged and we see it as a few steps in the right direction,” he said.

Now, nobody wants to see poor people needlessly evicted from their homes… Continue reading

This Little Piggy Went to General Assembly…

by James A. Bacon

With all the hungry piggies pushing for mo’ state money, the feeding trough is getting crowded. Besides the K-12 piggy (squealing for an extra $950 million), the Virginia Retirement System piggy (an extra $215.6 million), and the monstrous Medicaid piggy (the sky’s the limit — how much money do you have?), we can add the higher-ed piggy. A State Council for Higher Education of Virginia (SCHEV) report concludes that the Commonwealth’s public colleges and universities need an additional $212 million in the next biennial budget for operations and financial aid, and $826 million for capital outlays.

Here’s a breakdown of the operational funding needs: Continue reading

There Was No Republican Message. None.

From Blue Virginia at the end. Without dispute, he is best Democratic turnout generator in history.

By Steve Haner

You know Virginia has changed when being labeled a socialist by your opponent is less damaging than being labeled a Republican.

That’s the opening line for my short essay on what happened November 5, which as far as I can tell has already been analyzed 345 other times in various publications, including several times here on Bacon’s Rebellion. Most of the authors have never written or executed a campaign plan. But I said I’d share my thoughts.

The bottom line is Democrats had a message about what their election would mean for Virginia. Republicans then ran against that message, amplifying it substantially, and thereby assured a huge turnout of the most liberal Democrats. At the same time, Republicans offered no message to turn out their own less-motivated supporters or excite their potential donors, state or national. They certainly offered no vision to woo swing voters.  Continue reading

Richmond’s Food Desert a Tough Nut to Crack

Photo credit: Richmond Times-Dispatch

by James A. Bacon

It is part of the liberal/progressive catechism that inner city neighborhoods across the United States, including Virginia, are afflicted by “food deserts” — large swaths of territory lacking access to stores selling fresh fruit, vegetables and other healthy foods. This deprivation is typically seen as a failure of the free-market system that requires remedy.

Seeking to do some good, Richmond philanthropist Steve Markel financed construction of a grocery store in the heart of the city’s East End — The Market @ 25th — and launched it to great fanfare a half year ago. The store served multiple laudable ends. It anchored a mixed-use development including 42 apartments, retail space, and office space in a depressed part of the city. It opened with 98 jobs, creating employment opportunities for the East End’s poor. And, most notably, it provided a source of fruit, vegetables, and healthy food.

Now we hear from the Richmond Times-Dispatch that the noble endeavor is encountering difficulties. The independent grocer has suffered millions of dollars in operational losses. Through layoffs and attrition, the staff has shrunk by a quarter since opening. Perhaps most discouraging of all, many of the store’s hoped-for poor African-American customers say the prices are too high and see the story as the spear-head of gentrification. Continue reading

Aird Is a Woman to Watch

by James A. Bacon

Del. Lashrecse Aird, D-Petersburg, as one would expect, is playing on her identity as a young, African-American woman in her bid to become the next Speaker of the House. But there’s more to her appeal to fellow Democrats than identity politics. She has a plan — a plan for the Democrats to get off to a fast start in the 2020 General Assembly session.

Aird lays it all out in her “60 Day Plan for a Stronger Commonwealth,” which she has posted online and disseminated widely. (I presume she distributed it widely if I got a copy.) Therein she lays out her ideas for the internal caucus structure of the House of Delegates (seen in the diagram above). I have never covered the General Assembly as a beat, so  I don’t know how novel this structure is. (Perhaps Steve Haner could fill in details). Whatever the case, Aird clearly has spent a lot of time thinking about it. This chart suggests to me that the young woman, 33 years old, has considerable organizational acumen. Continue reading

Virginia Brewer Takes Shot at Dan Snyder with New IPA

By Don Rippert

Ear flick. Given the emotions of the recent election I thought a little levity might be in order. Harpers Ferry Brewing of Hillsboro, Va., is introducing a new IPA. It will be called “Sell the Team” in a relatively transparent shot at Redskins’ owner Dan Snyder. The beer went on sale yesterday and is described as “bitter and slightly disappointing, like a day at FedEx Field.” Given its alcohol content of 9.5% (yikes), it should only take about a six-pack to be able to get through another Sunday of Redskins football. Maybe I’ll send some to the mayor of Richmond so he can momentarily forget that fabulous deal he cut with the guy who should sell the team over the training camp. Jim Bacon had this to say … “The first year of training camp was a modest success, creating a $10.5 million economic impact to the Richmond region. A daily average of 10,800 people attended the practices that year. The number over the same span last year fell to 7,500, and then to 4,500 this year. As the Richmond Times-Dispatch wryly observed, the Richmond Squirrels AA-league baseball club has been drawing larger crowds.”

Next summer, I wonder how many people will flock to Richmond to see last year’s 2-14 (or thereabouts) team prepare for the 2020 season.

Hat tip: Charlie Mayer

Omega Protein Exceeds ASMFC Catch Limit of Menhaden

Photo credit: Stephan Lowy

by Don Rippert

What, me worry? Omega Protein has admitted exceeding its menhaden catch limit for 2019 in the Chesapeake Bay. Omega Protein, a Houston-based company and wholly owned subsidiary of Cooke, Inc, a Canadian firm, operates a fishing fleet based in Reedville, Va. Employing about 300 Virginians, Omega Protein has been mired in controversy over the years regarding its heavy catch of menhaden.  Since this topic has been repeatedly covered on Bacon’s Rebellion, I won’t provide detailed background. However, the environmental group Menhaden Defenders operates an informative website describing the situation.

Menhaden Defenders writes, “The commercial menhaden fishery is made up of two sectors, a reduction fishery, which grinds billions of bunker up for fish meal and oil, and the bait fishery which supplies menhaden for lobster and crab traps. Reduction fishing is an antiquated practice that has been banned in every east coast state, except Virginia.” Virginia is the only east coast state that allows reduction fishing and is also the only east coast state that allows unlimited contributions to state politicians. Over the last 26 years Omega Protein has donated just under $600,000 to Virginia politicians, political committees and PACs with the majority going to Republicans.

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WaPo Newsroom as Cesspit of Racism and Sexism?

Who…. me?

by James A. Bacon

The Washington Post Guild has issued a report charging that the Post, the largest-circulation newspaper serving the Virginia market, pays women less than men, and whites more than minorities. The pattern applies not only to the business side of the newspaper but to the social-justice crusading newsroom. Indeed, the discrepancies are worse in the newsroom. Some highlights on newsroom compensation contained in the report:

  • Women as a group are paid less than men.
  • Collectively, employees of color are paid less than white men, even when controlling for age and job description. Women of color in the newsroom received $30,000 less than white men, a gap of 35%.
  • The Post tends to give merit raises based on performance-evaluation scores, but those who score the highest are overwhelmingly white.

Ironically, men and women are paid about the same in the commercial division, which, I would conjecture, is less “woke” than the highly politically attuned newsroom. The Guild did find a white/minority pay gap on the commercial side of the newspaper, but it was only 5%.

Gee, it’s almost as if liberal white males use their wokeness as a smokescreen to obscure favoritism toward others like themselves. Continue reading

Out of Obscurity: Lashrecse Aird

Lashrecse Aird

As Democratic legislators organize in advance of assuming control of the General Assembly, the media spotlight shifts to the maneuvering to fill the senior leadership positions. The elevation of Sen. Richard Saslaw, D-Fairfax, to Senate Majority Leader is a foregone conclusion. But who will become the next Speaker of the House?

At this point, according to the Virginia Mercury, there are four declared candidates: past House Minority Leader Del. Eileen Filler-Corn, D-Fairfax; Del. Lashrecse Aird, D-Petersburg; Del. Luke Torian, D-Prince Williams, and Del. Ken Plum, D-Fairfax.

Of these, the most interesting to me is the little-known Aird. First of all, it’s a remarkable sign of the times that a 33-year-old African-American woman and  lawmaker with a mere four years of experience could seriously aspire to the most important state legislative position in the state. So, congratulations to Aird on that score. If she wins, I’m sure the first-in-Virginia-history angle will totally dominate the news coverage.

But there’s another aspect to Aird of interest to anyone plumbing Virginia’s deeper power structure: She is employed as chief of staff at Richard Bland College, a two-year college in Prince George County. As Speaker of the House she would be a powerful ally of public higher education in Virginia. Continue reading

How to Help Economically Disadvantaged Students

Click image to enlarge.

by James A. Bacon

Over the past several days I have been highlighting how public schools in Southwest Virginia have bucked the statewide trend of declining standardized test scores. While the Northam administration has implemented a top-down “social justice” approach, a consortium of rural Southwest Virginia schools has embraced a totally different  strategy: (1) identifying the most successful teachers across the region; (2) sharing their instructional materials and other best practices; (3)  measuring results and incorporating feedback, and (4) raising expectations.

John Butcher, the author of Cranky’s Blog, has done some follow-up numbers crunching to show just how effective Southwest Virginia’s Comprehensive Instructional Program (CIP) has been at lifting the Standards of Learning pass rates of economically disadvantaged students — the very same demographic the social-justice crowd wants, but has failed, to help.

The first two graphs (above) show how the reading and math SOL scores, which were at rough parity with statewide averages in 2014, have zoomed ahead of the pack. Continue reading

A Budget Cut that Should be Made

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

Just to show that I am not the “tax and spend” liberal that some people may think I am, I am proposing a significant budget cut for the Governor’s office to consider in its effort to satisfy all the demands it is getting for the upcoming biennial budget. That budget item can be summed up with one numeric phrase: 599.

Long-term observers and participants in Virginia government and politics, such as Jim and Steve, know immediately what I am talking about. The 599 program provides financial aid to local governments with police departments. The program’s appropriation for the current fiscal year is $191.7 million. Its name refers to its enacting legislation: HB 599, passed by the 1979 General Assembly.

The HB 599 program should be repealed and its funding used for more pressing needs of the Commonwealth. There are several reasons for this conclusion: The rationale for the program was flawed from the beginning; the underlying distribution formula is unknowable; and the funding cannot be tied to its original, ostensible purpose, the support of law enforcement. The remainder of this post will be used to substantiate these claims. Continue reading