Bacon Meme of the Week

Judge Uses Crude Statistics to Find Racial Profiling by Richmond Police

by Hans Bader

A judge recently found that the City of Richmond racially profiles black motorists, dismissing the indictment of a black convicted felon accused of illegally possessing a gun. The judge did not find that defendant Keith Moore had been treated differently than a similarly situated white motorist. Instead, he ruled that Richmond police stops are racially discriminatory, based on statistics showing blacks are stopped and arrested at much higher rates than whites; and based on Richmond’s past “history of discrimination,” such as racialized zoning and redlining, and the “Confederate foundations” of the Richmond Police Department. “The Court will not require Moore to provide evidence of similarly situated individuals to prove his selective enforcement claim,” wrote the judge.

This is likely to create big problems for the City of Richmond, potentially leading to many criminals being released from jail. If a judge claims racial discrimination happened, he should identify what policies are racially discriminatory, or give concrete examples of discrimination, so that the problem can be fixed.  But Judge Gibney failed to do that in his February 12 ruling in United States v. Keith Rodney Moore. So now the City is deemed guilty of discrimination, based on things no individual police officer can change (such as city-wide statistics), and things that literally no one can change (such as  the confederate origins of the police department and Richmond’s segregated past). If other judges follow this flawed ruling, other criminals can also have their indictments dismissed based on city-wide statistics, even if it is undisputed that they committed the crime for which they were arrested.

Although the judge cited statistical disparities, he did not cite any specific police practices that led to blacks being stopped at higher rates, as he should have done if police were actually at fault. In Smith v. City of Jackson (2005), the Supreme Court ruled that even unintentional discrimination (disparate-impact) cannot be proved through statistics unless “specific” practices are identified that caused the “statistical disparities.” The disparities themselves are not enough. Continue reading

Nasty Social Media Message Attacks Virginia’s Speaker of the House

Speaker Don Scott

by Kerry Dougherty

Great. Just what embattled Virginia Republicans need now: an ugly social media post attacking the new speaker of the House of Delegates over a crime he committed and did time for almost 30 years ago.

It’s no secret that Portsmouth Democrat Don Scott was convicted on drug charges in 1994 and served seven years in prison for his crime. He was released, turned his life around, became a lawyer, a member of the House of Delegates and was elected speaker this year.

The Washington Post sums up Scott’s biography this way:

Scott was convicted of carrying drug-related money across state lines just as he finished law school in Louisiana. Years after his release, Scott had his Virginia voting rights restored by then-governor Robert McDonnell (R), got his law license and has risen rapidly through the ranks at the General Assembly to become the first Black speaker in state history.

Oh, and when his friend and neighbor, Portsmouth Circuit Court Judge Johnny Morrison, needed a kidney, Scott donated his.

That’s an extraordinary act of generosity.

Look, I don’t agree with Scott’s politics and I think that most of the initiatives Virginia Democrats are pushing are radical and bad for the commonwealth. The party’s soft-on-crime positions are long-standing and detrimental to public safety.

But that has nothing to do with Scott’s past. Continue reading

Dartmouth Reinstated the SAT. Will Virginia Universities Follow Suit?

by Nancy Almasi

Dartmouth College is making news regarding its return to using the SAT/ACT scores once again as a part of its admissions process. The policy will become effective in 2025 for the incoming class of 2029.

Many colleges and universities decided to make the SAT/ACT test optional during the COVID-19 pandemic when health protocols made taking these tests more difficult for students. This came on the heels of many years of pressure from those who believe that SAT and ACT tests are biased towards those who are wealthy and/or white, arguing that those who can afford SAT prep classes, tutoring, and books have an unfair advantage.

Dartmouth’s policy reversal came as the result of a faculty study prepared by three economists and one sociologist. The professors compared the admissions data from the years when the standardized tests were optional with the data when the tests were required. They concluded that the scores were helpful in finding well-rounded, academically prepared students from diverse backgrounds.

Dartmouth President Sian Leah Birlock wrote the following in her email to the Dartmouth campus about the policy change.

SAT and ACT scores reflect inequality in society and in educational systems across the nation. The research does not dispute that. Crucially, though, the research shows that standardized test scores can be an important predictor of academic success at a place like Dartmouth and beyond—more so even than just grades or recommendations, for example—and with a test-optional policy, prompted by the pandemic, we were unintentionally overlooking applicants from less-resourced backgrounds who could thrive here.

Continue reading

Doing the Math

Image credit: National Review

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

I have a dilemma. I can’t decide if I am just like most old farts who think “the way I used to do it” is the right way and the modern way is all screwed up, or if I am just out of touch with the modern way.

Here is the situation. As I have mentioned before, I volunteer in the local elementary school. I meet with a group of fifth-graders twice a week for about 25 minutes to help them with math. Most of the students in the group last fall simply did not know the multiplication tables well.  Therefore, I decided to drill them on those tables.

After their mid-year assessment, I got a different group of students. Almost all of these students know the multiplication tables. I realized I need to give them something more challenging. I asked a couple of students to show me how they would go about multiplying a double-digit number and a single digit, such as 14 x 7. One boy did the calculation in his head. The other student wrote it out.

The approach goes like this: multiply 7 times the number in the “ones” column—28. Multiply 7 times the number in the “tens” column—70. Add the two: 98.  This is done with a matrix of boxes into which the 28 is placed in one box, and 70 in the other and the two sums are then added. The “old” way of putting 8 in the “ones” column and “carrying” the 2 to the “tens” column is totally foreign to these students. Continue reading

Moving the Goalposts (for Banning Books)

by Joe Fitzgerald

Everybody probably already knew what moving the goalposts meant, but with Taylor bringing in a new set of football fans, the sports-related metaphors can probably be used more widely.

Moving the goalposts is of course a reference to changing the standards in the middle of a process. Latest example: the Rockingham County School Board’s half-assed approach to banning books.

We all know the things wrong with their approach. Some of the books aren’t in the library; they haven’t read them; they can’t substantiate their claims of parental complaints; they’ve over-ruled a policy they didn’t know existed; and they’ve interfered in an educational process in which they have no training.

Two writers in The Harrisonburg Citizen have recently suggested that there are two sides to the issue or that the problem is not the book-banning but the way it’s being discussed. Giving the Fahrenheit 451 crowd this benefit of the doubt moves the goalposts toward censorship and religious domination of public discussion. There’s a reason the First Amendment is the first one, and there’s a reason its first clause says the nation won’t give special respect to an establishment of religion. Continue reading

Four Major Progressive Goals Still Advancing

By Steve Haner

The aggressive progressive agenda working its way through the 2024 Virginia General Assembly has lost some steam at the halfway point, but at least four of the major Democratic goals discussed earlier are still advancing.   

The two bills which will have the greatest impact on the Virginia economy are the proposed minimum wage increase and a new state-managed employee benefit for workers taking time off under the Family and Medical Leave Act. The two other bills the Democratic majorities in both the Virginia Senate and House of Delegates have now approved are a major expansion of procurement preferences for minority vendors and allowing class actions in civil litigation.   Continue reading

The Speaker Rules

Del. Don Scott (D-Portsmouth), Speaker of the House of Delegates Picture credit: Axios

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

The Speaker of the Virginia House of Delegates is widely regarded as the second-most powerful figure, after the Governor, in Virginia state government. Speaker Don Scott (D-Portsmouth), elevated to the position this session after only two terms in the House, has let the power go to his head. Rather than acting like the presiding officer of the whole House, he is behaving like a partisan dictator.

Two events, perhaps related, earlier this week illustrate this attitude.

To help with the understanding of these events, it would be best to state some of the ground rules:

  • The Speaker appoints delegates to committees;
  • The Speaker assigns bills to committees;
  • The Speaker chairs the House Rules Committee;
  • The Rules Committee, unlike other committees, can send bills to the Floor without recommendation;
  • House Rules require that no amendment to a bill can be on a subject that is different from the one under consideration. This is known as the “germaneness rule”;
  • The Speaker can rule on questions of parliamentary procedure;
  • The Speaker’s rulings can be challenged. (Invariably, the members of the majority party, the Speaker’s party, will vote to uphold the Speaker’s rulings.);
  • The federal Hyde amendment prohibits the use of federal funds to pay for abortions except in cases of life endangerment, rape, or incest.

Continue reading

Swallow the Money, Part 3 of 3

by Joe Fitzgerald

VPAP and CFReports let you go from “How about that?” to “Oh, my God!” in 5.2 seconds. They’re attractive to the kind of nerds who used to go through the encyclopedia or the World Almanac. Yes, I did. Why do you ask?

One local PAC became a subject for a dive into CFReports and VPAP when someone asked if it was true they paid for health insurance for one of their principals. The answer is that with Virginia’s campaign finance reporting rules, it’s hard to say.

VPAP and CFReports are explained in Part 1 of this series. A PAC, as explained there, is a political action committee. It raises money from political donors and spends it on political candidates or causes.

That cause for Rural Ground Game, RGG, is electing rural Democrats. The perceived need for the PAC is the myth that the Democratic Party ignores rural areas and therefore doesn’t win rural elections. The actual case is that Democrats don’t win rural elections because rural voters vote overwhelmingly Republican, but the myth is popular among those who run better against their fellow Democrats than against Republicans. Continue reading

If Assembly Wants SMR Bill, Then Fix It

By Steve Haner

This is progress. Only twenty members of the Virginia Senate voted Tuesday to ignore a key tenet of utility ratemaking and put utility stockholders and profits ahead of consumer protection. Usually when the utilities persuade the General Assembly to do that to Virginia consumers, they get a bigger vote margin than 20-16.*

Senate Bill 454 allows Virginia’s two monopoly electricity providers to spend undetermined millions of dollars on planning and developing small modular nuclear reactor projects and get it all paid by consumers, with a profit margin. But there is no guarantee any such plants will ever be built, and no other power plants built in Virginia have gotten this kind of up-front financial guarantee before the State Corporation Commission ruled them in the public interest. Continue reading

What Do We Make of the VCU-Qatar Connection?

A new report from the National Association of Scholars explores the entanglements between American universities and Qatar, a small state on the Persian Gulf known as the home of the Al Jazeera news network and a haven for Hamas leadership and other assorted radical Islamists. Qatar has emerged as a top foreign funder of American universities, investing more than $4 billion between 2001 and 2021. Virginia Commonwealth University, the first American university to establish an overseas campus in the country, has been one of the biggest beneficiaries, receiving more than $103 million.

University leaders say their Qatari campuses help spread Western values in the conservative Middle Eastern country, which is ruled by an authoritarian, semi-constitutional monarchy, according to the NAS paper. But one might ask the reverse: what influence, if any, does Qatari money exert on VCU? Continue reading

Swallow the Money, Part 2 of 3

by Joe Fitzgerald

There’s a donor in CFReports named “no name.” He, she, or it is listed on the report as “Name, No.” This same donor is called “Unknown Entity” in VPAP. Or perhaps “Entity, Unknown.” (VPAP and CFReports are described in Part 1.)

This donor’s address shows up as Matt Cross’s house on his campaign reports. (The address is public record, but it feels like doxing to use it here.) “No Name” gave Cross $170 for his 2021 campaign for the Rockingham County School Board, which he now chairs.

Cross’s reports demonstrate two things about Virginia’s system for campaign finance reporting. One is that it’s as easy to make at least a dozen mistakes as it is to make one. The other is that if a report is riddled with errors, it’s not clear what’s to be done about it.

Cross’s finance reports are good examples of the idea that the kind of campaign a politician runs can show us what kind of public official they will be. Cross’s reports show a candidate who appears to either not know how to fill out the reports or perhaps thinks the rules don’t apply to him. Maybe that’s what we should expect of a candidate who, upon taking leadership of a like-minded board, began banning books without regard for how they were chosen or what the process is for challenging a book. Instead they are banning books regardless of whether they’re in county schools, based not on any identifiable process but on vague parental complaints they have yet to produce.

The law on “No Name” at Cross’s house is that any campaign donor must be identified by name, address, and occupation. If that information is not available, the money is not supposed to be used for campaign purposes, but should be donated to charity. In the past, local candidates have given unidentified money as well as unspent funds to churches or non-profits. (Where the money goes is not regulated. One Harrisonburg City Council candidate, unopposed for re-election, gave $460 to his son for “campaigning.”) There is no report on VPAP of Cross donating any campaign money to charity, so it’s hard to say what he did with No Name’s $170.

As noted above, the donor’s occupation is supposed to be listed on CFReports. But that information does not appear on any of the donors in a particular group of campaign reports, defined further down. Continue reading

The Purge Comes for Edwin Alderman

by James A. Bacon

As President of the University of Virginia between 1904 and 1931, Edwin Anderson Alderman led Thomas Jefferson’s university into the 20th century. A self-proclaimed “progressive” of the Woodrow Wilson stamp, he advocated higher taxes to support public education, admitted the first women into UVA graduate programs, boosted enrollment and faculty hiring, established the university’s endowment, reformed governance and gave UVA its modern organizational structure. Most memorably to Wahoos of the current era, he built a state-of-the-art facility, named Alderman Library in his honor, to further the pursuit of knowledge.

Like many other “progressives” of the era, Alderman also promoted the science (now known to be a pseudo-science) of eugenics, and he held racist views that  have been roundly rejected in the 21st century.

A movement has burgeoned at UVA to remove Alderman’s name from the library. The Ryan administration was poised in December to ask for Board of Visitors approval to take that step by renaming the newly-renovated facility after former President Edgar Shannon. The administration withdrew the proposal after determining it did not have a majority vote. But Team Ryan could resurrect the name change at the February/March meeting of the Board, as suggested in the flier seen above. Continue reading

Swallow the Money, Part 1 of 3

by Joe Fitzgerald

When a governor was accepting gifts and amenities from a supporter some years back, the surprise for many Virginians came when it was time to indict him. The Feds had to do it, because he probably hadn’t broken any state laws, and eventually, after trials and appeals, he didn’t stand convicted of breaking any federal laws either.

The big surprise, the dirty little secret, the obscure fact about campaign finance is that very little is illegal. This is in part because the people who would have to make things illegal are the same people who might be doing the potentially illegal things. Stated another way, a delegate or senator is not going to find fault with a fundraising system they’re going to need next year. Any action they vote to ban might be one they’ve used themselves. A state senator asked to outlaw a particular type of fundraising might instead think it’s worth trying in the next campaign.

The Virginia system is that a candidate can raise as much money as he or she wants so long as it’s all reported. There’s a 69-page document on the state elections website on what needs to be reported and how. There’s a slightly shorter version for a Political Action Committee, a PAC. I’ve read both. Neither is complicated.

But what is complicated is the process to read the reports. CFReports is the state site where anybody on the web can read about any donation to Virginia races from school board to governor, if they know what to look for. VPAP, the Virginia Public Access Project, presents these reports in a more general and more readable form than CFReports, but neither offers any interpretation of the numbers. Is a donation larger than usual? Smaller? Did a major donor give more this year than last? Continue reading

Analog Tax Policy is Harmful in a Digital World

By Chris Braunlich

To many, testifying before a government committee conjures visions of the drama surrounding the McCarthy, Watergate, or Zuckerberg hearings.

In Virginia, not so much.  Faced with processing more than 2,600 bills in 60 days, the legislature conducts hearings that are often more of a kabuki dance, while backstage choreographers figure out the next steps.  Speakers are frequently limited to one minute and sometimes committee chairs simply ask the roomful of citizen and professional lobbyists to stand in support or opposition to a bill.  It is rarely deep and incisive content.

But these hearings are ideal opportunities to test the waters, grab a headline, position your bill for the future, ask a question directly of a bill’s sponsor, or determine where your adversaries are coming from. Continue reading