Bacon Meme of the Week

Auditing AI

by James A. Bacon

This is an issue that every university, corporation or government entity, not just the University of Virginia, should be thinking about: How will Artificial Intelligence affect their accounting, finances, and operations?

AI overlords aren’t likely to enslave the human race any time soon. But the technology is progressing at a logarithmic rate, and in the hands of malign or incompetent people it can cause considerable harm long before we find ourselves kneeling before killer robots and addressing them as, “sir.”

The UVA Board of Visitors voted Friday to adopt a wide-ranging two-year audit plan for the UVA Health division. Among many initiatives, the plan included this: Continue reading

Cell Phone Ban Working in Chesapeake

by James A. Bacon

Chesapeake public schools banned cell phones and tablets in school for most of the school day and now report to The Virginian-Pilot that students are less disruptive and paying more attention in class.

The rule enacted this year requires devices to be stored in a bag, locker or vehicle during school hours. High school students were allowed to use them during lunch, writes the Pilot, but officials said they will likely remove that exception next year.

“Teachers are ecstatic about it,” says Jeff Johnson, principal of Great Bridge High School. They’re spending less time asking students to put devices away and making fewer referrals for discipline issues, he explains. Continue reading

UVA as Entrepreneurial Hub?

by James A. Bacon

Does the University of Virginia have what it takes to become an engine of technological innovation and entrepreneurial wealth creation? Mike Lenox, professor of entrepreneurship at the Darden School of Business, thinks that it does. James Murray, a venture capitalist specializing in telecommunications and information technology, isn’t so sure. They engaged in one of the more spirited, if all too brief, debates in a Board of Visitors meeting in recent memory.

Lenox was invited to the Board Thursday to present the University’s Pan-University Entrepreneurship Initiative. While it is unrealistic to think that UVA could duplicate the success of a Berkeley or a Stanford in Silicon Valley, he said, it is reasonable to aspire to become a second-tier innovation center on the scale of a Boulder, Colorado (home to the University of Colorado.)

UVA and Charlottesville have developed a respectable innovation ecosystem, said Lenox. UVA alumni have created three billion-dollar “exits,” or business cash-outs, including Lending Tree and, most recently, Reddit. The talent exists. But would-be entrepreneurs need more support — some of which UVA can provide. Continue reading

Acampora Previews Religious-Diversity Recommendations

Christa Acampora addresses the Board of Visitors while board member Stephen Long looks on.

by James A. Bacon

The University of Virginia’s task force on religious diversity and belonging won’t issue formal recommendations until the end of the month, but task force chair Christa Acampora gave the Board of Visitors a preview today of the topics it likely will address. At the top of the list will be integrating the religious identity of UVA community members into the broader Inclusive Excellence framework for Diversity, Equity & Inclusion.

The primary emphasis of Inclusive Excellence and DEI until now has been race/ethnicity, sexual orientation and gender. To those identity groups, presumably, UVA would add religions, particularly “minority” religions. Continue reading

Acorn to Oak: “Free” Military Dependent Tuition

From a recent House committee presentation on the Virginia Military Survivors and Dependents Education Program. Click for larger view.

By Steve Haner

Virginia’s political leaders are embarked upon another of their occasional efforts to clean up their own mess, in this case scrambling to restore a generous tuition waiver at Virginia’s public universities for family members of certain veterans.

It is being touted as a benefit for Virginia “gold star families” of the fallen. Were it only for them there would be no controversy. Continue reading

An Alternative Interpretation of the EV Statute

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

This is a follow-up to Steve Haner’s article on Gov. Youngkin’s announcement that Virginia will not be bound by California regulations on electric vehicles after this year.

The Governor’s announcement is a lawyer’s dream. There are different ways to interpret the laws and regulations involved and, so, off to court we go.

First, some background to refresh your memory. The 2021 General Assembly passed legislation saying the Air Pollution Board may adopt a zero emission vehicle (ZEV) regulation, using the California standards. The language also included some “shalls” placing conditions on that authority.

The Air Pollution Board adopted such a regulation. The regulation includes, by reference, specific California regulations. Those California regulations are listed in a section of the Virginia regulation.

California decided to upgrade its ZEV regulation. However, instead of amending the regulation on the books, it repealed it, effective the end of this year, and adopted new regulations. Therefore, the Virginia regulation adopts a California regulation by reference that will no longer be in effect after this year. (In the documents that are flying around, the current California regulation is referred to as ACC I and the new one as ACC II. (“ACC” is the acronym for “Advanced Clean Cars”, not Atlantic Coast Conference.) Continue reading

Anarchy Is Loosed Upon the World

by James A. Bacon

Everything that’s wrong with politics in America has been on display in Central Virginia this past week.

Militants from the deep-blue Peoples Republic of Charlottesville and activists from one of the reddest congressional districts in the country collided like flint and rock. Republican candidates for Congress continued their fratricidal struggle over who is most loyal to former President Donald Trump. Adding to the mayhem, showboating Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Georgia, joined the fray and amped up the rhetoric.

Everyone behaved badly, although Greene managed to pose as the victim when a lefty crowd shouted down her speech and hurled mindless obscenities.

Civility is dying. The partisan extremes goad each other into greater extremity. Politics has become theater with everyone playing to the cell phone camera and lining up the next post on X or YouTube. Continue reading

Lest We Forget 80 Years Ago Today

Omaha Beach Landing
Photo credit: U.S. Army Center of Military History

The Open the Books Webinar

In a recent post Dick Hall-Sizemore, a retired Virginia budget analyst, critiqued the Open the Books methodology for calculating the size and cost of the Diversity, Equity & Inclusion bureaucracy at the University of Virginia. He based his observations in part upon Open the Books CEO Adam Andrzejewski’s explanation provided in the Jefferson Council webinar shown above.

This discussion has resonance beyond UVA. Open the Books is using the template it developed for UVA to conduct deep dives into DEI at other state universities, most recently the University of North Carolina system. It’s fair to ask: How does one measure the size and cost of DEI? Who do we classify as a “DEI” employee. How much of his or her salary do we count?

By all means, let the debate begin.


So Much Privilege, So Much Self Pity

Bacon’s crocodile tears

Sometimes schadenfreude is the best freude of all.

It seems that the Democracy-dies-in-darkness people are feeling a little darkness themselves. Since 2020, The Washington Post has experienced a 50% decline in its audience, and the enterprise lost $70 million last year. Seventy-million dollars? Hey, that’s real money even to WaPo owner Jeff Bezos, one of the world’s richest men.

Now the media enterprise, which somehow still manages to dominate the news cycle in its backyard market of Virginia, is tearing itself apart in controversy over the departure of executive editor Sally Buzbee. Publisher and CEO Will Lewis has told staff that the losses cannot continue, changes need to take place, and employees need to get with the program. Continue reading

The Economic Value of Living Shorelines

by James A. Bacon

Every so often I find myself in agreement with new environmental initiatives.

Not those relating to climate change that require the re-engineering of Virginia’s energy economy in the vain hope of slowing down global warming. And not in zero-risk regulations such as the landfilling of coal ash at a cost of billions of dollars to save a single hypothetical life from exposure to heavy metals and toxic chemicals.

But I do tend to favor rules, regulations, and voluntary practices that protect Virginia wildlife habitat — such as living shorelines.

A new study by Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS) researchers published in Ocean and Coastal Management has made an important contribution to assigning economic value to tidal marshes and living shorelines. Marsh habitat on Virginia’s Middle Peninsula, the researchers found, produces more than $6.4 million in economic value each year from recreational anglers. Continue reading

Psst! The economy is doing really well.

We all see and hear those complaints about inflation and economic woes. Here is a contrary analysis, from The Wall Street Journal, no less:

Growing investment income and household wealth have joined near-full employment and rising wages to keep millions of Americans… spending their way through price hikes. The economy’s charge through higher interest rates is putting unprecedented sums into consumers’ pockets, pushing U.S. asset values to records and helping many high earners avoid the withering effects of inflation…. Federal data suggest Americans’ wage and wealth growth in recent years spanned every income bracket. In sheer dollar terms, white people, the rich, the college-educated and baby boomers have bagged disproportionate wealth gain such as homes–often locked in with low-rate mortgages–and stocks.

Youngkin, Miyares State California EV Mandate Never Adopted for Virginia

States which are using California’s air emissions regulations on the sale of internal combustion cars. This is from California’s website. Click for larger view.

By Steve Haner

Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin (R) and Attorney General Jason Miyares (R) announced today that Virginia will no longer comply with the California air regulations that will restrict and eventually eliminate the sale of gasoline and diesel vehicles. The announcement is sure to set off a political and legal firestorm as fierce as last year’s exit from a regional carbon tax compact. Continue reading

Raven Baxter Found Her Virginia Beach Dream Home. The Owner Didn’t Want To Sell To A Black Woman.

by Kerry Dougherty

I’m just going to say this: 84 is not THAT old.

Being born in 1940 is no excuse for behaving like a modern-day segregationist.

Guess who was born that year?

Al Pacino, Ringo Starr, Dionne Warwick, Chuck Norris, Cliff Richard, Mario Andretti, Nancy Pelosi and the late John Lennon and Bruce Lee.

Not exactly relics. (Except the dead guys, I guess.)

Virginians born 84 years ago are not products of the Antebellum South. They may remember the bad old days of segregation, but they certainly should have outgrown Jim Crow.

Not all have, apparently.

The New York Times recently published a story about an 84-year-old resident of Virginia Beach whom they say had agreed to sell her condo at the oceanfront to Raven Baxter, a 30-year-old molecular biologist from Northern Virginia. They agreed on a sales price long distance, contracts were signed, an inspection was underway and the real estate deal seemed to be sailing smoothly toward closing, according to The Times.

But The Times reports that when the seller discovered her buyer was African- American, she wanted to kill the deal.

In May of 2024. Unbelievable.

Dr. Baxter has a popular website, Dr. Raven The Science Maven, an X account and podcast. Check them out. She’s smart, vivacious and kids will love her experiments. Baxter went public with her story and let it be known she was not giving up the house of her dreams because a suddenly-recalcitrant seller with an appalling reason wanted to abort the deal.

Continue reading.