Tag Archives: Guest contributors

UVa Needs to Shut Down the Echo Chamber

Joel Gardner, Undergraduate class of 1970; Law School class of 1974.

The following passage is the second excerpt from a letter written by Joel Gardner, author of “From Rebel Yell to Revolution,” to University of Virginia President Jim Ryan. We published the first excerpt  yesterday. — JAB

Without being able to accurately substantiate the following with specific facts and figures … I believe there are virtually no Republicans or conservatives among the top members of your administration. including deans. Our faculty is probably not much more diverse. I have heard renowned former University professor Jonathan Haidt speak … at a Jefferson Scholar event at Darden about four years ago. At that time he had a chart that showed that about 60% of college faculty are liberal/far left, 30% moderate and 10% conservative/ far right. I have no reason to believe the breakdown is any different at UVa. This is way out of line with the breakdown of thought diversity in the population at large.

This was not always the case. When I was a student, the faculty was split about 50/50 in ideology. In fact, a vote to ban ROTC from the Grounds drew a tie vote in the faculty senate. Until recently, there were a number of deans who were in the relatively conservative camp — Law, Batten and Commerce. This no longer the case. Until recently there was a mix of Republicans and Democrats on the BOV. But with Democrat governors in the statehouse since 2014, there are no longer any Republican appointees on the Board. The result in effect is one party rule on Grounds — and as we all know, one party rule is never healthy. Without meaningful debate and exchange of opposing ideas there is little opportunity to digest other viewpoints and even less motivation to compromise. Continue reading

The Big Gamble

Image source: www.piqsels.com

by Bill O’Keefe

Virginia’s Clean Economy act requires Dominion to provide a 100% carbon-free grid by 2045. This law represents a big gamble that Dominion embraced with a “balls to the wall” enthusiasm because the $9 billion cost, which will most likely be higher, will be provided by rate payers, not share owners. To quote a truism, nobody spends someone else’s money like their own. This legislation proves it.

Dominion’s confidence in achieving the General Assembly’s mandate is unrealistic. Given technological uncertainties, it is the height of folly to accept a mandate that establishes a goal and the date by which it is must be achieved. The history of technology-forcing mandates is a sorry one.

Dominion has touted the recent tests of two offshore turbines as reason for optimism for the planned project of 180 to 220 turbines located 27 miles offshore will cover 112,800 acres. That represents 176 square miles, roughly the size of King George County and more than three times as large as Norfolk. And the turbines will stand 600 feet about the surface. Continue reading

The Greatest Threat to Academic Freedom and Integrity in UVa’s History

Joel Gardner, Undergraduate class of 1970; Law School class of 1974.

The following passage is excerpted from a letter written by Joel Gardner, author of “From Rebel Yell to Revolution,” to University of Virginia President Jim Ryan. — JAB

Our University community is more divided than at any time since the anti-war turbulence of 1969-70. I lived through that period on Grounds and chronicled in my book its many negative consequences for community cohesion. Fortunately,  that turbulence was short lived, and by the time I graduated from the Law School in 1974 the divisions it created were mostly gone. But unfortunately, the cause of the current divisiveness is more insidious as it has become part of University policy. I am speaking about the social justice diversity and inclusion agenda based on race, ethnicity and gender that you have made the capstone of your “great and good” strategic plan.

With all due respect, many of us believe not only that such a social justice agenda is not “good,” but that even if it was, it would not be proper or appropriate for a university, especially a public university, to adopt it as policy. During our discussion I quoted from former Yale Law School Dean Anthony Kronman’s article “The Downside of Diversity.” If you have not read it in full, I suggest you do so (Wall St. Journal, 8/2/19). In it, Kronman states that diversity based on race and gender “is not an academic value. Its origin and aspiration are political. The demand for ever greater diversity in higher education is a political campaign masquerading as an educational ideal.” He further concludes that this form of identity politics “has steadily weakened the norms of objectivity and truth and substituted for them a culture of grievance and group loyalty. Rather than bringing students and faculty together on the common ground of reason, it has pushed them farther apart into separate silos of guilt and complaint.”

Having spent the past six years in Cville totally immersed in everything UVA, I can relate that any objective observer would confirm most of Dean Kronman’s observations. Indeed the current travesty on the Lawn is Exhibit A. I listened to the audio of your discussion with the Lawn student and read her opinion piece in the CD. One could not find a better example of the grievance and victimization culture that flows from your diversity social justice agenda. Continue reading

VDH Has a New K-12 “Outbreaks” Dashboard

by Carol J. Bova

The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) published a new dashboard on October 23 that lists K-12 Outbreaks of COVID-19 by locality (county, town or city) and facility. As the VDH website explains: “Transmission must occur within the school facility or at a school-sponsored event among students, faculty, staff, or visitors to be classified as a school-associated outbreak.”

Schools covered are public, private, charter or parochial schools from kindergarten to 12th grade, and pre-kindergarten, if part of a K-12 school if 30 or more students are enrolled. Fewer than five cases or deaths are suppressed. Cases from exposure outside the school setting are not included unless the virus is passed on to someone at the school. Continue reading

Senator Warner’s Odd Silence on Violence

Photo credit: Sputnik News

by Emilio Jaksetic

Since the tragic death of George Floyd on May 25, 2020 at the hands of a police officer, there have been thousands of (mostly peaceful) demonstrations and hundreds of riots and civil disturbances in towns and cities across the United States. Some took place in Richmond, Virginia Beach, Portsmouth, Fredericksburg and other Virginia jurisdictions.

Senator Mark Warner, D-VA, issued over 200 press releases between May 25, 2020 and October 22, 2020, covering a wide variety of issues and topics. The releases tell Virginians what he thinks about a wide range of legislation, government activities, issues, and events. But they leave Virginians in the dark about how he sees the many violent civil disturbances that have roiled America.

Since the death of George Floyd, the senator has issued four press releases relating to the civil unrest: Continue reading

Election Board Embraces Humpty Dumpty Logic

by Emilio Jaksetic

Despite receiving more than 700 public comments, most of them negative, Virginia’s State Board of Elections has adopted a regulation eliminating the statutory requirement that absentee ballots received after election day be postmarked by no later than election day. The regulation is effective October 23, 2020. Information about the Board’s action is available here and here.

In a post I made during the run-up to the decision, I discussed how the Board’s “interpretive” regulation violates the plain language of Virginia election law, usurps the constitutional authority of the General Assembly, and sets a precedent for other Virginia officials to violate the rule of law.

In effect, the Board has embraced Lewis Carroll’s “Alice in Wonderland” as a guide to statutory construction and regulatory practice. Continue reading

Are Microschools a Macro Trend?

by Andy Rotherham

Around the country a string of public schools with test-based admissions have been under pressure to go to different admission schemes in an effort to increase student diversity – for instance lottery-based or enrollment slots allocated by feeder school. (At one level it’s a useful reminder that contra the rhetoric, many public schools are not open-admissions for all students. The system is more textured than the rhetoric about it.)

The debate in New York City over the city’s selective high schools was pretty high-profile. More recently, in Fairfax County the nationally known Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, or “TJ” to locals, just changed its admission scheme after a contentious debate. San Francisco’s Lowell is moving that direction. Definitely a trend.

It’s not hard to see why it’s happening. The slow, difficult work of ensuring equitable access to resources, teachers, curriculum, and the other ingredients of high quality and inclusive schooling is a politically contentious slog that is fought at every step by a variety of people for a variety of reasons – and not just the people you might think. Meanwhile, the very structure of the system is often not set up to support equity. Continue reading

Parole Board Sets Free Another Murderer

Tonya Chapman, former Portsmouth police chief, now chairman of the Virginia Parole Board. Photo credit: Virginian-Pilot

Letter from Sen. Bill DeSteph, R-Virginia Beach, sent yesterday to Governor Ralph Northam.

Dear Governor Northam,

In August 2019, the Parole Board denied Harry J. Williams, DOC # 1008730, parole. These are the reasons they gave Mr. Williams:

  1. His history of substance abuse.
  2. The serious nature and circumstances of his offense(s).
  3. His prior failure(s) and/or convictions while under community supervision indicated that he was unlikely to comply with conditions of release.

On June 22nd, just ten months later, the Parole Board miraculously concluded these reasons no longer existed, and decided Mr. Williams should be released from prison. Continue reading

Warner and Kaine Wrong about D.C. Statehood

by Emilio Jaksetic

On June 26, 2020, the House of Representatives passed the Washington D.C. Admission Act (H.R. 51), which would admit the District of Columbia (D.C.) as the 51st State. The House vote was essentially along party lines, with all Democrats (except one) voting yes, and all Republicans (and one Independent) voting no.

Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine support that legislation. (See July 21, 2020 Warner Press Release, “Senate Democrats Hold Hearing on D.C. Statehood.”) They are wrong to support that legislation because it is barred by the unique status D.C. has under the U.S. Constitution and because Congress has no authority to amend or override the Constitution by statute.

Under Article I, Section 8, Clause 17 of the Constitution, Congress has exclusive authority over D.C. Nothing in that clause authorizes Congress to change the status of D.C. by legislation. Continue reading

Critical Race Theory Permeates New Student Survey in Fairfax Public Schools

‘I don’t need indoctrination, I need a good solid education in math, science, non-revisionist social studies, & English. Is that too much to ask?’

by Asra Q. Nomani

FAIRFAX COUNTY, Va. – On Oct. 19, as students at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology opened their laptops to check in for another difficult week of online learning, Principal Ann Bonitatibus had another priority waiting for them: a questionnaire, entitled, “TJHSST Equity Reflection Student Survey.”

The 12-question survey, uploaded here and publicly disclosed in this column for the first time, asked students to “think about your recent experience at TJ as a whole” and provide answers to “help support” an “inclusive and equitable experience at TJ.” The survey asked if teacher “expectations” for students from “diverse groups,” defined in a parenthetical phrase by “(race, ethnicity, gender, socioeconomic status),” are “equitable” at the school, “both for achievement and behavior.” While optional—a sign of a statistically unsound survey—many students felt obliged to take the survey, and, worse, school officials stated it wouldn’t be anonymous. Continue reading

Senator Warner Is Missing in Action

by Emilio Jaksetic

As co-chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Senator Mark Warner, D-VA, was vociferous about the need to investigate allegations of Russian collusion by President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign. But Virginia’s senior senator was silent in 2019 when the Department of Justice (DOJ) Inspector General identified serious defects and failings with FBI and DOJ handling of the investigation of those allegations. He was silent when a former FBI attorney pleaded guilty in August 2020 to criminally altering a document used to support a request for a FISA warrant in the Russian collusion investigation. And he has been silent about the subsequent discrediting of the Steele dossier.

Now Warner seems reticent about the need to investigate allegations of foreign payoffs to Hunter Biden or question if former Vice President Joseph Biden knew about those foreign payoffs.

Multiple sources of information support the allegations against Hunter Biden:

  • Peter Schweizer’s books, “Secret Empires” (Harper, 2019) and “Profiles in Corruption” (Harper, 2020);
  • Various emails reported by the New York Post (October 2020);
  • A Senate report issued October 11 (“Hunter Biden, Burisma, and Corruption: The Impact on U.S. Government Policy and Related Concerns”) available here.

Continue reading

A Measured Consequence: More Heavy Drinking

by Carol J.Bova

Yesterday, Jim Bacon wrote about “the unmeasured consequences of society’s reaction to the COVID-19 epidemic.” The RAND Corporation COVID-19 Update on October 8, 2020 provided a reference to a longitudinal survey that examined one of those consequences — alcohol usage.

JAMA Network Open published a Research Letter, “Changes in Adult Alcohol Use and Consequences during the COVID-19 Pandemic in the US” by Michael S. Pollard, PhD and Joan S. Tucker, PhD, RAND Corporation, Santa Monica, California; and Harold Green, Jr. PhD, Indiana University School of Public Health, Bloomington, Indiana.

The survey study data, collected from May 28 to June 16, 2020, found the frequency of alcohol consumption overall increased 14% over a baseline survey from April 29 to June 9, 2019.

Heavy drinking was defined as five or more drinks for men and four or more for women within a couple of hours. For women in the study, the increase was 17% and “the Short Inventory of Problems scale” showed a 39% increase, “which is indicative of increased alcohol-related problems independent of consumption for nearly 1 in 10 women.” Continue reading

Richmond to Parents: You’re On Your Own

by Chris Braunlich

A week after party-line votes killed Republican initiatives to assist parents of school-aged children financially with federal COVID-19 dollars, Governor Ralph Northam proposed sending another $223 million of those dollars to public schools, adding to millions already sent.

There is a major divide in the way Republicans and Democrats view the role of parents in a child’s education. In this age of COVID, parents need bipartisan support. They are not receiving it.

Northam’s proposal sends funds to public schools for testing supplies, personal protective equipment, sanitation supplies and technology for distance learning. While public schools have mostly not been open for in-school classes, they will receive $175 per pupil. Private schools, which mostly have been open, have not been told whether they will receive an equal per-pupil share of the funding to protect the children attending their schools. Continue reading

Virginia Should Reject the National Popular Vote Compact

by Emilio Jaksetic

On February 11, 2020, the Virginia House of Delegates passed House Bill 177. If enacted into law, the legislation would have made Virginia a participant in the National Popular Vote Compact (NPV Compact), and would assign Virginia’s Electoral College votes to the presidential candidate who receives a majority of the popular vote in the United States. On February 25, 2020, the Virginia Senate Privileges and Elections Committee voted to defer consideration of the bill to the 2021 legislative session. The General Assembly should not pass legislation to make Virginia participate in the NPV Compact.

Passage of legislation to make Virginia part of the NPV Compact would nullify the will of a majority of Virginia voters and replace it with the will of a majority of voters in 49 other States and the District of Columbia. Continue reading

Fairfax Tax Rate the Same, but Tax Burden Up

Fairfax County Board of Taxaholics, er, Supervisors

by Emilio Jaksetic

The massive lockdown triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic has caused many businesses and workers to lose significant amounts of income and forced them into financially precarious situations. Despite the undeniable financial pain and suffering that many businesses, workers, and households are facing, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors insisted upon another increase in the real estate tax. Ignoring the request of Republican Supervisor Pat Herrity to hold off on the increase, all the Democratic Supervisors decided to stick to their usual taxaholic ways.

Technically, the board did not raise the real estate tax rate itself. Rather it allowed the tax burden to increase by not adjusting the rate — $1.15-per-hundred dollars of assessed value — downward to offset higher property assessments. If board members had wanted to provide meaningful tax relief during the COVID-19 pandemic, they could have “frozen” everyone’s real estate tax bills for 2020 at the same level as their real estate tax bills for 2019.

Everyone in Fairfax County, not just property owners, will feel the painful effects of the real estate tax increase. Continue reading