Crime scene of a recent Fairfax County murder. Credit ABC News.
by Hans Bader
Murders have skyrocketed this year, as local governments have become softer on crime. In the 57 major cities for which data is available, the murder rate is up an average of 36.7%. Murder went up in 51 cities, and down in only six cities. Murder is up 74.1% in Seattle, 72.3% in Minneapolis, 55.5% in Chicago, 54.1% in Boston, 39.2% in New York, 34.5% in St. Louis, and 30.4% in Los Angeles.
This huge rise in murder occurred as progressive prosecutors became softer on crime, parole became available to more murderers, and the death penalty stopped being used in most states.
In the last few years, voters in many areas have elected left-wing prosecutors who refuse to “prosecute entire categories of crimes” and thus “enable crime to explode under their watch,” notes the Heritage Foundation. For example, in 2019, Steve Descano was elected as Commonwealth’s Attorney in Virginia’s Fairfax County. He defeated the incumbent, a moderate Democrat, in a close Democratic primary election by massively outspending him. His campaign was funded mostly by a PAC bankrolled by left-wing billionare George Soros, which gave Descano over $600,000. Continue reading
Judge David Bernhard
by Hans Bader
A judge in Virginia’s Fairfax County has ruled that portraits of white judges must be removed from a courtroom to protect a black criminal defendant’s right to a fair trial. The idea that white people are so scary or racially offensive that just seeing them deprives minorities of a fair trial would have been viewed as laughably racist even a few years ago. But in today’s bizarre political climate, this idea is viewed as progressive. So the judge’s ruling was applauded by the liberal media.
Judge David Bernhard ruled that the white portraits had to be banished, in Commonwealth v. Shipp. As he put it, “The Defendant’s constitutional right to a fair jury trial stands paramount over the countervailing interest of adorning courtrooms with portraits that honor past jurists,” because those portraits were “overwhelmingly of white individuals.” Since 45 of the 47 judges were white, he viewed their portraits as “symbols” that black people are “of lesser standing.” Continue reading
The Academies of Loudoun
by Hans Bader
The Virginia attorney general’s office has ruled that the Loudoun County school system committed illegal racial discrimination by admitting relatively few black and Hispanic students to its selective schools, the Academies of Loudoun.
For reasons that have nothing to do with racism, the Academies of Loudoun are much more heavily Asian than the Loudoun County Public Schools as a whole. They have fewer blacks, Hispanics, and whites than the Loudoun school district as a whole. The finding of “discrimination” against LCPS is wrong, because it is based on an apples-to-oranges comparison and concept of discrimination that likely does not apply to school systems. Continue reading
Teacher’s George Floyd pun: bad taste, even offensive, but was it a firing offense?
by Hans Bader
A high-school teacher in Arlington is under investigation and has been “relieved of classroom duties” after posting a chemistry question that referred to the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police. “George Floyd couldn’t breathe because a police officer put his _____ George’s neck,” the question read. The answer is “neon,” an element that sounds like “knee on.”
If the teacher is fired from his position, that will violate his constitutional rights, because teachers weren’t on notice that such classroom references to killings were forbidden. While school districts are entitled to control what students are taught, they can’t punish instructors for classroom speech without first making clear that it’s prohibited. If “people of common intelligence” wouldn’t have known that such references were forbidden, then punishing an instructor for them “violates due process,” as judges explained Bradley v. University of Pittsburgh (1990).
For example, an appeals court overturned the discipline of a professor for classroom lectures deemed sexually insensitive, because he wasn’t on notice that his remarks — which weren’t aimed at any particular student — would be deemed to fall within the “nebulous outer reaches” of his college’s sexual harassment policy. (Cohen v. San Bernardino Valley College (1996)). Continue reading
by Hans Bader
Criminals are being released from jail due to the coronavirus pandemic, especially in progressive states. But states should think twice. Letting criminals out won’t save lives. Instead, it will spread the disease far and wide, and increase the crime rate, including murders and rapes.
Supporters of releasing criminals say it will protect them from catching the virus in prison. But COVID-19 already is pervasive in our prisons, and many inmates are either asymptomatic carriers of the virus, or already had it and swiftly recovered from it. The fatality rate from the disease appears to be less than 1% for inmates, just as it is for many other demographics.
Inmates aren’t going to catch the disease a second time, much less die from it. But if they are released, asymptomatic inmates can infect lots of people. That includes inmates’ elderly relatives, who are much more likely to die of COVID-19 than criminals themselves, who tend to be younger and more able to cope with the virus.
Recently released inmates are testing positive for COVID-19, even when when they were screened before release, and did not show any symptoms until after being released. This is raising “concerns” that the disease “could spread to the communities where people return upon release.” Continue reading
Not a threat
by Han Bader
Several countries are reopening schools after temporarily closing them due to coronavirus. For example, Denmark and Norway have reopened their elementary schools. States in America should start reopening their schools, too. New research says that doing so won’t spread coronavirus to many adults, and it will have little effect on child mortality. Yet schools remain closed in 44 states.
Two months ago, I called for states to close their schools, to reduce the spread of COVID-19. My goal was to “slow down the spread of coronavirus and keep the healthcare system from being overwhelmed” by large numbers of coronavirus patients at any one time, by spacing out infections over a longer period of time. That way, hospitals would have enough ventilators and other equipment to treat all the people who fall ill, even at the peak of the epidemic. The goal of my advice, which was cited or shared by a number of web sites like Real Clear Policy, was not to prevent all transmission of coronavirus. That would be an impossible, unrealistic, and silly goal. Instead, the goal was more practical: To “flatten the curve” of infections and hospitalizations so that no more people would be hospitalized at any one time than hospitals can handle.
But even in the regions hardest hit by the coronavirus, American hospitals never ran out of ventilators — not even at the peak period of infections. Cities never ran out of hospital beds. Some hospitals did face difficulty obtaining enough personal protective equipment (PPE), but in most of the country, hospitals had enough PPE. Continue reading
by Hans Bader
The schools in Arlington County are refusing to teach children anything new out of a concern for “equity.” Although the schools are physically closed due to coronavirus, students have been doing their assignments from home using school-issued electronic devices. Now school officials fear students will learn differently if they come from different home environments or have different abilities.
In an April 9 email, Arlington’s schools notified parents that their kids won’t be taught any new “concepts” during the remainder of this academic year. Instead, during the school closures, students’ “learning plans” will “focus on previously introduced learning from” the prior academic quarters when they were physically in school. They will be taught the same things all over again.
So, until the end of this academic year, students will receive only a repetitive, low-quality education. That violates kids’ right to be given a quality education, on a continual basis, under the Virginia Constitution. Article I, § 15 of the state constitution mandates a “system of free public … schools for all children of school age throughout the Commonwealth,” to ensure that “an educational program of high quality is …. continually maintained.”
Coronavirus is a good reason for physically closing the schools — but not for preventing students from learning at home. Especially not when teachers are still being paid to assign students work and correct it, and federal education dollars are still flowing to the state of Virginia to enable its education system to function. Continue reading
by Hans Bader
Last week, several governors correctly closed their states’ schools to slow the spread of coronavirus. The draconian actions were needed to keep hospitals from being overwhelmed in the coming weeks as the number of coronavirus cases grows exponentially.
But closing the schools will place heavy burdens on many parents who have to work, can’t work from home, and have no stay-at-home spouse — especially nurses taking care of critically-ill coronavirus patients. All of a sudden, nurses will either need to find child care for young children previously in school, or quit working and stop taking care of critically ill patients. Obtaining child care on such short notice is likely to be difficult, and quite expensive even when it is available.
Maryland Governor Larry Hogan issued an executive order Saturday to deal with this problem. It aims to help overwhelmed “providers of health care” and “emergency medical services” do their job by “expanding child care access.” It authorizes the State Superintendent of Schools to “suspend certain State child care and local regulations,” including “zoning” and “land use” permits, in order to “expand capacity for child care services.” It also allows the Superintendent to “issue guidelines permitting family and friend child care providers to provide care for up to five unrelated children in the provider’s home.” This is a good first step that other governors, such as Virginia’s Ralph Northam, should also take if possible. Continue reading
by Hans Bader
Coronavirus is spreading rapidly. If the number of people with the disease continues to grow exponentially, it will overwhelm the healthcare system within a month. Hospitals will be so packed with patients that hospitals will run out of ventilators needed to keep seriously ill patients alive, and intensive care units will be filled to capacity. The lack of adequate medical care will increase the death rate from the disease, from under 1% to over 3%.
The Washington Post reports that is already about to happen throughout northern Italy, where the disease arrived earlier than in the U.S.
To slow down the spread of coronavirus, and keep the healthcare system from being overwhelmed, we need to close America’s schools now. Continue reading
Energy construction projects soon subject to racial hiring preferences
by Hans Bader
Virginia’s new Democratic legislature is passing an energy law that contains racial preferences. But to try to get around constitutional restrictions on racial discrimination, it is primarily targeting such preferences to “predominantly-minority areas,” rather than to minority individuals. This doesn’t immunize this legislation against a constitutional challenge, but it does complicate things for challengers.
Both houses of the Virginia legislature have passed passed the “Virginia Clean Economy Act” (VCEA). It will increase residents’ utility bills a lot in the years to come. It also provides jobs and job training reserved for areas that are predominantly minority or predominantly lower income (HB 1526 and SB 851).
The VCEA requires a utility, in constructing an offshore wind generation facility, to “give priority to the hiring of local workers, including workers” from “a community in which a majority of the population are people of color.” Such facilities are likely to cost billions to construct, paid for by higher utility bills.
The VCEA also requires that 50% of deficiency payment revenue from the RPS (Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard Program) be directed to “job training programs” and 30% of revenue be directed to “renewable energy programs” in “historically economically disadvantaged communities,” which include low-income communities or any “community in which a majority of the population are people of color.” This is expected to be a lot of revenue, because it is what utilities will pay if they fail to hit their renewable energy targets, and few expect them to meet their targets. Continue reading
by Hans Bader
The Virginia legislature is moving toward passage of bills that could make state employment law far more hostile to employers. But the content of the legislation was hidden from voters for a critical period while it was working its way through the General Assembly. The amended text of the bills was not posted until long after it was approved by key committees.
A subcommittee of the House of Delegates approved Friday a bill dealing with sexual harassment in small businesses. It did so on a party-line 5-to-2 vote, which suggests that they bill has a good chance of passing into law. A lawyer, Liam Bissainthe, had argued that the bill, HB 1418, would change the definition of sexual harassment used in lawsuits in in a way that would allow employers to be sued over a single offensive comment, potentially raising First Amendment issues.
To see whether that argument held up, it would have been helpful to read the current version of the bill. But it was not available online to the public yesterday. The committee approved a “substitute” bill for the original. But that substitute had not been posted on the legislature’s web site. Instead, when I clicked on the link to the bill’s current text, I got the message (seen above) that the posting was “in progress.”
Update: The substitute was posted Monday morning. SDH