Tag Archives: James A. Bacon

Times, Post Mangle the Heaphy Story

Square peg, round hole, mainstream media hammer.

by James A. Bacon

Here is what happens when The New York Times imposes its national narrative upon a Virginia story: we are afflicted with articles with headlines like this: “Top Jan. 6 Investigator Fired From Post at the University of Virginia.”

“Democrats in Virginia,” says the sub-head, denounced the action as “a partisan move aimed at helping former President Donald J. Trump undercut the investigation of the Capitol riot.”

The Times quotes Senator Scot Surovell, D-Fairfax, as saying, “This is purely payback for Jan. 6 — there is no other reason that makes any sense. In our state, we normally leave those decisions to the school’s board of visitors and president.” Surovell presented no concrete evidence to support his speculation.

At least reporter Michael S. Schmidt had the decency to quote Victoria LaCivita, a spokesperson for Attorney General Jason Miyares, who ordered the firing. Not that it changed the way the Times framed the story, but she  directly contradicted Surovell thesis. “The decision had nothing to do with the Jan. 6 committee or their investigations,” she said. Heaphy had been a “controversial hire,” she added, and the decision to fire him had been made “after reviewing the legal decisions made over the last couple of years. The attorney general wants the university counsel to return to giving legal advice based on law, and not the philosophy of a university.” Continue reading

Begun, the College Wars Have

Tim Heaphy, pictured in 2017. Photo credit: The Cavalier Daily.

by James A. Bacon

Attorney General Jason S. Miyares has fired the university counsels of the University of Virginia and George Mason University: Tim Heaphy at UVa and Brian Walther at GMU.

I have no inside knowledge about why Miyares took these actions, but they are, I believe, best understood as the opening salvos in what will be a long-term effort by Miyares and Governor Glenn Youngkin to change the increasingly totalitarian culture of Virginia’s higher-ed system that stifles free speech and free expression.

In Virginia the governor appoints members of the boards of visitors, but the attorney general appoints the university counsels. BoV members serve on a rotating basis, with only a few seats expiring June 30 at the end of every fiscal year. But university counsels serve at the pleasure of the attorney general, as I understand it, and can be replaced at any time. Miyares has lost no time in acting.

AG spokesperson Victoria LaCivita said in a statement to The Washington Post that Heaphy had been a “controversial” hire and that Miyares’ predecessor Mark Herring had “excluded many qualified internal candidates when he brought in this particular university counsel.” Continue reading

The Rioters Among Us

Jacob Fracker (left) and T.J. Robertson at the U.S. Capitol

by James A. Bacon

I’ve not given much attention to the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol because this is a Virginia blog, not a blog about Donald Trump and the 2020 presidential election. But maybe I should. Many of the rioters came from Virginia. We have U.S. Capitol rioters among us. How dangerous are these people? Do they, as CNN implies with its “Democracy in Peril” tagline, represent a threat to our democratic republic?

Some truly bad guys might have been involved in the riot.  Several members of the right-wing Oath Keepers have been charged with seditious conspiracy. I withhold judgment until I see the evidence presented in court. But none of the Oath Keepers claim Virginia as their home. What about our rioters? Two news stories today give us some clues to the level of danger they pose.

Paralyzed-arm guy. Two Virginia Beach brothers — Eric and Paul Von Bernewitz — have plead guilty to charges of violent entry and disorderly conduct on the Capitol grounds. According to WAVY-TV, Eric wanted to attend the rally for President Donald Trump that day and his brother Paul agreed to go along because he wanted to watch after his brother, who has a paralyzed right arm. They told investigators they got caught up in the excitement of the crowd as they marched to the Capitol after the Trump speech. Continue reading

Mask Hysteria

by James A. Bacon

People, get a grip! Emotions over this mask business are running out of control — on both sides of the debate.

On the right: Amelia Ruffner King, a 42-year-old Luray mother, has been charged with a misdemeanor for issuing threats to the Page County School Board. “No mask mandates,” the Page Valley News reports her as saying. “My children will not come to school on Monday with a mask on, alright. That’s not happening. And I will bring every single gun loaded and ready,” King continued as she was cut off a second time by the chairman for exceeding the three-minute time limit during the citizen comment period. Then as she left the room, she added: “I’ll see ya’ll on Monday.”

That kind of rhetoric is unacceptable. In a civilized society people cannot publicly issue threats, even if the violence is only implied. (Not to mention, such rhetoric feeds the leftist narrative that the parents-rights movement is a potential terrorist threat to democracy.)

On the left: Michelle Cades, a Fairfax County mother, says her 8th-grade special-needs daughter will no longer be able to attend class if the mask mandate is lifted. Reports American University Radio: her daughter’s anxiety about COVID is so extreme that she needs extra time to navigate the halls between classes so she can avoid clusters of other students. “If suddenly lots of students were not wearing masks at all, either in the halls or in my kids’ classes,” Cades says, “I honestly don’t know how my child would tolerate going to school.” Continue reading

COVID Vs. the Flu

Source: Virginia Department of Health

by James A. Bacon

I have seen considerable discussion on the internet recently about the relationship between COVID-19 and influenza. One thing that seems to be widely accepted is that influenza receded — indeed it practically disappeared — as COVID-19 surged. Where the disagreement occurs is over why influenza faded and now seems to be making a comeback.

The conventional wisdom is that the masking and social-distancing measures enacted to slow the transmission of COVID-19 also acted to slow the spread of influenza. That makes intuitive sense given that the measures were designed to fight influenza epidemics in the first place and were dusted off out of desperation to “do something” about COVID-19. If the conventional wisdom is correct, we would expect to see the relaxation of masking mandates under the Youngkin administration lead to an increase in reports of Influenza Like Illnesses (ILIs) compared to the normal seasonal pattern.

An alternative theory making the rounds is that the COVID-19 and influenza viruses compete with one another. COVID-19 triggers temporary immunological responses that suppress the flu. As COVID-19 advances, the flu retreats; as COVID recedes, the flu advances. Continue reading

W&M Leadership Transformation (Purge?) Nearly Complete

by James A. Bacon

Katherine Rowe took the helm of The College of William & Mary July 1, 2018. In three-and-a-half years as president, she has replaced most of the deans and senior administrators carried over from the tenure of her revered predecessor W. Taylor Revely III. The overhaul is summarized in the graphic below, created by a W&M source who asks not to be identified.

Business School Dean Larry Pulley announced his resignation earlier this month. No replacement has been announced.

It is common for university presidents to replace senior officials with newcomers who reflect their priorities. In this case, achieving “diversity” appears to be a top consideration. Of the six major appointments, only one is a White male. That would be totally fine if the new appointees are the best-qualified people for their jobs. Are they? Continue reading

Note to State School Superintendent Jillian Balow…

You might want to update the Virginia Department of Education website. You’ve been Superintendent for Public Instruction for almost a week now, but here’s what the VDOE website shows on its “About” page as of Jan. 21, 10:33 a.m.

You’ve got a tough job ahead, and I suspect that you’re busier than a one-armed paper hanger right now. But you might want to remind people who’s boss.


Youngkin Unveils No-Mandates COVID Plan

by James A. Bacon

So, what does a COVID-19 containment strategy look like without the activist governor’s usual go-to tools of mask and vaccination mandates? Governor Glenn Youngkin has provided the answer with the COVID Action Plan he unveiled this morning.

The key elements are: (1) encourage (but don’t compel) people to get vaccinated, (2) help healthcare providers cope with the surge of hospitalizations caused by the Omicron variant, and (3) re-prioritize testing to identify the virus in K-12 students, healthcare professionals, and medically vulnerable individuals.

“Today’s announcements are designed to give Virginians the tools and resources needed to make the best decisions for their families, strengthen our hospital systems, and ensure a strong recovery as we encounter new challenges associated with the pandemic that has become part of our everyday life,” Youngkin said in a press release announcing the plan.

The initiatives follow a Day One executive order prohibiting vaccination mandates. Most of Virginia’s public universities, which had made mandates the centerpiece of their COVID-19 strategies, have announced that they will comply with the order. Battles with local school boards are still being fought over requirements to wear masks in public K-12 schools. Continue reading

Reframing the Debate: Diversity, Opportunity & Inclusion

Angela Sailor

by James A. Bacon

With his latest cabinet pick of Angela Sailor as director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, Governor Glenn Youngkin has reframed the debate about race in Virginia. Sailor runs the conservative Heritage Foundation’s Feulner Institute, which was founded in 2019 to help Americans “understand the uniqueness of this nation’s founding, reinstill in Americans a love for their country, and help them understand why it’s all worth preserving,”

In the same announcement, Youngkin said he updated the office’s mission to focus on promoting economic opportunity for disadvantaged Virginians. And he proposes renaming the office to Diversity, Opportunity and Inclusion.

The name change is emblematic of Youngkin’s approach to poverty and race relations. The old formulation of “equity” in Diversity, Equity and Inclusion called for social engineering to create equal racial/ethnic group outcomes. It concentrated power in the hands of political elites. And it has proven spectacularly ineffective. “Opportunity,” by contrast, calls for providing individuals the means to build better lives for themselves. Continue reading

Fact Checker Accusing Youngkin of Leaving Out Important Context … Leaves Out Important Context

by James A. Bacon

In his first speech to the General Assembly, Governor Glenn Youngkin stressed the need to upgrade academic standards in Virginia’s public schools. “Education standards for math and reading are now the lowest in the nation,” he said.

Warren Fiske with VPM News “fact checked” the statement. Citing the National Center for Education Statistics, he noted that, yes, Virginia’s 4th-grade proficiency standards for reading are the second lowest among the 50 states and 4th-grade math standards are the lowest. But Youngkin leaves out critical context, Fiske contends. The scores of Virginia students in national standardized exams are “near the top” for 4th graders, and “high” in math and “average in reading for 8th graders.

“Youngkin’s claim, without elaboration, wrongly suggests that Virginia students are being taught less than their colleagues across the country,” writes Fiske. “So we rate his statement Half True.”

Translation: “Technically speaking, Youngkin’s statement was 100% accurate. But I’ll read between the lines and decipher what he was hinting at, and the meaning I impute to his words is wrong.”

Even then, Fiske’s context needs context. As it turns out, Virginia’s recent performance in national standardized test scores is heading in the wrong direction. Continue reading

Has Omicron Peaked?

Source: Virginia Department of Health

by James A. Bacon

The news media today is chock full of stories about school boards in Northern Virginia and other blue localities defying Governor Glenn Youngkin’s executive order ending mask mandates. The confrontations won’t be settled until the courts rule definitively whether Virginia’s Governor or the school boards have the last word. By the time that happens, the issue may be moot. It appears that the Omicron wave of COVID-19 has peaked and, though daily infections are still extremely high, they are receding.

According to the Virginia Department of Health COVID-19 dashboard, new confirmed cases of COVID-19 hit a high of 36,928 in the week ending January 8. Last week, ending January 15, new cases fell to 27,798. The latter number may miss a few stragglers in the reporting system, but it is evident that the number of infections, after leaping to unprecedented levels in Virginia, is easing off — as was predicted by the experience in South Africa and the United Kingdom. Continue reading

Who Funded Voter Suppression in Rural Virginia?

by James A. Bacon

It caused quite the brouhaha when Axios published a story in September on how a Democratic PAC posed as a conservative outfit to depress Republican voter turnout in Southwest Virginia by raising questions about Glenn Youngkin’s commitment to gun rights. Dominion Energy had donated $200,000 to the effort, run by Accountability Virginia PAC. Two days after the news broke Dominion said it had failed to vet the group and wanted its money back. The furor died down, and little has been heard of it since. Until today.

Duane Yancey with Cardinal News checked the final filings for the  Accountability Virginia PAC, which weren’t reported until after the election. It turns out that Dominion had donated a total of $250,000 — $50,000 more than originally reported — while four Dominion executives had chipped in another $27,500. Between the corporation and its executives, Dominion accounted for 47.9% of the PAC’s total contributions.

There is no indication, says Yancey, that they got their money back.

Almost all the other donors were out-of-state venture capitalists and financiers known to be donors to Democratic politics. Read Yancey’s list for the full accounting, as well as his spin on the news: “Trying to discourage people from voting is wrong, no matter which side is trying to do it.”

It is possible that the blowback against Dominion has just begun. Continue reading

Rolling Back Regulations Easier Said Than Done

by James A. Bacon

Virginia has lagged the nation in economic growth and job creation for a decade or more, and Governor Glenn Youngkin has made it a priority, as every governor does, to boost economic development. One of his strategies for rebooting the economy is to prune needless regulation.

“The growing regulatory burden on businesses and individuals requires time, money and energy for compliance. This represents an opportunity loss that inhibits job creation and economic growth,” Youngkin says in Executive Directive Number One, “Laying a Strong Foundation for Job Creation and Economic Growth Through Targeted Regulatory Reductions.”

Accordingly, Youngkin has directed all state agencies under his authority to reduce the number of regulations not mandated by federal or state statute by 25%. He also directs the Secretary of Finance to explore the feasibility of implementing a 2-for-1 “regulatory budget.” (The meaning of the 2-for-1 budget is not defined in the directive, but I interpret it as a call for deleting two regulations for every new regulation promulgated.)

This is all fine and good — I share the aspiration of rolling back the regulatory state — but we have to be realistic. The number of regulations not mandated by federal or state law is miniscule. With the exception of the regulatory diktats issued by former Governor Ralph Northam in response to the COVID emergency (which Youngkin is nullifying by separate executive orders), Virginia governors and state officials can’t impose new regulations by fiat. Continue reading

Reframing the Debate from CRT to “Divisive Concepts”

by James A. Bacon

We all knew that Governor Glenn Youngkin’s campaign to root out Critical Race Theory (CRT) would be controversial. There are tremendous issues at stake and entrenched interests involved. It would be helpful if both sides honestly characterized the issues so we could then have an informed debate about them. Sadly, preliminary indications are that the Democratic Party of Virginia — which presumably speaks for many other Democrats — is determined to obscure the issues by constructing strawmen and knocking them down.

A case in point is the “CRT isn’t taught in schools” trope employed by the Terry McAuliffe campaign. The Dems can’t let it go. It resurfaced again in a tweet from @vademocrats proclaiming, “Glenn Youngkin admitted today that he’s been lying to Virginians and critical race theory is not in fact taught in Virginia’s schools. This dangerous lie continues to pit parents against educators and our students are paying the price. It must end now.”

That tweet has been retweeted 151 times and liked 302. And Democrats accuse Republicans of spewing disinformation! Continue reading

Schools Gone Wild — Henrico Edition

by James A. Bacon

This story gives a whole new meaning — a literal meaning — to the phrase, “hair on fire.” According to WWBT/Gray News, a teenager at John Rolfe Middle School in Henrico County seta fellow student’s hair afire with a lighter. The boy is at VCU Medical Center suffering from second- and third-degree burns.

Here’s the TV station’s account of what happened:

His mother said she was told the school was on lockdown due to COVID-19 contact tracing, so her son’s math class was having lunch inside the classroom.

She says her son went to throw away his tray when another student approached him from behind with a lighter.

“That’s when the girl kind of flicked the lighter and lit his hair on fire,” the mother said.

Continue reading