Tag Archives: James A. Bacon

Questions McAuliffe Will Never Be Asked… But Should Be

Photo credit: Steve Helber/AP.

by James A. Bacon

Aspiring Governor Terry McAuliffe has referred to concerns about Critical Race Theory in public schools as a “right-wing conspiracy.” Likewise, the media has downplayed the CRT controversy roiling many school systems by dismissing CRT as an obscure academic legal theory that is “not taught in schools.” That response, of course, is a rhetorical dodge. Radical social justice doctrines, however you label them, are being pushed by the Virginia Department of Education, Virginia’s education schools, many school districts, in staff and teacher training sessions. and sometimes even in classrooms.

Susan Page of USA Today, moderator of the gubernatorial debate between Democrat McAuliffe and Republican Glenn Youngkin last night, missed a chance to pin down exactly what McAuliffe thinks about what is happening in Virginia schools.

Page pressed Youngkin on matters that might put him at odds with elements of his Republican coalition. What is his stance on abortion? Does he think Democrats will steal the election this fall? What does he think about vaccine mandates? All fair questions, to be sure. But, based on media accounts (I did not watch the debate) she failed to query McAuliffe about his views on the most sweeping overhaul of Virginia public education system since the dismantling of Massive Resistance.

Here are some questions she could have asked the candidates. Continue reading

Your Tax Dollars at Work: The Virginia Breeze

by James A. Bacon

The Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation (DRPT) subsidizes three bus routes connecting communities in Southside and Southwest Virginia to population centers to the north. One of those, the Valley Flyer, links Blacksburg and Virginia Tech, ferrying college students to Northern Virginia and back. It carried more than 2,800 passengers in the 1st quarter of 2021. The farebox recovery was 45%, and the average cost per passengers was a modest $45.33, according to DRPT’s Virginia Breeze Bus Lines 1st Quarter 2021 report. Not bad as far as public transportation goes.

A second line, the Capital Connector, connects Martinsville with Richmond and Northern Virginia. It carried 820 passengers in the 1st quarter, for a 10% farebox recovery and an average cost per passenger of $231.60. Not so good.

Then there is the Piedmont Express, commencing in Danville and running through Altavista, Lynchburg, Amherst, Charlottesville, Culpeper, Warrenton, Gainesville and Dulles airport before terminating in Washington. The 1st quarter passenger count was 269, the farebox recovery 5%, and the average cost per passenger $729.63. Continue reading

2021 SAT Scores: Virginia Still Shines… With Caveats

SAT scores range from 200 to 800 in both English and Math. Composite scores range from 400 to 1600.

by James A. Bacon

CollegeBoard has released SAT data for the 2021 testing season, and the good news for the Old Dominion is that Virginia high school graduates outperformed their peers in the other 49 states (and Washington, D.C.). Virginia’s average overall score of 1151 for English and Math was 91 points higher than the national average.

Even in a normal year, however, comparing state SAT scores is a dicey proposition. This year, after K-12 schools across the country adopted widely different strategies in response to the COVID-19 epidemic, comparisons are even more problematic.

“While this year’s results represent a snapshot of achievement on the SAT during an extraordinary year,” said Superintendent of Public Instruction James Lane in a press release yesterday, “Virginia students overall continue to perform well above their peers nationwide.”

Lane’s statement holds up under scrutiny, as I shall show momentarily. Virginia’s schools did outperform their peers. However, Virginia schools have always outperformed other states. The key question for Virginia voters evaluating the performance of the Northam administration is whether Virginia’s lead over other states grew or shrank in the past year. Did we fare better or worse relatively speaking? Answers are difficult to come by. Continue reading

Rules Are for the Little People: Terry McAuliffe Edition

Terry McAuliffe violated federal mask-wearing regulations while traveling on an Amtrak train this summer, as seen in photos obtained by Fox News. The Democratic Party candidate for governor, who has urged others to wear masks, spoke maskless on a cell phone while walking through Union Station and boarding a train, according to the passenger who snapped the photos. Continue reading

Quote of the Day: Mary Trigiani

Mary Trigiani is a management consultant in Southwest Virginia. One of her interests is rethinking “economic development” in the region. I was struck by this morning’s lead-in to her daily newsletter.

Economic development is, for some, the game of redistributing taxpayer money and sustaining agencies for that purpose – without reporting ROI back to taxpayers or marking real progress. When it’s done right, however, economic development is an intricate process of modeling businesses, vetting partners, and building bridges – so that people can find jobs, prosper, and enjoy life. This shift in definition is a condition of today’s renaissance. And I believe Virginia’s Great Southwest will show the way.

— JAB

God, COVID and the Rage Against the Unvaccinated

by James A. Bacon

“There is a growing rage among the people who are vaccinated about the people who have refused a free and effective vaccine,” Stephen Farnsworth, an oft-quoted political science professor at the University of Mary Washington, said recently. “We’re all going back toward lockdowns because of the selfishness of a few.”

As Farnsworth notes, there may be political fallout from the rage against the unvaccinated. The people who feel this righteous anger carry an image of the unvaccinated as White don’t-tread-on-me Donald Trump voters putting their personal liberties ahead of the common good… Except when they acknowledge that a few of the unvaccinated are Black. They view Black vaccination resistance more charitably as an understandable, if misguided, response to the infamous Tuskegee syphilis study that ended a half century ago.

But I wonder. How many unvaccinated Blacks cite the Tuskegee study? How many are wary of “systemic racism” in the healthcare system? Are such tropes widely shared view among Blacks — or a construct of journalists, academics and other members of America’s clerisy?

After a lengthy conversation with an African-American tradesman who is active in my neighborhood, I have come to question the Tuskegee talking point. And I suspect that vaccination resistance among many Blacks likely arises from their religious faith. Viewing the world through a secular lens, America’s clerisy may be downplaying the influence of religious thinking among the unvaccinated. Continue reading

The Enrollment Gap Colleges Don’t Like to Talk About

by James A. Bacon

While college administrators across Virginia and the United States fixate on the racial/ethnic makeup of their institutions, there’s a large and growing gender gap. Young women dominate enrollment at most higher-ed institutions these days. Fewer young men are applying, and even when they do, they’re dropping out more frequently. Administrators don’t like male-female imbalances because students don’t like it — colleges are mating markets as much as they’re centers of learning — but no one seems to be doing much about it.

There is no simple explanation for the large and growing mismatch. There is likely the same kind of “pipeline” problem we see with minorities — fewer males are applying for college because fewer are graduating from high school with college-ready skills. Additionally, males also may be more prone to substance abuse and mental illness, syndromes that are highly disruptive to academic performance.

There’s another possible reason, one that appeals to conservatives who see higher-ed institutions as dens of ideological inequity. In a higher-ed world dominated by the ideology of interesectionality — heterosexual white males are the O- of human society, universal oppressors — young men, especially young white men, experience college as a hostile environment. There may be some merit to this view, but it is only part of a larger story. Continue reading

Bacon Bits: Wind, Rain and Sun Edition

What happens when the wind doesn’t blow? The North Sea, locale of the world’s largest cluster of wind farms, normally delivers strong, consistent wind flows that keeps the turbines spinning. But every once in a while, weather happens and the winds diminish. That’s what’s occurring now. Blame it on global warming, if you will — that seems to be the explanation for every inconvenient fluctuation in rainfall, temperature and extreme weather.

Whatever the cause, according to the Wall Street Journal, the falloff in wind is wreaking havoc in the United Kingdom, where wind supplies 25% of the nation’s electric power. Due to the wind “shortage,” marginal electricity prices have shot up to the equivalent of $395 per megawatt/hour (or $0.395 per kilowatt hour). That compares to the statewide average of $0.11 per kilowatt hour in Virginia. To make up the deficit, UK utilities have been burning more… coal. Coal will provide a backstop until 2024, when all coal-fired plants will be shuttered. Is anyone in Virginia paying attention?

Speaking of coal… Southwest Virginians are still casting around for ideas of what to do when the coal plants close. There is no lack of creative thinking. I just don’t know how practical it is. Here is the latest: growing artisanal grains. Once upon a time, Virginia’s coal counties grew grain to supply alcohol feedstock for a booming coal-town bars and saloons. The economics shifted in favor of massive Midwest farms, which enjoyed economies of scale, and local grain farming nearly ceased. But, according to The Virginia Mercury, local economic-development groups want to play on the local-food movement to make Southwest Virginia a primary source of specialty grains for Virginia’s growing craft beverage industry. Virginia imports 400,000 bushels of grain into the state. Snagging  a piece of that action could support a lot of farms.

With climate change, who knows how that will work out. Let’s hope the rain keeps falling. Continue reading

9/11 Flags Vandalized

In commemoration of the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attack, Young America’s Foundation, a conservative student group, planted 2,977 flags in the University of Virginia’s Amphitheater. Vandals knocked down the flags and flipped a table with a banner. Expressing solidarity with the perpetrators, Twitter users equated the memorial service to the white supremacist torch march of the infamous United the Right rally and said falsely that YAF has “ties to the neo-Nazi movement.” See the full story here. — JAB

A Closer Look at Those “Driving While Black” Statistics

by James A. Bacon

When the Commonwealth published its Virginia Community Policing Act traffic-stop database last week, the Richmond Times-Dispatch spun the data this way:

Black drivers are disproportionately stopped and arrested, and they have their cars searched at higher rates than any other race statewide.

Here’s what the RTD could have written:

Black drivers stopped for traffic violations were disproportionately likely to be let go with warnings — or subject to no law enforcement actions at all.

Any fair-minded story would have provided both conclusions and conveyed the complexities and uncertainties in analyzing the data. Instead, the newspaper settled for cherry picking data that supports its ongoing Oppression Narrative. The reporters did not come right out and say that the statistical disparities are attributable to “racism” or “discrimination,” but the implication is clear enough. In contemporary society, statistical disparities are widely deemed to constitute proof. Continue reading

I’m Baaaack!

Many thanks to Dick Hall-Sizemore, Jim Sherlock and DJ Rippert for filling Bacon’s Rebellion with lively, informative content during my vacation absence. — JAB

Development and Sea-Level Rise in the Tarheel State

by James A. Bacon

People love living on the water. They just can’t get enough of it. If they can’t afford to live on the waterfront, they will pay a premium just to live near it. Signs of the human proclivity for water views are evident all around Beaufort, N.C. (pronounced Bow-fort, not Bew-fort), a waterfront town of 4,000 to 5,000. The heart of Beaufort is a charming hamlet dating back to the 1700s. The walkable small-town core with restaurants, boutiques, marinas and quaint historical buildings is the nucleus from which development radiates in all directions.

Coastal North Carolina in these parts, just south of the Outer Banks, is as low-lying and vulnerable to flooding and hurricanes as Tidewater Virginia. I know nothing of what preparations the Tarheel state might be taking in anticipation of the kind of extreme weather events that Jim Sherlock has described in recent posts. I will simply observe that whatever restrictions exist, they don’t seem to be slowing the pace of development on the state’s barrier islands and along its sounds, channels and estuaries. Continue reading

Horse Play

A herd of horses live on Shackleford Banks, a barrier island near Beaufort, N.C., where the Bacon family is vacationing. The horses do not comprise a thundering herd of popular imagination, rather they are dispersed in small groups — “harems” — with a stallion, two or three breeding mares, and their colts. Five or six of these groups reside in the eastern tip we visited, along with a few unaffiliated mares too old to breed and young stallions who have not succeeded in winning the affections of any females. Continue reading

Sunset: Beauford, N.C.

The Bacon family is on vacation this week in Beaufort, N.C. Blogging will be sparse.

UVa, COVID, and Jim Ryan’s $200,000 Bonus

Source: University of Virginia COVID Tracker

by James A. Bacon

Like many other University of Virginia alumni, I was taken aback to hear that the Board of Visitors had granted President Jim Ryan a $200,000 bonus for the great job UVa had done in addressing the COVID-19 epidemic.

Rector Whittington Clement put it this way: “When the situation this year became clearer and we had a highly successful handling of COVID-19, we think the University did as well as, if not better, than any institution of higher learning in making the adjustments necessary to COVID-19, we thought that it was appropriate to give him a bonus.”

I don’t want to prejudge whether Team Ryan has done a great job of addressing COVID-19 or not. To be sure, UVa has resumed in-person learning, but it also has instituted a draconian lockdown, including mandated vaccination for students, the unenrollment of those who did not comply, mask wearing required both indoors and outdoors, and mandated isolation and quarantine for those who test positive and/or been exposed. UVa is a laboratory testbed for the individual-liberties-be-damned approach to public health that some would like to see for the entire country. Continue reading