Tag Archives: James A. Bacon

Bacon Bits: Signs of the Times

I identify as a rattlesnake. The Department of Motor Vehicles has issued approximately 5,600 drivers licenses and other forms of identification with a “nonbinary” identification since an enabling law went into effect July 1, 2020, reports The Virginia Mercury. “For decades the government put lots of people in boxes in lots of ways,” said the law’s sponsor Scott Surovell, D-Fairfax. “And going forward I don’t think a lot of young people see themselves that way.” Gee, I thought the purpose of ID cards was to help authorities verify if people are who they say they are, not to be a vehicle for self expression — like, say, customized license plates. Ok, I was wrong about that. How, then, can I, as an ordinary male, express my identity? Surely, it is but a small step from stamping the Gadsden Flag on my license plate to embossing it on my ID card. Do I hear any legislators volunteering to submit a bill?

Eat your heart out, VCU. The Virginia Commonwealth University police department has, as I recently noted on this blog, appointed two of its officers as liaisons with the LGBTQIA+ community. Not to be outdone, the 170-person University of Virginia police department has hired a full-time Diversity, Equity & Inclusion officer to organize racial and cultural sensitivity training. Indeed, university officers received such training Sept. 1, exactly one week before an unidentified White man hung a noose on a statue of Homer on the University grounds. The noose, which is associated with lynching, is often considered a symbol of White supremacy. “The recent training allowed police to identify the incident as a hate crime without second-guessing it,” writes The Daily Progress, quoting DEI officer Courtney Hawkins. The article did not explain how hanging a noose on a statue of an old, dead White man constituted a hate crime. Hopefully, the investigation into the incident will identify the perpetrator and illuminate his thinking.

Speaking of hate crimes… University of Virginia Health has organized what it calls Emotional Emancipation Circles where Black students can “heal the emotional legacies of racism and racial trauma.” Participants will “share stories and deepen our understanding of the impact of historical forces on our sense of self-worth, relationships, and communities.” Among other skills, participants will learn “African-centered practices for healing cultural wounds.” I don’t know anything about these African-centered practices, but they have to be better than the Euro-centered practice of cultivating grievance, victimhood, and fragility- and fatalism-inducing self-pity. The further these Emotional Emancipation Circles can distance themselves from Eurocentric psychiatric influences the quicker the healing can begin.

Graph of the Day: Maternal Mortality

Source: National Center for Health Statistics, by way of The Virginia Mercury

by James A. Bacon

When writing about “systemic racism” in health care, journalists routinely cite the disparity in health outcomes between White and Black Women. Here in Virginia, the maternal death rate per 100,000 for Black women in 2018 was 37.3 — nearly twice the rate of 14.9 for White women. The disparity has grown even wider since then. That disparity often is presumed, without the need for further proof, to reflect racism.

But could there be other explanations? Virginia health officials will be working over the next two years to understand the disparity by digging into the details of individual cases to get a clearer idea of the factors that might have contributed to the deaths, reports the Virginia Mercury.

Among other factors the team will examine is “noncompliance with appointment.” Is it possible that women who died from pregnancy- or birth-related issues were more likely to have missed their prenatal medical appointments? Could some mothers, for instance, have had difficulty accessing transportation to the doctor’s office or been unable to break free from their jobs? (Or could they have just forgotten about their meetings or otherwise blown them off?)

I’ve never heard this mentioned as a possible factor before. Depending on the findings, the inquiry could change the complexion of the debate. Difficulty in finding transportation is a very different problem than, say, physician racial bias.

Continue reading

Map of the Day: Corporate Tax Rates

Why does Virginia have such an also-ran economy? Perhaps one reason, among many, is that its combined state and local corporate tax rate is higher than that of 24 other states. We’re not hostile to business like, say, Illinois or New Jersey, but we’re not welcoming either. — JAB

Last Passenger on the Titanic

by James A. Bacon

The good news regarding the Silver Line extension of the Washington Metro rail system to Washington Dulles International Airport is that the service is fiiinnaally scheduled to commence in October after four years of construction delays.

The bad news is that Metro might not have enough rail cars in service to run on the line.

“The rail car shortage arose last year when more than half of Metro’s fleet — 748 of its most modern cars from the 7000-series — was removed from service owing to a wheel-widening malfunction that caused a derailment,” reports The Washington Post. “More than three-quarters of them remain out of service, pending review by the system’s regulatory agency.”

The really bad news is that Metro’s operating deficit, estimated to run $185 million next year, is projected to hit $738 million in Fiscal 2024 and reach $924 million four years after that. With those deficits, it’s hard to imagine service getting any better. Continue reading

VEA’s Failing, Flailing Excuse for a Report

by James A. Bacon

The Youngkin administration threw down the gauntlet last week when it issued the latest public school-accreditation data. Despite unprecedented learning losses during the COVID epidemic, the percentage of Virginia public schools meeting the accreditation standards fell from 92% pre-COVID to 89% post-COVID, a decline of only three percentage points. Commented Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow: “Frankly, the ratings we are releasing today fail to capture the extent of the crisis facing our schools and students.”

Now the Virginia Education Association has countered with a report, “Failing State, Not ‘Failing Schools.’” The report blames systemic racism and under-funding of non-accredited schools.

“Certain politicians have deprived many of our schools of critical resources, particularly in Black communities, and then point the finger at educators for the challenges these schools face by referring to them as “failing schools,” the VEA says. “This deflects blame and ignores the legacy of state-sanctioned policies in certain Black communities, and perpetuate inequities we see in student outcomes today.”

The report is remarkable in many ways. First and foremost, it makes non-accreditation shortfalls all about race. While the Youngkin administration has emphasized that minorities are hurt the most by school-underperformance, it has never suggested that race is the issue. The VEA flat-out blames racism. Second, the VEA repeatedly contends that non-accredited schools are under-funded. This claim is so lacking in factual support that it approaches outright dishonesty. Finally, the VEA suggests that the answer is more money, always more money. No need for better management, no need for teachers, administrators, parents or students to change the way they do anything. The entire onus for fixing the system belongs to the state and Virginia taxpayers.

I’m not buying it. Not one little bit. Continue reading

Bacon Meme of the Week

Of Monocans and Manumissions

The Natural Bridge, as rendered by German artist Edward Meyer in 1858.

by James A. Bacon

Virginia’s history is endlessly fascinating. A study of the state’s past illuminates many issues that still confound us today. Such is the case with a monograph that reader Kemp Dolliver has brought to my attention: “Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry, and the Natural Bridge of Virginia.”

This article, written in 1997 by David W. Coffey, then a history professor at the Virginia Military Institute, touches upon two issues that are relevant today: (1) the dispossession of the lands of the Monocan Indians; and (2) Jefferson’s attitude towards race.

Monocan Indians. The Monocan Indians, as we are repeatedly reminded, inhabited the territory now known as western Virginia during the pre-colonial era, and the land where the University of Virginia and Virginia Tech are located was taken from them. This history, usually told in a manner to suggest that the European settlers of Virginia were uniquely rapacious and unjust, is devoid of critical context.

Citing an earlier source, Coffey’s article notes that the Natural Bridge held a special place in the hearts of the Monocans. In their mythology, the geological wonder proved their salvation. “Long, long ago,” the Monocans were set upon by the Shawnees and the Powhatans. Many of the Monocan braves fell in battle. As they fled their pursuers, the Monocans came upon a high chasm. As they cried out for deliverance, the Great Spirit created the Great Bridge for them to cross. Then, standing against their enemies on the narrow crossing, the Monocan braves turned to face their enemies and fought victoriously. Continue reading

Youngkin Admin Questions Value of School Accreditation Standards

Source: Virginia Department of Education

by James A. Bacon

A Virginia Department of Education press release issued yesterday contained a vitally important message: Virginia’s school accreditation standards are failing to do their job. Despite unprecedented learning losses during the COVID epidemic, the percentage of Virginia public schools meeting the standards fell from 92% pre-COVID to 89% post-COVID, a decline of only three percentage points.

“These ratings call into question the effectiveness of our accreditation standards in identifying schools where students are struggling to achieve grade-level proficiency,” stated Superintendent Jillian Balow. “Frankly, the ratings we are releasing today fail to capture the extent of the crisis facing our schools and students.”

And how did the legacy media treat this story?

The Washington Post ignored it. Instead, it published a story headlined, “Youngkin’s rules for trans students leave many teens fearful, despondent.” As far as I can tell from the round-up of clips in the VA News aggregator, not one of Virginia’s major metro dailies covered the announcement. The (Charlottesville) Daily Progress, the (Harrisonburg) Daily News Record, and WSLS (Roanoke) and WTOP (Washington) were the only legacy media outlets to mention it. Only the two TV stations included the Balow quotes in the body of their stories. Continue reading

UVa Rules Out a “Pattern” of Hate Crimes

by James A. Bacon

University of Virginia executive leadership has issued a remarkable statement that lends insight into the fraught state of race relations at Virginia’s flagship university. Three recent incidents have taken place on the Grounds since the new academic year began that have “caused some to speculate that they are linked or part of a larger pattern of racially motived crimes,” said J.J. Wagner Davis, chief operating officer, and Tim Longo, chief of university police.

One incident involved a White man hanging a noose around the neck of the Greek poet Homer, an act of ambiguous meaning that President Jim Ryan promptly branded as a hate crime. The Davis-Longo statement made it clear, however, that two other matters — a report of someone throwing rocks through the window of the Office of African-American Affairs, and the discovery of a flag bearing a strange symbol lying on the grass near the Memorial to Enslaved Laborers — have been determined not to be hate crimes.

“President Ryan has asked us to provide this community with an update and to make as clear as we can: These incidents are not linked, and two of the three were not racially motivated at all,” the statement read.

The series of incidents has roiled the UVa community. As the statement notes, Ryan and other senior University officials have “spoken with many students, faculty and alumni” about efforts to get to the bottom of the events. Continue reading

Please, Governor, Focus on Virginia First

Glenn Youngkin. Photo credit: New York Times

by James A. Bacon

Virginians are still trying to decipher the intentions of Glenn Youngkin in traveling to so many Republican campaign events around the country. The Governor been in office about eight months. He’s barely gotten started in undoing the damage of his predecessor’s four-year term. He couldn’t really be thinking about running for president, could he? 

There doesn’t seem to be much question in the minds of the national media that he is. Donald Trump remains the odds-on favorite to win the Republican nomination should he desire it even though the metaphorical walls have been “closing in” on him for six years now. If Democrats finally succeed in taking out the former president, then Florida Governor Ron DeSantis seems the most viable alternative. Yet Youngkin’s name is frequently invoked as a possible presidential candidate.

“It’s obvious. Glenn Youngkin, the Republican governor of Virginia, wants to be president,” writes New York Times columnist Jamelle Bouie.

Most of Bouie’s lengthy column is a tiresome rendition of the narrative that the Republican Party and the MAGA movements are extensions of Dixiecrats and segregationists. (New York Times columnists have zero clue about what makes Republicans tick.) But he does cite actual evidence, which has gotten little play here in the Old Dominion, that Youngkin does, in fact, have national political ambitions. Continue reading

Virginia Missing Children: 400

Each year, more than a half million children go missing in the United States. In Virginia, 2,500 children have been reported missing (presumably this year) and 400 are actively missing, according to a press release touting a National Child ID partnership to be announced today by Attorney General Jason Miyares and Virginia Tech football coaching legend Frank Beamer.

One quarter of all human trafficking cases include a child, and minority populations are three times more likely to go missing or be abducted, says the press release.

FIRE to VMI: Hands Off the Independent Student Newspaper

by James A. Bacon

The Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE) has asked the Virginia Military Institute to refrain from pressuring an independent student newspaper, The Cadet, to change its editorial stances.

“Cadet staff have faced interference from VMI leadership, including pressure to make the paper’s content more flattering to the Institute, suppression of its distribution, and demands that the student staff stop working with alumni on publication efforts,” wrote Anne Marie Tamburro and Mike Hiestand with FIRE, a national organization that focuses on campus free speech issues, in FIRE Letter to VMI.

“VMI’s cumulative acts seeking to bend the paper to administrative pressure and interfering with its staff’s activities squarely contradict the Institute’s obligations under the First Amendment, which demands that VMI respect the editorial independence of The Cadet,” FIRE said.

VMI spokesman Bill Wyatt said that FIRE did not fact-check the allegations with VMI contained in the letter before sending it. “They’re taking Bob Morris’ word as gospel,” he said, referring to VMI alumnus Bob Morris, who advises the newspaper and heads the foundation that supports it financially. VMI is working on a response, he added.

Correction: The original version of this story said that FIRE did not fact-check the allegations in the story. It has been corrected to say that FIRE did not fact-check with VMI. Continue reading

UVa Updates: Jefferson Legacy, Honor System, Tuition Credit

The University of Virginia Board of Visitors met Thursday and Friday last week and discuss several matters of interest to the broader community. Here are some headlines:

Clement Defends Jefferson’s Legacy; Ryan Stays Mum
Jefferson Council blog

Whitt Clement, rector of the University of Virginia, gave a brief defense of Thomas Jefferson and his legacy at the Board of Visitors meeting Friday.

“We are a University founded by Thomas Jefferson, and honoring his legacy and his contributions to our nation has, and will always be, an indelible part of what it means to live, learn and work here,” Clement said. “That is the policy and the position of this institution and it will not change under our leadership or that of President [Jim] Ryan or his team.”

Board of Visitors Discusses Rollout of “Living Honor” Campaign
Jefferson Council blog

The University of Virginia Alumni Association presented an overview to the Board of Visitors last week of its “Living Honor” marketing campaign. Continue reading

Hoax Epidemic

Scene outside of Charlottesville High School yesterday. Photo credit: Daily Progress

by James A. Bacon

In the latest sign of spreading social disorder, Virginia underwent a plague of school hoaxes yesterday. According to media reports, incidents included:

  • The Loudoun County sheriff’s office and Leesburg police were notified of acts of violence at Loudoun Valley and Loudoun County high schools. The reports were false.
  • In Arlington County, officers responded to a false report in a 911 call of a possible act of violence at Washington-Liberty High School.
  • The Culpeper County school system placed all schools on lockdown after a 911 caller reported an “active shooter.”
  • A 911 caller told the Charlottesville police that there was an active shooter at the Charlottesville High School. (Eleven days ago, Albemarle County police had responded to a threat to Western Albemarle High School made through social media.)
  • E.C. Glass High School in Lynchburg was placed on lockdown after a 911 caller alerted authorities to someone potentially being inside the high school with a gun.

There’s nothing new about shooting and bomb hoaxes. What is new is the epidemic-like frequency with which they are occurring. Apparently, the practice of reporting violent incidents in school buildings has reached such a critical mass that it now has a name — swatting. Continue reading

Voter Suppression in Virginia? What Voter Suppression?

by James A. Bacon

The Virginia State Conference of the NAACP has demanded that Attorney General Jason Miyares immediately replace his recently created Election Integrity Unit with a group to combat voter suppression and increase voter registration.

Said Robert N. Barnette, Jr, President of the Virginia NAACP in a statement issued last week:

Many studies have shown that “voter fraud” is virtually nonexistent in the Commonwealth of Virginia and the Washington Post conducted a study that determined that only 31 out of 1 billion votes cast in the United States between 2000 and 2014 were alleged to be potentially fraudulent. The Attorney General should focus on ensuring all eligible Virginians have the right to vote and that all eligible Virginians can vote without threat of intimidation.

It may be true to say that voter fraud rarely rises to the level of changing election outcomes. However, the idea that there were only 31 fraudulent votes out of 1 billion cast is patently absurd. In an article debunking claims of widespread voter fraud, the Associated Press in December 2021 found 475 potential voter fraud cases out of 25 million votes cast. As of May 2020, the Heritage Foundation election fraud database cited 1,285 proven cases in the previous four years.

I’d like to turn the question around. How many cases of voter suppression and/or intimidation in Virginia can the NAACP cite? Continue reading