Tag Archives: James A. Bacon

The Best Cities for Cat Lovers


by James A. Bacon

Now it’s time for some clickbait — a ranking of the Best Cities for Cat Lovers based on a methodology of dubious merit from Lawnstarter. The compilers derived their ranking from eleven metrics ranging from the number of pet-friendly hotels, animal shelters, pet stores, and veterinarians per 100,000 residents to the median per-visit cat sitter rate.

The best city for cats in the United States is Orlando, Fla. The worst, among 200 cities surveyed, was New York.

If you want to how Virginia cities scored, you’re just going to have to click to finish reading this post! Continue reading

UVa and Tech Are Leaders in Building Massive Diversity Bureaucracies

Source: “Diversity University: DEI Bloat in the Academy”

by James A. Bacon

The University of Virginia and Virginia Tech have the second and fifth largest bureaucracies devoted to Diversity, Equity & Inclusion among 65 large public universities studied by the Heritage Foundation’s Center for Education Policy. UVa has 94 DEI personnel, while Tech has 83, according to Jay P. Greene and James D. Paul in their paper, “Diversity University: DEI Bloat in the Academy.

In another way of looking at the data, the authors found that UVa has 6.5 DEI staff for every 100 tenured and tenure-track professors. Tech has 5.6 DEI personnel per 100 faculty — compared to 3.4 per 1,000 for the average university. The figures for UVa, Tech and other universities surveyed are conservative in the sense that they do not include positions such as admissions and facilities managers that include DEI as part of their missions.

Based on climate surveys at several universities, the authors found no relationship between the size of the DEI bureaucracies and student satisfaction with their college experience. Continue reading

The Border Crisis Is Here, Virginia

by James A. Bacon

Off the top of your head, which states would you expect to be the top destinations for illegal immigrants? California, of course. Texas. Florida. New York. Would you expect Virginia to be in the Top 10?

By at least one metric — the number of pending immigration cases — Virginia is sixth in the nation. According to the TRAC Immigration database, there are more than 58,000 immigration cases on the waiting list, and the number continues to grow, reports WSLS television.

Relatively speaking, Virginia has been less impacted by the mass rush on the border that commenced several months ago. Only 923 cases have been filed in Virginia in the last 90 days, ranking it 11th in the country. Still, the Old Dominion is in the front lines of the illegal immigration crisis to a greater degree than I ever imagined. Unfortunately, our public policy debate does not reflect this reality. Continue reading

COVID: Is It Time to Start Panicking Again?

by James A. Bacon

COVID-19 is moving faster than we can keep up with. The headline news from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, based on a study of an outbreak in Massachusetts, is that vaccinated people are just as likely to spread the highly contagious Delta variant of virus as unvaccinated people. The vaccinated are far more resistant to the disease, but they’re just as likely to spread it.

What the heck do we make of that?

For example, how does this new finding impact mandated-vaccination policies in universities and many places of employment on the grounds that the unvaccinated pose a significant transmission risk to others? If vaxxed and unvaxxed are just as likely to be plague vectors, what’s the public-good justification for requiring vaccinations?

In another issue, the CDC argues that everyone should start wearing masks again. Personally, I don’t feel that masks assault my civil liberties, and I’ve made the decision to start wearing them again in public places. I’m vaccinated, so I don’t feel particularly at risk. If I do get the virus, odds are that I won’t even know it, and if I do, it will be like a bad cold. But if there’s a chance that I could carry and spread the virus to others, I feel a responsibility to the community to wear a mask. Continue reading

Wake Up, People! This Is Me Telling You That the Old Answers Are Not Working!

Photo credit: WTKR televison

by James A. Bacon

How many children have to be killed, wounded and traumatized before people wake up?

Headline from today’s Virginian-Pilot: “Nearly a dozen children have been shot this month in Norfolk. Communities are hurting…”

And then it adds this kicker: “and activists want change.”

The Virginian-Pilot spoke with elected officials, community organizers, the city’s police chief, and nearly two dozen families impacted by the violence. There are lots of ideas out there — more funding for recreation centers, expanded peer mentorship, getting guns off the street. The usual suspects… all of which have been tried and all found lacking.

The story does extract the beginnings of insight from one person. Councilman Paul Riddick cuts to the quick: “We have no one but ourselves to blame,” he says, referring to city leaders “We have lost control of our youngsters.”

But then he says the city needs to redistribute money from wealthy areas to poor areas to build more libraries and recreation centers. Libraries? Are you kidding me? The City of Norfolk needs to build more libraries to reduce the number of random shootings? Continue reading

What Fun! Spending $4.3 Billion in “Free” Money!

Manna from heaven

by James A. Bacon

Before departing for the private sector, former Secretary of Finance Aubrey Layne outlined his thinking for the disposition of $4.3 billion in federal COVID-helicopter money: The funds are a one-time windfall. Spend them on one-time projects. Do not use the money to fund programmatic expansions that will make an ongoing claim on future tax dollars.

In recent days, the Governor’s Office has been issuing press releases on how Governor Ralph Northam proposes to allocate the manna from heaven, technically known as the American Rescue Plan. To a significant degree, the Governor is hewing to what might be called the Layne Doctrine. Here are the ten announcements he has made so far, listed in the order in which he made them: Continue reading

Stoney Off the Hook for Statue-Removal Contract

Mayor Levar Stoney

by James A. Bacon

A special prosecutor has closed his investigation into Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney’s awarding of a $1.8 million statue-removal contract to NAH, LLC, set up by a former campaign contributor. Timothy Martin, Augusta County’s Commonwealth Attorney who was assigned to the case when Richmond’s chief prosecutor recused herself because of a conflict of interest, said he will not seek charges against Stoney. Authorities found no evidence of public corruption. “It’s over,” Martin said, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

“This is exactly what we said in July 2020; that there was no evidence of anything. The mayor had nothing do with the choice of this contractor,” said Stoney’s attorney Jeff Breit.

However, Martin said it is “still debatable” (the RTD’s words) whether the administration violated emergency procurement rules or the state’s law on war memorials. He would not consider charges based on those allegations because the scope of his investigation was focused on public corruption. Pursuing charges on the technicalities of procurement policy, he said, would be a “misuse of resources.” Continue reading

Nuking the Schools


by James A. Bacon

The COVID-19-related shutdowns of K-12 schools across the country have been educational disaster of historic proportions, according to data published in a new McKinsey & Company report. McKinsey doesn’t use the phrase “disaster of historic proportions,” but how else can one describe a response to the pandemic that left students on average five months behind in mathematics and four months in reading?

Worse yet, the racial gap in educational achievement has widened. Students in majority Black neighborhoods ended the year with six months of unfinished learning and students in low-income schools with seven months, the report says.

Over and above the lost academic ground, the shutdowns had a tremendous adverse impact on children’s mental health. Thirty-five percent of parents say they are “very” or “extremely” worried, a significant increase from pre-pandemic levels.

The numbers are national in scope. McKinsey did not break down estimates by state, so there are no Virginia-specific numbers. But given the fact that the school shutdowns were more pervasive and longer lasting on average in parts of Virginia, especially in Northern Virginia and center-city jurisdictions, one can predict that the educational collapse is at least as catastrophic in the Old Dominion as in other states. Continue reading

DHR Sets the Fiscal Benchmark for Statue Removal

The Lee statue being removed from the U.S. Capitol building.

by James A. Bacon

Let us all praise Virginia’s Department of Historic Resources. The department may be part of the culture-cleansing machine taking down historical statues and moving them to locales where they don’t offend people, but at least it is looking out for the taxpayer.

The Northam administration, acting through DHR, made national news last December when a statue of Robert E. Lee was removed from the National Statuary Hall Collection of the U.S., Capitol and relocated to a Richmond storage facility. But news accounts, such as this Associated Press piece, didn’t tell the story behind the story.

DHR arranged for the removal and transport of the statue to Richmond for $11,700. Let that serve as a benchmark for appraising the procurement policies of governments and universities carrying out their purges. (For background, see Carol Bova’s recent article, “Making Money from Cultural Cleansing.”) Continue reading

Why So Much Vaccine Hesitancy?

COVID-19 Vaccine doses received -- Virginia

COVID-19 vaccines received — Virginia

by James A. Bacon

Only a month ago, it seemed as if we were putting COVID-19 behind us. With the emergence of the super-virulent Delta strain, all bets are off. Even vaccinated people and virus-resistant school children are being called upon to start wearing masks. I have no set opinions on the proper course of action. Receptive to a wide range of viewpoints, I am in data-gathering mode. Suspecting that many other readers are as well, I am resurrecting a Bacon’s Rebellion feature from earlier in the pandemic in which I regularly posted snapshots of Virginia COVID data.

The graph above highlights the fact that almost everyone who wants a vaccine in Virginia has been able to get it. The state has received 10.2 million doses, of which 87.5% have been administered. The rate at which the state is receiving new vaccine supplies, an indicator of how many people are getting vaccinated, has tailed off to almost nothing. Earlier this year, vaccine supply was the bottleneck. Today, vaccine hesitancy is the problem.

Why? Continue reading

COVID and Labor Shortages Are Aggravating Virginia’s Mental Health Crisis

Despite rising incidence of mental illness and substance abuse, admissions to hospitals in Virginia has trended lower in recent years. Something is broken. Source: Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association

by James A. Bacon

The story made big headlines earlier this month when the Northam administration announced that five of the Commonwealth’s eight mental health institutions have stopped taking new patients. Two things are happening to make a chronically bad situation worse. First, the number of patients referred to state hospitals through Temporary Detention Orders (TDOs) has soared — from 3.7 patients per day in FY 2013 to 18 per day currently, or a 392% increase. Second, the hospitals are suffering staff shortages, in part due to the COVID-19 epidemic but also because “the level of dangerousness is unprecedented,” according to a letter from the Virginia Department of Behaviorial Health and Development Services to partners and providers.

“There have been 63 serious injuries of staff and patients since July 1 and we are currently experiencing 4.5 incidents/injuries per day across the state facilities,” the letter stated. Employees are quitting. One facility, the Commonwealth Center for Children & Adolescents, can safely operate only 18 of its 48 beds.

Similar supply-and-demand issues are spilling into the private hospital sector. Private psychiatric hospitals, which provide acute short-term care, are experiencing a similar imbalance between demand for psychiatric facilities and a labor shortage. Continue reading

UVa, Wokeness, and Rooms on the Lawn

by James A. Bacon

Once upon a time in a galaxy far far way, it was considered a great honor among 4th-year University of Virginia students to be selected for residence on the Lawn — the architectural heart of the university designed by Thomas Jefferson and now designated a world heritage site. The accommodations  were less than luxurious — most memorably, the 47 rooms were not equipped with their own bathrooms. There were offsetting advantages. The rooms had fireplaces, and the University provided a plentiful supply of wood. But living on the Lawn was mainly about status. It conferred recognition of a student’s accomplishments in his or her first three years.

Something is happening at UVa, and I don’t fully understand it. The prestige of a Lawn residency is declining. The trend was made visible last year when a 4th-year woman posted a prominent sign on her door emblazoned with the words “F— UVA” and in subsequent statements dismissing founder Thomas Jefferson as a slave-holder and a rapist. As evidenced by supporting signage on other doors, other Lawn residents shared her sentiments.

But the decline in prestige long precedes that particular expression of animus toward the university granting the honor, and it precedes even the reign of wokeness under current President Jim Ryan. As shown in the table above, submitted by UVa in response to a Freedom of Information Act request by UVa alumnus and Bacon’s Rebellion contributor Walter Smith, applications to live on the Lawn have fallen steadily and precipitously — 37% — over the past five years. Continue reading

Fredericksburg’s Tree Tyrants

Sallie Daiger sits on the porch of her pre-Civil War home on Caroline Street in Fredericksburg.

by James A. Bacon

I was driving up Interstate 95 to Fredericksburg one Saturday in April when I got a call from my mother. Pick up a rental chain saw on the way into town, she said. She wanted me to cut down a crape myrtle in front of her house. I knew well the tree she was referring to. She’d planted it as a sprig twelve to fifteen years before, and it had become a nuisance. Branches slapped against the telephone lines overhead, draped over the sidewalk, and shed debris on cars parking in the street. My sister, a housekeeper and I had taken turns pruning it, but the branches quickly grew back. I agreed that it was time to take the wretched thing down for good.

I’m no expert with a chain saw, but it wasn’t a difficult job. I lopped off the branches previously amputated with a hand saw, and carved out chunks of the trunk to chest-high level. Then I attacked the base of the tree, cutting around the rim as deep as the chain saw blade would go. I’d made it about 60% of the way through the trunk when a neighbor approached me in a state of alarm.

Frank Widic was a tree steward with Tree Fredericksburg. I had to immediately stop what I was doing, he told me. The crape myrtle was located on city right-of-way, and I was forbidden by ordinance from cutting it! I protested that the city had done nothing to maintain the tree, and that it needed to come down. That didn’t matter, Widic said. He  put me on his cell phone to talk to Anne Little, president of the nonprofit Tree Fredericksburg organization.

Little was even more emphatic. City rules were very clear, she said. I had to stop. If I didn’t, she was obligated to notify the police. Whoah, thought I. This was way above my pay grade. I handed the phone to my mother, who was watching events unfold from a perch on the porch. Continue reading

How Not to Treat a Conservation Easement

Abandoned camper. Photo credit: Wikipedia

The Commonwealth needs to tighten up its system for granting and overseeing conservation easements, the Virginia Office of the State Inspector General (OSIG) has found.

One of three conservation-easement properties visited by OSIG auditors did not meet Conservation Value Review Criteria adopted to provide for quality conservation value. The inspectors saw “trash, old tires, scrap metal piles, old campers, inoperable vehicles, and a manure storage area that contained deceased cattle parts on the property.”

Additionally, easements between $500,000 and $1 million lacked restrictions for water quality, historical preservation and agricultural use when compared to easements resulting in tax credits of $1 million or more. Continue reading

Confederate Statues and Judicial Fiats

by James A. Bacon

The Roanoke County Courthouse is located, oddly enough, in the independent city of Salem. Nearby, within the sight of the courthouse, there stands a statue of a Confederate soldier in front of a building owned by Roanoke College. The college would like to remove it, but the statue is situated on a scrap of land owned by Roanoke County, and only the Board of Supervisors is empowered to make the decision. The County has not been moving on the matter as expeditiously as some would like, and now Roanoke County Circuit Court judge Charles Dorsey has determined that the statue “obstructs the proper administration of justice in the Roanoke County Courthouse.”

The arguments in favor of keeping the Confederate statues are familiar to us all, and I will not re-hash them here other than to note that this particular statue, raised in 1909, does not glorify the Confederacy, the ante-bellum era, or the mythology of the Lost Cause. The placard says simply that it was erected “in memory of the Confederate soldiers of Roanoke County. … Love makes memory eternal.”

My interest here is not to re-litigate the propriety of maintaining a statue that honors nameless Confederate soldiers but to highlight Dorsey’s judicial activism. Impatient with the processes of representative democracy — the county board will not take any formal action until January 2022 — he has issued an order:

Either the Court must be removed to an appropriate location or the monument must be removed during the operation of the Court, the Court so finds, and the same is ORDERED.

Continue reading