Tag Archives: James A. Bacon

Richmond Crusade: No Rubber Stamp for Kamras Contract Renewal

by James A. Bacon

Richmond City school Superintendent Jason Kamras, a white man, is super woke and rails frequently against systemic racism, but that hasn’t been enough to win him automatic allies in the Richmond Crusade for Voters, one of the city’s preeminent advocates of African American interests in the city.

The School Board is negotiating with Kamras about a four-year contract extension. The Crusade has issued a press release noting that its board has several “major concerns”:

  1. Richmond Public Schools still ranks at the bottom, when compared to all Virginia public schools, for 2018-19 and 2019-20.
  2. The graduation rate for Richmond Public Schools was 76.85% in 2017; it dropped to 71.58% in 2020.
  3. No progress report or data regarding the Superintendent’s performance has been made available for either the School Board or public consideration.

The Crusade is asking the school board to make public past and future evaluations, and recommends that Kamras be given a two-year extension on the contract “based on whether he has reached the benchmarks” recommended by the board. Continue reading

The Washington Post’s Latest Hit Job on VMI

William Wanovich

by James A. Bacon

I don’t know what the Virginia Military Institute racism investigation ordered by Governor Ralph Northam will reveal. Perhaps it will turn up evidence that racism is as “relentless” as The Washington Post says it is. In the meantime, though, I can’t quite decide if it is hilarious or vomit-inducing to watch the Post and its intrepid reporter Ian Shapira shoehorning facts to fit its racism narrative. The harder the WaPo spins, the less inclined I am to believe a single word.

Here’s the the headline from an article published three days ago: “VMI commandant to retire as racial reckoning continues.”

It seems that Commandant William “Bill” Wanovich, who oversees military training for VMI’s 1,700 cadets, is retiring at the end of the academic year. Shapira frames his departure in the context of the investigation into what Northam called — on the basis of previous WaPo articles — the school’s “clear and appalling cultural of ongoing structural racism.” Continue reading

Virginia Hospitals Demand More Transparency — for Healthcare Insurers

by James A. Bacon

Annual health care spending per person in Virginia is slightly below the national average — about $10,800 per person compared to $11,600 for the nation as a whole, but most of that advantage is eaten up by higher insurance costs, finds a new study by the Altarum Institute that was underwritten by the Virginia Hospital & Healthcare Association (VHHA).

Among the major components of healthcare expenditures, spending on hospital services is 12% less per capita in Virginia than the national average, 18% less for nursing homes, and 3% less for physicians and clinical services. But Virginians spend 7% more per capita on prescription drugs, says the study, based on 2019 numbers. Overall, per capita health spending on providers is 7% lower in Virginia than it is nationally. Continue reading

Vaccine Switcheroo Leaves Virginians Dazed and Confused

No, no, those are the stars of the movie “Dazed and Confused.” They just look like they work for the health department.

by James A. Bacon

It’s been 19 days since Governor Ralph Northam appointed Danny Avula, health department director for Richmond City and Henrico County, as Virginia’s vaccine “field general.” Given what appears to have been a total lack of planning for the vaccine rollout before his accession to the hot seat, it’s hardly reasonable to expect him to have wrung order out of chaos in such a short time. Nevertheless, confusion is the only way to describe the situation at present.

While the Virginia Department of Health has established a reasonable set of guidelines for which ages and occupations should be prioritized to receive the vaccine, there is far less clarity about who is to give the shots, where to go to get them, or where to sign up to get them.

There are many channels through which the 50 states have delivered the vaccine — doctors’ offices, hospitals, clinics, pharmacies, and drive-through centers. In the absence of Northam administration leadership, a system in Virginia coalesced around hospitals as the entities best organized to carry out the effort. According to today’s update of the VDH COVID-19 dashboard, a total of 475,000 shots have been given statewide. As of Jan. 19, hospitals had administered 234,400 of the vaccines. Were that figure brought up to date, it would be significantly higher. Continue reading

How to Take a Flawed Healthcare System and Make It Worse

Lashrecse Aird

by James A. Bacon

The House Rules Committee has passed a resolution that recognizes racism as a “public health crisis” in Virginia. To remedy alleged systemic racism, HJ 537, submitted by Del. Lacshrecse Aird, D-Petersburg, would expand the charge of the Virginia’s Office of Health Equity to ensure that state health policy is analyzed “through an intersectional race equity lens” and offer funding recommendations based on that analysis.

The bill also calls for training for Virginia elected officials, staff members, and state employees on “how to recognize and combat implicit biases.”

The resolution passed in a 13-to-5 vote, which suggests it stands a strong chance of being adopted by the full House of Delegates.

The sad irony is that if this doctrinaire framework for approaching healthcare policy is adopted, it will do almost nothing to help African Americans become healthier. Implementation of its proposals might even make racial health disparities worse. One thing can be said for certain: By distracting from the real flaws of Virginia’s healthcare system the bill would work to protect the status quo. Continue reading

Dig This — the Virginia GOP As a Big Tent Party!

by James A. Bacon

Virginia Republicans, divided between populist cultural conservatives and traditional free market/small government conservatives, may well immolate themselves when it comes time to select candidates for statewide office. I proffer no predictions. But, should the GOP find some way to maintain a facade of unity, there is one very promising sign for the future: The party is attracting candidates from beyond its traditional white racial/ethnic base.

The Bull Elephant, a partisan Republican blog, lists 10 declared or talked-about candidates for governor, five for lieutenant governor, and five for attorney general. The seven minority candidates include:

Sergio de la Peña, a retired Army colonel and Trump administration appointee to the Pentagon. The 65-year-old de la Peña, whose Mexican family moved to the U.S. legally, says he learned English and assimilated. As a candidate for governor, he supports making English the state’s official language and would end benefits for illegals. He supports funding law enforcement, prosecuting looters and rioters, and the right to bear arms. On jobs, says his website, “Sergio will restart the economy by creating an open and competitive economic environment.” Continue reading

Why Is No One Hyperventilating about Systemic Sexism in Healthcare?

by James A. Bacon

A Virginia male who contracts the COVID-19 virus is 11% more likely to die from it than a Virginia female, demonstrating the pervasive sexism embedded Virginia’s healthcare system. Despite the fact that the life expectancy at birth of a male in the commonwealth is only 74.7 years compared to 80.0 years for a woman, the Northam administration is doing nothing — NOTHING, I tell you! — to correct this grotesque imbalance.

Readers who know me well can probably guess that I don’t really think the healthcare system is systemically sexist. Regardless of the disparity in statistical outcomes, I think structures are in place to ensure that males and females enjoy equal access. And I think hospitals and providers do their level best to give everyone quality care.

Consider this an illustration of “Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics,” as I shall explain. Continue reading

Add an Extra 40 Days to the School Year? It Just Might Work.

Jason Kamras

by James A. Bacon

Jason Kamras has spent much of his time as superintendent of the City of Richmond school district blaming systemic racism for the system’s failure to educate thousands of inner-city school children, and most of his remedies call for more money — even though city schools spend significantly more per pupil than neighboring jurisdictions whose students perform far better. He has trumpeted one bad idea after another. But at long last, he is proposing an initiative that could be useful. I’m not being sarcastic here. I think it’s an idea that many school systems should explore.

In his proposed budget for the next fiscal year, Kamras submits the usual requests for more pay — a 2% raise plus a 1.17% step increase for every employee — and he wants to use federal stimulus funds to address what the Richmond Times-Dispatch refers to without elaboration as students’ “socio-emotional issues.” That’s a new term in the leftist lexicon. I’m guessing it has something to do with the trauma of poverty and racism. I imagine that we’ll hear more about it in the future.

Then there’s this: Kamras wants $8 million to add 40 academic days to the school year — in effect, creating year-round school — for 5,000 “high needs” students. Continue reading

An Era of Kindness, Civility and Decency? Not in Virginia.

Sen. John Bell

by James A. Bacon

Virginia Attorney General Mark R. Herring commented upon the inauguration of President Joe Biden today with the following remark: “Today, we move forward as one country into a new era where kindness, civility, and decency are once again represented at the highest levels of our government.”

That’s a lofty sentiment. I hope it proves true.

However, Herring’s colleagues in the General Assembly apparently failed to get the memo. A state Senate committee voted along party lines yesterday to censure Sen. Amanda Chase, R-Chesterfield, for “fomenting insurrection against the United States” in reference to the storming of the U.S. Capitol by Trump supporters.

I am no fan of Chase, as my previous posts on this blog attest. She’s a loose cannon on the ship of state. But I don’t believe in canceling everyone with whom I have strong disagreements. What, precisely, did Chase do or say to warrant a censure for fomenting insurrection? Continue reading

Transdev Employees Seek to Reverse NLRB Ruling, Decertify OPEIU

Fairfax Connector bus

by James A. Bacon

Office workers with the Fairfax Connector are represented by the Office and Professional Employees International Union (OPEIU) Local 2. This fall some employees wanted to hold an election to decertify the union, and they gathered the number of signatures required by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), but an NLRB director in Baltimore blocked the petition. Now the National Right to Work Foundation (NRW) has taken up the cause of the dissident employees.

Employee Amir Daoud is asking the NLRB to overturn the so-called “contract bar,” the non-statutory NLRB policy cited to halt the election. The contract bar forbids employees from ousting a union for up to three years after their employer and union finalize a bargaining contract.

Whatever the outcome of this particular petition, Virginia workers are likely to see more incidents like it. With Democrats in control of the General Assembly and all three statewide offices, organized labor is targeting the state’s Right to Work law, which allows employees of a bargaining unit to opt out of union membership. Continue reading

Yes, COVID Is Spreading Faster, But Not As Fast As You Think

Don’t be this guy.

by James A. Bacon

Once again Virginia is gripped by COVID-19 hysteria, this time whipped up by a surge in the number of confirmed cases. The situation needs to be taken seriously — people are getting sick, and people are dying — but the wide-eyed alarmism likely isn’t justified.

Let’s start by looking at the seven-day moving average of confirmed cases reported on the Virginia Department of Health dashboard, which is the basis for the panic.

Based on these numbers, the spread of COVID-19 appears to be terrifying. The seven-day moving average is approaching 5,000 new cases reported daily — roughly four times the rate of the spring and summer peaks.

But the question arises, are more people getting COVID-19, or have we just massively expanded the level of testing? Are we capturing cases that we missed back in the spring and summer? Continue reading

Restructuring Higher Ed for Greater Produktivität

Pre-COVID, the UVa Kaffeestunde met every week. German speakers of all levels hung out to sprechen deutsch.

by James A. Bacon

Last month the University of Virginia Board of Visitors approved a recommendation to eliminate the M.A. and PhD programs in the Department of Germanic Languages & Literatures. While UVa students retained a healthy appetite for learning to read and speak in German, only a few showed an interest in plumbing the depths of German literature.

The scaling back of the German department, which offered advanced courses in such authors as Freud and Kafka last semester, was part of a larger restructuring of UVa’s graduate foreign-language program. The board also voted to eliminate the M.A. program in Italian and the B.A. in Comparative Literature.

Whether the rollbacks result in a reduction in the number of courses, staff or expenses is as yet unknown. The University is “still assessing” the impact of the cutbacks, says spokesman Brian Coy. “Because the University makes a practice of fully supporting doctoral students, we expect the termination of the PhD in German to result in some small savings, however other changes within the department have not been made.” Continue reading

Update: Herring Hands Stoney Contract Investigation to State Police

by James A. Bacon

Attorney General Mark Herring has authorized the Virginia State Police to investigate Mayor Levar Stoney’s circumvention of procurement protocols to award a $1.8 million Confederate statue-removal contract to a campaign contributor, reports Virginia Public Media.

The investigation, requested by Kim Gray, Richmond City Councilwoman and rival candidate for Richmond mayor, had been handed to Timothy Martin, commonwealth’s attorney for August County, as special prosecutor. He kicked it over to Herring, and Herring has given it to the state police. I was concerned that Herring might simply bury the case, but I am pleased to see that he did not. Continue reading

Facebook, MailChimp Suspend Virginia Gun Rights Group’s Access

Philip Van Cleave. Credit: Rappahannock News

by James A. Bacon

Are the social media giants moving beyond de-platforming groups and individuals who participated in the mob assault on the U.S. Capitol building to de-platforming conservative groups indiscriminately?

Philip Van Cleave, president of the Virginia Citizens Defense League (VCDL), says his personal Facebook account was suspended last week. That action followed Mailchip’s suspension of its email service to VCDL. Continue reading

Combating Past Racism with Reverse Racism

Del. David Reid, D-Loudoun

by James A. Bacon

Del. David Reid, D-Loudoun, has introduced HB 1980, a bill that would establish the Enslaved Ancestors College Access Scholarship Program. Beginning in the 2022-2023 academic year, five public Virginia universities each would provide scholarships to at least one African-American Virginian student born in the Commonwealth sufficient to cover tuition, fees, room, board, books, other educational supplies, and even tutoring — a full ride.

To qualify, the student could come from a household earning up to four times the federal poverty guidelines (roughly $70,400 in 2020 for a family with a single parent and single child). The State Council of Higher Education (SCHEV) for Virginia would implement the program in collaboration with the institutions and report periodically to the General Assembly. Continue reading