In this interview with Jean Yarbrough, author of American Virtues: Thomas Jefferson on the Character of a Free People, Douglas Murray explores Thomas Jefferson’s life and legacy, and dissects the modern-day assault on Jefferson’s reputation.
A new preoccupation of college administrators across the United States is how to give students a sense of “belonging.” The concern is understandable. There is increasing awareness that America is experiencing a “loneliness” epidemic, as reflected by a 40% rate nationally of anxiety, depression and other diagnosed mental illnesses among college students. If students fail to connect with classes, professors, or other students — to feel part of a community — they are more likely to fall into a state of anxiety, depression and self-destructive behavior.
The University of Virginia is trying to address the problem of loneliness and isolation with a program called Hoos Connected. Psychology Professor Joseph P. Allen, executive director, will brief the Board of Visitors tomorrow about the program.
Hoos Connected organizes weekly small-group discussions and activities for first-year and transfer students. In a pilot program, according to a PowerPoint presentation posted on the Board website, Hoos Connected participants and a control group of non-participating students started out roughly equivalent in a measure of student loneliness. Among the goals was to get students to make inter-personal connections and recognize “how much we all have in common beneath the surface.” By the end of the semester, the Hoos Connected cohort showed a decline in loneliness, while the control group exhibited an increase, according to Allen. Continue reading →
Antisemitism in Virginia isn’t as severe as in some other states, but the number of incidents of harassment and vandalism has increased in recent years, according to a report by the Commission to Combat Antisemitism, “Combating Antisemitism in Virginia.”
In 2021, 411 reported antisemitic incidents impacted residents of the Commonwealth, reports the study, based on Anti-Defamation League data. These incidents showed a 71% increase over the 292 reported in 2018. Fortunately, none of these events involved the infliction of physical harm to anyone.
Antisemitism became a high-profile issue in 2017 during the Unite the Right rally of White supremacist groups, which was marked by numerous chants, and signage and sieg heils that singled out Jews for vilification. The vast majority of White Supremacists came from outside the state, but the event gave Virginia a bad name.
“Antisemitism is a wide-ranging problem that cuts across diverse segments of American society and exists on both the extreme left and extreme right sides of the political spectrum, as well as within the gradients in between,” states the report. Continue reading →
There’s a new crisis in the welfare state: longer waiting times for the processing of Social Security Administration disability claims. More than a million Americans wait in limbo, says The Washington Post. Though far from the worst, the slowdown in processing claims in Virginia — a state responsibility — has increased 129% between fiscal year 2019 and fiscal year 2022. Says the Post: The failure has left “thousands of poor disabled and increasingly desperate people without the benefits they need to survive.”
The article blames tight labor markets and staff shortages, obsolete technology, increasing medical evidence that must be reviewed, and shortages of physicians to review them. While the disability program is federally funded, states vet the claimants. Continue reading →
The dirty secret of the higher-ed industry is the high rate at which students drop out of college. The six-year graduation rate for full-time, in-state students entering Virginia’s public four-year institutions in 1995 was 60%, implying a drop-out rate of 40%, according to State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV) data.
After Virginia institutions made strenuous efforts to improve performance, the rate increased to 73% for the 2015 entering class — a big improvement. But there is still a long way to go — and it’s not yet clear from the published data what impact the COVID pandemic had on completions.
A high drop-out rate is a major social issue. Thousands of Virginia students spend tens of thousands of dollars, often borrowed, on tuition, fees, and room and board without ever acquiring a credential to improve their job prospects. Recognizing the problem, SCHEV has issued a report, “What Matters Most,” which explores how Virginia higher-ed can get better results.
The report contains some useful perspectives. But, as one might expect from a document compiled with input from university administrators with vested interests and sacred cows to protect — deans of students, vice presidents of student affairs, vice presidents of admissions, student support services administrators, and unspecified “subject matter experts” — it has blind spots as well.Continue reading →
The Big Bacon is pleased to announce that Bob Rayner and Robin Beres will make taking over primary editing duties at Bacon’s Rebellion. They will take on tasks that I will no longer be able to fulfill as executive director of The Jefferson Council.
Bob and Robin have been working as a team for years. They put out the Richmond Times-Dispatch editorial page back when it was independent from the newsroom operation. After they retired, they edited the Bacon’s Rebellion-affiliated newsletter, The Blunderbuss.
From here on, if you wish to submit a column for publication in the Rebellion, you can contact them at email@example.com. Readers are welcome to continue communicating with me directly at my Bacon’s Rebellion email address. Just be forewarned that I have delegated most editorial decisions to Bob and Robin.
The good news (for me) is that this new arrangement will free up time for me to continue posting to the blog. You’ll be hearing a lot about the University of Virginia and Virginia higher education generally.
Comments. On a related matter, I have provisionally decided to continue allowing readers to post comments. I have heard from enough of you that the comments are part of the (ahem, shall we say) unique Bacon’s Rebellion experience that I will make one more effort at bringing them under control. Bob, Robin and I are still working out the details. More to come.
The number of deaths in Virginia during the COVID-19 pandemic (2020 and 2021) was roughly 15,000 higher, or 22.5%, than would have been predicted from pre-COVID trends, according to a new report published by the Virginia Department of Health. However, COVID accounted for a bit less than half (47%) of the excess deaths.
Deaths attributable to accidents, homicides, liver disease, diabetes, hypertension and renal disease all increased more than 20% as well. On the other hand, the pandemic saw a decline in fatalities due to influenza and pneumonia, sepsis, and chronic respiratory disease.
Major conclusions from the study:
COVID-19 drove excess mortality in Virginia, but mortality for other causes of death was also higher than expected. The top five leading causes of death contributed to 70.4% of all excess deaths observed between the two time periods. COVID-19 contributed to 47.0% of all excess deaths. Continue reading →
Graphic credit: Washington Post. Click here to access the WaPo’s interactive feature showing the data for each city.
by James A. Bacon
Delve into the comments on Bacon’s Rebellion, and you will find that the dialogue often collapses due to disagreements over basic facts. One recurring dispute is the degree to which the violent crime rate is increasing, both nationally and here in Virginia. Some see the violent-crime-is-increasing narrative as a right-wing talking point with little grounding in reality… except when we’re talking about mass shootings, in which case the U.S. is the most violent country in the world.
News alert: When The Washington Post acknowledges that violent crime is surging, it can no longer be dismissed as a meme of election deniers, MAGA-hat wearers and other right-wing knuckle draggers. A WaPo story today refers to the spate in violence as “America’s homicide crisis.”
“The rate of killings rose nearly 30 percent in 2020 and remained high through the following year,” said the Post. “Even now, as the bloodshed has slowed, the homicide rate outpaces pre-pandemic levels.” Continue reading →
The mark of slave-turned-master Anthony Johnson. Source: Wikipedia
by James A. Bacon
The man who would come to be known by the English name of Anthony Johnson was born in the Angola region of southern Africa, enslaved by the Portuguese, and transported to Virginia for sale. There he was sold to a colonist, and then resold to a merchant planter by the name of Edward Bennet around the year 1622. None of the American colonies had yet legalized slavery — Massachusetts would be the first in 1641; Virginia would not follow until 1661 — and the only legal framework for bondage was indentured servitude. Accordingly, Johnson entered his service to Bennet as an indentured servant.
Bennet sent some 50 servants, including Johnson, to a point on the James River to clear grounds for a tobacco plantation. The following month, the party was attacked by the Powhatan Confederacy headed by Chief Opechancanough, who was bent upon exterminating and expelling the English colonists. Johnson was one of only a handful of survivors. After that harrowing episode, he proceeded to serve out his term as a servant and was given his freedom. As was standard practice at the time, he was given tools and allotted land. He settled along the Pungoteague River on Virginia’s Eastern Shore.
An enterprising man, Bennet took advantage of the so-called “headrights” system, in which anyone who imported labor to the colony was granted 50 acres per head. By acquiring a dozen or more servants — some English, some of African origin — he built an estate of more than 1,000 acres, which he named Angola. Thus, Johnson was one of the only — perhaps the only — documented instance in history of an African who became the master of White Englishmen in the American colonies. Continue reading →
Douglas Murray, author of “War on the West,” has launched a new videocast series entitled, Uncancelled History. In Episode 1, he interviews Jonathan Horn, author of “The Man Who Would Not Be Washington” to uncancel Robert E. Lee.
Whether you revere Lee or revile him, it’s a great interview. Murray and Horn place Lee in the context of his times. I can hardly wait for Murray to uncancel Thomas Jefferson.
Superintendent Cedric T. Wins at a VMI ceremony. Photo credit: The Washington Post.
by James A. Bacon
New rule at The Washington Post: it’s OK to insinuate that conservatives are racist for disagreeing with an authority figure who happens to be Black. No evidence of bias required.
The democracy-dies-in-darkness newspaper set a new low yesterday in an article published Monday describing how conservative alumni of the Virginia Military Institute decry the implementation of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion by the Board of Visitors and Superintendent Cedric T. Wins. Reporter Ian Shapira never comes out directly and calls the dissident alumni racist, but he makes the implication unmistakable. His rhetorical devices are a case study in slimy journalism that stops just short of libel.
Let’s start with the headline, which may or may not be Shapira’s composition but accurately reflects the tone of the article:
“VMI’s first Black superintendent under attack by conservative White alumni”
See the trope? The superintendent is Black, the alumni are conservative and White. The headline doesn’t say explicitly that the alumni are attacking the superintendent because he is Black. But the phrase invites readers to assume that there must be a link between the superintendent’s race and the race of the alumni — why else would race be injected into the headline, which by its nature is sparing and economical with words? Continue reading →
As noted in the press release I just posted, I have been appointed executive director of the Jefferson Council, the alumni organization fighting to preserve the Jeffersonian tradition, free speech and intellectual diversity at the University of Virginia. Although I’ll continue to publish Bacon’s Rebellion, I won’t be able to devote as much time to it as I had previously. The good news is that regular contributors such as Jim Sherlock, Dick Hall-Sizemore and Steve Haner aren’t going anywhere, and I’ll still jump in on occasion as time permits.
Still, there will be changes. On the positive side, I’m engaged in conversations to bring on board a new editor (or editors) so we can continue to accept guest op-ed submissions. On the downside, I am giving serious consideration to scrapping the comments feature, which has become a huge time sink. It literally takes an hour or two daily to make sure the comments don’t degenerate into profanity, insult fests, or flame wars. Making the situation worse, in recent days I’ve had to weed out the comment spammers who have figured out how to evade our spam defenses.
If readers are desperate to retain the comments, please let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org. Otherwise, that’s where the axe likely will first fall as we restructure the blog.
CHARLOTTESVILLE—The Jefferson Council, an alumni association devoted to upholding the Jeffersonian legacy at the University of Virginia, has appointed James A. Bacon Jr. as executive director.
“The hiring of a full-time director manager is a milestone in the evolution of the Jefferson Council from an all-volunteer group to a professionally staffed organization,” said President Bert Ellis. “The appointment will position the Council to ramp up its activities in support of the longstanding Jeffersonian traditions of civility, honor, free speech and the open exchange of ideas.”
Bacon is the perfect individual to manage the day-to-day operations of the Council, Ellis said. “As a university alumnus, a life-long Virginia journalist, including 16 years as editor and publisher of Virginia Business magazine and then founder of the Bacon’s Rebellion public policy blog, Bacon has a depth of knowledge of UVa’s challenges that few can match.”
Founded two years ago, the Jefferson Council is one of the first alumni associations in the United States to organize in response to the rise of ideological intolerance and suppression of free speech on college campuses. It is one of five founding members of the Alumni Free Speech Alliance, and a leader in the alumni rebellion sweeping the United States. Continue reading →
Governor Glenn Youngkin unveiled his plan Friday to promote the supply of affordable housing across Virginia. Other than a couple of television stations, the legacy media ignored the story on how the Governor proposes to address one of the most pressing public policy issues in Virginia. Too bad. The plan represents a significant philosophical shift for the Old Dominion.
The plan is notable for its emphasis on increasing the private-sector supply of housing rather than dumping endless sums of money into government housing projects.
The plan, said Youngkin in making the announcement, “is designed to address the restrictions on housing supply, improve and streamline permitting processes, and protect property owner rights. For far too long, Virginians have faced unnecessary burdens that have limited their housing options and opportunities.”
Caren Merrick, secretary of Commerce and Trade, also framed the plan as an economic development initiative. “The availability of workforce housing for their future employees [is] consistently raised by employers,” she said in the announcement. “The plan will align housing development with economic growth as part of our site development process and we will engage with site selectors earlier in the recruitment process on housing to ensure workforce housing needs are addressed.”
Bacon's Rebellion is Virginia's leading politically non-aligned portal for news, opinions and analysis about state, regional and local public policy. Read more about us here.
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