Tag Archives: James A. Bacon

Et Tu, Tech?

by James A. Bacon

I have long thought of Virginia Tech as the most tolerant of free speech and expression among Virginia’s larger universities. There have been minor eruptions of cancel culture, but nothing as debilitating as the examples we’ve documented elsewhere. Looks like I was wrong.

Speech First, a nonprofit group working to combat free speech restrictions in higher-ed, has filed a lawsuit in the Roanoke federal district court, charging that the administration has created a series of “content-restricting policies and processes that allow the university to police and censor speech they deem ‘biased’ or ‘unwanted.'”

According to the Speech First press release, the lawsuit challenges four specific policies that chill student speech: the University’s discriminatory-harassment policy, its bias-related incidents, its computer policy, and a requirement that students obtain administrative approval to distribute flyers. Continue reading

The Bureaucratic Banality of Academic Oppression

by James A. Bacon

Two-and-a-half years ago, Kieran Ravi Bhattacharya, a medical school student at the University of Virginia, attended a session on “microaggressions” in which psychology professor Beverly Colwell Adams gave a presentation about her research. In what he thought to be a collegial manner, Bhattacharya challenged her analysis.

The challenge was not well received. Indeed, other participants in the session deemed his questions disrespectful. There followed a sequence of events in which Bhattacharya was investigated by the Academic Standards and Achievement Committee for unprofessional behavior, was told to submit to psychological evaluation, was suspended, was branded as a threat to the university community, was banned from the university grounds, and ultimately was expelled.

Bhattacharya has detailed his side of the story in a lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court in Charlottesville against the University of Virginia and various university officials. The defendants filed for a motion to dismiss, but Judge Norman K. Moon ruled that the case should proceed. I base the account that follows upon the details contained in Moon’s ruling.

That ruling presents only one side of the story, Bhattacharya’s, and has to be considered in that light. But Bhattacharya version is well documented with emails and audio recordings. If substantially correct, the implications for freedom of thought and expression at the University of Virginia are extremely troubling. The lawsuit opens a window into the internal workings of Virginia’s flagship university. Free thought and expression are stifled not only by the widely recognized phenomena of doctrinaire faculty and Twitter Outrage Mobs, but by administrators acting through the university’s clunky bureaucratic machinery. Continue reading

McAuliffe Goes Full “Racist, Racist, Racist”

Terry McAuliffe. Credit: NBC

by James A. Bacon

Here’s how you know Terry McAuliffe now thinks the Republican to beat in the race for governor this fall is no longer Amanda Chase, but Kirk Cox: He’s shifted the animus of his race-mongering fund-raising emails from the one to the other.

“I will never stop fighting for the right to vote,” he proclaimed in a missive today. Extremists in the Republican Party are trying to “out-Trump” each other by “rolling out more racist, restrictive plans to curtail voting.”

Recently Kirk Cox said we need to focus on “election integrity” in “tough precincts.” Cut the BS, Kirk, We know what’s going on. You want to curtail the constitutional rights of Black and Brown Virginians.”

Continue reading

Is an 18-Month Sentence Too Little, Too Much, or Just Right?

Amber Nelson

by James A. Bacon

By way of a press release from the Attorney General’s Office, Bacon’s Rebellion has learned of a heinous case in which a certain Amber Nelson has been sentenced to 18 months and ordered to pay restitution of $19,200 for elder neglect and abuse. I would invite readers to weigh in on the question of whether the sentence is anything close to appropriate given the nature of the crime.

Nelson was a paid personal-care services attendant for an unnamed victim in Washington County. Medicaid paid her to perform personal care services, helping with activities of daily living such as maintaining personal hygiene and eating properly.

In September 2019 the Washington County Department of Social Services removed the victim from Nelson’s care. An investigation revealed that the victim had been subjected to filthy conditions, had not been fed properly, had not been bathed, and had not been given given medications. The victim had a large cancerous mass on his/her head and weighed only 65 pounds. Nelson was arrested the following month, and charged by the Washington County Sheriff’s Department. Continue reading

Virginia Electric Rates: Low/Moderate Now But Heading Higher

Average electricity rates in rates in Virginia were 20th lowest in the nation in 2019, according to a survey based on U.S. Energy Information Administration data by the American Legislative Exchange Council. The average price per kilowatt hour was 9.52 cents.

But Virginians could lose their moderate electricity rates in the future as it joins the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative  (RGGI) and moves towards the goal of a 100% renewable electric grid by 2050, emulating policies of the Northeastern states with among the highest electric rates in the country. Continue reading

Youngkin Woos Black Voters

Diante Johnson

Glenn Youngkin, Republican candidate for governor, has launched a “Black Virginians for Glenn” Coalition, headed by Diante Johnson, president of the Black Conservative Federation.

I have no idea if this group will gain traction. African Americans’ loyalty to the Democratic Party runs deep. But it is imperative that Republicans make the effort. The GOP cannot win a majority in Virginia without becoming a big-tent party. Continue reading

Free Stuff for Everyone… Except the Middle Class

by James A. Bacon

Free bus fare for everyone?

Why not? Bus passengers already pay only a fraction of what it costs to operate local and regional transit systems. Ridership is down, thanks to COVID. Besides, it costs money to collect the fares. In the name of “equity” for poor people and minorities, why not just eliminate bus fares altogether?

That idea gets a serious airing in a column published today in The Virginia Mercury.

Virginia is providing free tuition for lower-income students attending community college. The state is jacking up the minimum wage. It is charging middle-class consumers higher electric rates to reduce charges for poor people. It is crushing small businesses with COVID-19 restrictions. Uncle Sam is crippling small landlords with a blanket moratorium on housing evictions, no matter why people are falling behind in their rent. Why the hell not provide free bus service for the poor — even as Virginia flirts with joining the Transportation and Climate Initiative for the express purpose of driving up the cost of driving automobiles?

This, my friends, is a war of the cultural elites upon the middle class. The elites despise us even as they plunder us. Continue reading

Back to Normal: Old Guys First

Number of cases by symptom onset. Source: Virginia Department of Health

The COVID-19 epidemic ain’t over, and new variants of the virus may be super contagious, but most of my old-guy friends have been double-vaccinated and, by Jove, we’re busting out of the house. Tonight I’m getting together with some buddies, all of whom have been double-vaccinated like myself, and we’re going to eat indoors! Like we did in the old days!

Life is still far from normal. People are getting stressed about the new virus variants, and the number of new cases is inching back up. Our neighborhood gym is still closed, which is a huge bummer because I’m yearning to get back in shape. I wear a mask at the grocery store and other places of trade, not because I think I need one but to avoid freaking other people out. My wife and I are still cautious interacting with younger people who may or may not have been vaccinated. But Virginia is inching back towards normality, and the old guys are leading the way! Continue reading

The New Racism at a Danville Vaccination Clinic

by James A. Bacon

Remember that COVID-vaccination clinic in Danville where so few locals were getting shots that people, mostly students, were driving in from out of town to avoid the long waits elsewhere? Concerned about the “equity” implications of all those white people getting vaccinated while blacks and Hispanics were not, the Northam administration restricted access for walk-ins. Only people properly scheduled through the state registration system would be allowed.

So, how’s that working out?

Danville’s state-run vaccination clinic has the capacity to administer up to 3,000 vaccinations per day. According to the Danville Register & Bee in an article published Saturday, it had averaged only 184 daily shots over the four previous days.

Well, that’s one way to ensure “equity” in vaccinations — prevent too many white people from getting them. Continue reading

Public Schools Should Accommodate Religious Diversity

Sikh religious observance

by James A. Bacon

Diversity may be our greatest strength, as we commonly hear, but it also creates problems that need to be worked out. A case in point is the public school calendar, which was set when the United States was an overwhelmingly Christian nation. When 99% of the population was Christian, it was simple common sense to organize school breaks around the observance of Christmas and Easter. Today, with immigrants from around the world, public schools are filled with Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, and Sikhs whose holy days are not accommodated by school schedules.

The Fairfax County School Board made a stab at compromise, directing teachers to continue holding classes on a list of 15 days marked by non-Christian religious and cultural observances, but to postpone tests and social and athletic events on those days. The board also voted to let teachers take two holy days off, but only if they made up the 16 hours missed, according to an opinion piece by Joyce Winslow published in The Washington Post. Winslow, who is Jewish, was not happy. She writes:

In effect, the board created a two-tier education system by establishing a “separate but equal” policy for minority faiths that is not equal and will continue to add to children’s “feelings of inferiority.” The Supreme Court found this unconstitutional for race in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka in 1954. The same should apply for religion.

Continue reading

Teachers, Your Commute Puts You at More Risk than In-Person Classes

The fatality risk of teaching a class in-person during the COVID-19 epidemic last fall was comparable to the risk of driving 16 miles in a car.

That is the top-line conclusion of a study based on extensive data from North Carolina, Wisconsin, Australia, England, and Israel covering almost 80 million person-days in school. That study. “The Incidence and Magnitude of the Health Costs of In-person Schooling during the COVID-19 Pandemic,” by University of Chicago economics professor Casey B. Mulligan, was published by the National Bureau of Economic Research.

For perspective, the average commuting distance (both ways) in Virginia is about 44 miles. Continue reading

Yes, the Virginia Beach Gang Shootings Should Be Investigated

Virginia Beach shooting scene. Credit: WAVY TV.

Delegate Jay Jones, D-Norfolk, and other state legislators have called upon Attorney General Mark Herring to conduct an investigation into the shooting death of Donovon Lynch by a Virginia Beach police officer during a wild exchange of gunfire at the Oceanfront a week ago. Herring had said he supported a Virginia State Police investigation, but Jones, who is running against him for the Democratic Party nomination for attorney general, wants something more high-profile.

Any time a citizen is killed by a policeman, an inquiry of some sort is called for. Given political realities today, an investigation outside the normal intra-departmental review is prudent if the victim is African American. Under the curious circumstances of this particular incident — the policeman had failed to activate his body camera — it is not unreasonable for Jones and his friends to demand an even closer level of scrutiny.

But if there is to be an investigation, let’s not focus solely on the one shooting. Let’s dig into the entirety of what happened at Virginia Beach that night, in which one other person was killed and eight were injured, including a policeman who was struck by a car. Continue reading

The Rebellion Takes to the Air Waves

Don’t have time to read Bacon’s Rebellion’s full post about the Barnes & Thornburg questionnaire used to divine perceptions of racism at the Virginia Military Institute? Catch the highlights in John Reid’s interview of me on WRVA this morning. Click here to listen. — JAB

The VMI Questionnaire: Honest Inquiry or Stacked Deck?

by James A. Bacon

As part of its “equity audit” at the Virginia Military Institute, the Barnes & Thornburg law firm is conducting a survey of VMI cadets, alumni, professors and staff to gauge perceptions of racism at the military academy. The stated goal is to “better understand the environment and culture of VMI as an institution.”

But many VMI alumni are wondering if the real purpose is to generate data to support a predetermined conclusion: that VMI is a hotbed of racism. As part of its contract with the Northam administration, Barnes & Thornburg will issue recommendations to address the investigation’s findings. Not only are traditions surrounding the academy’s controversial Confederate heritage at stake, but so, too, are such core VMI institutions as the adversarial rat line and the single-sanction honor code.

A copy of the questionnaire was dropped on my doorstep late one night last week, and I have been examining it closely since then. Having had some experience years ago as publisher of Virginia Business magazine in composing readership surveys, I know how important it is to word questions carefully. After reviewing the VMI racism survey, I can see why alumni are alarmed. Given the way the questionnaire was constructed, the investigators could well find data to support whatever conclusions it wants.

Barnes & Thornburg is scheduled to issue a final report in June. To maintain credibility, the report needs to release the entire survey result, including cross-tabs. Outsiders need to be allowed to access the data to verify the investigators’ conclusions. Continue reading

Bacon Bits: More, More, More!

More fiber. A joint venture involving Annandale-based Tenebris Fiber expects to begin constructing a 680-mile regional fiber optic network in Virginia. The network will run through Fairfax, Loudoun and Prince William Counties and connect with a Virginia Beach cable landing station that links to Europe and South America with subsea fiber-optic trunk lines, reports Virginia Business. The network will support the continued expansion of Virginia’s data center industry.

More rail. Virginia has finalized agreements with CSX, Amtrak and the Virginia Railway Express in a $3.7 billion project to build a new rail bridge over the Potomac River, add new track in the Washington-Richmond corridor, and buy hundreds of miles of passenger right of way from CSX. “This transformative plan will  make travel faster and safer,” declared Governor Ralph Northam in celebrating the signature transportation achievement of his administration. “It will make it easier to move up and down the East Coast, and it will connect urban and rural Virginia.” Even more, he claimed, it will reduce traffic congestion, cut pollution and create “a more inclusive economy.” So reports The Washington Post. I have yet to see a cost-benefit analysis of this massive investment. But with Uncle Joe planning a $2.3 trillion infrastructure boondoggle, Virginia will be getting lots of free money, so who cares?

More thought crimes. Kiara Jennings, who leads Loudoun’s Minority Student Achievement Advisory Committee (MSAAC), said teachers who did not fully embrace the county’s diversity training should not be tolerated. “If our teachers and staff cannot be open and willing to learn how to be culturally competent then they do not need to be in the classrooms any longer,” she wrote in an email, as reported by The Daily Wire. The MSAAC then posted this on its Facebook page: “There is strength in numbers and we believe wholeheartedly, that united, we can and will silence the opposition.”