Tag Archives: James A. Bacon

The Enrollment Gap Colleges Don’t Like to Talk About

by James A. Bacon

While college administrators across Virginia and the United States fixate on the racial/ethnic makeup of their institutions, there’s a large and growing gender gap. Young women dominate enrollment at most higher-ed institutions these days. Fewer young men are applying, and even when they do, they’re dropping out more frequently. Administrators don’t like male-female imbalances because students don’t like it — colleges are mating markets as much as they’re centers of learning — but no one seems to be doing much about it.

There is no simple explanation for the large and growing mismatch. There is likely the same kind of “pipeline” problem we see with minorities — fewer males are applying for college because fewer are graduating from high school with college-ready skills. Additionally, males also may be more prone to substance abuse and mental illness, syndromes that are highly disruptive to academic performance.

There’s another possible reason, one that appeals to conservatives who see higher-ed institutions as dens of ideological inequity. In a higher-ed world dominated by the ideology of interesectionality — heterosexual white males are the O- of human society, universal oppressors — young men, especially young white men, experience college as a hostile environment. There may be some merit to this view, but it is only part of a larger story. Continue reading

Bacon Bits: Wind, Rain and Sun Edition

What happens when the wind doesn’t blow? The North Sea, locale of the world’s largest cluster of wind farms, normally delivers strong, consistent wind flows that keeps the turbines spinning. But every once in a while, weather happens and the winds diminish. That’s what’s occurring now. Blame it on global warming, if you will — that seems to be the explanation for every inconvenient fluctuation in rainfall, temperature and extreme weather.

Whatever the cause, according to the Wall Street Journal, the falloff in wind is wreaking havoc in the United Kingdom, where wind supplies 25% of the nation’s electric power. Due to the wind “shortage,” marginal electricity prices have shot up to the equivalent of $395 per megawatt/hour (or $0.395 per kilowatt hour). That compares to the statewide average of $0.11 per kilowatt hour in Virginia. To make up the deficit, UK utilities have been burning more… coal. Coal will provide a backstop until 2024, when all coal-fired plants will be shuttered. Is anyone in Virginia paying attention?

Speaking of coal… Southwest Virginians are still casting around for ideas of what to do when the coal plants close. There is no lack of creative thinking. I just don’t know how practical it is. Here is the latest: growing artisanal grains. Once upon a time, Virginia’s coal counties grew grain to supply alcohol feedstock for a booming coal-town bars and saloons. The economics shifted in favor of massive Midwest farms, which enjoyed economies of scale, and local grain farming nearly ceased. But, according to The Virginia Mercury, local economic-development groups want to play on the local-food movement to make Southwest Virginia a primary source of specialty grains for Virginia’s growing craft beverage industry. Virginia imports 400,000 bushels of grain into the state. Snagging  a piece of that action could support a lot of farms.

With climate change, who knows how that will work out. Let’s hope the rain keeps falling. Continue reading

9/11 Flags Vandalized

In commemoration of the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attack, Young America’s Foundation, a conservative student group, planted 2,977 flags in the University of Virginia’s Amphitheater. Vandals knocked down the flags and flipped a table with a banner. Expressing solidarity with the perpetrators, Twitter users equated the memorial service to the white supremacist torch march of the infamous United the Right rally and said falsely that YAF has “ties to the neo-Nazi movement.” See the full story here. — JAB

A Closer Look at Those “Driving While Black” Statistics

by James A. Bacon

When the Commonwealth published its Virginia Community Policing Act traffic-stop database last week, the Richmond Times-Dispatch spun the data this way:

Black drivers are disproportionately stopped and arrested, and they have their cars searched at higher rates than any other race statewide.

Here’s what the RTD could have written:

Black drivers stopped for traffic violations were disproportionately likely to be let go with warnings — or subject to no law enforcement actions at all.

Any fair-minded story would have provided both conclusions and conveyed the complexities and uncertainties in analyzing the data. Instead, the newspaper settled for cherry picking data that supports its ongoing Oppression Narrative. The reporters did not come right out and say that the statistical disparities are attributable to “racism” or “discrimination,” but the implication is clear enough. In contemporary society, statistical disparities are widely deemed to constitute proof. Continue reading

I’m Baaaack!

Many thanks to Dick Hall-Sizemore, Jim Sherlock and DJ Rippert for filling Bacon’s Rebellion with lively, informative content during my vacation absence. — JAB

Development and Sea-Level Rise in the Tarheel State

by James A. Bacon

People love living on the water. They just can’t get enough of it. If they can’t afford to live on the waterfront, they will pay a premium just to live near it. Signs of the human proclivity for water views are evident all around Beaufort, N.C. (pronounced Bow-fort, not Bew-fort), a waterfront town of 4,000 to 5,000. The heart of Beaufort is a charming hamlet dating back to the 1700s. The walkable small-town core with restaurants, boutiques, marinas and quaint historical buildings is the nucleus from which development radiates in all directions.

Coastal North Carolina in these parts, just south of the Outer Banks, is as low-lying and vulnerable to flooding and hurricanes as Tidewater Virginia. I know nothing of what preparations the Tarheel state might be taking in anticipation of the kind of extreme weather events that Jim Sherlock has described in recent posts. I will simply observe that whatever restrictions exist, they don’t seem to be slowing the pace of development on the state’s barrier islands and along its sounds, channels and estuaries. Continue reading

Horse Play

A herd of horses live on Shackleford Banks, a barrier island near Beaufort, N.C., where the Bacon family is vacationing. The horses do not comprise a thundering herd of popular imagination, rather they are dispersed in small groups — “harems” — with a stallion, two or three breeding mares, and their colts. Five or six of these groups reside in the eastern tip we visited, along with a few unaffiliated mares too old to breed and young stallions who have not succeeded in winning the affections of any females. Continue reading

Sunset: Beauford, N.C.

The Bacon family is on vacation this week in Beaufort, N.C. Blogging will be sparse.

UVa, COVID, and Jim Ryan’s $200,000 Bonus

Source: University of Virginia COVID Tracker

by James A. Bacon

Like many other University of Virginia alumni, I was taken aback to hear that the Board of Visitors had granted President Jim Ryan a $200,000 bonus for the great job UVa had done in addressing the COVID-19 epidemic.

Rector Whittington Clement put it this way: “When the situation this year became clearer and we had a highly successful handling of COVID-19, we think the University did as well as, if not better, than any institution of higher learning in making the adjustments necessary to COVID-19, we thought that it was appropriate to give him a bonus.”

I don’t want to prejudge whether Team Ryan has done a great job of addressing COVID-19 or not. To be sure, UVa has resumed in-person learning, but it also has instituted a draconian lockdown, including mandated vaccination for students, the unenrollment of those who did not comply, mask wearing required both indoors and outdoors, and mandated isolation and quarantine for those who test positive and/or been exposed. UVa is a laboratory testbed for the individual-liberties-be-damned approach to public health that some would like to see for the entire country. Continue reading

COVID, Vaccinations and Risk

Vaccine doses received Pfizer, Moderna and JJ). Source Virginia Department of Health.

by James A. Bacon

A new feature of the Virginia Department of Health’s COVID-19 dashboard compares the rate of infections, hospitalizations and deaths among vaccinated and unvaccinated people. We’ll get to that in just a moment. By way of preface, it’s worth noting that every Virginian who wants the vaccine has it.

The graph above shows the number of vaccines given since December 1. Shots given declined to almost zero in July and early August. As the Delta variant created a new surge in infections, a few hold-outs began getting the jab. At this point in time, about 4.9 million Virginians — about 57% of the population — are described as “fully” vaccinated. That number is not likely to change much, although the classification of “fully” vaccinated could change as vaccinations lose their potency and we are urged to get boosters.

Maybe the numbers that follow will jar some of the hitherto unwilling into thinking differently about the risks they face. The next chart shows the differences in the COVID infection rates broken down by vaccination status: fully vaccinated, partially vaccinated, and unvaccinated. Continue reading

Maybe the Redistricting Commission is Working Out After All

These maps compare the existing state Senate districts in Northern Virginia with one of two draft maps submitted to the Virginia Redistricting Commission. Source: The Virginia Mercury

In two recent articles in Bacon’s Rebellion, Dick Hall-Sizemore has thoroughly documented the sausage-making that has gone into the Virginia Redistricting Commission. It’s ugly, and it’s discouraging, and makes you wonder if there is any hope for humanity. But the release of two draft maps shows what the new districts could look like. The maps above, taken from The Virginia Mercury, show a proposed re-write of state senatorial districts in Northern Virginia that was submitted to the Commission.

It is a thing of beauty.

Without knowing the partisan implications — do the new boundaries throw incumbent legislators in the same district, do Republicans or Democrats gain ground or lose it? — who wouldn’t prefer the redrawn districts? Who wouldn’t prefer a system where the citizens pick their representatives over one where the politicians pick their citizens?

— JAB

Update: The Virginia Public Access Project reproduces the Republican and Democratic drafts for both Senate and House districts here.

Is Anyone In Charge Over There?

The new rules for occupying a prestigious room on the University of Virginia’s Lawn allow students to post comments and materials on two message boards affixed to each door. An addendum to the “Terms and Conditions for Lawn and Range Residents, Housing and Residence Life” states:

“Any materials placed on the message boards must fit within the four corners of each message board and cannot extend beyond the outer edges of any such board.”

The addendum also provides this context: Continue reading

Left Behind…

Richmond resident and green card holder Javed Habibi has lived in Richmond since 2015 with his wife, and four daughters. The electrician and his family visited Afghanistan in June and was scheduled to return to the U.S. Aug. 31, but all hell broke loose when Kabul fell to the Taliban. The U.S. government promised him that he and his family would be evacuated. Said Habibi to the Associated Press: “They lied to us.” — JAB

Bacon Bits: Reality Sucks Edition

Bye, Bye, Brackney. The City of Charlottesville will not renew the employment contract of Police Chief RaShall Brackney, who took on the job in June 2018, the City announced on its website yesterday. No explanation was given. However, the announcement follows less than two weeks after publication of a survey of Charlottesville police officers showing the morale was in the dumps, that toxic city politics had prompted many to scale back on traffic stops, arrests and community policing, and that few officers felt that Brackney had their back. Among other actions as the city’s first Black female police chief, who came on shortly after the tumultuous Unite the Right Rally, Brackney had dissolved the SWAT Team after allegations of misogynistic and other inappropriate behavior.

Speaking of employment contracts… University of Virginia President Jim Ryan was awarded a $200,000 bonus during a closed session of the June 3 Board of Visitors meeting, The Cavalier Daily student newspaper has revealed. The university froze salaries for all employees during the early months of the COVID-19 epidemic, and Ryan and other senior officials took a 10% pay cut. Said Rector Whittington Clement: “When the situation this year became clearer and we had a highly successful handling of COVID-19, we think the University did as well as, if not better, than any institution of higher learning in making the adjustments necessary to COVID-19, we thought that it was appropriate to give him a bonus.” Continue reading

Nine Years Later, Bon Secours Still Hasn’t Made Good on Promises

With help from Redskins cheerleaders, then-Richmond Mayor Dwight Jones announces the $40 million Redskins training camp deal. Photo credit: Richmond Times-Dispatch

by James A. Bacon

In October 2012, the City of Richmond negotiated a $40 million deal with the Washington Redskins and the Bon Secours Virginia Health System to build a Redskins training camp in the city. The complex deal had many moving parts. To make it happen, the city gave Bon Secours a long-term lease on the property of the old Westhampton School site so it could build a medical facility in the city’s prosperous West End. In exchange for favorable lease terms and the right to sponsor the training camp, the Richmond-based health system agreed to construct a medical office and fitness center in the poor, inner-city East End where it also operated the Richmond Community Hospital.

“This agreement will allow Bon Secours to significantly expand upon our effort to build healthier communities across Richmond,” CEO Peter J. Bernard said in a news release at the time.

Bon Secours did build the fitness center. But nearly a decade later, no ground has broken for the medical office.

Time is running out for the company to make good on its agreement, warn Michael Schewel, former executive vice president of Tredegar Corp., who served as Secretary of Commerce and Trade under Governor Mark Warner, and Steve Markel, chairman of the Markel Corp.

“They’ve gotten an extension from the EDA (Economic Development Authority) and they’re absolutely at the end of their time,” says Schewel. They’ve got to get a building permit, build a building, hire people, and get it done within a year of Jan. 1. It takes six months just to get a building permit from the city!” Continue reading