Tag Archives: James A. Bacon

Northam’s Legacy as COVID Fighter

by James A. Bacon

As the hours tick down on his term in office, Governor Ralph Northam is inclined to reflect upon his performance. In the limited remarks he has made in public, he has expressed few regrets and admitted to few mistakes.

As demonstrated by the thoroughly documented meltdown in Standards of Learning (SOL) test scores, his positive self-appraisal is laughably myopic. Northam is the worst education governor in modern Virginia history. Hands down.

But there is more to governing than education. One must consider the performance of the economy, the budget, taxes, public safety, quality of life, and health care, among other factors. Perhaps the most pressing challenge during Northam’s term in office has been the COVID-19 epidemic. Any judgment about Northam’s performance as governor must assess his leadership in dealing with that crisis.

Several Bacon’s Rebellion contributors, including myself, have been critical of specific aspects of his performance — testing, vaccinations, school shutdowns, mask mandates, protecting nursing homes, etc. But, then, it’s easy for pundits to criticize. We weren’t the ones who had to make tough calls in the face of incomplete, evolving, and often conflicting data. Every governor was groping in the dark. No governor amassed a perfect track record. At the end of the day, we should ask, how well has Virginia fared in the pandemic compared to the other 50 states? Continue reading

Excising the “Equity” from Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

by James A. Bacon

The biggest challenge Governor-elect Glenn Youngkin will face during his four-year term, scheduled to begin four days from now, will be to undo the “progressive” policy prescriptions of the Northam administration inspired by Critical Race Theory. The trickiest of these is Diversity, Equity & Inclusion, or DEI, which is a benign name for a set of pernicious ideas.

DEI has become orthodoxy in K-12 education, higher education, and state government today, and its proponents will defend it tenaciously. Youngkin can be certain that any efforts to reverse the orthodoxy will inspire vocal allegations of racism. It is critical that he frame the issue so as to seize the moral high ground and maintain strong public support.

With this post, I share some thoughts about the rhetoric he needs to adopt.

The first step is to be clear about what is so objectionable about “Diversity, Equity & Inclusion.” It’s not the words “diversity” or “inclusion.” The United States is a nation of immigrants. Virginia is a demographically diverse state. It is appropriate to celebrate our ethnic diversity, and it is axiomatic that our schools, colleges, and government should be open and welcoming to Virginians from all walks of life. Continue reading

Cloth Masks Reduce Omicron Risk by 50%

by James A. Bacon

More evidence is coming in that the Omicron variant of COVID-19 has very different properties than Delta and other variants, and that polices and practices deemed appropriate for earlier versions might not be so for Omicron. The latest revelation comes from Dr. Linsey Marr, a Virginia Tech engineering professor, who works in the once-obscure academic specialty of bioaerosols. She became famous during the COVID-19 epidemic after playing a role in determining that the virus did not spread by fomites (particles left on surfaces) but through aerosols in the air.

WTVR in Roanoke sums up her latest conclusions about the efficacy of wearing masks to prevent the spread of Omicron: “She said cloth masks are only about 50% effective in protecting against infected particles — good enough for earlier forms of COVID-19, but not against the more transmissible Omicron variant.”

Only 50%? Cloth masks don’t offer a 100% guarantee of protecting us from the virus? That’s the glass-half-empty version of the data. The glass-half-full version is this: hey, cloth masks are 50% effective in protecting against infected particles!! Which is a lot better than zero.

This information resonates with me because, although I have dutifully worn masks in public spaces, I was unsure about their efficacy and feared that I was engaging in COVID theater. Continue reading

Littel Pick as Health Secretary Signals Youngkin’s Approach to Healthcare Reform

John Littel

by James A. Bacon

Governor-elect Glenn Youngkin has appointed a new Secretary of Health & Human Resources to lead the fight against the COVID-19 epidemic and also to pursue long-term  reforms in mental health and healthcare.

Youngkin’s pick, John Littel, is a Virginia Beach resident and recent president of Magellan of Virginia and chief external affairs officer for parent company Magellan Health. Magellan of Virginia provides behavioral health services to Virginia Medicaid and FAMIS enrollees.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has had devastating impacts on Virginians across the Commonwealth, and John will play a pivotal role in overseeing our efforts in protecting Virginians’ lives and livelihoods,” said Youngkin in a press release.

“Starting on Day One, John’s experience will be an asset as we fix our broken mental and behavioral health system, ensure Virginians have access to affordable, free-market healthcare options, and reform our healthcare safety net to save taxpayer dollars and improve healthcare outcomes,” he added. Continue reading

Youngkin, UVa COVID Policy on a Collision Course

by James A. Bacon

The debate over COVID-19 policy rages unabated. Governor-elect Glenn Youngkin and Attorney General-elect Jason Miyares announced today their intention to challenge Biden-administration vaccine mandates through the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, OSHA, and Head Start.

“While we believe that the vaccine is a critical tool in the fight against COVID-19, we strongly believe that the Federal government cannot impose its will and restrict the freedoms of Americans, and that Virginia is at its best when her people are allowed to make the best decisions for their families or businesses,” they said in a press release.

While Youngkin and Miyares were pushing one way, the University of Virginia was moving in the opposite direction.

In a communication to the UVa community, President Jim Ryan announced that the global spike in COVID-19 cases attributable to the Omicron variant had prompted him to take additional measures to prevent the spread. UVa is advancing the deadline for students, faculty and staff to get a COVID booster shot. The deadline — probably not a coincidence — is January 14, one day before Youngkin and Miyares take office. Continue reading

Miller Appointed as Transportation Chief

Shep Miller

by James A. Bacon

Governor-elect Glenn Youngkin has appointed Hampton Roads businessman Sheppard “Shep” Miller III as the next Secretary of Transportation. Youngkin’s press release offered no clues on how his transportation policy goals might differ from those of the outgoing administration.

“Shep will be an invaluable leader as Secretary of Transportation as we fulfill our promises to all Virginians to invest in roads, highways, and transportation infrastructure in every corner of the Commonwealth, so we can jumpstart job growth and keep Virginians moving,” Youngkin said.

The politics of transportation during the Northam administration have been relatively placid. Thanks to tax increases implemented by Governor Bob McDonnell and a slowdown in population growth and development of the Commonwealth’s Northern Virginia growth engine, transportation issues have been quiescent. Ever-attentive to the demands of the environmental lobby, Team Northam steered billions of dollars into railroads and mass transit, even as the COVID epidemic created an unprecedented slump in demand for rail and bus. But there has been no meaningful pushback on those priorities from any quarter. Continue reading

Chronic Complainers Notch Big Win Against Landlords

by James A. Bacon

Whether you agree or disagree with Attorney General Mark Herring’s position on the case, a dispute between an unnamed individual with mental health issues and her Manassas landlords, Gia and Ernest Hairston, makes a fascinating case study. In a press release, Herring touts the outcome — the landlords paying the tenant $60,000 in compensation — as a victory for the disabled. Based upon upon the facts provided in the press release, it looks more like a victory for chronic complainers.

Here are the facts as contained in a Herring press release issued today. The tenant rented a condominium unit from the Hairstons in the summer of 2018. She told Mr. Hairston that she lived with a mental health condition that was currently under control. After moving in, she complained about the air conditioning system on very hot days and made requests for other repairs.

Mr. Hairston became frustrated by the maintenance requests, telling her that “any adult” would know better and that she was being “difficult” and “a problem.” He said the maintenance concerns were “all in her head.” To document the necessity for the repair requests, the tenant asked that any time the Hairstons came to the unit that her therapist or caseworker be present. After agreeing initially, Mr. Hairston then terminated her lease, giving her 90 days to move. Continue reading

Red Alert! Omicron Now Everywhere

Alert! Alert! Alert! This Virginia Department of Health map shows the COVID-19 transmission rate is uniformly high across the state.

by James A. Bacon

It’s crazy out there, folks. The Omicron variant is running rampant, racking up record numbers of cases across the Commonwealth and filling up hospitals. We have seen nothing like this spike in cases and hospitalizations during the pandemic, not even in last year’s winter surge. The main consolation is that deaths are not spiking. The greatest risk to public health may be indirect: COVID cases filling hospitals and displacing patients with non-emergency medical issues.

Thankfully, Governor Ralph Northam has refrained from ordering emergency shutdowns during his last days in office. The temptation to “do something” must be powerful, but it’s not clear that anything short of draconian Chinese-style lock-people-in-their-apartments shutdowns will do much to slow the spread of this hyper-transmissible variant.

Here’s the weekly snapshot of COVID data: Continue reading

McDermid for Secretary of Administration

Lyn McDermid

The latest Glenn Youngkin appointment: Lyn McDermid as Secretary of Administration. Ordinarily, that is a low-key position. But, according to the press release, Youngkin is entrusting her with several high-profile tasks: revamping Virginia’s cyber-security system, fixing the Department of Motor Vehicles, repairing the Virginia Employment Commission, and the old chestnut, “root[ing] out waste, fraud and abuse.”

McDermid has IT credentials out the wazoo — most notably, she served as chief information officer for the Federal Reserve Bank between 2013 and 2020 — and she is highly respected in the Richmond business community.

There is one small but telling detail in the press release, which lists McDermid’s many affiliations by name, and mentions that she had served as chief information officer at an unnamed “Richmond based Fortune 500 company.” That company was Dominion Energy. Is Team Youngkin trying to distance itself from the company, which was the architect behind the Virginia Clean Economy Act and its goal of a zero-carbon electric grid? Stay tuned.

— JAB

Time for Fireworks — Youngkin Appoints Trump EPA Chief

Andrew Wheeler

by James A. Bacon

Governor-elect Glenn Youngkin has signaled a major shift in Virginia’s environmental policy with two appointments: Andrew Wheeler as Secretary of Natural Resources and Michael Rolband as Director of Environmental Quality (DEQ).

“Virginia needs a diverse energy portfolio in place to fuel our economic growth, continued preservation of our natural resources, and a comprehensive plan to tackle rising sea levels,” Youngkin said. “Andrew and Michael share my vision in finding new ways to innovate and use our natural resources to provide Virginia with a stable, dependable, and growing power supply that will meet Virginia’s power demands without passing the costs on to the consumer.” 

Wheeler is sure to be a lightning rod for environmental policy. As EPA chief, he attracted extensive negative attention from environmentalists. The Chesapeake Climate Action Network (CCAN) lost no time in denouncing him. “Governor-elect Youngkin has indicated that he is intent on making his first step on environmental issues a huge step backward,” said the activist group in a press release that arrived in my in-box even before Youngkin’s announcement. Continue reading

A Fitting Bookend to Northam’s School Misrule

Rosa S. Atkins

by James A. Bacon

Governor Ralph Northam has named Rosa S. Atkins as Virginia’s acting Superintendent of Public Instruction to replace the departing superintendent, James Lane. Atkins served 15 years as superintendent of the Charlottesville public school system before retiring to join the Virginia Department of Education as assistant superintendent for talent acquisition and development.

“In Charlottesville, Dr. Atkins was a true pioneer as she engaged her community in courageous conversations and implemented strategic initiatives to expand opportunities for all students and eliminate disparities,” said Northam. “Throughout her career, she has made an amazing impact on public school students in Virginia.”

Atkins probably will be a short-termer, providing continuity until Governor-elect Glenn Youngkin announces his own selection for the position. But I was struck by Northam’s comment praising her for “courageous conversations” and initiatives to “eliminate disparities.” So, I thought I’d do some background research. As it turns out, Atkins has had an impact, but I wouldn’t call it “amazing.” Continue reading

Indoctrination Nation

The Daily Caller is a conservative, Washington, D.C.-based media organization with a national audience. This video documentary, “Indoctrination Nation,” focuses on the “parent-led rebellion against the left’s war on our kids” — here in Virginia. The video is important not only for the story it tells, which Bacon’s Rebellion readers already know, but for the fact that it was produced at all. Those loud cracking, splintering noises you hear are the sound of the liberal media monopoly busting apart.  — JAB

Stuck in a Snowstorm: Better to Have a Gas- or Electric-Powered Car?

Here’s what Interstate 95 looked like near Fredericksburg yesterday. Both northbound and southbound sections were closed due to snow and ice. Photo credit; Virginia Department of Transportation via the Associated Press

by James A. Bacon

Hundreds of motorists were stranded on Interstate 95 in freezing temperatures last night after two tractor-trailers jackknifed in a snowstorm and triggered a chain reaction as other vehicles lost control. Both lanes of the Interstate were closed. As night fell, reports the Associated Press, motorists posted messages on social media about running out of fuel, food, and water. Senator Tim Kaine, who was commuting between his residence in Richmond and the Capitol, said he was stuck in his car for 21 hours.

NBC News correspondent Josh Lederman, who spoke on NBC’s “Today” show by video feed from his car, had this observation: “You really start to think if there was a medical emergency, someone that was out of gas and out of heat — you know it’s 26 degrees, and there’s no way that anybody can get to you in this situation.”

People can live without food and, for a time, without water. If worse comes to worse, they can pee on the side of the road. But the potential killer is hypothermia. The AP account tells of one motorist who stopped his car engine at least 30 times to conserve gas and run the heat just enough to stay warm.

I’m wondering how many of the stranded cars were electric vehicles and what happened to them. Continue reading

Charter Schools Looking Like a Political Winner

Sen. Chap Petersen.

by James A. Bacon

Virginia has long been one of the most difficult states in the country in which to form charter schools — publicly funded schools independent of school board control. There are only seven such schools in the state, and they enroll only 1,300 students. But the odds of change look better than ever.

N0t only has Governor-elect Glenn Youngkin vowed to create at least 20 new charter schools in Virginia’s public school system — the first time a Virginia governor has made charter school reform a top priority — but two key Democrats in the state Senate are open to easing the restrictions.

Sen. Joe Morrissey

Virginia Democrats are nearly monolithic in their opposition to charters, which they regard as a threat to educational equity. With a 21- to 19-seat majority in the state Senate, they are in a position to block any legislative initiative proposed by Youngkin. But Sen. Chap Petersen, D-Fairfax, and Sen. Joe Morrissey, D-Richmond, are dissatisfied with the educational status quo and have signaled a willingness to work with Republicans on the issue.

Also critical to the political calculus, public opinion in Virginia may be more receptive to charter schools than ever in the past. A parents’ revolt against “progressive” policies that water down educational standards in the name of racial “equity” helped elect Youngkin. At the same time, the Northam administration has presided over the greatest collapse in public school learning since the implementation of Standards of Learning (SOL) testing, and, arguably, in the state’s history. Continue reading

This Could Be Interesting… Virginia to Get a “Chief Transformation Officer”

Eric Moeller. Photo credit: McKinsey & Company

by James A. Bacon

This evening Governor-elect Glenn Youngkin announced several new key appointments, including his chief of staff and deputy chief of staff. But it is the appointment of Eric Moeller, a partner at McKinsey & Company, as “Chief Transformation Officer” that I find most intriguing.

I don’t believe that the Governor’s Office has ever included anyone by that title before. The  press release from Team Youngkin does not specify what Moeller will be doing, but it doesn’t take much imagination to speculate that appointing a partner of McKinsey, one of the world’s largest consulting firms, is for the purpose of taking a close look at the organizational structure and business processes of state government.

Chopping regulations is one of those old saws like eliminating “waste, fraud and abuse” that Republicans say they want but is easier said than done. This is pure speculation, but perhaps Moeller will lead such an effort. Continue reading