Tag Archives: James A. Bacon

Sorry, Lefties, But Racists Don’t Invest In Black Enterprise


by James A. Bacon

The broadsides against Bert Ellis are going national. Inside Higher Education, the higher-ed trade publication, has published an article highlighting the growing controversy over Ellis’ appointment to the University of Virginia Board of Visitors. The article quotes Eva Surovell, editor-in-chief of The Cavalier Daily, whose articles sparked the furor, as saying that developments at UVa reflect the larger campus culture wars across the country.

That observation is true enough. Unfortunately, Surovell goes on to say this: “We’re just not unique in that really conservative voices are nostalgic for a time when women, when Black people and when other people of color were either banned or much less of a population here at UVA.”

Translation: Ellis and his alumni allies are reactionary racists and sexists.

I’ve got news for Ms. Surovell: Bert Ellis is CEO of Johnson Energy Storage, a developer of solid-state energy storage solutions founded by African American inventor Lonnie Johnson. Racists don’t invest in minority-owned enterprises. Racists don’t serve as CEOs of companies founded by minority entrepreneurs. Continue reading

A Lie Is Born

by James A. Bacon

It is horrifying to watch in real time how the media generates falsehoods and then spreads them without correction. About two weeks ago The Cavalier Daily, the student newspaper at the University of Virginia, published an article about a 47-year-old controversy in which Bert Ellis, who then was a tri-chairman of the student union and now sits on the UVa Board of Visitors, invited William Shockley, a racist and eugenicist, to speak at the university. The story, shorn of critical context, spread to the Democratic Party of Virginia, then to the Washington Post editorial board, and most recently to the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

Insinuated but not stated baldly, is that Ellis is a racist. In its latest mutation, the lie is used to build a case that Governor Glenn Youngkin, who appointed Ellis to the board, is, in the Post’s words, “racially obtuse.”

Bert Ellis is a colleague of mine. We serve together in the leadership of The Jefferson Council, which is dedicated to upholding the Jeffersonian legacy at UVa. I don’t know him intimately, but I have gotten to know him pretty well. I have heard him speak candidly on a host of incendiary issues, and I’ve never heard him utter a racist sentiment.

With this column, I’m putting Virginia’s mainstream media on notice: stop it! You’re treading dangerously close to libel. You can no longer claim innocence of the facts. If you persist, you deserve to be sued. Continue reading

Another Way to Crunch the SOL Numbers…

For simplicity’s sake in recent posts about the 2021-22 Standards of Learning (SOL) results, I’ve used the pass rates for English reading tests as a proxy for all five subjects, including English writing, math, science, and history. Perhaps a better way to rate the performance of Virginia school districts would be to compute a composite score of all five. Bacon’s Rebellion correspondent Jim Weigand has done so, and I publish the results here.

The table above shows the 12 school districts with the top composite scores — highest possible pass rate of 500 — and the 12 districts with the lowest composite scores. Click on the “Continue reading” link to see the scores for all school districts. Continue reading

Culture Wars + Unearned Income Equality = Political Realignment


by James A. Bacon

If you want to understand the political realignment taking place in the United States — and Virginia, of course — you need to read this column in The Wall Street Journal: “Income Equality, Not Inequality, Is the Problem.”

Most commentary on income inequality in the U.S. focuses on income reported to the Internal Revenue Service. It does not adjust for income taxes, welfare benefits, or household size. Once those adjustments are made, Phil Gramm and John Early contend, income differences between Americans in the bottom income quintile and the second from bottom disappear. Indeed, bottom-quintile households make slightly more disposable income than second-quintile households, and almost as much as middle-quintile households.

Actually, the situation is probably worse than Gramm and Early portray. Their adjustments include only “income transfers” — they apparently do not include a vast array of means-tested benefits like those we see in Virginia: electricity rebates for the poor, eviction moratoria, free transit fares, and college scholarships and loans. Nor do they include black market income, which some economists estimate to account for 10% of the economy.

As the sub-head of the article summarizes the picture: “Those in the middle work much harder, but don’t earn much more, than those at the bottom.” Continue reading

North of the James: Fastest Growing Housing Prices on the East Coast

Growth in Home Values 2000 to 2019. Source: StatChatva.org

by James A. Bacon

Ever since the late 1930s Virginia’s population has grown faster than that of the nation — until the past few years, that is. Recently, Virginia has experienced a slight net out-migration of domestic residents, and population growth has slowed to match that of the U.S. as a whole.

Writing in the StatChat blog, Hamilton Lombard at the University of Virginia’s Demographics Research Group suggests that a contributing factor is the relative rising cost of housing. He writes:

As recently as the 1990s, Virginia was, like its southern neighbors, a significantly more affordable place to live than most northeastern states. The median home price in Virginia in 1990 was half that of Connecticut but close to a third more than in North Carolina. However, over the past couple of decades, home prices in most places in Virginia rose faster than the rest of country. Continue reading

Where Black Students Outperform Whites

In this table a negative gap indicates that disadvantaged Black students passed their English reading SOL tests at a higher rate than their White counterparts. Among Virginia’s 132 school districts, there were five such counties.

by James A. Bacon

A major concern arising from the latest Standards of Learning (SOL) data is the fact that the racial divide between Asians and Whites on the one hand and Blacks and Hispanics on the other has gotten wider over the past three years. This disturbing trend has occurred despite unprecedented efforts to reverse the achievement gap.

Liberals, conservatives and woke progressives all want to close that gap. Before effective action can be taken, however, it behooves us to understand the underlying causes — not only why a gap exists in the first place, but why it got worse despite such extensive measures to reverse it. How decisive was the COVID-driven shift to remote learning? Was systemic racism to blame? Conversely, have so-called “anti-racist” policies made things worse? Does the quality of local school management make a difference? What role does the prevalence of poverty, family structure and cultural values play?

As I observed in a recent post, the size of the racial achievement gap varies greatly between Virginia’s 132 school districts — from devastating 30- to 40-point gaps in cities like Richmond and Charlottesville to a handful of districts where Black students out-performed Whites when measured by the SOL reading pass rates.

Instead of dwelling on the disaster zones, which are well known and widely reported, perhaps we should look at success stories where gaps are minimal — indeed, where Black students pass at higher rates than Whites. Continue reading

COVID and the Racial Achievement Gap

by James A. Bacon

Two weeks ago, before I so rudely interrupted myself by taking a vacation in North Carolina, I was engaged in an analysis of the latest Standards of Learning (SOL) test scores. As measured by pass rates, Virginia students statewide recovered much, but not all, of the ground they had lost during the disastrous 2020-21 school year of COVID-driven school closures. However, I showed there was considerable variability between school districts. Some some districts rebounded so smartly that pass rates last year (2021-22) exceeded those of the pre-COVID year of 2018-19. Others showed minimal recovery.

Today, I’ll drill into the data to examine the role of economic disadvantage and race. Rather than explore the “Black/White” divide in scores, as is customary among those who wish to perpetuate the idea of “systemic racism,” I present  data using Asians as the benchmark of performance, compared to whom all other groups — Whites, Blacks, and Hispanics most prominently — fall short.

In the table above we can see that 87.6% of students classified as Asian passed their English SOL tests last year, bringing them back to 98.4% of the pre-COVID norm. Whites recovered to a lesser degree, and Hispanics and Blacks an even lesser degree. Comparing the post-COVID year with the pre-COVID year, the racial achievement gap got worse.

It is widely accepted that the shift from in-person to hybrid and remote learning during the height of the COVID pandemic in 2020-21 is largely to blame for the plunge in pass rates across all districts, racial/ethnic groups and socioeconomic classes. However, the variability in performance after everyone returned to school is harder to explain. Continue reading

Still Chillin’

Blogging two hours a day, enjoying the respite from reality the rest of the day.

Woke Limbo: How Low Can You Go?

by James A. Bacon

The bar for triggering Virginia Democrats gets lower by the day. The latest limbo contortion is a call by the Democratic Party of Virginia and the University Democrats at the University of Virginia for the resignation of Bert Ellis, a recently appointed member of the UVa Board of Visitors, who has yet to utter a single public word in his capacity as a board member. In a joint statement, the two organizations cite three particulars, each of which exceeds the other in triviality.

According to the joint statement, Ellis’ sins can be traced back to the 1974-75 academic year when he was chairman of the University Union, which put on concerts, brought in speakers and organized other events at UVa.

That year, the Union and Ellis held an event entitled The Correlation Between Race and Intelligence, featuring William Shockley, an unabashed racist, white supremecist [sic], and eugenicist. This event is a stain on the University’s past, especially due to the event’s intentional scheduling during Black Cultural Week. As the University continues to grapple with its history of slavery, racism, and eugenics, Mr. Ellis’ appointment is not only regressive, but also directly insulting to countless students and student organizations who have worked relentlessly to make Charlottesville more equitable.

Neither The Cavalier Daily, in its article raising the controversy, nor the Democratic Party, in its joint statement, acknowledges that Shockley, whose theories were widely circulated in the 1970s, was invited to debate Richard Goldsby, an African-American biologist. Neither Ellis nor the Student Union endorsed Shockley’s racist views; they invited public scrutiny. Continue reading

As Anti-Jefferson Rhetoric Swells, Ryan Stands Silent

by James A. Bacon

Here is what passes for logic at The Cavalier Daily, the student newspaper of the University of Virginia, a university once reputed for the excellence of its education:

We reject how the University’s physical environment — one that glorifies racists, slaveholders and eugenicists with statues and buildings named in their honor — upholds an enduring culture of white supremacy. There is a reason why Charlottesville’s local Klu Klux Klan Chapter hosted its inauguration ceremony at Jefferson’s Monticello tomb. There is a reason why white supremacists gathered with torches around Jefferson’s statue on the north side of the Rotunda. There is a reason why they felt comfortable marching through Grounds. Our physical environment — from statues to building names to Jefferson’s overwhelming presence — exalts people who held the same beliefs as the repugnant white supremacists in attendance at the “Unite the Right” rally. These buildings must be renamed and memorials removed.

Follow the syllogism: White supremacists rallied at Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello tomb. White supremacists are evil. (Unstated but necessary to complete the syllogism): Ergo, Jefferson is evil. Therefore, buildings and memorials to him and other White supremacists must be removed.

The CD editorial writers use the rhetorical device of guilt by association to tar Jefferson. Notably, this particular circumlocution holds Jefferson guilty by virtue of association with the Ku Klux Klan, which did not exist in Jefferson’s time, for activities undertaken some 200 years after he lived! The mystic chords of White supremacy, it seems, transcend space, time and causality. Continue reading

The Newest Entitlement for a Morally Bankrupt Nation

Cartoon credit: GorrellArt.com

by James A. Bacon

This is it: the final straw. I’ve had it. I’m ready to (figuratively) burn the place down.

President Joe Biden has moved to cancel student-loan debt for 43 million borrowers in an initiative that the Wharton School of Business estimates could cost taxpayers $300 billion over the next ten years. Students from low-income families qualifying for Pell grants would get $20,000 in debt forgiveness while others would be forgiven $10,000.

This action is wrong on so many grounds that I barely know where to begin. As some have observed, the primary beneficiaries of forgiveness are America’s educated elites. Americans in blue collar occupations get nothing from this arrangement. The move also rewards deadbeats by offloading bad-debt burden to taxpayers. Those who made sacrifices to retire their debts take up the slack through their taxes for those who couldn’t or wouldn’t pay off their loans.

The Biden administration is effectively transforming student loans into another income-transfer entitlement benefiting debtors and the higher-ed institutions that enabled their debt at the expense of taxpayers and those who honor their debts. This is more than a fiscal outrage. It is a moral outrage. Continue reading

The Death of Common Sense and the Child-Care Shortage

by James A. Bacon

Simone Martinez began searching for child care four months into her pregnancy. When her baby Zelaina was born, she still hadn’t found a provider, Cardinal News tells us. “I was debating quitting my job even though we really can’t afford it,” she said.

Hundreds of families are on waiting lists in Southwest and Southside Virginia, says Cardinal News. Indeed, child care shortages are a statewide problem — and they are causing major headaches for parents.

Forty-seven percent of Virginia residents live in child care “deserts,” defined by the Center for American Progress as areas having insufficient options. Even when child care is available, it can be so expensive — equivalent to private school tuition — that it makes sense for many parents, usually mothers, to drop out of the workforce and stay home. In 2021, 44,000 Virginians made career sacrifices because of child care issues, according to the liberal-left think tank.

In the minds of many, every social problem calls for a government “solution,” which means Mo Money from taxpayers, and day care is no exception. The Cardinal article quotes multiple people calling for bigger government subsidies. “If we don’t have continued investment and subsidies from the state and federal government,” says one provider, “the child care industry will collapse.”

No one, and that includes Cardinal News, thinks to inquire why day care is so scarce and so expensive in the first place. The usual suspects quoted in the media never ask if excessive government regulation might play a role. Continue reading

Why the Enrollment Decline at VMI? Look to White Males for an Explanation.

This photo, taken in 1997, shows a female VMI Rat, Megan Smith, undergoing a grilling by upper class cadets during Hell Week. The Washington Post republished the photo last week to mark the 25th anniversary of women entering VMI, effectively reinforcing the image of VMI as a sexist institution. Remarkably, when staff writer Ian Shapira tracked her down in southern France, where she now works as an attorney, Smith (now Megan Portavoce) said the photo was taken out of context. “I looked liked … I was scared. But I didn’t feel scared,” she said. “I think the photo is often taken out of context. It’s used as proof of harassment towards women. But it was equal opportunity harassment that day.” Male freshmen were verbally abused, too, she said. “Everyone gets yelled at. They just find something to needle you with, to get under your skin. It’s part of the system of testing everyone.”

by James A. Bacon

When the Virginia Military Institute re-opened for its fall semester Monday with its usual parade-ground pageantry, it counted only 375 cadets in the 1st-year class. That’s down 24% from 494 the previous year.

“We believe there are a number of contributing factors,” says VMI spokesman Bill Wyatt. “Schools throughout the commonwealth and the nation are dealing with similar declines.” Nationally, there are 1.3 million fewer first-time college students this year than last, so VMI is competing for a smaller number of applicants. Moreover, the COVID pandemic depressed attendance at VMI’s open house program, he says. Personal tours are critical for showcasing the military academy’s unique value proposition.

But others offer different explanations. A large alumni contingent has been unhappy with developments at VMI since The Washington Post and former Governor Ralph Northam painted the academy as a relentlessly racist and sexist institution. They point to the wave of negative publicity generated by a Northam-ordered investigation into racism and sexism that was amplified by the media. These alumni also charge that the infiltration of leftist ideology at VMI is turning off families who still respect its core traditions of honor, character and patriotism.

“If the public believes VMI is racist and sexist, not to mention now woke,” says Carmen Villani, a vocal critic, “who wants to send their sons or daughters there?” (See his column accompanying this one.)

In seeming fulfillment of the alumni critique, the Post last week published a retrospective upon the occasion of the 25th anniversary of women first admitted to VMI. It led with a photo of a slight 1st-year woman, Megan Smith, being shouted at by hulking, grimacing, blood vessel-popping males. The headline to last week’s story: “VMI’s male cadets were berating her. The 1997 Hell Week photo went viral.”

An honest accounting of VMI’s plummeting 1st-year enrollment would acknowledge that both VMI and its critics have valid points. Continue reading

School Districts’ COVID Recovery Varied Widely

The “rebound” percentage expresses the 2021-22 English SOL pass rates to the pre-pandemic 2018-19 pass rates.

by James A. Bacon

Statewide student performance in the Standards of Learning (SOL) exams regained some ground lost earlier in the COVID-19 pandemic, according to recently published Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) data. But not all school districts were equally resilient.

In 2018-19, the year before the disruptive pandemic, 77.6% of Virginia public school students passed their English SOL exams. The state did not administer the exams the next year when all schools shut down in the spring in response to the COVID panic. Then in the second academic year of the plague, when many schools had turned to remote and hybrid learning, the pass rate fell to 69.3%. This past year in which in-person learning resumed, 2021-22, the statewide pass rate rebounded partially to 73.1%.

The state averages conceal considerable variability, however. In crunching the latest VDOE numbers, Bacon’s Rebellion has identified seven school districts where the pass rate exceeds pre-pandemic performance, and seven others where the pass rate remains 20% less than it was three years ago.

In the small Shenandoah Valley cities of Lexington and Buena Vista, the English SOL pass rates are 4.5% higher than before. But in the small cities in eastern Virginia, Hopewell and Franklin, the pass rate has barely budged since the previous year, stuck at 77.1% and 72.3% respectively.

Why the disparity in outcomes? Continue reading

Bhattacharya Case Dismissed

by James A. Bacon

A federal judge has dismissed a case against the University of Virginia by a medical student who charged that university officials had retaliated against him for disputing the speaker’s logic in a panel discussion about microaggressions.

The plaintiff, Kieren Bhattacharya, “has nothing more than speculation to support his claim,” wrote Judge Norman K. Moon with the U.S. District Court in Charlottesville. “He has not unearthed even a scintilla of evidence that would demonstrate that Defendants took any adverse action against him because of his protected speech.”

Bhattacharya’s case generated a flurry of attention among conservative media, including Bacon’s Rebellion, when it was filed more than a year ago. The med school student described an event at which he critiqued the logic of a faculty member opining on the subject of microaggressions. He expressed the view that “a microaggression is entirely dependent on how the person who’s receiving it is reacting” rather than how the statement was intended. The incident prompted a colleague to file a “professionalism concern card,” after which ensued a train of administrative hearings, Bhattacharya’s involuntary commitment to a mental health facility, the issuance of a no-trespass order banning him from the university Grounds, and his subsequent expulsion from med school. Continue reading