Tag Archives: Jim McCarthy

Free at Last

by Jim McCarthy

Compulsory K-12 education under state law is a fact often taken for granted since its enactment in 1908 in the Commonwealth of Virginia. In 1984, the state authorized homeschooling initiated by an earlier Supreme Court decision in 1972 (Wisconsin v Yoder), providing for a religious exemption from compulsory attendance in public schools.

At present, some 56,000 youth are homeschooled in Virginia. Enhanced empowerment of parents was a principal plank in Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s campaign for the statehouse and continues to be extolled even as he travels around the country in support of GOP candidates. The newly elected Speaker of the House of Delegates, Todd Gilbert (R-Woodstock), enthusiastically proclaimed upon his elevation, “We’re all about empowering parents.”

Under current regulations, homeschooling is authorized where parents demonstrate the following:

1. Possession of a valid high school diploma (or a higher degree, such as can be obtained through a university), which must be submitted to the district’s superintendent (a GED does not fulfill this requirement); or,
2. A valid teacher’s certificate as approved by the state; or,
3. Provide a distance or correspondence curriculum approved by the Superintendent of Public Instruction; or,
4. Provide evidence that they, as the teaching parent, can meet the Virginia Standards of Learning objectives.

Perhaps, under the excitement of the leadership of Youngkin and Gilbert, a newly woke conservative effort is emerging designed further to shed or minimize state control in this area. Del. John McGuire (R-Louisa) introduced House Bill 1454 to eliminate the existing qualifications for homeschool proctors. Evidence of student academic progress remains a requisite at the end of the school year and may be based upon a standardized test on a nationally recognized examination, or an evaluation by a licensed educator, or a report from a distance-learning vendor. Continue reading

Trust, but Verify

by Jim McCarthy

Thirty-five years ago this past December, President Ronald Reagan asserted U.S. policy with respect to international nuclear arms controls was to be guided by “Trust, but Verify” (TBV). Mikhail Gorbachev who led Russia from 1985-1991 through dissolution of the Soviet Union had led the promotion of glasnost, a policy of openness and transparency, as that nation’s initiative in global activities. Capitalizing upon these dynamics, Reagan co-opted a Russian rhyming proverb – doveryai, no proveryai or trust, but verify – to appeal to and connect with the Russian ethos to create a common understanding and criterion in nuclear arms control.

For the most part, TBV has been limited as an axiom within the international order of public policy and has achieved little traction within the U.S. national politisphere. TBV might have better informed Georgia voters about Herschel Walker and New Yorkers about George Santos. Essentially, however, John Q. Public is left to his own devices with respect to assessing trust by way of verification. Too often, however, trust results from acute or even painful experiences, e.g. Nigerian princes phishing emails, robo calls from IRS agents, crypto Ponzi schemes.

Prior to the events of January 6, 2021, the election results from the November campaign had been challenged by more than 60 failed lawsuits and confirmed by multiple re-counts among several states. Despite such verification, mistrust and distrust persisted across a broad spectrum of doubters including thousands who assembled at the Capitol on the day Congress was in session to verify the results submitted by the states. Of the thousands who protested, over 950 (January 6 Capitol Riot Arrests at usatoday.com) have been criminally charged and over 450 have entered guilty pleas.

Forty-three Virginians are numbered in the totals. Continue reading

Cause, Effect, and Regret

Photo credit: Foxinterviewer.com

by Jim McCarthy

Bacon’s Rebellion recently hosted a series of articles exhaustively parsing the procedures and policies at the University of Virginia regarding threat assessments in preventing violence related to the killing of three students and wounding of two by a colleague. The examination included the possible human failures that contributed to the event. Under state legislation, institutions of higher education in the Commonwealth had been tasked to produce policies and procedures designed to afford safety to campus communities, including intervention somewhat similar to “red flag” laws. The UVa shooter had been previously identified to campus authorities as “possessing” a firearm; upon inspection, a cache of arms was discovered in his dorm room. Cause and effect? Broken procedures and policies? Negligence?

There is no arithmetic or mathematical equation that governs or can predict cause and effect in human behavior. Unlike gravity, laws and rules of society and its organizations are essentially the overt expression of norms of behavior functioning as guides and generally will succeed because they are accepted by most as necessary to civility and peace and safety. When these guardrails fail, the effects can be deadly. Continue reading

Trump Denial Simplex

Red ripple

by Jim McCarthy

Wokeness appears to have infiltrated or infected Republicans and conservatives following disappointment when the ballyhooed Red Wave failed to materialize in the midterms. Denial is the first stage of the grieving process toward acceptance of the passing of a loved one.

Trump Denial Simplex (TDS) is not a replacement for Trump Derangement Syndrome suffered, according to Trump apologists, by Democrats and progressives possessed by a virulent hatred or dislike for the President in Exile (PIE) and employed to stoke similar responses among their voters. Nor is the new TDS multi-faceted, as it consists at present of a single part, giving rise to the “simplex” designation. Anger is the second stage in the grieving process but evidence of that has not yet been identified.

During the term of the 45th POTUS and the interregnum of PIE, an unwritten first commandment operated: I am the Lord of the GOP and thou shall not have strange challengers or graven images before me. Now in the course of human emotions, grief encompasses a passing from this mortal coil but, unlike Caesar, the good is not always interred with the bones and those who once praised (or were silent) about the Lord of the GOP, seeking to bury him, may have leaned over their skis.

Bacon’s Rebellion published an article, “Trump’s Done, and It’s Patently Obvious” (11/10/2022), proclaiming PIE’s passing as a vital political being. Commenters chimed in with posts expressing a variety of opinions attesting to the doneness of PIE. A few paraphrased examples of the comments are redolent of the first stage of the TDS: Continue reading

From Children-as-Chattel to Pick-Your-Pronoun

by Jim McCarthy

Pronouns have now entered the cross hairs of the culture wars, particularly in the discourse about parents’ rights in schooling.

Sometimes one longs for the good old days of yesteryear, nostalgic for their simplicity, generally free from microanalytic contention over the spoken and written word. While media is often faulted for contributing to an environment of conflict, even rage, promoting wars of words, JQ Public has been constitutionally armed for the fray by Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other platforms. In that sense, we have ourselves to blame for making dispassionate civil discussion extremely difficult, sometimes impossible, even incomprehensible.

The September 22 issue of BR carried a piece entitled “Parents’ Rights Are on the Virginia Ballot. Again.” The author asserted as gospel that “Children do not belong to the state, they belong to their parents” with no mention of the rights of children bookending the pronouns around “belonging.” The statement is a closed proposition defining a possessory interest of parents in their children to the exclusion of all others. This concept suggests the biblical language of dominion over the earth or subsequent perceptions about the necessity of children as agrarian labor to sustain the family. There ought to be little disagreement that children do not “belong” to anyone. Continue reading

Who’s “Legislating from the Bench” Now?

by Jim McCarthy

“It’s not the court’s place to legislate,” the judge stated in local media after dismissing a case seeking to have two books declared obscene upon her ruling that such ban violated Virginia and federal law.

“Look, the General Assembly is a citizen legislature. We’re not lawmakers. Things like this happen and a law got written in a confusing way,” noted the plaintiff’s lawyer, who is an elected delegate.

The two statements reflect a continuing point of conflict and criticism of court decisions deemed to be legislating from the bench. The “we’re not lawmakers” and “citizen legislature” comments ignore the fact that members of the General Assembly are served by a Division of Legislative Services staffed by more than fifty professionals to assist in drafting legislation. The term legislating from the bench tends to be employed by critics of judicial decisions, too often with little substantive explanation. Sometimes, the phrase “judicial activism” is used as shorthand. Generally, it is fair to say that the critique relates to the results of adjudication that either invalidate or modify legislation or appear to imbue legislation with meaning beyond the terms of the statute. Continue reading

Pixilated Public Policy

by Jim McCarthy

The citizenry relies upon its government agencies to deliver cogent services and determinations consistent with the welfare of the commonwealth. It’s not always an easy task and, sometimes, the outcomes of those representative institutions are, well, confusing, or pixilated.

On August 3, 2022, the State Corporation Commission (SCC) issued a Final Order denying the Virginia Credit Union (VACU) authority to expand its field-of-membership (FOM) to include members of the Medical Society of Virginia (MSV). The denial followed an initial approval three years earlier by the SCC’s Bureau of Financial Institutions. That action was challenged for formal agency review by a group of seven independent community banks represented by the Virginia Bankers Association (VBA).

The petition for review was a proxy battle in a larger national political effort to curtail the growth of credit unions. The national campaign alleged that credit unions were “overreaching” in expanding into new FOM areas, leveraging their income-tax-free status as not-for-profits to conduct business in geographical areas the community banks believed to be unique to their charters and purposes under state and federal laws. Continue reading

Zombie Legislation

by Jim McCarthy

Zombies, having become popular in filmdom and TV, are finding resonance in the nation’s legislative sausage making. Generally, the term zombie legislation applies to statutes negated or consigned to death, often by federal or state court decisions, that remain on the books due to legislative lethargy. Currently, the phenomenon has become more apparent and pertinent following the U.S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS) decision in Dobbs v Jackson, reviving concern about related privacy precedents.

As a matter of fact, however, zombie statutes have an even older presence than 2022.

The post-Civil War amendments intended to emancipate slaves and affirm the principle that all are created equal. The Thirteenth (in precatory language) declared that “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude … shall exist within the United States,” and the Fifteenth guaranteed that the right to vote shall not be denied. Declaring slavery shall not exist as a precatory statement is not the equivalent of outlawing the practice. Just over three decades later, at the opening of the 1900s, Virginia convened a constitutional convention. One of its prominent leaders, Carter Glass (later U.S. Senator), in responding to questions about some provisions in the document as discriminatory, proclaimed:

Discrimination! What that is exactly what we propose. To remove every negro voter who can be gotten rid of, legally, without materially impairing the numerical strength of the white electorate.

Continue reading

Blue Crabs Smiling

by Jim McCarthy

The image of Nero fiddling while Rome was ablaze may be apocryphal, but the moral is clear: pay attention to your surroundings. It’s been nearly four weeks since the announcement that the sperm capacity of Chesapeake blue crabs has been found to be in decline, threatening the viability (motility?) of the crustacean’s population. However, not a word has been reported in the interim on BR while its diverse contributors and commenters bloviate about favored topics and clever names to call those who dare to offer their versions of bloggery wisdom. Lesser such crises have been sufficient to call a special session of the General Assembly.

Fourteen years ago, JAB wistfully mourned childhood memories about blue crab fishing as two state governors – Tim Kaine and Martin O’Malley – announced that the Chesapeake crab population had sustained a significant decline. The BR appeal drew not a single comment from readers although the platform was already six years old at the time.

Thirty years ago, Maryland officially adopted Callinectes sapidus (Greek for beautiful swimmer) as the state crustacean and honors that nomination by providing license plates with a crab image. Over time, Virginia’s neighbor has developed a well-orchestrated campaign to ensure its imprimatur upon the blue crab, at times relegating the Old Dominion to the status of a lesser attractive jurisdiction. Continue reading

Zombie Senates

by Jim McCarthy

Zombies have been depicted in ancient cultures such as that of Norse mythology (draugar) very similar to those in contemporary culture. The Roman senate with the iconic SPQR dates to 753 B.C. as an advisory body to the king composed of elders (senes, Latin root for senescent or deteriorating in age) of the society.

The nation’s current politisphere has witnessed a resurrection of zombie allusions that could be applied to the country’s senates. In this regard, progress may not be our most important product, as General Electric spokes master Ronald Reagan intoned Sundays each week (1954-1962). There are probably as many measures of political progress as there are stars and constellations viewed by the Hubble telescope.  Yet, we cling to a concept of legislative governance by a senate with little question or consideration of the contemporary merits of the idea. Continue reading

Twofers, Threefers

If this clump of cells has achieved “personhood” the legal implications are endless.

by Jim McCarthy

As time passes, it seems a safe bet to conclude that the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Dobbs v Jackson will be deemed an upheaval to American culture and politics greater than that of Brown v Board of Education. 

Dobbs may have unleashed a kraken-worthy pandemic of civic monsters to rival that of Greek mythology. The decision is drawing embryonic and heated demands for a national absolute ban on abortions based upon a theory of “life at conception,” or fetal personhood, that augurs to redefine and upend well-settled related public policy and laws. The tumult emerging from Dobbs will make the half-century precedent of Roe seem peaceful.

Thirteen states have already adopted laws to ban all or most abortions, with eight protecting the fetus from the moment of conception without conferring personhood. However, Louisiana is presently considering legislation requiring the state to “fully recognize the human personhood of an unborn child at all stages of development prior to birth from the moment of fertilization.” Life at conception is sufficiently close – theologically and legally – to fetal personhood as to be only finely distinguishable.

The Commonwealth’s political leadership, for the moment, appears not to be poised to mimic Louisiana, but Old Dominion advocates are not hiding their aspirations for a “no compromise” ban on abortion as the state’s rule. Continue reading


Representative Ben Cline

by Jim McCarthy

Representative Ben Cline secured more than 80% of the votes cast in the primary in the Virginia’s 6th Congressional District. Fewer than 5% of registered voters participated, and the margin was less than 10% of the votes that elected him in 2020. Since then, the January 6 Committee has commenced its hearings. One might ask what the implication are for Cline, who voted to reject the electoral slates and popular votes of Arizona and Pennsylvania certified to the Congress.

Consider his response to an interview question from The Winchester Star shortly before the primary election.

Reporter: Do you think former President Donald Trump tried to steal the 2020 election, and what should be done about what happened on Jan. 6?

Cline: The Constitution provides that each state shall appoint its electors for president, “in such a Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct.” In the months preceding the 2020 election, those rules and procedures established by the state Legislatures were deliberately changed by a number of individuals, including governors, secretaries of state, elections officials, judges, and private parties. These changes were a direct violation of Article II, Section 1, Clause 2 of the Constitution. For this reason, I objected to the electors from those states and I stand by my objection. Continue reading

They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?

by Jim McCarthy

A month ago, a Bacon’s Rebellion column (“Commonwealth Attorney Nullification“) took issue with a national newspaper op-ed in which a Commonwealth’s Attorney pledged he would never prosecute a woman for having an abortion, no matter what Virginia law might say. The BR author suggested that such thinking would lead to anarchy.

The CA’s words are certainly provocative, to be understood as political bombast in his re-election campaign. The words are not a threat of violence and, at the same time, not abstract. Some may choose to characterize them as anarchical. Without more, their dangerous portent will be measured at the polls.

In 1919 the U.S. Supreme Court found in Schenck v US a clear and present danger in the language of protestors against the military draft as a violation of the Espionage Act of 1917. The ruling is best known for Justice Oliver Wendall Holmes’s phrase about “shouting fire in a crowded theatre” was not permitted free speech. The prosecutor’s vow might better be understood as shouting fire in a deserted theatre. Continue reading

For Want of a Plaintiff

by Jim McCarthy

On June 6, 2022, one hundred or more Virginians breathed a sigh of relief that they would not be required to campaign for the House of Delegates in November 2022. A panel of federal judges dismissed a lawsuit challenging the 2021 delegate elections because the voting districts were malapportioned, i.e., the results of the 2010 census were still in play defining the populations of the 100 seats.

Since the 14th century, we have been instructed on the crucial nature of the kingdom that was lost due to the want of a nail. A more contemporary moral is related to the significance of “one person, one vote.” The panel found that the plaintiff failed to demonstrate standing to sue because he had not suffered an injury in fact within the district where he voted as required by the Constitution for a case or controversy.

Reviewing the commonwealth’s population data from the 2010 and 2020 censuses, the panel’s analysis concluded that the plaintiff’s vote in the 2021 election was cast in a district that, in fact, had fewer residents than the “ideal district.” Census figures from 2010 indicated the “ideal district” was 80,000. When the new maps were drawn by the Virginia Supreme Court subsequent to the election, the ideal district was pegged at 86,314. The plaintiff’s district prior to the redistricting was numbered at 79,611 and at 85,344 post redistricting. The chart below outlines the analysis:

Continue reading

Ideas Suffer the Casualty of Casualness

Fairfax County Commonwealth’s Attorney Steve Descano

by Jim McCarthy

Skilled polemicists and rhetoricians (perhaps even unskilled) can present material in a seemingly unbiased way even while intentionally distorting it. A recent Bacon’s Rebellion article bemoaned the assertion of Fairfax County Commonwealth Attorney Steve Descano in a New York Times op-ed piece that he would “never prosecute a woman for having an abortion.” The blog item further placed in quotation marks, “no matter what the law in Virginia says.” Both quoted selections are, in fact, words from the op-ed.

We owe it to the iconic Paul Harvey to be on guard to hear the rest of the story.

The title of the original ep-ed column is, in itself, political pander, pure campaign bombast: “My Governor Can Pass Bad Abortion Laws, But I Won’t Enforce Them.” Any who accept that Virginia’s governor can pass an abortion law – good or bad – failed grade school civics. Don’t judge the content of an article by a headline that was likely written by the newspaper editor. As for the argument made by Descano, follow the Bacon’s Rebellion post’s hyperlink to the op-ed. There you will see the complete context of the statement:

…in Virginia today women who are suspected of terminating a pregnancy without the assistance of a certified medical professional can face felony charges if they miscarry.

So when the court’s draft decision overturning Roe v. Wade was leaked earlier this month, I committed to never prosecute a woman for making her own health care decisions. That means that no matter what the law in Virginia says, I will not prosecute a woman for having an abortion, or for being suspected of inducing one.

In context, the full and complete CA statement presents a different import of the matter than that communicated to Bacon’s Rebellion readers. Continue reading