by Robin Beres
In less than a week, Virginians, like Americans everywhere, will celebrate Independence Day. This year, despite high inflation, high gas prices, a sharply divided electorate, and rising crime rates, there seems to be a growing consensus that we celebrate this occasion with all the gusto we can muster.
Despite the holiday falling on a Tuesday, from Winchester to Norfolk to Abingdon, plans are afoot for a glorious Fourth, complete with fireworks, parades, and hot dogs. Mount Vernon is celebrating the naturalization of hundreds of new American citizens. Colonial Williamsburg is offering free admission to its historic area and art museums on July 4. Virginia Beach is hosting free concerts on 17th Street, 24th Street, and 31st Street. Just about every small town and village is having a parade. With 27 military installations around the state, expect to see lots of marching troops and military static displays.
Audience members hold their hands over their hearts while the U.S. Air Force Band plays the national anthem at Williamsburg, Va., July 4, 2012.
Thankfully, Virginia has so far managed to avoid the oppressive heat dome that sits over much of the United States. But even if the temps do soar above the 90-degree mark, it probably wouldn’t deter many Virginians from celebrating our Independence Day. It’s what we do — and studies show we do it with more pride than any other state in the union. Continue reading
by Robin Beres
In May 2021, The Harvard Business Review featured a column by Michael Hansen, CEO of Cengage Learning titled, “The U.S. Education System Isn’t Giving Students What Employers Need.”
Hansen argued that today’s education system is not equipping students “with the skills and capabilities to prepare for a career where they can obtain financial stability.”
It’s no secret the pandemic drastically upended the American workforce. After millions of workers lost their jobs and were sent home, they began to appreciate the value of downtime and a stress-free lifestyle. So much so that many of those newly-unemployed were reluctant to return to the nine-to-five grind.
Businesses, anxious to be up and running again, have been desperate to get warm bodies back on their payrolls and in the office. Many CEOs have come to realize that degree-inflation — requiring an often-unnecessary bachelor’s degree for entry- and mid-level positions — has been a barrier to bringing on good, hard-working men and women.
These types of jobs can include well-paying positions such as regional managers, supervisors, support specialists, administrative workers, and countless others. While a kid right out of high school may not have the skills necessary for many of these jobs, someone who has worked in the field for five or 10 years or more usually has picked up the qualifications necessary to do the work well.
Last week, Gov. Glenn Youngkin joined six other state governors in a trend that began last year when he announced that the Old Dominion will no longer require college degrees for nearly 90 percent of state government jobs. It will also no longer give higher preference to degree holders. Every year, Virginia state agencies advertise more than 20,000 job openings. Continue reading
U.S. Army photo by Elizabeth Fraser / Arlington National Cemetery
by Robin Beres
Virginia is brimming with famous and consequential landmarks and tourist sites. From the Historic Triangle to St. John’s Church in Richmond, to great beaches, mountains, and countless old plantation homes, vineyards, and breweries, there is a lot to see and do in the commonwealth. It’s little wonder that Virginia is ranked No. 6 in most visited states in the U.S. according to the World Atlas.
While there is much to see in Virginia that is upbeat and fun, there are also solemn and sobering experiences to take in as well. Some of the bloodiest battles of the Civil War took place in Spotsylvania Court House, the Wilderness, and Chancellorsville. Both Revolutionary War and Civil War victories happened in our beloved state.
It is important that we all take time to appreciate the sacrifices so many Americans serving in uniform have made to ensure our freedoms. That is the very reason we have this Memorial Day weekend.
While by no means a tourist site, Arlington National Cemetery (ANC) is one of the most visited places in Virginia. Located just across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C. The national cemetery is built on the grounds of a plantation that once belonged to Mary Anna Custis Lee, wife of Confederate General Robert E. Lee. The family vacated the home shortly after the Civil War began. Continue reading
by Robin Beres
Chincoteague Island would probably be just another quiet little town on a quiet little barrier island overlooked by beachgoers and tourists if weren’t for a 1946 visit from children’s author Marguerite Henry. The writer arrived intending to pen a book about the wild ponies on nearby Assateague Island and the annual Chincoteague pony penning and auction.
During her stay, Henry met a rancher by the name of Clarence Beebe who invited her to visit his ranch. There she met his grandchildren, Maureen and Paul Beebe. She also met a young filly named Misty who stole her heart. The pony was the daughter of Phantom, one of Assateague’s wild ponies that the Beebe children had worked hard to purchase during a previous auction.
When Henry learned the story of Phantom and Misty, she wrote the book, Misty of Chincoteague. It instantly became a best seller and was recognized by the American Library Association as Newbery Honor Book. In 1961, the book was made into a movie, Misty.
by Robin Beres
Politicians and pundits have invoked the “Virginia Way” in speeches and writings since colonial times. The phrase is used by partisans to evoke sentiments of decency and honor (and votes) in residents of the Old Dominion. In 1926, Douglas Southall Freeman wrote in an editorial for The Richmond News Leader that the “Virginia way is not one of contention, but of understanding, not the making of humiliating laws, but the establishment of just, acceptable usage. Public sentiment can be trusted now, as always, to find the best ‘Virginia way.’”
In January 2019, writing in Bearing Drift, Brian Schoeneman described how the “Virginia way” used to work in the legislature: “Republicans and Democrats would fight hard and long during the campaign season, and when the fighting was over, both sides would pick themselves up, dust themselves off, and govern effectively for all Virginians. The bitter invective and the accusations went away.”
Unfortunately, if the childish, vindictive sign seen today in a Richmond front yard is any indication of today’s political atmosphere, the Virginia Way is in big trouble.
by Robin Beres
The United States has not always been a bastion of religious freedom. When Virginia became an English colony in 1607, the English considered religious differences just as treasonous as political differences. Sure, Elizabeth I had reinstalled the Church of England following Queen Mary’s tumultuous reign, but the possibility of another Catholic on the throne remained a threat for decades.
As a result, English rulers decreed the Church of England to be the only official church in Virginia. For nearly two hundred years, there was no religious freedom in the colony. Even other Protestant denominations, such as Presbyterians and Baptists, were persecuted.
It wasn’t until 1786 that the Virginia General Assembly enacted Bill No. 82, “A Bill for establishing religious freedom.” Written by Thomas Jefferson and guided through the Virginia legislature by James Madison, the bill, eventually known as the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, was strongly backed by leaders of other religious factions.
The bill stipulated that no government had the legitimate authority to establish or compel anyone to hold certain religious beliefs. Jefferson firmly believed that if this newly-born nation was to survive, all men must be given the freedom to determine their own beliefs.
The bill was the first attempt to get religion out of government and government out of religion. Eventually the act became the basis of the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment declaration that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof….” The bill also confirmed Virginia as the birthplace of America’s religious freedom.
Little wonder then why many Virginians were stunned and concerned to learn of a January memo issued by an analyst with the Richmond FBI’s field office. The memo seemed to determine there were white supremacists masquerading as Catholics who prefer the Latin Mass. The author of the “analysis” seems to have even created a name for this newly-discovered group: “Radical-Traditionalist Catholics” or RTCs. Continue reading
by Robin Beres
While mainstream media may be transfixed by the gutter politics going on in New York, exciting, uplifting events are happening in other parts of the nation — including in our very own little city of Hampton.
Located on Hampton’s Langley Air Force Base just off the Chesapeake Bay, the Langley Research Center is NASA’s oldest field center. Established in 1917, the 764-acre facility consists of nearly 200 separate facilities and employs around 3,400 civil servants and contractors.
In the early 1960s Langley was a top contender to be named NASA’s Mission Control Center for manned space flights. But because the Hampton facility was so close to Washington, and Hampton Roads was already home to both military and civilian aerospace and aviation communities, NASA selected Johnson Space Center in Houston over Langley.
Although missing out on the Manned Spacecraft Center, Langley has nonetheless continued to play a vital role in the research and training that has made every space mission from Gemini I to Artemis successful. The historic research facility has had countless scientific breakthroughs and historic firsts. The first crews of astronauts were trained there. Langley’s Rendezvous and Docking Simulator trained both Gemini and Apollo astronauts. It is where the Apollo Lunar Module was tested.
Scientists at the center were instrumental in the development of supersonic flight. Researchers there created the world’s first transonic wind tunnel and developed today’s international standard for grooved airport runways. And, if you saw the fabulous — and true — movie, Hidden Figures, you know that those incredible women worked at Langley.
Today, Langley is very much involved in NASA’s plans to put humans on the moon — and eventually on Mars. The space agency’s Moon to Mars program is no longer just a dream or a science fiction story in Popular Mechanics. The Artemis space program is moving rapidly forward on several goals which include putting a base on the moon and eventually landing humans on Mars.
by Robin Beres
In a recent column for the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Rep. Bob Good (R-VA 05), noted that as of this month, “the U.S. House of Representatives will be the only thing standing between Americans and the Democrats’ assault on freedom, the family, the economy and our national security.”
The GOP won the House majority by a slim margin in November 2022. So, if Good is so concerned about the Republicans’ ability to address so many pressing issues, isn’t it odd that he is being such a willing contributor to the humiliation the GOP is inflicting upon itself right now?
What should have been a quick vote on January 3 for a Speaker of the House — a requirement before Congress can begin working on any of the people’s business — ended in the House adjourning Tuesday with no Speaker. Three consecutive votes failed to garner enough support for GOP leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA 23) to secure the gavel for his party.
The failure to elect a leader on the first vote is the first time this has happened in 100 years. The opposition is coming from a small group of far-right-wing Republicans who appear to be reveling in the chaos they are causing and the humiliation they have dealt to McCarthy. Bob Good is one of them.
I’m not sure what Good, who considers himself a biblical conservative, hopes to derive from this nonsense, other than reveling in the national attention. If he and his team of hyper-conservatives wanted to start this Congress making the GOP look like a bunch of inept buffoons, they’ve surely succeeded. If they wanted to give the Democrats a good laugh, they’ve also succeeded with that. Check out the Twitter picture of Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA 33), posing outside the House Chamber with a bag of popcorn. Continue reading
From the latest edition of The Blunderbuss:
The last remaining section of a once towering statue of Gen. Robert E. Lee is being removed from Richmond’s Monument Avenue today. No word yet on what will replace the graffiti-covered pedestal in the grassy circle. The state is transferring that land back to the City of Richmond to decide its fate.
In September, Gov. Ralph Northam had declared the 40-foot base of the Confederate general’s statue would remain until efforts to reimagine Monument Avenue were complete. For whatever reason, the governor has changed his mind. Perhaps the memory of the city’s over-promised and under-delivered plans to improve Richmond’s 17th Street Farmers Market is still too vivid. Maybe he wants no part of the blame should the pedestal and the circle become untended eyesores while the city argues over what should be placed there — understandable for someone already leaving office with a tarnished legacy.
Whatever the reason, it’s for the best that the expletive-adorned base comes down. Richmonders can at least enjoy an open space as they begin to put this sad saga behind them. And whatever one’s opinion of Robert E. Lee, I’m sure the old soldier is just happy it’s over.
— Robin Beres
by Robin Beres
It isn’t often that a Virginia legislator files a bill calling for increased fines that one is tempted to stand up and cheer for, but a recent piece of legislation submitted by Del. James Edmunds, (R-Halifax), is pretty close.
Edmunds’ bill, HB 1801, calls for increasing the minimum fine for “dumping or disposing of litter, trash, or other unsightly matter on public or private property,” from $250 to $500. (The maximum fine of $2,500 would remain the same.) The bill would also require litterers to perform 40 hours of community service, four times as much the current mandatory minimum of 10 hours.
Edmunds, who has long been a participant in the Virginia Department of Transportation’s Adopt-A-Highway program, says he has seen an increase in litter. His theory is that since restaurants have been closed during the pandemic, more people are ordering food to go and eating in their vehicles. When done, many are simply tossing the empty containers out car windows. Virginia roads have become eyesores.
“The roads are the worst I’ve ever seen them,” Edmunds recently told The Virginia Star. “The status quo is not doing any good. This bill will hopefully bring attention to a terrible problem.” Continue reading
I am delighted to introduce a new contributor to Bacon’s Rebellion: Robin Beres, a former editorial writer for the Richmond Times-Dispatch. — JAB
by Robin Beres
Inauguration Day has come and gone, and President Joe Biden is safely ensconced in the White House. For more than a week now, he has been sitting at the Resolute desk, merrily signing one executive order after another. What exactly is in many of them and how they will impact Virginians remains to be seen.
But for now, there is hope that the long, national slugfest we endured during President Donald Trump’s four years in office will end. Biden’s inaugural words calling for unity hit the right tones. It was full-throated and patriotic — and sounded reassuringly like a speech from a well-seasoned statesman rather than a feeble old man. We can only pray his remarks hold true.
And, for now at least, most of the protests that marked 2020 appear to have stopped (except in places like Portland, Oregon, and Seattle, where unrest and rioting have become near-daily occurrences). On Inauguration Day, in a locked-down Washington, D.C. — to all appearances under martial law — there was none of the looting, destruction, or cry-ins we saw during Trump’s 2016 Inauguration.
With nearly 26,000 gun-toting National Guardsmen present, there were no further acts of insurrection such as happened at the U.S. Capitol on January 6. Never has the nation seen such a dreadful exhibition of anarchy and, hopefully, we never will again. The entire episode was repulsive. Continue reading