Saturday, November 20, 2021

The Path of Whiteousness

The Spy's Religion Section

By Leo Frank
Religion Editor

Those appalled and offended by the spectacle of a white punk getting away with strapping on a lethal assault weapon during a protest against white supremacy, and then shooting and killing anyone who perceives him as a threat might be tempted to take consolation in religion.  Especially one of the religions that stress moral behavior, mercy, and peace.  You know, like Judaism, Islam, or Christianity.  Right?

Pump the brakes, Crusader.

It turns out that not all religions are, um, created equal.  Well, maybe they were created equal but some of them seem to have drifted a few leagues away from their professed ideals.

The recent election in Virginia has exposed the real face of what is normally described as white evangelical Christianity, according to The Washington Post:

Evangelical white Christianity at work

For decades, White evangelicals have gotten riled up over issues ranging from evolution to desegregation to prayer in schools, and in Virginia’s latest gubernatorial race, the culture wars in schools were front and center. Ahead of Election Day, Youngkin railed against critical race theory, often using CRT — an intellectual movement that examines the way policies and laws perpetuate systemic racism and is not part of the public school curriculum — as a way to describe schools’ efforts to teach children about race and racial disparities.

That message energized White evangelicals, who flocked to Youngkin.
The National Election Pool exit poll found Youngkin won White evangelicals by 89 percent — a higher percentage than President Donald Trump, who won White evangelicals in Virginia in 2020 by 80 percent.

Did you know that a core tenet of Christianity was covering up a 400-year history of white racism?  We didn't!

But perhaps that's due to our own ignorance, because white supremacy and unearned resentment has been baked into the white evangelical Twinkie for a very long time:

So what then were the real origins of the religious right? It turns out that the movement can trace its political roots back to a court ruling, but not Roe v. Wade.

In May 1969, a group of African-American parents in Holmes County, Mississippi, sued the Treasury Department to prevent three new whites-only K-12 private academies from securing full tax-exempt status, arguing that their discriminatory policies prevented them from being considered “charitable” institutions....

On June 30, 1971, the [Federal] Court...issued its ruling .... [upholding] the new IRS policy: “Under the Internal Revenue Code, properly construed, racially discriminatory private schools are not entitled to the Federal tax exemption provided for charitable, educational institutions,....”

The...ruling ... captured the attention of evangelical leaders, especially as the IRS began sending questionnaires to church-related “segregation academies,” including Falwell’s own Lynchburg Christian School, inquiring about their racial policies. Falwell was furious. “In some states,” he famously complained, “It’s easier to open a massage parlor than a Christian school.”

So the white evangelical movement was built on a hypocritical campaign to subvert school desegregation. Where in Christian Scripture is that?

We remember reading tons of happy horse***t about the Moral Majority in its heyday and we don't recall word one about how it was founded to advance and protect white racism.  It's almost like 30 years ago the media was afraid to call out white racism.  Isn't it great that those days are over?

The white evangelical mission of promoting white racism ought to be enough reason to deny it a legitimate position in American political life and discourse, but of course when entitled white people are allowed to run rampant without consequences, there's so much more, in addition to the body count in Kenosha.  Here's the views of one pardoned felon:

Christian soldier Gen. Michael Flynn

Former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn's call for "one religion" in the US to win the battle of good versus evil has garnered sharp backlash from a range of critics. Flynn, who was subpoenaed last week by the House select committee investigating the January 6 attack, made the comment during a speech to a conservative Christian audience on the ReAwaken America tour in Texas this weekend. "If we are going to have one nation under God, which we must, we have to have one religion," he said. "One nation under God and one religion under God, right? All of us, working together." His message -- the latest in a lengthy history of outlandish remarks -- appears to be an inflammatory contradiction of the First Amendment, which protects freedom of religion. Flynn has previously drawn backlash for controversial comments....

...[F]former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper told CNN Sunday. ".... He is clearly unhinged here with this kind of public statement."

Retired Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling, a national security analyst for CNN, similarly cast Flynn's remarks as "an embarrassment to the US Army & an aberration to those of us who have proudly worn the cloth of our country."

"His words are disgusting," Hertling said in a tweet.  

Outlandish?  Gen. Flynn, not known as a particular creative thinker, didn't make this s*** up. He's simply parroting a common view among white evangelicals known as “dominionism:” 

Though it’s seldom mentioned by name, it’s one of the major forces in Texas politics today: dominion theology, or dominionism. What began as a fringe evangelical sect in the 1970s has seen its influence mushroom — so much so that sociologist Sara Diamond has called dominionism “the central unifying ideology for the Christian Right.” (Italics hers.) That’s especially true here in Texas, where dominionist beliefs have, over the last decade, become part and parcel of right-wing politics at the highest levels of government.

So, what is it? Dominionism fundamentally opposes America’s venerable tradition of church-state separation — in fact, dominionists deny the Founders ever intended that separation in the first place. According to Frederick Clarkson, senior fellow for religious liberty at the non-profit social justice think tank Political Research Associates, dominionists believe that Christians “have a biblical mandate to control all earthly institutions — including government — until the second coming of Jesus.” And that should worry all Texans — Christians and non-Christians alike....

Top Texas political figures have had links to dominionism for years. In 2011, the Observer covered then-Governor Rick Perry’s ties to a branch of the movement, the New Apostolic Reformation. Since then, the relationship between dominionism and right-wing politics has become even cozier.

Case in point: Ted Cruz. Although Cruz is too politically savvy to openly endorse dominionism, key figures on his team are explicit dominionists.

The most important may be his father, evangelist Rafael Cruz, a frequent surrogate for Cruz on the political stage.
Is Cancun the Promised Land?  Ask Reb Cruz!

Cruz père espouses Seven Mountains Dominionism, which holds that Christians must take control of seven “mountains,” or areas of life: family, religion, education, media, entertainment, business and government.

Even this perversion of Christian doctrine does not teach that when your people are freezing in the dark, a true Christian runs off to Cancun, so Ted can't use that excuse. 

But here's the disturbing part: not only are these Christian dominionists intolerant, ant-democratic racists.  A good chunk of them are child abusing sadists.  Talia Lavin, who recently went incognito to expose the frightening world of the on-line reactionary insurrectionists in her book Culture Warlords, is back with her latest dispatch from the battle fronts of indecency:

The emergence of evangelicals as an active right-wing political force on the American scene came into full force over the subsequent decade, largely as a backlash to the civil-rights movement and school integration....

“In the last half-century, Conservative evangelicals were coalescing as this partisan political movement and coalescing around a particular cultural orientation, and childrearing is right at the center of that,” Kristin Kobes du Mez, historian...told me. “Out-of-control children were unravelling the social fabric of the country.... In the 1970s, disciplining children became thick with meaning in evangelical spaces, as part of this political mobilization but also more fundamentally as part of this oppositional cultural identity.”

By the 1990s, propelled by the success of Dare to Discipline and its sequels (The Strong-Willed Child, Temper Your Child’s Tantrums), Dobson’s ministry, Focus on the Family, was a media empire. Its radio programs, educational materials, and newsletters became, as du Mez puts it, “a fixture in the homes of tens of millions of Americans.”

Bring child abuse home for the holidays!

Legions of imitators followed, some more sadistic and others more faith-centric than Dobson’s unnervingly folksy persona. They continue to shape evangelical parenting culture by impressing the perils of “sparing the rod.” Dobson popularized a vision of parenting as a battle whose goal was the complete subjection of the child’s will, with pain a central tool in an ongoing spiritual war. His successors include Michael and Debi Pearl, whose work through No Greater Joy Ministries includes the infamous To Train Up A Child (1.2 million copies sold), a work that I can best describe as a child-abuse manual. There are also gurus like the pastor Tedd Tripp, whose Shepherding A Child’s Heart erases completely the line between physical abuse and parental love. Tens of millions of children have been raised with these principles, and this pain. At least three killings have been linked to the parenting doctrines of the Pearls: between 2006 and 2010, Sean Paddock, 4, Lydia Schatz, 7, and Hana Williams, 13, all died brutal deaths at the hands of parents who owned copies of To Train Up A Child. 

Jesus Christ!  Makes you wonder if all the Q-Anon bs about Hillary Clinton abusing children in the nonexistent basement of a Washington pizza parlor was as usual a projection. 

So what is to be done about Christian dominationists?  First, let's not pretend, like Sullen Sam Alito, they are acting on bona fide religious motives.  Let's not pretend they are either Moral or a Majority.  Let's not pretend that they are interested in “education” or “traditional values.”

While we're at it, let's make it clear that their values and views are bad, if not evil, and are unworthy of respect or political representation.

And for the sake of all that is good and holy, let's not blame progressives for failing to “reach out” to these violent hatemongers.

At least until they put down the AR-15's.

Saturday, November 13, 2021

Do Not Forget the Greediest: The Plight of American Employers

The Spy's Report on Recovery

By Finance Editor Samuel Insull
and Labor Correspondent Joseph Hill

If it's a day ending in “-day,” it must be bad news for Biden. Never mind that any idiot who has invested in a vanilla stock market index fund has seen results like this since the election: 

Source: Morningstar

That a 36% rise in the stock market.  Also forget that since Inauguration, the shattered economy has added 5,600,000 jobs.

But a great wailing is heard in the land, at least according to The Washington Post:

Businesses have hired millions of American workers since April 2020, ... But workers have remained remarkably mobile, quitting jobs for a variety of reasons and often with little notice. Many businesses are so strapped to find and retain workers that they are dipping into budgets to offer higher pay and bonuses, creating the most worker-friendly labor market in recent history. 

Those mean workers! How dare they!

This crisis is usually described, including in the Post story, as a “labor shortage.”  It could also be described as a wage shortage, or a benefits shortage, or a childcare shortage, or a health and safety shortage, as we'll see.

Why are workers abandoning their strapped employers in their hour of greed? [Surely, need? – Ed.]  The Post piece actually provides a few clues, citing workers tired of endangering their health by being forced to work too close to unmasked unvaxxed colleagues or students.

Fortunately, the not-incompetent or corrupt Biden Administration has at least a partial fix: a new rule requiring large employers to institute a uniform test-or-vax mandate to protect workers from the occupational hazard of catching a fatal disease at work.  Problem solved.

Not so fast, Federalist Society breath.  A bent panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit has stopped the rule from taking effect, in part on the grounds that the Administration's justification for the emergency rule is lacking:

“The mandate’s stated impetus — a purported ‘emergency’ that the entire globe has now endured for nearly two years, and which OSHA itself spent nearly two months responding to — is unavailing...”

A pandemic that has taken 750,000 lives in less than two years and continues to claim them at the rate of a 9/11 every three days is a “purported emergency?”  We hope these these reactionary clowns will tell us when a real ‘emergency’ shows up.  We could also hope that our elected leaders will protect us from death by unpacking the Fifth Circuit with seven new judges, but that would require something more than a “purported emergency.”

But let's return to those cheeky workers no longer willing to toil endlessly for peanuts.  What else are they whining about?

Of those who were seeking the ability to work from home, 85 percent said either workplace safety concerns (50 percent) or child-care/family-care needs (35 percent) were driving their decisions — data that indicates how many people are attempting to switch industries in hopes of being able to work from home. 

You mean the lack of affordable child care is keeping parents from entering the work force, either because there are no slots available or after paying child care, the marginal benefit of working is close to zip? Fortunately, the Biden Administration has a plan for that:

Who could oppose affordable child care when businesses are saying they are desperate for workers?

Follow that Maserati!

The child care provision is part of the Administration's omnibus Build Back Better bill, but Maserati Joe Manchin (D – Coal) isn't on board (he's staying on his luxury yacht instead).  His excuses vary, the most recent one being that inflation is too high even though no real economist believes that the BBB package will make inflation worse.

So the two most logical ways to motivate people to take and keep jobs – protecting them from death and making it possible for them to work without leaving their children alone in front of the tube – are, as usual in American life, being blocked by unprincipled a******.

What else might work?  One possibility would be not to focus on the whiners who can't find workers to hire, but instead try to learn from employers who seem to be able to attract and retain qualified workers:

For those of you who live west of Worcester (and why?), Market Basket is a beloved Boston-area supermarket chain owned by a family (or the branch of the family) that believes in treating its workers and customers well.  As a result, it's the market leader in the region and, according to this WCVB report, seems to be able to keep its 71-year-old cashiers happily employed.

It helps that Market Basket has not been stripped and flipped by private equity finaglers eager to scavenge every last quarter from the corporate carcass (like poor sad Stop & Shop).  So maybe the problem isn't a labor shortage, but a surplus of greedy, cruel, rapacious owners who are finally getting just what they deserve.

Of course, if all else fails, maybe it's time to exhort the proletariat to exert themselves in a Great Leap Forward:

Let's ask former Former Loser Grifter flunky and friend of China Elaine Chao for her deep thoughts on how to solve the “labor shortage:"
 

Mediaite.com

Oh, you're being far too modest, Elaine.  Who are you, really?  In addition to being the trophy wife of dreamy Sen. Mitch McConnell, that is.  When Mrs. Mitch was serving as the FLG's Transportation Secretary, she also managed to advance her family's interests by cozying up to the Chinese Government, whose labor policies are known for their, um, effectiveness:

No labor shortages in Elaine Chao's paradise

In China, the Chaos are no ordinary family. They run an American shipping company with deep ties to the economic and political elite in China, where most of the company’s business is centered. The trip was abruptly canceled by Ms. Chao after the ethics question was referred to officials in the State and Transportation Departments and, separately, after The New York Times and others made inquiries about her itinerary and companions. “She had these relatives who were fairly wealthy and connected to the shipping industry,” said a State Department official who was involved in deliberations over the visit. “Their business interests were potentially affected by meetings.”

So it's not surprising that she proposes to motivate American workers not with better wages, working conditions, safety standards, or child care, but with patriotic exhortations to overproduce for the greater glory of the Motherland, or in her case, one of her Motherlands.

And it wouldn't be much of a Great Leap Forward for the former sweetheart of Syosset High to propose a truly Chinese Government solution to a lack of available labor.  Hint: it's working just great now in Xinjiang Province.

By the way, her bosses from her last two stints at the Washington trough are to all appearances unemployed.  Here's hoping she'll have success persuading George W. Bush to wait tables at a Dallas barbecue pit.  As for her other boss, we don't think he could pass the drug test.

Saturday, November 6, 2021

Media in array: Dems in Disarray

 

By A.J. Liebling
Meta-Content Generator

It's been a rough week for the Democrats.  We know this because the media have been telling us all week it's been a rough week for the Democrats, what with maladroit retread insider Terry McAuliffe losing in Virginia and progressive Phil Murphy winning in New Jersey.  Here's a typical example of the Conventional Wisdom from The New York Times:

WASHINGTON — Reeling from a barrage of unexpected losses, an array of Democrats on Wednesday pleaded with President Biden and his party’s lawmakers to address the quality-of-life issues that plagued their candidates in elections on Tuesday from heavily Hispanic San Antonio to the suburbs of Virginia, New Jersey and New York.

Although they had braced for a close race for Virginia governor, Democrats were caught off guard by the intensity of the backlash against their party in major off-year elections. Republicans claimed all three statewide offices in Virginia, will likely take control of the state’s House of Delegates and came close to upsetting Gov. Phil Murphy of New Jersey, whose re-election had been presumed safe by officials in both parties. . . .

The scope of the party’s setbacks illustrated that voters were fatigued from the demands of the still-continuing coronavirus pandemic and angry about the soaring prices and scarcity of goods they were confronting every day.

Never mind that the Republicans didn't in fact come anywhere near upsetting Phil Murphy:

51-48?  How close is that in this country?  Just a reminder that President Biden was elected 51-47 and no one thought that was close.

Or that Boston, which a generation ago brought us white hatemongers like Louise Day Hicks and Dapper O'Neill, elected:

Yeah, we'd agree with The Boston Globe that a 30-point victory margin is “not close.”

We'll get back to the pithy analysis of what Demos did wrong, but interrupt this torrent of drivel to bring you something truly loathsome.

You'll recall that Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and his husband adopted two babies last month, after which Buttigieg took advantage of the Biden Administration's parental leave policies and left the Department of Transportation in the hands of the career civil servants.

This decision was cruelly mocked by frozen-food heir and Nazi-curious white supremacist Fried Chicken with Country Gravy Carlson:

More Fox comedy gold!  Even funnier, it turned out that the baby had a serious health crisis requiring a lengthy stay in the newborn intensive care unit:

A week on a ventilator. 

We'll let you know when Fish Sticks and Tater Tots Carlson apologizes to the relieved parents and when wild bears discover the joys of National Park comfort stations.

No.  Just no.

By the way, what happens to parents whose critically ill infants are placed on ventilators but they don't have paid family leave?  We mention this not only to give you an idea of the toxic media environment facing Democrats seeking to behave decently or even a bit of mercy in times of need, but also because it ties into the Conventional Wisdom's prescription for Democrats in Defeat.

Nobody asked them but the New York Times Editorial Board, which despite extensive reorganization and new hires continues to just suck, had the answer:

But Democrats, looking left on so many priorities and so much messaging, have lost sight of what can unite the largest number of Americans. A national Democratic Party that talks up progressive policies at the expense of bipartisan ideas, and that dwells on Donald Trump at the expense of forward-looking ideas, is at risk of becoming a marginal Democratic Party appealing only to the left. 

What bipartisan ideas did the Times have in mind?  Was it removing great literature from schools whenever it offends the sensibilities of white racist and professional Republican rabble-rousers, as Republicans stressed in Virginia? Or just doing jack sh*t about any social issue at all, which has been the Republican position for 40 years?  Others have pointed out that Times Editorial Board said just the opposite a year ago, but that's the least of it.

Are those progressive ideas espoused by Democrats really so toxic?  We could look at a few, um, facts, like polling data showing that the elements of the Democratic plan are approved by only two out of three voters.

The particular elements of the plan are hardly the platform of the Supreme Soviet. Take the supposedly most controversial item, paid family leave.  180 other countries, including Country Ham with Applesauce Carlson's utopia, Hungary, have paid family leave, so parents don't have to choose between paying the rent and comforting their baby as it fights for its life in the Intensive Care Unit. 

Just today, the Times tells us that voters are supposedly in a sh**** mood, despite 4.6% unemployment, 561,000 new jobs last month, the stock market at record highs, and the widespread free availability of life-saving vaccines.  If you read the piece, you find that Democrats are seething because the progressive agenda the Times said was so toxic has been blocked by Republicans and Maserati Joe Manchin.  You also get the sense that a pandemic that has claimed the lives of 750,000 Americans over the past 18 months has a bit of a depressive effect.

What you don't find is the prevalence of armed and dangerous white supremacy, which tried to overthrow our government on January 6 and last week in Virginia  used the fake issue of teaching Critical Race Theory in public schools to express their racial guilt and resentment.

In response, CBS News to its shame asked:

As you might expect, the replies were en fuego:


But let's let George Takei have the last word:

Maybe media coverage that doesn't highlight the importance of white resentment and unearned privilege isn't really covering the political reality of our country at all. Maybe it's time once again, as hedge fund plutocrat Glenn Youngkin insists, to stress the importance of “education.” 

Of reporters that is.

Saturday, October 30, 2021

Critical Race Theory: it's not taught in schools, but it's there!

 By J. Humperdinck Stover
Prep Correspondent

Critical Race Theory: what is it?  And why are Republicans claiming that teaching it to our impressionable kindergartners is the greatest threat to America since George McGovern?

We've actually been through this before.  But before we go on, our friend Eric Boehlert wants to make one point about CRT clear to even the meanest intelligence (by which we mean Republicans):

Trying to pull off an upset in the Virginia governor’s race next week, Republican candidate Glenn Youngkin continues his push with an unlikely pledge at the center of his campaign: If elected he would immediately ban the teaching of critical race theory in Commonwealth classrooms.

His promise to voters has produced nonstop media coverage, as the political press eagerly hypes the possibility of a Democratic loss.

The Middlesex School is situated on 350
verdant acres in Concord, Mass.

What the media have uniformly failed to do in Virginia, and nationwide as deep-pocketed, right-wing activists march on with their manufactured outrage over CRT, is forcefully point out that it’s not taught in schools. Period. When pressed, most Republican parents, politicians and activists aren’t able to explain what CRT is. (It’s an academic framework taught at the college level that examines how systemic racism is ingrained in America’s history.) 

Mr. Boehlert's point is that the media has utterly failed to point out the simple fact that it is not taught in primary or secondary schools.  He's right of course, but we can't improve on his takedown, so we'll just note that CRT may not be taught in American secondary schools, but it's sure “ingrained” there.

Case in point: a recent contretemps at an elite Boston-area prep school, Middlesex.  For those of you living west of Worcester, Middlesex is one of a constellation of famous New England prep schools that have turned out generations of white men who inherited or took all the money and now tell the rest of us what to do.

The private equity guy who bought your dad's company and sent all the jobs to China?  Middlesex.

The guy who decided that despite your good grades and straightened teeth, you just weren't “clubbable?” Middlesex.

The guy whose kid was addicted to heroin but still got into the college you didn't because he was recruited for the squash team?  Middlesex.

You get the drift.

Prof. Hannah-Jones: too noisy for Middlesex?
Recently, as part of the School's plans for 2022 Black History Month, a group of Black students decided to invite distinguished scholar Nikole Hannah-Jones to speak on campus.  Prof. Hannah-Jones, a MacArthur genius grant and Pulitzer Prize winner and Professor at the Howard University School of Journalism, is most famous for the 1619 Project, a collaboration among scholars and artists to rethink American history by putting the experience of Black people at the center of it.  No one suggests that this approach is the only way to analyze our past, but, based on results to date, it sure seems like a fruitful one that deserves to take its place alongside the prevailing great-white-men-doing-stuff school.

We hesitate to use the term “no-brainer” for this proposal, because it seems like a full brainer: invite a great scholar of Black and American History to speak at Black History Month.

Who could object to the invitation?

If you guessed white men, you won!

According to The Boston Globe

Hannah-Jones revealed on Twitter on Oct. 18 that the school had withdrawn an invitation for her to speak on campus next February for Black History Month due to the “noise” her presence would create, according to an excerpt of an e-mail from a school representative she posted online.

Even before Bari Weiss could weigh in on this obvious infringement of academic freedom (and we're still waiting), the School realized that it had, to employ a quaint preppie expression, “stepped in the deep doo-doo.” 

This didn't happen in some gator-infested swamp in Florida or Texas wasteland.  This was the home town of Alcott, Emerson, and Thoreau.   As a result,

On Oct. 20, nearly 100 faculty members signed a letter to the board of trustees denouncing the school for rescinding the invitation, saying Hannah-Jones’s visit “promised an important opportunity to continue our work of confronting the deep wounds of slavery and systemic racism.”

The faculty members asked trustees to have Beare “formally apologize to Ms. Hannah-Jones, as well as to the school, which he deprived of an exceptional moment of learning.”

In response, Beare and board of trustees president Stephen Lari took responsibility for the school’s decision, saying it “was profoundly wrong” and calling it “a shameful mistake.” 

Now we spent a few years in a prep school, before effecting a daring escape, so let us help you translate this from prep to English.

These prep schools, although imposing and apparently invulnerable from the outside, actually depend on the kindness of wealthy alumni who believe, like all rich white men, that their pelf entitles them to tell everyone else what to do and think.  Also, like other prep schools of our acquaintance, the real power lies in one Trustee, and the rest are just window-dressing, as the other Trustees took pains to note.

Here, the spineless toadying (and penniless) headmaster, David Beare, whose job is to shake down rich alumni for huge bucks and otherwise not rock the boat, was ordered in no uncertain terms to get rid of an uppity Black academic who dared to challenge white hegemony.  When he was caught in the act (and what did these clueless wypipo think Prof. Hannah-Jones was going to do?), he was chucked into the volcano as a sacrifice.

Nor were the rest of the Board of Trustees idle.  They ordered an independent inquiry.

The chairman of the Middlesex School
Board of Trustees wasn't having
any guff from those people

What they mean by this is that they will hire a fancy Boston law firm with innumerable personal and business ties to the School and its trustees to inter the whole mess behind a report that, being done by $1,500-an-hour mouthpieces and not by anyone who knows anything about history, racism, or academic freedom, will be protected from disclosure for all eternity by attorney-client privilege.

By the way, who is Stephen Lari and how is it that he gets to decide what gets taught and what doesn't at an elite New England prep school?  After a worldwide search, he was named a partner of his family's big real estate management and development business, The Claremont Group. Whether any Black folks were chosen to swim in this money river is not known, but we'll hazard a guess.

And what about the other Trustees who chucked the hapless headmaster over the side while allowing Lari to escape unscathed?

Some of them, like Bret Stephens and Cass Sunstein, are known to honk loudly whenever they see freedom, defined by them, threatened, so we're looking forward to their decision to replace Lari with someone who has a passing acquaintance with and understanding of free discourse.  We'll let you know.

We'll also let you know if the school reissues its invitation to Prof. Hannah-Jones, who has a reputation of not putting up with white man nonsense, as the University of North Carolina can attest.

But still – how could this happen in Massachusetts in the year 2021?  We'll bet that the answer can be found in a form of analysis that looks for the long-embedded effects of systemic racism on powerful institutions dominated by rich white men since 1619.

If that theory seems too critical, race-centered, or noisy to you, don't worry, they don't teach it in Virginia schools.


Sunday, October 17, 2021

Nothing runs their workers over like a Deere

By Labor Correspondent Joseph Hill with
Harold Hill in Ottumwa, Iowa

They manufacture expensive agricultural equipment for one of the world’s largest and wealthiest corporations. The current boom market in the commodities harvested by the company’s products has led to robust sales of the company’s products and healthy profits of $5,440,000,000 for the first nine months of this year. The company’s CEO compensation doubled year-over-year.

How much would you pay the workers who are keeping this gravy train on the tracks? The answer, at least the one provided by the John Deere company, is a little over $40,000 a year, which includes plenty of exhausting over time.

And when John Deere’s workers asked the company to share some of its lush profits with them, the company offered a 2% increase a year for six years. That’s an $800 annual raise. At historical inflation rates, that equals no raise at all. At the current inflation rate of 5.4%, that’s a real wage cut of over 3% a year.

Although it sounds incredible, the unionized workers of John Deere hit the bricks.

The strike is presented in the media as part of a growing yet inexplicable labor “unrest,” which has also seen restaurant workers leave their grueling $2.13 a hour positions and notoriously s****y employers like Jeff “Space Penis” Bezos scrambling to replace their quitting warehouse workers with fresh cannon fodder.

But when the details are filled in, the wonder is that American workers put up with this crap for years, not that they are suddenly discontented with their ‘umble lot. Workers have been getting screwed for decades even as the compensation of their bosses, and the financial finaglers who manipulate and rubbish their companies, has skyrocketed.

The John Deere workers pulling down $40,000 a year, hardly a lavish living even around their Illinois and Iowa factories, were a generation ago well-paid union workers able to afford a comfortable middle class life and send their children off to war, like Ottumwa’s Radar O’Reilly.


 
But never fear — the benevolent bosses have graced their workers with a lavish bonus plan known as GIPP [Surely, CIPP? – Ed.] 


In other words, it's a scam right out of The Jungle.  If your boss keeps raising the number of hogs you have to slaughter to get a bonus, then there's no reason to think you'll get a bonus at all.  You'll just be sweated more.

Maybe things are tough at John Deere. Is it able to pay decent wages? Let’s ask Wall Street:

Deere has exposure to end markets that have attractive tailwinds. In agriculture, we think demand for corn and soybeans will be strong in the near term, largely due to robust demand from China and tight global supplies. On the construction side, we believe the company will benefit from legislation aimed at increasing infrastructure spending in the U.S. The country’s roads are in poor condition, which has led to pent-up road construction demand.

Note that none of this sunny outlook is due to Deere management, although revenue growth is a key determinant of long-term compensation for the CEO and his lucky lackeys. The revenue growth was due to high commodity prices, which gave farmers bucks to drop on fancy new farm equipment, and the possibility of a Democratic-led revival in infrastructure spending.

Also the stuff Deere builds enjoys a good reputation:

Deere’s intense brand loyalty among farmers and strong competitive positioning leads to pricing power. For decades, the company has consistently produced best-in-class agricultural equipment, leading to the largest installed base in the industry.

We’ll be generous here and say that if a company’s products have a reputation for quality, that’s likely due to good management and good workers, so it would be only fair to split the resulting profits, right?

Here’s how that’s worked out. As John Deere workers were expected to scrape by on $40K (plus, to be fair, 100% company-provided health insurance, a benefit enjoyed by everyone in every other industrialized country), its CEO got $15,588,000, more than double the measly $6,000,000 he was paid in 2019.  The cynical might ask if any Deere workers saw their pay double in just one year. 

And by the way if you were interested in investing only in highly ethical businesses, here’s Morningstar’s verdict:

We do not think Deere’s wide economic moat faces any substantial threats from environmental, social, and governance, or ESG, risks.


Screwing your workers is apparently not an ESG risk, so DE remains on the list of investment options for ethical investors, or at least those who are less offended by profits gained from the sweat of workers than from natural gas.

Deere responded to the strike by sending its nonunion workers into the assembly lines, which should do wonders for Deere’s reputation for quality, not to mention ambulance calls to evacuate scabs who have injured themselves operating the massive and dangerous equipment used to fashion 20-ton combines, while their flacks assure the public that the suits are “working day and night to understand our employees' priorities.” We can help.  Their priority is more f***in' money.

In short, after seventy years of Republican anti-worker policies, John Deere workers, like pretty much all other private-sector wage slaves, are barely hanging on as their bosses have reaped all of the benefits of a generation of economic growth. There's an ocean of data on this but here's one chart comparing trends in the wealth of middle class workers and rich people:

 


Of course, the Republican war on American workers wouldn’t have gotten anywhere without the crucial support it got from — those same American workers.

We can turn the clock back to 1948, when Republicans, over Harry Truman’s veto, passed the Taft-Hartley Act, which among other things allowed states to screw unions by giving workers the right to benefit from union-negotiated wages and benefits without paying union dues. This free riding is known as “right to work,” by which Republicans mean the right to get union benefits without paying union dues. Next thing you know, Republicans will be advocating “right to infect” laws based on the alleged freedom to transmit lethal diseases to coworkers in a time of pandemic.

Old Chuck Grassley has been screwing
Iowa workers for years

As suggested earlier, many Deere plants are located in Eastern Iowa and many Deere employees work there. The late [Surely, senior but alive and well? — Ed.] Chuck Grassley represents those workers. Last year he warned that voting for Democrats would lead to, wait for it, repeal of Taft-Hartley.

And more generally, Iowa was carried by the Former Loser Grifter by nine points.  The FLG's commitment to paying his workers fairly is well-known, at least if you’re a sex worker who’s got the goods on him.

How’d the Tangerine-Faced Traitor do in Deere Country? In Wapello County, home to Ottumwa, the FLG's margin was 24 points (61-37).  Real President Biden won Polk County (Ankenny) 57-41 and Black Hawk County (Waterloo) by 54-45.  But in Scott County (Davenport), Biden won by only four points (51-47).  Not good enough.

Now it’s possible that Deere workers all voted Democratic as a recognition of which party supported them and all other workers. We doubt it, as the defection of white factory workers form the Democratic Party has been the factoid that has launched a thousand idiotic reports from rural diners.   And 11% of the Iowa electorate who voted for Obama twice didn't come through for Biden.

We’re happy to support Deere workers (and Kellogg workers and restaurant workers) but at the same time wouldn’t it be great for them, for us, and for the country, if when they went to the polls they supported themselves?

Sunday, October 10, 2021

Law and Order: We're-the-Real-Victims Unit

By Scott V. Sandford
Justice Correspondent with Bart Vanzetti in Boston

A thousand years ago in America [Actually, 2020 – Ed.], an unarmed manacled Black man was murdered in cold blood by a white Minneapolis policemen.  The outrage sparked a national movement to call the police to account for its centuries of unrestrained violence principally directed at people of color.  

After a year of struggle and effort, what do we have to show for it?  If you guessed a commitment to restructure the police, you lost!  Here's the summary, courtesy of The Washington Post:

How'd that happen?

At least 35 state qualified-immunity bills have died in the past 18 months, according to an analysis by The Washington Post....The efforts failed amid multifaceted lobbying campaigns by police officers and their unions targeting legislators, many of whom feared public backlash if the dire predictions by police came true. Officers said they would go bankrupt and lose their homes. They said their colleagues would leave the profession in droves.

Qualified immunity is the doctrine that keeps cops from being sued when they violate the law, as long as they can claim that their exact form of misconduct had not already been found illegal.  It's just as ridiculous as that:

Qualified immunity in action

There’s the 2019 federal court ruling granting immunity to a Georgia deputy who shot a 10-year-old boy lying face down on the ground while aiming at a nonthreatening family dog. Or the ruling that same year protecting California police who had been accused of stealing $101,380 in cash and $125,000 in rare coins in 2013 as they searched a local business and the owners’ homes. While the police may have been “morally wrong,” they were still protected from lawsuits by qualified immunity, the court found. 

We're actually dubious about repeal of qualified immunity as a cure-all for police misbehavior. The actual damages are paid not by Officer Bang-Bang but by the government he works for. Already millions of dollars a year are spent to settle police misconduct claims, but that just leaves less money available for stuff like schools and health care. And the payouts don't seem to be deterring police violence.

A more promising path, in our view, is repeal of the web of legal provisions that paralyze efforts to discipline or fire officers who aim at the dog but hit the boy.  Those efforts have gone nowhere, thanks to insanely powerful police unions, craven pols, and public apathy.  It's amazing to us that the same legal system and power structure that crushes private sector workers seeking to unionize so they can someday get a bathroom break from Jeff “Spaceman” Bezos is exquisitely protective of police unions.

Fortunately, the police unions repay their privileged position by resolutely putting their members first:

The incendiary and confrontational president of one of New York City’s main police unions resigned on Tuesday evening, hours after federal investigators raided the union’s Manhattan headquarters and his Long Island home. In a statement, the board of the union, the Sergeants Benevolent Association, said that its president, Edward D. Mullins, was “apparently the target of the federal investigation.”  

Your border patrol at work

Light-Fingered Eddie, when not apparently stealing, was known for his outspoken racism and hatemongering, including illegally Tweeting out pictures of Mayor de Blasio's multiracial daughter after her arrest during the wave of protests following the police murder of George Floyd (remember him?).

But of course the police's contempt for the rights of persons of color and their own belief that they can break the law with impunity are but two sides of the same racist coin.

The results of this undeserved white impunity are as plain as the 700,000 Americans who died of COVID-19.  Speaking of unnecessary pandemic deaths, police are defying laws requiring them to be vaccinated before inflicting themselves on the disease-ravaged populace.  In other words they are failing to do their duty to protect the public while violating the law they swore to upheld.

The nation's largest police force, fresh from their success flogging Haitian refugees at the Battle of Del Rio, are now complaining that (1) the aliens they are hunting are infecting them with COVID (demonstrably untrue), but (2) they shouldn't be forced to take the safe, effective vaccine to protect themselves from these supposed on the job risks.

Even the conventional wisdom-lovin' Washington Post is having trouble with that one:

In recent weeks, leaders at the National Border Patrol Council (NBPC) have joined Republican lawmakers who allege the Biden administration is allowing migrants to spread the coronavirus in the United States and placing the CBP workforce at greater risk, while also opposing his vaccination order.

Pick a lane, buddies.

To the Long Beach School PD,
it's a target-rich environment

The Sheriff of Los Angeles County has already said he won't insist that his thousands of deputies do what they have no trouble making the public do — obey the law. If his deputies threaten public safety by violating the vaccine mandate law, well, that's OK with this zealous public guardian.  We wonder what Justice Jeannie “I didn't know the tax returns I signed were fraudulent” Pirro would say to that.

But police impunity does more than threaten the public's health and well being.  It also kills.  In Long Beach, California, a high school “safety” officer, which is a gun-toting cop who pads around schools until a mass shooting starts, shot and killed an 18-year-old unarmed mother driving away from school for the capital offense of not stopping when he told her to.

While authorities are “investigating,” the shooter remains on the loose, as so often happens when an unbadged perpetrator is caught in the act of killing an unarmed woman who was no threat to him or anyone else.

And although this outrage happened in 2016, it so perfectly illuminates what happens when an unconstrained white racist law enforcement system meets powerless Black children that we had to quote it (via ProPublica.org):

If anything, the headline undersells the horror:  Four black kids were arrested and sent to jail in exurban Murfreesboro, Tennessee for the non-existent crime of watching a schoolyard fight at which no one was hurt.  They were rousted, arrested, and sent to a juvenile jail operated by an ignorant white racist, where they were held for days until the unqualified rednecks who immured them were overruled by a combination of public outcry and real lawyers.

The punchline: the tortured kids got a modest settlement, and the ignorant white bigots remain in full control of the juvenile justice system.  The insufferable white Church Lady who intones about the value of discipline while running an illegal scheme to brutalize children “still runs juvenile court, making $176,000 a year.” 

By the way, Murfreesboro is not some hamlet up in Butcher Holler.  It's a city of over 150,000 within commuting distance of Nashville in a state which was carried by the Former Loser Grifter with 61% of the vote.  They know better but just can't quit locking up Black children. 

In fact, their kiddie jail is so enormous they rent out cells to similarly-minded bigots in the South.  The jailers have produced a marketing video touting their lockup featuring “saxophone music and b-roll of children in black-and-white striped uniforms.”

But before you conclude that the police are utterly out of control, check out this story from that capital of racial harmony, Boston, Mass.  A BPD sergeant is paying a heavy price for boasting about driving his unit into a peaceful crowd of George Floyd demonstrators.  According to WBUR,

A Boston Police Department sergeant faces a 10-day suspension after he was caught on video boasting about driving into protestors during last year's demonstrations over the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis....Clifton McHale will serve eight days of the suspension starting Monday, the department announced Friday. McHale need not serve the other two days if he stays out of trouble for six months.

Eight whole days?  Who's the victim here?

Acting Mayor Kim Janey and candidate Michelle Wu both expressed the view that this loudmouth should no longer be roaming the streets of Boston with a gun and a badge.  Fortunately for him, he's protected by the legal and contractual web of police union red tape that keep interlopers like the current and likely future Mayor from interfering in police-generated whitewashes.  

Which is why, “The Boston Police Superior Officers Federation did not respond to requests for comment.”

Why should they? Under the rules they wrote, the members of the Real Victims Unit don't owe the people who pay them to keep us safe a g*****n thing.

Saturday, October 2, 2021

Yale's Grand Strategy: He Who Has the Gold Makes the Rules

 By J. Humperdinck Stover
New Haven Correspondent

The news from South of Here has grown alarming; specifically, there's a dustup in New Haven at that beacon of Southern Connecticut erudition, Quinnipiac [Surely, Yale? – Ed.] University.

No, we're not talking about the news that notorious Yale Law Professors Jed “Hello, Ladies” Rubinfeld and his beloved spouse Amy “If You Got It,  Flaunt It” Chua have put their Tudor pile in New Haven on the market, with the intent of moving to New York, the better to avoid their students.

There's even bigger news:  a Yale History Professor has had the effrontery to stand up to the plutocrats who contributed over $250,000,000 for the advancement of knowledge in New Haven.

The news made page one of The New York Times:

Henry's Grand Strategy in action in Cambodia

The Brady-Johnson Program in Grand Strategy is one of Yale University’s most celebrated and prestigious programs. Over the course of a year, it allows a select group of about two dozen students to immerse themselves in classic texts of history and statecraft, while also rubbing shoulders with guest instructors drawn from the worlds of government, politics, military affairs and the media.

But now, a program created to train future leaders how to steer through the turbulent waters of history is facing a crisis of its own.

Beverly Gage, a historian of 20th-century politics who has led the program since 2017, has resigned, saying the university failed to stand up for academic freedom amid inappropriate efforts by its donors to influence its curriculum and faculty hiring. 

Before we dig any deeper into this juicy academic scandal, can we ask just one question? 

What the fuck is Grand Strategy?  

The phrase has a musty 19th Century imperial or manifest-destiny quality to it, bringing to mind Bismarck's Grand Strategy to dominate Europe or Polk's Grand Strategy to steal the West from Mexico.

Fortunately there's a distinguished Yale Professor of History to explain it to us proles:

“Grand Strategy” is a capacious but slippery concept, one that has generated continuing debates about its meaning. In his 2018 book “On Grand Strategy,” Professor Gaddis defined it as “the alignment of unlimited aspirations with necessarily limited capabilities.”

We seem to recall our old friend Tommy Hobbes writing this down 350 years ago, but he didn't have the advantages of a Yale education.

Anyone else have any idea what tf Grand Strategy is as an area of erudition?

In 2006, it was formally endowed with a combined gift of $17.5 million from Mr. Johnson and Mr. Brady. In a 2013 article in The Yale Daily News, Professor Gaddis said Mr. Brady had given a single directive: “Teach common sense.”

Sure, what could go wrong with delving deeply into what a rich white man calls “common sense?” Let's find out!

According to a pretty thorough piece in the Yalie Daily:

But after the 2020 presidential election, a Times op-ed by professor of political science and humanities Bryan Garsten, who previously co-taught Grand Strategy with Gage, prompted Brady to begin pushing for changes to the program. The Times reported that Brady told Gage that she had not been teaching it “the way Henry Kissinger would.” “That’s absolutely right,” she responded. “I am not teaching Grand Strategy the way Henry Kissinger would.” 

You might think that was a good thing, but you aren't writing the checks.  In fact, the white men who were decided that tenured faculty at Yale couldn't be trusted to teach stuff without some guidance:

In the months following the publication of Garsten’s op-ed, ...Yale seized on a previously unused measure in the bylaws of the 2006 gift agreement allowing for an external five-member “board of visitors” to advise on practitioner appointments. Brady and Johnson suggested several members who were ultimately chosen to join the advisory board. These people included Kissinger, who served under former President Richard Nixon, as well as Stephen J. Hadley, former national security adviser to George W. Bush. . .

And if there's anyone who knows what not to do in the pursuit of a Grand Strategy, it would have to be one of the geniuses behind the Iraq War.

But it was that old war criminal Henry Kissinger who tore it.  Can you imagine not wanting to take advice on Grand Strategy from the guy whose previous efforts in that area included advocating nuclear war for fun and profit (hey, he got tenure for it!) and illegally bombing Cambodia to promote Tricky Dick's peace with, um, honor plan for Vietnam.

Whereupon Professor Gage resigned (although she does get to keep her job as a tenured Professor of History).

Like most exercises of Grand Strategy, this one appears to have blown up in the faces of the white men who planned and executed it.  Professor Gaddis himself was not amused:

Yale tells its students: no lunch for you!

History professor John Lewis Gaddis, one of the co-founders of the Grand Strategy program, told the [Yale Daily] News that “the Yale administration could have made it unambiguously clear to the donors that the faculty shape the curriculum. The administration should now, equally unambiguously, commit itself and recommit this institution to this fundamental principle.” 

As with every failure of a white man's Grand Strategy, the debacle was followed by a Grand Parade of Ass-Covering:

The Faculty of Arts and Sciences Senate has promised a full investigation, while University President Peter Salovey has publicly pledged Yale’s commitment to ideological diversity.

“The Senate is highly concerned regarding the news that Professor Gage has resigned as Grand Strategy Director due to pressure from donors to control the curriculum of the program,” a Friday morning statement from FAS Senate Chair Valerie Horsley reads. “The Senate will investigate this situation and will issue a plan for further action in the coming weeks.”

Don't hold your breath. In fact, the Yale Daily News has reported yet another case of the University sacrificing core principles to attract bucks from donors. In this case, the core principle is not starving the undergraduates:

What are hungry undergrads to do, especially those who don't have a lot of spare cash to eat in local greasy-spoons, while the dining hall is being appropriately outfitted to delight the palates of wealthy potential donors?  

We're beginning to think that maybe Yale's commitment to diversity, intellectual and otherwise, hasn't changed all that much since 1912, when your correspondent had the following exchange:

"Here's three new scalps," continued McCarthy, producing some cushions. "Had to vow eternal love, and keep the dear girls separated—a blonde and two brunettes—but I got the pillows, my boy, I got 'em. And now sit back and hold on."

He made a third trip to the trunk, unaware of Stover's distracted mood, and came back chuckling, his arms heaped with photographs to his chin.

"One thousand and one Caucasian beauties, the pride of every State, the only girls who ever loved me. Look at 'em!"

The good news: a century later, thanks to rich white men and cowardly money-hungry functionaries, Yale is still celebrating Caucasian beauties.  Like Henry Kissinger.