Category Archives: Current Affairs

Goya is Hearing from its customers. But is it getting the message?

A Brief Editorial: Mr. Bob Unanue, president of Goya Foods, doesn’t quite get it.

He’s catching hell since visiting the White House and fawning over the president, talking about how we are “blessed” that his mainly Latino customers have a president who built his political rise on denigrating them in so many ways: building walls, caging children, and much more. Continue reading Goya is Hearing from its customers. But is it getting the message?

Fall Forecast: School Chaos Coming

This Washington Post  article, “Trump pushes schools to open in the fall, downplaying risks as virus spreads,” in my view seriously understates the convergence of tensions rapidly approaching panic among many of the stakeholders involved:

> depression-strapped school districts lackIng funds to pay teachers;
> legions of teachers are angry & resistant about facing life-threatening classroom conditions of chronic exposure;
> many parents feel the same anxiety for their children;
> teachers & parents of color fear they & theirs will be left in the lurch, again.
> Congress is out to lunch almost continuously through Labor Day, then will quickly be off campaigning til past Halloween . . .

Washington Post: “Making his case for a return to normal, Trump repeatedly played down the rising number of coronavirus cases, saying treatments and vaccines are coming soon. He said there are only more cases because the country is doing more testing, a point health experts dispute.
A statement from two teachers unions and four other school associations said they, too, want to return to the classroom but that it must be done with safety, not politics, in mind. They also said funding is needed to cover protective equipment and other expenses.
“The White House and the CDC have offered at best conflicting guidance for school reopening, and today offered little additional insight,” the groups said.
On Wednesday, the American Federation of Teachers planned to begin airing a $1 million digital and TV ad buy, urging additional federal funding to help reopen schools.
Many university faculty members have raised questions about whether reopening plans will accelerate the spread of the virus and pose risks to public health. In response, colleges are requiring students to wear face coverings and submit to virus testing.
On Monday, Florida fell in line with the Trump approach, though coronavirus cases in the state are rising. Florida’s top school official ordered all schools in the state to reopen buildings for in-person instruction this fall. Hybrid models, as many Florida districts have proposed, are allowed, but schools must offer full-time instruction five days a week for families who want it.”
“Parents have to get back to the factory. They’ve got to get back to the job site. They have to get back to the office. And part of that is their kids, knowing their kids are taken care of,” Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said.. . .

“We cannot simply focus on virus containment at the expense of everything else,” said Elinore McCance-Katz, assistant secretary for mental health and substance use at HHS.

Betsy Devos

The confidence projected from the White House stood in contrast with the angst in many local districts working to develop plans for the fall. Most big cities and many others are developing hybrid models that alternate days in the building and days at home to minimize the number of students present at any given time.
Those models are being developed in part to comply with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that recommends “enhanced social distancing” in buildings. For instance, the CDC recommends that desks be placed at least six feet apart, something that might not be possible if all students are on site.
Administration officials did not address these hybrid plans directly, though Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said that schools “must fully reopen and fully operate this school year.”. . .

Making his case for a return to normal, Trump repeatedly played down the rising number of coronavirus cases, saying treatments and vaccines are coming soon. He said there are only more cases because the country is doing more testing, a point health experts dispute.
A statement from two teachers unions and four other school associations said they, too, want to return to the classroom but that it must be done with safety, not politics, in mind. They also said funding is needed to cover protective equipment and other expenses.
“The White House and the CDC have offered at best conflicting guidance for school reopening, and today offered little additional insight,” the groups said.
On Wednesday, the American Federation of Teachers planned to begin airing a $1 million digital and TV ad buy, urging additional federal funding to help reopen schools.
Many university faculty members have raised questions about whether reopening plans will accelerate the spread of the virus and pose risks to public health. In response, colleges are requiring students to wear face coverings and submit to virus testing .. . . “

Continue reading Fall Forecast: School Chaos Coming

Quaker Statues Have to Go? That’s What George Fox Said . . .

The work of bringing down Calhoun took all one night and most of the next day.

So– the City of Charleston wasted no time. After the City Council voted unanimously this week to take down its landmark monument to John C. Calhoun, a crew swung into action, starting at near midnight.

It was no small task to pluck the figure from its 100-foot pedestal. It took the workers until late the next day to bring  Calhoun floating back down to earth, and ship him off to a future of obscurity.

I was as pleased as anyone to see Calhoun disappear, at  least from that exalted place of honor; but I hope he lives on as a shameful memory, of a sadder-but-wiser nation that let him look down on all since 1896, as what one historian called “the Marx of the master class.” Continue reading Quaker Statues Have to Go? That’s What George Fox Said . . .

Cancel Cops, Cancel ALL Cop Shows, NO Exceptions. And Cancel Quakers Too?

Just read a very striking piece by E. J. Dickson in Rolling Stone. It says the “Cancel  Cops Crusade,” in order to root out systemic police racism, killings & impunity,  also has to take down the media images of the police. Even — especially– those of the “good cop.”

Why?  because the problem isn’t “bad apples” but rotten trees — in fact, a national forest of 18000 rotten orchards.

To get to the core of the rot, this media dethroning, Dickson argues, has to include even the very best of the media good cops, including the clear favorite of the author and so many progressive TV viewers.

That would be Officer Olivia Benson (played so persuasively by Mariska Hargitay) the main character in “Law & Order-SVU.”  In this role she has fought the good fight against every kind of sex offender one could think of for 21 seasons.

An anguished sidebar here: in February 2000, SVU ran an episode called “Limitations,” much of which centered on Quakers. In it they  had to confront issues of forgiveness, defying the law because of conscience, and having a Quaker rape victim pay dues for her victimizer with no remedy in sight. Continue reading Cancel Cops, Cancel ALL Cop Shows, NO Exceptions. And Cancel Quakers Too?

Removing the Statue of John C. Calhoun will be easy. Banishing his Ghost will not.

For Juneteenth, I should be completely pleased with the news that the City Council in Charleston SC will be doing its best to dethrone a statue of John C. Calhoun.

The plan was announced in connection with the fifth anniversary of the horrible mass killing of nine black worshippers at the city’s Mother Emanuel AME Church. Its projected deconstruction is part of the swell of collective revulsion after the George Floyd killing that is felling one Confederate monument after another. The removal would also defy a state law protecting such monuments.

[Update: on June 23, The Charleston City Council voted 13-0 to remove the statue. The council said the statue will be preserved in “an appropriate site where it will be protected and preserved,” at an as yet undisclosed location. They did not set a specific date for the removal.]

Maybe here is  where my hesitation is triggered: not over civil disobedience against such a statute; but starting with the seemingly technical point that Calhoun was not a Confederate leader, or even a Civil War figure: he died in 1850, eleven years before hostilities started.

(Once the war began, the rebel government sought to enshrine his iconic status by adding Calhoun’s visage to the Confederate $100 bill {at lower left}. When that plan didn’t work out so well, the Defenders of the Lost Cause turned to more durable monuments.)

The fact that Calhoun was a pre-war actor is not a reason  to leave his monument alone. But it does raise the questions of why it’s there, and why it’s so “monumental” — 115 feet high, and officially venerated since its erection in 1896. As an ode to Calhoun by a local poet, Miss E. B. Cheesborough, crowed,

Float it above the city’s spires,
And o’er the bay’s blue tide,
Tell how he battled for the South,
And battling thus—he died. . . . Continue reading Removing the Statue of John C. Calhoun will be easy. Banishing his Ghost will not.

The Axe Falls at Earlham (Again): Virus & Depression taking Big toll

It’s even happening in Cambridge Massachusetts: 

“Harvard Offers Staff Early Retirement to Reduce Expenses,” roars a recent Bloomberg headline. “Richest U.S. school also allows voluntary cuts in work hours . . . asking employees to consider a series of voluntary measures, including early retirement, giving up vacation and reducing work hours as it faces a revenue shortfall of $1.2 billion over two academic years.”

We’ll not weep for the Crimson here; if Harvard is down a billion or so, its endowment still has a $39 billion cushion. (For that matter, Yale announced in May it was cutting next year’s budget by several hundred million, and freezing salaries and hiring.)

But when Harvard/Yale catches a cold, many a smaller private college gets swamped by, well, pandemic pneumonia panic. And sure enough, in this week’s news, the axe is falling, heavily, at Earlham College in Richmond, Indiana.

Forget golf and tennis, you student athletes,  a May announcement said, they’re gone. Plus, president Anne Houtman said, there would be “$7.6 million in budget cuts made for the next fiscal year. As of July 1, 34 positions will be eliminated with 27 more ‘restructured through efficiencies across campus.’ The college employs about 400 people.”

Houtman: “I don’t have to tell you that we are facing a perfect storm of an unprecedented nature — deficit spending for several years, now exacerbated by COVID-19, which has upended our enrollment projections and significantly added to our deficit,” Houtman said.

“New student enrollment for the fall is half what we modeled for and built our budget around, and that goal was conservative before the pandemic struck. It is imperative we act now, both to reduce our current deficit and ensure Earlham’s future.”

Zimmerman said It’s too early to share exact numbers for fall enrollment. The college’s deadline for new students to confirm they’re coming is June 1, and many wait until the last minute.

“We and our peer institutions expect enrollment to be fluid well into the summer,” he said. “We are anticipating a total enrollment of 750 for the 2020-21 academic year.”

Enrollment over the past few years has been basically stagnant, but tuition revenues have steadily dropped over that period of time.

The “restructured through efficiencies across campus” jargon means that 18 facilities management jobs,  plus a number of housekeeping staffers will be moved from one outside contractor to another. With the new contractor, their salaries will technically be the same, but health insurance and other benefits will become much more costly, so the net will be a substantial loss of income. A student petition is protesting the change.

On the plus side, the college reported last week that an unexpected alumni donation would keep the golf program active.

Earlham has been in financial trouble even before the pandemic and depression engulfed the nation. It was reported here, in December  2018, that a 12 percent budget cut was required to stem runaway deficit spending, and it resulted in numerous job and other cuts.

Then just last month, Standard & Poor’s investment rating service reminded the public that Earlham has spent a couple of years on a list of colleges in persistent financial and credit trouble.

Enrollment is also expected to drop this fall, from near 1000 to 750 (or maybe less; the situation is still “fluid” in Earlham’s terms. How dangerous is this trend? Earlham spokesman Brian Zimmerman was firmly upbeat:

“Many of our peers without a strong endowment like we have are facing daunting questions about their long-term viability. We are not. Our endowment value has dipped somewhat during the pandemic but is still a strong $376.7 million.”

Yet two years ago the school had to grapple with a deficit of $47 million.  And in an email to staff and faculty last month, Houtman acknowledged:

“There is no way to trim $7.6 million from a budget without impacting lives and livelihoods, and the sad truth is that we still have a long way to go before we are out of the woods financially, especially if the COVID-19 pandemic continues for another year or two.”

Sad indeed. The woods of the 2020s are dark deep, and the pandemic’s impact is still gaining force. Earlham faces a long slog.

 

 

 

 

 

How to Change your Luck: A note to Millennials

Friends,

You already know the dismal data in this article; “The unluckiest generation in U.S. history,”   in the June 5 Washington Post. Maybe not the detailed numbers, but the reality. This one depressing chart tells the story:

As the article says,

After accounting for the present crisis, the average millennial has experienced slower economic growth since entering the workforce than any other generation in U.S. history.
Millennials will bear these economic scars the rest of their lives, in the form of lower earnings, lower wealth and delayed milestones, such as homeownership.

The losses are particularly acute on the jobs front. A few brutal months of the coronavirus set the labor market back to the turn of the millennium.
In April, the economy bottomed out with about as many jobs as in November of 1999. The economic regression to the Y2K era is a fitting symbol for a generation that — more than any other — has been shaped by recession.
Things improved in May, but the improvement just means we’re back to December 2000 levels of employment.

Many  of you aren’t interested in advice from elders, and I won’t quibble about that. But here’s some anyway. It’s the best I’ve got:

The main chance for rescuing your economic future is to show up in November and turn the election into a huge Democratic landslide.

I’m not referring here to Biden over Trump; that goes without saying.

The crucial point is for a sweep in Congress: clear out McConnell and that crowd, big time.

Then make your demands. Here are the Big Five

1. A massive federal jobs program, starting with (but not only) infrastructure & climate. I’m talking trillions.
2. Cancellation of most student debt.
3. Free (or damn near) public college.
4. A comprehensive version of Medicare for all. And
5. Organize unions, both white and blue collar.

There are some more, but these are the central changes, and you’ll need Congress on board to get any of them.

Those five will bust open the doors to generational wealth that are now barricaded against you.

Also, these five will be of special aid to Americans of color, but they are meant for and will benefit all.

And, no matter what your Fox-watching uncle says, while swilling  beer bought with Social Security and popping Medicare blood pressure pills, these changes will not make America socialist.

There will still be plenty of room for enterprise, and plenty of work required to claim your piece of family capital it will make possible.

Such landslide-fueled times of change have happened before. After the 1932 election. And in  my lifetime, 1964.

It won’t be easy, but it could happen again. You can do it.

Even with all these, you’ll still end up being a tired generation. But also one that changed its luck.

It starts in November.

 

Governor Cooper & the GOP Convention: Keep Carolina Safe!

Hundreds of people said “Yes!”  to my Facebook call for North Carolina officials to keep our citizens safe by standing firm on pandemic safety policies relating to the planned Republican National Convention set for Charlotte in August.

Thank you to everyone who “Liked” or commented on it. Now I have a request for followup:

Please send this message to Governor Roy Cooper. It only takes a moment or two.

Governor Cooper has an online email form, right here.  
F
olks from out of state can also use it (we want visitors to be safe here too!)

I just sent this message myself:

Dear Governor Cooper:

I strongly urge you to strictly enforce all pandemic safety policies applicable to the proposed political convention in Charlotte in August. This health crisis will not be over. Please keep Charlotte and North Carolina Citizens (and any visitors) SAFE.

Thank you.

Use your own words. If you prefer the phone, here is the office number listed on the Governor’s web page: (919) 814-2000.

The pandemic continues to spread in North Carolina. Confirmed cases, hospitalizations & deaths are all at new highs.

The Raleigh News & Observer reported this morning (May 26):

“At least 24,056 people have tested positive for the coronavirus and 790 have died as of Tuesday morning, state and county health departments say.

At least 627 people were hospitalized with COVID-19 as of Monday, the highest daily total state officials have reported since the pandemic began. The number is up from 587 the day before.

The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services on Monday also reported 742 new coronavirus cases as testing ramps up throughout the state. It was a jump from 497 new  reported cases on Sunday.”

This graph, from Reuters, shows the  steady, rapid rise of virus cases in the state, as of Mid-May.  The total has continued rapidly upward since then. Unlike some other states, NC  a peak or leveling off is not yet in sight here.

This worsening situation only heightens the risk of large mass gatherings , both to residents and visitors. And it won’t be over by August. It makes such policies as social distancing and wearing masks even more a matter of life and death.

Republican party leaders have threatened to move the convention from Charlotte unless Governor Cooper lifts pandemic policies from the venue. I believe this would be a very dangerous mistake. Cooper should Resist such threats and pressure.

if you share this view, tell Governor Cooper so. Politely and persistently. And please pass this message on.

The Spirit of Ida B. Wells returns to Memphis?

The May 25 New York Times features a description of  MLK50, a scrappy, pot-stirring news  operation in Memphis.  MLK50 was started by Wendi Thomas, a Memphis native and  veteran journalist.

We unapologetically exist to dismantle the status quo where it doesn’t serve low-income residents in Memphis, the overwhelming majority of whom are black,” Ms. Thomas said. “We’re not a black publication, but we frame the news from the perspective of the most vulnerable.”
(
Below: Wendi Thomas)

MLK50 won awards for an investigative report that exposed how a “nonprofit” local Methodist-affiliated hospital Which underpaid its workers, then sued many for being unable to keep up with medical bills in their own facility.

Continue reading The Spirit of Ida B. Wells returns to Memphis?

Indiana Trainwreck: Trauma in Midwestern Quakerdom

 

It didn’t look or feel like lighting the fuse to a load of dynamite.

But that’s what West Richmond Friends Meeting in Indiana did in June 2008 when they added a minute to their website.

They placed the post without fanfare.  But the fuse, once lit, sputtered and flashed for several years, and the ultimate explosion blew up a yearly meeting that was nearing its 200th anniversary.

A new book, Indiana Trainwreck, is the first to tell the story. West Richmond’s 2008 minute announced that the group had “reached unity” on supporting full inclusion of LGBT persons, concluding to do so was in harmony with their best understanding of the Bible, the thrust of Quaker/Christian history & witness, and the will of God.

News of West Richmond’s minute soon reached the leadership of Indiana Yeatly Meeting, the regional association of which West Richmond was a member. And they soon sent word to the group that they wanted the minute removed from West Richmond’s website.

The meeting pondered this demand, prayed over it, and declined to comply; the minute stayed.

Indiana Yearly Meeting authorities said this was unacceptable. Continue reading Indiana Trainwreck: Trauma in Midwestern Quakerdom