Category Archives: Current Affairs

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

The Viral Turning Point, and After

Signs of the Times:

> a crowded Colorado restaurant on Mother’s’ Day.

> Jam-packed taverns in Wisconsin.

> Dr. Fauci sidelined in the White House, as pundits speculate on  when he’ll be fired.

Upshot: the lockdown season is ending, not with a bang, but a whimper— many whimpers, if anyone will still listen to those who are now to die needlessly.

Leana  Wen, an ER doc and public health prof,  told it like it is in the Washington Post today:

Unfortunately, due to a late start, inconsistent state actions and a lack of federal direction, most states have yet to see a consistent decline in cases, much less reduced them to low enough levels for [the lockdown] to work.

No state has achieved sufficient testing and contact tracing.
Reopening under these circumstances means we are giving up on containing covid-19.

“No state” includes my own, North Carolina. Continue reading The Viral Turning Point, and After

Armed men invade re-opening Downtown Raleigh NC; Twitter strikes back

Laugh or cry?

Not Making This Up Dept. (But hat-tip to “Nina” for her made-up contribution. See below.)

A dozen or so heavily armed white men walked through downtown Raleigh NC on a balmy re-opening Saturday.
to add spice to the incursion, they went into a Subway and ordered up foot-longs, which looked tiny compared to the hardware they were toting.

News photographers and police officers followed them, tho  there were no arrests.  But there were a couple of incidents:

One was that a marcher bearing a heavy lug wrench paused to intimidate a black couple who passed by, “armed” with only a pair of twins in a stroller.

The other came a bit later. The Raleigh News & Observer posted photos of the event, which immediately went viral.

But soon the photos drew the sardonic ire of “Nina” on Twitter, who reposted the photos, having replaced the long guns with equally long, sensual-looking subs . . .

In just a few strokes, her handiwork turned the incursion into something like an out-take from a Cold Opening on Saturday Night Live that didn’t quite work out. (That lug wrench bit has to go.)

“Nina” explained her work as meant to be funny, but added:

“We can’t shoot the virus and make it go away.”

And I cant unsee the images of grown men hugging five feet of Cold cuts & cheese slices, their First & Second Amendments just good enough to eat.

”Nina’s” work here was funny.

The rest of it was something else.