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More on the NFL Shakedown

[ 88 ] August 25, 2014 |

The NFL is now retroactively applying its belief that musicians who perform at the Super Bowl should not only pay for the privilege, but should also pay the NFL for the money they make after the fact from the publicity:

Because there is nothing more wholesome than the modern-day equivalent of Roman bloodsport, the NFL is very concerned about morals. (It is the sexy stuff and swear words that will set our nation’s youth on the path to delinquency.) As you may recall, M.I.A. violated this sacred trust when she raised her middle finger to the camera at Super Bowl XLVI, forcing awkward conversations between parents and their kids about how it’s only okay to raise your finger like that when Daddy is mad in traffic.

And now M.I.A. has paid dearly for it—although how dearly, exactly, remains unclear, as she and the NFL have reached an undisclosed settlement in the NFL’s lawsuit against her. The NFL originally sought $1.5 million for the singer’s “flagrant disregard” for the NFL’s values, then it upped that demand by a staggering additional $15.1 million, supposedly to compensate for all the free publicity she got for the gesture. For her part, M.I.A. has called the suit “a massive display of powerful corporation dick-shaking,” a spectacle that, if taken literally, would surely result in massive fines.

The lawsuit for using the middle finger is stupid enough as it is, but upping the lawsuit to sue M.I.A. for the money she supposedly made from the added publicity shows the greed of the billionaires who run the league has no bounds.

The Wire: It’s No 24!

[ 199 ] August 25, 2014 |

Dylan Matthews dug up Neil Genzlinger’s New York Times’ original review of The Wire. To say the least, it hasn’t aged well.

It’s all served up in dialogue heavy with police-speak and dealer-speak, sometimes unintelligibly so. The language is supposed to be realistic and maybe it is realistic, but it often feels self-conscious, like an overly thick Southern accent. That’s too bad, because when Mr. Simon and Edward Burns, who are credited with the writing of the first five episodes, pull back a bit, they sometimes achieve a rough eloquence.

”That’s what I don’t get about this drug thing,” McNulty tells D’Angelo in the second episode. ”Why can’t you sell the stuff and walk away? You know what I mean? Everything else in this country gets sold without people shooting each other.”

The real questions about ”The Wire,” though, involve not the style, but the audience’s level of tolerance. This is a series that requires commitment; it’s difficult to imagine a viewer dropping in for, say, Episode 3, then checking back again at Episode 8.

Yet ”The Wire” doesn’t have the pulsating, addictive urgency (or the obvious good guys and bad guys) of ”24,” which just completed a spectacular first season on Fox. It shows us a more realistic version of life, complete with down time, yack sessions, drunken story-swapping. Police officers (and drug dealers) are human!

I want to be fair here. First, there weren’t a lot of shows like The Wire in 2002 and so reviewers weren’t necessarily expecting the sort of long story The Wire was offering. On the other hand, The Sopranos had already pioneered this. Second, there’s probably a lot of regrettable reviews out there of art that was later widely acclaimed. Third, it does take a few episodes to really get into The Wire, although Genzlinger seems to have watched most of the first season here.

But still, to compare it unfavorably to 24. That is a very 2002 thing to do.

Recording the Police: A Felony

[ 139 ] August 25, 2014 |

This is some disturbing footage. In Petersburg, Virginia, the police arrested people next door to the home of JaQuan Fisher. He started recording them. The police then attacked Fisher violently. His sister then recorded that. It is that footage shown in the link. Fisher was charged with 2 counts of felony assault on law enforcement and pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge. Even though he did nothing wrong at all. This is emblematic of both the routine police violence against African-Americans and how African-Americans become “criminals.” Their basic rights are violated, they try to resist those violations, and they get charged with felonies.

Once again, what happened in Ferguson is not unique. It is par for the course in this nation that has empowered the police to commit widespread violence against people of color without consequence.

The Real Power of the University

[ 32 ] August 25, 2014 |

In the corporate university, money is what counts. Without public support, universities have become captured by the wealthy donors and corporations who fund them. This is a major contributor to the shunning of majors like German and Philosophy (and to a slightly lesser but still significant extent, History) that means advisers receiving word from high to encourage students not to sign up for those majors, cutting positions, even retrenching departments. To replace them, Supply Chain Management* and other majors that train people to be functionaries of 21st century capitalism without providing them any sort of broad-based liberal arts education or critical thinking.

As the corporations capture the universities, it’s hardly surprising then that the university would begin following the free speech patterns of the corporation, i.e., none for employees. See the case of one Salaita, Stephen:

While many of the emails are fairly similar, some stand out. For instance, there is an email from Travis Smith, senior director of development for the University of Illinois Foundation, to Wise, with copies to Molly Tracy, who is in charge of fund-raising for engineering programs, and Dan C. Peterson, vice chancellor for institutional advancement. The email forwards a letter complaining about the Salaita hire. The email from Smith says: “Dan, Molly, and I have just discussed this and believe you need to [redacted].” (The blacked out portion suggests a phrase is missing, not just a word or two.)

Later emails show Wise and her development team trying to set up a time to discuss the matter, although there is no indication of what was decided.

At least one email the chancellor received was from someone who identified himself as a major donor who said that he would stop giving if Salaita were hired. “Having been a multiple 6 figure donor to Illinois over the years I know our support is ending as we vehemently disagree with the approach this individual espouses. This is doubly unfortunate for the school as we have been blessed in our careers and have accumulated quite a balance sheet over my 35 year career,” the email says.

There is no indication that Wise based her decision on the fund-raising issues, only that these topics were raised in communications to her. A spokeswoman for Illinois said via email that the chancellor receives many suggestions about many issues. She said that she didn’t know if the chancellor met with foundation officials about Salaita but said that the rationale behind the chancellor’s decision was the one she discussed in the email to the campus.

This is the future. If you threaten the beliefs of the fundraisers, you are fired. If you shine a bad light on the university administrators seeking to move up the food chain to ever more lucrative positions, bye-bye. If you dissent from the left, I hope you enjoy the Daniel Payne method of survival on the street. Right now, Stephen Salaita has no job and no money. It’s a dark world out there right now for academics, as free speech and academic freedom decline to their lowest levels in at least 60 years.

* Or as I like to call it, How to Exploit Bangladeshis.

The Worst Person in the World

[ 67 ] August 25, 2014 |

Daniel Payne longs to shame the poor while capitalizing “The Left” as often as possible:

Here’s What Happens Without Stigma

That’s easier said than done. The Left wishes to make it a no-big-deal kind of thing because the Left wants the citizenry as dependent upon government as possible. “Once Stigmatized,” the New York Times reported a few years ago, “Food Stamps Find New Acceptance.” One food bank employee told a gainfully-employed young man to sign up for the program because “there was enough aid to go around and that use would demonstrate continuing need.” Eight years into Mike Bloomberg’s mayoral tenure, the number of residents on food stamps had hit over one-and-a-half million people; a stunning 20 percent of households nationwide were enrolled in SNAP. Over half of illegal and legal immigrants from Central America are on some form of welfare; both the Mexican and United States governments encourage illegal aliens to sign up for food stamps. In the mid-90s, Republicans passed and President Clinton signed a “workfare” reform law, which established significant work standards for welfare recipients and reduced welfare rolls significantly—which is presumably why the Obama administration moved to gut these requirements a couple of years ago: if there’s one thing at which the Left truly bristles, it’s an independent citizenry that can provide for itself without the Left’s benevolent help.

This is what you get when you “remove stigmas.” At one time, public assistance was looked upon as a moderate failure—not an irredeemable sin or uncorrectable wrong, but something you wanted to avoid if possible. European socialists realized a long time ago that such well-intentioned opprobrium served to weaken the dependent bond between citizen and state, which is why you can find single mothers on 20 years of welfare across the pond: continental leftists figured this game out a long time ago, well before the sad sacks at Richmond Public Schools. If you want to see the future of American welfare in the hands of people like Superintendent Bedden, look to Europe, where many countries have de-stigmatized their way into astronomical debt levels and widespread, chronic citizen helplessness.

Look to Europe indeed. The horror, the horror.

“With very best wishes. I look forward to seeing you in London! Yours ever Tony Blair.”

[ 25 ] August 24, 2014 |

Jimmy Carter may have been well to the right of the Democratic majority in Congress and tried to create policy from such an untenable position.

Bill Clinton may have signed NAFTA, created Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, and ushered in welfare “reform.”

Barack Obama may not have lived up to the dreams of those naive enough to believe any president could bring in hope and change.

But at least the Democratic Party has never elected someone as antithetical to its core principles as the British Labour Party and Tony Blair, who is a terrible human being.

Tony Blair gave Kazakhstan’s autocratic president advice on how to manage his image after the slaughter of unarmed civilians protesting against his regime.

In a letter to Nursultan Nazarbayev, obtained by The Telegraph, Mr Blair told the Kazakh president that the deaths of 14 protesters “tragic though they were, should not obscure the enormous progress” his country had made.

Mr Blair, who is paid millions of pounds a year to give advice to Mr Nazarbayev, goes on to suggest key passages to insert into a speech the president was giving at the University of Cambridge, to defend the action.

Mr Blair is paid through his private consultancy, Tony Blair Associates (TBA), which he set up after leaving Downing Street in 2007. TBA is understood to deploy a number of consultants in key ministries in Kazakhstan.

Human rights activists accuse Mr Blair of acting “disgracefully” in bolstering Mr Nazarbayev’s credibility on the world stage in return for millions of pounds.

The letter was sent in July 2012, ahead of a speech being given later that month by Mr Nazarbayev at the University of Cambridge.

A few months earlier, on December 16 and 17 2011, at least 14 protesters were shot and killed and another 64 wounded by Kazakhstan’s security services in the oil town of Zhanaozen. Other protesters, mainly striking oil workers, were rounded up and allegedly tortured.

Tony Blair is like the love child of Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Lanny Davis. Combine neoliberal economic policies, warmongering, and profiting off of advising dictators and you have quite the individual.

Sack

[ 26 ] August 24, 2014 |

I figure there is more than 0 interest in watching Michael Sam sack professional “bro” Johnny Manizel on loop.

Reverse Busing

[ 22 ] August 24, 2014 |

457px-Jerry_Falwell_portrait

We all know how much white conservatives opposed school busing. The most famous case was in Boston, when Louise Day Hicks became famous saving south Boston from the horrors of white kids going to school with black kids. So it was a strong principle for them, right? Busing is bad.

Well, L.D. Burnett shows us the answer is, predictably, no. The right was all about busing when it meant getting white people out of black neighborhoods to white religious institutions. Despite Jerry Falwell rising to prominence on opposing busing, he was all over it when it benefited himself.

A key leader in the 1970s church growth movement was Elmer Towns, a member of Falwell’s church and a co-founder of Liberty University. In 1973, Towns co-authored a book with Falwell describing the ministries of Thomas Road as models that other churches could follow to see similar growth. “The Sunday-school bus ministry has the greatest potential for evangelism in today’s church,” Towns wrote in Capturing a Town for Christ (Fleming H. Revell Co., 1973). “More souls are won to Jesus Christ and identified with local churches through Sunday-school busing than any other medium of evangelism” (34). This is a broad statement about the evangelistic potential of bus ministries in general. Towns follows up this general endorsement of church bus programs with an explanation of what makes the bus ministry at Falwell’s church stand out:

Many bus workers only work in the housing projects, ghetto areas, and among the poor in the slums. All people within a community must be reached, the poor as well as the affluent. Thomas Road Baptist Church has sixteen buses that operate in middle-class neighborhoods of twenty-five-thousand-dollar homes and above. One bus brings in thirty-five riders from the status Boonsboro district, while the next bus that unloads on Sunday morning is from the Greenfield Housing Project, and the bare feet and dirty clothes indicate a poverty level.

Lynchburg has only fifty-four thousand people and some feel the Sunday-school bus ministry has reached its saturation point. Now twenty-one buses leave the city limits and bring children in from rural areas and distant towns such as Bedford, Alta Vista, Appomattox, Amherst, and Thaxton. One reaches fifty miles to Roanoke (35).

There’s a lot going on in these two paragraphs, and a lot going on around them. Housing projects, ghettos, and slums – in 1973 (and today as well, I guess) these words could be used to introduce race into a discourse without ever naming the issue. So I think Towns isn’t just talking about “the poor as well as the affluent” here – he’s also talking about black urban poverty and contrasting it with white suburban affluence. The assertion that “all people within a community must be reached” is not offered here as an argument that more churches should use busing to bring the black urban poor into their midst, but rather as a justification for churches to consider providing free bus service to white affluent suburbanites who might wish to become members. Busing can bring people of “status” into the church. And busing over long distances – well, that’s not a problem. What’s wrong with busing new members into a church located fifty miles away from where they live, if that’s where they want to be on a Sunday morning?

People picked up on the irony at the time, but Falwell certainly didn’t care about that.

Hope waking up to Falwell didn’t make anyone expurgate their breakfast.

Co-Opting Soviet Monuments

[ 89 ] August 24, 2014 |

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I love that everyday Bulgarian citizens are painting over remaining Soviet-era monuments to reflect their own feelings at the time and I equally love that the Russians are really getting upset about it.

Selfhaters, Obviously

[ 36 ] August 23, 2014 |

Obviously these are not kind of Jews Elie Wiesel or Bibi Netanyahu want speaking out:

Hundreds of Holocaust survivors and descendants of survivors have signed a letter, published as an advertisement in Saturday’s New York Times, condemning “the massacre of Palestinians in Gaza” and calling for a complete boycott of Israel.

According to the letter, the condemnation was prompted by an advertisement written by Elie Wiesel and published in major news outlets worldwide, accusing Hamas of “child sacrifice” and comparing the group to the Nazis.

The letter, signed by 327 Jewish Holocaust survivors and descendants of survivors and sponsored by the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network, accuses Wiesel of “abuse of history” in order to justify Israel’s actions in the Gaza Strip:

“…we are disgusted and outraged by Elie Wiesel’s abuse of our history in these pages to justify the unjustifiable: Israel’s wholesale effort to destroy Gaza and the murder of more than 2,000 Palestinians, including many hundreds of children. Nothing can justify bombing UN shelters, homes, hospitals and universities. Nothing can justify depriving people of electricity and water.”

The letter also blames the United States of aiding Israel in its Gaza operation, and the West in general of protecting Israel from condemnation.

Salaita Update

[ 51 ] August 23, 2014 |

Sadly, the University of Illinois, after two meetings of the Board of Trustees, has decided to stick with the firing of Stephen Salaita for his anti-Israel war on Gaza positions as stated on Twitter. We’ve had several posts here about this case and as we’ve expressed, this is an outrageous attack on the free speech of academics. To fire professors for their speech is a throwback to the bad old days of the Red Scare when professors were fired for not supporting the U.S. effort in World War I. The corporatization of the university continues apace, where employees are canned for not holding to the official corporate political line or speaking their own mind in a way that might bring unwanted attention to the school, even though in the case of Salaita, it’s not like there was even a coordinated effort against him from right-wingers. Sadly, it was other pro-Israel academics like Cary Nelson who brought him down.

In the recent past, there have been real victories when universities have tried to crack down on free speech. The case against myself is one example. I fear this is the beginning of the rolling back of those victories.

Right now, the biggest thing you can do is sign the general academic petition to demand Salaita’s reinstatement and to boycott the University of Illinois until they do so. Corey Robin has been the biggest promoter of the cause and his blog also has links to all the field-specific petitions, useful because our readers come from so many academic fields. Regardless of what you think about Salaita’s statements on Gaza, I urge all you academics to sign this petition because you are next. Or I am next. Or someone you know is next. And each and every time it creates a McCarthy-like atmosphere on our campuses that reduces the intellectual experiences of our students and depresses the freedoms of us all.

This Day in Labor History: August 23, 1912

[ 12 ] August 23, 2014 |

On August 23, 1912, the United States Commission on Industrial Relations was founded. One of the most remarkable moments in American labor history, the USCIR (more popularly known as the Walsh Committee) forced industrial leaders to testify about the conditions of American labor in front of a government committee. For the first time in the nation’s history, the plutocrats, long used to running their operations without responsibility, were called onto the carpet in front of directly hostile committee members for their actions. While the USCIR did not create specific reform bills, it did signify a changing tone in American labor and American society in general that took power away from the plutocrats and created government responsibility for the conditions of American workers.

The USCIR was created in response to the labor violence becoming more prevalent in the U.S. by the early 1910s. In particular, the bombing of the Los Angeles Times building in 1910 by two Ironworkers angry about the paper’s anti-union owner Harrison Gray Otis, one of the most loathsome people in American history, finally got the government’s attention. While President William Howard Taft created it, it was mostly operated under the administration of Woodrow Wilson, a far more pro-labor president than the Republican. Most of the committee members were Wilson appointees after several of Taft’s nominees did not receive confirmation from the Senate. Had they, the commission would have been far more pro-business and probably less memorable.

The head of the committee was the remarkable Frank Walsh. A poor boy from Kansas City who dropped out of school at the age of 10, Walsh trained himself in the law and became a leading Progressive and Democratic Party operative in that city, attracting the attention of Wilson, who nominated him as the USCIR’s chairman. Between 1913 and 1915, the USCIR interviewed hundreds of people about the conditions of American work. Traveling the nation, it set up shop for a few weeks in a given city and did its best to cover all the major regional types of work. Investigators in the Northwest discovered stories about logging camp cooks infected with venereal disease and still allowed to prepare food, loggers beaten by owners and having their money stolen, and workers getting so sick from timber camp food that they could not work for weeks. No wonder the IWW was so successful organizing these workers. One investigator writing about miners at U.S. Steel operations in Duluth detailed how the police, owners, and city leaders all conspired to crush a strike. Labor newspapers told these stories all the time, but never before had a the government invested the resources to document the horrors committed against working people.

Said the groundbreaking journalist Walter Lippmann, “The nine members of the Industrial Relations Commission have before them the task of explaining why America, supposed to become the land of promise, has become the land of disappointment and deep-seated discontent.” Walsh encouraged people to criticize employers. Reformers such as Louis Brandeis testified as to moral corruptness of employers’ absurdly wide view of “freedom of contract,” noting how this led to the widespread exploitation of American labor. S. Josephine Baker, the child labor crusader, talked of how American corporations using child labor did not train those workers for any kind of future, dooming them to permanent poverty, “having entered adult life and are still earning a child’s wage.” Labor leaders and even everyday workers testified about their conditions. But most famously, Walsh saw his role as a crusader for American workers. He alienated the capitalists quickly. After the Ludlow Massacre, he called John D. Rockefeller Jr. before his committee, and publicly humiliated the powerful man for his company thugs and indifference to workers’ lives. It didn’t help the capitalist that his PR man said that truth was “as the operators saw it.” The embarrassment led Rockefeller to push for company unionism, which for all its very real limitations, was a concession.

Some capitalists did better in their testimony. When Andrew Carnegie testified, he openly lied about his role at Homestead, claiming he was out playing in Scotland when in fact he had ordered Henry Clay Frick to bust the union while he was away. When Walsh announced he would also investigate the South, Georgia senator Hoke Smith led a charge to cut the USCIR budget by 75 percent. When the vote failed, Walsh directly targeted Georgia to stick it to Smith, holding some of his most pro-worker hearings in that state.

Not everyone on the committee was a pro-worker as Walsh and his attacks upon the rich made many uncomfortable. This meant that as an institution, the USCIR was unable to fulfill its potential. The final report, issued in 1916, was actually three different reports prepared by different sections of the committee. The Walsh faction openly called for an industrial democracy. It called agricultural work, such as had led to the Wheatland Riot “industrial feudalism in an extreme form.” The word “feudalism” was applied heavily throughout the report–to company towns, to the coal regions, to rural labor.

The response to the Walsh report was mixed. Labor publications and unions were ecstatic at the honest portrayal of the conditions of American workers. The Masses went so far as to call it, “The beginning of an indigenous American revolutionary movement.” Again, it’s worth noting here how out of character for American history the Walsh report and USCIR in general was that American radicals would see it in this light. On the other hand, the president of the Pittsburgh Employers Association called for Walsh’s assassination, perhaps tongue in cheek, perhaps not. The majority report was written by the labor economist John Commons, which in a more typically Progressive manner than Walsh’s activism called for impartial labor boards rather than involve labor in politics, which reflected the belief of much of American labor during this period, including the American Federation of Labor.

The extent to which the USCIR really changed the nation is somewhat up for debate, but it’s likely that its findings fed the pro-labor Democratic platform in 1916. It’s worth remembering that even when considering the horrors of the Red Scare and the government suppression of the IWW in World War I, the Wilson administration was still by a significant margin the most pro-labor administration in American history before FDR. Wilson would make alliance with Samuel Gompers during World War I to bring labor into the national planning for the war and the AFL saw significant gains during the war, however short-lasting they were. Charles Evans Hughes campaigned against Wilson in 1916 based in part of what he saw was the waste of the USCIR, but to little effect. The more moderate Commons report would become influential in the welfare capitalism of the 1920s, which still provided gains of sorts for workers.

Walsh would later go on to become the co-chair of the National War Labor Board with William Howard Taft, where the two clashed over the former’s staunchly pro-union policies and abrupt manner with the capitalists. Walsh eventually lost Wilson’s favor over his other favorite cause–Irish nationalism.

You can read the final report and all the testimony, which is voluminous and a wonderful resource for labor historians of the period here
. I used the timber testimony extensively in the first chapter of my logging book manuscript.

This is the 116th post in this series. Previous posts are archived here.

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