Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Portland protesters: Are student loans and a crummy job market driving the anger?

Like many Americans, I have been surprised by the intensity of the Black-Lives-Matter protests that take place nightly in Portland, Oregon. Why Portland?

USA Today speculated yesterday that Oregon's racist past is fueling the city's protests.  As the newspaper pointed out, Oregon's territorial constitution, adopted in 1857, barred people of color from entering Oregon Territory.  And Oregon had a very active Ku Klux Klan during the early 1920s, as USA Today noted.

But I don't think Oregon's "dark history" of racism explains the violence in Portland's streets.  Portland is, after all, one of the most progressive cities in America. US News and World Report recently listed Portland as one of the nation's top ten best cities.

And no one can accuse Portland's politicians of being racist. The city's progressive political scene is so famous that the television series Portlandia lampooned it for eight seasons.

Nor is Portland torn by racial strife. Portland is a mostly white city in a primarily white state.  Only two percent of Oregon's population is Black, and only about one in twenty Portland residents is African American.  Compare that ratio to Baton Rouge, where I live. My city is 52 percent African American, and no one is rioting.

Watching the Portland protests night after night, I have been struck by the fact that most of the protesters are young, white people. I find myself wondering whether these enraged wokesters have college degrees, whether they have good jobs, and whether they have student-loan debt.

We know that millions of Americans are burdened by student loans that hinder them from getting married, buying homes, or saving for retirement.  And we know that a majority of these debtors are not paying down their loans.  Education Secretary Betsy DeVos admitted as much almost two years ago.

I'm guessing that a lot of the people who are protesting on Portland's streets have student-loan debt that is completely unmanageable. Although the demonstrators may have college degrees, those degrees did not lead to good jobs for many of them.

I am not questioning the sincerity of people who have taken to the streets of Portland this summer. I am sure most of them are genuinely disturbed by racism and economic injustice.

But I wonder: How many people who are throwing bricks and bottles at the police would stay in their homes at night, munch on popcorn and watch a Netflix movie if they believed they were financially secure, had a good job, and were not weighed down by student loans.

Portland protesters: most are young and white

Monday, July 20, 2020

Nursing School Dean is fired after sending an email that said "EVERYONE'S LIFE MATTERS": Does McCarthyism stalk the campus at University of Massachusetts-Lowell?

Leslie Neal-Boylan, Dean of the Solomont School of Nursing at the University of Massachusetts-Lowell, was fired after writing "EVERYONE'S LIFE MATTERS" in an email message to the nursing school community.

Why was she fired? UMass Lowell won't say. It released this statement, drafted in the neo-Stalinist style of academia, that said this:

Leslie Neal-Boylan's employment at UMass Lowell ended on June 19, after she was informed she would no longer serve as dean of the Solomon School of Nursing. She had been in that role for 10 months. Although a tenured full faculty member she declined to join the nursing faculty. As with all such employment decisions, it was made in the best interests of the university and its students. Although we are not able to discuss specifics of a personnel matter, it would be incorrect to assume any statement by Dr. Neal-Boyland was the cause of that decision.
Dean Neal-Boylan apparently believes she was fired over her email message. In a letter obtained by Campus Reform that Neal-Boylan wrote to Chancellor Jacqueline Moloney and Provost Julie Nash, she reportedly said:
It seems clear that College Dean [Shortie] McKinney used my email regarding Black Lives Matter (BLM) as rationale to fire me. This is attributable to one phrase in my initial email that otherwise was very clearly a message to NOT discriminate against anyone.
So what did Dean Neal-Boylan's email say?  Merely this:
Dean SSON Comunity, I am writing to express my concern and condemnation of the recent (and past) acts of violence against people of color. Recent events recall a tragic history of racism and bias that continue to thrive in this country. I despair of our future as a nation if we do not stand up against violence against anyone. BLACK LIVES MATTER, but also, EVERYONE'S LIfe MATTERS. 
Some readers were offended by Dean Neal-Boylan's email, which someone posted on twitter. One person wrote that the Dean's "statement that 'all lives matter' was uncalled for and shows the narrow-minded people in lead[ership] positions." Shortly after Neal-Boylan sent the email message, she was fired.

This incident is reminiscent of McCarthyism in the 1950s when people in the entertainment community were blacklisted because they ran afoul of Senator Joseph McCarthy's paranoid, anti-communist agenda. Watch the movie The Front or Trumbo if you want to learn more about that shameful period in our national history.

Academia in the United States is now the home of a virulent strain of neo-McCarthyism. No one's job is safe. One false step, one carelessly expressed message, one unpopular personal viewpoint--and your university career may be ruined. 

So if you are a professor or a college administrator and you want to keep your job, my advice to you is: Keep your mouth shut.

Thursday, July 16, 2020

UWV police chief apologizes for displaying a "Thin Blue Line" flag in his home office: American universities are beginning to resemble Stalinist Russia

Go see Within the Whirlwind, a movie about Evgenia Ginzburg, a literature professor in Stalinist Russia, who is falsely accused of anti-Russian agitation. She gets sentenced to 10 years in a Siberian work camp.

 But you don't need to see Within the Whirlwind to get a feel for what Stalinist Russia was like. Just read the news about what is going on in our universities.  You say or do one wrong thing in those lunatic asylums, and you can lose your job.

Case in point. W.P. Chedester, West Virginia University's police chief,  recently sent a letter to the campus community, inviting people to attend a Campus Conversation about racism and injustice. Meshea Poore, the university's VP for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, joined Chedester in the invitation. 

So far, so good.

Because of the coronavirus pandemic, the Conversation took place via Zoom, with Chief Chedester participating from his home office.  And this where the university's top cop screwed up. In the background of his Zoom image, viewers could see a "Thin Blue Line" flag--basically an American flag with one blue stripe. This flag is generally interpreted as a sign of respect for law enforcement.

Big mistake! 

Several WVU professors and students were offended by the flag and lodged protests to the university. Chief Chedester, a team player, took the flag down and issued a letter of apology.  "I sincerely did not have any intent to suggest that police lives matter more than Black lives, nor was I intentionally trying to cause any harm or offense."

Apparently, some WVU professors were not satisfied with his Chedester's apology. One professor tweeted that Chedester should still resign.

I admire Chief Chedester for his dignity and humility in responding to protests against his home decor. I probably would have responded like Michael Corleone (played by Al Pacino) in The Godfather after a rival Mafia gang machine-gunned his bedroom one night.

"In my HOME!" Corleone shouted furiously. "IN MY BEDROOM WHERE MY WIFE SLEEPS! Where my children come and play with their toys. In my home!"

Yes, some people wanted Mr. Chester to lose his job because he hung an artistic expression of his personal beliefs in his own goddamn home.

And so, as I said, you don't need to see Within the Whirlwind to get a glimpse of what life was like in Stalinist Russian. Just take a tour of the WVU campus. I'm sure someone from the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion would be glad to show you around.

Joseph Stalin:

Note: Within the Whirlwind, directed by Marleen Gorris, was released in 2010. Emma Watson played Yevgenia Ginzburg, a Russian literature professor who was railroaded by the Communist Party and sent to a Siberian labor camp. According to her Wikipedia bio, Ginzburg served an 18-year sentence in the Gulag. I highly recommend the movie.

"First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out." Reflections on Martin Niemöller, who stood up against the Nazis

First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—
     Because I was not a socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—
     Because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
     Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.
Martin Niemöller

Like most Americans, I am familiar with Pastor Martin Niemöller's famous quote, but I knew almost nothing about him until recently. I knew he was a Protestant pastor who opposed Adolph Hitler during the 1930s, but I did not realize that Niemöller spent seven years in a Nazi concentration camp.

As William Shirer noted in his memoirs, Niemöller would seem to be an unlikely person to stand up to the Nazis. Niemöller had been a decorated U-boat commander during the First World War. He was a fervent nationalist during the post-war years, and he welcomed the day when Hitler became the chancellor of the Reich in 1933.

But Niemöller slowly became disillusioned with Hitler, and he spoke out publicly against Nazism from his pulpit. At some point, Niemoller realized that Hitler meant to wipe out Christianity in Germany and replace it with the National Reich Church.

Indeed, Hitler's national church publicly repudiated the "strange and foreign" Christian religion. The Reich church openly acknowledged that it intended to place Mein Kampe on church altars instead of the Bible.

With great courage, Niemöllerdefended his Christian faith against Hitler's paganism. In 1937, he was arrested by the Gestapo and sent to Dachau.

Shirer, reflecting on the struggle between Hitler and German Christians during the 1930s, admitted that he had perhaps paid too much attention to it. After all, most Germans were not alarmed by what the Nazis were doing. "I should have realized," Shirer wrote, "that a people who had so lightly given up their political, cultural and economic freedom were not . . . going to die or even risk imprisonment to preserve freedom of worship."

Today, the United States is swirling in a witch's brew of cancel culture, Antifa, Black Lives Matter, and "wokedom." Elected politicians publicly denounce the police, and demonstrators feel free to throw bricks and bottles at police officers. Day after day, vandals posing as protesters destroy statues and monuments that memorialize America's heritage. Churches and businesses are being set afire, and almost no one is prosecuted.

If the United States had a free press and healthy universities, all this destructive rhetoric and criminal behavior would be thunderously denounced in the media, much as some newspapers denounced the Ku Klux Klan in the 1920s.

But America no longer has a free press. Instead, as Bari Weiss wrote this week in a letter to the New York Times," a new consensus has emerged in the press . . . that truth isn't a process of collective discovery, but an orthodoxy already known to an enlightened few whose job is to inform everyone else."

If our nation's universities were truly a marketplace of ideas, as the Supreme Court once described them, our intellectuals would speak up when a professor is bullied and even fired for failing to acquiesce to the destructive agenda of the cancel culture. But they are not speaking up.

For the most part, Americans are indifferent to the mass assault on traditional American values and our nation's democratic traditions. Our media and our universities are hell-bent on destroying American society, and few people dare to stand up to them.

We are like the Germans of the 1930s who stayed on the sidelines instead of opposing Hitler's thuggery. And like the Germans, we will eventually regret our cowardice.

Pastor Martin Niemöller spent seven years in a Nazi concentration camp.

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

"Don't bring your guns to town, son": Johnny Cash's mama gave good advice

Gun sales are skyrocketing in the United States. According to the National Shooting Sports Foundation (as reported by Forbes), Americans bought 2.5 million firearms in the first half of this year.

Even before this recent spike, Americans owned a lot of guns.  Today, Americans own 400 million firearms--that's a gun for every U.S. citizen, including toddlers and kindergarten kids.  And more Americans are packing heat when they travel.  As of 2019, 18.6 million citizens had concealed carry permits.

We've known for years that gun sales pick up in response to scary news events. Right now, people are worried about the coronavirus and urban violence in the wake of George Floyd's death. Many gun buyers don't actually want a firearm, but they are afraid they might need a gun one day and won't be able to get one.

This summer, however, we see a new development. Not only are people buying more guns, but they are also hoarding ammunition. As I write, it is virtually impossible to purchase handgun ammo in my city. A sales associate at my nearby Cabella's sporting goods store told me that ammo flies off the shelves as soon as it is stocked. "We sell out in about five minutes," he said. reported that Texas saw a 1,000 percent increase in the purchase of 9 mm pistol ammunition this spring and a 2,400 percent increase in the sale of assault-rifle (223) bullets.

In my view, this is a worrisome trend. It is telling us that many Americans don't believe the police can protect them from crime and violence--that they are on their own when it comes to protecting their property and their families.

I'm not going to weigh in on the gun debate--the Second Amendment, yadda yadda yadda.  But I will say this. It is one thing for people who are trained to use firearms to keep securely-stored guns in their homes to protect their loved ones in the unlikely event that someone breaks into their dwelling, and the police don't arrive fast enough to deal with the threat.

It's quite another thing to carry a concealed weapon on a trip to the grocery store or to brandish a gun in public. Mark and Patricia McCloskey are famous now because they displayed firearms in their front yard when protesters came into their gated community in St. Louis. They say they were threatened and that the police didn't respond to their call for help. I believe them.

But wouldn't it have been better for Mr. and Mr.s McCloskey to have stayed in their home with the doors locked and call 911 repeatedly to ask for assistance? If someone broke into their house before the police showed up, the McCloskeys would then be well within their rights to protect themselves with guns.

But I don't see any sense in standing in one's front yard and waving a gun at people. I hope the McCloskeys aren't prosecuted for their misjudgment, but I also hope their personal drama is a lesson to the rest of us that we should heed Mama Cash's advice: "Don't take your guns to town, son. Leave your guns [inside your] home."

Monday, July 13, 2020

Two Hispanic cops killed while responding to a domestic disturbance in the border town of McAllen, TX: Do Brown lives matter?

Last Saturday, two police officers were shot and killed in the Texas border town of McAllen. Officers Edelmiro Garza and Ismael Chavez were responding to a domestic disturbance call at a local residence. When they arrived, a man identified as Audon Ignacio Camarillo opened the door and shot both men, who had no time to draw their weapons. Camarillo took his own life later that day.

What does Black Lives Matter have to say about this tragedy? Good cops are dead cops, perhaps.

And how about those lunatics on the Minneapolis City Council--the people who want to dismantle the police department even as they buy personal security for themselves. Do they have any comments?

And the "Defund the Police" nut jobs--what is their take on this?  I suppose they will argue that the city of McAllen should have sent a "woke" social worker to deal with Mr. Camarillo instead of two cops.

Both slain officers were Hispanic, shot in a town that is overwhelmingly Latino (or Latinx). Does ethnicity affect the way anti-police yahoos think about this tragedy? If blue lives don't matter, can they at least acknowledge that Brown lives matter?

All over the United States, the police will tell you that the most dangerous scenario for them is a domestic violence call. The guys who beat their wives are unstable and often have guns. Alcohol is frequently a factor.

What is the best way to deal with these perilous situations--which happen every day all over the United States? Do we dispatch a SWAT team in an armored vehicle? Do we send an unarmed community caseworker? Or do we ask the police to deal with guys like Audon Ignacio Camarillo?

Right now, our society sends cops--both men and women--to deal with domestic abusers, who are human time bombs that can explode unexpectantly.  It's a dirty job, but someone has to do it.

Is it too much to ask, then, to say that blue lives matter? Is it too much to ask Americans to say thank you?

Saturday, July 11, 2020

Not all white people live in a "place of privilege": Minneapolis City Council wants to dismantle the police department

Okie use' ta mean you was from Oklahoma.  Now it means you're a dirty son-of-a-bitch. Okie means you're scum.
John Steinbeck
The Grapes of Wrath 

Last month, the Minneapolis City Council voted unanimously to dismantle the municipal police force and replace it with an agency that will address crime more holistically. I take it that means more social workers and fewer guns.

Although the city council wants to deny police protection to the citizens of Minneapolis, some officials still want it for themselves. The city hired a private security firm to protect three council members at the cost of $4,500 a day. In other words, security for me but not for thee.

A CNN reporter asked Lisa Bender, president of the Minneapolis City Council, what people are supposed to do if their homes are being burglarized. "What if in the middle of the night my home is broken into," the reporter asked. "Who do I call?" 

Bender basically said the police aren't necessary to deal with a home invasion because if you're calling 911 to report a burglary, you're coming from a "place of privilege."  By privilege, I think Bender meant white privilege. 

If I follow her reasoning aright, Bender is basically arguing that white people don't deserve police protection from theft because they (or perhaps their ancestors) benefited unfairly from our society's structural racism.

But of course, that's bullshit. 

As far as I know, my family hasn't exploited anybody. My great grandfather on my father's side worked in a brick factory in England. Sometime in the 1880s, he immigrated to Canada with his wife and children and finally wound up in Kansas. No slaves on that side of my family.

My mother's people emigrated from Germany before the American Revolution. They settled in Pennsylvania, and several of my ancestors fought in George Washington's army. No slaves or racial exploitation on the German side of my family.

Even if you buy the tortured argument that my ancestors engaged in racial exploitation simply because they were white beneficiaries of a racist society, they certainly paid for that sin. Both sets of my grandparents lived in the Dust Bowl during the Great Depression and suffered greatly. 

Although my immediate ancestors did not migrate to California during the 1930s, many of their relatives and acquaintances did. Much like today's Mexican immigrants, Oklahomans uprooted themselves and headed to the Golden State in search of a better way of life.

And when they rolled up to the California border in their broken-down cars, the state police would not let them enter. These economic refugees were referred to as Okies--a term almost as derogatory as the N-word.

Think of that: Today's California politicians want to abolish all immigration laws and allow anyone to enter the country--even criminals. But in the 1930s, the Californians denied entrance to American citizens who just wanted to work and feed their families.

American history is tainted with systemic racism to be sure. Africans were enslaved in the South, Chinese workers were abused in the West, and the Irish were exploited in the East. And if you want to know how the Okies fared in 1930s California, view John Ford's great movie, The Grapes of Wrath

But today, in the second decade of the 21st century, we all deserve to be treated equally and with respect. And if someone breaks into our homes, don't we all deserve police protection?

Okies, keep out of California.