Kamala was ready: that little girl was me

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If you don’t think political campaigns are tightly scripted, consider what Kamala Harris said in last night’s Democratic debate.

Acronym, which analyzes digital strategy and investments across the political spectrum, noted after the debate that the biggest breakout moment was when Harris went after Joe Biden on desegregation. In doing so, she drew on a story of her personal experience as a young girl who was bused to school that became a viral video clip.

Some viewers might have seen that moment as a deeply personal, spontaneous reaction by Harris that revealed her genuineness. Hardly.

As Acronym noted, “Her campaign team seemed *very* ready for the moment, sharing well-designed graphics on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, and quickly pushing out related t-shirts with her quote from the stage, “That little girl was me,” for sale.”

To help things along, Harris plugged her website in her closing remarks.

So much for spontaneity.

 

 

 

 

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Reparations: paying for the sins of our fathers

Ezekiel 18:19-20

Ezekiel 18:20 / Jeremiah 31:30.

Ezekiel 18:20

On June 19, 2019, a subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee convened a hearing on H.R. 40, a bill that would study the feasibility of and proposals for reparations for descendants of slaves in America.

That was also Juneteenth, a day celebrating the emancipation of black people and “reminding the country of its original debt, and the debts it has since accrued,” Vann R. Newkirk II wrote in The Atlantic.

What, exactly, do current and future generations of Americans owe for the long past transgressions of others against blacks? Have we all inherited our fathers’ guilt?

In Germany, the descendents of a Nazi sympathizer have been gtrappling with a similar question.

Acknowledging their father’s anti-Semitism, his Nazi sympathies and the abuses that took place at a business he owned in Germany during the Nazi era (that is now a multi-billion dollar holding company), Albert Reimann Jr’s children  concluded they needed to make amends.

The New York Times recently reported that the Reimann children are donating to institutions that assist former forced laborers under the Nazis and doubling the budget of the family foundation to fund projects that “honor the memory of the victims of the Holocaust and of Nazi terror.”

“I have to do something,” said Martin Reimann, one of Albert Reimann Jr’s grandchildren.

Do Americans need to “do something,” to make amends for slavery and its ugly aftermath and, if so, should it take the form of reparations?

What should we do because of the sins of our fathers? How much culpability do living Americans have for the persistence of slavery in their country for so many years, for allowing the ideals of reconstruction to be undermined and tolerating racist practices to persist?

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As far back as 1964, Whitney Young, Jr., executive director of the National Urban League, called for reparations of sorts, “a domestic Marshall Plan” for blacks comparable to America’s massive aid to Western Europe after WWII. “Disadvantaged for three centuries,” Young wrote, “American Negroes require compensatory benefits . . . “

Ibram X. Kendi, Director of the Antiracist Research and Policy Center at American University, has argued, “To oppose reparations is to be racist. To support reparations is to be anti-racist. The middle ground is racist ground.”

Dr. Ibram Kendi speaks during Morning Meeting

“To oppose reparations is to be racist.”  – Ibram X. Kendi

 

“Only an expansive and expensive compensation policy for the descendants of the enslaved and relegated of the scale Lincoln proposed for the enslavers and subsidized could prevent the racial wealth gap from compounding and being passed onto another generation,” Kendi wrote.

There’s no question that the evils of slavery left a deep stain on America and that reconstruction and subsequent racist policies have done damage to American blacks. It’s also clear that this country must come to terms with its legacy of slavery.

But as Lance Morrow, a senior Fellow at the Washington, D.C.-based Ethics and Public Policy Center, has said, a full-throated reparations debate in the United States will not be conflated with a positive and healing gesture; all it will do is “push the country to angrier extremes on either side, stimulating fresh antagonisms.”

Coleman Hughes, a black Quillette columnist, took a similar approach in testimony before the House subcommittee on June 19:

“If we were to pay reparations today, we would only divide the country further, making it harder to build the political coalitions required to solve the problems facing black people today; we would insult many black Americans by putting a price on the suffering of their ancestors; and we would turn the relationship between black Americans and white Americans from a coalition into a transaction—from a union between citizens into a lawsuit between plaintiffs and defendants.”

Sen. Bernie Sanders, D-NH, has already taken a similar position.”First of all, its likelihood of getting through Congress is nil.,” he said in 2016. “Second of all, I think it would be very divisive.”

Even Barack Obama has questioned the feasibility and advisability of reparations.

“Theoretically, you can make, obviously, a powerful argument that centuries of slavery, Jim Crow, discrimination are the primary cause for all those gaps,” President Obama said to Ta-Nehisi Coates in an Oct. 19, 2016 interview for The Atlantic. “That those were wrongs done to the black community as a whole, and black families specifically, and that in order to close that gap, a society has a moral obligation to make a large, aggressive investment, even if it’s not in the form of individual reparations checks, but in the form of a Marshall Plan, in order to close those gaps.”

“It is easy to make that theoretical argument,” Obama said. “But as a practical matter, it is hard to think of any society in human history in which a majority population has said that as a consequence of historic wrongs, we are now going to take a big chunk of the nation’s resources over a long period of time to make that right.”

An attempt to decide on the specifics of a reparations program would also be a nightmare. Who would even be eligible? If it’s individuals, who alive today has suffered as a direct result of slavery?

Coleman Hughes accepts the merit of reparations paid to Holocaust survivors, victims of internment during World War II, and victims of the Tuskegee experiments, for example, “but not reparations for “poorly-defined groups containing millions of people whose relationship to the initial crime is several generations removed.”

It’s unfortunate that so many of those competing for the Democratic presidential nomination have chosen to embrace reparations. It may enhance their appeal to the left wing of their party, but it likely alienates many more people. And now that the reparations cat is out of the box, everybody and their brother may demand reparations for past injustices.

An April 2019 Rasmussen poll found that just 21 percent of likely voters think taxpayers should pay reparations to black Americans who can prove they are descended from slaves.

Fox News poll that same month found that 60 percent of Americans oppose paying cash reparations to descendants of slaves and only 32 percent support it.  Even a July 2018 poll by Data For Progress, a progressive think tank, found that 68 percent were opposed.

But some of the Democratic candidates endorsing billions in reparations must figure that African-Americans will embrace the concept, and African-Americans are a good share of likely voters in South Carolina, one of the early primaries, and on Super Tuesday, March 3..

Frankly, buying votes was much cheaper and made more sense when they only handed out free beer at the polls.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cap-and-Trade: Oregon Republicans are blowing it (Just like they did with last walk-out)

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Oregon Senate Republicans stayed away from the Capitol Thursday, preventing a vote on HB 2020, a key bill for Democrats that would cap greenhouse gas emissions. The walk-out is a mistake, just as was another walkout in May.

Resolution of the last Republican walk-out in May 2019 involved an agreement by Democrats to sacrifice a bill that would have tightened vaccine exemptions and a gun reform bill that would have tightened gun restrictions.

The Republicans might have placated some of their anti-vaccine and anti-gun control base, but those voters were never going to switch political sides anyway. Moreover, the anti-vax crowd is actually pretty small. Just 17% of Americans believe that “parents should be able to decide not to vaccinate their children, even if that may create health risks for other children and adults,” according to Pew Research.

Resolution of the May Republican walk-out also involved included a pledge by the Republicans not to walk out again for the rest of the 2019 session. The new walk-out compromises that commitment.

The Republicans claim that the agreement was conditional on them having opportunities to have a meaningful impact on HB 2020 as it moved forward. So much for that..

A key Republican goal is to get an emergency clause in the cap-and-trade bill removed. The clause would allow the bill to go into effect immediately after Gov. Brown signs it, preventing opponents from trying to refer the bill to voters for a costly and contentious fight.

Removal of the emergency clause could mean the Democrats would be facing iffy public votes on two major bills dear to their hearts, the cap-and-trade law and the Student Success Act, which will impose a gross receipts tax on Oregon businesses to fund $2 billion in education spending every two years.

A Senate agreement to remove the emergency clause would also mean sending the bill back to the House for another vote, a potentially time-consuming move that could mean no resolution before the Legislative session is set to end on June 30.

Frankly, the Democrats would be slitting their own throats if they agreed to remove the emergency clause. Oregon has a high environmental profile, but winning a public vote on the cap-and-trade law, with its projected cost of $550 million just in the first year and a sweeping progressive spending agenda, would be a heavy lift. The projected increase in gasoline and residential natural gas prices alone could turn off voters.

Knowing all this, the Democrats are unlikely to capitulate this time around.

Risky business: Corporate messaging and abortion.

Remember when people used to buy products because they were well made, priced right and met their needs?

Corporate meddling in politically contentious issues to signal virtue of one kind or another has put an end to that.

Businesses have been trying to position themselves as good corporate citizens for years in order to bring about a more favorable operating environment, but earlier efforts focused on neutral moves like raising public awareness of such things as charitable contributions, employee volunteerism and hiring veterans.

Recently, however, companies have been more willing to take public stands on truly controversial issues in order to raise their public profile… and sell more products.  And it just happens to be that federal and state lawmakers are simultaneously using abortion politics to rile their voters ahead of the 2020 election.

An example of this new outspokenness is the response to restrictive abortion legislation recently enacted in several states, including Missouri, Georgia, Mississippi, Kentucky, Alabama, and Ohio.

On May 7, 2019, Georgia Governor Brian Kemp signed a law that would ban abortion as soon as physicians can detect a heartbeat, which can be as soon as six weeks (before some women are aware they’re pregnant).

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Georgia Governor Brian Kemp signing abortion law.

“Georgia is a state that values life,” Kemp said at the bill signing. “We protect the innocent, we champion the vulnerable, we stand up and speak for those that are unable to speak for themselves.”

On May 15, Alabama’s governor, Kay Ivey, signed a law defining a fetus as a legal person “for homicide purposes” and making performing an abortion in the state a felony.

Netflix, Disney and WarnerMedia responded that they might stop producing television shows and movies in Georgia, and multiple actors threatened that they wouldn’t work in Georgia if the state’s law takes effect.

“I think many people who work for us will not want to work there, and we will have to heed their wishes in that regard,” said Disney CEO Bob Iger. “… we will work with the ACLU and others to fight it in court,” said Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos.

Earlier this month, leaders of more than 180 businesses, including Maria Pope, President and CEO of Portland General Electric, signed a letter that ran as an ad in The New York Times opposing the restrictive abortion laws enacted recently in multiple states.

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Maria Pope, President and CEO of PGE, signed the “Don’t Ban Equality” letter.

“It’s time for companies to stand up for reproductive health care,” the Don’t Ban Equality letter said. Restricting abortion is “bad for business.”

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A problem with corporate virtue signaling like this as a marketing strategy is that it assumes the company has other people’s best interests at heart, that it’s not driven by profit seeking. There’s a risk that even altruistic millennials passionate about social causes will see through that, increasing cynicism, not brand loyalty.

Another issue with corporations trying to sell themselves as social justice warriors is that, as Tara Isabella Burton wrote in Vox, companies are pushing the spending of money “as a ritualistic as well as transactional act.” That can backfire. Purchases based on product quality are more likely to be sustained than those based on ever-changing corporate advocacy.

Public policy positions taken by corporate leaders on social issues may also not reflect the views of many employees or consumers, despite the presumptions of executives that others must be in alignment.

On abortion, for example, polling shows that Americans are actually fairly evenly split between those who identify as pro-life and those who identify as pro-choice. A majority of Americans, including many Democrats, support abortion restrictions in the second and third trimesters. In short, corporate honchos are mistaken if they believe most Americans are unrestricted abortion supporters.

As columnist David Byler wrote in the Washington Post, “… neither Republican nor Democratic voters unanimously want the total victory that activists on both sides are agitating for. Republicans are generally pro-life and Democrats are mostly pro-choice, but there’s real dissent among the rank-and-file voters in both camps. Our constantly shifting status quo may be unnerving to the most engaged pro-choice and pro-life advocates. But whatever they might say, the average U.S. voter wants a negotiated compromise in the abortion wars.”

Corporate evangelizing on all sorts of social issues can run afoul of public and employee attitudes, particularly with toxic social media serving as a megaphone for unhinged mobs of ever-smaller tribes determined to play a role in a debate.

Ideology-driven public positioning can also alienate employees and potential hires who are not in sync with a company’s cultural alignment or simply value open thinking.

”Internally, if leaders can create safe avenues for employees with different values and beliefs to voice their ideas (about CSR practices, products, or other business-related issues), this may lead to greater innovation, not to mention goodwill among those who value ideological tolerance as an over-arching feature of their workplace,” several U.S. business professors wrote in United States Politics and Policy.

Then there’s the fact that organizations and individuals who praise corporate intervention on sensitive public issues are generally much less enthused when the intervention has a conservative bent.

A striking example of this is the left’s outrage over comments made in July 2012 by Dan Cathy, Chick-fil-A’s CEO, to the Baptist Press. Cathy said he was “guilty as charged” in his support of what he described as traditional marriage. “We know that it might not be popular with everyone, but thank the Lord, we live in a country where we can share our values and operate on biblical principles,” Cathy said.

To say the least, all hell broke loose, with liberals and LGBTQ activists condemning Cathy and endorsing Chick-fil-A boycotts.

Controversy resurfaced with a March 2019 report by the progressive organization Think Progress that the chain’s foundation donated $1.8 million in 2017 to groups Think Progress said have anti-LGBTQ agendas.

Then there’s the shifting attitudes in the corporate world, which make executives unreliable moral leaders. “Americans ought to be cautious before making corporations their moral compass or primary vehicle for reform,” Adam Winkler, a professor of law at UCLA, wrote recently in The New Republic. “The policy positions taken by U.S. companies on social issues today lean in the direction of inclusion. But tomorrow might be different, if the country—or a business’s particular consumer base—turns in a different direction.

If all this keeps up, you may soon be nostalgic for the days when companies tried to sell their products with simple “plop, plop, fizz, fizz” jingles.