Cornel West on Obama’s Counterfeit Presidency

Cornel West[Obama] posed as a progressive and turned out to be counterfeit. We ended up with a Wall Street presidency, a drone presidency, a national security presidency. The torturers go free. The Wall Street executives go free. The war crimes in the Middle East, especially now in Gaza, the war criminals go free. And yet, you know, he acted as if he was both a progressive and as if he was concerned about the issues of serious injustice and inequality and it turned out that he’s just another neoliberal centrist with a smile and with a nice rhetorical flair. And that’s a very sad moment in the history of the nation because we are—we’re an empire in decline. Our culture is in increasing decay. Our school systems are in deep trouble. Our political system is dysfunctional. Our leaders are more and more bought off with legalized bribery and normalized corruption in Congress and too much of our civil life. You would think that we needed somebody—a Lincoln-like figure who could revive some democratic spirit and democratic possibility.

—Cornel West
Interview with Thomas Frank

Liberal Education Reform Push Conservative Ends

No Child Left Behind - Mike Keefe

The North Carolina News Observer reported that the state school voucher program was found to be unconstitutional by Judge Robert Hobgood. It’s rare to see such a powerful decision. It is clear what the law was meant to do: gut the public education system. This is always what conservative education “reform” is about.

According to the article, of those requesting vouchers, the majority were for religious schools. “Also, private schools do not have to give state exams or meet public school regulations.” So in addition to harming the public schools, the law was also a gift to the Christian conservatives who are afraid that their children might be taught real science or real history. I’m sure even Jonathan Chait would see the mendacity behind this kind of reform.

According to qnotes, “Hobgood also ruled that the new scholarship program pushed public money to schools that can discriminate in admissions and are not required to maintain curriculum or teacher certification standards.” This goes along with the hypocrisy that Digby noted among conservative education reformers. They are obsessed with the effectiveness of unionized teachers, but they don’t give a thought to just how horrible parent teachers or, in this case, religious educators might be.

Note that this isn’t just about conservative education reform. This says something very important about the education reform movement generally. Like a lot of liberals and moderates, those in the education reform movement take their cues from the conservatives. Now they wouldn’t be in favor of anything as egregious as this North Carolina law. But their focus on “ineffective teachers” and destroying due process employment rights for teachers (“tenure”), is not a focus they came to all by themselves. The big money and the conservative base was pushing it and the liberals went right along with it.

What I see happening is that in the end, teachers unions will be neutered. Teachers will have much less independence and job security. But at best children won’t get any better an education. So a huge effort on the part of liberals will not accomplish their goals, but will accomplish the goals of disingenuous conservatives. It seems to me that there is another educational problem in this country that is getting in the way of improving the education of our children: liberals are being educated by conservatives. I’m sure smart conservatives are tickled that so many liberals are helping them do their dirty work. But this wouldn’t be the first time that large segments of the Democratic Party acted as useful fools for the Republicans.

Stephen Fry

Stephen FryToday is the 57th birthday of the brilliant comedian Stephen Fry. I celebrated his birthday last year in the birthday post. But I didn’t talk about him much. (That was the way with birthday posts at that time.) So he deserves a real birthday.

At 17, he stole the credit card of a family friend. If you believe Wikipedia, this was a mistake. Listening to Fry talk about on a fairly dreadful documentary, I didn’t get the impression that it was such a naive act. But it could be that Fry has an incentive to make it sound worse than it was—like reformed Christians who claim to have been Satanists before they found God. Regardless, he spent three months in jail for the crime.

But unlike, say, a young black man in the United States, Fry was given another chance. Plus, he’s incredibly smart. So after a bit of time at City College Norwich, he got a scholarship to Queens’ College, Cambridge. That was where he met Hugh Laurie, who doesn’t have nearly as interesting a back story (his father has five names). The rest, as I say all the time, is history.

Here is a sketch from A Bit of Fry and Laurie, “Welcome to the Private Police Force.” It is making fun of the privatization of services and the Americanization of Britain. It’s very funny and brilliant satire:

Happy birthday Stephen Fry!

Surprisingly Limited Libertarian Writer’s Concept of Freedom

Patrick HowleyBack in December, Patrick Howley wrote an article in The Daily Caller, Liberals Want to Stop Men From Checking Out Women. It’s a very short article intended to offend, and it did. It’s also plain dumb. Just as conservatives have some mythical idea of “America” that doesn’t exist, hasn’t existed, and can’t exist, they have some weird idea of what “progressives” are.

Normally, I would not even bring him up. But last night, I came upon a 40 minute interview he did with Sam Seder on The Majority Report. I was just looking for something to listen to for a few minutes while I did some cleaning. But I was drawn in and I ended up listening to the whole thing. It was hypnotizing. It didn’t become better over time. It was just the same thing over and over again.

At first, I felt sorry for Howley. He sounded about as bad as I would if Rush Limbaugh invited me to debate on the show. The guy clearly has no experience in live media. He sounded nervous and, frankly, like a teenager. Seder was extremely nice to him until almost the very end. It wasn’t necessary to counter him. Seder just clarified what he was saying. And that was more than enough.

Howley is a very typical libertarian. By that I mean that he’s fairly smart (subgenius) but he has never thought outside the bounds of the Ayn Rand essays he’s read. The best example of this was his take on sexual harassment. Basically: he doesn’t think it exists. His opinion is that if your boss is hitting on you, you can just get another job. The boss will be punished by the market because he won’t get the best employees. This is the kind of theoretical notion of freedom that makes libertarianism so toxic. And coming from a conservative affirmative action case like Howley, it’s disgusting. What does he know about the economic problems of the working class? Being 25 years old and working his whole life in conservative media, I can safely answer: nothing.

But what was most striking was how mad this young man was about the things that he had decided that “progressives” were going to do to him. Soon, they were going to make it illegal to ogle women. How did he know that? Because that’s what progressives are always doing! How would such a law work? Because that’s what progressives are always doing! How would you define ogling? Because that’s what progressives are always doing! Really: it was hypnotizing.

His real complaint, although he won’t admit to this is that people complain about things he writes. He calls this “suppressing his free speech.” This is a common tactic of conservatives: when people don’t like what they say, conservatives claim liberals are trying to suppress them. What’s really going on is that liberals are having a debate and the conservatives generally do poorly. When Rush Limbaugh is one of the great thinkers of your movement, you are in trouble. Regardless, last year I attacked Howley in an article, Humor Attempt Turns Racist. Many other people attacked him too. But the article he wrote is still online. He was not fired, much less arrested. His free speech was not suppressed.

But this is his idea of freedom: he should be immune to any criticisms. But some woman who works at McDonald’s should have to put up with sexual harassment because she’s “free” to find another job. This is Rob Portman logic. You may remember that Portman had always been against same sex marriage. But then his gay son came out to him. And suddenly Portman was for same sex marriage. That was because it suddenly affected him. He didn’t like the idea of his son being discriminated against. It was fine as long as it was only other people’s sons.

It’s the same thing with Patrick Howley. (In general, it is the same thing with all conservatives, most especially libertarians.) He wants to maximize his freedom, which he assumes is freedom in a general sense. He can’t even understand what life is like for a woman whose best job prospect will only ever be a job at McDonald’s. I imagine Howley in a Marie Antoinette haze, “The poor are struggling with their jobs at fast food restaurants? Then let them work at The Daily Caller!” Meanwhile, Howley is out there fighting those “progressives” who are planning to do terrible things to “freedom.” Because that’s what progressives are always doing!

The Problem With Block Grants

Kevin DrumI hate it when a commentator does his job so well that he leaves me with nothing to add. That was the case yesterday with Kevin Drum, Chart of the Day: Welfare Reform and the Great Recession. What I think I can do, however, is make his point a bit more clear. The issue here is how “block granting” is destroying welfare in this country and how conservatives want to use them to destroy most other programs that help the poor and middle classes.

You should remember that Bill Clinton campaigned in 1992 to “end welfare as we have come to know it.” And he followed through with that promise but in an abbreviated way: he simply ended welfare, although it wasn’t particularly clear at that time. He got a whole lot of plaudits for this “reform” because the welfare rolls really did go down. But that had nothing to do with the law; it was all due to the smoking hot economy. Of course people got off welfare: there were jobs available!

Once the economy tanked in 2000, people lost their jobs and slid back into poverty. But now the main welfare programs did not respond as you can see in the following graph from the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP):

Results of Welfare Reform: More Poverty, Less Welfare

There are various reasons that welfare isn’t available for people when they want it. For example, there are now limits to the amount of time any person can get certain kinds of welfare. But the biggest problem here is that Clinton’s welfare “reform” turned federal welfare into block grants to the states. As as I’ve talked about many times around here: when the federal government provides money for programs it doesn’t administer, there is little incentive to maintain the funding. And that’s just what happened. According to CBPP:

Because the block grant has never been increased or adjusted for inflation, states received 32 percent less in real (inflation-adjusted) dollars in 2014 than they did in 1997. State minimum-required contributions to TANF have declined even more. To receive their full TANF block grant, states only have to spend on TANF purposes 80 percent of the amount they spent on AFDC and related programs in 1995. That “maintenance of effort” requirement isn’t adjusted for inflation, either.

And this is why conservatives love “block granting.” It has nothing to do with the oft-claimed conservative principle that local governments are more responsive to their people. As you see from the CBPP quote, most states do only the bare minimum to get the federal dollars. So the real reason that conservatives like block grants is that they are a politically viable way to destroy programs they don’t like.

Of course, there are ways to make block grants actually work. Here’s Kevin Drum on what we aren’t going to see coming from Paul “Poverty Slayer” Ryan:

If Paul Ryan ever seriously proposes—and wins Republican support for—a welfare reform plan that includes block grants which (a) grow with inflation and (b) adjust automatically when recessions hit, I’ll pay attention. Until then, they’re just a Trojan Horse for slowly but steadily eliminating federal programs that help the poor. After all, those tax cuts for the rich won’t fund themselves, will they?

No they won’t! Don’t buy the conservative propaganda about block grants.

The “Uncle Tom” of the Animal Kingdom

Walter MondaleI wonder what would happen if we sent out a questionnaire—which incidentally, is one of the things we do best in this country—to all the other animals in the kingdom asking whether or not they would be upset if their brother, homo sapien, were to disappear from the earth. My guess is that we would get back a nearly unanimous answer that not one among them would shed a tear for our passing, since we have created such an unlivable environment for them… Except, maybe the dog who is sort of the Uncle Tom of the animal kingdom.

—Walter Mondale, on the first Earth Day
Via: Charlie Pierce’s wife

Odds and Ends Vol 13

Odds and EndsIs it ever time for a new Odds and Ends. I have so much stuff lying around, my desktop is getting out of hand. It’s interesting though. When I first started this series, it was to present stuff that I didn’t have much to add to. But I think everything today represents stuff I have an awful lot to say about. But enough is enough!

Third Languages

One of Frankly Curious‘ friends Infidel753 Blog turned eight this last week, so congratulations! I think that according to Catholic dogma, this means the blog is now officially responsible for its sins. But since Infiden753 (the human, not the site) is quite an outspoken atheist, it will be consigned to fire that never dies along with him. On the plus side, that’s where all the cool people go.

I found the following graph from the most recent of Infidel753′ great link round-ups. He does this kind of stuff much better than I can, because I just can’t stop myself from going on and on. Anyway, for this one I don’t have much to add. English is the most used language in the United States. Spanish is the second. [Spanish is not the most popular language in every state; see the article. -FM] But what is the third? Well, Slate put together a really great map of the third most used language in each state, Tagalog in California, Cherokee in Arkansas.

Third Most Used Language By State

Check out the article because there is a lot more to it. For those who don’t know it, “Tagalog is an Austronesian language spoken as a first language by a quarter of the population of the Philippines and as a second language by the majority.”

Kevin Sorbo: Christian Racist

Via The Young Turks, actor Kevin Sorbo called the protesters in Ferguson “animals.” On his Facebook page, he wrote, “It is an excuse to be the losers these animals truly are. It is a tipping point to frustration built up over years of not trying, but blaming everyone else, The Man, for their failures. It’s always someone else’s fault when you give up. Hopefully this is a reminder to the African Americans ( I always thought we just Americans. Oh, well.) that their President the voted in has only made things worse for them, not better.” From my perspective, he made matters far worse when he apologized on TMZ. You can see it all in this video, which I completely agree with.

What I find interesting is that Sorbo is an outspoken Christian. Why is it that Christianity in this country is so often tied to racism? I’m not just ranting here. We know that the foundation of the religious right was racism and not abortion—an issue protestants really didn’t care about until well after Roe v Wade. I understand that for most Christians, their religion has almost nothing to do with theology. It is just a cultural signifier: they are the “right” kind of people. But how is it that their beliefs can be in direct opposition to the Gospels? I don’t get it.

Everyone In America Is Middle Class

Anat Shenker-Osorio proposed to answer an interesting question earlier this month, Why Americans All Believe They Are “Middle Class.” I’m afraid her answer was not all that interesting, however. She noted that regardless of how much money people get, they still see other people who they consider rich. On the other side, she posits that because even the poor have things that once were only available to the rich, people feel like they are living the middle class dream. I suppose those are true enough.

I’m more interested in the fact that only 2% of Americans consider themselves part of the upper class. Including upper-middle class still only gets you to 17%. That means that at least 15% of the people who are technically in the upper class claim they are in the middle class or below.What I hate about this is that people in the upper class have very nice standards of livings at the same time they tell themselves (And the world when a pollster calls!) that they are just a working stiff.

Ayn Rand and L Ron Top “Best Novels” List

Speaking of delusional people, in 1998, Modern Library published a list of the 100 Best Novels of the 20th century. It’s filled with the sort of things you would expect: Joyce, Fitzgerald, Nabokov. But the following year, they did a non-scientific poll of readers and got their opinions. In the top ten novels include four by Ayn Rand and three by L Ron Hubbard. It also includes The Lord of the Rings, which as you may be aware, is not a novel; it is three. But Rand and Tolkien being in the top ten reminded me of this quote:

There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old’s life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs.

The books in the bottom 90 of the list are much more like the editors’ choices. But there are some odd choices like The Satanic Verses. Also there are seven Robert Heinlein novels. That’s interesting because I don’t think much of him as a writer or science fiction thinker. Also: he was very conservative with a military outlook on life. But he was nice Philip K Dick, so there’s that.

Judicial Confirmations

A few months back (See how it is?), Jonathan Bernstein wrote, McConnell’s Nuclear Blunder Haunts Republicans. At that time, there were fewer than 80 unfilled judicial vacancies. Bernstein’s point is that the McConnell game of just grinding the process to a halt has ended in the Republicans losing any power they had in the process. By blocking every nomination that came by, the Republicans have lost the ability to stop the handful that they have actual problems with.

Of course, it probably doesn’t matter for long. The Upshot‘s Senate Forecast now gives the Republicans a 65% of taking the Senate. Up until recently, their model has been pretty positive toward the Democrats. In fact, back in June it gave the Democrats almost a 60% of keeping the Senate. But no more. The only good news is that the model still predicts the most likely outcome to be a 51-49 division. If that holds, the Democrats will certainly take the Senate back in 2016—barring economic catastrophe.

Are Liberal Billionaires Good?

Even further back in time, Paul Waldman asked, Are Liberal Mega-Donors Just as Bad as Conservative Mega-Donors? My answer to this question is: in general, yes. He is pretty much on board with that, but he notes that this is really just a process story and what most people care about is results. He gives a great example:

Let’s say, for instance, that a billionaire had a company that developed a new energy technology that was so remarkable it provided low-cost, zero-carbon energy that could power every car, home, and business on earth, putting an end to the need for all fossil fuels and stopping climate change in its tracks. And he swooped into the election, spent half a billion dollars, and got a whole bunch of people elected who would ease the way for approval and adoption of his technology. And then let’s imagine that his girlfriend gave TMZ a tape on which he said that he didn’t give a crap about the planet, all he knew was that this was going to make him so much money he could spend the rest of his life snorting blow and having Nazi-themed parties at his estates while reclining on rugs made of baby harp seal pelts.

In that case, you’d have 1) a distorted election, producing 2) a wonderful result for humanity, 3) done for atrocious reasons. How would you feel about it?

I would only add that this is generally not the option. The reason we want to get money out of politics is that the big donors are not doing things that are good for our country. And it doesn’t matter in the least to me that the Koch brothers on the right or George Soros on the very moderate left think they doing what is best for the country.

Whitey on the Moon

And finally, this Gil Scott-Heron song “Whitey on the Moon” has been going through my head. The song was release in 1970, right at the time of the Moon landings. You can’t help but accept its logic: the Apollo missions were about the white elite class’ self-aggrandizement when there were so many problems here on the ground. Just the same, that was a time when the federal government was really trying to do something about poverty. What’s more, the Apollo missions were an expression of the best that humanity is. Still, I appreciate the resentment of this song:

That’s all for now. I’ll talk at you later today…

Sarah Frances Whiting

Sarah Frances WhitingOn this day in 1847, the science educator Sarah Frances Whiting was born. She is best known for starting the physics department at Wellesley College and building the Whitin Observatory. (Note the different spelling: the observatory is named after the woman who provided the funding, Sarah Elizabeth Whitin.) Her father was a science teacher, but did not provide her with a formal education. She learned a lot, however; at 18, she received a Bachelor’s degree from Ingham University, the first women’s college in New York.

For a decade after graduating, she taught at the Brooklyn Heights Seminary for girls. She also became known among the scientists in that region. Today there are relatively few women physicists. At that time, there were almost none. So after Henry Fowle Durant started Wellesley College, it was logical that he turned to Whiting to set up the physics department.

Although primarily an educator, Whiting was very much a scientist. When Wilhelm Roentgen discovered x-rays in 1895, she put together the equipment to take the first x-ray photograph in the United States. It was of coins inside a change purse. Unfortunately, I’ve been unable to find the image online. But this is a telling moment. The best scientists are the ones who jump at new opportunities.

She was a member of the American Physical Society at a time when women weren’t even allowed at their banquets. She was later elected to the American Association for the Advancement of Science. And in 1905, Tufts College gave her an honorary PhD for her contributions to science education.

Happy birthday Sarah Frances Whiting!

Addition information from: Women in Meteorology Before World War II

Jonathan Chait Should Stop Writing About Education Reform

Jonathan ChaitWhenever Jonathan Chait writes about the education reform movement, he should be required to put a statement at the start of it. It should be something like this: “My wife works in the education reform movement.[1] As a result of this, I have absolutely no objectivity. Unlike most of what I write about, I have no sense whatsoever for nuance. I just hate the teachers unions and what little I will say about them will represent the most extreme factions. So it is really for the best if you don’t even read what follows because I have nothing interesting to add to any discussion on the issue of education reform.” But instead, he pretends as though he were objective and interesting. Meanwhile, his readers get intellectual whiplash from one article to the next as he moves from liberal to conservative and back again.

His article today was a particularly egregious example of this, Obamans, Selling Out, and the Proxy Fight for the Democratic Party’s Future. His complaint in the article is that supporters of teachers unions attack Obama surrogates[2] rather than Obama and this is wrong because… Really, I don’t know why. He says that they don’t attack Obama himself because the President is popular inside the unions. So the union leadership is trying to protect its members in the best way that it can. And this is wrong because… Again, I don’t know.

The whole purpose of the article seems to be to allow him to write, “The splits within the Democratic Party over whether public services should be designed for the benefit of providers or consumers tend to come out at the municipal level.” Ouch! In case you missed it, Chait is saying that teachers unions are a constituency just like the the school kids. And who you gonna support, huh?! Those greedy teachers or those poor kids? Except, there’s another constituency that Chait doesn’t mention: the people employed in the education reform movement. He must know about it, because his wife works in it. It’s a constituency too.

But in the Jonathan Chait world of black and white education reform, people working for “reform” are only looking out for the kids—unlike those dirty teachers unions that would reduce the school day to 25 minutes if they could. It’s just ridiculous. My problem with the education reform movement is that it seems focused on one thing: teachers unions. It doesn’t spend its time trying to combat the very worst thing about our educational system: inequality based upon the widespread use of local property taxes to fund public education.

When it comes to the people who are always ranting about the budget deficit, Chait has no problem seeing that they aren’t interested in what they claim to be. He sees clearly that these people have ulterior motivations like cutting aid to the poor. But when it comes to education reform, Chait couldn’t be more naive. It seems to not even occur to him that some, maybe even most (Look at who funds the movement!), are not quite so pure. And that’s why his writing about education reform is useless.

[1] According to her Twitter account she is, “Director of Performance Management and Human Resources, Center City Public Charter Schools.”

[2] One of those surrogates is Education Secretary Arne Duncan, which hardly seems to apply. Would he make the same claim if liberals complained about Obama’s Defense Secretary (which we did)?

Update (22 August 2014 10:06 pm)

I want to make clear that this is not about the education reform movement not adopting my favorite issue. I’ve been attacked on this before. People will say that there is no political will to deal with the issue that I am most concerned about and ask if we shouldn’t at least do whatever it is that we can. There are a couple of issues here. One is that education funding inequality is not just any other issue. It is like taxes in the budget deficit debate. If someone isn’t willing to deal with this issue, it shows that they aren’t serious. At best it shows they only want to nibble around the edges of the problem. Another issue is: why is it politically viable to go after teachers unions and to push testing, testing, and more testing? I think a lot of it is that the people who are willing to give millions of dollars for education reform are mostly interested in something else. I’m all for things that work. But at one time, charter schools were what would save us. In fact, to many people, they still are. But it’s turned out that other than moving a lot of teachers out of unions, the charter schools haven’t done that much good. On average, they are about as good as public schools. I think I have plenty of reasons to be skeptical of the motivations of the education reform movement. And so does Jonathan Chait.

Mad More Insightful Than Mainstream Media

Norman Rockwell the Runnaway - Mad Magazine Parody

When I was a kid, I thought Mad Magazine sucked. The humor was too obvious—like it was hitting you over the head. There was no subtlety. It was like a bad joke teller who nudges you, “Get it?! He thought she was making fun of his eye, but she was really just surprised, ‘Would I?’ Get it?!” That was the magazine.

But then yesterday, they came out with, If Norman Rockwell Depicted Today’s America: the Militarization of Officer Joe. And I was blown away! They nailed it. This is good satire. It isn’t even about what’s happened to our policing, because in a fundamental sense, that hasn’t changed so much. What has changed is the way that the mainstream of America sees the police.

When Rockwell created the original in 1958, if he had painted a black boy, the officer would have been saying, “What are you doing on that seat, boy?! Don’t you know this is the white’s section!” So for a great many people in 1958, the parody was accurate at the time—at least in the general sense.

Of course, it isn’t only about the representation of the police. There have been far too many Ferguson-type shootings and many of them have gotten a lot of attention. What’s more, nice white middle class people have found that increasingly their local police forces do more harm than good. Now instead of just fixing problems, police seem focused on getting arrests. As though it makes any sense to arrest a 16-year-old boy for a Facebook posting that he shot his neighbor’s pet dinosaur.

So what I’m thinking is that maybe Mad Magazine is just as stupid as it ever was. It is just that America—and especially American policing—has gotten so stupid that Mad looks good by comparison. In its defense, Mad has never claimed to be anything but stupid. On its website, it offers for readers to, “Get more stupidity delivered right to your mailbox!” But when Mad Magazine is clearly more serious and insightful than the Very Serious Chorus of the likes of David Brooks (much less the right wing loonies), I fear we have past the point from which we can return.

H/T: Democratic National Christian Choice

Chicago Cubs’ Management Both Stupid and Evil

Chicago CubsFor the last few months, Dean Baker has taken to referring to the “skills gap” in a unique way. If you read the Very Serious Commentators, you will doubtless have heard about the supposed skills gap. It is a form of apologia intended to justify high unemployment. The argument goes like this: people aren’t out of work because there is a lack of jobs; rather, they are out of work because they don’t have the skills necessary for the jobs that are available. And to bolster this, the commentator will find some employer who claims that, for example, he just can’t find manufacturing workers who can do trigonometry. What is almost never stated in such articles is that the example employer is only willing to pay slightly more than minimum wage for such skills.

Baker has been saying for a while there is a skills gap: the managers of these companies that can’t find qualified employees to hire don’t know basic economics which would tell them that if they want skilled employees, they need to pay them more money. He’s joking, of course. What’s really going on is that these employers are being disingenuous. Obviously, any employer would be able to sell more stuff if he could undercut the competition by paying less than the going rate for workers. Usually, it turns out that such employers are really just conservative ideologues trying to make a political point.

Today, Baker published a related article, It’s Hard to Find Good Help, Chicago Cubs Edition. It’s the kind of story that makes me boil over with rage, because we are talking about a baseball franchise. Major League Baseball has a Congressionally created monopoly—the only one in existence. And franchises are very profitable. But they still do everything they can to screw the American worker.

According to Talking Points Memo, Cubs Cut Workers’ Hours To Avoid Obamacare Mandate, Then Disaster Struck. The Cubs management didn’t want to have to provide healthcare for their grounds crew, so they cut back their hours to less than 30 per week so they wouldn’t have to. First: the Cubs don’t already provide healthcare for their grounds crew?! Second, that is the most petty thing I’ve heard this week. The disaster was that because the crew was under-staffed, the field got muddy and the Cubs ended getting a winning game overturned. So great! They totally deserve that.

But that’s not the best part of it. The best part of it has to do with the managerial skills gap I talked about at the beginning of this. Here’s Dean Baker:

The problem with this story is that employer sanctions are not in effect for 2014. In other words, the Cubs will not be penalized for not providing their ground crew with insurance this year even if they work more than 30 hours per week. Apparently the Cubs management has not been paying attention to the ACA rules. This is yet another example of the skills gap that is preventing managers from operating their businesses effectively.

This is entirely typical. My experience in the corporate world is that there is basically no correlation between success and competence. And many managers don’t get their information about government programs from objective sources but rather from people like Michael Savage. So it isn’t surprising in the least that the Cubs management got this wrong. They are as competent as they are kind.

Update (23 August 2014 3:45 pm)

Today, Dean Baker is back with another in his series, It’s Hard To Get Good Help: Trucking Industry Edition. He explains:

The Bureau of Labor Statistics doesn’t publish data directly on truckers’ pay, but if we look at the larger category of transportation and warehousing, the data show the real average hourly wage has risen by 1.7 percent over the last seven years. This is an annual rate of just over 0.2 percent.

This pattern will exist pretty much anywhere people claim that employers can’t find workers. You know when it is for real because wages go up sharply. Something I should have noted above: during the Great Depression, conservatives made exactly the same claims, “Workers didn’t have the right skills!” But then we geared up for World War II and suddenly all those “unemployable” workers found jobs. The skills gap was a myth then and it is a myth now.

Wheaton Hates Women Loves Wars

Wheaton College - For Bigotry and Its Kingdom

I recently found out that one of the neighborhood boys is attending Wheaton College, the Christian school in Illinois. Wheaton has been in the news a lot recently because of their fight against providing birth control in insurance coverage for their employees. They don’t even like the idea that the insurance companies pay for the birth control themselves. This isn’t a problem for the insurance companies because, as we all know, birth control is a whole lot cheaper than pregnancies. But according to Wheaton this is like given women a “permission slip” for contraceptives.

Let’s think about that for a moment. Is that the most paternalist idea ever? Yes. What is clear here is that the folks at Wheaton College are freaking out because the “permission slips” are for sex without consequences. And that just isn’t okay to the followers of the sexually repressed St Paul, the founder of Christianity. As a result, the government is doing back-flips so that Wheaton College (and other similarly backward theists) can tell the government about not wanting to cover birth control and then the government can tell the insurance companies. All to keep the folks at Wheaton feeling godly.

But Wheaton is actually a “liberal” Christian college. The scientists there actually believe in evolution. They apparently are of the Catholic persuasion of thinking natural selection works but God at least created the whole thing and is tinkering behind the scenes. (I don’t have a problem with that. If you are going to be a theist, that’s about the most intellectually coherent way to go.) Of course, the college is not Catholic as is indicated by the firing of Philosophy professor Joshua Hochschild for converting to Catholicism.

In addition to this, the college is also quite aggressive in its hostility to same sex relationships. This caused some alumni in 2011 to start OneWheaton. It was specifically in response to Wheaton’s “Sexuality and Wholeness” series of sermons that taught that following Jesus and being in a same sex relationship were not compatible. Because as you may know, Jesus said, “Blessed are the meek, but not if they are one of those homos.”

What most strikes me about Wheaton College is that my neighbor is in ROTC there. I understand that the military is an unfortunate necessity. This is because human beings are awful. But Wheaton College is so interested in its status as a Christian college. They’ve decided for reasons I doubt they even understand that the moment a spermatozoa passes across an egg membrane, a soul pops into it. Thomas Aquinas didn’t think that, but who cares what one of the greatest theological thinkers of all time thought? Regardless, the college is apparently more interested in potential human beings than actual ones. Allowing employees to use hormonal birth control is unacceptable! But training students to be killers is just great!

This is one of the big reasons that our 80% Christian nation is so screwed up. Our Christians are more interested in politics than they are theology. They are more interested in apologizes for the power elite and gaining power themselves. And maybe that’s fine, because Jesus already blessed the poor in spirit, the mournful, and the gentle. I guess the Christians like those at Wheaton think they are taken of. They must think that “God helps those who help themselves,” even though it isn’t in the Bible. (It is in the Quran.) But that is as it should be, because for modern American Christianity, the Bible is at best of selective interest.