Search

Search Amazon Here

News Links
Local

Comment is Free

These are our editorials and columns.

Monday
Sep072015

Clemson Football, Islam and Cecil the Lion

By Perry Noble

Political correctness strikes again — but this time in multiple places.

 Dabo Swinney, head coach of Clemson, declares himself a "twitter quitter" and bans his players from the use of twitter during the season.

In response to this, Deadspin issued this article criticizing the policy, saying it was wrong.

ESPN also wrote this article calling attention to the ban that raised a few eyebrows.

And Darren Rovell, an ESPN sports business reporter had the following to say about the social media ban: "Clemson football players banned from social media. Another institution teaching kids about the future by putting duct tape over their mouths."

It seems the sports world wants people to use twitter … until …

Curt Schilling, one of the all time baseball greats and a commentator for ESPN was recently suspended … for something he said via TWITTER. (Here is the story.)

What was his tweet?

It was a meme with the Nazi dictator Hitler on it that read, "The math is staggering when you get to true #'s. It's said only 5-10% of Muslims are extremists. In 1940 only 7% of Germans were Nazi's. How'd that go?"

The tweet was later taken down, Schilling suspended and was forced to issue an apology.

Uh … anyone see a problem here?

Apparently you should not put duct tape over someone's mouth unless they are saying something that may be politically incorrect, in which case their freedom of speech should be taken from them because it may offend someone.

My goal is not to start a holy war here … but what Schilling said is true. (No one seems to be bringing any attention to that!) There are record numbers of extreme terrorist attacks happening all over the world, and the one thing all of them have in common is the attackers are radical Muslim extremists — yet the media and some politicians believe if we do not say anything that these things might just stop happening.

Neville Chamberlain learned the hard way — and if the world doesn't wake up history will be repeated.

Let me be very clear. I do not hate Muslims at all. I've spent time with Muslims, listened to their stories, shared Christ with them. However, a very important fact is always overlooked when it comes to dealing with Islam — the more radicalized a Muslim becomes the more violent they will be as well.

This breaks my heart because at the end of the day, they are doing these things ultimately because they want the assurance that they can have peace with God — which is why I am more convinced than EVER that the GOSPEL is so necessary in our world.

However, I am afraid if we continue to go down the path we are on, with political correctness dictating what we say rather than the truth, our world is going to be a pretty horrible place to live.

As I've said before — political correctness has changed our language, but it has changed no one's heart.

Another example would be Cecil the Lion's death.

Several weeks ago I kept hearing about Cecil getting killed. I am serious when I tell you I thought it was some famous actor or musician I was unaware of, until I found out that Cecil was a lion!

The world went crazy!

There were people calling for justice over a lion in Zimbabwe that had been killed.

The man who killed Cecil (a hunter who paid $50,000 to go on a guided Safari) was the target of hateful speech, accusations and some even went as far as to call for him to be extradited to Zimbabwe for prosecution.

Over a lion!

Pause — a lion is an apex predator. They kill things. If you and Cecil were in a room and Cecil would have been hungry you would have been a snack — period.

However, it seemed "politically correct" to jump on the Cecil bandwagon and make a big deal about animal rights.

However, in all of this the REAL problem in Zimbabwe was ignored.

As of 2012 — CNN estimates that around 72% of people in Zimbabwe live below the poverty line. As of 2014 — GDP per capita was around $2,000. There are legitimate humanitarian needs in Zimbabwe, yet political correctness allows people to ignore what is important and instead focus on the trends of the day.

Sadly enough, the August 25 edition of the NY Times had an article in it about Quinn Swales, a resident of Zimbabwe and a safari guide losing his life.

How did he die?

He was mauled by a lion in the same animal park where Cecil had lived.

I waited …

There was hardly ANY press about this at all.

No social media outrage.

No late night talk show hosts offering tearful eulogies over Mr. Swales death.

Why?

It's quite simple — it just wasn't the politically correct thing to do.

My main reason for writing this article is simply to express a serious concern about the muzzle being placed on those who do not share politically correct views.

Tolerance no longer means we can agree to disagree — but rather you must agree with me on everything or I will label you with the word "hate."

I am concerned for the world we live in, but more specifically I am concerned for the Church.

Political correctness says we cannot take a stand for traditional marriage.

Political correctness says we cannot say that adoption is a better option than aborting.

And political correctness, I believe, will soon begin to declare that a person or church can no longer say that Jesus Christ is the ONLY way for a person to be saved.

What is the solution?

I believe there are two things:

#1 — Prayer — The Church today prays for safety, the early Church prayed for boldness. (See Acts 4:31).

We need to pray that Jesus will allow us to see people as He sees them.

But we also must pray that we may be able to speak truth in love — choosing to do what is right over what is easy.

#2 — Participation — Followers of Jesus MUST not be afraid to participate in the conversations that are going on in the world today.

We must participate with compassion.

We must participate with humility.

We must participate with gentleness.

But, for the love of God — this is NOT the time to go silent.

The world has never needed "good news" more than it needs it right now. And as followers of Christ we should not view this turning of the tide in our country as opposition but rather an opportunity to step into conversations people are already having and pointing them to Christ.

This article was originally posted here. 

Perry Noble is the founding and senior pastor of Anderson's NewSpring Church in South Carolina. The church averages 26,000 people during weekend services at multiple campuses throughout the state. Noble, his wife Lucretia and their daughter Charisse live in Anderson, South Carolina. You can read all of Perry's unfiltered thoughts about life and leadership at PerryNoble.com.
Monday
Aug242015

Can Bernie Sanders Win in S.C.?

By /Politico

Bernie Sanders made his most aggressive pitch yet to black voters during a weekend swing through South Carolina, and only part of that blitz was visible to the public.

In a set of four speeches throughout the state, the Independent Vermont senator and liberal 2016 presidential candidate marbled his stump speech with topics designed to appeal to African Americans: criminal justice reform, voter disenfranchisement, economic inequality among minorities, and preventing police brutality.

“When we talk about making our country the kind of nation that it must become, we must talk about ending institutional racism,” Sanders said during a stop in Columbia on Friday, to cheers from the crowd. “We need major reforms to our broken criminal justice system.”

The Sanders campaign also quietly reached out to local black leaders and activists for small-group sit-downs on subjects important to the black community. His campaign did not announce the gatherings, and aides declined to provide a list of the people he met with, describing them only as as meetings with “ministers, elected officials, and community leaders.”

“We’re talking about problems facing the African-American community in South Carolina. I’m learning a lot,” was all Sanders would say about them during a brief interview on Saturday.

But Sanders — who polls badly among black voters and has had his appearances disrupted several times by protesters from the Black Lives Matter movement — wasn’t here just to listen. African Americans made up roughly 28 percent of the vote in South Carolina in 2012. Roughly half of the state’s Democratic primary electorate is black. For all his evident appeal in overwhelmingly white Iowa and New Hampshire, Sanders needs those voters to go his way if he has any hope of beating Hillary Clinton here.

Interviews suggested it will be tough going.

“I think he’s probably coming up to speed on race,” Rev. Joseph Darby, the presiding elder of the Beaufort District of the AME Church, said of Sanders.

“I think Hillary’s a little bit more up to speed because she’s been dealing with the Obama proposals in the past. She’s got that depth of experience,” Darby said. “I think the senator being from Vermont, there’s probably not a whole heck of a lot of black constituents up there, so I don’t know that he’s had the opportunity she’s had to interact this often with African Americans.”

There was a formula to Sanders’ public appearances and private meetings in South Carolina, participants noted: The events began with the senator being introduced by Symone Sanders, the campaign’s national press secretary and an advocate for black criminal justice reform. Symone Sanders — no relation to the senator — made sure each time to mention the importance of the Voting Rights Act and to tout her boss as 2016’s biggest champion of racial and economic equality.

But while his message seemed to resonate, Sanders didn’t enjoy quite the rock-star treatment he’s received up north. Instead of pulsating crowds of around 15,000 in Madison, Wisconsin, or 28,000 in Portland, Oregon, he drew an estimated crowd of 2,800 in Greenville and around 3,150 for his appearance in North Charleston. The vast majority of attendees at each event were white.

Which is not to say that Sanders didn’t try hard to reach black voters. He tweaked his usual spiel on economic inequality, education, and poverty to speak more directly to African Americans’ concerns, and suggested the racially motivated massacre of eight parishioners in Charleston was hardly a one-off event.

“Racism remains a much too real part of American life,” Sanders said Saturday at the smallest of his events, in Sumter. “I’m not just talking about the sickness of a man who could walk into a Bible study class in Charleston, pray with people in the room and discuss the Bible and then take a gun and kill nine of those people. That is something literally beyond my comprehension. I don’t understand how that could happen.”

In Spartanburg, a town of almost 40,000, Sanders met with small clusters of community leaders, ministers, and elected officials, as he did in Orangeburg, Sumter, and Charleston. In each place, the message was the same: I’m the guy interested in understanding your problems.

“The racial justice platform is something we’re talking about a lot,” said Chris Covert, Sanders’ South Carolina state director. “We’re talking a lot about education — South Carolina is a place that struggles with its education.”

Sanders in the last few months has had several awkward encounters with black protesters, some of whom have taken over the stage at his events. At one crowded rally in Seattle, meant to be about Social Security, protesters identifying themselves as members of the Black Lives Matter movement seized the microphone from Sanders, forcing organizers to shut down the event.

Weeks earlier, Sanders was set to discuss immigration reform in Phoenix when protesters with Black Lives Matter marched onto the stage and demanded he focus more on issues specific to the African-American community. Sanders got so frustrated that first he testily said, “I have spent 50 years of my life fighting for civil rights and if you don’t want me to be here, that’s OK.” When told he was out of time, Sanders curtly said, “OK, good.”

The campaign’s realization that it had a problem led them to bring on Symone Sanders, a 25-year-old Black Lives Matter activist who regularly introduces the senator at events and discusses voter disenfranchisement and the importance of criminal justice reform.

In South Carolina, aides also set up a few smaller meetings to allow for more interaction. On Friday, for example, Sanders met with 50 community and religious leaders at the Springfield Baptist Church in Greenville, most of whom were African American, and hammered home the need for criminal justice reform.

Kimberlyn Kimpson, the wife of state Sen. Marlon Kimpson, was among 20 or so people who went to the meeting at the North Charleston Convention Center bracketing Sanders’ speech there. She described Sanders as very “personal” and “knowledgeable about statistics” for the topics he discussed.

But he left her wanting more. “Honestly, I think he was only answering questions for maybe 10 or 15 minutes,” said Kimpson. “It really wasn’t that long.”

Covert said the meetings here were all “extremely positive and extremely productive. Nobody has walked out of there and said ‘I don’t want to learn more’ or ‘I’m not engaged’.”

But in general, the feeling among prominent black leaders here is that while Sanders’ efforts are appreciated, he’s still got a long way to go.

“If you’re not serious in your outreach and strategic in your outreach, I don’t think you have a shot,” said Anton Gunn, a former South Carolina state representative.

Talking about economic inequality, Marlon Kimpson said, is only the beginning. “We’re going to be asking some tough questions about the issue that he speaks eloquently about — income inequality — but also the creation of wealth and capital in our respective communities.”

On the organizing front, the Sanders campaign is still playing catchup. It has two offices open in the state, one in Charleston and one in Columbia, and eight paid staff. By the end of October, Covert said, the campaign could have “potentially two or three more,” with the main headquarters in Charleston and the other outposts being field offices. “We plan on hiring a large amount of people,” he said. “Every office is going to have between three to four full-time staffers at a minimum.”

Still, it seems hard to imagine Sanders repeating the feat of 2008, where black voters went dramatically for Obama over Clinton, allowing him to win the primary 55 percent to 27 percent.

And Clinton is leaving nothing to chance this time. She hired early and not just a skeleton crew: a communications director and state director, as well as additional personnel. The campaign says it has two offices open in Columbia and Charleston, 13 paid staff, and 1,400 active volunteers.

Then there’s the wild card: Vice President Joe Biden, who is toying with running and is thought to be focusing on South Carolina.

Sanders seemed unsure how Biden’s entry would shake up the race. “I’ve known Joe Biden for many many years. The people who know him respect him. If Joe gets into this race, I look forward to continuing running an issue-oriented campaign and discuss[ing] the important issues of the country with Joe,” he told POLITICO on Saturday. “Whether he gets in or not, I have no idea, and what its impact will be, I just don’t know.”

But Clinton aides have already indicated that he could give her a real scare here, and local black leaders agreed.

“Joe Biden has a long track record in this state of having several local elected leaders who are strong supporters of his and have been with Joe Biden going all the way back to 2006, even before he was running for president,” Gunn said. But Clinton had many loyalists as well, he noted.

Not Bernie.

“Senator Sanders is a newcomer to all of this; he’s a newcomer to Southern politics,” Gunn said. “I mean, being from Vermont, I can’t think of a place that’s further from the hearts and minds of South Carolina than Vermont.”

Monday
Aug102015

No Real Precedent for Candidate Trump

By

Is there any candidate in American history like Donald Trump?

The real estate mogul’s bombastic entrance into American politics has become a cultural phenomenon. His populist, nativist rhetoric has struck a chord with many voters and his wealth allows the billionaire to show a striking disregard for the norms of party politics. The result was that Trump’s appearance in the first presidential debate led to sky-high ratings with a viewership higher than the World Series or the NBA Finals.

Most recently, the controversy over his comments to Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly that she has “blood coming out of her wherever” has become front-page news around the world. The statement, which was widely perceived as a reference to menstruation, set off a media feeding frenzy which was covered as intently by supermarket tabloids as by wonky journals of policy.

Yet his rise has left pundits scratching their heads. There are plenty of archetypes in American politics like the young idealist orator, the grizzled veteran of Washington or the ideologue who inspires the party faithful. But the fabulously wealthy reality television host with a belligerent social media presence is something entirely new.

It is difficult to find parallels to Trump in recent American history. As Roger Stone, Trump’s former political advisor told the Guardian, “no one is Trump. Trump is unique.” He noted that while there may be elements of Ross Perot’s 1992 race in the real estate mogul’s candidacy, there are still big differences. After all, “Trump is much, much richer than Ross Perot and he is also far better known”.

But that hasn’t stopped academics and historians from trying to find a comparison.

David Karol, a professor of government and politics at the University of Maryland, sees difficulty in comparing Trump to anyone who has sought the GOP nomination in recent years. He noted the comparison to Pat Buchanan’s insurgent run in the 1992 Republican primary was problematic because the former Nixon speechwriter and CNN television personality “had a long history with the Republican party and held responsible positions in Republican administrations”. Further, Karol pointed out that although Steve Forbes, who ran in 1996, was extremely wealthy, he was also extremely boring.

Geoffrey Kabaservice, who wrote Rule and Ruin, the definitive history of the collapse of the moderate wing of the Republican party, saw the real estate mogul’s politics as emerging from an entirely different political tradition than the GOP. “Trump is not really a Republican, he’s a populist”; in his opinion, Trump has “all the hallmarks” of populism. “He’s anti-establishment and anti-politics,” said Kabaservice. “He doesn’t pretend to be a man of the people yet he is speaking for them and they find him to be an appropriate tribune.” The historian also noted that one can draw analogies between the Trump phenomenon and European populists like the Le Pens and Nigel Farage.

One longtime observer of American politics reached back more than half a century for a Trump analogy. Walter Shapiro, a columnist who has covered nine presidential elections, saw Douglas MacArthur, a former general who flirted with presidential runs in 1948 and 1952, as the best comparison to Trump. Shapiro noted MacArthur’s polling numbers against Harry Truman in 1951, shortly after he was sacked as the leader of US forces during the Korean War, closely mirrored Trump’s today. He further pointed out that both men fit the image “of a man on horseback – a business leader or a general who will make things all right and cut through all the crap in Washington”.

Yet all of these comparisons underrate the celebrity factor in Trump’s candidacy. He’s not just a television host but a full-fledged media personality who has been fodder for tabloid journalism for decades. He’s likely the first presidential candidate to have had his own board game. While celebrities have sought political office before, they’ve worked their way up. Jesse Ventura was mayor of his Minnesota town before running for governor of Minnesota; Ronald Reagan was governor of California before running for president – and both were long past the heights of their fame.

The closest parallel in terms of celebrity may be John “Goat Glands” Brinkley, a radio doctor famous for implanting goat testicles into men suffering from impotence in the 1920s. After Kansas authorities took away his radio station and medical license, he decided to run for governor as a write-in, third-party candidate and almost won in 1930. Even then, the parallel is somewhat forced: Brinkley was not a national figure, nor did he have the influence or resources that Trump has been able to bring to bear.

At this point, there is no historical parallel that captures the emergence of Trump on the scene. There have been populist firebrands before and there have been candidates who have tapped into resentment over immigration. There even have been self-funders who have able to make political decisions without any hesitation about worrying donors or the party establishment. But there has been no candidate who has combined all of those aspects with a level of celebrity rivaling a movie star or even a Kardashian.

The question is whether his candidacy has a lasting impact and inspires imitators, or if it’s as much of an aberration as Goat Glands Brinkley.

Thursday
Aug062015

Why Does Trump Appeal to Working-Class Americans?

BY JAMES SUROWIECKI
The New Yorker

Donald Trump’s campaign slogan is “Make America Great Again!” A better one might be “Only in America.” You could not ask for a better illustration of the complexity of ordinary Americans’ attitudes toward class, wealth, and social identity than the fact that a billionaire’s popularity among working-class voters has given him the lead in the race for the Republican Presidential nomination. In a recent Washington Post/ABC poll, Trump was the candidate of choice of a full third of white Republicans with no college education. Working-class voters face stagnant wages and diminished job prospects, and a 2014 poll found that seventy-four per cent of them think “the U.S. economic system generally favors the wealthy.” Why on earth would they support a billionaire?

Part of the answer is Trump’s nativist and populist rhetoric. But his wealth is giving him a boost, too. The Democratic pollster Stanley Greenberg, who’s published reams of work on white working-class attitudes, told me, “There is no bigger problem for these voters than the corruption of the political system. They think big companies are buying influence, while average people are blocked out.” Trump’s riches allow him to portray himself as someone who can’t be bought, and his competitors as slaves to their donors. (Ross Perot pioneered this tactic during the 1992 campaign.) “I don’t give a shit about lobbyists,” Trump proclaimed at an event in May. And his willingness to talk about issues that other candidates are shying away from, like immigration and trade, reinforces the message that money makes him free.

Trump has also succeeded in presenting himself as a self-made man, who has flourished thanks to deal-making savvy. In fact, Trump was born into money, and his first great real-estate success—the transformation of New York’s Commodore Hotel into the Grand Hyatt—was enabled by a tax abatement worth hundreds of millions of dollars. Yet many voters see Trump as someone who embodies the American dream of making your own fortune. And that dream remains surprisingly potent: in a 2011 Pew survey, hard work and personal drive (not luck or family connections) were the factors respondents cited most frequently to explain why people got ahead. Even Trump’s unabashed revelling in his wealth works to his benefit, since it makes him seem like an ordinary guy who can’t get over how cool it is to be rich.

For someone who talks a lot about winning, Trump has a résumé dotted with more than a few losses. On four occasions, companies he’s been involved with have gone bankrupt. Yet these failures haven’t dented his reputation at all, contributing instead to a sense that he’s had to deal with adversity. In other countries, such failures would make it very hard for him to campaign as a visionary businessman. But the U.S. has always been exceptionally tolerant, in terms of both attitude and the law, toward business failure and bankruptcy. Indeed, Trump brags about how he used the bankruptcy code to get better deals for his companies; as he put it not long ago, “I’ve used the laws of the country to my advantage.”

Trump is hardly the first Western plutocrat to venture into politics. Think of William Randolph Hearst or, more recently, Silvio Berlusconi. But both Hearst and Berlusconi benefitted from controlling media empires. Trump has earned publicity all on his own, by playing the role of that quintessential American figure the huckster. As others have observed, the businessman he most resembles is P. T. Barnum, whose success rested on what he called “humbug,” defined as “putting on glittering appearances . . . by which to suddenly arrest public attention, and attract the public eye and ear.” Barnum’s key insight into how to arrest public attention was that, to some degree, Americans enjoy brazen exaggeration. No American businessman since Barnum has been a better master of humbug than Trump has.

Take the debate over how much Trump is worth. It’s impossible to get a definitive accounting of his wealth, since almost all of it is in assets—mainly real estate—that don’t have clear market values. Still, he’s clearly enormously rich. Bloomberg estimates his wealth at $2.9 billion, while Forbes pegs it at $4.1 billion—both tidy sums. But Trump will have none of that: thanks to the value of his brand, he says, he’s worth at least a cool ten billion. This number seems so absurdly over the top as to be self-defeating. But there is a kind of genius in the absurdity. Trump understands that only an outrageous number can really “attract the public eye and ear.”

Trump’s lack of interest in policy and his inflammatory rhetoric make it easy to dismiss him as a serious candidate, and it’s highly improbable that he could ultimately win the nomination. But his bizarre blend of populist message and glitzy ways has allowed him to connect with precisely the voters that any Republican candidate needs in order to get elected (including many whom Romney couldn’t reach). As Greenberg says, as long as he’s in the race, “Trump is a huge problem for the Party. He’s appealing to a very important part of the base, and bringing out the issues the other candidates don’t want to be talking about.” Republicans may be praying that his campaign is just a joke, but right now Trump is the only one laughing.

Tuesday
Aug042015

It's Crazy Time in America

By Bill Schneider
August 4, 2015

U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at the Family Leadership Summit in Ames

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump at the Family Leadership Summit in Ames, Iowa, July 18, 2015. REUTERS/Jim Young

Why have Republican politicians gone crazy?

Thirty years ago, Ronald Reagan declared, “It’s morning in America.” Now it’s crazy time in America.

Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.) was the first to notice. After Donald Trump held a massive rally to scapegoat illegal immigrants, McCain said, “[He] fired up the crazies.” There must be a lot of crazies running around. The latest polls all show Trump as the frontrunner for the 2016 Republican nomination.

Trump then insulted McCain, saying, “He’s not a war hero.” Trump has preferred to call McCain, with his impeccable outer-borough diction, “a losah,” adding, “I don’t like losahs.”

After that, it was open season for craziness. Having revealed that Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) had once called him to ask a favor, Trump gave out Graham’s personal cellphone number and told his supporters to call it — and presumably harass the senator. Trump ridiculed former Texas Governor Rick Perry’s personal appearance, saying he started wearing glasses “so people will think he’s smart.”

The craziness in the Republican race is not confined to Trump. Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) said that if the nuclear deal with Iran goes through, “it will make the Obama administration the world’s leading financier of radical Islamic terrorism.”  In an outrageous violation of Senate decorum, Cruz called his own party’s majority leader, Senator Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), a “liar.”

Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, meanwhile, charged that President Barack Obama “would take the Israelis and basically march them to the door of the oven.”  Huckabee violated Rule No. 1 of political discourse: Nothing is analogous to the Holocaust.

Why have Republican politicians suddenly gone crazy? One key reason is that the first debate is coming up, and there are 17 Republican contenders. Fox News, which is hosting the debate, says it will invite only the 10 top-ranked candidates in the polls to be on the big stage. It is holding a separate, earlier debate among the lower-ranked candidates — the junior-varsity debate.

The also-rans are desperate for publicity to give them a boost in the polls. As one CNN reporter explained it, “There’s this Trump effect going on with some of these candidates where they want to say things and double-down on them to get some attention.”

Trump is gaining support by saying what former Massachusetts Representative Barney Frank once called “not-sa-pos-tas.” Trump says things you’re “not-sa-pos-ta” say if you want to be a viable candidate. Like insisting Obama’s birth certificate is a fake. And Latino immigrants are rapists.

Billionaire investor Mark Cuban, a Trump supporter, explains the Trump effect this way: “I don’t care what his actual positions are. I don’t care if he says the wrong thing. He says what’s on his mind. He gives honest answers rather than prepared answers. This is more important than anything any candidate has done in years.”

Trump is unscripted. He exudes authenticity. His spokesman put it this way: “He’s not a politico. He doesn’t purport to be a politico.”

Trump didn’t create the conservative movement. The conservative movement created him. Conservatives are hungry for a leader who’s not a politician and who exudes authenticity. They demand confrontation.

Conservatives are in open revolt against the Republican Party leadership. Republican leaders are trying to prove they can govern now that they have a majority in Congress.  Governing means coalition building. Coalition building means compromise. Conservatives won’t stand for it.  “The Republican Party in Washington,” Fox News host Sean Hannity charged, “is a carbon copy of the Democratic Party.”

Here’s Obama’s explanation for the epidemic of craziness in the Republican Party: “Maybe this is just an effort to push Mr. Trump out of the headlines.” Actually, other candidates are trying to imitate Trump and grab a piece of the action. But you can’t imitate authenticity.

Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush is the only Republican contender willing to take Trump on. Bush offers an eloquent defense of compromise and coalition building: “We need men and women of good will forging consensus, starting to solve problems, kind of building back the muscles of consensus, compromise and solution-finding . . . . Apparently that is dangerous in a Republican primary.”

Yes, it is. Which is why Trump is leading Bush by better than two-to-one in the polls. Where will it all end? It will end when Republicans begin to take notice of the polls showing that Trump won’t beat Hillary Clinton. He won’t even beat Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. According to RealClearPolitics, no Republican is beating Clinton right now — but Trump, by far, does the worst. Clinton leads Trump by an average of 15 points in the polls.  She leads Bush by three.

Crazy time will end as soon as Republicans discover that Trump is “a losah.”

Sunday
Jul262015

Lessons from Wall Street's Quarterly Earnings Obsession

What we can all learn from Wall Street's quarterly earnings obsession

 

It’s time to break free of the “tyranny” of “quarterly capitalism”, Hillary Clinton proclaimed in an economic stump speech on Friday afternoon at New York University. Translation? The Democratic Party’s front-running presidential candidate is taking aim at Wall Street – sort of.

Clinton is no Bernie Sanders, or Elizabeth Warren for that matter. For some she is, in fact, just a little too close to the money men. So perhaps unsurprisingly, instead of offering a wide-ranging critique of US capitalism, Clinton’s taking aim at a very specific Wall Street ritual: the corporate earnings report.

What makes her comments timely as well as interesting is the fact that they were delivered smack dab in the middle of the second quarter’s “earnings season” – the six-week period during which the vast majority of publicly-traded companies tell us how much money they made during from April 1 until June 30, and analysts and traders rush to compare those figures to forecasts.

When the numbers measure up – or even better, exceed – the forecasts, it’s known as a “beat”, and Good Things Happen. Just look at what happened to Google earlier this month when it delivered better-than-expected results, including an 11% jump in advertising revenue. The company’s stock set off for the stratosphere, soaring 16.3%.

That wasn’t only Google’s single best day in its own history as a public company, but the biggest one-day gain recorded by any public company, ever, as the total value of Google (the number of shares multiplied by the stock price) increased by a record $66.9bn to $478bn. It’s as if Google suddenly gave birth to several giant new businesses, overnight.

Then there’s Amazon, which also startled investors by reporting better-than-expected revenues and by announcing that it actually made money, instead of reporting a loss for the quarter. The stock soared 18%; now Amazon is worth more than Wal-Mart.

But if you disappoint, prepare to be punished; Wall Street is unforgiving. Only in the rather bizarre world of earnings season could a 38% gain in profitability and a 35% increase in iPhone sales be dubbed a “disappointment” by analysts covering Apple. But that’s just what happened, in large part because some had expectations that were even higher , and because the company hinted that the current quarter could prove more lackluster. In a flash, $60bn evaporate from the value of the company’s market capitalization. Ouch.

Trying to deliver quarterly results that are on target, or a “beat”, has long since become a game. Entire teams of analysts are devoted to tracking the process. So, for instance, as I write this, I can tell you that Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S calculates that of the companies in the Standard & Poor’s 500 index, 186, or 37%, have so far announced their results. Of those, 74% have beaten estimates, while 18% have reported earnings that were worse than analysts had anticipated. In a typical quarter (since 1994), 63% of companies beat estimates; in the last four quarters 70% beat estimates.

But – remember that I described this as a game? Heading into reporting season, companies will deliver hints to analysts – hey, your earnings estimate for us is too high; you might want to trim it a bit. They’ll do that throughout the quarter, going back and forth, until by the time the quarter is over, and the earnings are announced, what appears to be a “beat” is actually a figure that is lower than the original forecast. In other words, if analysts hadn’t cut their estimates, that beat would have been a “miss”. Only if you’ve been following the process, and have access to the fluctuating estimates – only if you’re an insider – do you know whether a beat is really a beat, and whether to react with exuberance and excitement.

Then, too, what’s happening on the bottom line often isn’t the full story. Consider toymaker Mattel Corp, which analysts were expecting to report a loss of 4 cents a share. When it actually reported a profit of a penny a share, that should have been good news, right? Wrong. That’s still worse than the company’s profits a year ago, and it was accompanied by an unexpected dip in revenues.

When Hillary Clinton takes aim at “quarterly capitalism”, it’s stuff like that she is thinking of. Well, that, and the antics that go on behind the scenes in corner offices in order for chief financial officers to deliver on the expectations of analysts and the investors who await each quarterly earnings season announcement anxiously.

The critique is an old one, dating back decades. The demand to manage earnings on a quarterly basis frustrates the CEOs themselves, many of whom loathe having to ensure their earnings are squarely on target or incur the wrath of giant activist investors like Carl Icahn or David Einhorn, capable of making their lives a living hell.

And it is a real conundrum. On the one hand, CEOs and their chief financial officers are responsible to their investors; their job is to maximize profits. That’s their fiduciary duty. So an investor who sees a company passing up an opportunity to make money this summer, and hears the CEO arguing next earnings season that he made that choice in order to invest in something that will (hopefully) produce even larger rewards in, say, 2017, might justifiably be annoyed. Many CEOs see that as too risky; they’d like to keep their jobs and keep investors pacified, thank you very much. There’s an equally valid argument that by taking those risks (and deferring today’s profits), CEOs are doing their investors, and the economy as a whole, a greater disservice.

It’s worth noting, incidentally, that two of the companies that have delivered blockbuster “positive surprises” so far this earnings season, Google and Amazon, are both headed by management teams with the ability or willingness to defy Wall Street and march to the sound of their own drummer. Google’s co-founders still control the lion’s share of the company’s voting stock, meaning that they can afford to shrug off grumpy investors, to some extent. Amazon’s Jeff Bezos has made it clear that he’ll tolerate large losses if that’s what it takes to boost revenues and market share – and if investors don’t share his vision, they don’t have to stick around.

Clinton argues that companies that become obsessed with “quarterly capitalism” risk throwing the whole system out of balance by focusing only on the short term. Her admittedly wonkish speech criticized “hit and run” activist shareholders and the “culture of short-term speculation”, even if it was short of specifics on how to address those particular features of Wall Street.

But we don’t have to wait for Clinton – or any other politico – to lead the way. We can choose how we react to earnings releases, or fail to do so, for instance.

Corporate earnings news does matter, but the noise that surrounds it rarely does. Forget about the “beats” and “misses” and focus on the context. What is intriguing about Amazon’s announcement is the fact that the dramatic gain came from the company’s cloud business, rather than the core retail operations with which we’re all familiar. That might give you a lot of food for thought about what this means for other companies offering clients infrastructure web services platforms in the cloud, including Google, Microsoft and even Alibaba. Mattel’s announcement got me thinking about the fact that companies are having to struggle to post higher profits – this could end up being the 16th quarter in a row in which earnings grow at a faster rate than revenues, Thomson Reuters has warned. That means the pressure will be on businesses to keep cutting costs to deliver the earnings that investors expect – including salaries and jobs.

Then, too, it’s always good to monitor earnings announcements for what companies say about what they see coming next. What’s happening in China? Will oil prices bounce back to life? Are they worried about Greece or do they see it as a sideshow? CEOs and their chief financial honchos usually have a conference call with analysts after the release of earnings and that’s when the analysts will grill them about what’s going to happen next. One earnings season is now history, and Wall Street is looking ahead for clues to the next. If you really want to play the insider’s game, so should you, by reading the (publicly available) transcripts.

Wall Street may still write the rules of the earnings season game, but that doesn’t mean we can’t tilt the boards a little bit in our favor, whether by figuring out what’s going on or finding a way to play on our own terms.

Wednesday
Jul152015

S.C. Works Toward Healing

In South Carolina these days, no one speaks his name.

The 21-year-old man-boy, who allegedly murdered nine people and incited unity instead of the race war he hoped for, has been condemned to an eternal slog not toward fame but to ignominy.

He is no one.

“We don’t say his name,” Gov. Nikki Haley (R) told me during an interview Monday. “He is something that South Carolina wants to forget.”

The names that won’t be forgotten are those of the victims, whose faces and stories are now etched in hearts across the state and nation. Haley, emotionally exhausted by the nine funerals she has attended, readily recited them, saying she wishes she had known all of them in life rather than in death.

She is haunted by that one hour. The hour the gunman reportedly sat with those eight parishioners and state Sen. Clementa Pinckney and prayed with them. Did he revel in their unwitting innocence? Was he picking his first victim even as they read the Bible?

“They thought they were moving him,” Haley said. They thought they were showing him God’s love. . . . They wanted him to feel like he belonged.” Her voice tripped.

How does one process such brutality, inhumanity and hate?

Often the best anyone can do is put one foot in front of the other. With time, the stride lengthens; the pace quickens; and life, intrepid to a fault, goes on.

Action helps.

Thus, Haley moved quickly in urging the General Assembly to take down the Confederate battle flag from its perch on the statehouse grounds. But she didn’t stop at the flag; she wanted the pole to come down, too. “It was important to me that we take care of this once and for all.”

To this end, she decided to share a story from her own life with the state’s Republican caucus. Haley is the daughter of Sikh immigrants from the Indian state of Punjab. In the tiny, rural town of Bamberg, S.C., where Haley grew up, her father wore a turban and her mother a sari. She said she knows what racial pain is like.

“People didn’t know who we were,” she told me. “They didn’t know what we were.”

The story, as recounted to me, went like this.

My father loved to visit farmer’s markets. One day I went with my dad and he stopped at a roadside stand. He started picking up fruits and vegetables, and I saw panic in the faces at the checkout counter. Then the police came. My father’s a very graceful man. He shook their hands and said hello and we got in the car. He didn’t say anything because he hoped I hadn’t noticed. I didn’t say anything because I knew what had happened.

Hard to know what the folks were worried about, but then places like Bamberg, population 2,500 at the time, didn’t much cotton to strangers, especially foreigners, back then.

“Every time I passed that stand, that pain was very real,” she told me. “No child should have to experience that.”

The pain Haley felt, she said, is the same kind of pain many people in the state have felt every time they passed the Confederate battle flag. Pushback was inevitable. One needn’t look long to find online comments that are hideous and cruel. And though any civilized person wants to rail at such lowlife incivility, Haley says she understands that they feel betrayed.

The state’s grief and the healing process notwithstanding, political ramifications attach to such events. Haley, obviously, has been catapulted onto the national stage and into the Republican imagination. Though long on a short list of possible presidential running mates, she demurred on this line of questioning, saying without a hint of obvious humor, “I have a lot of friends who happen to be running for president.” Those who have contacted her in recent weeks to express support include Chris Christie, Bobby Jindal, Scott Walker, Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio.

For now, Haley says her focus is on helping her state heal. She plans to begin “Emanuel Nine” tours in schools to talk about the love, faith and forgiveness of the nine people at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church whose lives and martyrdom conveyed compassion and grace to millions across the state and beyond.

“In the history books of South Carolina,” says Haley, “they’ll talk about the Emanuel Nine.”

Not him, whose name no one wants to say.

Read more from Kathleen Parker’s archive, follow her on Twitter or find her on Facebook.

Kathleen Parker writes a twice-weekly column on politics and culture for the Washington Post. She received the Pulitzer Prize for Commentary In 2010. View Archive
Friday
Jul102015

House Delegation Embarrasses Anderson County (Again)

By Greg Wilson

While the overwhelming majority of members of the South Carolina House voted yesterday to move the Confederate flag from the State House Grounds yesterday, four of the six members of the Anderson County House Delegation took the low road and voted "no" to the move.

Only Reps. Mike Gambrell, R-Honea Path, Craig Gagnon R-Abbeville, voted to take down the Confederate Flag (Gagnon changed his vote on third reading to remove the flag). The other four members passively or actively continuted to show a serious lack of foresight and vision by stubbornly refusing to recognize the definitive truth that moving the flag is not only wise for the state, it is long overdue.

They joined a small minority of other house members (those on the losing end of the 90-20 vote), in attempting obfuscation of the issue with a series of proposed amendments which sought in vain to placate the vocal extremists who supported leaving the Confederate flag in place.

I fear their show of support for allowing the divisive flag to stay in place could have long-ranging effects on Andreson County's image in the months and even years ahead. Why would economic develop offices of other counties not whisper to prospective industries: "You know Anderson is the county whose legislative delegation supports flying the Confederate flag. You might want to be careful associating with those folks."

Hard to imagine the delegation's behavior did not cause a rise in blood pressure and serious indigestion among the leadership of Anderson County's economic development team. The dedicated folks included in this group has been very successful recruiting good companies (and jobs) to the county, all the while working together with other entities to help better facilities and infrastructure to attract the brightest and best to our home. This group, and the rest of us, deserves more informed and insightful leadership from the elected officials who represent them on a state level.

Anderson County is progressive. Word is spreading that it is also a great place to live and work. We have great people, great facilities and a great location. Why members of our house delegation would soil our reputation (and their own) is incomprehensible.

Arguments for allowing the Confederate flag to remain on State House grounds, or allowing some other version of a Confederate flag, are paper thin.

I won't revisit all the reasons in favor of removing the flag. If you want a fuller understanding of the issue I wrote about it earlier here.

But let's make one thing clear, the shootings at Mother Emanuel Church in Charleston are not the reason most in this state, including our conservative Republican Governor Nikki Haley, it is time for the flag to move to a museum.

A number of state officials have invoked the name of God when explaining why they felt the need to vote to remove the flag. Haley said that if she had not moved to take down the flag she "could not have looked her children in the eye." So far, thankfully, I have not heard any state representative saying God told them the Almighty wants a Confederate flag flying over the State House grounds. Stay tuned, though, it could still happen.

Some have further muddied the issue at hand by attempting to make it a referendum on the legality of any Confederate flag, anywhere. That is a smokescreen for avoiding taking responsibility for taking down a flag raised 1961 at the near pinnacle of integration and civil rights laws as a symbol of defiance and racism. It was flown in South Carolina and other states where thousands were lynched and where that very flag was a primary banner for the Ku Klux Klan. Any suggestion that is was a simple reference to some ill-defined heritage are misguided at best, and downright dishonest at worst.

Like a tidal wave, the overwhelming grace and unity the people of the state has shown in the past months has been a marvel to the rest of the world. Those of us whose families have called South Carolina home for generations were not so surprised. There has been a spiritual undercurrent in our state for years, even when it seemed to barely pulse.

As Martin Luther King Jr. said: "We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love. There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us. When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies."

That power of forgiveness has been on display here for weeks, in stark contrast to the fallout of racial unrest in other parts of the country. Led by our churches and many other leaders, people have stood united in a spirit rarely seen anywhere.

The proper response to this kind of united we stand effort is to put down the sword. There is still time for the Anderson Four who seemed to have missed this opportunity to ask themselves, and their God, what purpose is served by creating unnecessary division when an opportunity for healing has been offered.

You can find contact information for members of the Anderson County House Legislative Delegation here. Might be a good time to drop them a line.

Saturday
Jul042015

What the Declaration of Indepdence Really Says

July 4 at 10:10 AM

[As we celebrate Independence Day, I thought I would post an excerpt about the Declaration of Independence from my forthcoming book, Our Republican Constitution: Securing the Sovereignty of the People (which is now available for pre-order on Amazon).]

Today, while all Americans have heard of the Declaration of Independence, all too few have read more than its second sentence. Yet the Declaration shows the natural rights foundation of the American Revolution and provides important information about what the founders believed makes a constitution or government legitimate. It also raises the question of how these fundamental rights are reconciled with the idea of “the consent of the governed,” another idea for which the Declaration is famous.

When reading the Declaration, it is worth keeping in mind two very important facts. The Declaration constituted high treason against the Crown. Every person who signed it would be executed as traitors should they be caught by the British. Second, the Declaration was considered to be a legal document by which the revolutionaries justified their actions and explained why they were not truly traitors. It represented, as it were, a literal indictment of the Crown and Parliament, in the very same way that criminals are now publicly indicted for their alleged crimes by grand juries representing “the People.”

But to justify a revolution, it was not thought to be enough that officials of the government of England, the Parliament, or even the King himself had violated the rights of the people. No government is perfect; all governments violate rights. This was well known.

So the Americans had to allege more than mere violations of rights. They had to allege nothing short of a criminal conspiracy to violate their rights systematically. Hence the Declaration’s famous reference to “a long train of abuses and usurpations” and the list that followed. In some cases, these specific complaints account for provisions eventually included in the Constitution and Bill of Rights.

But before this list of particular grievances come two paragraphs succinctly describing the political theory on which the new polity was founded. To appreciate all that is packed into these two paragraphs, it is useful to break down the Declaration into some of its key claims.

  1. When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

This first sentence is often forgotten. It asserts that Americans as a whole, rather than as members of their respective colonies, are a distinct “people.” And this “one people” is not a collective entity, but an aggregate of particular individuals. So “they” not it should “declare the causes which impel them to the separation.”

To “dissolve the political bands” revokes the “social compact” that existed between the Americans and the rest of the people of the British commonwealth, reinstates the “state of nature” between Americans and the government of Great Britain, and makes “the Laws of Nature” the standard by which this dissolution and whatever government is to follow are judged. As Committee of Five delegate Roger Sherman observed in 1774, after hostilities broke out with the British, “We are Now in a State of Nature.”

But what are these “Laws of Nature”? To answer this, we can turn to a sermon delivered by the Reverend Elizur Goodrich at the Congregational Church in Durham Connecticut on the eve of the Philadelphia constitutional convention. At the time of the founding, it was a common practice for ministers to be invited to give an “election sermon” before newly-elected government officials, in this case the delegates to the Constitutional convention, to encourage them to govern according to God’s ways.

In his sermon, Goodrich explained that “the principles of society are the laws, which Almighty God has established in the moral world, and made necessary to be observed by mankind; in order to promote their true happiness, in their transactions and intercourse.” These laws, Goodrich observed, “may be considered as principles, in respect of their fixedness and operation,” and by knowing them, “we discover the rules of conduct, which direct mankind to the highest perfection, and supreme happiness of their nature.” These rules of conduct, he then explained, “are as fixed and unchangeable as the laws which operate in the natural world. Human art in order to produce certain effects, must conform to the principles and laws, which the Almighty Creator has established in the natural world.”

In this sense, natural laws govern every human endeavor, not just politics. They undergird what may be called “normative disciplines,” by which I mean those bodies of knowledge that guide human conduct—bodies of knowledge that tell us how we ought to act if we wish to achieve our goals. To illustrate this, Goodrich offered examples from agriculture, engineering, and architecture:

He who neglects the cultivation of his field, and the proper time of sowing, may not expect a harvest. He, who would assist mankind in raising weights, and overcoming obstacles, depends on certain rules, derived from the knowledge of mechanical principles applied to the construction of machines, in order to give the most useful effect to the smallest force: And every builder should well understand the best position of firmness and strength, when he is about to erect an edifice.

To ignore these principles is nothing short of denying reality, like jumping off a roof imagining that one can fly. “For he, who attempts these things, on other principles, than those of nature, attempts to make a new world; and his aim will prove absurd and his labour lost.” By making “a new world,” Goodrich meant denying the nature of the world in which we live. He concludes: “No more can mankind be conducted to happiness; or civil societies united, and enjoy peace and prosperity, without observing the moral principles and connections, which the Almighty Creator has established for the government of the moral world.”

The fact that Goodrich was a relatively obscure public figure—though his son would go on to serve as a Federalist congressman from Connecticut—shows the commonplace understanding of natural law. And Goodrich’s task was to remind the Connecticut delegates of the proper understanding “the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God.”

  1. We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

The most famous line of the Declaration, and for some the only line they know. The Committee of Five’s draft referred to these as “inalienable” rights, but for reasons unknown the word was changed to “unalienable” sometime in the process of printing it for the public.

What are inalienable or “unalienable” rights? They are those you cannot give up even if you want to and consent to do so, unlike other rights that you can agree to transfer or waive. Why the claim that these rights are inalienable? The Founders want to counter England’s claim that, by accepting the colonial governance, the colonists had waived or alienated their rights. The Framers claimed that with inalienable rights, you always retain the ability to take back any right that has been given up.

The standard trilogy throughout this period was “life, liberty, and property.” For example, in its Declaration and Resolves of the First Continental Congress (1774), Congress had previously asserted that “the inhabitants of the English colonies in North America, by the immutable laws of nature, the principles of the English constitution, and the several charters or compacts,” have the following rights: “That they are entitled to life, liberty and property: and they have never ceded to any foreign power whatever, a right to dispose of either without their consent.” Or, as the influential British political theorist John Locke wrote, “no one ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty, or possessions.”

Perhaps the most commonly repeated formulation combines the right of property with the pursuit of happiness. This was the version drafted by George Mason for the Virginia Declaration of Rights—not the version actually approved by the Virginia convention in Williamsburg on June 11th, 1776, the very day that the Committee of Five was formed in Philadelphia to draft the Declaration for the nation.

The Virginia Convention balked at Mason’s specific wording “on the ground that it was not compatible with a slaveholding society. They changed ‘are born equally free’ to ‘are by nature equally free,’ and ‘inherent natural rights’ to ‘inherent rights.’” The adopted version read:

That  all men are by nature equally free and independent, and have certain inherent rights, of which, when they enter into a state of society, they cannot, by any compact, deprive or divest their posterity; namely, the enjoyment of life and liberty, with the means of acquiring and possessing property, and pursuing and obtaining happiness and safety.

As we will see, the language of Mason’s radical draft—rather than either Virginia’s final wording or Jefferson’s more succinct formulation—became the canonical statement of first principles. Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and Vermont adopted Mason’s original references to “born equally free” and to “natural rights,” into their declarations of rights. In 1783, this language was used by the Massachusetts supreme court to invalidate slavery in that state. And in 1823, it was invoked in an influential opinion by Justice Bushrod Washington explaining the meaning of “privileges and immunities” of citizens in the several states.

On the one hand, this sentence of the Declaration will become a great embarrassment to a people who allowed the continuation of chattel slavery. On the other hand, making a public claim like this has consequences. That is why people make them publicly—to be held to account. Eventually, the Declaration became a lynchpin of the moral and constitutional arguments of the nineteenth-century abolitionists. It had to be explained away by the Supreme Court in Dred Scott.[xiv] It was much relied upon by Abraham Lincoln. And ultimately it needed to be repudiated by defenders of slavery in the South because of its inconsistency with that institution.

  1. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men. . . .’’

Another overlooked line, but for our purposes, possibly the most important. For it states what will later become the central underlying “republican” assumption of the Constitution: that “first comes rights and then comes government.” Here, even more clearly than Mason’s draft, the Declaration identifies the ultimate end or purpose of republican governments as securing the pre-existing natural rights that the previous sentence affirmed is the measure against which all government—whether of Great Britain or the United States—will be judged.

  1. “. . . deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”

For reasons I will explain in this book, there is a tendency today to focus entirely on the second half of this sentence to the exclusion of the first part that references the securing of our natural rights. Then, by reading “the consent of the governed” as equivalent to “the will of the people,” the second part of the sentence seems to support majoritarian rule by the people’s “representatives.” In this way, the “consent of the governed” is read to mean “consent to majoritarian rule.” Put another way, the people can consent to anything, including rule by a majority in the legislature who will decide the scope of their rights as individuals.

But read carefully, one sees that the Declaration speaks of “just powers,” suggesting that only some powers are “justly” held by government, while others are beyond its proper authority. And notice also that “the consent of the governed” assumes that the people do not themselves rule or govern, but are “governed” by those individual persons who comprise the “governments” that “are instituted among men.”

The Declaration stipulates that those who govern the people are supposed “to secure” their pre-existing rights, not impose the will of a majority of the people on the minority. And, as the Virginia Declaration of Rights made explicit, these inalienable rights cannot be surrendered “by any compact.” So the “consent of the governed” cannot be used to override the inalienable rights of the sovereign people.

So we should recognize that there has arisen a tension between the first part of this sentence and the second. In political discourse, people tend to favor one of these concepts over the other—either preexistent natural rights or popular consent—which leads them to stress one part of this sentence in the Declaration over the other. The fact that rights can be uncertain and disputed leads some to emphasize the consent part of this sentence and the legitimacy of popularly-enacted legislation. But the fact that there is never unanimous consent to any particular law, or even to the government itself, leads others to emphasize the rights part of this sentence and the legitimacy of judges protecting the “fundamental” or “human” rights of individuals and minorities.

If we take both parts of this sentence seriously, however, I believe this apparent tension can be reconciled by distinguishing between (a) the ultimate end or purpose of any legitimate governance and (b) how any particular government gains jurisdiction to rule. So, while the protection of natural rights or justice is the ultimate end of governance, particular governments only gain jurisdiction to achieve this end by the consent of those who are governed.

In Chapter 3, we will see how the concepts of “natural rights” of the people and “the consent of the governed,” were reconciled by the idea of presumed consent. The people as a whole can only be presumed to have consented to what was actually expressed in the written Constitution and, absent a clear statement to the contrary, they cannot be presumed to have consented to surrender any of their natural rights.

Later in our history, the uncertainty of ascertaining natural rights will be addressed by shifting the question from specifying particular rights to critically examining whether any particular restriction of liberty can be shown to be within a “just power” of government—that is, a power to which any rational person would have consented, such as the equal protection of their fundamental rights, including their health and safety.

  1. That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

This passage restates the end of government—human safety and happiness—and identifies the “form of government” as a means to this end. Therefore, the people have a right to alter and abolish any form of government when it is destructive of these ends, as the Americans declared the British government to be in the list that followed.

Jefferson adopted it from Article 3 of George Mason’s draft Declaration of rights, which affirmed “that whenever any government shall be found inadequate or contrary to these purposes, a majority of the community hath an indubitable, unalienable, indefeasible right, to reform, alter, or abolish it, in such manner as shall be judged most conductive to the publick Weal.”

* * *

The political theory announced in the Declaration of Independence can be summed up by the proposition I mentioned above: First come rights, and then comes government. According to this view:

  • The rights of individuals do not originate with any government, but pre-exist its formation.
  • The protection of these rights is both the purpose and first duty of government.
  • Even after government is formed, these rights provide a standard by which its performance is measured and, in extreme cases, its systemic failure to protect rights—or its systematic violation of rights—can justify its alteration or abolition.
  • At least some of these rights are so fundamental that they are “inalienable,” meaning they are so intimately connected to one’s nature as a human being that they cannot be transferred to another even if one consents to do so.

HAPPY FOURTH OF JULY!

Thursday
Jun252015

Racism Alive in North Without Confederate Flag

By Zack Stafford/The Guardian

In the summer of 2008, I crossed the Mason Dixon line – as many other black people had done decades before me during the Great Migration – and moved to Chicago after graduating from high school.

For the first few weeks, I was euphoric. I felt like I could breathe and move in ways that had been unavailable to me in my Tennessee hometown – a place where I was made to think about my skin tone on a daily basis.

“I haven’t seen a Confederate flag in weeks,” I told my mother on the phone a few weeks in. “I didn’t realize how used I had become to seeing them down there.” She felt pleased for me, because the weight of racism I’d faced back home seemed to already be lighter.

That quickly changed after 23 August – when Barack Obama was named the Democratic nominee for president.

“You Obama-nigger monkey!” a man wearing a Chicago Cubs jersey yelled at me. A few weeks after that, I heard another racial pejorative while out at a bar and another shortly after that. The idea of a black president seemed to shed many northerners of their progressive decorum.

The north wasn’t the utopia I had imagined. It was instead strikingly similar in regards to racism – just without the accents and the flags.

A marker at the Mason Dixon line separating North from South during the civil war. Photograph: Alamy

“We must caution against depicting this nation’s racist past and present as solely a localized southern phenomenon,” Jessica Barron, a sociologist at Duke University, told the Guardian.

Barron, who is largely interested in segregation, racism and spatial demography, says there is no doubt that the south has a brutal history of violence towards black people – but that we can’t just focus that history there. Brutality didn’t only begin there, nor is it currently isolated there. A striking example of the ever-present violence black Americans face are the reports that police violence leads to the death of a black man once every 28 hours in cities all across the US.

“We as a nation do not like to talk about slavery in the north, our 12 presidents who owned slaves, or our legal system that continues to legitimate racial disparities,” she said. “In the American imaginary, the south is a backwards place, consumed by its bigoted ways.”

According to Barron, we need to understand that racism isn’t only slavery or Jim Crow laws, but it’s more systemic than these instances. And we need to understand that the entire foundation of the US is built on a racial hierarchy that has always said that white is better than black – not just in the south.

Once we understand this, we can then begin to do the work to stop racism as a whole without trying to lay blame to an area of the country, which she thinks is just a form of complicity.

However, in light of the recent mass shooting in Charleston, South Carolina, it’s fair to not be able to shake the idea that the south is more violent in its racism. A larger number of hate groups are also active there.

Photo showing the Jim Crow signs of racial segregation in Durham, North Carolina (May 1940). Photograph: PhotoQuest/Getty Images

“The density of hate groups in the south has typically been thicker than other parts of the country,” Heidi Beirich, director of the Intelligence Project at the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) told the Guardian. “[But] it’s not like it’s just a ‘south thing’ – there are a lot of hate groups on the coasts as well.”

The SPLC is the leading organization in the US that represents victims of hate crimes. The organization also tracks all hate groups through their Hate Map, which noted 784 active groups in 2014.

According to Beirich, when it comes to the most violent hate in America, there is no southern or northern divide – rather it’s a national problem that is typically being led by what she calls “lone wolves”.

“For the most part, nowadays the violent acts that have taken place – including the shooting that took place in Charleston – are mostly locals. Sometimes they’ve been involved in hate groups, sometimes they haven’t. [But] they mostly are people getting radicalized on the internet and choosing to do this stuff on their own.”

Beirich says such crimes are the result of people digging deep and being influenced by forums and websites such as StormFront.org, which has over 300,000 registered white nationalists.

In other words, the internet is now the problem.

While she acknowledged that people on sites like StormFront.org should have their first amendment rights supported, she also feels that it’s the responsibility of businesses to not make money off messages that could influence others like Dylan Roof, for “hate propaganda leads to hate violence”.

Roof exemplified this in his online manifesto, where he wrote: “We have no skinheads, no real KKK, no one doing anything but talking on the Internet. Well someone has to have bravery to take it to the real world, and I guess that has to be me.”

In his interview with Marc Maron, Obama said:

Racism, we are not cured of it. And it’s not just a matter of it not being polite to say ‘nigger’ in public … It’s not just a matter of overt discrimination. Societies don’t overnight completely erase everything that happened 200-300 years prior.

As the US hopefully begins to work to realize what the president points to, and Confederate flags begin to come down in Columbia, South Carolina, and maybe Mississippi, many of us will all begin to realize, like I did in 2008, that no matter where you live in the US, racism remains – even if the flags come down.

Zach Stafford is a writer currently living in Chicago. He is the co-editor of Boys, An Anthology. Follow him on Twitter at @zachstafford.