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Tuesday
Apr032018

Opinion: Anderson Deserves an Better Farmers Market

By Greg Wilson/Anderson Observer

Spring is here, and as some of our friends and neighbors efforts turn to digging garden beds for the season, others look forward to a finding the best place to find the best fresh, local produce. And while harvest is plentiful, the vendors are few. So are concrete efforts for improving the Anderson County Farmers Market. 

The Anderson County Farmers Market was once the ideal destinationm - produce central - with vendors overflowing, live music, good food, and demonstrations on gardening and more.  

Over the past decade, Anderson County have been among the most progressive counties in the state, a model others counties are are looking to emulate. From economic development’s success in bringing in nearly $4 billion in investment and thousands of new jobs, to improving recreational activities with the expansion of Green Pond to planned efforts to improve offerings at the civic center, the opportunities for citizens and their children to enjoy a fine quality of life (and future) have blossomed over the past 10 years.

But there remains one glaring thorn in our garden of progress, one which has us falling behind most other counties and even many small towns. 

In contrast to other counties and communities in the Upstate, the Anderson County Farmers Market has been allowed to nearly go to seed over the past few years. Meanwhile, as other county/community markets have grown in offerings of fresh produce and products, our farmers market has not only shown little progress, it has regressed.  

There are still some wonderful vendors and great county farmers bringing in their harvest - and we owe each of them a debt of gratitude for keeping the market open. And those county employees who are charged with running the market have done their best, but their hands are tied. 

But while our crowds are usually pretty good in the prime growing season on Saturdays, our offerings are so pale in comparison to the growth and expansion of other markets the time for change is long overdue.

The primary reasons for the stagnation of progress at the Anderson County Farmers Market lie in a set of exclusionary rules and an appointed governing board with little vision/planning for assuring the success of the market. Whether through neglect or other motives, the Farmers Market Board, which does not hold regular meetings, has retarded progress. It's time for Anderson County Council to re-evaluate the members of this board and ask a series of questions about why the market is close to withering on the vine.

The first regulation on the guidelines for the Anderson County Farmers Market, set by the market board, is a primary reason for our lack of growth and progress:

“All items offered for sale must be produced in Anderson County at the farm or business specified on the application.” 

The number of farmers and gardeners with large harvest, through attrition or other reasons, continues to dwindle every year in Anderson County. To restrict produce at our market to the county’s boundaries puts us on an archaic island.  

No other county in the Upstate (and no easily located county anywhere else in the country) has such a restrictive rule. Not in Greenville, where there are no spaces left for their 2018 market, or Greenwood, where their farmers market is a hub for community entertainment and activity, nor in Spartanburg, Easley, or Clemson. 

And while it is important to protect the integrity of the produce and other foods/goods sold at markets, there is no “local” differential between a tomato grown in Powdersville and one grown just over the line in Greenville County. Same is true of a tomato grown Abbeville, Oconee, Greenwood, Pickens. Such produce is local produce.

Others markets recognize this truth. Most counties and markets have a radius of between 75-100 miles for allowing produce in their markets. Such guidelines attract more growers/vendors, allowing for a much larger selection of goods, while at the same time protecting the market from unscrupulous truck farmers unloading excess harvests from distant states. 

It is time for Anderson to follow this definition of local to help revive our market and help it reflect the model of progress on exhibit in the rest of the county.

Farmers markets are important to economic growth and reflect on quality of life in a community. In South Carolina, the markets create between 257 and 361 full-time jobs and generate up to $13 million every year.

But visit the Anderson Farmers Market on a typical Tuesday or Thursday in recent years, and it is often a near ghost town. Saturdays are better, but still no match for many neighboring markets, including those in smaller areas.

Community residents who are passionate about locally grown food have been crying in the wilderness about this issue for years. In 2011, the Anderson Area Farm & Food Association was founded at least in part as an attempt to provide a larger, more inclusive and lively market. But generating interest in a second weeknight market proved too steep a climb. The group still exists as an advocate of sustainable local food, but no longer hosts a market.

Anderson County Administrator Rusty Burns said he he agrees there is work to be done. Burns has long been an advocate of improving and updating the Anderson County Farmers Market.

He has repeatedly suggested the need for more events and entertainment at the market, and said he recognizes the decline and is working on changes. 

“A lot of our mainstays are aging out,” Burns said. “We have to find different ways to spice up our market and make it better. We want to see more and better things, and that’s what we’re looking at in the upcoming season.” 

Such a goal will take getting the attention of council, who appoints the board which governs the rules of the market to make things better. Such discussion has been on council’s back burner for at least two years.

With our Famers Market set to open in just a few weeks, it’s not to late to make this year’s Anderson County Farmers market a work in progress. Put out the welcome mat for those farmers who can’t get into the fully booked Greenville market and others this year. Set up events, from music to seminars, to attract more to the Satruday and evening markets. Serve prepared foods. Find some money in the budget to spice things up and make improvements. Do whatever it takes to bring in quality vendors who will attract more citizens to the market and create something of which the county can point to with pride.

Such moves are just the first step. A long-range plan (perhaps one-year, three-year and five-year plans), with every option on the table - including even the location of the market - is needed to keep it growing. 

The current county council has proven they are capable of excellent leadership. But time is long overdue to put that leadership on display in giving Anderson County the farmers market it deserves. 

Monday
Mar262018

Arts Funding Critical to Future of Our Children

By Rosie Perez/NBC

The educational system in America is antiquated: We live in the 21st century, in which kids are constantly online and plugged in, and then we ask them to come to school, walk into a classroom and just sit there and memorize. It doesn't work anymore. We need to think about ways to keep students engaged, and we need to think about integrating arts in the classroom and arts in our schools.

Using the arts in teaching other subjects — known as arts education — is based on kinesthetics, so it uses all of your senses: It uses movement, sound, sight and your vocal abilities. It makes you get up off of your feet and participate and become part of the classroom.

A great example of this kind of arts education comes from the non-profit that I helped co-found 25 years ago, the Urban Arts Partnership. We serve 15,000 kids per year, but we have one specific program that services kids from ages 18 to 20 who can't graduate because they haven't been able to pass the New York State Regents exam. Our organization took that core curriculum and broke it down into a three-week course of music, songs, interactive plays, poetry and word games. We have an 80 percent success rate for graduation.

Having the arts underfunded in schools is such a disservice to our young people — not only to their soul, but also to their future.

It works because kids not only have their intelligence sparked, but they also have their emotional intelligence sparked, and we have them working in tandem with each other. The information we're giving them is therefore absorbed much more deeply.

And if you're specifically talking about art for art's sake, kids don't just end up learning more about music or art. If you put a kid in band and they learn a new instrument, and then they excel, their self-esteem just shoots up to the roof. If you have a kid and you put a camera in their hand and you teach them photography, or you put a paint brush in their hand, or you put a drumstick in their hands, they become part of the learning process. They then want to do the same things inside their English, science, math and social studies classrooms; that's why it's important to have programs that teach the arts in schools.

Plus, having the arts in the schools help kids become part of a community. You look at the movie "American Pie" with all the jokes about being in band, but that was a community of so-called geeks who felt that they belonged to something. That's what having arts programs available to kids does as well.

We need to think about ways to keep students engaged, and we need to think about integrating arts in the classroom and arts in our schools.

Having the arts underfunded in schools is such a disservice to our young people — not only to their soul, but also to their future. If you don't have a child who feels alive and a part of the conversation, and doesn't excel in school, you're not adding to the economy. You're not adding to the future; you're not adding to their future. It's such a disservice.

I wish there was a mandate that the arts had to be taught in schools and appropriately funded, across this nation. I think that we would see a much higher graduation rate, a much higher enrollment in colleges, and a much higher employment rate, once young people become 18 years old.

Besides having it funded and mandated, I think that there needs to be substantial studies of the effects that arts education and access to art programs have on a child's K-12 education. Our charity sees the proof; we have the metrics, as do other arts education charities with whom we partner. That's how we are all able to get funding, because we show them the numbers and they say, An 80 percent success rate? Why are not other people investing in these types of programs as well?

If there were federally-funded or state-funded studies showing how much arts adds to education, maybe it would incentivize the government to help fund arts in our school system, from kindergarten through the twelfth grade. You've got to get them when they're young.

As told to THINK editor Megan Carpentier, edited and condensed for clarity

Rosie Perez is an Oscar-nominated actress whose credits include "Do the Right Thing," "White Men Can’t Jump," "Fearless" and "The Counselor." She is the artistic chair of Urban Arts Partnership. Her new show, “Rise,” airs Tuesdays at 9pm ET/PT on NBC.

Sunday
Mar182018

No CEO Should Earn 1,000 Times Average Worker

Sarah Anderson/The Guardian

The CEO of Marathon Petroleum, Gary Heminger, took home an astonishing 935 times more pay than his typical employee in 2017. In other words, one of Marathon’s gas station workers would have to toil more than nine centuries to make as much as Heminger grabbed in just one year.

Employees of at least five other US firms would have to work even longer – more than a millennium – to catch up with their top bosses. These companies include the auto parts maker Aptiv (CEO-worker pay ratio: 2,526 to 1), the temp agency Manpower (2,483 to 1), amusement park owner Six Flags (1,920 to 1), Del Monte Produce (1,465 to 1), and apparel maker VF (1,353 to 1). 

These revelations come thanks to a new federal regulation that requires publicly traded U.S. corporations to disclose, for the first time ever, how much their chief executives are making compared with their median workers. The disclosures are just now starting to flow in. 

But headlines around those average figures did next to nothing to slow our CEO pay-hike express. Will the release of the ratios at individual corporations make any more of a difference?

Corporate America must surely think so. Ever since 2010, the year Congress plugged a ratio disclosure mandate into the Dodd-Frank financial reform act, corporate lobbyists have been scheming to delay and repeal that mandate’s implementation. But responsible investors and other activists rallied and kept the mandate in place. 

The new ratios offer a benchmark for corporate greed that exposes exactly which firms are sharing the wealth their employees create and which aren’t, knowledge we can use to impose consequences on the corporations doing the most to make the United States more unequal.

What sort of consequences? 

In Oregon, the city of Portland has adopted what the economist Branko Milanović has labeled “the first tax that targets inequality as such”. Portland’s new levy imposes a 10% business tax surcharge on companies with top execs making over 100 times their median worker pay – and a 20% surcharge on firms with pay gaps that stretch past 250 times.

City officials in San Francisco are bringing a similar measure before voters this November. At the state level, lawmakers in Minnesota, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Illinois, and Massachusetts are getting into the pay-ratio tax act as well. 

In California, a state senate bill that took the same approach nearly passed. The key sponsor of that measure, Mark DeSaulnier, now sits in Congress, where he’s co-sponsoring a like-minded federal bill.

Other lawmakers are advancing proposals to link government procurement to pay ratios. Existing public policies deny government contracts to companies with employment practices that contribute to race and gender inequality. Why should tax dollars be subsidizing firms that increase economic inequality?

In Rhode Island, a pending Senate bill would give preferential treatment in state contracting to corporations that pay their CEOs no more than 25 times their median worker pay. Several congressional offices are now preparing legislation that aims in the same direction.

Even some Republicans have shown interest in leveraging the power of the public purse against firms that pay top execs astronomically more than workers. In 2015, then Republican congressman (now the White House budget director) Mick Mulvaney tried to prevent the US Export-Import Bank from subsidizing any company with CEO pay over 100 times median worker pay. Lawmakers could easily apply the same standard to other forms of corporate welfare.

Ratio disclosure also opens doors for trade unions to bring demands tied to pay gaps into collective bargaining. Consumers can shun corporations that lavish pay on their top execs at the expense of their employees. Investors can put their 401(k) dollars in mutual funds that screen out corporations with chronic pay-gap excess.

All this activity could make a significant dent in inequality. Corporate execs today head up about two-thirds of America’s top 1% households. 

We don’t have to just complain any more about runaway executive pay. Now we can make corporations that pay their CEOs unconscionably more than their workers change their ways – or pay the consequences. 

Sunday
Feb042018

After Surgery in Germany, I Wanted Painkillers. I Got Something Better

By 

MUNICH — I recently had a hysterectomy here in Munich, where we moved from California four years ago for my husband’s job. Even though his job ended a year ago, we decided to stay while he tries to start a business. Thanks to the German health care system, our insurance remained in force. This, however, is not a story about the benefits of universal health care.

Thanks to modern medicine, my hysterectomy was performed laparoscopically, without an overnight hospital stay. My only concern about this early release was pain management. The fibroids that necessitated the surgery were particularly large and painful, and the procedure would be more complicated.

I brought up the subject of painkillers with my gynecologist weeks before my surgery. She said that I would be given ibuprofen. “Is that it?” I asked. “That’s what I take if I have a headache. The removal of an organ certainly deserves more.”

“That’s all you will need,” she said, with the body confidence that comes from a lifetime of skiing in crisp, Alpine air.

I decided to pursue the topic with the surgeon.

He said the same thing. He was sure that the removal of my uterus would not require narcotics afterward. I didn’t want him to think I was a drug addict, but I wanted a prescription for something that would knock me out for the first few nights, and maybe half the day.

Continue reading the main story

With mounting panic, I decided to speak to the anesthesiologist, my last resort.

This time, I used a different tactic. I told him how appalled I had been when my teenager was given 30 Vicodin pills after she had her wisdom teeth removed in the United States. “I am not looking for that,” I said, “but I am concerned about pain management. I won’t be able to sleep. I know I can have ibuprofen, but can I have two or three pills with codeine for the first few nights? Let me remind you that I am getting an entire organ removed.”

The anesthesiologist explained that during surgery and recovery I would be given strong painkillers, but once I got home the pain would not require narcotics. To paraphrase him, he said: “Pain is a part of life. We cannot eliminate it nor do we want to. The pain will guide you. You will know when to rest more; you will know when you are healing. If I give you Vicodin, you will no longer feel the pain, yes, but you will no longer know what your body is telling you. You might overexert yourself because you are no longer feeling the pain signals. All you need is rest. And please be careful with ibuprofen. It’s not good for your kidneys. Only take it if you must. Your body will heal itself with rest.”

I didn’t mention that I use ibuprofen like candy. Why else do they come in such jumbo sizes at American warehouse stores? Instead, I thought about his poetic explanation of pain as my guide, although his mention of “just resting” was disturbing. What exactly is resting?

I know how to sleep but resting is an in-between space I do not inhabit. It’s like an ambiguous place that can be reached only by walking into a magic closet and emerging on the other side to find a dense forest and a talking lion, a lion who can guide me toward the owl who supplies the forest with pain pills.

“I do have another question,” I said. “Stool softeners — certainly, you prescribe those? That’s pretty standard with anesthesia throughout the modern world, I believe.”

“You won’t need those,” he answered in his calm voice. “Your body will function just fine. Just give it a day or two. Drink a cup of coffee, slowly. And whatever you do, do not get it in a to-go cup. You must sit in one place and enjoy this cup, slowly.”

His gentle suggestion to trust my body almost brought me to tears. It reminded me of the poster in my doctor’s waiting room, the one informing us that herbal tea is the first remedy to try when we have a cold. The first remedy I try is the decongestants I bring with me from the United States. I can’t find those in Germany, nor can I find the children’s cough medicine that makes my child drowsy. I also import that.

Come to think of it, I bring a lot of medicine with me from the United States, all over the counter, all intended to take away discomfort. The German doctors were telling me that being uncomfortable is O.K.

My first night home after surgery, I didn’t sleep well because of the pain from the carbon dioxide pumped into my body for the laparoscopy. Had I had something to knock me out, I would have taken it.

In the morning, my husband propped me up in bed and brought me a pot of tea. I was tired and uncomfortable, and I was bored. An entire day lay ahead of me. I was dreading it.

I took two ibuprofens that first day. In hindsight, I didn’t need them, but I felt like I should take something. What I really needed was patience pills, and a few distractions. The hardest part of my recovery was lingering in bed, or on the sofa, feeling the discomfort and boredom as time ticked by slowly. I didn’t feel like reading or doing much of anything. I watched a few movies and many episodes of “Antiques Roadshow.”

Every day, my body felt a little better. I drank mint tea. I drank fennel tea. I drank homemade chai with ginger, cardamom and pepper. I drank coffee slowly, enjoying every sip. I lingered in that in-between space.

After a week, I took the tram to the doctor’s office to have my stitches removed. My doctor, with her usual cup of chamomile tea in hand, remarked on my progress. “I rested,” I told her. Normally, I would have said, “I did nothing,” but I didn’t say that. I had been healing, and that’s something.

I did say that this story is not about the benefits of universal health care, but for the sake of accuracy, let me add that this hysterectomy was not without cost. After my surgery, I had to pay $25 for the taxi ride home.

Monday
Jan152018

If MLK Alive Today, Most Politicians Would Denounce Him

/Guardain

Modern day Republicans and Democrats often speak as if they love King, even as they excoriate the real heirs to his legacy

Today is the day American many politicians pretend to care about the life and legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr, one of the wisest souls who attempted to save this sorry nation. Don’t fall for their scams.

While King did care about black and/or poor people in the United States and around the world, he was no American exceptionalist. “Don’t let anybody make you think God chose America as His divine messianic force to be a sort of policeman of the whole world,” King once said

He also criticized how Americans “have deluded ourselves into believing the myth that capitalism grew and prospered out of the Protestant ethic of hard work and sacrifice,” when “the fact is that capitalism was built on the exploitation and suffering of black slaves and continues to thrive on the exploitation of the poor – both black and white, here and abroad”.

And yet, modern day Republicans and Democrats often speak as if they love King, even as they excoriate the real heirs to his legacy: the Black Lives Matter activists and other social justice warriors who fight for racial and economic liberation. But the truth is, many of these American politicians would have hated King when he was alive as much as they hypocritically dishonor his radical legacy today.

Take President Trump, who signed a bill a week ago turning King’s birth place into a national park, only to viciously refer to immigrants from El Salvador, Haiti and all countries as Africa as “shithole countries” a few days later – stirring up the kind of racist hatred King died trying to defeat over the weekend the nation remembers him.  

If he’d lived past age 39, King would have been offended by Trump calling Haiti a 'shithole' country

Take Democrat Senators (who love to talk about loving King) and who recently voted for a $700bn war funding package this fall, the kind of bill King would have excoriated as part of “the three evils of society” – “the giant triplets of racism, economic exploitation and militarism.”

Our war-loving politicians would not have liked when King got all up at Riverside Church a year to the day before he was assassinated to deliver his most powerful speech: “Beyond Vietnam.” They’d have cringed when he criticized American imperialism, warning “if we continue, there will be no doubt in my mind and in the mind of the world that we have no honorable intentions in Vietnam” and that “the world now demands a maturity of America that we may not be able to achieve”.

If he’d lived past age 39, King would have been offended by Trump calling Haiti a “shithole” country and saying Haitians “all have Aids”. But King would have been equally angry about the exploitation of Haiti for centuries – by enslavement, by colonial plunder, and even by “respectable” US Republicans like George HW Bush. 

It was under Bush senior in the early 1990s, after all, when the US intercepted hundreds of fleeing Haitian refugees, sent them to a makeshift prison at Guantanamo Bay (this, not 9/11, is how Gitmo became an indefinite detention center), tested them for HIV, and sterilized the HIV positive women without their knowledge or consent.

  ‘If he were here today, King would be down on his knees with NFL protesters questioning the premise of the National Anthem.’ Photograph: Michael Zagaris/Getty Images

If King were alive today, American politicians would likely be enraged that he was unhappy about the tax scam bill or the Dow hitting 25,000, and they’d be aggrieved when he got angry about Walmart laying off thousands of Sam’s Club workers with no notice and states wanting to add cruel work requirements to Medicaid for people who can’t work.

As often as American politicians are always saying they wish Ferguson or NFL protesters did things “more like King”, white Americans have never really liked any kind of racial protest, and didn’t especially like King when he was alive. They didn’t like him marching at Selma or helping run a bus boycott in Montgomery. The didn’t like him organizing a Poor People’s Campaign to try to bring together economically exploited people of all races. And they certainly didn’t like him showing up in Memphis to help sanitation workers strike for better working conditions after two of their own, Echol Cole and Robert Walker, were killed on the job.

As beautifully depicted on the cover of this week’s New Yorker cover art, “In Creative Battle” by Mark Ulriksen, if he were here today, King would be down on his knees with NFL protesters questioning the premise of the National Anthem and protesting militaristic jingoism. He’d have been with Eric Garner, as he told the police to stop harassing him.

And he would have been with “unbought and unbossed” Erica Garner, as she fought police until her sadly premature final breath at just 27.

As you listen to American politicians from both parties invoke MLK this weekend, think about if their actions live up to King’s vision of justice – and push them as hard as he would have when they fall short.

Monday
Jan152018

Remembering The Entire Message of MLK Jr. Crucial Today

Newburyport, Mass. — Every year on the third Monday of January, Americans of all races, backgrounds and ideologies celebrate the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. He is rightly lionized and sanctified by whites as well as blacks, by Republicans as well as Democrats.

It is easy to forget that, until fairly recently, many white Americans loathed Dr. King. They perceived him as a rabble rouser and an agitator; some rejoiced in his assassination in April 1968. How they got from loathing to loving is less a story about growing tolerance and diminishing racism, and more about the ways that Dr. King’s legacy has been scrubbed and blunted.

The Dr. King we remember today is particularly at odds with his radical turn in his last years. In 1967 he denounced the Vietnam War and warned that America was courting “spiritual death.” In early 1968 he planned the Poor People’s Campaign, in which millions of impoverished Americans — black, white and Latino — would gather in Washington for an enormous demonstration. He called for $30 billion annually in antipoverty spending, and asked Congress to guarantee an income for each American. To many Americans, this sounded like socialist lunacy.

Dr. King spent his final days in Memphis, marching with striking sanitation workers. On March 28, 1968, some marchers behind him turned violent. His critics believed their argument had been proved — that Dr. King’s claims to nonviolence were so much pretense. When he was killed a week later, Senator Strom Thurmond, Republican of South Carolina, told an audience that Dr. King was “an outside agitator, bent on stirring people up.” Ronald Reagan, then governor of California, described Dr. King’s killing as a “great tragedy that began when we began compromising with law and order, and people started choosing which laws they’d break.”

But Dr. King’s legacy — the meaning of “Martin Luther King” in the popular mind — began to change as soon as the man himself left us. As groups like the Black Panthers and the Weathermen called for armed resistance, Dr. King’s peaceful methods looked more appealing. Many white Americans focused on one line of King’s “I Have a Dream” speech — that he longed for the day when his children would “not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character” — and molded him into a gentle champion of colorblindness.

The King holiday was both cause and effect of this selective appropriation. Congressman John Conyers, a Democrat from Michigan, first proposed a holiday bill in 1968, and he offered the legislation virtually every year thereafter. In 1983, it finally neared passage. Though Reagan, by then president, opposed the holiday, congressional Republicans realized that endorsing the bill could help to burnish their party’s civil rights bona fides. The House passed the legislation by a wide margin.

But the debate in the Senate did Republicans no favors. Jesse Helms, Republican of North Carolina, filibustered the bill, saying that Dr. King “appears to have welcomed collaboration with Communists” and distributed a 300-page packet detailing Dr. King’s supposed treachery. Mr. Helms eventually ended his filibuster, and on Oct. 19 the Senate passed the holiday bill.

Dr. King’s opponents weren’t done. The Conservative Caucus collected 43,000 signatures on a petition urging Reagan to veto the holiday. But Reagan signed the bill anyway — in large part because, Senator Helms aside, many conservatives had “discovered,” and embraced, a useful version of Dr. King.

That embrace tightened during the battle over affirmative action. On Jan. 15, 1986, days before the first Martin Luther King Day, Attorney General Edwin Meese proposed to eliminate minority hiring goals for federal contractors. Using words that would be repeated, in one form or another, throughout the affirmative-action debate, Mr. Meese claimed that his proposal was “very consistent with what Dr. King had in mind.”

In 1996, Louisiana’s governor signed an executive order to halt affirmative action programs. “King sort of believed like I do,” said Mike Foster, a Republican. “I can’t find anywhere in his writings that he wanted reverse discrimination.” (Mr. Foster’s search apparently did not include Dr. King’s book “Where Do We Go From Here?” in which he explained: “A society that has done something special against the Negro for hundreds of years must now do something special for him.”)

This reappropriation continues today. In an attack on Colin Kaepernick, the quarterback of the San Francisco 49ers, for kneeling in protest during the national anthem, the Clemson football coach Dabo Swinney said that people like Mr. Kaepernick should “move to another country.” Mr. Swinney recommended that protesters heed Dr. King’s shining example: “I think the answer to our problems is exactly what they were for Martin Luther King when he changed the world. Love, peace, education, tolerance of others, Jesus” — as if Dr. King never criticized his country or paralyzed American cities with campaigns of civil disobedience.

In this season of political polarization, it is tempting to hope that we can unite in celebration of Dr. King. But celebrators ought to know whom they are honoring. Dr. King died for striking garbage workers and beseeched his government to protect the vulnerable. He had a message for those who would target immigrants or wall off America from the world. In a 1967 speech, he declared: “Our loyalties must become ecumenical rather than national.” Instead of policing their borders, nations should “develop an overriding loyalty to mankind as a whole.”

The alternative was unacceptable. “History is cluttered with the wreckage of nations and individuals that pursued this self-defeating path of hate.” To honor Dr. King is to follow a different path.

Tuesday
Jan022018

Migration from North Giving South More Democratics

Danny Hayes/Washington Post

One of the biggest U.S. political stories of 2017 was the boost that the Democratic Party got in elections across the country, widely interpreted as part of a backlash against the Trump presidency. And much of the party’s success came where few expected it — in the South.

In November, Democrats swept statewide races in Virginia, picking up more than a dozen seats in the House of Delegates. In December, Democrat Doug Jones’s victory in the U.S. Senate election in Alabama spurred talk of the party’s resurgence in a region where Republicans have dominated for three decades.

These Democratic victories resulted in large part from high turnout and overwhelming support and activism among black voters. But recent research suggests that Democrats are also benefiting from another phenomenon — whites who have moved to the South. Since World War II, Americans have been migrating South. That’s picked up in recent years, aided by a relatively strong economy and — as anyone north of the Mason-Dixon line this week will appreciate — balmy winters. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 10 of the fastest-growing U.S. cities in 2016 were in the South, five in Texas.

How is this changing the Southern electorate?

In a new article, political scientists Sunshine Hillygus, Seth McKee, and McKenzie Young show that whites who have moved to the South are more likely to be Democratic than lifelong Southerners.

They draw this conclusion by looking at data going back to the 1970s from the American National Election Studies survey. Since 1968, the survey has asked respondents where they grew up. This allowed Hillygus and her colleagues to categorize white residents of Southern states as “natives” (people who grew up in the region) and “migrants” (people who grew up elsewhere). It’s important to note that their analysis focuses only on whites, so it cannot speak to the region’s growing diversity.

In the 1970s, migrants were significantly more likely to identify with the Republican Party than were native Southerners. That’s because at that point, the South had a long history as a Democratic stronghold in reaction to the Republican Party’s history as the party of Abraham Lincoln, with many white lifelong Southerners holding fast to their Democratic roots.

But as the Democratic Party increasingly supported the civil rights movement, that changed. By the 1990s, there was no relationship between whether someone had grown up in the South and party affiliation; white natives and migrants were equally likely to identify with the Republican Party.

By the 2000s, that shifted again — and Southern migrants were more likely to be Democratic than their native counterparts. In other words, whites who weren’t born in the South were, on average, moving it to the left. The region’s most reliable Republicans were people who had grown up there.

The pattern was similar when Hillygus and her colleagues looked at voting in presidential elections. In the 1970s and 1980s, Southern migrants were slightly more Republican than natives. But by the 2000s, migrants were about 12 percentage points more likely to vote for the Democratic presidential candidate than were natives. The authors’ analysis ends in 2008.

Obviously, whites are just one slice of the Southern electorate, so changes to white voting behavior can tell only part of the story of the region’s politics. But the data does suggest that in addition to the importance of the African American vote for Democrats, an influx of nonnatives into the South has benefited the party. McKee and M.V. Hood III argue that Barack Obama’s narrow victory in North Carolina in 2008 was made possible by migration from outside the state.

Of course, patterns of migration to all Southern states are not the same. The people moving to Virginia or North Carolina may not have the same political loyalties as those moving to Alabama and Mississippi. So how migration affects the political landscape is likely to differ from one state to the next.

Nonetheless, Hillygus, McKee and Young suggest that population growth in the South may make left-leaning white migrants “an underappreciated component of a Democratic coalition that may be slowly reversing the electoral fortunes of a dominant southern Republican opposition.”

Danny Hayes is an associate professor of political science at George Washington University. A former journalist, his research focuses on political communication and political behavior. His most recent book is "Women on the Run: Gender, Media, and Political Campaigns in a Polarized Era."

Wednesday
Dec272017

Is America Economically Great Again? 

An urban myth claims that when economist and Nobel Laureate Milton Friedman was asked how his wife was doing, he responded by asking, “Relative to what?” The jarring answer was not intended to be sarcastic, but rather to make a scientific point for which he was famous: Judging wellbeing or performance requires a measuring rod and something to compare the measurement to.

Which raises the question: As 2017 is closing, how is the U.S. doing?

There are many measuring rods to consider, but I will focus on just two: growth in real GDP and gains in broad stock market averages. I pick them for simple reasons. They are readily available and most people consider them to be important indicators of economic prosperity.

As for the “relative to what?” piece of the problem, I suggest we see how the U.S. is doing relative to a sample of other industrialized countries.

Each week the Economist publishes data on the two measures I like for a large sample of countries. Using the Dec. 16 issue, I focused on the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development countries included in the report. There are 23 in the sample, and of course, the U.S. is one of them.

First, let’s look at the U.S. record. Over the previous 12 months America had recorded a hefty 24.4 percent gain in the Dow Jones Industrial Average and showed 2.2 percent 2017 real GDP growth as of Dec. 16. Many people have celebrated the red-hot DJIA growth, and rightfully so, but not many are dancing in the street over our GDP growth.

But how about the other OECD countries? Can another country match Wall Street’s performance?

It turns out that the average growth in stock market indicators for the 23 OECD countries, measured in U.S. dollars, is 24.03 percent, and average GDP growth is 2.53 percent. So America is just a tiny bit better than average on stock market performance and well below average on GDP growth.

Despite record portfolio gains, we’re in the middle of the heap — not even close to the top.

Poland holds the top spot in GDP growth, with 4.6 percent. Poland and Austria enjoyed identical 40.7 percent market gains, tied for first place for stock market performance. The Czech Republic, Germany, the Netherlands, South Korea, Sweden, and Turkey are real winners, too. Each has higher GDP growth and higher growth in stock market averages than does the U.S. Denmark has higher stock market growth, 28.0 percent, and the same GDP growth.

In the losing column, Belgium, Britain, France, Japan, Mexico, Norway, and Switzerland have lower GDP and stock market growth than the United States.

Eight countries in the sample fall into the mixed-bag category: Australia, Canada, Israel, Spain, and Sweden beat us in GDP growth but have lower gains in stock market averages. Chile, Italy, and Greece are stronger in stock market gains but lower in GDP growth.

Switzerland takes the booby prize for lowest GDP growth: 0.9 percent. Canada’s 10.1 percent growth sits at the bottom for stock market growth.

So how’s America doing? Considering the path we traveled to get here, we have a lot to celebrate. But even with record stock market gains, relative to a cross-section of the industrialized world, we are about average.

The road to making America great again is steep and long.

Bruce Yandle is a contributor to the Washington Examiner's Beltway Confidential blog. He is a distinguished adjunct fellow with the Mercatus Center at George Mason University and dean emeritus of the Clemson University College of Business & Behavioral Science. He developed the "Bootleggers and Baptists" political model.

Sunday
Dec172017

Why Christmas Carols Still Ring Out

By Keith Getty/Christian Post

Around the world... fathers, mothers and children of all ages and generations will gather in homes, hotels and huts to celebrate the joy of Christmas.

Around the tree... people from all walks of life will stop their endless walking—if only for a few, sacred moments—to be together.

Around the corner... there will be those who listen to the sounds of these gatherings, some reminiscing of bygone days when they too had a place to celebrate with those they loved. Others will marvel with childlike wonder at the message they are hearing—is this simply holiday sentiment, or is there truly a holy Savior who has come to rescue us?

The story of Jesus's birth will be told and retold in many different languages and cultures this Christmas, but there is something miraculous about the divine narrative that produces the same effect in each of us, no matter how or where it is revealed. In fact, there is even one particular medium that brings all people together "around" the central essence of this incredible story—Christmas carols. From Australia to Argentina to Anchorage, the message of Jesus will resonate from the mouths of His people in the same melodies and lyrics that His people have been singing for centuries.

Though there are many, here are five reasons we should still sing Christmas carols today.

1. The Carols Are The Best Opportunity To Sing

From the gentle hum of a mother's comforting voice to the boisterous halls of the world's grandest cathedral, singing is something we were literally created to by God to do. Perhaps this is why there are at least fifty direct commands from God to sing His message of grace and truth together. The Creator compels us to come together and experience the joy of singing, so what greater opportunity could be found than to sing about what matters most? After all, Christmas carols creatively reveal the greatest news imaginable. They are not just holiday songs, but rather gospel songs that joyfully build each of us up in our faith each and every time we sing them.

2. The Carols Teach Us Deeper Truths

The carols are the lyrical masterpieces of the hymns, spanning centuries and continents with foundational, transformational, theological substance. People are taught by what they hear, but they are catechized by what they sing—and there are no other songs that plumb the richest doctrinal depths as the carols. Even so, children still love to sing them, equipping them to carry the truth of the songs with them throughout their entire lives. What more could one ask for than for each generation to sing and internalize the deepest gospel revelations? Imagine the power of carrying truths through life such as those found in the words Charles Wesley from the carol Come Thou Long Expected JesusIsrael's strength and consolation / Hope of all the earth thou art / Dear desire of every nation / Joy of every longing heart.

3. The Carols Bring the Generations Together

There is no time like Christmastime to watch the generation gaps joyfully close as families and friends, young and old, Christian and non-Christian—people from every corner of the cultural spectrum—come together to sing carols. Just imagine the implication—this means that they are coming together to worship. Christmas carols are so timelessly composed and lyrically crafted that they enjoin the generations into this one, miraculous message about this one, miraculous moment.

4. The Carols Are Musical Masterpieces

While the lyrics express the most incredible story and message imaginable, the musicality of the hymns represent some of the most incredible melodies and orchestrations every composed. Borrowing from a variety of genres and styles each being interwoven into the others, the carols are an audible tapestry gloriously expressing the gospel story to every generation represented by each note, chord and arpeggio.

5. The Carols Are a Radical Witness

When we sing, others listen. This is why it is so much easier to hold the attention of an audience at a concert more than a sermon. When the carols are sung, those around us are informed or reminded of God's faithfulness in the past, and yet they are also hopefully pointed to the present grace that is now available to each of us in Christ. This is why Christmas is the biggest evangelistic event of the year: radical singing produces a radical gospel witness, revealing the Hope of the world to those who are singing about Him or listening to songs about Him, even if they have yet to believe in Him.

This Christmas, there are so many reasons to remember and enjoy the carols together—so above all else, let us sing!

Monday
Nov272017

Free Speech, Privacy, on Trail in Supreme Court this Week

Trevor Timm/The Guardian

On Wednesday, the supreme court will consider whether the government must obtain a warrant before accessing the rich trove of data that cellphone providers collect about cellphone users’ movements. Among scholars and campaigners, there is broad agreement that the case could yield the most consequential privacy ruling in a generation.

Less appreciated is the significance of the case for rights protected by the first amendment. The parties’ briefs make little mention of the first amendment, instead framing the dispute – for understandable reasons – as one about the right to privacy. Yet the court’s resolution of the case is likely to have far-reaching implications for the freedoms of speech, press and association.

The case, Carpenter v United States, arises out of the government’s prosecution of Timothy Carpenter for a series of armed robberies carried out in south-eastern Michigan and north-western Ohio several years ago. In the course of its investigation of the crimes, the government ordered Carpenter’s cellphone provider to turn over data it had collected relating to Carpenter’s movements. In response, the provider produced 186 pages listing every call that Carpenter had made over a 127-day period, as well as coordinates indicating where Carpenter had been at the beginning and end of each of those calls.

Importantly, it turned over these records even though the government had not obtained a warrant based on probable cause. Carpenter asked the court to suppress the government’s evidence under the fourth amendment, which protects the right to privacy.

Many cellphone users have only a vague understanding of the extent to which cellphone providers monitor their movements, but these companies now track us much more closely than even the most committed human spies ever could. Cellphones function by connecting to antennas – “cell sites” or “cell towers” – that provide cellular service. Those cell sites, which are owned and operated by the cellular companies, are programmed to record which phones connect to them, and when. They also record the direction from which the connecting phone’s signal is received and, often, the distance of the phone from the cell site.

So-called “cell site location information” is becoming ever more precise, because the cellular network is becoming ever more dense. The analytical tools that can be brought to bear on this information are also becoming more sophisticated, meaning that investigators can draw reliable conclusions from smaller and smaller amounts of data. It’s precisely because the information is so rich, of course, that the government is interested in accessing it.

Privacy scholars are watching Carpenter’s case closely because it may require the supreme court to address the scope and continuing relevance of the “third-party-records doctrine”, a judicially developed rule that has sometimes been understood to mean that a person surrenders her constitutional privacy interest in information that she turns over to a third party. The government contends that Carpenter lacks a constitutionally protected privacy interest in his location data because his cellphone was continually sharing that data with his cellphone provider.

Privacy advocates are rightly alarmed by this argument. Much of the digital technology all of us rely on today requires us to share information passively with third parties. Visiting a website, sending an email, buying a book online – all of these things requiring sharing sensitive data with internet service providers, merchants, banks and others. If this kind of commonplace and unavoidable information-sharing is sufficient to extinguish constitutional privacy rights, the digital-age fourth amendment will soon be a dead letter.

To understand the Carpenter case’s full significance, though, it’s necessary to consider the implications the government’s arguments have for first amendment rights. In a brief filed in support of Carpenter, 19 leading technologists explain how easy it is to use a person’s location data to learn about her beliefs and associations. (We represent the technologists.) With very few data points, the technologists observe, an analyst can learn whether a given person attended a public demonstration, attended a political meeting, or met with a particular activist or lawyer. With more data, an analyst can identify social networks and learn not only whether a given person was at a public demonstration but who else attended the demonstration with her.

Journalists and their sources might be at particular risk. Imagine parallel demands for the cell site location information of a journalist who exposed government misconduct and of all the government employees who had access to the information the journalist exposed. As the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press observes in its own brief filed in the Carpenter case, cell site location information “can reveal the stories a journalist is working on before they are published, where a journalist went to gather information for those stories, and the identity of a journalist’s sources”.

This is why it is a mistake to think about the Carpenter case solely through the lens of individual privacy. A defeat for Carpenter would be a defeat for privacy rights, but it would also mean a dramatic curtailment of first amendment freedoms.

The Carpenter case is the latest in a series of cases that have required the supreme court to consider the relevance of analog-era precedents to digital-age technologies. Although these cases were presented to the court as fourth amendment cases, the court was attentive to the implications of government surveillance for first amendment freedoms. When the court held that the fourth amendment precluded the government from installing a GPS device on a criminal suspect’s car without first obtaining a warrant, five justices cited some of the same concerns raised by the technologists we represent in Carpenter.

Do “people reasonably expect that their movements will be recorded and aggregated in a manner that enables the government to ascertain, more or less at will, their political and religious beliefs [and] sexual habits?” Justice Sonia Sotomayor asked in her powerful concurrence.

Two years later, when the court ruled that the government could not search a criminal suspect’s cellphone without first obtaining a warrant, the court cited similar concerns.

“Awareness that the government may be watching chills associational and expressive freedoms,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote. Left unchecked, he warned, new forms of surveillance could “alter the relationship between citizen and government in a way that is inimical to democratic society”.

The court was right in these cases to take account of the implications of surveillance technology for rights protected by the first amendment. It should be similarly attentive to these implications in Carpenter. Without strong protections for individual privacy, the freedoms of speech, association and the press will wither.

In assessing whether Carpenter had a right to privacy in his location information, the court should consider what will remain of these indispensable democratic freedoms if the government is afforded access, without close judicial supervision, to the information that cellphone providers are continuously collecting about all of us, and to the other sensitive and even intimate records that all of us passively and routinely share with third parties.

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