Plantation Economics

In certain critical ways, the NFL is racially segregated and is managed much like a plantation. Its 32 owners — none of whom are Black — profit substantially from the labor of NFL players, 70% of whom are Black.

Brian Flores’ lawsuit against the NFL

This week’s featured post is “Racism in the NFL“. It gives some long-term historical background on the dearth of Black NFL coaches, which Brian Flores lawsuit made topical this week.

This week everybody was talking about censorship

When I wrote about the Maus controversy last week, I was inclined to interpret the school board’s actions as generously as reason allowed, a position several of the commenters disagreed with. Sadness for McMinn County’s 8th-graders was my main reaction, rather than anger at the small-minded board members.

The censorship stories in the news this week, though, are worse. McMinn County, after all, was just preventing teachers from assigning a book; they weren’t doing anything to stop kids from reading it if they want to. (And if that’s what they intended, their action backfired spectacularly. Maus is selling out all over the country.)

In Texas, though, conservative politicians and parents are removing books about sex and gender from school libraries.

Hundreds of titles have been pulled from libraries across the state for review, sometimes over the objections of school librarians, several of whom told NBC News they face increasingly hostile work environments and mounting pressure to pre-emptively pull books that might draw complaints. 

Records requests to nearly 100 school districts in the Houston, Dallas, San Antonio and Austin regions — a small sampling of the state’s 1,250 public school systems — revealed 75 formal requests by parents or community members to ban books from libraries during the first four months of this school year. In comparison, only one library book challenge was filed at those districts during the same time period a year earlier, records show. A handful of the districts reported more challenges this year than in the past two decades combined.

Books related to race are another target, including one absurd request to remove a children’s biography of Michelle Obama because “it promotes ‘reverse racism’ against white people”.

It’s one thing to object to books the school tries to make your child read, but it’s something else entirely when you try to control the books made available to other people’s children.

Back in Tennessee, a church in the Nashville ex-urb of Mount Juliet took things one step further with an honest-to-Hitler book burning on Wednesday. The tinder included young-adult series the church deems “demonic”, like Harry Potter and Twilight, as well as anything related to Masonry.

I’m having trouble wrapping my mind around this plan, because to me re-enacting Nazi rituals seems like a good way to raise demons, not fight them. But I guess my ceremonial magick training was just different from theirs.

I think if I were one of the authors whose books are being burned, I’d put out a statement saying that I did indeed embed demons in my books, but I designed the spell so that the demons are released by fire. (So you just possessed your own church, you idiots. Pay me if you want the banishing spell.) Burning the book works like Obi-Wan explained to Darth Vader:

If you strike me down, I shall become more powerful than you can possibly imagine.

But back in the world of practical politics, I have to wonder when the civic establishments in these places are going to realize how much damage these stories are doing to their public image. Say I’m an educated professional with school-age kids and I’m on the job market. The absolute last place I’m going to move is somewhere that puts my kids’ education under the thumbs of Christian Taliban yahoos. Similarly, if I’m a business that needs to attract an educated work force, I’m not going to locate anywhere near such towns.

and the pandemic

Omicron case totals are going down as fast as they went up. The current daily average just crossed under 300K, down 57% in two weeks. As always, hospitalizations and deaths lag a few weeks behind. Hospitalizations are down only 23% in two weeks, and deaths-per-day are still increasing by that measure, though on a shorter time scale, it looks like they peaked at 2632 on Thursday.

Apparently white-tailed deer also get Covid. My first thought was not to worry, because I seldom find myself sharing an elevator with a deer. But today’s NYT speculates on the possibility that the virus might mutate in the deer population and then come back to us.

Chris Hayes:

I keep coming back to the dumb, crushingly obvious point that everything about Covid in the US would be better if we were 80% vaccinated and 60% boosted (like Denmark)

Karl Rove wrote a Wall Street Journal column in response to the death of his sister from Covid. I think of Karl as one of the villains of American politics in recent decades, but that doesn’t matter in a situation like this. Today, I hope he finds comfort.

and January 6

The Republican National Committee went full fascist Friday. If they want to censure Republican congresspeople, that’s their business, but their censure resolution against Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger gave these reasons:

WHEREAS, Representatives Cheney and Kinzinger are participating in a Democrat-led persecution of ordinary citizens engaged in legitimate political discourse, and they are both utilizing their past professed political affiliation to mask Democrat abuse of prosecutorial power for partisan purposes …

Nothing in the resolution draws a line between good and bad participants in the January 6 riot, so the clear implication is that the whole event was “legitimate political discourse”. Beating up Capitol police and breaking into the Capitol building to prevent Congress from overseeing a peaceful transfer of power — that’s just how Republicans do politics these days. Attempting to figure out what happened that day and why (which is all the January 6 Committee can do; they have no “prosecutorial power”) is “persecution”.

The rest of the resolution is full of conspiracy-theory thinking and Orwellian gaslighting. Among other things, Republicans need to get the House majority back in order to stop the Democrats’ “systematic effort … to create record inflation designed to steal the American dream from our children and grandchildren”. So inflation — which nowhere near 1979’s record of 13%, but never mind that — isn’t an unfortunate byproduct of (successful) policies to get the economy moving again; it’s an intentional plot with nefarious purposes!

Meanwhile, the defeated ex-president is excusing and encouraging political violence in his own ways. At a rally in Texas January 29, Trump suggested pardons for the January 6 rioters.

If I run and if I win [in 2024], we will treat those people from January 6 fairly. We will treat them fairly. And if it requires pardons, we will give them pardons. Because they are being treated so unfairly.

Two things to note about that: First, he’s attempting to influence witnesses who might be able to pin responsibility for the riot back on him. That’s illegal. And second, he’s encouraging people to use violence on behalf of his 2024 run: Don’t worry about it; if we win I’ve got you covered.

Trump has a record of making good on pardon-for-silence deals: Mike Flynn, Roger Stone, and Paul Manafort successfully obstructed the Mueller investigation by refusing to talk. All have been pardoned.

Trump also threatened that his supporters would take action if he gets indicted, as he might in any of several venues:

If these radical, vicious, racist prosecutors do anything wrong or corrupt, we are going to have in this country the biggest protests we have ever had in Washington, D.C., in New York, in Atlanta and elsewhere.

And if one of those protests turns into a violent attempt to intimidate public officials, no worries — he can pardon the terrorists after he’s back in office.

Witness tampering leads us to the Vindman lawsuit. In his role as the National Security Council’s Director for Eastern European Affairs, Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman was on the infamous 2019 call in which then-President Trump made delivery of military aid to Ukraine (that Congress had already appropriated) contingent on Ukraine participating in Trump’s attempt to smear his most-feared challenger, Joe Biden.

Recognizing that Trump’s linking of US aid to his personal political interests was “improper, if not unlawful, and risked national security”, Vindman properly reported his concerns to NSC Legal Counsel John Eisenberg. After someone else with knowledge of the call made a whistle-blowing complaint to Congress, Vindman was subpoenaed to testify at Trump’s first impeachment hearing. Later, Trump retaliated by firing both Vindman and his brother (who had no role in the impeachment) from the NSC. Trump also attempted to prevent Vindman’s promotion to full colonel, and Vindman subsequently retired from the Army.

Wednesday, Vindman filed suit in federal court against Donald Trump Jr., Rudy Giuliani, and two Trump White House staffers: Deputy White House Communications Director Julia Hahn, and Deputy Chief of Staff Dan Scavino. Vindman’s complaint charges that they participated in

in an intentional, concerted campaign of unlawful intimidation and retaliation against a sitting Director of the National Security Council and decorated military officer, Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman, to prevent him from and then punish him for testifying truthfully before Congress during impeachment proceedings against President Trump. …

The attacks on Lt. Col. Vindman did not simply happen by accident or coincidence, nor were they the result of normal politics or modern newscycles. Rather, the coordinated campaign was the result of a common understanding and agreement among and between President Trump, Defendants, and others comprising a close group of aides and associates inside and outside of the White House, to target Lt. Col. Vindman in a specific way for the specific purpose of intimidation and retaliation. The coordination and agreement on purpose and strategy is exactly what made this unlawful campaign against Lt. Col. Vindman so damaging.

This is a civil lawsuit. Vindman is seeking compensation for the “significant financial, emotional, and reputational harm” he suffered as a result of this illegal conspiracy.

But the suit is not just about financial damage: Witness intimidation and retaliation against witnesses are crimes. Reading the lawsuit makes me realize all over again how extensively Trump has worn down the nation’s conscience. We’ve gotten used to the idea that of course he and his people break the law; they do it constantly.

Speaking of ignoring the law, Trump regularly tore up documents that crossed his desk, even after being informed that he was breaking the Presidential Records Act. He also illegally took boxes of documents with him to Mar-a-Lago.

“He didn’t want a record of anything,” a former senior Trump official said.“ He never stopped ripping things up. Do you really think Trump is going to care about the records act? Come on.”

Do innocent people act like that?

We also learned this week that the Trump White House plan to seize voting machines got a lot closer to implementation than we had previously realized.

It’s hard to tell yet how seriously we should take the recent Republican gestures pushing back against Trump, his coup, and his encouragement of political violence.

Friday, former VP Mike Pence uttered the unthinkable phrase “President Trump is wrong.” Pence was denying that he could “overturn the election”, as Trump had wanted him to do when he presided over the counting of electoral votes on January 6. He added:

Frankly, there is almost no idea more un-American than the notion that any one person could choose the American president.

And Lindsey Graham on January 30 disagreed with Trump about January 6 pardons: “I don’t want to send any signal that it was OK to defile the Capitol.” How weird is it that this is a courageous statement in today’s GOP?

and you also might be interested in …

The Ukraine tension continues, and I continue not to know what to make of it.

Friday’s January jobs report was surprisingly good. Analysts had expected the Omicron surge to slow the economy down, but instead there were 467K new jobs. In addition, the November and December estimates were revised upward, each by hundreds of thousands of jobs.

One of the more bizarre media clips circulating this week is of the Fox & Friends hosts gleefully anticipating a bad report that they could use in their Biden-is-a-failure narrative, only to be disappointed by the good news for American workers.

As I’ve been saying for months, inflation stories and jobs stories should be melded together, because they result from the same policies. Inflation is the price of getting the post-Covid-shutdown economy going again.

Mississippi Today describes an actual Critical Race Theory class at the University of Mississippi Law School. It doesn’t resemble the Republican propaganda about CRT.

and let’s close with something a little bit creepy

Before the advent of tape recorders, Soviet music-lovers discovered they could make samizdat recordings of banned Western music on used X-ray film, which they could grab (illegally) out of hospital garbage. The result became known as “bone music“.

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  • Sean C. Burke  On February 7, 2022 at 1:35 pm

    Thought you might enjoy this article:

  • Thomas Paine  On February 8, 2022 at 5:39 pm

    Some plantation. The average salary of a player in the NFL is ~$2 million, and the median is $860k. That’s after a free-ride scholarship typically worth six-figures, and now NIL income.

    The most pernicious assumption made when attempting to discuss racism in professional sports is that the abilities required to perform at the professional level must be equally distributed across the entire population. They’re not. If they were, the question would be, why, if the general population is 12% black, is the NFL 70%? Professional sports are about the most egalitarian of employment opportunities that exist, and if a Martian could do what Aaron Rogers and Davante Adams do, he’d be signed in a heartbeat.

    It’s rhetorically cute to suggest that everyone could become a banker if only everyone had an equal opportunity to attend Deerfield, but how many bankers have you seen possess the physical attributes that would survive two seconds at the highest levels of professional sports? The reason that people such as Alan Page are so exceptional is the reality that very few people ever enjoy a broad distribution of the highest level of innate talents. You can be beautiful, smart, or athletically gifted. Rarely is anyone, regardless of the color of their skin, all three, and even two would place someone at the head of the crowd.

    The second failure of this kind of ‘analysis’ is the assumption that being able to excel at an activity qualifies someone to teach it and lead it. Professional sports is rife with examples of people who have demonstrated this, as well as examples of people who were mediocre players that washed out early (if they played at all) but who achieve high levels of success when the skill set required for that piece of the organization is required. Does exposure to the activity that comes from playing it at lower levels help? Of course it does. But the assumption that just because a particular demographic is over-represented at the highest level of performance, it must be racism that explains why it’s not when looking at running and leading a group of those performers is, at best, simply lazy.

    Most of your writing is pretty insightful. This week’s featured topic is anything but. It may well be the case that Flores’ lawsuit is well-founded and will present evidence that it’s racism rather than his own personal limitations that are to account for his career path. At the very least, at least the absurdity of the Rooney Rule may finally be sufficiently exposed to get rid of its lip service to opportunity everyone paying attention already knows it to be and efforts can instead turn to what meaningful development programs look like for those who aspire to run NFL teams.

    But whatever the merits and evidence of his case are, they won’t be found by simply comparing the various racial categories of players to what it is for the very limited number of heading coaching slots available. It’s a great discussion to have, but this is absolutely no way to go about it.

    • weeklysift  On February 10, 2022 at 1:38 pm

      When you think about player salaries, you need to bear in mind that (according the Houston Chronicle), the average NFL career length is 2.5 years. When you then factor in the risk of long-term injury, to either mind or body, it’s not a lot of money.

      • Thomas Paine  On February 11, 2022 at 5:50 am

        Attempting to call a full free-ride scholarship and, on average, several million dollars of salary, with pretty much of one’s entire adult life in front of him “not a lot of money” is, at best, an amazingly sheltered perspective from what most kids face today. I’d have no trouble filling local stadiums across the country with those who would gladly trade the educational debt and part-time/low-wage/no-benefits ‘opportunities’ that await them for an NFL contract, including the injuries risks. You know where they go instead? The armed forces recruiting offices, because that’s about the only path up now for most. If you’re looking for a plantation in the US these days, it’s in Amazon warehouses, industrial agriculture operations, and corporate ‘service’ jobs.

        But, that your response chooses to ignore the substantive issue I have with your original essay and instead focuses (poorly) on this small aspect of my reply essentially admits that you’re unable to address it. Racism in professional sports will not be found by comparing the demographics of who plays vs. who runs the teams. The person who now has Brian Flores job holds a degree in history from Yale. He’s 5’9″/180. As best as I can tell from a quick search, he never even played in high school. So, obviously it’s because he’s white, right?

        If it can be shown that the Miami Dolphins five-year business plan was “let’s tank now for draft picks and stick the black guy with the losses so we can appease the leftists who demand simplistic over-representation everywhere except when it already exists by minorities, and then bring in a white guy because only white guys are smart enough to know what to do with those draft picks”, then, yeah, there’s a case, and a piece toward a thesis of the NFL is an old boys club of rich owners who care more about keeping the black man down than making as much money as possible by hiring the best people they can find and winning championships. But right now, it’s just more of the “it didn’t work out, but it can’t be my fault; it must be racism, so let’s continue focusing on quotas that call into question the capabilities of and reasons for the new hire from the start, and let’s use comparative quotas that have nothing to do with the reality of the very limited position we’re talking about in the first place.

        I think for me personally the most frustrating aspect of this week’s essay is that I usually find find your analysis and perspective on the topics of the day exceptionally well-balanced and considered, and not given to easy explanations that employ the thought-suppressing orthodoxy that dominates so much of contemporary commentary. And then I read this. A “players vs. HCs, it must be racism” argument I can get from any radical militant trying to get his 15 minutes of attention in the social media game so he can cash in before getting tossed in the over-ripe bin. I hope to read down the road a much more nuanced and well-considered essay on this topic from you.

      • weeklysift  On February 12, 2022 at 11:02 am

        I’m amazed you reference the college football situation (“full free-ride scholarship”), since that’s an even more exploitative setting. Colleges make millions off of the athletes, many of whom never had much chance of graduating. They wind up with broken bodies and not much else.

        If you actually read my article, you’d grasp that the player/HC stats are not the whole argument. That’s just a way to get a handle on a problem that is apparent to just about all observers. Was the lack of Black quarterbacks in the 70s due to some deficiency of Black people too?

        Look at Eric Bieniemy. For the last four years, he’s been the offensive coordinator of the most envied offense in the NFL, the Chiefs. If he were
        White, he’d have been a head coach a long time ago.

      • weeklysift  On February 12, 2022 at 11:14 am

        In 2016, ABC looked at the playing experience of the 32 head coaches. 10 had been NFL players, almost all of the rest played in college, and everybody at least played in high school.

  • thebhgg  On February 11, 2022 at 2:07 pm

    I haven’t finished reading, but this part just screamed at me:

    You say:
    > But back in the world of practical politics, I have to wonder when the civic establishments in these places are going to realize how much damage these stories are doing to their public image. Say I’m an educated professional with school-age kids and I’m on the job market. The absolute last place I’m going to move is somewhere that puts my kids’ education under the thumbs of Christian Taliban yahoos. Similarly, if I’m a business that needs to attract an educated work force, I’m not going to locate anywhere near such towns.

    I am a big fan of Dr. Sarah Taber’s direct experience and expertise in American agriculture (i.e. rural towns chock full of the consequences of white supremacy and genocide).

    She points out in a tweet thread (link below):

    >There’s a myth out there that rural brain drain is caused by “cities vacuuming away all the young/smart/ambitious people.”

    Bullshit. Rural areas & small towns kick them out. On purpose.

    Spoilers: this thread has SOLUTIONS in it, keep scrolling : )

    Sir, your concern about the civic institutions in the specific rural communities that tolerate book-burning is completely misplaced.

    In my opinion, but I am not an expert. Dr. Taber *is*, though.

    • thebhgg  On February 11, 2022 at 7:25 pm

      Whoops, that’s the wrong link to the original tweet. My apologies

    • weeklysift  On February 12, 2022 at 10:50 am

      A couple things: First off, Mount Juliet isn’t a rural farming community; it’s within a half hour of Nashville. (My sister just moved there.) The book-burning church doesn’t represent the community, but it’s smearing the community image.

      Second, I come from a small town myself. I don’t feel like I was thrown out.

      • Dale Moses  On February 12, 2022 at 3:43 pm

        (not sure how to put this to not sound aggressive, since the posts you’re replying to have that reading for me but here goes). You however, did not grow up in a small town recently. Your experience may unfortunately no longer be relevant. I am not sure whether or not this changes the central point, but it would at least allow for a spectrum of experiences. Which could indicate a shifting of the culture

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