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Convict leasing

Are Republicans intellectually inferior?

Hollywood about Bush

News shows

The Waffle House: Next on the List of Targeted Restaurants?

Date: 6/26/01
Show: All Things Considered (NPR)

With its contempt for corporate America, I often wonder why NPR hasn't more troubles finding underwriters for its programming. There isn't single product liability lawsuit that it doesn't like, not a single sexual harassment or employment discrimination case where NPR would side with a business.

Waffle House   Franchise in Alabama

The latest exhibit for this bias is a two parts-series about Waffle House, an Atlanta-based chain of 1,300 restaurants (mostly franchises) that prides itself in Southern hospitality, great steaks, omelets, and fluffy waffles. The same group of trial lawyers that made a killing by bringing Dennis' Restaurants to its knees is now preparing a class action lawsuit against Waffle House on behalf of African American patrons who say they have been discriminated against.

As is customary on public radio, the plaintiffs get plenty of air time while the company's response is limited to a few snippets, unless, of course, you count a video taped deposition of Waffle House CEO, Joe Rogers Jr., in an earlier unrelated case that miraculously got into NPR's possession (an ethics violation, no less). In response to badgering questions by the plaintiffs' lawyer, Rogers admits that he doesn't know whether a document before him is the company's current non-discrimination policy, seems blissfully unaware of Waffle House' toll-free customer complaints line, and weasels his way out of commenting on an hypothetical case of discrimination against a black patron.

As smoking guns go, this doesn't even come close to the caliber of a BB. Could it be that NPR is spewing venom because Rogers is a supporter of conservative causes and friend of George W. Bush?


Are Republicans intellectually inferior?

Convict Leasing in Alabama

Date: 7/16/01
Show: Morning Edition (NPR)

Chain gang   ©Touchstone Pictures

The plot is sinister: Southerners, reluctant to let go of cheap slave labor after the Civil War, invented "convict leasing." Sheriffs would round up blacks for no good reason, judges sentence them to long terms of hard labor, and prisons lease them right back to their former owners. Everybody was happy, the businesses took advantage of the cheap labor, the states made a fortune from the leases — only the prisoners were unhappy, of course.

The folk legend — resurrected by Douglas Blackmon in a recent article for the Wall Street Journal — was quickly embraced by NPR. After all, it had all the assorted villains that public radio cares about: greedy bosses who work their employees to death, racist cops and judges who keep innocent blacks behind bars, and, last but not least, Southerners — when will they ever learn?

In an interview with Blackmon, Morning Edition's host Bob Edwards zoomed right in on the one aspect that is dear to all trial lawyers.

audio fileEDWARDS:
Are many of the companies still in existence?

Many of them are. There were dozens of American companies who participated in the practice, dozens just in Alabama. If you extend it across all the Southern states, there may well have been hundreds.

We focused on Alabama because the practice lasted so long there — and of those, many, many of these companies survive today in one form or another. One of them that is still today, and existed as the same entity at the time that was happening, was U.S. Steel Corporation. […] But there are also other companies that have a less direct lineage […]

Depending on how courts will define "lineage," the number of businesses that could face lawsuits may be huge, indeed.

The story peddled by Blackmon (and others before him) has a few holes in it. Convict leasing was practiced long before the Civil War. Kentucky began leasing prisoners to private businesses in 1825, Alabama followed in 1846. Also, it seems odd that the plot would be hatched during the Reconstruction period. At the time, governments of the old Confederacy were run by coalitions of blacks, carpetbaggers (Northerners who had gone South), and scalawags (collaborators) — folks not likely to promote such a scheme. Moreover, the federal government and the Freedman Bureau were carefully watching the conduct of Southern state and local officials.

One obvious reason for leasing convicts was that the states couldn't afford a large penal system. The devastation caused by the Civil War only added to the dilemma. How better to cope with problem than to shift the cost of feeding and housing prisoners to the private sector and getting paid for it!

There can be no doubt that, based on current standards, the life on prison farms, coal mines, or railroad construction sites was unbearable. It is also true that freed blacks, often without a job, were more likely to fall victim to harsh laws against vagrancy and petty crimes. Incentives for state and local officials to arrest and convict people were bound to lead to abuses. And, yes, there was bigotry, prejudice, black codes, and all the other sins of the Old South that we will never be able to forget.

But, please, don't turn the memory of a darker past into an assault on our free capitalist society, or just another feeding frenzy for trial lawyers.


Hollywood about Bush

Are Republicans Intellectually Inferior?

Date: 9/21/01
Show: Morning Edition (NPR)

NY rescue workers

Workers cheering for Bush at ground zero of the September 11 terrorist attack (White House photo by Paul Morse)

The morning after President Bush addressed both houses of Congress, asking the nation to support him in the war against terrorism, NPR put a listener on the air who declared himself intellectually superior to Bush, gave air time to a commentator who praised Congresswoman Barbara Lee for casting the only dissenting vote for a resolution supporting the war effort — how much more un-American can you get?

Playing the Communist Internationale on Independence Day, perhaps?

High time to send off one of those e-mails:

Date: 9/21/01
From: Roger Rick
To: NPR Morning Edition

The morning after President Bush tried to rally Congress and Nation to support him in the war against terrorism, NPR finds a listener who smugly observes that he deems himself intellectually superior to Bush, finds a commentator who hails Congresswoman Barbara Lee's vote not to support the war on terrorism as thoughtful and brave.

Where are you, Senator McCarthy, when we truly need you!

Since President Eisenhower, American progressives have declared every Republican in the White House to be dumb, intellectually inferior. The only one to dodge the label was Nixon who, instead, was branded as evil. In contrast, Democrats in the White House are revered as intellectual titans, especially those who supported some elements of the progressive agenda (Carter, Clinton).

It doesn't matter that Carter raised the misery index to new highs, fumbled the Iranian hostage crises, drove the economy into the ground, and caused the largest crises of American self-esteem ever: he will always be admired for his intelligence.

President Reagan   Ronald Reagan (unattributed)

Conversely, Reagan who almost single-handedly defeated communism and whose tax cuts laid the foundation for the longest economic boom in American history will always be portrayed as an actor who stumbled into the White House by accident, not really knowing what he was doing.

For progressives, the truth of their political convictions is so plain that anyone not sharing them is deemed to be blind or dumb. When, early in the 2000 presidential campaign, it became obvious that Bush was a threat to Gore, the liberal press started questioning his intellectual powers. Famously, one reporter quizzed him on the names of 4 relatively unknown foreign leaders. Bush got just one right, the press corps, after researching their databases, got all of them right and paraded their superior knowledge on all the news shows for everyone to see.

  • Disloyalty of Democrats
    In this Salon column David Horowitz tells the story how Congressman Ron Dellums and his aide Barbara Lee betrayed their country in Grenada
  • audio file NPR's Juan Williams praises congresswoman Barbara Lee [Morning Edition, 9/21/01]
  • audio file Reactions on Bush's speech [Morning Edition, 9/21/01]
  • Harvard loves Jihad
    The best way to fight terrorism might be to look in the mirror…


The Anthrax letters
An update

How Hollywood Sees Bush

As an old fan of Saturday Night Live, I fondly remember the "superior dance" of the Church Lady — making fun of the alleged moral superiority of evangelical Christians. Could it be that some folks in the entertainment business have a superiority complex too?

Here are a few quotes from actors and directors:

"We have the single most unqualified man running for president in our lifetime.
"I'm not making this up! I'm not making this up! The man has no experience, and worse than that, he has no intellectual curiosity.
- Rob Reiner, director
"He's embarrassing. He's not my president. He will never be my president.
"We all need to take a deep breath and think about being a Bush daughter and having that cross to bear. I'd go out and have a couple of drinks too.
- Julia Roberts, actress
"I don't like Bush, I don't trust him. I don't like his record. He's stupid. He's lazy.
"Has everyone lost their fucking minds? Doesn't anybody remember the illustrious Reagan-Bush years when people had no money and no jobs?
- Cher, actress
"George W. Bush is like a bad comic working the crowd. A moron — if you'll pardon the expression.
"He is a thug. He is dull and dangerous.
- Martin Sheen, actor
"I think that if you are the leader of planet Earth, you should be smarter than me.
"You just get the feeling, don't you, in the Oval Office that Dick Cheney is working behind the big desk. And then off to the right there is a little collapsible card table where George has like airplanes and stuff. Then every once in a while he looks up and says, 'I've discovered that if I shut my eyes, I can disappear.
- Darrel Hammond, SNL comedian
"You know, you really should have traveled more (like once) before you took over. Your ignorance of the world has not only made you look stupid, it has painted you into a corner you can't get out of.
- Michael Moore, director

Bush for Food?

Following a discussion on a Vegan site whether honey bees are smart or not, I found this quote about Bush which makes Michael Moore appear sane in comparison:

But it really doesn't matter anyway, does it? Vegans typically don't judge species based on their intelligence. If it were ok[ay] to eat someone because he's dumb, a lot of humans would be in trouble (starting with, say, George W. Bush).

The anonymous writer then goes on to accuse bee keepers of enslaving bees and raping queens (apparently, some queen bees are artificially inseminated) — after all, most bee keepers are men. What do you expect?

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Revised 6/4/04