Tuesday, February 20, 2018

The Roots of Corruption Run Deep

Toward the end of the nineteenth century, political corruption had gotten out of hand.  The industrial revolution provided the incentive, and the means, for capitalists to bribe office holders.  Businessmen could receive special benefits if they greased the right palms.
Big city bosses also got in on the act.  By pandering to immigrants, they could control the ballot box and, in turn, the graft available for delivering social services.  In New York, for instance, boss Tweed and his henchmen scooped up thousands by appropriating money intended to build a courthouse.
Things got so bad that there was a reaction.  The goo-goo’s, that is, the good government types, and the muckrakers exposed many of these shenanigans.  They made it known that Rockefeller was getting kickbacks from the railroads and that meatpackers were including rat feces in their products.
The outrage was national.  Progressives, often at the urging of journalists, demanded reform.  It was time for politicians to stop buying votes.  It was essential that laws protect ordinary citizens from being cheated.
So well did the correctives succeed that by the end of the twentieth century belief in the integrity of the system was widespread.  As a consequence, people became less vigilant.  The media, in particular, became more concerned with promoting their ideological commitments than defending against corruption.
Liberal politicians eventually became exempt from harsh scrutiny.  Because they were perceived as the good guys, they were allowed to get away with serious infractions.  They could lie about what they were doing with impunity and injure their opponents without fear of the spotlight.
The adventures of Bill and Hillary Clinton provide a cautionary tale.  Even in Arkansas, they were allowed to get away with unethical behavior.  It was not for nothing that Bill was referred to as slick Willie.  He could turn on his s—eating grin and reporters melted.
Lots of folks knew about Bill’s sexual peccadillos.  They were aware that he used the police to recruit sexual talent.  Many were also cognizant of his long-term liaison with Gennifer Flowers.  They kept it quiet because they liked him and his policies.
Later, when he ran for president, reporters winked when told that he did not inhale when he tried marihuana.  They likewise believed his account of staying out of the military draft.  As president, they even covered for his dalliance with Monica Lewinsky.  After all, it was nobody’s business but his wife’s.
Meanwhile Hillary also got a free pass.  She was not as likable as Bill, but few cared to delve into her indiscretions at the Rose Law Firm.  Nor did they dwell on the failures of Hillarycare or the implications of her contention that it takes a village to raise a child.  As a symbol of female success, she was to be celebrated—not criticized.
The chickens, as they say, came home to roost when, as Secretary of State, Hillary broke the law and kept classified documents on a private server.  More of this hanky-panky followed when she used the Clinton Foundation to facilitate pay-for-play politics.  This too was evidently in a good cause.
Immoral appearances could thus be explained away.  This included averting a skeptical eye when the Clinton campaign spied on Trump.  What would have been a scandal of epic proportions under Richard Nixon was quickly consigned to a historical footnote.
As for Barack Obama and his acolytes, the Clintons paved the road for their sleaze.  What's more, as a man perceived to be Black, Obama’s reputation needed to be protected.  Were he exposed as a charlatan; this might cast aspersions on an entire race.  Besides, he was as charming as Bill.
Which brings us to our current impasse.  Once upon a time, journalism provided a barrier against corruption.  Today its practitioners collude in covering-up a host of misdeeds.  As long as the perpetrators have liberal credentials, they are exempt from critical examination.
Nonetheless, politics, because it is about power, breeds corruption.  It often attracts people who attempt to get what they can.  Whether their means are fair of foul, they subsequently hide their offences lest they be thwarted.
This is natural.  As a result, we must be on guard.  A century ago, we were.  In recent years, however, many public sentinels have grown lax.  This has to change.  Sunshine, they say, is the best disinfectant.  Let’s have more sunshine!
Melvyn L. Fein, Ph.D.
Professor of Sociology

Kennesaw State University

The Neo-Marxists Have Tunnel Vision

When I teach about social change or social class at Kennesaw State University, I always include a segment about Karl Marx.  Contemporary sociology cannot be understood without recognizing how he shaped present-day thinking.
The same applies to our larger society.  Liberalism, progressivism, social democracy, and social justice are all variations on a Marxist theme.  As a result, contemporary politics cannot be understood without identifying its neo-Marxist underpinnings.
The trouble is that few Americans see through the moralistic smokescreen thrown up by left-wing activists.  This is certainly true of my students.  As na├»ve idealists, many are convinced that elementary decency can only be guaranteed by a government that dictates economic equality.
Marx himself believed that economics determines how societies operate.  Everything else is secondary to who controls the means of production.  Because the capitalists, who, in his day, were in charge, were irredeemably selfish, they had to be overthrown.  A government run by the people obviously needed to take over.
There are many problems with this idea—notably that government bureaucrats can be as corrupt as business owners—yet there is a more fundamental difficulty.  We humans are much more than economic creatures.  We also have spiritual, artistic, family, and moral dimensions.
Let me concentrate on the moral aspect of our condition.  It is crucial that we do so because shouldering this facet aside to focus exclusively on economics has resulted in raging immorality.  Our current climate of political corruption owes, in large part, to ignoring this component of who we are.
The neo-Marxists are convinced that we humans are basically good.  They assume that once they wrest economic control from the grip of egotistical capitalists, ordinary people will share the wealth.  They will cooperate with one another such that everyone benefits.
Marx’s disciples further believe they have a right to tell lies in the service of their ideals.  Because the rich are so unprincipled, those who oppose them have a duty to defeat them.  They may therefore justifiably resort to any means of doing so—be this via violence or verbal deception.
If morality has no existence apart from what those who dominate the means of production say it is, once the liberals and socialists take over, they can rectify our definitions of good and bad.  Hence, if, in the meantime, they need to tell noble lies in order to achieve ascendancy, this is in everyone’s interest.
From this it follows that FBI agents have a right to manipulate the FISA courts in order to stymy the political ambitions of those who oppose them.  It likewise follows that IRS agents have a duty to deprive their enemies of funding.  As for reasonable journalists, they have an obligation to present the news so that it protects liberal politicians.
Lies, it develops, are not lies when they further the Marxist agenda.  Similarly, omissions of fact are not mendacious when they advance deeper truths.  Since morality is relative, it must be manipulated in the service of those who facilitate the inevitable triumph of collectivist institutions.
And yet morality is not whatever the neo-Marxists say it is.  If we are more than economic creatures, morality has an independent existence.  Some might say—and I would be one of them—that economic justice cannot exist without a prior foundation of moral principles.
If we are not honest, for instance, we cannot have the social cohesion necessary to sustain a massive society.  Without a widespread commitment to truth telling, strangers would not be able to trust one another.  They could never be sure as to who might stab them in the back.
The same applies to economics.  When people are dependent on strangers for the food on their plates and the clothes of their backs, they must feel confident that they are not being swindled.  Anything less would drive a wedge between them and result in social fragmentation.
Isn’t that what we are seeing today?  Don’t, for instance, fervent partisans nowadays have difficulty speaking to one another?  Don’t they try to deceive others in order to gain a political advantage? 
What may not be appreciated, however, is the degree to which neo-Marxist doctrines encourage this chaos.  By making morality entirely subservient to economic considerations, these ideologues have corrupted us all.
Melvyn L. Fein, Ph.D.
Professor of Sociology

Kennesaw State University

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

How to Ruin a University

The economy is catching fire.  Wages are going up.  Americans are measurably more optimistic about what the future holds.  So what do the Georgia governor, the legislators and the Board of Regents do?  They decide to commit arson.  They agree to burn down a big chunk of the University System of Georgia.
While everyone else is getting raises, we at Kennesaw State University are receiving neither merit nor cost of living adjustments.  In the past, we were asked to do belt tightening when state revenues decreased.  Now we are told to do so as they are about to rise.
The cat is finally out of the bag.  It is plain that the authorities intend to dismantle state sponsored higher education.  Their goal is evidently to starve places like KSU into second-rate institutions.
Let me explain.  I have published sixteen books, edit a professional journal, write columns for the MDJ and Cherokee Tribune, direct a non-profit foundation and am a first rate teacher, but I earn less than some elementary school counselors and many police officers.
Meanwhile my wife, who also teachers at KSU and received the highest possible evaluation in terms of her teaching, scholarship, and service, will likewise earn not a single additional dime this year.
What makes this especially galling is that the lowest level of college administrators earn tens of thousands more.  Indeed, upper-level administrators are paid hundreds of thousands more.  In one case in my own college, a newly hired department chair obtained twice what I do, despite my achievements and quarter-century of service.
On top of this, there is the problem of compression.  Freshly hired professors must be paid more in order to entice them to come, whereas full professors receive crumbs.  The difference between a novice and a seasoned professional can therefore be as little as six thousand dollars.
Worse yet, recently revised salary policies exacerbate this problem.  The purported solutions only tighten the differences between the top and bottom.  So I ask you, where is the incentive to do a good job?  Why jump through hoops to be promoted when there is no reward for doing so?
Many readers may say this is no more than what professors deserve.  As left-wing hacks, they merit as little compensation as possible.  Nonetheless, if this policy continues, even less qualified folks will be attracted to academe.  Why expend the time and effort to become a competent Ph.D., if at the end of the road there is penury and disrespect?
The powers that be seem not to care.  Complete Georgia demonstrates that their chief concern is what looks good on paper.  If they can boast of more college graduates in less time, it matters not one whit if these alumnae have learned anything.
And so we get increased stress on online learning.  Once decent rubrics are in place, masters and bachelor level employees can administer them.  Who needs expensive professors to inspire intellectual growth or produce new knowledge?  Eliminating them drastically reduces costs, while ostensibly making higher education available to everyone.
In the end, what we will get is a two-tier system.  On the top will be a few elite private and public schools that are open only to the super rich and super bright.  Everyone else will be stuck with what amount to diploma mills.  Theoretically they will get college degrees, while in reality they will have received neither the knowledge nor the attitudes to obtain well paying jobs.
Here then is the supreme irony.  In an effort to give everyone a college education, many fewer will receive one.  Policies that are expected to promote social mobility do the reverse.  The votes of the poor will thus have been purchased with assurances of social success, whereas they will remain mired in the same old places.
This is a horror story.  Americans have grown so accustomed to empty political promises that they have difficulty distinguishing fact from fiction.  They are told about the astonishing improvements to expect from modernization, but seldom recognize the repugnant consequences.
Well, you may think, Dr. Fein is not a disinterested observer.  In this you would be correct; I am not.  Yet I am a person with first hand knowledge of a dire situation and a fervent interest promoting genuine learning.  That should count for something.
Melvyn L. Fein, Ph.D.
Professor of Sociology

Kennesaw State University

As the Scandal Turns

The plan was simple.  Accuse Donald Trump of collusion with the Russians and he would not get elected.  Then when he was, accuse him of obstruction of justice and he would be thrown out of office.  The nation would be rescued from a conservative clown and progress toward the liberal millennium could resume.
But the scandal has turned.  Now it is the liberals who are on the defensive.  Evidence is accumulating that it is the Democrats who indirectly colluded with the Russians and these left-wingers who are seeking to prevent knowledge of this from becoming public.
Never before have we witnessed such concentrated levels of dishonesty.  Politicians are not known for their scrupulousness, but even at the height of the Watergate fiasco, we did not experience this density of lies.  Today these come at us in such tightly compacted barrages that we cannot keep track.
For months now, Democrats and their media acolytes have been telling us that investigations into FBI and Justice Department corruption are distractions.  These inquiries are supposedly meant to divert our attention from the wrongdoings of president Trump and his supporters.
We are also told that these efforts amount to an obstruction of justice.  If consrvatives succeed in discrediting the law enforcement agents, such as Mueller, who are hot on the trail of a felonious chief executive, we will not be able to find the truth or impose the appropriate punishments.
Besides, Devin Nunes, the leader of the pack of congressional jackals is a notorious partisan.  His goal is to distort the facts rather than reveal them.  The progressive response is thus to relieve him of his committee duties and consign him to well-earned obscurity.
That said, the reality is somewhat different.  Liberals are masters of projection.  Time and again, they accuse others of the misdeeds in which they specialize.  It is therefore they who are attempting to distract the public.  It is they who kick up dust with spurious accusations so as to divert attention from their own transgressions.
The same applies to obstruction of justice.  If the Democrats and their allies are guilty of lying to the FBI or rigging political investigations, they don’t want anyone to know.  And so, they resist sending congressional subpoenas to potential witnesses and defend FBI agents who may be culpable of crimes.
Hillary Clinton famously accused a vast right wing conspiracy of attempting to smear her husband.  It now seems there is a much vaster left-wing conspiracy threatening the rule of law.  Democratic party operatives, liberal office-holders, affiliates of the Deep State bureaucracy, and unethical journalists are conspiring to gin up a scandal where there is none.
Paradoxically, they are apparently about to be blown up by their own petard.  So confident were they that they had the resources to control events, they are terrified by the recent turn of affairs.  Currently in a panic, their overheated rhetoric and obstinate contradictions betray a sense of guilt.
During the Watergate era it was said that the cover-up was worse than the crime.  Yet the contemporary liberal cover-up dwarfs anything attempted by yesteryear’s Republicans.  Nixon and his collaborators were largely confined to the White House and Justice Department.
Today’s cover-up also includes the FBI, many congresspersons, Democratic officials, the State Department, intelligence agencies, private spin factories, and the mainstream media.  Whether directly or indirectly, these provide one another with ammunition and camouflage.
This should be terrifying.  It represents an assault on our democratic traditions.  Never before have so many powerful—and reputedly honorable—individuals worked so strenuously to corrupt the governmental institutions upon which we depend.
Barack Obama had almost total disrespect for the law.  He did what he thought he could get away with.  Members of the party he headed learned these lessons extremely well.  They too are primarily concerned with retaining power and promoting socialist ideals.
Richard Nixon was brought low because he thought it was more important that he win an election than follow the law.  Contemporary Democrats evidently feel the same way.  It is consequently imperative that the rest of us not follow their lead.
If the Washington scandal is indeed turning, we must have the courage to clean up depravity wherever it is found.  Our collective future and the preservation of our republic depend upon it.
Melvyn L. Fein, Ph.D.
Professor of Sociology

Kennesaw State University