Thursday, May 12, 2016

HB2, Art Pope, the Koch Foundation, and Privatizing the UNC System

I just finished teaching South African novelist J. M. Coetzee’s 1980 allegory Waiting for the Barbarians.  The novel, among other things is about the way that Empire manufactures fictional enemies, creates them out of innocent people, and then justifies invading their homelands.  Here’s the novel’s protagonist the Magistrate, who realizes that there is no threat:

“Of this unrest I myself saw nothing.  In private I observed that once in every generation, without fail, there is an episode of hysteria about the barbarians.  There is no woman living along the frontier who has not dreamed of a dark barbarian hand coming from beneath the bed to grip her ankle, no man who has not frightened himself with visions of the barbarians carousing in his home, breaking the plates, setting fire to the curtains, raping his daughters.  These dreams are the consequences of too much ease.  Show me a barbarian army and I will believe” (8).

Let’s shift the focus.  Because Coetzee’s novel is an allegory, it could be set in the apartheid South African moment during which he wrote it.  Or it could be set during the Nazis' holocaust.  Or the massacre of the Native Americans when we, whoever we are, colonized them and justified killing them because of their barbarism.  Or it could just as easily be about the EU’s response to the refugee crisis, its fear that letting Syrians into this or that country will result in Isis indoctrination that endangers its populace. 

Or it could be about the fictional threat posed by random transgender people invading bathrooms to molest women and children in North Carolina who are currently being "protected" by House Bill 2.  Here’s a bit from Jane Clark Scharl’s National Review article, which, by the way, is based on nothing whatsoever: “But here’s the really maddening thing: At the same time that Leftists on college campuses are forcing professors to water down their lessons lest the truth be a ‘trauma trigger,’ they’re blasting a law that exists to protect people from actual trauma triggers. Not fake trauma triggers, like the question ‘Where are you from?’ Real ones, like male genitalia in a girl’s locker room. The purpose of HB2 is to ensure that people, especially women and children [emphasis added by moi] but men as well, can use public restrooms, locker rooms, and changing areas without being exposed to people of the opposite biological sex. It’s pretty common sense.”

Except that it’s not

Bathroom bill or no, this stupid and completely unenforceable law also sets a dangerous precedent for legalized discrimination in NC: “North Carolina’s new law sets a statewide definition of classes of people who are protected against discrimination: race, religion, color, national origin, age, handicap or biological sex as designated on a person’s birth certificate. Sexual orientation – people who are gay – was never explicitly protected under state law and is not now, despite recent court decisions that legalized same-sex marriage. Does HB2 affect rights of people who aren’t gay or transgender? Yes. The law limits how people pursue claims of discrimination because of race, religion, color, national origin, biological sex or handicap in state courts. The law also means a city or county cannot set a minimum wage standard for private employers."

And the information above is why this matters. But let's back up for a moment, just so we're all on the same page: The Koch Foundation and its henchman Art Pope are behind this nonsense, as they have been behind everything else bad that has happened in our state since 2010.  Here you go: “Getting dramatic economic change at the federal level is very difficult,” said Tim Phillips, president of the Koch-backed Americans for Prosperity. “A few years ago, the idea we had was to create model states. North Carolina was a great opportunity to do that – more so than any other state in the region. If you could turn around a state like that, you could get real reform.”

And: "The GOP’s success in North Carolina wasn’t merely a mirror of the Tea Party wave that benefited Republicans across the nation in 2010; it was part of a strategy crafted on the national level and carried out with the cooperation of prominent conservative interest groups and donors, including the Koch brothers. Chief among these are the Republican State Leadership Committee, which planned and largely bankrolled a nationwide strategy to control redistricting; Americans for Prosperity, the Koch-backed group that made North Carolina a ‘model state’ for its political efforts; and the network of conservative North Carolina-focused super PACs and advocacy groups funded almost entirely by longtime political operative and Koch ally Art Pope. Using his personal, family, and business money, Pope created and sustains groups including the Civitas Institute, the John Locke Foundation, and Real Jobs NC, which collaborate on electoral strategy and public policy to advance conservative reforms."

Let's not kid ourselves, we are totally screwed.

Let me reiterate: Art Pope is behind this stupid bill. Brian Lewis, manager of government relations at the North Carolina Association of Educators (NCAE), notes that “Art Pope owns the North Carolina Republican Party,” and “Art Pope is someone who believes that if you are a public employee, then you must be a socialist.”  Further, "As is often the case with conservative causes in North Carolina, the money trail behind HB2 leads to Art Pope, the millionaire CEO of a chain of discount stores who played a key role in financing the Republicans' 2010 takeover of the state legislature through a network of super PACs he funded. After helping elect Gov.Pat McCrory in 2013, Pope was appointed McCrory's state budget director and stepped away from funding political campaigns.”

Oh, look: it's Art Pope.  You may remember him from such blogs as this one wherein the Pope Center asked for my email because I opposed Koch money at WCU.

And one more time: Art Pope and the Koch Foundation are behind NC's stupid HB2, and, while you've been watching the real housewives of such and wherever or Moonshiners or whatnot (look, I'm from NC, so I can make fun of us all I want) they've taken over our state.  And if you give even the most remote shit about anything that happens from here on out, about your kids, about their future, about your stupid future, you better pay attention, because these guys are using NC as an experiment; they are treating us all like lab rats to see what we'll show them, what sores will open, what they can learn from us for the next time they lay a perfectly good state to waste.  

The Federal Government is already suing the UNC system over HB2's violation of Title 9 (and Title 7), and suddenly, Tom Apodaca has introduced a bill to cut tuition costs to students at 5 UNC system schools to $500/semester: the HBCUs, the Native American campus, and WCU, his alma mater, which serves the rural western parts of NC.  

Native daughter, Loretta Lynch on the HB2 absurdity

No one's sure what the "end game" is on Apodaca's bill. But here are my guesses: to make Apodaca and the republican legislature look like a friend to the poor, to minorities, in a moment when our legislature has alienated just about everyone it can.  It is, after all, an election year. To be the hero when all the liberal professors take this bill apart because there is absolutely no way to fund education given what this reduction in funding will cost our system. Thank god our legislature has Margaret Spellings to come to its rescue.  To privatize, which has been Art Pope's plan all along. To seek the additional and lost money from the Kochs, money that is already seeping into our system, against the recommendation of the faculty, despite the political cost and the negative implications to the academic freedom of those charged to uphold those values.  That's my guess.  

Spellings.  Maybe just take a stand and say WTF are you idiots doing?  Or maybe not.  Probably not.

But, hey, it's entirely possible that I'm just some stupid conspiracy theorist faculty member (who cares about faculty anyway, particularly when it comes to education?  I mean, we're just the ones trained to educate). That's probably more likely than anything, after all.