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Sunday, July 7, 2019

On the Political Power of Capitalism in American Society

In his confidential memorandum, “Attack on American Free Enterprise System,” Lewis Powell, later to be a justice on the U.S. Supreme Court, wrote in 1971 that the “leftists” were launching a frontal assault on the “free enterprise system,” “capitalism,” or the “profit system.” Powell saw this as an attack on rather than a defending of the “American political system of democracy under the rule of law.” That the corporate profit-interest might be a threat to “one person one vote” apparently did not occur to the future Justice. Rather, what is good for GM he presumed must be good for American democracy. Moreover, both, he presumes, are consistent with, or perhaps even foundational for, American values.

The full essay is at "On the Political Power of Capitalism."

“USA!” at Ryder Cup 2012: Silent “EU!” Wins

The Ryder Cup of 2012, held in Illinois, can be read as payback for the European team at the expense of the Americans because the latter had come back from the same 10-6 deficit to win at the previous Cup.  The Associated Press reported that the European team’s “rally was even more remarkable, carried out before a raucous American crowd that began their chants of "USA!" some three hours before the first match got under way.” I can just imagine the looks on the Europeans’ faces amid the primal shouts some three hours before play. “Why are they doing that now? Should we get our few people in the crowd to start pumping their fists in the air while shouting “EU! EU! EU! EU!”? I can just hear a German on the team (if there was one) ask, “But what purpose would that serve?” A Brit would interrupt to make his observation known, that he cannot take part in such a cheer as it diverts from “hip hip!” and thus may interfere with being proud to be British, as Maggie used to say. A Belgian of Flemish and Walloon parentage (if such a thing exists) would try to split the difference in proposing that the small crowd of European groupies chant “hip hip EU!” The Brit would undoubtedly veto that one in a split second and the European team would be left with having to listen to the primal chants of the Americans. Of course, the warlike chant has no meaning in itself. Even a patriotic American would wonder why in the midst of a fireworks show on July 4th young men (16-25ish) suddenly feel the need to aggressively shout “USA!

                                     Europe's Martin Kaymer celebrates Europe's win at the Ryder Cup.     Reuters

USA!” as if the exploding bombs (i.e., fireworks) were some signal known only to them that we were about to invade another country. I witnessed this at a Fourth-of-July fireworks at an upscale golf course in 2012. The chants seemed so out of place, coming out of nowhere, that I could not help but wonder what was behind the impulsive act.

The full essay is at "USA!, Silent EU!"

Starbucks Apologizes in spite of Overzealous Police Presence in a Store

On July 4, 2019, six police employees staggered by twos into a Starbucks store in Tempe, Arizona (which borders Phoenix to the west). Because they did not come in together, customers had a prolonged sense of a police presence throughout the store. Eventually, the police huddled near the bar where drinks were left for customers to pick up. Even as the police huddled, they did so with eyes strategically perched so as to maintain visuals on the customers. Yet this was apparently lost on the police themselves, who felt it was disrespectful for an employee to ask them to leave after a customer complained about feeling uncomfortable. It could not be assumed that the customer had had bad experiences with police in the past, for any customer would understandably feel uncomfortable with so many visible guns passing back and forth. Indeed, for the police to treated the customers to the display can be reckoned as disrespectful!  Unfortunately, the police probably had no recognition of having too many at once in the store because intimidation as a deterrent by a very visible, ubiquitous presence in the public (and apparently in restaurants) was at the time the standard tactic. In short, customers could be expected to feel uncomfortable, or at least to want some relief from the ubiquitous police presence. Even so, Starbucks apologized because an employee acted on behalf of a customer, whose complaint was valid given the overwhelming police presence in the store. Yet according to the Tempe Association of police, the customer and employee should have known that some of the cops were veterans so the errant conclusion is zero respect for vets.[1] The association was so busy feeling disrespected that no thought at all went into why customers could rightly feel uncomfortable with so many police in a small store.

The full essay is at "Overzealous Police Presence."

1. Amir Vera, “Starbucks Apologizes after Six Officers Say They Were Asked to Leave a Store in Arizona,” cnn.com July 6, 2019.

Interestingly (or tellingly), the police chose to leave rather than move away from where customers pick up drinks, and yet the police chief felt that Starbucks had disrespected the police in the store.