Has the NJBIA become a voice of woke capitalism?

Remember when Republicans were the party of business and Democrats the party of the working class? While the GOP still loyally votes on behalf of the interests of business, the days of business rewarding that loyalty with its support appear to be long gone.

Today’s corporate class votes Democrat because they (1) know the Democrats will do nothing to threaten their economic position in society, and (2) they get to publicly assure themselves that they are "good people" by doing so. Yes, for them the modern Democrat Party is a religious experience – but one that doesn’t require sacrifice.

Government intrudes on business so much these days that instead of organizing resistance to those intrusions, many businesses have made politics their partner. Government is, after all, run by politicians – so corporations hire lobbyists, fund candidates, and more importantly adopt political and social policies that signal the virtues they want the world to see. And for some, it’s sort of like the pious mob boss who makes a great show of paying for the new roof on the church, so that possible critics look the other way when his real work comes to light.

Woke capitalism is crony capitalism with a social justice cover.

Here is a succinct but very much on-point explanation by Kajal Iyer, who boils down a New York Times editorial by Ross Douthat, called “The Rise of Woke Capital.”

Ms. Iyer outlines how corporations are embracing a woke identity to couch their “malpractices” and market their products. These corporations have disrupted the traditional balance between Left and Right in America, between business and labor – its yin and yang.

Woke corporations are like hip middle aged husbands who have successfully found a young mistress, content in the continued loyalty and forbearance of the dutiful wife at home. Guess which political party is “the wife at home”?

Take the New Jersey Business & Industry Association (NJBIA) and its political action committee, New Jobs PAC, which calls itself “The Voice of Business”. When the NJBIA and the Chamber of Commerce rolled out their “Plan for an Affordable New Jersey” in July, who handled the messaging?

If you answered “the Clinton grease machine” you would be correct.

Yep, MWW, the firm that is so close to Bill and Hillary they even found a job for disgraced former Congressman Anthony Weiner when he was too controversial to be hired elsewhere. The biography for the firm’s founder notes that he is “known for his political contributions and fundraising for the Democratic Party” and he’s served as a Deputy Finance Chair of the DNC.

So how pro “leave me alone and let me create jobs” kind of business is this firm and what kind of messaging are you going to get out of them? The answer can be had just by going through the media section of the NJBIA website, which offers lectures on climate change and diversity as well as a host of other left-wing incantations. The rest is a course in “politics/government is your wingman”. Do what they want, pay them what they want, support who and what they tell you to support, and they will allow you to do business.

For the non-woke businessperson who just wants to make a living and create jobs, the message is one of subservience. Pay the Danegeld or the Vikings will pillage your business.

On the other hand, if you are a big pharmaceutical firm mired in controversy over the fallout from one of your products… being uber-LGBTQ can change the focus and make you one of the “good guys”. Yep, too bad about the cancer… or the opioids.

Is this the only voice for business in New Jersey?

Is it time for Republicans to quit playing the loyal “wife at home” and ask for a divorce? Why take the blame for all that corporations do, only to watch them hire the Left to provide a Leftist message that helps Leftist politicians to run against you? Wouldn’t it just be better to leave the Democrats and their crony capitalist backers in the muck and run on a message of reform and clean government?

Does anyone really believe that the “corruption tax” (so labeled in the Soprano State) has gone away? Or would the average voter say that crony capitalism has made it stronger than ever?

If only the Star-Ledger had the moral mettle of the Atlantic City Press.

Once upon a time in America… newspapers provided a safe space for the exchange of ideas.  They kept the drama in check, maintained a rational balance, and never let their emotions get the better of them.

You need only read an editorial written by the Star-Ledger’s Julie O’Connor to know that those days are long gone.  Today’s media is all wrapped up in the moment and very, very emotional about it.  There is no civil exchange of ideas, just the daily line that the Establishment media is right… and the average working man and woman is wrong.  And if you disagree with them, they call you a “racist”. 

Once upon a time in America… newspapers didn’t tip their hand as to whose side they were on.  You couldn’t tell if they were leaning Democrat or Republican – and they tried not to give it away until their endorsement a few days before an election.  Now there’s no hiding who they support and what they are.  As the Star-Ledger’s Tom Moran wrote last year:  “Voters will be standing in the booth Tuesday, and our core mission is helping them decide which lever to pull.”

With a “core mission” like that, it sounds like the Star-Ledger needs to register itself as a political action committee.

Of course, there are still a few – very few – old style newspapers.  About the same time the Star-Ledger was publishing its “core mission”, the Atlantic City Press wrote: “Telling readers how to vote, however, is contrary to the mission of newspapers and other media, which is to extend the public’s experience and perspectives.  Newsgathering organizations give the public eyes, ears and memory beyond the capability of an individual.  People want them to be reliable and credible.  When the media start making judgments, their audiences wonder if they’re altering their content to support that judgment too.”

Once upon a time in America… colleges and universities were safe spaces for the exchange of ideas.  Freedom of thought and of speech was respected – even when disagreed with. 

Now look at them.  They threaten those they disagree with and – if they show up anyway – they get violent.  Who would have believed that students would one day get violent over the idea of being exposed to a different point of view?  The parallel to another time, and other students, is an exact one.  And that ended in book burning.

Recently a Sussex County Democrat wrote:   "Propaganda is to a democracy what the bludgeon is to a totalitarian state."  He went on to explain that Fox News should be banned because, in his view, it was “propaganda”.  The idea that this Democrat is aligned with an institution of higher learning – in this case the Sussex County Community College – is chilling. 

The safe space for civil discourse, the safe space for the exchange of ideas, is fast disappearing.  And when society’s “betters” behave irresponsibly – equating words with violence – what do we expect from the “unhinged” elements of society?  Who is teaching society how to hold a civil, rational discussion with someone with whom they disagree?

Instead, by equating words with violence, the editors, reporters, faculty, and administrators are telling society that they engage in violence (with words) and so it is okay for others to engage in violence (on their terms).

The problem with writers like Julie O’Connor, Tom Moran, Matt Arco, and Matt Friedman is their lack of humility and lack of intellectual curiosity.  Their moral certainty has closed the book on considering any viewpoint but their own.  They are good… everybody else is evil.  That makes for a pretty darn predictable writing style.  Pretty darn boring. 

There has been a lot of social change in America.  O’Connor-Moran-Arco-Freidman and the like are in a rush to make everyone conform to those changes.  They believe it to be a moral imperative that any diversity of opinion be labeled and then stamped out.  But they are acting out at a very dangerous time in the world. 

Democracy defeated the older models of totalitarianism because it produced both freedom and prosperity.  Totalitarianism failed to produce either freedom or prosperity.  Now there is a new model of totalitarianism – Chinese fascism – that is quite good at lifting people out of poverty and making them prosperous.  Prosperous… but not free. 

If we lose our safe spaces for civil, rational discussion.  If we lose the ability to exchange ideas.  If we convince our people that they must be “protected” from the freedoms in Bill of Rights – from being exposed to speech they disagree with, from the right to self-defense.  What will we be left with?  Will we embrace the Chinese model if it ensures prosperity and protects us from the “threat” of freedom?

We have been warned before about the inorganic imposition of new cultural ideas on society.  We have been warned about what happens when you are not patient, by that old-fashioned liberal, Mrs. Lillian Smith.  A Southern writer, she was a pioneer in the battle to end segregation. We recommend her book, The Winner Names the Age.  In it, you will find this passage she wrote when she accepted the Charles S. Johnson Award for her work:

“It is his millions of relationships that will give man his humanity… It is not our ideological rights that are important but the quality of our relationships with each other, with all men, with knowledge and art and God that count.

The civil rights movement has done a magnificent job but it is now faced with the ancient choice between good and evil, between love for all men and lust for a group’s power.”

“Every group on earth that has put ideology before human relations has failed; always disaster and bitterness and bloodshed have come.  This movement, too, may fail.  If it does, it will be because it aroused in men more hate than love, more concern for their own group than for all people, more lust for power than compassion for human need.”

“We must avoid the trap of totalism which lures a man into thinking there is only one way, one answer, one option, and that others must be forced into this One Way, and forced into it Now.”

SCCC Trustees need to explain where they stand on the Bill of Rights

By Rubashov

Remember the attacks on the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo?  They published something that, in this case, militant Islamists found offensive.  The militants demanded they get their way and, when they didn’t, they killed 12 people.  The trustees at Charlie Hebdo stood up for free speech and against threats – and 12 people were martyred for it. 

At the very start of our American experiment, Benjamin Franklin said:  “You have a Republic, if you can keep it.”  The battles to preserve our Bill of Rights are fought in the pages of newspapers and on the Internet and on the lips of people, no less than on the battlefields of war.     

As in the case of Charlie Hebdo, some people have demanded that an image they deem “offensive” be removed and the “perpetrator” – in this case, it was merely “re-tweeted” – be punished.  Now they are equating what they call “hate speech” with acts of actual violence.

By the way, when is a crime of violence – any crime of violence – not hateful?

When is a sexual assault not hateful?  When is assault and battery a cheerful crime? When is murder done without malice?  When is the rape and murder of a child not hate?

Officially, the rape and the murder of a child is not an act of hate.  “It is about what was going on in your mind at the time of the crime,” they explain.  In other words, the crime is in the thought, not the act.  So now we have “thought crime”.  The actual rape and murder isn’t the bad part – what makes it really bad, what elevates it to a “hate crime,” is the thought.      

Go to the United States Justice Department’s compendium of “hate crimes” for 2001 and you will find that the attacks on September 11, 2001, are not counted as “hate crimes”.  Yeah, sure, those boys who flew those airliners into the Twin Towers did it out of benign affection for America.

The fact that the official compendium of “hate crimes” for 2001 is short 2,977 victims is a testament as to how deep the rot of political correctness has gone.

In politically correct parlance, hate is what they say it is. 

And who are “they”?  Anyone who sets themselves up as a “victim” or a “victims’ group” or a spokesperson for such.  In short… any old mob.

The Democrats asked Leslie Huhn, a supporter of Governor Phil Murphy and the former Chair of the Sussex County Democrat Committee, to dig up some dirt on Jerry Scanlan, the Chairman of the Sussex County Republicans and a member of the Board of Trustees of the Sussex County Community College (SCCC).  Murphy was concerned that his illegal Sanctuary scheme was getting bad press across the state – with a big part of the pushback coming from Sussex County.

On July 22, 2019, Leslie Huhn started “following” the Twitter page operated by Jerry Scanlan.  Huhn was looking for something to be offended by and she found it.  A mob was organized to storm the SCCC Board of Trustees meeting scheduled for later that same week.  Among its members was an outspoken, self-identified “anarchist”.  Sweet.

Initially, Scanlan drew attention to the timing of the Democrats’ carefully planned oppo-attack (which it clearly was).  Then the Sussex County GOP stepped in and took control of the Twitter account from Scanlan.  Scanlan issued an apology and said that the re-tweets were part of long twitter “trains” which he had not paid close attention to, but took responsibility for in his apology. 

In more “liberal” times, that would have been enough.  But this is not how today’s Left works. 

The way it works today is that a mob is formed, the mob calls for someone’s head, that person is taken out and publicly lynched by his colleagues, the head is ceremoniously removed and thrown to the mob, the mob beats it about and tattoos the forehead with words like the ubiquitous “racist” or the fast-becoming “Islamophobe,” and then, having been sexually satiated, the mob departs… until the next time.

There is no time allowed for rational discussion, legal due process, or civil deliberation.  The mob wants its head and there are always cowards who will give it someone’s head.  The cowards’ wish is only that it not be them.

Instead of succumbing to the mob.  Instead of participating in an act of extra-judicial punishment.  Perhaps this is a teachable moment?  

The mob fears rational discussion.  Maybe it is simply beyond people whose vocabulary is limited to a very few epithets?  But the Board of Trustees of the Sussex County Community College should not place itself at the disposal of a mob.  As an institution of higher learning, it should use this moment to broaden the discussion.  It should use this moment to teach the Bill of Rights, which are our greatest cultural, political, and legal inheritance. 

This is no longer about Jerry Scanlan.  He admitted he was in error and he apologized.  The calls for further punishment (and for physical violence against him) are superfluous.  They will not make him more in error or give further weight to his admission that he was in error. 

Curiously, these calls for further punishment (and violence against his person), come at a time when the Democrat Party is on record as supporting the decriminalization of actual criminal activity, the end of mandatory sentencing for actual crimes of violence, and the extension of rights (such a voting) to actual violent criminals.  The Democrats don’t wish to make anyone safer.  They just want to police your thoughts so that nobody is allowed to oppose what they say.

The Trustees of the SCCC have an opportunity to bring reason and knowledge to the table.  Let the Bill of Rights be their guide.  The SCCC can use this opportunity to teach.  And isn’t that what an institution of learning should do anyway?   

The NJGOP is broadening its base under Steinhardt

In last week’s column comparing the state fiscal rescue plan put forward by Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-03) with the tax-cut plan backed by Republican Assembly Leader Jon Bramnick (R-21), we wrote :  “This situation might be different if New Jersey Republicans had taken the time to build a base of small dollar donors and activists.  But as fundraiser Ali Steinstra noted at the March NJGOP Leadership Summit, broad-based Republican fundraising can only be accomplished by appeals to the party’s conservative base.   

The GOP establishment in New Jersey is barely on speaking terms with its base, so the ground has not been prepared.  We have no equivalent to what the NJEA and the Norcross super PACs will throw against us, so pissing on a hornet’s nest probably isn’t a good idea.  At this moment in time, it is more likely to motivate the kind of turnout that will cost us another four or more seats in November.

Assembly Leader Bramnick has a sensible, Republican plan that addresses the problem of spending and taxation.  It avoids drawing fire from well-organized, well-funded interest groups.  Those on the ballot this year have a choice to make.”

Apparently we had failed to notice that under the leadership of Chairman Doug Steinhardt, the Republican State Committee (NJGOP) has been pioneering new methods of grassroots fundraising, including the use of “investor reports” to set goals and inspire donors.  The idea of investor reports was summed up by Chairman Steinhardt:  “You don’t invest in a business without a prospectus or something else that lets you know it’s a good investment. We created these with the same idea in mind. It’s been very successful.”

 Some highlights of the NJGOP’s success:
- There were just 68 active donors when Chairman Steinhardt took over.
- As of March 30th, there were more than 1800 active donors. 
- Of these 79% were small dollar donors (under $200).
- There has been a 29% increase in new donors in 2019.
- 2019 had the best first quarter fundraising since 2015 (accomplished without a Governor in office and after the set-backs of 2018).
- The NJGOP team of 3 full and 2 part time employees have logged 20,000 miles to grass roots events as of April 30 vs 25,000 in all of 2018.

Chairman Steinhardt noted that that the NJGOP was “reconnecting with Republicans and it’s showing.”  Kudos to the Chairman and his team.

Sussex video shows how easy it is to punk the media.

The day after the Andy Boden for Sheriff campaign attempted to shake down the local Republican Party, a doctored video was distributed purporting to show their opponent in a compromising #MeToo situation.  The Boden campaign had specifically referenced said video in its shake down attempt.  They claimed that the video had been obtained by off-duty corrections officers (men with badges and guns) in an unofficial political surveillance operation.

The doctored video was released to more than 150 media outlets, using a fake Facebook account, under the name of someone who does not exist.  The Boden campaign refused to comment to the media.  Candidate Boden likewise refused to comment.   

In published stories, the media admitted that it could not locate any person associated with the fake Facebook account.  48 hours after the doctored video was posted, the fake Facebook account disappeared.

Nevertheless, several media outlets not only published the doctored video, but published a long, rambling press release – issued on a fake Facebook account by an entity that does not exist – treating it as a factual statement.  And they did so despite the fact that they could not locate any actual person who would vouch for its authorship.

Despite clear evidence of alteration and it lack of provenance, these media outlets failed to test the technological accuracy of the doctored video.  Surprisingly, they behaved as if they operated sometime in the 1950’s – before technological changes, particularly in digital technology, had turned the old phrase “seeing is believing” on its head.  For instance, does anyone really believe that Tom Hanks is shaking the hand of President Kennedy in this video?

In September of last year, Bloomberg reported on the threat to authenticity posed by “deep fake video technology” and warned media outlets that “fake videos and audio keep getting better, faster and easier to make, increasing the mind-blowing technology’s potential for harm if put in the wrong hands.”  The story suggested that all video should be closely examined and vetted by technological professionals before being cited as a source. 

The Code of Ethics of the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) is clear: 

-       Ethical journalists take responsibility for their work.  Verify information before releasing it.

-       Remember that neither speed nor format excuses inaccuracy.

-       Identify sources clearly.  The public is entitled to as much information as possible to judge the reliability and motivations of sources.

-       Avoid undercover or other surreptitious methods of gathering information.

-       Never deliberately distort facts or context, including visual information.

-       Balance the public’s need for information against potential harm or discomfort.  Pursuit of the news is not a license for arrogance or undue intrusiveness.

-       Realize that private people have a greater right to control information about themselves… Weigh the consequences of publishing or broadcasting personal information.

-       Avoid pandering to lurid curiosity, even if others do.

-       Expose unethical conduct in journalism.

-       Abide by the same high standards they expect of others.

Those media that reported on this, handled it like a #MeToo situation.  In fact, there was no complaint by anyone claiming to be a victim.  Instead, the complaint came from the illicit surveillance operation.

Sources claim that the corrections officers who conducted the operation took what they had to the home of a former elected official/computer expert, and that he “cleaned it up” or “enhanced” it.  The backstory here is that the corrections officers are angry with the incumbent Sheriff because the county jail is being downsized, which has placed some of their jobs in jeopardy.  Off course, this downsizing is a consequence of Bail Reform passed as a ballot question in November 2014.  With a dwindling jail population, the Sheriff cannot justify maintaining high levels of staffing and the consequent cost to property taxpayers in Sussex County.  Estimates of the cost to refurbish the jail for other purposes run upwards of $60 million and the Freeholder Board is in no place to raise taxes or debt to accommodate such costs.  The doctored video is seen as a desperate move by a few, very disgruntled, corrections officers.

That said, the role played by the media outlets tricked into distributing this video – and their willingness to be punked by a fake Facebook account – is a matter for concern, especially as it will only get easier to fake videos in the future.  Perhaps this is a case for the Ethics Committee of the SPJ?  Stay tuned…