By Bill Lyne | December 21, 2020

THE WAYS OF WHITE FOLKS    by Bill Lyne The great Black American poet Langston Hughes called the 1920s the time “when the Negro was in Vogue.”  Harlem Renaissance art and culture were all the rage and rich white folks showed how woke they were by heading uptown to listen to Duke Ellington and Count Basie and then scooted back downtown to celebrate the likes of Hughes, Josephine Baker, and Zora Neale Hurston in Manhattan’s swankiest parlors.  “I was there,” Hughes wrote.  “I had a swell time while it lasted.”  But he added that “ordinary Negroes hadn’t heard of the Negro Renaissance.  And if they had, it hadn’t raised their wages any.” Hughes’s recognition of the way that power can on the one hand celebrate minority culture and on the other hand continue to perpetuate structural inequity has many parallels, most recently in the 2021-23 state budget proposal by Washington Governor Jay Inslee. Last Monday the Governor rolled out his “historic commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion,” complete with a new state holiday and a picture of…

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By Bill Lyne | September 28, 2020

COMPLETELY PREDICTABLE by Bill Lyne Four years of the Trump syndicate topped off with a global pandemic has crystallized the sly increments of loss that have piled up over the past fifty years.  And it turns out that a functioning capitalist democracy needs a few things that aren’t driven solely by the logic of a market.  Things like the mail, roads, health care, jails, and education all probably work better for the society and serve more people when whoever’s running them isn’t just looking to turn a buck.  We can see this clearly in what’s happening with U.S. colleges right now. Since opening in late August, colleges have almost immediately become glowing hot spots of coronavirus infection.  Smart people with walls full of degrees have made and continue to make incredibly dangerous and stupid choices about reopening their campuses.  They should be telling everybody to just stay home, but instead they step to the podium, flanked by a Command Response Team and armed with expensive private consultants’ reports, 196 point safety plans, and endless protocols and tell…

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By Bill Lyne | July 20, 2020

ICE COLD by Bill Lyne So the Trump administration wants students of all ages back in the classroom come September, assuming, we must suppose, that if it’s good enough for meat packing plants, it’s good enough for schools.  Some political genius in the West Wing thinks that forcing millions of students into conditions that turn them into super spreaders infecting each other, their teachers, their parents, and their grandparents will be a slick campaign move a month ahead of the election.  As part of this plan, the good folks at Immigration and Customs Enforcement threatened to take some time off from separating parents from their children and deport international college students in an effort to bend colleges to the president’s full re-opening will. This threat drew an uncharacteristically swift response from the usually staid halls of academia.  Harvard and M. I. T., followed by more than a third of states’ attorneys general and myriad other institutions from all points on the collegiate compass, immediately sued to prevent the administration from forcing students enrolled only in online classes…

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By Bill Lyne | June 26, 2020

As the topic of defunding the police begins to make it into more and more of our country’s respectable parlors, the inevitable first question is something like, “But who’re you gonna call when someone’s breaking into your house?”  The answer, of course, is, It depends on who you are and where you live.  In the urban enclaves and suburbs that are graced with 401Ks, health insurance, and a Whole Foods Market, no one thinks twice about calling the police.  In those neighborhoods, the slogan “serve and protect” tends to more or less overlap with reality.  But in the neglected regions of capital, with their payday loans, eviction notices, and McDonald’s, the police are an occupying army, agents of the interests of the bankers and landlords who don’t live anywhere near there.  James Baldwin, the brilliant Black witness to U.S. white supremacy who grew up in Harlem poverty, wrote that in his neighborhood he learned early that his people “hardly ever” called the cops, for it usually led to a brutal reminder that the police didn’t work for…

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By Bill Lyne | June 8, 2020

THE SECOND TIME AS TRAGEDY        This time it’s going to be much worse. From 2008 to 2012, during the recession that now seems more quaint than great, the state slashed appropriations to public higher education.  This only accelerated a process of privatization.  Following a trend that had been consistent since at least the early 1980s, state universities raised tuition between 60% and 80% over four years and went on their merry way.  Overall university budgets were actually affected very little, but the cost of public higher education was shifted more and more to students and their families. This time, the full bill for a house-of-cards public higher ed funding scheme will be coming due.  Funding for public universities comes in three buckets—state appropriations, tuition, and self-supporting auxiliaries like dorms and dining halls.  All three of those buckets are about to become dumpster fires. The need to shut down the economy has shriveled state tax receipts and whenever the inevitable legislative special session comes, the temptation to make deep cuts to universities will be great.…

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