Let’s see, a committed socialist who has announced an intention to pursue gun control “under the radar” is elected. People across the entire country go on a guns-and-ammo-buying splurge, before the feds start regulating the civilian firearms industry into oblivion. No, wait, this ain’t got nuthin’ to do with people justly fearing that someone who’s announced an intention to subvert their Second Amendment rights intends to . . . subvert their Second Amendment rights. What this is about is a bunch of bitter clingers gettin’ ready to have them a race war against . . . Mexicans!
Full disclosure: I own several firearms. I haven’t shot any of them in probably five or more years. They’re all mostly muzzle loaders, and not those egregious modern plastic-stock-and-camouflage-patterns-everywhere, with center-fire percussion (o! the horror!). No thankee; I have a .50 cal. Hawken, a .45 cal. Kentucky rifle, a .44 cal. 1847 model Walker cap-and-ball revolver, and a .44 cal. 1851 Navy revolver. An honest man’s muzzle loader, they all are. If I had the money I’d buy a Model 1911 .45 cal., for home and personal defense.
I’ve never sensed in myself the slightest inclination to go shoot a Mexican. I’ve never heard any of my acquaintances express such a desire. I’ve never even overheard a stranger express such a desire. Around here at least until recently, the overwhelming proportion of Mexican immigrants were some of the workingest guys you ever saw in your life. And they did excellent work, too. And at least out here in the sticks you hardly ever saw one in jail. Too busy working. So with all possible respect for Ms. Alcoff, she’s as full of shit as a Christmas turkey.
Here’s the money quotation from the article (no pun intended): “While the Associated Press reported last month that rising firearm sales resulted from a fear of increased gun laws, Alcoff said this is instead evidence of the Latino community being targeted. ‘These groups are not harmless,’ Alcoff said. ‘The principle target here…is not an unspecified or abstract immigrant population, but generally Latino immigrants from Mexico or Central America.’ In fact, Alcoff is currently lobbying for more recognition of specific instances of Latino racism as hate crimes. Her talk was hosted by The Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity, and previewed her forthcoming paper about racism.”
[Side note: The author of the article is a graduate stoodint at the Kolumbia Skool o’ Journalism and Activism, or something like that. The spell-checker didn’t catch “principle” instead of “principal.”]
We are not vouchsafed a definition of what is a “radical” group. For that matter we’re not told what constitutes a “group” or how one distinguishes between on the one hand people who happen to agree on a range of particular matters and publicly express that agreement, and on the other people who actually sit down and organize themselves into a group which coordinates the actions of its members in respect to those matters. What we do have to guide our thoughts on where Ms. Alcoff is headed with this is the semantic practices of folks like Morris Dees over at the Southern Poverty Law Center. To ol’ Morris, anyone who disagrees with the left-most wing of the Democratic Party is by definition a “hate group.” Morris has earned himself a very handsome living raising money to combat “hate groups,” although it’s not clear that he’s ever managed to reduce any ambient level of hate against anyone, anywhere. That dear Ms. Alcoff is trying to poach on his turf is given away by the next-to-last sentence of the quotation: She’s lobbying to have a legal category of offense recognized. That’s Step 1; the next steps will then involve her establishing one or more “foundations” the mission statement of which is tracking “Latino hate crimes,” and combatting “hate groups” which target not some “unspecified or abstract immigrant population, but generally Latino immigrants from Mexico or Central America” and assisting alleged victims of same by filing lawsuits, preferably against defendants who have a reputation to lose and the ability to pay to protect it (this is, by the way, the “Rev.” Jackson’s preferred tactic with his operation). Anyone want to bet whom Alcoff envisions as the executive director of this newly-created Latino-hate-crimes industry? Anyone? Bueller? Anyone?
The grievance trade is an industry, and a very handsomely lucrative one for its insiders. The “Southern Poverty Law Center,” run by one Morris Dees, has (at least according to its 2010 Internal Revenue Form 990) no offices or branches other than its main office in Montgomery, Alabama. So far as I am aware it has never lifted the general economic condition of any portion of the South (or any other part of the country, either), through legal measures or otherwise. Its statement of “What We Do,” from its website, allows that, “The Southern Poverty Law Center monitors hate groups and other extremists throughout the United States and exposes their activities to law enforcement agencies, the media and the public. We publish our investigative findings online, on our Hatewatch blog, and in the Intelligence Report, our award-winning quarterly journal. We’ve crippled some of the country’s most notorious hate groups by suing them for murders and other violent acts committed by their members.”
Monitoring and exposing is a fantastically remunerative activity. For 2010, the Center reported $36,125,562 in contributions and grants and $2,297,571 in investment income. It also reported (Pt. V line 4a) having overseas financial accounts in the Caymans and in Bermuda (this would explain why you saw Morris Dees so vociferously defending Mitt Romney’s overseas financial interests . . . oh, right, never mind). As of the end of 2010 it reported net assets of $238,134,564; that’s right, almost a quarter-billion dollars. Just its cash holdings were $7,649,689.
In terms of what it spent, the Center reported spending $10,984,964 on “providing legal services to victims of civil rights injustice and hate crimes,” and $12,480,500 on “educating” sundry audiences. That’s from Pt. III of the 990, where they are to list their three largest program services by expense. Those are the only two entries. It appears that the $10,984,964 for “providing legal services” also includes $1,390,052 of “case cost expense” (Pt. IX (Expenses) line 24).
For grants made by them they report $0. Nothing. Those whom they “educate” are all people who one would think ought to recognize a crime when they see one: local law enforcement officials and the like. The Center makes no mention of educating any poor people of any color or ethnicity at all, to provide them the skills that they will need not to remain poor across generation after generation after generation (from acquaintances I’ve known over the years who work in the government hand-out industry it’s not too unusual for their case loads to include families in which it’s been three or more generations since anyone in the extended family held a job, any job), like how to avoid rip-off scams, or how to do family budgeting, or how to search for a job, or where to look for money to fund a trade or vocational school program. In short, the SPLC evidences no interest, at all, in actually alleviating the condition of their target constituencies.
Back to their program expenses. I mean, wow. Not quite eleven million dollars on litigation. I’m sure they must really have left a crater on the landscape of hate and bigotry, right? Well, in Pt. VIII (Revenue) they report $165,405 in “court awards,” which sounds like awards of attorney’s fees, and they report holding in their IOLTA trust account $504,252 for distribution to their clients. Now, that latter number is not a correct indicator of what judgments they in fact have obtained and collected for their clients during the year. They do mention that since 2004 they’ve distributed nearly $2 million to sundry immigrants they claim to have helped. Their hate crime litigation page lists a good number of lawsuits in which they’ve won significant verdicts for victims of what appear to be racially-motivated criminal acts. Most of the cases listed are several years in the past, some over ten years old. Is it unreasonable to ponder what they’ve done for actual victims lately with that $11 million annual litigation budget? I got to see, recently and from a fairly close if second-hand remove, the dynamics of a very large, very well-funded litigation by grievance industry outsiders against local entities, in which a good deal of the accusation was that a decision taken decades ago, before its physical and physiological implications could even have been known (I mean, literally, the science just wasn’t there at the time), was somehow motivated by racial animus. The eventual resolution of the suit provided a pittance to the supposed victims . . . and an enormous fund-raising banner for the outside litigation sponsor, which waved it prominently at every opportunity.
In other words, there’s a jolly good reason to harbor suspicion that what the SPLC does is litigation-as-fundraiser. “See how we’re really goin’ after them meanies! Your pre-addressed envelope for your contribution to fighting hate is enclosed herewith.” In Pt. IX, line 24, other expenses they show $4,248,454 for “educational publication”; $2,716,159 for “postage and shipping”; $2,356,843 for “printing and lettershop”; and $1,654,728 for “other development cost.” That comes to $10,976184, or 99.92% of their total program outlays on “providing legal services.” The Center spent $1,926,027 on their five largest independent contractors (Pt. VII Sec. 5), of which the top two (accounting for nearly a million of that) appear to be database-related services, and the next three are described as telemarketers. Now folks, you’re simply not going to convince me that there are so many millions upon millions upon millions of hate-mongers in the U.S., spread among their claimed 2,292 hate and “patriot” groups that they can’t hire some college kid to design and run their database to track them all. They need to pay almost a million bucks to outside contractors so they can keep up with the bad guys? No, what they’re spending nearly a million dollars on is managing and massaging their donor base.
There is, however, one small set of locations in which the SPLC has in fact alleviated poverty. In Pt. VII, director and executive compensation, they identify their most highly compensated key employees. All of them are stated as working 40.00 hours per week for the organization, which I neither understand nor quite believe. In a Form 990 one of the things you’re concerned with is demonstrating to the IRS that your organization is not serving as a tax-exempt vehicle to line the pockets of the insiders beyond a reasonable compensation for services actually rendered to the organization for purposes associated with its tax-exempt functions. So that would give you a built-in incentive to err on the side of overstating the hours those insiders spend working, right? Maybe I’m wrong and they just shoved down the 40.00 hour figure for all of them just as a matter of choice. Whatever; I’m not sure it makes a difference. But here we go: Morris Dees, identified as “chief trial counsel,” comes in with $343,676 compensation package; Richard Cohen, as president, runs $339,764; Teenie Hutchison, the sec’y/treasurer, is running $159,752, and Joseph J. Levin, Jr., “general counsel,” is a bargain at $184,411. That’s $1,027,603, or 7.31% of the $14,066,129 total salaries and wages they report. In truth its doesn’t seem as though the senior staff is receiving a disproportionate share of the total compensation the Center pays out. But over $340,000 to one lawyer? At a non-profit?
This is where I’m coming from in excoriating Morris Dees and his quarter-billion dollar nest-egg: For about twelve years I was on the board of directors of our local humane society. For roughly nine of those years I was its president. The facility consisted of a beat-up old single-wide trailer to which had been tacked a jack-leg built concrete block facility. The roofs leaked, everywhere. The heater broke multiple times per winter. In summer there was one air conditioner in the whole place. The shelter was utterly dependent on donations for food, cleaning supplies, toys for the animals, everything just about. It could afford to pay minimum wage to two or three part-time employees, and a miserly salary to a shelter manager. The entire operation was seldom more than two weeks away from having to shut its doors completely. Our county is about 40 miles from a larger metropolitan area. That city’s humane society handled about four times the numbers of animals that our little society handled each year. Its budget was roughly twenty-five times ours. The population base from which it could draw support was roughly 19 times our size. My mother for several years was a priest at a tiny congregation out in the country. The church finally got plumbing and electricity in the late 1980s. Most of her congregation would qualify as “poor as Job’s turkey” by any reasonable standard. These were folks for whom a $10 per month pledge made a noticeable dent in the family finances. Recently when the local humane society was again within days of shutting up shop, the question was posed to these people whether to pitch in. Someone said, “Let’s give them $500.” Done. Three minutes.
So I’m familiar with how genuine non-profits work, non-profits that actually benefit the communities in which they work. I therefore bristle when I see the likes of Morris Dees sitting on a quarter-billion dollars and accomplishing damned near nothing that can be measured, other than raking in that $36,125,562 in grants and donations the SPLC reported for 2010.
I likewise bristle when I read of people like the Alcoff woman, who to all appearances wants to leverage her fellow-citizens’ very well-founded fears of the federal government’s designs on their individual freedoms into a job for herself, along the template of the “Rev.” Jackson and Morris Dees.
Heightening my sense of a snake oil salesman when I read of the Alcoff woman is my awareness of things like this. According to the folks at the Pew Foundation, net immigration from Mexico has stopped, and may have even reversed. While the current awful state of the U.S. economy has doubtless contributed to that, of greater long-term importance is the falling Mexican birth rate, cited in the article. The long and short is that Mexican women are just barely replacing their population now. Mexico is not going to have large surplus population to send abroad. So the prediction that the massive numbers of “Latinos” in the U.S. by 2050 sparking a race war as all them Awful Anglo-Saxons decide to fight to preserve their hegemonic place in the society are rather over-blown. What’s going to happen to those here now is that over the next few generations (and we’re still 38 years from 2050, by the way) they’ll intermarry, move around, settle in, put their feet up, and the next thing you know they’ll view Cinco de Mayo as maybe another excuse to crack open a beer or twelve. Sort of like the Irish and St. Patrick’s Day. By the way, another interesting factoid the Pew report mentions is that measured as total percentages of all immigrants, both the Germans and the Irish were bigger immigrant waves than the Mexicans. Yeah, you can travel around parts of the Midwest and see lots of black-red-gold decorations, lots of eagles spangled onto things, but really: Who really cares that one’s ancestors came here from Mecklenburg in the 1890s? Or Donegal in the 1850s? Ms. Alcoff, being largely innocent of history it seems, does not appear to notice that all immigrant groups across all U.S. history have “threatened” the status quo, and there’s never been a race war to show for it. Poor Ms. Alcoff; if she wants to make a living as a grievance monger she’s going to have to lobby the government to create the market for her services . . . which it just so happens she’s in fact doing.
This isn’t about hate, or oppression, or challenging cultural hegemony. It’s about the Benjamins. Just like it always is. Ask Morris Dees.
Update (20 Nov 12): And right on cue, Bloomberg offers this op-ed on making sure that “non-profits” aren’t really about, you know, making profits.